The Olivet Discourse :: By Steve Ashburn

The Mount of Olives is located just east of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. In Jesus’ time it was covered with olive groves, from which it got its name. The garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus was betrayed, was located at its base. Scripture records that shortly before he was betrayed, Jesus was walking with his disciples from the temple to the Mount of Olives, when his disciples pointed out the magnificent buildings of the temple to him. In response, Jesus said, “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). (This prophecy was fulfilled literally in 70 AD.)

When they arrived at the Mount of Olives, the disciples then asked Jesus a more penetrating question: “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). Jesus then gave a prophetic overview of history from his time, through the intervening two thousand years to the end times, tribulation, and glorious second coming. This teaching, known as the Olivet Discourse, is recounted in three places: Matthew 24–25, Mark 13, and Luke 21.

Jesus first described the course of the age from his time until the end times: It would be characterized by deception, false prophets, persecution of Christians and Jews, wars and rumors of wars, worldwide preaching of the gospel, betrayal, hatred, offenses; “and because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall grow cold.” Jesus said that he that endured all these persecutions should be saved, meaning those who were truly born again would show evidence of this fact by patiently enduring whatever trials the Lord allowed to happen to them, without denying him or departing from the faith.

Jesus then described the beginning of the end times: “For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places” (Matthew 24:7); Mark 13:8 adds, “and troubles”; while Luke 21:11 adds, “and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven.” Jesus then said, “All these are the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:8), meaning the simultaneous occurrence of all these signs would mark the beginning of the end times.

In view of Psalm 83, Ezekiel 29, Jeremiah 50–51, and other Scripture discussed in previous articles (and in my book END TIMES DAWNING), this gives us important clues concerning the end times. Not only will it start with an attempted invasion of Israel by the nations surrounding her (“nation shall rise against nation”) and subsequent coalition invasion of Iraq (“and kingdom against kingdom”), but the other signs Jesus mentioned will happen at the same time; namely great earthquakes, famines, pestilences (crop, animal, and human epidemics), troubles (economic and political), and fearful sights and great signs in the heavens (large meteors and comets). When all these things happen together, it will be unmistakable: The end times will have begun.

Let’s put together a picture then of what will start the end times: Politically, Israel will be surrounded by hostile Islamist regimes, and Iraq probably will instigate an attack against her; Iran, interestingly, will join the US and other coalition nations in subsequently invading Iraq—meaning that the present Iranian government will become more US-friendly; before that, there probably will be several years of drought and resulting famine—this has already started in the US; economic troubles will be severe, due to insurmountable sovereign-debt loads worldwide causing forced austerity and generalized economic depression; earthquakes in many places, too frequent and severe to ignore; epidemics (like the COVID-19), and also crop and animal diseases; and large meteors and comets—like the one that streaked across Russia in February of 2013, Comet Neowise in July, and asteroid “2018 VP1” in November.

It seems that signs are converging and that we’re only a few years away from this time that Jesus described. Nonetheless, our Lord said, “When these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption [rapture] draweth nigh” (Luke 21:28). Our Lord clearly taught in this passage that the rapture (“that day” in Luke 21:34) would occur during the end-times period. The parallel passages in Matthew and Mark also place the rapture in this period by describing this event in proximity with the other signs of the end times.

This, of course, contradicts the doctrine of imminence, which teaches that the rapture could occur at any time. According to Jesus himself, however, the rapture will not occur until the signs marking the beginning of the end times have happened, and then following “some time” of complacency. My guess is that will take several decades. [I discuss a general timeline for the rapture in more detail in my book, END TIMES DAWNING (available from www.endtimesrecord.com).]

