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- 1 Summary
- 2 Discussion
- 2.1 Matt 24:1-3: The disciples' two questions
- 2.2 Matt 24:4-31: Signs of the Second Coming
- 2.3 Matt 24:32-41: Timing of the Second Coming
- 2.4 Matt 24:42-25:56: Preparation for the Second Coming
- 3 Unanswered questions
- 4 Prompts for life application
- 5 Prompts for further study
- 6 Resources
- 7 Notes
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Relationship to Matthew. The relationship of the Olivet Discourse to the entire book of Matthew is discussed at Matthew.
Story. The Olivet Discourse is Matthew's discussion of the Second Coming. The Olivet Discourse can be thought of as comprising four parts:
- Matt 24:1-3: Two questions regarding the Second Coming. Christ's disciples ask two questions that prompt the Olivet Discourse: What is the sign of the Second Coming? and: When will it occur?
- Matt 24:4-31: Signs of the Second Coming.
- Matt 24:32-41: Timing of the Second Coming. The parable of the fig tree makes the point that we can recognize the general season of the Second Coming but will not know the precise hour until it occurs.
- Matt 24:42-25:46: Preparation for the Second Coming. The final portion of the Olivet Discourse address a subject the disciples did not ask about: preparation for the Second Coming. This section includes the four parables of the faithful and evil servants, of the ten virgins, of the talents, and of the sheep and goats.
'Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in the Olivet Discourse of Matthew 24-25 include:
This section is for detailed discussion such as the meaning of a symbol, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout a passage, or insights that can be further developed in the future. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →
Matt 24:1-3: The disciples' two questions
Matt 24:4-31: Signs of the Second Coming
Matt 24:32-41: Timing of the Second Coming
Parable of the fig tree
- Matt 24:32-41: Signs versus causes of destruction at the Second Coming. At the end of chapter 23 Jesus (a) prophesied destruction upon the Jews; and (b) made reference to his Second Coming. (Matt 23:34-39). The Olivet Discourse was prompted when his disciples asked two questions: (1) when shall these things be? referring to both (a) the destruction upon the Jews and (b) the Second Coming; and (2) what shall be the sign of the Second Coming and of the end of the world? (Matt 24:3). Now, near the end of chapter 24, the Lord addressed the timing of his return and of the end of the world in the parable of the fig tree. The Lord did not give a specific time frame. In fact he said that not even the angels in heaven are given to know the hour, or the exact time. (Matt 24:36). But he did tell us that we should be able to recognize the season, or the general time frame. (Matt 24:33).
- Elsewhere in the scriptures we are taught that the wicked are destroyed when they become "ripe in iniquity,' meaning when they cast out the righteous. Or in other words, when a society no longer allows its members to exercise agency to choose the right. This principle is not merely a sign of impending destruction, it is the cause of destruction. This principle is developed in the discussion of Hel 13:14.
- While the Lord has applied this principle throughout history to destroy many peoples, the last time all of human society was destroyed in a single event was at the time of the flood. The next time we are told that all of human society began to unite in wickedness at the Tower of Babel, humanity was dispersed. (Gen 11:1-9). Thus, while a group may have become ripe in iniquity and suffered destruction, the dispersed peoples of the world have not all become ripe together at the same time. This has prevented the need to again destroy all of human society in a single event. (Gen 8:21; 9:11, 15).
- But we are told that the entire world will once more be destroyed in a single event at the Second Coming. In fact, in D&C 29:9 this principle of destroying wicked peoples when they become ripe is specifically related to the burning at the Second Coming prophesied in Malachi 3:1 (discussion). This suggests that in the last days before the Second Coming the entire world will once again become united in a single society, reversing the dispersion that occurred with the Tower of Babel, and that this worldwide society will become ripe in iniquity to the point that it casts out the righteous, or denies people the ability to choose the right. Such global wickedness would not merely be a sign of impending destruction at the Second Coming, it would in fact be the driving cause of that destruction. Moreover, this is a sign that anyone with access to a television or the internet can see for themself without any special expertise, or even a checklist of 50 signs that must occur prior to the Second Coming. One has merely to ask how much the world is either closer to or further from the point of casting out the righteous than it was a year earlier. While this simple test will not identify the precise hour of the Lord's return (Matt 24:36), it appears sufficient to indicate the general season as explained in the parable of the fig tree. (Matt 24:33).
