OLIVET IN TRIPLICATE
One of the beauties of studying the gospels is that we can learn about Jesus from various vantage points. In this case we have three gospel accounts: Matthew, Mark and Luke. These three-fold gospels are often referred to as “the synoptics” because they see things alike - - taking a somewhat similar approach to detailing Jesus' ministry. These three contain much of the same material, although occasionally slight differences occur. This is both important and helpful as we examine Jesus' famous Olivet Discourse (Mt.24, Mk.13 and Lk.17 & 21). John's gospel is noticeably different from the synoptics. Regarding Jesus' time-of-the-end discourse, John's Revelation provides an expanded version of the teachings of Christ concerning the fall of Jerusalem and the end of the Old Covenant age. John's revelation is aptly titled, The Apocalypse (i.e., the unveiling or revealing) - - it opens declaring, the revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must shortly take place (Rev.1:1).
Although the synoptics contain minor variations, they are not at all contradictory. For example, Luke's gospel does not mention anyone questioning Jesus about the destruction of Jerusalem. However, Matthew's gospel states that the disciples came to Him privately making inquiry (Mt.24:3). Mark's gospel illuminates even more, giving us the the names of the disciples who questioned Jesus: Peter and James and John and Andrew (Mk.13:3). The Holy Spirit was given to guide the apostles in all truth and to disclose things to come (Jn.16:13), but it's also assuring to recognize that many, if not all, of Jesus' apostles were present when Christ delivered this all-important dissertation.
A difficulty that often arises when students examine the Olivet discourse is the temptation to divide the text - - mistakenly contending that the first portion of Mt.24 concerns the fall of Jerusalem, while the latter section addresses some yet-to-come universal day of judgment. However, the unity (integrity is the technical word) of the synoptics simply will not allow such. More often than not, Mt.24:36 is interpreted to be the transition point (but of that day and hour no one knows...). It becomes a “this generation” (Mt.24:34) versus “that day” (Mt.24:36) argument. The snag comes when we read Luke's account (Lk.17:22f), where the so-called, yet-future portion of Mt.24:36ff) is also clearly set within the context of the fall of Jerusalem. Both writers employ a colorful description of the fall of Jerusalem - - wherever the corpse is, their the vultures will gather). The placement of this citation occurs early on in Mt.24:28, but then later on in Lk.17:37. For those who divide Mt.24, this location is truly problematic. I once asked one of my Bible professors, “If you divide Matthew twenty-four, what do you do with Luke?”. His response was, “I don't know what to do with Luke!”
Jesus' teachings in Matthew's gospel underscore a soon-coming judgment on the nation of Jerusalem. The cleansing of the temple (Mt.21:12f); The withering of the fig tree (Mt.21:18ff); The parables in Mt.21 & 22; His diatribe against the Jewish leaders (Mt.23:1ff); His plaintive cry in Mt.23:37 (O Jerusalem, Jerusalem) and His ever-so-clear declaration in Mt.24:2 (not one stone here shall be left upon another, which will not be torn down). Alongside of the synoptics is John's Apocalypse, written concerning things shortly to take place (Rev.22:6) which distinctly chronicles the arrival of the New Jerusalem on the heels of the destruction of the old Jerusalem - - I saw the...new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. cf. Rev.18:21-24 with 21:2.
Terry Siverd / Cortland Church of Christ