In an earlier post I noted that there are four major approaches to the Olivet Discourse. (1) It refers entirely or primarily to the events of AD 70. (2) It refers entirely to eschatological events. (3) It refers to events that span from the first century through the present to the eschatological return of Christ. (4) It refers to AD 70 as the type of the Day of the Lord and to the eschatological Day of the Lord itself.
The interpretation of Matthew 24:9-14; Mark 13:9-13; Luke 21:12-19 verses deals with an apparent chronological discrepancy between Luke and Matthew. Resolving this seeming discrepancy provide support to the thesis that the Olivet Discourse refers to AD 70 as the type of the Day of the Lord and to the eschatological Day itself.
These verses turn to the issue of persecution. There is a seeming discrepancy between Matthew and Luke at this point. Mathew begins this section with “then,” whereas Luke begins with “But before all this.”
Luke’s time reference is clearest. Before the false messiahs, wars, earthquakes, famines, and heavenly signs, Jesus’s followers would be persecuted by both Jews and Gentiles. Acts recounts that this persecution began as soon as the church was formed. Acts even uses the words of Jesus’s prophecy to describe this persecution:
“Lay hands on you” (Acts 4:3, 5:18; 12:1; 21:27); “persecute” (Acts 9:4–5; 22:7–8; 26:14–15); “hand over” (Acts 8:3; 12:4; 21:11; 22:4; 27:1; 28:17); “to synagogues” (Acts 6:9; 9:2; 19:8–9; 22:19; 26:11); “jails” (Acts 5:19–25; 8:3; 12:4–17; 16:23–40; 22:4, 19; 26:10); “kings” (Acts 9:15; 12:1; 25:23–28:28); “governors” (Acts 23:24, 26, 33; 24:1, 10; 26:30; see also 13:7; 18:12).
Luke’s account of the discourse affirms that this persecution will be an opportunity to bear witness to the gospel—which Acts also recounts (4:5-12, 33; 7:1-60; 23:11). Divine empowering to present this witness without forethought may be exemplified by Stephen (Acts 7). These verses, then, clearly describe the persecution of the church as described in Acts before the events leading up to the destruction of the temple in AD 70.
Mark’s account is similar to Luke’s. He adds that the followers of Jesus would be beaten in synagogues, which also occurred in the earliest days of the church (Acts 5:40; 22:19; 2 Cor. 11:24).
Matthew’s account is significantly different from Luke’s. In both Matthew and Luke, Jesus’s followers are delivered up, hated for his name’s sake, and put to death. But the wording is different, and Matthew doesn’t mention the Jewish features (sanhedrin/councils, synagogues) as Mark and Luke do. The Matthean parallel to these verses Mark and Luke occurs in in Matthew 10:19-21, not in the Olivet Discourse.
The parallel between Matthew 10:19-21 and Mark and Luke’s account of the Olivet Discourse can be accounted for by the fact that Jesus, as he traveled from place to place, probably often said similar things on different occasions.
It may be that because Matthew had already presented his readers with the content found in Mark and Luke’s version of the Olivet Discourse, he omitted that material here. The omission also allows Matthew to emphasize the eschatological aspect of the discourse. While Luke emphasized the first century aspect, Matthew presented readers with a part of the discourse not fully represented in Mark and Luke.
In Matthew’s account Jesus indicated that in conjunction with or following the initial birth pains, persecution will come. This persecution will be exacerbated as people “fall away” from the faith and then “betray” believers. Paul interpreted this part of the discourse eschatologically: “In 2 Thess 2:3 (built on the Olivet Discourse) this becomes the ‘apostasy’ or ‘rebellion’ that accompanies the appearance of the ‘man of lawlessness.’”
Contributing to this apostasy are false prophets. There were certainly many of these in the first century: “Acts 20:30: Gal. 1:7–9: Rom. 16:17, 18: Col. 2:17–end: 1 Tim. 1:6, 7, 20; 6:3–5, 20, 21: 2 Tim. 2:18; 3:6–8; 2 Pet. 2 (and Jude): 1 John 2:18, 22, 23, 26; 4:1, 3: 2 John 7.” But the work of false prophets culminates in the false prophet (Rev. 13: 11-16). In contrast to the apostates, those who endure throughout the day of the Lord will be saved (24:13 || 13:13).
