The Olivet Discourse

By Grant Phillips

At this time I am only dealing with chapter twenty-four of Matthew.

Prior to speaking with His disciples privately on the Mount of Olives in Matthew chapter 24, Jesus had already blistered the scribes and Pharisees in chapter 23 for being so spiritually blind and legalistic. At the close of chapter 23, He says,

36Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.

 37O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!

 38Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.

 39For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.(Matthew 23:36-39)

There is no way you and I can know the agony Jesus must have felt at that time.

These very people had been given their heritage many years ago by God. He had begun their lineage with Abraham and Sarah. They had always longed to see their Messiah promised by the prophets, but when He came, they did not know Him. I do believe some knew who He was, but would not accept Him. Several of these men had gained a position of wealth and power and were not about to give it up for anyone. I believe that Caiaphas was one who knew, or at least suspected, but wasn’t about to give up his position of wealth, prestige and authority. Not only that, Jesus knows that very shortly they will assist in having Him horribly beaten and murdered.

He looks ahead a few years, and sees Jerusalem, the beloved city, destroyed in 70 A.D. and His people scattered to the far corners of the earth, taken away from the land they love. He looks on down the corridors of time and sees them slaughtered by despots, such as Hitler in recent years.

He remembers His words to them by the prophet Amos,

18Woe unto you that desire the day of the LORD! to what end is it for you? the day of the LORD is darkness, and not light.

 19As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into the house, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him.

 20Shall not the day of the LORD be darkness, and not light? even very dark, and no brightness in it?” (Amos 5:18-20)

They have missed His first coming, and long for the second, not knowing they have rejected their Messiah, what lies ahead for them, and especially what the day of the LORD entails when He returns.

Now on the Mount of Olives He informs His disciples, soon to be apostles, of Israel’s future. They had to be downcast when Jesus told them that His kingdom would be postponed and the temple destroyed and abandoned. Not wanting to believe such a thing, they showed Him the grandeur of the temple courtyard, but Jesus explained to them that “There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” (Matthew 24:2)

On that Mount of Olives, the disciples asked Him three questions: (Matthew 24:3)

1.     When will these things happen (the destruction of Jerusalem)?

a.      Answered in Luke 21:20-24 (and parts of Mark)

2.     What will be the sign of your return?

a.      Answered in Matthew 24:27-51

3.     What will be the sign of the end of the age?

a.      Answered in Matthew 24:4-26

                                                              i.      Church Age/Tribulation (Matthew 24:4-8) – Beginning of Sorrows

                                                            ii.      Tribulation (Matthew 24:9-14)

                                                          iii.      Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:15-26)

To understand this discourse of Jesus to His disciples, we must keep in mind that He is speaking to the Jews, not the Church. There is always an “application” for the Church, as there is in most every other area of the Bible, but this message is directly for the Jews. One point of interest is, Matthew did not record the first question (When will these things happen? – the destruction of Jerusalem), but Luke did. Now why is that?

Matthew portrays Jesus as the Messiah King.

Mark portrays Him as the Suffering Servant.

Luke portrays Him as the perfect man, Son of Man.

John shows Jesus as God in the flesh.

Matthew includes questions two and three because they are about the future Kingdom of Christ which immediately follows the end of the Tribulation. Jesus is seen as King, and will set up His kingdom.

Luke records question one, because it concerned Christ’s presence on earth either physically or by His Spirit, before the Rapture, Tribulation and Kingdom age. So in Luke, Jesus is seen as the Son of Man. He returns as the Son of God.

Mark, in a few areas, records question one, because it also covered Christ’s presence on earth. In Mark He is seen as the Suffering Servant, but when He returns, He will not be the suffering Servant, but Judge and King.

QUESTION NUMBER ONE (1) – When will these things happen? (Luke 21:20-24)

As you recall, the disciples had just finished admiring the temple buildings that Herod was erecting. It was a massive and beautiful complex. They were in such awe of the structures as they pointed them out to Jesus, but He answered them, “2And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down." (Matthew 24:2) So they first asked,3…Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matthew 24:3)

Tiberius Julius Alexander, second in command under Emperor Titus, in 70 A.D., totally obliterated the second temple of the Jews, built by Herod the Great. Not one stone was left upon another. Jerusalem was ransacked and destroyed even more devastatingly that when Nebuchadnezzar destroyed it in 586 B.C. Luke 21:20 describes the devastation.

20And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.

 21Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto.

 22For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.

 23But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people.

 24And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.


In 73 A.D., 1,000 starving men, women and children committed suicide rather than surrender to the Roman army who had besieged them at Masada for two years prior. The Romans then destroyed Jerusalem, annexed Judaea as a Roman province, and drove the remaining Jews out to areas such as Africa, Asia and Europe.

