Olivet Discourse – Lesson 1
THE OLIVET DISCOURSE
JESUS REVEALS THE FUTURE
LESSON ONE – PREPARATION & PRESENTATION OF THE KING
INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY
When Jesus speaks, we need to pay close attention. As He said in Matthew 24:35 “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” When Jesus speaks about the future, we can base our lives on His prophecies, warnings, and instructions. In Matthew 24 and 25, the Messiah reveals the future. And the revelation becomes our treasure to be understood, guarded, heeded and shared.
During Jesus’ time on earth He gave four major discourses:
- Sermon on the Mount – revealing the moral and ethical principles of the coming kingdom (Matthew 5-7).
- Church Age Discourse – revealing the kingdom in its mystery form while the king is absent (Matthew 13).
- Upper Room Discourse – revealing the church as the body of Christ in this present age (John 13-17).
- The Olivet Discourse – revealing the teaching about the future and events leading up to the second coming of Christ to set up His kingdom on earth (Matthew 24-25). In chapter 24 He shows what will happen in the world during the time He is gone and what will happen in the end times leading up to His return. In chapter 25 He tells us how to be ready.
As with all prophecy, there are various ways that scholars have interpreted this discourse. Some have taken a non-literal spiritualist approach; some have taken a literal preterist approach that treats the events as having been fulfilled in A.D. 70. And some have taken a literal futurist approach that treats the events as all future to Jesus’ day but some fulfilled in the near future (apostolic age and A.D. 70) and some yet to be fulfilled in the end times. This study will take a literal futurist approach.
Jesus’ denunciation of the false religion of the scribes and Pharisees, His lament over Jerusalem, and His announcement about the nation’s rejection of His kingship were the death of a dream for Jesus’ faithful followers. The Messianic Kingdom will not be set up at this time, and the Messiah will be killed. The Olivet Discourse helps them deal with their grief and their new reality.
INTRODUCTION TO LESSON ONE
Have you ever been deeply disappointed when things didn’t turn out the way you had envisioned? Perhaps we all dream of a fairy tale life as we are growing up – We imagine a perfect mate, a perfect home, perfect children, a perfect job, etc. But at some point real life happens, and we have to adjust our hopes and dreams to fit reality.
Jesus’ disciples were no different. They expected that all of those beautiful prophecies of an idyllic kingdom (from the major and minor prophets) would be fulfilled when the Messiah came to reign. And now He was here. They could hardly wait to see what their roles would be in this new golden age. Then a bombshell dashed all of their hopes. Jesus revealed that the nation’s leaders had led the people to reject His Messiahship. The kingdom will have to be set up at a later time (Mathew 23:39). In addition, their beautiful temple and city will be destroyed (Matthew 24:1-2). Life in the coming years will be full of turmoil and tragedy. How can this be?
The disciples were stunned. When the shock wore off a bit, and they had traveled to the Mount of Olives away from the crowds, they began to ask for more information. Their questions prompted some great teaching from Jesus about the future of the Jewish nation and of the whole world. He gave them signs to signal the onset of major events in the future so followers could be prepared and not be deceived. He assured them that the end will be glorious, just as God had planned before the creation of the world.
Jesus’ message about the future must have been bittersweet and confusing to the anxious apostles, but they eventually accepted their reality and became superstars in the story of the gospel and the establishment of the worldwide church. This is where we want to be – living in reality and serving God wholeheartedly as we wait for our perfect future.
We will first investigate what led up to this heartbreaking rejection and then see what God has revealed about the apostolic age, the church age, and the end times. He will give some information that is found nowhere else in Scripture. He will give us the specific signs that we need to be prepared for the last days.
DAY ONE: THE NATION MET THEIR KING.
A. THE MESSIAH WAS BORN.
The years of preparation were now complete. “In the fullness of time, God sent forth His son to be born of a woman.” (Galatians 4:4) Several thousand years of preparation, promises and prophecies culminated in a simple birth in an obscure cave in Bethlehem. Today we sing “Joy To The World” for all to hear and celebrate. But that “Silent Night” was unobserved by the nation. Angels alerted the nearby shepherds, and a star alerted the wise men in the East, but the rest of the world slept on.
