Last Updated on : November 23, 2014
The Olivet Prophecy
The Lord had made certain statements to the Pharisees and to his own Apostles that had puzzled the latter exceedingly. To the former he had declared: "Your house is left unto you desolate, for you shall not see me until you shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord" (Matt. 23:38), and to the latter he had predicted, "There shall not be left one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down" (Matt. 24:2). The Apostles found this very difficult to fit into their understanding of future events, for they were convinced that "the Kingdom of God should immediately appear" (Luke 19:11). All this formed the background upon which they asked three questions of the Lord, which resulted in him outlining to them the course of future events relating to Jerusalem, in what is known as the Olivet Prophecy. It is recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and in order to grasp it properly, it is necessary to synchronize all three accounts. When that is done, a remarkable prophecy emerges. Unfortunately, in attempting to interpret this prophecy, many take verses out of their context, or fail to synchronize them with the other accounts, and, in consequence, fail to properly comprehend the scope of the prophecy and its true significance. In our outline of it, we have harmonized the three accounts, indicating in brackets, where the various words and phrases occur. It will be seen that each account supplements the others and the true interpretation of the prophecy depends upon viewing it in its complete form. It will be found profitable to link the three accounts together as one in your Bible, by indicating any missing words in the margin.
The Apostles' Questions
In puzzled silence the Apostles followed the Lord down the steep valley of Kedron, and up its other side to where, in the evening dusk, the dark mass of the Mount of Olives stood above Jerusalem.
It was nearing evening time when the Lord left the Temple, probably close to six o'clock. According to Jewish reckoning, Monday, 12th of Abib, merged in to Tuesday, 13th Abib, about that time, for they count the evening as the beginning of the day (Gen. 1).
As the Lord was crucified on 14th Abib, only a few hours remained before this tragic event would take place.
The Apostles, however, were in complete ignorance of that.
They confidently believed that Jesus would soon proclaim himself as King. Their minds were absorbed with prospects of glory, and they refused to heed his constant warnings of impending trial, mocking, disgrace, death and shame.
Therefore, some things he said puzzled them greatly.
For example, what did he mean when he declared to the Pharisees: "Your house is left unto you desolate, for you shall not see me henceforth, till you shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord" (Matt. 23:39)? They knew that all Jewry would be repeating those very words when they celebrated the Passover, a few hours hence. Did the Lord mean that he would proclaim himself king in the next few hours, and proceed to restore the kingdom of Israel?
It was a most exciting thought; their hearts leaped at the idea.
But then what did he mean when he declared of the stones on the Temple: "There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down" (Matt. 24:2)?
It was all very puzzling; they could make nothing of it! For the moment, however, they pondered the problem in silence as the shadows of evening lengthened, and they followed the Lord up the slope that led to Olivet.
The Three Questions
At last they reached the peak of the Mount, and at a convenient spot they sat down to look back over the city.
It being Passover time, multitudes had flocked into the city, occupying all available accommodation, and many camped out on the slopes of Olivet and elsewhere where there was room.
The Lord with his Apostles were but one small group in hundreds thus gathered together.
The moon rose high in the sky, and shone down upon guilty Jerusalem. It bathed the city in a soft, silvery light that hid from view its wickedness, and served to emphasize its beauty, glory and dignity.
It was a city in which the people could take pleasure.
The Apostles sat there for a time in silence, taking the scene in before them, and meditating upon the dramatic events and discourses of the day. Their minds ranged over all that the Lord had said, and particularly that which he had proclaimed in relation to the people, Temple and city of Jerusalem,
At last Peter, James, John and Andrew determined to satisfy their curiosity by enquiring directly of the Lord as to what he meant.
They approached him on their own, and asked three questions:
"Tell us, When shall these things be?"
"What shall be the sign of thy coming?"
"What shall be sign of the end of the world?"
Let us first consider what the Apostles meant by these questions, before examining the Lord's answer.
To properly understand the significance of their questions, and the Olivet Prophecy generally, it is necessary to recognize that when the Apostles spake of the Lord's coming, they did not have in mind his second advent and return from heaven.
In fact, at that stage of their spiritual development and understanding, they knew nothing of the second coming of the Lord!
They did not realize that the Lord must first ascend into heaven before he would return to set up the Kingdom on earth.
They thought that "the kingdom of God would immediately appear" (see Luke 19:11), and all their thoughts and words were coloured by that firm conviction. Nothing that the Lord had said had changed their belief in that regard, so that when he spoke of his impending death they refused to believe it, or interpreted it as a figurative death.
