Matthew 24:21-23

Verse 21
Great Tribulation

“For then there will be great tribulation [because of the conflict], such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world to this time, nor ever will.”

Daniel prophesied that no nation from the beginning of time would have suffered as Israel was about to suffer at the hand of the Roman army. He wrote, “And there will be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation (Dn 12:1; see Dn 9:26). The siege occurred during Passover/Pentecost feast, the time when the most “faithful,” or at least fanatical Jews were in Jerusalem. These Jews were trapped in the city. Thousands perished. The rest were sold into slavery. It was a time that the Jewish nation suffered more in just a few months than any nation before them in such a short time. The genocide of the time was overwhelming.

The Romans wasted no time in the conquest of Jerusalem. It is believed that the actual battle against Jerusalem lasted only three to five months. During this time hundreds of thousands of nationalistic Jews were slaughtered. No city from the beginning of time suffered such a fate as Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

Verse 22
For The Sake Of The Christians

“And except those days [of the conflict] were shortened, no life would be saved. But for the elect’s sake, those days will be shortened.”

God would shorten those days of the war for the sake of Christians. If the rate of killing the Jews continued that went on during the battle, the slaughter of all Jews throughout the Roman Empire would have resulted in their annihilation as a race of people. The killing would have spilled over into the community of Christian Jews. But for the sake of the Christian Jews, God would not allow the killing to continue past the genocide of Jerusalem and Masada. Therefore, the destruction was contained within Palestine.

Titus expedited the battle against Jerusalem in order to hurry back to Rome. However, the battle continued for about five months. Josephus records that the Roman army crucified about 30,000 Jews outside the city walls. Titus did such in order to discourage the Jews within the city, and thus, expedite their surrender. But the Jews persisted until he had to destroy the city, even the temple. In the genocide, hundreds of thousands of Jews died.

Verse 23
False Proclamations

“Then if anyone says to you, ‘Lo, here is Christ,’ or ‘There,’ do not believe it.”

Jesus again emphasized the concept that the Jewish believers not be led astray by the deceptions of false messiahs. In times of national trauma, He knew that the people would seek for a national savior. There would be those nationalistic deliverers who would stand up and seek to lead the Jews of the Roman Empire in an effort to reestablish the nation of Israel. Jesus tells the disciples not to follow such futile calls for the national restitution of the state of Israel. He would say the same today who call for the restoration of a Jewish state within the confines of Palestine.

When the disciples later asked in Acts 1:6, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel,” Jesus knew that they still retained nationalistic hopes. In the context of Matthew 24, therefore, He gave them divine instructions upon which they could reflect when the countdown started toward A.D. 70. They could reflect on what Jesus said in the prophecy of Matthew 24 and know that His intention was not to establish a physical kingdom reign here on earth. This was never His intention. He clearly stated to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world” (Jn 18:36). If His kingdom were of this world, then His disciples would have the right to take up arms against all those who persecute them (See Jn 18:36).

It will not be Jesus’ intention to establish an earthly kingdom when He comes again. If it is His intention to establish an earthly kingdom when He comes, then He would contradict what He said to Pilate. Jesus’ kingdom reign was always planned to be from heaven. Futile hopes that He will come again in order to use a military to establish an earthly kingdom is totally contrary to the gospel of His present reign as King of kings.

[Next in series: Aug. 4]

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