To close out this section, Jesus said, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (24:14; cf. 13:10). With regard to the type, this prophecy refers to the spread of the gospel throughout the known world of that day. For instance, Paul could say that the gospel was prospering “in the world” (Col. 1:6) and even that it “has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven” (Col. 1:23).
Paul was probably indicating, with expansive language, that the Gospel had gone to all the nations and was continuing to spread among them. The expansive language was used because Paul was stating that “the gospel had in principle already been preached world-wide” even though in practice it is still in process of spreading worldwide.
However, the typological fulfillment of this saying does not exhaust its significance. The ultimate end in view is the one mentioned in 24:6–the end of the day of the Lord when the Son of Man returns to earth. Alford argues that despite the typological fulfillment, “in the wider sense, the words imply that the Gospel shall be preached in all the world, literally taken, before the great and final end come.” The Old Testament prophets looked forward to the day when then nations would be gathered to worship God, and there may be an allusion to that here. Hays says, “One suspects that Isaiah hovers somewhere in the background (passages such as Isa 2:2-4, 49:6, 57:6-8; 60:1-3; cf. Ps 22:27-28).” Revelation also predicts the world-wide proclamation of the gospel (Rev. 5:9-10; 7:9; 14:6), and the ultimate fulfillment of this prophecy will come to pass during the Day of the Lord predicted by Revelation.
Matthew 10:17-22, which parallels Mark and Luke’s accounts of the Olivet Discourse, is part of a discourse that began as instruction for the Twelve as Jesus sent them out on a preaching and healing mission to the Jews. However, by verse 17 the discourse looks beyond that initial mission. In verse 5 Jesus instructed the Twelve to limit their mission to the Jews, but by verse 18 the Gentiles are in view as well. In addition, the persecution envisioned in 10:17-22 goes far beyond anything that occurred during Jesus’s earthly ministry. By verses 22 and 23 “the end” and the “coming” are in view. Thus this passage culminates on an eschatological note.
The phrase “you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes” is obviously not true if it refers to the Twelve’s evangelistic mission during Jesus’s earthly ministry. There are two plausible interpretations that both have a long pedigree. Hilary of Poitiers proposed,
In order to show that the pagans were going to believe in the apostolic preaching, while the rest of Israel would believe only at the occurrence of his [second] advent, he said: You will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes. In other words, once the full number of pagans is added, the rest of Israel will be placed in the Church at the future advent of his glory in order to complete the number of saints.
Many modern commentators have similarly concluded that these verses indicate that the “mission to Israel” will not be complete before the Second Coming.
Another option is that these words “do not denote the mission but the flight of the disciples. This is clear from the beginning of this verse, ‘When they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another.’” Something similar to this can be found in the Incomplete Commentary on Matthew. This reading may parallel Revelations 12:13-17. In either case this passage is ultimately eschatological.
The eschatological nature of Matthew 10 casts the parallels
in Mark 13 and Luke 21 in another light. Though Luke certainly emphasizes the
typological fulfillment in his presentation, the eschatological element should
not be thought to be entirely absent in Luke and Mark. Mark in particular has
two eschatologically oriented parallels with Matthew in this section: the gospel
will be preached to all the nations (13:10), the one who endures to the end is
the one who is saved (13:13).
 Garland 2012: 830, n. 11; cf. Stein 1992: 516-17.
 Garland 2012: 831.
 Edwards 2015: 600.
 Strauss 2014: 574.
 Wright 1992: 422-23; cf. Carson 1984: 248.
 Meyer 1884: 131-32.
 Osborne 2010: 875-76; cf. Wilkins 2014: 99.
 Alford 1976: 237-38.
 Osborne 2012: 876.
 Witsius 1837: 407-8 (4.15.13); Alford 1976: 238; Blomberg 1992: 356.
 Davenant 1627: 265; O’Brien 1982: 71.
 Wright 1986: 89.
 Alford 1976: 238.
 Nolland 2005: 967.
 Hays 2016: 95.
 Blomberg 1992: 174; Davies and Allison 2004a: 179, 181-82; Luz 2001: 89.
 Carson1984: 242.
 Davies and Allison 2004: 179.
 Davies and Allison 2004: 182; Nolland 2005: 425.
 Hilary of Poitiers 2012: 119.
 Blomberg 1992: 176; Bock 2002: 573; Davies and Allison 2004: 190; Wilkins 2014: 97-98.
 Ridderbos 1962: 509; cf. Nolland 2005: 427.
 Oden and Bray 2010: 179