Since 73 A.D. the Jewish people have not lived in their land, but have been scattered all over the world, until Christ brought them back and re-established them as a nation on May 14, 1948. From the time they were removed from their home land and scattered throughout the world, to them coming together as a nation, 1,875 years passed. Since 1948 sixty-three years have passed as of today, and soon the times of the Gentiles will be fulfilled.


The next two questions are: (1) What will be the sign of your coming? And (2), what will be the sign of the end of the age? Jesus answers these two questions chronologically instead of the order they were asked, and this makes perfect sense, because the age would end prior to Christ’s return. So Jesus picks up on question three and then goes to question number two, since that is the order they fall.

QUESTION NUMBER THREE (3) – What will be the sign of the end of the age? (Matthew 24:4-26)

Matthew 24:4-8 describes the beginning of sorrows.

 4And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.

 5For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.

 6And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.

 7For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.

 8All these are the beginning of sorrows.

I personally believe that these signs are applicable to the Church age, but more particularly the beginning of the Tribulation period. Notice, especially concerning the Church age, that Jesus says, “But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.” Again, it is my opinion, but I feel we are getting a glimpse of the birth pains. We are at the very beginning, as they keep increasing in occurrence and severity. Soon, the times of the Gentiles will be fulfilled, then the Creator God will be ready, the water will break and there will be a ride to the delivery room the likes of which the world will never forget. This will be the most painful birth to ever occur, as it increases its stay in the delivery room of the Tribulation through the next seven years.

Matthew 24:9-14 describes the first 3 ½ years of the Tribulation.

At this point, the bride of Christ, the Church has been removed via the Rapture, and the Tribulation has begun.

9Then 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.

 10And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.

 11And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.

 12And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.

 13But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

 14And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.


Over the past many years, we can document many times Israel has suffered because of hate from others. As a nation today, they have fallen away and yet do not realize the true identity of their Messiah. Lawlessness has certainly increased, even exploded in our time, and few have any love for God.

The next two verses, verses thirteen and fourteen, are often misunderstood, because we equate them to our time. They are not for us. Remember, Jesus is telling them how it will be during the Tribulation, for the Jews in particular. Those who endure to the end, in the Tribulation, will be saved, and the Gospel will be preached to the whole world, during the Tribulation, by the 144,000 Jews, the two witnesses, and in particular the angel in Revelation 14:6. Think about this. There are no signs for the Rapture. Yet, we are seeing signs that are for the period after the Rapture, the Tribulation.

I believe “endurance” is brought up by Jesus, because of the severity of those days to come. You and I may read about the future events of that day, but do we really comprehend just how bad it will be? I don’t think we really do.


It is also admirable that anyone would want to spread the Gospel to the whole world today, but that is not a pre-requisite for the Rapture. It is a point of fact for the Tribulation.

Matthew 24:15-26 describes the last 3 ½ years of the Tribulation.

 15When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)

 16Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains:

 17Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house:

 18Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes.

 19And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!

 20But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day:

 21For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.

 22And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.

 23Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not.

 24For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.

 25Behold, I have told you before.

 26Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.

At this point, Jesus is speaking of the mid-point of the Tribulation period, which we call the beginning of the Great Tribulation, or the last 3 ½ years. It begins with the abomination of desolation spoken of through Daniel. The Anti-Christ will set himself up as god in the holy place in Israel, causing the full wrath of God to come down upon this earth.

The first half will be worse than anything you and I can possibly imagine, but the second half will make the first half pale in comparison.

The bleeding hearts of this world keep talking about the love of God, thinking He will wink at their sins. However, the Tribulation will be a time when the world will experience His wrath. God is love, and He is calling all who will, to come to Him through His Son Jesus, but the day is coming, perhaps sooner than we realize that judgment will come from the wrath of God.

Now would be a good time to hear what the Lord says through the Apostle Paul. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7) The God of love also says, “For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind…” (Hosea 8:7) Even today, the world tramples the cross and treats the blood of Christ like refuse. They dance naked before Him, mocking everything He is, and expect only love from the God they spit on. Other gods are set on the mantle of sin and even brought into the house of the one and only true God. Nothing is left to the imagination of sinful man as he treks head-long into the bowels of hell.

Jesus tells them from verses seventeen through twenty-two that when they see the abomination of desolation to run as fast as possible to the mountains. Don’t even take time to stop and get something, just get out immediately. Everything He mentions in this verse is Jewish related. He will provide a place of hiding for Israel, but they must flee.

