Three Repeated Warnings

SYNOPSIS - Three specific warnings are repeated by Jesus in his Olivet Discourse to exhort disciples to avoid deception at all costs

Olive Grove - Photo by Philippe Gras on Unsplash
By Philippe Gras on Unsplash
The final block of teaching given  by Jesus just prior to his arrest is referred to as the ‘Olivet Discourse.’ He gave it to his twelve disciples while they were on the Mount of Olives overlooking the Temple complex - (Matthew chapter 24, Mark 13, Luke 21). Three warnings are repeated in the discourse to attract our attention.
  • First, warnings about deceivers.
  • Second, the timing of his parousia.
  • Third, the need for constant vigilance.
The very first statement of the Discourse is a warning to “beware lest anyone deceive you.” This warning is for disciples of Christ, not unregenerate sinners. And these deceivers will “deceive many.”

Moreover, “many false prophets” will come, not just a few. The targeted victims of this effort are not men and women in general, but the 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 is linked to false information about his future return. For example, the deceivers will claim that Jesus “is here” or “there” - That he is “in the wilderness” or “in the secret chambers.” Some will claim that the “season has drawn near,” the most basic assumption of a great many prophecy teachers today - (Matthew 24:23-26, Luke 21:8).

In context, the prediction that believers will “be hearing of wars and reports of wars” refers to what the deceivers claim - “Signs” to which they point as harbingers of the end's approach. Jesus did not deny that wars, earthquakes, and the like would come, but they are not indicators or “signs” of the end, contrary to what many in the church have and will continue to claim - (Matthew 24:4-6).

It is the deceivers who point to wars, earthquakes, and famines as “signs” of the rapidly approaching end. Such things foreshadow and anticipate the destruction of the present age; however, the “end is not yet.”

Jesus stated quite explicitly - “Concerning that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, except the Father alone.” He ended the sentence with the term “alone” to add emphasis, and the term is quite emphatic in the Greek sentence. The Father is the ONLY exception to the rule, period.

This theme is repeated in Matthew 24:42, 24:44, 24:50, and in Matthew 25:13 - Disciples cannot know the time or season of the "coming of the Son of Man." In addition, Jesus stated that believers also do not know “on what kind of day” he will arrive. He will come “at an hour you think not.” This theme is repeated three times in the version of the Discourse found in the gospel of Mark, which adds - “For you do not know when the season is” - (Matthew 24:42-44Mark 13:32-35).

Jesus made a related and inclusive warning just prior to his ascent to heaven. The disciples asked him if he would at that time restore the kingdom. To this, Jesus responded:
  • (Acts 1:7-8) - “It is not for you to know times or seasonswhich the Father has set within His hands. 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.”
Hourglass Hands - Photo by Paula Guerreiro on Unsplash
Photo by Paula Guerreiro on Unsplash

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 always for the sudden and unexpected arrival of the Son of Man - (Matthew 24:14).

Rather than instruct his disciples to watch for precise "signs," and since they cannot know the timing of that day, Jesus admonished them to be prepared always for its sudden arrival - He will come “at an hour you think not.” In the version found in Mark, Jesus reiterated this instruction also three times - (Matthew 24:42-44, 25:13, Mark 13:32-36).
The Olivet Discourse is viewed by some commentators as an outline of future events by which an astute believer can ascertain the nearness of Christ's return. Instead, its key themes constitute warnings about coming deceivers who will raise false expectations about the end, and this despite the explicit statements by Jesus that no one except the Father knows the timing of that event and his exhortations to remain ever vigilant and prepared.
The conclusion Jesus draws is that disciples must be prepared at all times for his sudden arrival in power and glory. What matters is not knowing the timing of that day and related events, but whether one is prepared and found busy about his business when the Son of Man arrives.


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