148 - The Olivet Discourse Overview [a]
The Olivet Discourse Overview
Matthew 24:3–25:46; Luke 21:6–36
Matthew Lesson #148
January 1, 2017
Father, we are thankful for our salvation, a free salvation that is offered to us at no cost. We are to come and drink freely of the river of Your grace. Father, we’re thankful that we have a salvation that is full and complete, totally accomplished on the Cross by the Lord Jesus Christ, the foundation for our justification, our forgiveness, our regeneration, and our reconciliation.
Father, we’re thankful that we have Your Word, that it is a lamp unto our feet and a light into our path, and it is in Your light we see light, and You have revealed to us all that we need in order to understand Your creation, begin to understand Your creation, and understand Your plan and purposes in history.
And our Father, as we continue our study today in Matthew, and we focus on this tremendous discourse of our Lord Jesus Christ related to future things, that You would help us to understand what He is teaching us, help us to understand its significance for our understanding of reality, in our understanding of history and its future, and that we may be encouraged by the fact that despite the calamities that we see around the world, despite the horrors that we see, the wars that we see, and all of the other terrible things, Father, we understand that Your plan is being worked out, You are still in control, and You will ultimately right all wrongs, and You will ultimately bring justice and righteousness to bear in this world and establish Your Kingdom.
And we pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”
If you still have your Bibles open in Luke 21, then keep them there because we’re coming back to Luke 21 in a little bit, but we will begin by going back to Matthew 23.
For three years now I have been taking us through the Gospel of Matthew. Today is the 148th hour in Matthew, and we have a few more to go. We are getting close to the end. Matthew includes 28 chapters, and we’re starting chapter 24, but the last five chapters in Matthew are dense with significant material and lengthy chapters. These two chapters we’re beginning today in Matthew 24 and 25 are no exception.
What I am going to do today is, as I like to do when we come into a new section of the Scripture, is to do an overview, a flyover to help us understand the big picture and what some of the issues are that we need to think about and address and try to resolve as we think through the Scripture together in Matthew 24 and 25.
This is known as the Olivet Discourse because when Jesus gives this discourse and teaches this to His disciples, it’s a very private setting. It’s just His 12 disciples, and He will teach them privately.
He is no longer going to teach or speak publicly. The last public message that He gave was what we have studied in Matthew 23, and it was not a feel-good message. It was a rousing critique and condemnation of the religious leaders of Israel. It was a scathing rebuke of their hypocrisy, of their rejection of Him as the Messiah, and of their failure to understand Moses and the prophets.
As He concluded that, as we studied four weeks ago, because the last three Sundays were a Christmas special, He demonstrates His compassion for Jerusalem, for the people of Israel, and the people and the citizens of Jerusalem.
It is expressed in His cry in Matthew 23:37 where He says, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.”
Two things I pointed out here include:
1. The will of God always is to save as many as can be saved. God desires that all be saved and that none should perish. But God does not force anyone to be saved. He doesn’t force anyone to trust in Christ as Savior. And so they have their own volition, their own responsible choice, so that they can choose to accept God’s gift or reject God’s gift. And those in Jerusalem had demonstrated a pattern.
Historically, that was part of the basis for the condemnation of the religious leaders, that they had willfully rejected the message. So He emphasizes the will of God, “I wanted to gather your children together, but you were not willing,” and that is the problem of negative volition; people reject the gospel. But there are consequences.
2. All throughout Scripture, the disobedience to God, the rejection of the gospel, and even though God’s mercy goes on and on, eventually it reaches the end of its tether, and consequences must come. And this is what is about to be announced by Jesus.
In verse 38 He says, “See! Your house is left to you desolate.”
In the background picture there is an artist rendering of the destruction of the Temple at the time that the Roman armies under Titus breached the north walls of the city and entered the city and burned the Temple to the ground.
That is what is meant, “Your house is left to you desolate.” Jesus is about to announce specifics about God’s judgment that will come upon Israel because they have rejected Him.
