The Olivet Discourse
A brief parallel commentary by Peter D. Goodgame
Matthew 24:3-44 Mark 13:4-37 Luke 21:7-36 3. As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. "Tell us," they said, "when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?" 4. "Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?" 7. "Teacher," they asked, "when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?" 4. Jesus answered: "Watch out that no one deceives you.
5. For many will come in my name, claiming, `I am the Christ, ' and will deceive many.
5. Jesus said to them: "Watch out that no one deceives you.
6. Many will come in my name, claiming, `I am he,' and will deceive many.
8. He replied: "Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, `I am he,' and, `The time is near.' Do not follow them. 6. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 9. When you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away." 7. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.
8a. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. 10. Then he said to them: "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.
11a. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places
11b. and fearful events and great signs from heaven.
8. All these are the beginning of birth pains. 8b. These are the beginning of birth pains.
Comments: Up to this point the Synoptics have shown virtually word-for-word correspondence. The only discrepancy appears to be Luke verse 11. This verse does not include the phrase "beginning of birth pains" and it adds the prediction of "fearful events and great signs from heaven." However, because of the similarities in all three versions it should be understood that these "fearful events and great signs from heaven" are the last of the "birth pain" events.
Comments: Luke's account makes it clear that these predictions of persecution were fulfilled by the early Church. Verse 12 begins with, "But before all this..." which indicates that these events come before the "birth pains."
9. "You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them.
10. And the gospel must first be preached to all nations.
11. Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.
12. "Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death.
13. All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.
12. "But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name.
13. This will result in your being witnesses to them.
14. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves.
15. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.
16. You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death.
17. All men will hate you because of me.
18. But not a hair of your head will perish.
19. By standing firm you will gain life.
9. "Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.
10. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other,
11. and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.
12. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,
13. but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.
14. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
Comments: Matthew's account is similar to the predictions above from Mark and Luke, but there is not a word-for-word correspondence. Furthermore, the text indicates that this prediction of Christian persecution comes after the birth pains:
Matthew 24:7-9, "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains. Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me."
The end-times underground "Church" will be similar to the early Church in many ways and so separate predictions of similar challenges should not be unexpected.
Comments: Luke is clearly speaking about events fulfilled in 70 AD in connection with the destruction of Jerusalem. The "times of the Gentiles" will continue until Jesus restores the Kingdom to Israel after His physical return.
20. "When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near.
21. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city.
22. For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written.
23. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people.
24. They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
15. "So when you see standing in the holy place `the abomination that causes desolation,' spoken of through the prophet Daniel--let the reader understand--
16. then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.
17. Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house.
18. Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak.
19. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers!
20. Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath.
21. For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now--and never to be equaled again.
22. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.
14. "When you see `the abomination that causes desolation' standing where it does not belong--let the reader understand--then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.
15. Let no one on the roof of his house go down or enter the house to take anything out.
16. Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak.
17. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers!
18. Pray that this will not take place in winter,
19. because those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now--and never to be equaled again.
20. If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, he has shortened them.
Comments: Matthew and Mark are again virtually identical in their descriptions of the events that will take place at the midpoint and during the second half of the 70th Week of Daniel. The warning of "when you see..." applies only to believers (specifically Israel) who are on earth during the Day of the Lord.
Luke does not include this passage, which leads me to believe that Luke's next prediction of v25 concerns the catastrophic beginning of the Day of the Lord that occurs prior to the signing of the 70th Week covenant.
23. At that time if anyone says to you, `Look, here is the Christ!' or, `There he is!' do not believe it.
24. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect--if that were possible.
25. See, I have told you ahead of time.
21. At that time if anyone says to you, `Look, here is the Christ !' or, `Look, there he is!' do not believe it.
22. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect--if that were possible.
23. So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time.
Comments: Matthew and Mark are again virtually identical in their warning against false Christs. Jesus predicts false Christs (plural) and false prophets (plural) during this time, but in addition to these many deceivers there will also be a singular False Christ (Antichrist) and a singular False Prophet who will both be performing miracles, deceiving many, and commanding the world's attention.
26. "So if anyone tells you, `There he is, out in the desert,' do not go out; or, `Here he is, in the inner rooms,' do not believe it.
27. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.
28. Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.
Comments: Many English versions get the translation wrong, saying "vultures" when it should read "eagles" (Gr. aetos), yet eagles do not eat carrion. So why are they gathered to the corpse? This passage contrasts the coming of the true Messiah with the coming of the false Messiah. Jesus will come as lightning from heaven, whereas the Antichrist will come from a hidden room out in the desert. Furthermore, when he is first revealed it will be as a corpse, to which the leaders of the world will gather. (For further reading see The Giza Discovery).
Comments: Here in Luke we have what can only be a description of the beginning of the Day of the Lord. The events are similar to what happens at the end of the Day of the Lord, yet the description of "perplexity" and "apprehension" implies a reaction to an unexpected event. The beginning of the Day of the Lord is unexpected, whereas the end of the Day of the Lord is marked by the gathering of the world's armies to forcefully resist the expected return of Christ. Luke's description compares with the beginning of the Day of the Lord as described in Revelation 6:12-17.
25. "There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea.
26. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.
29. Immediately after the distress of those days 'the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.' 24. But in those days, following that distress, 'the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light;
25. the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.'
Comments: Matthew and Mark differ from Luke in that they specify that these events come after the time of greatest tribulation. They are therefore descriptions of the end of the Day of the Lord corresponding with Revelation 16:10-21. 30. At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.
