One of the most important eschatological passages in the Bible is Jesus Christ’s great prophecy concerning “the end of the age.” This prophecy was issued on two distinct occasions. The first (recorded in Luke 21) was when Jesus Christ taught the people in the temple (Luke 20: 1), whereas the second (recorded in Matthew 24 & Mark 13) was spoken privately to Peter, James, John, and Andrew as they sat upon the Mount of Olives (Mark 13: 3).
In order to understand Christ’s prophecy, one must harmonize the two discourses. We are prepared to show that the prophecy spoken in the temple concerns the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and the dispersion of the Jews until the end of the present age; while the great bulk of Christ’s Olivet Discourse speaks of the “Great Tribulation” which will fall out after the Jews have been gathered into their own land.
So far as the two discourses start out, Luke 21: 8-9 is parallel with Matthew 24: 4-6 and Mark 13: 5-7. Christ predicts the rise of false Messiahs and deceivers, and wars and rumors of wars which must come to pass. Then He describes nations rising against nations, earthquakes famines and pestilences in diverse places (Luke 21: 10-11; Matt. 24: 7-8; Mark 13: 8). In the Olivet Discourse Christ affirms that “these are the beginning of sorrows” (Matt. 24: 8; Mark 13: 8). In other words, these signs are the beginning of the Great Tribulation.
In the temple discourse, however, Christ makes a transition. After predicting the earthquakes, famines, pestilences, and fearful sights and great signs from heaven (Luke 21: 11), our Lord does not say “these are the beginning of sorrows,” but stops short and goes back to introduce a parenthesis describing events which would take place “before all these” beginnings of sorrows.
This parenthesis occupies verses 12-24 of Luke’s discourse, and carries us from the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish dispersion until the close of the Great Tribulation and Christ’s coming in the clouds of heaven; whereas the Olivet Discourse deals with events which would transpire during and immediately following the Great Tribulation (Matt. 24: 9-30; Mark 13: 9-26). The two discourses synchronize once more with the description of Christ’s parousia (Luke 21: 25-27; Matt. 24: 29-30; Mark 13: 24-26).
The dispersion passages in Luke 21 are of the highest import, for Preterists (and even some Futurists) affirm that verses 20-24were fulfilled during the long period of devastation that occurred from A.D. 69 to A.D. 135, when the city was finally broken up and all the Jews driven out, thus fulfilling the curses of Deuteronomy 28.
However, a mistake arises from not seeing that this whole period of the Jewish dispersion was to last until the “times of the Gentiles” were fulfilled (Luke 21: 24). Then the Jews would be regathered to their own land for remedial purposes, and after the rise of Antichrist, the Great Tribulation would commence. This is the event prophesied in Christ’s Olivet Discourse, and not the period of the Jewish dispersion.
A few Scriptures will be needed to bring this out. Firstly, Moses predicted in Deuteronomy 28: 59 that the plagues of Israel would be “of long continuance.” Then, in Deuteronomy 30: 1-10 he held out God’s continued promise to restore blessings to Israel on the condition of national repentance. This promise would hold good during the entire duration of their dispersion in the lands of the heathen (30: 1). The “long continuance” of the dispersion must therefore occupy the period known as “the times of the Gentiles.”
Secondly, when in His Olivet Discourse Christ predicted the “abomination of desolation” (Matt. 24: 15; Mark 13: 14), He was pointing His very finger to the time of Antichrist’s persecution. For the passage Christ refers to is Daniel 11: 31, where Antichrist is described as taking away the daily sacrifice and placing the abomination that maketh desolate.
This prediction coincides with those of Daniel 8: 13, 9: 27, and 12: 11. All of these verses speak of the period of Antichrist’s power, which will last until the “time of the end” when the sanctuary shall be cleansed (Dan. 8: 14). The 2,300 days mentioned by Daniel in 8: 14 begin exactly 220 days after the commencement of the 70th week of Daniel, ending at the close of the week; while the “midst of the week” is that point when the daily sacrifice will be taken away and the “abomination that maketh desolate” set up. The remaining 42 months given to Antichrist to afflict the saints brings the prophecy up to the time of the end (Daniel 7: 25; 9: 27; 12: 7; Revelation 13: 5). This 42 month period fills up the “Great Tribulation” mentioned in Christ’s Olivet Discourse.
A careful study of Daniel 12 only confirms this. For the chapter opens with the phrase “at that time” (Dan. 12: 1), thus marking the predictions that follow to be a continuation of those given in Daniel 11. Daniel records that at that time there shall be a period of “trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time” (Dan. 12: 1). Compare closely with Matthew 24: 21, where Christ, after warning the Jews to flee when they see the “abomination of desolation stand in the holy place” (24: 15) says: “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matt. 24: 21).
Christ is speaking of the same period denoted by Daniel as at that time, when Antichrist shall have “planted the tabernacles of his palace between the seas in the glorious holy mountain” (Dan. 11: 45). This evidence presents an insuperable barrier to Preterists, who must place fulfillment of the predictions of Daniel 11: 21-45 in the seven years preceding the destruction of the Jewish temple by Titus.
So far, we are not aware of any Preterists who have attempted this Herculean feat. However, knowing their methods of blandly vaporizing the Scriptures, such text-jockeying would hardly surprise us. Only keep in mind, however, that almost all commentators see the “vile person” of Daniel 11: 21-35 as Antiochus Epiphanes (an aknowledged “type” of Antichrist), while verses 36-45 of the same chapter are generally regarded as yet unfulfilled.
As a third and final proof that the Olivet Discourse describes the events following the regathering of Israel, we appeal to Ezekiel 22: 15-22, in which the prophet predicts a regathering of the Jewish people into Jerusalem for remedial purposes. The whole context of the prophecy places this after the dispersion (v. 15-16 ff.). Thus, the dispersion and the regathering are two unique events, separated by a long period of time in which the Gentiles are gathered into the church.
Of course, we could give much more evidence in support of our view that events of the Olivet Discourse are yet future. We could allude to verses such as Zechariah 14: 2-4, in which Messiah’s return is described as co-ordinate with the destruction of those enemies which fight against Jerusalem. Or, referring to the same prophet, we might show from Zech. 12: 9-10 that the same events are accompanied by a Jewish national conversion, thus fulfilling Christ’s own promise that, “ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Matt. 23: 39).
Suffice it to say that any interpretation of Christ’s end-time prophecy which fails to harmonize the two discourses with the plain testimony of the Old Testament prophets, can only result in a blindness and confusion as great as that which hindered the Scribes and Pharisees from perceiving the truth. Although this is a brief and cursory study, I am hoping that it will help lead others into the right paths of prophetic interpretation.