The Olivet Discourse in its Jewish Setting

Matthew 24-25

Dr. Mike Johnston

 

For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written [prophecy for Israel] may be fulfilled . . . for there shall be great distress in the land [Israel], and wrath upon this people [Jews] (Luke 21:22-23).

Conventional thinking has set a confusing precedent for rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15). When the Bible was written it was divided into Old Testament and New Testament, but the Bible is basically divided into two more well defined and descriptive terms: prophecy and mystery. Prophecy is the purpose God has for the earth and Christ’s reign upon it, which includes the elect nation of Israel and the city of Jerusalem (Isa. 24:23; Mic. 4:7) as given by the prophets. Mystery is that body of truth proclaimed by the Apostle Paul, concerning heaven and the exaltation of the Body of Christ in heaven, together there with Christ (Eph. 2:4-10, 3: 1-4) that the prophets never saw. 

Our study here is the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24-25; Mark 13; Luke 21) which describes a prophetic period of time in Israel’s future that the Bible and scholars refer to as the time of Jacob’s trouble (Jer. 30:7). While this self descriptive title should be all that is necessary to convince us of God’s intention for it, this factor has been largely ignored and rejected by certain groups determined to insert the mystery church into a prophecy strictly implicating Israel and the unsaved world (Isa. 13; Rev. 6-19). To better understand the Jewish nature of the Olivet Discourse, one must first understand Daniel’s seventy week prophecy. 

Israel’s Seventy Weeks Prophesied to Daniel

The angel Gabriel [1] revealed to Daniel the prophet God’s plan for the inauguration of Israel’s earthly kingdom in the 6th century BC. The prophecy consisted of seventy weeks of seven 360-day years, to commence with the commandment to restore and rebuild Jerusalem which was given by Cyrus March 14, 445 BC. Since this event occurred with perfect precision liberals – in typical godless fashion- have consistently fudged the date for Daniel’s writings to sometime after the fact. The 1947 discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls proved Daniel was written centuries earlier.

Daniel writes [emphases mine]:

Seventy weeks (according to Strong’s original Hebrew this amounts to 70 weeks of 7 years) are determined upon thy people (the Jews) and upon thy holy city (Jerusalem), to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, (the promised kingdom) and to seal up the vision and prophecy, (God moves from prophecy to mystery) and to anoint the most Holy (Jesus Christ). Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem (Neh. 2:1-8) unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: (sixty nine weeks of years) the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks (this would include the seven weeks already mentioned to total again sixty nine weeks of years) shall Messiah be cut off . . . (Daniel 9:24-26). On April 6, 32 AD- which is exactly 173,880 days after Cyrus’ decree, Messiah presented Himself as the messiah in Jerusalem just as foretold.

Israel’s Messiah King Presented at 70th Week

When interpreted in their proper context, the Gospels through the crucifixion are actually a continuation of the OT narrative (see Heb. 9:15-16). Matthew’s Gospel was written to convince Jews that Christ was the long awaited Messiah who had come to set up His kingdom of heaven [2] on earth. Luke further documents that Christ was heir to the Davidic throne in Jerusalem (Luke 1:32-33) and as such would convene the covenant. Therefore, Jesus and John the Baptist both heralded His arrival with a crystal clear invitation to Israel: Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew 3:2; 4:17). The King, of course validated His presence with many miraculous signs. However, after 40 months of confirming His ministry to the Jews, when He entered Jerusalem to present Himself as their long awaited Messiah, He was cut off and crucified at the beginning of the 70th week just as Daniel predicted. [i]  Please keep in mind, this one final week Daniel prophesied for Israel- is still out there, unfulfilled. Dispensational Bible scholars believe the rapture will trigger God moving from mystery back to prophecy with the tribulation (Deut. 4:30; Matt. 24:29); the day of the Lord (Isa. 2:12; 13:6; Jer. 46:10; Ezek. 13:5; Joel 2, etc); time of trouble (Dan. 12:1); the hour of temptation (Rev. 3:10); days of vengeance (Luke 21:22); and of course the time of Jacob’s trouble (Jer. 30:7) soon to follow. Messiah, according to the prophet Isaiah, will return after Israel and the Gentile nations are dealt with in this frightening future hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth (Rev. 3:10).

