The Olivet Discourse – The Three (?) Questions

01Jul11

Continuing with our discussion of the context surrounding the Olivet Discourse we now look at the passage in question and how it begins. What is it that prompts Jesus’ discourse? We have dealt previously with the context related to Jesus relationship with the Pharisees starting with His arrival in Jerusalem during the Passion week. We then discussed the author, timing, ultimate and initial audience, etc.

Today, though, we look closely at the questions the Disciples raise immediately after Jesus pronounces a curse on the Temple (Matt 23) and predicts it’s destruction (Matt 24:1-2) after departing from it. You may want to note that there is a time interval between Jesus’ pronouncement of the coming destruction and the Disciples questions. This may have given the Disciples a moment for it to “sink in” and even discuss among themselves just what this may have meant. Remember, this is the same Jesus that earlier stated that some who were alive with Him at the time would see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom (Matt 16). These concepts are combined with the concept of the end of the age and the destruction of the Temple.

In fact, the end of the age and the destruction of the Temple are intertwined and hinted at in other New Testament passages as well, especially in Hebrews. There is no doubt that the Disciples would see the coming destruction of the Temple and the end of the age to be tied in with one another. So, though many argue that the Disciples ask three questions…

  1. When will these things be (the Temple’s destruction)
  2. What is the sign of your coming
  3. What is the sign of the end of the age.

…in actuality the Disciples may only be asking one or two questions. I argue that they are asking one question they they tied together in their minds. In other words, they believe that His coming in His kingdom (Matt 16) is directly related to the destruction of the Temple and the end of the age.

*One note here. As mentioned previously the King James Version states “end of the world” which is simply an incorrect translation of the word “aeon” and is even corrected in the New King James Version. I believe the only other major translations that use the term “world” are paraphrases like the New Living Translation which simply show an interpretive bias.

But if the Disciples are asking one interrelated question then it makes sense that Jesus would give this single time reference answer that “all these things would take place during this generation.” Remember the context here is that He had just issued the same proclamation to the Pharisees that their destruction and punishment was at hand and would impact “this generation” as well. Also note that in Luke there is a reference to the question relating the destruction of the temple and the end of the age.

Luke 21:7 And they asked him, “Teacher, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?

While some have tried to argue, like Thomas Ice and Tim LaHaye, that Jesus doesn’t deal with His coming in the Luke passage but does in the Matthew passage is simply ludicrous and an argument from silence as we will see later. These two passages are parallel. This is done, though, to give the Dispensationalist the opportunity to “cherry pick” those passages that they believe relate to the destruction of the Temple in 70AD and those they believe relate to the literal second coming of Jesus.

But getting back to the main discussion, why would the Disciples see the “coming of Jesus” related to the destruction of the Temple?

Once again a little trip to the Old Testament may give us insight into why the Disciples would see the coming destruction’s relation to the coming of Jesus and an “end of the age.”

Daniel 1: 1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God.

Note that it was the Lord that did this! He came and gave Judah over to Babylon as Jerusalem was besieged and destroyed, including the Temple. As we will see in future posts that coming of the Lord in judgment is a common theme throughout Scripture and should not surprise when this language is used to described judgment, tribulation and destruction!

So for our purposes it is important to grasp that the questions in question may simply be one question interrelated in the minds of the Disciples. But even if they are three separate questions in mind it is of the utmost importance to constantly remember that Jesus only gave ONE answer to these “when” questions; this generation!

So, that leaves us with two possible interpretive methods when looking at this passage. You can discuss the events with a “preterist” interpretive mindset or with a “futurist” one. The futurist will be forced to leap over the events of 70AD and place these events in our future (immediate?) while the preterist must make the case that these events found their fulfillment within 40 years of Jesus’ speaking and before the close of that present generation.

One final quick contextual issue to deal with before closing this post. That has to do with the “proximity” of these events. By that I mean the “where” question must also be answered. This answer alone should help us determine the “when” these events took place question.

First off, note, as mentioned previously, that Jesus continually uses the term “you” when addressing the Disciples and the events that would take place in relation to them.

Matt 24:4 And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray.

6And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmedt.

9“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.

15“So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel,

23 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it.

25See, I have told you beforehand.

26So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out.

and note Mark 13 and Luke 21 as well where there is even a more in depth discussion of their coming persecution and martyrdom…

Finally note Jesus’ words as to whom should be on guard

Matt 24:16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.

There is no talk of any other location receiving this coming tribulation. It is limited by Jesus’ own words to the Judean area and primarily the city of Jerusalem. To make this a world wide cataclysmic action is to go beyond Jesus own words.

Next we will take a look at a conecpt called “Covenantal Unfaithfulness” and how it rlated to jesus words here in the Olivet Discourse.

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4 Responses to “The Olivet Discourse – The Three (?) Questions”

  1. 1 Yehoshuamyking

    King James version:
    World.Greek number 165 Aion {age or time} Not Kosmos…

    • 2 low5point

      Correct. This is one place where the KJV translation really misses it and has caused a lot of unneeded confusion.

  2. 3 Yehoshuamyking

    Ok then. “great tribulation” Rev 7:14 is what FAITHFUL believers will come out of AFTER the “falling away” takes place,right? Then the Wrath of God will be poured out on unbelievers,right? So then,our being “caught up” takes place post trib and pre WRATH,right?

    • 4 low5point

      This again is bit ahead, but a little hint here as to the possible timing. The term falling away is the same word for “rebellion” (as in 2 Thess 2)

      … Rev 7 – most likely those martyred for their faith…but again, this while blog is about the slow, baby steps and trying not to get too far ahead


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