THE BOOK OF REVELATION
THE CHURCH'S TRIUMPH THROUGH CHRIST
Sermon #17 - The Olivet Discourse - Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21; Revelation 6
A Supplement to Our Understanding the Book of Revelation
INTRODUCTION - We have been dealing with the interpretation of Revelation 6 and have said that it is impossible to clearly understand this passage without input from both Old and New Testaments. We are to look at the book of Revelation through early church eyes, for they could understand its message clearly and would have no problem with John's images. Revelation has taught us that the early church was a struggling church. Yet we have also seen that Christ has ascended to the throne to initiate His kingdom and the installation of the New Covenant. The Lord Jesus will send His disciples forth into the world to conquer in His name. As the new kingdom is established, there is one mandate which the King of kings must carry out - the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, along with the judgment upon the Jews. We saw last time how the Gospel of Matthew presents a progression of judgment, culminating in Matthew chapters 23 and 24. It is this judgment which we shall look at in Matthew 24, for it provides the key to the rest of the book of Revelation. (NOTE: Please refer to the added material entitled "The Olivet Discourse - Paralleled in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Revelation").
1) THE CONDEMNATION OF CHRIST'S GENERATION AND THE LAMENT OVER JERUSALEM - Matthew 23:34-39 - In Matthew 23, Christ continually curses and condemns the Jews for their rejection of the prophets and Himself as the Messiah. The denunciations end with the Lord telling them that their house is left to them desolate. All the blood of the righteous who have been slain since the time of Abel will be upon the heads of Christ's present generation, for they have committed the greatest sin of all - the rejection and murder of the Messiah. This would be the greatest rebellion ever committed by the Jewish nation and so it incurs the greatest wrath. The proof of the rejection of Israel will come when their Temple and city are destroyed. No longer will the name of God be found in Jerusalem.
2) CHRIST'S PREDICTION THAT THE TEMPLE WILL BE DESTROYED - Matthew 24:1,2; Mark 13:1,2; Luke 21:5,6 - As Christ leaves the Temple, the disciples point out to Him the beauty and glory of the place. The Lord Jesus turns to them and predicts that the entire Temple structure will be demolished. This is the judgment which Christ will bring upon the Jewish nation which has rejected Him. Unfortunately, due to modern day interpretations, we have to ask here: which Temple is Jesus talking about? There are some who actually think that what He is saying here is still future from our own present day. They believe that He is talking about a Temple which is to be rebuilt sometime in our future, and will be demolished in our future. Yet the text does not support this explanation. The disciples are talking about the Temple in their own day, and Christ does not correct them if they are wrong. Obviously Jesus is referring to destruction of the Temple which they had just left. From Matthew 23 and 24 we realize that the Jewish generation of Christ's day will be judged, their house shall be overthrown, and it will take place when the Temple existing in that day is destroyed.
3) THE DISCIPLES' QUESTION TO CHRIST AT THE MOUNT OF OLIVES - Matthew 24:3; Mark 13:3,4; Luke 21:7 - The disciples have just boasted about the beauty of the Temple, but Christ turns around and says that all of this will be destroyed. It is very natural for them to ask, as they do, in Matthew 24:3 - "When is this going to happen?" We note from the parallel passage in Mark that it is Peter, James, John, and Andrew who come to Christ with this question. We will concentrate on Matthew's version of the question, for it basically parallels what is found in the other Gospels. Their question, as we shall see, is only one question, but it is "three-pronged" in the Gospel of Matthew. First, they ask:
A) "WHEN WILL THESE THINGS BE?" - Obviously they are asking about the destruction of the Temple, the judgment upon Israel, and the revenge for the blood of the Christian martyrs, which they heard Christ speaking about in Matthew 23 and 24. It is an important question, for the present Christian generation of their day will be a witness to all of those events. There will be many Christians living in Jerusalem before its fall, but they were told in advance what would happen, so that not one Christian would perish in the overthrow of Jerusalem. The words of Matthew 24 would be of great help to those Christians living in Jerusalem as the Roman armies approached to destroy the city. If they took the words of Matthew 24 seriously, they would be the first ones to leave Jerusalem before it was destroyed. History bears this out, for not one Christian perished, but escaped, before the city fell. The remaining Jews all perished.
