Like we stated in the previous series the disciples were accustomed to hearing Jesus speak of His coming in His kingdom, coming in His glory and power within their lifetime.
Understanding the meaning of the word “Parousia” is key to understanding the content on the Olivet discourse.
Joseph Rotherham consistently renders the word “presence,” and to this agrees the definition in Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. “Parousia, literally, a presence, para, with, and ousia, being … in a papyrus letter a lady speaks of the necessity of her parousia in a place in order to attend to matters relating to her property there. Paul speaks of his parousia in Philippi, Philippians 2:12 (in contrast to hisapousia, absence). Other words denote the arrival.
The terms Parousa is a technical term, used in the ancient world to speak of a king or royal dignitary that was making a visit to a given city. As the king got closer to the city for his coming (his Parousa) the citizens of that city, being watchful for him, would, when his entourage was sighted, leave their city and go out to meet him. They would then escort him back to their city. The city was the destination of the dignitary. It was the location of his Parousa. He was not coming to remove the city. He was coming to visit them.
Jesus gave a hint of this when he gave a parable before this entry to Jerusalem in Luke 19 when he told them of a noble man who went to a far away country to receive a kingdom for himself. This man would later return to meet his servants he had given money to trade with.
There were certain things the disciples were not initially clear about.
- They didn’t understand his death:
21 From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.
31 Then He took the twelve aside and said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be accomplished. 34 But they understood none of these things; this saying was hidden from them, and they did not know the things which were spoken. (Luke 18:31-34)
- They didn’t understand the second coming:
36 Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, where are You going?”
“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. [a] if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.[b]
- They thought kingdom was physical:
36 Jesus answered, (John 18:36)
20 Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’[d] For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:20-21)
They didn’t know he was leaving them through death but they looked for a time when he would appear in full glory and power bringing in the Kingdom and rewarding every man. They believed the Messiah would rule and reign in Jerusalem.
“For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. 28 “Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”
As Jesus began to explain they knew that His parousia would be in their life time, and they looked for, and expected it. It wasn’t something that they expected to be fulfilled 2,000 years after but in their own lifetime. After His resurrection, they still asked Jesus when he would restore the kingdom.
Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. (Acts 1:6-7)
At the early days they didn’t understand that Christ would sit upon his throne by means of His resurrection and ascension. This was beyond their comprehension. All they knew was what they were taught by the Jewish scribes who had already missed out on the arrival of the Messiah. The Holy Spirit led them into the truth which Peter preached on the day of Pentecost.
“Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 “Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, 31 “he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. 32 “This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. 33 “Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. (Acts 2:29-33)
With Christ was now reigning on the Father’s right hand, the manifestation of that kingdom would come, when Christ would come in judgement on Jerusalem.
“For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself: ‘The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, 35 Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” (Acts 2:34-35)
The early church began to understand the dynamics for the manifestation of the kingdom of God. Their time with Jesus in his earthly ministry was to wean them from their former mindset and theology.
At the Olivet discourse the disciples saw the connection. The disciples connected the destruction of the temple with Christ’s parousia” Their knowledge and understanding of Old testament scriptures led them into seeing that the destruction of Jerusalem would usher in Messiah’s kingdom.
Behold, the day of the LORD is coming, And your spoil will be divided in your midst. 2 For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; The city shall be taken, The houses rifled, And the women ravished. Half of the city shall go into captivity, But the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city. 3 Then the LORD will go forth And fight against those nations, As He fights in the day of battle. 4 And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, Which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, From east to west, Making a very large valley; Half of the mountain shall move toward the north And half of it toward the south. 5 Then you shall flee through My mountain valley, For the mountain valley shall reach to Azal. Yes, you shall flee As you fled from the earthquake In the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Thus the LORD my God will come, And all the saints with You. (Zechariah 14:1-5)
In the day of the Lord, Jerusalem is destroyed and the Lord comes with his saints.
They were also familiar with the prophecy of Daniel which Jesus also referenced in the Olivet discourse.
“And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; And the people of the prince who is to come Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, And till the end of the war desolations are determined. (Daniel 9:26)
The disciples believed that the coming of Messiah would be simultaneous with the destruction of the city and the temple.
They also associated the destruction of the temple with the end of age. Why? The destruction of the temple would be end of the Jewish age which was foundation upon where everything was done and lived for them. Unfortunately the old King James uses the word “world” instead of “age”. The New King James puts it right.
Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3)
The Greek word used here is aeon which means, “age.” It is not the Greek word “kosmos” or “oikoumene,” which mean the world and its inhabitants. It is not talking about the end of the physical world; the word aeon means age, era, or a period of time. The expression “end of the age” refers to “the end of the Jewish age.”
The disciples knew that the fall of the temple and the destruction of the city meant the end of the Old Covenant age and the inauguration of a new age. But in between the two ages there will come the Day of the Lord, which will be a time of terrible and fearful upheaval, like the birth-pangs of a new age.” It is referenced Zechariah 14 that the “Day of the Lord” and the destruction of Jerusalem were connected. The book of Malachi 4 also provides insight into that day of the Lord.
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet
And he will turn
The hearts of the fathers to the children,
And the hearts of the children to their fathers,
Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.”
Jesus had already confirmed to them that John was the Elijah to come.
“and if ye are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who was about to come;” (Matthew 11:14 YLT)
“And if you are willing to accept what I say, he is Elijah, the one the prophets said would come.” (Matthew 11:14 NLT)
So what was the disciples really asking? Based on what we have covered from chapter 21 this is what we see they were asking.
“When will these things happen and what will be the sign of your presence or arrival in judgment over this nation?”
(To be continued in the next series)