(Special attention to Matthew 24-25, Mark 13, Luke 21,

I Thessalonians 5.1-11 and Revelation, chapter 21)



Questions Jesus answered on the Mount of Olive:


     1. When will these things be?                   

     2. What will be the signs of :

          a. Your coming?

          b. The end of the age?


The longest teaching discourse is recorded in Mark and it is one of the most complex and difficult of passages (called “the little Apocalypse” containing the horrors of the siege of Jerusalem). In all three Gospels the disciples ask two questions: (1) When will these things be? and (2) What will be the sign of this fulfilment? (What is explicit in Matthew is implicit in Mark and Luke). The questions may or may not be concerning the time of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 A.D.; rather His Coming and the End of the World. Jewish tradition maintained that The Temple would stand forever, therefore, their question about the end of the world. They associated the coming of Christ and the end of the world as things inseparable from each other. Perhaps the first question concerns the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple and the other the end times. Are all three questions harmonized within the same general historical event? The Disciples unambiguous question is a time frame question. The Disciples ask when these things will come to pass and what is the sign of Christ’s coming and of the end.




Jesus begins his answer with a solemn warning against deception. From Matthew we read, “Take hold that no one deceive you. For men will come in my name, saying ‘I am the Christ’ and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars... But he who endures to the end shall be saved.” (Matthew 24.4-13)


Jesus focused initially on the perils posed by the appearance of false messiahs. “False christs” and “false prophets” began to make their appearance at a very early period of the Christian era and continue to infest the land down to the very close of Jewish history. In the procuratorship of Pontius Pilate (A.D. 36) one such appeared in Samaria and deluded many people. There also happened during the rule of Cusprius Fadus (A.D. 45), and Felix (A.D. 53-60). Flavius Josephus tells us “the country was full of robbers, magicians, false prophets, false Messiahs and imposters who deluded the people with promises of great events.” (Josephus, Antiquities of The Jews, 20.8,5-6; also refer to Richard Horsley, John Hanson, Bandits, Prophets and Messiahs (Harper & Row, 1988).


In Matthew 23.37ff., “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to you.” There were two types of popular prophets at the time of Christ: (1) Popular prophetic movements and (2) Oracular prophets. The first led movements of peasants in active anticipation of divine acts of deliverance (P.W. Barnett, “Jewish Sign Prophets, A.D. 40-70, Their Intentions and Origins” in New Testament Studies 27 (1980):679-97; Deuteronomy 26.78, “Yahweh brought us up out of Egypt...with signs and wonders.”) Josephus suggests that there may have been several such movements around the mid first century (his Jewish Wars 2.259).


In spite of suffering, God had not abandoned His people; He has an eschatological plan of redemption. Josephus tells us that the first movement occurred under Pontius Pilate, not among the Jews but the Samaritans (Antiquities 18.85-87). They claimed that God would restore the ancient temple on Mount Gerizan. Josephus also describes a second movement (Ibid, 20.97-93, 2-4. In Acts, the Pharisee Gamaliel sought to diminish the anxieties of the Sanhedrin about the followers of Jesus in 5.36. The Jews sought to destroy repressive Roman rule. The third movement was headed by a Jewish prophet who had come originally or returned recently from Egypt and for whom the Apostle Paul was mistaken in the Temple precincts on his last journey to Jerusalem (Acts 21.38, ca. 56 A.D.) during the rule of Felix (compare Acts with Josephus’ Antiquities 20.169-71 and Wars 2.261-63).


We know of no special significance that the Mount of Olives would have had in the great formative events of Moses and Joshua. These movements suggest that peasantry must have been open to such a message of immediate deliverance of God. The ruthless Pilate, Fadus and Felix as well suppressed the movements quickly and brutally; they believed them to pose a serious threat for public order and to be fostering revolutionary actions.  Competition between true and false prophets are clearly presented in Mark 13.22--“False Messiahs and false prophets will arise and show signs and wonders to lead astray, if possible, the elect.” (Compare Matthew 24.26)

These issues are mentioned in context of the Disciples’ question--the most crucial being--What does the word “end” mean? The end of what? Is Jesus speaking of the end of the Temple? The end of the world? The end of the age? Is He speaking of the end of one of these things? Some of these things? Or are all of these things incorporated in His prophecy?


