Olivet Discourse

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The Olivet Discourse or Olivet prophecy is a biblical passage found in the Synoptic Gospels in Matthew 24 and 25, Mark 13, and Luke 21. It is also known as the Little Apocalypse because it includes the use of apocalyptic language, and it includes Jesus' warning to his followers that they will suffer tribulation and persecution before the ultimate triumph of the Kingdom of God. [1] The Olivet discourse is the last of the Five Discourses of Matthew and occurs just before the narrative of Jesus' passion beginning with the anointing of Jesus.

Synoptic Gospels A way to describe the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke collectively

The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are referred to as the synoptic Gospels because they include many of the same stories, often in a similar sequence and in similar or sometimes identical wording. They stand in contrast to John, whose content is largely distinct. The term synoptic comes via Latin from the Greek σύνοψις, synopsis, i.e. "(a) seeing all together, synopsis"; the sense of the word in English, the one specifically applied to these three gospels, of "giving an account of the events from the same point of view or under the same general aspect" is a modern one.

Matthew 24 Chapter of Matthew, a book in the bible

Matthew 24 is the twenty-fourth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. It records the Olivet Discourse spoken by Jesus Christ and his prediction of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. The book containing this chapter is anonymous, but early Christian tradition uniformly affirmed that Matthew the Apostle composed this Gospel.

Matthew 25 Gospel according to Matthew, chapter 25

Matthew 25, the twenty-fifth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, consists of three parables of Jesus:


In all three synoptic Gospels this episode includes the Parable of the Budding Fig Tree. [2]

Parable of the Budding Fig Tree parable told by Jesus, found in Matthew 24:32-35, Mark 13:28-31, and Luke 21:29-33

The Parable of the Budding Fig Tree is a parable told by Jesus in the New Testament, found in Matthew 24:32-35, Mark 13:28-31, and Luke 21:29-33. This parable, about the Kingdom of God, involves a fig tree, as does the equally brief parable of the barren fig tree.

It is unclear whether the tribulation Jesus describes is a past, present or future event. [3] :p.5 Some believe the passage largely refers to events surrounding the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem [4] and as such is used to date the Gospel of Mark around the year 70. [4] [5]

Preterism, a Christian eschatological view, interprets some or all prophecies of the Bible as events which have already happened. This school of thought interprets the Book of Daniel as referring to events that happened from the 7th century BC until the first century AD, while seeing the prophecies of Revelation as events that happened in the first century AD. Preterism holds that Ancient Israel finds its continuation or fulfillment in the Christian church at the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.

Christian Historicism is a method of interpretation of Biblical prophecies which associates symbols with historical persons, nations or events. The main primary texts of interest to Christian historicists include apocalyptic literature, such as the Book of Daniel and the Book of Revelation. It sees the prophecies of Daniel as being fulfilled throughout history, extending from the past through the present to the future. It is sometimes called the continuous historical view. Commentators have also applied historicist methods to ancient Jewish history, to the Roman Empire, to Islam, to the Papacy, to the Modern era, and to the end time.

Futurism is a Christian eschatological view that interprets portions of the Book of Revelation, the Book of Ezekiel, and the Book of Daniel as future events in a literal, physical, apocalyptic, and global context.

Biblical narrative

Events in the
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In the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, Jesus spoke this discourse to his disciples privately on the Mount of Olives, [6] opposite the Temple. In Luke's Gospel, Jesus taught over a period of time in the Temple and stayed at night on the Mount of Olives. [7] The discourse is widely believed by scholars to contain material delivered on a variety of occasions. [4] The setting on the Mount of Olives echoes a passage in the Book of Zechariah which refers to the location as the place where a final battle would occur between the Jewish Messiah and his opponents.

