Jesus and the Mount of Olives [33 page pdf file]
Matthew chapters 24 & 25 contain one of the key prophecies of the Bible. It is called the "Olivet Discourse," as Jesus gave this prophecy to his disciples when they were on the mount of Olives, a ridge on the eastern side of the city of Jerusalem, which in those days provided an excellent view of the temple located on the opposite side of the Kidron valley.
The disciples had asked Jesus about the signs of his coming, and of Christ's kingdom. Jesus warned them about false teachers, and mentioned a time called the "great tribulation." Symbols that Jesus employed in the Olivet Prophecy include mountains, seasons, clothes, clouds, fig trees, virgins, a wedding, and the mysterious "abomination of desolation."
Was the Olivet Discourse intended only for first century Jews? That's what the Preterists claim. Or was it intended for Jews in the future? That is the premise of Dispensationalism. A third possibility is that it pertains to Christians today. The temple of God, that stood in plain view from the top of the mount of Olives, was a type, or figure, that represents the Church, and the Olivet Discourse of Jesus provides an overview of the future of the spiritual temple, the Church, and the kingdom of God.
The mount of Olives itself was a very significant location for Jesus to give this prophecy. The mount of Olives is featured in the book of Zechariah, which said the Lord's feet would stand upon it. Jesus was on the mountain while giving the prophecy to his disciples. Zachariah said the mountain would be split into two parts, half moving to the north, and half moving to the south, forming a valley in between. Of course that has not happened, in a literal sense. However, Zechariah's prophecy may point out to us the proper way to interpret the Olivet prophecy of Jesus.
Zechariah said the mount of Olives would be cleaved in the midst,
and a wide
valley would be formed between the two halves of the mountain. He
flee to the "valley of the mountains." Zechariah's prophecy
describes Jerusalem as a city invaded by the heathen. Half its
inhabitants are taken
into captivity. Jerusalem was a type of the church, so perhaps this
represents Christians who have been taken
"captive" by those
who promote flawed interpretations of scripture, and by creeds, and by
that separate Christians from one another.
The stones of the temple were broken down, and the temple was burned to ashes, and the ruins were taken apart by Roman soldiers, after 70 AD when the city of Jerusalem was taken. History shows that the church too was overcome, and destroyed, and the saints were scattered.
For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city.
The stones of the temple were used in other buildings. And during
the history of the church, many believers were taken captive in
different sects, and even in other
religions. This is what was portrayed in Zechariah's prophecy.
And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.
And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with thee.
Zechariah said to flee to the valley formed between the two halves of the mount of Olives when it divides into two parts. Interpreting this, the two halves of the mount of Olives represent the theories of Preterism and Dispensationalism, which displace the Olivet prophecy of Jesus from its true application. The implication is that the prophecy applies, not to Jews in the future, or to the Jews in the first century, but to Christians today!
The mountains of Israel are prominent parts of the promised land, so they represent the promises given to Abraham, that in his seed, all nations will be blessed. When Jesus said to "flee to the mountains," perhaps he means we should seek those promises, and the kingdom of God, which is called a great mountain, that fills the entire earth, in Daniel 2:35.
In the story of Lot and his family, they were told by the angel to "Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed." [Genesis 19:17] The city of Sodom was about to be destroyed. Jesus said: "Remember Lot's wife." [Luke 17:32]
The clouds mentioned in the Olivet prophecy are also symbolic. They picture a time of confusion, and controversy. "And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory." [Matthew 24:30]
Zechariah said the day of the Lord will be a time that is "not clear, nor dark." But in the evening, it will be light, so eventually, the truth prevails.
And it shall come to pass in that day, that the light shall not be clear, nor dark: But it shall be one day which shall be known to the LORD, not day, nor night: but it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light.
Ezekiel called the day of the Lord a "cloudy" day, "For the day is near, even the day of the LORD is near, a cloudy day; it shall be the time of the heathen." [Ezekiel 30:3]
In this cloudy day, Christ delivers his saints. "As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day." [Ezekiel 34:12]
During a time of confusion, Christ seeks his sheep, and leads them to the truth. The prophet Joel refers to it as "a day of clouds and thick darkness."
Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand; A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains: a great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations.