Matthew then reports more of the discourse: “And this Gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (Matt. 24.14) This last sign is widely regarded today as being unfulfilled, as there remains remote tribes and people groups who have never yet heard the Gospel.




“The Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world (oikoumene) for a witness into all nations; and then shall the end come.” “Paul also presents a universal diffusion of the Gospel in his day as to verify the saying of our Lord in Colossians 6.23. This surely does not imply that this prophecy was fulfilled previous to the destruction of Jerusalem.” (e.g. Gary DeMan, Last Days Madness: The Folly of Trying to Predict When Jesus Will Return (Brentwood, TN: Wolgemuth and Hyatt, 1991).




The Olive discourse concerns the Abomination of Desolation standing in the holy place spoken of by Daniel the prophet. “Whoever reads let him understand, then let those who are in Judaea flee to the mountains...and pray that our flight may not be in water or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be, and unless these days were shortened, no flesh would be saved, but for the elects sake those days will be shortened “ (Matt. 24.15-22; also see Matt. 24.28ff.




The link between the previous verses and Matthew 24.28 describes the parousia in vivid and graphic images of great confusion. Because Matt. 24.29-31 begins with the adverb immediately, it is surely linked to Matt. 24.15-22 to a manifestation of Christ in glory. The grammar will not permit any great interval of time between these two events. The great tribulation and the appearing of the Son refer to the calamity suffered by the Jews during the destruction of Jerusalem (A.D. 70). Yet, are all the graphic details already fulfilled? Other New Testament texts which refer to the parousia is “Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched...this same Jesus, who was taken up from you unto heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1.9-11; compare Isaiah 13.9,10,13)




“So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near, at the very door.” (Matt. 24.32-33) This parable does point forward to the Jews returning to Palestine and becoming a nation again, so asserted by Dispensationalists. There is no mention in the entire New Testament of the Jews returning to Palestine and becoming a nation again. Surely the parable links the generation with the passing away, “this generation will not pass away? (Matt. 24.34) The parable teaches a continuous prophecy regarding the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, and the parousia of Christ. Several signs will precede these events--the appearance of false christs and false prophets, great social disturbances, natural calamities and persecution of the apostles, the apostasy of professed believers and the proclamation of the Gospel throughout the Roman Empire. The great tribulation refers to the siege of Jerusalem. The Olivet Discourse is not about the end of the world but an end of a definite time period in the “Age of the Jews.” The imagery here is consistent with that of the Old Testament prophets.


“PASSING OF THIS GENERATION” TILL/BEFORE (MT. 24.34)                                                                           What generation will witness The End?

This passage has spurred stands of preterism and realized eschatology.” (Ibid, vs. 34-39) We must look at this prophecy in light of two of Jesus’ predictions: (1) “There are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” (Mt. 16.28). (2) “This generation will by no means pass away till all these things are fulfilled.” (Mt. 24.34) This last time frame must be placed within Jesus’ other “time frame.”


If we take Matthew 16 as a guide in our interpretation of the New Testament doctrine of parousia the phrase has a definite and consistent significance, as crucifixion, resurrection and ascension. The time span can only be a period no longer than the life span of a generation, which is thirty to forty years. Does this time frame refer to “time” or to “frame of mind?” Jesus is underlining the certainty of His coming and not the time of it! (Compare this generation phrase in Mt. 11.16; 12.39,41,42,45; 23.36; Mk. 8.38; Lk. 11.50-51; 17.25) Those are the examples in which the expression “this generation” occurs in the saying of our Lord and they establish beyond question the reference of the words before us. The issue of parousia in consistent eschatology lurks not far below the surface (“already--not yet.”) The interpretation of scriptures requires that we understand the literary genre. Part of the problem before us stems from the issue of the meaning of “literal.” What is a literal interpretation in light of biblical revelation, inspiration and authority?




