ON TO OLIVET
What does the Bible say is going to happen according to prophecy?
The Bible says a lot about the end game. Almost every book in the Bible possesses prophecy in one form or another that relates to the end of the age. When we take all of these prophetic words and put them together in an organized schematic, deciphering these words can be difficult, but the effort is worth the fruit that is eventually achieved.
Scripture teaches us that Christ will remove all born-again believers who are part of the Church (New Testament saints) from the earth by an event that has come to be known as the Rapture.
Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody. 13 Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. 14 We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage each other with these words… Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15:51).
Parousia – A Greek word that means “presence or coming” of an important person. This word is used of Jesus’ Second Coming (Matthew 24:3, 27, 37, 39; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 4:15; 5:23; 2 Thessalonians 2:1, 8; James 5:7-8).
Those who have been taken away in the Parousia will receive their reward for their good faith, actions and diligence toward Jesus during their time on earth at the Bema Seat (judgment) of Christ. The antithesis activity of lose of their crowns of reward, albeit without forfeiting eternal life, due to a lack of service, faith or obedience can also take place at this Seat of Judgment:
For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. 14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15 If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames… For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad (1 Corinthians 3:11-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10).
When the end of the age culminates, the ultimate Anti-Christ, also known as the beast needs to come into power. His nation (city-state) will be in allegiance with Israel, due to the signed peace accord (covenant) with Israel. The pact of peace will last for seven stressful years: He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering: And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him” (Daniel 9:27). It is reasonable to assume that the pact may have been preceded by an already existing alliance, although Scripture doesn’t clearly identify the prior relationship isn’t clearly spelled out. This seven-year period is what we call the Tribulation period, although the earth and those who are of faith have been in varying places of tribulation as long as there has been people of faith. The Great Tribulation will be a period of time that is marked by terrible wars, scarcity of food in parts of the world, outbreaks of pestilence and disease, and a possible increase in the recording of natural disasters. At the end of this time of hardship, God will begin to pour out His wrath against those who have opposed Him and His people, judging sin, moving against evil, and obliterating all wickedness. The Great Tribulation will see an appearance of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, and the seven seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments.
Midway through this seven year period of hardship in the Middle East portion of the planet and the other identified regions, Antichrist will somehow break or violate the treaty of peace between his nation and Israel, beginning to make war against Israel, although it isn’t clear if the aggression starts as war, or is a posture of hostility. The current issues relating to Palestine and Middle Eastern turmoil may indicate a change of sympathy over oil or other commodities that are strategically important to the Beast and his allies. Scripture is clear however, in identifying the Antichrist’s nation as being the last or most important alliance of many nations that breaks covenant with Israel during this period. Antichrist will conduct what is known as ‘the abomination of desolation,’ a symbolic reference to Antioch Epiphanies sacrifice to Zeus, setting up an image of himself to be worshipped in the temple:
He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.” I wrote as I did so that when I came I should not be distressed by those who ought to make me rejoice. I had confidence in all of you, that you would all share my joy. 4 For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you. 5 If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you, to some extent—not to put it too severely. 6 The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient for him. 7 Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. 9 The reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. 10 If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake (Daniel 9:27; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-10).
Image of the Beast – A statue (image or idol) commanded by the Antichrist that will be set up in the Jerusalem Temple. This image will be demonically empowered so that it will seem to think, talk, breathe, and make laws (Revelation 13:14-16). The main idol will be set up in the Jerusalem Temple and will be connected to a global network of idols. The image will be a significant prophetic sign in the End Times. John emphasized this image ten times (Revelation 13:14, 15 [3x]; 14:9, 11; 15:2; 16:2; 19:20; 20:4).
It is likely that this “Abomination” will not be an actual image. Rather, it is probably a symbol of an unknown activity that relates to the covenantal accord and its dissolution between the nation of the anti-christ and Israel. Perhaps it refers to the strategic placement of arms and weaponry in the nation of Israel, or identifies the dependence upon an outside agency or nation for security purposes.
