PRELUDE TO THE KINGDOM – THE OLIVET DISCOURSE
The Olivet Discourse (as recounted in Matthew 24-25 and recorded elsewhere in both Mark 13:1-37 and Luke 21:5-36) was an extended teaching on end-time events given by Jesus. It is called the Olivet Discourse because Jesus gave this teaching on the Mount of Olives.
What needs to be understood from a dispensational perspective is that Jesus in this teaching was addressing the JEWS, and NOT the Church which was not yet in existence and would not be until Pentecost AFTER Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. Corresponding passages that speak of this same end-times timeframe are found in Daniel 9:24-27 and Revelation chapters 6 – 19:21.
These events that Jesus was relating are SPECIFIC to Israel. He was addressing God’s future dealings with ISRAEL. The Church is NEVER in view in the Olivet Discourse; therefore, the rapture of the Church is NOT ADDRESSED IN THE OLIVET DISCOURSE.
In order to fully understand the coming kingdom, we must first make clear this distinction between Israel and the Church, because each entity has a pivotal role to play in the coming kingdom, but the purpose and the differing roles in the kingdom can never be understood until we are clear on who is who and what is what.
When reading the above listed passages that all recount the same event—the seven-year Tribulation, in the Olivet Discourse, there are clear dispensational distinctives that must be kept in mind.
All scripture is written FOR our edification, but not all passages are written TO the Church. We must keep in mind the 3 classes of people to whom the Word of God speaks: the Jews, the Gentiles, and the Church of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 10:32).
In the Olivet Discourse, Jesus is addressing the Jews, first with regards to the destruction of the Temple (which occurred in 70 AD), and then later on in these passages, to the Jews who will be living in “that day” – which is the Time of Jacob’s Trouble (Jeremiah 30:7). Reference back to Daniel 9:27 where God, through the angel Gabriel, gave Daniel the prophecy of the 490 “weeks” of years that are to be appointed to “thy (Daniel’s) people.”
Who were Daniel’s people? They were (and are) the Jews! There WAS NO CHURCH in existence when this prophecy was given to Daniel, and there was no Church yet birthed when Jesus, in His Olivet Discourse, was teaching about this SAME 7-year time period. Jesus was addressing the Jews who will be living during that same time period of which Daniel wrote – the time of the seven-year Tribulation.
At the time Daniel was give this incredible prophecy, there were only 2 classes of people: Jews and Gentiles. From God’s perspective, Israel is never counted as being “among the nations.” God called out Israel as a specific nation unto Himself. That distinction between national Israel and all the other Gentile nations of the earth has never changed. God STILL holds Israel separate from all other nations (Genesis 35:10; Numbers 23:9; Isaiah43:1).
God gave to Daniel specific and detailed prophecies regarding His (God’s) plan for the ages for the Jewish nation, and later on, in chapter 2 of the book of Daniel.
His plans for the great Gentile empires from that time on through to what is right now becoming the New World Order are given in astonishing detail and precision.
When Jesus was giving this teaching on the Mount of Olives, He was speaking of the very same time period of which Daniel’s prophecy foretold – the last seven years of ISRAEL’S allotted “70” weeks” – the events that will take place during the last “week” or 70th week of Daniel. As it’s called in scripture, the events that transpire during this last “week” are the same events that will be taking place during the Tribulation. Both passages (Daniel 9:27 and Matthew 24-25, Mark 14, and Luke 21) are the SAME seven- year time period that we call the Tribulation.
When giving this teaching, Jesus was speaking to His disciples as JEWS and was answering their particular questions regarding what was to happen at the “end of the age” to Israel specifically.
In context, this entire passage was in answer to the disciples’ questions regarding: the Temple, Jerusalem, and the nation of Israel at the end of the age. As previously stated, the Olivet teaching took place BEFORE Jesus’ arrest, trial, crucifixion, burial, resurrection, ascension, and BEFORE the Holy Spirit arrived at Pentecost fifty days AFTER Jesus’ ascension back to the Father.
