THE OLIVET DISCOURSE AND THE BOOK OF REVELATION

A COMPARISON OF THE OLIVET DISCOURSE
AND THE BOOK OF REVELATION
Dr. Ron J. Bigalke Jr.
Author, Lecturer, Pastor
The purpose of this presentation is to demonstrate parallel events between the Olivet
Discourse and the Book of Revelation in a sequential format. Correlation of each event of
the Olivet Discourse with its timing in the Book of Revelation informs our understanding
of the current age (in regards to signs of the end times or stage setting), and interpretation
of the return of Christ, and the judgment at that time.
Sequential and Successive, not Merely Recapitulation
There is an expanding development of the judgments in the Book of Revelation. In other
words, there is a sequential relationship between the seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments.
The series of judgments are not parallel and simultaneous in the sense of recapitulation.
Each series of judgments is best interpreted as generally chronological to its antecedent.
This means the seventh seal judgment leads specifically into the series of the seven
trumpet judgments, and the seventh trumpet judgment leads specifically into the series of
the seven bowl judgments.
The Beginning of the Tribulation (Olivet Discourse and Revelation)
There are two differing views among premillennialists as to the timing of prophetic
fulfillment of the birth pangs prophesied in the Olivet Discourse. In his commentary on
the Gospel of Matthew, Dr. Walvoord referred to premillennial interpreters who
understand 24:4-14 “as a unit, describing the general characteristics of the age leading up
to the end, while at the same time recognizing that the prediction of the difficulties,
which will characterize the entire period between the first and second coming of Christ,
are fulfilled in an intensified form as the age moves on to its conclusion.” In other words,
24:4-14 are “general signs” whereas 24:15-26 are “specific signs.” Generally, this would
mean “these [general] signs have been at least partially fulfilled in the present age and
have characterized the period between the first and second coming of Christ.”1 However,
even within this view, there are some who interpret 24:4-8 as general signs of the period
between the first and second coming of Christ; therefore, 24:9-14 would be events
concerning the first half of the tribulation.2
It is not easy to argue that the birth pangs (false messiahs, wars, famines, and
earthquakes) have been lacking in the present age. However, the relation of the disciple’s
questions in the Olivet Discourse to parallels in Revelation 6 indicate that these signs
1 John F. Walvoord, Matthew: Thy Kingdom Come (Chicago: Mood Press, 1974; reprint, Grand
Rapids: Kregel, 1998), 183.
2 Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of the Messiah (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries Press,
1983), 440.
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cannot refer to the current church age. Furthermore, these signs are unique to a period of
which the world has never known. Since these signs are events which fit contextually
with the tribulation period, they should not be cited as fulfilled (in any sense) in the
current age.
For example, famines and plagues are offered as proof of fulfillment, but the truth
is they have been occurring throughout the course of human history for thousands of
years. The worst famines in history occurred in North China (1876-79) and India (1876-
1878). In North China alone, “deaths by hunger, violence, and subsequent disease are
estimated at between 9 million and 13 million.”3 The worst case of pestilence was the
Plague of Justinian (AD 500-650). The effects of the plague left three of every five
inhabitants dead. The decline of the city of Constantinople, and the Byzantine Empire,
dates from the Plague of Justinian. Not until the ninth century did the Empire begin to
recover. “Recurring epidemics of bubonic plague,” the Black Death, “killed as many as
100 million people.” From 1347-51 “the disease affected every level of society, killing an
estimated 75 million people, depopulating more than 200,000 villages, and reducing the
European population by perhaps as much as one-quarter” in Western Europe.4 None can
deny the devastation of these select examples, but they will pale in comparison to those
of the tribulation. No current frame of reference exists for the judgments and signs of the
tribulation. If the events of 24:4-14 (or 24:4-8) are general signs of disasters as ancient as
the human race—representing familiarly distressing scenes of conquest, war, famine, and
death—then what is different with the breaking of the first four seal judgments?