Closely linked to the issues surrounding the “time frame” question of the Olivet discourse is the question of the biblical meaning of “the end of the age.” Does this phrase point to the end of world history, the final consummation of the kingdom of Christ? Or does it refer to the end of a particular divine economy, namely the one in which Old Testament Israel figures prominently? In other words, does the phrase “the end of the age” refer to the end of the Jewish age?


Fundamental to Preterism is the contention that the phrase “the end of the age” refers specifically to the end of the Jewish age and the beginning of the Age of the Gentiles, or the Church Age (e.g. Mt. 13.38-40, parable of the Tares of the Field; vs. 38, the world is Kosmos; vs. 39, the world is aion; vs. 40, the world is aion).


Kosmos in vs. 38 refers to the world of men, but aion in vs. 39,40 refers to a period of time and should be translated age or epoch. The phrase sumeteleia tou ainos should be translated “the close of the age” not the end of the world. (J.A. Russell, The Parousia (Baker, 1983), p. 23) This idea was central to the preaching by John the Baptist, who spoke of the time that was “at hand.” (N.T. time of crisis, Ktisis, judgment) Jesus’ coming was a time of redemption and judgment for those who reject Him. Zachariah prophesied “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel for He has visited and redeemed His people” (Lk. 1.68). Visited comes from the word episcopos (episcopal, a military or religious figure) derives from the term scopus, from which we get scope or telescope, an instrument used for looking at something intensely. In a sense when God comes to visit His people, He comes to examine them. He comes to praise, to judge, to redeem or to damn. His coming involves a final examination.




The idea of God visiting His people is closely linked in the Old Testament to the “coming Day of The Lord.” It implies a day of joy and redemption! (see esp. Malachi 4.1-5) The day of Yahweh is first noted in Obadiah 1.15, Zephaniah 1.1-17; Joel 1.15-2.1,2,11,31; 3. 14.18) Amos’ pessimism concerning the Day of the Lord is tempered by elements of hope in the prophecies of Hosea, Isaiah and Zephaniah. The divine visitation is clear as Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem on Palm Sunday in Luke 19.39-44. God’s day of visitation refers partly to the incarnation. I.A. Marshall’s Commentary on Luke emphasizes that god’s visitation is clearly perceived in the ministry of Jesus (Eerdmans, 1978, pp. 717-719). This same theme is extended in Jesus’ parables on judgment (Lk. 19.11-17; compare with Mt. 22.1-4, 13-30).




We first encounter the age of the Gentiles in Luke 21.20-24 (I have written an essay “Goy, Goyim, Ethene in the Old and New Testament”; from God’s promise to Abraham to bless the goyim of the world, through Ruth the Moabitess to Jonah’s message to “preach the Gospel to all the nations” (Mt. 28.16-20). God has always included the goyim in His promise. Israel was chosen for a specific purpose to bring the Messiah into the world to all peoples.)


There is no interim during the focus from the fall of Jerusalem till the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled (there is no mystery parenthesis). The eschaton refers not to a time in the distant future but to a time that is imminent (see Mt. 10.22-23; 26.64; Romans 13.12; I Cor. 7.31; 10.11; Philippians 4.5; I Peter 4.7; James 5.8,9; I John 2.18; Revelation 1.1-3; 3.11; 22.6-10, 12-20). These passages tell us that a significant eschatological event was to occur in the lifetime of those who heard and read the prophecies.




“You turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven.” (II Thessalonians 1.9,10) “For what is our hope or joy or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even that you are in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming” (I Thess. 2.19) The Thessalonian letter figures heavily in Biblical eschatology, particularly because of its description of the “rapture” (I Thess. 4.17) and the coming of “the man of sin” or “the lawless one.” (II Thess. 2.3-10)

In Romans we find two important references to the day of the Lord in 2.4-6; 2.16; “cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light” (13.11-12).