When the end of the seven-year tribulation arrives, Antichrist will begin a attack on Jerusalem or in tandem with Israel against the nations that have created havoc with the Antichrist’s power base and then turn on Jerusalem. These nations that the Antichrist wars against roughly comprise the modern Middle East, taking in Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and the oil rich emirate areas. The final act culminates in the Battle of Armageddon, as other power blocks either come to the aid of the besieged nations, or take advantage of the situation. These events force Jesus to return, destroying Antichrist and his allies, ultimately leading up to their being cast into the lake of fire: I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:
king of kings and lord of lords.
17 And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, “Come, gather together for the great supper of God, 18 so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and mighty men, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, small and great.” 19 Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army. 20 But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. 21 The rest of them were killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh (Revelation 19:11-21).
Following the events of Armageddon, Jesus will bind Satan in an Abyss for 1000 years, initiating His rule in His earthly kingdom for this thousand-year period: And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. 2 He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. 3 He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time. 4 I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5 (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years (Revelation 20:1-6).
Millennium – The Millennium is a literal 1000-year period in which Jesus will rule the whole world from Jerusalem in righteousness and peace. The Kingdom of God will be openly manifest worldwide, affecting every sphere of life (political, social, agricultural, economic, spiritual, educational, law enforcement, family, media, arts, environment, social institutions, etc). This millennial reign will allow creation to see what life would have been like, had the fall of Genesis not happened.
When the end of the millennium approaches, Satan will be temporarily released, defeated again, and then cast into the lake of fire. Most of us who hold to a literal millennial reign accept that this will happen because not everyone who is alive during the Millennium will be adherents to the Lordship of Jesus. A potential difficulty in the viability of the literal millennial concept of a second deception and second return of the enemy relates to the Battle’s participants, as it is composed of Gog and Magog. Gog and Magog have been identified as one of the aggressors at the Battle of Armageddon, which is the trigger for the Parousia.
When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. 9 They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. 10 And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever (Revelation 20:7-10).
Despite the actual point in time these events occur, this is the period and place where Christ will initiate His judgment against all unbelievers at the Great White Throne Judgment, casting them all into the lake of fire. Christ will then usher in a New Heaven and New Earth and the New Jerusalem: the eternal dwelling place of believers. There will be no more sin, sorrow, or death (see Revelation chapters 21-22):
and the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. 11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10-15)
OLIVET and the END GAME
Lies THAT SAY WE CANNOT know the signs of the times
Lie #1: we cannot understand End-Time Scriptures or the signs of the times.
Scripture was written to be understood by all. The majority of people throughout history have been uneducated.
Lie #2: some think that understanding the End-Times will minimize the work of the Kingdom.
Lie #3: since we are not able to know the day or hour of Jesus’ return, we should not try to know the times and seasons or the signs of the generation in which Jesus returns. The truth is that the Scripture requires those in the generation the Lord returns to know it and prepare accordingly. Jesus and Paul emphasized the know-ability of the prophetic signs of the End-Times (Matthew 24:32-34; Luke 21:25-29; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-6; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-11).
Lie #4: every generation believed they were the last one. It is probably true that a very small number (less than 1%) in each generation believed this. In only one generation has the majority of God’s people believed in a sustained way (for decades) that we will see Jesus’ return. Some in history spoke of the End-Times when a great crisis occurred (but the emphasis was temporary). There was Millennial fervor for a short time just before 1,000 AD but it was not sustained.
Olivet’s Knowledge: Epistemology and Resolution (Missler)
Many people have found it to be ironic that Jesus’ beginning word of essence in the ‘Olivet Discourse’ is: “Take heed that no man deceive you.” Jesus made this a command, but the command forces a question to be asked: “How do we avoid deception and being deceived?” Due to the apocalyptic nature of this passage, there is an abundance of speculation and confusion over this passage than almost any other in the New Testament. The nature of the confusing interpretations seems to rise out of the particular theological assumptions and positions of the advocate, thus granting the passage multiple conclusions based on arbitrary assumptions.
