Understanding the Olivet Discourse

Adapted from Target Israel by Ed Hindson & Tim LaHaye

“The Olivet Discourse” is the name given to Jesus’ teachings to His disciples on the Mount of Olives. These teachings are recorded in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. In Matthew 24:3, we see that this discourse was prompted by questions that the disciples had for Jesus:

“Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”

Naturally, they wanted to know when He would return, and what would happen in the last days. The Olivet Discourse is a rich passage that could be carefully studied for years, but there are a few verses that stand out. Included in Jesus’ response are three important prophecies, one of which has yet to be fulfilled:

1. A world war started by two small nations

“Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places” (Matthew 24:7). World War I started in such a way, with the tiny nations of Serbia and Austria drawing in many other nations around the globe to start war on a global scale. Perhaps WWI was the fulfillment of this prophecy, or perhaps another war is to come. It’s not difficult to imagine that a similar global war could happen again in the future.


2. The gospel being taught around the entire world

Verse 14 of Matthew 24 gives us a glimpse into the prophecy of the gospel being preached to all the nations. Jesus says, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” This prophecy parallels with Revelation 14 which speaks of an angel of the Lord proclaiming the everlasting gospel over the whole earth. Jesus indicates that this is one of the things that will happen in the last days.

3. The desecration of the temple in the last days

Jesus foretold of the desecration of the temple in the Olivet discourse, an event which has yet to happen. The temple will be desecrated by the Antichrist who will break his covenant with the Jewish people half-way through the seven year tribulation. This, of course, will be after the rapture of the church, so we can be sure that this prophecy has not yet come to pass.

Scriptural significance

The most interesting aspect of these three prophecies contained within the Olivet Discourse is that they each correspond to prophecies found elsewhere in Scripture. We cannot know the day and the hour that the Lord will return, nor are we mean to, but Jesus Himself wanted His followers to know that these events would take place in the last days.