Without the knowledge of the Olivet Discourse and how it relates to the Great Tribulation the student will await and teach the awful events of the Revelation. The believer will be frightened believing those horrors may come upon him or her. Our desire here is to show Jesus was specifically speaking to the system of Judaism. The Olivet Discourse is a necessary key to the book of Revelation and what Jesus meant when he said Great Tribulation.
THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST – The Stone Cometh
By Pastor Delbert Young
Olivet Discourse and The Great Tribulation
Olivet Discourse and The Great Tribulation
Videos are not actually “videos of the teaching” The purpose was to make this teaching more available on Youtube, Vimeo, and web searches for this Revelation of Jesus Christ teaching.
Also, “page numbering” used in the audios cannot be the same on a web page as with hard copy. Please do a ctrl + f (cmd + f Mac) and type in a search. Please remember this webpage is an entire chapter or teaching of notes.
The great tribulation was to come upon Israel, upon Jerusalem, and upon the Jewish Temple. It would come upon it during the days of the generation of the people who crucified Jesus. It came upon the very ones who pierced Christ. They would see his coming (Rev 1:7). Jesus told the leaders of Judaism destruction happen. Jesus warned his disciples of this coming of the Son of Man. He even told them all including his followers when to flee Jerusalem to escape the Great Tribulation.
Christ actually told his disciples when the “Great Tribulation” would happen. He gave his disciples a sign, actually several signs, to look and forecast in time and know the Great Tribulation was going down. This would warn them all his coming was at hand. Jesus told them he could not tell them the exact day or hour. It required faith, but it would be upon their wicked generation.
Without this knowledge the student will await the awful events of the Revelation. The believer will be frightened into believing those horrors may come upon him or her. Our desire here is to show that Jesus was specifically speaking to the system of Judaism. The Olivet Discourse is a necessary key to the book of Revelation
Matthew 24:21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
In Matthew 24, the believer comes face to face with a major decision. Is the great tribulation spoken of in Matthew 24 a past event or a future event? Nearly everything a person believes about Christianity is affected by the answer to this question. This becomes the dividing line.
To most believers today, the concept or thought of the great tribulation is a future seven-year event. The thought of it possibly being a past event is foreign. Confidently, we say here that if one will go through this teaching, he or she will see the “great tribulation” is a past event.
Most today have only heard the popular dispensational doctrine, which literally hinges on a future great tribulation. It does not matter if a person believes in a pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation, or post-tribulation rapture, they must have a future tribulation. We intend to show that the great tribulation was a historically recorded event which happened in A.D. 70 and was prophesied by Jesus.
As we will see, a seven year tribulation was never taught by the apostles or first-century church. That alone should cause some suspicion of the doctrine. Another interesting fact is that there is absolutely no scripture that teaches a great tribulation with an attached rapture – not one. That teaching was not taught in the church until the mid-1800’s by a group called The Plymouth Brethren. The seven-year great tribulation in connection with an “any moment” rapture of the church is first legitimately recorded in a writing named “The Restoration of Apostles and Prophets” written in 1861 by Robert Norton. In his writing Norton documents a fifteen-year-old girl named Margaret Macdonald who gave a prophecy which began this tribulation/rapture teaching. (For more on this read Whose Right it Is by Kelly Varner, page 148.) The teaching arrived in America in the very early 1900’s around 1904. The popular Scofied Bible and Larkin dispensational charts propagated it. The Dake Bible and the Ryrie Bible followed Scofield’s lead. The doctrine became a part of theology.
How was this great tribulation of Matthew 24 viewed and taught prior to the mid-1800’s? Matthew Henry wrote his world renowned and extremely popular commentary in the late 1600’s and early 1700’s. He died in 1714 before the teachings of the dispensationalists. His father was a pastor, a Bible scholar, and a gifted teacher. We would then not only have recorded what Matthew Henry taught, but also what his father taught before him, i.e. a look at theology in that time. In the Matthew Henry Commentary, we find that the position of the church prior to the teachings of the Plymouth Brethren was that the great tribulation was the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in A.D. 70.
Matthew Henry wrote,
“There shall be great tribulation. Great indeed, when within the city, plague and famine raged, and (worse than either) faction and division, so that every man’s sword was against his fellow; then and there it was that the hands of the pitiful women flayed their own children. Without the city was the Roman army ready to swallow them up, with a particular rage against them, not only as Jews, but as rebellious Jews. War was the only one of the three sore judgments that David excepted against; but that was it by which the Jews were ruined; and there were famine and pestilence in extremity besides. Josephus’s History of the Wars of the Jews, has in it more tragical passages than perhaps any history whatsoever.”
Prior to the entrance of what is called the dispensational teachings (more on this later), a coming of the Lord was seen in Matthew 24 as the destruction of Jerusalem, i.e. great tribulation. A clear division was noticed and taught between the coming of the Lord upon Jerusalem and the coming of the Lord at Advent which includes the resurrection of the Saints. We will discuss all of this more in detail later. For now, we wish to hold our thoughts to the Olivet Discourse.
We will break our study here into parts. A study of The Context, The Questions, The Answer, and The Fulfillment of this Olivet Discourse will help us to develop sound, unshakable doctrine.
- THE CONTEXT
All rules for proper Biblical interpretation are important. The rule of “First Mention,” the rule of “Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic Word Definitions” (for example Daniel 2:4-7 are in Aramaic), the rule of “Customs,” and many other rules of interpretation are extremely important. One of the most important is the rule of “Context.”
What is the context of Matthew 24? What events are taking place in this passage? What is the focus of the passages surrounding the passage being investigated? Who is involved in this passage and why? What seems to be the disposition of those involved (anger, joy, teaching, death, war, etc.)? Where is this passage taking place (mountain, temple, house, desert)? All this is referred to as the law of “Context.” We need to know the context of Matthew 24 and specifically the context of Matthew 24:21 – the great tribulation.
Jesus Christ made the statement of Matthew 24:21 only days before his crucifixion. It was a heavy and extremely serious time for the Lord. We really can’t imagine all he was experiencing. He knew that in a few short days He would be arrested, beaten, scourged, and crucified.
- The Triumphal Entry
Mat 21:9 And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.
The context of Matthew 24 begins on Sunday as the Lord prepares to enter Jerusalem upon a donkey. The disciples are instructed to obtain the donkey, which they did. This was to fulfill the prophecy (Zec 9:9) showing that Jesus is the king (Mat 21:4-5).
Jesus rode into Jerusalem with the people proclaiming Him “the son of David” and shouting “Hosanna!” This was to the displeasure of the religious leaders. Though Jesus had proven exactly who He was, the religious system rejected Him.
We often fail to recognize that the religious leaders of Christ’s day knew the exact year that the Messiah would come. Remember, the “wise men” had looked for His star, for they had calculated the time of birth using the time the Messiah was to be anointed. Also remember that the Jews sent priests and Levities to ask John the Baptist if he were the one. They wanted to know if John was the Messiah. John’s answer shows they considered John the Baptist a candidate for the Messiah (Joh 1:19-28). John said he was not the Messiah, but did say this to them, “there standeth one among you” that was the Messiah (Joh 1:26). Later John would send his disciples to ask Jesus, “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?” (Mat 11:3).
