Monday, July 30, 2012



Luke 21:12-24

At this point, after the beginning of sorrows, Luke’s account introduces an additional phrase: “before all these things.”  Luke now communicates the answer to the first question of the disciples concerning the destruction of the Temple. This is evident from the following features:

  • The phrase comes after the same signs given by Matthew and Mark. It clearly points that this will happen “before” the signs, marking the time of the events. The phrase connects this section with the preceding showing that this will take place before the preceding events. The beginning of sorrows will not happen before the destruction of the temple.
  • There is an absence of any reference to the abomination of desolation happening “before these things.” This indicates that the events talked about are not found in the end of the age, but before the beginning of sorrows.
These two facts make one hard pressed to find a fulfillment of the discourse as a whole in the destruction of the temple of 70 AD. The phrase points to the destruction, but gives no evidence that the beginning of sorrows is connected with the destruction. Luke indicates that there are two experiences that will happen before the beginning of sorrows, persecution (21:12-19) and the destruction of the temple (21:20-24).

The Persecution of the Disciples

The tone of the text is that of a personal warning to the disciples, as well as, a prediction of what will happen to them before the temple’s destruction. Christ warns that they will “lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers” (Luke 21:12). The laying on of hands indicates intent of violence. The word carries the idea of seizing. The Greek word for deliver is paradidomi meaning to deliver over. It is commonly used by Luke of being handed over to authorities or being arrested (Acts 8:3; 12:4; 21:11; 22:4; 27:1; 28:17). In Romans 8:32, the Apostle Paul uses the word of God delivering Christ to the death of the cross. The tone of the context is of violent persecution of the disciples.

In the book of Acts, Luke historically substantiates the persecution that believers and the Apostles faced preceding the destruction of the temple. The persecution is from both Jews and Gentiles. The kings and governors who dealt out persecution included Herod Agrippa (Acts 12:1); Felix of Caesarea (Acts 24); and his successor, Festus (Acts 25-26). Church history goes on to tell us that each of the apostles on the mount that day went on to die brutal deaths, save John who died in his sleep, but not without persecution and exile to Patmos. Persecution became common place in the lives of those men who heard this discourse.

The cause of persecution was not because of great crimes, rebellion, or terrorism. It was their teaching and preaching the gospel. They were hated because their master was hated. Jesus stated the persecution was “for My name sake” (Luke 21:12). This phrase suggests it was because of their identification and loyalty to Christ.

The purpose of this persecution was that “it shall turn unto you for a testimony” (Luke 21:13). What does this mean? There are two main views: first, that these disciples will give testimony on the Day of Judgment against those who persecuted them. This view points out that the word testimony (martyromia) favors the idea of being evidence, not activity of bearing testimony.[1] This view is not without merit, especially in the light of Mark 6:11. Second, is the view that holds that the persecution will be an opportunity for testimony, which is reflected in newer translations, translating the phrase: “it will lead to an opportunity for your testimony.” This view fits the context. It goes better with Christ’s promise to give them wisdom and words for their testimony (cf. Luke 21:15). The historical record in Acts gives us examples of testimonies because of persecution (cf. Acts 3:12-26; 4:8-12, 19-21; 6:10; 7:1-53).

In the midst of these hardships and trials, Jesus instructed the disciples to depend upon God in these times (Luke 12:14-15). Barnes captures the essence of the meaning of these verses. He writes: “Fix it firmly in your minds—so firmly as to become a settled principle—that you are always to depend on God for aid in all your trials.”[2] They are not to worry nor fear, but exhibit peaceful assurance and dependence on God. He will provide wisdom and the words to speak. Their adversaries will not be able to refute or resist the truth. This is what happened (cf. Acts 4:4; 6:10).

Jesus also warned that this persecution will not only come from the authorities, but also from family, friends, and strangers (Luke 21:16-17). This all extends from their identification and loyalty to Christ. It will climax in death for some. The phrase “some of you shall,” marks personalization of these things. He is speaking about them.

Jesus ends this section on persecution with a strange note of comfort or encouragement. He declares, “but there shall not an hair of your head perish. In your patience possess ye your souls” (Luke 21:18-19).  This is not only a strange saying, but a difficult saying. What does Jesus mean? There are three ideas:

First, is the view that centers upon the Sovereignty of God. It suggests that no harm will occur to the disciples except by the Father’s permission. This view is not well accepted.

