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The Mount of Olives
Posted on 09/10/2018 7:21:18 AM PDT by amessenger4god
Just a short walk east of Jerusalem's Old City and the Temple Mount lies the Mount of Olives, a large hill that rises to about 2,700 feet above sea level. It's the middle of the three peaks directly across the Kidron Valley, with Mount Scopus to the north and the Mount of Corruption to the south. The mountain's slopes were once covered in olive groves, which is where it gets its namesake, but few olive trees remain. In their place are roughly 150,000 Jewish graves. The graves are so tightly placed together it may be one of the most densely packed cemeteries on earth.
Along with Mount Zion and Mount Moriah, it is one of the three most historically and prophetically significant mountains in the Bible. It was from this mountain that Christ ascended into Heaven, 40 days after His resurrection, and it's to this same mountain that Christ will physically return at the end of the Great Tribulation (Acts 1:612).
In 1 Corinthians 15:58 the Apostle Paul gives a summary outline of the order of Christ's post-resurrection appearances. After first appearing to Mary Magdalene (Jn. 20:1116), Paul tells us Christ appeared to Peter and then to the Apostles (1 Cor. 15:5). After that, over 500 disciples gathered for one appearance (1 Cor. 15:6), likely when Christ delivered the Great Commission on an unspecified mountain in Galilee (Mt. 28:1620). He then appeared to James and again to all the Apostles (1 Cor. 15:7). This was the last appearance Paul records before mentioning his own experience on the road to Damascus, thus it was likely this smaller gathering of Apostles at Christ's ascension.
I can only imagine the weight of fear and uncertainty that the eleven remaining Apostles must have felt as their LORD was now physically leaving them. As they huddled together atop the glorified hill, just east of the city where dozens of Jewish leaders wanted their heads on a platter, doubts plagued the hearts of men not yet filled with the Holy Spirit. In the resurrection accounts in the gospels and Acts, we see men who needed constant direction and encouragement before Pentecost. Thomas wanted evidence (Jn. 20:2429) and other disciples were simply dumbfounded by the empty tomb, still not understanding Jesus' frequent foretelling that He would rise again (Jn. 20:9).
Atop that hill, even after Christ had told them exactly what to do (wait for the Holy Spirit), they remained confounded, gazing upwards into the sky, crippled with inertia. It was then that God sent two angels to keep them moving forward with the plan:
They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 'Men of Galilee,' they said, 'why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.' Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath days walk from the city.
- Acts 1:1012
The angels weren't telling them anything they hadn't already heard, for they were not unfamiliar with the source of the angels' message, which came from God working through the Prophet Zechariah many centuries before:
Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights on a day of battle. On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south. You will flee by my mountain valley, for it will extend to Azel. You will flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him.
- Zechariah 14:35
The Mount of Olives is thus the penultimate symbol of Christ's second coming because it's from this mountain He went into Heaven and it's to this very mountain He will return. And now you know why the present-day mountain is covered with graves and sarcophagi: The Jews know that their Messiah is returning to this very mountain per the Prophet Zechariah and thus many have anticipated being resurrected first when He comes. Tragically, many failed to realize that their Messiah has already come a first time and His message they did not hear. The last shall be first, and the first last. A primarily Gentile resurrection will occur first, because Israel largely rejected Christ at His first appearance, and the major Jewish resurrection will occur last, at Christ's second coming. This eschatological switcheroo is actually what begins the final salvation of unrepentant Israel. When they see many of those foolish Gentiles gone, and the words of the prophets fulfilled, a great jealousy will overtake them and they'll want the free gift the Gentiles were given.
With a good understanding of the prophetic importance of the Mount of Olives in place, we can begin to decipher the plain meaning of Jesus' own prophetic predictions concerning the end of the age and His return. Jesus' prophecies in the gospels are important to understand, and many, giving superficial explanations, have caused great confusion. These prophecies, often commingled together by textual critics as the Olivet Discourse, are actually separate discourses, precipitated by separate questions. They are thematically related, and for that reason, those with little concern for detail wrap them all up together. Failing to notice the key details is what leads to square-peg-round-hole interpretations like preterism or post-trib premillennialism. I'm primarily focused on Matthew 24 and Luke 21, but I'll also touch on Mark 13 and Luke 17 (Matthew and Mark have almost the same account with only slight differences and Luke 17 is a different conversation altogether).