Everyone knew the time of the Messiah’s coming was upon them. In our study we will read a parable Jesus spoke to the religious sect. In that parable, the Son was recognized as the heir and killed. Later, in this discourse Jesus Himself said, “For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many” (Mat 24:5). It wasn’t that they were that gullible. In the days of the Triumphal Entry, the people knew it was time. It was the day for the son of David to arrive.
How did they know that the Messiah was due? According to Daniel 9:25, the Messiah was to come forth at the end of the 69th week of Daniel’s prophecy (see Seventy Weeks of Daniel). This would be 483 years from the decree to rebuild Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity. Exactly 483 years from the decree of Artaxerses of Persia to rebuild the city, Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. The Spirit of God came upon him to anoint him. This is what is meant when Jesus told John the Baptist that John must baptize Jesus “to fulfil all righteousness” (Mat 3:15). It was to this reference of the anointing of the Messiah that the gospel writers assume their readers recognize. This is the meaning of Matthew 3:16, 17; Mark 1:10, 11; Luke 3:22; and John 1:32.
The Jews knew it was time for the Messiah. It was now the “midst” of the seventieth week (Dan 9:26, 27). Jesus now fulfills this expectation as he rides into Jerusalem “sitting upon an ass.” The people knew the meaning of His entrance. The people knew this entrance upon the donkey meant that Jesus was the king, the Son of David – the Messiah.
The day was Sunday. The day of the month was the 10th. He was crucified Friday, the 14th. This fulfilled Moses’ instructions for the days the Pascal lamb was taken and kept by each house (Exo 12:3-6).
- Jesus Cleansing the Temple
Mat 21:12 And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves
Christ rode into town in a way that proclaimed Him as King. He then dismounted and entered the temple. The first issue of business for the King was to go to the temple. Once within the facility, He began throwing people out. Those that sold and bought were “cast out.”
He then said, “It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves” (Mat 21:13). He said loudly, “My house.” He then began a healing line and healed the blind and the lame. Those healings gives us great insight as to what should happen in His house.
The religious sect watched as Jesus healed the blind and the lame. They watched as the children rejoiced and sang (we have more insight into what should happen in His house). They listened as the people said “Hosanna to the son of David” (still more insight). The Bible says the religious sect was sore displeased. “Sore” is aganakteo (Greek) meaning “to be greatly afflicted; indignant.”
The religious sect was tremendously upset with the actions of Jesus and the people: riding into town the way He did, throwing people out of the temple, overturning tables, healing people, children singing about him, and all the people saying he was the son of David.
They asked Jesus in their indignant way, “Hearest thou what these say?” And Jesus saith unto them, “Yea; have ye never read, ‘Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?'” In no way is praise made more perfect than when offered to the king who was here being proclaimed. Those singing recognized Him. Religion rejected Him.
That said, Jesus “left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and he lodged there.”
- Cursing of the Fig Tree
Mat 21:19 And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away.
After staying the night in Bethany (a few miles from Jerusalem), the Lord and His disciples began walking back to Jerusalem. The Lord was hungry and noticed a fig tree. When no fruit was found on the tree, but leaves only, the Lord spoke to the tree. Quickly, the fig tree withered away.
The Lord used this experience as a teaching for prayer. Interestingly, He changes the object from a fig tree to a mountain.
Mat 21:21 Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.
As we will see with numerous Scripture references in the Revelation study, mountains speak of religious worship. Usually people think that mountains refer to kingdoms. Religious “high places” are mountains. Mountains were used for worship of the Lord God and worship of idols. The Lord God began His covenant with Israel on Mount Sinai. The first use of the word mountain in Scripture is with Abram in worship as he calls upon the name of the Lord (Gen 12:8).
First use is an important rule of interpretation. It is the seed for the word through the remainder of all Scripture. Just as the very first corn seed determined what all corn seeds would produce, so it is with first use. The first use of the word “mountain” has to do with worship. Mountains are important in Israel’s worship. Among those mentioned concerning worship are Mount Sinai, Mount Ebal, Mount Gerizim, Mount Ephraim, Mount Bethel, Mount Carmel, Mount Horeb, Mount Zion, Mount Moriah, etc.
Also the mountain would be the place of idolatrous worship (Deu 12:2; 1Ki 14:23). When the nation of Israel went after idols, she was declared “the harlot” as she went to do her whoredoms on the mountains (Jer 3:6; Hos 4:12-13).
In Matthew 21:21, the Lord was not interested that His disciples learn how to talk to or curse fig trees. There was, however, a religious mountain that Jesus desired they speak. In a few hours, the Lord would speak to that mountain himself saying it would be left desolate.
Contextually, this is the direction these chapters and verses travel. There would be one confrontation after another between the Lord Jesus and that religious group. It would climax with these words: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate” (Mat 23:37, 38).
- The Authority of Jesus Questioned
Mat 21:23 And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?
The Lord went into Jerusalem. This would be the events of Monday before the crucifixion on Friday. Once in Jerusalem the Lord went to the temple and began teaching. It appears the chief priests and elders had preplanned to discredit Jesus. Very rudely, as Jesus is teaching, the chief priests and elders interrupted. They asked by what and by whose authority did Jesus minister. They were determined to show Jesus as a rebel, untrained and unlearned in the things of God.
Not afraid of and not cowering to the priests and elders, Jesus returned a question. He said if they would answer His question then He would answer their question. Jesus asked, “The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men?” (Mat 21:25).
It must be noted that it was by John that Jesus was recognized and set into ministry. John had baptized Jesus and pointed him out by saying, “Behold the Lamb of God!” (Joh 1:36). If they did not recognize John then Jesus could not tell them who recognized him.
They reasoned that if they said, “From heaven” that Jesus would say, “Why did ye not then believe him?” If they answered, “Of men” then the people would anger because John the Baptist was held as a prophet. So they answered, “We cannot tell.” Jesus answered, “Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.”
This was the direction of the next hours. The Pharisees continuously attempted to trap Jesus. He would continually turn it back upon them. Over and over this happened.
The Lord then gave a series of parables all pointing to the rebellion of Israel and to their rejection of Jesus. In the parables, the Lord explained what would become of Israel.
Every encounter, each parable, each question provoked the religious sect. They would grow in number attempting to entangle Jesus in His words. That continued until a multitude was listening to the confrontation. Jesus seemed to “bait” them until every religious group was there, i.e. the priests, elders, Herodians, Pharisees, Sadducees, and all their disciples. He then declared the desolation of that house during that generation (Mat 23:36). Let’s observe how that worked out.
- The Parable of the Two Sons
Mat 21:28 But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard.
The first parable was “The Two Sons.” A father told one son to go and work. The son said he would not, but repented and did. He told another son to go and work. That son said he would, but did not. Jesus asked the religious leaders which of the two did the will of his father? They answered, “The first.” Jesus said to the Pharisees, “Verily I say unto you, that the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.” The Lord relates this to the ministry of John the Baptist (Mat 21:32).
John came as a valid ministry, but the religious sect did not receive John. However, the tax collectors and harlots (most despised people) did receive John. The tax collectors and harlots will go into the kingdom before those. Religion is dangerous when religion rejects truth.
