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Biblical/Doctrinal Studies:
Focus on Jesus Series

The Olivet Discourse
Notes on Matthew chapters 24-25, Mark 13:1-37, Luke 21:5-36
by Ed Vasicek

Some people love to study end-time events and all the big words that accompany it, such as "eschatology," which is "the study of last things." Other Christians have sour attitudes. Perhaps the best approach is to study it because it is a significant part of God’s Word but not to get hung up there.

The lesson that Jesus gave while teaching from the Mount of Olives should be called "The End-Times Lecture." Instead, it has come to be called by the flowery title of "The Olivet Discourse." These portions of Scripture can be very confusing, even frustrating. Issues become clearer, however, when we realize (1) Christ was asked four questions, and (2) if we have an outline. The four questions Jesus answered were:

  1. When shall the Temple be destroyed? (Matthew 24:2-3)
  2. What will the sign be for its destruction? (Luke 21:7)
  3. What shall be the sign for your coming? (Matthew 24:3)
  4. What shall be the sign of the end of the age? (Matthew 24:3)

Luke provides the answers to the first two questions concerning the Temple. The Romans would destroy the Temple in 70 A.D. Matthew provides the answers to the last two questions, which address end time events and the return of Christ. Here is the outline of Matthew 24-25:

  1. 24:4-8 — The First half of the Tribulation period

  2. 24:9-25 — The Second half of the Tribulation period

  3. 24:26-30 — The Second Coming of Christ

  4. 24:31 — The Gathering of Israel

  5. 24:32-51 — A Preaching Break (parenthetical and out of sequence)

  6. 25:1-30 — Judgment of Israel

  7. 25:31-46 — Judgment of the Gentiles

Whether the parenthetical section (Matthew 24:32-51) deals with the Second Coming to Earth or the Rapture is hotly debated. I personally believe this refers to the rapture, which I understand to occur before the Tribulation, when everything is normal. Our church is tolerant of a variety of positions about this matter, and every position has its arguments. I agree with the suggestion offered by Robert Schoenle:

The people on the day He is to be revealed to His Church will be eating and drinking and getting married, then divorcing and remarrying, just as the people of Noah’s and Lot’s day had been (Luke 17:30). They would also by buying and planting and building (Luke 17:27-29). In other words...life will be going on as usual.... We are now going to compare this description of the activities on earth at this coming of Christ with what the Book of Revelation tells us will have taken place on the earth by the time Christ returns physically.... Then we will ask if it is possible for anyone...to be unconcerned with other than the usual doings of life, as we have known them.... (Warnings from Jesus, p. 37).

Schoenle’s argument is formidable. Jesus seems to go out of His way, becoming almost tedious, to point out this return (the rapture?) occurs during a period of normalcy, while His return to reign occurs during a time of great upheaval.

Pastor Ed

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Highland Park Church
516 West Sycamore Street
Kokomo, Indiana, USA
765.452.1779
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