He also mentions false christs and false prophets that will come. We have seen false christs in our time, but this sign will escalate then. There are no prophets during the Church age, but there are false messengers. However during this half of the Tribulation, there will be false prophets, saying that Christ has come. Jesus basically says, “Don’t you believe it! When I come, I guarantee you will know.”

Then in the next verse He begins His answer to the second question.

QUESTION NUMBER TWO (2) – What will be the sign of your return? (Matthew 24:27-51)

For this second question, our Lord gives a long discourse in answering it. He says as follows:

27For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

 28For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.

 29Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:

 30And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

(I believe that the sign mentioned in verse thirty is the sign of the cross. The reason that “the tribes of the earth mourn” is because they recognize a sign (the cross) that is associated with the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. I believe that this world renowned sign that most all know well, the cross, will be emblazoned in the sky, and then Jesus will appear. I emphasize that this is merely my opinion, for what it is worth. To know for sure, we will all just have to wait and see for ourselves.)


 31And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

 32Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh:

 33So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.

 34Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.

 35Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.

 36But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.

 37But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

 38For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark,

 39And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

 40Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.

 41Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.

 42Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.

 43But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up.

 44Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.

 45Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?

 46Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.

 47Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods.

 48But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming;

 49And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken;

 50The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of,

 51And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.


It is my opinion that verses twenty-seven through thirty-one point to a specific part of the seven year Tribulation period; i.e. the arrival of Christ at the end of the Tribulation.


Beginning at verse thirty two, He is speaking of the seven year Tribulation period as a whole. This entire seven year period is actually called the Time of Jacob’s Trouble (Jeremiah 30:7), the 70th week of Daniel (Daniel 9:27), and the Day of the Lord (Joel 2:1-11).

Usually, when we think of Christ’s return, we think of:

1.     Rapture - His return in the air to retrieve His Church from the earth (as the Bridegroom), and

2.     Second Coming - His return at the very end of the seven years of tribulation on earth as Judge and King.

I personally see Christ’s appearance with five different hats (so to speak):

(1)  Rapture - He is the Bridegroom.

(2)  Tribulation (time of Jacob’s trouble, the 70th week of Daniel, and the day of the Lord) – He is the God of wrath.

(3)  Second Coming – He is the Conquering Warrior.

(4)  Millennium – He is the reigning King.

(5)  Eternity – He is God and King.

When Jesus speaks of the “coming of the Son of Man” in verse thirty-seven, I think He is referring primarily to items one through three above, the Rapture through the Tribulation. I know I sound contradictory, but that is what I see. Let me explain it this way: (1) I arrive home and notice that thieves have broken into my house. I first make sure my wife and children are safe (Rapture), and then, with gun in hand, I go after the thieves (Tribulation). Let me put it another way: (2) A hostage is taken. The police first get the hostage to safety (Rapture), then deal with the hostage taker (Tribulation).

In example one (1), the wife and children witness the signs that thieves have broken into the house. They are placed in a safe place by their rescuer, and the thieves are dealt with.


In example two (2), we have the same scenario. The hostage is of course aware that they are a hostage. All the signs are quite evident. They are rescued and placed in safety by the police, and the hostage is dealt with.


We today see the signs. Jesus has told us exactly what to expect. We don’t know when He will make His move, but we do know He will get us to safety before He administers wrath upon all His enemies. He will also provide during this time the remaining seven years He promised His chosen people Israel. He will lead them to repentance and bring them back to Him.


By the prophets of old, God told the nation Israel of His Son’s first coming. They missed the signs, and a few even ignored them. Today He is telling the world by the prophets of old and the prophets of His New Testament that He is returning. How many will miss the signs, or simply ignore them?

Just as no one knew when He would come the first time, no one knows when He will return the second time. If anyone says they do, they are a false prophet. Ignore them. Better yet, run from them. They bring judgment upon their own head.

Jesus came as the lamb of sacrifice the first time, but the second time He will come as a lion that destroys. Jesus said, "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28)

Again, keep in mind that verses thirty-two through fifty-one are specifically for the Tribulation era. The key is that even now, many of these signs are becoming self-evident. As verse thirty-three says, “so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door.” The time of our (the Church) departure (Rapture) is close at hand. If Daniel’s 70th Week seems to be right around the corner, the removal of the bride by the Bridegroom is even closer.  God will not pour out His wrath upon His own children. The Bridegroom would never suffer His bride to take His blows. He is not a wife-beater. Are you prepared to meet Him?

Matthew chapters twenty-four and twenty-five are about a time of tribulation that will soon fall upon this earth. There is no shame in wanting to avoid the wrath of God. I choose to be called out beforehand by my Savior and Lord. What is your choice?

Grant Phillips

All my articles may be located at “Pre-Rapture Commentary” and also “Rapture Ready”