Understanding The Bible
Douglas B. MacCorkle "Prophetic Peaks, Exposition of the Olivet Discourse"
CHAPTER ONE - Introducing The Olivet Discourse

Chapter One
Introducing The Olivet Discourse

Jesus waited until the last week of His earthly life to issue this important predictive prophecy. Therein lies a major clue to its proper exposition.

It was Passion week.
In two days (Matt. 26:2) He was to be formally betrayed. The religious leaders, of course, had already betrayed Him before the people of Israel (Matt. 12:24). This was the life-situation reason why He was facing a cross and not a crown. As late as Tuesday of Passion Week the mechanics necessary to kill Messiah were still a confusing matter (Matt. 26:4) to these leaders. The issue was clear, however. They did not want Jesus to reign over Israel (Luke 19:11, 14). Read this in the striking statement of the chief priests (John 19:21). Read it over His head at the Cross (Mark 15:26).

Jesus had been born King of the Jews (Matt. 2:2) not merely to be King of the Jews. He died King of the Jews. He lives and will commence His earthly reign as King of the Jews at His second advent to the earth (Matt. 25:31-34). Passion Week itself was immediately caused by the rejection of Jesus the Messiah as King of the Jews. [1]

It has a place in the Word.
The Olivet Discourse has a major place in the first three Gospels. It is found most extensively in Matthew chapters 23:37-26:2. This complements Matthew's purpose to present Messiah as King. In Mark the discourse is found in chapter 13 and in Luke in chapter 21.

It was a private word.
Only His disciples heard the original discourse and apparently only four of them (Mark 13:3), namely Peter, James, John and Andrew. It was not officially delivered to the murderous leadership nor to the nation Israel. Judas apparently missed this as well as the Thursday evening Upper Room Discourse (John 13-17).

It gives predictive insight and interpretation of the obvious interruption of a planned campaign waged from the commencement Of His official public ministry. The reader will discover in this discourse the proper perspective of the world's future oriented from the standpoint of the nation Israel as issued by Israel's coming King.

It was a predictive word.
Biblical prophecy is by nature predictive in the perfect sense and degree. The discourse stretches out in annotated outline form the perspective of the future in relation to certain well-known and concrete entities. It confirms the validity of Old Testament prophetic concepts and covenants and ties them solidly to an age following our current Church age. With deftness it treats otherwise unknowable and unplaceable prophetic truths. In the providence of God only the ultimate timing is retained by Him.

It was a premillennial word.
The normal way to understand prophecy is to take it literally. This was a serious discourse. Its structure demands observance of literary principles of interpretation. Figures of speech, like the parables of Matthew 25:1-30, are to be interpreted in line with the laws of parabolic interpretation, etc. But we have no warrant to make figurative that which is non-figurative in its literary or structural nature.

This prophecy exhibits affinity with the Old Testament prophecies with special emphasis on Daniel (Matt. 24:15). It explicitly claims that the second advent to earth of Messiah will come at the end of the Tribulation period (Matt. 24:29) and that such an event is for the express purpose of sitting upon His earthly throne of glory (Matt. 25:31-32). Those who are critics-in-depth of the Premillennial view of prophecy admit that when Old Testament prophecy is interpreted literally it demands an earthly reign of Jesus Christ following the current Church age. It will be shown herein that when the Olivet Discourse is interpreted in its contexts, it corroborates the literal interpretation of such prophecies of the Old Testament and insists that its outline of the future be so viewed also.

It was a prolific word.
It cannot pretend to capture all the ways in which this discourse was fruitful to the believers facing the problem of the earthly kingdom's state of abeyance. But the more extensive our study of the Gospels, the more we are able to simulate in our thinking the mood of the contemporaries of Messiah at His first advent. In spite of all the varied attempts to brain-wash the idea of an earthly kingdom the script is set; the scripture will stand (Matt. 24:35).

Featured in prose and parable are selected and fruitful elements connected with Messiah's full knowledge of the future.

There is featured the now famous seventieth week of Daniel. The importance of this prophetic week (Daniel 9:24-27) cannot be overstated when treating the background of the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24:15). We feel it essential here to give a brief exposition thereof.

As Daniel 9 opens, the people of Israel (Southern kingdom) had just completed seventy years of captivity-time in Babylon (Dan. 9:2; Jer. 25:12). Daniel reads Jeremiah's time-prophecy literally and God responds on this ground. To what new time set-up were they now to be delivered as a people? Daniel 9:24-27 is the important and far-reaching answer.

Identification of the Text

Daniel 9:24) Seventy weeks are decreed upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy.

25) Know therefore and discern, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the anointed one, the prince, shall be seven weeks, and three score and two weeks; it shall be built again with street and moat, even in troublous times.

26) And after the threescore and two weeks shall the anointed one be cut off, and shall have nothing: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and even unto the end shall be war; desolations are determined.

27) And he shall make a firm covenant with many for one week; and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease; and upon the wing of abominations shall come one that maketh desolate; and even unto the full end, and that determined shall wrath be poured out upon the desolate.

Identification of Terms

Weeks (9:24a) the Hebrew term is literally seven (interestingly, the R. S. V. has "seventy weeks of years" which is correct). See an exact picture of the term in Genesis 29:27.

Thy people (9:24a) God speaking to Daniel in a captivity-context could mean no people but Israel of the land of Palestine. Rightly distinguished, Scripture substantiates this everywhere. It is in no way a reference to the Church.

Thy holy city (9:24a) this could only be Jerusalem as the context exactly confirms. Certainly it is earthly Jerusalem.

The most holy (9:24b ) literally "to anoint a holy of holies." Again R. S. V. is correct "a most holy place."

