The Destruction of Jerusalem
I. The Destruction of Jerusalem
Prophecy is a definite force in the Scripture. Many historical events are specifically foretold in the pages of the Bible. It is one of the Bible’s most interesting studies. While people have different interpretations of various future prophetic details, the central message of biblical prophecy is not difficult to understand. We will study certain outstanding events, and our study will reveal that we need to make our “calling and election sure.” The Old Testament prophets continually foretold the gathering again of the Jews to their land. But the Romans dispersed the Jews from their land and destroyed the city of Jerusalem. Jesus foretold this happening to His disciples. He warned them of these coming events in the not-too-distant future so the church could be prepared for trouble and tribulation that would come upon the earth. In Luke 19:41–44, Jesus told of the coming destruction of the city of Jerusalem.
In verses 43 and 44 He said, “For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, 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.”
1. Jerusalem: Jewish Pivotal Point
Jerusalem was the center of activity for the Jews. It was their great city, the center of their religion because the Temple was there. Jerusalem represented the Jewish culture because their lives revolved around their religion. It was also the center of commerce and had been for many centuries. The trade routes from the north, south, and east converged on this city.
2. Jesus Wept over Jerusalem
Jesus was probably on the caravan road between Bethany and Jerusalem and had reached a point on the side of the Mount of Olives where He could overlook Jerusalem. He saw the Temple in its grandeur sitting on top of Mount Moriah. He could see the City of David covering the mountains and stretching down to the Kidron and Hinnom valleys. He stopped, wept, and cried, “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” (Matthew 23:37–38).
3. Jerusalem Destroyed by the Armies of Titus
After the death of Christ, the Jews revolted against Roman rule. In the year AD 70, General Titus and the Roman army laid siege to the city of Jerusalem. The smaller influential towns and cities of the Hebrews had already been subdued. The people of Jerusalem would now feel the strong might of the Roman Empire. The city was totally destroyed because:
a. This was God’s judgment for their sin.
b. The Romans wanted to stamp out the Jewish religion.
c. The Romans wanted to destroy the Jewish nation.
The destruction was quite a feat itself. The historian Josephus said that some stones were ninety-four feet long, thirteen feet thick, and over ten feet tall. Jesus told the disciples, “There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down” (Matthew 24:2). Destruction was total and complete.
Israel Becomes a Nation
II. Israel Becomes a Nation
The Bible states over and over again that the Jews would return to the desolate land and rebuild what was destroyed.
1. Prophecies about Israel
a. “And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD ; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land: and I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all. . . . And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children’s children for ever: and my servant David shall be their prince for ever. Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore” (Ezekiel 37:21–22, 25–26).
b. “Fear not, for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west; I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back; bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 43:5–6).
c. “He that scattered Israel will gather him” (Jeremiah 31:10).
d. “And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth” (Isaiah 11:12).
e. “I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the LORD; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive” (Jeremiah 29:14).
2. Israel Becomes a Nation
The new nation of Israel is a result of the Jewish people coming back to Palestine. Their return to their homeland is one of the modern miracles of the twentieth century. Israel became a nation on May 15, 1948, despite strong resistance from the Arab nations surrounding it. And despite persistent conflict, it has continued to exist as a nation. “And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel and . . . I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the LORD thy God” (Amos 9:14–15).
The Times of the Gentiles
III. The Times of the Gentiles
The continuing history of humanity records that nations rise and fall. Great nations that influenced all the world in culture and commerce have experienced their victories and their defeats. Archeologists today probe the ruins of many nations that used to exist. There is probably not a story that tells this history so well as the prophetic dream of Nebuchadnezzar.
1. Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream (Daniel 2:31–45)
Nebuchadnezzar was king of Babylon. He reigned during the fall and captivity of the nation of Israel. One night he had a dream that would foretell events over the centuries. Mighty kingdoms would be represented in this dream. Israel was in Babylonian captivity because of its backsliding. God revealed who would rule over the land during the coming centuries. Daniel, who as a prophet of God had gained great respect in the kingdom of Babylon, was called on to interpret the dream. In the dream there was a great metal man. The head was of gold; the breast and arms were silver; his belly and thighs were made of brass; the legs were iron; his feet were part iron and clay.