Second, is the view that focuses on the idea of spiritual assurance or security. Marshall says “the disciples may suffer injury and death, but nothing can really harm their essential being.”[3] Liefeld says it has the implication of spiritual survival.[4] This view is popular among Bible students.

Third, is the view of physical deliverance. What one is being delivered from varies. For example, Barnes suggests it denotes escape from physical suffering in the fall of Jerusalem.[5] Yet, one is hard pressed to see how Christians would endure the fall, when most of them had long gone to Pella. The key to the physical view focuses on the idea of endurance of the persecution (Luke 21:9).

While the physical deliverance view is hard to understand and defend, it should not be dismissed. There is a dispensational answer that sheds light on the problem. The key is verse 19. It demands attention. Luke 21:19 declares: “In your patience possess ye your souls.” The KJV here does not aid in understanding. A clearer and literal translation of the Greek test reads—“By your patient endurance gain your life or souls.” It is a clear injunction to endurance or steadfastness. The word patience is the Greek noun hupomone, a compound word meaning to abide under. Hauck says the word is: “…a prominent virtue in the sense of courageous endurance. As distinct from patience, it has the active significance of energetic if not necessarily successful resistance.”[6] The context centers upon patient endurance, not simply patience.

The word possess is the Greek word ktaomai, meaning obtain or possess. Its tense indicates it is a promise. If they endure patiently they will obtain the object, i.e. their life or soul. The word can refer to either the natural life or the immaterial part of man. But in that case, their security depends upon their endurance. That implies if they do not endure they will not be secure. If that is so, then their security depends on their endurance. If one believes in eternal security, then how can this be reconciled?

A dispensational answer comes to bear. If Luke 21:18-19 refers to physical life or salvation, then this promise to the disciples who endure gives them the possibility of entering the earthly kingdom during their lifetime. John Martin suggests this: “…it appears that Jesus was speaking here of salvation as entering into the kingdom alive (cf. Matthew 24:8-13). To ‘save yourselves’ by ‘standing firm’ means that believers show that they are members of the believing community in opposition to those who turn away from the faith during times of persecution (Matthew 14:10). The ones who are saved are those who are preserved by God’s sovereign power (cf. Matthew 24:22).”[7]

It must be remembered that this present dispensation of Grace is not the subject of the discourse, nor was it ever revealed or known at this time. It was still God’s mystery (Ephesians 3:1-10). The expectation of the disciples was the soon coming of the earthly Kingdom and the end of the age. Israel had not yet been set aside. The Kingdom would yet be offered, and is offered in Acts 3:19. J. Sidlow Baxter writes concerning Acts 3:19: “Never was a more direct promise given.”[8] It is a promise of the restoration of Israel and the coming of the times of refreshing upon their repentance.  

Because Israel and the Kingdom program was eventually set aside does not change the context and the possibility of Israel’s physical salvation offered in the discourse. The Kingdom was still at hand, and was still possible during the listener’s lifetime.

The distinction between the present dispensation of Grace and the dispensation of the Kingdom must be maintained to correctly understand the discourse. The Church of this dispensation is not revealed in this discourse. Jesus is speaking only about Israel’s future in the dispensation of the Kingdom. He moves from the present to the future logically, while not revealing the mystery, yet to be revealed (Ephesians 3). This is a common occurrence in prophecy. Jesus is like a man seeing three mountain peaks in the distance, telling about the three peaks, but not seeing nor telling of the valleys between. The three peaks are the destruction of the temple, the Lord’s coming, and the end of the age.

The Destruction of the Temple.

Not only will persecution come “before all these things;” so will the destruction of the city and temple. Luke 21:20-24 contains the specific prediction of the temple’s destruction. While the destruction of Jerusalem foreshadows end time events, and both are described in similar language in Mark and Matthew. However they are different from Luke. A comparison shows that Luke omits certain details.

First, Luke mentions armies, but not the abomination of desolation. The language of the passage notes that these military affairs were in process as Luke was writing. Luke’s text indicates nearness. The word compassed (verse 20) is a present participle suggesting that the encircling of the city may have started, or would will soon take place.

Second, unlike Matthew and Mark, Luke gives no immediate necessity to flee in spite of the nearness of fulfillment. The tone of Luke is completely different. History tells us the reason. There was no need for Christians to take sudden flight in the destruction of Jerusalem. The surrounding was gradual, not sudden as seen in Matthew and Mark. One group of believers left as early as two years before, moving to Pella. The siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD took place in stages and there was extended time to escape.

