This passage is a little creepy don’t you think? False messiahs, lies and deceit and then wars, rumors of war…
Sounds like our times, oh no what are we going to do?
We are going to remember the context, that’s what we’re going to do! This passage is still about the destruction of Jerusalem, and yes it also sounds like the present day, but there is a good reason for that as you will shortly see. One of my boyhood heroes can give us a clue about this: “The only thing new in the world is history that you don’t already know.” Harry S Truman.
President Truman was so very right when he said this, and that sure is true of the present day… but now I must remind myself that this is a post on Matthew 24 and not on Revelation!
We are dealing with the period from the time of the Olivet Discourse to the time Jerusalem was destroyed; 34 AD to 70 AD roughly. There were wars and rumors of wars: When the Roman Emperor Caligula ordered his statue erected in the Temple and the Jews of the city reacted by rebelling against the Romans, do you suppose they weren’t talking about a war when the news got back to Rome? According to our the secular historian Josephus, they were so concerned that many neglected to even till their fields. Nation will rise up against nation… When the Jews and Syrians clashed in Caesarea, the Syrians drove the Jews from the city, and the death toll amongst the Jews was staggering, which is one of the reasons that the Jews attacked in Syria. Before the Roman garrison could respond, the killings numbered in the tens of thousands, and Josephus has recorded it all for your reading… This was not the only example of war, rumors of war and nation rising against nation in the region of Judea during this period. Also during this period, during the short reign of Claudius, there were the beginnings of civil war in Italy and elsewhere, which would obviously make the “evening news” in Judea.
Famines? Acts 11:28 is interesting to remember: “One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.)” This fact is confirmed by Josephus, Tacitus and Eusebius among others
Earthquakes? During the period between the Discourse and the fall of Jerusalem, history records quite a few, maybe even a record number in the Roman world: All in all, there are 15 recorded during this time, in places such as Rome, other parts of Italy, Judea, Syria, Asia Minor and Crete among others.
Persecution? OK, don’t even pretend that persecution didn’t take place during this period! It is well documented in the New Testament, along with the false teachers and the rest of it.
Note verses 13 and 14:” but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Verse 13 gives the main point: stand firm in all things, and you will be saved. In the last lesson we saw exactly how that took place; Jesus was good and reliable in His words. Verse 14 takes us back to the Covenant priority: “and the Gospel will spread throughout the world,” even though there are to be difficulties. Finally, the end will come: remember the context, the end is that of Jerusalem.
In short, this period of about 36 years is pretty much like any other 36 year period in history; business as usual. What – you doubt me on this? Look back for the last 36 years… by my reckoning that would be 1978. Anything change in that time? Pick any 36 year period and research it, and I guarantee you’ll find all of these same things.
OK, let’s take stock of the whole section, we have an amazing picture right in front of is:
1. There will be difficulties, these are normal and a regular part of life on this earth. There will be wars, famines, earthquakes, calamities and persecutions; even false teachers, but hold firm in your faith, and you will be delivered. Most importantly, the Gospel of the Kingdom of Christ will go forth. (5-14)
2. When the day of God’s judgment comes, our Lord will see you through its peril. If you are in the countryside, when you see the sign, get out. Flee through the mountains to the north. If you are in the city, hang in there for the Lord will deliver you, too. When the time comes, and the siege is cut short*,flee to the mountains of the north. Those who are followers of the Lord will be saved; those who are not will be judged. (15-28)
3. When God’s judgment against those who have refused to follow Him comes, it will be terrible to behold for it will be sure and complete. Those who claim to follow Him, but who do not really, will be devastated for God will not be mocked, nor will He be fooled by performing the old rituals after they have been rendered obsolete by the sacrifice of His Son on the cross. (29-33)
4. This will all be completed within the natural lifetimes of those who heard Him say it, even though that is not necessarily mean they will all live to see it. (34)
5. Even though this has all been accomplished by the end of the year 70, there are lessons for us to draw from this text as well. What could they be?
Well, as you might suspect, we attend to that next time!
*Don’t forget to read the Bonus Post at 2 pm Eastern today!!