This goes back to Leviticus 26, where God outlined five different stages, or cycles, of discipline and judgment that God would take Israel through if she rejected Him, the fifth cycle being they would be defeated militarily and be removed from the land that God had given them.
But not a permanent removal, a removal that always held forth a promise that there definitely would be a return. A time would come when they were scattered among all the nations, when they would turn back to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, back to grace, reject the legalism, reject the atheism, reject the idolatry.
That they would turn back to God, and God would restore them to the land. That’s important to understand. That is the backdrop for understanding what is going on in Matthew 24 and 25.
So He says that their “house is left to you desolate.”
This is an important picture. Get this image in your mind because what we see here in the center of the picture is the Old City of Jerusalem. You can see the walls here as depicted. These no longer stand. These fell, at least the upper part did.
The wall that is around the Old City of Jerusalem today was built by Saladin in the 16th century.
But you see the geography here. Below the walls you see the Kidron Valley, and on the near side here in the lower left corner, you see the lower slopes of the Mount of Olives.
The background for the first couple of verses is that Jesus will leave from the Beautiful Gate here. Coming out, here’s the Temple located here. Here’s the altar, and you can see the smoke ascending from the burnt offerings on the altar.
So Jesus will leave, He will walk down into the Kidron Valley and up the slopes of the Mount of Olives, and sit down. His disciples will come to Him, and then we will point to these beautiful buildings. So keep that image in your mind.
Matthew 23:39. The last thing that is said in the chapter before the chapter break occurs, is Jesus says, “For I say to you, you shall see Me no more until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.’ ”
This is a quote from Psalm 118:26, and if you remember, we did a complete exposition of Psalm 118 when it was first quoted. Two different passages were quoted in Matthew 21 in the context of Jesus in what is called Jesus’ Triumphal Entry, His entry into Jerusalem just a week before He was to go to the Cross.
There were many of those in those multitudes who were His followers and who had traveled with Him, as we studied, from Jericho up the road to Jerusalem. And there they laid out palm branches, and they sang from Psalm 118, “Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”
But see! The people of Jerusalem, the majority were not welcoming Him as their King. The religious leaders were not welcoming Him as their King or as their Messiah. And so Jesus is interviewed over the next few days, as we have studied, and now He is pronouncing judgment.
Now just to remind you of the background starting in Matthew 21:1, we have Jesus publicly presented to Israel as her Messianic King. That’s covered in the first 17 verses of Matthew 21.
Then we see the reaction from the religious leaders as they began to interact with Him, and they reject Him.
He’s rejected by the nation, but not by all of the people. That’s covered from Matthew 21:18–22:46.
We saw that different groups of the religious leaders, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the high priests, the Scribes, would come and confront Jesus with various questions because they were rejecting Him as their Messiah, rejecting Him as the Son of David, rejecting Him as their Savior.
And then in Matthew 23, Jesus rejects the nation through seven woes that were announced on those religious leaders. That concluded at the end of this chapter.
In the 19th century there was a wonderful Jewish scholar who became a believer. He was originally from Eastern Europe, quite well educated, and he wrote a massive volume. It’s about three inches thick, called Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. His name was Alfred Edersheim.
He writes, “Looking around on those Temple buildings—that house, it shall be left to them desolate! And He quitted its courts with these words, that they of Israel should not see Him again till the night of their unbelief passed, they would welcome His return with a better Hosanna than that which had greeted His royal entry three days before. And this was the ‘farewell’ and the parting of Israel’s Messiah from Israel and its Temple. Yet a farewell which promised a coming again; and a parting which implied a welcome in the future from a believing people to a gracious, pardoning King.”
So even though Matthew 23 is the announcement of judgment and condemnation on Israel throughout the Scripture we always seek, God’s judgment always comes with a grace offer of deliverance and of salvation.
Arnold Fruchtenbaum, in his book Footprints of the Messiah, says of this verse,
“But then He declares that they will not see Him again until they say, Blessed is He who cometh in the name of the Lord. This is a messianic greeting. It will mean their acceptance of the Messiahship of Jesus.
