The Olivet Discourse: Signs of the End of the Age
The Olivet Discourse: Signs of the End of the Age
A Prophetic Study
By R.A. Coombes
Author of: “America, The Babylon”
Setting the scene:
Just 2 days before our Lord Jesus Christ was about to be crucified, He went to the temple in Jerusalem and had a run-in with the Pharisees and gave them a blistering response to their attempts to entrap Him in words. As he left the temple, Matthew relates to us the following in Matthew 24, verses 1 and 2.
And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple.
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.
Matthew then tells us that after Jesus left the temple he went out of the city to Mount Olivet or the “Mount of Olives.” Mount Olivet overlooks the city of Jerusalem. While Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the Pharisees, still smarting from the verbal blistering they received from Jesus in the Temple, met in private council to plot how they could kill Jesus.
Now as Jesus went to Mount Olivet, most likely to pray, He apparently separated Himself from the disciples because in verse 3 it says that He was sitting on the Mount of Olives the disciples came to Him and asked a very important question.
And as he sat upon the Mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?
Note here that the disciples first ask the question: “Tell us, when shall these things be?”
Now, as a student of the text, you must stop at the first question ask your own question of the text – “what are –‘these things’ which the disciples reference? The answer can be found in the previous verses for context. As Jesus and His disciples are walking out and around the Temple, they want Jesus to marvel at its construction. Why?
Take a look at the previous three chapters of Matthew and read the running dialogue, Note that this entire sequence begins on Palm Sunday with a series of run-ins with the various priests and rabbis within the Sanhedrin. Remember there were two distinct political groups or “parties” within the Jewish religious hierarchy – the Sadducees and the Pharisees. Each group had their own separate and repeated encounters with Jesus during his time in Jerusalem during His last week.
In Matthew 23 we note that Jesus verbally rebukes the Pharisees. He insults them dramatically in verse 27 by calling them “white-washed sepulchers.” He used a metaphor of a grave and death to indicate their corruption and wickedness via death. Death was considered unclean and the idea of being “white-washed” indicated they had an outward expression of cleanliness (or sinlessness) but inside they were dead in sins. It could be no greater insult to a Pharisee. Now why mention this?
Obviously the confrontation had no doubt been an emotional one with the emotion of anger being transformed into words. This is but one example of how God hates “religiousness” and those who practice “religiousness” because religiousness results in nothing but rejection and condemnation from God. God hates religiousness because it focuses on what man can do and cuts off God from solving the sin problem. When one relies on his own effort he rejects the one and only means of relating to God. We can only relate to God on the basis of Grace through faith that God alone can solve the sin problem and restore us to Him. We can only relate to God on the basis of what He does for us, not what we can do for Him, not only for salvation itself but for life after the moment we are saved.
Nothing angers God and our Lord Jesus Christ more than humans attempting to “Be” or “Do” something to please God. Remember Isaiah 64:6
“But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags;”
Note that our “rightousnesses are considered to be “filthy rags” Righteousnesses is the Hebrew word “tsed-aw-kaw” – Strong’s Code #6666. It means “rightness” or piety, to act piously in a religious sense; to be morally upright. See also Gesenius Hebrew-English Lexicon – Page 703 and also Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew-English Lexicon, page 842.
Now that term “filthy rags” is a very colorful, but repugnant term in the original Hebrew.
It is two separate words – in Hebrew – “awd – begawd” Strong’s #5708 and #899. Literally it means “dirty, soiled menstrual cloth.” The Hebrew context here is that our religiousness, our religious works, attitudes, our morally upright living is as repugnant to God as an old, used, smells-to-high-heaven feminine hygiene product. That’s how God views your religiousness. No doubt that’s also how he views what goes on with Sunday morning worship services in America’s churches today.
God hates religious piety, religious ceremonialism because it leads to religious pride and arrogance when one engages in religious ritualism – which is exactly what seems to be happening in America’s modern-day churches, no matter what the denomination. What goes on today in America’s churches is no different than what went on in Israel during Israel’s period of perfect Temple worship. God tells Isaiah in chapter 1 verses 11-16 how he hates their religiousness deeds and He acknowledges that they perform all these religious activities perfectly as He originally directed, but with the wrong attitude. The moral of this is that religiousness, religious ceremony leads to sin.
So, in returning to Matthew 24 and verse 2, we see the Jesus and the disciples walking out of the temple and no doubt around its huge structure and while doing so, it appears that the disciples are attempting to make some small talk with Jesus. Why? I strongly suspect that, given the fact that Jesus had just had a vitriolic encounter with the legalistic Pharisees, Jesus thoughts were on that encounter and more than likely He was silently angry. So, the disciples think to engage our Lord in conversation to take his mind off of the angry encounter that has just ended.
Jesus responds to the disciple’s remarks in verse 2 by stating a prophecy that the Temple would be torn down. His statement, no doubt shocked the disciples into silence. “Oops!”
More than likely their response was, to think maybe it was a good idea to leave that subject alone or maybe yet, better to let the Lord be alone to pray and consider the next move. This may well have been the case because for some reason, between verse 2 and 3 the disciples and the Lord are apparently separated by at least some distance.