- The Parable of the Tenants
Mat 21:33 Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country
The Lord next told a very well known parable. This parable is a definite reference (allusion quotation) to Isaiah 5:1-7. It is from a prophecy concerning Israel’s exile and captivity. The city was seized and burned. The Pharisees were very familiar with the parable. It pictured the Lord planting a vineyard. The vineyard is His kingdom. He placed into the vineyard all that was needed to make it successful, i.e. hedge, winepress, and tower. He then leased it to husbandmen. The husbandmen would be those Jews, priests and elders standing and listening. The owner went away. The Lord sent servants which the husbandmen continuously abused. “The husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another.” A second time they did this to the messengers sent by the owner. The servants in the parable were ministry sent of God. They beat Jeremiah, killed Isaiah, stoned Zechariah. Finally, the owner sent His son. The Son is, of course, Jesus. Instead of having reverence for the Son, the husbandmen said, “This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance,” which they did. We note there was little doubt by the religious sect that Jesus was the Christ. They recognized that Jesus was the Messiah and the Son before they killed Him.
Once the parable was given, Jesus asked, “When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen?” The high priests and elders answered, “He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons.”
They said He will (1) miserably destroy those wicked men (NIV – He will bring those wretches to a wretched end); (2) He will take the vineyard and give it to people who will produce fruit.
Matthew Henry says,
“This was fulfilled upon the Jews, in that miserable destruction which was brought upon them by the Romans, and was completed about forty years after this; and unparalled ruin, attended with all the most dismal, aggravating circumstances.”
Theology since 1850 teaches this is awaiting its fulfillment. Theology prior to the Plymouth Brethren taught this was fulfilled in A.D. 70.
Jesus replied, “Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.” Isn’t it interesting that there was a kingdom to take and give. To whom was it given and where is it today? The kingdom was taken from Israel and given to the Church who is the new nation (1Pe 2:9).
This is extremely important to our eschatology and theology. The reason this is so important is because contemporary dispensational theology states the reason for the seven year tribulation is so the Lord God can reestablish His covenant with the nation of Israel. This means reestablish their land boundaries, establish the throne of David, rebuild the temple, and reinstitute animal sacrifice. However, Jesus says the kingdom is “taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.”
Jesus spoke here of the corner stone and the stone. This is also a reference to Daniel 2:44, 45 of the stone cut out of the Mountain that grinds every other kingdom to powder.
Mat 21:44 And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.
The nation of Israel refused to fall upon the stone. Thus the stone would fall upon them. When the chief priests and Pharisees heard the parables, they understood that Jesus was speaking of them.
Mat 21:45 And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them.
- The Parable of the Wedding Banquet
Mat 22:1 And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said
Another parable came. It is strategic that we remember that chapter numbering was added for our convenience. It was not in the original manuscripts. Here we change chapters, but not context. This parable is continuing in the same context. This is the same day as the previous parables. This is taking place in the temple before the crucifixion on Friday. The Lord is in a serious confrontation with the Pharisees.
This is the parable of the Wedding Banquet. This is a kingdom parable, meaning it concerns both Gentiles and Jews. The parable says that a king gave a marriage for His Son. Of course, the king is Father God giving the Lord Jesus a banquet. The Bride is the Church. The King sent forth His servants to call those invited to the wedding. Those invited would be the Jews. The servants (as previous) are His ministers, the prophets. The prophets went forth, but those bidden to come “would not come” – the Jews. It was not that they could not come, they “would not come.” The Lord God was extremely long suffering with Israel. He sent other servants. These bidden were invited to the marriage supper where no expense was spared. Those bidden “made light of it, and went their ways.” Then the Lord called those bidden the “remnant,” a term used for the few and faithful. Even the remnant took the king’s servants and abused them and slew them.
Notice what the king does when he hears of this.
Mat 22:7 But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.
We again quote Matthew Henry’s interpretation of this passage to discover the theology prior to the mid 1800’s.
“The Roman armies were his armies, of his raising, of his sending against the people of his wrath; and he gave them a charge to tread them down…. God is the Lord of men’s host, and makes what use he pleases of them, to serve his own purposes…. This points out very plainly the destruction of the Jews, and the burning of Jerusalem, by the Romans, forty years after this. No age ever saw a greater desolation than that, nor more of the direful effects of fire and sword. Though Jerusalem had been a holy city…. yet that city being now become a harlot, righteousness being no longer lodged in it, but murderers, the worst of murderers, judgment came upon it, and ruin without remedy; and it is set forth for an example to all that should oppose Christ and his gospel. It was the Lord’s doing, to avenge the quarrel of his covenant.”
The king then sent out into the highways to come to the marriage, for the wedding is ready. The king said concerning those who were bidden, “They which were bidden were not worthy.” More servants go out into the highways “and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests.”
In this parable, the hypocrite came to the wedding. Surprisingly, the king picked him out. He was not wearing the wedding garment (righteous acts of the saints Rev 19:8). The hypocrite was called into account. “How camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless.” The grace of God for this person was given in vain. The hypocrite was bound (as tares), taken away, and cast into outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Then we hear from the Lord a remarkable verse.
Mat 22:14 For many are called, but few are chosen.
Many, many Jews were called of natural Israel. Few Jews are chosen.
- Paying Taxes to Caesar
Mat 22:15 Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk.
As we are seeing, from the time of the triumphal entry, the situation between the Lord and the religious sect had depreciated. The situation escalated in indignation. The text refers to those confronting and challenging Jesus as the “chief priests and elders” (21:15, 23, 45). The “chief” indicates the very important, elevated, lofty priests. These were the elders, the leaders of the house. It was these who “took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk.”
Those chief priests and elders sent some of their disciples, who deceitfully came and said, “Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men. Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?”
After an elaborate introduction (which was certainly not believed by the speakers), their carefully planned and thought out question was asked. “Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?”
This tax referenced the tax that every Jew was required to pay. This tax exempted the Jew from service in the Roman army and gave the Jews a minimal amount of Roman intervention in their affairs. The purpose of the question was to “entangle” Jesus. They supposed that Jesus would either have to declare loyalty to Caesar and thus deny that He is the Messiah. Or, they supposed, He would place Himself in a position to be charged with disloyalty to Rome. Jesus perceived their wickedness, marked them as the hypocrites they were, and said, “Shew me the tribute money.” He then asked, “Whose is this image and superscription?” Of course, Caesar’s image was upon the coin. Then came His answer concerning tax, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” That which is stamped with Caesar’s image should be rendered to him. That which is stamped by God should be rendered to God. This silenced the disciples of the chief priests.
- Marriage at the Resurrection
Mat 22:23 The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection, and asked him
The condition continues to depreciate. The religious sect had no experience with anyone confronting them. Not only were they being confronted, they were being disgraced. Their questions were not only fielded by Jesus, but they were turned back upon them. The best minds of the religious system could not ask one question that could “entangle” Jesus.
Remember that the Lord was attempting to teach, and these Pharisees, Sadducees, elders, priests, and their disciples were continuously interrupting the Lord’s teaching. Neither the Lord nor the religious sect would retreat. With each question, Jesus became more passionate against them. So also was the religious sect. Jesus was face to face with the sons of the devil (Joh 8:44). With each answer and every parable, the leaders of Israel were provoked in indignation and rage.
