SYNOPSIS – Three specific warnings were repeated by Jesus in his Olivet Discourse to help his disciples avoid deception.
The final block of teaching by Jesus before his death is commonly referred to as the ‘Olivet Discourse.’ It was given to his twelve disciples while on the Mount of Olives shortly before his arrest (Matthew chapter 24, Mark 13, Luke 21). Three warnings are repeated in his discourse that disciples of Jesus must heed – About deceivers, the timing of his return, and the need for constant vigilance.
Deceivers – The ‘Discourse’ begins with a warning to “beware lest anyone deceive you,” which was given to the twelve disciples, not to unregenerate sinners. These deceivers will “deceive many.” Moreover, “many false prophets” will come, not just a few. The victims targeted for deception are very “elect” of God. This warning is repeated at least three more times in the ‘Discourse’ – (Matthew 24:4-11, 24:23-24, 24:26).
The content of this deception includes false about the return of Jesus. For example, deceivers will claim that Jesus “is here” or “there”, that he is “in the wilderness” or “in the secret chambers.” Some will claim, falsely, that “the season has drawn near” – (Matthew 24:23-26, Luke 21:8).
The prediction that believers will “be hearing of wars and reports of wars” refers to what deceivers will claim, the “signs” to which they will point as harbingers of the rapidly approaching “end.” Jesus did not deny that wars, earthquakes and the like will come, but they are not “signs” of the “end” – “The end is not yet!” – (Matthew 24:4-6).
Dates and Chronologies – Jesus warned that “no one knows that day and hour, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, except the Father alone.” He ended the declaration with the term “alone” for emphasis, which is quite emphatic in the Greek sentence. The Father is the ONLY exception to the rule, period.
This theme is repeated at least four more times. Additionally, he stated that believers also do not know “on what kind of day” he will come – He will come “at an hour you do not expect.” The version in the gospel of Mark adds – “For you do not know when the season is” – (Matthew 24:42-44, 24:50, 25:13, Mark 13:32-35).
The most inclusive warning about the timing of that day was made by Jesus just prior to his ascent to heaven. The disciples asked him if he would at that time restore the kingdom. To this, he responded:
(Acts 1:7-8) – “It is not for you to know times or seasons, which the Father has set within His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
Vigilance – Rather than calculate end-time chronologies, the followers of Jesus must concern themselves with disseminating the gospel of the kingdom to all nations. In the interim, they are to be prepared at all times for his sudden and unexpected arrival – (Matthew 24:14).
Disciples of Jesus are admonished to always be prepared for its sudden arrival – He will come “at an hour you think not” – (Matthew 24:42-44, 25:13, Mark 13:32-36).
The ‘Olivet Discourse’ is NOT a detailed outline of future events that will occur during history’s final few years, nor does it provide a timetable by which astute believers can ascertain the time of the “end” and the “arrival of the Son of Man.” Instead, it provides clear warnings to disciples about deceivers who will plague the church with deceptions and false expectations about the future for the entire period between the resurrection and the return of Jesus.
The conclusion Jesus draws is that disciples must be prepared for his sudden and unexpected arrival at any moment and without warning. What matters is not knowing the timing of that day, but whether one is prepared and found busy about his business when the “Son of Man arrives on the clouds of heaven.”