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Study Guide for the “Olivet” Prophecies
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Jesus’ three “Olivet” Prophecies
he reader will note two significant things about the title of this study guide: 1). “Olivet” is in quotation marks and “Prophecies” is pluralized. That’s because it seems there are actually three prophecies embedded in the text of the synoptic (Matthew, Mark and Luke) gospels and that only one of them was given on Mount Olivet. The three prophecies concern three different issues, were given at three different times and in three different places, and have been run together in the text in anthological fashion by text redactors hence the confusion of interpretation. For the average reader, taking our translations at face value, there appears to be only one Olivet prophecy and it is found in three of the four Gospels. This view may be incorrect. When we separate the verses relating to each prophecy, then rejoin them as they might have originally occurred, the content of the three prophecies becomes apparent. One prophecy addresses the events of 70 AD when Jerusalem fell to the Romans. A second prophecy relates to the fate of the apostles, and the third concerns the end times. The first two prophecies have been fulfilled, and the third is pending. The scholarly research for this study guide was provided by the late Dr. Robert Lindsey and is found in its completeness in his book Jesus 3
Rabbi & Lord. The paperback version is out of print but a web edition can be obtained from various sources including JerusalemPerspective.com. I have confirmed the validity of Dr. Lindsey’s findings with Dr. Roy Blizzard of BibleScholars.com. A helpful book for studying the literary units (pericopes) of the New Testament Gospels is Gospel Parallels edited by Burton H. Throckmorton, Jr. It enables the Bible student to view the related verses and pericopes (literary units) on one page across from each other. It is an invaluable aid in studying the Synoptics (Matthew, Mark & Luke). It utilizes the New Revised Standard Version of 1989. Setting the Stage I suggest that the reader have open before him the relevant passages of Scripture as we move through this study. Dr. Lindsey writes in the aforementioned book: “We know that Jesus prophesied several times during the period he was in Jerusalem for the last Passover. One of the prophecies was apparently given before the throngs at the temple and spoke of the coming destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. The earliest form of part of this prophecy is found in Luke 21:5-36. However, to restore the flow of the prophecy we must remove verses 5-7, 21-24 and 34-36 and join them together, after which we can join other passages not in the context to complete the prophecy,” Jesus Rabbi & Lord, p. 153. Jesus’ prophecy about the coming destruction of Jerusalem and its temple proved to be devastatingly accurate. Within approximately 40 years of Jesus’ prediction, the brutal Romans, under the leadership of Titus, destroyed the holy city with its Temple. However, the three accounts of this prophecy, found in the Synoptic Gospels, need to be sorted out because they have been mixed in the text with the two other prophecies. Dr. Lindsey explains: “Because the central prophecy Jesus made about the coming destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple has been mixed by early editors with two other important prophecies, and because of this mixing Christian and Jewish interpreters both have often been unable to clarify what he actually said,” (ibid.). Contrary to many mainstream synoptic scholars, Dr. Lindsey believed that Luke often preserves the earliest texts. He has also identified 4
a common pattern Jesus used when teaching: First an incident occurs. Jesus responds to this with a teaching or commentary on the incident. This is followed by two parables that reinforce the teaching. • • • Incident Teaching Two parables
The incident that triggers the 70 A.D. prophecy cascade is found in Luke 21:1-4. Lindsey describes the scene, “Jesus and his followers have entered the ‘Women’s Court,’ which was Israel’s public worship area facing the court of the priests some fifteen steps above it. In full view of the Women’s Court was the great bronze altar, and towering behind it the Temple itself. In the eastern corners stood large collection boxes put there to receive the money offerings of the worshipers. “Jesus and his talmidim and perhaps others who have been listening to his teaching in some portico on the outside watch as rich and poor deposit their coins” (Lindsey, p.154). [Talmidim means disciples or students.] Jesus then notices that a poor widow puts in two copper coins (Luke 21:2). The woman gave out of her poverty, so Jesus sees her gift as being greater than that of those gave out of their wealth (Luke 21:3,4). After making this instructive remark, Jesus and his talmidim move casually around to stand near the fifteen “steps of ascension.” They gaze upward at the impressive white stone Temple. Some of Jesus’ disciples comment on the beauty of the structure and its adornments (verse 5). Jesus then makes a dire prophecy about the future of this gorgeous Herodian Temple, “As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left upon another: every one of them will be thrown down,” (verse 6). Jesus was not alone in prophesying the destruction of the Temple. The Jewish historian Josephus tells us that others had made similar prophecies. Naturally the disciples want to know when it will happen, “’Teacher,’ [rabbi] they asked, ‘when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?’” (verse 7). 5