In the Ephesian letter 1.7-10, Paul asserts that “... of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth.” In the fullness of time God will gather together all things in Christ. Here all barriers are broken down! In the Epistle to the Hebrews, there are some vital texts, e.g. chps 9-10. It is difficult to escape the conclusion that the author of Hebrews link the approaching day with the Coming of Christ and says that both are close at hand. In this brief survey we must take note that faith is grounded in a historical person. The parousia is no more at hand than the birth of Christ, His crucifixion or His resurrection. These events are always ready to break forth (Russell, The Parousia, p. 273).




“Not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” (Matthew 2.2) Israel experienced conquest, domination, etc. by the Babylonians, Persians, Greeks and Romans. Palestine came under Roman domination in 63 B.C. when Pompey took possession of Jerusalem. With Pompey’s conquest of the city, the Jewish kingship was abolished and Judea was required to pay tribute to Rome. In 27 B.C. Octavius became the first emperor of Rome and reigned until his death in A.D. 14. His adopted son Tiberius who reigned until A.D. 32 succeeded him. The notorious Caligula, who held power until he was assassinated in A.D. 41, followed Tiberius. He was followed by Claudius I who reigned until A.D. 54. Claudius was succeeded by Nero who ruled from A.D. 54 to 68. Following his death the empire was in chaos.


An eyewitness to Jerusalem’s destruction was Flavius Josephus. He wrote four major works, The Jewish Wars, The Antiquities of The Jews, The Life of Flavius Josephus and Against Apior (all available from Baker reprints, 1974). He was passionately involved in his own account of the Roman conquest of Palestine. The destruction of Jerusalem was the final flaw in a lengthy series of military expeditions against Palestine. He refers to false prophets, etc.; compare with Ezekiel’s account of the destruction in 1.22-28; 10.15-19)




What did John teach in the Revelation? “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants things which must shortly take place...the time is near.” (Revelation 1.1-3) What is the key to breaking the code of John’s message in order to make it communicable to our postmodern audiences? Understanding the Time Frame reference of Revelation is key to all preterist interpretation of the book (see J.S. Russell, The Parousia: A Critical Inquiry into the New Testament Doctrine of Our Lord’s Second Coming (Baker, 1983), p. 366 (1887 reprint)


The events revealed in John’s work must have been meaningful to his first century audience as well as significant for audiences in the 21st century. The problem is true also of the prophecies of Israel and Jeremiah.




The first time frame is expressed in Revelation 1.1-3, things “which must shortly take place. Verse 3 asserts that the time is “near”. Scholars of the calibre of George E. Ladd and G.R. Beasley-Murray claim that “near” means the time of fulfilment of the vision disclosed in the revelation. (compare New Testament prophecy in Romans 13.11.; I Cor. 7.29f; Heb. 10.37; I Pet. 4.7; Ladd’s Commentary On The Revelation (Eerdmans, 1972), p. 22; G.R. Beasley-Murray, ed., Book of Revelation New Century Bible (London: Marshall and Morgan, 1976). The issue is how much of the Olivet discourse and the Revelation refer to the destruction of Jerusalem. Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., a postmillenial preterest, lists three basic categories: (1) The temporal expectation (2.16; 3.11); (2) the first word group is that of taxor which is usually translated shortly or quickly (1.1; 2.16; 3.11; 22.6,7,12,20); (3) The second group is the engus group which means “near” or “at hand” and is used in 1.3; 22.10.


The third word group is mello, which is found in 1.19, 3.10 and means destined “to be on the part of”, “be about to.” The thesis of K.L. Gentry’s doctrinal thesis was that the Revelation was before A.D. 70, before Jerusalem’s fall and the dating of the book of Revelation. The chief argument for a late date for Revelation rests on external evidence, specifically the testimony of the Church father Irenaeus (A.D. 130-202). Irenaeus surveys only in Latin and Eusebius cited Irenaeus’ comments on Revelation (see sources listed in Gentry’s Before Jerusalem Fell).




