The Real Warning from Olivet
By Richard Allen – June 13, 2022
Jesus was accustomed to dropping verbal bombs on His disciples. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think He did it for sheer “shock value,” or to just introduce the New Covenant – which was “not like the old,” (Jeremiah 31:32). I think He often told them difficult things that would stretch them and help them grasp deep truths about the Kingdom of God. On one such occasion, near the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, He walked with his 12 Apostles near the Temple in Jerusalem. It should be noted, that this edifice rivaled Solomon’s Temple in grandeur, immensity and cost. We learn from the Scriptures that it took 46 years to build, and from what historians tell us, required funding – even from Rome. On this occasion Jesus casually mentions that the Temple will be completely razed, torn down stone by stone. Needless to say, as faithful Jews -- His Apostles were taken aback hearing of the Temple’s demise. So later they asked Jesus in private the 64,000-dollar question: “When will these things be?” Here’s how their questions are recorded in Matthew 24, verse 3:
"As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?’ ”
What amazes me most about this passage is what most Evangelical Christians think about Jesus’ response: They honestly believe that Jesus didn’t answer their questions, but rather meandered to a discussion that was solely about events that are yet to happen in the distant future – AT LEAST 2,000 YEARS LATER. That’s very unfortunate, because until about 180 years ago, most Christians: Catholic, Protestant and Greek Orthodox actually believed that Jesus actually did answer their questions. I hope this blog brings up appropriate subjects, especially because of the times we live in. Many Christians are getting caught up in the political intrigue and wars happening across the globe. And with global powers openly talking about building a Borderless One World Government, many see the fulfillment of Jesus’ Biblical prophecies happening in real time today. So it’s natural that people begin to think of this present age in terms of the end times. I can’t tell you how many times I hear other believers say: “Jesus is Coming Soon,” look at the signs happening all around us. The history of the Church is that the trials in every age cause many to cast their vision on current events and take them off Christ. That was true during both World Wars in the past century, as well as wars in the Middle-East. It is easy to see how those who believe that Jesus’ prophecy of events in the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21), must be right upon us. In truth, the faith of those who look to current events will eventually cool. I worry that Jesus’ warning will be missed by those who are looking for signs, and disregard His admonition to the Church about the End of the World: BE READY, WATCH AND PRAY!
As we look at the Apostles’ question(s) above, it’s partly clear that they are asking: “When will the Temple in Jerusalem be destroyed and taken apart stone by stone? But they are also asking: “What will be the sign of Your (Jesus) coming at the end of the age?” On the surface, the way Matthew records the Apostles’ questions, does sound different than the other two Synoptic (i.e. alike) Gospels – Mark and Luke. In the Mark and Luke passages, the disciples ask: “Tell us, when will these things (i.e. Temple’s destruction) be, and what will be the sign when all these things (i.e. Temple’s destruction) will be accomplished?” (Mark 13:4; Luke 21:7). Mark’s and Luke’s gospels sure sound like Jesus’ Apostles are only asking about these things, that is the Temple’s destruction, not leaving one stone upon another. But it appears that Matthew’s record of the Apostles’ questions adds an “end-times” component to their questions. So what gives?
Let me tell you in all earnest – their questions were exactly the same. The way Matthew records their questions reflects the natural understanding of how 1st Century Jews – even if they were Christian-Jews like the Apostles, would think: “Jesus, if you are telling us that the Temple will be torn to the ground, dismantled stone by stone – then you MUST BE TALKING ABOUT THE END OF THE WORLD, RIGHT?” To their way of thinking, they could not imagine how Jehovah God - or His Son, Jesus the Messiah, could possibly be worshipped apart from the Temple, the Mediation of the Priesthood, the Sacrificial System and the Offerings made by faithful worshippers who poured into Jerusalem. To the Apostles of our Lord, this thinking would be a no-brainer. If Jehovah God’s Temple was torn down, then there could be no worship, IT MUST BE THE END OF ALL THINGS! But to those of us now living in 2022 – we totally understand something that even Jesus’ Apostles didn’t know at that point: “That all of the vestments of the Temple Religion, Sacrificial System and Worship would be done away and God would be worshipped in a completely new way, in the Age of Spirit and Truth! There would no longer be a physical Temple with all the trappings of the previous age. And worship would no longer be based on Location, Days, Gender, Food, Sabbaths, Clothing or any other props. Also, God would not be worshipped as Jew or Gentile, but rather as a New Man in Christ (also see Galatians 3:28).
“Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain (Mt. Gerizim) nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth’ ” (John 4:21-24).
Hindsight is always 20/20. The Apostles later proclaimed to a Church made up of Jews and Gentiles that those Jews who were disobedient were not the people of God, but those who obeyed the Gospel were His special people. That worship in a physical temple by an earthly people would be done away with; it was temporary, but Jesus’ New Covenant was permanent:
“Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, the stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone, and, a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall. They stumble because they disobey the message – which is also what they were destined for. But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (I Peter 2:7-9).