The text makes perfect sense up to this point. It flows naturally from the first to last point in the incident. In verse 8, things seem to go awry. Lindsey comments, “What happens now in our text is, however, confusing. Jesus answers with a warning not to be led astray by anyone who may come ‘in his name’ and say that he is the returned Lord. This has all the earmarks of a prophecy about the return of Jesus after his resurrection and ascension. “As we continue reading in Luke 21:10-19 we hear Jesus talking about how the disciples will be persecuted and ‘delivered to synagogues’ and ‘brought before kings and governors.’ What is all this about? “Quite simply we have three prophecies originally given on three separate occasions, each with a theme of its own. One shows Jesus’ prediction of the destruction. The second displays his words on some other occasion when he is promising to appear as the Son of Man ‘with power and great glory.’ The third shows him telling the disciples what will happen to them after he leaves them,” (Jesus Rabbi & Lord, pp. 154-155). Lindsey refers to these prophecies as A, B & C. So far, we have the setting for Prophecy A (destruction of the Temple), but we do not have the settings for B&C. Lindsey then shows how, using Luke’s account, we can put together all the verses of each prophecy. Prophecy A: Luke 21:1-7, verses 20-24 & 29-32. Prophecy B: Luke 21:8-11; 25-28 & 34-36 Prophecy C: Luke 21:12-17 Lindsey then writes, “As we shall see later this does not mean that we have all of any one of these prophecies which have been mixed together 6
at this point. It only means that when we separate these seven sections of Luke 21:1-36 we recover three continuous sections of Prophecy A and three continuous sections of Prophecy B,” (Lindsey, p. 155). Read the above verses in the order that they are listed under the three headings and you’ll see what he means. We have discussed the first section of Prophecy A - the triggering incident for it (Luke 21:1-7). The second section is found in verses 20-24). It was something that the disciples themselves would see in their lifetimes - “when you see…” It involved the destruction of the Temple which was then the centerpiece of Jewish life in the Roman-occupied land. In answer to their question about “what sign,” Jesus said, “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near, (verse 20). So not only would the Temple be razed but the city itself would fall. Jesus’ followers were then warned to flee into the mountains (verse 21). The destruction of the Temple and the city would represent divine retribution “days of vengeance” (verse 22). Jerusalem would again fall to gentiles who would continue to “tread it down” until their times were fulfilled (verse 24). Some believe those “times” were fulfilled when Israel reoccupied Jerusalem in 1967. We don’t know that with certainty. The story is still in progress. Third Section, Prophecy A Luke 21:29-32 is the third section of the Temple/Jerusalem prophecy - the part with the parables. We could label the whole “the 70 AD prophecy” because that’s when it was fulfilled. Jesus sets forth the parable of the barren fig tree (We find it misplaced in Luke 13:6-9). The second parable is that of the “wicked husbandman” found in Luke 20:9-18 and Matthew 21:33-44. The vineyard is Israel (Isaiah 5:1 ff.). Fig trees planted in a vineyard here represented the leaders of Israel, standing above the rest of the plants. The leaders will be given time to get their act together before the hammer falls on Jerusalem - as it turned out, about 40 more years.
The second parable about the wicked husbandman is even more disturbing. The owner of a vineyard rents it out to tenants and relocates to another country. As the vineyard comes into harvest, the owner sends servant after servant to collect what is rightfully his. Each time, his servants are beaten and sent packing, empty handed. Finally he sends his son. The wretched renters then kill the son in order to claim his inheritance. At this point in the story, Jesus turns to his audience and asks, “What is the owner going to do to them?” The people reply, “He will put those wretches to death, and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons” (verses 40-41). Jesus’ response is found in Matthew 21:33, “Just so, I tell you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people bringing forth the fruits thereof.” At this point, it is easy to misunderstand the Kingdom of God issue. Is Jesus really saying that the nation of Israel, and its leaders, have been “in possession” of the Kingdom? Dr. Lindsey explains and clarifies, “Read in English this passage is not easily understood -- most interpreters suppose that Jesus is saying that up until now the leaders of this nation have been ‘in possession’ of the Kingdom of God, by this meaning the ‘Kingdom of Israel.’” What I am arguing all through this book is that for Jesus the Kingdom of God is not the possession of anyone but God himself, and it is just as little the possession of Israel as a state or government. The Kingdom of God is limited to the people Jesus is leading as King and is a spiritual movement without political or military overtones. “What he is saying is something quite different. He is saying that his people make up the Kingdom, the flock, the Movement. They, his followers, have lived and grown within the body-politic and institutions of Israel, but now, with the leaders of Israel about to reject him finally and cause his death, the result will be that the people and power of his Movement will move out of the national milieu they have lived in and become a larger body willing to do what God wishes. “This is not a replacement of the spiritual hegemony which was ancient Israel. This is a new Israel springing from the ancient, prophetic remnant in Israel who were faithful to God’s word and are now expanding 8
like the mustard tree or the woman’s leaven out of the very heart of the nation of Israel as it was in pre-70 A.D.,” (Lindsey, p. 157). Jesus is the rejected cornerstone (Psalm 118:22). He quotes this verse in Matthew 21 and then says, “Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces. Yet on whomsoever it falls it will crush him completely,” (Matthew 21:44).