With this information we will begin our study of the Olivet Discourse- one passage at a time- as it appears in Matthew’s Gospel with brief commentary in [bracketed] inserts.

Matthew’s Record of the Olivet Discourse
Matthew 24-25

 The four Gospels aggregately describe the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, each from a different perspective. Interestingly, only three of the Gospels present the Olivet Discourse which outlines the signs of Christ’s return to Jerusalem to inaugurate the Davidic Kingdom (2 Sam. 7:16):

  • Matthew presents Christ as the King of the Jews and appeals to Israel (Jews around the world)-

The Olivet Discourse is recorded in Matthew 24-25

  • Mark portrays Christ as the servant, and appeals to Romans (final empire)-

The Olivet Discourse is recorded in Mark 13

  • Luke presents Christ as the Wisest Man and appeals to Greeks (Gentiles)-

The Olivet Discourse is recorded in Luke 21

  • John portrays Christ as God the Son, and appeals to the church-

The Olivet Discourse is NOT recorded because the church is NOT here

 

As we study the Olivet Discourse, please please pay particular attention to the following factors revealing and reinforcing its Jewish audience:

  • It was delivered to converted Jewish patriots concerned about fulfillment of the recently rejected Davidic Covenant Kingdom (Matt. 24:3; Mark 13:3-4; Luke 21:7).
  1. It is concerned specifically with events in Judaea and Jerusalem (Matt. 24:16; Mark 13:14; Luke 21:20-24); location of the Second Coming (Zech. 14; Rev. 19:11) and home of the coming Jewish kingdom (Isa. 2; 52; Zech. 8; 14).
  2. It features signs which Jews required (John 2:18; 1 Cor. 1:22) and were convinced by, and subjects of special concern to Jews alone (the Temple, synagogues, anti-Semiticism, the Sabbath, Judea, etc);
  3. It fulfills prophecy which is specifically for Israel;
  4. It concludes with the visible Revelation (Second Coming) of Christ to Mount Olivet outside Jerusalem (see Zech. 14; Rev. 19:11) where He separates the sheep (Israel and her supporters) into the Messianic Jewish kingdom prepared from the foundation of the world (Matt. 25:31-34), and the goats (enemies of God and Israel) into everlasting punishment (Matt. 25:41-46).

Matthew 24:1-2 – Destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem

And Jesus went out, and departed from the Temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the Temple.  (2)  And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.  

The entire Olivet Discourse describes events leading to the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to Jerusalem to set up His Davidic millennial kingdom (2 Sam. 7:16). The Jewish Temple in Jerusalem was the visible testimony of God’s involvement with Israel, and her worship of Him, and service to Him. It will reappear in the 1000 year reign of Christ on earth (Isa 2:3; 60:13; Ezek. 40-48). However, here we find Jesus predicting its destruction which incidentally happened in 70 AD meaning it would require rebuilding sometime in the future. 

 Matthew 24:3 – Mount Olivet East of Jerusalem

And as he sat upon the mount of Olives [east of Jerusalem- from where He ascended and will one day return], the disciples [Peter, James, John, and Andrew- Mark 13:3] came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming [to set up the Kingdom in Jerusalem- see Acts 1:6], and of the end of the world [system as they knew it]?

 

By this time, Peter, James, John, and Andrew were almost four year old Christians. Still, they were patriots that held fast to their Jewish roots, and a deep religious connection to the Law, customs, the Temple and the prophets (read Acts 1-10). Moreover, they were all awaiting the Covenant Davidic Kingdom as evidenced in their preaching (Matt 10:7; Acts 3:19). This interest in the Kingdom continued up through  the glorious ascension of the Lord Jesus (Acts 1:6). The first nine chapters of Acts is specifically oriented to Jewish customs, laws, and the coming Covenant Kingdom. Gentiles were generally excluded from the church until Acts 10. 

THE SIGNS BEGIN

 

Matthew 24:4-5 – SIGNS: Deception from False Messiahs

And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.  (5)  For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.  