This may be far-fetched, but after seeing Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead, is it possible that when Jesus announced the Temple would be destroyed, that the disciples simply decided that maybe Jesus was about to destroy the Temple at that moment, so they hurriedly beat a retreat from Him? That’s a possibility, but strictly an hypothesis. For whatever reason, though, the disciples and Jesus became separated for at least some distance and for some indeterminate period of time.
Verse 3 states that as Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples “came to Him.” This means that they had not been sitting with Him and that He was previously alone. The second part of the verse tells us they came to Him for a reason. The reason for approaching Him was to ask a question and that question was related to His remark about the Temple’s coming demise. They wanted to know – when would the Temple be destroyed?
They also knew that from His previous comments and teachings that He had stated that He would go away and come back again. With that in mind, they also wanted to know, when He would return and when would be the end of the world.
Jesus responded to their questions and his response carries through the rest of Matthew chapter 24. In Chapter 25, Jesus continues his “Olivet Discourse” on future events by using symbolism and parables. For purposes of this article, we’ll focus on what Jesus describes as the “signs” of His coming.
In verse 4, the very first thing Jesus does is warn the disciples of deception. Many will come claiming to be the “Messiah” and will deceive many.
Jesus then notes that there will be wars and rumors of wars. He notes that they and we are not to be troubled by these signs and that these things must happen, but they are not the end of the world. In verses 7 and 8, Jesus continues his description:
“For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers’ places.
“All these are the beginning of sorrows.”
There will be clashes between ethnic groups, and nations as well as famines, diseases and earthquakes in various places, and then Jesus notes that these signs are just the beginning of sorrows.
What we are seeing today, in terms of ethnic or tribal conflicts in Africa, Europe, and Asia along with wars and rumors of wars as well as famines, disease and earthquakes are not indicating the end is near – but rather that we are only at the beginning of much greater things yet to transpire.
At this point after verse 8 we get a shift in context from verse 9 onward. The context shifts at first to the Disciples and then to Israel and the Jews in general. This context continues to describe things from the Jewish standpoint during the Tribulation Period. So this context continues through the rest of the chapter.
At this point in verse 9, Jesus seems to shift away from the end-of the age signs and describes what will happen to the disciples. He then switches to describe what will happen to the Jews in verses 10-13. These things He describes are things that would transpire to the Jews from the time after His ascension until His Return to establish the Kingdom. Verse 13 tells us that those Jews who endure to the end will be saved. Consider this an indirect reference to the 144,000 witnesses who are sealed in Revelation 7:1-8.
“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.”
Verse 14 indicates that the 144,000 will successfully proclaim the “Gospel of the Kingdom.” The Gospel of the Kingdom is not to be confused with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The “Gospel of the Kingdom” is the Gospel related to the Millennial Reign of Jesus Christ and is the continuance of the Millennial Kingdom Gospel that Jesus proclaimed to the Jews who then rejected it. The Gospel of the Kingdom is to be proclaimed by the 144,000 Jews and other believing but ‘unsealed’ Jews who attempt to proclaim to the world that the Messianic Kingdom is at hand and that the nations should willingly accept the Messiah and not put up any opposition or face destruction.
Verses 15 through 26 describes events as related to the Jews living in Israel during the latter Tribulation period –when The Antichrist reveals himself as he commits the Abomination of Desolation on the Temple Mount as Daniel, the prophet describes.
Jesus then describes the resulting situation in Judea after the Abomination of Desolation.
In Verses 21 and 22 give us additional sign-insights.
“For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
“And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.”
We are told that the time after the Abomination of Desolation is called “the Great Tribulation” or the “mega-tribulation.” In verse 22, Jesus notes that the Tribulation period, if left unchecked, would result in the extinction of the human race. In other words, the time frame for this great tribulation has a cut-off point. The original Greek wording is somewhat awkwardly translated. It does not mean that the Tribulation period will be fewer days than John and Daniel indicate by the numbers. The original Greek phrase itself means “to be cut-off” or “cut-short” or “be determined” or “limited” might be a better way of translating it.
In verses 23 and 24, Jesus again repeats His warning of false prophets and false messiahs arising within the Jewish community. In verse 27 Jesus tells us His description of His arrival –
“For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.”
In Verse 29 Jesus describes celestial developments at the end of the Tribulation period. Note how Jesus puts this in a time perspective. “Immediately” – AFTER – the tribulation of those days” — and “those days” is the time frame after the Abomination of Desolation and the Great Tribulation period.
“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:”
This passage matches up with Revelation 16:17-21, although it could be argued that it starts with verse 10 and the fifth vial judgment instead of the 7th vial judgment.
And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done.
And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great.
And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath.
And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.
And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent: and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great.
Now it would seem that Matthew 24: 29 is describing events just immediately prior to Christ’s arrival on Earth because – verses 30 and 31 note that very thing.
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.