“So Jesus will not come back to the earth until the Jews and the Jewish leaders ask Him to come back.” That’s the point of what Jesus is saying. “For just as the Jewish leaders led the nation to the rejection of the Messiahship of Jesus, they must some day lead the nation to the acceptance of the Messiahship of Jesus.”
In light of this, in introduction to the next section where we begin the Olivet Discourse, Stan Toussaint, who was one of my professors at Dallas Seminary. Stan’s about 86 now, and you should be praying for Stan; he suffered a stroke about four days after the Pre-Trib Conference a month ago or three weeks ago, and he’s doing much better than he was, but he cannot talk. He and his wife, Maxine, come to the conference every year. This year they honored him with a special award for his faithfulness in his studies and in biblical prophecy and biblical exposition, and we need to be in prayer for Dr. Toussaint.
He writes in his book Behold the King, a commentary on Matthew, “All hope for a turning of Israel to God in repentance has gone,” at this point there’s no hope left, “the King therefore has no alternative but to reject that nation for the time being with regard to its kingdom program. The clear announcement of this decision is seen in these verses of Matthew’s Gospel.”
So with that we close on this announcement—the last public message to the Jews.
Then Jesus shifts His location, crosses over to the Mount of Olives and begins the longest and most significant prophetic passage of the Gospels.
This Olivet Discourse is the most important teaching from Jesus about future things, and it provides a framework for understanding the Book of Revelation, and what will happen in the end times.
Dr. Tim LaHaye, the author of the Left Behind Series and numerous other books, went to be with the Lord this last August. He wrote, “The Olivet Discourse, delivered shortly before Jesus’ crucifixion, is the most important single passage of prophecy in all the Bible. It is significant because it came from Jesus Himself immediately after He was rejected by His own people and because it provides the master outline for end-time events.”
Therefore it is crucial for us to understand this, and there’s a lot here that we need to understand.
One thing we need to understand is that the Olivet Discourse represents Jesus’ last words to Israel. Israel is not the Church. Israel at this stage was unrepentant, but they would be. But this represents Jesus’ last words to Israel.
The next day, the night of the next day, when Jesus sits down with His disciples in the Upper Room (and that discourse is given to us in John 13 through 17, which is Jesus’ high priestly prayer), that represents Jesus’ first words to the Church.
To this point in Matthew, the term “Church” has only been used two times. No revelation whatsoever has been given about this intervening period that would come after the ascension. That is not given until the next day.
So Jesus is talking here to the Jews. He is not talking to the Church. He is talking to Israel. He is describing God’s future plan for Israel.
He is not talking about one word—I will say this many times—He is not giving one word of information in these two chapters about the Church.
Church Age believers are Christians who are alive today. It is exclusively related to Israel, and God’s plan for Israel.
So today I’m going to do a flyover. You’re used to these flyovers. It’s not like doing all 22 chapters of Revelation in 45 minutes, but there’s a lot to cover here.
Here is a basic outline of what I want to cover this morning:
1. First of all, we are going to look at the historical setting in the context because that tells us who is talking, who He’s talking to, and why He is talking to them. Context is always important in the process of interpretation. We always have to understand what something meant in its original context in terms of those surrounding issues.
So the historical context is covered in Matthew 24:1–2; Mark 13:1–2; and Luke 21:5–6.
2. The second thing that we see in the Olivet Discourse is that the disciples asked Jesus two questions. In English it looks like three, but it’s two because of Greek grammar. It’s two questions. The first part and the second part have two parallel phrases, and that’s in Matthew 24:3; Mark 13:3; and Luke 21:7.
3. Third thing we see is the answer to the first question. Luke includes information in Jesus’ answer that neither Matthew nor Mark get. Matthew and Mark focus on the second question. Luke focuses on the first question.
Luke is going to tell us, give us information that has already been fulfilled, and that was fulfilled in AD 70, the end of the Jewish revolt that took place from AD 66 to 70 when the armies of Rome invaded, breached the walls of Jerusalem, and destroyed the Temple and wreaked havoc in Jerusalem. That’s the first question in Luke 21:20–24.