Obviously, nothing would be different.5
Another premillennial interpretation of 24:4-14 would understand these prophesied
events as occurring solely in the first half of the tribulation. Gaebelein wrote, “The point
which we wish to make is the following: If this is the correct interpretation, if Matthew
xxiv :4-14 refers to the beginning of that coming end of the age and if Revelation vi
refers to the same beginning of the end and that which follows the sixth chapter leads us
on into the great tribulation, then there must be a perfect harmony between that part of
the Olivet discourse contained in Matthew xxiv and the part of Revelation beginning with
the sixth chapter. And such is indeed the case.”6
The First Half of the Tribulation (Matthew 24:4–20)
In Matthew 24:4-5, 11; Mark 13:5-6, and Luke 21:8, false messiahs and prophets are
mentioned; and, in Revelation 6:2, we read of the rider on the white horse. Revelation 6:2
indicates four significant factors of the horseman of the first seal: (1) the color of the
3 James C. Cornell Jr., The Great International Disaster Book (New York: Pocket Books, 1979),
155.
4 Ibid., 138-84.
5 Sigve K. Tonstad, Saving God’s Reputation: The Theological Function of Pistis Iesou in the
Cosmic Narratives of Revelation (New York: T. & T. Clark, 2006), 132.
6 Arno C. Gaebelein, The Gospel of Matthew: An Exposition, 2 vols. (New York City: Our Hope,
1910), 2:182.
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horse is white; (2) the rider holds a bow; (3) the rider wears a stevfano”; and, (4) the
rider’s conquering according to the verb nikavw.
As opposed to the horseman of the first seal being identified as Antichrist, it
would seem best to understand the first seal referring to false messiahs and prophets.
The second white horse rider consistently has a sword throughout the Book of
Revelation (1:16; 2:12, 16; 19:15, 21); therefore, such divergence with the first white
horse rider results in an obvious distinction.
After giving a warning of many false messiahs, Jesus used a future tense (mellw)
to indicate that at the time of the false messiahs you will be hearing of wars and rumors
of wars (Matt 24:4–6). This appears to be an obvious parallel to Matthew 24:6-7a; Mark
13:7-8a; Luke 21:9-10 where we read about “wars and rumors of wars,” and nation rising
against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” A false peace and security, along with
religious apostasy (the false messiahs inspire their devotees to insurrection and wars),
characterize the beginning of the tribulation that will develop into multiple wars near and
away from the land of Israel. All this is yet future and parallels John’s description of the
second seal horseman in Revelation 6:3-4.
The third seal horseman, or black horse rider, brings famine (a foreboding
indication of the pale horse rider). The third seal will likely occur shortly after the second
seal judgment since famine often follows open warfare.
The fourth seal horseman, the pale horse rider, brings death. This judgment
parallels the synoptic Olivet discourses that prophesy famine, pestilences, and death as
part of the beginning of birth pangs. Luke simply mentioned famines, whereas John’s
usage of thanatos would include pestilences and death in general.
“For thus says the Lord God, ‘How much more when I send My four sever judgments
against Jerusalem: sword, famine, wild beasts, and plague to cut off man and beast from
it!” (Ezek 14:21). These same four figures are prophesied as God’s wrath in several other
passages (cf. Lev 26:21-28; Numb 11:33; 16:46; 25:8-11; Deut 11:17; 28:20-26; 32:22-
25; Jer 15:1-9; 16:4-11; 19:7-9; Ezek 5:11-17; 6:11-12; 7:3-15). The tribulation
commences with the outpouring of God’s wrath in the seal judgments, followed by the
trumpet judgments, and concluding with the bowl judgments. The judgments are
sequential and progressive, which means there is no break in the outpouring of God’s
wrath, and intensify as they are cast upon the earth.
