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One of the keys to understanding prophecy – the book of Revelation, in particular – is a proper understanding of the Olivet Discourse, which is given to us in Matthew 24-25; Mark 13; Luke 21 (also ch 17).
Unfortunately, preterists and dispensational premillennialists have brought much confusion to what should otherwise be very apparent. Preterists (full) see the entire Olivet Discourse as having been completely fulfilled in AD 70. Indeed, they place so much importance and emphasis on this discourse that they view all prophecy as having been fulfilled at that time – including the book of Revelation.
Conversely, dispensational premillennialists view the entire discourse as taking place in the final years prior to the return of Christ.
One thing I learned a long time ago, the truth is normally found in the balance, not in the extremes — and that is what we have with Preterism and Dispensational Premillennialism. We must also allow the truth to lead us where it wants to leads us, without allowing positional bias to influence the way we interpret Scripture. When we set aside our positional biases and take a neutral approach to the Lord’s discourse, the obvious emerges — if we’re willing to accept it.
When we read through the Olivet Discourse, it’s immediately obvious that the events that Jesus describes can be seen throughout history from that time forward — not just in AD 70 or the final few years of the present world leading up to the return of Christ. In other words, all the things that occured in Christ’s generation, has occurred in every other generation — except, of course, the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. That realization is the key to understanding this discourse. Failure to keep that in mind as we read these chapters, results in a distorted or limited understanding. To restrict Christ’s discourse to one particular time period is a mistake, because not only does it result in an erroneous understanding of prophecy, but it also affects other doctrines — which is true of both Preterism and Dispensational Premillennialism.
Amillennialism is an eschatological position that provides a proper balance between the two extremes of Preterism and Dispensational Premillennialism. The interpretation of the Olivet Discourse that I present in this study, is a sensible and consistent position. Just as Amillennialism views the entire book of Revelation as occurring throughout the Church age, so should the Olivet Discourse be viewed the same way. There’s a consistency there that rings true, and gives one confidence that we’re understanding it correctly.
As I already mentioned, out of all the signs and events that Jesus described in His discourse, the only thing that pertains to AD 70 that doesn’t pertain to the rest of history that follows, is the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple. However, what must be understood is that that event is in the midst of this same time period where all the other events occur, which is throughout the remainder of history. Furthermore, what happened to Jerusalem then, provides a type and shadow of what happens at the end of history when Jesus returns in judgment against the world. Just as God judged unbelieving Israel, so will He judge the whole unbelieving world.
With that brief introduction, we’re ready to interpret the Olivet Discourse. When understood as presented in this study, it removes all the confusion that is normally associated with it. We’ll go through Matthew 24 in its entirely, but will only deal with Mark 13 and Luke 21 (also ch 17) where needed for clarification. We’ll also deal with Matthew 25, as that chapter is still a part of the Olivet Discourse.
[Bold within the text of Scripture is mine]
1 Now as Jesus was going out of the temple courts and walking away, his disciples came to show him the temple buildings. 2 And he said to them, “Do you see all these things? I tell you the truth, not one stone will be left on another. All will be torn down!”
Here Jesus is giving a prophecy about the destruction of the temple, which occurred in AD 70, along with the whole city of Jerusalem.
3 As he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, his disciples came to him privately and said, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
This is called the Olivet Discourse because Jesus gave it on the “Mount of Olives.”
“These things” refer to the destruction of the temple.
“sign of your coming and of the end of the age”
It’s important to see that the disciples asked about more than just the timing of the destruction of the temple. They wanted to know more about the future, so they also asked about Jesus’ “coming and the end of the age.” As we’ll see later, the disciples rightly associated Christ’s coming with the end of the age.
Identifying the “end of the age” is a key to understanding this whole discourse. Therefore, we must properly understand what the “the age” is referring to:
(Mark 10:30) 30 who will not receive in this age a hundred times as much – homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, fields, all with persecutions – and in the age to come, eternal life.
Here Jesus reveals that “this age” is life in this world, and that the “age to come” is eternity in God’s presence. As believers, we have eternal life now, but here Jesus is referring to the full possession of it in the afterlife (Heaven).
(Luke 20:34-35) 34 So Jesus said to them, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35 But those who are regarded as worthy to share in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.
This may be the most clearly stated verse regarding the meaning of “this age” and the “age to come.” “Marrying and given in marriage” of “this age” refers to life in this world, because quite obviously, people marry before and after AD 70. Jesus confirms this with His next statement: The “age to come” (“that age”) refers to the next life after we’ve been resurrected.
(Titus 2:11-13) 11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,
“Salvation for all people” extends to all people of all times, not just between the cross and AD 70. Therefore, as followers of Christ, we’re to live “godly lives,” etc, in the “present age,” which has to be life in this world throughout history — from the cross to the end of history when the Church is complete and Jesus returns (“the appearing”).
(Matthew 28:19-20) 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
After giving His disciples the “great commission,” Jesus says that He would be with them “always, to the end of the age.” The charge to “make disciples” is not limited to that time leading up to AD 70. It’s to the Church of Christ that this commission is given to. We in the gospel era, the Christian age, are Christ’s representatives in the world. Therefore, Jesus was not just addressing His disciples at that time (before AD 70), He was obviously addressing His Church, we who have had the responsibility and privilege of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ and teaching His followers from the time that Jesus gave this charge. Therefore, His promise to the “end of the age,” refers to the end of history, the end of the Church age, up to the time Jesus returns in “power and great glory.”
(Matthew 12:32) 32 Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven. But whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.
Based on what’s revealed in the previous passages, we know that “this age” refers to life in this world, and the “age to come” refers to eternal life in God’s presence.
(1 Corinthians 1:20) 20 Where is the wise man? Where is the expert in the Mosaic law? Where is the debater of this age? Has God not made the wisdom of the world foolish?
The “debater of this age” has to be people of this world in this life….not just those who lived between the cross and AD 70.
(1 Corinthians 2:6-8) 6 Now we do speak wisdom among the mature, but not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are perishing. 7 Instead we speak the wisdom of God, hidden in a mystery, that God determined before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it. If they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
(1 Corinthians 3:18-19) 18 Guard against self-deception, each of you. If someone among you thinks he is wise in this age, let him become foolish so that he can become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this age is foolishness with God. As it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness.”
By now it should be clear that “this age” refers to life in this world throughout history, to the very end of the Church age.
(Galatians 1:4) 4 who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from this present evil age according to the will of our God and Father,
Jesus didn’t “give himself” just for the sins of those who lived between the cross and AD 70, to rescue only those who lived during that time. Jesus paid the price for the sins of all people of all time in order to rescue us from everything associated with this world in this life.
(Ephesians 1:21) 21 far above every rule and authority and power and dominion and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.
This age = life in this world throughout history.
Age to come = eternity with Christ.
(1 Timothy 6:17) 17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. (ESV)
This instruction doesn’t apply only to the “rich” up to AD 70. That would be ridiculous. “This present age,” of course, refers to life in this world throughout history, throughout the Church age.
(2 Timothy 4:10) 10 For Demas deserted me, since he loved the present age, and he went to Thessalonica. Crescens went to Galatia and Titus to Dalmatia.
To “love the present age” is to love the things of this world in this life throughout history…..not just during the period the cross and AD 70.
(Matthew 13:39-40) 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 As the poisonous weeds are collected and burned with fire, so it will be at the end of the age.
(Matthew 13:49) 49 It will be this way at the end of the age. Angels will come and separate the evil from the righteous…
Because of the other verses we looked at, we can confidently identify “the harvest” at the “end of the age,” as occurring at the end of history, the end of the Church age, the end of the world when Jesus returns in judgment and to receive His own.
Summary of all the above verses:
Based on all of these passages, we can know for sure that the “end of the age” refers to the end of the Church age, the end of history….not to AD 70. Therefore, we know for certain that the coming of Christ happens at the end of the Church age, not in AD 70. While God judged Israel at that time, and as significant as that event was, it was not the return of Christ where He judges the world and receives His own into the eternal kingdom.
To be clear, the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple in AD 70, and the coming of Christ, are two separate events. AD 70 marks the full transition from Old Covenant to New Covenant, from God’s dealing with the nation of Israel to God’s dealing with the Church. Under the OC, God dealt with the world through Israel. Under the NC, God deals with the world through His Church. In AD 70, God judged Israel. At the end of the Church age (end of history), God will judge the world. Two separate events, two separate judgments.
Matthew 24:4 Jesus answered them, “Watch out that no one misleads you.
This is one of the most important clues to properly understanding the Olivet Discourse. As we’ll see, Jesus wants His disciples to know that when the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple occurs (in their lifetime), that that is not the time of His coming. So He warns them not to be misled or deceived. He warns them not to associate the two events. Reason being, is that everything Jesus talks about in this discourse can be seen throughout history, from the days of the Apostles to the end of the Church age. In other words, as long as we’re seeing all the things happening in the world that Jesus talks about here, we know that the time of His return is still future. Remember, we have to keep everything in the context of the “end of the age,” which we know to be at the end of history, still future from our time.