This time the Sadducees have a question that they feel should surely “entangle” Jesus. The question was about whose wife a woman would be after she had married seven brothers.
These questions were not asked to obtain the correct answers. The Sadducees could care less about divorced people and they did not believe in the resurrection. The attempt was to disprove the doctrine of Jesus about the resurrection. This proof of error would accomplish two things. It would show their superior doctrine to the doctrines Jesus was teaching. Also, it would injure the following of Jesus among those who had suffered divorce. There is nothing more bruising than divorce, nor anything more tender to touch than this teaching.
They were not prepared for His reply. What they attempted to do to Him was, in fact, put upon their own heads. The Lord said, “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.” The Lord’s doctrine was not in error. The Sadducees’ doctrine was in error and did not acknowledge the power of God. In the resurrection, we become as the angels concerning marriage. The Lord then showed the accuracy of His doctrine on the resurrection.
Mat 22:31 But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying,
Mat 22:32 I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.
Jesus clearly showed from the very words of God that there is life after death. There is another life after this.
Mat 22:33 And when the multitude heard this, they were astonished at his doctrine.
- The Greatest Commandment
Mat 22:34 But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together.
Mat 22:35 Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying
The Lord had been in confrontation with the chief priests, the elders, their disciples, the Herodians, and the Sadducees. Next, the Pharisees gathered to develop a question to “entangle” Jesus.
All of this transpired in the temple. This was the week of Passover. The Father had brought the Lamb to his house on the 10th day (Exo 12:3). They will kill the Lamb the 14th day.
The Lord Jesus continued to “bait” his audience. All the religious groups were assembling. The crowd was growing.
The Pharisees tried their deception. They had a lawyer among them who went to Jesus asking a question.
Mat 22:36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
Many “laws” had been added to what Moses gave originally by the Pharisees and Sadducees. The rabbis had the commands of Moses and the commands religion had added which compiled to a sum of 613 commandments. Which one is the great commandment?
Mat 22:37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
Mat 22:38 This is the first and great commandment.
Mat 22:39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
Mat 22:40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Which is the greatest? The Lord gives two. If these two are not correct, the others simply do not matter.
- Whose Son Is the Christ
Mat 22:41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them
The Lord answered the lawyer’s question, but did not expend much energy or interest on him. Instead, he looked to the group of Pharisees and asked them a question.
Mat 22:42 Saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The son of David.
Their idea of Christ (Messiah) being the son of David was not totally accurate. Their teaching was that this son of David would be mere man. He would be from the lineage of David and would be a political entity. Jesus questioned their answer.
Mat 22:43 He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying,
Mat 22:44 The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool?
Mat 22:45 If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?
How could a man be born hundreds of years after David, yet David call him Lord? The only possibility was that the Christ must be the Son of God born by a woman from the lineage of David. This way the Christ could be the son of David and the Lord.
There was only one among them who would fit that description. Very likely the Pharisees had heard of the pregnancy of the mother of Jesus prior to marriage and the rumors about the Holy Ghost being the Father. David’s Lord must come through David, yet must be Lord and God.
- Seven Woes
Mat 23:1 Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples
We change chapters, but not context. Chapter 23 is in the same context as chapter 21 and 24. Both the Lord and the religious apostates have come to a boiling point. A multitude of people had gathered. Take notice of the warring attitudes. Jesus was face to face with a demonic religious system that refused to receive Him. Jesus still had much to say to them. Remember this was the week prior to the Friday of the crucifixion. Remember also, this transpired within the temple structure.
With a multitude present, including the chief priests, elders, their disciples, Herodians, Sadducees, and Pharisees, Jesus looked at the multitude and then to His disciples. Jesus began to literally dismantle the religious apostates. He hurled woe after woe at them. Jesus began by saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.
In the Scriptures, we have the written word and the implied word. The written word is exactly what is written. The implied word is what is “between the lines.” For example, the gospel of St. John 19:18 says, “they crucified him.” John does not go into the details of the crucifixion, i.e. the nailing, bleeding, breathing difficulties, suffocation, gall / vinegar etc. John knew his readers had witnessed many crucifixions. There was no need to describe it in writing. The implication was clear. Here, Matthew knows we have all been in conflicting and confrontational situations. We have experienced the tension. We have either spoken to a multitude or been a part of a multitude to which was being spoken. The voice volume of the speaker must increase. In confrontational situations, facial expressions often change as words become cutting. Defense mechanisms activate. Stares and glances and glares become a part of the communication process. Though these are not written, be sure they are implied. The religious groups had no respect for Jesus. No matter. He accused and he condemned the house of Israel.
By looking at these same verses from the Living Bible, we will acquire a greater degree of realism. Take note of the sarcasm that is more noticeable in this version.
Mat 23:2 “You would think these Jewish leaders and these Pharisees were Moses, the way they keep making up so many laws!
Mat 23:3 And of course you should obey their every whim! It may be all right to do what they say, but above anything else, don’t follow their example. For they don’t do what they tell you to do.
Mat 23:4 They load you with impossible demands that they themselves don’t even try to keep.
Mat 23:5 “Everything they do is done for show. They act holy by wearing on their arms little prayer boxes with Scripture verses inside, and by lengthening the memorial fringes of their robes.
The Lord did not say this behind the backs of those of whom he spoke. They stood present, listening, looking, and glaring. Jesus spoke to the multitude and to His disciples. He continued.
Mat 23:6 And how they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the reserved pews in the synagogue!
Mat 23:7 How they enjoy the deference paid them on the streets and to be called ‘Rabbi’ and ‘Master’!
This rebuke accelerated and erupted into the ‘Seven Woes’ of judgment.
(1) Mat 23:13 “Woe to you, Pharisees, and you other religious leaders. Hypocrites! For you won’t let others enter the Kingdom of Heaven and won’t go in yourselves. And you pretend to be holy, with all your long, public prayers in the streets, while you are evicting widows from their homes. Hypocrites!
(2) Mat 23:15 Yes, woe upon you hypocrites. For you go to all lengths to make one convert, and then turn him into twice the son of hell you are yourselves. Blind guides! Woe upon you! …. Blind fools!
(3) Mat 23:16 Blind guides! Woe upon you! For your rule is that to swear ‘By God’s Temple’ means nothing-you can break that oath, but to swear ‘By the gold in the Temple’ is binding!…. Blind fools!
(4) Mat 23:23 “Yes, woe upon you, Pharisees, and you other religious leaders-hypocrites! For you tithe down to the last mint leaf in your garden, but ignore the important things-justice and mercy and faith. Yes, you should tithe, but you shouldn’t leave the more important things undone…. Blind guides! You strain out a gnat and swallow a camel.
(5) Mat 23:25 “Woe to you, Pharisees, and you religious leaders-hypocrites! You are so careful to polish the outside of the cup, but the inside is foul with extortion and greed…. Blind Pharisees!
(6) Mat 23:27 “Woe to you, Pharisees, and you religious leaders! You are like beautiful mausoleums-full of dead men’s bones, and of foulness and corruption.
Mat 23:28 You try to look like saintly men, but underneath those pious robes of yours are hearts besmirched with every sort of hypocrisy and sin.
