Studying the Grammar and Contextual Flow of the Olivet Discourse
To Disprove the Doctrine of Dispensationalism

Mike Blume
November 2010

The Dispensationalist argument concerning the Olivet Discourse in Matt 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21 is one of the most absurd one would ever encounter. It is not based upon an exegetical reading of the passage whatsoever, but rather is the result of looking for something to validate its claim that there is a future tribulation period and that the prophecies of the "time of the end" (they do not realize it is not the "end of time") have not yet been fulfilled. In order to conclude this, they have taken the Olivet Discourse and concocted an idea that states there are two conversations accounted for. The obvious references to the first century fulfillment in the days of the listeners who heard Jesus that day as found in Luke 21:1-24 are claimed to be first century fulfillment by the dispensationalist. But Mark 13 and Matthew 24, despite the overall similarity of pattern and sequence of elements listed in all three accounts, are yet unfulfilled.

Dispensationalists claim that a variance of details in the three accounts proves two conversations are recorded. Whereas every other synoptic account found in these three gospels uses variance of terms and are all believed to be one and the same account, dispensationalists claim this part of the three gospels departs from that norm. While the three accounts of the demoniac of Gadara differ even the the extent that Matthew speaks of two demoniacs, everyone knows it is one and the same story. The differences do not mean more than one story

Let us analyze this issue and look at all three accounts and see what exegetically makes more sense. Let's use rules of literature and grammar as we study these passages, and you will find there is clearly only one conversation involved.
Matthew 24:1-3 And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple. (2) And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. (3) And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?

Mark 13:1-4 And as he went out of the temple, one of his disciples saith unto him, Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here! (2) And Jesus answering said unto him, Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. (3) And as he sat upon the mount of Olives over against the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, (4) Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled?

Luke 21:5-7 And as some spake of the temple, how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts, he said, (6) As for these things which ye behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. (7) And they asked him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass?

The most powerful proof of one conversation is found in the short little passages quoted above from each gospel that start the entire Olivet Discourse. Rules of English literature and grammar are all that we require in order to see the truth of this passage.

Notice that in all three accounts Jesus is approached and hears disciples speak of how magnificent the temple is. In all three cases this is recorded. And in all three cases the very next thing we read is His comments upon how not one stone of that structure will be left unturned. That statement of Jesus sparked everything else that was stated. It inspired questions from the disciples that are recorded in all three accounts immediately after those remarks. Nothing else is recorded between that remark of Jesus and the disciples questions in all three accounts. 

In order to interpret this passage correctly we must recognize the contextual flow from that remark towards the following questions of the disciples. The first phrase of the questions they pose make reference to "these things". 

Matt 24:3 ...Tell us, when shall these things be? 
Mark 13:4 ...Tell us, when shall these things be? 
Luke 21:7 ...Master, but when shall these things be? 

The term "these" is a pronoun in English literature. It is a word used to indicate a person, thing, idea, state, event, time, remark, etc., as present, near, just mentioned or pointed out. ( No writer would record a conversation using the pronoun "these" without having previously written the reference point that was just mentioned that stood as the ANTECEDENT for that pronoun. 

An Antecedent is a word, phrase, or clause, usually a substantive, that is replaced by a pronoun or other substitute later, or occasionally earlier, in the same or in another, usually subsequent, sentence. In, "Jane lost a glove and she can't find it," "Jane" is the antecedent of "she" and "glove " is the antecedent of "it". (

This means that the events of the temple destruction are the antecedent for "these" in all three questions. There is nothing else written before the pronoun "these" that would stand as its antecedent. And what is written immediately before the pronoun "these" does indeed stand as a fitting and viable antecedent. Dispensationalists oddly claim this is the case with the same words in Luke 21, but not in Mark 13. They claim Mark 13 has Mark missing the antecedent in his own writing. Rules of proper grammar demand that we realize this, or else we are misreading the passage completely. The only other alternative is to believe Mark was incompetent as far as writing skills were concerned, and we know that is not true. 

Some Dispensationalists claim Mark's record of this question does not find its antecedent in the remark Jesus made, but claim the same statement Jesus made is indeed the antecedent to the same question Luke records in his gospel! This means that Luke used proper rules of grammar and did not write using a pronoun that indicates something just mentioned without recording that something. Luke's passage is full as far as required pronouns and their antecedents goes. However,Mark is in effect claimed by Dispensationalists to have written about a conversation that included the pronoun "these" without having written the antecedent for "these", although in both Mark and Luke the statement by Jesus immediately precedes the pronoun "these." Using rules of grammar, we can only conclude one sensible and hermeneutical conclusion -- the disciples asked when the temple would be destroyed in all three Gospel accounts. 

When Dispensationalists try to tell us that "these" in Mark's account does not point to the grammatically sound antecedent of Christ's words concerning temple destruction, they violate the common sense contextual flow. When the statement of Jesus about temple destruction perfectly fits as the antecedent in all three gospel accounts of identical information, to say Luke's case agrees with that but not those of Mark nor Matthew is to wreak havoc on rules of grammar and render Mark and Matthew as to be inept writers who did not have the sense to record the antecedent for a pronoun these used.

Hermeneutics is interpretive study, and obviously involves rules of grammar. We cannot violate rules of grammar in order to say we are soundly using hermeneutics. If we are going to say all sorts of rules of grammar were broken by any given writer, and that we have to imagine antecedents that are not found in the text, or look for them in another text not written by the author, and ignore the antecedents that fit perfectly well that are found in the author's words, we are simply destroying all sense of sound interpretation when we study a passage. This proves dispensationalism is incredibly lacking, to say the least, in its claim that there are two conversations found in the overall assessment of these gospel accounts. 

Let it be established in the minds of all readers that dispensationalism's demands that we read two different conversations in the synoptic gospels, and its demand that we accept the nonsense that Mark has no antecedent in his writing for the disciples' questions (although Mark's writing does indeed provide one that futurists cannot accept), is absolute rubbish and nonsense. If futurists accept Mark's writing as being grammatically fit and proper, as it it obviously is, then they cannot say Mark is missing an antecedent for the pronoun THESE. That means that all three Synoptic Gospel accounts are speaking about the same conversation. If Luke 21 is clearly about AD70 events that occurred in the lifetimes of the hearers of Jesus, as Dispensationalists claim, then so are the Matthew's and Mark's accounts. The antecedent is right there in Mark 13 for all to read: It is Jesus' comment on the temple destruction. Dispensationalism requires one to abandon all sense of grammatical correctness by believing Mark 13's antecedent for the pronoun" these" is not found written in Mark's account. In other words, sacrifice the thought of Mark's ability to write an account without confusing the reader with missing antecedents in order to maintain the nonsense of dispensationalism.