Jesus prophesied that the temple would be destroyed. Later in the evening, four disciples come privately and receive instruction concerning the Coming of the Son of Man and the End of the Age, but Jesus’ immediate response to the crowd recorded in Luke 21 did not occur on the Mount of Olives.
Matthew 24-25 and Mark 13 both contain a discourse which occurs on the Mount of Olives, hence the name, the Olivet Discourse. Luke 21, while containing some of the same aspects, is significantly different from Matthew and Mark. The first difference is that the basic framework of Matthew and Mark is missing from Luke. Matthew and Mark both possess sections which mention the beginning of birth pains, Matthew 24:4-8, Mark 13:5-8, the preaching of the gospel in the midst of persecution unto the end of the age, Matthew 24:9-14, Mark 13:9-13, and the section which PreWrathers love in Matthew 24:15-31, Mark 13:14-27, containing the clear sequence of
#1- The Abomination of Desolation
#2- The Great Tribulation
#3- The Cosmic Signs
#4- The Coming of Christ
#5- The Gathering of the Elect
In Luke, we have some description of those things which are described as birth pains in Matthew and Mark, but they are not designated as such. In Luke, we have persecution, but there is no mention that the gospel will be preached during this time of persecution for a witness in all nations and then the end [of the age] will come. The Abomination of Desolation, Daniel the prophet, the Great Tribulation, and the Gathering of the Elect are nowhere to be found in Luke 21. We do have mention of signs in the sun, moon, and stars, but not specifically what those signs will be. We also have mention of the Coming of the Son of Man.
The second difference (which actually comes first) is that there is no mention of the discourse beginning on the Mount of Olives in Luke. As far as we know, the crowd asks Jesus the questions concerning the destruction of the temple. Jesus responds directly to the crowd speaking of a number of things including false Christs, wars, earthquakes, famines, pestilences, and even great signs from heaven. He then talks about persecution for those who believe in Him.
Then Jesus answers the question posed to Him concerning the destruction of the temple in the ears of the general public. He tells all who are standing in the temple court that when Jerusalem is surrounded by armies that the destruction (of which He had just spoken) is quite near. Every person clearly understood what Jesus the Prophet from Nazareth was saying. Quite soon, in the not too distant future, armies will surround Jerusalem and the temple will be desolated. Jesus goes on to say that this will begin a dispersion for Israelites during a time period which Jesus terms "the times of the Gentiles". Please note that these comments are unique to Luke.
The sign that they asked for concerning the destruction of the temple had been given. The sign is that Jerusalem will be surrounded by armies. And that’s it. But wait, Jesus goes on to describe other events. After verse 24, the narrative continues. But there is a break in the text at that very point. The narration from verse 25 through 36 may very well be from a later point in time as Jesus is speaking only with His disciples, making the title of this post misleading. It is also possible that Jesus spoke these words in the hearing of the crowds as well. Either way, the main topic of this discourse was the destruction of the temple. The culmination is clearly in verse 24. The summary at the end of the passage in 21:37-38 shows us that Luke could have drawn from sources who heard Him speak in front of the temple, or those who heard Him speak in private on the Mount of Olives. The main point still stands that Luke lays out Jesus’ initial response as occurring at the temple.
Later on in the evening when four of Jesus’ disciples come to Him privately, the subject is slightly different. While we do not have the words in Mark, Matthew points out that the disciples are inquiring concerning two things which He has spoken of throughout His ministry on different occasions. Those two things are His Coming and the End of the Age. The disciples’ curiosity is piqued. They heard Jesus speaking in front of the crowds concerning the destruction of the temple. They understand vaguely about this Coming and the End of the Age, but how does it all fit together? After this inquiry by these four disciples, the response is what we know as The Olivet Discourse whose main subject is the Coming of Christ, not the destruction of the temple since Jesus had already given those details in front of the crowds.
The difference in the arrangement of each gospel is something we may never fully understand. Each gospel writer was free to choose events or leave them out depending on what themes he was highlighting. It seems that Luke had an affixation with Jerusalem and its fate. Luke alone includes Mary and Joseph presenting Jesus as an infant at the temple in Jerusalem. Luke alone records the discussion during the transfiguration concerning the death of Christ which must happen at Jerusalem. Luke alone records the time when Jesus "set His face toward Jerusalem". Luke records the hauntingly strange phrase, "it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem." In Luke, Jesus anticipates those who believe that the Kingdom of God would immediately appear simply because He was going to Jerusalem. Luke alone records the address to the daughters of Jerusalem. Luke alone records the instructions to wait in Jerusalem until they received power from on high.
And most notably, Luke is the only one who records Jesus weeping over Jerusalem as He beholds the city. This event is just after the triumphal ascent, which began at the Mount of Olives, and just before the cleansing of the temple. For our study, it would be noteworthy to examine exactly what Jesus said as He wept over the city.
19:41 And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, 42 Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. 43 For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, 44 And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.
It is obvious that Luke wanted to focus on the theme of Jerusalem’s future destruction by highlighting this little clip in Jesus’ sorrows. Luke’s presentation of the answer to the question of the destruction of the temple further clarifies what Jesus was weeping about as He beheld Jerusalem. Luke’s boldness in including these awful, foreboding words of Jesus actually authenticated Jesus’ ministry as a prophet to that generation. Luke’s gospel was published before Acts, which was published before the death of Paul, which occurred before the destruction of the temple. So as Luke included those words, their fulfillment was yet future. It is difficult not to see the similarity between these words and the words which Jesus uttered which prompted the questions from the crowd.
21:6 As for these things which ye behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.
Jesus prophesied events that were fulfilled in 70 A.D., but the Olivet Discourse was not fulfilled in 70 A.D. For those of you who have made it to the end, this is the next post on Preterism. 70 A.D. fulfillment is important. It validated Jesus’ ministry as a prophet to His generation. My past posts on Preterism mainly focused on why Preterism cannot be so even if we concede points by liberal scholarship, the historical Jesus, and a supposed evolution of the gospels. I will attempt to focus on why a Futurist interpretation is the only interpretation. This post is the first step.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman
P.S. For a further, more thorough examination on the subject of the difference between Matthew and Luke, read Dave Bussard’s work here.