Often people put their trust in things that turn out to be not so trustworthy. This is one of the most common human experiences, and also one of our greatest disappointments. Some put their trust in the government, some in the church, the military, or the court system while others trust only in their own mind. As human beings, we have a seemingly insatiable desire to know what is going to happen in the future. The God of the Bible gives a challenge in Isaiah 45 and 46. He challenges those who are worshipping all other gods. He says, “Prove your case. Who can tell the future? I can tell the end from the beginning.”
In the Bible, we find the only accurate prophecies from ancient times dealing with not only up to the present, but to things that have not yet happened.
The disciples of Jesus also enquired about the future.
A few days before His crucifixion, Jesus left the Jewish temple in Jerusalem for the last time. He had just denounced the hypocrisy of the Jewish leaders and of the nation as a whole and as He was leaving He made this pronouncement. He said, “See, your house is left to you desolate.” Matthew 23:38.
This was not an arbitrary decree but Jesus explained why. He said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets, and stones those who are sent to you, how often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” Verse 37.
He then went on and told them, “You are not going to see me anymore, until you say, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” Verse 39. Here He referred to what they will say in the resurrection at the last day. He then walked out of the temple, and with His disciples went out of the city, up into the Mount of Olives where they sat down overlooking the temple. See Matthew 24:1.
This temple they saw was not the original which had been built by Solomon. Great stores of material had been gathered by King David for the first temple and built according to the plans that had been given him by divine inspiration; however, David was not allowed to build it himself. See I Chronicles 28:12, 19.
David’s son, Solomon, who was declared to be the wisest of Israel’s monarchs, completed the task. The building is reputed to have been the most magnificent building that the world has ever seen. However, because of the apostasy of the Jewish people, God allowed that building to be destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. About 500 years before Christ was born the Jews, returning from captivity to a land that had been largely desolated during their absence, rebuilt the temple.
This second temple was not nearly as magnificent as the first and when the people, the old men who had seen the first temple, saw it, they wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this temple was laid before their eyes (Ezra 3:12).
Describing the second temple the Bible says, “The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts: and in this place I will give peace, says the Lord of hosts.” Haggai 2:9.
The prophet explained how that was going to happen. “For thus says the Lord of hosts; Once more, it is a little while, I will shake heaven, the earth, the sea, and dry land; And I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the desire of all nations: and I will fill this temple with glory, says the Lord of hosts.” Haggai 2:6, 7.
Though the second temple did not have the visible tokens of the glory of God like the first one did, it was honored and was more highly exalted because in this second temple there came the desire of all nations. The Man of Nazareth taught and healed in its sacred enclosure. The presence of Christ alone made it more glorious than the first.
But Israel had put from her God’s proffered gift. And that day, when the humble Teacher had passed out from the temple for the last time, Jesus said, “Your house is left to you desolate.”
Now the disciples were filled with awe and wonder and astonishment as they heard Christ speaking these words, and as He was going out of the temple they tried to draw His attention to the wonderful architecture and to the skill and to the wonderful and expensive materials that had constructed this temple.
“Then as he went out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, Teacher, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here!” Mark 13:1.
The temple walls were made with white marble. They were fitted together so tightly that, according to tradition, you could not stick a knife between them. From a distance it was a gorgeous sight and looked like one solid piece of white marble. The disciples attempted to draw Jesus’ attention to this marvelous building that He had just said was left to the Jewish people, desolate. “And Jesus answered and said to him, Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone shall be left upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” Verse 2.
At this the disciples were in a state of astonishment. They thought that if Jerusalem would be overthrown, Jesus must be talking about the events associated with His personal coming back to this world in temporal glory, to take the throne of universal empire, to punish the impenitent Jews and to break off the Roman yoke. Jesus had told them that He was going to come back to this world a second time. So when He mentioned the judgments that were going to come upon Jerusalem their minds reverted to that coming. “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?” Matthew 24:3.