Matthew 24:5 For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will mislead many. 6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. Make sure that you are not alarmed, for this must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 For nation will rise up in arms against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these things are the beginning of birth pains. 9 “Then they will hand you over to be persecuted and will kill you. You will be hated by all the nations because of my name. 10 Then many will be led into sin, and they will betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will appear and deceive many, 12 and because lawlessness will increase so much, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the person who endures to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole inhabited earth as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.
Review all the things that Jesus mentions here:
- Saying, I am the Christ.
- Hearing of wars and rumors of wars
“The end is still to come” (“end of the age,” the end of history)
- Nation against nation, kingdom against kingdom.
- Christian persecution, hated by all.
- False prophets
- Gospel preached to the whole world.
“Then, the end will come” (“end of the age,” end of history)
In the above verses, Jesus mentions things that have been going on throughout history. There’s always been wars and famines and earthquakes and Christian persecution and false Christs (Messiahs) and false prophets, and the gospel of Jesus Christ continues to be spread throughout the world. All these things continue to this day.
After naming all of those events or signs, Jesus says, “then the end will come.” In other words, He’s essentially saying, “as long as you’re seeing all these things taking place in the world, then you know that the end of the age is still future, you know that My coming is still future.” We’re still seeing all of these things in our day. Thus, the end of the age, the Second Coming of Christ is still future from our point in history.
Therefore, Jesus tells His disciples (and all Christians – Mark 13:37), that they’re not to be misled when they see destruction of Jerusalem and its temple. They’re not to confuse it with the time of His coming. Jesus is basically saying, “look, when you see the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple, don’t be misled into thinking that that event is the time of My coming.” That won’t happen until the end of the age, which is the end of the Churage age, the end of history. This understanding enables us to correctly interpret the next section of this discourse, beginning in verse 15 (Matt 24:15).
Sign of Signs:
Matthew 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole inhabited earth as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.
We need to spend some time on this verse, because I regard it as the most important sign that Jesus gives regarding the time period that His discourse covers. Preterists interpret this as referring to the “whole inhabited earth” of the then known world, in the first century — using verses such as Colossians 1:5-6,23 to back it up. In other words, they believe that once the gospel message was spread to the then known world in their days, then the “end” would come — that is, the end of Jerusalem and God’s plan for the nation of Israel (AD 70). However, I believe only a positional bias can limit this to the times of the Apostles.
This sign cannot be limited to the known world of AD 70, because the gospel of Jesus Christ (also Mark 13:10) is not limited to a particular time period, but to every time period throughout history, until the last person has received Christ as Lord and Savior, until the end of mankind in this world. We have several passages that invalidate the preterist interpretation:
(John 12:32) 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
Jesus did not draw people to Himself only in the first century, but up to the full end of history.
(Matthew 28:18-20) 18 And Jesus came and said to them, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
This is known as the Great Commission. All Christians accept this as Christ’s commission to His Church to make disciples of all nations. That, of course, involves the spreading of the gospel message. To limit the sign of Matthew 24:14 to AD 70, you also have to limit the Great Commision to that time period. But we know for sure that can’t be true.
(Revelation 5:9-10) 9 They were singing a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals because you were killed, and at the cost of your own blood you have purchased for God persons from every tribe, language, people, and nation. 10 You have appointed them as a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”
According to Preterism, the book of Revelation is about the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. If that’s the case, then Jesus only shed His blood and “purchased for God persons from every tribe, language, people, and nation” up to AD 70. If Revelation really is just about that time period – as preterists insist – and if the gospel message was spread only to the then known world, then to be consistent, those those whom Christ “purchased” has to be limited to that time period. But an unbiased eye can see the senselessness of such an interpretation.
Jesus, knowing that He would shed His blood for all mankind of every nation and people of all times, why would He make a statement about the gospel message that limits the scope of it to the then known world of AD 70 when He knew that it continued 2000 plus years beyond that time, and involved a population of people that would one day expand the entire globe? Knowing the full scope of the gospel message, knowing the full extent of the world’s population, knowing the full number of His redeemed, knowing the full reality of these things, it’s inconceivable that Jesus would see His prophecy being fulfilled at a time when the gospel era (Christian era) was JUST GETTING STARTED! It makes far better sense that Jesus saw His prophecy being fulfilled when the gospel message had actually run its full course. The idea that Jesus had AD 70 in mind, shouldn’t even be considered.
(Revelation 7:9-17) 9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!
This passage is much like the one in Revelation 5.9-10. Again, to be consistent, preterists must limit the scope of this heavenly vision only to the redeemed of AD 70. To be consistent, the redeemed of “every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages,” must be limited to the then known world of the first century. However, first of all, notice that this “great multitude” could not be numbered. If this was limited to the redeemed of AD 70, then that number would be fairly small, and could be numbered. The implication is, that this number is so great that the idea of counting such a great number of people is inconceivable. The number of believers up to AD 70 would have been minuscule compared to what the final count will be when Jesus comes back, when His Church is complete.
(Revelation 14:6) 6 Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people.
As with Revelation 5:9-10 and Revelation 7:9-10, this has to have “every nation and tribe and language and people” of all time in view. It cannot be limited to the world of AD 70. Jesus, knowing that He would shed His blood for all mankind, and “purchased for God persons from every tribe, language, people, and nation,” of all times until the end of all times, why would He limit the scope of it to AD 70? Are we to believe that “persons from every tribe, language, people and nation,” refers to two different time periods? One in AD 70 and another at the end of history when Christ’s Church is complete? Of course not. We must allow the obvious to provide the true meaning.
Furthermore, the interpretation of this verse (Matthew 24:14) should not even be viewed within the framework of what was known at that time, but within the framework of reality. Just because their knowledge of the known world in the first century was limited – and not based on the actual extent of it – does not mean that the gospel message had actually, in fact, been “preached throughout the whole inhabited earth” by the time AD 70 came around. Just because their view of the world at that time included only a small portion of the actual extent, does not mean that the spreading of the gospel of Christ had been completed. The then known world interpretation must give way to what was actually true at that time.
Even if all the people of the world had actually been reached with the gospel of Jesus Christ by AD 70, that still leaves 2000 plus years of people still left to hear the gospel message. What sense would that make?
Also, why would the gospel message even have to be spread to all the world before God judged Israel in AD 70? Why would that even be necessary? God couldn’t judge Israel before everyone on earth had heard the gospel message? Why not? What theological reason could there be for that? The gospel message can’t continue after that? We know that it did, and does to this day. We can confidently and rightly conclude, that as long as the gospel message is being proclaimed throughout the world, then we know that we have not come to the “end of the age.”
Note: According to the Joshua Project there’s still a large percentage of the world’s population that is still “unreached,” as it pertains to the gospel of Jesus Christ. With so many people who still need to hear the message of Christ, we still have a long way to go before Jesus’ prophecy is fulfilled (Matt 24:14).
Matthew 24:15 “So when you see the abomination of desolation – spoken about by Daniel the prophet – standing in the holy place” (let the reader understand),
NASB: Matthew 24:15 “Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand),
“the abomination of desolation”
Matthew and Mark (Mark 13:14) use this phrase. However, Luke describes it differently and provides insight to what Matthew and Mark are referring to:
Luke 21:20 “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near.
The “abomination of desolation” and “Jerusalem surrounded by armies” is describing two different aspects of the same event. Sam Storms, from his book “Kingdom Come,” provides an explanation of what Jesus prophesied, and what was fulfilled in AD 70:
The most likely identification is Titus and the armies of Rome. While the city of Jerusalem was still burning, the soldiers brought their legionary standards into the temple precincts and offered sacrifices there, declaring Titus to be victor. The idolatrous representations of Caesar and the Roman eagle on the standards would have constituted the worst imaginable blasphemy to the Jewish people.
Identifying Titus and his armies with the Abomination of Desolation is most popular because it seems to parallel the action of Antiochus Epiphanes in the second century B.C. It is important to note that in Luke 21:20 the surrounding of Jerusalem by armies was the signal that her desolation (Gk, eremosis, the same word used in Matthew 24:15) had drawn near. We read in Josephus: “the Romans, upon the flight of the seditious into the city, and upon the burning of the holy house itself, and of all the buildings round about it, brought their ensigns to the temple, and set them over against its eastern gate; and there did they offer sacrifices to them, and there did they make Titus imperator, with the greatest acclamations of joy.” Thus, although the Abomination of Desolation “involves the destruction of Jerusalem (beginning with its several encirclings by Cestius, Vespasian, Simon, and Titus), it culminates in this final abominable act within the temple itself.” I find this view the most likely one.
The invasion of the Roman armies against Jerusalem is a matter of historical record, which happened in AD 70. We have to keep in mind that this whole discussion began with Jesus informing His disciples that “not one stone will be left on another. All will be torn down (vs. 2)” in regard to the temple. The disciples wanted to know when “these things” would happen. Thus, Jesus here, is giving them the primary sign to look for when that time had come, which actually began in AD 66 with the Jewish rebellion (The Zealots).
