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WHEN DOES CHRIST RETURN?  PART TWO

 

       In part one, we reviewed a number of statements made by the writers of the New Testament narrative that show a first century expectation that Jesus Christ was about to return as He had promised.  Why did the leadership of the first century Christian community teach an imminent coming of Christ? 

       They taught what they taught because of what Jesus had taught them.  Jesus taught his disciples he would return in their life time.  This becomes very clear upon a careful review of what He said in the Olivet Discourse and in a number of other statements He made during His ministry.  Let’s begin with the Olivet Discourse as recorded in Matthew 24. 

MATTHEW 24: 

       In order to establish the context for Matthew 24, we need to begin in Matthew 21:23, where we find Jesus entering the temple courts and beginning to teach the people.  Here He begins to address the religious leaders who had gathered to hear Him and tells them that tax collectors and prostitutes would enter the Kingdom of God ahead of them (Matthew 21:28-32).  We find Him teaching in parables and showing how the religious leaders of His day were rejecting Him and would kill Him.  The result would be that the Kingdom would be given to another people (Matthew 21:33-45).  It should be noted that in verse 43, He speaks of the Kingdom as presently available, and not something only available way off in the future.  He speaks of the Kingdom being taken away from the religious leaders and their followers, and given to someone else. 

       In Matthew 22, we have the parable of the wedding banquet.  In what appears to be another reference to the Jews, Christ shows the religious leaders and their followers rejecting Him and mistreating and killing some of His servants.  Christ is then seen as destroying them and burning their city.  Others, who were not initially invited, are now invited to replace the Jews (Matthew 22:1-10).  Keep these parables in mind as we move through this material.

       Jesus continues to speak to the people while at the temple and begins to deride the Pharisees because of their attitudes and behavior (Matthew 23:33-34).  He tells them plainly, that upon them would come all the righteous blood of those who had gone before (Matthew 23:35-35). Jesus tells these religious leaders this will happen in their generation, the generation He was addressing at the time (verse 36). He also tells them that their house will be left desolate (Matthew 23:37-38).  “Their house” was a common designation for the temple standing in Jerusalem.

       Christ is addressing the religious leaders of His day and explaining how and when they are going to be judged.  When will this judgment take place?

       After this discourse with the Pharisees, we find Jesus leaving the temple and walking away.  Some of His disciples come up to Him and begin showing Him the magnificent buildings of the temple. The disciples hear Christ say that these buildings will be totally destroyed (Matthew 24:1-2, Mark 13:1-2, Luke 21:5-6).  A little later, as Jesus is sitting on the Mount of Olives, we hear some of his disciples ask Him when these things will take place and what will be the sign of His coming and of the end of the age (Matthew 24:3).

       Remember, just a few hours earlier, Christ was telling the people that judgment would come upon their generation and their house would be left unto them desolate.  Now in private He is saying that the temple will be destroyed.  When would the temple be destroyed?  The things that were to take place that the disciples were asking about relate back to their discussion about the destruction of the temple.  The timing of that destruction is being asked about in the same breath as the timing of Christ’s coming and the end of the age.  When was this destruction to take place and what connection does it have to the coming of Christ and the end of the age?  What end of what age is being addressed?

THE APPEARING OF FALSE CHRISTS:

      When the disciples asked Jesus when these things would take place and what would be the sign of His coming and of the end of the age, He begins His answer by saying,  “Watch out that no one deceives you” (Matthew 24:4).  The “you” Christ is addressing are His disciples He was speaking to at the time.  Christ continues His discourse by saying, “For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ’ (the anointed one) and will deceive many” (Matthew 24:5).  Since He is directing these comments to His disciples, was He saying that the appearing of false christs was something they, the disciples, would have to deal with?  Was this prophecy about false christs fulfilled during the lifetime of the men Christ was addressing?

       In Acts 8:9-10, we hear about a man called Simon, identified by historians as Simon Magus, a man who developed a great following during the time of the apostles.  Simon claimed to be the great power of God and was able to perform miracles and deceive many people.  The first-century historian Josephus wrote about Theudas who twelve years after the death of Christ claimed to be a great prophet and deceived a great multitude into believing he could divide the Jordan River.  Many of his followers were killed and Theudas was beheaded.  Both Josephus and the Church historian Eusebius wrote about the messianic Egyptian aspirant who led 30,000 people to the Mount of Olives and the desert proclaiming that he would cause the walls of Jerusalem to be destroyed.  About two years later the Roman authorities appear to have thought that the apostle Paul was this Egyptian (Acts 21: 37-38).