Messiah, the Prince (9:25b) the personal Messiah, not the nation, who is also the Davidic King (II Sam. 7:10-29) the Lord Jesus Christ (Messiah).

The prince that shall come (9:26b) the final personal antichrist. (IIThess.2:3-8).

The covenant (9:27a) literally a covenant not the covenant, as if referring to some definitely known covenant such as God had previously made with Israel.

Identification of Times

The entire context of this prophecy demands that the sevens (Heb. heptads) be counted as years.

Seven weeks (9:25b) 49 years in which Jerusalem was reconstructed.

Sixty-two weeks (9:25b) 434 years until cutting off of Messiah.

One week (9:27a) seven years in which Antichrist makes and breaks his covenant. This week of seven years is isolated from the others.

Interpretation of Text

The decree. The command specifically related to the restoration of the city of Jerusalem. It was issued in the 20th year of Artaxerxes (Neh. 2:1, 5) 445 B.C. (Encyclopedia Britannica). Note that the entire prophecy is covered by the decree of God instead of by option.

The design. The seventy sevens are considered as a unit with three featured segments. Together they are designed to accomplish six ultimate objectives related to the nation Israel and in the times of the Gentiles' domination:

  1. To finish the transgression this is the Jewish rebellion versus God's authority (Heb. revolt)

  2. To make an end of sins Jewish sins are in view (Romans ll:26 f).

  3. To make reconciliation for iniquity the effects of the Cross in their national aspect are applied to Israel.

  4. To bring in everlasting righteousness the righteousness of the ages imparted on a world-wide basis; covering the earth as the waters cover the sea.

  5. To seal up vision and prophecy prophecy will be sealed by virtue of completion of its fulfillment (Jer. 33:4-16). Nothing needs to be added (Rev. 22:19).

  6. To anoint the most holy that is, the Holy of Holies in the Jerusalem temple.

The data. Summarizing in annotated outline we find:

  1. Sixty-nine sevens from the decree to rebuild Jerusalem to the cutting off of the Messiah.

  2. The interruption an unmeasured gap-period to be represented by brackets since there is nothing to make parenthetical. From Calvary to the rapture of the Church is in no way a day of national Israel (cf. Rom. 9-11). Messiah is cut off and has nothing to show for it as to national Israel, because it was not the time of His glory (Psalm 110:1-3).

  3. After the sixty-nine sevens Messiah has nothing to show; Jerusalem is destroyed (70 A.D.), until the consummation (end) of the seventy sevens shall be war and desolations are determined (Rev. 6-19).

  4. The seventieth seven brings Antichrist, a prince with a seven year covenant which he breaks after 3Vz years. At the breaking thereof he stops blood and non-blood Jewish sacrifices which he allowed to be reinstalled.

Thus this prophecy in Daniel 9:24-27 underlines the importance of the terms in the title: decree, desolation, deliverance. God's decrees are not successfully altered. God's desolations are not susceptible to avoidance. God's deliverance of Israel is not sensibly allegorizable.

Featured also is the moral climate of that seventieth week. It will be the day of Jacob's trouble (Jer. 30:5-7) for during the entire period of seven years Israel will be in great general trouble among the nations. It will be the day of Israel's travail (Isa. 66:5-16) for then the nation shall be born from above (Rom. 11:25, 26, 27). It will be the day of tribulation (Matt. 24:21) which shall put the whole world under pressure to take final sides personally and nationally on the Messianic, Jewish and Kingdom issues.

Featured in variety, finally, are such identifying data as:

(1) emphasis on a known age,
(2) increase in claims to Messiahship,
(3) the gospel of the kingdom,
(4) the geography of Judea,
(5) time elements,
(6) second advent of Messiah in flashy fashion,
(7) the final regathering of Israel,
(8) sharp illustrations and warnings,
(9) the judgment of living Gentiles on earth,
(10) the commencement of the millennial reign of Messiah.

Summary. We have introduced the Olivet Discourse by showing the time of its original statement Passion week; its major place in the Word of God; its private disclosure; its predictive nature; its premillennial structure; and its prolific or fruitful significance in the light of the two Testaments. Obviously the discourse covers complex ideas and events. This proves its realistic logic and truth. Global life is getting more and more complex. But our Lord's ability to state profundity in simplicity was never more excitingly demonstrated. It is the hallmark of the highest wisdom and capacity. The study of it will challenge and not bore the believer. The understanding belief in its truths will provide balance and buoyancy for the believer's daily lot.


[1] The reader will not deduce that Jesus did not come to die for the sins of the world. The author is addressing himself to the immediate or precipitating historical cause of His trials and death.

  [1] The Writings of Douglas B. MacCorkle (also see brief Biography)

Prophetic Peaks, Exposition of the Olivet Discourse. Copyright 1968 by Douglas B. MacCorkle. Third Printing 1972. Printed by Careers With Christ Press, Philadelphia College of Bible, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Printed in the United States of America. Published by the not for profit MacCorkle Bible Ministries, Inc. Books. P.O. 320909, Cocoa Beach, Fl 32932-0909. Used by permission through the generosity of Judith and Ray Naugle.

God's Own VIPS, Copyright 1987 by Douglas B. MacCorkle. MacCorkle Bible Ministries, Inc., Printed in the United States of America. Published by the not for profit MacCorkle Bible Ministries, Inc. Books. P.O. 320909, Cocoa Beach, Fl 32932-0909. Used by permission through the generosity of Judith and Ray Naugle.

Dr. MacCorkle's Books and Study materials on this website are made available here free, through the generosity of Judith and Ray Naugle, and may be copied for use in Bible study groups, in limited numbers, providing that no charge is made for them.  No further distribution or use of these materials is allowable under U.S. or International Copyright Law without express permission.

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