(I encourage you to do more reading on your own about the destruction of Jerusalem)
Matthew 24:16 “then those in Judea must flee to the mountains. 17 The one on the roof must not come down to take anything out of his house, 18 and the one in the field must not turn back to get his cloak. 19 Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing their babies in those days! 20 Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath.
Here Jesus gives His followers the way of escape when they see this situation developing as He described — which happened in AD 70.
Matthew 24:21 For then there will be great suffering unlike anything that has happened from the beginning of the world until now, or ever will happen. 22 And if those days had not been cut short, no one would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.
ESV/NASB – Matthew 24:21 “For then there will be great tribulation….”
To understand whom and what time period Jesus is talking about, we must go to Luke 21:22-24, which reveals that these verses are still referring to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 (please see commentary on this Luke passage). In regard to the “suffering” or “tribulation” of those days (AD 70) being “unlike anything” before or after, this may refer to the large number of people who suffered and died in those days. According to Josephus, 1.1 million were killed in that seige. That is a staggering number of people.
In regard to “the elect,” I believe Jesus was referring to the elect remnant Jews of that time period (Ro 9:27; 11:5). If those days had not been “cut short,” it’s possible that Rome would have advanced upon the whole nation of Israel, and then proceeded to exterminate Jews worldwide — just as was attempted in the days of Queen Esther and Mordecai (book of Esther). If that had happened, it would have included believing Jews, as well.
“therefore” (Matt 24:15 – NASB)
With the context already discussed (Matt 24:15-22), it’s important to consider the significance of this word “therefore” in Matthew 24:15 (NASB). This greatly adds to our understanding of what Jesus was conveying to His disciples. After revealing that all these signs cover all of history from that point forward, He then says “therefore when you see the abomination of desolation and when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then those in Judea must flee to the mountains.” I believe He was telling them, “don’t stick around, get out of the city, because this is not the sign of my coming and the end of the age (Jesus reveals the sign of His coming in verse 30). Jesus didn’t want their own ideas about His coming to be equated with the events of AD 70. He didn’t want them to be confused about those two events. Jesus confirms this in verses 23-15:
Matthew 24:23 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe him. 24 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 25 Remember, I have told you ahead of time. 26 So then, if someone says to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out, or ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe him.
The indication here is that Jesus anticipated that when the time came for Jerusalem to come under siege by the Roman armies, the disciples would get the idea that this was the time of His coming. And so He tells them, “don’t be looking for me at that time, regardless of what people are saying about Me. Do not believe them!”
Jesus knew that when Jerusalem and its temple was being destroyed, there would be people claiming that this was the time of His coming or “appearing” (1 Tim 6:14; 2 Tim 4:1; Tit 2:13). But what does He say to them? He says “don’t believe them!” Jesus talks about the false Christs and false prophets before (vss. 5, 11) and after He talks about the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple that was to happen in their lifetime. And both times He told them not be deceived or misled by what they were seeing and hearing. I regard this as the most important point to recognize in this whole discourse, for it puts everything in proper perspective.
It’s also important to understand that the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman armies is included among the “wars and rumors of wars, nation against nation, kingdom against kingdom,” of which Jesus said “the end is still to come” or “the end is not yet” (ESV). He wanted His disciples to correctly recognize the signs for what they were, and not be misled about what they were seeing and hearing in their day.
The destruction of Jerusalem and its temple was not the sign of Christ’s coming. That is the point Jesus was conveying to His disciples. He will not return until the “end of the age,” which we’ve already identified as the end of history, the end of the Church age, the end of the present world.
Yet, in spite this, many Christians today are still being misled, still being deceived by what occured in AD 70. Namely, preterists view the destruction of Jerusalem as the “end of the age,” the time of “Christs coming” — the very thing that Jesus told His disciples not to believe! Preterism completely misses the fact that as long as there’s wars between nations (along with all the other signs Jesus gives), the end of the age and the return of Christ is still future.
Jesus then tells His disciples what His coming will actually look like when it actually happens:
Matthew 24:27 For just like the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so the coming of the Son of Man will be. 28 Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.
Here Jesus tells His disciples that when He comes back, it won’t look like it will when Jerusalem and its temple is destroyed (AD 70). He’s telling them not to be misled or be deceived into thinking that this is the time of His return. No, rather, when He actually does come, everyone in the world will know it! When Jesus returns, it will be like a flash of lightning: His glory will light up the sky of the whole world (“from the east to the west”), and it will be quick (NASB: Rev 3:11; 22:7,12,20). Furthermore, when Jesus returns, it will be in judgment of the world, which is what He’s referring to when He mentions the “corpses and vultures.” Although we can see corpses and vultures in the siege of Jerusalem, what happened then was local, but when He returns it will be worldwide, and that is what He reveals both here and in verses 29-31:
Matthew 24:29 “Immediately after the suffering of those days, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven will be shaken.
NASB/ESV – “Immediately after the tribulation of those days”
This word “immediately” leaves no wiggle room. What happens after the “tribulation of those days,” happens right away. There is no gap. As we’ve been talking about throughout this study, we know that Jesus is referring to the tribulation that occurs throughout the Church age, from the cross to to the end of history. Jesus talks about tribulation before and after the events of AD 70. The tribulation that Jerusalem experienced at that time was merely part of the whole picture. Thus, the tribulation “after those days” refers to the end of history, the end of the world.
We have to keep in mind that throughout this discourse Jesus is talking about signs that we would see throughout the age, which we’ve identified as the period between the cross and the return of Christ at the end of history. Throughout this discourse Jesus talks about the tribulation we would experience in the world (Matt 24:4-14; Mark 13:5-13; Luke 21:8-18). Jesus makes a plain statement about that in the following verse:
(John 16:33) 33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (ESV)
Therefore, the tribulation of AD 70 is only one event in this whole prophecy, as significant as that was. While the whole context is enough to identify the tribulation period as life in this world throughout the Church age (throughout history) – and not just the tribulation that the Jews experienced in AD 70 – Revelation 7:9-17 confirms it. In that passage we’re given a vision of the redeemed “from from every nation, tribe, people, and language (Rev 7:9),” who is said to “have come out of the great tribulation (Rev 7:14).” This is obviously a vision of all believers, which includes both Jews and Gentiles. Together they make up the Church. Therefore, “the great tribulation” is not the events of AD 70 regarding Jerusalem, but the tribulation of the whole world — from the cross to Christ’s return at the end of the present world.
As for the description that Jesus gives surrounding His coming, “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven will be shaken,” many believe that because of how momentous this event will be, this is just hyperbole. However, this is not just a momentous event. This will be unlike anything the world has ever seen before. Aside from the crucifixion of Christ, His coming will be the greatest and most spectacular and most important event in all of history. It will be so universe-shaking, that everyone in the world will know about it. I believe His return to this earth in judgment will be accompanied by such earth-shaking signs that everyone worldwide will see and feel His presence. This is confirmed by what Jesus describes in Revelation 1:7:
(Revelation 1:7) 7 (Look! He is returning with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all the tribes on the earth will mourn because of him. This will certainly come to pass! Amen.)
I believe that when Jesus comes back to judge the world, all will “see him” in more ways than one. Besides His direct judgment upon the world, I believe they will see Him via great disturbances in the universe. We see a parallel passage in Revelation 6:9-17:
(Revelation 6:9-17) 12 Then I looked when the Lamb opened the sixth seal, and a huge earthquake took place; the sun became as black as sackcloth made of hair, and the full moon became blood red; 13 and the stars in the sky fell to the earth like a fig tree dropping its unripe figs when shaken by a fierce wind. 14 The sky was split apart like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved from its place. 15 Then the kings of the earth, the very important people, the generals, the rich, the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains. 16 They said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of the one who is seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 because the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to withstand it?”
When Jesus comes back to judge the world, everyone will know it, and they will know who’s judging them. I believe this will be an awareness that God will give. Therefore, because of the incomparable nature of the return of Christ, I believe we need to take Jesus’ description literally.
Matthew 24:30 Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man arriving on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
The destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 was not the “sign” of Christ’s coming. Again, this is the point that Jesus makes throughout this discourse. So here He says to His disciples: “After the tribulation of those days (life in the world throughout history), then you’ll see the sign of My coming.” And “all the tribes of the earth will mourn.” His coming will be quick, and it will light up the sky of the whole world, and everyone in the world will mourn. AD 70 was local. The actual coming of Christ will be worldwide. At that time, “they will see the Son of Man arriving on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. I believe the “clouds of heaven” refer to angels (Matt 25:31), but the most important point to understand is that the whole world will see it, for it will be “with power and great glory.” Such a description of His coming would be seen by all, and I believe that is the point Jesus is making.
