Author: Ron Graham
Destruction of Jerusalem
—And Christ’s prophesy in Matthew 24
Time ~ 12. Kingdom in All the World
Span ~ 1900 years
Books ~ Secular history only
Figures ~ None in Bible
Begins with ~ Completion of NT scriptures
Our study now enters the last of the twelve Times of Israel —the Kingdom in All the World— the period in which we still live today.
God's spiritual kingdom, the new Israel, had been spreading rapidly throughout the world. Churches had been established in numerous cities. The Holy Spirit's blessing, and the risen Christ's power, had been manifested everywhere. It was clear that Christ was reigning as both king and high priest in heaven.
Many, nevertheless, were blind to all this, and the Jews, especially in Jerusalem, generally just kept right on following the old way as if nothing had happened. They rejected their Christ and his sacrifice on the cross. They clung to their temple worship for forty years. But in AD70 it was suddenly taken from them by the Romans who besieged and destroyed their city and temple —just as Jesus himself had foretold.
1 The Unending Story
By the time that the New Testament scriptures were complete, and the miraculous signs had ceased, the gospel had become known across the world in every nation. God's kingdom, Israel, was no longer a worldly kingdom, but rather a spiritual kingdom. This kingdom of Heaven, the new Israel, was spread throughout the world. It was a kingdom to which people of every nation belonged whether Jew or Gentile. The king of this wonderful kingdom is Jesus Christ, who reigns from heaven.
The gospel of this kingdom includes the belief that Jesus Christ is coming again one day, at the end of the world to gather up his spiritual Israel, from among the living and the dead, to take its every citizen into heaven forever. And so it is true to say that there is no end to the story of Israel.
2 Jerusalem, Jerusalem!
The Times of Israel all had their purpose, but having fulfilled that purpose, each came to an end. The kingdom of God was always moving toward becoming an eternal kingdom in heaven. God did not preserve Jerusalem and its new temple from yet another destruction in AD70. Christ, having made one sacrifice for all sins, was now officiating in the true temple in the heavenly Jerusalem.
The Jews should have recognised this, and abolished temple worship. Since they did not, God allowed their enemies to do it for them. More tragic even than the cruel destruction of their city and temple, was their own rejection and loss of the kingdom of Heaven. How many people are still doing the same today, and putting themselves in the way of terrible destruction?
3 Christ's Prophecies About Jerusalem
The statements Jesus made about Jerusalem's future were a response to the questions of his disciples after he had predicted. the destruction of the temple. They had connected this with his predictions of his coming at the last day (Matthew 24:1-3).
Certainly the two events (the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70, and Christ's second coming) are connected in principle. The first is a microcosm of the second.
Note —MICROCOSM: any system that exhibits, on a small scale, the elements and parts of the greater system of which it is part. The destruction of Sodom and the salvation of Lot is a small-scale version of the end of the world.
However there is one important difference. There was a warning sign preceding the destruction of Jerusalem, giving people who heeded the sign a chance to quickly escape and save their lives (Matthew 24:15-16). There will be no warning sign of the second coming and the end of the world (Matthew 24:35-36).
The destruction of Jerusalem took place in AD70 when Titus surrounded and attacked the city. To this day a relief on the Titus Arch in Rome portrays plunder being carried from the temple. Herod's beautiful temple was razed to the ground and a million people cruelly lost their lives in Jerusalem's fall. It was worse than the destruction which the Babylonians had inflicted centuries earlier.
Matthew 24 is mostly plain in its language, but does have figurative elements, especially verses 29-31 which bear similarities to passages among the old testament prophets (such as Isaiah 13:10, Daniel 7:13, Isaiah 27:13, Zechariah 9:14).
4 Summary of Matthew 24
The following list outlines Matthew 24. However, parallel passages in Luke and Mark are provided for reference should you wish to study in more depth.
Jesus Predicts Jerusalem’s Destruction
The coming destruction
- Destruction of the temple foretold v1-2 (Luke 19:41-44, Luke 21:5-6, Mark 13:1-2)
- The disciples' questions v3 (Luke 21:7, Mark 13:3-4)
The disciples connected the destruction of Jerusalem with the end of the world
The seven signs
- False prophets v4-5 (Luke 21:8, Mark 13:5-6)
- Wars and rumours of wars v6 (Luke 21:9-10, Mark 13:7)
- Famines and earthquakes v7 (Luke 21:11, Mark 13:8)
- Persecution v8-9 (Luke 21:12-19, Mark 13:9-13)
- Apostasy v10-13
- World evangelism v14 (Mark 13:10),
- Abomination of desolation v15 (Luke 21:20, Mark 13:14)
These things would precede the destruction of Jerusalem, but only the last one was really a sign of imminence. The others were normal events which did not indicate the end. Nor do they today.
- Flight from the city v16-20 (Luke 17:31-36,, Luke 21:21-23, Mark 13:14-18)
- Siege of the city v21-22 (Luke 17:31-36, Luke 21:23-24, Mark 13:19-20)
- Warning against false prophets v23-28 (Luke 17:22-23, Mark 13:21-23)
- A day of judgment v29-31 (Luke 21:25-27, Mark 13:24-27)
The first two warnings are specific to the destruction of Jerusalem. The latter two warnings are general and are still relevant today.
A call to watchfulness
- The lesson of the fig tree v32-33 (Luke 21:29-31, Mark 13:28-29)
- The inevitability of fulfilment v34-36 (Luke 21:32-33, Mark 13:20-32)
- The lesson of the Flood v37-42 (Luke 17:27-30),
- The lesson of the thief v43-44
- The lesson of the slave v45-51 (Mark 13:33-37),
These lessons are as much relevent today as ever, especially if we apply them to death and judgment (Hebrews 9:27-28)
Footnote on verses 33-34
Jesus said that "all these things" would be seen within that generation and having seen them they were to "recognize that he is near, at the very door". What are "all these things"?
They are the seven signs of verses 4-14, the 7th sign being the one indicating extreme imminence. "All these things" cannot refer to the events of verses 27-31 or verses 35-37, because these things are the end itself, not the signs of it.
It would not make sense to say, "When you see the end happening, know that it is near". When it is happening, it is no longer near, but here —and it is too late to heed the signs warning of it, for the signs are gone and the end has come.
Footnote on verses 15-22
People were warned to flee the city immediately the seventh sign appeared —"the abomination of desolation". Jesus was referring to the seige and attack upon Jerusalem. This ocurred in AD70.
This warning makes no sense applied to the second coming of Christ, because nobody can flee or escape from that (Matthew 25:31-33).
Besides Jesus said, Of that day and that hour nobody knows, not even the angels of Heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father" (verse 36). There will be no warning of the second coming (2Peter 3:3-4, 1Thessalonians 5:1-3).