The answer to the second question comes in Matthew 24:4–25:46, as well as the passages in Mark 13:4 through the end of the chapter and some intervening sections in Luke.
First of all, I want to talk about this first part, the historical setting in the context in Matthew 24:1–2. There we’re told that “Jesus went out and departed from the temple and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple.”
He has just said that the house is going to be left desolate. It’s going to be destroyed. They can’t imagine it. This is AD 33.
Since about 26 BC, the temple has been under construction by Herod, a massive, massive renovation. We will get into the details of it next week, but this is a massive renovation that isn’t over yet. It’s not going to be completed until AD 64. So there’s still another 31 years before it’s completed. But at this point, it is so impressive that they can’t imagine that these buildings would ever be torn down.
Here is an artist’s representation of it. As we look at Luke’s parallel passage, he says, “Then, as some spoke of the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and donations. He said,”
We see the artist’s conception here—the walls surrounding the Temple Mount. Here’s the Temple here. These are the walls around the city. You had even higher walls here, just surrounding the Temple itself. The Temple building itself, the inner sanctum was covered in gold, the stones were covered in gold.
The story is that one of the reasons, as Jesus announces that no stone would be left upon another, that one of the reasons that became true is as this caught fire and burned, that the gold melted and ran down in the crevices between the rocks so that the Roman soldiers were prying the rocks apart so they could get to the gold that was running down into the cracks.
Now when Jesus said no stone left upon another in verse two, He’s not talking about the outer retaining wall, which is what we see today in Jerusalem, which is the retaining wall that Herod built to hold up the Temple Mount.
We see a picture here of the Temple as it existed from 142 to 63 BC. And then in 20 BC Herod started the renovation, and you can see the scale difference in the size of the Temple and how much larger it was.
It wasn’t level in the early stages of the Second Temple. The Temple area itself, right around here, was leveled off. But then the ground dropped off. This is on Mount Moriah. It’s the same location where Abraham took Isaac to be sacrificed, and it dropped off about 120 feet in every direction.
Well if you’re going to build a massive Temple building on top of that, you have to not only level it, raise the ground so that everything is the same height, but you also have to build a wall to support the massive weight of this building.
So this is the retaining wall. It’s this section right here, which is the Western Wall, sometimes called the Wailing Wall. That was not part of the buildings. When Jesus says the buildings will be torn down, He uses the term NAOS, which refers to the inner sanctum, not the word HIEROS, which would include everything else on the Temple Mount.
Here’s a picture of the consequences of that destruction by the Roman army. The stones that you see in the background are enormous. You can compare with scale to how small the people are next to them, and you can see these depressions in the pavement. This was a street along here, these were shops on the other side, and you can see how the pavement here was crushed by the weight of these stones as the Roman soldiers pushed the upper wall down.
This pile of stones at the other end has been left there by the archaeologists as a reminder of what had once taken place.
It’s interesting that 40 years ago this was all underground. I ran across a black-and-white picture—I’ll probably show you next week—that was a picture of this, and all this area was completely covered.
Somebody commented that, “Well, no wonder they didn’t clear this out and these stones didn’t disappear over the last 2,000 years.” They were underground. They were covered by dirt, so people didn’t even know what was there until the recent excavations.
This is where Jesus is and what He has announced, and His announcement was that “no stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”
The second thing that I want to discuss is that the disciples asked Jesus two important questions. This is covered in Matthew 24:3, Mark 13:3, and Luke 21:7.
Here in Matthew 24:3 we read, “Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately—not talking to a group—saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and the end of the age?’ ”
I’ve broken this down on this slide to see what the two questions are:
1. Tell us, when will these things be? That is, when will the stones be torn down? When will these the buildings be torn down?
That answer is what directs us to Luke’s Gospel because it is that question that Luke answers. That was what Jesus says was fulfilled in AD 70.
