PP10: Jerusalem’s Destruction Foretold in the Olivet Discourse

This is now the tenth post in our series on “A Partial-Preterist Perspective on the Destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.” This is the same title as a term paper I recently submitted to Northwestern College. All the previous posts can be found here, and it’s recommended that they be read in order before reading this post:

[1] http://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/13/brief-explanation-of-partial-preterism/
[2] http://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/13/pp2-references/
[3] http://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/13/pp3-external-evidence-for-an-early-date-revelation/
[4] http://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/14/pp4-internal-evidence-for-an-early-date-revelation-part-1/
[5] http://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/14/pp5-internal-evidence-for-an-early-date-revelation-part-2/
[6] http://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/14/pp6-internal-evidence-for-an-early-date-revelation-part-3/
[7] http://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/14/pp7-internal-evidence-for-an-early-date-revelation-part-4/
[8] http://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/14/pp8-daniels-70-week-prophecy-part-1/
[9] http://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/15/pp9-daniels-70-week-prophecy-part-2/

In this post we will begin to examine the three New Testament accounts of the Olivet Discourse, delivered by Jesus and recorded in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21.

Adam Maarschalk


E. Jerusalem’s Destruction Foretold in the Olivet Discourse

Futurists and Preterists alike seem to agree that there are remarkable parallels between the revelation given to John and the teachings of Jesus in the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24-25, Mark 13, Luke 21). After all, Jesus speaks of His prophesied events as “great tribulation” (Matthew 24:21) and John uses the same phrase (Revelation 7:14). One’s preconceived ideas can lead to vastly different assumptions about these details. For Futurists, the bulk of what Jesus shared in the Olivet Discourse refers to events which have not yet taken place, and this is in keeping with their view that the bulk of the book of Revelation is also not yet fulfilled. For Preterists, Jesus spoke far more in Matthew, Mark, and Luke regarding 70 AD than Futurists give Him credit for, and this is in keeping with the Preterist view that the parallel events found in the book of Revelation took place by 70 AD.

It can be noted that the Olivet Discourse, as it is recorded in Luke, is somewhat different than its parallel account in Matthew and Mark. Mike Rusten (2009 [1]), Associate Dean of The Bethlehem Institute and formerly an elder at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, observes, “Whereas in Matthew the disciples ask two questions, ‘Tell us, when will these things happen (i.e. the destruction of the temple), and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?’ Luke only records the disciples asking about the time of the destruction of the temple.” He further notes that unlike Matthew and Mark, Luke does not make reference to false prophets, an increase in lawlessness, enduring until the end[1], or the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel. On the other hand, Matthew and Mark do not explicitly mention Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, the days of vengeance upon Israel, Jerusalem being trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, or the Jews being led captive into all the nations.

Mike Rusten concludes that “the times of the Gentiles,” as mentioned in Luke 21:24, refer to the nearly 2000 years which have transpired since the destruction of the temple in 70 AD (Luke 21:20-24a) and the Second Coming of Christ (Luke 21:25-27), which we currently await. If this is true, though, one must still grapple with the fact that Matthew 24:4-28 and Luke 21:8-24 are parallel passages to a very large extent. In both passages readers are warned of [1] imposters claiming to be Christ [2] wars and rumors of wars [3] nations and kingdoms clashing [4] earthquakes [5] famines [6] persecution and martyrdom [7] betrayal and hatred [8] a signal indicating the need to flee to the mountains without the slightest delay [9] the difficulties for pregnant woman and those who will be nursing infants in those days [10] great distress and tribulation.

Matthew 24:29-31 and Luke 21:25-28 are parallel passages as well. The difference is that Matthew says the coming of the Son of Man would immediately follow “the tribulation of those days,” while Luke does not use the same phrase but instead refers to the slaughter and captivity of the Jewish people, the trampling of Jerusalem, and the times of the Gentiles. Futurists generally agree with Preterists that Luke indeed refers to 70 AD at this point, but they place a multi-century gap in Luke 21:24a so that verses 25-28 are yet future. Futurists can’t place any gap before Matthew 24:29, however, because Matthew uses the word “immediately.” So they consign “the tribulation of those days,” described in verses 15-28, to the future as well. They have no choice but to do so, if Matthew 24:29-31 is yet future. The Futurist interpretation then is left to explain why the above 10 warnings refer to two entirely different time periods, depending on the book in which they are found; i.e. in Luke they refer to a time period in the first century, and in Matthew (as well as Mark) they refer to a time period no sooner than the 21st century.