Matthew 24:31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet blast, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
At the time of Christ’s coming, He “will gather his elect.” This is referring to the resurrection, as Jesus reveals in Matthew 25:31-33, which is still a part of the Olivet Discourse:
(Matthew 25:31-46) 31 When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. (ESV)
We must not make the mistake of viewing these two events as different from the other. The overall context and the description that Jesus gives in Matthew 24:27-31, makes it clear that He is talking about the same event in Matthew 25:31-46 — which is the resurrection and the judgement of the saved and unsaved. We also see this in Matthew 13:36-43; 13:47-49; Rev 20:11-15. Indeed, Matthew 24:45-51 and the parables in Matthew 25:1-30 also confirm that these are the same two events. As these scriptures reveal, upon the return of Christ, both the resurrection and the Great White Throne Judgment take place (Rev 20:11-15), whereupon we’re ushered into our eternal state: the unsaved into the lake of fire, and the saved into the eternal kingdom of the “new heaven and new earth” (Rev 21:1).
The fact that Jesus doesn’t mention the unsaved (“the goats”) in Matthew 24:31, doesn’t mean Jesus is talking about two different events. It just means that He’s focused on the resurrection of His followers at this point. The unsaved are implied, because when He returns, it will be in judgment of the world, as we’ve already seen.
Note 1: Dispensational Premillennialism teaches that these verses (Matt 24:29-31) are about the return of Christ after “seven years of tribulation” (or 3.5 years), where believing Jews are primarily in view. At the time of Christ’s return, they will then be ushered into the “millennial kingdom.” Thus, they make the same sort of mistake that Preterists do, and that’s limit this time of tribulation to a specific and short period of time — either AD 70, or the final 7 years (or 3.5 years) “after the Church as been raptured.” Both eschatological positions fail to see that the signs Jesus gives throughout this discourse, is a description of life in the world, which extends throughout history.
On the part of Dispensational Premillennialism, they take the liberty of assuming not only a 7 or 3.5 year tribulation period, but they also insert a thousand year kingdom after Jesus comes back, where they say He will reign as King on this present earth. Thus, their position requires them to make assumptions in order to maintain their view of end time prophecy.
Note 2: To be clear, Amillennialism does not see a millennial kingdom taught in Scripture, but rather, upon the return of Christ and the resurrection, we’re ushered into the eternal kingdom of the “new heaven and new earth” (Rev 21:1). This viewpoint is consistent with what’s taught in this Olivet Discourse. We don’t have to make assumptions about anything. We don’t have to insert our position into the text, but simply accept it as Jesus gives it to us.
Matthew 24:32 “Learn this parable from the fig tree: Whenever its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. 33 So also you, when you see all these things, know that he is near, right at the door.
“All these things” occur though the Church age. These signs and events must be viewed as “birth pains” (Matt 24; Mark 13:8). Meaning, the closer we get to the return of Christ, the greater the intensity. Thus, when the time of His coming is “near,” things in the world (tribulation) will be at its most severe.
Matthew 24:34 I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
In context, “this generation” should be understood as “this age,” for everyone throughout history experiences “these things” and sees these “signs” that Jesus talks about. Every generation witnesses “these things.” Accordingly, Jesus expands upon that word (“generation”) and uses it to refer to that whole time period until the end of history. Notice what happens in that same context of “this generation” passing away. Heaven and earth also “passes away.” This confirms that “this generation” is referring to life in this present world, which will be destroyed upon the return of Christ — whereupon God will create a “new heaven and new earth” (2 Pet 3:13; Rev 21:1).
Matthew 24:36 “But as for that day and hour no one knows it – not even the angels in heaven – except the Father alone. 37 For just like the days of Noah were, so the coming of the Son of Man will be. 38 For in those days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark. 39 And they knew nothing until the flood came and took them all away. It will be the same at the coming of the Son of Man.
Compare with Luke 17:26-30:
(Luke 17:26-30) 26 Just as it was in the days of Noah, so too it will be in the days of the Son of Man. 27 People were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage – right up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all. 28 Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot, people were eating, drinking, buying, selling, planting, building; 29 but on the day Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. 30 It will be the same on the day the Son of Man is revealed.
What Jesus describes here is normal, everyday life: “eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, buying, selling, planting, building.” Ordinary life, as described here, is not limited to AD 70, but is common life in the world as it’s always been. As long as we’re seeing all such “signs,” we know that the “coming of the Son of Man” is still future. That being the case, I don’t know how this Olivet Discourse prophecy can be limited to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Throughout this discussion, Jesus has sought to prevent us from making that mistake. Yet, in spite of that, there are still many Christians who see AD 70 as the fulfillment of this prophecy.
Matthew 24:39 “knew nothing until the flood came”
What Jesus means by this is made more clear in the Luke 17 passage, where He describes the days of both Noah and Lot. In regard to Lot, He says that “fire and sulfur rained down from heaven.” The rain of fire upon Sodom fell suddenly. They didn’t “know anything” until it hit them. In other words, it came so quickly that they didn’t see it coming. That’s exactly the point Jesus is making here. The siege of Jerusalem in AD 70 was not sudden. The conflict between the Jews and Rome really began in AD 66 with the Jewish rebellion (The Zealots). The actual siege of the city began on August 30 and ended on September 8 (Wikipedia). When Jesus returns, judgment will come upon the world suddenly, they won’t see it coming, no time to prepare. This sudden appearance of Christ and associated judgment, is also given to us in Revelation 20:9:
(Revelation 20:9) They went up on the broad plain of the earth and encircled the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and devoured them completely.
This type of sudden destruction did not occur in AD 70. As Jesus has been saying all along, when He does come, everyone will know it, and it will be worldwide — not local as with the city of Jerusalem in AD 70. The “camp of the saints and the beloved city” is figurative language to describe the Church. In those days, there will apparently be a worldwide assault against Christians worldwide. We see the world today becoming more and more anti-Christian, even in America.
Again, that the coming of Christ will be sudden, is exactly is what He described in Matthew 24:27: “just like the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so the coming of the Son of Man will be.” As I pointed out before, this sudden or “quick” appearance is seen in the following verses in Revelation: (NASB): Rev 3:11; 22:7,12,20.
Matthew 24:40 Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one left. 41 There will be two women grinding grain with a mill; one will be taken and one left.
“one will be taken and one left”
As with verse 31 (Matt 24:31), I believe this refers to the resurrection, which occurs at the time of Christ’s return — except in verse 31 only believers are in view, while here both believers and unbelievers are in view. The resurrection of both occur virtually at the same time. However, I believe the resurrection of believers happens right before the resurrection of unbelievers. Right before Christ comes back, there will be a worldwide assault against Christians, with the intention of annihilating them. As discussed before, we see this in Revelation 20:7-10. So what we’re seeing here in verses 40-41 is that final event. Before the world of Christ-rejectors destroy His followers, God will resurrect them first, at which time He will reign down fire upon them. This is God’s judgment upon the world.
To be clear, when believers are resurrected, there will be Christians still alive at that time, which is what we see in these two verses. Those who are still alive will be caught up (raptured) with their fellow believers who are dead (see 1 Thes 4:13-18; 1 Cor 15:50-56). As this passage reveals (and many others), there is no 7 year or 3.5 year gap between the rapture and the return of Christ — as Dispensational Premillennialism teaches. The rapture is part of the resurrection, and the resurrection occurs at the time of Christ’s return.
Matthew 24:42 “Therefore stay alert, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have been alert and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
Why must Christians “be alert?” Why do we need to “be ready” for the coming of our Lord? Because whether we die before that time, or whether we are still alive at that time, we always need to “be ready.” We always must be living with eternity in view, knowing that we will one day stand before Jesus. We must, therefore, live our lives in faithfulness to the One we profess to believe in. We don’t want to stand before Christ with tears of shame and regret, and to lose rewards that will last forever. Furthermore, if we’re not living the Christian life, we prove ourselves to be false believers with a false faith.
Life is uncertain. We may die tomorrow. Or we may be alive at the time Jesus returns. Either way, we don’t know when that’s going to be. We must live as though today is our last day on earth.
Matthew 24:45 “Who then is the faithful and wise slave, whom the master has put in charge of his household, to give the other slaves their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that slave whom the master finds at work when he comes. 47 I tell you the truth, the master will put him in charge of all his possessions. 48 But if that evil slave should say to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ 49 and he begins to beat his fellow slaves and to eat and drink with drunkards, 50 then the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not foresee, 51 and will cut him in two,and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
“when he comes” (vs. 46)
“will come” (vs. 50)
“weeping and gnashing of teeth” (vs. 51)
To restrict this passage (vss. 46-51) to Christ’s servants (“slaves”) of AD 70, leaves out over 2000 years of Christ-followers who are serving Him in a much bigger world today than what it was in the first century. It makes better sense that Jesus is talking about that time when the days of our service (as His corporate people) in this world are finally over, as verse 51 confirms…..which is also confirmed by all of chapter 25, which is still a part of the Olivet Discourse.
If we live unfaithfully and unwise to the One we profess to believe in, then we prove ourselves to be false believers. In that case, there will be more than a lack of rewards, but will prove ourselves to be “hypocrites” and will be cast into the lake of fire (Rev 20:15) where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Therefore, we must “be alert,” we must “be ready.” We must be sure of our salvation and we must be faithfully living for Christ with the knowledge that we are accountable to Him.