(7) Mat 23:29 “Yes, woe to you, Pharisees, and you religious leaders-hypocrites! For you build monuments to the prophets killed by your fathers and lay flowers on the graves of the godly men they destroyed, and say, ‘We certainly would never have acted as our fathers did.’
Mat 23:31 “In saying that, you are accusing yourselves of being the sons of wicked men.
Mat 23:32 And you are following in their steps, filling up the full measure of their evil.
We are coming to the climax of the context of the Olivet Discourse. Jesus “baited” the religious groups. It had been questions and answers. Parable given and point made. No one had ever gotten the entire religious apostate system together at one sitting to hear them. Not only had Jesus gotten them together, He had rebuked the entire bunch. He spoke Woes to the entire house.
The Lord was not finished with his discourse to the religious system. He continued.
Mat 23:33 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?
These very religious people were damned for hell. Even Jesus asked how could they possibly escape it. Not only them, but their fathers were hell bound. Jesus said that not only were they snakes, but their fathers were snakes also doomed.
We cannot miss this and its relevance for later study. This needs to be cataloged in our thought process for proper future Scripture interpretation. This entire religious system is doomed for hell according to the words of Jesus.
Because of the importance of the following verses, we will look at both the King James translation and the Living Bible translation.
Mat 23:34 Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city [KJV]
Mat 23:34 “I will send you prophets, and wise men, and inspired writers, and you will kill some by crucifixion, and rip open the backs of others with whips in your synagogues, and hound them from city to city, [TLB]
Their deaths were not in vain. Their blood was accumulating vengeance.
Mat 23:35 That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. [KJV]
Mat 23:35 so that you will become guilty of all the blood of murdered godly men from righteous Abel to Zechariah (son of Barachiah), slain by you in the Temple between the altar and the sanctuary. [TLB]
The Lord Jesus said to that generation they will kill the servants of God “SO THAT” they would be guilty of all the righteous blood since Abel. This system, this house would be guilty of the blood of the saints. This thought and truth becomes extremely important in interpreting the Revelation.
Rev 17:5 And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
Rev 17:6 And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration. [KJV]
The great whore of Revelation 17 was responsible for the blood of the saints and for the martyrs of Jesus Christ. The great whore was a city as we will see. Could this city be Jerusalem? Oh yes! It surely could be. This next verse spoken by Jesus will verify this.
- To Come Upon That Generation
Mat 23:36 Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.[KJV]
Mat 23:36 Yes, all the accumulated judgment of the centuries shall break upon the heads of this very generation. [TLB]
As above stated, the blood of the saints is an important truth necessary for proper interpretation of the Revelation. Moreover, the phrase “this generation” is even more important. It would be this generation that all these woes would come upon. It was that wicked generation that would be destroyed. This, in fact, came quickly. It came upon that generation. The events must shortly come to pass. This is a theme of the Revelation from the first verse to the end of the book (Rev 1:1; 22:20). Jesus next pinpointed the exact city and object at which that judgment was aimed.
- That House Is Left Desolate
Mat 23:37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!
Mat 23:38 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.[KJV]
Mat 23:37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones all those God sends to her! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.
Mat 23:38 And now your house is left to you, desolate. [TLB]
Please remember that Jesus was inside the temple when he said that. He was addressing a multitude of people (Mat 23:1) which included every religious sect of Israel. The Lord was not happy. He was angry with those religious Jews. It was because of them that a horrible tribulation would come upon people. Jesus had released the “woes” of judgment upon that generation and upon that temple. If Jesus said it then it would happen. He had referred to them in their presence and hearing as “murderers,” “fools,” “hypocrites,” “blind leaders,” and “poisonous snakes.” He told them they were guilty for all the blood of the saints and would have vengeance enacted upon them, not upon a future generation. This was for that specific generation. In the book of Revelation, John writes this of Jesus:
Rev 1:7 Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.
The ones who pierced Jesus would see Jesus coming in clouds of judgment. Jesus told the High Priest at the trial of Christ the fact that he would see the Son of man coming (Mar 14:61-61).
Jerusalem was the specific city targeted. That temple would be laid desolate. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones all those God sends to her! ….now your house is left to you, desolate.”
Jesus Himself was responsible for that destruction and desolation as He comes in the name of the Lord.
Mat 23:39 For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.
- The Disciple’s Association
Mat 24:1 And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple.
We have spent all that time and effort to get us to this place. Matthew 24 is where the term “great tribulation” is located. The great tribulation is on the heels of what has just happened in Matthew chapters 21-23. Jesus condemned the city and the house of Moses (temple) before every religious sect, before a multitude, and before His own disciples. He said, “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.” He then “went out, and departed from the temple.”
Please see that Matthew 24 is not separated from the cleansing of the temple, the parables speaking of the removal of the kingdom from Israel and giving it to another nation, the back-and-forth confrontations with the Jews, the woes of condemnation, and the promise of the destruction of Jerusalem and the house of Moses. It has taken us pages to develop the link, but if you now see that then it was worth the effort.
“Jesus went out, and departed from the temple.” Observe that Jesus not only “went out,” he more importantly “departed from the temple.” The glory of the Lord has departed. Ichabod was now written and sealed. The words of God are released. The ark of God has departed (1Sa 4:21-22).
As the Lord departed from the temple with his twelve following, the disciples began pointing to the buildings of the temple. This is important for they associated what Jesus had just said about the desolation with the temple. This was exactly as they should. They had heard well what the Lord had said. They pointed out to the Lord the beauty and massiveness of the temple. It was beyond human comprehension to think that such a powerful structure could or would be laid desolate.
The temple at Jerusalem was, in its day, one of the wonders of the world. No expense had been spared. It was lavished with gold and silver. Polished brass was found throughout. The stones were massive and the swinging brass gates were huge. It was a picture of beauty. As the disciples pointed out this beauty and strength to the Lord, we see they were questioning the accuracy of recent prophecy.
Surely Jesus missed it this time was the questioning of the disciples. Surely Jesus had only been angry when He said what he had said. No. That was not the case. Jesus augmented what he had just said.
Mat 24:2 And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.
The Lord did not retrieve nor change his statement. He verified it. He amplified it. There would not be one stone left upon another. And there was (is) not. Rome not only took and used the stones. The area was literally plowed to be unrecognizable. All that remains is a portion of the Wailing Wall. That point needs to be meditated upon.
The Lord said that temple would be torn down! The Lord was not speaking of a temple built during a seven-year tribulation. Neither was He speaking of a temple built during the millennium. He was speaking about the temple from which minutes prior He departed and went out from.
- THE QUESTIONS
The disciples had been stirred. For days things had been extremely tense. Their Lord had stood toe-to-toe with the most respected religious leaders of their day. The disciples had witnessed the Lord’s intensity. They had watched the situation build until the Lord damned them to hell and then said the entire religious system would be made desolate – including the beloved temple.
The disciples followed the Lord to the mount called Olivet. At some spot, four of the disciples, Peter, James, John, and Andrew (Mar 13:3) approached the Lord. They asked the Lord questions recorded in Matthew 24:3.
Mat 24:3 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?
These four disciples were asking for two answers to what can be seen as three questions. The questions are: (1) “When shall these things be?” (2) “What shall be the sign of thy coming,” and (3) “of the end of the world?” The disciples asked “when” would all this happen and asked what was the “sign” that would indicate the Lord’s coming to end the age.
