I’ve had this written since Tuesday, along with 2 more posts, but have not been able to take the time to illustrate and post, so here it is. My hope and prayer is that all have a safe Labor Day weekend, and those who’ve been in and remain in harms way would find safety and refuge in the arms of the Father, the Son, and Christ’s holy church.
Jesus is laying out some good stuff here, toward the end of his Olivet discourse. He’s predicted the end of the temple, the end of the the temple age, and his disciples want to know when will these things be, and what will be the sign when these things are about to take place? Jesus tells them all of these these things –
1). That many will come in his name, that is, claiming to be Messiah, but they will be wrong and do not go after them. They would hear of wars and tumults, but his followers should not be terrified of this, for this must take place, and the end will not be at once.
2). He tells them nation will rise against nation, there will be earthquakes, famines, pestilence, terrors and great signs from heaven, but before this the disciples will be arrested and persecuted, delivered up to synagogues and prisons, brought before councils and governors. In other words, he tells them what will happen in the book of acts.
Which brings us to number 3. But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. The Jewish War began in AD 66. There had been Messiahs to come after Jesus, Messiahs claiming they could bring salvation to the Jewish people. Just as we still get people (politicians) claiming to be our Messiah, our salvation as a nation, just as people all through history have come to the nations claiming to be a Messiah. Messiahs who would attempt to bring salvation the only way we know to save ourselves – by force and violence. The Jews had some victories, but ultimately we only successful in provoking Rome and making things more difficult during an already tumultuous time. Until enough got to be enough, and the Emperor Vespasian sent his son, General Titus, with the Roman 10th legion. Earlier, in Luke 17, the Pharisees asked what will be the sign of the coming of the kingdom of God. But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near.
General Titus led the Roman 10th legion against Jerusalem. First they marched through the countryside, on their way to Jerusalem. As they made their way through the countryside, some they took as slaves, some were left behind. “Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left.” Matthew 24:40 ESV. Maybe two women grinding at the mill, one is captured, one escapes. “Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left.” Matthew 24:41 ESV. They didn’t know what was coming, some were taken slave, some managed to escape and were left behind.
And when they came upon the city of Jerusalem, their standard bearers came holding their eagles high. “For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together.” Matthew 24:28 NKJV. Jerusalem had become like a dead body, the eagles of the Roman army gathered to feast. Again, the End did not come at once. The armies of Rome did not attack at once. They laid siege upon the city, and the announcement was made that whoever wanted to leave, could leave. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people. The days of Roman vengeance had come.
Whoever wanted to leave was allowed to leave. But only one group left. Today, we would call them Christians. They listened to Jesus’ warning to flee the city. He told them the sign to look for – But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Earlier Jesus had told his disciples “On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back.” Luke 17:31 ESV. In other words, he told them not to stop, don’t look back, don’t worry about all your “stuff”. JUST GO!!! So those early Christians in Jerusalem listened to the warning he had given them, and left the city.
But those who had not heard Jesus’ warning, or chose to ignore it, stayed. In fact, many Jews came from all around, and flooded into the city, ready for their much awaited confrontation. Huge numbers of people flooded into the city. For months, maybe a couple of years, Rome did not do anything. They just stayed outside the city walls. “Let’s just see how you like it in there!” They stayed in siege mode, surrounding the city.
But now, no one was allowed to leave. The Romans cut off all supplies, starving the city. Wars broke out inside the city as different factions within the Jewish community fought over what should be done about the situation. Strife, plague, famine, starvation, cannibalism as food supplies ran short.
Some would try to escape. But everyone who tried was caught by the Romans. There was no escape. And every Jew that was caught trying to escape was crucified outside the city. They crucified them, crucified them, kept on crucifying them. They might have crucified them until they ran out of trees. Eventually, Josephus tells us there were tens of thousands of crosses ringing the city of Jerusalem, every one with a decaying body nailed to it.
It was hell. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” Luke 21:33 ESV. In August of AD 70, Rome attacked. They burned the city of Jerusalem. The Romans were master engineers and knew that if you got limestone hot enough using a combination of timber and oils it would explode. The survivors said the most frightening part was the sound of exploding rock.
Some were taken as slaves, but most in the city were put to death. According to Josephus, 1.1 million people lost there lives in Jerusalem. Modern scholarship says it was probably a little bit less than that, maybe 600-700,000. Does it really matter? The Jewish world came to an end in August AD 70. Jesus told them Heaven and earth will pass away, and as far as they were concerned, that’s exactly what happened. The world as they knew it had come to and end.
“”But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people. They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”
Luke 21:20-24 ESV