B. PROPHECIES WERE FULFILLED.
Someone has counted over 365 prophecies in the Old Testament regarding the coming Messiah. God was amazingly thorough in His preparation:
- They knew the approximate time. (Daniel 9:25)
- They knew Bethlehem was the prophesied birthplace. (Micah 5:2)
- They knew the king would be born into the royal family of David. (2 Samuel 7:16)
- They were alerted about a newborn king by the visit of the wise men that came to inquire of Herod in Jerusalem. (Matthew 2:1-2)
Yet somehow they forgot to watch and be ready. The Jewish leaders even failed to investigate when they were alerted by the wise men. But God used their inattention to advantage. Joseph and Mary were able to escape from Herod into Egypt for a few years, and Jesus was soon allowed to return to Israel and grow up in a normal family situation in the little town of Nazareth in Galilee. The nation would not meet Him until His “coming of age” visit to the Temple at age twelve and eighteen years later when He was ready for His anointing by John the Baptist.
C. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
- What are some of the things the “fullness of time” might include?
- Why do you think the birth was kept “secret” for this period of time?
- How were the recent births of England’s future kings (Prince William & baby Prince George) celebrated?
- Compare the childhoods of England’s two crown princes with Jesus’ childhood.
- Consider your own childhood. Did you grow up in a “spotlight” in a privileged family or did you grow up in an average or below average family?
- What character traits might come from a “non-privileged” upbringing?
DAY TWO: ROYAL CREDENTIALS WERE RECORDED.
READ: Matthew 1
A. JESUS’ LINEAGE IS VERIFIED.
In later years when Jesus came out of obscurity, the first challenge of his Messiahship would be his royal lineage. Everyone in the nation knew about the famous King David and his famous son, King Solomon. Everyone knew about the Davidic covenant regarding the royal line, but the royal line had slipped into obscurity since the “times of the Gentiles” had begun. At the time of the Babylonian captivity, Israel came under the control of first Babylon, then Persia, Greece, and now Rome. The throne of David was unoccupied for many generations. At the time of Jesus’ birth, Rome had installed their “puppet king” – Herod. He was not only not in the royal line; he was not even a full-fledged Jew. He was an Edomite.
Even though the authentic royal line was not living like royalty, the lineage had been carefully recorded. Jesus was born into the home of a lowly carpenter and his young wife, but there was no doubt that he was in the royal line.
B. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
- Why do you think these meticulous genealogical records were authenticated and preserved for thousands of years?
- It appears that the official records were destroyed in 70 A.D. when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans. How would a “false messiah” prove his royal lineage in the family of David today?
- Is there any Biblical record of the authorities questioning Jesus’ royal lineage?
- What fact about Jesus’ upbringing did they reject? (John 1:46)
- Examine yourself. Do you have any prejudices against people who are born into lowly circumstances?
- Have you ever been “ashamed” of your lowly upbringing? How can Jesus’ story help you to overcome any feelings of inferiority that might come from your background?
DAY THREE: THE COMING MESSIAH WAS DESCRIBED.
A. THE REVELATION CAME GRADUALLY.
The revelation of the nature of the coming Messiah was given over a long period of time. How could the Israelites comprehend the nature of a divine person who was different from all other people in one sense and yet was the same fully human person as everyone else in another sense? Of course, it was impossible until they knew the whole story. But God gave clues from the beginning. His clues were like a target that eventually narrowed down to a single bull’s eye. Only one human being in the world fulfilled all of the prophecies.
B. THE REVELATION POINTED TO ONE UNIQUE PERSON.
Listed below are some of the clues given through the ages:
- Clue #1 – He will be born of a woman. (Genesis 3:15). He will be human so He will not be an angel or some other kind of purely spirit being.
- Clue #2 – He will be Hebrew, a descendant of Abraham (Genesis 17:6). He will not be a Gentile or from any other nation.
- Clue #3 – He will be from the royal tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10). So he will not be from the other eleven tribes of Israel.
- Clue #4 – He will be from the family of David (2 Samuel 7:16) so he will not be from the other family lines of Judah.
- Clue #5 – He will reign forever (Daniel 7: 27). So he will not be subject to the normal finality of human death and royal succession.
- Clue #6– He will be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14). He will have a supernatural birth with no human father.
- Clue #7 – He will be called Immanuel or God With Us. (Isaiah 7:14) He will be divine as well as human.
As you can imagine, Jewish scholars had different theories about how all of these things could fit together. Before the resurrection no one could fully understand how every prophecy could be fulfilled. However they understood that they all pointed to the coming Messiah.
C. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
- Why was it necessary for God to produce so much proof of Jesus’ identity?
- Reread the account of Jesus’ birth in Matthew 1. Which clues are fulfilled in this account?
- Which “clue” or prophecy would have been hardest for Jewish scholars” to understand or explain?
- When did you first understand that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine?How would you explain this to a skeptical person?