Since Satan knows the Messiah is coming to Israel, he has many false Christs masquerading as Christ in an effort to influence a spiritually blind Israel with signs and wonders designed to deceive the elect- Israel (Matt. 24:24; Mark 13:22; 2 Thess. 2:3-12; 2 Tim. 3:13; see also 2 Pet. 2:1-3; 2 John 1:7; Rev. 12:9; 13:14; 16:14).

Matthew 24:6-8 – SIGNS: Wars and Sorrows

 And ye [remember, He was giving signs about the coming kingdom to four converted Jewish patriots] shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.  (7)  For nation [ethnics] shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.  (8)  All these are the beginning of sorrows [birth pangs]. 

War is on the minds of billions of people as the Islamic Beast is rising across the Middle East and around the world (Psa. 83; Dan. 7-12; Rev. 11-19). Interestingly, Luke not only mentions wars but commotions [instability and disorder] which in context speaks of terrorism (Luke 21:9). To date, there have been an over fifty admitted acts of terrorism perpetrated by Islamists against America alone since the toppling of the twin towers. The most recent is the Boston Marathon, where two pressure cooker explosions killed at least 3 while injuring and destroying the lives of hundreds more. Sadly, things like this are becoming common occurrences. Add to this the fact that countries are crumbling, children are starving, economies are failing, diseases are escalating, and earth is quaking like a woman in travail before childbirth. Few would argue these are the signs Christ alluded to.

Matthew 24:9-10 – SIGNS: Affliction, Anti-Semiticism, and Betrayal in Jewish Synagogues 

Then shall they deliver you [Jews] up to be afflicted [to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten- Mark 13:9; see Luke 21:12], and shall kill you: and ye [Jews] shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake [Jews are blamed today for all the problems with Islam in the Middle East. It will escalate unto Armageddon- the final battle outside Jerusalem, Israel].  (10)  And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. 

Once again, the setting is Jerusalem and the warning is for Jews.

Matthew 24:11 –  SIGNS: False Prophets

And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. 

Israel exists from prophecy and as such she will be extremely vulnerable to false prophets in her spiritual blindness. The Lord Jesus is warning the Jews that there will be a vast influx of strange seductive voices attempting to lure them into the final deception featuring the Antichrist (see Matt. 24:24; 2 Thess. 2:8-12; Rev. 16:13-14). In light of this, it will require great discernment as the end draws near. I believe that many Jews will begin to study the Old and New Testament for the first time. 

Matthew 24:12 – Increasing Iniquity and Decreasing Love   

 And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. 

Can this not be clearly seen in the millions of abortions in America and around the world have degenerated into the mass baby murderer from Philly, Kermit Gosnell? [3]

Matthew 24:13 – Endurance Produces Deliverance

But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

This is a most inappropriate verse to apply to the church that is saved by faith in Christ alone (Rom. 3:22-28; Phil. 3:9; Titus 3:5). When studying the Book of Revelation (Rev. 6-19) which describes the time of Jacob’s trouble (Jer. 30:7)– we find that almost two-thirds of the world’s population will die. The Lord Jesus is telling the Jews that survive this unprecedented period will enter His Kingdom at the sheep and goat judgment (see Matt. 25:31-34).

Matthew 24:14 – Gospel of the Kingdom Shall be Preached – again

And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. 

Israel has been awaiting the earthly Kingdom in Jerusalem since God promised it to King David in 1042 BC (2 Sam. 7:16). Christ came 2000 years ago as the promised Messiah King for the lost sheep of Israel (Matt. 15:24), and He offered it to Israel with the message: repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matt. 4:17). This same kingdom message was passed on to His disciples for their ministry (Matt. 10:6) and final great commission (Matt. 24:14; 28:19-20). Sometime after the mystery church (Eph. 3:3) disappears in the mystery rapture (1 Cor. 15:51), there will be 144,000 Jews- not Gentiles- that will be sealed by an angel of God for service (Rev. 7:4-8). These specially selected Jews will be spared from harm and commissioned to preach the same gospel of the kingdom that John the Baptist, Christ the Messiah King, and the disciples of Christ all preached early on (Matt. 3:2;  4:17; 10:17). Please understand. The Body of Christ- the church- does NOT preach a kingdom gospel; we preach the gospel of the dispensation of the grace of God through faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ as He revealed to Paul (Acts 20:24; 1 Cor. 15:1-4; Eph. 3:2), and that Paul referred to as my gospel (Rom. 2:16; 16:25; etc).

