It was the 12 of the month Nisan in the year 4071 A.H. (in the year of man) or 30 AD as it came to be designated by chronology researchers many years later. Two days before the beginning of the Passover Festival (Mat. 26:2), Jesus was once again in the Temple area teaching the religious Jews and His disciples. During this final week before the crucifixion, Jesus had made His final plea to the nation of Israel, exhorting them to accept Him as the promised Messiah. But they failed to respond, and He had to pronounce judgment upon them instead of blessing (Mat. 21:33-44; 23:33-39). He now has on His mind to teach some essential truths to His disciples concerning the progress of history from the time of His resurrection until His second coming, which will begin THE END OF THE AGE. The result is what has come to be called, THE OLIVET DISCOURSE.
In Matthew 24, Jesus is
talking primarily to the disciples as those who will be the foundation
builders of the church. The information is for the church – not for Israel.
It is argued that this
understanding is not valid because dispensational distinctions prevent God
from DEALING with Israel and the church at the same time. However, whom God
DEALS with is no issue in dispensational distinctions. Furthermore, during the
first 40 years of the church, there was time allotted for God to formally
displace Israel through the destruction of the temple and the city of
Jerusalem (Matthew 21:33-45; 23:29-39). This time between dispensations is
called transition and allows God to administer a smooth transfer of
evangelistic function from the previous agency to the next one. The same thing
will occur during the 70th week of Daniel. God restarts Israel's time clock,
giving her the rest of the promised 490 years. (From Cyrus year one, 483 years
were fulfilled until the crucifixion of Jesus. At that time God turned away
from Israel with 7 years left for the fulfillment of her evangelistic
commission). The purpose of this last 7 years is to bring Israel back into a
right relationship with God, and it is the evangelistic activity of the church
which contributes to this (Dan. 11:33-35). By
the end of the 7 year period, Israel will once again be restored to
relationship and fellowship with God, be functioning as the evangelistic
agency, and be the foundation for the nation's role in the millennial kingdom
Verses 4-8 deal with the issue of DECEPTION. From the inception of the church age in 30 AD, the world will experience a great variety of various troublesome historical trends such as false teachers, wars, famines, plagues, earthquakes, and even strange celestial phenomena. None of these things are to suggest progress toward “the end” and the second coming of Jesus. They are not to be the cause of concern or elicit any EXPECTATION, for they are normal and will continue until the time of the tribulation.
It is when the church (you) is delivered up to tribulation (verses 9-28) that the SEASON of the second coming will be present. When that happens, then the second coming can be expected to occur at any day or hour, without any other warning. Verses 24:36, 42.
The point of focus in verses 15-26, is on the church’s ministry to Israel in the land of Palestine during the tribulation. The land of Palestine is always the focal point of the prophetic scriptures and will be the hub of divine activity during the end-times. The church has a part in the end-times and is not removed beforehand. The END-TIMES period begins with the 70th week of Daniel. This is the 7 year period promised to Israel in order to fulfill her allotted time as God’s evangelistic agent, and to institute the Messiah’s earthly kingdom.
See Topic: The 70 weeks of Daniel
From the time of Israel’s restoration from the Babylonian Captivity in 536 BC via the decree of Cyrus (3589 A.H.), she was responsible for representing the Messianic promise to the world. God gave Israel 490 years to fulfill this responsibility, but after 483 years had passed, she had failed. That failure reached its ultimate expression when the nation failed to accept the Messiah when He came (Mat. 21-33:45; 23:34-39). Because of that God interrupted the time that He had promised to Israel and temporarily took away her evangelistic responsibility, and gave it to a NEW agent, the church (1 Peter 2:9-10).
See Topic: Dispensations
In the future, at the start of the time period known as THE END TIMES, God will give to the nation of Israel, the remaining 7 years that He promised to her. This has been theologically designated as the 70th week of Daniel. During that time the church will be instrumental in bringing the gospel to Israel (Mat. 10:21-23; Dan. 11:33-35) so she can be restored to that function. However, Israel will not function as the agent until after the rapture, but will still be spiritually neutralized until she embraces Jesus as the Messiah after His arrival. This will occur when the 144,000 are saved right after the rapture, as is recorded at Revelation 7:1-8. These will then function as God’s evangelistic servants to escort both Jew and Gentiles into the Messiah’s earthly kingdom (Rev. 14:1-7).
See Topic: The 144,000 Bond Servants
5. The ministry of the
144,000 and of the two witnesses of Revelation
11:1-13 will result in converts from Jew and gentile throughout the world.