The word aion translated “world” (24:3) in the King James Version actually means “age.” It does not mean “planet” nor “earth” nor “mankind” nor “humanity.” Modern translations translate the word aion this way.
New International Version – “…when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age [aion]?
New Revised Standard – “….what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age [aion]?”
New American Standard – “….when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”
We find four Greek words that are translated “world” in the King James Version. These are kosmos meaning the system (usually religious); oikoumene meaning land; ge meaning soil and region; and aion meaning age or a period of time. The disciples were asking for the one sign that would tell them that the age of the Law had ended and that the Lord had come as he had just said.
A word here is necessary to differentiate between the “coming” of the Lord and the “Advent” of the Lord. This has already been referred to and will be examined later. Some help is needed at this point to understand the first century doctrine versus today’s contemporary doctrine. These following verses will help.
These following verses show the Lord Himself said He would come prior to the physical death of some of His disciples.
Mat 16:28 Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.
Mar 9:1 And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.
In the verse following, the Lord tells His disciples that as they go preaching the gospel to all the cities of Israel, there will be a “coming.”
Mat 10:23 But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.
The Lord spoke of a coming upon Jerusalem (Mat 24:27, 30; 26:64). Notice that these are clear comings, but have no mention of a resurrection. This coming, as we will see later, concerns taking the wicked. The resurrection does not occur in this coming. This is because this coming of the Lord of which the disciples are inquiring, has nothing to do with the resurrection or the catching away of 1 Thessalonians 4.
The Advent coming always includes the resurrection (1Co 15:52; 1Th 4:16).
The writers of the gospels were awaiting both comings or two comings. They awaited the Lord’s coming upon Jerusalem and the nation of Israel (Mat 24). This coming was to destroy the house of Moses. They also awaited the Advent coming which includes the resurrection. This one was not taught as “any moment,” but rather at the last trump and the last day.
We, today, await one coming. If a person’s theology does not include the coming upon Israel to destroy the temple and Jerusalem, confusion is the result. We await the Advent and resurrection. We should not await the tribulation upon Israel. That tribulation included the destruction of the temple and the destruction of Jerusalem. The coming studied here is obviously not the coming we await (see Matthew 16:28, Mark 9:1).
Everyone knows exactly what the Lord meant when He addressed His churches and alarms them with His warning that He will come unto the church quickly (i.e. Rev 2:16). Interestingly, the same Greek word translated “come” (Rev 2:16) is found in the coming of the Lord in Matthew 24 concerning the great tribulation (Mat 24:30).
The disciples were asking the Lord about His coming upon Jerusalem, not about His advent (Mat 24:3). This is obvious from the context. Nothing had been said concerning the resurrection or the termination of humanity. Everything pointed to the end of the nation of Israel and the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. It was to come upon that generation to which Jesus spoke.
That coming did happen in A.D. 70. The city and the temple were laid desolate exactly as Jesus said. The nation lay desolate. The Roman armies came and burned the city with fire. Trees were cut down for miles around. The once plush land lay desolate and eroded. The nation was terminated and the Jews were dispersed as slaves into the world. For one thousand eight hundred and seventy-eight years, there was no nation of Israel. The nation called Israel today does not have the same boundaries or the same worship. It has the name, but not the worship nor temple. The house was laid desolate.
The questions of the disciples required two answers. First, when would these things the Lord had said about Jerusalem’s desolation be? Second, what was the one sign that would show them He had come, and the age of the law, Moses, and the Pharisees had ended.
- THE ANSWERS
The answers are actually found in the Olivet Discourse, so named because Mt. Olivet is the geographical location where it was given.
The Lord, as any good master, had every intention to answer the questions of His disciples. He goes into great detail and gives far more detail than they ask.
Mat 24:4 And Jesus answered and said unto them . . .
We are seeking to find the “when” and the “sign.” Both were given as the Lord took His disciples through the years of that generation.
- Deceiving Signs
He first warned them of deceiving men. He said, “Take heed that no man deceive you.” This was a warning they needed to heed. “Many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.”
He gave this warning because, as previously mentioned, it was the day of the Messiah. The Messiah was supposed to be in the land. This was the seventieth week of Daniel. Wycliff commentary writes,
“Josephus says that there were many such movements in those days of unrest. Gamaliel recalled one Theudas, who claimed to be a person of great importance and who persuaded some four hundred Jews to follow him. This movement was crushed and Theudas slain. We know nothing else about this man. About A.D. 45, a magician by the same name led a large number of Jews to the Jordan River promising that he could separate the waters so that they could walk across the river on dry ground. The Roman governor, Crispus Fadus, sent horsemen and crushed the movement. This false messiah, however, was a different person from the one mentioned by Gamaliel.”
Today we may have a few “strange” people who would try to say they are Christ. Jesus did not say there would be a few. He said, “Many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ.” We know Christ has come. Those in Christ’s day were waiting for Him to come. They were easily deceived and “Many” actually were deceived, but not Christ’s disciples.
Next, the Lord warned of wars and rumors of wars. He said concerning false Christs and the wars, “all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.” This was not the “sign.” This was not the “when.” The end was not yet.
Then the Lord said there shall be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. These are “the beginning of sorrows.” It is interesting that the four horsemen of Revelation 6 bring forth these exact sorrows. These were not the end. These did not show the time. These are, at best, the beginning of sorrows.
Also during the wait for the coming, these specific disciples would be arrested. Some of those will be killed. All would be hated. This would all take place for His name’s sake. We know that both Peter and John were beaten. John was exiled to the isle of Patmos.
Persecution came. The love once in the churches waxed cold. That happened at Ephesus. The church left its first love. Also, coldness was apparent at Sardis, a dead church. Coldness was at Laodicea, a sickening church. False prophets were rampant. That happened at Pergamos and Thyatira as Jezebel worked her work.
The Lord added “he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” Though the church at Smyrna was persecuted, it endured even being thrown into prison by the devil.
All of the above would happen prior to His coming. Still, none of these were the sign.
Today many use this passage of Matthew 24 to prove the end is near. All the signs so far were false signs. The Lord said, “Take heed that no man deceive you.” Yet people listen to people every day telling them the end is close because we had another earthquake. Or the end is near because there is another war in the Middle East. Or the end is near because Africa has pestilence and famine.
For someone to begin to declare that our day is the last day and use these reasons is simply a deception. Still, these have nothing to do with “the sign” or “the time.” These “sorrows” did not mean the end then and they do not now.
Remember that Jesus clearly told them these events, i.e. false prophets, people saying they were the Christ, wars, famines, pestilences, earthquakes, apostasy, were not the sign. “Take heed that no man deceive you” (v. 4). “See that ye be not troubled.” “The end is not yet” (v. 6).
Jesus said not to let any man deceive you that these are / were the signs of the end. Even if they have written a best selling novel, do not believe them. Even if they are on television and have a huge ministry, do not believe them!
- The “When”
After the Lord told them what would not be when the desolation would come, He told them what would show the desolation to come. This is the “when” part of the answer.
Mat 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and THEN shall the end come.
When the gospel of the kingdom had been preached to all the world, the end would come. We agree on this, correct? This is the answer to “when shall these things be?”
