Three Repeated Warnings

Photo by Nikolas Noonan on Unsplash
The final block of teaching by Jesus is called his ‘Olivet Discourse,’ instructions given to the twelve disciples on the Mount of Olives shortly before his arrest, trial, and execution. In it, three specific warnings are repeated that disciples of Jesus must heed to avoid deceit and disaster – warnings about deceivers, the timing of his return, and the need for constant vigilance - [
Photo by Nikolas Noonan on Unsplash].

Deceivers - The ‘Discourse’ begins with a warning to “beware lest anyone deceive you.” This was given to his disciples, not to unregenerate sinners, and these coming deceivers will “deceive many.” Likewise, “many false prophets” will come, not just a few. The victims targeted for deception are the very “elect” of God - (Matthew 24:4-11, 24:23-24, 24:26).

The content of the deception will include false information about the return of Jesus. For example, deceivers will claim that he “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 disciples would “hear of wars and reports of wars” refers to what the deceivers would claim, that is, the “signs” to which they would point as harbingers of the rapidly approaching “end.” Jesus did not deny that wars, earthquakes, and the like would come; however, they are not “signs” of the “end” - “The end is not yet!” - (Matthew 24:4-6).

Dates and Chronologies - Jesus warned further that “no one knows that day and hour, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, except the Father alone.” For emphasis, he ended the declaration with the term “alone,” which is emphatic in the Greek sentence. The Father is the ONLY exception to the rule, period.

This theme was repeated at least four times. Additionally, he stated that believers do not know “on what kind of day” he would 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).

Jesus made the most complete warning about the timing of that day just prior to his ascension. The disciples asked him when he would restore the kingdom:
  • (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 will receive power when the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and you will be my witnesses, both in Jerusalem and in all Judaea and Samaria, and to the uttermost part of the earth.”
Vigilance - Rather than calculate chronologies, disciples must concern themselves with disseminating the gospel to all nations. In the interim, they must remain prepared for his sudden and unexpected arrival. He will come “at an hour you think not” - (Matthew 24:14, 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 about deceivers who will plague the church with deceptions and false expectations about the future, a condition that will endure for the entire period between the resurrection and the return of Jesus.

The conclusion Jesus draws is that disciples must be prepared at every moment for his sudden and unexpected arrival. What matters is not knowing the timing of the day, but whether one is prepared and found busy about his business when the “Son of Man arrives on the clouds of heaven.”


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