CORRELATION OF THE SYNOPTIC GOSPELS
FIRST, I want to suggest that regardless of how one correlates the information found in the various passages of the Synoptic Gospels, the ORDER of the events DOES NOT CHANGE. Thus, whether there was ONE or TWO or a dozen different times that Jesus taught on this subject, the chronological flow of the events must be consistently maintained.
SECOND, we need to
acknowledge the idea that the gospel writers record only PORTIONS of what
Jesus taught (John 20:30; 21:25) and not even COMPLETE messages. This helps us
divide the information that was taught into various categories.
THIRD, we need to
recognize that the information Jesus taught is not recorded in the same
chronological order by the other gospel writers. It thus, becomes difficult to
correlate all the information into one continuing narrative.
In my opinion, the
content of Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 17:22-37, and Luke 21 should all be
placed within the context of one message, even though some of the information
was taught on more than one occasion.
Although there were multiple teaching sessions on the same subject matter, as shown above, the flow of the content, and the occurrence of key chronological words, within the pertinent passages of the three Synoptic Gospels, indicate that what we know as The Olivet Discourse, did contain ALL of the information that is found in the respective Olivet chapters of Matthew, Mark and Luke. None of the writers recorded the entire discourse, but all of what was recorded in the respective chapters was taught by Jesus in the same discourse given to the disciples on the Mount of Olives, and does present chronological accuracy.
Matthew does not record
the entirety of the Olivet Discourse for his focus is not on the specific time
frame of 30 to 70 AD, but the time frame from 70 AD until His second coming,
and the END TIMES beginning with the tribulation.
Mark incorporates some
of the pre-70 AD instruction, as can be seen at chapter 13:9-11. He MIXES both
time periods within his record, as Luke does, without giving the key
chronological designation of Luke 21:12, "before all these things," and
without mentioning specifically the impending fall of Jerusalem.
SUMMARY OF SYNOPTIC CORRELATION
Matthew 24:4-8 = the
beginning birth pangs
Matthew skips over the 30 to 70 AD persecution that was taught earlier at chapter 10, but it WAS taught again in the Olivet Discourse.
Mark 13:9-11 = the 30 to
70 AD persecution
Luke 21:12-19 = the 30
to 70 AD persecution
Matthew skips the fall
Thus, only Luke mentions the warning to flee Judea, within that context of the siege of Jerusalem, “when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies,” (21:20-21).
The warning to flee is taught in both contexts: (1) 68 AD, and (2) when the abomination of desolation is set up in the Holy Place at the midpoint of the 70th week, when the tribulation will begin. Luke mentions it in the tribulation context at 17:31-33, out of chronological order.
Matthew 24:9-26 = the tribulation; mentions the gospel proclamation.
Mark 13:12-23 = the tribulation; mentions the gospel proclamation at verse 10, with a double application to the Apostolic era and the tribulation.
Luke skips the tribulation, although records information about it in chapter 17:31-33, out of chronological order, and does not mention the gospel proclamation.
Matthew 24:27-25:30 =
Second coming and rapture with FIVE second-coming parables.
Mark 13:24-37 = second
coming and rapture with TWO parables.
Luke 21:25-36 = second
coming and rapture with ONE parable, although he records THREE of the same
second-coming parables out of chronological order, at Luke 12:35-48, and a
VARIATION of one at Luke 19:11-27 – probably taught at that time.
Matthew 24:1 (NASB is used unless otherwise noted)
Mankind has always been
preoccupied with the future, and of course, the disciples of Jesus were no
exception. To prepare the disciples to receive this important information, it
appears as though He actually baited the curiosity of the disciples by
speaking of a future destruction of the temple with very strong language.
The disciple's are quite enamored with the temple structure. They have probably been discussing this among themselves, and ONE OF THEM takes it upon himself to broach the subject with the Lord. The "bait" then, appears to be recorded at Mt.24:2 and Luke 21:6, as they are LEAVING the temple area.
Do you not see all these
things? Truly I say to you,
On the way to the mount,
they are surely discussing this strange prediction by Jesus, and finally when
they have settled down in private, the obvious question must be asked –
1. When will these
things be? Mt. 24:3; Mk. 13:4; Lk. 21:7
Mark seems to limit the
questioning to Peter, James, John and Andrew (Mark 13:3), but surely they are
simply the ones speaking in turn, as all the disciples would be present.