Even after he had been raised from the dead, they still believed he would then, at that time, restore the Kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6).
What then did they mean by the use of the word "coming"?
The word in the Greek is parousia, and literally signifies "presence," and not the act of moving from one place to another. The word for "coming" in the sense of moving from one point to another is erchomai, as used in Acts 1:11 : "This same Jesus shall so come as ye have seen him go."
However, it is obvious that the disciples did not have "presence" in their mind when they approached Jesus with their question, for he was then present with them, and they needed no sign of the fact.
What then did they mean?
We learn from Greek scholars, that the word parousia had a far greater significance than mere "presence," and one which illustrates why this word was used, and what was meant by it. Commenting upon the word, Moulton and Milligan's Vocabulary Of The New Testament declares:
"What more especially concerns us in connection with the NT usage of Parousia is the quasi-technical force of the word from Ptolemaic times on wards to denote the 'visit' of a King, Emperor, or other person in authority, the official character of the "visit" being further emphasized by the taxes or payments that were exacted to make preparations for it . . . . Wilcken in "Archiv v.p. 284 notes a late papyrus which shows that Christians of vi/A.D. were conscious of the technical meaning of the word . . ."
That the Apostles understood this word in that way is suggested by Peter's use of it in 2 Peter 1:16:
"We have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming (parousia) of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty."
Here Peter links the parousia (presence) of the Lord with his majesty, suggesting that he used the word in the sense indicated above. Peter was referring to the transformation of the Lord, when he appeared unto the specially selected Apostles in glory. This, according to Peter, was the Lord's "parousia," indicating that he used the word not merely in the sense of "presence," but in the sense of the Lord's "presence" in authority and power.
When on the Mount of Olives, therefore, they asked Jesus: "What shall be the sign of thy coming (parousia)?" they meant: "What shall be the sign when you will reveal your presence as Messiah and King?"
Again, it should be noted that when the Apostles spake of the "end of the world" (as their question is recorded in the Authorised Version), they had in mind the end of the "age" (as the word aion should be rendered), and to them the end of the age would be the cessation of the Mosaic order of things, and the introduction of the Messianic.
The subsequent words of Christ have been misunderstood because these facts have not been appreciated and applied in regard to the questions of the Apostles.
FIRST QUESTION ANSWERED: THE END OF THE AGE
In answer to the three questions submitted to him by the four Apostles, the Lord delivered to them what is known as the Olivet Prophecy. This can be divided into three sections, providing answers to the three questions.
The first sections deals with the question relating to the sign of the end of the Age. The Age, in question, was the Mosaic Age, which came to an end in A.D. 70 with the final destruction of the Temple. It will be seen that all of the Olivet Prophecy in this section was fulfilled in the age of the Apostles to A.D.70. It is important to notice this, for so often these words are applied to contemporary events. They can only do so typically, for the literal fulfillment of these words took place prior to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D.70.
False Christs Are Not The Sign
"Take heed that no man deceive you; for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ (Mt. Mk. Lk.), and the time draweth near (Lk.), and shall deceive many (Mt., Mk.). Go you not therefore after them (Lk.).
The fulfillment of this first section of the prophecy is a matter of Ecclesial and Jewish history. False doctrine was proclaimed in the name of Christ (2 Cor. 11:4), whilst the general expectancy of Messiah which was widespread throughout Jewry at the time, led to many false claims of national Saviours (Acts 5:37-38; Acts 8:9 10; 2 John 7).
The rise of both false doctrine and false claims of Messiahship became a notable sign of the end of the Mosaic age (Luke 21:8; 1 John 2:18).
National Upheavals Are Not The Sign
"And you shall hear of wars and rumours of wars; see that you be not troubled; for all these things must come to pass first; but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there shall be famines and pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places (Mt., Mk., Lk.), and fearful sights and great signs from heaven (Lk.). All these are the beginnings of sorrows (Mt., Mk.).
The prophecy was delivered in the time of Tiberius. His reign was followed by those of Gaius, Claudius and Nero, and they were noted for growing crises in Jewry. The two former threatened to punish Judea; the latter initiated the war which finally overwhelmed the nation.
It was also a period of unsettled conditions and civil war in Jewry itself, and among the surrounding nations (Acts 12:20), and of wide spread pestilence and famine, as mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 11:28; 1 Cor. 16:1-3).