Fortunately, in mercy, the future was veiled from the disciples. If they had known that in just a few more days their Lord and Master would be tried, scourged and crucified and also that for most of them, within their own lifetime, Jerusalem and the temple would be totally destroyed with not one stone being left upon another, they would have been filled with horror and unable to think logically or analytically about anything. They would have been overwhelmed, so Jesus simply presented to them an outline of the prominent events that were to take place before the destruction of Jerusalem and before the close of time. The prophecy He uttered had a two-fold meaning; firstly it had to do with the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, but it also had to do with the terrors of the last great day.
Jesus declared to His listening disciples the judgments that were going to fall upon apostate Israel and especially the vengeance that would come upon them for their rejection and crucifixion of the Messiah. Before this dreaded hour would come there would be unmistakable signs that would precede the awful climax. This would come swiftly and suddenly.
He warned, “Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place, (whoever reads, let him understand).” Matthew 24:15.
Luke records this in literal terms and in the most graphic language. Jesus said, “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.” Luke 21:20, 21.
In other words, when they would see the idolatrous standards of the Roman armies set up on the holy ground around Jerusalem, then the followers of Christ were to find safety in flight.
This is an interesting command that Jesus gives. He told them that when they saw the Roman army surrounding Jerusalem they were to flee.
But how were the Christians to flee from Jerusalem if there were Roman armies surrounding and besieging it? Jesus did not explain how it would happen; He just gave them instructions what they were to do. He told them they were not even to take time to return home to get a garment but when they had the opportunity they were to immediately flee.
At the time that Jesus spoke those words the city of Jerusalem was a highly fortified city and any person who publicly foretold that Jerusalem would be destroyed and there would not be one stone left upon another at the temple would have been regarded as Noah was when he predicted a worldwide flood. They would have been considered a crazed alarmist and out of their mind. But Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” Matthew 24:35.
Because of her sins, wrath had been denounced against Jerusalem and her stubborn unbelief rendered her doom certain. This is exactly what the Lord predicted was going to happen in Jerusalem through the prophet Micah hundreds of years before it happened. “Hear this, you heads of the house of Jacob, and rulers of the house of Israel, who abhor justice, and pervert all equity. Who build up Zion with bloodshed, and Jerusalem with iniquity. Her heads judge for a bribe, her priests teach for pay, and her prophets divine for money: yet they lean on the Lord, and say, Is not the Lord among us? no harm can come to us.” Micah 3:9–11.
Notice that these people who are living in wickedness say, “We are God’s people.”
There are people today who say they are Christians and that no harm can come to them, yet they are not living a Christlike life but live directly contrary to the way Jesus said to live. Jesus said to the people in His day, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and you don’t do what I say?” Luke 6:46.
Because they were living like the devil while claiming to be God’s own people their outcome was predicted: “Therefore because of you, Zion shall be plowed like a field. Jerusalem shall become heaps of ruins, and the mountain of the temple like the bare hills of the forest.” Micah 3:12.
This prophecy described the condition of the Jewish nation in the time of Christ. Although they were proud of their self-righteousness,, they were living in sin and were transgressing the principles of the law of God. They hated Christ because of His purity. His holiness was a living rebuke to the way that they were living and they accused Jesus of being the cause of their troubles. They knew that He was sinless. Jesus said, “Which of you convicts me concerning sin?” John 8:46.
They had no answer, but they condemned Him to death because they said His death was necessary for the security of their nation. “If we let him alone like this, everyone will believe in him: and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation. And then, do you not consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish?” John 11:48, 50.
As Micah had predicted, they built up Zion with bloodshed and Jerusalem with iniquity, and yet, even though they had killed their Saviour, who reproved their sins, because of their self-righteousness they still claimed to be the people of God, His favored people, and expected the Lord to deliver them from their enemies.
This same thing has happened many times through earth’s history and is still happening today. Many people claim that they are God’s people but refuse to follow His instructions. They make a profession without reflecting His character; they do not walk as He walked, or live as He lived.