Let's begin with Matthew 24 and we'll move chronologically through the text:
V. 1 - Jesus is leaving the Temple and His disciples approach Him as He's leaving. They gawk at the magnificence of the Temple's architecture. Mark 13 adds some key details. One disciple remarks "Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!" (Mk. 13:1).
V. 2 - Jesus tells them all that beautiful architecture is going to be destroyed. The Temple will fall and not one stone will be left standing. All three synoptic gospels record the same (c.f. Mk. 13:12; Lk. 21:56).
V. 3 - Jesus is now sitting on the Mount of Olives, no longer walking away from the Temple. His disciples ask a very specific question: "Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?" The question asked is specifically about Jesus' second coming and the actual end of the age. So what are "these things"? A reader might naturally think the destruction of the Temple because of the preceding two verses, but that doesn't take into account two much stronger points: 1. This is a different conversation in a different location, and 2. The specific question the disciples ask concerns the second coming. No doubt, at the time, they saw little difference between the Temple's destruction and Christ's return, but as history and further New Testament revelation have shown us, they are accompanied by a similar series of signs, but are not the same event.
The Gospel of Mark confirms the Matthew account's chronology and scene change. Again, like the first two verses of Matthew 24, the first two verses of Mark 13 concern the conversation Jesus had with His disciples as He was leaving the Temple and v. 3-on is a record of Christ's actual Olivet Discourse (just like the Matthew account).
VV. 314 - Jesus tells His Jewish disciples what signs will precede His return. He's answering their question directly and without confusion, not being facetious or alluding to something else entirely (i.e. the Temple's 70 AD destruction) as many textual critics would suggest. And what's most amazing, these twelve verses chronologically parallel the first five seals of Revelation, which occur after the Church is raptured to Heaven. V. 8 adds a key detail: "All these are but the beginning of the birth pains." When do the prophetic "birth pains" occur? During the Time of Jacob's Trouble (Jer. 30:67), after Heavenly Zion has already given birth to the corporate male child, the Church (Isa. 66:79; c.f. Isa. 26:1721; 1 Thess. 5:34).
VV. 1520 - Jesus describes mid-trib events, including the final Abomination of Desolation spoken of by Daniel, and the remnant of Israel's escape into the mountains. Read these verses carefully and hold onto them because we'll discuss them in more detail when we work through Luke 21.
VV. 2122 - "For then will be great tribulation..." Here Jesus makes it emphatically clear that after the Abomination of Desolation there will begin a period of time more terrible than any other period in history: "...such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be." That necessarily means worse than the Global Flood. The only period of time worse than the Flood is the upcoming Great Tribulation. I've seen preterists attempt all sorts of fancy linguistic gymnastics around these verses, but the plain, literal sense of the Scriptures are clear. V. 22 drives the point home even further: not one human being will survive this period of time if God doesn't directly and miraculously intervene. This is not 70 AD.
VV. 2328 - Jesus compares and contrasts His second comingwhich will be public and visible across the whole skywith the "comings" of the false prophets and christs that will most certainly arise to deceive many. Don't believe them. Jesus' return will be so glorious and powerful that there won't be even a hint of doubt that His coming is the genuine article. Make careful note of v. 28: "Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather."
VV. 2920 - After the Tribulation, Christ returns from Heaven. Note that His coming is accompanied by a darkened sun and a darkened moon, not a darkened sun and blood moon. This is neither the Joel 2 prophecy nor the sixth seal. Note also that Jesus calls the preceding time "the tribulation of those days," thus there is some textual warrant for calling the broader period of Daniel's 70th Week "the Tribulation."
V. 31 - Jesus gathers the electpresumably the remnant of Israel and any surviving Gentile believers. Notice that no resurrection is mentioned and this is not a gathering to meet the LORD in the air. This is not the rapture. This verse may possibly include the resurrection of the Tribulation Saints/5th Seal Martyrs per Revelation 20:4, but that would only be an argument from silence. Taking Revelation 1920 chronologically, the resurrection of the 5th Seal Martyrs likely occurs some number of days, weeks, or months later.
VV. 3235 - Jesus delivers The Parable of the Fig Tree. "This generation shall not pass away until all these things take place." Which generation? Obviously the one He had just been speaking about for the entire Olivet Discourse. And "all" implies the entire Tribulation and Christ's return, because that's what Jesus had plainly told His disciples. So depending on how long you determine a generation to be (Ps. 90:10 is the only direct biblical definition I'm aware of) and from which point you think that generation should begin, you could place a biblically-mandated upper limit on the return of Christ.
