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? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.(Matthew 24:1-4)
Matthew 24 is the definitive account of Jesus’ teaching on the end of days, the destruction of the Jewish State, and the judgment coming on the whole world at the end of time.
As attention is increasingly being turned to these subjects and to this chapter of scripture, it would be fitting to take into consideration the larger context of the teaching of Matthew 24, and consider all else in the light if it.
There are several things to consider in order to bring this chapter into proper perspective and enhance our understanding of this vital teaching of Jesus our LORD.I will list what factors I know and am open to consider any others;
- First we must consider the timing of the arrival of Jesus and John the Baptist on the scene of world history and Salvation history.
- Secondly we must remember that the sermon in Matthew 24 came in the last week of Jesus’ earthly ministry.
- Thirdly we must remember that it was given at the Passover feast, and take into consideration the 118th Psalm which was considered a Passover Hymn as part of the Hallel (The Praise, Psalm 113-118).
- We must also take into account the curious miracle of the fig tree and the pronouncement about the “Mountain which shall be thrown into the Sea”.
- Finally , we must remember that Matthew 24 comes on the heels of the scathing prophetic denunciation of the nation of Israel in Matthew 23, sand especially the final two pronouncements, that the “house is left desolate” and that the nation would never see him again until they confessed, Baruch, Haba, b’Shem ADONAI.
We will look at the first of these, in this article.
When did the LORD send Jesus and John the Baptist into History? Paul tells us that it was in the “fulness of time” , that God sent us his Son. The Prophet Malachi warned that “Elijah the Prophet’ (i.e. John the Baptist) would arrive before the “great and terrible Day of the LORD”.
History tells us that Jesus and John the Baptist arrived almost forty years before the execution of the greatest and most severe judgment which ever fell upon the Jewish people. It is a judgment so devastating and severe that the Jewish nation has yet to recover from it’s blow.
In 70 Ad Roman Legions surrounded jerusalem, built ramparts and siege works, subjected the Holy city to a devastating siege in which the inhabitants of the city were forced to eat after birth and women even ate their children!
Among the residents of the region beyond Jordan was a woman called Mary, daughter of Eleazar, of the village of Bethezuba (the name means “House of Hyssop”). She was well off, and of good family, and had fled to Jerusalem with her relatives, where she became involved with the siege. Most of the property she had packed up and brought with her from Peraea had been plundered by the tyrants [Simon and John, leaders of the Jewish war-effort], and the rest of her treasure, together with such foods as she had been able to procure, was being carried by their henchmen in their daily raids. In her bitter resentment the poor woman cursed and abused these extortioners, and this incensed them against her. However, no one put her to death either from exasperation or pity. She grew weary of trying to find food for her kinsfolk. In any case, it was by now impossible to get any, wherever you tried. Famine gnawed at her vitals, and the fire of rage was ever fiercer than famine. So, driven by fury and want, she committed a crime against nature. Seizing her child, an infant at the breast, she cried, “My poor baby, why should I keep you alive in this world of war and famine? Even if we live till the Romans come, they will make slaves of us; and anyway, hunger will get us before slavery does; and the rebels are crueler than both. Come, be food for me, and an avenging fury to the rebels, and a tale of cold horror to the world to complete the monstrous agony of the Jews.” With these words she killed her son, roasted the body, swallowed half of it, and stored the rest in a safe place. But the rebels were on her at once, smelling roasted meat, and threatening to kill her instantly if she did not produce it. She assured them she had saved them a share, and revealed the remains of her child. Seized with horror and stupefaction, they stood paralyzed at the sight. But she said, “This is my own child, and my own handiwork. Eat, for I have eaten already. Do not show yourselves weaker than a woman, or more pitiful than a mother. But if you have pious scruples, and shrink away from human sacrifice, then what I have eaten can count as your share, and I will eat what is left as well.” At that they slunk away, trembling, not daring to eat, although they were reluctant to yield even this food to the mother. The whole city soon rang with the abomination. When people heard of it, they shuddered, as though they had done it themselves.( From Josephus )
Moses predicted such horrors would come upon the Holy people, as a result of unrepentant idolatry;
The tender and delicate woman among you, which would not adventure to set the sole of her foot upon the ground for delicateness and tenderness, her eye shall be evil toward the husband of her bosom, and toward her son, and toward her daughter, And toward her young one that cometh out from between her feet, and toward her children which she shall bear: for she shall eat them for want of all things secretly in the siege and straitness, wherewith thine enemy shall distress thee in thy gates. If thou wilt not observe to do all the words of this law that are written in this book( Deuteronomy 28:56-58)
Five centuries before the siege, the prophet Jeremiah predicted such horrors would befall the unrepentant people;
“The people of Judah have done evil in my eyes, declares the Lord. They have set up their detestable idols in the house that bears my name and have defiled it. They have built the high places of Topheth in the valley of Ben Hinnom to burn their sons and daughters in the fire – something I did not command, nor did it enter my mind.”Jeremiah 7:30, 31
“I will make them eat the flesh of their sons and daughters and they will eat one another’s flesh during the stress of the siege imposed on them by the enemies who seek their lives.” Jeremiah 19:9
“Look Oh Lord and consider: Whom have you treated like this? Should women eat their offspring, the children they have cared for?” Lamentations 2:20
“With their own hands compassionate women have cooked their own children, who became their food when my people were destroyed.”(Lamentations 4:10)
Jesus and John the Baptist were sent to the last generation before these horrors happened. This gives new light to the urgency of their message, and the Jeremiad passion of their preaching that men should repent.
Jesus knew that the very children he was blessing and who praised and followed him, would be adults in those dreadful days. Many would be slain and the vast majority of the others enslaved, (the slave markets of the whole world were glutted with Jewish slaves after Seventy Ad), the temple would be destroyed and the Jewish state would be dissolved, scattered to the ends of the earth and remain so, (Dead but in kept in State) until the very last of the last days.
Jesus and John the Baptist were “Last days” preachers to their generation, a generation which had no idea the horrors which were about to befall them and were unprepared spiritually and in any other way.