Matthew 24:15The abomination of desolation prophesied to Israel, not the Church

When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)  

Again, this is a reference to Jewish prophecy. The abomination of desolation that Christ mentions constitutes an act Scofield [4] calls “the blasphemous assumption of deity by the Beast (Dan. 12:11; Matt. 24:15; 2 Thess. 2:4).” Sadly, Jews that rejected Christ as Messiah will fall for an imposter (John 5:43). Making sense of this is only possible by first understanding that Jesus was referencing Daniel’s 490 year prophecy we looked at earlier which begins: Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people [Israel] and upon thy holy city [Jerusalem]. . . (Daniel 9:24;). When He spoke this, Christ had been recently cut off at the 70th week, leaving one 7 year period scholars teach will be fulfilled during the time of Jacob’s trouble, aka the tribulation and great tribulation so called. This period will likely be fully facilitated through universal deception (2 Thess. 2:8-11) aimed particularly at the Jews (Matt. 24:4, 5, 11, 24) who in their blindness rejected Christ’s offer of the Kingdom of peace and New Covenant blessings, but who will in the future gleefully accept a seven year peace covenant brokered by the Antichrist who will violate this treaty in the midst of the week (Dan. 9:27) by entering the holy place of the temple he perhaps championed where he puts a halt to animal sacrifices, then enters the holy of holies (Matt. 24:15; 2 Thess. 2:4; Rev. 11) from which he will declare himself god and force worship of himself through the acceptance of a specific mark: 666 (2 Thess. 2:4; Rev. 13-14). 

Matthew 24:16-19 – Warning to the Inhabitants of Judea and Jerusalem- Jews

Then let them which be in Judaea [southern Israel mostly occupied by Islamic squatters] flee into the mountains:  (17)  Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house:  (18)  Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes.  (19)  And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! 

Read this warning carefully. This isn’t for the church; it’s for Jews in Jerusalem. The Lord Jesus warned that when Antichrist enters the Jewish Temple declaring that he’s god (2 Thess. 2:4), it is a sign that the Jews are to flee as quickly as possible. Luke writes: And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh (Luke 21:20) . . . and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled (Luke 21:24).

Matthew 24:20 – Reinstitution of the Sabbath for Israel

But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: 

Sometime after the mystery church is removed from earth, God’s focus will once again be upon prophecy for the Jews who will have reinstituted Temple worship with the sacrificial system (Dan. 9:27) and the Mosaic Law including Sabbath worship. Here is the patience of the saints [saints are God’s set apart people; in this instance they are Jews]: here are they that keep the commandments of God [the Law is for Israel, not the church], and the faith of Jesus (Revelation 14:12) [these are Jewish converts to Christ who follow the OT Law]. May I reiterate, the Olivet Discourse is not for Christians (the church). This is strictly Jewish.

Matthew 24:21, 29  – The Revelation of Jesus Christ after the Tribulation

Matthew 24:21  For then shall be great tribulation [first prophesied by Moses- Deut. 4:30], such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be Matthew 24:29-30  Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:  (30)  And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

Luke helps further define the Jewishness of the tribulation period using Christ’s Words: For these be the days of vengeance [in vengeance- aka wrath- God will punish sin (Isa. 2:12) and prepare Israel for the kingdom], that all things which are written [prophecy for Israel] may be fulfilled . . . for there shall be great distress in the land [Jerusalem, Israel], and wrath upon this people  [Jews] (Luke 21:22-23).

Matthew’s record of the Revelation of Christ compliments God’s prophetic Word describing how King Jesus will arrive on earth then conduct the sheep and goat judgment which determines who enters the Jewish Davidic Kingdom: 

Revelation 19:11  And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. [see 2 Thess. 2:8).