Persecutions Are Not The Sign
"But take heed to yourselves (Mk.), for before all these, they shall lay their hands on you and persecute you (Lk.), delivering you up (Mk., Lk.) to councils (Mk.), and in the synagogues (Mk., Lk.) you shall be beaten (Mk.), and you shall be delivered up into prisons (Lk.), being brought before kings and rulers for my name's sake (Mk., Lk.) for a testimony against them (Mk., Lk.); for the gospel must first be published among all nations (Mk.). But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up (Mk.), take no thought beforehand what you shall speak, neither do you premeditate what you shall answer (Mk., Lk.), but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak you, for it is not you that speak, but the Holy Spirit (Mk.), for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist (Lk.).
"Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shalt rise up against their parents (Mk.), and you shalt be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfotks, and friends (Lk.), and they shall deliver you up to be afflicted (Mt.), and shall kill you; and you shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake (Mt., Mk., Lk.). But there shall not a hair of your head perish (Lk.).
The Acts of the Apostles describes the fulfillment of these words of the Lord Jesus, for it records the terrible persecution experienced by the early ecclesias. The "end" in question, was the end of the Mosaic age, which brought a measure of relief to the persecution endured by believers at the hands of the Jews, and they were the worst offenders in that regard (1 Thess. 2:14-16). This was that period of time referred to in Hebrews 9:26: "Now, once in the end of the world (age) hath he (Jesus) appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself."
In Hebrews 1:2, the Apostle described the same period of time as "these last days." They finally came to their end in A.D. 70 when the Romans destroyed the Jewish State, and one of the chief signs heralding it, and which made it inevitable, was the severe persecution that Christians received at the hands of their Jewish tormentors.
Christ's words, therefore, had application to those days, and not to today. The conditions existing then were different to those of today. The Apostles had the power of the Holy Spirit, and when they were hailed before the Authorities they spake as the Spirit gave them utterance (e.g. Acts 7). We have not that power today. Notice how Luke very carefully establishes the time sequence: "Before those things (the national upheavals previously referred to) they shall lay hands on you . . ." (Luke 21:12).
Exhortation: The Need For Faith, Fortitude, Fearlessness
"And then shall many be offended and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many, and because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold (Matt.). In your patience possess you your souls (Lk). But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved (Mt., Mk.).
In view of these words of the Lord Jesus, the warning of John is of great significance: "Little children, it is the last time: and as you have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists, whereby we know that it is the last time" (1 John 2:18). "Many false prophets are gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1). John's words show that the time of the end referred to by the Lord Jesus related to the end of the Mosaic Age, and not to present times.
After The Gospel Is Preached The End Will Come.
"And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come" (Mt. 24:14).
The context in which this verse is placed shows beyond all doubt that the Lord Jesus was referring to the preaching of the Gospel by the Apostles and their immediate associates, and not to these present times. The Apostle Paul seems to be making reference to this prophecy when he stated: "The gospel . . . was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister" (Col. 1:23).
The word in the Greek New Testament, which is translated "world" is oikoumenee, and signifies "the habitable," and not the world at large. It is the same word used in Luke 2:1 to describe those provinces brought under the decree of Augustus to be taxed. This did not incorporate the whole world as we know it today, or even then, but only the "habitable" then governed by the Roman Emperor.
This concluded the Lord's answer to the first question as to "When shall the end come." He warned the Apostles that they would suffer terrible affliction, and many Christians would be put to death, but not until the Gospel had been preached in the habitable, would the end come.
2nd QUESTION ANSWERED: THE SIGN OF THE PAROUSIA
The Roman Siege Of Jerusalem
"When you therefore shall see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet standing (Mt., Mk.) where it ought not (Mk.) in the holy place (Mt.) whoso reads, let him understand (Mt., Lk.).
"When you shall see Jerusalem compassed with annies, then know that the desolation thereof is near (Lk.).
"Then let them which be in Judea flee into the, mountains (Mt., Mk., Lk.); let him which is on the housetop not come down to take anything out of his house; neither let him which in the field return back to take his clothes (Mt., Mk.); and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries, enter thereinto. For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled (Lk.).
"But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! (Mt., Mk., Lk.). And pray that your flight be not in winter (Mt., Mk.), neither on the sabbath day (Mt.). For then shall be great tribulation such as was not since (Mt., Mk.) the beginning of the world (Mt.), from the beginning of the creation which God created (Mk.), to this time, no, nor ever shall be (Mt., Mk.). For there shall be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people (Lk.). And except those days should be shortened there should be no flesh saved: but for the elect's sake (Mt., Mk.) whom he hath chosen (Mk.) those days shall be shortened (Mt., Mk.).
When the three accounts are placed together as they are above, it is obvious that all those things referred to by Jesus in the verses quoted, were fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D.70. He urged his disciples to "understand the words of Daniel the prophet," so that they might be fore armed against the troubles that would come upon that generation.
The "abomination of desolation standing in the holy place," obviously refers to the Romans occupying the holy land, invading it with the objective of besieging Jerusalem. In fact, the words recorded by Luke: "Ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies" was evidently in explanation of the words previously used. The following might well be a reconstruction of the conversation of the Lord with his disciples at that time:
"When you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet stand in the holy place (when you read, this see that you understand it) . . ."
"We do not understand it, Master! What does Daniel refer to?"
"When you shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh."
It is obvious, by the setting in which it is found, that the comment recorded by Luke was in explanation of Jesus' reference to the prophecy of Daniel. And that we have correctly placed the comment is established because the very next words of the Lord: "Then let them which are in Judea flee to the mountains" is recorded by all three Gospel writers. Matthew and Mark give that comment as contingent upon the "abomination of desolation standing in the holy place where it ought not," and Luke gives it as contingent upon "Jerusalem being compassed with armies," showing that the latter is explanatory of the former.
Some wonder why Jesus urged his disciples to pray that their flight be "not on the: sabbath day." Seventh Day Adventists maintain that it was because the Lord endorsed the Law of the Sabbath. But that is not so. He did not endorse that Law. As Paul taught, believers are freed from the curse of the Law, and should not now be judged in such matters as the Sabbath (Rom. 14:5; Col. 2:16-17).
What then, was the Lord referring to?
The answer is found in Nehemiah 13:19. When Nehemiah learned that the Sabbath was being desecrated, he ordered that the gates of Jerusalem be closed until the day was over. This became a law of the city, and continued until the time of Jesus. It would be both difficult and dangerous for Christians to try to flee from the city with the gates closed against them, for to do so would be to defy the established law of the city and that would excite the hostility of the people to a dangerous extent.
Jesus instructed that when his followers should see the Roman army arraigned against Jerusalem, they should flee into the mountains. His words imply that there would be opportunity for them to do so, and this proved to be the case.
The initial attack and siege of the Romans took place at the commencement of October 66, when the weather was yet mild and favourable for travel. The final siege, if any Christians lingered on until then, took place in the still more favourable months of April and May.
Jerusalem was first besieged by Cestius Gallus, the Roman president of Syria, in A.D.66, but he withdrew amid successful assaults by pursuing Jews, who were thus hardened in their resolve to stand firm against Rome. But this initial attack and withdrawal provided a salutary warning to believing Christians. They recalled the words of the Master, and took the opportunity of fleeing the doomed city, finding refuge in Pella on the eastern side of the River Jordan.
Meanwhile, Vespasian was deputed in the room of Cestius. He subdued the country, and prepared to besiege the city. But the death of Nero, then Galba who had succeeded Nero, as well as the disturbance that followed, which included civil war between Otho and Vitellius, held Vespasian and his son Titus in suspense. Thus the city was not actually besieged until Vespasian was made Emperor and the command of the invading army placed in the hands of Titus, who brought the city to ruin. This delay again provided the Christians with the opportunity to escape, which they seized.
Jesus declared that the resultant tribulation on the city of Jerusalem would exceed anything before or after: "from the beginning of the world, to this time, no, nor ever shall be" (Matthew 24:21).
But did the tribulation of A.D. 70 exceed that of the Flood, for example?
The answer is: It did not.
Was Jesus wrong in his statement?
By no means. The word here translated "world" is kosmos, and it signifies the established order of things.. Jesus was referring to the Jewish kosmos or order, and, certainly, the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D.70 was the greatest disaster ever to befall the nation and city, exceeding anything before or since. For whilst Jerusalem will suffer greatly when taken by Gog (Zech. 14:1), it will be delivered to rise to a greatness never before experienced.
In Mark's account, however, Jesus is represented as saying that the affliction will be greater than that "from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be" (Mark 13:19). Here, again, the word should not be interpreted to represent what we style creation, namely, that of Genesis 1. The Greek word ktisis was used by the Greeks to define the founding of a city or state as well as to natural creation, and obviously refers to the creation of the Jewish State, which was an act of God. The same word, here translated "creation," is rendered "building" in Hebrews 9:11, and there referred to the Mosaic order of things.
Thus the interpretation of words reconciles what might be otherwise thought a contradiction, and illustrates the true significance of Christ's teaching.
