The Olivet Discourse Matthew 24 and 25 Introduction 24:1-3 BLB 1A. Jesus' Explanation of the Future 24:4-31 BLB 1B. Beginning of Birth Pains 24:4-8 BLB 2B. The Tribulation 24:9-14 BLB 3B. The Great Tribulation 24:15-28 BLB 4B. After the Tribulation 24:29-31 BLB 2A. Jesus' Examples about the Future 24:32-25:46 BLB 1B. Parable of the Fig Tree 24:32-35 BLB 2B. Days of Noah 24:36-51 BLB 3B. Illustrative Parables 25:1-46 BLB 1C. Parable of the Virgins 25:1-13 BLB 2C. Parable of the Talents 25:14-30 BLB 3C. Parable of the Sheep and Goats 25:31-46 BLB
The occasion of this major address by Christ was the disciples' desire to know about the future. Study of the future is called eschatology by theologians. It actually means means "study of last things." It is natural for us to want to know about the future. It is evidently the Lord's will for us to know certain things about the future, since He took the time to give all of these instructions. Only one recorded sermon by Christ was longer than this one. That is the "Sermon on the Mount," in Matthew chapters 5 through 7.
The first part of this message is chronological: dealing with what will happen before, during, and after the Tribulation. The Rapture is not mentioned. Jesus had introduced the concept of the Church (Matthew 16:16-18), but the mystery of the Church had not yet been revealed. See Objections to the Pre-Trib View.
The second part of this message is given in parables. They all relate to being ready for the Lord's return. This is good advice regardless of one's understanding of when the Rapture will take place.
According to Daniel 9:24-27, there were seventy weeks of Israel's history to be fulfilled. The word "week" literally means "seven," so 70 "weeks" could be 490 years. But there is a break after the 69th week (7 + 62 "sevens"), it was prophesied that Messiah would be cut off. Then there would be one last "week" of seven years at a later time. Sir Robert Anderson, the illustrious head of Scotland Yard, wrote The Coming Prince
in 1895 to show that the first 69 "weeks" (69 times 7 = 483 years) were fulfilled exactly, to the very day, on the date that Jesus offered Himself as King - the day of "The Triumphal Entry" into Jerusalem. (Grant R. Jeffrey, Armageddon: Appointment With Destiny, pp. 27-30. See also Josh McDowell, Evidence That Demands a Verdict, p. 174, for a similar treatment.)
The events that last week of Israel's history have never transpired yet, but they must be fulfilled before the end of this age. This is why we believe this "week" is the same as the seven years of the Tribulation. Daniel 9:27 indicates that Antichrist will make a covenant with Israel for seven years, and in the middle of it he will break the covenant and set up the Abomination of Desolation (Matthew 24:15 - See Great Tribulation), and then will have forty-two months to reign. (Revelation 13:5, 14 - See also Rev. 11:3 and 12:6 where this period of time is specified as 1,260 days, which equals 3 1/2 years using the lunar calendar of 30 days per month --the normal Biblical month.)
The characteristics of this period of time include persecution, apostasy, false Christs, and lawlessness.
The expression "Times of the Gentiles" is used in Luke 21:24 to refer to the period of time that Jerusalem will be under Gentile domination. It has been under Gentile control from that time until now. Even today, it is, in a sense, under Gentile domination, because its holiest spot, the Temple, is held by Moslems. And even during the seven years of Antichrist's treaty, the city will be subject to the power of the Gentile world system. Antichrist will allow them to build their city and Temple, and then he will defile it.