The Birth Pangs
This is in keeping with the analogy of birth pangs, since such pains do not occur at the
beginning of pregnancy, but at the end. In the same manner, the signs of Matthew 24:4-
14 do not occur during the current church dispensation, but only during the tribulation
immediately before Christ’s return. The Olivet Discourse will instruct Israel and Gentile
saints, during the tribulation, that the events of verses 5–6 are not yet the end. It is just the
beginning of birth pangs before being able to straighten up and lift up [their] heads,
because [their] redemption is drawing near (24:8; Luke 21:28).
The Greek word, wjdivn, may be a technical term, as BAG define it as “of the
‘Messianic woes’, the terrors and torments traditionally viewed as prelude to the coming
of the Messianic Age . . . associated with the appearance of the Son of Man at the end of
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history, as the beginning of the (end-time) woes ajrch wjdivnon Mt 24: 8; Mk 13: 8.”7 The
birth pangs of the first half of the tribulation are the beginning of the greater birth pangs
in the second half of the tribulation. The entire seven-year tribulation is the period of
birth pangs, as Jeremiah 30:6-7 indicates, “‘Ask now, and see if a male can give birth.
Why do I see every man, with his hands on his loins, as a woman in childbirth? And why
have all faces turned pale? ‘Alas! for that day is great, there is none like it; and it is the
time of Jacob’s distress, but he will be saved from it.”
The seven-year tribulation is clearly divided chronologically in the Books of
Daniel and Revelation, and characteristically in the eschatological discourses of the
synoptics, that is the beginning (less intense experiences) and the more frequent and
intense experiences of the tribulation period. Drawing from extra-biblical sources,
Raphael Patai devoted an entire chapter to “The Pangs of Time” and concluded,
The pangs of the Messianic times are imagined as heavenly as well as earthly
sources and expressions. From Above, awesome cosmic cataclysms will be
visited upon the earth. . . . All this will lead to internal decay, demoralization, and
even apostasy. Things will come to such a head that people will despair of
Redemption. This will last seven years. And then, unexpectedly, the Messiah will
come.
Because of this gloomy picture of the beginning of the Messianic era,
which by Talmudic times was firmly believed in, some sages expressed the wish
not to see the Messiah. . . . In any case, both the people and its religious leaders
continued to hope for the coming of the Messiah.8
The Jewish understanding of the birth pangs of the Messianic times is certainly
consistent with the sequence of the Olivet Discourse and the Book of Revelation. The
birth pangs are additional evidence that supports the concept of Matthew 24:4-14 (and the
parallels in Markan and Lukan discourses) as indicating events of the first half of the
tribulation, which is also parallel to the four horseman of Revelation 6:1-8.
The eschatological discourses of the synoptics warn of persecution and
martyrdom during the tribulation (Matt 24:9-10, 12; Mark 13:9, 11-13; Luke 21:11a-19).
Mark and Luke stated the comfort given to the faithful during the tribulation is that the
Holy Spirit will give them the words to speak. As martyrdom (24:9) is also the fifth seal,
John recorded the prayer of those seeking justice from God.
Earthquakes are frequent throughout the Book of Revelation as judgment is about
to intensify (Rev 6:12; 8:5; 11:13, 19; 16:18). The sixth seal should be correlated around
the time of the abomination of desolation at the midpoint of the tribulation.9 It seems that
7 William F. Bauer, William F. Arndt, and F. Wilbur Gingrich [BAGD], A Greek-English Lexicon
of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 2nd ed., rev. F. Wilbur Gingrich and Frederick
W. Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), 895.
8 Raphael Patai, The Messiah Texts (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1979), 95-96.
9 The reader should note the corollary passages in Daniel 9:26–27; Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:14–
19; Luke 21:23; 23:29-30; cf. Isa 2:12-22; Hos 10:1-8 (Luke speaks in positive terms what Matthew speaks
in negative terms; one speaks in terms of woe and the other speaks in terms of blessing). Revelation 6:12–
16, as well, correlates the above verses and supports the view that the abomination of desolation occurs
around the breaking of the sixth seal. This interpretation would also regard the judgments as sequential
(e.g., the seventh seal is the seven trumpets and the seventh trumpet is the seven bowls).