Mount of Olives mountain in Jerusalem that is mentioned several times in the Bible

The Mount of Olives or Mount Olivet is a mountain ridge east of and adjacent to Jerusalem's Old City. It is named for the olive groves that once covered its slopes. The southern part of the Mount was the Silwan necropolis, attributed to the ancient Judean kingdom. The mount has been used as a Jewish cemetery for over 3,000 years and holds approximately 150,000 graves, making it central in the tradition of Jewish cemeteries. Several key events in the life of Jesus, as related in the Gospels, took place on the Mount of Olives, and in the Acts of the Apostles it is described as the place from which Jesus ascended to heaven. Because of its association with both Jesus and Mary, the mount has been a site of Christian worship since ancient times and is today a major site of pilgrimage for Catholics, the Eastern Orthodox, and Protestants.

Second Temple Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem between 516 BC and 70 AD

The Second Temple was the Jewish holy temple which stood on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem during the Second Temple period, between 516 BCE and 70 CE. It replaced Solomon's Temple, which was destroyed by the Neo-Babylonian Empire in 586 BCE, when Jerusalem was conquered and part of the population of the Kingdom of Judah was taken into exile to Babylon.

Book of Zechariah book of the Bible

The Book of Zechariah, attributed to the Hebrew prophet Zechariah, is included in the Twelve Minor Prophets in the Hebrew Bible.

Destruction of the Temple

The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem, by David Roberts (1850). Ercole de Roberti Destruction of Jerusalem Fighting Fleeing Marching Slaying Burning Chemical reactions b.jpg
The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem, by David Roberts (1850).

According to the narrative of the synoptic Gospels, an anonymous disciple remarks on the greatness of Herod's Temple. [8] Jesus responds that not one of those stones would remain intact in the building, and the whole thing would be reduced to rubble. [9]

Disciple (Christianity) followers of Jesus, Christian perspective

In Christianity, disciple primarily refers to a dedicated follower of Jesus. This term is found in the New Testament only in the Gospels and Acts. In the ancient world a disciple is a follower or adherent of a teacher. It is not the same as being a student in the modern sense. A disciple in the ancient biblical world actively imitated both the life and teaching of the master. It was a deliberate apprenticeship which made the fully formed disciple a living copy of the master.

The disciples asked Jesus, "When will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?" Jesus first warns them about things that would happen:[ citation needed ]

Then Jesus identifies "the beginnings of birth pangs":[ citation needed ]

Next he described more birth pangs which would lead to the coming Kingdom:[ citation needed ]

Jesus then warned the disciples about the Abomination of desolation "standing where it does not belong".

Great Tribulation

After Jesus described the "abomination that causes desolation", he warns that the people of Judea should flee to the mountains as a matter of such urgency that they shouldn't even return to get things from their homes. Jesus also warned that if it happened in winter or on the Sabbath fleeing would be even more difficult. Jesus described this as a time of "Great Tribulation" worse than anything that had gone before.

Jesus then states that immediately after the time of tribulation people would see a sign, "the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken". [Matt. 24:29–30] [Joel. 3:15]

The statements about the sun and moon turning dark sound quite apocalyptic, as it appears to be a quote from the Book of Isaiah. [Isa. 13:10] The description of the sun, moon and stars going dark is also used elsewhere in the Old Testament. Joel wrote that this would be a sign before the great and dreadful Day of the Lord. [Joel 2:30–31] The Book of Revelation also mentions the sun and moon turning dark during the sixth seal of the seven seals, but the passage adds more detail than the previous verses mentioned. [Rev. 6:12–17]

Two opposing interpretations

Within conservative, evangelical Christian thought, two opposite viewpoints have been expressed in a debate between theologians Kenneth L. Gentry and Thomas Ice. [3] :197–99