In order to avoid deception, we need to employ tools for proper exegesis that are derived from the study of epistemology, which by its very nature is the study of knowledge – both its range and maximum value. Any exploration of the Olivet passage will challenge more than ones view of hermeneutics by itself. Addressing this passage will also challenge our grasp of the eschatological timeline and implementation plan besides.
Most students who study eschatology – the study of last things – find that the Olivet Discourse has proven to be a taxing point of accessing a concise understanding. Some have found it to be perplexing and superficially incongruous; a hermeneutical surd, that presents a staged battleground between the dispensationalist and the preterist, the historicist and the post tribulational view, the anagogic and the prophetic. Preterist’s tend to insist that this passage – along with the entire Book of Revelation – has already been fulfilled, lending unsolicited support to the classic dispensational approach to problematic passages of Scripture. Some find it easier to dismiss portions of the bible with a wave of future or past application, thus excluding the validity of any practical application for their lives or theologies. Positions of this sort will also dismiss these passages as simply being allegorical, therefore abating the importance of reality based interpretive structures.
The Power of Resolution
Photographers who are professional or amateurs all understand a prevailing concept in the fine art of shuttering: the resolving power of the lens and mirrors determines its ability to distinguish between two close but distinct, objects. This ability to amplify objects is increased in its complexity when telescopic applications are undertaken. A single star viewed with a simple telescope that holds limited resolution capability can easily become a pair of conspicuously distinct stars when viewed with a telescope of greater optical worth. This distinctive ability is known as the “resolving power” of optics.
It is possible to create an analogous situation between optics and Scripture, particularly in the case of prophetic and apocalyptic writings. In the case of Olivet, we can really benefit by placing our presumptions and presuppositions to the side, and let the texts speak for themselves when possible (Missler).
The Hazard of Harmony
Traditional attempts to “harmonize the Gospels” create at least part of the problem. From Augustine forward, theologians have tried to join the four different Gospel perspectives into a singular sequence of events. Although this approach can be useful for a cursory review of the life of Christ for a scholastic exercise, it usually results in a myopic approach to the interpretation of Scripture, with the “Olivet Discourse” (recorded in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21) serving as a salient example.
Matthew appears to have been skilled in shorthand. This has led us to depend on his meticulous rendering. The problem seems to surface however, when we observe that a substantial inconsistency exists between Matthew’s testimony and Luke’s rendition of the life of Christ. As there are multiple accounts and stories that appear to be identical in both Gospel’s, it has been the prevailing view among conservative scholars to assume that both authors were dealing with the same event and information base. Sometimes this works, but 1700 years of history proves that it easier to make mistakes, as opposed to accurate interpretation of these passages.
Accepting the Differences in Textual Rational
It is correct to assume that setting aside our presuppositions and trusting the integrity of the texts will improve our “resolving power” in understanding these passages. This does mean that we have to accept the discrepancies and differences in information that is presented by the authors. Jesus asks us to value the facts of His messages, so let’s take a closer look at each of them. They each may be focusing on different events from a different perspective and may even address different audiences on different occasions. Luke’s account was definitely written from a secondary source of information, as neither he nor Paul were presumed to be at Olivet when the messages were given. The similarities of expression in the various accounts may have caused us to jump to premature conjectures as we have attempted to cause these accounts to segue into one concise statement.
Scripture describes three prophetic time frames related to the last 7 years of this age (Daniel 9:27). The last 7 years is made up of 2 distinct periods each lasting 3½ years. First time frame: beginning of birth pangs with distress in the nations (Matthew 24:4-8; Luke 21:23, 25). Second time frame: increased labor pangs with counterfeit world peace (first 3½ year period). Third time frame: hard labor pangs with the Great Tribulation (final 3½ year period).
understanding the first time frame: distress in the nations (Matthew 24:4-8)
The beginning of birth pangs occurs before the 7-year period starts. Israel is the timetable for God’s prophetic plans. They are the reference point for understanding redemptive history past and future. Therefore, my opinion is that the beginning of birth pangs started in 1948 when Israel became a nation or in 1967 when Jerusalem came under Israel’s authority.
