Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The Key to the Olivet Discourse

"Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake." (Matthew 24:9)

"But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name's sake." (Luke 21:12)

When we examine carefully the Olivet Discourse as recorded in Matthew 24 and Luke 21, we find that in both Matthew and Luke Jesus begins the same way, but after his initial comments proceeds in different directions. Comparing Matthew 24:4-8 and Luke 21:8-11, Jesus speaks first of what has been called the birth-pangs: wars, earthquakes and pestilences, etc., that will take place before the end shall come. But after detailing these things, in Matthew 24:9 Jesus says "THEN..." while in Luke 21:12 He says "BUT BEFORE ALL THESE THINGS..." So in Matthew Jesus proceeds by saying after these birth pangs such and such will happen, and in Luke He proceeds by saying before these birth pangs such and such will happen.

What follows in both seems quite similar, and therefore interpreters easily confuse Christ to be speaking about the same thing and about the same time. But though they are similar, Jesus is speaking of two entirely different times - "before" and "after" the birth pangs. He speaks of persecution, and when correctly understood we see that He is referring to two different but similar times of persecution: the persecution in the days of the 1st century and the persecution at the time of the end. Interpreters often make the mistake of assuming that the "abomination of desolation" in Matthew 24:15 is the same thing as the "desolation of Jerusalem" in Luke 21:20 (though Luke never mentions the word "abomination," nor Daniel). They think Jesus is describing the same event in a different way. What these fail to see is that Jesus is referring to two different times because He has already indicated when the described event will take place - either before or after the birth pangs. The abomination of desolation in Matthew is after the birth pangs at the time of the end, and the desolation of Jerusalem in Luke is before the birth pangs in the 1st century. Though the events are similar (ex. for both times He exhorts people to flee from Jerusalem), they are not the same. If we simply notice the "after" and "before" of Matt. 24:9 and Luke 21:12 the picture becomes clear.

In Luke 21:25, after "the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled", Luke catches back up with Matthew and picks up the narrative at the end of the age when Christ returns. There is a lengthy amount of time implied in verses 22-24 from the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 to the end of the times of the Gentiles.

I believe this is the key to interpreting the Olivet Discourse in Matthew and Luke, and to refuting the Preterist idea that Matthew 24:15 and Luke 21:20 are the same event. Though similar, they are definitely not the same, as can be seen clearly not only by the difference of details in what follows, but by the "then" and "before" of Matthew 24:9 and Luke 21:12. Go look and see for yourself. Jesus is speaking of two different times. They both follow a similar pattern, but this does not mean they must be the same event.


Micah and Katie said...

Interesting, I've met a lot of pre tribs here in Moncton (pentecostal circles), so anything on this subject is interesting to me! Keep it coming! Micah

Unknown said...

Hey Eli, is there any way to 'subscribe' to your blog, so that I'd get updates when you make new posts?

Unknown said...

Nevermind. I figured it out, though if you could put a 'Subscribe' button on the page, I would suggest it.


Anonymous said...

Excellent observation, brilliant!