O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. ( Matthew 23:37-39)
I am led to take us through a very significant and relevant chapter of scripture, Matthew 24. But we must take into account the flow of scripture leading up to this, the essential teaching of Jesus on eschatology.
First of all in the flow of history, Jesus and John the Baptist appeared 40 years before the slaughter of the Jewish population, the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and the dismantling of the Jewish State, Israel. The Jews would be scattered into the ends of the earth, as Moses told them they would, until May 1948.
This puts the ministry of Jesus and John the Baptist in another light. They were end-times preachers, sent to plead with Israel to repent before this apocalyptic judgment would come to fall on them. Much of the preaching of Jesus and John the Baptist was an attempt to get Israel to see that just being a child of Abraham was not enough to deliver them from the Judgment to come.“The axe is already laid to the root…”.
Matthew 23 is an account of the last fiery encounter of the Messiah of Israel with the Shepherds of Israel, in the temple of the LORD. They should have recognized him and received Him from the house of the LORD, as the 118th Psalm which was popularly sung at Passover time foretold,
Open to me the gates of righteousness: I will go into them, and I will praise the Lord: This gate of the Lord, into which the righteous shall enter… The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes. This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.Save now, I beseech thee, O Lord: O Lord, I beseech thee, send now prosperity. Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord: we have blessed you out of the house of the Lord.(Psalm 118:19-26)
This is the song, the “passover carol” which was being sung at that time. The leaders of Israel were supposed to receive and recognize Jesus as Messiah, on behalf of the nation, they were supposed to “Bless Him from the House of the LORD”, and recognize Him as the one who “came in the name of the LORD”.
But they didn’t. The national builders, rejected the stone, the most important stone. Thus Jesus pronounces judgment on the nation.
I will discuss the two judgments pronounced upon the nations at the end of the scathing rebuke, Jesus pronounced upon the nation, to Israel’s leaders.
- “Your house is left to you desolate…” Israel was unique because God himself sanctified her, and dwelt in the midst of her through the temple He ordained. The very life of Israel, the animating principle, was the presence in her midst of the Holy God. She was to be a nation of priests, an intercessor and witness to the world of the Living and True God.
But what good is a temple, or a nation, or priests, if God doesn’t dwell in the midst of them? Hosea had predicted this earlier,
For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without seraphim:(Hosea 3:4)
As she had done in the days of Jeremiah, Israel had placed a false confidence in the temple, as if her boundaries would be inviolable by Gentiles, because the temple was in Jerusalem. But Jesus warned her that the temple and the nation were only inviolable as long as God was in the temple/nation.
* You will not see me again(the Messiah) until you say “Blessed is He that comes in the name of the LORD…”
Jesus then predicted that Israel would not see Jesus again until they came to the point where they admitted that yes, indeed, Jesus had truly come in the name of the LORD. This is a technical statement which means that Jesus came to Israel bearing the God assigned credentials of the Messiah, (He fulfilled Prophecies), speaking the Words of the Messiah and doing the world of Messiah.
In this judgment there is hope implied, “You will not see me again until...” . Israel would be given another opportunity to receive her King, and to confess that Jesus is the Messiah God sent to save her.
Again Hosea helps us, for the same prophecy which predicted the long exile and desolation, predicts that at the end, Israel would repent;
For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim: Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king; and shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days (Hosea 3:4-5)
In this prophecy, there is an “…Afterward…” in which Israel shall “return”, (“Return” in two senses, physically from exile, and spiritually in repentance).Israel shall not remain estranged from God forever, she is destined to come to her senses and repent.
When will Israel return/repent ? She will return “in the latter days”.
Jesus then left the temple, the Holy house of God.
“…And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple:…” .(Matthew 24:1)
Ezekiel once saw a vision of the glory of God leaving the temple. The cloud of glory lifted from the Holy of holies and remained for a while over the house, but then it moved out of the Eastern gate to the Mount of Olives, where it lingered for a short while, until it ascended back into heaven from where it came.
Hosea, speaking in the name of God, the first person,
I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early.(Hosea 5:15)
The God of Israel, will go back to where He came from? He will leave the temple until Israel admits her offense?
When will Israel admit her sin? What will it take to get Israel to seek God’s face again? Nothing less than “Affliction”, or tribulation, also called “the time of Jacob’s trouble”.
Jesus also left the temple, and then went to the Mount of Olives, with his disciples.The disciples were in tourist mode, absolutely impressed by the beauty and history of the temple, the religious sense, the continuity with ancient times,therefore they were stunned to hear Jesus predict the utter destruction of the Temple,
And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?(Matthew 24:1-3)
Thus the disciples asked of the master three questions which become the subject of Matthew 24,
- When shall these things? (The destruction of the Temple).
- What shall be the sign of thy coming?
- What shall be the sing of the ‘end of the age’.