“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars [throughout the Roman Empire]. See that you are not troubled, for these things must come to pass, but the end [of national Israel] is not yet.”
When Rome started her campaign against insurrectionist Jews, she marched down through Asia Minor with skirmishes here and there in order to eradicate from the Empire the “Jewish scourge.” There were also other wars throughout the Roman Empire that revealed the political instability of the time. These wars would not be the end of national Israel. They would only indicate the beginning of the end. But such wars would be a signal to the Christians who were living in Jerusalem to leave the city because the end was imminent.
We might suppose that the Roman army started minor skirmishes with the zealot Jews in order to hasten the radical Jews’ flight to Jerusalem. As a military strategy against the insurrectionist Jews, Rome wanted as many radical Jews as possible gathered in Palestine before the Roman army made their final assault against those Jews who wanted to restore a state of Israel as it was before the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities. What these loyalist Jews did not realize was that the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities centuries before meant the end of an independent state of Israel in Palestine as a God-ordained possession.
Since the return of the captives from the captivities, Palestine was continually occupied by foreign powers, even to the day of Jesus. So what the radical insurrectionist Jews of the 60s were trying to do was undo what God accomplished through the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities.
There are those today who are doing the same. They are encouraging the same restoration of a God-ordained independent state of Israel. They needed to read their Old Testament history in order to understand that Israel’s independence in their own homeland came to an end when God drove them from the land. If they cannot discover this fact in Old Testament history, then it is easily discovered in the gospel that all who are in Christ are one body (See Gl 3:26-29). Christians are now the holy nation of God (1 Pt 2:5,9).
The deception of the effort to restore a state of Israel, however, is that the proponents cannot separate the right of the Jews as a culture of people to have their own homeland from the fact that such a homeland would not be a God-ordained plan in reference to the gospel of the Messiahship and sacrifice of the Son of God that took place two thousand years ago. The only reference that the modern-day state of Israel has in reference to God is that which was explained in Romans 13:1,2. Government of any nation is God-ordained as such, but God no longer ordains any specific government for a nation.
The deception that would come in the latter years of nation Israel in A.D. 70 would be that the false prophets of the nationalistic Jews were deceiving people. But in reference to some believers who were false prophets, they were deceiving the people into believing that God wanted to forsake His covenant with the existing holy nation of Christians in order to restore the state of national Israel. If this indeed were the plan of God, then none of the false prophets would not have been deceivers. They would have been speaking the truth if God did intend to establish again the state of Israel. But because God was finished with Israel proclaims the fact that any prophet is false if he or she would declare that God wants to again establish the state of Israel in Palestine.
The same is true today. Those who proclaim that God is establishing the Jews in Palestine as a God-ordained nation are deceived, and thus are false prophets who are deceiving others. The wars that surround Israel today have nothing to do with any efforts on the part of God to restore the nation of Israel within their own land.
When Jesus exhorted “that you are not trouble,” He indicated that this message was to those of the first century. Christians should not be troubled by any war, but in this historical context Jesus was specifically encouraging the Jewish Christians throughout the Roman Empire during the middle 60s not allow Rome’s wars throughout the Empire to disturb them. The only way that Jewish Christians could do this was that they had to understand that the end of national Israel was in the eternal plan of God. God wanted to usher in His gospel covenant relationship with all men through His only begotten Son. The day of Pentecost in A.D. 30 was the beginning. It was on that day that one had to obey the gospel in order to come into Christ. And when in Christ “there is neither Jew nor Greek” (Gl 3:28).
The Jewish Christians of the time needed to realize that their Jewish nationality was dissolved when they obeyed the gospel in order to come into Christ. They could remain Jews culturally, but their unique covenant relationship with God was terminated in Christ.
The promise of the new covenant has been fulfilled (See Jr 31:31-33). We need to remember that before creation God had planned that all those who obeyed the gospel would come into a covenant relationship with Him in Christ (Gl 3:26,27). This was in His plan when He established a national covenant relationship with Israel at Mount Sinai. But even at that time, He had in His eternal plan a new covenant that would be revealed by His Son.
The early Christians were not be troubled, therefore, when and how God would bring to a close the book on national Israel, though the book on the old Sinai covenant had been closed at the cross (Cl 2:14). Israel’s independent possession of the land of Palestine had been terminated with the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities. Israel will never again enjoy a national covenant relationship with God, and thus have a God-ordained right to possess the land of Palestine.
In the context of Matthew 24, Jesus was giving pronouncements of prophecy that would be spoken among the disciples throughout the Roman Empire. Jewish Christians were to take heed to these prophetic utterances. If they did not, then they might continue to cling to the traditional Jewish Passover and Pentecost journey to Jerusalem. Some may succumb to the nationalistic Judaism of the day and eventually be trapped in Jerusalem when the Roman armies came for the final onslaught against the insurrectionists. We must keep in mind that many Jewish Christians still had family members living in Palestine.
One reason Jesus gave these warnings, therefore, was primarily for the sake of the early Jewish Christians. They must take heed to these warnings and stay away from Jerusalem when the hour approached. In view of what the historian Josephus wrote concerning the death toll in the final months of war against the city, Jesus’ warnings in this text were given to save lives. Some Jewish sons who had been deceived into believing the radical judaizers could be spared if they gave heed to these warnings and stayed away from Palestine.
[Next in series: July 17]