Interpretive Flaws in the Olivet Discourse -- By: Larry D. Pettegrew
MSJ 13:2 (Fall 2002) p. 173
Interpretive Flaws in the Olivet Discourse
Professor of Theology
The Olivet Discourse as the ultimate exposition of events related to the future of Israel has been a proving ground where incorrect rapture systems have gone astray. A survey of the Discourse starts with the backdrop of a scathing rebuke and proceeds to note the stunned disciples, the doomed temple, the timing question, the unexpected delay, the great tribulation, the second coming, and the application. The first of three erring rapture systems, posttribulationism, understands the Discourse to focus on the church, but the larger context and the immediate context demonstrate conclusively that Israel is the main focus. The pre-wrath system is the second erring interpretation when it misconstrues Matt 24:22 and its mention of the shortening of the great tribulation. The third erring system is preterism with its teaching that the Discourse was in the main fulfilled in events around A. D. 70. Preterism falters hermeneutically in its non-literal interpretation of the prophecy. Pretribulationism responds to the hermeneutical fallacies by interpreting “this generation” in Matt 24:34 to refer to the generation alive when events of the great tribulation take place. Consistent pretribulationism understands “one taken, one left” and “the fig tree” to refer to events pertaining to the second coming, not the rapture of the church.
At first glance, it might seem strange to focus on the Olivet Discourse in a series on the rapture since the rapture is not found in this passage. Why pick this particular passage that does not discuss the rapture when there are many more that do not, as well as several that do? The answer is at least threefold.
First, the Olivet Discourse, found in Matthew 24–25 and parallel passages in Mark and Luke is of vital importance because of who the author is. This is the Lord’s ultimate exposition of future events during His time on earth.1 Second, the Olivet Discourse gives an outline of the future of Israel—a people at the center of
MSJ 13:2 (Fall 2002) p. 174
much of biblical eschatology. Third, from a negative side, the Olivet Discourse is important because all incorrect rapture systems go astray in this passage. The Olivet Discourse is thus a monumental passage for the doctrine of eschatology.
It is impossible, of course, to give a detailed exposition of these two chapters in a brief essay, so the essay’s...
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