In contrast, both Matthew and Mark that in the end times, so rapid will be the events that they warn the reader not ever to go back to get one’s cloak (Matthew 24:16-20; Mark 13:14-18). Notice also the reason for the flight is the Abomination, whereas, Luke talks about armies. Luke’s account applies directly to 70 AD, whereas Matthew and Mark refer to the events at the end of the age. The events of 70 AD foreshadow the future events.

[1]  I. Howard Marshall, NIGTC:COMMENTARY ON LUKE, 768.
[3]  Marshall, 789.
[5]  Barnes, 142.
[6]  F. Hauck, “Hyomeno, Hypomone,” THEOLOGICAL DICTIONARY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT, Abridged in One Volume, 582.
[7]  John Martin, “Luke,” THE BIBLE KNOWLEDGE COMMENTARY, 257.
[8]  J. Sidlow Baxter, THE STRATEGIC GRASP OF THE BIBLE, 311.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Bible Trivia #1


Here are some Bible Trivia questions. Can you answer them without looking up the answer in the Bible passage?

  1. Who said of Jesus, “Certainly this was a righteous man”?  (Luke 23:46-47)
  2. Who prayed the shortest prayer in the Bible? (Matthew 14:29-30).
  3. Who was the first mentioned as drinking wine? (Gen. 9:20-21)
  4. Who was called the Son of Encouragement? (Acts 4:36)
  5. How did Elijah travel to heaven? (2 Kings 2:11)
  6. Who are the first twins in the Bible (Gen. 25:24-26)
  7. What is the last enemy to be destroyed? (1 Cor. 15:26)
  8. Who was the angel that fought with the dragon? (Rev. 12:7)
  9. Who was the mother of King Solomon? (2 Sam. 12:24)
  10.  In what city was the Apostle Paul born? (Acts 9:11)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012



If I had get rid of all my commentaries except for one, here are the ones I would keep on each book on the Old Testament...

O.T. Set:          Keil & Delitzsch: COMMENTARY ON THE OLD TESTAMENT

Genesis:            Victor Hamilton: NICOT: GENESIS (2 Volumes)

Exodus:            Douglas K Stuart: NAC: EXODUS

Leviticus:          Gordon J Wenham: NICOT: LEVITICUS

Numbers:         R.K. Harrison: WEC: NUMBERS

Deuteronomy:   C.H. Mackintosh: NOTES ON THE PENTATEUCH (classic)

Joshua: Marten H. Woudstra: NICOT; JOSHUA

Judges: Daniel Block: NAC: JUDGES / RUTH

Ruth:                (same as above)

1-2 Samuel       Joyce Baldwin: TOTC: 1-2 SAMUEL

1-2 Kings         Paul House: NAC; 1-2 KINGS

1-2 Chronicles   J.A. Thompson: NAC: 1-2 CHRONICLES

Ezra/Nehemiah   H.G.M. Williamson: WBC: EZRA-NEHEMIAH

Esther               Joyce Baldwin: TOTC: ESTHER

Job                   Francis I Anderson: TOTC: JOB

Psalms              Charles Surgeon: THE TREASURY OF DAVID (3 volumes)

Proverbs          Tremper Longman III: BECOT: PROVERBS

Ecclesiastes      Tremper Longman III: NICOT: ECCLESIASTES

Song of Songs  Richard Hess, BECOT: SONG OF SONGS

Isaiah               Edward J. Young: THE BOOK OF ISAIAH (3 Volumes)

Jeremiah           R.K. Harrison: TOTC: JEREMIAH

Ezekiel             Daniel Block: NICOT: EZEKIEL

Daniel               John Walvoord: DANIEL: THE KEY TO PROPHETIC REVELATION

Lamentations  (same as Jeremiah)

Minor Prophets   Thomas McComiskey: THE MINOR PROPHETS

Hosea              J. Andrew Dearman: NICOT: HOSEA

Joel                  Leslie Allen: NICOT: JOEL, OBADIAH, JONAH, MICAH

Zechariah         Charles L. Feinberg: GOD REMEMBERS: A STUDY OF ZECHARIAH

These are the first books off the shelf when I study these books of the Old Testament. They are all commentaries I would not do without.