       Origen spoke of a certain first-century wonder-worker named Dositheus who claimed he was the Christ foretold by Moses.  In Acts 13:6, we read about the false prophet Bar-Jesus.  In his Antiquities, Josephus wrote that, “so many false christs began to appear among the Jews of Judea during the time of the early Church that hardly a day went by that the Roman procurator did not put some of them to death.”  Josephus further states that, “the country was full of robbers, magicians, false prophets, false messiahs, and impostors who deluded the people with promises of great events.”

       The Jews of the first century were expecting the prophesied Messiah to appear at any moment.  They knew from their understanding of Old Testament prophecies the time was at hand for the Messiah to appear.  Many impostors and opportunists came on the scene in the first century claiming to be the Messiah.  The Jewish leadership, by and large, rejected Jesus as the promised Messiah because he didn’t fit their paradigm of a conquering king that would destroy the Romans and restore the Davidic Kingdom.

       The apostle Peter spoke about false teachers among the people in 2 Peter 2:1.  John, in his first letter, spoke of many false prophets having gone out into the world (1 John 4:1).  Paul spoke of false apostles and deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:13).  Paul, in his letter to Titus, told of whole households turning away from the truth because of the influence of false teachers (Titus 1:10-16).

       Remember, what was said here by the apostles was about people that were alive at that time.  The context is the first century.  The letters from the apostles warning of false prophets were addressed to first-century Christians.  There is no reason to believe that people living hundreds or thousands of years into the future are being addressed here.  We are reading someone else’s mail when we read these letters.  This mail is being addressed to first century Christians regarding first century issues.  The particular issue involved here is the matter of false teachers, apostles and false Messiahs appearing in the first century.

       Jesus addressed the matter of impostors claiming they were the promised Messiah as part of a whole continuum of events that would precede the temples destruction, His coming and the end of the age.  Both Scriptural and secular histories of the time show that false Messiahs did appear and did deceive many as Christ said they would.

WARS FAMINES AND EARTHQUAKES:

        Christ continued to answer His disciples by saying, “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you be not alarmed.  Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.  Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.  There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains” (Matthew 24:6-8).  Again, keep in mind that Jesus is talking to His disciples and telling them what they should be looking for and what they should be aware of as to the questions they had asked him.

       There were many wars and rumors of wars during the time between Christ and the destruction of the temple and the city of Jerusalem in the war of A.D. 66 to A.D 73.  The Roman historian Tacitus instructs that during the period leading up to the war between Rome and Judea, there were three civil wars, and a number of additional foreign wars involving the Roman Empire.  Tacitus used such expressions as “disturbances in Germany,” “commotions in Africa,” “insurrections in Gaul,” “intrigues among the Parthians,” “the war in Britain,” “war in Armenia,” etc.  Josephus writes that in A.D. 40 there was a disturbance in Mesopotamia, which caused the deaths of more than 50,000 people.  In A.D. 49 a tumult at Jerusalem at the time of the Passover resulted in over 10,000 deaths.  In Caesarea, a local altercation resulted in 20,000 Jews being killed.  An uprising in Syria led to the death of over 20,000 Jews.  At Scythopolis, over 13,000 were killed.  A war in Alexandria took 50,000 lives and at Damascus, 10,000 were killed in an hour in a war that broke out there.

       A great famine broke out during the reign of Claudius Caesar, A.D. 41 to 54.  Both Josephus and Eusebius spoke of this famine in their histories.  Agabus prophesied of this famine as recorded in Acts 11:28. Tacitus spoke of a failure in the crops.  Eusebius wrote of famines during this time in Rome and Greece. Suetonius wrote of pestilence at Rome in the days of Nero wherein 30,000 persons died.  Josephus records that pestilence raged in Babylonia in A.D. 40.  Tacitus spoke of pestilences in Italy in A.D. 66.

       Christ said there would be earthquakes.  Earthquakes did occur in Crete, Smyrna, Miletus, Rome, Laodicea, Judea, Colosse and a number of other cities.  Tacitus writes of twelve populous cities of Asia falling in ruins from an earthquake.  Seneca, writing in A.D. 58, spoke of earthquakes in Asia, Achaea, Syria, Macedonia and Cyprus.  Pompeii was greatly damaged by an earthquake in A.D. 63.

