The Olivet Discourse – What’s with the 3rd Degree?!

1 Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him. 2 And He said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down.” 3 As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”
Matthew 24:1-3

In our last post on the Olivet Discourse [here], G de Leon discussed the usage of the word “age” in Matthew 24:3. In an effort to lay down some more of the foundation in how the Olivet Discourse is to be understood and suppliment the previous post, I just want to briefly make a contextual point. When we looked at Matthew 23 [here], it was clear that Jesus was pronouncing judgment upon Jerusalem. And this judgment was irreversible. It had been spoken of by the prophets prior to Christ’s incarnation, and was being pronounced once again through Christ. The Old Covenant age was fading and about to pass away, and Christ’s New Covenant age was approaching. 

Now to the point. As mentioned above, Matthew 23 is a list of indictments against the leaders of Jerusalem, with the consequent judgment: their house would be desolate. The very next thing that Matthew records for us is Jesus walking out of the temple, and His disciples coming up to point out the temple buildings to Him. We are given a little more insight in Mark and Luke’s gospels about what exactly the disciples were pointing out.

As He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, “Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!”
Mark 13:1

And while some were talking about the temple, that it was adorned with beautiful stones and votive gifts, He said,
Luke 21:5

His disciples were pointing out the beauty of these buildings, saying, “Look at the wonderful stones and buildings!” It is at this point that Christ responds to their statements. He says, “Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down.” So, the disciples are saying, “Look how wonderful these things are,” and Jesus says, “See these things? None of these wonderful stones you are marveling at will be here anymore.” Let’s take a look at Mark and Luke’s gospels again for further emphasis:

And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down.”
Mark 13:2

“As for these things which you are looking at, the days will come in which there will not be left one stone upon another which will not be torn down.”
Luke 21:6

They are speaking of the particular “wonderful” stones that they are seeing in front of them. Jesus’ response leads them to ask Him some interesting questions. Matthew records 3 of them:

1) “Tell us, when will these things happen, and

2) what will be the sign of Your coming, and

3) (the sign) of the end of the age?”

The gospel of Mark (13:4) records two questions:

1) “Tell us, when will these things be, and

2) what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?”

Likewise, the gospel of Luke (21:7) records two questions:

1) “Teacher, when therefore will these things happen? And

2) what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?”

A side note: if these disciples were really inquiring about the end of the earth as futurists contend, wouldn’t it be likely that this question would be added to Mark and Luke’s gospel? The gospel of Matthew uses heavy Jewish language that a Jewish audience would understand. We find that isn’t the case with Mark or Luke. In fact, Luke being a Gentile (non-Jewish) explains a lot of the Jewish language for his audience. Anyhow, as G pointed out, age does not signify “world”. Rather, the disciples understood it as the end of the Old Covenantal age of types and shadows. What else would there be since they have only known this particular system?

The rest of the discourse is an answer to these questions. The questions of the disciples are a response to Christ’s saying that the particular “wonderful stones” would be torn down. Christ is not telling them about a temple that is still in our future. And history shows that the temple was destroyed by the Romans. These stones were cast down and broken by the Romans who were trying to retrieve gold that melted between the stones due to the fires they had started.

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