And the Apostle Paul goes even further:
“For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. Now this may be interpreted allegorically; these women are two covenants: One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slaverywith her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. . . . Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. But what does the Scripture say? ‘Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.’ So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman” (Galatians 4:21-26; 28-31).
What the Apostles didn’t know when Jesus gave them the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21, was that God’s Economy would be changing. The Jewish Age based on “Tables of Stone” was giving way to the Christian Age based on “Spirit and Truth!” Their assumptions about the Temple and the end of all things were wrong. And, in their misunderstanding they were totally blind-sided when they finally realized that Jesus, their Messiah, would go on to suffer and die. I can hear them questioning: “This can’t be right? This isn’t what we’ve been taught. Messiah will be a conquering hero to break the shackles of Rome and the Gentile domination that we’ve suffered for so many centuries – and return us to national glory and unfettered worship of God under the Sacrificial System.” The Woman at the Well in John 4 actually had a deeper expectation of Messiah’s advent. She knew that the worship they had in Samaria was a bust and believed when the Messiah came: “He would tell us all things” (John 4:25; also see Deuteronomy 18:15). And contrary to the Apostles’ beliefs, the long-awaited Messiah, the one who taught them daily had not come to defeat Rome and Caesar, but to break the shackles of Sin and Satan! Even bringing back the splendor and glory of David’s or Solomon’s rule wouldn’t save them.
I say all of this, because Jesus DOES ANSWER THEIR QUESTIONS – FULLY AND WITH GREAT DETAIL! And - He was totally aware of their flawed thinking. He knew all along that His real mission, the purpose He was born to, was not what they expected. And now that He’s telling these faithful Jews that the Temple would be thrown down, Jesus knew that He needed to explain the difference between what they were asking based on their assumptions, and what would actually happen: The whole of the Jewish System of physical Temple Worship WILL END, BUT God will still be worshipped in a “habitation of living stones for God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:22).
“Consequently, you (Gentiles) are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people (Jews) and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit (Ephesians 2:19-22).
Jesus was telling them that the whole system they believed in, had to change. There is going to be a New Covenant, and this “New Wine can’t be poured into the Old Wine Skins” (Mark 2:22). During the Olivet Discourse, Jesus exhorts them with numerous warnings: “The end is not yet, don’t let anyone deceive you, these things must happen first, these are the beginnings of birth pangs.” But He also differentiated between - WHEN tearing down the Temple would occur and the signs that would let them know it was about to happen - AND HIS COMING AT THE END OF THE WORLD. For the Destruction of Jerusalem, Temple Worship and the Sacrificial System – He warns the Jewish Church with signs, things to look for, and things that should make them flee to the hills as when they’d see “Jerusalem surrounded by armies” (Luke 21:20-21). And He warns them that their Generation would not pass except all the things concerning the Destruction of the Temple would be fulfilled. BUT THE END IS STILL NOT YET, which now 2,000 years later, we know to be totally true! Jesus also acknowledges there are future things yet to happen, but for those He gives a warning that is very different. Concerning His Coming at the End of the World there will be no sign, He rather warns of sudden judgment:
“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. . . . Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. . . . .Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that wicked servant says himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour, he does not know. . . .” (Matthew 24:36-51).
As I close, I’d like to use my remaining words to exhort us as Jesus did: He warned us all to be ready, to watch and pray! Jerusalem was already destroyed, and Temple worship had already ceased. No signs will tell us when Jesus is coming again. This time, not to deal with sin, but to judge this fallen world! Jesus likens His coming at the End of the World to the days of Noah. People were eating and drinking, marrying and being given in marriage until the day when Noah entered the Ark! This doesn’t sound at all like the signs He gave His Apostles about the siege and destruction of Jerusalem. In fact, for those who are looking at all the bad things that are happening in our present day, convinced that these are clear signs that we are in the end times and Jesus is coming soon, I believe that it’s the exact opposite. Luke’s Gospel records Jesus using both Noah and the story of Lot to warn His people not to relax, but to “be ready, for you know not what hour he may come.” Here’s what Luke’s Gospel adds about Lot:
“Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot – they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all – so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed” (Luke 17:28-30).
Jesus exhorts all His disciples, especially us today, be ready! Put on your armor and let your light shine in obedient faith, being watchful, not of the political unrest all around us, but of our hearts and lives. Don’t let THAT DAY take you by surprise! Let us all be like the Wise Bridesmaids in Matthew 25 and have our lamps lit, and be ready when He comes. The Unwise Bridesmaids failed to keep their lamps burning, and when “the bridegroom came unexpectedly, those who were ready went in with Him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut” (Matthew 25:1-13). This is the real message Jesus gave to us all at Olivet: Be ready, watch and pray! Even so, come Lord Jesus!