The answers of Jesus, recorded for us in Matthew 24-25, Mark 13 and Luke 21, give us an outline for the history of the church from its inception in 30 AD unto the start of the time period known as THE END OF THE AGE. This time period will begin with the arrival of Jesus in the clouds of the sky with power and great glory and be completed at the end of the Messiah’s 1000 year earthly reign. This time period is also known as THE DAY OF THE LORD. It is at this time that Jesus will use the angels to gather up the elect (Saints; all the living church age believers and all dead believers from all previous generations) out from this world, give them new resurrection bodies, and take them into the third heaven (1 Thessalonians 4:14-17; 5:1-2; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10; 2:1-2; Rev. 7:9ff).
Now, as mentioned above,
there are two main differences between the information recorded by Luke and
what is recorded by Matthew and Mark.
This has led to a theory suggesting that Luke records a different discourse than what Matthew and Mark record. It is suggested that since Luke deals with the impending destruction of Jerusalem and Matthew does not, then the two writers had two entirely different messages in mind. However, the similarities far out weigh the differences. Luke records the answer to “When will these things become,” and Matthew does not, and in both accounts the same question is recorded. This should indicate that there is only one discourse in view. In addition, the same description of the beginning birth pangs is recorded by both men. Matthew chose – and it must be believed that this was through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit – not to mention the impending destruction of the temple and city, but to focus on the future tribulation. Luke, on the other hand, through the same inspiration of the Holy Spirit, chose to focus on the crisis of the church prior to the fall of Jerusalem rather than the future tribulation. In fact, Luke does not record anything about the tribulation in his entire gospel account. Except for this difference then, the historical trends are mentioned by both, and the end-times signs of the second coming are mentioned by both.
We are shown a unique parallelism by comparing the two gospels. We learn that the early church will go through the same kind of suffering and persecution as what will come during the tribulation. In fact, as Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, the AFFLICTION encountered by the early church COULD HAVE escalated into the end-times tribulation, and relief would, in that case, come through “the revelation of Jesus Christ from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire,” (2 Thes. 1:6-10).
The first two questions
deal with the tearing down of the temple.
He began with a very stern warning.
VERSE 4 (Mark 13:5; Luke 21:8a)
And answering, Jesus
said to them,
The possibility of deception requires specific information so that the church might be oriented to the progress of history and not get discouraged at hardship and be distracted from her evangelistic purpose.
Paul wrote at 1Timothy
4:1, “But the Spirit specifically says that in later times some will fall away
from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of
If the church, or more
specifically, individual believers, get too distracted and discouraged at the
progress of evil in the world, they will lose sight of the true objective for
their continued sojourn here on the earth, which is to function as ambassadors
within the royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9; 2Cor. 5:20).
In fact, this is exactly
what happened to the Thessalonian believers as Paul wrote,
These believers were
experiencing some very great persecution (2Thes. 1:4),
which Paul described as AFFLICTION (using the verb, thlibo – tribulation,
Jesus prepared the disciples with “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” John 15:20. And at John 16:2, “but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God.”
Paul taught that
“Through many tribulations we are to enter the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:22
At 1 Peter 4:12, we are
told that we should not be "surprised at the fiery ordeal among you which
comes upon you for your testing, as though A STRANGE THING were happening to
Thus, the specific
instruction from Jesus and later from the apostles is designed to orient the
believers to the progress of historical trends and the advance of evil and
oppressive persecution that would come in the years following His death and
resurrection. It was not to be a surprise to them, nor were they to look for
His second coming outside the context of specific prophecies. For even though
“many will come in My name, saying ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many”
And so we have the Olivet Discourse, wherein Jesus orients us to the general historical trends that will occur during the church age, and the specific time of persecution leading up to His return at the Day of the LORD. That is, “the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which He, (God the Father) will show in His own time,” (1 Timothy 6:14-15, BFT).
As this is studied, we need to keep in mind that Jesus was speaking to the disciples as the first fruits of the church, and that the information given to them is applicable to the church throughout its history.
Jesus chose the disciples as representatives of His message, and as His representatives, He taught them concerning the issues of ambassadorship for their benefit and for the benefit of those who would believe in Him through them. Although upon occasion Jesus taught directly to the Jews of the nation of Israel, as ones who were expected to accept Him as the Messiah, most of the time He was teaching His disciples the information they and the church would need for spiritual life fulfillment after His departure. Since the disciples were the foundation blocks of the church, the information they received is just as applicable to all the church as it was to them. In the passage before us, Jesus is not talking to the Jewish nation, but to the disciples as the first leaders of the church, and He is giving them information that is and will be pertinent to the church throughout its history on the earth.
As we properly harmonize the three accounts that we have in the synoptic gospels, it will be clear that the progress of the future is viewed from 30 AD, as an uninterrupted history of the church, until Matthew 24:29-31, when Jesus will return in association with the Day of the LORD signs, and will gather His elect from the world.
