As we go through the Olivet Discourse, as found in the synoptic gospels, we want to – as best we can – dissect the information given, offer Biblical and practical observations concerning each presentation, present some corroborating Scripture, and seek to better understand how our Lord structured His discourse and what each gospel writer is uniquely presenting to the reader.
The reader will also note that several previously written articles are embedded within these three studies of the Olivet Discourse. Because I have written much on this subject – and other topics that come up within this study –these hyperlinks have been added so that the reader can dig deeper into the subject matter at hand. Due to space constraints, these hyperlinks in a few of the passages will be the only commentary available, so I highly encourage the reader to utilize them.
Because the Olivet Discourse is found in some places to be essentially the same in all three accounts, the reader will note that some of the material will be virtually identical. But there are also many other variations found within the accounts, so the reader should find that there is also a substantial amount of uniqueness to the three articles.
We will also have a fourth article that will attempt to combine all three accounts into one cohesive unit entitled The Olivet Discourse in its Entirety with links to the first three articles attributed to each synoptic gospel where the Olivet Discourse is found.
Outline for the Olivet Discourse
When it comes to an outline for the Olivet Discourse, there is a cut-off line, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” This amazing verse separates the Olivet Discourse in all three synoptic gospels where it is presented into two unique segments.
Everything before this vital verse – including The Parable of the Fig Tree – is speaking of the end-times, going all the way into the Tribulation and up to Christ’s Second Coming when He gathers Israel (His “elect”) back to Israel, with the rapture of the church entirely omitted.
Everything after this important verse, in each synoptic gospel’s presentation of the Olivet Discourse, Christ is speaking to His disciples exclusively as representing the church as He teaches them the rapture!
Matthew 25:1-13, the Parable of the 10 Virgins, also speaks of the rapture with the contrast of five wise virgins (true converts) and five foolish virgins (false converts).
Likewise, Matthew 25:14-30 is a parable of Christ’s return for His bride, represented as servants who will be accountable to the “talents,” gifts, and resources the Lord had entrusted to each of His professing servants. All were true converts except the last – who showed himself to be a false convert – as he was cast into outer darkness where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Luke 21 is where we find the Lucian account of the Olivet Discourse.
The Disciples’ Questions
“And they asked him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass?” (Luke 21:7).
Though Jesus does answer His disciple’s questions to a certain degree, it cannot be missed that He probably did not answer in the way they were anticipating or in the way that we, the reader, might expect Him to answer these inquiries.
One feature we can be certain of, though, is that He gave the answers He wanted to give us and the answers we all need to hear to prepare the body of Christ and the Jewish remnant for the last of the last days.
“And he said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them” (Luke 21:8).
One of the most consistent aspects of all three accounts of the Olivet Discourse in the synoptic gospels is that Messiah Yeshua began with deception.
From the Nicolaitans in the first-century church to the Antichrist and False Prophet’s deceptions on mankind during the Tribulation – along with every deceit promulgated from Satan and man in between – deception has and will reign supreme and increase with intensity and frequency as the last days progress.
When people today declare, “I am Christ,” we should take note that the New Age movement teaches that their adherents can attain to what’s known as “Christ consciousness.” In God’s Strong Delusion & The Father of Lies, I observed that the East’s Hindu religion (with their over 300 million gods) and the West’s New Age movement (teaching they can achieve universal Godhood) – both of which actively use meditation techniques and teach that God is in all, and all is God – are perfect conduits for Antichrist’s religion of self-worship. Antichrist will claim to be God and demand that the world worship himself, but it shouldn’t surprise anyone that he just might teach that they, too, can reach Godhood if they just follow his example and obey his demonic commandments.
In truth, there have been many who have claimed to be the Messiah down through the ages – with many in Israel since she became a nation again – and there will be many more that come on the scene leading up to the Antichrist. But Antichrist is the ultimate fulfillment of Christ’s warning of not being deceived by false Messiahs, especially to His people, Israel.