2. The second question is, what will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?
Now in English you have “of the end of the age.” “ Of the” shouldn’t be there. In the Greek you have one article, “What will be THE sign of Your coming and the end of the age.”
The one article “the” governs both indicating the “sign of Your coming” and “end of the age” were viewed as one single event. So they’re just asking two questions.
Mark’s Gospel tells us that it’s only four of the disciples that come and talk to Him privately. They were all there, but they took Him aside and “Peter, James, John, Andrew said, ‘Tell us’ ”—first— “ ‘when will these things be?’ ”—second—“ ‘what will be the sign when all these things will be fulfilled?’ ”
So the sign question is important because in the Bible, signs are unique, distinctive events. They’re not going to be like anything else, so that can be important when we start understanding the various things that Jesus says, because when He talks about wars and rumors of wars and famines and pestilence and all these different things, those have been true of human history since the fall of Adam.
You had wars and pestilence, and you had famines all through the Old Testament. But these are going to be wars and famines and pestilences and earthquakes that are unlike any that have ever occurred in human history, because if they were like all of the others, how could they be signs?
That’s an important question to understand. They could not be signs unless they were global cataclysms, not local catastrophes.
Of these two questions, Matthew and Mark answer the second because of the purpose of their writings. And Luke answers the first as well in Luke 21:20–24, but he doesn’t really give a lot of information, although he gives some information on the second question. It primarily focuses on the first question.
Let’s look at Luke. You should have kept your place there. If not, you’ll have to find it again in Luke 21, and we will look at how Luke answers the first question.
So first question: Luke’s context is important. In Luke 21:8–19, he sets up his answer for Luke 21:20–24.
Let me just point out a couple of things about Luke, and how this is structured because he starts with what’s going to happen, long-term end of times prophecy, but then he regresses, he backs up.
You can follow this. Sometimes when you turn on a TV show, and it starts in the middle of the episode, and you’re little confused sometimes, and you think, “What’s going on? How did that happen? How did they get there?” And then all of a sudden something comes on the screen and says “24 hours earlier,” and then you’re taken back to the beginning of the story. But you start in the middle, and then you back up. That’s what Jesus is doing here. It should not be difficult for us to understand that.
So in Luke 21:8–19, Jesus begins to give the answer. He talks in verses 8 through 11 about the period during the first part of the Tribulation. It is parallel to what we find in both Matthew and Mark.
He talks about these events: Wars and commotions, nation rising against nation, earthquakes, famines, pestilences, fearful sights, and great signs. Those are within the seven-year Tribulation period. That’s the period from Luke 21:8–11.
Notice they ask Him in verse 7 what sign will it be that these things are about to take place, and He says, “Take heed that you not be deceived.” That’s how the other Gospels begin as well. He says, “For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time is drawing near.’ But when you hear wars and commotions”—not normal wars. These are the signs, and He talks then about nation rising against nation, and great earthquakes in verse 11, famines and pestilences and fearful sights.
But then in verse 12 He shifts. Notice what happens. He says, “But before all these things.” Now the “all these things” refers to the wars and commotions and famines and earthquakes and everything He just mentioned in verses 8 to 11. Now in the beginning of 12, He says, “But before all of that happens, they will lay their hands on you.”
Now who is He talking to?
He’s talking to the disciples. He’s not talking to the Jews, He’s not talking to Church Age believers. The reason I say that is because this section, verses 12 through 19, are bracketed by this statement “before all these things” and the first sentence in verse 20, “but when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies know that the desolation is near.”
That “surrounded by armies” is what happened in AD 67. The Jewish revolt started in AD 66. The armies of Vespasian surrounded Jerusalem in AD 66. Nero died. Vespasian was going to become the next Emperor. He had to leave. They relax the siege. Titus pulled back to Caesarea. And at that point, you had huge numbers of Christian Jews, believers in Jesus as Messiah, who pulled out of Jerusalem because of the warning that comes in Luke 21:20–21.
