Though Jesus’ Olivet Discourse seems primarily about prophetic events, embedded within its prophecies are spiritual lessons for end-time Christians.
Over the past year, we have been exploring Jesus’ Olivet Discourse in this column.
When we consider this passage, we typically think of prophecies and warnings—not instruction on Christian living. For that, most would read one of Jesus’ other teachings (such as the Sermon on the Mount). But though the emphasis of the Olivet Discourse is prophecy, it also contains guidance on how Christians should live their lives.
Found within these prophecies, there’s also a sermon. Sometimes the points of this sermon are easy to recognize, and sometimes we have to dig them out—but they are there. When we isolate and examine these points, we discover Jesus gave a lot of spiritual instruction for end-time Christians.
So let’s examine the points of this sermon.
Spiritually surviving the end time
Since Jesus was talking about the events that will surround the end of the age, we can consider this sermon directly targeted to His people living in the end times. Perhaps we could title it “Seven Points for Spiritually Surviving the End Time.”
- Don’t be shaken or troubled by what happens around you. After warning of the coming of “wars and rumors of wars,” Jesus admonished us: “See that you are not troubled” (Matthew 24:6). The Greek word translated “troubled” means to be “troubled in mind, to be frightened, alarmed.”
Jesus knew that the frightening conditions of the end time could cause His followers to become paralyzed by the fear and horror surrounding them. Fear can cause Christians to lose faith and focus and to regress spiritually.
We’ve witnessed a small taste of this over the past year with the pandemic. While we should certainly respect the danger and do all we can to be cautious and safe, we shouldn’t allow the virus to cause us to be “troubled” and paralyzed with fear.
God’s people should approach the end times remembering these words of God preserved in Isaiah 41:10: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”
- Diligently maintain godly love. As He was talking about persecution and end-time deception, Jesus predicted that societal relationships will completely break down, causing people to “be offended, . . . betray one another, and . . . hate one another” (Matthew 24:10). Jesus warned that “the love of many will grow cold” (verse 12).
Implied in His warning is encouragement to do the opposite:
- Don’t be offended.
- Don’t betray one another.
- Don’t allow hatred for others into your life.
- Keep your love warm and active.
As we see the world growing more bitter, divided and hateful, it is important that Christians take this warning and encouragement seriously and not allow their love to “grow cold” as well. We have to maintain spiritual warmth. For more insight on this issue, read our article “Staying Warm in a Spiritually Cold World.”
- Don’t grow weary and give up—endure to the end. Immediately after stating that the love of many would grow cold, Jesus made another statement with serious spiritual implications: “He who endures to the end shall be saved” (verse 13).
Jesus was saying that only those who consistently and faithfully practice His way until His return (or until they die) will receive salvation. Throughout the ages, one of the greatest threats for Christians has been growing weary or distracted—and giving up. Some Christians start strong, but don’t maintain active, living faith throughout their lives.
There are scores of scriptures encouraging Christians to remain steadfast and consistent. The apostle Paul made the point in a very powerful way. He said that eternal life (which is synonymous with salvation) will be given to “those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality” (Romans 2:7, emphasis added).
- Be involved in preaching the gospel. Jesus prophesied that “this gospel of the kingdom will be preached . . . and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14). This prophecy shows that the true gospel will reach the entire world. This is the work of the Church of God. Jesus not only commissioned that work through this prophecy, but also in His parting words to His disciples in Matthew 28:19-20.
The Church’s mission to proclaim the gospel to the world is not optional. It is actually a byproduct of point 2—maintaining love for others.
God’s people are motivated to preach the gospel out of love for people. They want to see other people learn the truths of God’s Word and change their lives. So they work together to make sure those truths are taught and available to as many people as possible.
That’s why we publish this magazine and produce all the other content on LifeHopeandTruth.com. We are trying to do our part to make God’s truth accessible to people. Christians also have a responsibility, as individuals, to set an example and be ready to share “the hope that is in you” when they have the opportunity (1 Peter 3:15).
- Strive to be prophetically educated and watchful. When Jesus discussed the Great Tribulation and all the things that will occur before He returns, He interwove His prophecies with hints that His people would be able to look at events and know what is (and isn’t) occurring. His people would know about the abomination of desolation (Matthew 24:15), they would understand why they need to flee at a certain time (verses 16-21), and they would know the difference between impostor christs and the real returning Christ (verses 23-27).
In order to know these things, they have to be knowledgeable of the Bible’s prophecies—and be watching the world around them. Later in the discourse, Christ plainly tells His followers to “watch” so that end-time events and Christ’s second coming don’t sneak up on them unexpectedly and find them unprepared (verses 36-42).
So Christians today should be studying prophecy and watching what is happening in the world. That’s why we often write about prophecy and world news. Check out our booklet How to Understand Prophecy. It is designed to help you develop a better understanding of the grand overview of prophecy.
- Stay ready and be prepared for Christ’s return. The primary reason Christians should be educated about prophecy and aware of world events is so they will “be ready” for Christ’s return to earth (verse 44). Christ encouraged us to be on alert and spiritually prepared for His return. He went on to describe what a “ready” Christian will look like. “Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing” (verse 46).
Doing is an important concept in the New Testament. True Christianity is to be an active way of life. Just having knowledge and a belief system isn’t enough—those who will be “ready” for Christ’s return are those actively living His way and doing His will.
Paul said that only “the doers of the law will be justified” (Romans 2:13). Part of being a doer is learning about and actively obeying the law of God in our lives. James wrote that we are to be “doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22).
Those who will be ready for Christ’s return are “doers” of God’s law and Word. Are you doing that? The world is getting more dangerous, and the warning signs of end-time events are all around us. Now is the time to get serious about being a doer.
Which leads us naturally into our final point.
- Don’t hold off to the last minute. Though Matthew 24 ends at verse 51, Matthew 25 continues the Olivet Discourse. Jesus transitioned to a parable about 10 virgins. (A parable is a fictional story told to illustrate a central point or lesson.)
These 10 virgins were involved with a wedding; they were waiting for “the bridegroom” to arrive. Five of the 10 brought extra oil for their lamps, and five did not. When the late-night call came that the bridegroom was arriving, the first five were prepared and had enough oil to illuminate their path to go meet him. The other five did not have enough oil, causing them to be late to the wedding and locked out.
In the parable, the virgins represent those called by God, the oil represents the Holy Spirit, and the bridegroom represents Jesus Christ. The main point is that we can’t hold off getting and using God’s Spirit until the last minute—just before Jesus returns. We have to be like the wise virgins and use God’s Spirit to grow in advance of the end times. That way, we will be ready and prepared when events start spiraling toward Christ’s return.
Don’t wait till the last minute!
Inherit the Kingdom
The Olivet Discourse gives us a prophetic checklist of events leading to Christ’s coming and the end of the age. But built into these prophecies are spiritual lessons particularly relevant and applicable to Christians in the end time. By extracting those spiritual lessons from the Olivet Prophecy, we also have a checklist of action items Christians will want to do.
Jesus Christ encourages us to heed these instructions, so He can welcome us: “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34).