For nearly forty years after A.D. 31 when Jesus predicted this destruction, the judgments against Jerusalem were delayed. God is wonderfully long-suffering. The murderers of His Son were given almost forty years to consider the evidence and see the development of the Christian church and what was happening in the world. For two generations the fathers, mothers and children had opportunity to evaluate the character of Christ.
But when the time came that the children also rejected not only the light that their parents had, but also additional light that they themselves had received, the cup of their iniquity was full. The long-suffering of God toward Jerusalem just confirmed the Jews in their stubborn impenitence and eventually God gave them up.
When God sees that no matter what evidence He gives a person they still refuse to submit, there is no way they can be saved. He finally gives up and leaves them over to their own control. The Holy Spirit ceases to plead with them because they have committed the unpardonable sin and have come under the control of another spirit.
In their hatred toward the disciples of Jesus, the Jews rejected God’s last offer of mercy to His chosen people. His protection was removed and also His restraining power upon Satan and his angels who came to totally control God’s chosen people. Her children had spurned the grace of Christ, the only One who could deliver her.
There now was no safety anywhere. Friends and kindred betrayed one another and uncontrolled passions made the people tyrants.
False accusations made their lives uncertain. They had said, “Cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us.” Isaiah 30:11. And now their desire was granted. The fear of God no longer disturbed them. Satan was at the head of the nation and the highest civil and religious authorities were under his control and sway. All kinds of awful things happened but the leaders still said, “This city cannot be destroyed; it is God’s own city. We are not afraid that this city will be destroyed; God won’t ever let it happen.”
So the multitudes believed, right to the last, that the Most High was going to deliver them from their adversaries. But, they had spurned the Divine protection and now they had no defense. They were rent by internal dissentions and her children were slain by another’s hands.
All the predictions that Jesus gave concerning Jerusalem were fulfilled right to the letter. They learned the truth of His words—As you measure to somebody else it will be measured to you again. See Matthew 7:2.
There were many signs that occurred before the destruction of Jerusalem, showing that something awful was going to take place.
One of the most interesting fulfillments of prophecy when you look at that historical event of the destruction of Jerusalem is that you will find that not one Christian perished in the city. Jesus had given His disciples warning and every one who listened to the warning was saved. This is what Jesus had said to them:
“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 that are written may be fulfilled.” Luke 21:20–22.
The Romans under the general Cestius surrounded the city, about A.D. 66. It was the time of the Feast of Tabernacles and there were people from throughout the world who were gathered in Jerusalem during this siege. Unexpectedly, Cestius abandoned the siege when everything seemed to be in his favour. These events were so overruled that neither the Jews nor the Romans did anything to hinder the flight of the Christians. Upon the retreat of Cestius the Jews sallying from Jerusalem pursued after his retiring army and while both forces were thus engaged, the Christians had an opportunity to leave the city unmolested.
Also, at this time the country had been cleared of enemies who might have endeavoured to intercept them. At the time of the siege the Jews had been gathered together in Jerusalem and thus the Christians throughout the land were able to make their escape without hindrance.
It is interesting that Jesus gave a command that would seem impossible to be fulfilled and yet the opportunity to escape was there, just as He told them. All those who listened and obeyed the command of Jesus were saved; not one perished in the destruction of Jerusalem. They fled without delay to a place of safety beyond Jordan.
Read Matthew 24 carefully. The destruction of Jerusalem was used by Jesus as a symbol of what will happen to the entire world who rejects the authority of God and His law and the gospel of Jesus Christ at the end of time.
The Bible says, “Flee from the wrath to come.” Matthew 3:7.
If you are willing to listen to the instructions that Jesus gives in His word, then at the end of the world you will not be among the nations that mourn because they then realize that they have been worshipping the anti-christ and not the true Christ.
You can be saved. You do not have to be destroyed in the destruction of the world that is coming. Jesus said it like this:
“Watch therefore: for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore, you also be ready: for the Son of man is coming at an hour when you do not expect.” Matthew 24:42–44.
Jesus is coming, and He is coming in our time.
Pastor John Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at: (316) 788–5559.