OLIVET DISCOURSE, THE (ahl' ih veht) Jesus' major sermon preached on the Mount of Olives; Jesus gave instructions concerning the end of the age and the destruction of Jerusalem. The discourse (Matthew 24-25; Mark 13:1), is in part an apocalypse because it uses symbolic, visionary language that makes it a difficult passage to understand. Parts of it appear scattered throughout Luke 12-21.
Meaning of the Signs (Matthew 24:4-8) The opening remarks warn against misplaced belief in deceptive signs which do not in any way signal the end of the world. These signs occurred in Jesus' day and preceded the destruction of Jerusalem, the event uppermost in Jesus' mind and for which He sought to prepare His disciples. They are still operative after two thousand years, a further indication that they do not herald the end time.
A Time of Persecution (Matthew 24:9-14) These verses suggest a time of severe distress. Many would say that the reference is to a period of ultimate suffering that is to take place just before the parousia (Christ's return or second coming; see Matthew 7:14). Jesus' assertion that the gospel must be preached worldwide seems to strengthen this view. “He that shall endure unto the end” (Matthew 24:13) could refer to the period immediately prior to the parousia. It could also pertain to the end of some other event such as the destruction of Jerusalem. Oppression of Christians and family betrayal were common. That Christians were despised and subjected to great suffering is an accurate description of the situation in Judea before the Jewish War, A.D. 66-70, when Titus destroyed the city.
The Abomination that Makes Desolate (Matthew 24:15-22) Extrabiblical histories describe the desecration of the Jerusalem Temple in 167 B.C. by Antiochus Epiphanes, who built an altar there to Zeus. That event is usually seen as having fulfilled Daniel's prophecy (Daniel 11:31). However, Jesus applied the prophecy to a future overthrow of Jerusalem by Titus' armies. The horror of this siege was unprecedented. Temple and city were utterly demolished. See Intertestamental History.
The Second Coming of Christ (Matthew 24:26-25:46) Jesus spoke in veiled language about His coming. Unnatural occurrences in the heavens were commonly used in apocalyptic writings to describe the indescribable, but also to deliberately screen from view those things meant to remain hidden. Much of God's plans are mystery, but Jesus disclosed enough. The coming of the Son of Man will be entirely public and completely unexpected. He will come in the clouds with great power (Acts 1:9-11). The sign of His parousia is obscure in its meaning. The sermon is interrupted by the statement, “This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled” (Matthew 24:34). Jesus was not confused or in error concerning these events. He referred to the destruction of Jerusalem which took place in that generation as a foretaste of the final coming. Concluding parables teach the necessity of remaining watchful. A description of final judgment ends the discourse. Its basic message is a call to be prepared when Jesus does return.
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.