In other words, the CHURCH HAD NOT YET BEEN BORN, and the disciples asking Jesus these questions had NO CLUE about the coming Church. Jesus Himself had only made one or two oblique remarks about a “church” (His ekklesia – a called out assembly) that He would build (future tense – Matthew 16:18). The actual word for church being “ekklesia” – His “called out body or assembly” of believers.
The Church had not yet been born at the time of the Olivet teaching, and COULD NOT have been formed PRIOR TO Calvary, to Jesus’ resurrection, and His ascension. Jesus could not send the Holy Spirit as the Comforter to actually indwell the newly born Church until AFTER Jesus paid in full man’s sin debt at Calvary, and until AFTER His bodily resurrection made salvation possible.
So how do we know that Jesus was speaking to a still-future Jewish audience here in Matthew? As stated above, the Church was not even in existence until her birth at Pentecost in Acts chapter 2. This is critical in understanding Matthew 24-25 and in understanding the difference between the rapture and the second coming, as well as understanding the roles of the Church, Israel, and everything else kingdom related.
We must remember when studying the Bible to keep the clear distinctions between national Israel (the Jews) and the Church, which is ONE body made up of ALL believers whether Jews or Gentiles. Gentiles are non-Jewish peoples, and unbelieving Gentiles are unbelieving Gentiles. Keep in mind that unbelieving Jews are just that – unbelieving JEWS.
Therefore, now, after the birth of the Church which occurred AFTER the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, there are now 3 divisions of humanity:
(1) Unbelieving Gentiles
(2) Unbelieving Jews
(3) The saved, believing Church made up of BOTH Jew and Gentiles who are believers in Jesus Christ.
At the time of the Olivet Discourse, there were as yet only 2 – Gentiles and Jews. There WAS NO CHURCH.
The New Testament books of Matthew, Mark, and Luke were addressing Jews still living under the Dispensation of LAW since the new Dispensation of GRACE (under which we, the Church, are living right now, had not yet begun.
The Dispensation of GRACE, or the Church Age if you will, began at Pentecost with the birth of the Church (see Acts chapter 2).
This present Dispensation of Grace is unique to all other dispensations. It is a dispensation (an administration) in which Christ’s Church is made up of BOTH believing Jews and Gentiles who are, upon belief, made part of ONE NEW BODY “in Christ.” Upon salvation during the Dispensation of Grace, the Church is an entity who becomes the “body” of which Christ is the Head – also called the bride – of whom Jesus Christ is the Bridegroom.
This Dispensation of Grace will end at the resurrection of the “dead in Christ,” which will occur almost simultaneously with the rapture of the living saints – who make up the Church.
After this unique dispensation ends, God’s focus once again returns to NATIONAL ISRAEL who will then be under the last 7 years of the old Dispensation of LAW that was interrupted and set aside after 69 “weeks” of years. That 69th “week” was halted when, as Daniel 9 states, the Messiah was “cut off” – crucified. It is THIS (yet future) group of JEWS who will be living DURING the Tribulation (Daniel’s 70th week) which is more rightly called the Time of Jacob’s Trouble (Jeremiah 30) who Jesus is addressing in His Olivet teaching.
Israel will then have 7 years (the last “week” of years under the Dispensation of Law) to both finish and fulfill the entire 490 “weeks” of years the Lord purposed expressly for the Jews according to Daniel chapter 9.
483 of these “weeks of years” have already occurred; however, the final set of 7 “weeks” of years was set aside (put on hold) if you will, when Israel rejected her Messiah and the kingdom He offered (as Daniel 9 states – when the Messiah was “cut off” – i.e. killed.
She (Israel) still has those last 7 years to finish in order to complete the Dispensation of Law. (Again, read Daniel chapter 9.)
This last period of 7 years is what the Bible calls – The Time of JACOB’S (Israel’s) Trouble (that phrase is found in the book of Jeremiah chapter 30). It is also called THE Tribulation (to be distinguished from general tribulation).