Jesus spoke of a specific period of time called the “beginning of birth pangs.” The Greek word birth pangs is translated as sorrows (NKJV). It is to be compared with the increasing trauma a woman experiences during childbirth. This trauma will result in a new world order being birthed at the Millennium. Paul spoke of creation as groaning before the Millennial earth.
Jesus gave twelve major trends that are to be discerned and received as prophetic signs to help the Church prepare for the coming years (Matthew 24:4-8; Mark 13:5-8, Luke 21:7-18). Jesus gave us accelerator signs in different areas of life including spiritual (positive and negative), social, political, technological, natural (signs in heaven and earth).
understanding the Second time frame: counterfeit world peace
The second prophetic time frame occurs in the first 3½ year period. It begins with the Antichrist being revealed as a man of peace who solves the “distress in the nations” (Matthew 24:4-8) and then establishes a counterfeit world peace (1 Thessalonians 5:3). At this time the Harlot Babylon religion persecutes the Church (Revelation 17:2-6) leading to many falling away from the faith (1 Timothy 4:1).
The last 7 years begins when the Antichrist makes a covenant with many nations bringing world peace that lasts 3½ years. When he breaks this covenant the Great Tribulation starts (Daniel 9:27).
3 When they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains (Great Tribulation) upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape (1 Thessalonians 5:3); 27 He (Antichrist) shall confirm a covenant with many (nations) for one week (7 years); but in the middle of the week he shall bring an end to sacrifice (in the Jerusalem Temple) (Daniel 9:27).
Two signs that Paul gave to indicate the time of Jesus’ Coming are a falling away from the faith combined with the revealing of the Antichrist on the world stage to establish peace (1 Thessalonians 5:3). Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day (Jesus’ Second Coming) will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin (Antichrist) is revealed… (2 Thessalonians 2:3).
There will be a falling away from the faith at the end of the age (Matthew 24:9-13; 2 Thessalonians 2:3; 1 Timothy 4:1-2; 2 Timothy 3:1-7; 4:3-5; 2 Peter 2:1-3). A doctrine of a demon is a teaching inspired by demons: Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, 3 forbidding to marry… (1 Timothy 4:1-3).
A Word in Accord
“According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep”
(1 Thessalonians 4:15).
There can hardly be a better place to begin our study of the return of Christ and the end of the age than by examining what Jesus Christ has to say. Jesus Christ is the Messiah who according to the Old Testament will come to establish the Kingdom of God on earth. He will reign from the throne of David, in Jerusalem. From the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry, He taught about the coming Kingdom and the end of the age. His most comprehensive teaching on the topic is the Olivet Discourse, which is recorded in the first three Gospels of the New Testament (Matthew, Mark and Luke). Jesus gave the Olivet Discourse in response to the disciples’ inquiry regarding His return. However, He had already taught extensively about the end of the age and the coming Kingdom of God. Therefore, before we go to the Olivet Discourse we will first review Jesus’ earlier teachings.
Two Ages, One (Kingdom) People
During Jesus’ ministry He constantly referred to two ages, this present age in which we now live and a second age which is to come in the future. Below are some of His teachings about the two ages: Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come (Matthew 12:32). ‘I tell you the truth,’ Jesus said to them, ‘no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life’ (Luke 18:29, 30). Jesus replied, ‘The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. However, those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither will marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection (Luke 20:34-36).
This present age or dispensation, the one in which we now live, most likely began in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve sinned by disobeying God and will not end until Jesus returns for His bride. I am an obviously modified dispensationalist. In contrast to this present age, Jesus taught about an age of righteousness that will come after the present age ends. This age to come will begin when Christ establishes the Kingdom of God on earth in its fullness. All true believers are waiting for that age to manifest. In Luke 20:34, Jesus tells us that those who are worthy to take part in “that age” will be called “the children of the resurrection.” As Jesus only referred to only two ages, “this age” and the “age to come,” we would be wise to restrict our expectations and rules to the same space time continuum.