The View from the Mount of Olives – Study #4

(Jesus’ Great Prophetic Sermon)

Prophetic truth has been given by God to impact us right now. Knowing it and believing it will affect the way we do life; the priorities we have and the decisions we make. It is not a surprise, therefore, that the majority of Jesus’ “Olivet Discourse” focuses on the application of prophetic truth. He gives six parables which are designed to inform us on how we are to respond to this truth.

Before looking at these six parables, there is one interpretive principle that is very important to remember when approaching the “Olivet Discourse,” and that is the constant use of the word “YOU.” Jesus used the word “you” many times in Matthew 23-25. Who was He talking about? The “you” refers to Israel, the people that God was in a covenant relationship with. Gentiles and the Church are not part of this sermon. (Note Study #1).  In each case, “you” is speaking of Israel, as represented by different groups in Israel, over centuries of time. In this sermon, “you” never refers to gentiles or to the church. The disciples had asked questions related to Israel’s future and Jesus’ answer is about Israel’s future.

Jesus’ Six Parables That Apply Prophetic Truth

  1. The Parable of the Fig Tree – Matt. 24:32-42 — The first parable draws on a truth from agriculture that all are familiar with. A tree which sprouts new leaves and blossoms is signaling that summer is coming soon. And likewise, when the events and signs of the coming Tribulation are seen (as given in Matt. 24:3-31), they are signaling the Second Coming of Jesus. There are several key points in this parable.
  • The “you” (Matt. 24:33) refers to Israel seeing the signs and events in the Tribulation. And “this generation” (Matt. 24:34) in Israel that sees the first signs given by Jesus, will see all of them (“all these things”). This indicates that the signs will take place over a relatively short period of time. The “this generation” is not talking about the generation of the Apostle John’s day but rather a future generation in Israel. Preterism (which says that most all of the Olivet Discourse was fulfilled in AD 70) leans on this verse to prove their position. They say that John wrote the Book of Revelation around AD 65 and “this generation” was the one living at that time. However, the “you” of verse 33 defines the “this generation”. And furthermore, “all these things” (such as the “abomination of desolation”) never took place in AD 70, with the result that Preterism must engage in wild speculations to try and establish their position. A future generation in Israel is the one that sees “all these things.”
  • Delay in these events can cause doubting. That is why Jesus states that His words are true and will be fulfilled (Matt. 24:35-36). When Jesus gave this sermon, the exact day of the Second Coming was known only to the Father. (The now resurrected Christ knows it as well.) Though there might be delay, the Tribulation and His return will certainly come.
  • The illustration of the days of Noah. The days of Noah were uniquely evil days (Gen. 6:5, 11), but that is not what Jesus emphasizes here. He points out that in Noah’s day mankind was carrying on life with no thought of God’s coming judgment that had been announced by Noah the preacher of righteousness (2 Pet. 2:5). They were “eating,” “drinking,” and “marrying” when the judgment of the Flood came. The people of Noah’s day were caught off-guard by the Flood. But why? For decades they had been told that God’s judgment was coming but they had become dull of hearing and no longer took it that seriously. And that is the danger Jesus warns His followers about. Do not become indifferent to His truth. Believers who have heard prophetic truth time and again, can become desensitized and invertedly let prophetic truth evaporate from their thinking. Keep yourself ready for the Lord’s return (Matt. 24:42). Again, Jesus is speaking about His Second Coming, but it is applicable to waiting for the Rapture.
  • Jesus said that at the time of His Second Coming, there will be two men in the field and two women grinding at the mill; and that one will be taken and one left. This sounds like the Rapture, but it is not. The context is that of judgment at the Second Coming. While at the Rapture event, one wants to be taken and not left behind, not so here. The one who is left behind is left to go into the kingdom of Messiah, and the one taken is taken away in judgment, just like the people of Noah’s day who were taken away in the great Flood. So, it is imperative that people avoid the coming judgment and find safety with Jesus.  
  1. The Parable of the Homeowner – Matt. 24:43-44— Jesus’ point is quite clear. If the homeowner knew that a thief was going to try and rob him, and if he knew the time of that attempt, he would prepare for it. God’s people might not know the exact hour of His coming, but the general setting can be known. Jesus just revealed that information in the Olivet Discourse. His point is that you will have enough information to not be caught off-guard by His coming, so make sure you are prepared.We need to keep in mind that Jesus is not talking about the Rapture of the church, but about His Second Coming to earth. But the point of being prepared and ready for His coming at the Rapture is applicable.
  1. The Parable of the Two Servants – Matt. 24:45-51— This parable emphasizes the need for servants to work diligently while the master is away, as there will be a time of rewarding when He returns. The parable focuses on two servants who have responsibilities committed to them. Neither knows when the master will be returning. The first servant faithfully, wisely labors for the master and will be greatly rewarded at the master’s return. The Bible clearly teaches that rewarding is connected with the Lord’s return (Rev. 22:12). For church age believers, their time of evaluation is at the Rapture.  O.T. saints and Tribulation saints are rewarded at the Second Coming (Matt. 16:27). In the parable, the second slave assumed the master would not return for quite a while, and without the restraining influence of the master’s return, he behaved badly. As a result, he will be dealt with harshly, being put in a place of great suffering. There is a similar fate that the third servant in the fifth parable experiences. The meaning of these unfaithful servants being put in a place of “outer darkness” where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth” will be discussed in the fifth parable. But Jesus’ point here is that people will be held accountable at His return and will be dealt with in rewarding or discipline.