The Church however, is “not appointed” to God’s wrath. We, the Church, are to always be looking forward to our “blessed hope” which is the pre-tribulation rapture spoken of in the books of 1 & 2 Thessalonians and 1 Corinthians.
After the rapture of the Church, and throughout the final 7 years of The Time of Jacob’s Trouble, God will preserve a remnant of national Israel (1/3 of all of them to be exact – Zechariah 13:8). He will bring this Jewish remnant THROUGH the Tribulation (one third of them) so that by the end of that last 7 years, “ALL of Israel” will be saved. ALL of this remnant of believing Jews who will be left alive and preserved through this time, by the end of it, will have recognized Jesus as having always been their true Messiah, and will have acknowledged Him, accepted Him, and will have called out to Him to rescue them.
Thus, the purpose of God’s Plan for the Ages will have all been accomplished when He returns at His 2nd Coming to set up His earthly Kingdom.
What are His ultimate goals for all of mankind? In short, His goals are:
1) To bring an end to all sin and rebellion.
2) To fulfill ALL of the covenant promises to the Jewish people with regards to the LAND that He (Yahweh) covenanted to Abraham and to his physical descendants regarding the land of Israel.
3) To eventually (at the end of the Millennium) deliver ALL of the redeemed of ALL of the ages, along with EVERYTHING – accomplished and completed, to the Father for all eternity at the end of the 1,000- year Kingdom on this earth.
The Church will have already been in Heaven in our redeemed and glorified bodies BEFORE the beginning of THE Tribulation – The Time of Jacob’s Trouble (Revelation 4:1). The Church is “not appointed to wrath” (that is, the wrath of God).
However, that does NOT mean that the Church is (or ever has been) spared PERSECUTION. The Church has ALWAYS (since her beginning at Pentecost) suffered persecution in this world, and will continue to suffer PERSECUTION right up until the instant that the Rapture occurs. However, persecution is NOT the same thing as the “wrath of God.”
Therefore, we MUST understand that neither the Church NOR the rapture is addressed at all in the Olivet Discourse.
Likewise, in the parable of the five wise and five foolish virgins recounted in the Olivet Discourse, this MUCH misidentified parable needs to be understood IN CONTEXT of WHO is being addressed (ISRAEL) and who is NOT being addressed in this entire teaching that is being given by Jesus (the CHURCH).
The ten virgins in this parable DO NOT represent the Church at all! The Church is the bride of Christ. At the rapture, the Church – the bride – is taken to Heaven to be WITH her Bridegroom. The bridegroom is Christ (hence why the church is called both the body and bride of Christ). The entire events recorded in the Olivet Discourse recount things that will happen ON EARTH DURING the seven-year Tribulation. The Church during that entire time will be in Heaven, NOT on earth.
So then since the ten virgins cannot represent the Church, who do the 10 virgins represent if not the Church?
They are Jews who survive the Tribulation (one third of those left alive will be believer’s; others will not (as per Zechariah 13:8-9). Those who have “oil in their lamps” signify those believing Jews who will have accepted Jesus as their Messiah (part of that 1/3 remnant) who, despite all, will have remained faithful to Him. They will be the ones to whom Jesus will give the Kingdom in complete fulfillment of God’s unconditional covenant to Abraham (Genesis 15). The 5 virgins who did not have oil are representative of those surviving Jews who, for whatever reason, either did not accept Jesus as their true Messiah or may have followed for a while, but then turned away.
Something that must be understood is that, during the Tribulation, as in Old Testament times, the Holy Spirit will NOT permanently indwell believers as He does now during this Dispensation of the Church Age. The personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the body of the Church is unique to THIS dispensation alone. Remember, in THIS dispensation, the Church is now ONE BODY in Christ; there is no distinction between Jews and Gentiles. In the true Church, ALL believers in this dispensation are made ONE “in Christ (Galatians 3:28-29; Romans 10:12).