       Remember, all this prophecy about wars, famines and earthquakes is being told to Christ's disciples in answer to their question about “when will these things be?”  The specific “these things” that generated their question in the first place was Christ’s statement about the destruction of the temple.  It is apparent these disciples understood this destruction to be in the context of the coming of Christ and the end of the age.  Jesus had, just a few hours earlier; spoke of coming judgement upon Israel and the leaving desolate of their house, the temple.  It should appear evident that the events Jesus was outlining to His disciples are events that would precede the destruction of the temple the disciples were asking about.

PERSECUTIONS:

       Christ continues to outline what must happen before the destruction of the temple can come to pass.  “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me” (Matthew 24:9).  Persecutions against Christians began shortly after Jesus ascended to be with the Father.  Stephen became the first martyr (Acts 7:59-60).  In Acts 8, we find recorded that a great persecution broke out against the Church at Jerusalem.  In Mark 13:9, Jesus is recorded as having said to His disciples, “You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them.”

       All you have to do is read through the book of Acts to see this fulfilled.  Paul received 39 stripes on five separate occasions.  The apostle James was killed.  Peter and John were brought before the Sanhedrin and flogged.  Peter was thrown into prison.  Paul and Silas were thrown into prison.  The Jews tried to kill Paul many times.  Paul appeared before Governor Felix and Governor Festus of Caesarea, as well as King Agrippa.  Indications are that Paul appeared before the Roman Caesar as well.  Recall the parable of the wedding banquet, where Christ spoke of His servants being mistreated and killed (Matthew 22:5-7).

      In addition to the Jewish persecutions against the Christians, many Christians were put to death by the Roman government under Nero.  Many were thrown to animals in the arena while others were made to be human torches to light up Nero’s imperial gardens.  This truly was a time of great tribulation for the Church. Many were unable to stand up to the persecution.

       Matthew 24:10-13: At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.

       This was a time of great persecution for the Christians.  We see in Matthew 10 that Christ predicted this persecution for His followers.   Here He commissions the twelve to go to the lost sheep of Israel and preach that the kingdom of heaven is near.  Christ then gives the twelve rather extensive instructions as to what they can expect in carrying out their commission.

       Matthew 10:17-19: Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say.

       Matthew 10:21-23: Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

      
       What end and what coming is Christ referring to in these passages?  When did the disciples begin to take the gospel to the cities of Israel?  When did they experience the kind of persecutions predicted by Christ?  There is no record of this happening to any extent while Christ was still with them.  While the twelve, like the 70, were sent out to preach the Kingdom message and heal the sick (Luke 9 and 10), there is no record of the disciples experiencing the persecutions described here until after the ascension.   After Christ ascended to be with the Father, the disciples began to preach the gospel throughout Israel, and later on to the known world of that time.  They suffered greatly for their efforts as the book of Acts and secular historical documents clearly show.  Note how similar language in the Olivet Discourse supports the time frame for when the twelve would be fulfilling the commission Christ gave them.

           Matthew 24:9: Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. Verse 13: but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. 

           Mark 13:9: You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them.

       Luke 21:12-13: But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. This will result in your being witnesses to them.

       The Olivet Discourse relates to a time after the ascension. It is then that the persecutions described in Matthew 10 and in the Olivet Discourse occurred.  When Christ made the profound statement, “I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes” (Matthew 10:23), He was not talking about coming back to them in some way prior to His ascension.  These persecutions happened after His ascension.  The coming Jesus was referring to had to be at some point after His ascension.  It would be a coming that would occur after his followers had experienced the persecutions He described.

       Remember that Jesus is speaking specifically to His twelve disciples.  It is to them that this commission is given.  Since many of the dynamics of this commission are related to what the book of Acts clearly shows occurred after the ascension, the coming spoken of here occurred after the ascension but before the twelve would finish going through the cities of Israel.  Therefore, this coming would have to occur during the lifetime of these disciples. They would not finish their mission to the cities of Israel before Christ would return.  This is a first-century context. To say this passage is yet future in its fulfillment is totally contrary to the context of Jesus' statement.  This coming relates to the coming that was to occur at the end of the age spoken of in the Olivet Discourse.   Christ said in Matthew 24:13 that those who endured to the end would be saved.  What end was He speaking of?  Our focus, as we go along here, will be to identify what end Christ was addressing, and what end of the age the disciples were asking about.  

PREACHING THE GOSPEL TO THE NATIONS:

       Jesus continues to respond to the disciple’s question about the time of His coming and the end of the age by identifying a specific activity that would have to be completed before these events could take place.

          Matthew 24:14: 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.