V. 36 - "But concerning that day and hour no one knows..." Most literally, this was a perfect, not future tense statement of reality. Jesus tells us that no one up to that point has known the day or hour and the day and hour He is speaking of is most likely His second coming, which was the topic at hand.
VV. 3744 - Jesus' coming is likened to the days of Noah. He is coming at an hour you do not necessarily expect. He is coming like a thief. Some will be taken and some left. Now I know that a growing number of pre-trib scholars take this as a warning about Christ's actual second advent, but I would remind you this used to be a chief pre-trib proof-text. Just as the "Day of the LORD" refers to a broader period of time in Scripture, I think the "coming" spoken of in v. 37 is also referring to a broader period of time. This is His two-stage second coming, interspersed with Daniel's 70th Week. Jesus is giving a direct admonishment to His disciples: "You must be ready..." It takes some major heavy-lifting to justify the normalcy portrayed in these verses with the condition on earth at the end of the Great Tribulation. By the end of the Trib, all of the world's fresh water supply will be blood, most vegetation will be incinerated, most of the population will have the Mark of the Beast, most will be covered from head to toe in boils, many will have gnawed their tongues off because of the plague of darkness, and the antichrist and his enslaved population will be going to make war on the Lamb. I would argue no one will be grinding grain or sleeping blissfully unaware in bed. Jesus is warning us that the general period of His coming, known as the Tribulation or Daniel's 70th Week, will begin suddenly and unexpectedly.
VV. 4551 - Jesus tells a parable of a wicked servant who thinks his master's coming is delayed. The servant begins to do wickedly, scoffing in his heart. It's to this servant that the master comes like a thief "on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know." Compare Jesus' parable to 1 Thessalonians 5:34 in which the wicked are caught unaware when destruction comes suddenly like a thief. They do not escape, but the righteous are not caught unaware and therefore do escape.
Moving on to Luke 21, let's break it down, but we're first going to start at the very end of the chapter before going back to the beginning:
VV. 3738 - For some unspecified period of time Jesus was teaching in the Temple from early in the morning until the evening when He returned to the Mount of Olives. For a number of nights He actually slept on the hill itself. So it was there on the Mount of Olives, at night, that Jesus' disciples came to Him privately asking about the end of the age and His second coming. But it was during the day that Christ foretold of the Temple's destruction as He and His disciples left the Temple. This is an important detail that further confirms the scene change in the Matthew and Mark accounts.
VV. 14 - While in the Temple, during the day, Jesus observes a poor widow who has given more out of her poverty than the rich out of their wealth.
VV. 56 - Just like in Matthew 24:12 and Mark 13:12, the disciples marvel at the Temple's beauty and Jesus foretells of its destruction. Again, this is not on the Mount of Olives and isn't part of the Olivet Discourse.
V. 7 - The disciples ask a different question than is recorded in Matthew. Instead of asking about the end of the age and Christ's return as they do on the Mount of Olives, they say, "when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?" I would argue the question pertains to Jesus' prophecy of the Temple's destruction. Thus Luke is recording a conversation not found in Matthew or Mark. There are some similarities, but there are also vastly different details found in Luke. More on this in a minute.
VV. 819 - Jesus describes a series of signs very similar, but not exactly identical, to the Matthew and Mark accounts. Indeed history has shown that false christs did arise in the lead up to 70 AD and Christians were greatly persecuted. There were also wars and rumors of wars. The nature of prophecy is cyclical70 AD being a small foreshadowing of the much more literal fulfillments which come later.
VV. 2023 - Here is where things get interesting. These verses in Luke parallel the Matthew and Mark accounts of the Abomination of Desolation, but the details are almost completely different. Here are some details unique to Luke:
- The Abomination of Desolation isn't mentioned at all.
- Jesus says that Jerusalem will be surrounded by armies. This detail is unique to Luke.
- The unequaled time in human history mentioned by Matthew and Mark is not mentioned by Luke. It isn't wrath against the whole world, but wrath against "this people" (i.e. the Jews).
V. 24 - We know that Luke recognizes the scene change between the Temple conversation and the Olivet Discourse because of vv. 3738, but in his record he doesn't explicitly tell us where this occurs in Chapter 21. However, he drops a big hint in v. 24 and this hint happens to give us (present-day you and me) a powerful indication that we are very close to Jesus' return. "They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled."