That is why in passages dealing with those who become believers DURING the Tribulation, that Jesus tells them to “be faithful unto death,” those who “endure to the end.”
The five wise virgins are believing Jews who will have survived the Tribulation physically; they are the ones who will have remained faithful by the power of the Holy Spirit enabling them, and upon whom they relied to help them remain faithful. God never leaves those who trust in Him alone without help!
Though the Holy Spirit will not have been sealed within them (as He does believers now during the Church Age), nevertheless, the Holy Spirit will remain beside or “upon” those who come to belief in Him during the Tribulation, enabling them to remain faithful “even unto death” just as He (the Holy Spirit) functioned during Old Testament times.
As in EVERY dispensation, salvation is NEVER by our own efforts, but comes solely from our belief in Christ’s finished work alone. These Jews are the BRIDESMAIDS who come out to welcome the returning
Bridegroom and His bride, the Church, which returns WITH HIM at His second coming (Revelation chapter 19).
As I said, the five foolish virgins with no oil in their lamps represent those surviving Jews who were never believers or perhaps those who at first believed but then turned back from belief (a thing that CANNOT happen to genuine believers during this Dispensation of the Church Age where the Holy Spirit is eternally SEALED within each member of the body of Christ). It could be that these “foolish virgins” were in truth FALSE believers, who never truly believed and trusted in Christ at all except in name only, just like there are MANY false believer’s in the Church today – those whose faith is in something other than in Christ ALONE. Perhaps their faith will be in their own efforts and, they, like false converts today, do not believe in Christ ALONE, in what He has already finished.
ALL false believers add their own efforts to that which the Bible says Jesus ALONE paid in full.
Whatever the reason, those unbelieving Jews will NOT be permitted into the Kingdom because they did not have a “proper garment” which is representative of Christ’s righteousness, in which every true believer is clothed, covering our “filthy rags” self-righteousness (Isaiah 64:6). That “garment,” like the “oil,” is representative of a true believer’s JUSTIFICATION in Christ because of their belief and acceptance of God’s gift of salvation through the finished work of Christ alone.
At the end of the Tribulation, the bridegroom will call all those believing Jews and usher them into the Kingdom. The unbelieving Jews, those represented by the “foolish virgins,” will NOT be allowed entrance into the Kingdom, nor will they be allowed into the great wedding feast at the marriage supper of the Lamb. The surviving Gentile believers are invited into the Kingdom as “wedding guests.”
Remember that God never counts Israel among the nations. He deals with the Jewish wise and foolish virgins who represent the surviving remnant of Israel separately from the Gentile survivors at the end of the Tribulation (Numbers 23:10).
The judgment of the “sheep and goats,” also happens at the end of the Tribulation just before the Kingdom is set up (Matthew 25:31-46). This judgment will be where King Jesus will separate the surviving GENTILE people from every nation – the “sheep” being Gentile believers who, like the believing surviving Jews, will be allowed entrance into the Kingdom in their MORTAL BODIES, while the “goats” – the unbelieving Gentiles, like the unbelieving Jews, will be cast into Sheol (Hell) to await the time of the Great White Throne judgment that will take place at the end of the Millennial reign (Revelation 20:12).
All of the end-times events addressed in the Olivet Discourse, recorded in each of the first 3 gospels, are specifically addressing ISRAEL and the events of the Time of Jacob’s Trouble, and the SECOND COMING of Christ – NOT the rapture or the Church.
As we continue to study the chronology of end-time events: pre-rapture, post-rapture, during the Tribulation, and events leading up to the Millennial Kingdom, we must remember to always keep a clear distinction between Israel and the Church. Keeping this distinction firmly in mind will clear up a great deal of confusion and many misinterpretations. “Rightly dividing” the Word of God also demonstrates the incredible precision dovetailing together both the Old and New Testaments.
In the next part of this study, we will take a look at what the Kingdom will be like; who will be there; and what we will do there.
Our final part will examine the end of the Kingdom Age, the Great White Throne judgment of the lost, and the eternal state. Stay tuned!