“the Seventy Weeks and the Great Tribulation”   by Philip Mauro

Chapter XIII (13)           Chapter XIV (14)           Chapter XV (15)          Chapter XVI (16)

We are beginning at Chapter 12 of a book titled “the Seventy Weeks and the Great Tribulation”   by Philip Mauro

CHAPTER XII       (Chapter12)


We come now to that great utterance of the Lord Jesus Christ which connects directly with the prophecies recorded in the last four chapters of the Book of Daniel.

We have seen that sixty nine weeks of the seventy mentioned by Gabriel in his message to Daniel reached "unto the Messiah," that is, unto what Edersheim calls "His first Messianic appearance," which was at His baptism; for then it was that He was anointed with the Holy Ghost, borne witness to by the Voice from heaven, and publicly proclaimed (or "made manifest to Israel") by John the Baptist (John 1:29-34).

That great event marked the beginning of the Seventieth Week of the prophecy, the "one week" which is separately mentioned in Daniel 9:27, the "fullness of the time" of (Gal 4:4) (cf. Mark 1:15). That "week" was, beyond all comparison, the most momentous period in all the course of time; for it was the great and wonderful era of Christ's own personal ministry among men, "the days of His flesh," when He glorified God upon the earth, and finished the work He had given Him to do. It was the brief period of earth's history whereof the apostle Peter spake when he told to a company of Gentiles "How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power; Who went about doing good, healing all that were oppressed of the devil, for God was with Him" (Ac 10:3). Never had there been a "time" like that.

Towards the midst of that "week," the Lord, after having preached the glad tidings of the Kingdom of God, after having worked the works of God and spoken the words the Father had given Him to speak, went to Jerusalem in order to fulfill all that was written of Him, by offering Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of His people. At that season, when Jerusalem was thronged with people for the observance of the Passover, the Lord uttered His "woes" upon the scribes and Pharisees, closing with these words, which have an important bearing upon our subject:

"Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? Wherefore behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and Scribes; and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them ye shall scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city, that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation" (Mt 23:31-36).

These words call for close attention, because of their bearing upon the prophecy (the Olivet discourse) which immediately follows, and also because of their bearing upon the prophecy of the Seventy Weeks, which we have been studying.

The Lord here speaks distinctly of a terrible retribution which was to come upon that generation; and He sums up the several items of the wickedness for which they were thus to be punished. He declared that, in putting Him to death they were about to prove themselves to be the children of those who killed the prophets; and they were also about to fill up the measure of their fathers. Nor  would the wickedness of that "generation of vipers" stop there.  For when the messengers of Christ should come to them with the gospel of God's love and grace, they would scourge, persecute, kill and crucify them. Thus would they bring upon themselves a retribution of such terrible severity, that it would be as if they were visited for all the righteous blood that had ever been shed upon the earth. Most distinct and plain, and emphasized by His great "Amen" (Verily), are the Lord's words, "Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation."

Here we have then a clear explanation of the words of (Dan 9:24,) "Seventy Weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression"; and also of the words of (Dan 12:10,) "The wicked shall do wickedly, and none of the wicked shall understand."

Daniel's people were to be the agents and his holy city the place, of the finishing of "the transgression;" and the seventieth week of the renewed national existence was to be the time when the transgression should be finished. We have also in these words of Christ, and in verses 38, 39, which follow, a clear affirmation of that part of the prophecy of the Seventy Weeks which foretold the destruction of Jerusalem. We quote those heart melting words: "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" (Mt 23:38,39). 


It is greatly to be regretted that those who, in our day, give themselves to the study and exposition of prophecy, seem not to be aware of the immense significance of the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, which was accompanied by the extinction of Jewish national existence, and the dispersion of the Jewish people among all the nations. The failure to recognize the significance of that event, and the vast amount of prophecy which it fulfilled, has been the cause of great confusion, for the necessary consequence of missing the past fulfillment of predicted events is to leave on our hands a mass of prophecies for which we must needs contrive fulfillments in the future. The harmful results are two fold; for first, we are thus deprived of the evidential value, and the support to the faith, of those remarkable fulfillments of prophecy which are so clearly presented to us in authentic contemporary histories; and second, our vision of things to come is greatly obscured and confused by the transference to the future of predicted events which, in fact, have already happened, and whereof complete records have been preserved for our information.

Obviously we cannot with profit enter upon the study of unfulfilled prophecy until we have settled our minds as to the predicted things which have already come to pass.

A striking instance of the dislocation of great historic events which happened in accordance with, and in fulfillment of, prophecy, lies before us in the case of that unparalleled affliction which is called in (Mt 24:21) the "great tribulation such as was not since the beginning of the world," and which is doubtless the same as that spoken of in (Jer 30:7) as "the time of Jacob's trouble," and in (Dan 12:1) as "a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation." From the clear indications given in the three prophecies just mentioned, and from the detailed records that have been preserved for us in trustworthy contemporary history, it should be an easy matter to identify the period thus referred to with the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus. The Lord's own predictions and warnings concerning that event, which was then close at hand, were most explicit. And not only so, but He plainly said that "all these things shall come upon this generation." Besides all that, He specified the very sins for which that generation was to be thus punished beyond anything known before, or that should be thereafter, thus making it a simple impossibility that the "tribulation" and "vengeance" which He predicted could fall upon any subsequent generation.

Yet, in the face of all this, we have today a widely held scheme of prophetic interpretation, which has for its very cornerstone the idea that, when God's time to remember His promised mercies to Israel shall at last have come, He will gather them into their ancient land again, only to pour upon them calamities and distresses far exceeding even the horrors which attended the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. This is, we are convinced, an error of such magnitude as to derange the whole program of unfulfilled prophecy. Hence our present purpose is to set forth with all possible fullness and care the available proofs, from Scripture and from secular history, whereby it will be clearly established that the "great tribulation" of Matthew 24:21 is now a matter of the distant past.

First then, we direct attention to the fact that, according to the words of Christ, spoken to the leaders of that generation of Jews (Mt 23:32-39), the punishment, which was then about to fall upon the city and people, was to be of an exhaustive character. His words utterly forbid the idea of another and more severe national calamity reserved for a future day. Nobody (so far as we are aware) questions that the Lord's lament over Jerusalem, recorded in (Mt 23:37 and Lu 13:34), was wrung from His lips in view of her approaching devastation by the Romans. But if so, then clearly His words to His own disciples, which immediately follow (Mt 24), and which include the reference to the "great tribulation," refer to the same matter.

But before taking up His discourse to His four disciples, on Mount Olivet, we would call attention to some additional passages of Scripture which tend to show what a tremendous event in the history of God's dealings with the Jews, and in the carrying out of His purposes for the whole world, was the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans.

We have referred already to our Lord's lamentation on leaving the city, as recorded by Matthew. From the Gospel by Luke we learn that, upon approaching Jerusalem on that last visit, He was so distressed in His heart at the realization of the awful calamities soon to overtake the beloved city, that He wept over it (Lu 19:41). Although His own Personal sufferings, His shame and agony, were much closer at hand; yet it was not for Himself, but for the city, that His heart was torn with grief, and His eyes flowed with tears. This is the record:

"And when He was come near, He beheld the city and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round (cf. Lu 21:20), and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation" (Lu 19:41-44).

Here is a wonderfully vivid, accurate and detailed prediction of what was about to befall the beloved city. But we cite the passage at this time for the special purpose of showing how great a matter, in the Lord's view, was the approaching destruction of Jerusalem--great in its historical relation to the Jewish nation, great in the completeness of the overthrow, and great in the unspeakable sufferings that were to attend it.

Once more, when our Lord was being led forth to be crucified, and there followed Him a great company of people, and of women, who bewailed and lamented Him, He turned to them and said:

"Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for Me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. For behold, the days are coming in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck. Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall upon us; and to the hills, Cover us. For if they do these things in a (the) green tree, what shall be done in the dry?" (Lu 23:28-31).

     Thus we perceive that, even in that hour, the sufferings which were to come upon Jerusalem were more to the Lord Jesus than were His own.


Let us also call to mind that in the Old Testament there are many pages of prophecy concerning the capture and desolation of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, showing that, in God's eyes, that was an event of much importance. It was, however, an affair of small magnitude in comparison with the destruction and desolation wrought by the Romans under Titus, whether we regard it from the point of view of the sufferings of the people, or of the numbers who were tortured and slain, or of the extent of the captivity which followed, or of the extinction of the nation, or of the "desolation" of the city, or of the sins for which these judgments were respectively the punishment. For the captivity in Babylon involved only a relatively small number of people; it lasted only seventy years; and the people were removed only a short distance from home. That foretold by Christ involved the complete extermination of national Israel, the scattering of the survivors to the very ends of the earth, and "desolations" of the land and city which have already lasted for nearly two thousand years.

The Lamentations of Jeremiah (especially chapters 4 and 5) show how distressing were the desolations of Jerusalem in those days, and how they grieved the heart of God, of Whom it is written, "In all their affliction, He was afflicted" (Isa 63:9); and of Whom it is also written that He "doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men" (La 3:33). But the afflictions and desolations wrought by the Romans were incomparably greater. 


But the greatness of the calamity which Christ foretold can best be understood by consideration of the gravity of the sin which brought it upon the city and people, in comparison with that for which God used Nebuchadnezzar as the instrument of His vengeance. Christ laid to the charge of the fathers that they had "killed the prophets," and stoned the messengers God had sent to them. This agrees with the record found in 2Ch 36:14-17:

"Moreover all the chief of the priests and the people transgressed very much after all the abominations of the heathen; and polluted the house of the Lord which He had hallowed in Jerusalem. And the Lord God of their fathers sent to them by His messengers, rising up betimes and sending; because He had compassion on His people and His dwelling place. But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised His words, and misused His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, till there was no remedy. Therefore He brought upon them the King of the Chaldees," etc.

But now (in Christ's day) they despised the words of God spoken by His Son; they mocked Him; and finally they betrayed Him and put Him to death. Who can measure the enormity of this crime? But there was even more. For not only did they reject Christ in Person, but they subsequently rejected, persecuted, killed, and crucified those whom the risen Lord sent to them with the offer of mercy in the Gospel. Christ included this in the iniquity He charged against them; and He said that thereby they would fill up the measure of their fathers.

The apostle Paul was one of those messengers who thus suffered at their hands. Speaking of this wickedness of the Jews he said:

"Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men; forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, TO FILL UP THEIR SINS ALWAY; FOR THE WRATH IS COME UPON THEM TO THE UTTERMOST" (1Th 2:16).

Thus we are distinctly informed, both by the Lord Himself, and by His servant Paul, (1) that the sin and iniquity of that generation of Jews went far beyond the evil deeds of their fathers; and (2) that the "wrath" which was then about to be poured out upon them was to be "to the uttermost."

Such being the facts of the matter, we would ask, first, if there is to be a future generation of Jews upon which is to fall a yet greater tribulation, what is to be the occasion thereof? and what is to be the crime for which that future generation of Israelites is to be punished? What crime can they commit which would be in any way comparable to that of betraying and crucifying their Messiah?

Second, if indeed such a terrible punishment yet awaits "Israel's long afflicted race," how is it that every prophecy which speaks of God's future dealings with that people, holds out the prospects not of wrath to the uttermost, but--of mercy? For we are not aware of any prophecy concerning the remainder of Israel, that gives any hint of such a thing as the greatest of all afflictions being yet in store for them, but rather blessing through believing the Gospel (cf. Ro 11:23).

For example, we have in Isaiah 51 a prophecy which plainly has its fulfillment in this present era of the gospel; for God there says: "My righteousness is near; My salvation is gone forth," and again, "My salvation shall be forever, and My righteousness shall not be abolished" (Isa 51:5,6); and He refers to "the people in whose heart is My law," saying to them, "Fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings" (Isa 51:7). Then comes this promise: "Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head; they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away" (v. 11). My opinion is that this verse has its fulfillment in those who are now being saved through the gospel; but we cite it to show that the era to which this prophecy relates is not that which began with the return from Babylon. Hence what is written in the succeeding verses cannot refer to the capture of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, but must refer to that by Titus.

"Awake, Awake! stand up, O Jerusalem, which hast drunk at the hand of the Lord the cup of His fury; thou hast drunken the dregs of the cup of trembling, and hast wrung them out ..... These two things are come unto thee: who shall be sorry for thee? desolation, and destruction, and the famine and the sword; by whom shall I comfort thee? Thy sons have fainted, they lie at the head of all the streets; as a wild bull in a net (are they taken); they are full of the fury of the Lord, the rebuke of thy God" (Isa 51:17-20).

Here is a strikingly accurate description of what took place at the capture of Jerusalem by Titus; and that must be the event referred to, because none would claim that there is yet another "desolation" and "destruction" in store for Jerusalem. This being so, there can be no uncertainty as to the meaning of what follows:

"Therefore, hear now this, thou afflicted and drunken, but not with wine: Thus saith thy Lord, Jehovah, and thy God that pleadeth the cause of His people, Behold, I have taken out of thine hand the cup of trembling, even the dregs of the cup of My fury; THOU SHALT NO MORE DRINK IT AGAIN; but I will put it into the hand of them that afflict thee" (Isa 51:21-23).

From this it is clear that Jerusalem and the people of Israel will never suffer again as in the days of the siege by the armies of Titus.


We do not lose sight of the fact foretold by the last words of the prophecy we have just quoted, and by many other prophecies, that there are to be sore troubles for the world, distress of nations, wars, famines, pestilences and earthquakes; these being the final "birth pangs," of whose "beginning" the Lord spake in Matthew 24:8. (Mt 24:8) No doubt there will be grievous tribulations and persecutions in the "latter days"; and we recall the predicted "woes" of the last three trumpets, the outpourings of the vials of wrath, and 'the hour of trial" which is to "come upon all the world to try them that dwell upon the earth." But those yet future distresses (which were a new revelation given by the risen Christ to His servant John) were not what He spoke of to the disciples on Mount Olivet. What He then predicted was that "great tribulation," exceeding everything of the sort before or since, which was to come upon that generation of Jews, which most of those disciples would live to see, and concerning which they would need, and would thankfully avail themselves of, the warnings and instructions He then gave them.

The yet future troubles for mankind are distinctly mentioned by the Lord in this prophecy, and they are clearly distinguished from the "great tribulation"; for He tells what will happen "after the tribulation of those days" (Mt 24:29), and then passes on to the subject of His second advent, in connection with which He says, "and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn" (Mt 24:30). The distinction is perfectly clear.

We do not understand that any comparison is to be made, or was intended by our Lord, between the distresses of the siege of Jerusalem and those which are yet to come upon "all them that dwell upon the earth." The two cases are too widely different for any comparison to be made. The fact is, and it fully verifies the words of Christ, that no city and no people have ever endured such terrible sufferings as those which attended the siege of Jerusalem by the Roman armies (whereof we shall speak more particularly later on); and we may well be thankful for His assurance that none of greater severity will ever befall a city and a people hereafter.