- So what purpose did it serve for the Lord to identify many of the tribulations and other signs described earlier in the Olivet Discourse? These signs describe a world that is "all one revolution" and in which it would be easy to feel that God had forsaken the world, or had forsaken the righteous, or was not even in control. These same questions also faced the Jews when they were carried off by Babylon and the Temple of Solomon was destroyed. At that time the Lord gave Israel signs through Daniel that the Lord was in fact still in charge. See the discussion of Daniel 2. Likewise in the Olivet Discourse, when the Lord described the conditions that will prevail in the last days before his return, the righteous can take comfort that the Lord has foreseen these difficulties and is in fact still in charge.
- This perspective suggests that the signs of the Second Coming are more useful as comfort or course markers than as timekeepers.
Matt 24:42-25:56: Preparation for the Second Coming
Matt 24:42-51: Parable of the good and evil servants
Matt 25:1-13: Parable of the ten virgins
- Matt 25:1-13: Ten virgins. It is often stated that the ten virgins do not represent the world at large, but represent the people of the Church of Christ, because they all knew about wedding supper, knew where to await the bridegroom, knew enough to trim their lamps that morning, but simply did not prepare themselves sufficiently. (See for example "A Time of Urgency." Marvin J. Ashton, General Conference, April 1974.
- Also see "The Parable of the Ten Virgins." Ensign, March 2009.
- Matt 25:1-13: Bride and bridegroom / marriage supper of the Lamb. The symbol of the marriage supper of the bridegroom, and of the bride and bridegroom more generally, appears repeatedly in the scriptures. The following passages explain this symbolism. This list is fairly complete.
- The bridegroom is Christ.
- The bride is latter day Jerusalem or Christ's church.
- Rev 21:2, 9-10. Millennial Jerusalem is the bride.
- Isa 62:1, 5. Latter day Israel or Zion is the bride.
- Isa 61:10. The bride is clothed in garments of salvation and covered in robes of righteousness.
- D&C 109:73-74, 76. Christ’s latter day Church is the bride and will be clothed with robes of righteousness.
- Gen 24 (discussion). In the story of the marriage of Isaac and Rebekah, Isaac the bridegroom can be seen as symbolically representing Christ, the servant as representing a prophet who calls people to come to Christ, and Rebekah as representing the ideal bride who immediately heeds the call to come unto Christ in the same way that we should all do.
- The bridegroom will come at the Second Coming.
- D&C 33:17-18. We are to keep our lamps trimmed (or be prepared) because Christ the bridegroom will come quickly.
- D&C 133:8-11, 17-19. Missionaries and the Lord's angel declare the word of warning to prepare for the Bridegroom’s coming, and also that no one knows the hour in which he will come.
- D&C 88:88-94. The Bridegroom will come at the Second Coming, and the whore of all the earth that sitteth upon the may waters will then be destroyed.
- The marriage supper of the bridegroom (and the wedding of the bridegroom and bride) will occur at the Second Coming.
- D&C 65:2-3 (discussion). A latter day call to prepare the marriage supper of the Lamb.
- Rev 19:6-9, 16-18. The Marriage Supper of the Lamb will occur at the Second Coming, and blessed are they who are called to attend.
- Matt 25:1-13. The ten virgins represent people who have been invited to attend the marriage supper, have accepted the invitation, and know that they need to have their lamps trimmed in preparation. The ten virgins are therefore usually equated with members of Israel or members of the Lord’s Church. For example, Spencer Kimball, Faith Precedes the Miracle p. 253-256; David Bednar, Converted unto the Lord (Oct 2012 General Conference).