Thursday, July 19, 2012



Matthew 24:4-9; Mark 13:5-9; Luke 21:8-11

The “beginning of sorrows” is the title Jesus gave to the early characteristics listed in the discourse. The Greek word, Apche Odinon, literally mean the beginning of birth-pains. It is a technical term “used by the rabbis to designate the suffering and woes which they thought were to precede the Messiah’s coming.”[1] The image of birth-pains is commonly used in the Old testament when speaking of end time events and actions (Isaiah 13:8, 26:17; Micah 4:9ff; Hosea 13:13; Jeremiah 4:31, 6:24, 13:21, 49:22, 50:43). Therefore, the meaning of the phrase was well-known and the disciples would have known the discourse was about the last days. Nowhere does Jesus redefine the term to mean something other than its common usage. It would be noticed at once that Jesus was speaking as a prophet and the subject was prophetic.


Jesus opens with a note of warning: “Take heed that no man deceive you” (Matthew 24:24 – KJV). It strikes a pragmatic and ethical chord. The aim of the discourse is not just to gratify curiosity; it is to guard against deception and terror. Prophecy is never given simply to gratify our curiosity of what the future holds, although it does that. Rather it is to produce ethical results in the lives of believers. Scripture records at least four ethical effects of prophecy:

  • Prophecy produces peace in the heart of a believer (John 14:1-3). The context is the Second Coming. Jesus prefaces his remarks by saying, “Let not your heart be troubled.” When the believer knows prophecy, he is not troubled with doubts and instability of the future. He knows who holds the future. The world may be troubled, but the believer should not be. His future, no matter what it holds, is secure in Christ.
  • Prophecy produces functional holiness in the life of the believer (1 John 3:3). He who knows it “purifies” himself. Prophecy motivates us into living a holy life, pleasing to God. The tense of the word “purifies” indicates a continuous purifying of oneself. Hope is the incentive for this action. Likewise, Paul in Colossians 3:4-5 instructs us to mortify our members because of the hope in His coming.
  • Prophecy stimulates the believer unto service. Paul says we are to labor to be accepted because of His judgment seat (2 Corinthians 5:9-11). Prophecy motivates us to serve, for we know we are accountable for our service.
  • Prophecy guards us against deception (Matthew 24:4). This is clearly Jesus’ purpose in the Olivet discourse. The word “deceive” means to be led astray. Knowledge of prophecy will guard us against being seduced and misled by false teaching.
This warning is of vital importance to the disciples. Toussaint writes: “The key to understanding this discourse is found in the first sentence. The disciples thought that the destruction of Jerusalem with its great temple would usher in the end of the age. The Lord separates the two ideas and warns the disciples against being deceived by the destruction of Jerusalem and other such catastrophes. The razing of the temple and the presence of wars and rumors of wars do not necessarily signify the nearness of the end. Therefore the disciples are warned against the things that could lead them astray such as false messiahs and wars or cold wars.”[2]


Upon giving this warning, Christ lists certain characteristics concerning “the beginning of sorrows.” Many look at these characteristics and say they are being fulfilled today. Walvoord says they are partially fulfilled in this present age.[3] While it is true these characteristics today are evident, that does not necessarily suggest partial fulfillment. One must remember that the present dispensation was still a mystery when Christ spoke these words (cf. Ephesians 3:1-10).  He is warning about the end of the Jewish age, not the age of grace. To place fulfillment into the present age of grace is inconsistent with the Jewish atmosphere of the discourse. The main purpose of the discourse is to warn the nation Israel of the approaching time of the Tribulation and the Second Coming of Christ to set up the promised earthly kingdom. The extent that these characteristic are evident in the present age of grace is twofold: First, the mystery was interjected between Christ speaking of the end of the Jewish age and the realization of that age (cf. Ephesians 3:2-7). Second, the end of the Jewish age is still coming after this present dispensation. The extent that these characteristics are present are limited until the time of their fulfillment when the Messiah comes (cf. Romans 11:25-27).

Continuation of these characteristics in this present dispensation is not their fulfillment, anymore that the spirit of Antichrist being present in this age (1 John 4:3) is a fulfillment of Antichrist.  Is the spirit of Antichrist active in the world? Of course it is. Is it a partial fulfillment or a fulfillment of Antichrist? Of course not. While his spirit may be active, his person has not arrived, and will not in the present dispensation. It happens in the Tribulation.