Zechariah 14:4  And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. 

Matthew 25:31-34  When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:  (32)  And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:  (33)  And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.  (34)  Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: [The Millennial (Davidic) Covenant Kingdom is in Jerusalem. If you study Matthew 25 carefully, you’ll discover that during the sheep and goat judgment, Gentiles are welcomed into the Kingdom based upon their treatment of Christ’s brethren- Jews. See Gen. 12:1-3; Num. 24:9; Gen. 26:2-4; Obad. 1:15; etc]. 

Matthew 24:22 – Days are shortened for Israel- Mine elect

And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.

Anti-PreTrib advocates have staked a fraudulent claim on the false notion that the church is the elect mentioned here even though the nation Israel is referred to in the law of first mention- mine elect (Isaiah 42:1) as well as being the clear subject of the entire Olivet Discourse. Therefore, while anti-PreTrib advocates desperately want elect to mean the church, Scripture isn’t supportive of their supposition. Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer clears up the confusion:

“Throughout the Olivet Discourse Christ refers to Israel as the elect. The most casual contemplation of this discourse (Mat. 24:1-25:46) will disclose the truth that only Israel is in view as the elect of God. Similarly, a revealing Scripture from Paul (Rom. 9:1-10:4) sets forth the truth respecting Israel’s election. Too often this portion of Scripture has been applied to believers today who comprise the Church. The salient facts in the case which make it impossible, however, are that in Israel’s election there is a national objective and that an individual Jew, though belonging to the elect nation, did not have any personal election assured him.” (Systematic Theology)

Matthew 24:23-26 – Further warnings about false Messiahs, false prophets, and miracle workers

Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not.  (24)  For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect [Israel].  (25)  Behold, I have told you before.  (26)  Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.

The signs and wonders crowd are mentioned here and can be found actively recruiting souls: Revelation 16:14  For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.

Matthew 25:31-34 The Revelation of Jesus Christ and the Sheep and Goat Judgment

When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:  (32)  And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:  (33)  And he shall set the sheep on his right hand [Jews and their supporters], but the goats on the left.  (34)  Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

In summary: Israel exists from prophecy and the church from mystery. The Second Coming (aka the Revelation) of Jesus Christ to earth is in fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant Kingdom that will be inaugurated on earth (2 Sam. 7:16). This kingdom is a major topic of OT prophecy, and the Olivet Discourse provides signs for Israel to know when it is about to happen; after the tribulation (the time of Jacob’s (Israel’s) trouble- Jer. 30:7), where Christ will return in visible glory to Jerusalem where He will destroy the Antichrist and his army with the brightness of His coming (2 Thess. 2:8), set His feet on the Mount of Olives (Zech. 14:4), and sit upon a throne of judgment separating the sheep- comprised of Israel and her supporters- into the Davidic kingdom (Matt. 25:40), from the goats- comprised of surviving unsaved, anti-Semites- who will be cast into everlasting punishment  (Matt. 25:45-46). [5]


[1] It was also Gabriel who 540 years later told the virgin Mary she would bear the promised Son Immanuel as heir to the throne of Israel (Isa. 7:14; 9:6-7; Luke 1:31-33).

[2] Mentioned 32 times- only in Matthew: 3:2; 4:17; 5:3, 10, 19, 20; 7:21; 8:11; 10:7; 11:11, 12; 3:11, 24, 31, 33, 44, 45, 47, 52; 16:19; 18:1,3, 4, 23; 19:12, 14, 23; 20:1; 22:2; 23:13; 25:1, 14.

[3] He murdered babies that survived the horrors of abortion buy slitting open the back of their necks and slicing their spinal cords. Workers reported hearing the screams of these precious children as Gosnell butchered them alive then tossed them in a garbage can.

[4] We have these Old Scofield Reference Bibles in bonded leather, KJV, available for a gift to PMI of $30 + $4 s/h to help us minister to you and others. Please remember, when you order from us, you help support us. Stamps are welcome.

[5] Thank you to Pastor Manny Rodriguez for his original proofreading assistance.


[i] Calculated by Sir Robert Anderson, former director of the Scotland Yard.

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