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Composit view of the Olivet Discourse




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Olivet Discourse: Luke Chapter 21


This is the last description Jesus gave concerning the end times the week He was betrayed.  It is recorded in the three synoptic gospels according to Matthew, Mark and Luke in the discourse that the Lord had with His disciples on the Mount of Olives and in the temple.  The major difference in Luke’s report in comparison with the other two gospels is:

  • The discourse was in the temple not on the Mount of Olives, Luke 21:5-8
  • This discourse occurred during the day and not at night when the Lord retreated to the mount, Luke 21:37
  • The questions were asked by several unknown individuals who asked Jesus about His return while in the temple, Luke 21:5-8
  • On the Mount of Olives, only four disciples, Peter, James, John, and Andrew, asked the Lord specific questions and asked them privately, Mark 13:3

The importance in making this distinction on where Jesus spoke is that many erroneously group these events in all three gospels into one episode, when clearly only Matthew and Mark are the same.  This error of bringing equivalence on this topic in Luke with Matthew and Mark has led some to believe that all the events that unfolded in 70 A.D. with the destruction of Jerusalem, fulfilled all of the Olivet Discourse prophecies, which is not the case.  Some have even proclaimed that the church as assumed the blessings and position that had been promised to Israel, called replacement theology, which again is a great error.  A simple review of the prophetic books of Daniel and Ezekiel, as highlighted in this web site, as well as the rest of the Old Testament and Romans 9, Romans 10 and Romans 11, will show to even the casual reader that the promises and prophecies God made with Israel are directed to Israel alone.  Many of those prophecies have yet to be fulfilled in their entirety.  God is not through with Israel and He has a great and wonderful future in store for them.  

This section in the Gospel according to Luke provides a a discourse on the utter destruction of the temple by the Roman army led by General Titus.  Though the general is not named, he is known through historical records.  

Outline of this chapter

Verses Topic
1-4 The widow's mites
5-7 The destruction of the temple
8-9 Events leading up to the tribulation
10-19 Persecution of the saints during the tribulation
20-26 From Titus to the end of the tribulation
27-28 The return of Christ to earth
29-33 Parable of the fig tree
34-36 Watch and pray

The widow's mites     Chapter Outline     Top

The significant event that led up to this chapter was the triumphal entry of the Lord into Jerusalem, fulfilling prophecy concerning how the Lord, the King of kings would present Himself to His people, Zechariah 9:9.  This was the last week of the Lord Jesus Christ's earthly ministry before He would lay down His life on the cross, be buried, than on the third day be resurrected, all according to scripture.  It is near the end of the week when these events occurred in Luke 21.  It is significant to see the buildup of hostility and rejection that the Lord was receiving from the leaders and elders of Israel at this time.  Such is the case in the previous chapter of Luke, where the Herodians, Sadducees, and scribes were all challenging the Lord's authority, which led to the sharp rebuke of the Lord toward the scribes, Luke 20:45-47.  

In Luke 21:1-4, Luke provides the record where the Lord is in the temple observing the gifts being brought by the people into the temple treasury.  He saw all of the ostentatious displays of giving, and knew that their giving was from their excess substance, sometimes in great amounts.  However, out of all that parade of people the Lord observed, only a widow came forward to give what she had out of her livelihood.  The Lord comments on this and commends the widow for he giving.  The following verses then jump into the discourse in the temple by the Lord with His disciples.  These may be all unrelated and isolated occurrences.  However, when considered against the backdrop of Genesis 18.  This is the time when the pre-incarnate Christ appeared to Abraham with two of His angels.  There were three purposes for this visitation.  The first was to announce to Abraham and Sarah that after nine months of this visit, that they were to have a son born by Sarah, despite their very advanced years in age and well beyond either being able to produce a child, Genesis 18:9-14.  This is the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham earlier, Genesis 17:15-21 (God's covenant with Abraham was established with Isaac), and over a decade earlier, Genesis 15:1-6.  Second, was the announcement to Abraham of the Lord's intention to examine the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah, Genesis 18:16-22.  Third, was the actual judgment of the cities and all the plains, crops and inhabitants of the cities, except the city of Zoar where Lot and his family stayed at the commencement of the judgment.  It is arguable that the same sequence exists here.  The Lord announced the great joyous arrival that all the prophets, psalms, and Moses had spoken of, Luke 24:44, then the last week the Lord observed all of the events of the nation, Jerusalem, and the temple, and finally the judgment, as seen in Luke 21:20-22, Daniel 9:26.

The destruction of the temple     Chapter Outline     Top

In Luke 21:5-7 the disciples are admiring the temple and bring their observations to the attention of the Lord.  However, only Luke includes the disciples commenting on the donations.  It is evident that they did not understand what the Lord was exposing in the giving that took place.  Consistent with the other gospels, the Lord tells them that not one stone of the temple will be left upon another, to which His follower about Him ask their questions concerning when will these thing happen and what would be the sign that they are about to take place.

Events leading up to the tribulation     Chapter Outline     Top

Luke 21:8-9 provides the Lord's warning to His disciples concerning false Christ's, particularly when the time draws near the end times (like today).  The warning concerned the increasing occurrences of terrible human and natural events, with greater intensity, and greater geographic and temporal extend.  Despite these things, the Lord encourages the disciples and us to not worry, as these will occur first, but the end, (the beginning of the tribulation) will not come right away.  He is describing a separation of events.  The first is the immediate future that He will further elaborate on, which includes the destruction of Jerusalem.  The second is at a much later time, the tribulation.  All of this is discussed in the other web pages on this site on Matthew 24, Mark 13, and the timeline for Mark 13.  

