The Olivet Discourse is a name given to the prophetic instructions Christ gave his disciples during one (or more) of their stays on the mount of Olives. This article focuses on sequencing and harmonization of the Olivet Discourse in three Synoptic Gospels where it is found.
Thanks to Mr. Ed Stevens for providing most of this information in his podcasts and supporting chronological chart.
The Olivet Discourse is mentioned in the following chapters of the three Synoptic Gospels: Matthew 10 and 24, Mark 13, and, Luke 17 and 21; with Luke’s gospel considered to be the more chronologically written of the three, based on this statement:
“Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.” — Luk 1:1-4 KJV
As is typical among the Lord’s scribes, each writer provides both similar and varying details. The discourse is organized into prophetic themes, beginning with:
1. The Question
Matt 24:3 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?
Mark 13:3-4 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives over against the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled?
Luke 21:7 And they asked him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass?
- The following statements by Christ are grouped into themes of Warnings and Signs:
2. False Christs and Deceivers
Matt 24:4-5 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.
Mark 13:5-6 And Jesus answering them began to say, Take heed lest any man deceive you: For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.
Luke 21:8 And he said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them.
3. Wars and Rumors of War, including Civil Wars
Matt 24:6-7 And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom:
Mark 13:7 And when ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars, be ye not troubled: for such things must needs be; but the end shall not be yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom:
Luke 21:9-10 But when ye shall hear of wars and commotions, be not terrified: for these things must first come to pass; but the end is not by and by. Then said he unto them, Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom:
4. Famines, Pestilences, Earthquakes, and the Beginning of Sorrows
Matt 24:7-8 and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.
Mark 13:8 and there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles: these are the beginnings of sorrows.
Luke 21:11 And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences.
- At this point there is a chronological break. Luke explains that the following events were to occur prior to the events of themes 2-4. We find Matthew’s rendition of these events in Chapter 10.
5. Persecution of Christians
Luke 21:12 But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name’s sake.
Matt 10:17-18 But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles.
Mark 13:9 But take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten: and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them.
- In Mark’s next verse, he wrote that the gospel must first be published to all nations – prior to the arrest and persecution of the disciples.
6. Gospel Published Among All Nations
Mark 13:10 And the gospel must first be published among all nations.
Matt 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.
That is explained in the book of the Acts. On the day of Pentecost, there were devout Jews in Jerusalem from every nation under heaven:
“And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans?” — Acts 2:5-7 KJV
If only one devout Jew from each nation received the Holy Spirit and the gospel from the Apostles, and then carried the gospel back to his home nation, Mark 13:10 would be fulfilled. And we know from the epistles of Paul that the gospel was preached to all world, to all nations, and to every creature, at some time prior to him writing the epistles to the Colossians and Romans:
“Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith:” — Rom 16:25-26 KJV
“For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel; Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth:” — Col 1:5-6 KJV
“If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;” — Col 1:23 KJV
7. The Time For a Testimony
Luke 21:13-15 And it shall turn to you for a testimony. Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer: For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.
Matt 10:19-20 But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.
Mark 13:11 But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost.
8. Betrayals By Family and Friends
Luke 21:16 And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death.
Matt 10:21 And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death.
Mark 13:12 Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death.
9. All Men Shall Hate The Disciples
Luke 21:17-18 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake. But there shall not an hair of your head perish.
Matt 10:22 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.
Mark 13:13 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.
10. The Abomination of Desolation
Luke 21:20-22 And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.
Matt 24:15 -18 When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes.
Mark 13:14-16 But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, (let him that readeth understand,) then let them that be in Judaea flee to the mountains: And let him that is on the housetop not go down into the house, neither enter therein, to take any thing out of his house: And let him that is in the field not turn back again for to take up his garment.
11. Warnings to Mothers With Children
Luke 21:23 But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days!
Matt 24:19 And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!
Mark 13:17 But woe to them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!
12. Other Warnings
Matt 24:20 But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day:
Mark 13:18 And pray ye that your flight be not in the winter.
13. The Great Tribulation
Luke 21:22-24 For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled . . . for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.
Matt 24:21-22 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.
Mark 13:19-20 For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be. And except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved: but for the elect’s sake, whom he hath chosen, he hath shortened the days.
14. Christ and False Prophets (see Theme 2, above, and the narrative between Themes 4 and 5)
Luke 17:22-23 And he said unto the disciples, The days will come, when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it. And they shall say to you, See here; or, see there: go not after them, nor follow them.
Matt 24:23-26 Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.
Mark 13:21-23 And then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ; or, lo, he is there; believe him not: For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect. But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things.
15. The Lord’s Coming Compared to Lightning
Matt 24:27 For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
Luke 17:24 For as the lightning, that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in his day.
16. The Carcase and the Eagles (those taken vs. those left)
Luke 17:34-37 I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.
Matt 24:40-41, 28 Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left . . . For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.
17. Signs in the Heaven
Matt 24:29 Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:
Mark 13:24-25 But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken.
Luke 21:25-26 And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.
18. The Lord Coming In Clouds and the Gathering of the Elect
Matt 24:30-31 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
Mark 13:26-27 And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven.
Luke 21:27-28 And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.
19. The Parable of Trees and Leaves
Matt 24:32-33 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.
Mark 13:28-29 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When her branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is near: So ye in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors.
Luke 21:29-31 And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.
20. The Timing of the Fulfillment
Matt 24:34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.
Mark 13:30 Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done.
Luke 21:32 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled.
The text indicates all of those prophecies were fulfilled in the first century, during the generation of Christ and his disciples.