n the first section of this study guide, we focused attention on one of the three prophecies of Jesus that is embedded in the anthological grouping typically referred to as “the Olivet” prophecy: namely the 70 AD prophecy. This prophecy concerned the destruction by the Romans of the city of Jerusalem with its Temple. The verses pertaining to this prophecy are found in all three of the Synoptic Gospels (Luke, Mark and Matthew). The incident that sparked Jesus’ teaching cascade is found in Mark 12:41-44 and Luke 21:1-4. Before we turn our attention to the second of the three prophecies, we need to tie up some loose ends concerning the first. In commenting on the so-called “Olivet” prophecy, which we now understand to be three separate prophecies that have been ontologically melded together as one by the editors of the manuscripts, most commentators include Matthew 24:22 and Mark 13:20 as an “end time” prophecy. Notice Matthew’s wording: “And if those days had not been cut short, no one would be saved; but for the sake of the elect, those days will be cut short.” Some have added the word “alive” after “saved” - as does Moffat, but the word “alive” is not in the text. Those who take these verses as end time prophecies believe that the whole of humanity would be wiped out were it not for the elect. If you study the related periscopes (literary units) you will see that the two verses mentioned above belong, not to the end time prophecy (Prophecy C) but to Prophecy A - the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. This is clear when the three accounts are viewed together in 10
The second “Olivet” Prophecies
Throckmorton’s Gospel Parallels, p. 172. In giving this warning, Jesus had instructed his followers to “…flee to the mountains” (Matthew 24:16). The believers, whose numbers had grown considerably by 66 AD, did just that. They fled north to Pella. The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (Volume III, p. 710) contains the following entry under the name “Pella,” “When the great revolt against the Romans broke out in A.D. 66, the Christian community of Jerusalem, being warned of the impending destruction of the city, removed to Pella; from that time on, it became an important center of the church…” Though the Romans slaughtered more than a million Jews in their attack on Jerusalem and “Palestine,” they stopped short of a complete genocide. Not only did the Jewish church survive, but many “regular” Jews survived as well. They were truly God’s elect. With all this in mind, we recommend that you restudy the verses pertaining to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD. They are as follows: Matthew 24:1-3; 15-22; 32-35; Luke 21:1-7; 20-24; 29 - 33; Mark 13:1-4; 14 - 20. Josephus’ account of the destruction of the city and its Temple is also recommended with qualifications. It should be pointed out that there are no fully reliable accounts of the war, including that of Josephus. Historian Paul Johnson writes of this reality, “The Great Revolt of 66 AD and the siege of Jerusalem constitute one of the most important and horrifying events in Jewish history. Unfortunately it is badly recorded. Tacitus left a long account of the war but only fragments survive. Rabbinic accounts are made up of anecdotes with no clear historical context, or of sheer fantasy. There is very little epigraphical [inscription] or archaeological evidence. Virtually our only authority for the war is Josephus, and he is tendentious, contradictory and thoroughly unreliable,” A History of the Jews, p. 137. Prophecy B The second prophecy embedded in the erroneously named Olivet suite concerns the fate of the apostles themselves. It describes events that take place after Jesus is taken up into heaven. Chronologically, this prophecy pertains to the next important event - the immediate future of the church and the destiny of the apostles - that is why we have designated it “Prophecy B.” 11
In Dr. Lindsey’s reconstruction he makes it clear that we don’t know when this prophecy was given (he calls it “Prophecy C” but for the purposes of chronological fulfillment, I have designated it “B”). Writes Lindsey, “…we are not told explicitly where Prophecy C [my B] or the other sayings of Jesus I have mentioned were given. A good guess seems to be that they were said by Jesus after his resurrection during the forty days. “This would explain, for example, why the Holy Spirit is mentioned so prominently in just these sayings,” Jesus Rabbi & Lord, p. 178. Jesus knew that he had rise to the Father. He would therefore have to guide the disciples by the Holy Spirit, rather than by being personally present with them. Lindsey says that this prophecy also explains why Jesus now emphasizes the persecutions the apostles would encounter. “Jesus warns that even ‘some of you they will put to death’ (the promise that ‘not a hair of your head will perish’ (Luke 21:18) must be related to those who were warned to flee when Jerusalem was about to be destroyed),” (Lindsey, p. 178). Rather than regurgitate all of Lindsey’s material on this prophecy about the future of the apostles, we’ll suggest that the reader put together the following verses to get the picture: Luke 21:12-19; Matthew 24:9-14 & Mark 13:9-13a. Taken together, these verses provide a picture of the fate of Jesus’ original Jewish apostles. Most, if not all, were martyred. For those who wish to research further into the lives of Jesus’ first apostles, the book The 12 by Edgar J. Goodspeed is recommended. Note: The verses listed above do not apply to the 70 AD prophecy, nor do they apply to the end time prophecy. They are already fulfilled in the apostles. For additional material on this, please refer to Dr. Lindsey’s book - Jesus Rabbi & Lord -- now available on the web. In the final article of this series we will examine the third prophecy of the “Olivet” series which applies to the end time.
