by Roger McCay
24 January 2021
Sermon Passage: Matthew 24:1-35
Link to Audio Version
There is quite a bit of confusion as to times and fulfilments of the last days given by Jesus. Lamenting this problem, pastor and author Sam Storms shares a 2010 advertisement, one reflecting and spreading such confusion.
The advertisement is seemingly ubiquitous. It has appeared in virtually every daily newspaper of every major city in the U.S. I most recently saw it in the Sports section of USA Today…. It is, if nothing else, bold and unequivocal in its prediction that Christ is Coming Very Soon! The article proceeds to identify “8 Compelling Reasons” why this is true.
In five of the eight “compelling reasons,” Matthew 24 and the Olivet Discourse of Jesus figure prominently…. For example, the increase of “famines, violence and wars” is allegedly a sign that the return of Christ is near (citing Matt. 24:6–8). The increase in earthquakes is also cited as an indication that the end is near (citing Matt. 24:7). The explosion of cults and counterfeit spirituality (Matt. 24:24), as well as the deceptive activity of Antichrist (Matt. 24:15) are all cited as infallible signs of the impending second coming.
We’ve all seen such things. There always seems to be someone pointing to this or that as a sign that Jesus is coming soon. The problem, however, is that Jesus did not speak of these things as signs to point to his second coming (his Parousia), at the end of time. Rather, they refer to events that occurred long ago, particularly from AD. 33 culminating in the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.
The sermons for today and next week are intended to provide a sketch of the vital aspects of Jesus’ prophecies, as given in The Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24, concerning what was to come and what is yet to come. I had meant to preach the whole discourse in one sermon, but due to time considerations, it seemed best to divide it into two. Also, note that Jesus’ discourse is recorded in Mark 13 and Luke 21, with some variations.
My hope is that this rundown of the discourse will provide the benefit of a basic biblical understanding of Jesus’ prophecy, arming you against false pronouncements and advertisements, like the example I gave a moment ago. The more direct purpose, though, is for this rundown to prepare you and I for our journey through The Apocalypse of John (Revelation), which we will begin, Lord willing, the first week of February.
So, why is it important to start a study in Revelation with the Olivet Discourse? Well, to put it simply, if we have an understanding of the framework of Jesus’ Olivet Discourse, then we have a framework for understanding Revelation. This is because, in many notable ways, Revelation is John’s Olivet Discourse. His is the only gospel that does not include the discourse. And while his Apocalypse was revealed to him at a later time than Olivet, the parallels are significant.
My premise to you, then, is that the Discourse provides a key to understanding the Book of Revelation. With that key in mind, we can approach our study of Revelation with confidence that the book will open to us in a way we can understand. Dispelling confusion here will help clear up much confusion, as we embark on that journey.
The Olivet discourse, in Matt. 24-25, was given on the heels of the dramatic events at the temple in proceeding chapters. Towards the end of his visit, in Matt. 23, Jesus gave a “scathing denunciation” of the Jewish religious leaders. Immediately prior to our passage today, in 23:35, Jesus told them that judgment was coming upon them for “all the righteous blood shed on the earth.” He then tells them when in v. 36, “Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.” Judgment was coming soon. Jesus then laments over Jerusalem in v. 38, saying, “See, your house is left to you desolate,” referring to the temple.
Illustrating his point, Jesus then departs the Temple, in Matt. 24:1, heading to the Mount of Olives. His movements recall Ezekiel’s vision of the Lord abandoning the Temple and Jerusalem, to then stand on the mountain to the east of the city, which is the Mount of Olives (Ezek. 10:18–19; 11:22–23). In Jesus’ departure, the Lord had abandoned the temple (in a literal and symbolic sense). It was no longer God’s house, thus it was left desolate and abandoned by God. It was now just the house of the Jews, filled with the corruptions Jesus had just denounced, waiting on the doom that was coming upon them, in their generation.