What is the Olivet Discourse?

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By BibleAsk Team


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?

Matthew 24:3

The Olivet Discourse

The Olivet Discourse is a significant and prophetic teaching delivered by Jesus Christ on the Mount of Olives, recorded in the Synoptic Gospels of the New Testament—specifically in Matthew 24 and 25, Mark 13, and Luke 21. The Olivet Discourse addresses questions posed by the disciples regarding the future destruction of the temple in Jerusalem and the signs of the end times. The Olivet Discourse takes place during the final week of Jesus’ earthly ministry, just days before His crucifixion.

The Olivet Discourse begins with Jesus departing from the temple, and His disciples draw His attention to the grandeur of the temple buildings. In response, Jesus makes a startling prediction about the temple’s destruction: “Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down” (Matthew 24:2, NKJV).

This declaration prompts the disciples to inquire about the signs of His coming and the end of the age. In Matthew 24:4-14, Jesus outlines a series of events that will precede the end times, including false messiahs, wars, famines, earthquakes, and persecution. He emphasizes the need for endurance, stating, “But he who endures to the end shall be saved” (Matthew 24:13, NKJV).

Abomination of Desolation

In the Olivet Discourse, Jesus refers to the “abomination of desolation” as a key sign. In Matthew 24:15 (NKJV), He quotes from the prophet Daniel, saying, “Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand). This reference is to Daniel (Daniel 9:27; 11:31; 12:11).

Because Daniel 9:27 is part of the angel’s explanation of Daniel 8:11–13, it should be concluded that Daniel 8:11–13 is a blended prophecy (similar to that of Matthew 24) that points both to the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem by the Romans and to the work of the papacy in the future centuries. It should further be added that Jesus’ clear reference to the work of the “abomination of desolation” as yet future in His time makes it clear that Antiochus Epiphanes did not meet the specifications of the prophecy. For more on this, check: https://bibleask.org/is-antiochus-epiphanes-the-little-horn-power-in-daniel-8/

The Great Tribulation

Following the abomination of desolation is a significant and prophetic teaching delivered by Jesus Christ on the Mount of Olives, recorded in the Synoptic Gospels of the New Testament. A period of unparalleled tribulation is described. Jesus speaks of “great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matthew 24:21, NKJV). This intense tribulation involves cosmic signs, distress among nations, and the coming of the Son of Man.

The Coming of the Son of Man

In Matthew 24:29-31 (NKJV), Jesus vividly describes the cosmic signs preceding His coming: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”

This passage echoes Old Testament prophecies, such as Daniel 7:13-14, depicting the glorious return of the Son of Man as a conquering and majestic figure.

Parables

Jesus uses the parable of the fig tree to illustrate the discernment of the signs of the times. In Matthew 24:32-35 (NKJV), He states: “Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors! Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.”

The fig tree is a symbolic representation, signaling that when the disciples witness the fulfillment of certain events, they should discern the imminence of the end times.

Jesus ends the Olivet Discourse with more parables: (1) The wicked servant whose master punishes him upon his return home (Matthew 24:45-51). (2) The Parable of the Ten Virgins, that teaches readiness and watchfulness (Matthew 25:1-13). (3) The story of three servants and their management of finances, which teaches faithfulness and accountability (Matthew 25:14-30). (4) The Parable of the Sheep and Goats, which teaches God’s separation of the saved from the unsaved at the end of time (Matthew 25:31-46). 

Watchfulness and Readiness

Throughout the Olivet Discourse, Jesus emphasizes the importance of watchfulness and readiness. In Matthew 24:42-44 (NKJV), He says: “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” The unpredictability of the exact timing of His return underscores the need for continual preparedness and vigilance among believers.

Mark 13 and Luke 21

Mark 13 and Luke 21 provide parallel accounts of the Olivet Discourse. Mark’s account emphasizes the importance of staying alert and being watchful. Luke’s account includes additional teachings and warnings, such as Jesus’ caution against being weighed down by the cares of this life.

Theological Significance

The Olivet Discourse holds profound theological significance in Christian eschatology. It addresses themes such as the sovereignty of God, the reality of suffering and tribulation, the return of Christ, and the ultimate triumph of God’s kingdom. The discourse calls believers to live in anticipation of Christ’s return, to remain faithful in the face of adversity, and to be vigilant in recognizing the signs of the times.

In conclusion, the Olivet Discourse in the Bible is a comprehensive and profound teaching by Jesus Christ on the Mount of Olives. It addresses the disciples’ inquiries about the destruction of the temple and the signs of the end times. Through vivid imagery, parables, and prophetic declarations, Jesus provides insights into the unfolding of future events, emphasizing the need for watchfulness, readiness, and endurance.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Olivet Discourse, found in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21), presents a significant teaching of Jesus regarding the future events leading up to his second coming and the end of the age.

Key themes in the Olivet Discourse include the prediction of wars, famines, earthquakes, persecution of believers, false prophets, the abomination of desolation, and the coming of the Son of Man. Jesus uses apocalyptic language and imagery to convey the seriousness and urgency of these future events, emphasizing the need for vigilance, faithfulness, and readiness among his followers. While some aspects of Jesus’ predictions may have had fulfillment in the first century, Jesus also was pointing to future eschatological events, to His second coming and the final judgment.

Ultimately, the Olivet Discourse serves as a reminder for believers to remain faithful to Christ in the midst of trials and to eagerly anticipate his return. It underscores the importance of living in readiness and expectation of the fulfillment of God’s ultimate purposes for the world, while also encouraging believers to persevere in faith and proclaim the Gospel until the end.

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