They cross the Jordan River. They went over to what is now modern Jordan to a town called Pella. And this is the foundation for a lot of hostility that developed afterwards for Jews toward Christians because they were viewed as having deserted the cause and turn traitor, and they left. They didn’t stay and fight.
But Jesus had warned them in this passage, in Luke 21:20–21, to leave when they saw this happen. That isn’t talking about a future event. That’s talking about a historical event in AD 70.
So Luke 21:12–19 describe what the apostles will experience in their lives, that they will be persecuted. They’ll be delivered up to synagogues and prisons. This is what happens in in the Book of Acts to Paul and Peter. He says there will be an occasion for their testimony. They will be arrested, and they’ll be taken up before kings and princes, to heads of the synagogues, and not to plan what they’re going to say because, Jesus said, “You will be given special revelation on how to answer.”
This doesn’t apply to anybody after the Apostolic period. Revelation ceased by the close of the Canon. There is no more special revelation period because there’s no more group to adjudicate whether it’s biblical or not, or true or not, like you had in the Old Testament.
This is directed only to the apostles, according to the context, and portrays their experience as seen in the Book of Acts.
Then the third division here in Luke’s account is in verses 20 to 24, which describes these events that began in AD 66. “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its destruction is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her.”
Now that sounds similar to what Jesus will say about those who are living in Jerusalem when they see the Abomination of Desolation. But notice the Abomination of Desolation isn’t mentioned here. It’s talking about Jerusalem being surrounded by her armies.
Then He says, “For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.” That is the fifth cycle of discipline from Leviticus 26. He says, “Woe to those who are pregnant, those who are nursing babies in those days!”
Very similar to Matthew, but no mention of the Abomination of Desolation as the sign for fleeing Jerusalem.
Then we come to verse 24, which is important. Jesus says, “And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations.”
That’s not what happens at the future. In the future when you have the surrounding of Jerusalem by the armies of the antichrist, they will indeed invade Jerusalem, and two thirds of those in Jerusalem will be slaughtered; one third will survive. The Lord Jesus Christ comes back and He rescues them. They are not taken into the world as captives.
So Matthew 24 is talking about the future event. Luke 21 is talking about the past event that was fulfilled in AD 70.
And He says, “Jerusalem will be trampled by the Gentiles”—after this—“until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”
This gives us a little graphic to understand the timeframe here:
Here’s our timeline. The Cross and AD 33, the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in AD 70, then intervening period is the present Church Age. Then in the future there will be the Tribulation, midpoint of which is the Abomination of Desolation, and then the Second Coming of Christ.
Luke 21:20–24 describes the days of vengeance. Israel is judged, and that concluded in AD 70.
Then verse 24 talks about the times of the Gentiles. Israel is scattered among the Gentiles, and Israel continues rather under the dominion of Gentile powers.
That actually started in 586 BC when Babylon in the third invasion of Israel under Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem, slaughtered the people, destroyed the Temple, and burned it to the ground. So the times of the Gentiles started in 586 BC, and they continue until today. Even though we have a new Israeli state, they are still under the dominion of the Gentiles.
Take note of what our president did this last week in abstaining from that horrendous resolution at the UN. The UN and Gentile powers are still dictating to Israel and Jerusalem what they can and cannot do. By the way, according to that resolution, it says that everything in East Jerusalem is occupied territory by Israel, and Israel has no right to it.
If you don’t know it, East Jerusalem means the Old City. That not only means the Western Wall, the Temple Mount, the Jewish Quarter in the Old City, it means the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, it means all the Christian holy sites, everything in the Old City by UN decree is occupied territory.
This cannot stand. Only an apostate anti-God, anti-Semitic, anti-Israel country or president would allow a resolution like that to go by. People who are anti-Israel and anti-Semitic will bring the judgment of God upon a nation. We should thank God that He is going out of office. But it shows that we are in the times of the Gentiles. They are still trying to control Jerusalem.
Then in Luke 21:25–28, the key here is look up for your redemption draws near, and Israel will be redeemed.
