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Matthew 24- The Olivet Discourse

Matthew 24

1 And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to show him the buildings of the temple.(This would be about AD27-28)

2 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."

In the year AD70, General Titus of the Roman army brought his soldiers to siege Jerusalem. When the siege finally ended, the soldiers were so mad that, though Titus tried to stop them, they tore the temple down to the foundation.

Turnus Rufus plowed up the ground on which it had stood, just as Micah 3:12 prophesied;

“Zion shall, for your sake, be ploughed as a field.”

Later, Julian the Apostate removed all remaining stones to clear the way to rebuild the temple. This was in opposition to the Christian faith. However, there was an eruption of fire out of the ground which destroyed the foundation they had just laid and scared everyone away.

3 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?"

The disciples ask three separate questions, though they may not have thought they were separate. To them, the destruction of the temple would have been the end of the world (and it certainly was the end of their world). They were still expecting Christ to set up a natural kingdom at this point, so “the sign of thy coming,” would have referred to the natural kingdom they were expecting; Christ defeating the Romans and taking the throne. Surely, if He set up a kingdom that lasted forever, as scripture predicted, the temple could not be destroyed. In short, they were confused.

4 And Jesus answered and said unto them, "Take heed that no man deceive you.

5 "For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.

Josephus (1st century historian and eyewitness to the events he recorded) tells us of many just after the Crucifixion who claimed to be Christ or the Messiah.

6 And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.

Christ was born during the Pax Romana (Great Roman Peace). This was a time of relative peace in this part of the world. Christ is predicting that the Great Peace is almost over. War is coming. But the world is not ending yet.

7 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. 

Acts 11:28 tells us that there was a famine in Judea during the time of the Apostles, but there was a greater famine during the siege of AD70. At that time, the Jews fought each other to the extent that in Scythopolis alone more than 13,000 people were killed. Josephus tells us of one man who, wanting to spare his family any more suffering, killed his parents, wife, children and himself.

The Jews fought each other and their neighbors everywhere during the AD60’s. This is why Rome sent Titus to calm things down. The fighting caused famines, which caused disease to spread (pestilence). We also know Mount Vesuvius blew in AD79, proceeded by a great many earthquakes, as volcanic explosions always are. These earthquakes would have happened all over the Mediterranean area.

8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.

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.

10 And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.

Saul/ Paul led the persecution of the Christians in the early apostolic period. The Jews continued and increased this after his conversion. Later, Rome took up the persecution, especially under Nero in the AD60's.

11 And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.

There were many during this time who pretended Divine inspiration and fooled a great many people. They would even lead multitudes of them into the wilderness to show their followers signs of liberty from God. They upset the city as much as the rampant murderers did.

12 And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.

13 But he that shall endure unto the end,
(of life) the same shall be saved.

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.

Paul said that this had been fulfilled in his time. Romans 16:26

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:)

Noah Webster 1828 Dictionary:

1. Extreme hatred; detestation.
2. The object of detestation, a common signification in scripture.

"The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord." Proverbs 15.

1. The act of desolating destruction or expulsion of inhabitants; destruction; ruin; waste.

"Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation." Matthew 12.

The "abomination of desolation" was the "hated destruction and emptying" of Jerusalem.

The disciples had grown up on stories of the Maccabees and the Abomination of Desolation set up by Antiochus IV in the 200’s BC. I believe this verse, and Matthew’s comment “Whoso readeth, let him understand” is Matthew telling his readers, “It is going to happen again.”

The Jews everywhere at this time revolted against the Romans. The Romans slaughtered the Jews in towns from Egypt to Syria.

The Gospel of Mark uses the phrase “When you see the gentile armies surround Jerusalem” instead of “Abomination of Desolation.” Both Peter (who later dictated Mark the story of Christ) and Matthew were sitting at the feet of Christ when He was answering these questions. Evidently, “Abomination of Desolation” and “Gentile armies surrounding Jerusalem” are the same thing.

16 Then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains:

17 Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house:

18 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:

The Roman general, Cestius, led his army from Syria into Judea in about AD65, destroying everything, and laying siege to Jerusalem. He made such rapid progress that the city was on the verge of being captured. The trouble-makers left the city in great numbers, and the peaceable inhabitants were about to surrender.

Suddenly, for no apparent reason, Cestius withdrew his army from the city. This can only be Divine intervention in fulfillment of what Jesus said here.

This was “the abomination of desolation” spoken of by Christ. In other words, “When you see the army coming like they did during the time of the Maccabees when Daniel's Abomination was fulfilled, GET OUT.”

Several eyewitnesses from the time tell us that the Christians in Jerusalem did obey Jesus and leave the city to take refuge in Pella, a city the Romans never managed to conquer. There was not one Christian left in Jerusalem by the time the Romans returned.

This began five years of terror foretold by Jesus and Daniel in 12:1.

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.

At this point the Jews began to prepare to defend Jerusalem against Rome in the inevitable war. This is when Josephus, the famous historian, was appointed general of the armies in Galilee. He was evidently a very good soldier even though the Romans did defeat him eventually.

Vespasian was given the task by Nero to subdue the Jews at this time. Vespasian, an experienced general, assigned his son Titus to help him. They marched through Judea killing as they went --18,000 at Askelon alone. Galilee was filled with fire and blood.

Josephus opposed the Roman invasion the best he could, but he was overwhelmed and over-matched. The Romans killed everyone, not even sparing the nursing mom and her baby. Many Jews killed themselves to avoid the Roman’s wrath.

When Josephus was taken as a captive to Vespasian, he prophesied that both Vespasian and Titus would become Caesars. He was not killed, (miraculously,) but kept a prisoner of war. He was with Titus during the siege of Jerusalem.

