The Olivet discourse

The Olivet discourse: Comparison of the Christ’s depiction of future events in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21

Christ’s explanation of future events, as recorded in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21 is sometimes called the Olivet Discourse Jesus gave this teaching on the Mount of Olives.  It is Christ’s most comprehensive explanation of His return to this world and of the End of the Age.  For that reason it is also called the Little Apocalypse.

This article serves as support for the main article on the Little Apocalypse.  To allow that article to explain the Little Apocalypse as easy to understand as possible, and because the reports of Christ’s teaching in the three gospels differ in some respects, this article compares the three chapters.  It presents the three chapters side by side to show the similarities and differences.  It also makes some observations about the text.  Perhaps the reader can print this article to use as reference while reading the main article.

All quotes are from the NASB translation.  Key words that are similar in all three gospels have been made bold.

The Situation

MATTHEW 24 MARK 13 LUKE 21
1 Jesus came out from the temple and was going away 1 As He was going out of the temple,  
when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him. one of His disciples said to Him, “Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings! 5 And while some were talking about the temple, that it was adorned with beautiful stones and votive gifts
2 And He said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down.” 2 And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down.” He said, 6 As for these things which you are looking at, the days will come in which there will not be left one stone upon another which will not be torn down.”

Questions

MATTHEW 24 MARK 13 LUKE 21
3 As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, 3 As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple,  
the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” Peter and James and John and Andrew were questioning Him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled? 7 They questioned Him, saying, “Teacher, when therefore will these things happen? And what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?”

In all three chapters the disciples ask about “these things”, which in the context refer to the destruction of the temple, but only in Matthew do the disciples also ask about the return of Christ or “the end of the age”.  Since Matthew was also led by the Holy Spirit, we assume that the disciples asked both about the temple and “the end of the age”.

False Teachers

MATTHEW 24 MARK 13 LUKE 21
4 And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. 5 For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many. 5 And Jesus began to say to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. 6 Many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He!’ and will mislead many. 8 And He said, “See to it that you are not misled; for many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not go after them.

It is not clear whether the false teachers will say that Jesus is Christ, or whether they will claim to be Christ themselves.

Only Luke adds that the false teachers will say, “the time is near”.  The main issue is therefore that false teachers will come; not that they will claim that the time is near.

Non-Signs

MATTHEW 24 MARK 13 LUKE 21
6 You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be frightened; those things must take place; but that is not yet the end. 9 When you hear of wars and disturbances, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end does not follow immediately.”
7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. 8 But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs. 8 For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will also be famines. These things are merely the beginning of birth pangs. 10 Then He continued by saying to them, “Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, 11 and there will be great earthquakes, and in various places plagues and famines;

All three gospels refer to “the end”.  This confirms that the disciples did ask about “the end of the age” (Mt. 24:3).

Persecution & Opportunity To Testify

MATTHEW 24 MARK 13 LUKE 21
9 Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. 10 At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. 11 Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. 9 But be on your guard; for they will deliver you to the courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them. 10 The gospel must first be preached to all the nations. 11 When they arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit. 12 Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. 13 You will be hated by all because of My name, and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. 12 But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name’s sake. 13 It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony. 14 So make up your minds not to prepare beforehand to defend yourselves; 15 for I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute. 16 But you will be betrayed even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death, 17 and you will be hated by all because of My name.
12 Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold.  13 But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. 18 Yet not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your lives.
14 This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come. See verse 10  

Luke starts with “there will be terrors and great signs from heaven”, but interrupts himself to say that this will only happen later (v11, 12).  Luke therefore mentions the “terrors and great signs from heaven” out of sequence.  These will be discussed below.

Mark mentions “the gospel must first be preached to all the nations” in verse 10, but this seems to fit better with Matthew 24:14.

Both Mark and Luke have a number of verses on the opportunity they will have to testify before kings and governors, but Matthew does not mention this.  Again, the assumption is that when one gospel records a statement which is not recorded by the others, that this statement was actually made.

All three gospels in this section refer to “the end”.  While the previous section referred to things that are not yet the end, this section refers to things that will continue to the end.  The main purpose of this series of articles is to understand why Jesus said He would return while some of His hearers are still alive (Mt. 10:23; 16:28; 24:34).  The authors of the New Testament also wrote many times that “the coming of the Lord is near” (James 5:7-8).  See the article Second Coming in the New Testament.  The current section reads, “the one who endures to the end, he will be saved” (Mt. 24:13).  This may be understood as the end of the person’s life, but for the following reasons it more probably refers to “the end of the age”:

  • The disciples asked about “the end of the age” (v3).
  • The next verse (v14) refers to “the end” clearly as “the end of the age

According to Luke’s version Jesus said “by your endurance you will gain your lives” (v19), referring to the disciples specifically.  Combining this statement with the parallel verses in Matthew and Mark, this implies that His disciples will live until “the end”.  This is therefore another statement of the nearness of the Second Coming.