An Initial Parousia
"Then, if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not for there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; in so much that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have foretold you all things (Mt., Mk.). "Wherefore, if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth. Behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. For as lightning cometh out of the east and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming (parousia) of the Son of man be. For wheresoever the carcase is there will the eagles be gathered together (Mt.).
"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 (Lk. 21:24)."
What was the "coming" or parousia of the Son of Man recorded by Matthew in his account of the Lord's discourse?
It was his manifestation in power and authority through the out pouring of Divine judgment upon guilty Judea in the Roman invasion and siege of Jerusalem in A.D.70.
Earlier, Jesus had told the Jewish leaders that "the king would send forth his armies, and destroy those murderers, and burn up their city" (Matt. 22:7). As "all power in heaven and in earth" had been given into the hands of the Lord Jesus when he ascended into heaven (Matt. 28:18), the Roman armies were performing his bidding when they marched against Jerusalem (see Deut. 28:49). Later on, in anticipation of the fulfillment of these words of Christ, James, his brother, wrote: "Be patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming (parousia) of the Lord draweth nigh" (James 5:8). That would not have been true if James was referring to the impending return of the Lord in our day, but it was true of the then impending outpouring of Divine judgment in A.D. 70, which would prevent the Jewish authorities from persecuting the Christians any further.
And that was what James was writing about.
In an earlier verse, writing to those Jewish leaders (James 5:6) who had persecuted the believers, he declared: "Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you. Be patient there fore, brethren, unto the coming (parousia) of the Lord . . ."
James therefore expected that those to whom he was writing would remain until the parousia of Christ would be manifested in the Divine judgment that would be poured out upon persecuting Jewry!
Did James make a mistake? By no means, for he wrote by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. He made no mistake, and nor did Jesus when he declared that the gathering of the Roman eagles (the symbol of the Roman army was a flying eagle) against the dead carcase of Jewry would be a manifestation of his parousia, or presence in authority.
The Lord's presence was in the judgments poured out upon Jerusalem in A.D.70, and they comprised a token of the authority and power then vested in him.
It is significant that Luke, who wrote for Gentile believers, omitted in his account much that would be of interest mainly to Jewish believers, and set down in more easily understood language those portions of the Lord's discourse as would be appropriate; for those for whom he was writing.
3rd ANSWER: THE SIGN WHEN ALL THINGS WILL BE FULFILLED
The Sign In Heaven
"Immediately after the tribulation of those days (Mt., Mk.), there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars (Lk.). The sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven (Mt., Mk.). Upon the earth there shall be 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 upon the earth (Lk.), for the powers of heaven shall he shaken (Mt., Mk., Lk.), and then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven; and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn (Mt.). And they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory (Mt., Mk., Lk.).
"And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up and lift up your heads for your redemption draweth nigh (Lk. 21:28)."
Once again, the harmonizing of these three accounts together, helps to correctly interpret them as far as the time sequence is concerned. For example, the words of Matthew 24:29: "Immediately (or 'suddenly' as the word can be rendered) after the tribulation of those days, the sun shall be darkened." etc., must be placed between the words of Luke, "Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled" (Luke 21:24), and "there shall be signs in the sun, etc." (Luke 21:25).
Luke's account, therefore, provides a bridge between the events of the first advent (Matt. 24:28), and those of the second advent (Matt. 24:29).
But why should we say that they "must" be placed in the order in which we have set them? Because of the connecting link contained in the accounts of both Matthew and Luke: "There shall be signs in the sun," etc.
The great sign of the end, therefore becomes the deliverance of Jerusalem, and it is of the greatest significance, and excitement, that we are living in times that have seen the gradual release of that city from the power of the oppressor.
What is meant by "the sign of the Son of Man in heaven"? The context provides the answer. Sun, moon and stars are all heavenly bodies, used symbolically in these verses for the ruling powers of the nations. The sign of the Son of Man in heaven is the elevation of the Lord Jesus to the place of authority and power among the nations, from whence these have been ejected (Rev. 4:1). When the Lord returns, and is associated with his saints in glory, the world will witness the Kingdom of God again set up in its little stone phase (Dan. 2), destined to become a mountain filling the whole earth. That initial manifestation of the Kingdom of God is the sign of the Son of Man in heaven, the "third heaven" of Divine power. It will be a warning to all the world that Gentile power must submit to that of the rule of God; and as it will occur at a time when the nations are involved in war, and Armageddon is in process of development, "the tribes of the earth shall mourn."