The end would not come until the gospel was preached in all the nations. Teachers today tell us there are people today who have never heard the gospel. This is true. However, the scriptures declare that prior to A.D. 65, the whole world had heard the gospel.
The single time stipulation for the coming of the Lord was the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom. It must be proclaimed to all the nations. Then the end would come. Paul proclaims three times in the New Testament that the gospel had been preached to the entire world.
Romans 1:8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.
Colossians 1:5 For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel;
Colossians 1:6 Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth:
Colossians 1:23 If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister
Paul records that the whole world had heard the gospel. The “world” was the Roman Empire.
This was the time stipulation that Jesus said was necessary. Once the gospel was proclaimed they could begin to look for the sign. All nations hearing the gospel was the “when.” The “end” was ready to come in A.D. 65.
Of what end was the Lord Jesus referring when He said, “Then shall the end come”? As we have seen contextually, He referred to the end of the days of the Law of Moses and temple worship. This would be the end of animal sacrifices. One of the reasons for the destruction was to end animal sacrifice. It stands to reason. If the Law of Moses ended then animal sacrifice must also. No animal sacrifice, no Law. No Law, no animal sacrifice.
The dispensationalist’s doctrine states that the temple is to be rebuilt in Jerusalem and animal sacrifices will be resumed. Also during the millennium, temple worship with animal sacrifice will be the norm. I ask, “Why would He reinstate it?”
The “when” was when the gospel of this kingdom was preached in all the world for a witness to all nations.
- The Sign
The “sign” would be explained next. What was the one sign that would prove to the disciples that the end of the age of Moses had come and that Jesus was seated in heaven? The Lord now begins to explain that answer.
Mat 24:15 When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)
Isn’t it interesting that Matthew 24:15 end by saying, “whoso readeth, let him understand,” but no one understands. To a Gentile, the verse doesn’t mean a lot. In fact, it is confusing. Even a Gentile who is fluent in Jewish customs, Hebrew, and Aramaic (which Daniel used) does not grasp the significance of “the abomination of desolation”.
Our not understanding should not bother us, for when Daniel received the prophecy, he did not understand either. We acquire help from the Gospel of Luke. Luke, the author of the Gospel According to Luke, was a Gentile. As he recorded his version of this discourse, he did not use the phrase “abomination of desolation” as did Matthew, a Jew. Luke explains this in a way that we can all understand – Jew or Gentile.
Luk 21:20 And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.
Luke says this desolation was near when Jerusalem was compassed with armies. How can we be sure that Luke and Matthew are reporting the same event? By a comparison of the verses following Matthew 24:15 and Luke 21:20, we can see that they both are speaking of the same desolation.
Mat 24:15 When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)
Mat 24:16 Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains:
Mat 24:17 Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house:
Mat 24:18 Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes.
Mat 24:19 And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!
Mat 24:20 But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day:
Mat 24:21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
Luk 21:20 And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.
Luk 21:21 Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries thereinto.
Luk 21:23 But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people.
Luk 21:22 For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.
Luk 21:24 And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.
Luk 21:25 And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring;
As easily seen, both passages are speaking of the identical event. The event was the Roman armies encompassing Jerusalem.
It was here in this discourse concerning this event that the Lord said there will be great tribulation (Mat 24:21).
The Lord has not left the context of the dismantling of the temple and judgment coming upon Jerusalem. At no place did He stop His context. There is no place that he insinuated that it would be two thousand years later. The great tribulation is concerning the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in A.D. 70.
The Lord instructed His followers to flee when they witnessed Jerusalem compassed with armies. Flee Judea and go to the mountains. Do not go home when they knew the Roman armies were coming. Do not take time to pack. He told them it would be more difficult if a person had an infant. Pray that the desolation will not happen in the winter. That point would be important if you lived in that day. It actually happened during the time of the Feast of Tabernacles in early October 66 A.D.
It is interesting that the Believers did flee, and it is interesting how this transpired. First, a general appointed by Nero named Cestius came into the land with a mighty Roman army. Cestius had great success. He came quickly upon the land taking cities and rapidly compassed Jerusalem. Josephus writes that Cestius could have taken the city and ended the war that day. Then for some reason Cestius retreated.
“he recalled his soldiers from the place, and by despairing of any expectation of taking it, without having received any disgrace, he retired from the city without any reason in the world.
Actually, there were several reasons. One was that the Believers who had not already needed time to flee and flee they did. The believers saw Jerusalem as a “sinking ship”.
Another reason that Cestius retreated was that had he captured Jerusalem, neither the city nor the temple would have been destroyed. Both the city and the temple were admired by Rome. They considered both as attributes of beauty to the Roman Empire and adornments of which they could boast. Also the land would not have been ravished had Cestius taken Jerusalem. The great tribulation would not have taken place as Jesus had said.
The Lord then said,
Mat 24:29 Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:
We will not take the time here to fully cover the thought of what is called “collapsing universe terminology.” This collapsing sun, moon, star type language is used throughout the prophetic books. Once the reader sees and understands the usage of this prophetic language, he will quickly grasp the prophetic concept. We will explore it in depth during the study of Revelation chapter 6. Here we will only project the concept.
There are numerous passages in which this language is used. We will view two at this time.
Following is a prophecy by Isaiah concerning the termination of the Babylonian empire, which was overthrown by the Medes and Persians.
Isa 13:9 Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it.
Isa 13:10 For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine.
The Babylonian empire did crumble, but the stars of heaven and the constellations did not literally stop shining.
Below is another prophecy proclaiming that the Lord can dispatch armies to destroy when He pleases. The language is the termination of the heavens. That projected is the principle of “lights out” for the society and nation.
Isa 34:4 And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree.
Isa 34:5 For my sword shall be bathed in heaven: behold, it shall come down upon Idumea, and upon the people of my curse, to judgment.
Isa 34:6 The sword of the LORD is filled with blood, it is made fat with fatness, and with the blood of lambs and goats, with the fat of the kidneys of rams: for the LORD hath a sacrifice in Bozrah, and a great slaughter in the land of Idumea.
What Jesus was saying is that “IMMEDIATELY after the tribulation” there would be more temple worship. That house would be laid desolate (Mat 23:38). As stated previously, the nation did not exist for 1,878 years after this tribulation. The nation today called Israel is not the same as then. The borders are not the same. There is no temple. There cannot be a Levitical priesthood, for no one can prove they are from the tribe of Levi. It was all laid desolate. The society ended “immediately after the tribulation of those days.” Titus immediately took those alive into slavery and dispersed them throughout the empire. The city was burned. As for the temple, not one stone remained upon another.
The disciples had asked “when” would this happen to the nation and the temple. The Lord told them the end would come “when” the gospel of the kingdom was preached to all nations. The disciples asked for the one “sign” that would show the Lord had come and ended the age of Moses. The Lord next gave that sign.
Mat 24:30 And then shall appear the SIGN of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
The sign that Moses had ended and that the Son of man had come in the clouds to end Moses was the “lights out” of the nation. The tribulation was to end the nation, and the end of the nation was the sign. The siege, the war, the destruction, the captivity left the nation desolate. That was the “sign” of which the disciples asked.
