Prophecy School of Jesus|
Olivet or Temple Teachings?
The timing may be perfect for us to distinguish between several prophetic messages that Jesus gave to audiences. Clearly, Jesus spoke about the end times in Matthew 24, Luke 21, Mark 13 and Revelation chapter six. But, were these the same messages to all people groups? Probably not.
Birth Pangs or Beginning of Sorrows
All of the chapters listed above pivot around signs of the end called "birth pangs" (ESV) or "beginning of sorrows" (KJV) defined by Matthew 24:6-8. Those birth pangs include false Christs, wars, famines, pestilences and earthquakes. However, some events occur before the birth pangs such as the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D., while others occur long after that event.
In His prophetic discourses, Jesus spoke primarily to two audiences. First, he spoke to a general Temple audience:
"And every day he was teaching in the temple, but at night he went out and lodged on the mount called Olivet" (Luke 21:37).
Secondly, Jesus gave private briefings to his own disciples on the Mount of Olives called the "Olivet Discourse."
"As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately saying, 'Tell us, when will these things be'…(Matthew 24:3).
Luke presents the teachings of Jesus to his general audience in the Temple during the day (Luke 21:37). His message pertained to the first generation of believers who saw Jerusalem and the Temple destroyed.
It is fascinating that Luke leaves out much information about the future Tribulation period itself as described in Matthew 24. Instead, Luke emphasizes the time when Jesus will return to earth to set up his Kingdom after the Tribulation has occurred (Luke 21:25-27). Perhaps this is because the Tribulation would not directly affect his listeners.
In Luke's account Jesus warns his Temple audience to get out of Jerusalem once they see armies surround Jerusalem. Clearly, they listened. When Roman armies surrounded the city in 70 A.D., Jewish and Christian believers "split the scene" immediately. History records that over a million city residents were killed. However, none of the Christians died in the brutal siege (Eusebius, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1. Book III, Ch. 5.1).
Matthew and Mark
In contrast, Matthew 24 and Mark 13 speak of Jesus' private briefing to his disciples on the Mount of Olives which occurred at night (Luke 21:37). It includes a second, future desolation of the Jerusalem Temple by the antichrist during the midpoint of the Tribulation. Again, readers are instructed to "get out now" when they see this world leader declare himself to be god in the newly built Temple.
Cosmic disturbances and brutal tribulations then begin - events such as the sun becoming dark, the moon giving no light, stars falling from the sky and so forth. These are cosmic signs which have never happened before. Some may even include extinction-level events which threaten all life on earth. These apply to the last generation possibly including our times.
You may find it beneficial to re-read Matthew 24 and Luke 21 keeping the two audiences in mind. For example, it will help you to determine why some church denominations believe that everything happened before 70 A.D. from their reading of Luke 21 (although they cannot adequately explain extinction-level cosmic disturbances from other passages).
Other church groups believe that Luke 21 pertains to first-century believers only who saw their Temple destroyed by Roman armies. To learn more about the Tribulation events in earth's future, Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Revelation chapter six provide details that likely apply to us. (Anyone ready for the deadly ID mark on the hand or forehead described in Revelation 13:16? Hint: don't accept it! Why? Read Rev. 14:9-11 to see why).
Missler, Chuck. 2006. Prophecy 20/20: Profiling the Future through the Lens of Scripture. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.
… 2005. This Generation? Resolving the Olivet Discourse. (DVD). Coeur d'Alene, ID: Koinonia House.