Further discussion of the troubles of the last days will be in order after we have examined our Lord's prophecy on Mount Olivet. We only wish at this point to guard against giving to any of our readers the impression that we are undertaking to show that there is no time of affliction and woe for the inhabitants of the earth at the end of this present age. We are not questioning at all that there will be "tribulation and wrath" during the closing days of this dispensation. Our contention is merely that our Lord, in His Olivet discourse, was not warning His disciples concerning the distresses of that far off period, but concerning those which were close at hand. 

CHAPTER XIII  (13)                                              Go to:    Chapter XIV (14)           Chapter XV (15)          Chapter XVI (16)           HOME   


As the Lord was departing from the temple after His denunciation of the leaders of the people, certain of His disciples drew His attention to the massive stones of which the temple was built (some of these were 30 feet long); but while they were thus admiring its solidity and grandeur, He made what must have been to them the astounding statement that there should not be left of that huge pile of masonry one stone upon another that should not be thrown down (Mt 24:1,2).    This statement was the occasion of the Olivet prophecy. 

A little later, as He sat upon the Mount of Olives, which overlooked the city, four of His disciples (Peter, James, John and Andrew) asked Him privately for further information concerning the matters to which He had briefly referred (Mk. 13:3).      The words He had spoken to the Jews had indicated two things in a general way; first, that a severe judgment was to fall upon that generation of Jews; second, that He Himself was to come again visibly. This latter event was intimated in the words, "Ye shall not see Me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord" (Mt 23:39).

These words of the Lord will account for the form of the question put to Him by His disciples, which, as recorded by Matthew, reads thus: "Tell us when shall these things be, and what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world (age)?"

It is evident that in the minds of the disciples the destruction of Jerusalem ("these things") and the coming again of the Lord Jesus ("the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the age") were closely connected together. They might well have inferred from what the Lord had said to the Jews that the two events would be contemporaneous. Hence, as reported by Mark and Luke, the question was, "When shall these things be, and what shall be the sign when these things shall be fulfilled?"    The disciples were evidently taking it for granted that, when Jerusalem should be again attacked by alien armies, the Lord Himself would come "and fight against those nations," which idea would seem to find support in the prophecy of Zechariah (Zec 14:1-5).  The disciples, therefore, were not in reality asking several different questions about several distinct and unrelated events, but were asking about what was, in their own minds, a series of connected events.  That it was regarded by them as being all one matter, clearly appears by the form of the question as recorded by Mark and Luke.

It is important that we take note of this, for it explains why the Lord, in His reply, was so emphatic and so painsintaking in warning the disciples not to expect His coming at the time of the siege of Jerusalem, and not to pay any heed to reports and false prophecies which were to be circulated at that time, to the effect that Christ was "here" or "there," "in the desert" or in some "secret chamber."  It also explains why He was so careful to impress upon them that what He was foretelling would be the fulfilment--not of prophecies such as Zechariah and (Joe 3:9-16,) which end well for Jerusalem --but of the words of "DANIEL THE PROPHET," which end in utter and age long "desolations" for Jerusalem, to be attended by "a time of trouble" for the people, "such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time" (Dan 12:1).

In fact it will be clearly seen, upon a careful reading of the entire discourse, that the Lord did not give, or purpose to give, any information whatever concerning His second advent, except that it would occur when not expected. All that He said definitely on that subject was that it would not be at the time of the then impending destruction of Jerusalem. It was manifestly of the utmost importance that His own disciples should not be misled by false reports and false Christs at that time, and should not be looking (as were the mass of the Jews) for a miraculous deliverance, but that they should heed the sign He gave them, and should make good their escape by "flight." To this end the Lord began His reply by saying, "Take heed that no man deceive you; for many shall come in My Name, saying, I am Christ, and shall deceive many" (Mt 24:4,5). The particular deception against which He thus warned them was the false expectation that He would come and deliver the city. The fanatical Jews were sustained in their stubborn resistance to the Romans by the confident expectation of a miraculous deliverance, as in Hezekiah's day. Our Lord, therefore, took great pains that His own disciples should not share this deception. And He continued this sort of warning down to the end of verse 14, cautioning them also that they were not to take such things as wars, rumours of wars, famines, pestilences, and earthquakes, as signs of His coming. Never were warnings more needed than these, or more generally disregarded. For all through the age the Lord's people have been prone to look upon wars, or other great commotions, as signs of the Lord's immediate coming.

We repeat then, that the Lord's purpose in this discourse was not at all to give His people signs of His coming again, but to warn that generation of believers of the approaching destruction of Jerusalem, and to give to them a sure sign whereby they might, and whereby in fact His own people did, secure their safety by fleeing the land and city.

Viewing then the Lord's discourse as a whole we may clearly see in it the following purposes:

1. To warn His disciples against being led astray by false Christs and false prophets, a danger to which they were to be peculiarly exposed at the time of the Roman invasion of the land.

2. To warn them that wars, commotions, famines, pestilences and earthquakes were not at any time to be taken as indications that His Second Advent was near. Manifestly it was the Lord's design that His people should be, from the very beginning, always in an attitude of expectancy of His coming' that they should not be looking for signs, but for Him (see Heb 9:26). As well stated by Edersheim' "All that was communicated to them was only to prepare them for that constant watchfulness, which has been to Christ's own people, at all times, "the proper outcome of His teaching on the subject"--i.e., the subject of His second coming.

3. To give them a sure sign, whereby they might know with certainty that the hour had come for them to flee from Jerusalem and Judea.

The first two purposes are purely negative, so far as those disciples, and others of that generation, were concerned. The third only is positive in character; and in it we find the main object of the prophecy.


What we desire chiefly to establish at this point is that when Christ spoke the words found in Matthew 24:21, "For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be", He was warning the disciples of the approaching destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, and was letting them know in advance (what the event abundantly confirmed) that the sufferings of the besieged people, and the horrors and atrocities of that awful time, would be without parallel in the history of the world, past or future. It was needful to impress this upon His people of that day, to the end that they should not delay their "flight" when the sign He gave them should appear. The prophecy was, as we have already seen, exceedingly practical. Its purpose was to save the lives of the Lord's own people at a time of extremist danger and distress. And we have only to glance at the three accounts of this utterance of the Lord to perceive that His warning concerning the great tribulation was given for the purpose that His own people might, through acting upon His words, escape from it. We shall call attention to this in detail; but in passing would just ask our readers to observe that the greatness of the tribulation was mentioned as the reason why the disciples were to pray that their "flight be not in the winter nor on the Sabbath day" (Mt 24:20,21). Those words clearly confine the application of the prophecy to a time preceding the dispersion of the Jews.

Let it be understood then that we are not making any statements in regard to persecutions, tribulations and wrath, which are or may be yet in the future. That there will be such is certain. What we are asserting at this point is that the "great tribulation" whereof our Lord spoke to His disciples when He was on Mt. Olivet, and which He called "the tribulation of those days" (Mt 24:29), was the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70. And we would say that it is most needful, in order to the understanding of other prophecies, that this fact be grasped.

The proof is ample. Indeed the scriptures already cited make it plain that the wrath, which God was then about to pour out upon those who had both crucified His Son and had also rejected His mercy offered to them in the gospel, was "wrath to the uttermost," that all things which had been predicted of that nature were to fall upon that generation. But the clearest proof of all is to be found by simply reading, side by side, the three accounts which God has given us of this great prophecy. It never occurred to the writer to do this until a few months before these papers were written (it was in the summer of 1921). But when he did so he was beyond measure astonished that he had been for so long a time blinded to a fact which lies plainly revealed upon the surface of the Scriptures.

Briefly stated, what the writer found, and what anyone can see by making the same comparison, is:--

1. That the words of Luke 21:20-24, beginning, "And WHEN YE SHALL SEE Jerusalem encompassed with armies, then know that THE DESOLATION thereof is nigh," refer to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman armies under Titus (no expositor would dispute this);

2. That the words found in the corresponding part of Matthew's account, beginning with the words, "WHEN THEREFORE YE SHALL SEE" (Mt 24:15-22; see also Mark 13:14-20) refer to precisely the same event as that spoken of in (Lu 21:20-24.)

We have said that, so far as we know, it is agreed by all expositors that the words recorded by Luke refer to the then approaching destruction of Jerusalem by Titus. But a careful examination of the account given by Matthew will show that, not only does it manifestly refer to the same destruction of Jerusalem, but it contains details which clearly show that our Lord was speaking of an event then close at hand. We will refer later on to those details.

And now, in order that our readers may readily make the comparison we have spoken of, we here print, in parallel columns, the three accounts of our Lord's great prophecy. 


The Question

MATTHEW 24: 1-44

   And Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came to Him for to show 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?

MARK 13: 1-35

   And as He went out of the temple one of His disciples saith unto Him, Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here! And Jesus answering said unto him, Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.
   And as He sat upon the Mount of Olives, over against the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked Him privately, Tell us when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled?

LUKE 21: 5-30

   And as some spake of the temple, how it was adorned with goodly
stones and gifts, He said, As for these things which ye behold, the days will come in the which there
shall not be left one stone upon another, which shall not be thrown down.
   And they asked Him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be? And what sign shall there be when these things shall come to pass?


Warnings Against Being Deceived

MATTHEW 24: 1-44

And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in My name saying, I am Christ, and shall deceive many.
6. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars. See that ye be not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there shall be famines and pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows (birth pangs).

MARK 13: 1-35

And Jesus answering them began to say, Take heed lest any man deceive you; For many shall come in My name, saying, I am Christ, and shall deceive many.
7. And when ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars, be ye not troubled; for such things must needs be, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles. These are the beginnings of sorrows (birth pangs).

  LUKE 21: 5-30

   And He said, Take heed that ye be not deceived, for many shall come in My name saying, I am Christ, and the time draweth near; go ye not therefore after them.
9. But when ye shall hear of wars and commotions, be not terrified; for these things must first come to pass; but the end is not by and by (immediately). Then said He unto them, Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines and pestilences, and fearful sights, and great signs shall there be from heaven.


Persecutions Predicted and Instructions What to Do

MATTHEW 24: 1-44

  9. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you; and ye shall be hated of all nations for My name's sake.
  And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.
  And many false prophets shall rise and shall deceive many.
  And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
13. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved ( Mr 13:13).
14. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.

[Note: Matthew's reference to the persecutions of the disciples is relatively brief. He omits the instructions as to premeditating, etc. Luke omits the statement that the gospel must first be preached. His "not a hair perish," and "by your patience" (i.e. endurance), are the equivalent of "He that shall endure unto the end."]

MARK 13: 1-35

9. But take heed to yourselves; for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten; and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for My sake, for a testimony against them.
10. And the gospel must first be published among all nations.
11. But when they shall lead you and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate; but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak but the Holy Ghost.

12. Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death.

13. And ye shall be hated of all men for My name's sake; but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

LUKE 21: 5-30

12. But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for My name's sake. And it shall turn to you for a testimony.

14. Settle it therefore in your hearts not to meditate before what ye shall answer. For I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.

16. And ye shall be betrayed both by parents and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for My name's sake. But there shall not an hair of your head perish.

19. In your patience possess ye your souls


The Destruction of Jerusalem. The Sign to the Disciples.
"When Ye Shall' See"

MATTHEW 24: 1-44

  15. When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place (whoso readeth let him understand); Then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains; Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take anything out of the house; neither let him which  is in the field return back to take his clothes.
19. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!
20. But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath day.
21. For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
22. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved; but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.
23. Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before.

26. Wherefore, if they shall say unto you, Behold he is in the desert; go not forth; behold he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.

27. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.

MARK 13: 1-35

14. But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not (let him that readeth understand); then let them that be in Judea flee to the mountains; and let him that is on the housetop not go down into the house, neither enter therein to take anything out of his house. And let him that is in the field not turn back again for to take up his garment.
17. But woe to them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!
18. And pray ye that your flight be not in the winter.
19. For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be.
20. And except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved; but for the elect's sake, whom He hath chosen, He hath shortened the days.
21. And then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ; or lo, he is there; believe him not.
22. For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall show signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, the very elect.
23. But take ye heed; behold, I have foretold you all things.

LUKE 21: 5-30

20. And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.
Then let them which are in Judea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto.
22. For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.
23. But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! For there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people.
24. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations; and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.

[Note: The special warning to beware of false Christs and false prophets at the time of the siege of Jerusalem is omitted from Luke's account.]

     Luke alone gives the statement that, after the destruction of the city, the Jews should be led away captives into all nations; and that Jerusalem should be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. The statements of Matt. 24:27 are found in Lu 17:24,37.]



After the Tribulation of Those Days

MATTHEW 24: 1-44

29. Immediately after the tribulation of those days, shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken; And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven; and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn; and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

31. And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

MARK 13: 1-35

24. But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened and the moon shall not give her light. And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken.

26. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.

27. And then shall He send His angels, and shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven.

LUKE 21: 5-30

25. And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon and in the stars; and upon the earth distress q of nations with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth; for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.

27. And then they shall see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.

28. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.


The Parable of the Fig Tree

MATTHEW 24: 1-44

32. Now learn a parable of the fig tree; when his branch is yet tender and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh; so likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.

34. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away.

MARK 13: 1-35

28. Now learn a parable of the fig tree. When her branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is near. So ye in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors.

30. Verily I say unto you that this generation shall not pass till all these things be done. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away.

LUKE 21: 5-30

29. And He spake unto them a parable: Behold the fig tree, and all the trees, when they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the Kingdom of God is nigh at hand.

32. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away.


No Sign of That Day.  The Lord's People Must Always "Watch" and "Be Ready"

MATTHEW 24: 1-44

36. But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but My Father only.

37. But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and knew  not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

40. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken and the other left.

42. Watch therefore, for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up.

44. Therefore be ye also ready; for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.

MARK 13: 1-35

32. But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. Take ye heed, watch and pray, for ye know not when the time is.

34. (For the Son of man is) as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work,  and commanded the porter to watch.

35. Watch ye therefore, for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you, I say unto all, Watch.

LUKE 21: 5-30

34. And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.

36. Watch ye, therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man. (Luke's account ends here, but the Lord's words concerning the days of Noe, and the days of Lot are found in Luke 17:26-30.)

[Note: Each account has an ending different from the others; yet the lesson is the same in each, namely that no definite "sign" would be given to show when the Lord was about to come again, but on the contrary His return would be entirely unexpected, as was the coming of the flood, and as is the coming of a thief. Hence the great importance to the Lord's people that they should always "watch," and "be ready also." Mark and Luke add "and pray." Luke mentions the things which are to be feared, and against which the saints are to watch--"surfeiting and drunkenness, and cares of this life."]



