The Word for today:
Our reading today is taken from what Bible scholars call the Olivet Discourse, which Jesus taught the disciples who were gathered on the Mount of Olives. In the discourse, he reveals what will unfold during the end times.
The discourse--occupying Matthew chapters 24 and 25, Mark 13, and Luke 21--will first disclose the disciples' immediate future (immediately after the death and resurrection of Jesus). Then it will look far into time.
I have a friend, David Westcott, who is a Bible scholar. He is now in the process of writing an entire book on the Olivet Discourse. I have read, with fascination, his developing manuscript through chapter ten. I have learned a lot. One thing I have learned is that I have a great deal yet to learn about the Olivet Discourse!
Over the next few days, we will develop a broad outline of this important section of scripture.
1. The prelude to the discourse.
2. The disciples' questions / Jesus' answers.
3. "End times" and the individual believer.
1. The Prelude to the Discourse: Jesus prophesies the disciples' immediate future.
Every biblical prophet spoke into a local, immediate situation in order to verify that the word he spoke was indeed the Word of the LORD. (If what he predicted did not come to pass, he was a false prophet and was put to death.) In the first two verses of Matthew 24, Jesus speaks about events which would happen within the lifetimes of the listening disciples:
Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. But he answered them, "You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down."
This would seem impossible in the minds of the disciples. After all, the stones Jesus was talking about were massive in size, measuring twenty feet high, twenty feet wide, and forty feet long. But in 70 A.D. (less than forty years after Jesus spoke these words) the Romans, commanded by Titus, stormed Jerusalem and torched the Temple. The ensuing fire became so hot that the gold inside began to melt and run down the walls between the rocks. When it cooled and solidified, the Roman soldiers began to pull down the stones of the temple in order to get to the gold hidden in the crevices. They didn’t quit until they had managed to pull down every single stone. Exactly as Jesus had prophesied, not one stone remained upon another. That is why if you go to Jerusalem today, all you will see is the Wailing Wall, a part of the temple foundation. It’s a massive wall, but small in comparison to what the temple had been.
Thus Jesus described, in startling detail, events which were to occur in the disciples' lifetimes.
Tomorrow, we will hear the questions which were prompted by this amazing prophecy.
An outline for advanced study:
Some of the technical aspects of the Olivet Discourse are beyond the purpose of this blog, and beyond the understanding of this blog's writer!
However, the avid Bible student should be given a sense of the scope and complexity of the discourse. Toward that end, I leave you with an outline worked out by David Westcott, who has meticulously harmonized the accounts of the discourse as found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke (1). It should also be noted that any careful study of the Olivet Discourse depends upon a thorough understanding of Old Testament prophecy, particularly the "seventy weeks" prophecy found in the book of Daniel.
THE OLIVET DISCOURSE
(Matthew 24-25; Mark 13; Luke 21)
I. The Setting
(Matthew 24:1-3, Mark 13:1-4, and Luke 21:5-7)
A. The disciples’ observation of the temple
(Matthew 24:1, and Mark 13:1)
B. Jesus’ response
(Matthew 24:2, Mark 13:2, and Luke 21:5-6)
C. The disciples’ question(s)
(Matthew 24:3, Mark13:3-4, and Luke 21:7)
II. Warning of Deception for the Disciples
(Matthew 24:4-6, Mark 13:5-7, and Luke 21:7)
III. General Signs of Coming Judgment
(Matthew 24:7-8, Mark 13:8, and Luke 21:10-11)
IV. Warnings of Persecution for the Disciples
(Matthew 24:9, Mark 13:9-13, and Luke 21:12-19)
A. An opportunity to spread the Gospel
(Mark 13:9-10, and Luke 21:12-13)
B. How to Handle Persecution
(Mark 13:11, and Luke 21:14-15)
C. The Extent of the Persecution
(Matthew 24:9, Mark 13:12-13a, and Luke 21:16-19)
V. The Desolation of Jerusalem
VI. General Warnings to the Many
(Matthew 24:10-14, and Mark 13:13b)
VII. The Abomination of Desolation
(Matthew 24:15-22, and Mark 13:14-20)
VIII. The Second Warning of Deception
(Matthew 24:23-28, and Mark 13:21-23)
IX. Signs in Heaven and on Earth
(Matthew 24:29, Mark 13:24-25, and Luke 21:25-26)
X. The Sign of the Son of Man
(Matthew 24:30-31, Mark 13:26-27, and Luke 21:27-28)
XI. The Parable of the Fig Tree
(Matthew 24:32-35, Mark 13:28-31, and Luke 21:29-33)
XII. Judgment for Israel
(Matthew 24:36-42, and Mark 13:32-33)
XIII. Parables of Readiness
(Matthew 24:43-25:30, Mark 13:34-37, and Luke 21:34-36)
A. The Master of the House and the Thief
B. The Doorkeeper and the Master
C. The Wise Servant and the Evil Servant
D. Watch and Pray
E. The Ten Virgins
F. The Traveling Man and the Servants
XIV. The Judgment of the Gentiles
(1) Westcott, David. "The Olivet Discourse," manuscript, 2010.