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the sixth seal is used to introduce the great tribulation (24:21), or the second half of the
tribulation which begins with the abomination of desolation.
The Seal Judgments
Both Rosenthal and Van Kampen gave attention to the similarities between the events of
Matthew 24:5-9 and the first five seals of the Apocalypse (Rev 6:1-8). However, their
argument is that the first five seals (6:1-11) are not the wrath of God, but that of man
through the Antichrist (similar to midtribulationists).10
Both Rosenthal11 and Van Kampen12 argued that God’s wrath does not begin
until after the sixth seal. After the cosmic signs of Revelation 6:12-14, verses 15-17
provide the reaction of the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and
the rich and the strong and every slave and free man. They will cry to the mountains and
to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne,
and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come; and who is
able to stand?” A plain reading of Scripture here should cause one to conclude that the
great day of God’s wrath has already come and is present during the sixth seal.
Since pre-wrath rapturists do not believe God’s wrath begins until the seventh
seal, they must argue, “the aorist tense is, generally speaking, timeless.”13 Rosenthal
wrote, “ . . . the phrase, ‘the great day of his wrath is come’ refers, not to a past event, but
to an event about to occur, and that in concert with the opening of the seventh seal.”14
Following the sixth seal, God’s wrath “is an event that is on the threshold of happening—
a future event soon to occur.”15 The aorist, h\lqen, in 6:17 is in the indicative mood which
would confirm the reality of the action (God’s wrath) from the standpoint of the world
leaders.
The aorist is not timeless as the pre-wrath view requires; rather, the time of action
is past. Non-indicative moods may indicate the kind of action as opposed to the time of
action. Dana and Mantey stated, “It has no essential temporal significance, its time
relations being found only in the indicative, where it is used as past and hence
augmented. . . . The aorist signifies nothing as to completeness, but simply presents the
action as attained. It states the fact of the action or event without regard to its duration.”16
Robertson concurred, “It is true that in the expression of past time in the indicative and
with all the other moods, the aorist is the tense used as a matter of course. . . .”17 Wallace
acquiesced, “In the indicative, the aorist usually indicates past time with reference to the
time of speaking (thus, ‘absolute time’). . . . Outside the indicative and participle, time is
not a feature of the aorist.”18
10 Marvin J. Rosenthal, The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1990),
147-51; Robert D. Van Kampen, The Rapture Question Answered (Grand Rapids: Revell, 1997), 139-52.
11 Rosenthal, Pre-Wrath Rapture, 167.
12 Van Kampen, Rapture Question, 164.
13 Ibid., 153.
14 Rosenthal, Pre-Wrath Rapture, 167.
15 Van Kampen, Rapture Question, 154.
16 H. E. Dana and Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament (New York:
Macmillan, 1927), 193.
17 A. T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research
(Nashville: Broadman Press, 1934), 831.
18 Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 555.
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“This Generation” and Time Texts
Matthew 24:34, 36 (cf. Rev)
Preterists claim to place primary emphasis upon the demonstrative pronouns in verses 34
and 36 of Matthew 24, but only a futurist interpretation seeks to understand those
pronouns within the context. Demonstrative pronouns help locate and identify nouns or
other pronouns. Pronouns substitute nouns when the nouns they replace can be
understood from the context. They also indicate whether they are replacing a singular or
plural tense and identify in what location (near/far) the speaker places himself in relation
to the object.
English Demonstrative Pronouns
Pronoun Tense Location
this singular near
that singular far
these plural near
those plural far
In Greek, there are two demonstrative pronouns. Frequently, these demonstratives will be
used independent of a noun and carry the intensity of a substantive. The most common
use of the demonstrative pronoun is with a noun and carrying the strength of an adjective.
In other words, the noun will contain the article and the demonstrative pronoun can be
found in the predicate position but never in the attributive position (e.g., oJ uiJoς ou|toς
or ou|toς oJ uiJoς).