Tribulation as a past event (Dr. Gentry)
  • The Great Tribulation occurred during the 1st century.
  • Those events marked the end of God's focus on and exaltation of Israel.
  • Jesus' prophecies marked the beginning of the Christian era in God's plan.
  • The Tribulation is God's judgment on Israel for rejecting the Messiah.
  • The Tribulation judgments will be centred on local events surrounding ancient Jerusalem, and also somewhat affecting other portions of the former Roman Empire.
  • The Tribulation judgments are governed by Jesus as the Christ to reflect his judgment against Israel, thus showing that he is in heaven controlling those events.
Tribulation as a future event (Dr. Ice)
  • The Great Tribulation is still to come and is rapidly approaching prospect.
  • Those events marked the beginning of God's focus on and exaltation of Israel.
  • The prophecy says the Christian era will be concluded just after the church is taken from the world.
  • Rather than being God's judgment on Israel, it is the preparation of Israel to receive her Messiah.
  • The judgments involve catastrophes that literally will affect the stellar universe and impact the entire planet.
  • The coming of Christ in the Tribulation requires his public, visible and physical presence to conclude those judgments.

Coming of the Son of Man

In the Olivet Discourse, Jesus states that after the time of tribulation and the sign of the Sun, Moon, and stars going dark the Son of Man would be seen arriving in the clouds with power and great glory. The Son of Man would be accompanied by the angels and at the trumpet call the angels would "gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other".( Matthew 24:31 )

Although most scholars, and almost all Christians, read this as meaning that the gathering would include people not only from Earth but also from heaven, a few Christians, mostly modern American Protestant Premillennialists, [10] have interpreted it to mean that people would be gathered from Earth and taken to heaven—a concept known in their circles as the rapture .[ citation needed ] Most scholars see this as a quotation of a passage from the Book of Zechariah in which God (and the contents of heaven in general) are predicted to come to Earth and live among the elect, who by necessity are gathered together for this purpose. [Zech. 2:10]


In the Olivet Discourse, Jesus stated that when all these signs are seen, the coming of the Son of Man would be imminent. He went on to say "this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place." (Mark 13:30)

Historically, this has been one of the most difficult passages to resolve with a literal interpretation of the text. At face value it would seem to imply that the disciples would still be alive today. Awkward legends arose suggesting that the disciples to whom Jesus was speaking did not die but remain alive, eventually developing into legends like those of the Wandering Jew and Prester John. C. S. Lewis called this "the most embarrassing verse in the Bible". [11]

The fourth-century church father John Chrysostom held this interpretation:

After this, that they might not straightway return to it again, and say, “When?” he brings to their remembrance the things that had been said, saying, “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled!” All these things. What things? I pray thee. Those about Jerusalem, those about the wars, about the famines, about the pestilences, about the earthquakes, about the false Christs, about the false prophets, about the sowing of the gospel everywhere, the seditions, the tumults, all the other things, which we said were to occur until His coming. How then, one may ask, did He say, “This generation?” Speaking not of the generation then living, but of that of the believers. For He is wont to distinguish a generation not by times only, but also by the mode of religious service, and practice; as when He saith, “This is the generation of them that seek the Lord. ”

John Chrysostom [12]

In the earliest known Christian document, the First Epistle to the Thessalonians, Paul seems to envisage that he and the Christians to whom he was writing would see the resurrection of the dead within their own lifetimes: "For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. (ESV)" [4:15-17] Some argue that the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians was forged, essentially for the sole purpose of contradicting the first epistle. [13]

In modern times, a popular (but far from unanimous) opinion is that Jesus in the Olivet Discourse is using the apocalyptic language of his time symbolically, as did many Jewish prophets. Nevertheless, throughout history there have been many groups who read the discourse literally. Christian thought continues to include groups who say that the end of the world is near, some even giving exact dates which have since come and gone without an intervening end of the world. [14] Some Christians believe that predictions of several events are related: the second coming of Jesus, the war of Armageddon, the arrival on Earth of the Antichrist, the Tribulation, the Rapture, some horrendous natural disaster, etc. Jewish, Islamic, psychic and occult predictions have also been offered as well. Some very prominent individuals have been consistently wrong when they predicted the end of the world. End-of-the-world predictions have been common throughout Christianity and other religions for almost 2000 years.


