Jesus delivered a dark and complex message to his disciples not long before his crucifixion. It contains allusions to beatings, trials, and family violence over the gospel, wars, earthquakes, famines, and disruptions in the spiritual world. We know the message as “the Olivet Discourse.” (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21) Most people today interpret it as either a message about the future in which Jesus is describing frightening events yet to come before his return to earth or, as a failed prediction on his part. Neither viewpoint is right. Jesus is drawing on an ancient literary genre, apocalyptic, to describe the events that happened in the wake of his death. The disciples want to know when the Temple (and Jerusalem) will be destroyed and when the current age will end and the age of Jesus’ reign begin. Jesus tells them exactly how it will happen. Then he describes what they can expect: trials, beatings, and other kinds of suffering. The world around them will seem to be in turmoil from war and natural disaster. Jesus tells them that despite all of that they are to wait, to preach and to endure. When they see the Temple being desecrated, as it was during the Greek occupation, they are to flee. At this point in the message Jesus turns to vivid apocalyptic imagery to describe the changing of the age. He quotes Joel 2 (a passage which has connections and allusions in many places in the New Testament) saying the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light.” He also talks about the Son of Man “coming in clouds.” He is figuratively (or apocalyptically) explaining that this is the ultimate end of the Temple and its system as the way to connect with God. After, the only way to connect with God is through Jesus, the Son of Man. He closes the message with a strong exhortation to his followers to be faithful, to be active in spreading the Gospel, to be enduring. The bottom line is they are not asking when he will return after “the Great Tribulation” and he is not cryptically answering it for future generations.