Notes on the Olivet Discourse - Part 3

J. M. Davies, Canada

Part 3 of 3 of the series Notes on the Olivet Discourse

“The end of the world (age)”.

Similar expressions are found in Matthew 13. 40, 49. It will be the time of the harvest, the night of threshing and winnowing, Ruth 3, the time when the harvest of the earth will be ripe for judgment and reaped. It will also be the time when the vine of the earth will be gathered and cast into the great winepress of the wrath of God, Rev. 14. 14-20. It coincides with the seventieth week of Daniel’s prophecy, Dan. 9. 27, with an emphasis on the second half, spoken of by Daniel as “the last end of the indignation”, 8. 19, namely the end of the indignation against Israel.

In the light of this it is evident that the prophecy relates to a time yet future, though from the parable of the fig tree putting forth its leaves it is also evident “that it is near, even at the doors”, Matt. 24. 33. From the time when the city and the temple were destroyed and the nation dispersed until about the turn of the century the Jews showed no desire to return to Palestine. During all these centuries the fig tree was barren of leaves. But the last half century has witnessed the tree putting forth its leaves in an abundant measure. Israel and the Middle East represent one of the major and thorniest problems with which the United Nations has to cope.

A consideration of the discourse as recorded by Matthew and Mark reveals that the Lord confirms the prophecy of Daniel regarding the seventy-week period marked out for the fulfilment of God’s purpose for Israel. Matthew 24. 4-10 gives the general characteristics of the seventieth week, although these features are not entirely limited to that period. They have to some extent and in some degree been prevalent throughout the whole time while “blindness in part is happened to Israel”, Rom. 11. 25. This is implicit in the statement of Daniel 9. 26, “unto the end, war - the desolations determined”, J. N. D. “All that had characterised this age gathers into awful intensity at the end” (New Scofield Bible).

In the book of the Revelation, we have an expansion of the prophecy of this discourse, and students of the prophetic word have discerned a parallel between Matthew 24 and the six seals of Revelation 6. In Matthew 24 we have a brief but very condensed statement outlining the terrible conditions depicted by the Lord. Put alongside the six seals of Revelation 6 in a tabulated form, we may more easily trace the parallel.

 

v. 5, a false Messiah, a deceiver.

This corresponds to what is to take place when the first seal is broken. The rider on the white horse conquers by deceit.

v. 6, international tension, wars and distress of nations.

When the second seal is broken, the rider on the red horse takes peace from the earth.

v. 7, famine.

This follows the opening of the third seal, a universal food scarcity.

v.7, pestilence.

When the fourth seal is opened, the name of the rider is death. He rides a pale horse, and hell followed.

v. 9, persecution.

The fifth seal reveals the souls of those slain for the Word of God.

vv. 29-30, the terrestrial and celestial signs, followed by the sign of the Son of man.

The sixth seal, the earthquakes, and the sun becoming black, and the moon as blood. The seal ushers in “the great day of his wrath”, the second half of the 70th week.

 

The judgments of the seventieth week will be global in their character; they will not be limited to Israel. The period is referred to as “the hour of trial which is about to come upon the whole habitable world to try them that dwell upon the earth”, Rev. 3. 10 J.N.D. The expression “them that dwell upon the earth” is found six times in Revelation, and seems to denote, not merely the inhabitants of the world, but those whose sole interest and treasure is on earth; they “mind earthly things”, having no interest in that which is eternal. They are represented by the materialists and the communists with their ideologies and philosophies. They are clearly typified by the generations which lived in the days of Noah and Lot. Matthew 24. 38 and Luke 17. 27-30 show that they were completely immersed in their worldly pursuits and pleasures; God was not in all their thoughts. The references to them in Revelation show that they will be responsible for the martyrdom of those whose souls are seen under the altar, 6. 9-10; they will be the victims of the scourge of the two witnesses, 11. 10; and they will worship the beast and be thoroughly deceived by the miracles performed by the false prophet, 13. 8, 14.

The “great tribulation”,

Matt. 24. 21. In His answer to the disciples’ first question, “when shall these things be?”, v. 3, the Lord gave a very definite sign as to the time of its fulfilment, namely “when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed about with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh”, Luke 21. 20. Similarly when speaking prior to the parable of the fig tree, He said, “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh”, v. 28. And again, “when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand”, v. 31. Likewise the Lord pin-points the commencement and describes the course and consummation of the second half of Daniel’s seventieth week. Certain words are used which clearly indicate the sequence of events.

1. “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, . . . Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains”, Matt. 24. 15-16. As already stated, the conditions which prevailed during the siege and destruction of Jerusalem will be duplicated, only on a much larger scale; just as the furnace was heated seven times hotter than usual in the days of Nebuchadnezzar, so the Jewish people will be called upon to pass through unparallelled suffering in that time of great tribulation in which the whole world will be engulfed.

2. “Then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be”, v. 21. The judgments of God at that time will be so severe that unless the days were shortened, no flesh would be saved. A fuller revelation of this climactic period is given in Revelation chapters 8-19.

3. “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, . . .”, v. 29.

4. “And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory”, v. 30.

5. “And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other”, v. 31. The prophet Ezekiel had prophesied that the remnant would be scattered to “all the winds”, Ezek. 5. 10. The words of the Lord anticipate the fulfilment of the prophecy of Moses, “If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the Lord thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee”, Deut. 30. 4. The gathering will be that of the remnant according to the election of grace, the outcasts of Israel gathered to meet their Messiah in the land. It does not refer to the gathering of the saints to meet the Lord in the air.

The Kingdom.

In the discourse, there are two references to the kingdom: “this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations”, Matt. 24. 14; “when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand”, Luke 21. 31. With these references, the words “your redemption draweth nigh”, v. 28, should be bracketed. Since the prophecies of Daniel are interwoven into the discourse, the references to the kingdom must be interpreted as referring to the kingdom spoken of in Daniel. The Stone falling on the toes of the image and filling the whole earth envisages an earthly kingdom, Dan. 2. 34-35, 44-45. It is the kingdom which is the subject of the petition, “ Thy kingdom come”, Matt. 6. 10. In the vision of the world empires given to Daniel, he “saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, . . . And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him . . . and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed”, Dan. 7. 13-14. The Olivet discourse tells of the establishment of this kingdom, the Messianic kingdom, when He shall be “the governor among the nations”, Ps. 22. 28. The “gospel of the kingdom” relates to the proclamation that the establishment of the kingdom is nigh at hand. Then Israel will be avenged of her enemies by her Kinsman-Redeemer: “There shall come out of Zion the deliverer”, and Jerusalem will be delivered.