Now keep in mind that Jesus is speaking to His disciples here, answering their question about the Temple's destruction. In the immediately preceding verse He had told them that "this people" (i.e. the Jews) would experience great wrath and then in v. 24 Jesus opens with "they." "They" referring to the Jews. The Jews were going to fall by the sword and be dispersed, not into just Assyria or Babylon as in centuries past, but into "all the nations." Jerusalem and its Temple were destroyed in 70 AD and the Jews were dispersed just as the prophecy foretold (although the dispersal took many decades).
Jerusalem was indeed surrounded by armiesthe armies of Titus, which sacked the city. These Gentile armies trampled on the city and its Temple, but not one believer was killed because Jesus had warned them. They all escaped. Yet over one million Jews were slaughtered.
In the Luke account, nothing else after v. 24 applies to the Temple's destruction because the account of its destruction is complete. It ends with the Gentiles trampling on the city "until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled." And this is a big hint of how close we are to the very end of the age. The Gentiles began trampling the city in 70 AD, but that period of time is coming to a swift end because the fig tree has begun to put forth its leaves. In 1948 Israel became a nation again and in 1967 the Jews took control of East Jerusalem. Since then, Jewish settlement blocks have rapidly expanded until more and more of the Promised Land has been swallowed up by the recently replanted Israelites:
The pagan Dome of the Rock still stands on the Temple Mount and tens of thousands of Gentiles still live in Jerusalem, so we can conclude that the city is still being "trampled," but that trampling is obviously nearing its very end. Actual control of the city has fallen back into Israel's hands and more Jews dwell in their ancient capital now than at any time in the past.
V. 25 - It is here that I believe Luke begins to record the Olivet Discourse and signs specifically pertaining to His second coming. In v. 25 we learn of "signs in the sun, moon, and stars." There is only one astronomical sign in the entire Bible that involves the sun, moon, and stars together and it's recorded in Revelation 12:12. That sign appears to have been fulfilled last September. "...Nations will be in anguish..." The focus has turned from Israel only (in the preceding several verses) to nations plural. We're now dealing with worldwide tribulation.
V. 26 - "People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken." Many things are coming on the world during the Tribulation: fallen angels, hail mingled with blood, meteors, 100-pound hailstones, and, ultimately, Jesus Christ and His holy ones.
V. 27 - Jesus foretells of His actual glorious second coming.
V. 28 - "When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." The specific end of the age signs that Luke records begin in v. 25 with "signs in the sun, moon, and stars." The Body of Christ witnessed this last year. If that was the beginning of "these things," how much closer are we to our redemption and glorification? I believe this verse parallels Matthew 24:3644 and the admonishment to believers to be awake and watching for the rapture. However, I also think this will have dual application, being a warning to the surviving Tribulation Saints to hold on as they count down the days to Christ's coming.
VV. 2933 - Jesus delivers The Parable of the Fig Tree as recorded in both Matthew and Mark. Thus, the generation spoken of in all three synoptic gospels is the same: it's the generation that witnessed the sprouting forth of the fig tree's leaves and it's the generation that will witness Christ's return.
VV. 3435 - The Day of the LORD will come upon unbelievers as a trap and they will not escape. This period of time is coming upon all of those who live upon the face of the earth, thus there is no possible way to reconcile these verses, prima facie, with 70 AD.
V. 36 - To the believer, Jesus tells you: WATCH! Believers will "escape all that is about to happen [and] stand before the Son of Man." To whom else could Jesus say they will escape all of the Tribulation events, but the Church? Notice that vv. 3436 are a perfect parallel to 1 Thessalonians 5:34 and Revelation 3:10.
In Luke 17 Jesus shares some of the same details found in the Olivet Discourse passages, but He doesn't discuss the Temple's destruction at all. The topic at hand is His return only. I won't break this passage down verse by verse since it isn't part of the Olivet Discourse, but will just give some summary information followed by an interesting pre-trib rapture hint contained herein.
The first point to be made is this: the passage occurs four chapters before Luke's account of the Olivet Discourse and Jesus isn't on the Mount of Olives, He is near the border between Galilee and Samaria sometime before He arrived in Jerusalem (Lk. 17:11).
And the second, equally important point: modern textual critics find similarities between passages and automatically assume the differences between the gospels are evidence of corruption, discrepancy, and the existence of an even older source document. Much can be said about the faulty assumptions they make, but I'm reminded that their way of thinking isn't in line with reality.