Chapter 25 is still part of Christ’s discourse on the Mount of Olives. The discussion continues into this chapter without interruption. That fact is all-important to realize. That understanding enables us to correctly identify the events of this chapter.
I will not be discussing all the details of this chapter, but only as it suits our purpose — which is to show that the discussion of the coming of Christ (and judgment) in chapter 24 continues in this chapter, throughout this chapter. Meaning, that the coming of Christ occurs at the end of the Church age, at the end of history, at the end of the present world — and not in AD 70.
The coming of Christ mentioned in Matthew 24:27, 30, 37, 39, 42, 44, 46, 50 continues in Matthew 25:6, 10, 13, 19, 27. Namely, that the Parable of the Ten Virgins (vss. 1-13) and The Parable of the Talents (vss. 14-30) and The Judgment (vss. 1-46) are all talking about the very same event that Jesus has been talking about in Matthew 24, which is His coming at the end of the age — at the end of history. To view any of these events as something other than the same coming of Christ that Jesus has been discussing throughout, does not represent faithful exegesis of Scripture — but rather, an interpretation based on a positional bias. We must allow truth to lead us where it wants to lead us, and not impose our belief system upon the text.
The Parable of the Ten Virgins
Matthew 25:1 At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of the virgins were foolish, and five were wise. 3 When the foolish ones took their lamps, they did not take extra olive oil with them. 4 But the wise ones took flasks of olive oil with their lamps. 5 When the bridegroom was delayed a long time, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. 6 But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look, the bridegroom is here! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, because our lamps are going out.’ 9‘No,’ they replied. ‘There won’t be enough for you and for us. Go instead to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 But while they had gone to buy it, the bridegroom arrived, and those who were ready went inside with him to the wedding banquet. Then the door was shut. 11 Later, the other virgins came too, saying, ‘Lord, lord! Let us in!’ 12 But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I do not know you!’ 13 Therefore stay alert, because you do not know the day or the hour.
“the bridegroom is here!” (vs. 6)
“the bridegroom arrived” (vs. 10)
“you do not know the day or the hour” (vs. 13)
This is a direct reference to what Jesus said in Matthew 24:36, 42, 44. He repeats here what He said there, that the day or hour of His coming is unknown. Accordingly, we see the continuation of the same subject from chapter 24 into chapter 25.
The Parable of the Talents
Matthew 25:14 “For it is like a man going on a journey, who summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The one who had received five talents went off right away and put his money to work and gained five more. 17 In the same way, the one who had two gained two more. 18 But the one who had received one talent went out and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money in it. 19 After a longtime, the master of those slaves came and settled his accounts with them. 20 The one who had received the five talents came and brought five more, saying, ‘Sir,you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’ 21 His master answered, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave! You have been faithful in a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 The one with the two talents also came and said, ‘Sir, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more.’ 23 His master answered, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave! You have been faithful with a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of you rmaster.’ 24 Then the one who had received the onetalent came and said, ‘Sir, I knew that you were a hard man, harvesting where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered, ‘Evil and lazy slave! So you knew that I harvest where I didn’t sow and gather where I didn’t scatter? 27 Then you should have deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received my money back with interest! 28 Therefore take the talent from him and give it to the one who has ten. 29 For the one who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough. But the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 30 And throw that worthless slave into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
“the master of those slaves came” (vs. 19)
“on my return” (vs. 27)
The same coming or “return” of Christ as talked about in chapter 24 continues in this parable. We’ve also learned that when Jesus comes back, it will be the time of The Judgment, when everyone stands before Christ, as the last verse of this parable reveals:
Matthew 25:30 And throw that worthless slave into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
This same “weeping and gnashing of teeth,” is seen in Matthew 8:11-12; 13:37-43; 13:47-50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30; Luke 13:28. In each case, it refers to the eternal punishment of the unsaved — which leads us right into the last section of this chapter, because the coming of Christ and the judgment spoken of in Matthew 24 continues all the way to the end of this chapter.
Matthew 25:31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be assembled before him, and he will separate people one from another like a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
Again, this is the same judgment as the one described in Matthew 24:29-31. When Jesus returns in “power and great glory,” He will judge the unbelieving world (“the nations”) — those who are alive at that time. We see this in Revelation 20:7-10 (also Rev 19:11-21; 6:9-17; 11:15-18; 14:6-20; 16:12-21). However, as verses 31-33 reveal, this judgment includes the judgment of individuals (“sheep” and “goats”). In other words, this is the judgment of the dead — which is the Great White Throne Judgment of Revelation 20:11-15, where we all stand before Christ. Once Jesus has judged the “nations,” the judgment of the dead immediately follows. This includes both saved and unsaved — “sheep” and “goats.”
To be clear, I believe God resurrects the saints (raptures those still alive) right before He judges “the nations,” which leaves only unbelievers left in the world to experience the wrath of God.
Matthew 25:34 Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
The “kingdom” here is not the “millennial” kingdom of Premillennialism, but the “eternal kingdom” of the “new heaven and new earth” of Revelation 21 and 22. Immediately upon our resurrection, we will stand before Christ. At that point we’re ushered into our eternal state. As I pointed out over and over in my previous series on the Kingdom of Christ (“Kingdom Now”), the Bible does not teach a thousand year kingdom of this world. Scripture does not even make room for it. That idea has to be forced into the text of the New Testament, based on an Old Testament understanding. The major failure of Premillennialism is, that it interprets the NT according to an OT understanding. But that is backwards since it’s the NT that fulfills the OT. Accordingly, we must allow the NT to shed its light upon the OT. The reverse practice leads to mass confusion and faulty interpretation of what the NT actually teaches.
The one place in the NT that does refer to a thousand year kingdom (Rev 20:4-6), is in a book that’s filled with symbolic numbers, and the number 1000 is no exception. That number is to be understood as a long period of time, and the rest of the NT supports that idea. What it does not support, is a literal 1000 year kingdom on earth where Jesus reigns before we’re ushered into our eternal state. What the NT Scriptures actually teach, is that the Kingdom of Christ is a spiritual kingdom where Jesus reigns over a His people. That kingdom is the Church. Again, I go into great detail about this in my series on the Kingdom of Christ (“Kingdom Now”).
Read verses 35-40 (Matthew 25:35-40)
Matthew 25:41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire that has been prepared for the devil and his angels!
The unsaved will be cast into the “lake of fire” (Rev 20:15).
Read verses 42-45 (Matt 25:42-45)
Matthew 25:46 And these will depart into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
The unsaved “goats” will “depart into eternal punishment” (lake of fire), while the “righteous” (“sheep”) will depart into the eternal kingdom.
Since I most of what’s presented in this chapter is found in Matthew 24, I will not go into the same detail as I did there, but will only make brief remarks for clarification.
Mark 13:1 Now as Jesus was going out of the temple courts, one of his disciples said to him, “Teacher, look at these tremendous stones and buildings!” 2 Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left on another. All will be torn down!”
Signs of the End of the Age
Mark 13:3 So while he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately,
The names of the disciples are not given to us in Matthew or Luke. Only here. So apparently, Jesus was not talking to the whole twelve.
Mark 13:4 “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that all these things are about to take place?”
As with Luke 21, Mark doesn’t include the whole question as Matthew 24 does: “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age” (Matt 24:3). Therefore, we must keep the second part of the question in mind when we read through this chapter.
Mark 13:5 Jesus began to say to them, “Watch out that no one misleads you. 6 Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and they will mislead many. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. These things must happen, but the end is still to come.
As I talked about in Matthew 24, we must understand that Jesus is warning His disciples not to be mistaken about the time of His coming. He doesn’t want them to misinterpret the signs (“these things”). Throughout this discourse He gives them the signs for both the destruction of Jerusalem (and its temple) and of His coming. In other words, He doesn’t want them to mistake the events of AD 70 for His coming. Therefore, when many say “I am he,” they were not to be “misled,” because that is not the time of “the end,” which refers to the end of the age, which is the end of history, which is the actual time of Christ’s coming.
The Roman siege against Israel in AD 70 was a part of the “wars and rumors of wars.” Therefore, they were not to interpret the events of AD 70 as the time of His coming.
Mark 13:8 For nation will rise up in arms against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and there will be famines. These are but the beginning of birth pains.
All these signs are but the “beginning of birth pains.” Thus, when these things were happening in AD 70, they were not to look for Christ’s coming. These same things continue to this very day, which means the closer we get to His coming the more intense all “these things” will become.
Persecution of Disciples
Mark 13:9 “You must watch out for yourselves. You will be handed over to councils and beaten in the synagogues. You will stand before governors and kings because of me, as a witness to them. 10 First the gospel must be preached to all nations. 11 When they arrest you and hand you over for trial, do not worry about what to speak. But say whatever is given you at that time, for itis not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit. 12 Brother will hand over brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rise against parents and have them put to death. 13 You will be hated by everyone because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
What we see in this passage is Christian persecution, which started in the Jerusalem church in the days of the Apostles, and continues throughout the world to this day. Persecution against Christ-followers has always existed. Wherever the “gospel is preached” there is always persecution on some level — anywhere from verbal (what we experience in America) to beatings to torture to death. Therefore, one cannot sensibly restrict this to AD 70. When the gospel of Jesus Christ actually has been preached to all nations, then the end will come, then He will return.