When exactly will these signs happen? The Bible doesn’t say, but perhaps a good analogy can be made to a fireworks show. In the beginning of the show, a few rockets go off and burst spectacularly in midair, followed by oohs and aahs in the audience. These rockets are like the signs we’ve experienced so far: a large earthquake (such as the 1976 tremor near Tangshan, China, that killed a quarter of a million people); a spectacular meteor streaking across the sky (such as the one that flew over Russia in February of 2013); a coalition invasion of Iraq (1991 and 2003); and a severe drought, such as the one presently affecting the US. Toward the end of the fireworks show, however, many rockets go off at once in a grand finale. Everyone knows what this means, and it’s clear—the show is almost over. Likewise, when we see all the signs Jesus mentioned occurring at once, it will be unmistakable.

Continuing on with the Olivet Discourse, Jesus then describes the abomination of desolation (“Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains”; Matthew 24:16); the great tribulation; and his glorious second coming. He then said in reference to all these signs that he gave, “This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled” (Matthew 24:34; Mark 13:30; Luke 21:32). In other words, the generation that sees all these signs of the end times would not pass away until he physically returned to earth. How long exactly was this “generation” that Jesus was referring to? Our Lord didn’t say, but in light of other Scripture (Ezekiel 29:11; Micah 7:15) describing the same end times, he probably meant forty years.

Our Lord then warns us to “Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass” (Luke 21:36), meaning that we should diligently anticipate the rapture with obedient Christian living, “Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping” (Mark 13:36). Jesus said the rapture would happen in a time of great complacency and compared this time to the days of Noah and of Lot: “they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage… And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away” (Matthew 24:38–39; see also Luke 17:26–30). It will also happen suddenly (“as a snare”; Luke 21:35) and at a time when people are not expecting it (“in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh”; Matthew 24:44).

This, of course, is unlikely to happen in the middle of a nuclear war, which is the reason I allow several decades for the world to become complacent after the Psalm 83 Arab attack.

The church in its outward manifestation is described in the parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25:1–13): Half the virgins took oil in their lamps and were prepared to meet the Lord; the other half were foolish and did not. The virgins represent the church just before the rapture in its outward appearance, having both saved and unsaved members; oil represents the Holy Spirit. Those members of the church who were truly born again (had oil in their lamps) went in to meet the Lord; after that, the door was closed. When the five foolish virgins afterward cried out, “Lord, Lord, open to us,” He said, “I know you not.”

Sadly, this parable indicates that when the Lord returns for his church, many who outwardly are members of the church will be left behind. In fact, it may be impossible for them ever to be saved, since after the rapture, salvation will be offered to those who never have heard (or understood) the gospel, not those who have heard it all their lives and rejected it.

We live in a day and in a time when moral and ethical standards rapidly are declining, and many people no longer blush at sin. This has affected many in the church as well as the world in general. First, Timothy 4:1–2 speaks of this time: “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron.” This means that some who outwardly appear to be Christians will, in the latter times, give themselves over to sexual immorality, lies and hypocrisy. Second Timothy 3:1–5 also speaks of this awful time:

“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.”

Our passage says that in the last days (including the pre-rapture times in which we are living), people will be cold, unable to control their sexual impulses, lovers of material and sexual pleasures, without mercy, hating Christians who exercise self-control—and, while they are members of a church, yet are not born again (“having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof”). From such people, we are urged to turn away!

Doesn’t this describe many in our churches today? There are many who think church is some kind of country club instead of a house of prayer! The parable of the virgins in Matthew 25 soberly warns us to ensure the genuineness of our calling and of our faith.

In addition, 2 Peter 1:10 says, “give diligence to make your calling and election sure.” In verses 5–8 of the same chapter, Peter lists the attributes that characterize a faithful Christian:

“And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Let us therefore soberly examine the reality of our own faith, looking for the fruit of the Spirit, and disciplining ourselves in these times, to “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).

The message of Matthew 25 is a sober admonition not to be taken unawares, as many will be. Jesus leaves us with this warning: “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come” (Matthew 24:42).

I provide more details of this and many other end-times prophecies in my recently published book, END TIMES DAWNING: Get Ready! (available from www.endtimesrecord.com). Please read it! Also, if you would, please leave a book review on Amazon!

Yours in Christ,

Steve Ashburn