The reader will be well repaid for whatever time and effort he may expend in a diligent study and comparison of these three accounts of our Lord's prophecy. (It is the only utterance of any length whereof three separate accounts have been given us; and there must be a special reason for this.) But what we would emphasize at this point is that the section beginning "When ye shall see" (Mt 24:12 Mr 13:14 Lu 21:20) manifestly refers, in each account, to one and the same event--the approaching destruction of Jerusalem. "The abomination of desolation standing in the holy place" (Matt. and Mk.) means the same thing as do the words "Jerusalem"--the holy city--"encompassed with armies" (the armies being the "abomination" which was to make the place a "desolation," Lu 21:20). We will return to this interesting point.

The "great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world," &c. (Mt 24:21), is the same as the "affliction" (the same word in the original as "tribulation") "such as was not since the beginning of the creation which God created" (Mr 13:19), and as "the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled," the "great distress in the land, and wrath "upon this people" (Lu 21:22,23).

In all three accounts are mentioned the same woes, "to them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days," and the same directions for instant flight are given. But in Matthew's account only we have the Lord's instruction to His disciples to pray that their flight be not in the winter nor on the Sabbath day. Those words show clearly that He was speaking of a time when the stringent Rabbinical rules concerning the distance that might be traversed on the Sabbath day would be still in force. That remark fixes the time with certainty as previous to the destruction of Jerusalem. Those strict Rabbinical rules have not been in force for centuries; and there is no reason to suppose that they will ever be revived. The words do not, of course, imply that Christ's own disciples would be bound by those rules even then; but so long as they were in Judea they would have been hampered by them in their flight, should that take place on the Sabbath.


In the light, therefore, of this comparison of scripture with scripture, we think it plain that the "great tribulation" of Matthew 24:14 was that unparalleled calamity, with its unspeakable sufferings, which befell the city and people in A.D. 70.

 In the history of "The Wars of the Jews" by Josephus we have a detailed account, written by an eye witness, of the almost unbelievable sufferings of the Jews during the siege of Jerusalem. To this account we will refer later on; but we wish to state at this point that the distresses of those who were hemmed in by the sudden appearance of the Roman armies were peculiar in this respect, namely, that what they endured was mainly self-inflicted. That is to say, they suffered far more from cruelties and tortures inflicted upon one another, than from the common enemy outside the walls. In this strange feature of the case it was surely "a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation, even to that same time" (Dan 12:1).

What went on within the distressed city calls to mind the words of Isaiah:

"Through the wrath of the Lord of hosts is the land darkened, and the people shall be as the fuel (the food) of the fire. No man shall spare his brother. And he shall snatch on the right hand and shall be hungry; and he shall eat on the left hand and not be satisfied; they shall eat every man the flesh of his own arm. Manasseh, Ephraim; and Ephraim, Manasseh. For all this His anger is not turned away, but His wrath is poured out still" (Isa 9:19-21). 

CHAPTER XIV  (14)                                                           Go to:       Chapter XV (15)          Chapter XVI (16)            HOME 


It is needful that close attention be paid to the inspired words whereby the distresses attendant upon the destruction of the Jewish nation and their holy city are described in the several prophecies wherein they are foretold. For it is quite a common mistake to assume that the great tribulation was to be a calamity of unexampled magnitude as regards the number of the slain, and the amount of property destroyed. Thus we have had it said to us that the late world war exceeded the tribulation of the Jews during and resulting from the siege of Jerusalem, in that more lives were lost, more towns devastated, &c. But the Scriptures do not speak of it as a calamity that should exceed all others in magnitude. In fact that could not be, for there has been no calamity to compare in magnitude with that of the flood, and will be none till the heavens and earth which now are shall be destroyed by fire (2Pe 3:6,7). The prophecies we are studying speak not of a tribulation greater in magnitude or extent, but different in kind; and moreover, they speak of one which was to come as a judgment from God upon the Jewish nation. Thus, in Jeremiah 30:6 we read, Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it; it is even the time of Jacob's trouble. Here are both of the limitations to which we have referred. The first is in the words none like it, which suggest troubles of a peculiar sort; and the second is in the words Jacob's trouble. The words of Daniel 12:1 are equally explicit: And there shall be a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation, ' etc. The words such as point to troubles of a special kind, and the words since there was a nation mean a nation of Israel, as the context shows. Finally our Lord's words are great tribulation such as was not since the beginning of the world, etc.; and again the context shows that the calamity He spoke of was to come upon that generation of Israelites. The peculiar character of those self-inflicted sufferings of the Jews during the siege will be clearly seen from the extracts given below from the history of Josephus; but there is also to be taken into consideration the fact that, at the termination of the siege, the whole nation was sold into bondage and scattered to the ends of the earth. Such a thing had never happened before (though Jerusalem had been often besieged); and the words of Christ make it sure that nothing like it will happen again.

The apostle Paul, who is the chief revelator of the second coming of Christ, speaks definitely and frequently of the wrath to come, but is absolutely silent as to any great tribulation in connection with the second advent. Thus, he says explicitly that it is a righteous thing .with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; and to you that are troubled, rest with us; when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall be punished with everlasting destruction .... When He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believe .... in that day (2Th 1:6-10). This passage speaks plainly of the vengeance that is to fall, when Christ comes again, upon all who reject the gospel; but neither here nor elsewhere in the writings of Paul is there any mention of a special period of tribulation (the last of the seventy weeks of Daniel 9, as some say) preceding the revelation of Jesus Christ. What Paul distinctly foretells in this passage, and refers to in other passages (as 1Th 1:10 5:2,3) is in agreement with the words of Christ, Who, speaking of the time of His coming again in glory with His angels, said, And then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn (Mt 24:30,31).

We are aware that many in our day have so settled it in their minds that the appearing of Christ in glory is to be preceded by a definite period, the great tribulation "so called", that it is difficult for them even to consider the idea that the period to which our Lord applied that expression is now long past. Nevertheless we are confident that all who are disposed to examine with open minds the testimony of the Scriptures will be constrained to agree with the conclusion we have reached, which is that of practically all the great commentators of bygone days, and of many in our own day. That view is well and concisely stated by Wiston in his preface to Josephus' Wars of the Jews, where he says:

"That these calamities of the Jews, who were our Saviour's murderers, were to be the greatest that had ever been since the beginning of the world, our Saviour had directly foretold, (Mt 24:21; Mr 13:19; Lu 21:23,24) and that they proved to be such accordingly, Josephus is here a most authentic witness." 


Let us now, with the help thus gained, examine more closely the entire discourse. For this purpose we select the account given by Mark as the basis of our study. This we do because it is the most concise and straightforward. Since it gives the Lord's answer to the same question of the four disciples, we must assume that it is complete, in the sense of containing everything said by the Lord that relates directly to that question. Additional statements found in Matthew and Luke would be merely details, or matters collateral to the main subject.

The question--put to the Lord privately by Peter, James, John and Andrew (Mr 13:3,4)--was this: "Tell us when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled? The expression these things (or these events) is important for identification. It meant the terrible overthrow which the Lord had just announced to them, the completeness whereof was indicated by the fact that there should "not be left one stone upon another that should not be thrown down" (v.2). {1}

The Lord's reply begins very significantly with the words, "Take heed lest any man deceive you."  These, and the words which follow to the end of verse 8, seem to be not in response to the question put to Him. But they are all the more important for that very reason; for they show that what the Lord deemed most essential was to correct the erroneous thought in their minds that the time of the happening of "these things" was to be the time of His coming again in power and glory to set up His visible Kingdom, whereof He had previously spoken to them (Mt 16:27; 19:28). He was therefore most explicit in warning them to beware of false Christs, who would arise and deceive many at the time of the siege of Jerusalem. Furthermore, He warned them not to be disturbed by wars or rumours of wars, earthquakes, famines and the like; for such things must occur, but they were not signs of the end. Thus the subject of His own coming again at the end of the age was introduced, as we have said, in a purely negative way, and solely in order to inform the disciples that His second coming was in no way connected with the events whereof He was then forewarning them.

In this connection the Lord also informed them of the treatment they were to receive, and the sufferings they were to endure (Mr 13:9-13); and He instructed them what they were to do when summoned before tribunals for His Name's sake (Mr 13:11).

The one great thing they were to keep in mind in respect to the unmeasured period that was to elapse before His coming again was that "the gospel must first be published among all nations" (Mr 13:10). In like manner after His resurrection, when they brought up the same question concerning the restoring of the kingdom to Israel, He turned their minds from that subject, and said, But .... ye shall be witnesses unto Me, both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth (Ac 1:6-8). The end of the age will come when, and only when, the work of the Gospel shall have been finished. Thus He made the work of the Gospel to be the matter of supreme importance.

This reply to their thoughts concerning His second coming is found (with additional details) in Mt 24:4-14, and Lu 21:8-19. We need not refer at this point to those passages. For what we wish just now to impress upon our readers is that the Lord was not, in this part of His reply, speaking of events that were to happen just prior to His second advent, but on the contrary, was warning them not to take such things as wars, famines, pestilences, etc. as indications that His advent was near.

Obviously that warning applies throughout the entire age; for if commotions of the sort mentioned by the Lord were not indications of the nearness of His coming at the beginning of the age, they would not be indications thereof at any later period.


The Sign

At this point (Mr 13:14) the Lord changes the subject, as indicated by the word But; and He now specifies a definite sign--impossible to be misunderstood --whereby they and all the saints of that generation should know with absolute certainty that the predicted desolation was about to take place, He says: But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not (let him that readeth understand), then let them that be in Judea flee to the mountains, etc.

We have already shown by the corresponding passage in Luke 21:20 that the abomination of desolation was the invading army which was about to encircle Jerusalem and accomplish the desolation thereof. That abomination, when it was encompassing Jerusalem, was standing where it ought not. A comparison of the two passages leaves no room for any uncertainty as to the Lord's meaning. What has mainly caused certain modern expositors to go astray at this point is a curious mistake in regard to the expression used by Matthew, standing in the holy place. This point is so important that we reserve it for special comment later on. In view of the very general misunderstanding concerning this particular point, the Lord's words, let him that readeth understand, are very significant.

In this part of the Lord's answer (Mr 13:14-23) He gave explicit directions to His people how to secure their own safety; and furthermore He indicated that the complete investment of the city would be so swiftly accomplished that, after the appearance of the armies, their only safety would lie in instant flight. We call attention once more to the exceedingly practical character of this prophecy.

It is important to notice that the word affliction in verse 19 of Mark 13, is the same as that rendered tribulation in verse 24, and in (Mt 24:7,21.)

In verse 20 is the promise that those days--referring to the horrors of the siege--would be shortened; and we have already shown, in discussing Daniel 12, that the time was shortened, and in a manner evidently providential, so that the Romans obtained sudden, and most unexpected, possession of the last stronghold of the city.

At this point the Lord renews the warning against expecting His return at that time. He speaks with great definiteness, saying, Then, that is during those days of siege, if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ; or lo, He is there; believe him not (Mr 13:21). Moreover, He gives the reason for this explicit warning, saying, For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall show signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect. But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things (Mr 13:22,23). These words become very clear and plain when it is seen that the Lord is speaking of false Christs, and false prophets, who would seduce (or deceive) many into the belief that He was about to appear at that time and save Jerusalem from the invading armies. Similarly in the days of Zedekiah, when the city was besieged by Nebuchadnezzar, there were false prophets who deceived the people by telling them that the enemy would not capture the city (Jer 27:14, &c.). In view of the many interventions by the Lord on behalf of His people, and of the many promises given to them, it was very easy indeed to persuade the Jews to expect a miraculous deliverance. Hence it was exceedingly important that Christ should make His own disciples understand that there was to be no deliverance in this case.

In the corresponding part of Matthew's Gospel (Mt 24:15-28) it is plain that we have another account of identically the same future events. Mark says in those days--i, e., in the days of the siege of Jerusalem--shall be affliction (great tribulation), such as was not from the beginning, &c. Matthew says, For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not from the beginning, etc.

Verses 27 and 28 of Matthew 24 tell what will be the manner of the Lord's appearing when He does come (as the lightning cometh out of the east, &c.). Those words are not in Mark. This further goes to show that Christ's second coming was not the main subject of His discourse here, but was a collateral matter. Obviously in this place also it was mentioned merely to give emphasis to the warning not to heed the reports which would be current at that time, that He was in the desert, or in the secret chambers.

The corresponding part of Luke's account is found in verses 20-24 (Lu 21:20-24). This account is valuable mainly for the very definite statements of verse 24, which tell how the siege was to end: And they--the people of verse 23--shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations; and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. These few words give a concise and accurate description of the conditions of the city and people down to the present day. They made it plain to the disciples that there was to be no deliverance for Jerusalem at that time.

It is particularly to be noted that Luke, having spoken in detail of a coming destruction of Jerusalem, which everyone admits is that which came to pass in A. D. 70, says not a word of any other tribulation after that one. This forbids the idea that there is yet another tribulation (and even a worse one) in store for the Jews. Their worst enemies could hardly desire it, no reason for it can be conceived, the Scriptures do not reveal it, and we should be very slow to believe that such a thing could be.

Here are three evangelists, selected by God for the special purpose, and inspired by the Holy Spirit, each of whom gives us an account of one and the same utterance of the Lord Jesus Christ. That utterance has mainly to do with an affliction of unparalleled severity, which soon was to fall upon Jerusalem and Judea, to the complete desolation of the city and the extinction of the nation, but concerning the approach whereof Christ's own people were to receive a timely warning and an opportunity to escape. If now it be indeed the case (as some modern expositors affirm) that the affliction whereof Matthew and Mark have preserved a record was not the nearby destruction of the city, but one that was not to happen until the very end of this dispensation, and only after Israel had been nationally exterminated, scattered for an entire age, and regathered in their land and city again (of all which things, however, neither Matthew nor Mark says a single word), how can we possibly account for the fact that Luke, though he speaks most impressively of the nearby destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, and of the world wide dispersion of the Jews, makes no reference at all to that far worse tribulation which is the prominent feature of the accounts given by Matthew and Mark as interpreted by certain modern expositors? Manifestly that could not be. And on the other hand, in view of the prominence given by Luke to the approaching destruction of Jerusalem, and in view also of the identical instructions given to the disciples, as recorded by all three evangelists, it is not supposable that Matthew and Mark would absolutely ignore that unspeakable affliction, and describe--in identically the same context--another tribulation that lay in the far off future.

The statement found in (Lu 21:22,) For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled, calls for attentive consideration. The expression the days of vengeance indicates a definite period of judgment; and this is emphasized by the words, that all things which are written, which means, of course, all the threats of judgment, recorded in the law and the prophets, might be fulfilled. Manifestly, if all things of that nature were fulfilled at the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, then there could not be after that a further (and a worse) tribulation for Israel.