It is at this time that we are first introduced to the word, parousia, to refer to the second coming of Jesus. Matthew uses it four times and it is used 13 additional times in the epistles - consistently for the ONE and only second coming of Jesus, which will be visible, physical and in GLORY. The word means a "being" beside (para). Thus, both ideas of arrival and presence are in view, with greater emphasis on the idea of ARRIVAL, thus the translation, COMING.
The disciples asked, "What will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?"
The answer is prefaced
with warning not to be misled because there will be many who come with
deceiving words of false claims either about WHO the Messiah is, or about His
return. Matthew writes, “Watch out that no one deceives you.”
The context of Matthew 24 indicates that "the end of the age" refers to a PERIOD of time rather than a single day event. However, that end-of-the-age time period will be initiated by the COMING of Jesus, so when Jesus says at verse 6, "this is not yet the end," He means it is not yet the time for the second coming (the parousia). And at verse 14, the gospel will first be proclaimed throughout the world of that "tribulation" generation, and "then shall the end (parousia) come." Accordingly, the second coming is identified as both the ARRIVAL and the PRESENCE of Christ AND the end of the age time PERIOD – the Day of the Lord.
At verse 13, "whoever
endures until the end will be delivered," the word "end" SEEMS to refer to the
end of the specific events just outlined in verses 9-12. However, the END of
the events of the tribulation and the end of the age, when Jesus returns is
the same point in time. For according to verse 29, it is AFTER the tribulation
of those days,” that is, after the tribulation has been cut short by the
sovereign decree of God the Father (Mat. 24:22), that the signs of the day of
the Lord will occur, followed by the visible arrival of Jesus in the clouds of
At Matthew 24:5-6, Jesus explains that there will be several things that occur throughout history, as normal or matter-of-course historical trends. These things should not elicit any special concerns from the disciples CONCERNING the end of the age, because the end will be prefaced by the specific time of tribulation, which will be evidenced by the presence of the abomination of desolation standing in the Holy Place. Jesus mentions these GENERAL historical trends in order to keep the disciples and the believers of the church after them, oriented and aware so that they might not be deceived and misled.
At Matthew 24:5-9, Jesus breaks down the historical trends into three periods.
1. Those before 70 AD.
CHURCH AGE TRENDS - General trends both before and after 70 AD:
For many will come in My
name, saying, I am the Christ,
As mentioned above, the
apostles gave additional information on the arrival of false teachers.
Before I continue I need
to point out that there are THREE places in this discourse where the presence
of false prophets is said to be a challenge to the faith of believers in
And you will be hearing
of wars and rumors of wars;
Luke uses the word,
“disturbances” in place of rumors. The word in the Greek is akatastasia –
something that is against stability. It has the idea of social and regional
conflicts that could possibly escalate into war, and in many cases, probably
The "pregnancy" is God's
plan to establish the Messiah's reign on the earth via His return at the Day
of the Lord.
1. See that you are not frightened: This is an aorist active imperative of instruction from the verb, horao. It means to observe or pay attention. It is followed by the present passive indicative of throeo, which means to be afraid, disturbed and intimidated. The NORMAL inclination is to see each succeeding war or rumor of war as a sign that the second coming is near. We need to understand that this is not the case. All of these GENERAL wars and rumors of war are natural historical trends that will continue throughout history, and mean NOTHING as to eschatology – that is, in reference to the fulfillment of end-times prophecies. And that includes the seals of Revelation 6.
2. For these things MUST
take place: Lit: It is necessary for these things to become.
3. Jesus said, "the end is not yet." This clarifies that when the "wars and rumors" occur, the oriented Christian should not be deceived into thinking that it portends the end of the age and the second coming of Jesus. Jesus' explanation of why it is not yet the end, is amplified at Matthew 24:7 and Luke 21:10-11. Basically, it is because there are yet to be many horrific things that will come upon the world throughout the history following the first century. Accordingly, Jesus will describe historical trends that take place on a much larger scale than the ones just mentioned.
For nation shall rise
There are two things in this passage, or rather the discourse, which tell us that these "larger scale" trends are those which will occur after AD 70.
1. The idea of "kingdom against kingdom" conflicts does not describe the conflicts that took place within the Roman Empire prior to 70 AD.
2. At Luke 21:12, the
phrase, "but before all these things."