Now we get this flowchart in Daniel of the times of the Gentiles. In Daniel 2, there is this image with the head of gold. The torso and arms of silver, waist area of brass, legs of iron, and then the lower legs, and feet are a mixture of iron and clay.
These represent the dominion over Jerusalem by the Babylonian Empire from 605 to 539 BC,
The Medo-Persian Empire from 539 BC to 331 BC—that’s the silver area,
The two arms representing the two powers that came together, the Medes and Persians,
The brass representing Greece from 331 to 146 BC,
The iron representing Rome from 146 BC until AD 1453, when Constantinople fell to Islam,
And then the lower area is the iron which represents elements of the old Roman Empire, and clay which is new elements in the revived Roman Empire that is yet future—that’s the Empire or the power of the Antichrist.
The four beasts in Daniel 7 represent the same thing:
The lion is Babylon.
The bear is Media-Persia.
The leopard represents Greece.
The four heads representing the division of Alexander’s empire into four divisions.
And then the beast that cannot be described by Daniel is represented there, and that’s the Roman Empire that is then revived in the future.
So that summarizes Luke’s answer to the first question: When will this take place? It will take place when you see Jerusalem surrounded by the armies.
4. Now we come to the fourth question, and that is seen back in Matthew 24, “What will be the sign of Your coming and the end of the age?”
Notice: What’s the sign of Your coming? Not the sign of the Rapture.
In the next few lessons we will see a distinction between the Rapture and the Second Coming. In the Rapture, Jesus comes in the air for His Church. In the Rapture, Jesus returns to Heaven with His Church.
In the Second Coming, Jesus comes with His Church to the earth and stays on the earth to establish His Kingdom. That’s just a simple summary. He answers this question by giving the signs. The reason Jesus comes at the Second Coming is to establish His Kingdom.
Remember, as we’ve studied in Matthew, Jesus came to offer His Kingdom. John the Baptist announced this. He said, “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” Jesus took up that same message, “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” That’s the Gospel of the Kingdom. He sent out His disciples to go to the house of Israel and the house of Judah, and they were to offer the Kingdom, “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand,” but the people rejected the offer of the Kingdom. They rejected the King. They crucified the King.
The King goes to Heaven to await the giving of the Kingdom to Himself. This will occur according to Daniel 7 when the Ancient of Days gives Him the Kingdom. And then He returns to the earth at the Second Coming to establish His Kingdom.
This is all about what is going to take place on the earth geo-physically, cosmically, as there is this enormous intrusion into planet Earth by the glory of God in the Person of the Messiah to bring full judgment to rebellious mankind, and then to establish His Kingdom.
That is what Matthew 24 and 25 is all about. What the signs are of that coming, and what the judgments will be when He comes. That’s mostly Matthew 25.
Now there are three things we have to understand in order to interpret this passage, and I think the foremost is that this is addressed to Israel, to Jews, so that they can be prepared for the coming of Messiah, of their King, to Israel.
Lou Barbieri, also one of my professors at Dallas Seminary, in the commentary he wrote in the Bible Knowledge Commentary set, in Matthew 24:1–3 writes, “They (that is the signs that are given here) have nothing to do with the church.” Everything said in Matthew 24 and 25, he says—has nothing to do with the church which Jesus said He would build. The church is not present in any sense in chapters 24 and 25.”
Now if we’re going to believe in literal, historical, grammatical interpretation, then we can’t change gears and make things allegorical or representational when we come to Matthew 24 and 25, which people do—even among dispensationalists.
As we will see, there is a great deal of disagreement over just exactly what’s going on here, and we will have to talk about that. But we have to remember that if we believe in literal, historical, grammatical interpretation, then we use those principles consistently throughout all of Scripture.
So there are three basic issues we will have to address:
1. First of all, which parts, if any, refer to the present Church Age?
Some of you have heard that the signs from verses 3 down through verse 12 are all related to trends in the Church Age. I do not agree with that. I don’t think anything mentioned between verse 4 and verse 12 refers to anything in the Church Age. There are parallels to the first series of seal judgments for the most part.