As a help to the understanding of these words, let us turn to the earliest prophecy which speaks of the days of vengeance that were to come upon the faithless people. It is found in (De 28:49-59,) where God gave, through Moses, an outline of the future history of His people, telling how they would depart from Himself, and how He would punish them by bringing against them a nation which should besiege them in their cities. The description fits very accurately the Romans, and the desolations wrought by them. We quote a part of the passage:

"The Lord shall bring a nation against thee from far, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flieth; a nation whose tongue thou shalt not understand; a nation of fierce countenance, which shall not regard the person of the old, nor show favour to the young: * * * And he shall besiege thee in all thy gates, until thy high and fenced walls come down, wherein thou trustedst. * * * And thou shalt eat the fruit of thine own body, the flesh of thy sons and of thy daughters, which the Lord thy God hath given thee, in the siege, and in the straitness wherewith thine enemies shall distress thee: So that the man that is tender among you and very delicate, his eye shall be evil toward his brother, and toward the wife of his bosom, and toward the remnant of his children which he shall leave; so that he will not give to any of them of the flesh of his children whom he shall eat; because he hath nothing left him in the siege, and in the straitness, wherewith thine enemies shall distress thee in all thy gates. 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 forth 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 enemies shall distress thee in thy gates.

The prophecy goes on to declare that the people of Israel were to be greatly diminished in numbers, were to be plucked off the land, and were to be scattered among all people, from one end of the earth even to the other, where they were to find no ease.

These predictions--terrible in their nature beyond all comparison--were fulfilled with appalling exactness and literalness in the siege of Jerusalem, and in the dispersion which followed it, and which has lasted until now. As we come to realize the character of these awful distresses, we shall surely be thankful that all things which were written, concerning the afflictions of the people of Israel, have now been fulfilled. We can but rejoice that there is no support whatever for the view that a time of distress, exceeding in severity the horrors of the siege of Jerusalem, yet awaits that much afflicted people.

It should be noticed that the nation whereof Moses speaks in this prophecy was to come from far, and was to be one whose tongue the Jews did not understand. Those specifications fit the Romans, but not the Assyrians or Chaldeans. Furthermore, in the tribulation foretold by Moses the people were to be plucked off the land and scattered among all nations from one end of the earth even to the other. This describes the result of the capture of Jerusalem by Titus, and not that of its capture by Nebuchadnezzar.

Prominent among the things that were written aforetime, and which our Lord said were to be fulfilled at the approaching destruction of Jerusalem, was that time of trouble foretold in (Da 12:1,) at which time some of Daniel's people were to be delivered, even such as should be found written in the book. This latter expression had come to mean, since the days of Moses (Ex 32:32) those who were accepted by God and owned as His. Such (i.e., believers in the Lord Jesus Christ) were delivered at that time through giving heed to His warnings. 


There is need that special attention be given to the words, When ye therefore shall see THE ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place (whoso readeth let him understand); then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains, etc. (Mt 24:15,16). The passage is the same it, Mark except that, instead of stand in the holy place, we read, standing where it ought not. In Luke the corresponding passage reads, And when ye shall see JERUSALEM COMPASSED WITH ARMIES, then know that THE DESOLATION thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judea flee to the mountains, etc.

This passage was, to the Lord's disciples then in Jerusalem and Judea, the most important of the entire prophecy; for it gave the sign whereby they were to know that the desolation, predicted in Daniel 9:26, was at hand, and upon seeing which they were to flee. Luke describes the sign in plain language. The encompassing of Jerusalem by armies was to be the warning that its desolation was nigh. But Matthew (for a reason which can be discerned) uses terms such that others than the disciples would not readily understand the meaning. To us, however, it should be clear, upon a mere comparison of the passages, that the armies which were to accomplish the desolation of the city were the abomination of desolation. But we will look further into the matter.

We have already pointed out that the word abomination means any hateful or detestable thing. It would most fittingly apply to the Roman armies on their mission of destruction. Indeed the descriptive words, of desolation, fix the meaning definitely. Yet, according to an interpretation that is widely accepted at this time, it means the setting up of an idol for worship in a Jewish temple which (it is supposed) will be built at Jerusalem in the days of Antichrist. But, in that case, the words of desolation would be quite out of place; for no one will contend that Jerusalem is to be again made a desolation. Another insuperable objection to that view is that God would not regard or speak of any part of such a temple as the holy place.

Our modern expositors have been misled by this expression (used by Matthew) the holy place. They have assumed that it meant the holy of holies in the temple. But it does not mean that at all. Anyone, with the help of a concordance (as Young's or Strong's) or a Greek dictionary, can see for himself that the word used for place in Matthew 24:15 (Mt 24:15) is topos, which means simply a locality (we derive from it the words topical, topography, etc.). It is used in expressions like a desert place, dry places. The holy land, Judea, is therefore the holy place, where the heathen armies, with their idolatrous standards and pagan sacrifices, were to stand. Mark puts it simply as standing where it ought not. On the other hand, the term hagios topos is never used of the holy of holies of the temple. (See original text of Heb. 9:12,24,25.)

The Lord was referring to the particular abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet, and at this point occurs the exhortation, Whoso readeth let him understand. The expression abomination of desolation is found only in the Septuagint version of Daniel 9:27. What then was it that is referred to in that verse? Clearly it is that which was to be God's instrument in bringing about the predicted desolation. The Hebrew text, of which our A. V. is a translation, reads and for the overspreading of abominations, he shall make it desolate. If instead of for, we read, by the overspreading of abominations, we have a very good indication of the spreading abroad of the Roman armies.

In Daniel 11:31 and 12:11, (Da 11:31, 12:11) is a slightly different expression which makes the meaning more clear, namely, abomination that maketh desolate. That the words When ye see the abomination of desolation stand in the holy place do not mean the setting up of an idol in the inner sanctuary, further appears by consideration of the fact that it was when the disciples should see the thing referred to, that they were to know it was time for them to flee. Manifestly the setting up of an idol in the inner sanctuary could not be a Sign to the Lord's people to flee. That would be a thing which only the priests could see. And it could not possibly be a sign to them that be in Judea. Whereas the invading armies would be a sight which all could see.

Furthermore, the setting up of an idol in the sanctuary is a thing which could not be done until the city and temple were taken by the enemy, which would be at the end of the siege. Hence it could not possibly serve as a sign to the disciples to save themselves from the horrors of the siege by timely flight.

The difference between the way Matthew describes this sign to flee, and the way Luke describes it, is accounted for by the fact that Matthew's Gospel was written primarily for circulation among the Palestinian Jews. We can understand, therefore, why the Holy Spirit inspired him to use an expression which would not be understood except by the disciples. But no such reason would exist in the case of Luke's Gospel, he being the companion of Paul in his journeys through the Greek provinces, and his Gospel having been written primarily for Gentile converts. Matthew and Mark have the significant admonition, Whoso readeth let him understand. But in Luke, where the meaning is stated in clear words, that admonition is not found.

In confirmation of our view as to the abomination of desolation, we quote the following from a sound and standard work, Smith's Bible Dictionary:

"Abomination of Desolation, mentioned by our Saviour, (Mt 24:15,) as a sign of the approaching destruction of Jerusalem, with reference to (Da 9:27; 11:31; 12:11.) The prophecy referred ultimately to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, and consequently the abomination must describe some occurrence connected with that event ..... Most people refer it to the standards or banners of the Roman army."

We believe, however, that it is not the standards carried by the armies, but the armies themselves that constituted the abomination of desolation, or that maketh desolate. This conclusion is fully supported by the facts, (1) that where Matthew says when ye see the abomination of desolation, Luke says when ye see Jerusalem encompassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh; and (2) the armies were the agency whereby the desolation was accomplished.

In further confirmation of our view as to this point we quote also from Farquharson the following clear passage:

"Christ expressly names it (the abomination of desolation) as one of the previous signs, whereby those whom He then addressed would become aware of the immediate approach of that destruction of Jerusalem which He Himself foretold, and which, He said, would occur before the generation contemporary with Himself on earth passed away (Mt 24:34). Besides, Christ, by the term 'abomination of desolation' did not mean any temple built to a strange god, or any profane sacrifices. These are indeed abominable; but they are not desolators. Luke has preserved the explanation which Christ Himself gave of those terms ('when ye see Jerusalem compassed with armies,' etc. Lu 21:20), as we shall have occasion afterwards more particularly to show; and Bishop Newton, in his illustration of Christ's own prophecy, refers to the explanation furnished by Luke and admits that the abomination of desolation signifies the heathen armies."

Also from the same author we quote the following passage, which occurs in the course of his comments upon Daniel 12'1, And at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book:--

"The prediction of the prophet then, in this latter part of the first verse, was fulfilled in that part of Daniel's people who, obeying the call of the Saviour to faith in Him, and repentance and new obedience, obtained through His blood eternal redemption. Although the Jewish rulers and the greater part. of the nation would not have Him to be their King, but delivered Him up to the Gentiles, yet says Paul, 'God hath not cast away His people which He foreknew,' but, as in the days of Elias He reserved to Himself seven thousand men who had not bowed the knee to the image of Baal, even so now, 'at this present time also, there is a remnant according to the election of grace' (Ro 11:2-5).

Within a short time after Christ's ascension this 'remnant' amounted to several thousands (Ac 2:41, 4:4); and afterwards 'believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of men and women' (Ac 5:14). These were at that time 'delivered.' * * * But there was added to the eternal deliverance they thus obtained a temporal deliverance also, in that 'time of trouble,' 'during which their unbelieving countrymen perished by sword and famine. For He in Whom they believed had taught them the signs that should precede the approaching calamities, and had warned them to escape from them by a timely flight (Mt 24:15, 16). Of His warnings they availed themselves.

We learn from ecclesiastical histories,' says Bishop Newton, 'that at this juncture (the approach of the siege of Jerusalem) all who believed in Christ departed from Jerusalem, and removed to Pella and other places beyond the river Jordan; so that they all marvellously escaped the general shipwreck of their countrymen; and we do not read anywhere that so much as one of them perished in the destruction of Jerusalem.' Thus, in every sense, 'at that time Daniel's people were delivered, all who were found written in the book.' 



We would notice at this point an idea which has been advanced by a few commentators (not any of prominence so far as we are aware) namely that the account found in Luke 21 is that of a different utterance of Christ from that reported in the corresponding parts of Matthew and Mark. This idea is really a confirmation of what we have been seeking to prove; for those who suggest it must have recognized that, if Luke 21 gives us an account of the same utterance as is reported by the other two gospel writers, then it must be that the great tribulation of the latter is the fall of Jerusalem described by the former, and the abomination of desolation is the armed Roman force.

But the idea referred to above is utterly untenable. According to each of the three writers the discourse occurred just after Christ left the temple for the last time; and according to each it began with the same words (not one stone shall be left upon another); and moreover the prophetic part was spoken in reply to the question of the disciples (tell us, etc.). And not only so, but the account by Luke follows the same order as the others, and uses in many passages precisely the same words. It is simply an impossibility that there should have been two distinct discourses on the same day, arising out of the same incident, and in response to the same question, from the same disciples.

It is nothing to the purpose that Matthew and Mark state the place where the conversation took place (the Mount of Olives) whereas Luke omits mention of that detail. There would be as much ground to argue that Christ endured two different agonies on the night of His betrayal, in two different places, because, while Matthew and Mark give Gethsemane as the place, Luke does not specify the name of the locality where what he describes (with differences of detail from the others) took place.

The proof is conclusive that the three accounts refer to one and the same discourse, and that what Luke plainly identifies as the then approaching destruction of Jerusalem, the other two evangelists spoke of under the general term "great tribulation." 


We have sought to impress upon our readers the fact that the destruction of Jerusalem, and the final breakup of the Jewish nation, was a matter of immense importance in the history of the world, as divinely viewed and written. We would now, in closing this chapter, call attention to the fact that God, in marvellous forbearance and goodness, did not execute His righteous judgment upon the nation at once, but gave them a final period of probation, which lasted just 40 years, from A.D. 30, when the Lord was crucified, to A.D. 70, when the city was destroyed and the nation exterminated.

The number 40 appears to be the measure of full probation. The Israelites were tested for 40 years in the wilderness at the beginning of their national career. That was under the Law. And at the end thereof, God gave them another probation of 40 years, under the Gospel. Other periods of full probation are found in the Scriptures, as when Moses left the people to themselves, while he was in the mountain 40 days. The first three kings of Israel (Saul, David and Solomon) reigned the full period of 40 years. And finally our Lord was tested for 40 days in the wilderness, with the wild beasts, and tempted of the devil. 


The reference to the time of Jacob's trouble is found in (Jer 30:5-7). From what appears in chapter 29:1, as well as from the immediate context, it is evident that the prophecy concerning Jacob's trouble was spoken after the captivity in Babylon had begun; so it was not the punishment inflicted by Nebuchadnezzar that the prophet was foretelling. This is made very plain by the verses immediately preceding the prophecy of Jacob's trouble, in which God says that He will bring again the captivity of His people and cause them to return to the land of their fathers. So the predicted order of events was the return of the captivity from Babylon, and after that the time of Jacob's trouble, which is foretold in these striking words:

"For thus saith the Lord; We have heard a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace. Ask ye now and see whether a man doth travail with child? Wherefore do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in travail, and all faces are turned into paleness? Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it; it is even the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it" (Jer 30:5-7).

The destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans is a complete fulfilment of this prophecy. Why then should we ignore a conspicuous historical fulfilment and surmise a fulfilment in the future, for which there is no proof?

The words none is like it establish the fact hat the time of Jacob's trouble, foretold by Jeremiah, is the same as the time of trouble such as never was, foretold to Daniel by the man clothed in linen, and the same as the great tribulation such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, nor ever shall be, foretold by the Lord as then about to come upon the people. For there cannot be two such times of trouble.

Likewise the words of Jeremiah, But he shall be saved out of it, agree with the words, Thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book (Da 12:1); and with the words of Christ, But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved (Mt 24:13). The agreement is striking.

Jeremiah, after prophesying the time of Jacob's trouble (of the particulars whereof he gives no description) proceeds to speak of another captivity for the nation, and of God's purpose to gather His people out of it, and to restore them again to their own land (Jer 30:10,11). This confirms the view that the captivity referred to in verse 3 is that in Babylon. Moreover, the terms used in describing the captivity spoken of in verses 10 and 11 show that it was a world-wide dispersion. For God says' I will save thee from afar . . . and Israel shall return and be at rest, and be quiet, and none shall make him afraid. So here we have a captivity in distant lands, to be followed by a restoration and blessing--not by another tribulation. Further, we read' For I am with thee, saith the Lord, to save thee' though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of end of thee (Jer 30:11).

Thus, according to all these three great prophecies which we have been studying and comparing, there was to be a time of unequalled trouble for Israel, followed by a world wide scattering of the survivors, and with this, history is in perfect agreement; for the time of trouble, such as never was either before or since, came within the generation specified by Christ, and was immediately followed by a world wide dispersion of the Jews, which has lasted until now; yet God has not made a full end of them.

All this is completely reversed by a current system of interpretation of prophecy, which makes the dispersion of the people of Israel come first, and the time of trouble such as never was to be reserved for them afterward, when God shall have brought them again, and finally, to their own land. 