A stone struck the feet and broke them into pieces. The image was destroyed and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floor, which the wind carried away. The stone then became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. Daniel interpreted the dream.
a. The Head of Gold (Babylon)
The head of gold was Babylon, which ruled the Jews and the Middle East at the time of the dream. The kingdom lasted from 606 BC to 538 BC. The city of Babylon was at the zenith of its influence during this time. The hanging gardens of Babylon were one of the seven wonders of the world. The city’s fourteen square miles were guarded by walls 350 feet high and 87 feet thick. Over one million inhabitants of the city never thought it would fall, but it did.
b. The Breast and Arms of Silver (Medo-Persia)
In 538 BC Babylon fell to the Medes and Persians. Darius was the king of the Medes. The Persians eventually became dominant. This kingdom, initially a dual kingdom as portrayed by the two arms, was to last until 330 BC.
c. The Belly and Thighs of Brass (Greece)
Alexander the Great came out of the West with conquest on his mind. He conquered the Persian Empire in 330 BC and established an empire based on Greek language and culture. After Alexander’s death in 323 BC, the empire was divided into four parts among his four generals. The Grecian empire lasted until 160 BC, when the Romans conquered it.
d. The Legs of Iron (Roman Empire)
The legs represented the Roman Empire, which lasted for many centuries. In later years it was divided into eastern and western divisions.
e. The Feet of Iron and Clay (Revived Roman Empire)
The feet portray a revived Roman Empire, a ten-nation confederacy represented by the ten toes (Daniel 7:7–8; Revelation 17:12). This world power will arise on the territory of the original Roman Empire in the last days, and during this time the Antichrist will begin his rule of the world.
All this will lead to the Great Tribulation and the Battle of Armageddon.
f. The Stone (Jesus Christ)
The coming of Jesus Christ at the Battle of Armageddon will destroy all the kingdoms and this world system.
Signs of the Endtime
IV. Signs of the End Time
1. Olivet Discourse
Matthew 24 is of great significance when studying the end time. After Jesus predicted the fall of Jerusalem, His disciples asked Him privately while sitting on the Mount of Olives, “Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matthew 24:3). Jesus outlined several things of major consequence that would happen in the last days. People can now understand from the fulfillment of many of these signs that the coming of the Lord is drawing near. Before enumerating these happenings, Jesus gave a severe warning, saying, “Take heed that no man deceive you” (Matthew 24:4). Listed below are events of the end time as Jesus spoke them. “Many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ, and shall deceive many” (verse 5). There are hundreds of different types of religions today, from Eastern religions to watered-down denominationalism; from radio and television voices to staid, beautiful cathedrals. People can easily be deceived and led astray if they do not have a basic knowledge of the Word of God. “Take heed that no man deceive you.” Jesus said, “The truth shall make you free.” “Wars and rumours of wars” (verse 6). “For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom” (verse 7). The twentieth century has seen two major world wars unprecedented in human history and countless smaller wars. Numerous wars are being fought at any given time. This continues on into the twenty-first century. “Famines, and pestilence” (verse 7). Record dry spells have been recorded in many places, while floods have ravaged some normally dry lands. With drought has come famine to many areas of the world. Famines, diseases, and epidemics have killed millions. “Earthquakes in divers places” (verse 7). Destructive earthquakes have become more numerous and severe. Geologists and seismologists claim there will be even more severe earthquakes in the days ahead. “Marrying and giving in marriage” (verse 38). In the United States the divorce rate has risen to about 50 percent of marriages. This is not just true in the US but is true in many nations of the world. People continue to go on in their normal pursuits of life, thinking that things will always go on as before, not realizing that Jesus is coming soon.
2. Paul’s Warning about the Last Days
Paul wrote to Timothy about the perilous conditions of the last days, giving several signs: “For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent [not restraining physical appetites], fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” (II Timothy 3:2–5). Paul then gave a direct warning: “From such turn away.”
Jesus Comes For His Church
V. Jesus Comes for His Church
1. Jesus Is Coming Back
The apostle Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica of the great hope that was ahead for the bride of Christ, the church. This event is commonly called the rapture of the church. Several things are clear concerning this monumental event as described in I Thessalonians 4:13–18.
• Concerning the dead, we are not to sorrow as one without hope (verse 13).
• Because Jesus rose again, He will raise the dead in Christ also (verse 14).
• The Lord Himself will descend from Heaven. There will be a heavenly shout with the voice of the archangel included, and the trumpet of God will sound (verse 16).
• Those who died after living their lives for Jesus will be raised first (verse 16).
• The living saints will be caught up together with the dead saints in the clouds (verse 17).
• All will meet the Lord Jesus in the air, never to be parted again (verse 17).
• We are to comfort one another with this truth (verse 18).
2. The Hour Is Unknown
Jesus, in Matthew 24:40–42, warned of the danger of not being ready for His coming. There will be a separation between those who are ready and those who are unprepared.
• “Then shall two be in the field, the one taken, and the other left” (verse 40).
• “Two women shall be grinding at the mill, the one shall be taken, and the other left” (verse 41).
• “Watch therefore, for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come” (verse 42).
3. We Shall All Be Changed
In sum, there will be a resurrection of the righteous dead. Jesus Christ will return for His church. There will be a glorious catching away of the saints of God, and there will be a wonderful reunion with the saints of God who have gone on before (I Corinthians 15:51–54; I Thessalonians 4:17). The following passage describes the proper response to this great truth. “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:11–13).