The sign that the Lord Jesus sat as the Son of man upon His throne in the clouds was given. The Lord would gather His elect from the four winds, from every corner on earth. This is related to us in Revelation 7. The four winds were held back until the 144,000 were sealed. The winds blew the elect into every corner. The Lord would gather them into His church.
- The Fulfillment
The Lord told His disciples “when” this desolation would happen. He also answered their question about the “sign” of His coming and the end of the age of Moses. He used the fig tree parable to give insight into the fulfillment.
Mat 24:32 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh:
Mat 24:33 So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.
Mat 24:34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.
Mat 24:35 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.
Many (nearly all) of today’s theologians attempt to make this fig tree the nation of Israel. It is from this passage that so many preached and expected the rapture of the church in 1988. Today they say something like this,
“The fig tree. A frequent Biblical symbol of the nation of Israel.”
Please notice the term “frequent.” Once again , this has become the interpretation only since the 1850’s. It was not the teaching of the first century and not the teaching of those prior to the Plymouth Brethren and the dispensational doctrine.
Matthew Henry writing in the late 1600’s and early 1700’s does not recognize the “fig tree as Israel” doctrine. Matthew Henry writes that the Lord is instructing His disciples and is saying,
“‘Now learn what use to make of the things you have heard; so observe and understand the signs of the times, and compare them with the predictions of the word, as from thence to foresee what is at the door, that you may provide accordingly.’ The parable of the fig-tree is no more than this, that its budding and blossoming are a presage of summer…. we foresee that summer is coming, not immediately, but at some distance; after the branch grows tender, we expect the March winds, and the April showers, before the summer comes; however, we are sure it is coming; ‘so like wise ye’, when the gospel day shall dawn, count upon it, that through this variety of events which I have told you of, the perfect day will come. The things revealed must shortly come to pass (Rev 1:1); they must come in their own order, in the order appointed for them.”
The olive tree (not the fig tree) is a much better tree reference for Israel than the fig. It is the one that Paul used. Yet even with the olive, it is seen as the cultivated tree being Israel and “wild” olive tree being Gentiles (Rom 11:17).
There simply is not a tree that specifically speaks of Israel, though the olive (not fig) is the best. In the thirty-eight scriptures using “fig tree” or “fig trees” (23 Old Testament; 15 New Testament), there is not one that shows the fig tree specifically as Israel. The first use of any term is always beneficial. The first use is as the first seed. Every other seed must have the characteristics of the first seed. The first use of “fig trees” is shown below.
Deu 8:8 A land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey
That thought follows “fig tree” or “fig trees” all through the Scriptures. The seed thought of “fig tree” is that of prosperity and abundance which adds to joy. The fig tree becomes a term of measurement. When times were good, the fig tree was productive. When times were bad, the fig tree was not productive. In the verse previous (Deu 8:8), we see that the land into which the Lord was bringing His people was an abundant and productive land. He was bringing them into joy and abundance, into a land of fig trees. We will use one Scripture (there are many) that shows that when the fig trees were not productive, a meaning of poverty and judgment is projected.
Joe 1:12 The vine is dried up, and the fig tree languisheth; the pomegranate tree, the palm tree also, and the apple tree, even all the trees of the field, are withered: because joy is withered away from the sons of men.
Here is what is taught by dispensationalists such as Hal Lindsey.
“But the most important sign in Matthew has to be the restoration of the Jews to the land in the rebirth of Israel. Even the figure of speech ‘fig tree’ has been a historic symbol of national Israel. When the Jewish people, after nearly 2000 years of exile, under relentless persecution, became a nation again on 14 May, 1948 the ‘fig tree’ put forth its first leaves.
“Jesus said that this would indicate that He was ‘at the door,’ ready to return. Then He said, ‘Truly I say to you this generation will not pass away until all these things take place’ (Matthew 24:34 NASB).
“What generation? Obviously, in context, the generation that would see the signs–chief among them the rebirth of Israel. A generation in the Bible is something like forty years. If this is a correct deduction, then within forty years or so of 1948, all these things could take place. Many scholars who have studied Bible prophecy all their lives believe that this is so.”
Hal Lindsey wrote this book in 1970 and one must admire him. He preached his conviction. He went out on the limb and stated a date. However, this was obviously in error. First of all, the only people seeing the fig tree as Israel are dispensationalists, not those who have researched the issue. Contextually, the Lord is speaking of His coming upon the nation of Israel in judgment, not blessing. This was to happen before that generation to which Jesus came passed away. That happened. Lindesy’s prediction did not!
The fig tree does not speak of Israel’s rebirth. Luke does not only use the fig tree in his gospel. Luke said, “the fig tree and all the trees.”
Luk 21:29 And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees;
Luk 21:30 When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. (emphasis added)
The Lord is simply saying that when they began to see the things happen, i.e. gospel of the kingdom preached in all the world and the armies of Rome in the land of Israel coming for Jerusalem, know it is time: “know that summer is nigh.” Pay little, if any, attention to wars, and famines, and earthquakes, and people who say they are Christ. Look for two things. First, the gospel of the kingdom preached to the then known world. Second, the armies coming to compass Jerusalem. These two things mean the fig tree is putting forth leaves. Jesus was saying, “know that it is near, even at the doors” (Mat 24:33).
Jesus told them “when” and told them “the sign,” but regardless, “This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” Jesus guaranteed this and said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.”
Mat 24:34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.
Mat 24:35 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.
The dispensationalist taught a false doctrine concerning 1988. They said 1988 was the year that the rapture of the church would take place and the great tribulation would begin. Obviously, the rapture and great tribulation upon our generation is not what this passage in Matthew 24 is about. Nevertheless, what Jesus said would happen did happen exactly as He said it would happen. The gospel of the kingdom was preached. The armies came. That was the fig tree becoming tender and putting forth leaves. The Christian Believers fled. In 66 A.D. the great tribulation began. It was unlike anything ever before or after. The temple of worship was destroyed and continues to lay desolate today. The age (world “aion”) terminated. The city of Jerusalem was burned. Over a million people died. Ninety thousand were taken into slavery. With this thought fresh in our thinking, read the following verse from the Revelation.
Rev 11:2 But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.
For 42 months (3 1/2 years), Jerusalem was tread upon by the Gentile armies of Rome.
The Lord did not give the disciples the day and the hour. He placed it within a generation for them and gave them signs (Mat 24:36). Then the Lord said that it would be as a deluge similar to the days of Noah. Things will appear as though all is well. “For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark.” The flood did not begin until Noah went into the ark (Gen 7:12, 13). The flood came and took away the wicked. So was the coming of Matthew 24. This was not the Advent of the Lord, nor was it the rapture of the church. This was the removal of a wicked system.
It is amazing how this passage about one taken and one left continues to be preached as the rapture. It is anything but the rapture. It is judgment upon the religious sects who recognized, but rejected, the Son (Mat 21:38) and killed Him. This horrible time was as it was in Noah’s day. It is not the righteous taken. The wicked were removed.
Mat 24:39 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
Mat 24:40 Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
Mat 24:41 Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
This was not and is not a rapture that any would want to go in. This taking included violent death, fire, famine, pestilence, and war. The horses and horsemen of Revelation came. Though a coming, this passage is not the Advent. This is the Lord coming as he said. The Lord “went out and departed from” that temple. That house would be desolate within a generation. It was!
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