- How would you explain this to a skeptical person?
DAY FOUR: JESUS BEGAN HIS PUBLIC CAMPAIGN.
READ: Matthew 3
A. JESUS WAS INTRODUCED BY JOHN THE BAPTIST.
Jesus had been in a state of preparation for about 30 years. He grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and men (Luke 2:52). Finally it was time to begin His campaign for kingship of Israel. As any king of that day, he had a forerunner to prepare the way. God prepared a special prophet to do the job. He was the first prophet in 400 years, so people flocked to hear him. They seemed to be hungry to hear a word from God. John the Baptist was extremely popular as he called for repentance and baptism in preparation for the Kingdom of Heaven. This preparation was prophesied in Isaiah 40:3.
“A voice of one calling in the desert,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
Make straight paths for Him.’”
The time came for Jesus to enter this public stage. His introduction was spectacular:
- John publicly introduced Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. (John 1:29)
- The Spirit of God visibly descended like a dove on Jesus after he was baptized. (Matthew 3:16)
- The voice of God gave approval – “This is my Son, whom I love, with Him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17)
What greater introduction could we imagine for our savior and Lord?
B. JESUS TAUGHT AND PERFORMED MIRACLES.
Not long after facing the ultimate temptation from Satan to have the kingdom without the cross, Jesus moved to Galilee. He worked tirelessly teaching, performing acts of healing, and casting out demons. These are the blessings prophesied in Isaiah 35:5-6. Jesus was thorough in his mission.
- He taught the moral principles of the Kingdom in the Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 5-7)
- He showed authority over nature and over demons. (Matthew 8:23-32)
- He showed his authority to forgive sin and heal the lame. (Matthew 9:1-8)
- He lived a holy life before them. They could find no sin or flaw or hypocrisy in His character. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
What more could He do? What more could He say? He astounded the crowds with His wisdom and truth. (Mark 1:22) He wowed the crowds with his healings. (Mark 1:33) He amazed and satisfied the hungry crowds with His feeding. (John 6:12-15) What’s not to like about this amazing man? The masses only needed the official ruling from the nation’s leaders to accept Jesus as messiah.
C. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
- What event do you think would be the most convincing proof of Jesus’ authenticity?
- How was it possible for Jesus to be sinless?
- What is said about Jesus in Acts 10:38?
- What do you most look forward to when you meet Jesus?
- How have you felt his love or blessing in your life this week?
DAY FIVE: JESUS OFFERED HIS KINGSHIP TO THE NATION.
READ: Matthew 21:1-11
A. JESUS ENTERED JERUSALEM TRIUMPHANTLY.
Finally the campaign was over. It was time for the vote. Jesus entered Jerusalem amid shouts of “Hosanna to the Son of David.” “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” (Matthew 21:9) Jesus rode on a donkey (symbol of peace) as was prophesied in Zechariah 9:9. The crowds were going wild with excitement.
Jesus had been perfect in every way as He lived and worked among the people of Israel bringing grace and truth to His fellow countrymen. His kingdom was presented as a kingdom of love and service as well as faithfulness to the one true God.
This is not what the nation expected but some had come to realize it was better. Jesus was offering a kingdom that cares for individual people. He was more concerned for righteousness, peace, and justice than military power and great riches.
B. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
- Why do you think the crowds were so attracted to Jesus?
- Would you say the crowds had genuine faith or superficial faith? (Matthew 11:20-21)
- Why was it so hard for the masses to officially accept the obvious proofs of Jesus’ Messiahship?
- What did it take for you to believe in Jesus as the Son of God?
- How does your life show that He is your King today?
This is the story of the long-awaited Messiah of Israel. He had the required lineage, the right personal description, the prophesied actions, and He performed miracles to confirm the truths He taught. All of the prerequisites could be checked off — truth, wisdom, sinlessness, compassion, love, grace, power, and joy. What a perfect king! Could we have expected anything less from the very Son of God?
PRINCIPLE FOR THE WEEK
God never leaves people without enough proof for belief. (Romans 1:20)
Learn the facts of the preparation and presentation of Jesus well enough to tell someone who needs proofs.
About the author
LaWanda Neel is a lifelong Bible student. She has served as a Teaching Leader for Bible Study Fellowship and has conducted studies for neighborhood and church groups. She is now retired and lives with her husband in Lakewood, Colorado. She spends time reading, studying, teaching, writing, traveling all around the world and entertaining her five grandchildren. This is her third Weekly Word series for Thrive Ministries. Contact her for questions or comments at [email protected]View all articles by: LaWanda Neel
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