The Olivet Discourse is the last and largest of Jesus’ discourses in the Gospel of Matthew, and it is also the most controversial, because much of it is prophecy. We need to lay some groundwork before we jump in, because over the last century and a half, a set of assumptions unknown to the church for the first eighteen centuries of her existence has come to dominate how the Olivet Discourse is interpreted, and not only the Olivet Discourse, but all of NT prophecy, as well as the book of Daniel. That set of assumptions is provided by a theological framework known as Dispensationalism, which has affected every branch of the evangelical church in America and Great Britain.Many evangelicals are like me, in that Dispensationalism is simply what they were taught when they became a Christian, and they assumed that it is what Christians have always believed. They might not even know the name Dispensationalism, but unwittingly it has provided the framework through which they see the Bible and the Christian life. The Christians who taught me Dispensationalism are some of the best Christians I have every known. Most all of them, however, have since come out of Dispensationalism, believing it to be an erroneous framework for understanding the Bible.Why should we talk about this, then? Because the evangelical church is facing a crisis—a crisis brought about in large part by a century-and-a-half long retreat of the evangelical church from culture, which has created a vacuum filled by the killing secularism that we witness today. And that retreat was fueled in large part by the radical separations supplied by Dispensationalism—the radical separation of God’s people into two different peoples, Israel and the Church, the radical separation of history into different ages, one for Israel and one for the church, and the radical separation of the spiritual from the earthly, with the spiritual applying to the church and the earthly applying to Israel. These radical separations that have helped lead to the ultimate separation of our day, the separation of God’s word from the public square. Why? Well, because the church pertains to the spiritual, and the public square pertains to the earthly, and Dispensationalism has taught us that Jesus is not currently claiming the public square, and thus has nothing directly to say to it.If the evangelical church is to meet the crisis at hand, we must come out of that kind of pinched and compartmentalized view of the lordship of Christ. And we must recover the faith of our forefathers who first settled America, whose Christian heritage evangelicals love to invoke, and whose faith knew nothing of the radical separations Dispensationalism has provided. Knowing that our forefathers, whom we rightly honor, held a completely different view of these things, we ought to be open to what they believed. We ought to be open to the possibility that they had it right, and we have it wrong. We are, after all, spiritual dwarfs compared to them, for they accomplished so much more with so much less. They were blessed in a way that we aren’t, because they honored Jesus as Lord in a way that we don’t. I hope you will be open and prayerful as we search the Scriptures. -Alan Burrow
Click the play button to listen to 'One People, One History, One Destiny' by Alan Burrow.