B) "WHAT WILL BE THE SIGN OF YOUR COMING?" - This too is part of the disciples' question, but we have to be careful here in our interpretation. We bring our contemporary thinking to this passage and imagine that the disciples are talking about the second coming. Yet in the context of the passage, this is not what the disciple had in mind. They are concerned with Christ's judgment of Israel. They are asking about the sign of His coming to destroy the Temple, not the sign of His second coming. When one reads the Olivet Discourse, you see Christ warning them about those who will claim to be Christ in their day. Yet these men are not true. Instead, it is when they see Jerusalem surrounded by enemies that the true Christ has come to judge. When they see the fall of Jerusalem, then they will know that Christ has come. They are actually asking: "What will be the sign of Your coming to judge Israel?" This is what Christ will explain to them in the chapter.
C) "WHAT WILL BE THE SIGN OF THE END OF THE AGE?" - Again, we might be tempted to think that the disciples are concerned with the end of the world, but this is not the case. Those New Testament versions which translate "age" into "world" are incorrect. The word is "aeon", not "cosmos", and so should be translated "age". What are the disciples asking about? What age is ending here? They knew that if the Temple were destroyed, that if the kingdom were taken from the Jews, that if Israel is no longer the people of God, the Old Testament age was coming to an end. They knew the implications of the overthrow and rejection of Israel. They saw that the old age was passing away and a new one was dawning in which they would reign as kings and priests. They are not asking about the end of the world, but the end of the Old Testament age.
All three questions are actually the same question posed in three different ways - When will these things be? When will You come to carry these things out? and, When will You overturn the old age? Christ will therefore answer this question in Matthew 24.
9) THE TIMING OF ALL OF THESE EVENTS - "THIS GENERATION" - (Refer to Section #9 on the parallel passages) - Matthew 24:32-34; Mark 13:28-30; Luke 21:29-32 - The disciples ask - "When will these things be?" and Christ answers at the end of His discourse, "Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place" (Matthew 24:34). In other words, everything that is mentioned between Matthew 24:4 and verse 31 has taken place already during the time of the first century church. This naturally poses a great problem, since this section of Scripture speaks about - false christs abounding, wars, famines, earthquakes, Christian killed for their faith, a great apostasy where many will turn from the faith, the Gospel being preached to the entire world, the Great Tribulation taking place, Jerusalem and the Temple being destroyed, the sun is darkened, the moon is turned to blood, and the Son of Man will come on the clouds. Could all of this have taken place during the first century? This is what Christ is stating in Matthew 24:34! Some have tried to reinterpret what Christ is saying here by claiming that the word "generation" actually means "the entire race of the Jews throughout all of time." If we could translate the word this way, it would certainly put many of these events into the future, for we still have the Jewish race with us today, and so there is plenty of time to fulfill the events of Matthew 24. Yet there is only one problem with this interpretation - "generation" is never translated this way in the New Testament. (For those of you more vigorous in your Bible study, look up all these passages where the word "generation" is mentioned in the New Testament and see how it is used - Matthew 1:17; 11:16; 12:39; 12:41; 12:42; 12:45; 16:4; 17:17; 24:32-34; 23:36; 24:34; Mark 8:12; 8:38; 9:19; 13:30; Luke 1:48; 1:50; 7:31; 9:41; 11:29; 11:30; 11:31; 11:32; 11:50; 11:51; 16:8; 17:25; 21:32; Acts 2:40; 8:33; 13:36; 14:16; 15:21; Ephesians 3:5; 3:21; Philippians 2:15; Colossians 1:26; Hebrews 3:10). In each case you will find that it is never used to refer to an entire race of people, but that it always refers to a generation of people, all living at the same period of time. Therefore, Christ is not speaking about the Jewish race through all of time, rather, He is speaking of His own generation, those living in His own day. Christ's meaning of Matthew 24:34 is - "The generation of whom Christ is speaking of, the first century generation, would not pass away, until all the events, not one excluded, in Matthew 24:1-34 would take place." It is therefore up to us to try and show how every single event mentioned in this passage actually did in fact take place in the first century of the church. This shall be the aim of the next few sermons as we endeavor to understand the Olivet Discourse.