The Kingdom of Heaven in Story Form ~ #12
#12 ~ The Olivet Discourse – The Parable of the Fig Tree
Matthew 24-25 is known as The Olivet Discourse because it occurred on the Mount of Olives. Jesus outlines details of the events leading up to His coming in power and glory. After describing these events, Jesus tells 6 parables, 3 shorter followed by 3 longer. Some of these parables are stated to be about the Kingdom of Heaven. So, in some way the Kingdom of Heaven is related to the coming of Jesus in power and glory. We will study the events and then look at the very first short parable. The Kingdom of Heaven has some aspects that are present in the person of Jesus as He ministered, but some aspects are associated with His coming, which is yet future.
Note: I started this lesson by telling a story from when I was a teenager. I was first saved and began reading the Bible. Someone that I respected very much came to me excited about something they had learned in the Bible. The person said, “You know how in the Bible that Russia is symbolized by a bear, right?” I said, “Yeah.” And you know how the lion represents England, right?” I said, “Yeah.” And when the United States was first formed, we had a snake on our flag?” I said, “Okay.” Then the person said, “Now read Amos 5:19.” Which at this point I read Amos 5:19 to the class. (Back to my teenager story.) Me being young and impressionable in my faith, I gasped and thought this was some great epiphany.
Then I asked the class, “What is the problem with the way this person presented the scriptures to me?” The issue that I pointed out is that this person gave me information that is not in the passage, and in fact is nowhere in the scripture, and then after giving me that information, then told me to read the scripture. This is what a lot of teachers do. Before you can read the Olivet Discourse, they will give you a bunch of information that is not in the text, and in fact in not in the Bible anywhere, and then after their long complicated explanations about why the Olivet Discourse is not for the church, then they will say, okay, now you can go ahead and read the text.
I told the class, I’m not going to give you a bunch of information that is not in the text. We are going to read through the entire Olivet Discourse and let it speak for itself. So, on with the lesson.
Matthew 24:1-2 ~ The Setting. Against the backdrop of the rejection of Jesus and the desolation that is going to come upon Jerusalem, Jesus reveals to the disciples that the temple will be destroyed. For those disciples who still insisted that Jesus would immediately set up His kingdom, this would raise some eyebrows and some questions.
Matthew 24:3 ~ The Question. This prompts a couple of questions from the disciples concerning His coming and the end of the age. The word translated age (or world) is the Greek word aion which refers to time in some manner. Our English word eon is derived from it. Interestingly enough, it was used by Jesus when He said “For thine in the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” We have translated aion to mean forever in that sentence. Jesus has spent some time teaching about the age to come in Matthew 12:32, “Whoever speaks a word against the Holy Spirit it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this age, nor in the age to come.” In the parable of the tares in Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43, the harvest is the end of the age. Luke 20:34-35 equates the age to come with the resurrection.
Matthew 24:4-8 ~ The Birth Pains. What are the different world events that Jesus considers to be birth pains? Are these birth pains to be considered signs of the end or signs of the coming of Jesus? Note that the Greek word for birth pains or sorrows is odin which should be translated as the pain of childbirth. Cross reference Romans 8:18-23. The Greek word translated labors with birth pangs is sunodino, a compound word from sun (with) and odino (the verb form of odin) which means to feel the pains of childbirth. When are these birth pains in both passages happening? Note that the Greek word translated be not alarmed or be not troubled is the Greek word throeo which means to raise a false alarm.
Note: My point of view is that the birth pains are occurring right now and have been all throughout history. This is what our discussion was centered around in the questions above.
Matthew 24:9-9-14 ~ Tribulation (persecution) for the name of Jesus. Who is this tribulation against? The Greek word is thlipsis which means a very intense pressing together. Word study on tribulation: Acts 14:22, Romans 12:12, II Corinthians 1:4, II Corinthians 4:17, Colossians 1:24, I Thessalonians 1:6, II Thessalonians 1:4-6, Revelation 1:9. What is occurring while this tribulation is happening against followers of Jesus Christ?
Note: This was a great study. Instead of priming them to say the church will not be here for tribulation, I showed them the scriptures that tribulation is promised for the church as the church is preaching the gospel. It was quite effective.