- Matt 22:1-14. In Matthew's account of the Parable of the Great Banquet, those who the king invites to the marriage feast refuse to attend. The king consequently destroys those who were initially invited and instead invites strangers to attend. One person, however, attends without being properly attired, and the king has him bound and cast into outer darkness. In this parable must be both willing and prepared to attend the marriage supper.
- Luke 14:7-14. In the Parable of the Wedding Feast, those invited to a marriage supper should not exalt themselves by presuming to sit in the seat of honor lest they be embarrassed upon being moved to a lower seat. They should instead abase themselves by sitting in a low seat so that they will be exalted by others upon being asked to to move to a higher seat. Further, those who put on a supper (of any kind) should not invite those who can or are likely to return the favor. They should instead invite the poor who cannot recompense, and they will be recompensed at the resurrection. While verses 12-14 do not specifically reference a marriage supper, but only a generic supper, these verses are placed immediately after a passage that does refer specifically to a marriage supper (Luke 14:7-11), are immediately followed by a passage (Luke 14:15-24) that is very similar to a story of a marriage supper (Mt 22:1-14), and are similar to a passage that does clearly reference the marriage supper of the Lamb (D&C 58:6-12).
- Luke 14:15-24. Luke's account of the Parable of the Great Banquet is very similar to Matthew's account of the parable (Mt 22:1-14) and is placed by Luke immediately after the Parable of the Wedding Feast (Luke 14:7-14).
- The Sacrament symbolizes not only deliverance from bondage, but also the triumphant marriage supper of the lamb on the occasion of the Second Coming.
- Matt 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14-20 (discussion of Luke 22). On the occasion of instituting the sacrament, Christ states (e.g., in Luke 22:16, 18) that he will not again partake of the sacrament wine until the coming of the kingdom of God, indicating that he will again partake of the sacrament wine on the occasion of the coming of the kingdom of God.
- D&C 27:5-14 (discussion). Christ states (through an intermediary angel) that the hour is coming when he will again partake of sacrament with the fathers and prophets (Adam, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Elias, Elijah, John the Baptist, Peter, James, John, Moroni) and also "with all those whom my Father hath given me out of the world." This recalls the beatitude from Rev 19:9 that "blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the lamb" on the occasion of the Second Coming.
- D&C 58:6-12 (discussion). Joseph Smith is instructed to put on a feast for the poor (recalling Luke 14:12-14) unto which all nations shall be invited (recalling Luke 14:15-24 and Matt 22:1-14), after which the poor shall "come in unto the marriage of the Lamb and partake of the supper of the Lord, prepared for the great day to come."
- D&C 62:4. During Joseph Smith's first trip to Missouri, the land of Zion is identified and dedicated. While returning to Ohio, he crosses paths with some elders who are still on their way to Missouri. Upon inquiring whether these elders should turn back to Ohio or continue on to Missouri, they are are instructed to continue on to Zion where they are to "hold a meeting and rejoice together, and offer a sacrament unto the Most High." This can be seen as an instruction to symbolically enact the marriage supper of the Lamb at the site of Zion.
- The whore and harlots (in contrast to the bride). A harlot is in a counterfeit, non-covenant relationship.
- Isa 1:21. Isaiah warns that Jerusalem in his day had become a harlot. This is an example of the need to focus not only on who a symbol refers to, but also to also focus on what a symbol refers to. For example, Jerusalem is in Isaiah's day a harlot (Isa 1:21), but at the Second Coming will be a bride (Rev 21:2).
- Hosea 2:5. Israel has played the harlot.
- 1 Ne 14:10-11, 16-17. There are only two churches, the church of the Lamb and the church of the devil. The church of the devil is the whore of all the earth. The remainder of this vision will not be written by Nephi, but will instead be written by Christ's apostle, John the Revelator (1 Ne 14:18-30).