The Abomination of Desolation
Mark 13:14 “But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where it should not be” (let the reader understand), “then those in Judea must flee to the mountains. 15 The one on the roof must not come down or go inside to take anything out of his house. 16 The one in the field must not turn back to get his cloak. 17 Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing their babies in those days! 18 Pray that it may not be in winter. 19 For in those days there will be suffering unlike anything that has happened from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, or ever will happen. 20 And if the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would be saved. But because of the elect, whom he chose, he has cut them short.
This is all about the Roman siege against Jerusalem in AD 70.
Mark 13:21 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe him. 22 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, the elect. 23 Be careful! I have told you everything ahead of time.
How can it be any clearer? Jesus tells His disciples that when Jerusalem is under siege, “don’t be looking for Me, because that is not the end, that is not the time of My coming. Don’t believe them!” As clear as this is, many Christians today still view this discourse as all about the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, which of course, requires them to interpret the book of Revelation the same way. Jesus says, “don’t believe them! Don’t be misled! Don’t be deceived!” How then, can we still make the mistake of interpreting the Olivet Discourse as all about that one event? The only reasonable interpretation is that there are two separate events in view. It was two events that the disciples asked about, and Jesus gave them signs to look for for both. They are not the same thing.
The Arrival of the Son of Man
Mark 13:24 “But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light; 25 the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 Then everyone will see the Son of Man arriving in the clouds with great power and glory. 27 Then he will send angels and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
Here Jesus tells His disciples what it will actually look like when He actually does return. “In those days, after that suffering” refers to all the tribulation signs that Jesus gives throughout His discourse. To restrict the tribulation and suffering to AD 70 fails to see the whole picture. As significant as that event was, it was merely a part of the whole. He’s telling them that when He does come back, it will be known by everyone. There won’t be any doubts about it. The whole world will see it. In other words, it won’t be local like it was in AD 70. It will be a worldwide, catastrophic event.
The Parable of the Fig Tree
Mark 13:28 “Learn this parable from the fig tree: Whenever its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also you, when you see these things happening, know that he is near, right at the door. 30 I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
When we see all “these things” mentioned throughout Jesus’ discourse happening and increasing in intensity – like “birth pains” – then we “know that he is near.” We’re still experiencing these birth pains, so how can we rightly restrict all of this to AD 70? We can’t! Therefore, where Jesus says “this generation will not pass away until all these things take place,” we know that He’s talking about all the generations that experience these things, which is all of them up to the very end of history. Thus, Jesus views this whole time period (2000 years now) as a single generation, as one. Both Preterism and Premillennialism make the same mistake of confining “this generation” to one particular time period. One puts it at the beginning of the Church age, and the other puts it at the end of it.
Mark 13:32 “But as for that day or hour no one knows it – neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son – except the Father. 33 Watch out! Stay alert! For you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey. He left his house and put his slaves in charge, assigning to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to stay alert. 35 Stay alert, then, because you do not know when the owner of the house will return – whether during evening, at midnight, when the rooster crows, or at dawn – 36 or else he might find you asleep when he returns suddenly. 37 What I say to you I say to everyone: Stay alert!”
Considering the fact that everything that Jesus talks about occurs throughout the Church age, throughout history, I believe we need to interpret “everyone” as referring to all His followers throughout history, to every member of His Church — for we are still experiencing all “these things” today.
The Signs of the End of the Age
Luke 21:5 Now while some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and offerings,Jesus said, 6 “As for these things that you are gazing at, the days will come when not one stone will be left on another. All will be torn down!” 7 So they asked him,“Teacher, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that these things are about to take place?”
As with Mark, the second part of their question is not given here, which is: “And what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Therefore, as we go through this chapter, we must keep this second part of the question in mind.
Luke 21:8 He said, “Watch out that you are not misled. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them! 9 And when you hear of wars and rebellions, do not be afraid. For these things must happen first, but the end will not come at once.”
This is actually a little more clear than the Matthew and Mark accounts. Immediately Jesus tells them not to be “misled” when “many come in His name, saying “I am he, and The time is near.” He adds, “do not follow them!” The reason He tells them this, is because when they see these signs that He mentions – which includes the “wars and rebellions” of AD 70 – they will think or wonder if this is the time of His coming. But He tells them, no! The “end will not come at once.” As we previously learned, “the end” refers to the end of the age, which is the end of history, which is the time of Christ’s coming. The end coincides with His coming. That is what He reveals in this passage.
Persecution of Disciples
Luke 21:10 Then he said to them, “Nation will rise up in arms against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be great earthquakes, and famines and plagues in various places, and there will be terrifying sights and great signs from heaven. 12 But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you, handing you over to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. 13 This will be a time for you to serve as witnesses. 14 Therefore be resolved not to rehearse ahead of time how to make your defense. 15 For I will give you the words along with the wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. 16 You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will have some of you put to death. 17 You will be hated by everyone because of my name. 18 Yet not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your lives.
This whole passage is a time of “tribulation,” which extends to this very day. In regard to what Jesus says about “terrifying sights and great signs from heaven,” it’s uncertain what Jesus is referring to. However, He may be talking about the things that happen at the very end when He returns…..but includes them here along with all the other events and signs that occur throughout history.
As we saw with Matthew and Mark, the persecution of Christians is highlighted, which will always exist as long as there are Christians and as long as the gospel of Jesus Christ is being preached.
The Desolation of Jerusalem
Luke 21:20 “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. 21 Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains. Those who are inside the city must depart. Those who are out in the country must not enter it, 22 because these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. 23 Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing their babies in those days! For there will be great distress on the earth and wrath against this people. 24 They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led away as captives among all nations. Jerusalem will be trampled down by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
In regard to the word “earth” in verse 23, it can also be translated as “land.” The following translations reflect that understanding: NASB, ASV, NIV, CSB, AMP, NKJV, NLT, YLT. The context itself supports “upon the land” (of Israel), rather than “on the earth.”
Luke’s account makes it certain that the people in view are the Jews who are being invaded by the Roman armies in AD 70. That was a “time of vengeance,” when God judged Israel for their sins and rejection of Jesus as their Messiah. This “fulfilled all that is written,” in regard to the nation of Israel and the Old Covenant. This marked the full end of God’s dealing with that nation. This event completed God’s plan for that nation. God’s plan for Israel is fulfilled in Christ and His Church. This marked the full end of the Old Covenant and fully established the New Covenant. Theologically, the New Covenant was fulfilled at the cross and Pentecost. But God’s judgment upon Israel in AD 70 was the outward sign of God’s rejection and judgment upon that people and that nation.
At that point, the surviving Jews were “led away as captives among all nations.” They were scattered throughout the world.
In regard to “Jerusalem will be trampled down by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled,” at first glance, it would appear that Jesus is referring solely to the siege of AD 70 where the city would be under siege by the Gentiles (Rome) until it was destroyed. However, I believe Jesus reveals the actual meaning of this phrase in the following passage:
(Matthew 21:42-44) 42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures:
‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
This is from the Lord, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?
43 For this reason I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. 44 The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, and the one on whom it falls will be crushed.”
Here Jesus describes the Jews, the nation of Israel and their “rejection” of Him as their Messiah. He says that “the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.” That, of course, refers to the Gentiles. God’s focus turned from the nation of Israel to all nations. It’s now through the Church that God reaches the world, and does so through the gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s now through His Son and His Church – which is mostly believing Gentiles – that God deals with the world. Thus, “until the times of the Gentiles” extends to the whole Church age until the return of Christ at the end of history. That’s when those “times” are “fulfilled,” when God’s program for mankind is finished.
Notice that Jesus says that “Jerusalem” will be “trampled down…..” Since the city of Jerusalem is mentioned in this context, some believe that Jesus is referring strictly to the siege of AD 70. However, I believe we must understand Jerusalem in the same sense that we understand Zion. Zion referred to the city of Jerusalem, but then came to represent all of Israel (please read What Is Zion?). Likewise, Jerusalem was the seat of Israel. It was the worship center for all of Israel. That’s where the temple was. Thus, as its capital and worship center, it represented the nation of Israel. Therefore, when Jerusalem and its temple was destroyed, it affected the whole nation, the whole people of that nation.
Note what Jesus says in verse 44 (Matt 21:44): “The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, and the one on whom it falls will be crushed.” This refers to God’s judgment upon them, which would include the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Therefore, we can be confident that Jesus is referring to all of Israel for all time, and not just to the city at that time.