The End of the Age in Matthew. Note that in response to the question of, “What shall be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?”, Jesus has now pointed to the end. That end here should be a reference to the end of the age. Notice how the disciples of Jesus are supposed to preach the gospel in the midst of persecution and tribulation until the end. In Matthew 13:39, the parable of the tares already gave us the phrase “the harvest is the end of the age”. Wheat and tares are intermingled until the end of the age. Finally, in the great commission in Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus says that He would be with those that preach the gospel making disciples of all nations until the end of the age. If these verses are for the church to go and make disciples, then this end of the age is for the church. Matthew is only speaking of one “end of the age.”
Note: I have mentioned this in other posts. Matthew only teaches one “end of the age”. The end of the age in the Olivet Discourse is the same end of the age in the Great Commission, which most Bible commentators, even pre-trib, believe that the Great Commission is for the church. So why is the end of the age in the Great Commission for the church, but the end of the age in the Olivet Discourse is not for the church?
Matthew 24:15 ~ The Sign. Now Jesus gives the sign of His coming. “When you see the abomination of desolation.” Now we know what the sign of His coming will be. What is this abomination of desolation? Jesus said that the answer lies in Daniel the prophet. He also says this abomination will be standing in the holy place and Mark 13:14 adds “standing where it ought not.” A composite study of Daniel 9:27, 11:31, 12:11 shows that it is an event whereby sacrifices at the temple are put to a stop and something abominable is set up in its place. Our studies show that this event occurs at the midpoint of a 7 year period which is yet in the future.
Matthew 24:16-20 ~ Specific Instructions. At the fulfillment of that sign (the abomination of desolation), Jesus has specific instructions for those living in Judea. What does He tell them to do? What does this tell us about the location of the abomination of desolation?
Matthew 24:21-28 ~ The Great Tribulation. The abomination of desolation will begin the great tribulation. The great tribulation should not be any different than the previous tribulation except it is greater (Greek word megas from which we get the word mega). We have shifted from tribulation against followers of Jesus Christ which happens all throughout the existence of the church to an even greater tribulation which begins after the abomination of desolation. There is no reason to suggest that the tribulation is against a different group of people. In fact, the use of the word elect confirms that the great tribulation is against those whom Christ has chosen. The Greek word for elect is eklektos and is used in Matthew 22:14, “For many are called, but few are chosen (eklektos).” Word Study on elect: Luke 18:7, Romans 8:33, Colossians 3:12, II Timothy 2:10, Titus 1:1, I Peter 2:9 (a chosen, eklektos generation), Revelation 17:14 (chosen, eklektos). Will the elect be put to death at this time? What supernatural things will be happening during this time? What lie might some people believe that Christ warns against?
Note: This study on the word “elect” was to show that Jesus is speaking to followers of Jesus Christ, not the unbelieving nation of Israel.
Matthew 24:29-31 ~ The Coming of the Son of Man. When does Jesus come? What signs will occur immediately before that coming? Who is gathered at this time? These cosmic signs are mentioned in other places in the scriptures. What clue does Joel 2:31 give us? Read Revelation 6:12-17 and see if you think this is the same event.
Note: I wrote on the marker board a timeline which shows the great tribulation beginning at the midpoint of a seven year period. Then I put the Return of Christ with cosmic signs as an interruption. Then immediately after that I put the phrase The Day of the LORD, according to the above scriptures. After I put the gathering of the elect up there as well, one person asked, “But I thought we weren’t going to be here because the rapture was going to be before all this?” I said, “Doesn’t that get back to what I said at the beginning? Some people say before you can read this passage that there are additional things to be added before we even read the passage. Where does it say in this passage that the rapture happens first?” There was no response.
Matthew 24:32-35 ~ The Parable of the Fig Tree. We know that summer is near right now because leaves are appearing on the trees. Note: I taught this in May of last year. How soon will summer arrive once leaves appear on the trees? What does Jesus mean by “when we see all these things, we know that it is near”? Which generation was Jesus referring to?
Who remembers the book 88 Reasons Why the Rapture will be in 1988? Edgar Whisenant was quoted as saying, “Only if the Bible is in error am I wrong; and I say that to every preacher in town” and “[I]f there were a king in this country and I could gamble with my life, I would stake my life on Rosh Hashana 88.” A misinterpretation of this parable, the parable of the fig tree, is one of the main reasons why he sold 4.5 million copies of his book. Here is his faulty interpretation: “This last generation spoken of above started on 14 May 1948, the day Israel became a nation. Israel is the time clock of God throughout history. Israel is the blooming fig tree, and the last generation will end 40 wicked gentile years later on 14 May 1988.”
Have you been told things about the second coming of Jesus that you believe but they are not found in scripture?
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman