The disciples of Jesus, who were all Jewish, were enamored with the great temple in Jerusalem — and you would have been, too. It was one of the architectural wonders of the world. As they pointed out its design to Jesus, He said something shocking: “This temple will be completely destroyed.” As Jews, the disciples summarized (correctly) that such an awful event must be connected to the end of the world in some way.
When they asked about the timing of the end times, Jesus sat down on the Mount of Olives (v.3) and delivered a lengthy answer that is known as “the Olivet Discourse.”
I am faced with two challenges in blogging about this important prophetic chapter: (1) it is a long chapter with more teaching than space allows me to cover here; and (2) there are many different interpretations of the various points of prophecy here. It will raise more questions than I can answer with certainty. I tend to focus more on the “big picture” of prophecy than the details anyway, so that is how I will write about it. Here goes…
Human history, as we know it, is coming to an end. We live in a time in which the gospel is being proclaimed, people are being saved, and churches are doing Christ’s kingdom work. But (v.14) “the end” will come to those activities and to this age of grace.
The world as we know it will end with a cluster of magnificent and magnanimous events. Jesus will appear to gather all believers (v.30-31). No one knows what that will happen, but we know that Jesus will return with power and great glory (v.30). It will be unexpected (v.44), and it will happen as fast as lightning (v.27). Some will be prepared because they have trusted Jesus as Lord and Savior, but many will be left behind (v.40-41). Believers must be prepared and found busy doing to the work of the kingdom when Jesus returns (v.46).
In verses 4-12 Jesus tells us the “labor pains” that will signal the end. There will be a great and simultaneous upheaval in the natural world, the political world, and the spiritual world. We have always had wars, natural disasters, religious persecution, and international conflict — but not with the frequency, the intensity, the variety, and the force of what Jesus describes.
Morally, the end times will be as wicked as in the days of Noah when God destroyed all but six people with a flood (v.38). Just as it was back then, most of the people will be caught in their sin when Jesus returns, unaware that they are about to be swept away in a flood of judgment (v.39).
I do not have the knowledge or the time to develop other important themes in this chapter: the destruction of the temple in 70 AD, the “abomination of desolation” (v.15), the lesson of the fig tree in relation to Israel (v.32-34), and whether or not we should take the events of verses 29-31 chronologically.
What I know clearly is that Jesus is Lord over time and history, He is returning for His bride, and things are going to get increasingly worse until He comes. In fact, things are pretty bad right now. As Adrian Rogers used to say, “It’s getting gloriously dark!” Jesus is coming soon!