(Study Outline sourced from “The System Bible Study” – “The Book of Life” [Zondervan])
PREPARING THE TWELVE FOR THE CROSS OF CHRIST
(Tuesday afternoon to Thursday night of Passion Week)
(1). The Great Eschatological Discourse (concerning last and final matters)
In reply to questions of the Disciples, Jesus describes the approaching destruction of the Temple and His own second coming on the background of His death giving four parables of warning.
“Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”
Our Lord Jesus first warns His disciples, “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them.” , adding that there will be wars and revolutions, rumours of wars, nations rising up against nations and kingdoms against kingdoms, earthquakes and famines, these events being the“beginning of birth pains” .
He further warns them,“You must be on your guard….” as they will suffer great persecution on account of Him, being arrested and handed over to the local councils, flogged in the synagogues, betrayal by other family members, children rebelling against their parents. He encourages them that when they are brought before the local councils they should not worry about what they should say in their defence, “Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.” . He indicates that the Kingdom must also be extended to the Gentile people before the end will come, “..the gospel must first be preached to all nations.” as He intends to give this charge to them before He ascends to His Father in heaven .
Our Lord then proceeds to answer the first part of their question –“When will these things happen.”The disciples had pointed out the massive stones and magnificent buildings that comprised the Temple, to which He responded, “Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel…” This would indicate the time of the destruction of the Temple, and is further described by Luke in his account, “When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near..”. . Our Lord further added to this quotation –“let the reader understand” , and in reference to Dan.11:31; the NIV Study Bible notes in respect to the “abomination that causes desolation”, is a reference to the altar to the pagan god Zeus Olympius set up by Antiochus Epiphanes in 168 B.C. at which time the daily sacrifice in the Temple would be abolished.
Our Lord then adds,“For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now– and never to be equaled again.” “For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written.” Moses had declared to the people on the eve of their entrance to the Promised Land that such a day would come upon them for their rejection of their God. “They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” . He further warns them that this will be a time of great distress to the extent that “no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect” He would shorten those days , and confirms the appearance of false Christ’s and false prophets who would try to deceive many, “so be on your guard” He warns.
In response to the second part of their question – “what will be the sign” of the fulfillment our Lord quotes from the prophet Isaiah “But in those days, following that distress, “‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’” Luke records, “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.” All this will indicate the second coming of our Lord Jesus to this earth, for He continues to say “At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.” .
Our Lord further states that we should learn a lesson from the Fig Tree and its indication that summer is near, “Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it [He] is near, right at the door.” His return is as sure as summer follows spring. He further indicates that the then present generation would live to see the things He was describing, “I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” .
His final comment on their question is that “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” . Although there are signs of His second coming given by the Scriptures, that final hour and day are known only to our Heavenly Father, who will then send His Son the second time to this earth. Matthew records that prior to His second coming conditions on earth will be similar to the days of Noah before the great flood destroyed the earth. Mark compares it to the case of a man going away and leaving his servants in charge of his property that they should not be found sleeping when he returns. Luke simply says the same as the other two writers, “Therefore keep watch.”recording, “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”