       Most Christians reading this statement in Matthew assume this preaching of the gospel to the world hasn’t happened yet and, therefore, place “the end” as something to occur in our future.  It is vitally important, however, that we stay within the context of Christ’s answer to the disciples’ questions.  We have already seen that His description of false christs, wars, famines, earthquakes and persecutions were all events that did take place during the lifetime of those very disciples He was addressing. The three accounts of the Olivet Discourse indicate that what is going to happen to the temple is the primary concern of the disciples.  The time frame that Christ is discussing is the time frame of the temple’s destruction.  We see this clearly identified in the following Scriptures.

          Matthew 24:1-3: Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. ‘Do you see all these things?’ he asked. ‘I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.’ As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. ‘Tell us,’ they said, ‘when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’    

       Mark 13:1-4: As he was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!’ ‘Do you see all these great buildings?’ replied Jesus. ‘Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.’ As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, ‘Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?

          Luke 21:5-7: Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, ‘As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.’ ‘Teacher,’ they asked, ‘when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?’

       The writers of the Gospels record the disciple’s concern about when the temple would be destroyed and what sign there would be to alert them to this event.  Jesus gives the disciples a marker as to when the end would occur.  He says the gospel would be preached to all the world and then the end would come.  Is the end He speaks of going to occur at the same time as the destruction of the temple?  Is the coming of Christ associated with the destruction of the temple?  Are all three of these events, Christ’s coming, the temple’s destruction, and the end, to occur at the same time?  Or is there a separation of time between them?  Is Jesus identifying more than one coming in the Olivet Discourse?  History shows the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in A.D. 70.

       Could the gospel have been preached to the whole world by A.D. 70?  What did the whole world mean to Christ and the apostles?  The world of Jesus and the disciples was the Roman Empire of the first century.  Is there evidence that the gospel was preached throughout the Roman Empire of the first century?  On the day of Pentecost in A.D. 31, three thousand were converted and the indication is that many were from foreign lands.  Acts 2:5 clearly reveals there were staying at Jerusalem, Jews from every nation under heaven.  It would naturally follow that these people would take the good news back with them to every nation under heaven.  When the persecution came against the church as a result of the stoning of Stephen, it is written that the believers were scattered and preached the word wherever they went (Acts 8:4).  Philip baptized the Ethiopian official who most likely returned to Africa and took the gospel with him.  Peter took the gospel to the Gentiles, starting with the conversion of Cornelius. Paul took the gospel to much of the Gentile world.

       Paul opens his letter to the Romans by declaring that their faith was being spoken of all over the world (Romans 1:8).  By the time Paul wrote his letter to the Colossians, he was saying that the gospel was known all over the world (Colossians 1:6), and had been proclaimed to every creature under heaven (Colossians 1:23).  While this may be a hyperbolic statement, it shows the extent to which the gospel had been preached.  In writing about England, the historian Neuton wrote, “There is absolute certainty that Christianity was planted in this country in the days of the apostles, before the destruction of Jerusalem.”  Eusebius and Theodoret wrote that the apostles preached the gospel to the entire world including the Britannic Isles.  It must be remembered that the world of the apostles was not the world of today. Their world was the Roman Empire and all that it controlled.

       The Biblical Scriptures and secular history give attestation to the gospel being preached to the known world of the first century.  Jesus said the end would come when this was accomplished.  What end is Jesus speaking of?  We see Christ speaking of the end of the age just before  His ascension.   

       Matthew 28:19-20: Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

        Here we see Christ instructing His disciples to make disciples of all nations.  This would be akin to preaching the gospel to all nations.  We see the gospel reaching the whole world in the first century as Paul confirms.  This was accomplished before the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple.  The end of the age was about to arrive.

THE END OF THE AGE:

       The Greek word translated as “age” in the above quoted passages is aion.  This Greek word appears 165 times in the New Testament and is variously translated as “world,” “age” and “ever.”  The Greek word for age in Matthew 24:3, is aion.  This Greek word has as its basic meaning, a segment of time.  It can relate to a long period of time or a short period of time.  Context must determine which (See, Arndt, Gingrich, Bauer’s Greek - English Lexicon).  Context is critical to understanding the meaning of this word in any one particular Scriptural narrative.

       The world as created (Greek, kosmos), or the world as inhabited (Greek, oikoumene), is not being addressed here (See Appendix 129 of Bullinger’s Companion Bible for an explanation of aion, kosmos and oikoumene).  The Greek aion does not define the physical world or that which makes up the physical world. Aion defines time frames and in the New Testament this word is seen to define different time frames.  For example, “this age” is sometimes contrasted with the “age to come.”