Persecution of the saints during the tribulation     Chapter Outline     Top

Luke 21:10-11 summarizes the seal, trumpet, bowl, and other judgments that will take place during the tribulation, and the many wars during that short span of seven years, which will seem an eternity to those living in that time.

In Luke 21:12-19, the Lord again divides the times.  Luke 21:12 focuses on the immediate future where the Lord says “but before all this…”.  He gives the warning to the saints living during their present day leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem, that their suffering will be worse than the horror stories they were familiar with from their history.  In contrast Matthew 24 and Mark 13 wrote that all of these adverse world phenomena, wars and deception will increase, which are the beginning of birth pains, “then…” you will…, Mathew 24:4-9.  In other words Luke is focusing on what happens before this buildup of events or signs concerning the end of days.

This will be a time of great persecution of those who believe and call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, Romans 10:8-13, Daniel 7: 21-22, Revelation 12:17. Their trials, however, will turn into testimonies of Christ. Those brought before these courts are not to think of what they will say in advance of the trial, because the Lord will supply the words, Luke 21:14-15. The saints in that day will be betrayed by family, some unto death, and they will be hated by all men. In the midst of all this, the Lord assures them and us that He is sovereign, and that not one hair on their head will be lost; they are to be patient. As a result of this, those who are not in Christ will be sorely judged, but the righteous will be in the presence of the Lord forever, Revelation 14:9-13.

From Titus to the end of the tribulation     Chapter Outline     Top

Luke 21:20-26 describes the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus (this is the answer to the first question, when will these things be) that the Lord spoke of in Luke 21:6. Those who were alive in Judea during those days of the siege by General Titus were to flee into the mountains, just as in the mid-tribulation period when the abomination of the image of the Antichrist is erected within the temple area. See more on this topic on this web site on Matthew 24, and Mark 13. These are the days of vengeance for the blood of Able to Zechariah that the Lord said that generation would pay for as well as their rejection of Jesus as their messiah, Matthew 23:35-36, Matthew 27:24-25, John 19:7, John 19:11, and John 19:15. This judgment is set directly against the Jewish nation and the Lord is making them accountable for the blood shed by them against the righteous who were God’s servants and ministering to the nation of Israel.  This is not an account of the entire world’s part in shedding of innocent blood.  That will occur at the end of the tribulation.  This time of Jerusalem being trodden down by the Gentiles until their time is completed at the end of the tribulation, and the dispersion of the Jews. A graphical representation of this is provided on this site on the Mark 13 timeline, in order to provide a perspective on the temporal extent of this occurrence.  In Luke 21:25-26, the time frame jumps way into the future, at the end of the tribulation.  The time at the end of the seven years of tribulation, and the build up toward the battle of Armageddon will cause men to tremble (this is the answer to the last question), as seen in this site on the web page on the Olivet Discourse comparison timeline.

The return of Christ to earth     Chapter Outline     Top

Luke 21:27-28 provides a view of the sight that all the tribulation saints alive and slain have waited for, as well as all creation, the second advent of Christ as described in Revelation 19.  This is not the rapture of the church when the Lord calls us up to him in the clouds, but this is the time of blessing spoken of in Daniel 12, as discussed in this site on Daniel 12 and the Daniel 12 timeline.

Parable of the fig tree     Chapter Outline     Top

Luke 21:29-33 provides the similar parable of the fig tree, which represents Israel.  However, this time the Lord includes all of the fig tree's seasonal changes.  When the leaves shoot out on the trees, summer is near.  The parallel is that when the generation that sees these things come to pass, they are assured that the kingdom of God is near.  The confirmation of these words is in Luke 21:33, where the Lord’s words will not pass away.  This is shown graphically on the web page discussion on the Mark 13 timeline.

Watch and pray     Chapter Outline     Top

Luke 21:34-36 provides the Lord’s warning is to watch and pray.  To be accounted worthy to escape these things is not based on our deeds, but our faith in Jesus Christ.  It is His work on the cross and the blood that He shed for us that settles the sin question and allows us to walk bodily before the throne of grace, Hebrews 4:9-16

Luke 21:37-38 clearly shows that the Lord would retire each night to the Mount of Olives, and the people would arrive at the temple early each morning to hear the Lord’s words.  The importance of this report by Luke cannot be overlooked. The Lord’s teaching as reported by Luke occurred in the temple during the day, and not at night as reported by Matthew and Mark.  Luke is reporting on the events that would occur in their immediate future, the destruction of Jerusalem and then the tribulation.  The focus in Matthew and Mark are solely on the end of days, except for Mark 13:1-2.  In those two verses the Lord is leaving the temple and replies to the crowd’s observation about the temple.  However, the Lord is clearly sitting on the Mount of Olives and is expounding His words to just the four disciples beginning in Mark 13:3.  So, even though the questions asked of the Lord are similar in all three gospels, who asked and the response recorded are different.  Luke is reporting near term and far term prophecies the Lord spoke as is Mark 13:1-2, whereas Matthew and Mark 13:3 on are reporting the words of the Lord that would be fulfilled far into the future.  This pattern of the Lord speaking to the crowds then expounding His words to the disciples is repeated through the gospels, Luke 8:9-11.  

Copyright (c) 2001, 2005, 2008, 2014, J.E. Huntley.  All rights reserved.
last edited August 2014