The prophet Zephaniah also describes it as a day of clouds and spiritual darkness. "The great day of the LORD is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the LORD: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly. That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, A day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high towers." [Zephaniah 1:14-16]
In the Olivet Prophecy, Jesus warns believers not to return for our old clothes; "Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes." [Matthew 24:18]
Who are the ones "in the field"? Perhaps they are the labourers who Jesus mentioned here: "Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest." [Luke 10:2]
In Luke's account, Jesus said, "In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back." [Luke 17:31]
When Jesus teaches us something from his word, he warns us not to return to our old opinions. Paul speaks of being clothed with truth and righteousness. "Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;" [Ephesians 6:14]
The clothes Jesus refers to in the Olivet Prophecy are symbolic, and they picture the truth, and brand new understanding, that Jesus gives to his saints.
The church is the woman "clothed with the sun" in Revelation 12:1. The sun which clothes her represents the gospel.
The prophet Joel said the sun will be turned to darkness, before the day of the Lord comes. This pictures the gospel being obscured by false teaching. Joel's prophecy was quoted by Peter: "The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord come:" [Acts 2:20]
Everything that offends, and the false teachings sown by the devil, that obscure the truth of the gospel, are to be burned up at the end time.
The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.
Jesus said, "And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!" [Matthew 24:19] What does this mean?
Paul wrote to the Christian converts in Galatia, in Galatians 4:19-20: "My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you, I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you." So Paul pictured these believers as unborn fetuses! And he referred to himself as their spiritual mother! And similarly, those teaching the gospel are the spiritual parents of their followers.
The apostle Peter refers to believers as "babes", and the word of God as "milk." He wrote, "As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby." [1 Peter 2:2]
Perhaps Jesus means those who teach the word of God to others, when he refers to "them that give suck," and was not referring to mothers and pregnant girls being in special danger, or their suffering physical discomfort. Why would Jesus pronounce woe to the preachers and teachers of the word? Because the spirit of Christ exposes all the false teachings that have made the Church desolate!
Jesus said, "Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors." [Matthew 24:32-33]
Summer pictures a time of opportunity, when crops become fruitful, and grow. In the same chapter Jesus said, "Pray that your flight is not in the winter." [Matthew 24:20]
In the context of the Olivet Discourse, where Jesus refers to summer and winter, the "summer" and "winter" are contrasting seasons. What comes between is the fall, the time of harvest. There are many references to the resurrection of the saints as a "harvest." For example in the parable of the tares and the wheat, Jesus said, "The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world." [Matthew 13:38-40]
What comes after the harvest is the winter, so Jesus said "pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day:" [Matthew 24:20] Winter is a figure of the judgement. The judgement is called a time of "great tribulation," in Revelation 7:14.
And the sabbath day also represents God's rest, that the saints labour to enter, in Hebrews 4:3-11.
To have to flee in the "winter" or on the "sabbath" means one has been "left behind" when the harvest of the righteous occurs. For them, the prophecy of Jeremiah will come true: "The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved." [Jeremiah 8:20]
The harvest is in the fall, and it is the hope of all Christians, to be included the resurrection of the saints.
Several scriptures represent the church as a bride preparing for a wedding, and Christ as the bridegroom.
Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.
And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.
In the parable of the 10 virgins, part of the Olivet Discourse, there are 10 virgins, waiting for the bridegroom. The cry went out at midnight, and the ones who were ready went in to the marriage, but the 5 foolish virgins missed out, and the door was shut. [Matthew 25:10]
From the mount of Olives, the temple across the valley must have dominated the scenery. And Jesus must have been aware of the symbolism of the temple when he foretold its destruction. Jesus referred to himself as the temple of God.
Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things? Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? But he spake of the temple of his body.
In the NT, the temple of God represents the church. [Ephesians 2:19-21] In the Olivet Prophecy, Jesus indicated the temple was to be destroyed, and not one stone would remain on top of another. This came to pass when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem. The Romans, it is said, burned the temple, and so they melted the gold, which ran down onto the stones, and afterwards the gold was recovered from the stones.
In the Olivet Discourse, Jesus referred to the abomination of desolation as in the future, and since the temple of God in the NT represents the church, Daniel's prophecy applies to the church. As in the time of Antiochus IV, the temple of God was made into a Zeus temple, the church has also become desolate, due to idolatry, and false teachings, as the reformers recognized. The saints are scattered, and the light of the gospel does not shine as clearly as it should. But at the end time, Christ will be revealed in his church!
Copyright © 2010, 2014 by Douglas E. Cox
All Rights Reserved.