n this series, we have been studying the three prophecies that have been anthologically lumped together and labeled “the Olivet prophecy.” We are examining the reconstruction of Dr. Robert Lindsey as found in his book Jesus Rabbi & Lord. We have seen that the first prophecy related to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. The second prophecy concerned the lives of the original apostles. Both of these prophecies have been fulfilled in historic times, namely the first century of our era. The third prophecy is yet to be fulfilled. In this article, we will examine it closely. The End Time Prophecy In Luke’s account, the end time prophecy is broken up into three parts. The first two prophecies are interspersed with the three parts, breaking up the end time prediction. These words of Jesus have never been fulfilled. They are for a future time. In his book, Jesus Rabbi & Lord, Dr. Lindsey explains what happened with the texts pertaining to these prophecies: “Because the central prophecy Jesus made about the coming destruction of Jerusalem and the temple has been mixed by early editors with two other important prophecies, and because of this mixing Christian and Jewish interpreters both have often been unable to clarify what he actually said,” (p. 153). False Messiahs 13
The third “Olivet” Prophecies
In previous articles, we have dealt with the first two of the three prophecies: the destruction of 70 AD and the apostle’s fate. We will now patch together the end time prophecy. In Luke’s account, which Lindsey believes to be written before Mark and Matthew, the initial section is found in Luke 21:8-11. He points out that just prior to his return many false messiahs would appear on the scene. He then warns us against following them. This is followed by a warning about “wars and revolutions.” Despite appearances, this is not the end (verse 9). He tells his followers, “Do not be frightened.” These upheavals must happen. The wars will be international in scope, “Nation shall rise against nation, kingdom against kingdom…” (verse 10). False messiahs and wars will be followed by “acts of God” massive earthquakes, famines, pestilences “fearful events” and even “heavenly signs,” (verse 11). The end time prophecy breaks off at the end of verse 11 and picks up in verse 25. Here Jesus says the signs will be “in the sun, moon and stars,” (verse 25). Some of these astronomical disturbances may affect tides and oceans to the point that there will be “roaring and tossing of the sea,” (verse 25). Humanity will be terrorized by these events as “heavenly bodies” are shaken (v.26). (We know, for example, that the moon controls the tides on earth.) These frightening events will immediately precede the return of the true Anointed One of God, “At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory,” (verse 27). Those who are alive when these events take place are commanded to “stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near,” (verse 28). Verses 29 through 33 revert to the 70 AD prophecy. The end time prophecy resumes in verse 34 and continues through verse 36. The last part is an admonition to last generation Christians - and any “who have ears to hear.” It tells us how we should be living and praying, “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the 14
anxieties of life, and that day will come upon you like a trap. For it will come upon all those who live upon the face of the 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,” (verses 34-36). This end time prophecy describes global conditions and happenings leading up to the triumphant return of Yeshua Ha Mashiach. Christ the Redeemer will bring redemption to his people. He will come to bring order out of worldwide chaos. His people need not fear these horrific events because they know how this movie ends. We are admonished not to backslide into the unconverted state. There will be those who say, “All is lost! The world has gone mad - we’re all going to die. I’m going to take all the pleasure I can while I can.” So they resort to “partying” and pleasureseeking. Those who choose this path are making a major mistake. Jesus’ true followers, on the other hand, are instructed to pray that God will offer them a door of escape from all the chaos going on around them. We must be found by our Lord in a state of spiritual readiness. These events may or may not happen in our lifetime. Whether they do or do not, our personal “end time” could come at any moment. Consequently, we should live in a steady state of teshuvah - repentance.
Format/Layout: Freetoshare Publications, 2010 For inquiry, email at: email@example.com
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