Greek Demonstrative Pronouns
Pronoun Tense Location
ou|toς singular near
ou|toi plural near
ejkei’noς singular far
ejkei’nai plural far
The purpose of demonstrative pronouns in both English and Greek grammar is to
help identify where the speaker places himself in relation to the object. Central to
preterist eschatology is a first century fulfillment of the Olivet Discourse. The preterist
interpretation of the Olivet Discourse requires Jesus to place Himself in a relatively near
relation to the events of Matthew 24—25. If this is the scenario, as the preterists contend,
then Jesus would use ou|toς and ou|toi in order to indicate relatively near events.
In four verses, Jesus used the relatively distant demonstrative pronouns: ejkeivnaiς
tai’ς hJmeraiς (24:19); aiJ hJmevrai ejkei’nai (24:22); tw’n hJmerw’n ejkeivnwn (24:29); and,
th’ς hJmevraς ejkeivnhς (24:36).19 When speaking of His coming, Jesus used the relatively
19 Perhaps a fifth reference could be added in 24:38 (tai’ς hJmevraiς [ejkeivnaiς]) due to the
likelihood that the pronoun was omitted accidentally. Both the UBS and Nestle-Aland include ejkeivnaiς in
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distant demonstrative pronouns. When Jesus spoke of the events that will occur prior to
His coming, He usef the relatively near demonstrative pronouns since this would fit His
perspective at the time of His coming: tau’ta (24:8) and ou{twς (24:33). In other words,
Jesus was speaking of His future coming, and then used the near demonstratives to
describe the eschatological events that will precede His future coming.
When Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, this [au{th] generation will not pass away
until all these [tau'ta] things take place” (24:34), He was referring to the same
generation that belong in the distance (eschatologically). By identifying the
demonstrative pronouns, it becomes clear that Jesus was referring to the generation that
witnesses the events of the Olivet Discourse with His coming in a future time. If Jesus
intended to speak of a first century fulfillment then He would have used the relatively
future demonstrative, ejkei’nai, for the events that would occur among the generation that
would witness His coming. In other words, Jesus was not using relatively far
demonstratives to describe what He prophecied of Himself in relatively near
demonstratives, as He stepped into the future from His present earthly location. Only the
generation witnessing all the events prophesied in the Olivet Discourse will be the
generation to witness His return. Commenting on the parallel passage to Matthew 24 in
Luke 21, Lukan scholar Darrell Bock assented:
What Jesus is saying is that the generation that sees the beginning of the end, also
sees its end. When the signs come, they will proceed quickly; they will not drag
on for many generations.
Nonetheless, in the discourse’s prophetic context, the remark comes after
making comments about the nearness of the end to certain signs. As such it is the
issue of the signs that controls the passage’s force, making this view likely. If this
view is correct, Jesus says that when the signs of the beginning of the end come,
then the end will come relatively quickly, within a generation.20
Preterists insist that they are defending the Bible against attacks from liberals such
as Bertrand Russell21 by claiming a first century fulfillment of Matthew 24. Because, in
their view, the Olivet Discourse and Revelation refer to the same time period, preterists
use the words shortly and near in Revelation 1:1, 3 to date the events of Matthew 24 and
Revelation prior to A.D. 70.
Preterists simply are not exegeting the texts as they claim to be doing. BAGD
defines the adverb tacos as follows: “speed, quickness, swiftness, haste.”22 The Apostle
John uses the adverb tacus with ercomai (“to come”) in Revelation 2:16; 3:11;
11:14; 22:7, 12, 20 meaning “quick, swift, speedy.”23 All six uses of tacus in
Revelation mean “without delay, quickly, at once.”24 Blass-Debrunner concurred by
brackets. Metzger rated its inclusion with a “C” grade. See Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on
the Greek New Testament, 2nd ed. (Stuttgart: United Bible Societies, 1994), 52.