He even said as much earlier in His earthly ministry:
“I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive” (John 5:43).
Paul also warned of Antichrist’s deceptions:
“Even him [Antichrist], whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (2 Thessalonians 2:9-10).
Additionally, this phrase can also be referring to the false Messiahs of the many false gospels in the world today. From cults like Roman Catholicism, Mormonism, and Jehovah’s Witnesses, to false gospels such as the social gospel, green gospel, and the universalist gospel – just to name a few – every false cult with their false Christs have been deceiving countless millions throughout the church age.
“But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8-9).
Finally, this phrase can also be viewed as Christ saying that many will come in the Name of Jesus, claiming that He is the Messiah, and yet deceive those who follow them with their heretical teachings – a deception the church has always had to deal with but will increase with intensity as the day approaches.
Paul, speaking of the last days, warned Timothy:
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
Deception has been a scourge the church has been dealing with since its inception, as Paul warned the church elders of Ephesus:
“Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:28-30).
This is one of those many passages in Scripture that have many interpretations, all of which are viable and seemingly in view.
Wars and Rumors of War
“But when ye shall hear of wars and commotions, be not terrified: for these things must first come to pass; but the end is not by and by” (Luke 21:9).
The world has had wars and commotions since Christ uttered these words. And, as He summarizes, “these things must first come to pass, but the end is not by and by.”
The world has experienced two World Wars in just the last 100 years or so. We can and should expect that wars and rumors of war will increase – as will the other signs – with frequency and intensity, until the Lord takes His bride home to be with Him forevermore, and will continue until the end of the Tribulation.
Nation Against Nation
“Then said he unto them, Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom” (Luke 21:10).
As is so commonly known, the Greek word translated “nation” is 1484 ἔθνος “ethnos” and is obviously where the words “ethnic” and “ethnicity” originated from. Therefore, we are looking at not only nation against nation, but ethnicity against ethnicity, which should be obvious because nations were originally institutionalized by ethnic and cultural factors as God separated and dispersed the nations along tribal and linguistic lines after He confused the languages at Babel (Genesis 11:1-9).
However, as the world’s language barriers have been diminished and people have been migrating to other nations for thousands of years, the nations and their unique ethnic characteristics and identities have become blurred. This gives rise to an increasing likelihood of ethnicity against ethnicity within each nation, causing immense problems within one’s own borders.
We have been observing this prophecy within the United States for virtually our entire existence, and thanks to political aims and nefarious intents to divide and conquer, we have fared no better down through the years. In fact, the ethnic violence appears to be increasing at an alarming rate because evil forces are fervently at work to destroy the United States from within.
Other nations, as well, are just as vulnerable as we are, as we have been witnessing on a daily basis.
Earthquakes, Famines, and Pestilences
“And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences” (Luke 21:11a).
As is so well documented, earthquakes have been increasing in frequency and intensity, especially in the last 50 years or so.
Of course, these earthquakes will climax into some of the most incredibly destructive seismic events that earth will have ever experienced during the Tribulation!
The same applies equally to famines and pestilences: the closer we get to the Tribulation, the more intense and destructive they will become, and will ultimately climax in the Tribulation itself.
Fearful Sights and Great Signs Shall be From Heaven in the Tribulation
“… and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven” (Luke 21:11b).
The culmination of the general signs above will result in the “fearful sights and great signs” that “shall be from heaven” during the Tribulation. This is essentially a summary verse of the conditions of the earth and the heavens during and through the end of the Tribulation, a topic which Christ will come back to soon.
But, first, He has a message for His people through the church age and those who will be going into the Tribulation.
Persecution of Apostles, Church, and Post-Rapture Tribulation Saints
“But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name’s sake. And it shall turn to you for a testimony” (Luke 21:12-13).
One need only read the book of Acts to see this prophecy fulfilled in the lives of the Apostles.
There also may be a future fulfillment of this prophecy during the Tribulation if Israel ends up persecuting those who come to Christ during the first half (three and one-half years – 1,260 days) of the Tribulation when they will have their Temple in Jerusalem and are offering sacrifices during this time.
“Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer: For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist” (Luke 21:14-15).
A powerful verse for both church-age believers and Tribulation saints, to be sure. The Holy Spirit will be present in each group of believers [QFTBOC: Salvation in the Tribulation], though only one – the church – can be called the bride of Christ.
This advice – though intended for God’s people who are persecuted – is great advice for all the Lord’s people down through the church age and into and through the Tribulation. The Holy Spirit should always be our guide in all situations, and especially in times of trouble and persecution.
Of course, it always serves the child of God well to know the Scriptures, so study hard, Saint!
“And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake” (Luke 21:16-17).
All of these verses speaking of persecution hearkens back to our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount at the beginning of His ministry.
“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).
Two additional passages come to my mind.
The first is from Peter to the church:
“And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:13-15).
The second passage is a message from heaven to the Great Tribulation Saints:
“Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them” (Revelation 14:12-13).
“But there shall not an hair of your head perish. In your patience possess ye your souls” (Luke 21:18-19).
We know that many of God’s people have died, and their “hair of [their] head” did “perish.” This has been the experience and will be the experience for the bride of Christ until He fetches us home. And this will obviously be the same for the Tribulation Saints.
But when it comes to our salvation and our glorified, resurrected, and everlasting bodies, then “not a hair of [our] head” will “perish!” With full reliance on Christ’s work of redemption on our behalf and His guiding indwelling Holy Spirit, we will, through “patience, possess [our] souls.” Thanks be to God!
“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (James 1:2-4).
The Abomination of Desolation
After Christ’s admonition and encouragement to His people, He focuses His attention on Israel and His chosen people as they get ready to go through the Great Tribulation – the last three and one-half years (1,260 days) of the seven-year Tribulation (2,520 days).
Bringing the children of Israel back to Himself so they will come to the end of themselves and recognize Him as their Messiah is what the Tribulation is all about.
Jerusalem will be “compassed with armies” from the time of the signing of the covenant between Antichrist, Israel, and the many (Daniel 9:27) until Antichrist commits his Abomination of Desolation.
“Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto” (Luke 21:21).
When it comes to God’s people – Jews and Gentiles who come to faith in Jesus during the Tribulation – any living in Jerusalem, Judaea, or Israel in general, must “flee to the mountains” in modern-day southern Jordan. The most customary area believed by Bible teachers and students would be the mountains of Petra and Mt. Seir.
“And the woman [Israel] fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days” (Revelation 12:6).
“For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled” (Luke 21:22).
The remaining 1,260 days of Tribulation are known as the Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:21 & Revelation 7:14) and the time of Jacob’s trouble (Jeremiah 30:7). And these days of vengeance will be just that!
“And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 12:17).
“But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people” (Luke 21:23). [The Abomination of Desolation: A Unique Link]
This verse clearly shows that children will be born in the Tribulation.
The Great Tribulation is indeed at hand!
“And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book” (Daniel 12:1).
“And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” (Luke 21:24).
Those that do not escape into the mountains or “fall by the edge of the sword” in the abomination of desolation will “be led away captive into all nations” – as few as they may be. Israel, Judah, and Jerusalem will be dispersed one last time so that they might finally come to the Lord and recognize that Yeshua is their Messiah.
“Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it” (Jeremiah 30:7).
End of Tribulation Conditions
The following verses are some of the most misunderstood and misquoted passages in the Olivet Discourse. We just read of the Abomination of Desolation, so to say that the following signs are to be seen before the Tribulation is just not proper exegesis.
“And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken” (Luke 21:25-26).
In Luke’s account, we see a very unique phrase: “… upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear.”
When it comes to the end of the Tribulation and the Vial judgments of Revelation 16 – which I believe will be poured out in fairly rapid succession toward the end of the Tribulation – “the distress of nations with perplexity, and the sea and the waves roaring” brings to my mind Isaiah 24.