What I mean is this: in the real world, people will talk about a subject they're passionate about many times. Thinking of myself, I can't tell you how many dozens of people to whom I explained the Revelation 12 Sign. Eventually my explanation crystallized and was basically the same spiel to every person with only modest discrepancies in how I delivered the message each time I delivered it.
Likewise, consider how you might have shared the gospel with different people. I imagine the outline was the same each time you shared it, but some of the details and words you used may have differed each time you spoke.
Jesus was no different. He taught publicly (and privately to His disciples) for several years. Imagine how many thousands of conversations He had with people during that period of time. No doubt He covered the same material many times. That's why we have similar accounts between Luke 17 and Matthew 24. The Olivet Discourse wasn't the only time Jesus discussed His second coming. The context leads me to believe Jesus spoke the words in Luke 17 somewhere near the border of Samaria and Galilee as He journeyed to Jerusalem (Lk. 17:11). But Luke 21 and Matthew 24 were records of Jesus' actual Olivet Discourse just outside Jerusalem.
Moving on to an intriguing rapture hint, think back to Matthew 24:28 and what I had earlier said you should hold on to: "Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather." Jesus says a similar phrase in Luke, but there is an important distinction: the word used for "body" is different and the context is different.
Take a look at Matthew 24:28 again:
Wherever the carcass [ptōma] is, there the vultures will gather.
Then look at the immediate context in v. 27:
For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.
It's Jesus' visible second coming. After He slays the wicked during the Battle of Armageddon there will be an immense flock of birds that devour the flesh of the slain (Rev. 19:1419).
Now let's look at Luke 17, specifically v. 37:
Wherever the body [sōma] is, there the eagles will gather.
In Luke 17 the word for "body" is different. A ptōma, as found in Matthew 24:28, is only ever a dead bodya rotting corpse. But a sōma is just a body and usually a living body at that. It can also represent a collective body, like the Church (e.g. 1 Cor. 12:27). In both passages the word for eagles/vultures is the same: aetoi. The word probably means "eagles" in all instances, but some translators suspect it can also mean "vultures," depending on the context.
Now let's look at the immediate context of Luke 17:37 in vv. 3437a:
I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.
'Where, Lord?' they asked.
The context is very possibly the rapture. In Luke 17 the reference to eagles is in the context of the days of Noah and the sudden and unexpected appearance of Christ during a time of seeming normalcy. Yet in Matthew 24, which also includes a section on the days of Noah (vv. 3644), the reference to eagles lies outside of the days of Noah warning, uses the Greek word for a dead body, and its context is Christ's actual second coming.
Might Jesus have used different words for "body" in these two passages as a subtle hint? You're either going to be one who mounts up with wings like eagles as you meet the living body of the LORD Jesus Christ in the air, or, you're going to be a dead body on the plains of Megiddo when you try to wage war against the omnipotent Lamb. Choose wisely.
A Final Word
While I think this outline is pretty solid on most points, I also think it's a good idea to continue to dig. There are several other entirely different ways to reconcile Matthew, Mark, and Luke's account and divide the Scriptures that I haven't addressed here. One of them includes considering how each of the authors decided to compose their gospel account, in some instances by combining different sayings of Christ to make a point. But when all is said and done, Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 most certainly contain pieces from two different discoursesone near the Temple in Jerusalem during the day and the other on the Mount of Olives at night. The general topic at hand near the Temple was the Temple's destruction (and wouldn't that make perfect sense, Jesus discussing the Temple's destruction next to the Temple?). The topic on the Mount of Olives, the place to which Jesus will physically return, was, of course, His second coming.
To the believers in Jesus' day He had a word of warning: When you see armies surrounding Jerusalem, flee!
To believers in our day, Jesus has a word of encouragement: When you see these things begin to happen, look up for your redemption draws near. Watch!
~ Maranatha ~
TOPICS: Apologetics; Evangelical Christian; History; Theology
KEYWORDS: bible; gospels; jesus; prophecy
I got to the image of the map showing “Palestine” instead of Israel and stopped right there.
there was never a place called “Palestine”
posted on 09/10/2018 7:26:59 AM PDT
by Mr. K
(No consequence of repealing Obamacare is worse than Obamacare itself.)
To: Mr. K
I would encourage you to keep reading. I agree with completely that there was never a “Palestine”. It’s an invented entity. The point of the map is just to show where Arabs lived pre-1948 and the Jews have rapidly taken back control of their ancient homeland.
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