THE OLIVET DISCOURSE
At this point it is still Tuesday of the week of the crucifixion, probably late afternoon by now. And it was a day filled with activity. From the cleansing of the temple, to the questioning by various religious groups, to just sitting down in the temple area and watching the ways people were giving to the Lord.
Now, after this long day, Jesus is leaving the temple area. He has blasted the religious leaders for their hypocrisy, and He is going to be heading back to Bethany, to the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. And to do that he would travel across the Kidron Valley and then up and over the Mount of Olives. But, as we are going to see, He doesnt travel too far before his disciples begin to question Him about the things He has said.
1. This question was born out of a statement made by Jesus. In Matthew 23:37-39 we read of Jesus lamenting over Jerusalem. He said "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord."
You see, Jesus was leaving the temple area, not to return because it had become a mockery of who God was and what God was all about. And now, as they are leaving this area, His disciples are trying to encourage Him. They are telling Him that it is not so bad, the temple is beautiful.
2. Solomon built the first temple in 953 BC and it was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC. Then, in 517 BC, as the Jewish captives were released, the second temple was built under the leadership of Zerubbabel. But it was a low budget project, it didnt compare to Solomons temple.
Then, in 20 BC Herod the Great came on the scene, and trying to get in good with the Jewish people, he expanded and beautified this second temple, which was completed in 64 AD. And it was truly a sight to behold. He used white stone and much gold and silver in the construction of this temple. Some stones were 36 feet long, 12 feet thick and 12 feet wide, weighing some 120 tons. Herod was a little man, under five feet tall, and so he liked to build things with big stones. Luke tells us the disciples told Jesus the following, "Then, as some spoke of the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and donations..." Luke 21:5. So as these disciples marvel at the beauty, the massive stones, Jesus is going to shock them with the words He is going to say!
1. Not only is the city going to be destroyed, as Luke 19:43-44 tells us, but this temple is also going to be destroyed! In 70 AD, as Titus and his forces came into Jerusalem, they leveled the city and they wanted to do the same with the temple. But a fiery arrow set the temple on fire, melting the gold and silver. Now to try and retrieve those precious metals Titus had his army overturning the stones to get at the sliver and gold. It is just as Jesus said, "...Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone shall be left upon another, that shall not be thrown down." Mark 13:2.
1. As they are walking, they pass through the Kidron Valley and find a spot to sit on the Mount of Olives. And it is here that His disciples began to question Him about when these things will take place. You see, in their minds, when this takes place, the Messiah will come, the kingdom will be established.
And what Jesus is going to show them is there will be a time gap between the destruction of this temple and His return. And as you study this section of Scripture, here, in Matthew chapters 24 & 25, and Luke chapter 21, they key is to watch and to be ready. Things are going to get tough, the days will be harder, and the world will become more and more evil, but hang in there, endure till the end!
2. One other point before we move on. You may have heard this section called the Olivet Discourse, and it is. All that means is Jesus is teaching on the Mount of Olives, (Olivet) and He is giving them instructions or He is teaching them the things that will take place, (Discourse).
1. Notice the warning that Jesus is giving to us, "take heed" or stay alert, pay attention, be careful! Why? Because many are going to come and say that they are the Christ or they have the Christ consciousness within them. The word "deceive" carried with it the idea of wandering aimlessly like planets do, or so they once thought. In other words, dont be lost in space by these false Christs, be careful.
2. Back then, as today, many claim to be Christ. We saw Jim Jones who said he was the Christ and got a following to go with him to Guyana, Jonestown South America where he got over 900 people to commit suicide with him. David Koresh did the same thing, claiming that he was Christ, and many lost their lives as the compound they were in burned to the ground, set on fire by their own members. The Reverend Sun Yung Moon also claims to be Christ, and still has a huge following. In the New Age movement they speak of the Christ consciousness. But dont be deceived, take heed, be ready for these things are coming to pass and they will only get worse.
1. At this point in time the Roman Empire was enjoying a time of peace, even though it was a forced peace. No one wanted to fight against them because of their power. But that was going to end. Now understand that wars are not the signal of the Lords return, but part of the process. We have seen wars throughout our history. In fact for every 1 year of peace there has been 13 years of war!
