An ongoing discussion among dispensationalists is where Jesus will first return at His second advent. There are two schools of thought. One understands that He will return to the Mount of Olives. The other is that He will return to Bozrah in present day Jordan or Biblical Edom.
The idea that Jesus will arrive at the Mount of Olives is the most popular view. We’ll call that the “Mount of Olives View”. Let’s examine that one first. Three reasons are often given in support of this option. The first is found in Zechariah 14:4.
“In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south.”
(Zechariah 14:4, NASB95)
“That day” refers to a coming day, which seems to be rapidly approaching, in which Jerusalem will be overrun by a hoard of nations bent on its destruction. (Zech. 14:1-2). The only thing that will save God’s holy city is the direct intervention of the Lord who will go forth and fight against those nations (v. 3). This attack is usually associated with the events of Revelation chapter 16, particularly v. 14. In this verse the kings of the whole earth are gathered for a campaign that culminates in the events described in Zechariah 14:1-4.
According to Zechariah 14:4, just when Jerusalem seems to have been completely overcome by the gathered nations, Jesus will return to the Mount of Olives with His army (v. 5) and rescue the beleagured city.
Further support for the Mount of Olives View is found in Matthew 24:3.
“As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?””
(Matthew 24:3, NASB95)
This verse begins Jesus’ discourse of the events surrounding His second coming. Jesus and His disciples had just left the Temple area in Jerusalem and were looking down on the Temple from the Mount of Olives. Supporters of the view that Jesus will return to the Mount of Olives at the start of His second advent point to the symmetry or appropriateness of Jesus returning to the very place where He taught about his return.
A third line of support for the Mount of Olives View view is rooted in Acts 1:11-12.
“They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away.”
(Acts 1:11–12, NASB95)
In the preceding verses Jesus had been lifted up in a cloud which carried Him out of sight into the sky (v.9). I admit the next verses have always caused me to chuckle a bit. In v. 10 the disciples were gazing into the sky, captivated by the sight of the ascending Jesus. So captivated in fact that they failed to notice that there were two men in white suddenly standing among them. These two men, angelic messengers, then asked “why do you stand here looking up into the sky?” Really? Why are they standing staring into the sky at the ascending Savior? Who wouldn’t be staring at that?
Then the angels went on to explain that Jesus would return just as he ascended. The phrase “just the same way” is understood to mean not only that He would return from above in a cloud, but also that He would return to the same place from which he ascended.
Besides these verses the history of the Mount of Olives seems to fit with the idea that Jesus would return here. David Baron noted that, “…it was from this mountain, which is before Jerusalem on the east, that the prophet Ezekiel saw the glory of Jehovah finally taking its departure. It was from this mountain also that He, who was not only the symbol, but the living personal revelation of the glory of Jehovah, finally took His departure from the land…We love to think that this same mountain on which He once shed tears of sorrow over Jerusalem, the slope of which witnessed His agony and bloody sweat, shall be the first also to witness His manifestation in glory; and that His blessed feet, which in the days of His flesh walked wearily over this mountain on the way to Bethany shall, ‘in that day,’ be planted here in triumph and majesty.1
These verses seem to make a pretty compelling case that Jesus will first return to the Mount of Olives. Next time we will look at the alternative. Is it possible that Jesus will first return to Bozrah?
1 David Baron, Zechariah: A Commentary On His Visions And Prophecies (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1918), 496.