Exploring Prophecy: The Question

dreamstime_909172  The Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24) is Jesus’ private teaching to the disciples on the Mount of Olivet, just two day prior to his crucifixion. Jesus responds to three questions concerning 1) the destruction of the temple, 2) His Second Coming, and 3) the End of the Age. Most prophecy is capable of having both a near and distant fulfillment and Jesus opens His discourse using the tragic events surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem as a picture of conditions preceding His own return. Jesus outlines the general conditions of the present age down to the very end and states their continuing role. There will be religious deception, social and political turmoil, natural catastrophe, falsehood, treachery, and persecution which are all antecedent to the end of the age.

“Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said to them. ‘Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.’ Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age’?” Matthew 24:1-3

     (And), is a conjunction used as a function word to indicate either a connection or an addition to the subject. As stated above, prophecy is capable of having both a near and far fulfillment and this we see is pliable here. It applies for one reason, the temple was destroyed in A.D. 70, yet, Jesus did not return. If the Second coming of Jesus was contingent upon the destruction of the Temple, Church history would be non- existent. But, if the conjunction (and) is used for showing that one thing happens after another, a sequence of events makes more sense. First the temple would be destroyed, then at some point in time the sign of His coming, then the end of the age. As we study the Olivet Discourse, you will find that this is the exact order to the events Jesus describes.

     The wrath of God that will be poured out upon the wicked in the end times is called “the Day of the Lord,” “the end,” or “the end of the age.” As we see in the question of the disciples to Jesus, His coming is connected with the judgment of God and they will occur on the same day. The disciples question to Christ ties the two events together. While the first (And) shows an addition to the Temple’s destruction, the second (and) is a connection of events as the world will first witness the sign of His coming followed by the Day of the Lord, or as our text states, the end of the age when God will Judge the earth. Consequently, the book of Revelation gives us the key which pin points exactly when that Day is, when the seventh seal is broken. As we study through the Olivet Discourse we will do a comparison to the book of Revelation showing its relationship to Matthew 24 were we will see the exact sequence given.

     If we are going to view Scripture literally, and since the Olivet Discourse is Eschatological, a Temple must be rebuilt in Jerusalem before the Day of the Lord commences. Further evidence of this is seen when Jesus told His disciples “Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (Matthew 24:15), a Temple will be in place sometime before the middle of Daniel’s 70th week. As never before in history, Jerusalem is at the center of today’s headlines. The city which grew up around the small walled-village captured by King David from the Jebusites 3000 years ago is the focal point of never-ending debate among the great superpowers. Since the 1970’s rumors abound that materials for the third Temple have been stored in preparation for the building of the Temple. For centuries the Jews did not possess their homeland—they were forced to wander as strangers and vagabonds across the face of the earth. Deep within the Jewish heart there has been a longing for a return to the land and a rebuilding of the Temple. The Temple is also a symbol of prosperity granted them from heaven, and a reminder of better days that the nation had in the days of David and Solomon. Desire for the restoration of the Temple has been the prayer of the Orthodox Jew since the destruction of the Second Temple in AD 70.

     The sequence Jesus gives in the Olivet Discourse correlates closely with the pregnancy of a women approaching full term. First the beginning birth pangs, then the hard labor, then delivery. The birth pangs are described with the appearance of false Christ’s, wars and rumors of wars, famines, pestilences, and earthquakes (Matt. 24:4-8) “but the end is not yet“, vs. 6. The hard labor depicts the Great Tribulation, or Great Persecution against God’s elect Church (Matt. 24:9-26). And the delivery illustrates the Second Coming of Christ to first Rapture the Church (Matt. 24:27-31), after which, the Day of the Lord’s Wrath will commence (Matt. 24:36-39). The Second Coming of Jesus Christ then, inaugurates the Day of the Lord when God will Judge the wicked remaining after the rapture. This we see begins with the breaking of the seventh seal in Revelation 8. We will go into greater detail in future articles.

     At the heart of the disciples question lays a Greek word which unlocks the mystery surrounding the rapture. A key, when compared to other Scripture central to the rapture, allows truth to become clear. This word is essential as it is a technical term signifying the arrival and continued presence of the King. In the sixteen New Testament verses containing this word (in reference to Christ’s return), they proliferates and solidifies the truth concerning the rapture which is, 1) upon the appearing of Christ in the clouds, Jesus will first “catch up” both the dead and the living into the clouds where He is, and 2) the rapture initiates the Day of the Lord, (climaxing with Armageddon when Jesus destroys the armies of Antichrist, throwing both he and his false prophet alive into the lake of fire, then establishing His earthly Millennial Kingdom.)