So first question with the answer, which parts, if any, refer to the present Church Age?
2. Second, later on in verses 40 to 42, there is this mention that there are two men in the field. One will be taken, the other left. Some people think the one taken is the Rapture. I don’t think that’s it. But there are a lot of even dispensationalists that believe that. Dave Hunt believed that.
There was a famous song, “I Wish We’d All Been Ready” that came out in the early 70s as part of the Jesus Revival, and there was a huge popular emphasis on dispensationalism and the Pre-Tribulation Rapture at that time. This song took that as Rapture, verse 41, two women will be grinding at the mill, one will be taken, the other left. But the context suggests that the one that is taken is taken in judgment. We will have to look at that though.
3. The third significant issue is understanding the three parables at the end of Matthew, and the judgment of the sheep and the goats. Actually that should be four parables because I left out the parable of the fig tree. The parable of the fig tree tells us to be ready when we see the leaves coming, and that’s the focal point of these three following parables.
The parable of the faithful servant and the evil servant. It ends with a statement of judgment. The unfaithful servant, the evil servant, will be cut in two, and his portion will be appointed with the hypocrites. The term “hypocrite” is consistently used of the unsaved Pharisees. So this is talking about the judgment of Israel’s religious leaders, and that’s what that parable relates to.
In Matthew 25:1–13 is a parable of the 10 virgins, and that also ends with the judgment on the five who weren’t ready. The religious leaders aren’t ready in Matthew 24:45–51, the five virgins aren’t ready in Matthew 25:1–13, and then you have the parable of the talents and the one servant who doesn’t invest his talents. He’s not ready, and he’s judged at the end of that.
So each one ends with judgment, and then there’s the final statement of the judgment of the sheep and the goats at the end of Matthew.
Now sadly, there are a number of people within the free grace movement who try to see the church in all of this, and they’re just dead wrong.
I have to say that because I know a lot of you get newsletters from GES, and you read stuff from the Free Grace Alliance, but you need to be warned. They have screwed this up consistently for the last 40 years and anybody who holds to a consistent, literal interpretation has raised these objections again and again with Wilkin, with Jody Dillow, and with a number of others that they are wrong.
It’s not that their theology is wrong, it’s that their exegesis stinks, and they’re not being contextual or consistent with their hermeneutics. So we’re going to have to deal with all those issues because they are ever present.
So this, in terms of the last part of this, answers these particular questions.
We will come back next time, and we will begin to get into this and to be reminded of God’s grace, even though we won’t be going through the Tribulation, even though we will not see any of this; nevertheless, this has been recorded for our edification and for our spiritual benefit.
We are reminded that there is a way to escape all this judgment, and that is the free grace gospel that Jesus said that all we have to do is to believe on Him. As He said to Martha, “Do you believe this? I’m the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; but whosoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” He didn’t say, “Do you believe and repent?”
“Repent” is never used in the Gospel of John, but “believe” is used over 85 times because that’s the issue in the gospel. It’s a free gift. All you have to do is accept it, and you will have eternal life.
“Father, we thank You for this opportunity to study Your Word, to be reminded that history is going somewhere; there is a plan, there is a purpose. And even though we see a lot of injustice around us, even though there is much sin, and there is much lawlessness, we’re told that this is going to increase exponentially at the end of times, and we see a warning here, that we have to be prepared as Church Age believers, and the way that we are prepared is by responding to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, believing and trusting in Him as our Savior, that salvation is free, but it was not without costs. Jesus paid the price on the Cross. He died for our sins, as our Substitute, that we could have eternal life simply by trusting in Him, believing in His death, His substitutionary death on our behalf.
Father, we pray if there’s anyone listening this morning, anyone here that has never trusted in Jesus as their Savior, never believed the gospel, the free offer of salvation based on faith alone in Christ alone, that they would respond positively to the gospel, as they hear this presentation, knowing that the days are short and that we in the Church Age must be prepared for the time which we know not. Jesus is returning in the clouds to take us to be with Himself, and thus we will ever be with the Lord.
And we pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”