UNDERSTANDING THE OLIVET DISCOURSE

PMW 2022-058 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

On this site, my most popular postings deal with either the Book of Revelation or the Olivet Discourse. The main focus of my site is obviously the postmillennial hope and its affirmation of the glorious progress of the gospel to victory in history. However, the judgment issues emphasized in both Olivet and Revelation are necessary to understand if one is going to defend gospel victory.

I recently spoke at a conference where I gave five lectures on Matthew’s version of the Olivet Discourse. This was videotaped and is now in available as a DVD set titled “Understanding the Olivet Discourse.” The lectures were well received and the DVDs are doing well, for which I am thankful and encouraged.

The five lectures I presented covered all the major issues in Matthew 24–25, providing a helpful study on this noteworthy teaching by Christ. In the present article I will provide a brief introduction to the lectures, hoping to whet your appetite. This DVD set should be a helpful means for presenting the orthodox preterist view of the Lord’s great discourse. I highly recommend your buying it for that purpose — as does my wife, two of my three children, and two of my six grandchildren (the others were in bed asleep when I asked them if they would recommend viewing the lectures, due to elementary school starting the next day).

The five lectures were:

  1. The Apostle’s Anticipation of the Olivet Discourse
  2. The Disciples’ Expectation in the Olivet Discourse
  3. The Christian’s Questions about the Olivet Discourse
  4. The Lord’s Transition in the Olivet Discourse
  5. The Final Judgment’s Presentation in the Olivet Discourse
  1. The Apostle’s Anticipation of the Olivet Discourse

This opening message provides the necessary introduction to the Apostle Matthew’s version of Olivet, noting that it is unique in being Jesus’ only fully eschatological discourse. It also points out that it is the fullest of the three versions found in the Synoptic Gospels, covering two full chapters (Matt. 24–25). This should provide us with incentive to carefully study it for a fuller understanding of Olivet.

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Understanding the Olivet Discourse (DVD set) by Ken Gentry

This five-lecture set presents all the essential elements necessary for properly understanding the Olivet Discourse. It shows that the Discourse opens with prophecies regarding the AD 70 destruction of the temple, but then concludes with the Final Judgment to which AD 70 points.

For more educational materials see: www.KennethGentry.com

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Thus, to better understand the Discourse, I highlight its setting in Matthew. I point out that the Apostle develops the growing Jewish antipathy to Jesus and the developing Gentile reception of him. It opens with the Jews fearful upon hearing of Christ’s birth (Matt. 24:3), while the Gentiles come to see him (Matt. 2:1–2). It closes with Jesus ending his special focus on Israel (cf. 10:5–6; 15:24), while opening his mission to “all nations” (Matt. 28:19–20). Thus, as Jesus’ final major Discourse of five in Matthew, Olivet becomes the capstone to Jewish resistance and Gentile acceptance. Matthew’s well-crafted Gospel builds toward Olivet in an impressive, instructive, and important way.

  1. The Disciples’ Expectation in the Olivet Discourse

Turning from the Apostle Matthew’s anticipating Olivet in the structuring of his Gospel, I then proceeded to highlight how the Disciples received this surprising Discourse. In this lecture I strongly emphasize the exegetical evidence that the great tribulation is past, having occurred in the events leading up to and including AD 70. This affirmation oftentimes spins people’s toupees around when they first hear it. But the conferees knew what I was going to be presenting. So they took it well, with very few of them crying out: “Heretic! What have we got to look forward to if the great tribulation judgment is over!” Or: “Away with him! We have no interpreter but Lindsey!” Nor did they burst out in song, singing: “My hope is built on nothing less that Scofield’s notes and Moody Press.”

My first point in this message was to stress that the tribulation was historically limited, i.e., to the first century. That is, it was limited to “this generation” to which Jesus spoke (Matt. 24:34). Thus, it was extremely relevant to his original audience, which lived in a dramatically important period of redemptive-history.

Furthermore, the tribulation was focused on the area around Jerusalem and Judea (Matt. 24:16). It was not a worldwide judgment, though AD 70 was a harbinger of that ultimate judgment, the Final Judgment at the end of history. Like the several Old Testament “day of the Lord” events, it was important in itself, but ultimately pointed beyond itself to a fuller reality.

  1. The Christian’s Questions about the Olivet Discourse

In this message I focused on the modern Christians’ confusion regarding the historical fulfillment of the Discourse. I survey the leading verses that confound them, explaining them in terms of both the local context in Matthew, as well as the broader context of all of Scripture.


Olivet Discourse Made Easy (by Ken Gentry)Olivet Discourse EZ 2019 b

Verse-by-verse analysis of Christ’s teaching on Jerusalem’s destruction in Matt 24. Shows the great tribulation is past, having occurred in AD 70, and is distinct from the Second Advent at the end of history.

See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com


Oftentimes modern believers cannot initially accept the fact that the great tribulation was the worst ever (Matt. 24:21). They cannot do so because they do not understand Jesus’ prophetic parlance and the enormity of the destruction of the temple. Nor can they understand “the abomination of desolation” in the broader setting of Scripture (v. 15).

Furthermore, they see Matthew 24:27 as a devastating impediment to the past-tense fulfillment of Olivet. For they do not properly understand the structure and flow of the Discourse. This confuses them regarding this reference to Christ’s coming “as lightning.” This coming is a warning that when Christ returns again at the end of history it will be a very clear and dramatic event. Whereas in the first-century great tribulation people would be spreading rumors that he is hiding in a room or in the wilderness (vv. 23, 26). Thus, Jesus mentions the nature of his Second Coming to warn that it will not be something that could be hidden.