There are four quite different interpretations of Matthew 24 . By far the more prominent are futurism and preterism. Futurism dominates the more conservative theological viewpoints at present, though preterism is seen in a resurgence.

One view (Futurism) is that the future Jesus predicted is the unfolding of events from trends that are already at work in contemporary human society. [15] Another prophetic view (Preterism) is that all of these predictions were fulfilled by the time Jerusalem fell in 70 AD. [16]


The Idealist (timeless) sees no evidence of timing of prophetic events in the Bible. Thus they conclude that their timing cannot be determined in advance. Idealists see prophetic passages as being of great value in teaching truths about God to be applied to present life.

Idealism is primarily associated with liberal scholarship, and is not a major factor in current evangelical Christian deliberation over when prophecy will be fulfilled. [3]


Preterism [3] considers that most, if not all, prophecy has been fulfilled already, usually in relation to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70CE.


Historicism considers that most prophecy has been or will be fulfilled during the present church age. It was the chief view of Protestants from the Reformation until the mid-19th century. Only among Seventh-day Adventists is historicism applied to current conservative Christian interpretation of Tribulation understanding. [3]


Futurism typically holds that all major unfulfilled prophecies will be fulfilled during a global time of catastrophe and war known as the Great Tribulation, in which many other prophecies will be fulfilled during or after the Millennium Reign of Jesus Christ. According to many futurists, many predictions are currently being fulfilled during the Church Age, in which lawlessness and apostasy are currently plaguing secular society. This is seen as a major sign of the approaching fulfillment of all other prophecies during the Tribulation. Within evangelical Christianity over the past 150 years, futurism has come to be the dominant view of prophecy. However, around the 1970s evangelical preterism—the polar opposite of futurism—was seen as a new challenge to the dominance of futurism, particularly within the Reformed tradition. Yet, futurism continues as the prevalent view for the time being. [3] :p.7

Futurists anticipate many coming events that will fulfill all eschatological prophecy: the seven-year period of tribulation, the Antichrist's global government [18] the Battle of Armageddon, the Second Coming of Jesus, the millennial reign of Christ, the eternal state, and the two resurrections.

See also

Related Research Articles

Christian eschatology is a major branch of study within Christian theology dealing with the "last things." Eschatology, from two Greek words meaning "last" (ἔσχατος) and "study" (-λογία), is the study of 'end things', whether the end of an individual life, the end of the age, the end of the world or the nature of the Kingdom of God. Broadly speaking, Christian eschatology is the study concerned with the ultimate destiny of the individual soul and the entire created order, based primarily upon biblical texts within the Old and New Testament.

Gospel of Matthew Book of the New Testament

The Gospel According to Matthew is the first book of the New Testament and one of the three synoptic gospels. It tells how the promised Messiah, Jesus, rejected by Israel, is killed, is raised from the dead, and finally sends the disciples to preach the gospel to the whole world. Most scholars believe it was composed between AD 80 and 90, with a range of possibility between AD 70 to 110. The anonymous author was probably a male Jew, standing on the margin between traditional and non-traditional Jewish values, and familiar with technical legal aspects of scripture being debated in his time. Writing in a polished Semitic "synagogue Greek", he drew on the Gospel of Mark as a source, and likely used a hypothetical collection of sayings known as the Q source, although the existence of Q has been questioned by some scholars. He also used material unique to his own community, called the M source or "Special Matthew".

Second Coming Christian and Islamic belief regarding the future (or past) return of Jesus after his ascension

The Second Coming is a Christian and Islamic belief regarding the future return of Jesus after his ascension to heaven about two thousand years ago. The idea is based on messianic prophecies and is part of most Christian eschatologies.

In Christian eschatology, the Great Tribulation is a period mentioned by Jesus in the Olivet Discourse as a sign that would occur in the time of the end.