20 Darrell L. Bock, Luke 9:51—24:53 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996), 1691-92.
21 R. C. Sproul, The Last Days According to Jesus (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998), 13, 56.
22 BAGD, 807.
23 Ibid.
24 Ibid.
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classifying tacus as “an adverb of manner,” not “an adverb of time.”25 Therefore, the
text in Matthew 24:34 (and Revelation 1:1, 3) describes the manner in which tribulational
events will occur, and not their timing.
Although Matthew 24:34 is the preterist mantra, the reference here to this
generation is a difficult passage to correlate with the preterist system. Preterists seek to
demonstrate that whenever this generation is used in the Gospels, it refers to the first
century generation. Additionally, Christ was speaking to the disciples prior to His
crucifixion. In Matthew 23:36, this generation refers to those who would witness the
destruction of the Temple in AD 70. Dispensationalists should agree with the last
statements, but disagree with the first statement.
Dispensationalists generally interpret this generation to speak of those who will
not only witness all these things of Matthew 24 (Luke 21:32 reads, all things), which
includes the literal and physical return of Jesus Christ. It seems the best way to
understand gevnhtai is as an ingressive aorist, which means an event has occurred but the
emphasis is on initiation. The destruction of the Temple should be understood from its
initiation, which would bear the meaning “begin to take place.” The prophetic chronology
for all these things of Matthew 24:34 would begin with the first century generation, but
not find final fulfillment until the second coming.
The Judgment of Gentiles (Matthew 24:36–25:46)
The One Taken and The Other Left (24:36-41)
In Matthew 24:36, Jesus said, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the
angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. In 24:36-41, Jesus will provide
answers as to what the conditions will be like when He does return. “For the coming of
the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah (24:37). In the same way, unbelievers
did not believe judgment would be coming upon them in the days of Noah, so will the
response of the unbelievers be during the tribulation even though they will experience the
wrath of God. One will be taken, and one will be left (24:39b). The unbelievers do not
truly believe judgment is coming.
In keeping with the context of tribulational events, the one taken and the other left
in Matthew 24:37–41 is a reference to the separation that will take place when Christ
returns to earth. Israel is not included here since her judgment is the tribulation. The one
taken is in judgment in death at the second coming and the other left enters into the
millennial kingdom. The response of Jesus to the disciples’ questioning (Luke 17:37; cf.
Rev 19:17–18) accurately fits this interpretation alone. In other words, the disciples
question when the restoration of Israel will take place and God will judge all her enemies.
Jesus has already answered questions in regards to Israel and is now dealing with the
judgment of Gentiles.
The Olivet Discourse deals with Christ returning to the earth in judgment before
establishing the messianic kingdom. The emphasis does not have to do with the
25 Friedrich Blass and Albert Debrunner, A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Other
Early Christian Literature, trans. and rev. Robert W. Funk (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961),
55–57.
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unexpectedness of the time of the Rapture; rather the focus is on unexpected judgment
just like the days of Noah (Matt 24:37).26
The wide-ranging progression of events (times and seasons), leading to the day of
the Lord, will come like a thief for the unbeliever (cf. 2 Pet 3:3-10). In contrast, the day of
the Lord does not overtake the church. For God has not destined us [the Christian] for
wrath [the day of the Lord], but for obtaining salvation [deliverance] through our Lord
Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we are awake [the watchful Christian] or
asleep [the unwatchful Christian], we may live together with Him (1 Thess 5:2, 9; cf.
1:10).
The coming of the Son of man in Matthew 24:3, 27, 30, 37, 39, 42, and 44 refers
to Christ’s return to execute judgment and establish His kingdom on earth. The messianic
title Son of Man never refers to the church; it is a title for the Davidic King who will
reign on earth from Jerusalem (Dan 7:13–14). Emphasis then lies upon the signs of
approximation preceding the coming of the Son of Man and the parable from the fig tree
is given (24:30, 32). When a future generation witnesses all the signs of Matthew 24, then
the coming of the Son of Man is approaching, right at the door (24:33).