“The earth is utterly broken down, the earth is clean dissolved, the earth is moved exceedingly. The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall, and not rise again” (Isaiah 24:19-20).
These conditions of “the earth reeling to and fro like a drunkard” will create monstrous effects, producing immense tidal waves of the oceans as they pass their boundary lines on every continent and island in the world, which will certainly cause “men’s hearts [to] fail them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth” because of the calamities sustained by the Vial judgments of Revelation 16.
The Second Coming
After the Vial judgments of Revelation 16, Christ comes back to earth to destroy His enemies.
“And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Luke 21:27).
“Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen” (Revelation 1:7).
Christ then gives the Jews a command that when the conditions that He has just described “begin to come to pass,” they are to “look up, and lift up [their] heads, for [their] redemption” through His Second Coming “draweth nigh.”
“And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh” (Luke 21:28).
This beloved verse – as we covered in Luke 21:28 – Rapture, Second Coming, or Both? – with the Lord’s disciples representing Israel, is directed toward the remnant of the children of Israel who will have accepted Messiah Yeshua and will be eagerly awaiting His return to deliver them from the Antichrist and what’s left of the world’s armies as they reside in the mountains of modern-day Jordan where they fled after the Abomination of Desolation.
As noted, there will also be other Israelites waiting for their Messiah in other nations of the earth.
I do think that it is fine for the church to use this popular colloquial [Luke 21:28], even though it was meant for the Jews; after all, the church uses countless Old Testament passages for her comfort, edification, and encouragement that were originally written by, and for, the people of Israel.
In my personal investigative opinion, though – based on immediate context, general context, target audience, and the structural outline of the Olivet Discourse in Luke’s account – there is no doubt that Luke 21:28 is a Second Coming passage meant to encourage the Jews just before Christ’s coming deliverance for them at the end of the Tribulation.
“And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled” (Luke 21:29-32).
The Olivet Discourse Cut-Off Line
“Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away” (Luke 21:33).
Here is the divine cut-off line that separates the Olivet Discourse into two distinct segments. The first section leads up and concludes with Messiah Yeshua’s Second Coming and The Parable of the Fig Tree, and the second segment addresses Christ’s teaching of the rapture. This is true in all three synoptic gospels where the Olivet Discourse is presented.
Teaching the Rapture
“And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares” (Luke 21:34).
As the body of Christ, we need to always “take heed to [our]selves,” for we are not our own and we have been purchased with the precious blood of Jesus Christ.
No professing Christian should ever partake of “surfeiting, drunkenness” (Romans 13:13) or “the cares of this life” (Mark 4:18-19). If we are following our Lord and His Word, “that day” will not “come upon [us] unawares” (1 Thessalonians 5:4).
“For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth” (Luke 21:35).
“For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape” (1 Thessalonians 5:2-3).
“Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man” (Luke 21:36).
I have been asked why our Lord phrased this verse in this way, and here’s my response.
This command from our Lord is very similar to other passages. Here’s a couple to consider:
“Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” (2 Corinthians 13:5).
“Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:10-11).
Many passages, such as these, are really telling us that it is very possible for a person to be deceived into thinking they are saved when they really are not. We see so many professing “Christians” today who are anything but. We call these people “false converts,” and they are the ones who fall away from their professed faith because they were never saved to begin with.
Jesus said of these people that will ultimately be judged at the Great White Throne Judgment:
“Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:22-23).
It is imperative, then, that every professing believer know that they are truly saved and will be “accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass.” For the professing Christian to be assured of where they stand regarding their professed salvation, I will always point them to 1 John.
So, in concluding our survey of Luke’s Olivet Discourse with these Words of our Lord and Savior, we should “pray always, that [we] may be accounted worthy” – by His grace and perfect blood sacrifice, and our willingness to love and follow Him – “to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.”
His promises to us concerning His plans for us are made evident when He said:
“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-3).
Thank you, Lord Jesus!
Love, grace, mercy, and shalom in Messiah Yeshua, and Maranatha!
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