Another indication that the fulfillment has not arrived is the comparison of Revelation 6 and these characteristics in Matthew 24. When we compare Scripture with Scripture it becomes evident that the “beginning of sorrows” find its fulfillment in the events of Revelation 6. Note the following comparison:

Matthew 24                            Characteristic                         Revelation 6

Verses 4-5                               False Christ                             Verses 1-2

Verses 6-7                               Wars                                        Verses 3-4

Verse 7                                    Famines                                   Verses 5-6

Verses 7-8                               Pestilences / Death                  Verses 7-8

Verse 9                                    Martyrdom                              Verse 9-11

Verses 10-13                           World chaos                            Verses 12-17

Verse 14                                  World Evangelism                  Revelation 7

Revelation 6 refers to the same beginning of the end that Jesus is giving in this discourse. It is clear in the book of Revelation that leads us into the Great Tribulation (last 3 ½ years), therefore they are the characteristics are the first half of the Tribulation. The events of Revelation 6 and the beginning of sorrows are in harmony. They are the same events.

It is vital we understand that these are just the beginning of sorrows. They take place at the beginning of the Tribulation. While many see the beginning of the Tribulation as a period of peace, these signs do not bear them out. They reveal that at that time there will be:


Jesus declares that “many will come in my name, saying ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many (Matthew 24:5). The popular view says this claim has been true in all generations. Have there? This verse is taken out of context by many. It is not a claim of deity, but of Messiahship. The claim must be taken in the context of a Jewish Messiah. The term Christ in this context means Messiah, indicating the relationship between Israel and their Messiah. He is warning that in the end times many claims of false Messiahship will be present. Carl Armerding writes:

“In keeping with this we note that when our Lord answers their question, He begins with that to which they, as Israelites, would be especially exposed. Many would come to them in His name saying ‘I am Christ’ (or, I am Messiah), and deceive many (Matthew 24:4-5). One can hardly conceived of a true Christian being deceived by anyone making such a claim. But we cam readily understand how a Jew, waiting for the Messiah, might be deceived by a false Christ. Comparing this verse with the parallel passages in Mark 13:6 and Luke 21:8, we see how bold false Christ may become, even to the point of claiming deity by saying ‘I am.’ The word ‘Christ’ is not in the original in either of those passages….”[4]

Likewise, Cranfield concurs that this is a “false claimants to Messiahship.”[5] Such strict claims to the Messianic office in the strictest sense are almost nonexistent in history.

It is noteworthy that the text indicates there will be many false claimants to Messiahship. Many fail to pick up that “many” claimants will appear during this time, and will continue to do so even after the Abomination of Desolation (Matthew 24:5, 15, 24). Because the Antichrist is not likely to be a Jew (cp. Daniel 7, 11, Revelation 13:1); he will not claim Messiahship. Anti means against or in the place of Christ. He will claim deity, but not Messiahship. He will demand worship as God, but not as Messiah. Thus, these false claimants to Messiahship will be contemporaneous with and opponents to Antichrist. During this time Israel will be seeking a deliverer, especially after the Antichrist breaks the covenant. They will be many for them to choose from, but none of them will be the true Messiah.


Matthew 24:6 and Revelation 6:3-4 are parallel. The red horse symbolizes war. The purpose of the rider is “to take peace from the earth and that they should kill one another” (Revelation 6:3). The Antichrist will be perceived as a man of peace because of his great deceptive ability. The fact is he comes to power and stays in power because of war (Daniel 7:8, 24). The Tribulation brings many wars. The book of Revelation prophesies of many wars (Revelation 16:12-15; 17:14; 19:1ff; and 20:8). These will not only be wars in the Mideast, but also in the world. They will culminate in the invasion of Palestine (Daniel 9:26-27; 11:40-45; Zechariah 12:2-11; Revelation 12:9-17).


Jesus says this time will be marked with “famines and earthquakes” (Matthew 24:7). The parallel is the black horse of Revelation 6:5-6. War and environmental disturbances will bring great famines and economic hardships. Earthquakes are increasing, and will be a norm during this time. Both famines and earthquakes are signs of judgment in Scripture (cf. Lamentations 4:8-9; 5:9-10; Ezekiel 38:19-23; Zechariah 14:4-8). During the first part of the tribulation, famine will exist as never before and the cost of food will skyrocket. A ration of wheat will cost a denarius, the equivalent to an average daily wage. One day’s wages for one day’s food to survive on.

For years now, modern-day prophets in the academic, scientific, and political world have been warning of such disturbances. It is amazing how fast famine could be upon us. In 1967 George Borgstorm warned in the event of a serious worldwide crop failure, within one year there would be critical starvation, two years at the most in the United States.[6]

Famine like we have seen in Africa in recent years will become common place during the “beginning of sorrows.” Food will become scarce and very expensive.