     The Greek word parousia translated “coming” in our English Bibles is defined by the Strongs Lexicon as the future visible return from heaven of Jesus, to raise the dead, hold the last judgment, and set up formally and gloriously the kingdom of God. So when the disciples ask Jesus, “what will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age” they were referring to His visible return to “raise the dead” (rapture) and then judge the wicked. These two events are intricately related and are inseparatable. And since parousia has the primary meaning of “Presence” when Christ comes, it will be a continual presence from the time of the rapture until He sets up formally and gloriously the Kingdom of God.

Coming of Christ

     The parousia also corresponds with the Greek word apokalypsis, the (Revelation) of the Son of Man and in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 both words are used interchangeably. To me, apokalypsis is the shock factor of Christ’s coming. Kind of like when a man comes home from work, the house is dark and just when he opens the door his wife turns the light on and a house full of people who scream, surprise. Parousia on the other had is the after math of the surprise, as the guest’s presence are now known by the man. And again, the word apokalypsis surrounds the return of the Lord in the Day of the Lord when the wicked shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence (literally, “the Face”) of the Lord (2 Thess. 1:7-10). In this context, the Day of the Lord will be a day when the persecutors become the punished (vs. 5-10). When Jesus is “revealed” the Great Tribulation is ended as he gives rest (rapture) to His people who have suffered tribulation at the hands of “those who trouble you” (vs.6). Jesus’ coming is a coming to rescue His elect out from the midst of tribulation and then judge the wicked.

     As a technical term, parousia would represent a multifaceted event, beginning with the rapture of the church, continuing through the Day of the Lord, climaxing with Armageddon. Each passage containing the word must be evaluated in light of this context. The New Testament writers (including Jesus) understood that the “Day of the Lord” and the “Coming” (parousia) denoted the same events at Christ’s return (deliverance of the godly and judgment of the ungodly.) The two terms often emphasize different aspects of Christ’s Return – “Coming” with deliverance, and “Day of the Lord.” Peter provides us with an excellent example in which he freely interchanges these two terms.

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming (parousia) of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat.” 2 Peter 3:10-12

     Clearly, the church will be present on the earth up to the day of the Lord and believers are exhorted to continue in holy conduct and godliness, looking for the coming of the Day of God. The Apostle John encourages the Church to abide in Christ, “…that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming (parousia) – 1 John 2:28. Some it seems, will meet Christ in the clouds ashamed. Abiding in Christ is not only by faith, but by obedience. James asserts that believers be patient, persevering until the coming (parousia) of the Lord reminding us that the coming of the Lord is near, at which time God will fulfill His function as Judge to reward the righteous and punish the wicked -James 5:7-9. My friends, we are living in the shadow of Daniel’s 70th week and the majority of our Church leaders either have their tails tucked between their legs or their heads stuck in the sand. When are they going to wake up and believe what is plainly written on the pages of the Bible? When are they going to stop story-lining the Scripture and except it in its most normal, natural, customary sense? They are more concerned with infiltrating government, media, Business, and the like, than they are Preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the lost and preparing God’s people for what will be the greatest persecution the Church has ever witnessed.

preterist      My argument concerning Eschatology centers around the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and the events Scripture describes surrounding those events. Partial preterist will tell you that all of the signs listed in the Olivet Discourse were signs preceding the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in A.D. 70. They also will tell you the disciples were not even thinking about the second coming of Christ when they presented their question to Jesus in Matthew 24:3. According to the partial preterist the disciples were only thinking about the Messiah coming to set up a kingdom in which the Jews would have dominance on earth and reign forever. So they change the meaning of the question, inserting this thought into it the question was really, “When will You come into Your kingdom?” I will agree with one thing here, yes, the disciples were concerned about the restoration of Israel. In Acts 1:6 some 40 days after Jesus’ resurrection they asked him, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” But, there is no evidence anywhere in Scripture which would indicate they were thinking this when presenting their question in Matt. 24:3. In fact, they are two completely different questions altogether. Jesus’ answer in Acts 1 was clear, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority” (Acts 1:7). In my studies of the partial preterist view I see much in way of reasoning, little in way of Biblical backing. Just another example of men wresting the Scripture to force a view biblical non-existent. This view is so far outside the Word of God you can’t even call it a watered down view of Eschatology!

