Monday, January 24, 2011

End times: The first question

The first three verses of Matthew 24 tell how Jesus and His disciples were in the Temple just a few days before His crucifixion:

Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and his disciples came to him to show him the buildings of the temple.

And Jesus said to them, "Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down."

Now as he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?"

Really, this is not one question. This is three questions. First - in the order in which the events were to occur - when will these things be (referring to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple)? Second, what will be the sign of the end of the age? Third, what will be the sign of Your coming?

Jesus proceeded to answer their questions. Concerning the destruction of Jerusalem:

"But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near.

"Then let those in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her.

"For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.

"But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing mothers in those days! For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people.

"And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive unto all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled
(Luke 21:20 - 24).

In AD 66, the Jews rebelled against the Romans. Roman soldiers, led by Cestius Gallus, legate of Syria, came and besieged Jerusalem. Jerusalem was surrounded by armies, as Jesus had prophesied - but the believers in Jesus could not leave the city because of the siege.

Then Cestius Gallus inexplicably withdrew. The Jewish believers left the city and set up a Christian community at Pella, in what is now Jordan.

More Roman forces arrived under the Roman general Vespasian and his son Titus and laid seige to Jerusalem. When the city fell in AD70, a million Jews were massacred and Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed.

It is said of the Jewish believers, who followed Jesus' instruction to leave the city, that not one was killed.

More soon.