In Luke 21:9 we are told, "But when you hear of wars and commotions, do not be terrified; for these things must come to pass first, but the end will not come immediately." Wars will continue on, but that does not mean the end is here. When the Gulf war started many people went to church, tried to get right with God because they thought the end was here. After the war had ended many of those people went back to their old lifestyles. Once the threat was over, they felt they were okay for a while and when things get bad, I guess they will be back in church! God does not desire that kind of relationship with Him. If I were them, I would be concerned about where they are going! Again, wars will be a normal part of this world because of mans evil heart. The key to these wars is they are going to increase in frequency and intensify before the Lord returns.
2. Not only will we see wars and world wars, but earthquakes, famines, disease, and yet, the end is not here yet. Jesus says that these things "are the beginnings of sorrows" or it can be translated as "the beginnings of birth pangs." You see, as a woman goes into labor, the contractions start out easy and are far apart. But as it gets closer for the delivery of the baby the pains increase in intensity and in frequency until the baby is born.
The same is true here. These signs will increase in frequency and in intensity until the Lord returns to set-up His kingdom here on this earth. And it is out of all of this that the kingdom age is born! Too often people misinterpret contemporary news, be careful. These are signs to show us we are getting closer, but of the day and hour that the Lord is coming back for His Bride, the church, no one knows. We just know the season, which should cause us to keep our eyes focused upward for our redemption is drawing closer.
1. Now this was going to happen to the disciples. All of them except for John was martyred for their faith in Christ. And in their death they will be a witness of God to the unbelievers, and they were! The story of Stephen, the first martyr, as he was stoned by the people and died, and Saul was there consenting to the whole thing. And Saul was a Pharisee, a keeper of the Law and yet what he saw in Stephen ate at him. In Acts 6:15 we are told that as they looked at Stephen they saw his face like that of an angel. They saw peace and joy in his face as death was before him and this was something that they did not experience in their life! It was something that could not be found in the Law but it was found in grace, the grace of God.
And in Acts 7:59-60 we read "And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, Lord, do not charge them with this sin. And when he had said this, he fell asleep." And this ate at Saul, till one day, on the road to Damascus to persecute Christians, Saul had a encounter with the risen Lord and he gave his life to Jesus, and we know of Saul as Paul, the apostle of God! What a testimony that Stephen gave to those around him, even in his death!
2. We see persecution continue on today in the Sudan, China, India, and many other parts of the world. And during the tribulation period, things will be so bad that if you are a Christian you will be put to death for your faith when they catch you. But again, their death is to be a witness or a testimony of Jesus!
1. Jesus final words to the church in Matthew 28:19-20 were "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen." In other words, preach the Gospel, share your faith, teach people the truths of God.
2. Now some use this today and say we must do this before the Lords return, preach the gospel to all the world. It is a prerequisite to His return. I dont think so. There is nothing wrong going throughout the world and sharing your faith, we are suppose to. But to reach every person we will not do it. You see, during the tribulation period this will occur, for in Revelation 14:6-7 we read "Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth-- to every nation, tribe, tongue, and peoplesaying with a loud voice, Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water." So the Gospel will be preached throughout the world before the Lord returns as this angel speaks forth the truths of God.
1. This is not "if" they arrest you, but "when" they arrest you. You see, there will be persecution and there has been persecution against Christians since the church began. Now when it happens, Jesus is saying you dont have to go and get the "Dream Team" of lawyers to defend you or tell you what to say. But the Holy Spirit will give you the words you need to speak, you dont need to worry! It is as Jesus said in Luke 21:12-15, "But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name's sake. But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony. Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist." I like that, I can rest in Him for He will give me the words to speak to confound and confuse the wise!
1. Things are going to get worse and worse. So much so that during the tribulation period family members will be turning in their own families to the authorities for being a Christian. I guess it will be against the law to profess Christ! Even today, in some Jewish homes, if one of them becomes a Christian, they will hold a funeral service for them and they will have nothing to do with them, treating them as if they were dead. Of course, during the tribulation period they will be put to death for their faith in Christ!
2. As we bring this study to a close this evening, let me tell you the one big sign that points to the Lords soon return. It is the Jewish people being back in the land of Israel! Once that happened, in 1948, Gods prophetic time clock began to tick. You see, that is a sign to us that we are in the last days! And next time we will continue on in this study on the Olivet Discourse and we will look at the abomination of desolation and what that is all about!