"Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book."
The End Times According to Jesus - Introduction
The "Olivet Discourse" is an overview of the end times Jesus revealed to His disciples the week before His death. It all started when people in the crowd at the temple were verbally admiring the temple stones. Jesus unexpectedly threw them a curve when He announced that the temple they were admiring would be destroyed. This prompted questions from the crowd about when the temple would be destroyed:
Luke 21:5-7 - Then, as some spoke of the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and donations, He said, "These things which you see - the days will come in which not one stone shall be left upon another that shall not be thrown down." So they asked Him, saying, "Teacher, but when will these things be? And what sign will there be when these things are about to take place?"
Jesus gave details about the prophesied destruction of the temple, which later took place in 70AD. But then the Lord reached beyond the prophecy of the temple to the time of the end of the age, when He would return to set up His earthly kingdom. Apparently, the disciples wanted to know more about the time of the end because later, as they were walking out to the Mount of Olives with Jesus, they asked the questions again about the temple, in addition to the questions about the time of the end.
The flow of the discourse follows in the order the disciples asked the questions:
"...when will these things be?"
"...what will be the sign of Your coming?"
"...and of the end of the age?"
This study will follow Matthew's version of the discourse that Jesus gave to the disciples as they walked from the temple to the Mount of Olives. There are parallels to this discourse in Mark and Luke. Some of the Luke parallels go back to the questions asked by the crowd at the temple, which the disciples asked the Lord again later. I will note the passages from the scene of the temple that parallel the scene at the Mount of Olives through the study.
In the passages above we see that the Luke account took place in the temple in public, while the Matthew and Mark accounts were in private with Jesus and His disciples as they left the temple and walked out to the Mount of Olives.
Apparently, the disciples did not understand what Jesus meant when He told the crowd at the temple that it would be destroyed, because as the disciples walked toward the Mount of Olives from the temple they pointed out how well-built the temple was. In response, Jesus reiterated to the disciples what He had said in the temple - that it would all indeed be destroyed. The prophecy about the temple's destruction found fulfillment in 70AD, when the Roman General Titus and his army conquered Jerusalem and destroyed the temple.
As mentioned in the introduction, when Jesus announced that the temple would be destroyed, the crowd at the temple asked what to look for to know when it would be destroyed. The dialog in Luke answers these questions about the temple's destruction which took place in 70AD, but then Jesus reached out to the time of the end, which prompted the disciples later to ask more questions about the things he spoke of about the end of the age. The Matthew and Mark passages cover the answers to the questions the disciples asked Jesus.
The disciples probably asked these questions because they thought they were already at the time of the end, because later they asked Jesus before His ascension if He was going to restore the kingdom to Israel at that time (Acts 1:6). The disciples probably were not surprised by the prophecy of the fall of Jerusalem in Luke 21:20-24, because Jerusalem's destruction was also foretold in Zechariah 14:
Zechariah 14:1-3 - Behold, the day of the LORD is coming, and your spoil will be divided in your midst. For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; the city shall be taken, the houses rifled, and the women ravished. Half of the city shall go into captivity, but the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle.
Since the Lord did not return to Earth after 70AD, we know that the passage in Zechariah is speaking of a future event about Jerusalem. The disciples seemed baffled when Jesus said that the temple would be torn down because the prophecies in Daniel, Zechariah, and Ezekiel in the passages below show a temple and sacrifices taking place at the end of the age, which suggests that the disciples did not consider that the temple would be destroyed and rebuilt before the end of the age:
Daniel 9:27 - "Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; but in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, even until the consummation, which is determined, is poured out on the desolate."
Zechariah 14:20-21 - In that day "HOLINESS TO THE LORD" shall be engraved on the bells of the horses. The pots in the LORD's house shall be like the bowls before the altar. Yes, every pot in Jerusalem and Judah shall be holiness to the LORD of hosts. Everyone who sacrifices shall come and take them and cook in them. In that day there shall no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the LORD of hosts.
Ezekiel 43:5 - The Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court; and behold, the glory of the LORD filled the temple. Then I heard Him speaking to me from the temple, while a man stood beside me. And He said to me, "Son of man, this is the place of My throne and the place of the soles of My feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel forever. No more shall the house of Israel defile My holy name."
We also understand today from the passage above in Daniel that the Jews will build a third temple before the middle of the Tribulation, which is a seven-year transition time of judgment between the Church Age and the Millennium, where Christ will rule on Earth for a thousand years. The temple described in Zechariah and Ezekiel will later be built by Jesus after the Tribulation.
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