In Revelation 7:9-17 (Re 7:9-17) is described the vision of a great multitude which no man could number, of all nations and kindreds, and people, and tongues, of whom it is said that These are they which came out of great tribulation (or out of the great tribulation) and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. There is nothing in this passage to show that the tribulation referred to is yet future, or to justify the expression, commonly heard in some quarters, tribulation saints. What John is here permitted to see is, not a future tribulation, but the future blessedness of those who, while on earth, were in great tribulation. The time when the tribulation occurred is not indicated at all.

We do not identify the tribulation of Matthew 24:21 with that of Revelation 7:14. The former is a specific event in history, and one that pertained strictly to the Jewish people The latter is general and indefinite. There were people out of every nation, kindred, tongue and tribe, involved in it. The probability is (though at present we cannot express a decided opinion about it) that the company referred to (whose blessedness is precisely the same as that of all the redeemed as described in (Re 21:3,4) embraces all those who have suffered for the truth's sake, during all the centuries of persecution under imperial Rome and papal Rome. That tribulation, being of quite a different sort from the concrete tribulation which befell Jerusalem in A.D. 70, does not come into comparison with it. There was to be nothing of that sort to exceed it.

There is no good reason for doubting that the A.V. gives the true sense in saying, These are they which came out of great tribulation, which words do not specify a special class of sufferers, who passed through some special period of affliction. We utterly reject the idea of a separate company of tribulation saints, segregated from the main company of the redeemed, and appointed to some inferior sphere of blessing.

1. The stones of the Temple were of huge dimensions. Edersheim says' According to Josephus the city was so upheaved and dug up that it was difficult to believe it had ever been inhabited. At a later period Turnus Rufus had the plowshare drawn over it. In regard to the temple walls, notwithstanding the massiveness of the stones, there was nothing left in place, with the exception of some corner or portion of wall--left almost to show how great had been the ruin and desolation. 

CHAPTER XV  (15)                                                                                              Go to:  Chapter XVI (16)        HOME


In bringing now to the attention of our readers some of the things recorded by Josephus in his well known history of the last days of Jerusalem and the Jewish nation, it will be understood that we do not cite that work as evidence whereby we are to interpret the Scriptures; for we interpret the Word of God by comparing scripture with scripture. In fact we did not consult Josephus, or any other human writer, until after our conclusions as to the meaning of these prophecies (as stated in the foregoing pages) had been reached. We cite his work simply for what it is recognized on all hands to be, a trustworthy recital by an eyewitness of things which he had personal knowledge of, which things show that the word of Christ was fulfilled in the most literal way.

Farquharson quotes the following tribute to Josephus by Bishop Porteus:

"The fidelity, the veracity, and the probity of the writer are universally allowed; and Scaliger in particular declares, that not only in the affairs of the Jews, but even of foreign nations, he deserves more credit than all the Greek and Roman writers put together. "

It is a matter of common knowledge that Jerusalem is, up to the present time, trodden down of the Gentiles, even as the Lord said; and that the Jews are still scattered among all nations. This is enough in itself to assure us that the Lord's prophecy in Luke 21 (and hence every other prophecy concerning the same event) has been, and is being, fulfilled. But surely it is a matter of deep interest to know how, when, and under what circumstances, those prophecies were fulfilled. The history of Josephus fully satisfies this legitimate desire; and we reiterate our belief that his account of those great events has been preserved providentially. Moreover, since Josephus was not a disciple of Christ at the time of writing his history, he cannot be suspected of having written his account of the destruction of Jerusalem with a view to supplying a fulfilment of the Lord's prophecy. His account was published in the year 75, so that it was written while the things he described were fresh in his memory. Their publication at a time when the truth of the matters related by him was known to thousands then living, is a further reason for our having confidence in the narrative.

Josephus describes the troubles which began under Pilate, the Roman governor, especially when he sent by night those images of Caesar which are called ensigns into Jerusalem (Bk. II ch. 9, sec. 2). Those ensigns or images of Caesar were particularly hateful to the Jews; and inasmuch as they were conspicuously carried in the Roman armies, we have here a reason why the latter were termed the abomination of desolation.

In the days when Cumanus was Roman Governor began the troubles, and the Jew's ruin came on (II 12:1). At that time Herod Agrippa II (the Agrippa before whom Paul appeared) was reigning as king over Galilee. He was by far the best of the Herod family; but we have no record that he was ever fully persuaded to accept Christ. At that time various calamities and disturbances began to take place. Bands of robbers infested the country, and in the city there arose an organized company of assassins called Sicarii, who slew men in the daytime, and in the city. This they did chiefly at festivals, when they mingled with the multitudes and, by means of daggers concealed under their garments, they stabbed those who were their enemies. The high priest Jonathan was one of their victims (II 13, 3).

Another class of trouble makers were certain men who, though not thieves or murderers, yet laid waste the happy state of the city no less than did those murderers. These were such men as deceived and deluded the people under pretence of Divine inspiration. It is easy to recognize in these men the false prophets whereof the Lord warned His disciples. Continuing, Josephus says' These prevailed with the multitude to act like madmen and went before them into the wilderness, pretending that God would there show them the signals of liberty (II 13:4).

There was also an Egyptian false prophet, who got together thirty thousand men that were deluded by him. These he led about from the wilderness to the mount which is called the mount of Olives. This, according to Josephus, was in the days when Felix was governor. Consequently it was at the time of Paul's last visit to Jerusalem, which calls to mind that the chief captain before whom Paul was taken after the disturbance in the Temple, supposed that he was that Egyptian, which before these days madest an uproar, and leddest out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers (Ac 21:38). It also brings to mind the definite warning of Christ, Wherefore, if they shall say to you, Behold, He is in the desert, go not forth (Mt 24:26).

Josephus likens the social conditions at that time to those of a body which is thoroughly diseased, in that when trouble subsided in one place it broke out immediately in another. For, says he, a company of deceivers and robbers got together, and persuaded the Jews to revolt, and exhorted them to assert their liberty (id. 6).

About this time Felix was succeeded by Festus (as is also recorded in (Ac 24:27), and he by Florus, who was the most wicked of all the Roman governors, and the immediate occasion of the war. This was in the twelfth year of Emperor Nero, A.D. 66. Josephus relates that when Cestius Gallus came to Jerusalem at the passover season the people came about him not fewer in number than three millions (II 14:3). This shows the immense numbers which gathered in Jerusalem at that season.

Josephus relates with much detail the atrocities and barbarities which the people suffered at the hands of the soldiers, and describes their agonies and lamentations. On one occasion the soldiers, after plundering the citizens, crucified many of them, the number of those slain (including women and children) being about 3600 on that single occasion. It appears to have been the deliberate purpose of Florus to goad the Jews into a revolt, so that thereby his own acts of plunder and other crimes might be covered up (II 14, 9).

In ch. 16 (Bk. II) Josephus gives a speech by Herod Agrippa, in which he used every persuasion and argument to restrain the Jews from the madness of revolting against the Romans. He eloquently pictured the vast power and extent of the Roman dominion as stretching from east to west, and from north to south. Indeed, said Agrippa, they have sought for another habitable earth beyond the ocean, and have carried their arms as far as the British Isles, which were never known before (II 16, 4). It seems strange to us that one of whom we read in the Bible should have spoken to the Jews in Jerusalem about the British Isles.

King Agrippa, as a final argument, attributed the world wide success of the Roman arms to the providence of God, for which reason he urged the Jews that it was vain for them to contend against them, and he concluded his speech with this strong appeal:

"Have pity therefore, if not upon your children and wives, yet upon this your Metropolis and its sacred walls! Spare the Temple and preserve the Holy House, with its holy furniture! For if the Romans get you under their power they will no longer abstain from (destroying) them, when their former abstinence shall have been so ungratefully requited. I call to witness your Sanctuary, and the holy angels of God, and this country, common to us all, that I have not kept back anything that is for your preservation. Josephus adds that, When Agrippa had spoken thus, both he and his sister (Bernice) wept, and by their tears repressed a great deal of the violence of the people. "

Soon after this, however, the priests were persuaded that they should refuse to receive any gift or sacrifice for any foreigner. And this was the true beginning of our war with the Romans; for they (the temple authorities) rejected the sacrifice of Caesar on this account (II 17, 2).

There were at that time two parties in Jerusalem. One turbulent faction advocated immediate revolt against the Romans. The other party, led by the priests and the chief of the Pharisees, realizing the madness of the proposal, sought to restrain the seditious element; but finding they would not listen to argument or persuasion, they sent to the governor Florus, and also to Agrippa, for troops to quell the revolt. From that time the fighting began; but the Jews killed one another in numbers far greater than those slain by the soldiers. The Roman garrison was about that time besieged in the fortress of Antonia (in the temple area), and was taken and either slain or dispersed (II 17, 7). A little later another Roman garrison, besieged at Mesada, which had been Herod's stronghold, surrendered under promise that their lives would be spared, but they were treacherously slain after they had laid down their arms (II 17, 10). These actions, of course, aroused the Roman authorities, who began to make preparations to subdue the revolters. In the city of Caesarea (built by Herod the Great), above 20,000 Jews were killed in one hour, and all Caesarea was emptied of its Jewish inhabitants; for Florus caught such as ran away, and sent them to the galleys. This enraged the whole Jewish nation, so that they laid waste the villages of Syria and elsewhere, burning some cities to the ground.

"But," says Josephus, the Syrians were even with the Jews in the multitude of the men they slew. The disorders in all Syria were terrible. Every city was divided into two armies, and the preservation of the one party was in the destruction of the other. So the daytime was spent in shedding of blood, and the night in fear, which was, of the two, the more terrible * * *

It was then common to see cities filled with dead bodies, still lying unburied; those of old men mingled with infants, all scattered about together. Women also lay among them without any covering. You might then see the whole province full of inexpressible calamities. "

In some places the horrors were worse because Jews fought against Jews. In Scythopolis alone above 13,000 were slain at one time (II 18:1 & 2). Josephus relates the case of one prominent man who, because of the terrible things happening all around, and in order to save his family from a worse fate, killed first his father and mother with the sword--they willingly submitting--and afterwards his wife and children, finally taking his own life (II 18:3). This incident will give us at least a faint idea of the awful conditions of those 'days of vengeance, and of wrath upon this people.

Many pages are filled with accounts of the slaughter of the Jews in various places. Reading them we are impressed with the Saviour's saying that except those days should be shortened there should no flesh be saved (Mt 24:22). The calamities were beyond description. Thus, at Alexandria, where the Jews had enjoyed the greatest privileges for centuries, they were incited to rise in revolt by the seditious element, and were destroyed unmercifully, and this, their destruction, was complete. Houses were first plundered of what was in them, and then set on fire by the Romans. No mercy was shown to the infants, and no regard had to the aged; but they went on with the slaughter of persons of every age, till all the place was overflowed with blood, and fifty thousand of them lay dead in heaps (II l8:8).


The Roman general, Cestius, now led his army from Syria into Judea, destroying widely, and laid siege to Jerusalem. He made such rapid progress that the city was on the point of being captured. The seditious element fled in large numbers, and the peaceable inhabitants were about to throw open the gates to the Romans, when a remarkable thing took place, so unaccountable from any natural standpoint that it can only be attributed to the direct intervention of God, and for the fulfilment of the word of Christ. Josephus tells how the people were about to admit Cestius as their benefactor, when he suddenly recalled his soldiers and retired from the city without any reason in the world. Had he not withdrawn when he did, the city and the sanctuary would, of course, have been spared; and Josephus says it was, I suppose, owing to he aversion God already had towards the city and the sanctuary that he (Cestius) was hindered from putting an end to the war that very day (II 19:6).

 But the translator of the history, Wm. Whiston, adds a note at this point, which we quote in full:

"There may be another very important and very providential reason assigned for this strange and foolish retreat of Cestius, which, if Josephus had been at the time of writing his history a Christian, he might probably have taken notice of also; and that is the opportunity afforded the Jewish Christians in the city, of calling to mind the prediction and caution given them by Christ that 'when they should see the abomination of desolation' (the idolatrous Roman armies, with the images of their idols in their ensigns) ready to lay Jerusalem desolate, 'stand where it ought not,' or 'in the holy place'; or 'when they should see Jerusalem encompassed with armies,' they should then 'flee to the mountains.' By complying with which, those Jewish Christians fled to the mountains of Perea, and escaped this destruction. Nor was there perhaps any one instance of a more unpolitic, but more providential conduct, than this retreat of Cestius visible during this whole siege of Jerusalem, which (siege) was providentially such a 'great tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the world to that time; no, nor ever should be'.

It was very apparent to this learned translator, and must be apparent, we should think, to all who are acquainted both with the three inspired records of our Lord's Olivet prophecy, and also with the historical facts so wonderfully preserved in this history by Josephus, that the three accounts refer to the same event, that the abomination of desolation was the armies of imperial and pagan Rome, and that the unparalleled sufferings of the Jews during those five years of terror, were the great tribulation foretold by the Lord in Matthew 24:21. 


Josephus devotes nearly two hundred large pages (they would fill upwards of four hundred ordinary size) to the account of the events of' those 'days of vengeance,' which l (as we have seen) involved not only the Jews in Palestine, but Jews all over the world. We can refer to but a very few of those tragic events; but, inasmuch as not many of our readers have access to the history of Josephus, we believe we are rendering them a service in giving the best idea we can, in small compass, of the happenings of those times.

After the retreat of Cestius, there was a slaughter of about 10,000 Jews at Damascus; and then, it being evident that war with the Romans was inevitable, the Jews began making preparations to defend Jerusalem. At that time Josephus, the writer of this history, was appointed general of the armies in Galilee. He seems to have had great ability and success as a soldier, though he was finally overpowered and captured by the Romans. Concerning one of his military operations his translator says' I cannot but think this stratagem of Josephus to be one of the finest that ever was invented and executed by any warrior whatsoever.

At this point the emperor Nero appointed Vespasian, a valiant and experienced general, to the task of subduing the Jews; and Vespasian designated his son Titus to assist him. They invaded Judea from the north, marching along the coast, and killing many--18,000 at Askelon alone. Thus Galilee was all over filled with fire and blood; nor was it exempt from any kind of misery or calamity (III 4:1). Josephus opposed the Roman invasion with such forces as he had, but one by one the cities were taken and their inhabitants slain. Finally, Josephus himself was driven to take refuge in Jotapata???, which, after long and desperate resistance, was taken by Vespasian. The incidents of this siege were terrible; and among them were events which forcibly recall the Lord's words, But woe to them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days. The Romans were so enraged by the long and fierce resistance of the Jews that they spared none, nor pitied any. Many, moreover, in desperation, killed themselves. The life of Josephus was spared in a manner which seems miraculous (III 8:4-7), and he was taken captive to Vespasian, to whom he prophesied that both he and Titus his son would be Caesar and emperor. .... From that time till the end of the war Josephus was kept a prisoner; but he was with Titus during the subsequent siege of Jerusalem, in which the atrocities and miseries reached a limit impossible to be exceeded on earth. Only the state of the lost in hell could be worse.