Rapture An eschatological concept of certain Christians

The rapture is an eschatological concept of certain Christians, particularly within branches of American evangelicalism, consisting of an end time event when all Christian believers who are alive, along with the resurrected dead believers, will rise "in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air". This theory grew out of the translations of the Bible that John Nelson Darby analyzed in 1833. It was promulgated by the cult followers of Darbyism, a doctrine that has been deemed heretical by most mainstream Christians. Some adherents believe this event is predicted and described in Paul the Apostle's First Epistle to the Thessalonians in the Bible, where he uses the Greek harpazo, meaning to snatch away or seize. Though it has been used differently in the past, the term is now often used by certain believers to distinguish this particular event from the Second Coming of Jesus Christ to Earth, mentioned in Second Thessalonians, Gospel of Matthew, First Corinthians, and Revelation, often viewing it as preceding the Second Coming and followed by a 1,000 year millennial kingdom. Adherents of this perspective are sometimes referred to as premillenial dispensationalists, but amongst them there are differing viewpoints about the exact timing of the event.

The end time is a future time-period described variously in the eschatologies of several world religions, which teach that world events will reach a final climax.

<i>The Late, Great Planet Earth</i> book by Hal Lindsey

The Late, Great Planet Earth is a best-selling 1970 book by Hal Lindsey with Carole C. Carlson, and first published by Zondervan. The book was first featured on a prime time television special featuring Hal Lindsey in 1974 to 1975 with an audience of 17,000,000 and produced by Alan Hauge of GMT Productions. Years later, it was adapted by Rolf Forsberg and Robert Amram during 1976 into a film narrated by Orson Welles and released by Pacific International Enterprises. It was originally ghost-written by Carlson, whom later printings credited as co-author. Lindsey and Carlson later published several sequels, including Satan Is Alive and Well on Planet Earth and The 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon.

In Christian end-times theology (eschatology), postmillennialism, or postmillenarism, is an interpretation of chapter 20 of the Book of Revelation which sees Christ's second coming as occurring after the "Millennium", a Golden Age in which Christian ethics prosper. The term subsumes several similar views of the end times, and it stands in contrast to premillennialism and, to a lesser extent, amillennialism. For the many Christians this question was solved by the Council of Ephesus.

Great Commission words of Jesus in Matthew 28:19–20: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:  Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you”

In Christianity, the Great Commission is the instruction of the resurrected Jesus Christ to his disciples to spread his teachings to all the nations of the world. The most famous version of the Great Commission is in Matthew 28:16–20, where on a mountain in Galilee Jesus calls on his followers to make disciples of and baptize all nations in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Post-tribulation rapture eschatological theory about the a combined resurrection and rapture of all believers coming after the Great Tribulation

In Christian eschatology, the post-tribulation rapture doctrine is the belief in a combined resurrection and rapture of all believers coming after the Great Tribulation.

Christian eschatology is the branch of theological study relating to last things, such as concerning death, the end of the world, the judgement of humanity, and the ultimate destiny of humanity. Eschatological passages are found in many places in the Christian Bible, with many being found in the Old Testament prophets, especially in Isaiah and Daniel. Many are also found in the New Testament books, such as Matthew 24, Matthew 25, the General epistles, the Pauline epistles, and the Book of Revelation. This article is currently a general overview of the different Christian eschatological interpretations of the Book of Revelation. The differences are by no means monolithic as representing one group or another. Many differences exist within each group.

Mark 13 Gospel according to Mark, chapter 13

Mark 13 is the thirteenth chapter of the Gospel of Mark in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. It contains Jesus' predictions of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and disaster for Judea, as well as his eschatological discourse.

Luke 21

Luke 21 is the twenty-first chapter of the Gospel of Luke in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. It records the observations and predictions of Jesus Christ delivered in the temple in Jerusalem. The book containing this chapter is anonymous, but early Christian tradition uniformly affirmed that Luke composed this Gospel as well as the Acts of the Apostles.