The king is found in chapter 17.7-17. Who is he? In answering we encounter two problems: (1) Does the term king refer to a Roman Emperor? (2) What is the proper way to count them? Revelation mentions seven kings. Five are said to have fallen, one is referred to in the present tense. The seventh has not yet come and when he does he will not remain for long.




If the book was written after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, it seems strange that John would be silent about those cataclysmic events. John’s silence is deafening! The Temple is still standing (Rev. 11). The debate at present is academic and not affecting the Church’s witness in our global village.




“This is the spirit of the anti-christ which you have heard was coming and is now already in the world.”    (I John 4) Who is the anti-christ? There have been and there are anti christs (all opposed to Jesus, then and now) but Thee anti-christ represents personal evil attacks on our Lord and His purpose (I John 2.18-20). John further qualifies his teaching (note the time frame) regarding the anti-christ (4.1-4). What is already in the world? Is it the spirit of the anti-christ or the anti-christ himself? John’s use of masculine singular goes against the anti-christ being a vague institution, Paul’s “man of lawlessness” is clearly described in personal terms. Surely John’s “anti-christ” is to be identified with Paul’s “man of lawlessness.” (II Thess. 2.3)




Berkouwer says, “In other words that all the subhumanity of the beast is still human, proceeding from among men, and setting itself up over against God and men.” (The Return of Christ (E.T. Eerdmans, 1972), p. 279; see also Gentry The Beast of Revelation (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1989; and He Shall Have Dominion: A Postmillennial Eschatology (ibid., 1992).


A cursory reading of Revelation 13 makes it clear that like the “anti christ” and the “man of lawlessness,” the beast is an extremely evil and idolatrous person. Gentry adds that since the beast possesses great “authority” (Rev. 13. 5.7) he must be a political figure. Gentry also argues that the “same number” (Rev 13.18) must speak of someone who was a contemporary of John’s.


If the beast is one of John’s contemporaries, Gentry argues, then it follows that it is someone relevant to the recipients of John’s letter. This further limits the candidates for “the beast.” Gentry points out that later in Revelation the severed heads are said to represent seven mountains (17.9; 17.9-19). “The city of seven hills” has been identified as Babylon because of its harlotry, Jerusalem and Rome (known widely as the city of Seven Hills, or as it was called in classical times, Septimontium).


The highly respected textual scholar Bruce M. Metzger says: “Perhaps the change was intentional (e.g. Rev. 13.18, number 666) seeing that the Greek form Neron Caesar written in Hebrew is equivalent to 666.” (A Textual Commentary of The Greek New Testament (Stuttgart, United Bible Societies 1975), p. 750.) This identification of the beast does not preclude any future prophetic fulfilment. Surely, if the events foretold in Revelation concerned only the imminent judgment of the Jewish Nation and the destruction of Jerusalem then the message becomes irrelevant beyond the first century.




“I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus...and they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” (Revelation 20.4) This passage has been the subject of a vast literature on the subject of The Millennium. What place does the millennium have in the vast biblical data on Eschatology? (Revelation 20.1-8)


1. Premillennialism teaches that there will be a future, literal earthly millennial kingdom, and that it will begin when Christ returns. The pre indicates that Christ will return before the millennial kingdom is established.

2. Amillennialism teaches that there will be no literal millennial kingdom. The prefix a indicates a simple negation.

3. Postmillennialism teaches that Christ will return after (post) the millennial kingdom concludes. The simple designation helps establish the chronological relationship between the millennial kingdom and Christ’s return. But there is much more involved in the conflict between the three alternatives. What is involved is not simple chronology, but the nature of the kingdom of God. These positions differ in their understanding of history, whether it be optimistic or pessimistic and in their views of The Church strategy in fulfilling her mission.