After Jotapata fell, Joppa was taken, and then Tiberias and Taricheae on Lake Gennesaret. Thousands were killed, and upwards of 30,000 from the last named place alone were sold into slavery. Having now completely subdued Galilee, Vespasian led his army to Jerusalem.

For a right understanding of Matthew 24:15-21 it is important to know that the Roman armies were, for more than a year, occupied with the devastation of the provinces of Galilee and Judea, before Jerusalem was besieged. It should be noted also that Christ's first warnings to flee were to them which be in Judea (Mt24:16). This makes it perfectly certain that the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place, which was the appointed signal for them which be in Judea to flee into the mountains, was not an idol set up in the inner sanctuary of the Temple. For the desolation of Judea was completed long before Jerusalem and the Temple were taken.

At the time Vespasian led his armies to Jerusalem, that doomed city was in a state of indescribable disorder and confusion insomuch that, during the entire siege, the Jews suffered far more from one another inside the walls than from the enemy outside. Josephus says there were disorders and civil war in every city, and all those that were at quiet from the Romans turned their hands one against another. There was also a bitter contest between those that were for war, and those that were desirous for peace (IV 3:2).

Josephus further tells of the utter disgrace and ruin of the high priesthood, the basest of men being exalted to that office; and also of the profanation of the sanctuary.

The most violent party in the city was the Zealots. These called to their aid a band of blood thirsty Idumeans, who set upon the people who were peaceably inclined, and slaughtered young and old until the outer temple was all of it overflowed with blood, and that day they saw 8500 dead bodies there. Among the slain was Ananias, formerly high priest, a venerable and worthy man, concerning whom Josephus said:

"I should not mistake if I said that the death of Ananias was the beginning of the destruction of the city, and that from this very day may be dated the overthrow of her wall, and the ruin of her affairs; that being the day whereon they saw their high priest, and the procurer of their preservation, slain in the midst of their city. * * * And I cannot but think it was because God had doomed this city to destruction, as a polluted city, and was resolved to purge His sanctuary with fire, that He cut off these, their great defenders, while those that a little before had worn the sacred garments and presided over the public worship, were cast out naked to be the food of dogs and wild beasts. * * *

Now after these were slain the Zealots and the Idumeans fell upon the people as upon a flock of profane animals, and cut their throats."

Josephus also tells of the terrible torments inflicted upon nobles and citizens of the better sort who refused to comply with the demands of the Zealots. Those, after being horribly tortured, were slain, and through fear, none dared bury them. In this way 12,000 of the more eminent inhabitants perished (IV 5:3). We quote further:

"Along all the roads also vast numbers of dead bodies lay in heaps; and many who at first were zealous to desert the city chose rather to perish there; for the hopes of burial made death m their own city appear less terrible to them. But those zealots came at last to that degree of barbarity as not to bestow a burial either on those slain in the city or on those that lay along the roads; as if * * * at the same time that they defiled men with their wicked actions they would pollute the Deity itself also, they left the dead bodies to putrefy under the sun. (IV. 6. 3).

About this time above 15,000 fugitive Jews were killed by the Romans, and the number of those that were forced to leap into the Jordan was prodigious. * * * The whole country through which they fled was filled with slaughter, and Jordan could not be passed over, by reason of the dead bodies that were in it (IV. 8. 5, 6). 




At this point Vespasian was called to Rome by reason of the death of the emperor Nero, and the operations against the Jews devolved upon Titus. Vespasian himself was soon thereafter made emperor.

Meanwhile another tyrant rose up, whose name was Simon, and of him Josephus says: Now this Simon, who was without the wall, was a greater terror to the people than the Romans themselves; while the Zealots who were within it were more heavy upon them than both the other. Those Zealots were led by a tyrant named John; and the excesses of murder and uncleanness in which they habitually indulged are indescribable (see Bk. IV, ch. 9, sec. 10).

In order to overthrow John, the people finally admitted Simon and his followers. From that time onward the civil warfare within the city became more incessant and deadly. The distracted city was now divided into three factions instead of two. The fighting was carried even into the inner court of the temple; whereupon Josephus laments that even those who came with sacrifices to offer them in the temple were slain, and sprinkled that altar with their own blood, till the dead bodies of strangers were mingled together with those of their own country, and those of profane persons with those of priests, and the blood of all sort of dead carcases stood in lakes in the holy courts themselves (V 1:3).

Surely there never were such conditions as these in any city before or since.

Among the dire calamities which befell the wretched people was the destruction of the granaries and storehouses of food;so that famine was soon added to the other horrors. The warring factions were agreed in nothing but to kill those that were innocent. Says Josephus:

"The noise of those that were fighting was incessant, both by day and by night; but the lamentations of those that mourned exceeded the noise of the fighting. Nor was there ever any occasion for them to leave off their lamentations, because their calamities came perpetually, one upon another. * * * But as for the seditious bands themselves, they fought against each other while trampling upon the dead bodies which lay heaped one upon another, and being filled with a mad rage from those dead bodies under their feet, they became the more fierce. They, moreover, were still inventing pernicious things against each other; and when they had resolved upon anything, they executed it without mercy, and omitted no method of torment or of barbarity" (V. 2. 5).

At the time described in the preceding paragraphs, the Roman armies had not yet reached the city, and inasmuch as the Passover season now came on, and things seemed to quiet down momentarily, the gates were opened for such as wished to observe the great feast. The translator, in a footnote, says:

"Here we see the true occasion of those vast numbers of Jews that were in Jerusalem during this siege by Titus and who perished therein. For the siege began at the feast of Passover, when such prodigious multitudes of the Jews and proselytes were come from all parts of Judea, and from other countries. * * * As to the number that perished during this siege, Josephus assures us, as we shall see hereafter, they were 1,100,000, besides 97,000 captives.

This is notable as the last Passover. That joyous feast of remembrance of God's great deliverance of His people out of Egypt ended in an orgy of blood. The tyrant John took advantage of this opportunity to introduce some of his followers, with concealed weapons, among the throngs of worshippers in the temple, who slew many, while others were rolled in heaps together, and trampled upon, and beaten without mercy.

And now, though the Roman armies were at their gates, the warring factions began again to destroy one another and the innocent inhabitants.

"For", says Josephus, they returned to their former madness, and separated one from another, and fought it out; and they did everything that the besiegers could desire them to do. For they never suffered from the Romans anything worse than they made each other suffer; nor was there any misery endured by the city which, after what these men did, could be esteemed new. It was most of all unhappy before it was overthrown; and those that took it did it a kindness. For I venture to say that the sedition destroyed the city, and the Romans destroyed the sedition. This was a much harder thing to do than to destroy the walls. So that we may justly ascribe our misfortunes to our own people (V. 6. 2).

This is the most astonishing feature of this great tribulation; for surely there never was a besieged city whose inhabitants suffered more from one another than from the common enemy. In this feature of the case we see most clearly that it is one of judgment; and that, as the apostle Paul said, the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.

At this point the siege began in earnest. Titus, however, sent Josephus to speak to the Jews, offering them clemency, and exhorting them to yield. Josephus made a most earnest plea to them not to resist the might of Rome, pointing out that God was no longer with them. But it was to no purpose. So the siege proceeded outside, and the famine began to rage inside, insomuch that children pulled out of their parents' mouths the morsels they were eating, and even mothers deprived their infants of the last bits of food that might have sustained their lives.

The fighters, of course, kept for their own use what food there was, and it seems that they took a keen delight in seeing others suffer. It was a species of madness. They invented terrible methods of torments, such as it would not be seemly for us to describe. And this was done, says Josephus, to keep their madness in exercise (V 10:3). The most horrible and unbelievable torments were inflicted upon all who were suspected of having any food concealed. The following passage will give an idea of the conditions:

"It is impossible to give every instance of the iniquity of these men. I shall therefore speak my mind here at once briefly:--that neither did any other city suffer such miseries, nor did any age ever breed a generation more fruitful in wickedness than this was, from the beginning of the world. (This forcibly brings to mind the Lord's own words.) Finally they brought the Hebrew nation into contempt, that they might themselves appear comparatively less impious with regard to strangers. They confessed, what was true, that they were the scum, and the spurious and abortive offspring of our nation, while they overthrew the city themselves, and forced the Romans, whether they would or no, to gain a melancholy reputation by acting gloriously against them; and did almost draw that fire upon the temple which they seemed to think came too slowly" (V. 10. 5).

Under pressure of the famine many Jews went out at night into the valleys in search of food. These were caught, tortured and crucified in sight of those on the walls of the city. About five hundred every day were thus treated. The number became finally so great that there was not room enough for the crosses, nor crosses enough for the victims. So several were oft times nailed to one cross.

A little later the Roman armies encompassed the entire city, so that there was no longer any egress there from.

"Then, says Josephus, did the famine widen its progress and devour the people by whole houses and families. The upper rooms were full of women and children dying by famine; and the lanes of the city were full of the dead bodies of the aged. The children also and the young men wandered about the marketplaces like shadows, all swelled with the famine, and fell down dead, wheresoever their misery seized them (V. 12. 3).

Thus did the miseries of Jerusalem grow worse and worse every day. * * * And indeed the multitude of carcases that lay in heaps, one upon another, was a horrible sight, and produced a pestilential stench which was a hindrance to those that would make sallies out of the city and fight the enemy (VI. 1. 1).

The number of those that perished by famine in the city was prodigious, and their miseries were unspeakable. For if so much as the shadow of any kind of food did anywhere appear, a war was commenced presently, and the dearest friends fell a fighting one another about it.

In this connection Josephus relates in detail the case of a woman, eminent for her family and her wealth, who, while suffering the ravages of famine, slew her infant son and roasted him, and having eaten half of him, concealed the other half. When presently the seditious Jews came in to search the premises, and smelt the horrid scent of this food, they threatened her life if she did not show them what food she had prepared. She replied that she had saved for them a choice part, and withal uncovered what was left of the little body, saying, Come, eat of this food; for I have eaten of it myself. Do not you pretend to be more tender than a woman, or more compassionate than a mother. Even those desperate and hardened men were horrified at the sight, and stood aghast at the deed of this mother. They left trembling; and the whole city was full of what the woman had done. It must be remembered that all this time the lives of all in the city would have been spared and the city and temple saved, had they but yielded to the Romans. But how then should the Scripture be fulfilled? (see Deut 28:56,57) Soon after this the temple was set on fire and was burned down, though Titus tried to save it. Josephus says:

But as for that house, God had for certain long ago doomed it to the fire; and now that fatal day was come, according to the revolution of ages. It was the tenth day of the month Ab, the day upon which it was formerly burnt by the king of Babylon (VI. 4. 5).

Further Josephus says:

"While the holy house was on fire everything was plundered that came to hand, and ten thousand of those were slain. Nor was there commiseration of any age, or any reverence of gravity; but children, old men, profane persons, and priests were all slain in the same manner. * * * Moreover many, when they saw the fire, exerted their utmost strength, and did break out into groans and outcries. Perea also did return the echo, as well as the mountains round about Jerusalem, and augmented the force of the noise."

Yet was the misery itself more terrible than this disorder. For one would have thought that the hill itself, on which the temple stood, was seething hot, as if full of fire on every part, that the blood was more in quantity than the fire, and that the slain were more in numbers than they who slew them. For the ground did no where appear visible because of the dead bodies that lay upon it (VL 5. 1).

In describing how a number were killed in a certain cloister, which the soldiers set on fire, Josephus says:

"A false prophet was the occasion of the destruction of those people, he having made a public proclamation that very day that God commanded them to get upon the temple and that they should receive miraculous signs of their deliverance. There was then a large number of false prophets suborned by the tyrants to impose on the people, who announced to them that they should wait for deliverance from God (VI. 5. 2).

In this detail also the Lord's Olivet prophecy was most literally fulfilled.

When at last the Romans gained entrance into the city, the soldiers had become so exasperated by the stubborn resistance of the Jews, that they could not be restrained from wreaking vengeance upon the survivors. So they indulged in slaughter until weary of it. The survivors were sold into slavery, but at a very low price, because they were so numerous, and the buyers were few. Thus was fulfilled the word of the Lord by Moses, And there ye shall be sold unto your enemies for bondmen and bondwomen, and no man shall buy you (De 28:68).

Many were put into bonds and sold to slavery in the Egyptian mines, thus fulfilling several prophecies that they should be sold into Egypt again, whence God had delivered them (Ho 8:13; 9:3).

In concluding this part of his history Josephus gives the number of those who perished (a million one hundred thousand) and of those sold into slavery (ninety seven thousand), and explains, as we have already stated, that they were come up from all the country to the feast of unleavened bread, and were on a sudden shut up by an army. And he adds:

"Now this vast multitude was indeed collected out of remote places, but the entire nation was now shut up by fate as in prison, and the Roman army encompassed the city when it was crowded with inhabitants. Accordingly the multitude of those that perished therein exceeded all the destructions that either men or God ever brought upon the world" (VI. 9. 4).

Thus ended, in the greatest of all calamities of the sort, the national existence of the Jewish people, and all that pertained to that old covenant which was instituted with glory (2Co 3:7,9,11), but which was to be done away.

Here may be seen an example of the thoroughness of God's judgments, when He arises to do His strange work. Judgment must begin at the house of God; and in view of what is brought to our notice in this history of Josephus, how impressive is the question, And if it begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? (1Pe  4:17). 

 CHAPTER XVI  (16)                                                                                    Go to :       HOME



We find that reliable commentators of earlier days have pointed out (treating it as a matter too evident to require argument) that when Christ warned His disciples of the great tribulation that was to come, He meant the distresses which would attend the then approaching destruction of Jerusalem. Alfred Edersheim, who was one of the very ablest of commentators, has thus expounded the Lord's Olivet prophecy. We attach special weight and authority to his expositions, for the reason that there is probably no man of modern times who possessed such an extensive and accurate knowledge as he of the customs, manners, habits of thought, writings, and traditions of the Jews and of their leaders, in the days of Christ. His Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah gives a marvelously full, detailed and accurate picture of Judea and its inhabitants--Jews, proselytes, priests, rabbis, scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians, Greeks and Romans--at the beginning of our era. If one were to read but half a dozen books, in addition to the Bible, Edersheim's great work should be one of the six.

Edersheim sees four divisions in the Lord's Olivet prophecy, as recorded in Matthew 24; and it will be instructive to follow his analysis of that chapter.

1. The first division comprises verses 6-8, (Mt 24:6-8) which contain warnings to the disciples that they are not to regard the sorrows He was foretelling (the wars, famines, pestilences and earthquakes) as the judgments which would usher in the Advent of their Lord; in other words, they were not to regard wars, famines, &c. as the signs of His second coming. Those warnings have been needed throughout the age. For the sorrows foretold by Christ, especially when they happened in connection with the appearance of some supposed antichrist--from Nero down to Napoleon and more recently to the German Kaiser--have frequently, says Mr. E., misled Christians into an erroneous expectancy of the immediate advent of Christ. It is really surprising that the Lord's people should so persistently take to be signs of His coming the very things He warned them were not to be regarded as such.