The New Testament frequently cites Jewish scripture to support the claim of the Early Christians that Jesus is the Messiah, and to support faith in Jesus as the Christ and his imminent expected Second Coming. The majority of these quotations and references are taken from the Book of Isaiah, but they range over the entire corpus of Jewish writings. Jews do not regard any of these as having been fulfilled by Jesus, and in some cases do not regard them as messianic prophecies at all. According to modern scholars, there are no Old Testament prophecies about Jesus, since these either were not prophecies or the verses do not explicitly refer to the Messiah.

The concept of a prewrath rapture is one of several premillennial views on the end times events among some evangelical Christians, and states that Christians will be raptured at the end of a time called the Great Tribulation, and before The Day of the Lord. The prewrath position emphasizes the biblical distinction between Satan's wrath in the Great Tribulation and the wrath of God.

Unfulfilled Christian religious predictions

This article lists unfulfilled Christian religious predictions that failed to come about in the specified time frame, listed by religious group.

Last Roman Emperor, also called Last World Emperor or Emperor of the Last Days, is a figure of medieval European legend, which developed as an aspect of Christian eschatology. The legend predicts that in the end times, a last emperor would appear on earth to reestablish the Roman Empire and assume his function as biblical katechon who stalls the coming of the Antichrist. The legend first appears in the 7th-century apocalyptic text known as the Apocalypse of Pseudo-Methodius; that and the oracles of the Tiburtine Sibyl are its two most important sources. It developed over the centuries, becoming particularly prominent in the 15th century. The notion of Great Catholic Monarch is related to it, as is the notion of the Angelic Pope.

Five Discourses of Matthew

In Christianity, the term Five Discourses of Matthew refers to five specific discourses by Jesus within the Gospel of Matthew.


  1. "Frontline" TV series. PBS. Accessed: 14 May 2018.
  2. Mary Ann Getty-Sullivan (2007). Parables of the Kingdom: Jesus and the Use of Parables in the Synoptic Tradition. Liturgical Press. p. 46. ISBN   978-0-8146-2993-2.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Gentry, Kenneth L.; Thomas Ice. The Great Tribulation—Past Or Future?: Two Evangelicals Debate the Question. Kregel Academic & Professional, 1999. ISBN   978-0-8254-2901-9
  4. 1 2 3 Ben Witherington The Gospel of Mark: A Socio-rhetorical Commentary page 340.
  5. Morna Hooker, The Gospel According to St. Mark (Continuum, 1991) page 8.
  6. Matthew 24:3; Mark 13:3
  7. Luke 21:37
  8. Kilgallen, John J. A Brief Commentary on the Gospel of Mark Paulist Press, 1989. ISBN   0-8091-3059-9.
  9. "Mark 13". Oremus.
  10. Rosen, Christine (2004). Preaching Eugenics. Oxford Press. p. 17.
  11. C. S. Lewis The World's Last Night and Other Essays
  12. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf110.iii. LXXIV.
  13. Without agreeing with this theory, biblical scholar Leon Morris reports it in his book The First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians. Eerdmans, 1991. ISBN   978-0-8028-2512-4
  14. Ravitz, Jessica. "Road trip to the end of the world". Accessed 6 May 2013
  15. 1 2 Stedman, Ray C. What on Earth Is Happening? What Jesus Said About the End of the Age. Discovery House Publishers, 2003. ISBN   1-57293-092-6
  16. Jackson, Wayne. "A Study of Matthew Twenty-four" November 23, 1998. Christian Courier. Contains in-depth discussion of the significant of the chapter and the signs that have come to fruition.
  17. Gentry, Kenneth L. Jr. (November 1998). "Falsely Declaring 'The Time': The Great Tribulation in Progressive Dispensationalism (Part 5)". Dispensationalism in Transition: Challenging Traditional Dispensationalism's 'Code of Silence'. Archived from the original on 26 July 2016. Retrieved 26 October 2018.
  18. http://www.deeptruths.com/articles/rise_reign_ac.html
  19. Lindsey, Hal. The Late Great Planet Earth. Grand Rapids, MI. Zondervan, 1970.
  20. Lindsey, Hal. 1977. Eternity, January 1977