If there is still any doubt that this coming is for judgment, Luke 17:34–37 must be
read for it answers as to what place one will be taken and the other will be left. Jesus
responds, Where the body is, there also will the vultures be gathered. In other words, God
takes them in death and feeds their carcasses to the vultures. Matthew 24:28 indicates the
timing of this event will be after the coming of the Son of Man (cf. Rev 19:17–19). At the
second coming, some unbelievers are taken in judgment and put to death, thereby
beginning the process that Matthew 25 reveals will be the destiny of all goats before the
establishment of the millennial kingdom.
The Parable of the Householder (24:42-51)
The parable of the householder (cf. Luke 12:41-48) contrasts the eternal destinies of the
faithful and sensible slave and the evil slave when Christ returns to earth at the end of the
tribulation. One position is that “the Greek text makes it plain that only one servant, not
two, is in view.”27 In other words, an individual begins as a faithful and sensible slave,
but then becomes an unfaithful, evil slave. According to such a view, the remote Greek
demonstrative, ejkei’no”, in verse 48 proves the same slave is in view. The slave started
well, but did not finish well. Nevertheless, the slave was saved and is still saved even
though he is unfaithful and will lose rewards.
The problem with this position (whether the slave is understood as only one
servant that wavers in faith, or two slaves—one faithful and one unfaithful—that are
saved) is that all of the parables in the Olivet Discourse contrast at least two individuals
with the same social background. The use of slaves (24:46, 48, 50; 25:21, 23, 26, 30) is
an effective means of illustrating the sovereignty of God over all humanity. Some will
believe and some will not believe in Messiah, and the parables reveal the destiny of both.
26 Edersheim, Jesus the Messiah, 786, writes, “To the world this would indeed become the
occasion for utter carelessness and practical disbelief of the coming judgment (vv. 37–40). As in the days
of noah the long delay of threatened judgment had led to absorption in the ordinary engagements of life, to
the entire disbelief of what Noah had preached, so would it be in the future. But that day would come
certainly and unexpectedly, to the sudden separation of those who were engaged in the same daily business
of life. . . .”
27 Joseph C. Dillow, The Reign of the Servant Kings (Hayesville, NC: Schoettle, 1992), 387.
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The parable does not concern a slave who was faithful and later became
unfaithful. The phrase, if that evil slave, does not refer to a hypothetical situation either.
The point of the parable is the faithful and sensible slave will be rewarded when Messiah
returns, in contrast to that evil slave whose Master shall cut him in pieces and assign him
a place with the hypocrites (24:51). The evil character of the unbelieving slave is evident
in his character which causes him to deceive himself into thinking the Messiah is not
returning or that he will have time before Messiah returns to become ready.
The language cut him in pieces and weeping . . . and the gnashing of teeth has
been interpreted as “Oriental symbolism for profound regret” and “the former is a
metaphor for judgment.”28 BAGD defined bruvcw as “a sign of violent rage”29 which
could indicate suffering and remorse. However, the noun brugmov” always indicates the
eternity state of the wicked. Thayer defines bruvcw as “to grind, gnash, with the teeth”
but defines brugmov” tw’n ojdovntwn in 24:51 as “a phrase denoting the extreme anguish
and utter despair of men consigned to eternal condemnation.”30
The parable of the householder also deals with the subject of the judgment of
Gentiles. Since God saves all Israel before the second coming, and these judgments occur
at the second coming, they cannot be a reference to Israel. Indeed, Jesus will not return
until the nation of Israel repents and acknowledges Him as Messiah (Lev 26:40–42; Jer
3:16–17; Hos 5:15–6:3; Zech 12–14; Matt 23:39). It is only when Israel cries out for the
Messiah that He will return. They will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will
mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him
(Zech 12:10). The judgments of Matthew 24:36–25:46 at the second coming would not
pertain to Israel. Since the church has been raptured before this period, and the Olivet
Discourse is dealing with tribulational events, then the judgments must be referring to the
response of Gentiles in the tribulation to the Messiah before His return.