The pale horse is called death, in the English version (Revelation 6:7-8); however, the construction and use show that death and pestilence are connected. Bullinger notes:

Though the word in the Greek is thanatos death, it is put by metonymy, as the effect for the cause producing it which is pestilence. In the OT it is the Septuagint [Greek version] rendering of dever, destruction, i.e. plague and pestilence, which cause death.”[7]

Pestilence is another word for disease. War, famine, and poverty carry with them the abundance of disease.

Jesus declares “those things must take place” (Matthew 24:6). This denotes a prophetic certainty. Yet even as bad as these things will be in the beginning of the Tribulation, this is “not yet the end” (24:6). The world will not yet be destroyed by these; they simply mark the beginning of the end. We believers can say with certainty that we are optimistic about the future. The world will not end tomorrow. Atomic warfare, or cosmic meteors, or some environmental disaster will not cause the end of the earth. These things are real and present dangers, however they will not cause the end. Jesus declares it so. He cannot lie nor will His Word fail. These are only the “beginning of sorrows.”

[2]  Stanley Toussaint, BEHOLD THE KING, 270.
[3]  John F. Walvoord, MATTHEW: THY KINGDOM COME, 183.
[4]  Carl Armerding, THE OLIVET DISCOURSE, 15.
[6]  Hal Lindsey, THERE’S A NEW WORLD COMING, 108 gives the actual quote.
[7]  E.W. Bullinger, THE APOCALYPSE, 259.

Thursday, July 12, 2012



Matthew 24:3

Mark 13:3-4

Luke 21:7

Jesus left with his disciples through the Eastern gate of the temple grounds, crossed the brook Kidron and its valley and came to a welcome place above the city on the Mount of Olives. The Mount received its name from the abundant olive trees found on its slopes. Even today we are told some of the trees found on the Mount of Olives date back to the time of Christ.  From their viewpoint that had a panoramic view of the temple and the city. The grandeur of the city and the temple was spread before them.

The walk from the Eastern gate of the temple to the Mount would have been about 10 minutes. This walk was evidently spent in silence. The disciples must have been in shock. They could hardly believe their ears; greatly bewildered about what they just heard. They need time to think about what was said. They knew that the Scriptures taught that the temple was an integral part of the end of the age. Was not the Messiah to come into His Temple in the end times (Malachi 3:1-2)? What did it mean that the temple was to be destroyed? If the temple were destroyed would there be another sign of the end? How does it affect our hope in the Messiah? These and other questions must have entered their minds as they walked in silence.

As they gain their thoughts and recover from what Jesus had told them at the temple, four of the disciples come to Jesus to clear their thinking and gain understanding. They asked: ‘Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming and the end of the age” (Matthew 24:3).

While the English translation seems to indicate three questions were asked by the disciples, in actuality there were only two. The construction of the Greek text clearly points this out. The last half of the verse has only one article in the Greek. It is found before the word “coming” and is joined with the word “end” with the conjunction “and” so “these two words actually are two parts of one question.”[1] It actually reads, “and what will be the sign of your coming, even [and] end of the age.” There is no Greek article before end of the age.[2] If there had been an article, then there would have been three questions in the Greek.

There is little doubt that the disciples thought of the coming and the consummation as one event. Therefore, the two questions are: (1) When will be the destruction of the temple? (2) What are the signs of your coming, even the end of the age?

To correctly understand these questions there are some important considerations that should be considered.

The Factors Behind the Questions.

Behind these questions are three underlining factors: First, Old Testament prophecy. Zechariah predicted that the setting up of the kingdom would be preceded by an invasion and destruction of Jerusalem (Zechariah 12:1-3; 14:1-3). Based on this prophecy it would be hard for the disciples to dissociate the destruction of the temple from the end of the age. The context of Zechariah is “the Great Consummation” of Israel’s deliverance into the earthly kingdom.[3] Zechariah 14 identifies three events that will happen in the Day of the Lord: Jerusalem will be captured by a great army (14:1-3); Deliverance will come by the coming of Messiah from the Mount of Olives (14:4-5); The glory of the Kingdom will be realized. To the Jewish way of thinking these events are linked together. Zechariah 14 would be a factor and on the minds of the disciples as they asked the questions leading up to the discourse.