And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
So we have the sun darkening, the moon not giving light and the stars are falling from the heavens and the powers of the heavens are shaken as mankind will see “Sign of the Son of Man” and Jesus approaching. As He approaches, He sends His angels to literally, according to the original Greek – ‘assemble” the “Chosen ones” – (Eklektous) from the four winds, from extremities of the heavens to the extremities of the heavens.”
The Greek grammar of the verse combined with the unique and “double” use of the Greek word “akrohn combined with the word “ouranos” (heavens) indicates this action by the angels indicates the “chosen ones” are coming from the various regions of the heavens.
Now the knee-jerk reaction is that this verse is referring to the Rapture of those saved that are still on Earth. It may indeed by a Rapture event that is being described and that it occurs at the Second Coming when Christ returns to conquer Earth. In other words, the Angels are assembling the “dead in Christ” and then the “living in Christ” simultaneously so that this then is the Post-Trib Rapture that is being described.
It may also be a “second” Rapture event because we also have the Rapture described by Paul as being as a “thief in the night” and being at an unknown time. The Second Coming will be a known event, once the Abomination of Desolation has taken place. 1260 days will pass between the Abomination of Desolation and the 2nd Coming. However, Jesus also said that no one knows the day or hour of His Coming. We also note that Paul indicates the Church will not suffer God’s wrath, (I Thessalonians 5: 9).
We also note that Revelation 18:4 describes the Rapture event as transpiring before the Divine decree for Babylon’ first judgment, which is a fire judgment, which happens at the same one-hour time that the Antichrist is voted into power (Rev 17:12-16)
The third possibility is that this is describing the arrival of the Church, previously Raptured, and in a holding area – and the Church arrives from the various parts of the 7th Heaven, where God abides. This view seems more likely due to the awkward double use of the Greek word “akrohn?” The use of the term “winds” is also misleading in that it also can refer to the various winds that exist in the other heavens.
In other words, the verse could be describing a special presentation of the Church to Planet Earth – heralded by the sound of the great trumpet and the angels escorting the Church in assemblage behind Christ to let the world know His return is not the destruction of humanity but rather to cleanse Earth for the purified humans who chose God’s Grace.
If this verse were simply a reference to The Rapture in the Earth’s atmosphere, as Paul describes in I Thessalonians 4: 14-18 –
For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
It will also be noted that nowhere does the text indicate a plurality of angels accompany Christ. Furthermore in chapter 5, verse 2 Paul states:
For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.
Also verse 9
For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,
If we’re not appointed unto God’s wrath, then why would the Church be put through God’s wrath of the Great Tribulation Period? God’s Word cannot contradict itself.
There is a fourth possible explanation for this entire passage. This fourth explanation is that there is no chronological order developed in this last section of the Discourse.
This explanation states that verse 29 is a reference to the midway point of the Tribulation Period or some time prior to the mid-point – coming after the sun is darkened as found in Revelation 8 and just before the start of Revelation 9. This would put the “Rapture” at perhaps the Mid-Trib point or a “Pre-Wrath” position.
Finally, it can be argued that there is absolutely no chronology in the verses whatsoever. Such an argument is buttressed by what follows in the remaining verses where further descriptions are given of the Tribulation period.
In verse 32, Jesus indicates that the start of this period of prophetic fulfillments is triggered by the lesson of the parable of the Fig Tree, which is a reference to the rebirth of Israel as a nation. This is then followed by further descriptions of the Tribulation Period. Thus, the argument against the Discourse having any chronological order is further strengthened, meaning that there is no particular chronological order in the entire Discourse and thus no chronological order should be assumed.
Matthew 24: 32- 42
Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh:
So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.
Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.
Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.
But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.
But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark,
And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come
Now, we’ve digressed somewhat from our focus in this article, which was to examine all of the “signs of the end of the age.” So, let’s return to that focus and finish up the Discourse by Christ.
We have the parable of the Fig Tree mentioned in verses 32 -34. Jesus then mentions that no one knows the day or the hour of His Return except God, the Father. In verses 37-38 Jesus likens the period to the Days of Noah.
From verse 39 onward, through the rest of the chapter and into chapter 25 Jesus teaches us the response to this knowledge. We are to “watch” and be faithful to Him.
So, what can we say in summary about the Signs of the End of the Age?
First of all, the “End of the Age” comes at His Return, where by Jesus Christ establishes His Millennial Kingdom on Earth by way of His physical return, accompanied by the Raptured Church and His angelic forces.
The Preliminary “Signs” of His Coming are:
Many claiming to be the Messiah
Wars and Rumors of Wars
Ethnic and National wars
Earthquakes in various places
These are all the beginning of sorrows and thus are the “Signs” everyone can look for before the Tribulation starts.
Tribulation Signs include:
Lack of Love
The Kingdom Gospel proclaimed by 144,000 Jews
The Abomination of Desolation
Moon Gives No Light
Stars fall from Heaven
Powers in the Heavens shall be Shaken
Rebirth of Israel
Life will be as it was in Noah’s Day
Now there’s much more I could have elaborated upon in this article but have not mentioned as primary purpose of this article was to provide a broad overview. In other words, we simply wanted to highlight the key points of the Signs, themselves and how Jesus presented these signs.