Thoughts on The Olivet Discourse
As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. "Tell us," they said, "when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?" – Matthew 24:3
- Note that this entire section is a response to a very specific question… when will the Lord come into His kingdom (Greek: parousia – the presence of a King). This is a specific word and is not associated with the post-Acts epistles. The events laid out in Matthew 24 correspond with the three sets of judgments in the Revelation. The “revelation” is the revelation of the King in His return to establish His throne. This is the “parousia” of the King.
- Charting the wording of Matthew 24 against the sequence of events in each of the judgments (seals, bowls, trumpets) will show this. Christ will return according to the prophets and according to the Feasts of Jehovah (given to Israel). The Acts age started with the Jewish feast of Pentecost and will culminate (after the present Age of Grace) with the Feast of Trumpets (“the last trump”).
At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. – Matthew 25:1a
- Matthew 25 is a continuation of the answer started by the Lord in Matthew 24. The words “at that time” reveal that the subject is yet future and coincides with the “coming” (Parousia) and “the end of the age.”
- The first parable concerns “virgins” needing to be ready for the return of the bridegroom. In Jeremiah 31, in the New Covenant, we see that Israel is His virgin (Jer 31:4). The “remnant of Israel” (31:7) is “believing” Israel. There are three at the wedding: the bridegroom, the bride and the guests (see Matt 22 for a picture of the guests). There are two spheres of blessing connected to Israel: the land and the New Jerusalem (the greater reward anticipated by Abram, by faith – Heb 12). In the culmination there is a wife and a bride pictured separately (Rev 19:7; 21:2) each connected to the bridegroom; one connected with the New Jerusalem.
- The guests of Matthew 22 are seen in Rev 19:9 (“called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb”). Compare Mt 22:10. In Matthew 8 the Lord spoke of those who would be called specifically out of the gentile world to sit down in the Kingdom (8:10-11). The warning that follows concerning the “cast[ing] out into outer darkness” and the “weeping and gnashing of teeth” is directed at “the children of the Kingdom” (v.12). These children are (a) of Israel (not gentiles) and (b) not “destroyed” but “cast out.” This takes us to the next parable.
“And the unprofitable servant cast ye forth to the outer darkness; there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of the teeth.” –Matthew 25:30
- This parable concerns a master who returns to take account of His inheritance. The one who “hid his talent in the earth” is cast into the “outer darkness.” We know from Matthew 8 this means that he is (a) a child of the Kingdom and (b) not a gentile. We will leave that parable there and move on noting that we have thus far been dealing with Israel.
And whenever the Son of Man may come in his glory, and all the holy messengers with him, then he shall sit upon a throne of his glory; and gathered together before him shall be all the nations, and he shall separate them from one another, as the shepherd doth separate the sheep from the goats… - Matthew 25:31-31
- This is not a repeat of the last parable; it is wholly different. It concerns “the nations” (i.e. the gentile nations). This is a parable that points us to Joel 3 (“For, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them [judge them] for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land.”). This occurs at the re-gathering of Israel into the land. This points us again to Jeremiah 31 (the New Covenant) and other similar passages (Zech 9-14; etc.).
- The nations are judged at His return / parousia (Mt 25:31) as to how they treated “the least of these [His] brethren.” (v. 40). It helps here to read another kingdom judgment passage, Isaiah 66
- . There we see that there will be some cast into the place where “the fire is not quenched and where the worm dieth not.” We must note that this does not refer to “souls” cast into “fiery torment” but rather of “carcasses” (dead bodies) cast into a literal fire (Is 66:24).
- The warning of difficult times upon Israel was given in Matthew 24
- (the signs of His coming). The warnings are taken from the prophets sent to Israel (vs. 15, 29, etc.). The end concerns the “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (v. 51).
- The events upon His return in regard to the gentile nations are given in Matthew 25
- During the “tribulation” pictured in Matthew 24 (and in the Revelation) the Jews will be greatly persecuted (“the time of Jacob’s trouble”). The Lord Jesus is the Son of David and a Jew “according to the flesh.” These are the “my brethren” of whom He speaks.
The Matthew 25 judgment has no cross, no faith, no blood, no resurrection and no Christ!
- The sheep and the goats judgment involves only works that apply to the oppressed (clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, visiting the sick and those in prison). [Note: no rituals of religion or works of the law are listed.] The parable does not reveal how those who are hungry (etc.) will be judged. The ones being judged have no idea they are performing kindnesses for the sake of Christ’s brethren (although they will know they are helping Israel, God’s people).
Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham. -Gal 3:7-9
- The promise to the “sheep” nations is that they will “inherit the Kingdom” that was prepared “FROM the foundation of the world” (v. 34). These blessing are known through the prophets (Gal 3:7-9; etc.). This must be a future, specific judgment. Those at this judgment have not yet been judged. It therefore cannot be a judgment of all men of all time. It must concern things known “FROM the foundation of the world.”
- The “goats” are not punished for any religious crime or failure. They are not punished for any sin of commission. They are unaware of the judgment they are facing. That is, if this was a judgment of all men of all time (as it is commonly interpreted) and if those who die unredeemed are immediately in “fiery torment” (as is commonly taught), then this parable would make no sense. Those judged are not cast into “everlasting fire” until after the judgment. If this was a judgment of all sinners of all time and if sinners go immediately into fiery torment upon death, this parable would make no sense.
- The “goats” are sent to “eternal punishment.” The word “eternal” means “cannot be reversed.” We know they have not been in a holding tank somewhere waiting for judgment; the Bible allows for no such place. As noted, they did not know their fate until the “Son of man” returns.
- The title “Son of man” like “Son of David” is connected to Christ’s earthly reign. Study the response of the Lord to the Israelites who cry “Son of David” (Mt 9:27-29; 20:30-34) to the same cry from a Gentile in Matthew (Mt 15:22-26). As the “Son of David” He responds to call of His earthly people and heals them directly. He ignores the gentile, calls her a dog, and only responds when she calls Him “Lord.” He then heals, not her, but her unseen daughter (i.e. the one healed need not be touched or even in His presence).