Second, is the dilemma of harmonizing the sufferings of Christ with the glory of Christ. Walvoord writes:
“It is most significant that saints in the OT (including the writers of Scriptures [1 Peter 1:10-12]) as well as the twelve disciples in the NT never understood clearly the difference between the first and second coming of Christ. It was only after Christ’s ascension into heaven that the distinction was made clear.”[4]

The disciples’ dilemma was how to reconcile the destruction (and the death of Christ) with the idea of the glory of Christ and His kingdom. The temple was an essential part of God’s glory. They could not reconcile this with what Jesus was predicting. They needed clarification.

Third, is the fact of the mystery (Ephesians 3:1-10). It must be recognized that the church and the dispensation of grace remained a mystery at this point (cf. Ephesians 3:2, 3, 5). The student should recognize this important fact. They knew nothing about the church or the dispensation of grace. These questions were asked in the context of Jewish and Old Testament concerns and ideas. Gaebelein correctly observes:
“…the disciples knew nothing of a Christian age. Such an age could not even begin, when they asked the question about the end of the age. They did not mean a Christian age, but their Jewish age.”[5]

The disciples are asking about Israel’s destiny, and theirs. The revelation of the present dispensation was not even a consideration in their minds. This is an important factor.

Factors Concerning Prophecy.

The Olivet Discourse is pure prophecy. Prophecy is “the oral or written message of a prophet, especially related to future events.”[6]  Three factors go into correctly understanding prophecy: First, because the answer is prophetic, it must have some type of literal fulfillment. The Biblical test demands it (Deuteronomy 18:22).

Second, the time element in prophecy is not always discernible. In this regard, the language of prophecy, certain points should be noted:

  • The prophets of things that are future as if they are actually watching them and present in their view (Isaiah 9:6).
  • The prophets speak of things of the future as past (Isaiah 53).
  • The prophets often speak in the continuous, although there may be gaps of time between events spoken of. This is known as “prophetic foreshortening.”[7]
  • The prophets may speak of near events that foreshadow the future fulfillment. This may be known as “double reference.” Foreshadowing is a picture or type of the fulfillment or a limited fulfillment; however it is always the second element that fulfills the passage. However, it is far from manifold or successive fulfillment in history. One acknowledges that there is a message for the immediate and the distant future, not that it is repeatedly or successively fulfilled.[8]

Factors Concerning the Gospel Records.

The Olivet Discourse is recorded in varying detail by the three synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke. We must not lose sight of three factors: First, of the three, only Matthew was a member of the original audience. This accounts for the greater detail and space of the discourse in Matthew’s gospel. Mark and Luke used secondary sources (cf. Luke 1:1-3). Second, the Holy Spirit moved and guided the writers of the accounts (1 Peter 1:20-21; 2 Timothy 3:16). Third, of the three accounts it is Luke that emphasizes the destruction of the temple in 70 AD. Mark and Matthew emphases are on the end-time events. McNeile observes:
“Luke forms his discourse to bear mainly on the destruction of Jerusalem. Matthew and Mark seem to assume that this will be an event preceding the Parousia, since they, like Luke, place the discourse with the incident in vv. 1, 2, but the discourse, as they record it, speaks neither of the temple nor the city being destroyed.”[9]
These factors are vital keys for the correct understanding of the Olivet Discourse

[1]  Stanley Toussaint, BEHOLD THE KING: A STUDY OF MATTHEW, 269.
[2]  This is know as the Granville Sharp rule, which states: When two nouns are connected by kai [and], the first with the article and the second without it, are by the single article identified as one and the same individual or class.
[3]  Charles Feinberg, GOD REMEMBERS, A STUDY OF ZECHARIAH, 192.
[4]  John F. Walvoord, “Is a Posttribulational Rapture revealed in Matthew 24?” GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL, Fall 1985, 280.
[5]  A.C. Gaebelein, THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW, 468.
[7]  Ibid, 93.
[8]  Ibid, 179.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Part 1: Before the Discourse.

The Olivet Discourse is Jesus’ main discourse of end-time events. Before getting into the discourse, it is helpful to see the setting, the three things that lead to the discourse.