The Romans continued their campaign of killing throughout Palestine. They also took more than 30,000 people to sell into slavery.

It took the Romans more than a year to destroy Galilee and Judea before they got to Jerusalem. Christ’s first warnings to flee were to those in Judea. We know that the “Abomination of Desolation” (the signal to flee) was the Roman (heathen) army because Judea was destroyed long before the army got to the Temple of Jerusalem.

By the time Vespasian got to Jerusalem, the city was already in chaos. The inhabitants suffered more from each other than the Romans!

Josephus tells us that the lowest of men had been appointed to the office of high priest and the sanctuary was violated by them.

The Zealots (the most violent faction) hired Idumeans to kill everyone who wanted peace with Rome. They killed so many- at least 8,500- that blood was flowing out of the temple like a river.

“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."

More than 12,000 nobles who refused to join the Zealots were tortured and killed and no one dared to bury them.

Quote from Josephus- “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 in 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 Nero committed suicide and Vespasian was called to Rome. This left the conquering of the Jews to Titus. Vespasian was made emperor.

In addition to the gangs roaming and killing in the city, the granaries and storehouses of food were burned. This caused famine. The different factions couldn’t agree on anything but to kill all the peaceable inhabitants.

Josephus: “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). "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.

“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).”

We know of no other sieged city that was more destroyed from their own inhabitants than from the enemy in all of history!

Titus sent Josephus to try to make a treaty. Josephus tried very hard to convince the Jews that they needed to yield to Rome because God had obviously left them.

No deal.

The famine and fighting got worse. Things got so bad that mothers even ate the last of the food that would have kept their children alive.

The famine got so bad, some began to sneak out of the city at night to try and find food. The Romans found and crucified them in view of the city. There were so many, they had to nail more than one person to each cross.

"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).”

Josephus tells us of one woman of a noble family who killed her own son, roasted him and ate half of him. When the rebels smelt the food they demanded she tell them where she got it. “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.” (Matthew Henry)

Even those wicked men were horrified and left trembling. We have to remember that all this trouble would have ended immediately, everyone kept alive, and the Temple saved if they had just surrendered to Rome. But God had determined to destroy Israel completely. The Temple was burned down (as scripture foretold), though Titus tried to save it.

Josephus: “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.)”
Hosea had prophesied (8:13, 9:3) that Israel would be resold into slavery in Egypt. The Romans sold more than 1,000,000 to Egypt to work their mines.

This ended the Jewish nation, the greatest tribulation the world has every seen, and the Old Covenant. God’s vengeance on Israel for their rebellion, idolatry, and crucifixion of Christ was complete.

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.

24 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.

25 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.

I believe this is why Thomas was so skeptical of the other disciples having seen Christ after His resurrection. Jesus told him not to believe rumors of Christ being around.

Josephus tells us there were many claiming to be Christ at this time.

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.

There would be no hiding God's vengeance on Israel, His adulterous wife.

28 For wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together.

The "carcass" is the city of Jerusalem. The Roman soldiers flew on the city, carrying their eagle ensigns (flags), just like vultures or eagles surround and devour a dead animal. In this way would Christ be revealed, from the known east to the known west, as the vengeful God.

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:

In the patriarch Joseph's dream, Jacob (Israel) was the sun and the moon was his wife. The stars were his sons.

Sooooo, Immediately after the tribulation of the siege of Jerusalem the nation of Israel will no longer be visible. It won’t exist. God’s Church, “the heavens” will be shaken.

30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven (Not the Son of Man; His sign): 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.

“The sign of the Son of Man” is the great power with which God allowed the Jews to be destroyed.

God gave proof of Himself to those who refused to acknowledge Him in the person of Jesus. His proof was the vengeance and judgment so visible, that every people everywhere would be forced to acknowledge Him as "The Avenger."

Josephus records a mass vision from eyewitnesses inside the city while it was under siege of the face of Christ in the clouds, surrounded by cloud war-chariots racing around.

31 And he shall send his angels (servants) 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.
The Christians from throughout Judea gathered in Pella, which Rome did not destroy.

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:

33 So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.

"When you begin to see the Roman armies (proceeded by their trumpeters) approach, you will know the time is here."

34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.

This will all come to pass before all the ones He is speaking to die, NOT two thousand years down the road, but in the lifetime of Peter, John, Matthew and the rest. They will see it happen.

35 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away.

“Everything I say will happen. My words are the only permanent thing in the universe.”

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

Christ goes on to the next question.

The day of Christ's second coming is unknown to anyone but God Himself. If anyone tells you Christ is coming in (fill in the date). Don't believe them.

37 But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

38 For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark,

39 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

People won't be expecting Him.

40 Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.

41 Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.

You know, this doesn't say the good will be taken and the bad left. In His parables, Jesus consistently says the bad will be taken out and punished THEN the saved will be gathered together.

42 Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.

43 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.

Live as if Christ cold come in the next five minutes.

45 Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?

46 Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.

Work as if His coming will be in a hundred years.

47 Verily I say unto you, that he shall make him ruler over all his goods.

48 But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming;

49 And shall begin to smite his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken;

50 The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of,

51 And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

So in answer to the disciple's three questions,

“Tell us, when shall these things (the destruction of the temple) be?” He answered, “When you see the armies coming to destroy Jerusalem.”

“and of the end of the (our) world?” Jesus answered,"See above."

"Your coming to the throne?" “No sign. Live as if I could come in the next five minutes. Work as if My coming will be in a hundred years.”

If the Jews were destroyed at AD70, what about their restoration?