This leads to a dilemma when we come to the next set of parallel verses, Matthew 24:32-35 and Luke 21:29-33. In both cases Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” For the Futurist, this means that all the things Jesus prophesied will take place in one future (or present) generation which will see them begin. At first glance, this seems to work in Matthew’s account of the Olivet Discourse because, says the Futurist, the vast majority of Matthew 24 must refer to a generation alive in the 21st century. This line of reasoning falls apart with Luke’s account, however, because the Futurist admits that the “great distress” in Luke 21:20-24a took place around 70 AD. By any reckoning, a “generation” is far shorter than 1939 years.

Mark’s account of the Olivet Discourse is interesting in this regard. After Jesus prophesies of the impending overthrow of the temple (Mark 13:1-2), Mark records the disciples asking Him only one question (verses 3-4, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?”) Jesus then articulates all of the same 10 warnings which were noted above in the accounts of Matthew and Luke. In Mark’s account, verses 24-27 are parallel with Matthew 24:29-31 and Luke 21:25-28. Mark’s transition is more similar to Matthew’s use of “immediately” in that he says, “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkenedAnd then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.” (Mark 13:24, 26). This is significant because Mark is only addressing the question of the temple’s overthrow, and the signs which would show it was about to happen. We know without any doubt that it happened in 70 AD.

It may be possible to account for the different details highlighted by each author by considering the audiences to which they were writing. For example, Luke, a Gentile doctor, may have repeatedly made specific references to Jews and Gentiles because he expected his audience to be Gentile. Matthew, however, may have chosen not to do so because his audience was primarily Jewish. By this way of thinking, Luke perhaps omitted any explicit reference to the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel because such a reference was less likely to resonate with his Gentile audience.

In any case, it’s even more interesting that John, in his gospel account, omits the Olivet Discourse entirely, even though he was no doubt present when Jesus spoke those things. From the Preterist viewpoint, one likely reason for this curious fact is that the book of Revelation, which he authored, actually functions as his exposition of the Olivet Discourse, albeit in a more detailed manner. Therefore, he felt no need to include the Olivet Discourse passage in his gospel account, especially if the book of John was written after the book of Revelation.

Regarding the notion that the question posed by the disciples in Matthew 24:3 is different in nature than the question posed in the other two accounts, the Preterist view is that there is no division of questions. The disciples did not ask about the end of the world, but rather the end of the age (i.e. the Jewish age) as spoken of by Daniel and other Old Testament prophets. So what appears to some to be a 3-part question is simply the disciples asking questions about the same event; i.e. the destruction of the temple, the coming of Christ in judgment, and the end of the age. Thomas Newton, in 1754, said (Todd Dennis [20], 2009), “‘The coming of Christ,’ and ‘the conclusion of the age,’ being therefore only different expressions to denote the same period with the destruction of Jerusalem, the purpose of the question plainly is, when shall the destruction of Jerusalem be, and what shall be the signs of it?” Kevin Daly (2009) likewise remarks:

It is Jesus’ emphatic confirmation of the Temple’s fate that leads to the disciples’ question: ‘When will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’ While some argue this to be three separate questions – so that Jesus’ answer in the subsequent verses must be unraveled and applied to three different events – this is not supported by the parallel accounts in Mark’s and Luke’s gospels: ‘Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?’ (Mark 13:4); ‘Teacher,’ they asked, ‘when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?’ (Luke 21:7). What Jesus prophesied against the Temple would happen at our Lord’s coming in judgment and would also, by implication, bring about the end of that age.

[1] One could say, though, that those spoken of in Luke 21:8 are false prophets, and that Christ does speak of endurance leading to salvation in verse 19.

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