The Parable of the Ten Virgins (25:1-13)
Matthew 25 begins with the parable of the ten virgins. The background of the
parable of the virgins is the Middle Eastern marriage custom. The marriage contract
would come into being while the couple was quite young and unable to make adult
decisions. Nevertheless, at this time, the couple was considered legally married. After an
unspecified period passed and the couple had matured, the bridegroom would journey to
the house of the bride, and take her to his home. The bride and groom would then
proceed to the marriage supper, along with all the guests (cf. 22:1–14), at the house of the
bridegroom. The wise virgins are those who were longing for the wedding feast at the
house of the bridegroom. The marriage supper of the Lamb will take place on earth in the
millennial kingdom (Rev 19:7–10).31
The marriage supper imagery is a familiar reference to a Jewish person
concerning the Messianic kingdom and the bride, Israel. The context negates any
28 Ibid.
29 BAGD, 148.
30 Joseph Henry Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (1885; rev. ed., Grand
Rapids: Zondervan, n.d.), 106.
31 George N. H. Peters, The Theocratic Kingdom (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1884; reprint,
Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1952), 3:301. The wedding at Cana in Galilee (John 2:1–12) depicts the Jewish
custom of marriage.
11
connection with the bhvma or the mystery . . . speaking with reference to Christ and the
church. The Olivet Discourse does not even address the church or the issue of the rapture,
the parable here is treating judgment at the second coming. The five foolish virgins were
invited but not worthy (Matt 22:8) and will be sent into the outer darkness (22:13). One
interpretation is to regard the man not dressed in wedding clothes is a saved man and “he
was apparently not only in the kingdom but actually at the wedding banquet himself.”32
He is merely “outside the relative light of the banquet hall.”33
Such a view is based upon interpreting ejxwvtero” (8:12; 22:13; 25:30) as “the
darkness outside.”34 Since the basic meaning of ejxwvtero” is “outside” it can be
translated “the darkness outside.” However, the question is whether “outside” refers to
exclusion from the millennial marriage feast or complete exclusion (due to lack of
justification) from the millennial kingdom.
The superlative ejxwvtero” (“outer,” “exterior,” or “external”) is closely related to
the adverb e[xw which is often translated “without” or “out of doors.” The adverb e[xw is
used more than a few times (1 Cor 5:12-13; Col 4:5; 1 Thess 4:12; Rev 22:15) to describe
the eternal destiny of the lost (“those who are without”).35 It is never used to describe the
eternal destiny of the saved. Indeed, Jesus uses it, promising, “All that the Father gives
Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not ejkbavlw e[xw
(John 6:37).
Some contend that the man in Matthew 22:13 is saved and therefore allowed into
the wedding hall, but excluded from the marriage feast. If this interpretation is accepted,
then consistency must be maintained in 25:10 and the foolish virgins are saved.36
Matthew, however, said the door was shut hence they were not allowed into the wedding
hall. Furthermore, Jesus answered and said, “Truly I say to you, I do not know you”
(25:12; cf. 7:21-23). Once the door was shut it was too late to enter, therefore, “Be on the
alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour (25:13). Those who are outside do
not just miss an extravagant meal; they are completely outside the kingdom permanently.
Since the parable begins with the phrase, oJmoiwqhvsetai hJ basileiva tw’n
oujranw’n (25:1), it is not addressing “eternal reward” but “eternal salvation.” Matthew
used the phrase thirty-two times (3:2; 4:17; 5:3, 10, 19, 20; 7:21; 8:11; 10:9; 11:11, 12;
13:11, 24, 31, 33, 44, 45, 47, 52; 16:19; 18:1, 3, 4, 23; 19:12, 14, 23; 20:1; 22:2; 23:13;
25:1, 14) and when he used it in other parables outside the Olivet Discourse, they are
always treating the issue of eternal salvation.
32 Dillow, Servant Kings, 347.
33 Ibid., 348.
34 Ibid.
35 William D. Mounce, The Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids:
Zondervan, 1993), 197.
36 Dillow recognizes this difficulty in Servant Kings, 396