By saying, "before all
these things," Jesus is placing the following information before the "larger
scale" trends just described. And so, chronologically, these events should be
When Jesus talkED about the persecution between 30-70 AD, he useD language that is very similar to what He useD to describe the persecution of the great tribulation. But by careful analysis, the distinction between the two periods can be preserved. The same principle applies to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD and the oppression by the beast in the great tribulation. As mentioned earlier, a parallelism is thus established that reveals the possibility that the early church persecutions COULD HAVE actually escalated into the end-times tribulation.
For nation will rise
against nation, and kingdom against kingdom,
All this continues from
70 AD as the beginning of birth pangs.
To recap: The rumors of war are not a sign of the end BECAUSE (for) there will be massive world-wide conflicts (kingdom against kingdom, etc.) along with famines, plagues, earthquakes and atmospheric disturbances. But all these things are just birth pangs leading up to the end but are not the end. And since we are dealing with a symbolic "pregnancy" instead of a literal nine month pregnancy, there is no way to determine the length of time allotted to this time of "beginning birth pangs." In other words, the beginning birth pangs should not be viewed as "signs of the season," for they are not. The signs of the season begin with the final birth pangs; birth pangs, which generally point to the end occurring within a matter of hours. This season is when the church comes under the oppressive reign of the beast at the midpoint of Daniel's 70th week. These are the signs that Jesus has in mind at Matthew 24:33, "you too when you see all these things." The context indicates that the "all these things" refers back to a specific time period in the context (the tribulation) which begins with a specific historical event, identified as the rise of the beast who sets up the abomination of desolation in the Holy Place.
The final or advanced stage of birth pangs begins with Matthew 24:9, the events of the great tribulation. It is during this time frame (verses 9-28) that the gospel will be proclaimed throughout the whole world, "and then shall the end come (verse 14)." The result of that gospel proclamation will be new converts added to the church, all of whom will be raptured at the Day of the LORD, and at least the 144,000 Jewish converts after the rapture.
In the meantime, the
normal historical trends of a world under a physical and spiritual curse, will
continue until we arrive at a time when alleviation from much of the pain will
be administered by a world ruler seeking to establish THE peace on the earth.
1. The wars and rumors continue via nation and kingdom conflicts. This can be traced through historical records and does not need to be documented here.
2. Famines occur as a result of climate cycles, warfare, and man's mismanagement of the environment. This too is a well-known historical reality, and does not need to be documented.
3. Plagues occur for the same reasons as well as from mankind's general moral decline. The occurrence of recurring and new devastating diseases is a historical reality.
4. Earthquakes occur
because of the curse on the earth, and the law of entropy affecting the
earth’s geological structure. There is nothing unusual here.
Recent quakes can be
traced at: http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/
All these things will occur, bringing us naturally closer to the "season" of final birth pangs but are not signs in and of themselves.
So - when the huge famine hits in 43-44 AD (Acts 11:28), the disciples won’t get all excited and think that the end is near.
Or when Rome starts fighting off rebellions, including the Jewish revolt, they will not think that the end is near.
And when the earthquakes and eruption associated with Mt. Vesuvius occur in 79 A.D., destroying the cities of Pompeii, Stabiae, and Herculaneum, they will not think that the end is near.
Even when Jerusalem and the temple are destroyed earlier in 70 A.D., they will KNOW that the end is not near.
What do they need to watch for in order to know that the end is near?
They will know that the end is near when the tribulation begins. And they will know that the tribulation has begun when the abomination of desolation is set up in the Holy Place.
Thus, the natural flow of the teaching of Jesus is to record the progress of the church from AD 70 into and to the end of the great tribulation. The message of Jesus bypasses any "direct" mention of the beginning of the 70th week of Daniel and simply picks up at the mid-point of the week when the man of lawlessness begins his oppressive reign as the beast out of the sea. In fact, everywhere in scripture, the emphasis is not on the 1st half of the week, but always on the 2nd half. There is a conspicuous absence of information about the 1st half, but an abundance of information about the middle of the week, the oppressive reign of the beast and all that follows.
The probable reason is because the 1st half is a time of peace for most, if not all, the world, as a result of the covenant that is established by the world ruler and the peoples of Palestine (The “many” of Daniel 9:27). Revelation 6:3 records the taking of THE (Greek) peace from the earth at the second seal, which is what happens when the beast breaks the covenant of peace and religious toleration. If the general historical trend from 30 AD is "wars and rumors," then there will be no "official" peace that can be taken from the earth except one that has been established.