       Mark 10:29-30: I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.

       The phrase “end of the age,” where aion is translated as age, appears six times in the NIV translation of the New Testament Scripture.  It appears three times in Matthew 13.  It appears once in Matthew 24 and 28 as quoted above.  It also appears once in Hebrews 9.  Some translations, such as the KJV, translate aion as world in these passages.  Such translation is misleading as it can lead the reader to think in terms of the physical world coming to an end.  Aion does not define the physical world. Aion defines time frames.

           Matthew 13:36-43: His disciples came to him and said, ‘Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.’ He answered, The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, (Greek for world is kosmos) and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age,(aion  )  and the harvesters are angels. As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age (aion). The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. 

       Matthew 13:47-50: Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age (aion   ) The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

       Hebrews 9:26: Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world (Greek kosmos). But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.

       Jesus, in Matthew’s narrative, identifies the “end of the age” as a time when the righteous are separated from the wicked and the righteous will “shine like the sun.”  The wicked, on the other hand, are shown to be weeping and gnashing their teeth.  The writer of Hebrews identifies the end of the ages as the time of Christ’s sacrifice to do away with sin.  We know that was in the first century.  In Daniel 12, the prophet Daniel speaks of the time of the end when the righteous and wicked are judged and the righteous shine like the brightness of the heavens.  This is the same language that Christ used in Matthew 13.  Daniel shows this to be a time of great distress.  Daniel also speaks of these things happening when the power of the holy people is broken and when the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up.

       Daniel 12:1: At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then.

       Daniel 12:5-7: Then I, Daniel, looked, and there before me stood two others, one on this bank of the river and one on the opposite bank. One of them said to the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, ‘How long will it be before these astonishing things are fulfilled?’ The man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, lifted his right hand and his left hand toward heaven, and I heard him swear by him who lives forever, saying, ‘It will be for a time, times and half a time. When the power of the holy people has been finally broken, all these things will be completed.’

       Daniel 12:11: From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days.

       When do we find this time of great distress occurring?  When is the power of the holy people finally broken?  When is the daily sacrifice abolished and the abomination that causes desolation set up?  Let’s return to the Olivet Discourse for the answers to these questions.  We will see that the end of the age spoken of by Christ is the same as the time of the end spoken of by Daniel.

       After saying the gospel would be preached in all the world and then the end would come, Jesus continues in verse 15 and 16 of Matthew 24, to say, “So when you see standing in the holy place the abomination that causes desolation, spoken of through the prophet Daniel - let the reader understand - then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.”  Mark’s gospel says it this way: “When you see the abomination that causes desolation standing where it does not belong - let the reader understand - then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains” (Mark 13:14).  Luke says, “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains” (Luke 21:20-21).  Keep in mind that all this talk about the abomination that causes desolation, armies surrounding Jerusalem, the inhabitants being told to flee to the mountains, is all in the context of Jesus answering the disciple’s original question about when will the temple be destroyed, what will be the sign of this happening and when will Christ come and the end of the age occur?

       In Matthew 24, Jesus told the disciples to flee when they see the abomination that causes desolation. History shows that they did exactly this.  The Christians left Jerusalem and fled to Pella between A.D. 66 and 70.  Let’s continue in Luke’s account of this event.  Jesus said, “Let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city.  For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written” (Luke 21:21-22).  What an all-inclusive statement that is.  Continuing with this passage, Jesus said the following:

          Luke 21:23-24: How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers. There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. They will fall by the sword and will be taken prisoners to all nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the gentiles until the times of the gentiles are fulfilled. 

       In Matthew’s account of this event, Jesus is quoted as saying,

           Matthew 24:17-22: Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of his house. Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers. Pray that your flight will not take place in the winter or on the Sabbath day. For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now, and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.

       Remember, Daniel spoke of a great distress at the time of the end and of the abomination that causes desolation.  We see Christ referring to these same events relative to Jerusalem.  Unless one is willing to completely ignore the context of the Olivet Discourse and to whom it was addressed, it should be evident that the great distress mentioned here is that which was to shortly come upon the people of Jerusalem and Judea.  This distress resulted in the destruction of the temple, the city of Jerusalem; much of Judea, and great suffering and loss of life for over a million people.

       In part three of this series we will provide the details as to how this prophecy of Jesus Christ was fulfilled in the first century.

PART THREE