An Overview of Matthew 24

1. The Warning: See to it that no one deceive you – vs. 4

2. Then: many will come in My name, saying ‘I am Christ‘ – vs. 5

3. Then: There will be wars and rumors of wars, but the end is not yet – vs.6

4. Then: there will be famines and earthquakes, these are the beginning of birth pangs – vs. 7-8

5. Then: The Abomination of Desolation will be seen “standing in the holy place. – vs. 15

6. Then: There will be great tribulation (persecution) – vv. 9,21

7. Then: They will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations on account of My name. – vs.9

8. Then: Many will fall away…people’s love will grow cold. – vs. 10-12

9. Then: the one who endures to the end…shall be saved (delivered) – vs. 13

…but not before the gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations. – vs. 14

The above is a general overview, Christ gives specific information concerning the sequence of events that will “cut short” the days of Antichrist’s great persecution against the elect of God (vv. 22,29)

10. First: the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky. – vs. 29

11. Then: the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky. – vs. 30

12. Then: You will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. – vs. 30

13. Then: Christ’s angels will “gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other” – (vs. 31; cf. v. 13) thus removing the target of Antichrist’s Satanic inspired wrath – the elect of God – abruptly ending his persecution of them.

14. Then: the day of God’s wrath – the end of the age – will come. vv. 14,37-39).

(Taken from: The Rapture Question Answered Plain and Simple; Robert Van Kampen, published by Fleming H. Revell a division of Baker Book House Company; 1997, pp. 88,90.)

     Many argue that the Olivet Discourse is only applicable to the Jew only. Obviously, the 70th week of Daniel begins and ends with Israel. It was prophesied through Daniel to Israel that seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy (Dan. 9:24). The language in the Olivet Discourse does indeed support Israel is in view, however, it also supports the presence of the Church (both Jew and Gentile) within the last prophetic week. I have given below some points which shows why the church is directly addressed by Jesus in the Olivet Discourse.

  • First, studying all the second and third person expressions in the Olivet Discourse (you; they), it is clear that Jesus was not talking to Israel but to his Disciples. Jesus used the word “you” fifteen times in the chronological section of His discourse—Matthew 24:4-44. Some contend that the Gospel of Matthew was written for the Jewish community only and is not applicable to the Church. However, Matthew is the only book of the four Gospels where the word “church” is even used. It does not appear in Mark, Luke, or John.

In Matthew 16:18 Jesus responded to Peter’s revelation that He was the Christ, the Son of God by saying; “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church.” It is indicated by the context that Jesus would “build” His church through and by His disciples, Christ being the chief cornerstone. The twelve disciples after His ascension became the twelve Apostles, the foundation of which the church is built.

Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone”—Eph. 2:19-20.

Secondly, Jesus also gave instruction to His disciples in Matthew 18:15-20 concerning Church discipline. Today, nearly every church follows this procedure when disciplining an erring brother. Three steps are given, (1) in private, (2) with witnesses, (3) before the church. The purpose is to gain your brother back into fellowship, restoration is the primary goal. If then, chapter eighteen is recognized by the church by-large as both useful and doctrinal, why then is chapter twenty four and twenty five excluded? Could it be that many who hold to an already false view of eschatology refuse to change their view for “truth’s sake,” because they might loose face with their constituents? Though I believe this to be the case an even more frightening reason is they may loose money because after all, if they change their view, they would have to recall all the books written on the subject.

Thirdly, Jesus commissioned His Disciples to “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age”—Matthew 28:19-20. When Jesus instructed His disciples to teach all nations to observe all things that He commanded, that includes the Olivet Discourse. To exclude it would violate Jesus’ command to take His teachings to the nations. The church is commissioned to make disciples, then to teach them that they are “to be kept in charge,” of everything that is to be fulfilled. This is the meaning behind the Greek word entello translated “commanded.” All that Jesus taught and commanded are to be handed down and entrusted to those who become disciples “until the end of the age.” Again, there is not an evangelical church in existence that does not recognize chapter twenty eight as a doctrinal standing and a direct command to fulfill the commission given by our Lord to “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.” Yet the very one’s who do so somehow still refuse to acknowledge the Olivet Discourse as Jesus’ teaching pliable to the church.