26. At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.
27. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
Comments: All three Synoptics give parallel descriptions of the Second Coming at the end of the Day of the Lord. However, I would place a gap between Luke v26 and v27 during which the events of the Day of the Lord will be fulfilled, as described in Matthew 24:9-30 and Mark 13:14-26.
31. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. 27. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.
Comments: Matthew and Mark are again in close parallel, but the passage in Luke is missing.
Comments: The key here in Luke is "When these things begin to take place..." This points us all the way back to the events of Luke v10-11a, which are described in Matthew and Mark as "birth pains." Luke's narrative then leads into the parable of the fig tree, leaving the nature of the "redemption" promised in Luke v28 to be explained in vs34-36.
28. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. 32. "Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near.
33. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door.
34. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.
35. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
28. "Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near.
29. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door.
30. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.
31. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
29. He told them this parable: "Look at the fig tree and all the trees.
30. When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near.
31. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.
32. "I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.
33. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
Comments: The parable of the fig tree has been greatly misused over the last half-century. It is used by Jesus only for the purposes of illustration and, as Arnold Fruchtenbaum always points out, the usual symbol for Israel is actually the "vine." The fig tree parable does not refer to Israel, to Israel's re-establishment in 1948, or to the capture of Jerusalem in 1967. The point of the illustration is merely that the fulfillment of "these things" will lead to the establishment of the kingdom of God within the generation that sees "these things." If we look at Luke alone then "these things" seems to point to the "birth pains" that precede the Day of the Lord, but if we also look at Matthew and Mark then "these things" could refer, as Fruchtenbaum asserts, to the events falling within the Day of the Lord such as the global persecution of believers and the "abomination of desolation." This parable would then only apply to believers who find themselves on earth during the Day of the Lord. They are those who actually experience and "see these things," and they are distinct from the other group of believers in Luke vs34-36 that will not experience these events because they will "escape all that is about to happen."
36. "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 32. "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
Comments: There is an ongoing disagreement among dispensationalists about what "that day" refers to. Some say it refers to the "day" of the Second Coming, while others believe it refers to the "day" of the Rapture. However, given the fact that Jesus was talking to a group of listeners who were familiar with the Old Testament scriptures it should be clear that "that day" can only refer to the apocalyptic "Day of the Lord" that is predicted throughout the Old Testament. It is the "Day" that will bring about Israel's salvation and the "Day" that will culminate with the (second) coming of Israel's Messiah and the establishment of the Messianic Kingdom that every believing Jew looked forward to.
33. Be on guard! Be alert ! You do not know when that time will come.
Comments: Mark provides the first exhortation to watch and be ready for the coming of the Day of the Lord.
37. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.
38. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark;
39. and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.
Comments: Matthew compares the coming of the Day of the Lord with the coming of the flood of Noah. Both are sudden and unexpected events that come with great destruction and ultimately conclude with the total destruction of the wicked.
40. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left.
41. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.
42. Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.
Comments: If Jesus is talking about the beginning of the Day of the Lord (as we will continue to prove) then this must be a description of the Rapture. Those "taken" are taken to heaven, while those "left" are left behind on the earth to face the wrath and sudden destruction of the Day of the Lord. Verse 42 provides clarification because the unknown "day" on which the Lord "comes" can only refer to the Rapture. The beginning of the Day of the Lord (preceded by the "coming" involving the Rapture) will come on a day unknown to both believers and unbelievers, whereas the end of the Day of the Lord (involving the "coming" of Christ to earth) will be a known day to both believers and unbelievers. Believers will be able to mark that day on the calendar and unbelievers will prepare to defend the earth against Christ as predicted in Psalm 2 and Revelation 16:13-16 and 19:19. It will be an event anticipated by both the allies and enemies of Jesus Christ and is a "coming" that will not be a surprise. The parallel to Matthew vs40-42 can be found in Luke vs 34-36 which provides additional clarification that the Rapture is the "coming" that is being referred to.
34. It's like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.
35. "Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back--whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn.
36. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping.
37. What I say to you, I say to everyone: `Watch!'"
Comments: Mark provides a parable of the Rapture and the coming of the Day of the Lord in which the Messiah plays the role of the master of the house who has left on a journey, with believers playing the role of his servants. The point that is made is that the "servants" must be continually ready for the master's return, which could come at any hour. Believers must therefore keep watch so that they are not surprised when the Lord suddenly returns. Again, the Rapture can only be in view here rather than the Second Coming, because only the Rapture comes "suddenly" at an unknown day and hour.
43. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into.
44. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
Comments: Matthew here provides a parable in which believers play the role of the master of the house and the Messiah plays the role of a potential "thief in the night." The points that are made, however, are identical with Mark's parable. (Matthew 24:45-51 continues with a parable very similar to the one told in Mark 13:34-37 above, and Matthew 25:1-30 continues with two more parables that describe the unexpected coming of the Son of Man.)
Comments: This passage can be viewed as a succinct summation of all of the warnings and parables that Jesus gave concerning the unexpected coming of the Day of the Lord ("that day"), and how believers are to prepare for it. The Rapture is clearly alluded to when it describes faithful believers who "watch and pray," who are able to "escape all that is about to happen" and "stand before the Son of Man." The fulfillment of this promise is found in Revelation 7:9-17 which describes the Church after it has been rescued away from the beginning of the Day of the Lord in Revelation 6:12-17.
34. "Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap.
35. For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth.
36. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man."
Conclusion: The most important message in the Olivet Discourse
from Jesus to the Church is that we are to "Watch and Pray!"
Jesus is coming soon.
Peter D. Goodgame
December 10, 2006