Other issues tripping up the contemporary Christian include his coming on the clouds (Matt. 24:29), his gathering his elect (v. 31), and so forth. These can all be easily explained in terms of his first-century judgment of Jerusalem. If you don’t believe me, buy the DVD set and you will see. And I recommend you buying two copies of the DVD set just to see if I am consistent (if this marketing ploy works I should be well set).

Other issues tripping up the contemporary Christian include his coming on the clouds (Matt. 24:29), his gathering his elect (v. 31), and so forth. These can all be easily explained in terms of his first-century judgment of Jerusalem. If you don’t believe me, buy the DVD set and you will see. And I recommend you buying two copies of the DVD set just to see if I am consistent (if this marketing ploy works I will be well set, able to engage in “a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest”).

  1. The Lord’s Transition in the Olivet Discourse

In my fourth study I focused on the hotly debated issue of the transition in the Discourse from the first century events to the last century events. That is, the shifting from the AD 70 metaphorical judgment-coming of Christ to the last century literal judgment-coming of Christ to which AD 70 points.

I began this message by carefully analyzing the Disciples’ confused questions in Matthew 24:2. I show how these two questions fuse together in their minds the destruction of the temple with the Second Coming / Final Judgment. This will require that the Lord break them apart. They deemed Christ’s denunciation of the temple (v. 1) as inscrutable without the Second Coming. But in his Discourse he will unscrew the inscrutable.

I show how the Disciples’ are frequently confused at Jesus’ teaching, requiring him to straighten them out. And that is what he does in the way he treats their two questions sparking the Discourse. He warns that some will mislead them (Matt. 24:4), but that they should not allow themselves to be misled — by properly understanding what he will teach them.

The Lord draws a distinction between the first-century temple judgment and the last century final judgment, beginning in Matthew 24:34–36. After this transition passage (properly understood) he will then deal with the Second Coming as a distinct and distant future event whose time is unknowable, even to Jesus himself (v. 36). Whereas the coming of the temple’s destruction was known to be in their lifetimes (v. 34). I provide thirteen reasons that there must be a transition from the first-century judgment on the temple to the last-century judgment on the world. Jesus is not simply a Jewish sage concerned only with Israel; rather he is the Lord of all nations, who themselves must be judged as well.

  1. The Final Judgment’s Presentation in the Olivet Discourse

Having demonstrated that Jesus distinguishes two events in the Disciples’ double-question and that he establishes a transition in the midst of his Discourse, I then proceeded to explain Matthew 24:37–25:46. As I surveyed these verses I showed how they fundamentally differ from the preceding verses dealing with AD 70. I also set the teaching in this section in the larger scope of Christ’s relation to the nations.

Conclusion

I am working on a major commentary on Matthew 21–25, whereby I hope to more fully explain the Olivet Discourse from an orthodox preterist perspective. But the two chapters containing the actual Discourse are fundamental to understanding Jesus’ eschatology. I hope you will review these lectures and learn how to defend the preterist viewpoint without slipping into the hyperpreterist nuisance and while extricating yourself from the dispensational nonsense.

4 thoughts on “UNDERSTANDING THE OLIVET DISCOURSE

  1. CAIQUE MATHEUS RIBEIRO CALIXTO August 5, 2022 at 11:34 am

    Hi, Dr Gentry
    Why don’t Mark 13:4 and Luke 21:7– mention the disciples’ question about the end of the world in the same way as Matthew 24:3? Does this not seem to indicate that the subject at hand is only the fall of Jerusalem and not the end of the world?

  2. Iain Simonds August 5, 2022 at 6:01 pm

    I really appreciate the articles on this site, but have found frequent typos in articles, often in relation to scripture references. e.g. In this article, the paragraph that begins ‘Thus, to better understand the Discourse, I highlight its setting in Matthew. I point out that the Apostle develops the growing Jewish antipathy to Jesus and the developing Gentile reception of him. It opens with the Jews fearful upon hearing of Christ’s birth (Matt. 24:3)’.
    The reference Matt 24:3 should read Matt 2:3.

  3. Kenneth Gentry August 9, 2022 at 9:05 am

    Thanks! Fixed

  4. Kenneth Gentry August 9, 2022 at 9:15 am

    Each Gospel writer is presenting his own narrative goal. They are all presenting the facts, but a different focus on the facts. We must also remember that Jesus almost certainly spoke in Aramaic to the first century Jews (cf. Matt. 5:22; 27:46; Mark 7:41; 7:34; 11:; 14:36; John 20:16 ). The Gospel writers translated him into Greek for the broader church audience.

    Furthermore, Matthew presents the longest record of Jesus’ Discourse, providing much more detail. His record of the Disciples’ questions is an important detail that subtly emphasizes the upcoming transition in the Discourse. He will show that AD 70 is a distant harbinger of the Second Advent.

    There are many evidences for a transition at vv. 34-36. I provide 13 evidences in my upcoming book, Olivet in Context. In my current Olivet Discourse Made Easy, I provide 9 lines of evidence. This view is held by a good number of competent, world-class exegetes (R. T. France, Jeffrey A. Gibbs, Alistair Wilson, J. K. Brown, Marcellus Kik, and others).

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