The Olivet Discourse

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.

About bob

I am a Vineyard pastor and a passionate student of the Bible with an instinctive distrust of "business as usual" when it comes to the story of the Bible. Gratefully I have the opportunity to dig a little deeper and my purpose with this blog is to share what I discover.

6 thoughts on “The Olivet Discourse

    1. Hi Mike, It will be available here next week. I am redoing it on Monday night. I am going to talk about what the Bible really teaches about “the Rapture” and where the teaching actually comes from.

  1. Finally you’re moving out of the dark ages. ;-)

    Seriously, this is great. I loved this first post and I’m looking forward to this series alleviating some of the unnecessary fears I’ve been holding onto over the years. I have never heard this view point or if I did at Westmont (that’s the only place I might have) I was probably too sleepy to listen.

  2. I’m really exited about this subject too. It’s very interesting to me to discover the history behind “rapture” theology and where it came from. There seems to be so much fear wrapped up in this topic. Looking forward to learning more!

  3. Ok A third Amen….so the question is….when? Thats what we all want to know. How much longer must we bare our cross? How long will my suffering endure? How long will the pain last? We all search for a glimmer of hope, a light from the shore as we glance from our ship adrift in the ocean of darknees. Im a soldier…I always have been, since the day I made my decision for Christ….I got my ordrers. I have faithfully executed those orders to the best of my ability. Im tired now…and much older. I long for the day, as I was taught many years ago, that the trump shall resound and the clouds be rolled back…..dosent much matter to me how it occurs, just that you come soon Lord. I just want to know when? Your humbled servant and soldier anxiously awaits you….even so come soon!

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