Eschatology lecture 4
A Study of the Olivet Discourse
Background: During the time of Jesus, the Judean people were under occupation by Rome. Since the time of the exile in Babylon, there existed the idea of future hope in the light of current circumstances. The prophets were looked to for a vision of freedom in the future.
Because God’s covenant people had now been exiled, their view of history became more apocalyptic in their thinking. Daniel was the first to write in apocalyptic language. His writing was viewed as more historical than prophetic, so in the Jewish canon, the book of Daniel is listed as a book of writings rather than a book of prophecy.
The main theme in the popular theology of the day was that there was a battle going on between good and evil, between the good God of the covenant and the other gods of the world.
By the time of Jesus’s incarnation, the people had been liberated from Babylon, had come under the rule of Alexander, had been liberated again by the Maccabees, and had now fallen un the control of Rome. What the people were looking for was a new Jewish savior, a Messiah, to liberate them from this situation.
Their view was that their struggle was against both flesh and blood as well as trying to avoid offending God so that their liberation would come. Even though they gave lip service to loving God, the faith structure was mostly a system of rules creating a system of merit righteousness. The ultimate symbol of this system was the temple.
In chapters 22 & 23 of Matthew, Jesus is at the temple criticizing the keepers of this system of legalist merit. He has been pointing out their failures. When he and the disciples leave the temple, those with Jesus point out how magnificent the temple and its grounds are. It is during this time that Jesus tells the disciples that this magnificent structure, this symbol of their centrist, legalistic, merit-based faith, will not last. It will be destroyed.
This would have created feelings of uncertainty, confusion, and likely fear among the disciples. So, we are told they come to him privately. They ask for an explanation.
This account, called the Olivet Discourse because it takes place on the Mount of Olives, is found in all three of what we call the synoptic Gospels: Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21. I am going to focus on Luke because some of the material it contains is not found in the other Gospels.
What we are going to begin to do now is merge personal eschatology with general eschatology.
What we will find as we look at this discourse it that much of what Jesus said would happen, did happen within 40 years of his death and resurrection. Some even believe all of it has already taken place. The term used for these views is the word preterist. Preterist means; one who favors the past.
There are two types of preterists: Extreme (who believe all of this discourse has already taken place and moderate preterists who accept some as having happened but believe some still must take place. I fall into the latter category.
The preterist view of Eschatology was the result of the rejection of extreme liberalism and the radical theological speculation that developed in the 1800-1900s.
The liberal view tried to disprove any supernatural aspects to the scripture and used the words of Jesus to prove it was a trustable witness. On the other end of the spectrum were those who divided their eschatological views into systems based on individual theories that were not part of the tradition of the church.
I will not go into the history of the developments in what is known as reductionism or critical deconstruction of Scripture for if this was your interest, you would not be attending this class.
But we do need to look at the preterist viewpoint.
When Jesus is asked when the temple will be destroyed, only Matthew also includes the time of Jesus coming and the close of the age.
Jesus then begins to explain:
1. There will be a time of false christs. (There were many “messiahs” who followed Jesus and eventually provoke Rome to destroy Jerusalem.)
2. There will be wars and rumors of wars. (Rome was continually at war and eventually in 70 AD came against Judea – destroying the temple.
3. There will be famines and earthquakes (there were)
4. And there were earthquakes and famines.
5. There would be persecution for those who followed Jesus
Then there is a break with only Matthew talking about apostasy, false prophets, and lawlessness. Most significantly, Matthew speaks of a time in which people’s love will grow cold. A loss of the love of God leads to a loss of love in general.
Matthew and Mark then address the worldwide preaching of the Gospel and then all three accounts share: In this context both Matthew and Mark relate this to the purpose (telos) end. This is not a final completion but a process.
Then all three Gospels speak to these items:
1. Abomination of desolation
2. Great tribulation
3. Astronomical events
All three relate to the parable of the fig tree.
All three talk about how these things will take place before the end of the generation.
*Key- remember the initial question, “When will the temple be destroyed?”
In 70 AD the Roman general Titus completely destroyed Jerusalem and the temple. There was not one stone left standing. This, in effect, ended the age of the Jewish covenant that God’s people had not fulfilled.
The abomination of desolation: Daniel has to do with replacing the commitment to the covenant with a commitment of another God. (Antiochus Epiphanies sacrificed pigs on the altar)
It is primarily an attack on worship. (I relate this to Matthew 24:12)
I see this as a future event. The more cultures abandon the belief in Scripture, the more we are told religion is irrelevant, the more we abandon the faith given to the Apostles, the less likely people will worship – the love of God will decrease, and soon human love will simply be defined through human lust and social need.
The great tribulation: is this just the reality of living in a cursed world hostile to humanity and to God?
Now some hold that this is a seven-year period beginning with the rise of the antichrist and then moving to a time in which Satan is released to do with the kingdoms of this world as he will (wilderness temptation).
Prophesy is always process-oriented rather than time-event-oriented. I don’t think God wears a watch or punches a clock.
The two words for time are Kairos and Kronos. Kairos has to do with the moment, and Kronos has to do with measurement.
We can measure the amount of time Kronos.
We can only experience or reflect upon an event which is Kairos.
It may be possible, according to the covenant, that as the covenant is violated within the context of Kronos, a Kairos event or events may be triggered. In the event of God withdrawing the relative safety of prevenient grace, cataclysmic events may occur. However, this will not just be a persecution of the church-likely the church will be blamed, but for a true Christian, this is to be expected and not feared.
Probably the most difficult passage is Matthew 24:34, Mark 13:30, and Luke 21:32
This generation will not pass away. Which generation is this? It cannot be just the generation Jesus is speaking, however many of the events of the unveiling do occur. But Jesus has not returned.
Perhaps it is the memory of the generation that will not pass away. Perhaps it is the generation when the final events pass away. A generation is considered 40 years. The temple was destroyed at the time of Jesus’s generation. Still, there are eschatological events spoken of in this discourse that seemingly has not taken place.
However, to dwell on them would be speculative. Instead, perhaps our time could be better spent now with what we have covered by turning to a theology of death. Next lecture.