  • It is the “elect” who become the primary focus of the Olivet Discourse, a term used in the New Testament applied only to the church, both Jew and Gentile.

The Greek word for elect is eklektos meaning “chosen ones,” chosen to obtain salvation through Jesus Christ. The Greek word appears twenty eight times in the New Testament. Twenty times the word is directly applied to the Church. The Church is made up of both Jew and Gentile believers. It is used three times in the Olivet Discourse. The Salvation of the Elect applies to more than just the salvation of the soul, it also applies to the physical deliverance of the believer at Christ’s return, including the salvation from the delusions of the Antichrist and the doom of the deceived ~ 2 Thess. 2:9-13[1]

§ First, it is used in the context of the Great Tribulation, which will be cut short by the parousia~(coming) of Christ.—Matt. 24:21-22.

§ Secondly, Jesus depicts false christ’s and false prophets rising up in the attempt to deceive the Elect—Matt 24:24-26.

§ Thirdly, the elect are being gathered together unto Christ at his parousia (coming) in the sky. The Greek word for “gather together” is eipsunago and demands that the Olivet Discourse be seen in light of the Rapture. The Greek preposition epi added to the verb sunago changes the basic sense of the verb. It gives direction to the gathering. It is an upward direction, a taking up and assembling together ~ Matt. 24:29-31.

  • Matthew 24:9-12,21 describes both the apostasy (falling away) of Counterfeit Christianity and the persecution of God’s elect. Those who believe in and embrace the name of Jesus will be hated, betrayed, and delivered over to persecution by those who are the apostate. Christianity will be tested, to be offended at the name of Jesus is described in the Greek as a stumbling block or impediment put in the way, upon which another may trip and fall.[2] The effects of the offence will cause a person to begin to distrust and desert the one (Jesus) whom he ought to trust and obey. They will no longer acknowledge his authority and will disapprove of what they see in Christianity, namely, the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The Greek word for “offended” is skandalizo, it is where we get our English word scandal from. The noun to which it is related referred to the bait-stick of a trap and is always used to describe that which hinders right conduct or thought, hence, “to cause to stumble.”[3] There is a religious system to Christianity that is not necessarily Christian. The church is mingled with those who are simply religious but not righteous. The religious are tares sown in amongst the wheat (the fruit of Christ’s Sacrifice) ~ Matt. 13:24-30.
  • Matthew 24:12 states “And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.” The Greek word used here for love is “agape,” it is a love that no one can express or experience except through the Holy Spirit. This verse describes not the love the world knows and shares, but Christian love. It is the agape love revealed in Jesus, seen as spiritual and selfless, a love that is a model to humanity. It is defined in 1 Corinthians 13 as a love that suffers long and is kind, does not envy, does not parade itself, is not puffed up, a love that does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil, does not rejoice in iniquity but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. It is this very same love that will enable the elect to endure to the end with the promise of deliverance ~ Matt 24:13.

A waning love is the picture given here which decreases gradually in intensity like that of the moon which shows a decreasing illuminated surface between a full moon and a new moon. The agape (Christian) love for Christ and each other will be reduced to the infidelity of the faith and the absence of belief itself. It will be because of the name of Jesus that many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. A shadow of this waning love can be seen in the church today. Never before has the church been divided as it is today. In spite of the Bible’s teaching that there should be no schism (division) in the body, that the members should have the same care for one another (1 Corinthians 12:25), denominational and doctrinal lines have been established partitioning the body of Christ into neat little groups all opposing one another.

  • In the second person expressions Jesus uses (See point 1.), it is obvious that he was not talking about the disciples directly as though they would experience these events first hand. He was talking to His disciples who were to take His teaching of the end of the age to the world (Matt 24:14). Within these second person expressions there are three phrases that are personal in nature confirming the churches presence within the 70th week.

[1]Vine, W. E., Unger, M. F., & White, W. 1996. Vine’s complete expository dictionary of Old and New Testament words . T. Nelson: Nashville

[2]Strong, J. 1996. The exhaustive concordance of the Bible : Showing every word of the test of the common English version of the canonical books, and every occurence of each word in regular order. (electronic ed.). Woodside Bible Fellowship.: Ontario

[3] The Spirit Life Bible, Jack Hayford, Litt.D. Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville. 1991

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