The history of the church, then, progresses without interruption up into that first half of the 70th week and into the tribulation (the great one) from which she shall be delivered, as that tribulation is cut short (Matthew 24:22) by the sovereign decree of God the Father. This will be followed immediately by the signs in the sun, moon and stars (Mat. 24:29), the sign of the Son of man (Mat. 24:30a), and then by the visible return of Jesus in the clouds of the sky with power and great glory (Mat. 24:30b). And as Jesus appears, He will use His angels to gather His elect (the saints) out from the earth (Mat. 24:31) as is described at 1Thes. 4:14-17. This then will begin the Day of the LORD and initiate the time period of THE END OF THE AGE. Paul taught about this arrival of the Day of the Lord at 1Thes. 5:1-11, 2Thes. 2:1-3, and 2Peter 3:9-13. He also taught that this COULD happen during his own lifetime as seen at 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10.
THE SEALS PARALLEL THEORY
There are many who believe that the events prophesied in Matthew 24 parallel the 6 seals of Revelation 6. It is even stated that because of this observation, some of them have come to recognize that the PreWrath view of the rapture is more consistent with Scripture. The theory states that each of the “birth pang” items correspond respectively with the 4 seals; that Mat. 24:9-28 corresponds with the 5th seal; and that Matthew 24:29-31 corresponds with the 6th seal.
I do believe that there is a parallel between Matthew 24 and Revelation 6, however, it has nothing to do with the birth pangs.
1. As taught above, the
birth pangs are the normal historical trends that have been going on since the
first century and have no bearing on WHEN the “end” will occur.
IV. EVENTS BETWEEN 30 AD
AND THE FALL OF JERUSALEM IN 70 AD.
Now, before we continue with what Jesus taught about the beginning of the tribulation at Matthew 24:9, the natural FLOW of the discourse needs to be preserved by inserting the information that Mark and Luke provide for us (or AT LEAST, the proper chronological ORDER).
By saying, "before all these things," Jesus is placing the following information before the "larger scale" trends just described. And so, chronologically, these events should be viewed first.
As a reminder of what I wrote above, I repeat. Jesus taught about two different times of persecution and two different times of crisis for Jerusalem. He used similarity of language to describe both, and we must be careful to make the separation between the two situations or else we will miss the true intent of His teaching.
When Jesus talked about the persecution between 30-70 AD, he used language that is very similar to what He used to describe the persecution of the great tribulation. But by careful analysis, the distinction between the two periods can be preserved. The same principle applies to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD and the oppression by the beast in the great tribulation even to the point of telling the people to flee Judea.
BETWEEN 30-70 AD
"They will lay their
hands on you and will persecute you,
Mark also records this information at Mark 13:9-13 and it is best to see the inclusion of this information in his “Olivet” chapter, as indication that it was indeed, taught on that occasion, and parallels Luke 21:12-19. Except it seems that Mark 13:12-13 should be viewed as paralleling Matthew 24:9-10, and refers to the future tribulation instead of the 30-70 AD persecution.
Although Matthew does not record the 30-70 AD persecution data in his “Olivet” chapter, he does record the earlier teaching session on that subject at Matthew 10:16-23.
16 "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 "But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; 18 and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. 19 "But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. 20 "For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. 21 "Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child ; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. 22 "You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved. 23 "But whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes.
WE KNOW that this is
referring to the time period prior to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, because
AFTER 70 AD, the Jews had no authority to haul people before their religious
court system – “the synagogues” - as they did prior to 70 AD (Acts 4:1-3;
6:12; 9:1-2). And outside, Palestine, they had no authority to prosecute those
who might disagree with their faith system, although they could challenge them
(Acts 13:45). And they would also enlist the help of local governments to
attack the Christians (17:5-9).
At Matthew 10:23, Jesus takes the persecution of the Christians and the gospel proclamation beyond the immediate time frame of the apostolic era and applies it to the church age in general without making any reference to the fall of Jerusalem 40 years after His resurrection.
"You shall not finish with the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes."
This simply confirms the idea that there is no "interruption" of the historical progress of the church until Jesus returns at the Day of the LORD. And the disciples will know that Christ’s promised return would not occur until sometime after the completion of their mission.
THE TWO PERIODS OF PERSECUTION
There are two periods of
crisis for the church on the earth.
During this time “the
mystery of lawlessness is already at work,” but is under restraint according
to the agenda of the plan of God.
It should also be
divided into two sub-time periods.
Mark 13:9, 11
Now keep yourselves
alert; for they will deliver you to courts
This is a valid concern
for the representatives of the Messiah, but it was not an issue prior to the
crucifixion, at least there is no mention of such persecution during that
time. It did not become a problem until after the resurrection and the
beginning of the church age. The reference to synagogues refers to the
persecution from Jews which would take place between 30 and 70 AD, and can be
summarized by what Saul did as recorded at Acts 22:19, "in one synagogue after
another I used to imprison and beat those who believed," and Acts 26:11, "and
as I punished them often in all the synagogues."