2. The second division of the prophecy embraces verses 9-14. (Mt 24:9-14) It contains warnings broader in scope than those of the first section. Two general dangers are here specified; (a) internal, from heresies ('false prophets') and decay of faith; (b) external, from persecutions. But along with those two dangers, two consoling facts are also pointed out. The first is that, notwithstanding the fierce persecutions they were to undergo from those high in authority, Divine aid would be given them, and by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit they would be enabled to testify before kings, rulers and tribunals (Mr 13:9). The second consoling fact, as pointed out by Edersheim, is that despite the persecutions by Jews and Gentiles, before the end cometh 'this gospel of the kingdom' shall be preached in all the inhabited earth for a testimony to all nations. This then is really the only sign of 'the end' of this present age.

3. The third division of the prophecy is contained in verses 15-28. (Mt 24:15-28) Concerning this division Mr. E. says'

"The Lord proceeds, in the third part of this discourse, to advertise the disciples of the great historic fact immediately before them, and of the dangers which would spring from it. In truth we have here His answer to their question 'when shall these things be?' And with this He conjoins the (then) present application of His warning regarding false Christs (given in verses 4, 5). The fact of which He now advertises them is the destruction of Jerusalem. It will be observed that the question, When shall these things be? is directly answered by the words, When ye shall see--(Mt 24:15 Lu. 21:20).

Mr. E. further says:

This, together with tribulation to Israel, unparalleled in the terrible past of its history, and unequalled even in its bloody future was about to befall them. Nay, so dreadful would be the persecution that, if Divine mercy had not interposed for the sake of the followers of Christ, the whole Jewish race that inhabited the land would have been swept away. There should have been no flesh saved.

We endorse, and heartily commend, this simple and satisfactory explanation of the Lord's words, And except those days should be shortened there should no flesh be saved (Mt 24:22). We have already shown, from the records of Josephus, how those awful days were shortened.

4. The fourth division of the prophecy is contained in verses 29-31. (Mt 24:29-31) As to this portion Mr. E. says'

"The times of the Gentiles, 'the end of the age,' and with it the new allegiance of His then penitent people Israel, 'the sign of the Son of man in heaven' perceived by them, * * * the coming of Christ, the last trumpet, the resurrection of the dead,--such, in most rapid sketch, is the outline which the Lord draws of His coming and the end of the world (age). "

This finishes the prophetic part of the chapter; and now at verses 32, 33 (Mt 24:32,33) the Lord speaks a parable to impress upon the minds of His disciples the importance and the application of the sign He had given them, whereby they might know that the destruction of the holy city was near. We quote further from Edersheim:

"From the fig tree, under which on that spring afternoon they may have rested, they were to learn a parable. We can picture Christ taking one of its twigs, just as its softening tips were bursting into young leaf. Surely this meant that summer was nigh--not that it had actually come. The distinction is important; for it seems to prove that 'all these things' which were to indicate to them that 'it' was 'near, even at the doors,' and which were to be fulfilled ere 'this generation' had passed away, could not have referred to the last signs connected with the advent of Christ, but must apply to the previous prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem and of the Jewish commonwealth.   This too is a very simple and satisfactory explanation of the words, This generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled. If those words be taken as His answer to the question, When shall these things be? (v. 3), they are easy of interpretation; but if their application be postponed to the far off future they present much difficulty. For example, thus to postpone their application would make the Lord contradict His positive and most emphatic statement that no signs would precede and give warning of His second advent. "

Edersheim further points out in this connection that the bursting of the fig tree into leaf is not the sign of harvest, which is the end of the age, but of summer, which precedes the harvest. This is significant.


In describing the wars and other commotions which were to characterize this age from the very start, the Lord used an expression which calls for special notice. All these, He said, are the beginning of birthpangs (Mt 24:8). This word pictures to us the present age as one of pains and sorrows such as accompany childbirth. But there is a decidedly hopeful character to such pains; for they eventuate in that which causes joy. This present age is the period of the birthpangs of the new era, which will be that of the manifestation of the sons of God.

The word birthpangs connects this part of our Lord's prophecy with that of Paul in (Ro 8:22, where the same word occurs in its verb form' For we know, says the apostle, that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. But the verses which precede tell what the joyful outcome will be, namely, the manifestation of the sons of God, also called the adoption, at which time the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

The word travail-in-birth is found again in a similar connection in (1Th 5:3,) where (speaking of the coming of the day of the Lord) Paul says: For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child.

From these and other passages of Scripture we may gather that woes and pains of the sort specified by the Lord in Matthew 24:6-8 will visit the earth with intensified force at the very time of the end (although the frequency of such occurrences throughout the age would prevent them from serving as signs). The wars and other woes whereof the Lord spake were the beginning of birthpangs; and it is pertinent to recall that birthpangs, after the first intense ones, are intermittent until, at the very end, occur the most severe of all. Thus, no doubt, it will be at the end of this present age, as is clearly predicted in the Book of Revelation.

We would also point out in this connection that the word birthpangs connects the prophecy likewise with Jeremiah 30:5-7, (Jer 30:5-7) which we have already discussed. In that passage the prophet foretells the return of the Jews from Babylon (Jer 30:3) and then he speaks of the time of Jacob's trouble, concerning which he says: Ask ye now and see whether a man doth travail with child? Wherefore do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in travail, etc.

If then we regard this entire age as a period of birth pangs (as we have warrant to do from the scriptures cited above) we may consider the time of Jacob's trouble as lasting from the destruction of Jerusalem until now. In that view, the words but he shall be saved out of it seem to be now upon the eve of fulfilment. 


We would now call attention to a strong and pointed contrast in our Lord's Olivet discourse, the which, if we give due heed thereto, will afford us much aid in the interpretation of this prophecy, and in the interpretation of all prophecies which relate to the end of this present age.

If we examine carefully the entire discourse (as given for example by Mark) we will see that our Lord divides the future into two distinct periods. The first of these extended from the time then present to the destruction of Jerusalem, the second from that event to His own second advent. Beginning at verse 14 with the words, But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, down to the end of verse 23, (Mr 13:14-23) Christ is speaking to His disciples concerning the invasion of Judea and the siege of Jerusalem by the Roman armies. As to all those things (whereof the utter demolition of the magnificent temple was the most prominent) His purpose manifestly was to give them explicit information; for those things were to happen in that generation.

Therefore, as regards that period He says: But take ye heed; behold, I have foretold you all things (Mr 13:23).

At that point He begins to speak of the second period, saying: But in those days after that tribulation (Mr 13:24). Concerning this second period, however, instead of imparting definite information, and giving a sign whereby His people might be warned of the approaching end thereof, He speaks only in the most general terms, and He makes plain only one thing, namely, that no immediately preceding signs would be given whereby His people would know that His advent was near. This feature of His coming again--its unexpectedness--is stated in so many different ways, and is so emphatically applied and illustrated (see Mr 13:32-37) that we are absolutely controlled by it in the interpretation, not only of the Mount Olivet discourse, but of every other prophecy relating to the second coming of Christ. Here is a great contrast: one event whereof the Lord was speaking was then close at hand; it was to happen within that generation, and it would be immediately preceded by a sign, which His disciples could not fail to recognize. But the other event (His own coming) would be at a time unknown even to Himself, and moreover there should be no sign to appraise His people of its approach, for which reason He impressed it upon them that they were to watch at every season (Lu 21:36 Gr.). Concerning the first event He said, Behold, I have foretold you all things; but of the second He said, But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father (Mr 13:32).

We are aware that it is often attempted to escape the force of this verse by saying that it is only the precise day and hour of the Lord's coming that is left in uncertainty, and that His words do not forbid us to compute (as many attempt to do) the year of His return. But we think that is not treating the Lord's words fairly, or giving them their proper force; for He plainly meant to declare emphatically that the time of His coming was a matter of uncertainty. Moreover, the very next verse says, Watch and pray; for ye know not when the time is, so it is not merely a question of the day and hour, but of the time in general. And finally, the teaching of verses 33-37, with the parable by which the Lord illustrated it, makes it plain that the uncertainty as to His return was to extend through the entire period of His absence.

For, just as He spoke a parable to illustrate and to settle the meaning of His teaching concerning the period before the destruction of Jerusalem (the parable of the fig tree), so likewise He spoke a parable to illustrate and to settle the meaning of His teaching concerning the period we are now in, which He designates simply as those days after that tribulation, but which, in Luke's account, is called the times of the Gentiles.

The point of the first parable is that just as the budding of the fig tree was a sure sign of the nearness of summer, so the presence of the Roman armies in Judea would be a sure sign of the nearness of the destruction of Jerusalem.

The second parable speaks with equal clearness. It is in these words' (For the Son of man is) as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. The Lord Himself has applied this parable, saying, Watch ye therefore, FOR YE KNOW NOT WHEN THE MASTER OF THE HOUSE COMETH at even, or at midnight, or at the cock crowing, or in the morning' lest coming suddenly He find you sleeping. And what I say unto you, I say unto all, Watch.

So this parable teaches exactly the reverse of the other. The night was divided, according to the custom of that time, into four watches. So the Lord speaks of His absence as being like a night, in any one of the four watches whereof He might return. Thus the question of the time of His return was purposely left from the very beginning in uncertainty, insomuch that, after the destruction of Jerusalem, the only way for His people to insure themselves against being taken unawares was to watch. He was coming suddenly, and hence there was always the possibility that His people might be found sleeping.

Thus Mark's account gives the Lord's teaching on this subject in a positive way, showing the possibility that He might come at any watch of the night. In Matthew's account (and also in Lu 17:24-30) the converse is declared, namely, that the Lord's coming would not be preceded by any sign whatever. It would be as in the days that were before the flood when the ordinary incidents of life continued until the day that Noah entered into the ark (Mt 24:37,38); and also as it was in the days of Lot, when the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah came suddenly and unexpectedly, there being no warning, but the same day that Lot went out of Sodom, it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed (Lu 17:28-30). Words could not be plainer.

From these sayings of the Lord Jesus Christ we can see that it is, and always has been, an impossibility to calculate, from any figures given in the Bible, the year, or even the approximate year, of the Lord's return. For if that was unknown even to Christ Himself when He spoke those words, then there was certainly no information in the Scriptures from which it could be computed.

Furthermore we can see how contrary to the teaching of Christ is the idea, which is accepted by so many at the present time, that He will be revealed at the end of a supposed great tribulation of determinate length (seven years, according to some, or three and a half years, according to others). Those who locate the revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ at the end of the great tribulation of current teaching, do plainly contradict His own teaching, in that they make the supposed tribulation a sure sign that His coming is at hand.

Mr. H. Grattan Guinness, in his Light for the Last Days, speaking of signs of the Lord's second coming, says:

"If such signs as are imagined by some were to precede the advent, the state of society predicted in these passages could not by any possibility exist. If monstrous, unheard of, supernatural, portentous events were to transpire, would they not be telegraphed the same day all over a startled world, and produce such a sense of alarm and expectation that buying, and selling, planting and building, marrying and giving in marriage, would all be arrested together, and 'peace and safety' would be far from anyone's lips or thoughts? * * * No, there was nothing special to alarm the antediluvians before the day that Noah entered into the ark; nothing special to startle the men of Sodom ere the fire from heaven fell; and like as it was in those days, so will it be in these. All going on just as usual, no stupendous sign to attract the world's attention. 


There remains for consideration a passage which is undeniably difficult. We refer to the Lord's saying about signs in the sun, moon and stars, which, as given by Mark, is as follows:

But in those days after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.

This passage might be taken to mean that the signs in the physical sun, moon and stars, were the immediate precursors of the revelation of the Son of man; but the teaching of Christ which we have just been considering absolutely forbids that interpretation; and to that extent it helps us in our search for the true meaning.

Looking closely at the passage we will see that it is very indefinite. All it tells us is that in those days after that tribulation the commotions in sun, moon and stars will occur; but there is nothing to indicate at what part of those days (which now have lasted over eighteen hundred years) the described commotions would take place. Then--which may mean any indefinite period in the future--Christ Himself would be seen coming in the clouds.

Inasmuch as what we have learned from the latter part of the chapter forbids us to take celestial disturbances here foretold as premonitory signs of the Lord's coming, the question arises, for what purpose then did He mention them? And this raises another question, namely, are we to take these words literally, as do the Adventists and some others? or are they to be taken as figurative, and as referring to the political heavens (i.e., the sphere of governments) as understood by some able expositors, among whom one of the most prominent is Sir Isaac Newton? We know of nothing at present whereby this question can be so definitely settled as to put the matter beyond all doubt; but we will offer some further suggestions which may perhaps contribute towards its solution.

In the first place, seeing we are debarred by the Lord's plain teaching from taking these commotions to be physical signs, visible to the eye, preceding and heralding His coming, or as having any special connection with that event, it would seem almost imperative that we give the words a figurative meaning. For it is not conceivable that, in speaking of this long age which was to be so full of important happenings, Christ would single out for mention nothing but a few isolated phenomena of nature in the physical heavens. This consideration practically compels us to find a meaning for the words which would make them descriptive of some distinguishing characteristic of the age, or at least of the latter part of it.

When we turn to Luke's account we find strong confirmation of this view. This confirmation appears in two particulars, first in the manner in which the reference to the sun, moon and stars is introduced; and second in the fact that it is directly coupled with certain general characteristics of the age, such as we should expect in a brief utterance of this kind. For Luke gives it thus (we put the salient part in italics):

For there shall be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations; and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars, and upon the earth distress of nations with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring: Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth; for the powers of heaven shall be shaken (Lu 21:23-26).

According to this account the Lord does not break off His predictions abruptly at the capture and destruction of Jerusalem, but follows the Jews in their dispersion unto all nations, and also foretells the treading down of Jerusalem by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. Thus we are carried into the period which follows after the tribulation of those days, and are informed that that period is divinely designated the times of the Gentiles. {1} And now immediately follows (in Luke's account) the passage we are examining, And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars. But here we have also the further statement, and on the earth distress of nations with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring, men's hearts failing them, etc. From these words it is clear that the Lord is giving (which, as we have pointed out, is what we should expect) some very broad and general characteristics of our age, with an eye especially upon the closing part thereof. Moreover, in speaking of the unsettled state of the nations He uses a familiar figurative expression, namely, the sea and the waves roaring. This figure represents the turbulence of the peoples of the earth (see Re 17:15, Isa 8:7), just as the sun, moon and stars represent rulership, governments, and authorities. Thus we find good reason for concluding that the Lord is here speaking figuratively of unusual happenings in the political firmament, that is to say, in the sphere of governments, or what Paul calls the higher powers (Ro 13:1).