Abomination of Desolation

MATTHEW 24 MARK 13 LUKE 21
15 Therefore when you see the Abomination of Desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), 14 But when you see the Abomination of Desolation standing where it should not be (let the reader understand), 20 But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near.

 

Luke, a gentile himself, writing to non-Jewish believers, who were not familiar with Daniel, interpreted the “abomination of desolation” for his readers as “Jerusalem surrounded by armies” (Luke 21:20-24).  Luke does seem to refer to the prophesies of Daniel in verse 22 below, when he refers to “all things which are written will be fulfilled”.  It is generally agreed that this section refers to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

Great Tribulation

MATTHEW 24 MARK 13 LUKE 21
16 then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains. 17 “Whoever is on the housetop must not go down to get the things out that are in his house. 18 “Whoever is in the field must not turn back to get his cloak. then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains. 15 The one who is on the housetop must not go down, or go in to get anything out of his house; 16 and the one who is in the field must not turn back to get his coat. 21 Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city;
    22 because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled.
19 “But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! 20 But pray that your flight will not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath. 17 But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! 18 But pray that it may not happen in the winter. 23 Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days
21 “For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. 22 Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. 19 For those days will be a time of tribulation such as has not occurred since the beginning of the creation which God created until now, and never will. 20 Unless the Lord had shortened those days, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom He chose, He shortened the days. for there will be great distress upon the land and wrath to this people; 24 and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

The persecution discussed in the previous section (In Matthew, verses 9-14) was the persecution of Christians, but now the Jews are persecuted.

The word “elect” in Matthew 24:22 are the people whom God has chosen.  It may refer to the Jewish nation, because it remains “beloved for the sake of the fathers” “from the standpoint of God’s choice (election)” (Rom. 11:28).  Or it may refer to “those who were chosen” (Romans 11:7), namely the Jews who believed in Jesus.  The Jewish Christians were part of the Jewish nations, and it was their fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters that were slaughtered in the massacre of A.D. 70.

They must pray that their flight will not be in winter (Mt. 24:20), for then it would be cold.  They must also pray that their flight will not be on Sabbath.  This may be out of respect for the Sabbath, or that the Jews might prevent them walking further than the distance allowed on the Sabbath.

Signs of the End

MATTHEW 24 MARK 13 LUKE 21
23 “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe him. 24 For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. … 26 “So if they say to you, ‘Behold, He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out, …  27 “For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be. 28 “Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather. 21 And then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ; or, ‘Behold, He is there’; do not believe him; 22 for false Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23 But take heed; behold, I have told you everything in advance.  
29 But immediately after the tribulation of those days 24 But in those days, after that tribulation,  
the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken. 25 There will be signs in sun and moon and stars and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves 26 men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

Luke does not start the section on the darkening of the sun, moon and stars by referring to “the tribulation of those days” because it omits the section about “false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders” (Mat. 24:24).  The “tribulation of those days” (Mt. 24:29; Mark 13:29) therefore refers to the time of “false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders”, and not to the destruction of Jerusalem on AD 70.  This is a very important conclusion to properly understand the Little Apocalypse.

Matthew 24:28 states, “wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather”.  The meaning is explained by Luke 17:34-37, which twice uses the well-known phrase one will be taken and the other will be left”.  When the disciples asked Him, “Where, Lord?”, He answered “Where the body is, there also the vultures will be gathered”.

The statement that the powers of the heavens will be shaken is understood to be a summary of the statements that the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky.

His Coming

MATTHEW 24 MARK 13 LUKE 21
30 And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn    
and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. 26 Then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
31 And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other. 27 And then He will send forth the angels, and will gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth to the farthest end of heaven.  

Parable of the Fig Tree

MATTHEW 24 MARK 13 LUKE 21
    28 But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.
32 Now learn the parable from the fig tree 28 Now learn the parable from the fig tree: 29 Then He told them a parable: “Behold the fig tree and all the trees
32 when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 30 as soon as they put forth leaves, you see it and know for yourselves that summer is now near.
33 so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door. 29 Even so, you too, when you see these things happening, recognize that He is near, right at the door. 31 So you also, when you see these things happening, recognize that the kingdom of God is near.

Luke still does not explicitly refer to His coming, but to the “kingdom of God”.

This Generation

MATTHEW 24 MARK 13 LUKE 21
34 Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 35 “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. 30 Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. 32 Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all things take place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.

No One Knows

MATTHEW 24 MARK 13 LUKE 21
36 But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.

 

32 But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.  

The Son does not know the day and hour, but He did know that “this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (Mt. 24:34).  This conundrum is one of the main purposes of this series of articles.

TOTable of Contents of the articles on the Second Coming

TO: General Table of Contents

TO: The main article on the Little Apocalypse

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