The indictment of the leadership of Israel. In Matthew 23 there is an indictment against the spiritual leaders of Israel. They were blinded by their hypocrisy, high-mindedness, and empty rituals. Jesus had no choice. Those who should have accepted him with open arms have now rejected him with closed fists. Instead of having a soft open heart, it was now closed in hardness. Jesus pronounces an eight count indictment upon them:[1]

  • They shut the door of the kingdom in men’s faces; they would not accept the message themselves, and they did not want others to enter. They were obstructionists.
  • They took advantage of widows and foreclosed on their homes. They were heartless.
  • They went to any length to make a proselyte and then made him twice as deserving of going to hell as themselves. The were condemners.
  • They made the gold in the temple and the gift on the altar more important than the temple and the altar, by saying that a man is not bound by his oath if he swears by the temple or the altar, but is bound if he swears by its gold or the gift upon the altar. They were legalists.
  • They were careful to give a tenth of herbs, but neglected the important matters of the law: justice, mercy, and faithfulness. They were hypocrites.
  • They scrubbed the outside of a cup clean, but inside they were full of greed. They were selfish.
  • They were like whitewashed tombs, nice on the outside, but dead and full of corruption on the inside. They were spiritually dead.
  • They built tombs and monuments for the prophets their ancestors killed, saying they would not have done such deeds. They were self-deceived.
Jesus pronounced that their house (the temple) was “desolate” (Matthew 24:1). While there was an outward form of religion on the inside of the temple, there was no inward power in its servants. The word has the idea of abandonment. The abandonment was not physical, but spiritual. It was populated and active with people wealth, and ritual, but vacant of faith and spiritual edification. It was left desolate because of their spiritual desolation.

Jesus leaving the temple.  Jesus “came out…and was going away” (Matthew 24:1). The action of the Greek text shows Jesus “was going away, like one who did not mean to return.”[2] Jesus never again would make a public appearance in the temple during His earthly ministry. The temple is desolate because He has left it; it is deserted to the trivial and ritualism.

It is interesting that in Judaism itself records such a feeling of desolation that happens historically at the same time as Jesus’ ministry. In Jewish legend we are told that in the fortieth year before the destruction of Jerusalem that the lamp of the Temple extinguished itself. It was purported that the guardian angels of the Temple deserted their guardianship.[3] Abandonment of the temple is recognized by Jewish tradition and legend.

As he is leaving through the Court of Women, Jesus beheld a poor widow casting two mites into the offering box (Mark 12:41-44; Luke 21:1-2). This was an opportunity for Him to amplify the indictment, and to contrast true righteousness with self-righteousness. Inside, the extravagance of the temple true righteousness was missing; but outside the temple was found true spiritual extravagance in the humble act of self-denial by a poor widow.

The route Jesus took from the temple is the same as the Shekinah Glory recorded in the book of Ezekiel. The Shekinah Glory was the presence of the Lord. Its resting place was above the Mercy Seat in the Holy of Holies. From there it moved to the “threshold of the temple” to linger (Ezekiel 9:3). From there it departs to the east gate (Ezekiel 10:18-19). After lingering there, It departs to the Mount of Olives (Ezekiel 11:23). Jesus now leaves by the identical route for the same destination. God in the flesh is leaving, thus the embodied Glory of God departs the temple.

Prediction of the Temple’s destruction. While leaving the temple area, the disciples come to Him and point out the grandeur of this sacred place. It was indeed an impressive sight with its gold glittering in the sun.[4] It was impressive, and the disciples were impressed, as we would have been. The temple was one of the wonders of the world. Yet, Jesus was not impressed. He responds: “Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here shall be left upon another, which will not be torn down” (Matthew 24:2). In the Greek, the statement expresses future action and the certainty of that action.

This would have been a shock to the disciples. It was in contrast to the prevailing attitude and belief by the Jews about the temple. They actually believed God was on their side because of the temple: that God would not allow His holy temple to be destroyed. This belief leads to the false feeling of security. Little did they comprehend that there is never security in sin. Sin leads to judgment. They were judging security by the temporal instead of the eternal.

There is no question among Bible students that this prophecy was fulfilled in 70 AD. The roman army surrounded the city, burned it and its temple. The army then ripped the temple apart stone by stone to get to its gold that had melted in its cracks and joints. What was true inwardly of the temple on the day Jesus left became a reality in history. Jesus is showing Himself as Prophet. God fulfills His Word precisely and completely. The temple has not stood on that site since 70 AD.

It is these events that lead to the prophetic discourse at the Mount of Olives. He will continue to act as prophet on the mount, as he did leaving the temple.   

[1]  Charles F. Baker, UNDERSTANDING THE GOSPELS, 219.
[3]  J.P. Lange, THE GOSPEL OF ST MATTHEW, 354.
[4]  For a good description of the temple, see William Barclay, DBS:MATTHEW, 2:305.