THE MINISTRY OF THE HOLY
This refers to the ministry of the Holy Spirit specifically to the believers of the apostolic church, which provides an "inspiration" type message for those who encounter this persecution. This does not mean that the believer is to neglect his spiritual growth in the grace and knowledge of Jesus, but what it does mean is that for the trusting believer, there need be no occasion for worry nor preparation of a formal statement of defense. God the Holy Spirit will so work in the believer's soul that the truth he has learned will be brought to the mind and the Holy Spirit will speak through him to meet the needs of the moment.
Luke mentions this teaching from Jesus twice, which indicates that He probably taught it to the disciples on more than one occasion.
At Luke 12:11-12
"And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not become anxious about how or what you should speak in your defense, or what you should say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say."
And at Luke 21:12-15, in his "Olivet Discourse" chapter -
"But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name's sake. "It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony. So make up your minds not to prepare beforehand to defend yourselves; for I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute.
The context at Mark 13, appears to be referring to the time of the tribulation, but I suggest that he is just giving a summary of what Jesus taught and that the true chronological perspective is preserved for us only in Matthew 10, 24 and Luke 21.
Luke 21:12-24 makes it clear that this period of "inspirational" defense through the Holy Spirit will occur between 30 AD and the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. The clause at verse 12, "but before all these things," refers to what happens before the events of verses 10-11 occur (the national conflicts, earthquakes, famines, and the signs in the heavens). And then at verses 20-24, it is clear that Jesus is referring to a time period before 70 AD, for these verses describe the destruction of the city that occurs at that time.
The point I want to emphasize is that this special help from the Spirit, in the manner that it is described by Jesus is a temporary provision for the apostolic era and is not continued throughout the church age beyond that era. The Spirit will certainly continue to minister to His people through leading and filling, but the language that Jesus uses in this context speaks of an inspiration from the Spirit, and this does not occur after the apostolic era ends. That is, God will not ZAP someone with the information he needs to either represent the gospel or defend his faith. The standard principle for preparation is the process of spiritual growth as described by Peter at 1 Peter 3:15-16.
"But set apart the Lord
Christ (place his viewpoint and character) in your heart, always prepared with
a reply (apologia) to everyone who asks you a word concerning the confidence
that is within you, but with visible humility (gentleness) and respect;
maintaining a good conscience, so that in the thing in which you are
THE PROCLAMATION OF THE GOSPEL
The world-wide proclamation of the gospel was fulfilled by the apostles (at least in the context of the Roman Empire) prior to 70 AD according to language that we find at Colossians 1:6, 23. But it also has great significance for the period of time prior to the Day of the LORD. For there shall be, indeed, needs to be a blanket of gospel truth announced to Israel both locally, in Palestine, as well as world-wide, in order to sow the seed that will sprout in the 144,000 Jews who are converted just after the Day of the LORD arrives, (Revelation 7:1-8).
There also needs to be a maximum gospel proclamation to the world as a whole, "before" the return of Jesus to provide a "final warning" as it were, to all peoples so that, "whoever calls upon the name of the LORD, shall be saved." Joel 2:32
And this gospel of the
kingdom shall be proclaimed
Indeed, the ministry of "the church" will never be complete either to the world or to Israel until Jesus returns. Matthew 10:16-23
". . . you shall not
finish with the cities of Israel,
DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM
- 70 AD
And once again, we must be very careful in recognizing the precision in the words of Jesus to distinguish between these two events, and at the same time realize that He used similarity of language to describe both.
Now when you see
Jerusalem surrounded by armies,
This then answers
SPECIFICALLY the questions asked by the disciples, “When will these things be
and what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?”
Notice there are THREE
items of exhortation given by Jesus.
This information will be
most usable to the Christians who are in the area, and only those who are
privy to Matthew’s record or the VERBAL history of what Jesus taught will be
able to heed the warnings. However, it is not really an illogical thing to
imagine that many unbelievers who are witnesses to the initial siege of the
city by Vespacian in 68 AD, will simply think it wise to leave. And history
does in fact record that many people were able to escape the onslaught of the
Romans that came two years later in 70 AD, and tradition (Eusebius and
Epiphanius), although questioned by some, states that the escape was to Pella
Only Luke mentions the warning to flee Judea, within that context of the siege of Jerusalem, “when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies,” (21:20-21).