The Lord will be seen "coming" (and here the word is erchomai) in the clouds of heaven, or glorified saints (Heb. 12: 1), with power and great glory, to take up his position as King in the rescued city of Jerusalem. It was for that time and event that the Apostles were waiting, but even though the Lord clearly revealed to them in this prophecy that a long epoch of time must elapse before it would come to pass, they did not understand.
However, the exhortation of the Lord comes down to us who are living at these times. He declared: "When these things begin to come to pass, look up for your redemption draweth nigh." The things to which he was referring relate to the "signs in the sun, moon and stars," the portents among the nations, clearly discernable today, by which it is apparent that the world is facing the greatest political crisis of all time.
Ultimate Restoration of Israel
"And he shall send his angels (Mt., Mk.) with a great sound of a trumpet (Mt.), and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other (Mt., Mk.).
These words do not relate to the judgment of the household, as so many believe, but to the ultimate restoration of all the tribes of Israel, after the Lord has returned in glory. He will first manifest himself to his own people, his Temple (Mal. 3:1), and their judgment will precede that of the nations (1 Pet. 4:17). After wards he will manifest himself at Armageddon, and then gather Israel as the elect nation from all parts of the earth, to inherit the Land.
In this section of the Olivet Prophecy, the Lord is quoting from Deuteronomy 30:4:
"If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will Yahweh gather thee, and from thence will He fetch thee . . ."
Concluding Parable And Exhortation
"Now learn a parable of the fig tree (Mt., Mk.); behold the fig tree and all the trees (Lk). When his branch is yet tender (Mt., Mk.), and they shoot forth (Lk.), ye see and know (Mt., Mk., Lk.), of your own selves (Lk. 21:30) that summer is nigh. So likewise when you see all these things (Mt., Mk., Lk.) come to pass (Mk., Lk.), know that (Mt., Mk., Lk.) the kingdom of God (Lk.) is nigh (Mt., Mk., Lk.) even at doors (Mt., Mk.).
"I say unto you truly, that this generation shall not pass, until all these things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away (Mt., Mk., Lk.). But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no not the angels of heaven (Mt., Mk.) neither the Son (Mk.) but the Father only (Mt., Mk.).
"Take heed, watch and pray: for you do not know when the time is (Mk)."
This completed the Olivet Prophecy. In these last words, the Lord explained that the great sign of the culmination of the Divine purpose would be the budding of the fig tree. The fig tree symbolised Israel (see Joel 1:7). But, in addition to the fig tree, the Lord declared that "all the trees" would shoot forth, to indicate the approach of harvest time.
Such signs are manifest in the earth today, testifying that the world exists in the very shadow of Christ's second coming.
He declared that the Divine purpose wouId be completed within the period of a generation from the manifestation of the sign of the fig tree. A generation, in point of time, is 40 years, and there seems some link between the Lord's words, and those spoken by Micah: "According to the days of thy coming out of the land of Egypt will I shew unto him marvellous things . . ." (Micah 7:15).
Forty years were occupied in drawing Israel out of Egypt, and it seems that forty years will be occupied by the Lord Jesus in re-establishing Israel and in reforming the world politically after he has manifested himself at Armageddon.
It is significant that almost forty years were occupied from the time he was crucified until the over throw of the Jewish State in A.D. 70; and that a further forty years will be occupied at his return, in the restoration of Israel and the subjugation of the nations.
His words, therefore, could have a double application.
Forty is the number of probation, and in the first century Jewry was on probation for that period of time; whilst at his second advent, the world at large will be on probation.
He declared that "heaven and earth" shall pass away, but his words would be fulfilled. What did he mean?
Certainly he did not teach that the literal heaven and earth would be destroyed, for Scripture declares that the earth "abides for ever" (Eccles. 1:4). The terms "heaven and earth," however, are used symbolically in Scripture for the nation of Israel, both as regards its political organisation (its "heaven") and the people who were ruled (the "earth"). See Deut. 32:1-2; Isaiah 1:2, 10; 65: 17-18). Jesus warned the dis ciples that the nation of Israel would be completely overthrown, but his words would not fail. The Jewish heavens and earth were brought to an end in A.D.70, but he will return to restore them again (Isa. 65:17-18) and then "shall be seen the sign of the Son of Man in heaven."
Meanwhile, believers in every age must observe, and put into practise, the warning exhortation of the Lord:
"Watch and pray: for you know not when the time is."
The word translated "watch," signifies to keep awake. The Lord would have us awake and watchful in regard to the signs of the times, in order that full preparation might be made for his return. The signs, today, show that is near at hand.