Jesus’ Application of the “Olivet Discourse”

The Lord Jesus seems to have had concerns about the disciples’ response to His prophetic message. At the beginning of His message, He had warned them about the real possibility of being deceived by those with false teaching and false claims. And it will take wise, diligent living to not get caught in their traps. In contrast, the prophetic truth given by the Lord was to generate certain positive responses. Here are several of them.

  1. We are to be actively watching for His coming. The danger for believers is that we become so absorbed in “living” in the here and now, that His coming is not seen as imminent and relevant. This was true of the people of Noah’s day. They were so completely absorbed in the pursuits of life that they paid no attention to the solemn warnings given by Noah. The Flood totally surprised them. To counter this, we ought to periodically read good books and Scripture passages on biblical prophecy. This will help keep fresh the truth of His coming for us at the Rapture. And it will help us be discerning when it comes to the claims and teachings of some prophetic teachers.
  1. We are to be actively preparing for His coming. From the parables of the homeowner and the two servants, Jesus’ point is clear…be prepared for His return. First, this means that we are personally prepared, having a personal relationship with King Jesus and that it is a healthy relationship. If we are unsure about our salvation, then we need to become sure of it by simply putting our trust for salvation in the God-man Jesus who paid for all our sins on the cross and rose victorious over sin and death (John 3:16; 5:24). And then, we need to keep on confessing sin (1 John 1:9) to have a healthy relationship with Him. And second, we actively prepare for His coming by working daily for Him. The wise servant sought ways to serve and honor his master. And as long as we have breath, we are to do the same. We ought to daily be asking for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, that He would lead us to opportunities to serve the Savior. We have natural and spiritual gifts; resources of various kinds and we have people in our sphere of life that we can bless. Remember that God does not call us to retirement nor does He require that we be famous. We are simply to be faithful to Him, and live in obedience to Him.
  1. We are to be actively trusting His promises. In this discourse, Jesus uttered that familiar statement, namely that “heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away” (Matt. 24:35). He said He will return and He said that all these things are going to take place exactly as He said. In our current spiritual climate, too many pastors and churches are diminishing the Word of God, leading people to doubt the authority and inerrancy of the Bible. The Devil has always used this tactic since the Garden of Eden, casting doubt on that which God has said. We are to remind ourselves, and one another, that what Jesus has said will come to pass, to the very last detail. He shall return in power and glory.

(NOTE: The final three parables connected with the Olivet Discourse will be studied in next month’s article)