- Rev 17:1-6, 18. The mother of harlots (not a mother of brides) is Babylon, the world, that kills the saints of God.
- Matt 25:1-13: Interpretation of women in the scriptures. The idea that the virgins in this parable represent all of the Lord's people both male and female, and that the bride represents the entire church including both its male and female members, and that Rebekah's conduct as the ideal bride can provide a model for all people both male and female, can inform one's interpretation of other references to women in the scriptures, such as the virtuous woman described in Proverbs 31:10-31, and can provide a way to understand the New Testament practice of women wearing veils that is more than just a culture-specific practice.
Matt 25:14-30: Parable of the talents
- The Greek word translated here as "talent" is talenton, and the word was used in Greek to refer exclusively to a unit of money or a unit of weight. It had nothing to do with talent in the modern sense of the English word. Even so, talenton is the source of the English word, which came to us by way of Latin, and a shift in its meaning to mean "ability" came about because of influence of this parable. Documented use of the word to mean "ability" goes as far back as at least the 15th century.
- A talent was an enormous sum of money — 6,000 denarii, or about what a typical laborer would take 20 years to earn.
- This parable also is told starting at Luke 19:12, although a smaller monetary unit is used.
- The Greek word translated in verse 27 as "usury," tokos, means "interest." The Greek word doesn't imply that the rate of interest charged is excessively high, as the word usury in English typically implies today.
- This parable is usually taught, and rightfully so, as a lesson in how those who believe in Christ are obligated to use the resources they have been given to advance the kingdom of God. However, there is another lesson here, and it can be found in verse 27. In general, this parable praises the servants who took a certain amount of risk, who went out and were able to double the money entrusted them. The third servant was afraid to do that. However, as verse 27 notes, the nobleman didn't criticize the servant for being afraid to do what it took to double the money. In fact, he seemed to understand that — for whatever reason — this servant was not capable of doing what the other servants could do. So the nobleman tells him what he should have done: Even though he couldn't act because of his fear, there were things he could have done, and so he should have. Doing nothing was not an option for this nobleman. One of the lessons here is that we may not be capable of accomplishing what some other people do, and our Heavenly Father understands that. In fact, as in this parable, he may not even hold us to the same expectations as he does some other people. But does that entitle us to do nothing? No! We are still obligated to do what we can. That's what the servant didn't do, and because of that he ended up worse off than when he started.
Matt 25:31-46: Parable of the sheep and goats
This parable appears to be the basis for the hymn "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief."
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What is meant in Matt 24:35 when it says, "Heaven... shall pass away"?
Prompts for life application
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- Matt 25:1-13: Parable of the Ten Virgins
- How do we prepare by having oil in our lamps?
- During sacrament, do we think not only about our individual purity and repentance, but also about our active engagement in building up the kingdom and inviting others to prepare for the marriage supper of the Lamb at his Scone Coming?
- How do we remain a bride and not become a harlot?
Prompts for further study
This section is for prompts that invite us to think about a passage more deeply or in a new way. These are not necessarily questions that beg for answers, but rather prompts along the lines of "Have you ever thought about ..." Prompts are most helpful when they are developed individually, thoughtfully, and with enough background information to clearly indicate a particular direction for further study or thought. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →
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- Matt 25:14-30. Stanley G. Ellis, "He Trusts Us!," Ensign, Nov 2006, pp. 51–52. Speaking of the servant who was given one talent, Elder Ellis said: "[The master's response] seemed to be a harsh reaction to one who seemed to be trying to take care of what he was given. But the Spirit taught me this truth—the Lord expects a difference! I knew in that moment that each of us will one day stand before God and give an accounting of our priesthood service and stewardships. Did we make a difference?
Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves (such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word). In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources (such as Strong's Bible Concordance or the Joseph Smith Papers) are preferable to footnotes.