In Isaiah 13:7-10 (Isa 13:7-10) we have an example of the use of this figure. It occurs in connection with a description of the day of the Lord. We quote verse 10: For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light; the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine. Taking these words in connection with Genesis 1:16-18, (Ge 1:16-18) and with Joseph's dream about the sun, moon and stars (which his father and brethren had no need of one to interpret for them, (Gen 37:9,10), and in connection also with (Ezek  32:7 Joe 2:31, 3:15 Re 12:1,) we get the idea that the sun stands for authority on earth in the broadest sense, and the moon for lesser authority, and the stars for prominent persons in the sphere of government.

Further reason in support of the view that the Lord used the sun, moon and stars as symbols in this passage, is found in the fact that, throughout the Scriptures, the prediction of political changes of this era are given in a veiled form, that is to say, by figures and symbols. Thus, in Daniel the successive powers are indicated first as parts of a huge metallic image, and then as great beasts, following one after another. In Revelation the last of these beasts reappears, in its ten horned (that is its latter) stage of development, which is the state it will be in when destroyed by the coming of Christ. Individual powers are represented by horns, and notable personages in the political heavens by stars. That the sun, moon and stars are used in a figurative sense in Revelation is proved by the words' And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun; and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars (Re 12:1). From this we may safely infer that the sun stands for supreme governmental authority over the earth, the moon for lesser dominion, and the stars for notable rulers or potentates.

Turning now to (Rev 6:12) we read, and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood, and the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, &c., which words are suited to present, symbolically, the complete overthrow of governmental authority, the bloody character of that which for the time takes its place, and the downfall of all rulers and magistrates.

The reasons for speaking thus in veiled language of political changes in the world in this dispensation, are not hard to discern; for this is an era in which God's people are strangers and pilgrims on earth, having no affiliations with the powers that be, but are taught to be in subjection to them. Hence, our Lord Himself would, of course, use the same form of utterance in forecasting the political happenings of these times of the Gentiles. Therefore it may reasonably be taken that when the Lord spoke of the sun, moon and stars in terms strikingly similar to those found in Revelation, He meant to say that the darkening of the sun (i.e., the decay of supreme authority in the world), would begin immediately after the destruction of Jerusalem; and putting the two passages together, we would conclude that this figurative darkening of the sun was to become more and more pronounced until, at the climax of the dispensation, it would become total darkness, while at the same time the rulers would all fall together, as a fig tree casts her figs when shaken by a mighty wind.

Some such interpretation of the Lord's words seems almost a necessity when we consider His express declaration that physical signs were not to be given in this age in respect to the one and only event for which His people were to wait and watch.

A gradual weakening of authority on earth in the hands of those with whom it has been lodged, such as we have indicated above, has been a characteristic of this age; and it is such a pronounced feature of our own days, that the decay of authority and the spirit of lawlessness are themes upon which men in public life often dilate at the present time, and in words which betray the most serious apprehensions as to the outcome. In the moon's not giving her light, we may see the weakening of authority in a narrower sphere, such as national governments, which are all changing from monarchies to democracies. And in the stars' falling from heaven, we may see the downfall of notable personages, as the German Kaiser, the imperial family of Austria (the Hapsburgs), the Romanoffs--for centuries rulers of Russia--the kings of Greece and Bulgaria, and lesser personages in the political sphere (see Re 9:1).

These happenings are not sufficiently definite to serve as signs of the Lord's coming, nor do they stand in any given time relation to that event. But they do serve admirably to the furtherance of the one practical object which the Lord had in view in speaking this part of His discourse, and which He has made quite plain, namely, that His people should be kept constantly in a state of expectancy of His coming again. So, without giving them any sign of His coming, or making any definite statement about it, He could say, And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh (Lu 21:28).

One further point is to be noted: In connection with the reference to the sun, moon and stars, Luke says, for the powers of the heavens shall be shaken; and the same words occur, in the same connection, in both Matthew and Mark. These words are explanatory of what the Lord said about the sun, moon and stars, and show that He did not mean physical commotions. There is no power (of this sort) but from God (Ro 13:1). Peter uses the same word when, speaking of Christ's having ascended on high, he said, angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto Him (1Pe 3:22). We have seen in the course of these studies that there is a mysterious connection between the several powers that rule in the world and certain mighty angelic beings. But these powers have been all made subject to Christ, Whose prerogative it is to shake them at His pleasure. And surely there has been a great shaking of these powers in our day, {2} reminding us of what is written in another place' But now He hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven (Heb 12:26). This is in close agreement with the words found in Matthew's account, And the powers of the heavens shall be shaken (Mt 24:29).

It should not be overlooked that, in Matthew's account, we have the word immediately; for he says Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, etc. (Mt 24:29); and no doubt this word is what has led many expositors to suppose that the great tribulation was to be at the very end of this present age, followed immediately by signs in the physical heavens, and by the visible coming of Christ. But whatever be the force of the word which our translators have rendered immediately, it cannot be permitted to displace the tribulation foretold by Christ as coming (and which did come) in that generation, and to remove it away off to the end of this age. Nor can it be permitted to make the tribulation and the commotions in the heavens a sign of His second coming, in contradiction of His plain teaching as to that event. Rather, must we assume, in harmony with all that Christ has said on that subject, that the fulfilment of this particular part of the prophecy began from the destruction of Jerusalem, and is to be seen in all of God's dealings in judgment with the higher powers (Ro 13:1), from that time onward.

The word immediately used by Matthew (not found in the corresponding part of Mark or Luke) signifies merely that the destruction of Jerusalem would be followed immediately by a period (of unmeasured length) which would be characterized by commotions of the sort described. Such disturbances have been, as we have seen, one of the outstanding characteristics of the age, and are a special mark of our own times.

Finally, in bringing these studies to a close, we would say again that we do not in the least question that there will be much tribulation for mankind, and many distresses and woes, in the end time of this present age, to be followed by the outpouring of the vials in which is filled up the wrath of God (Re 15:1). All we assert is that, regardless of the nature and severity of the afflictions which are yet to come, that particular tribulation whereof the Lord spoke as the great tribulation, and as the days of vengeance (Mt 24:21 Lu 21:22) was the execution of Divine judgment upon Daniel's people and his holy city, for which God used the Roman armies under Titus in A.D. 70.

1. The times of the Gentiles are commonly taken as beginning when Nebuchadnezzar carried the Jews into captivity. But there is nothing in the Scripture to support this idea, so far as we are aware. If the times of the Gentiles were the captivity in Babylon, then they would have ended when that captivity ended. But God did not then turn away from the Jews to the Gentiles. For He sent them His prophets, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi. John the Baptist's ministry was to Israel; the Lord Himself was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and His apostles were charged to preach the gospel to the Jew first, which they were faithful to do. But from the destruction of Jerusalem down to the present time, the work of God's Word and Spirit has been among the Gentiles. In view of all this we are inclined to the opinion that, although there was a brief period when the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles overlapped the preaching of Peter and other apostles to the Jews, yet the times of the Gentiles may be said to have fully begun from the destruction of Jerusalem. It is, of course, a matter of comparatively slight importance when the times of the Gentiles began, since it is agreed on all hands that they are in continuance at the present time, and that they will extend to the second coming of Christ.

2. And now (in April, 1944) a far greater shaking is in progress than that referred to above. 


In the course of my revision of this book for the printing of a new edition (just twenty years after the first edition) I have found less need than might have been expected for corrections and additions. For the then existing conditions of the world, political and industrial, afforded warrant for the belief that the great and final shaking of The heavens, the earth, the sea, the dry land, and all nations, foretold by the Prophet Haggai (Hag 2:6,7) and quoted in substance in Hebrews (Heb 12:26,27) was even then in progress. But now, as these lines are being written, the whole world is in the throes of a convulsion so violent and so widespread that it seems well nigh impossible there should ever be a greater.

However that may be (as to which I make no prediction) there is certainly one conspicuous feature of this present outpouring of divine judgments, which comes within the scope of the purpose of this book, and is well worthy of additional discussion. I have in mind the distresses, cruelties and persecutions, unprecedented in violence and extent, now being visited upon that people scattered and peeled, the sorely afflicted survivors of the Jewish race, which persecutions in themselves constitute a tribulation unsurpassed in all previous history.

It is impossible, however, that the present day affliction of the Jews should be taken as the great tribulation of the futurist scheme of interpretation of prophecy. For, according to the basic assumptions of that system, the great tribulation will not (and indeed cannot) come to pass until the surviving Jews shall have been reconstituted as a nation, shall have regained possession of Palestine, and shall have rebuilt the temple at Jerusalem, re-established the Mosaic sacrifices and ordinances, made a covenant with antichrist for the absurdly brief period of one week, and until that covenant shall have been broken in the midst of the week. For the futurist system requires that all these great events shall take place in the week (seven years) which immediately precedes the second coming of Christ.

On the other hand, however, and directly to the contrary, the unparalleled distress of nations, now in progress, and especially the bloody persecutions of the widely dispersed survivors of the Jewish race, which have now reached a degree of intensity (in the fiendish cruelties devised by Adolph Hitler) unequalled hitherto in the annals of mankind, do accord perfectly with that interpretation of prophecy, to which nearly all evangelical commentators have adhered from the days of the Protestant Reformation until a recent date; and which is advocated in this book. From  current news sources (October, 1943) we learn that the estimated Jewish population of Europe ten years ago was 8,300,000; and that has been reduced by 5,000,000. So that in the whole of continental Europe occupied by the Axis, only 3,000,000 Jews remain alive. Surely we have here a harrowing item of a tribulation which is immeasurably great. Is it supposable that a tribulation of even greater severity is yet in store for that sorely afflicted race, and the mouth of the compassionate Saviour has declared it?  Impossible.

In view of these things I welcomed the opportunity now presented for calling attention to certain features of the great subject we are studying (the great tribulation of the Olivet prophecy) which lend additional support to the view of that subject presented in this book.

It is manifest that, in order to arrive at a fairly correct estimate of the magnitude of that great tribulation (which was to be such as was not since the beginning of the world * * * * * nor ever shall be), due weight must be given to the words: And they shall be led away captive into all nations, and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. It is likewise manifest that this part of verse 24 (Lu 21:24)) deals with the very same topics (Jerusalem and the Jewish people) as the preceding clause of the verse. Moreover, it is now evident that the period of trials and sufferings, which the survivors of the destruction of Jerusalem were to endure during their age long dispersion throughout the nations of the world, constitutes by far the major part of the predicted tribulation, which was to be without parallel in the history of the world. This is more clearly seen when the history of the Jews of the dispersion is viewed in the light of the prophecy of Moses in his last words to that nation whereof he was the founder and the nursing father. Those words are recorded in the concluding chapters of Deuteronomy. In that final message he faithfully warned his beloved people, and in the clearest words, of the consequences of departure from the commandments of the Lord. A long chapter (De 28) is occupied with the details of this vital subject. He had previously reminded them of the great features, which distinguished in a remarkable way the beginnings of their history from those of all other nations. Those differences are notable indeed (See De 4:7-12). But we will not comment upon them now. It is sufficient for our present purpose to refer to verse 34, where it is forcefully implied (in the form of a rhetorical question) that never, in any case save that of Israel, had God assayed to go and take Him a nation out of the midst of another nation. What is, however, comparable to this, and is foreshadowed by it, is that God is now visiting all nations of the world to take out of them a people for His Name (Ac 15:14).

Thus, taking chapter 4 of Deuteronomy with the Olivet prophecy of our Lord, we have His word for it that, like as God visited Egypt (the greatest of all nations of that era) to take out of it a people for His Name (His old covenant people) so likewise, in this era of the fulfillment of all the types and shadows of the law, He would visit ALL nations, to take out of them a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people (1Pe 2:9). Thus we are given to know that, like as Israel was unique as a nation in its beginning, in that it was taken as an entirety--men, women and children, with all their possessions and much spoil--out of the midst of another nation, in which they had been captives, even so its end was to be unique, in that its survivors were to be led away captive into all nations. Furthermore, their holy city was to be given into the hands of their enemies for the duration of the entire times of the Gentiles.

One of the most remarkable facts connected with the ending of the history of Israel as an earthly nation, and the age long condition of its city and its surviving people, as we behold them today--preserving their racial identity despite the most cruel and contemptuous treatment to which a people were ever subjected--was clearly foretold by the great founder of their nation, in what were almost his last words to the people he so dearly loved. We quote:

And the LORD shall scatter thee among all people from the one end of the earth even unto the other; and there thou shalt serve other gods, which neither thou nor thy fathers have known, even wood and stone. And among those nations shalt thou find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest: but the LORD shall give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind. And thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt fear day and night, and shalt have none assurance of thy life: In the morning thou shalt say, Would God it were even! and at even thou shalt say, Would God it were morning, for the fear of thine heart wherewith thou shalt fear, and for the sight of thine eyes which thou shalt see    (De ut.28:64-67).

Thus ends the history of the natural Israel as seen and foretold by its founder. It is a dark picture indeed. But there is nevertheless a brighter side, whereof we may get a satisfying glimpse in our Lord's Olivet prophecy. For He Who, when He beheld the city, wept over it, foreseeing its approaching doom (Lu 19:41-44) spoke a gracious word of promise, wherein is an assurance of mercy and salvation that was to follow that people and to be accessible to them in all their wanderings throughout this long day of salvation. For God has not cast away His people which He foreknew. And this is to be seen in the fact that, while decreeing that they should be led away captive into all nations, He also decreed that This gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations, before the end shall come.

Therefore, in whatever nation they may be throughout the times of the Gentiles, they are within reach of the life saving sound of the gospel of God, which is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first (Ro 1:16). Moreover, through the gracious providence of God there are now in all the principle countries of the world special agencies for the evangelization of the people of Jewish descent.

What shall we then say to these things? Let us be zealous to take up the unfinished business of the great apostle to the Gentiles, preaching the Kingdom of God (Ac ts 28:31) with special efforts at reaching the lost sheep of the house of Israel, to the end that they, the natural branches, may be grafted into their own olive tree. For God is able to graft them in again; and He will do so, if they abide not still in unbelief.  For SO-- and not in any other way--ALL ISRAEL SHALL BE SAVED.

{There are NO copyrights on Life.Org materials - copy and distribute freely in His Name.  2 Chron 7:14

To receive Life.Org e-mail from time to time, click here
To be removed from an e-mail list, click here
E-Mail Contact for Life.Org  info@life.org
Return to www.Life.Org


The following is message #31 of 42 messages given by T. Austin Sparks during a meeting in Manila in 1964.  Printed copies are available free of charge by writing to :

Emmanuel Church, 12000 East 14th Street, Tulsa, OK 74128-5016  USA

We placed a link on the bottom of our home page to www.austin-sparks.net .  His earthly ministry continues full of spiritual blessings for the building up of Christ's body upon the earth with Christ as the sole object thereof. 

The Holy Spirit Came Especially for the Purpose of Creating a Spiritual Order of Things byT. Austin-Sparks