It needs to be pointed out that, when Jesus said “until….,” it’s not to be understood as Dispensational Premillennialism teaches, that there will be a time where the “times of the Gentiles” would end, whereupon the nation of Israel would then become the focus of God’s attention again. As the context reveals (Luke 21:25-27), when the “times of the Gentiles are fulfilled,” Jesus will return “with power and great glory.” And as we learned in Matthew 24 and 25 (especially ch 25), at that time we’re resurrected and stand before Christ, and are then immediately ushered into our eternal state of the eternal kingdom. Nowhere in Matthew 24-25 or Mark 13 or Luke 21 is there any indication that God’s program reverts back to Israel. Nowhere in these chapters do we see a millennial kingdom when Jesus returns.
To recap, Jesus says “Immediately after the tribulation of those days” (ESV – Matt 24:29), we will “see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory (ESV).” Again, the “tribulation of those days” refers to the whole Church age, from the cross to Christ’s coming. Therefore, “immediately after the tribulation of those days,” refers to the “end of the age,” which is the end of Church age, the end of history. It’s at the end of the age that we see the return of Christ. The idea of a return to the nation of Israel and of a millennial kingdom just isn’t there. That idea has to be assumed based on an established eschatological position that must be upheld. When we start with a certain doctrinal position, we tend to see that position everywhere. Both Preterism and Dispensational Premillennialism are guilty of that. We must be careful not to give in to that tendency, but rather, allow Scripture to present itself without a positional lens. The reason I support the Amillennial position, is that I believe it has the most honest approach to Scripture. It doesn’t have to rely upon a positional lens to make it work — it just does.
The Arrival of the Son of Man
Luke 21:25 “And there will be signs in the sun and moon and stars, and on the earth nations will be in distress, anxious over the roaring of the sea and the surging waves.
On this verse, the Matthew account provides more information, which allows us to identify the time period:
Matthew 24:29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
Based on the Matthew account (see commentary), we know that Jesus is not still talking about the tribulation of AD 70, but of the overall tribulation of life in this world that we see throughout history to the end of the world, up to the time of His return.
Luke 21:26 People will be fainting from fear and from the expectation of what is coming on the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then they will see the Son of Man arriving in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 But when these things begin to happen, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
We further know that Jesus is no longer talking about the events of AD 70, because He is now talking about the “world.” The events of AD 70 was local (Jerusalem), but at the end of “these things,” when Jesus returns, it will be a worldwide event that everyone will know about. At that time we’ll be resurrected and ushered into Glory where we will experience our full “redemption.”
As for the phrase “when these things begin to happen,” I believe this refers specifically to the disciples in their day. Persecution was severe in their day, and according to history, most of them died as martyrs (we don’t have a record of all of them). Therefore, when they (and many Christians of that day) were seeing the “beginning” of these times of “tribulation” – which included suffering and death for the name of Christ – they were to look up because their “redemption” was “drawing near.” Of course, this is true of all Christians in such situations throughout the Church age. However, at the time of Christ’s coming, at the end of this present world, we as His Church, as members of His Church, will experience our full “redemption” as we enter our eternal state.
The Parable of the Fig Tree
Luke 21:29 Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the other trees. 30 When they sprout leaves, you see for yourselves and know that summer is now near. 31 So also you, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near.
As Jesus reveals in verse 35, He is still talking about the “end of the age,” the end of the world. Thus, when we as His followers see the total fulfillment of these things happening, we know that “the kingdom of God is near” — referring to the “eternal kingdom” (2 Pet 1:11); of the “new heaven and new earth” (2 Pet 3:10-13; Rev 21:1-5). The last sign that we’ll see that will let us know His coming is near, is when the whole world turns against Christians. In the very end, there will be a worldwide assault against the people of Christ. Christianity will be loathed. We’re seeing this developing and picking up speed all over world today, even in America. Therefore, when we see this situation escalating rapidly worldwide, then we know the return of Christ is “near,” we know that our entrance into the eternal kingdom is not far away,
Luke 21:32 I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
“This generation” has to be referring to every generation who are experiencing “all these things.” In other words, I believe Jesus uses that word to refer to all generations as one single generation, for all generations see “all these things. The one exception, of course, would be the siege of AD 70 — which is only one event of the whole that Jesus describes.
I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that immediately following the statement about “this generation” passing away, that Jesus mentions the passing away of “heaven and earth.” That’s because at the end of history, at the end of the world, the current heaven and earth will also pass away, and a “new heaven and new earth” will be created, where we are ushered into our eternal state (2 Pet 3:7-13; Rev 21:1) . There is no indication of a thousand year gap between “this generation” and the “new heaven and new earth.” In other words, there is no indication of a gap that is filled with a thousand year kingdom on earth. We go immediately from “this generation” to the “new heaven and new earth” of the eternal kingdom as described in Revelation 21 and 22.
Luke 21:34 “But be on your guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day close down upon you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will overtake all who live on the face of the whole earth.
The fact that “that day” or “these things” will “overtake all who live on the face of the whole earth,” is another indication that this covers all of history, for all of history all over the world experience all the things that Jesus describes in this discourse.
Luke 21:36 But stay alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that must happen, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
Life in this world is hard. It’s a world full of “tribulation.” Therefore, we need to “be alert” and pray for strength to endure this life — even that we might “escape all these things.” Life for many Christians is beyond hard, for many Christians suffer greatly. Of course, our ultimate “escape” will be in the afterlife, where “we will stand before the Son of Man,” where we will dwell in His presence forever and ever — finally at peace. Thus, this is also the way of escape for unbelievers. It’s an invitation to receive Christ as “the gospel is preached to the whole world.” This is the good news in the midst of all the “tribulation” that characterizes this world.
This same passage in Mark 13 – which is also the end of that chapter – ends with this: “What I say to you I say to everyone: Stay alert!” These words of warning are given to all Christ-followers throughout the Church age, up to the time of His return. Thus, part of “staying alert,” involves doing the work of the Lord, which includes sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with the unsaved.
Luke 21:37 So every day Jesus was teaching in the temple courts,but at night he went and stayed on the Mount of Olives. 38 And all the people came to him early in the morning to listen to him in the temple courts.
Luke 17:20 Now at one point the Pharisees asked Jesus when the kingdom of God was coming, so he answered, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, 21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is in your midst.”
The context is the “kingdom of God.” As we learned in Luke 21:31, the kingdom of God that is in view here, is the “eternal kingdom” of God (2 Pet 1:11) of the “new heaven and new earth” (2 Pet 3:10-13; Rev 21:1-5), which we enter into upon the return of Christ — as Jesus confirms in this whole passage before us. So while Luke 17:20-37 is not part of the Olivet Discourse, it does deal with the same subject — specifically, the last part of it, which is about the coming of Christ at the “end of the age,” at the end of this present world.
“The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed,
Throughout the Olivet Discourse, Jesus gives us signs to look for regarding both the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, and of His coming at the end of the world. So what does Jesus mean by this statement? At first it seems a bit contradictory. James Coffman provides a good explanation of this from his commentary:
Cometh not with observation … means that the kingdom would not visibly appear at all. There would be no proclamation of a king, in the political sense, no definition of boundaries, no setting up of any kind of material state at all. Hobbs noted that the word here translated “observation” is from the vocabulary of Greek medical writers (Luke being a physician), and that the word meant “closely watching the symptoms of heart disease.”
The kingdom of God was (is) not coming in the sense that the Jews were anticipating. They believed that the Messiah would come as a Jewish King who would reign over Israel in an earthly kingdom. Therefore, there would be no signs for such a kingdom. Thus, they were not to look for “signs” for such a kingdom. Indeed, when the Kingdom of God does come, the world will be in chaos. Furthermore, the focus of the world will be on the Church, not on Israel. Prior to the coming of the eternal kingdom of God, the world will move against Christians as one, seeking to annihilate all followers of Christ. I find it ironic that premillennialists are looking for the same earthly kingdom that the pharisees were looking for. I think that is very telling.
“nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is in your midst.”
First and foremost, the Kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom. As born-again believers, we belong to the spiritual kingdom of Christ. The Church is that kingdom, of whom Christ is Head (Col 1:13, 18). Accordingly, I believe Jesus was referring to Himself when He said that “the kingdom of God is in your midst.” Apart from Christ, no one enters the Kingdom of God. He is “the door” (Jn 10:7). Therefore, in addressing the Pharisees, He was letting them know that their focus was all wrong. He was letting them know that there is no Kingdom of God apart from Him. However, this spiritual kingdom in which we belong now, has its ultimate form in the eternal kingdom of the “new heaven and new earth,” as we’ve been learning, and as Jesus focuses on in the remainder of this chapter.
The Coming of the Son of Man
Luke 17:22 Then he said to the disciples, “The days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. 23 Then people will say to you, ‘Look, there he is!’ or ‘Look, here he is!’ Do not go out or chase after them. 24 For just like the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day.
As in the Olivet Discourse, Jesus tells His disciples not be looking for Him when they hear people claiming it. In this regard, He is likely referring primarily to the events of AD 70. Jesus was letting His disciples know that when that time came, it was not the time of His coming. Rather, when He actually does come back, it will be “just like the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other.” This refers to the quick and worldwide nature of His coming. The events of AD 70 was local (Jerusalem/Israel) and was not quick. Therefore, they were not to regard those days as the sign of His coming.