Reformed theology is basically Amillennial (see Anthony A. Hoekema, The Bible and The Future (Eerdman, 1979), p. 120; G.C. Berkhouwer, The Return of Christ (E.T. Eerdmans, 1972). Amillennialists interpret the millennium mentioned in Revelation 20.4-6 as describing the present reign of the souls of deceased believers with Christ in heaven. They understand the binding of Satan mentioned in the first three verses of this chapter as being in effect during the entire period between the first and second coming of Christ. He also looks for an intensified form of tribulation and apostasy as well as for the appearance of a personal anti christ before the Second Coming (Hoekema).




Dispensationalism, a relatively recent eschatological system, first appeared in the early 19th century in England. It has swept across the modern world, due largely to the influence of The Scofield Reference Bible, published in 1909. Dispensationalism has become in our day the major report among evangelical Christians. Major key concepts of this position are: (1) Christ offered to the Jews the Davidic Kingdom in the first century but they rejected it and it was postponed until the future. (2) The current “Church Age” is a “parenthesis” unknown to God’s Old Testament prophets. (3) God has separate programs for the Church and Israel. (4) The Church will ultimately lose influence in the world and become corrupted or apostate toward the end of the Church age. (5) Christ will return “secretly” to rapture His saints before the great tribulation. (6) After the tribulation Christ will return to earth to administer a Jewish political kingdom based in Jerusalem for a thousand years. Satan will be bound and The Temple will be rebuilt and the sacrificial system restored (contra the Hebrew Epistle). (7) Near the end of the millennium Satan will be released and Christ will be attacked at Jerusalem. (8) Christ will call down judgment from heaven and destroy His enemies. The second resurrection and the judgment of the wicked will occur enlisting the eternal order. (Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion pp. 60-64) The Blessed Hope knows nothing of two aspects of Christ’s coming, one secret and one glorious (G.E. Ladd, The Blessed Hope (p. 63; see Gentry for a two point summary of historical premillennialism, He Shall Have Dominion, p. 63).




Five identifying factors are (1) Messianic kingdom was founded on earth, during Christ’s earthly ministry in fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy. The Church become Israel, “The Israel of God.” (2) The Kingdom is essentially redemptive and spiritual rather than political and physical. (3) The Kingdom will transform socio cultural influences in history (cf. the Gospel of prosperity, the social significance of the Gospel, liberal worldviews in conflict and the Social Gospel). (4) The Kingdom of God will extend in time and on the earth. (5) The Great Commission will succeed. There are two types of modern postmillenialists: (1) Pietistic postmillennialists (The Banner of Truth circles); and (2) Theonomic postmillennialists (the difference between the two groups is not the application of biblical law).


Our trek through the concept of The Last Days of Jesus has been to examine and evaluate the various claims of preterism. The great service preterism performs is to focus attention on two major issues: (1) Time Frame references of the New Testament regarding eschatological prophecy. The preterist is a sentinel standing guard against frivolous and superficial attempts to downplay or explain away the force of these reference; (2) Destruction of Jerusalem--this event spelled the end of a crucial redemptive historical epoch. What is especially, The Day of The Lord!




R. Meyer, “Prophets” TDNT 6 (1968): 826;

R.A. Horsley, “Like One of The Prophets of Old” Two Types of Popular Prophets At The Time of Jesus”, CBQ (1985):436-63), esp.     437-543);

D.E. Aune, Prophecy in Early Christianity and The Ancient Mediterranean World (Eerdman, 1982, 103-106);

D. Hellholm, ed, Apocalypticism in The Mediterranean World and Near East (Tubingen: Mohr,  1983);

J.W. Barnett, “The Jewish Sign Prophets, Their Intentions and Origins” NTS 27 (1980-81); Herman Ridderbos, The Coming Kingdom (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Reformed, 1962).

J.J. Collins, The Apocalyptic Vision of The Book of Daniel (Missoula: Scholars 1977):201-218.


James Strauss Lincoln, IL 62656