And only Matthew and Mark record the warning in a tribulation context in the OLIVET chapters. However, Luke mentions it in the tribulation context at 17:31-33, but out of chronological order. This will be covered later.
The statement, “all things fulfilled,” does not refer to the "entire" plan of God for Jerusalem, but specifically, that which involves a world-wide dispersion. A world-wide dispersion is not what happens in the yet future oppression by the beast, nor what happens when the nations surround Jerusalem during the Armageddon campaign (Zechariah 12:1-5).
This prophecy of Jesus specifically fulfills Old Testament passages that deal with the destruction of the city and the dispersion of the people. Leviticus 26:27; Deuteronomy 28:49-68
It deals with the national discipline that God will administer upon the Jewish people because of their failure to be faithful to God and to the law of Moses.
The principle is stated
at Jeremiah 18:7-10 and Ezekiel 14:12-20.
That is why the term "days of vengeance" is used at Luke 21:22.
A good summary of this is provided by William Hendriksen in His NEW TESTAMENT COMMENTARY, The Gospel of Luke, pages 938-39.
“What happened, in fulfillment of this prophecy, was as follows: Even several years before the outbreak of the Jewish War the Roman yoke was becoming more oppressive than ever. Action produced reaction, with result that Jewish hatred of their heathen oppressors rose to the point of organized rebellion. By no means every Jew was in sympathy with this movement, but after a while the warnings of the moderates were drowned out by the voices of the Zealots. Emperor Nero sent his famous general Vespasian to Galilee, which was soon overrun. But, due to the forced return to Rome of this general and Nero's suicide, the conquest of Galilee was short-lived. A period of confusion followed in Rome, with four emperors in one year. See on verses 8-11. The Jews took advantage of this situation so that the rebellion began to make some headway again. But then Vespasian, now emperor, having restored order, sent his son Titus (who himself later on became emperor, A.D. 79-81) to Jerusalem with a large army. The siege began in April of the year A.D. 70, while Jerusalem was still filled with Passover pilgrims. For the terror that ensured one should read Josephus, Jewish War, especially Books IV to VII. After a siege of about five months the Romans finally overwhelmed the entire city. According to Josephus the total number of prisoners taken throughout the entire war was 97,000, while 1,100,000 perished during the siege (Jewish War VI. 420). Even though these figures may be exaggerated, the number must have been enormous.
The war was inexcusably cruel. Not only was the temple given up to the flames but the entire city – except three towers and a portion of the western wall – was razed. By the thousands aged men, women, regardless of their physical condition, and even little children were murdered. Some of the prisoners were subsequently thrown to the wild beasts, others were sold into slavery ‘into all the nations,’ while a select number of the strongest and best-looking captives figured in the triumphal procession which Rome gave to the conquerors, and which Josephus describes in such elaborate detail, as if the terrible slaughter were really something to be proud of.”
However, many people taking the opportunity of the interruption of the siege in 68 BC, did indeed escape the area and took refuge in the hill country east on the other side of the Jordan River.
This is exactly what Gabriel communicated to Daniel in the famous "70 weeks" prophecy.
(And after the 62 weeks
the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing,)
The Roman army under Titus besieged the city in 70 AD on the 14th of the month Nisan until its fall, 134 days later on the 8th of Elul. This was prophesied by Daniel as taking place after the cutting off of Messiah. The cutting off of Messiah must be understood from the context of Isaiah 53:8 -
He was cut off from the
land of the living,
This of course refers to the provision of salvation through the sin sacrifice of the Messiah, the details of which do not come under the scope of this work.
The "prince who is to come" is the little horn of Daniel 7:7-22 and refers to the future dictator of a ten-nation confederacy with its political roots in ancient Rome. This man will make a 7 year covenant of peace and religious toleration (M.E.P.T.A. – Middle East Peace and Tolerance Accord) with the peoples of Palestine (the many) and will then break it 3 1/2 years later (Daniel 9:27). But the people of that "end times" prince refers to the Romans, who in 70 AD destroyed the city and the sanctuary; the people from whom this prince descended, not to those who are associated with him when he comes on the scene.
Then after 70 AD, until the end (end-times) there will be war, just as Jesus said at Matthew 24:6, and a decree of desolations which includes the famines and earthquakes of Matthew 24:7. And the plagues mentioned at Luke 21:11.
At this point in Luke’s
record, verses 25-28, he jumps to the time immediately before the second
coming of Jesus, when the signs that announce the arrival of the Day of the
Lord will occur, and does not mention the future tribulation that precedes
©Ron Wallace, http://www.biblefragrances.com.
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