Luke 17:25 But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. 26 Just as it was in the days of Noah, so too it will be in the days of the Son of Man. 27 People were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage – right up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all. 28 Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot, people were eating, drinking, buying, selling, planting, building; 29 but on the day Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. 30 It will be the same on the day the Son of Man is revealed.
As we learned in the Olivet Discourse, the “days of Noah” and the “days of Lot,” refers to the normal manner of life in the world, as people “eat and drink and marry and are given in marriage,” as people “buy, sell, plant and build.” These things continue to this day and will continue to the last days before Jesus returns. At that time, God will “reign down fire” upon the world in judgment (Rev 20:9), just as He did upon Sodom and Gomorrah (Ge 19:24). In the days before the return of Christ, life in the world will be extremely lawless and turbulent. The “tribulation” in the world described by Jesus throughout His discourse, will at that point have reached its maximum level — at which point, the normal aspects of life – like eating and drinking, marriage, buying and selling and building – will no longer be people’s primary concern or focus……but will, instead, be overwhelmed by the chaos and destruction of the world at that time. Once the normal course of life ceases, then we know that the coming of Christ is near. I believe the country to watch is the United States. Once the normal way of life ceases here, then we know that the entire world is experiencing the same thing — because the description Jesus gives about eating and drinking, marriage, buying and selling and building, describes America better than any other country. So once the normal life in this country ceases, then we know it’s the same everywhere else in the world.
At this point in time, America and many other countries are still enjoying normal living and great prosperity. Any serious threat to our way of life is not even remotely in view at this time. Accordingly, I believe we can say with assurance that we’re not yet very close to the return of Christ — regardless of what many Christians believe today. Premillennialism has misled the vast majority of Christians. People have been programed to believe that the “rapture and seven year tribulation period and return of Christ is imminent,” that world conditions are such that He can return at any moment. While we do not know the “day or hour” of His coming, I believe He has given us certain signs to look for when we are close to that time. As I mentioned before, I believe the two main signs to look for, are the spreading of the gospel message to the whole world, and the development of a worldwide hatred of Christians — which will then lead to a worldwide assault against us. While we’re certainly moving in that direction, we are not even close to that yet. That’s not to say that things could not escalate very fast at some point, as I believe it will.
Luke 17:31 On that day, anyone who is on the roof, with his goods in the house, must not come down to take them away, and likewise the person in the field must not turn back.
While Jesus refers to this in the context of the events of AD 70 in the Olivet Discourse (Matt 24:15-18; Mark 13:14-16), here He uses it in the context of the end of the present world near the time of His return. What happens in the world will be similar to what happened to Jerusalem during the Roman siege. What Jesus means by this in the context of conditions of the world right before He returns, is given to us in the next verse:
Luke 17:32 Remember Lot’s wife! 33 Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will preserve it.
With verse 31 in mind, when things in the world reach the worst possible conditions, believers are not to lose faith, we’re not to “look back” like “Lot’s wife.” Rather, we’re to keep our eyes looking forward with eternity in view. We’re not to be concerned about the things of this life at that time. We’re to be “looking up, for our redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28). When worldwide persecution becomes severe, we’re not to give in to our Christ-rejecting enemies; we’re not to deny our Lord: “Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it.” On the contrary, we’re to remain strong in our faith no matter how bad things get: “but whoever loses his life will preserve it.” Because at that point, we’re almost Home. At that point, our resurrection is soon to come. At that point, the return of our Lord near.
Luke 17:34 I tell you, in that night there will be two people in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. 35 There will be two women grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.”
Considering the context and the timing, this has to refer to the resurrection/rapture of God’s people at that time. The saved will be “taken” and the unsaved will be “left” behind to face the judgment of God upon the world, which is what Jesus is referring to in the final verse of this chapter:
Luke 17:37 Then the disciples said to him, “Where, Lord?” He replied to them, “Where the dead body is, there the vultures will gather.”
I believe Jesus is using figurative language here. “Vultures” has to represent all scavenger birds and animals, and not just vultures. As to the meaning of what Jesus is saying, scavengers are found all over the world. Where there are dead bodies laying in the wilderness or out in the country, you’ll find scavengers. Accordingly, I believe Jesus is making the point that His judgment upon mankind will be worldwide, and will result in the death of mankind worldwide.
Other Preterist Scriptures
I think it will be helpful to address a couple scriptures that preterists use to help validate their position. There are other passages we could look at, but these are two of the main ones, so I’ll limit this discussion to those. The Olivet Discourse is the primary subject of this study, so this is for free.
(1) Matthew 16:27-28 27 For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. 28 I tell you the truth, there are some standing here who will not experience death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
Preterism teaches that this was fulfilled in AD 70, with the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple. I believe it was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost. First, we need to identify who was present when Jesus made this statement. We don’t see it in the Matthew passage, so we need to go to Mark:
(Mark 8:34-9:1) 34 Then Jesus called the crowd, along with his disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and for the gospel will save it. 36 For what benefit is it for a person to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his life? 37 What can a person give in exchange for his life? 38 For if anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” 9:1 And he said to them, “I tell you the truth, there are some standing here who will not experience death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.”
It was not just the twelve disciples who were present. There was also a “crowd” of people, and most likely a very large crowd, as Jesus always attracted a large number of people. Within that crowd, there were probably many believers. The knowledge of a crowd of people present, enables us to interpret what Jesus said with confidence. When He said “there are some standing here who will not experience death before they see the kingdom of God come with power,” it was out of the crowd of people that He was referring to — more specifically, among those who believed.
Therefore, what Jesus was actually revealing is that there were only a few people among them who would actually “see” the Kingdom of God “coming” – as what happened on the Day of Pentecost – before they died. The rest of those who believed among the crowd, who were not present at Pentecost, they did not “see” the “coming” of God’s kingdom. While we all as believers experience the Kingdom of God after that day – having received the Holy Spirit and baptized into the body of Christ (the Church) – only a few of the believers of that day actually witnessed the “coming” of it on that day (“with power”), as Acts chapter two describes. The rest of the believers who were in the crowd, died without seeing the coming of God’s kingdom at Pentecost.
To be clear, the Kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom, which is the Church. More specifically, the Church is the Kingdom of Christ (Col 1:13). The Church as we know it and experience it, began on the day of Pentecost. Only a small number of believers actually witnessed the initial coming of it on that day (about 120 people). The rest of those who believed in Jesus’ day, died without seeing it. In other words, they weren’t present to witness all that transpired on that day.
(2) Matthew 10:23 Whenever they persecute you in one town, flee to another! I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
On the day of Pentecost, Jesus “came” via the Holy Spirit, for He told His disciples that He “would not leave them as orphans”:
(John 14:16-18) 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. 18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. (ESV)
Therefore, when Jesus told His disciples that they would “not finish going through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes,” He was referring to the day of Pentecost when He came to them via the Holy Spirit.
Preterists have built an entire theological system based on an over-inflated view of what occured in AD 70 — an over-inflated view that Jesus sought to eliminate. As significant as that event was, they put more theological importance on it than what it calls for. Preterism takes a very extreme view of it, and elevates it to an unwarranted level that the rest of the NT doesn’t support, except through the lens of Preterism — where they basically see AD 70 in every passage. In spite of Jesus’ instructions and warnings, they still insist that the Second Coming of Christ occurred in AD 70. Indeed, Full Preterists believe that all prophecy was fulfilled at that time — in spite of the fact that all the signs surrounding AD 70 continue throughout history to this very day. The destruction of Jerusalem is only a part of the overall picture that Jesus gives to us. It’s not meant to be the total focal point. It’s not meant to be identified with His return. Throughout the Olivet Discourse, Jesus specifically warned against having that idea.
On the other extreme, we have Premillennialism — Dispensational Premillennialism being the most popular. They see the whole Olivet Discourse as happening in the last few years prior to the return of Christ, where God again turns His attention to the nation of Israel, and sets up His “millennial kingdom” on this present earth. They make the same mistake that preterists make. They don’t take into account the obvious fact that all the “signs” and “tribulation” that Jesus talks about in His discourse, have been going on in the world throughout history — except of course, the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple in AD 70.
The truth is to be found in the balance of those two positions. Since all these signs occur throughout history, it’s far more sensible that Jesus is talking about the whole Church age. And if that be true, then that is the only sensible way to interpret the book of Revelation. This is what Amillennialism teaches. It’s a consistent and balanced position on “end time” prophecy. I’m an amillennialist because I believe it’s the most honest in dealing with the texts of Scripture. Amillennialism doesn’t require us to make the same extreme assumptions that Preterism and Dispensational Premillennialism does. It doesn’t require us to force meaning into the text in order to make it conform to our position. In other words, I believe Amillennialism presents itself in the most natural and unbiased way among all the eschatological positions.
I encourage you to lay aside any positional biases you may have, and give the amillennial position fair consideration. You already have a good start with this study on the Olivet Discourse.