The View From the Mount of Olives – Study #2

(Jesus’ Great Prophetic Sermon)

When Jesus declared that the Jerusalem Temple would be destroyed, His disciples naturally wanted to know the details. The Lord Jesus and four of the disciples sat down on the Mount of Olives, overlooking Jerusalem, and Jesus answered their questions. The disciples’ questions were about Temple destruction and Jesus’ Second Coming. The questions related to the people and nation of Israel. The disciples did not inquire about gentiles or the church, and in His answers, Jesus did not talk about them either. 

In the first study, it was suggested that there are three interpretive matters that must be kept in mind when studying this Olivet Discourse. (1) The questions and answers found in this discourse are concerning Israel, not the church and not gentiles. (2) The word “you” which Jesus used many times always refers to Israel; Israel as represented by one group or another within Israel. (3) The events and judgments of the Tribulation are unique in their intensity, and therefore, they must not be interpreted as they occur in today’s world. With these in mind, we will approach Jesus’ teaching.

There are really three distinct parts to the Tribulation: (1) the first half of the Tribulation; (2) the mid-point of the Tribulation; and (3) the second half of the Tribulation. Our study will look at these three divisions of the Tribulation.  

The First Half of the Tribulation – Matthew 24:4-8

  • Daniel’s Prophecy of the 70 Weeks. This O.T. prophecy (Dan. 9:24-27) is the foundation on which much N.T. prophetic truth is based. In Daniel 9, the 7 final years are neatly divided into two periods of 3½ years each, but that the second 3½ years will be much worse. Jesus follows this pattern in His prophetic discourse, even calling the second half “the tribulation, the great one.”
  • The “Birth Pains.”  As Jesus began describing the judgments of the Tribulation, He referred to them as “birth pains” (Matt. 24:8).  This is a concept that is found in several of the O.T. prophets, such as Isaiah 13:8 and Jeremiah 30:7-9. “Birth pains” alert the mother-to-be that the baby’s birth is coming soon. The judgments of the Tribulation (the “birth pains”) reveal that the “birthing” of the messianic age is coming soon. There are two realities that characterize “birth pains.”  First, as the time for the birth gets closer, there is less time between the birth pains. They come faster and closer together. And second, the pains become more intense as the moment of birth approaches. Normally, the last birth pains are more severe than the first ones. This will be the case in the matter of Tribulation judgments. And this is what is seen when the Book of Revelation is analyzed. The final judgments of the Tribulation are far more “painful” than the first ones and they come closer and closer together. 

    As was discussed in the first study, the judgments of the Tribulation, such as earthquakes and pandemics, should not be understood as we experience these events now. The intensity of all these in the Tribulation will be far beyond what takes place today. Revelation 6:8 reveals that a minimum of 25% of the world’s population will die during the first half of the Tribulation. Based on the population of planet earth right now, that would be about 2 billion people who perish. There has never been anything like that in human history. 
  • False Teachers and Counterfeit Messiahs.  When difficult times come, people are fearful and desperate for answers, and this opens them up for all kinds of deceptions. The Tribulation certainly qualifies as a difficult time. At that time of chaos, people will be gripped by uncertainty and fear. The result will be that they are easily fooled by those claiming to have the answers. Many will claim to be an authoritative teacher sent from God or some messiah-figure. Jesus warned Israel of their vulnerability in that future day. And even today, when the times become ominous, coming in the form of economic uncertainty, political unrest or national conflicts, there are those who deceive, claiming to have the word from God and to be God’s representative. Jesus says “watch out for them.”
  • Outlined by Jesus, Detailed by John.  In this discourse, Jesus spoke in general terms of wars, earthquakes, famines, plagues, and great signs from heaven. These will be experienced in the first half of the Tribulation. They are the beginning of the “birth pains.” The Apostle John, who was with Jesus that day on the Mount of Olives, would be the one chosen some 60 years later to give the details of these matters in Revelation; specifically, the “seal judgments” found in Revelation 6. 

The Second Half of the Tribulation – Matthew 24:9-14

  • Great Persecution. As one looks at biblical prophecy, it is essential to remember that the Tribulation period is primarily a battle for the souls of men. God wishes to save people, and the Evil One desires to destroy them if they will not come and worship him. Those who refuse to worship Satan and Antichrist will be the targets of satanic hatred throughout the seven years. Jesus said, “then they will deliver you to tribulation and will kill you…and at that time, many will fall away and will deliver up one another and hate one another (Matt. 24:9-10). Both Daniel and Revelation reveal that this persecution will be highly effective, resulting in the deaths of a multitude of God’s people.
  • Great Salvation. The Tribulation is a time of salvation. Jesus made the interesting point that many Jewish people will be persecuted because they now identify with Jesus (24:9). Israel has long been hated and persecuted but never because they identify with Jesus Messiah. Salvation is coming to Israel in the second half of the Tribulation and will climax at the Second Coming. Also, it is important to note that during the Tribulation period the gospel will go to every person on the planet (24:14). This has never happened before, and it will result in millions of people from Israel and the gentile nations coming to faith in Jesus (see Rev. 7:9-14). God will save a multitude, making this the greatest time of salvation in all of human history.

The Mid-Point of the Tribulation – Matthew 24:15

  • The Sign: The “Abomination of Desolation”. The disciples had wanted Jesus to give them a sign that would alert them to the coming of the end time events. In 24:15, Jesus declared that “the sign” would be the “abomination of desolation” which Daniel had spoken about. This term “abomination of desolation” speaks of the ultimate defilement of the Temple of God in Jerusalem. When this desecration of the Temple takes place, then Israel will know that those end time events and the coming of Jesus are about to occur. The Apostle Paul speaks of this defilement when the Antichrist will set himself up as “god” in the temple (2 Thes. 2:4). In His discourse, Jesus spoke of many events and wonders, but the “abomination of desolation” is the one unmistakable sign. Obviously, there must be a Jewish temple in Jerusalem for this to take place. Daniel, Paul, John, and Jesus all teach that once again there will be a temple on the “temple mount” in Jerusalem. Jews, in Israel today, are preparing for such a temple. This is not wishful thinking on their part, but they are a part of the fulfillment of biblical prophecy. And while we cannot say how Israel will get back the temple mount, they will. And it may be that the Antichrist will play a part in getting back that sacred piece of real estate.
  • Major Mid-Point Events. Jesus’ only point about the middle point of the Tribulation was the matter of the “abomination of desolation.” However, there are other important events that will take place at the mid-point, which will dramatically change the Tribulation for Israel from unpleasant to extremely bad. These will just be listed, since they are not part of Jesus’ prophetic discourse.
  • Satan is removed from heaven and confined to the earth (Rev. 12). This event will fuel the fire of Satan’s hatred for Israel and all those who follow Jesus.
  • Jewish temple worship will end. It is not known how long the Jews will have had their worship in the new temple, but it will end at the mid-point.
  • The end of all religions. The “great harlot” religious system (Rev. 17) and all religions will end. There will be just one worship system allowed; that is the worship of Satan and Antichrist. (Rev. 13).
  • Three times it is said that the Antichrist will be killed but will return to life (Rev. 13). This return to life is not in a resurrection body, but is such an amazing event that it will cause the world to worship him. 

IN CONCLUSION. Our next study will pick up where we have left off. Jesus was quite concerned that His followers take this truth and let it impact their lives right now. He wanted them to always be alert and prepared for His coming. He knew that we can grow apathetic and even weary. He does not want us to be caught off guard when He returns. Delay is not a denial of His return. As we live, we are to keep one eye heavenward. This is what pleases and honors the Lord Jesus. And this is what helps us keep a proper perspective in our lives today.