Vol. 7, No. 9
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Have you ever noticed that people always want to know when something is going to happen? That is, perhaps, due to the fact that man is very conscious of the passing of time, and he does not want some important event to pass him by when he is unaware.
After Jesus told his disciples that the Temple was going to be destroyed, thus bringing to an end all the physical trappings of the Temple worship and the Law of Moses, they wanted to know when this was going to be. We thoroughly understand their curiosity. If someone were to tell us that the City of Moundsville was going to be destroyed, inasmuch as we are all vitally connected to that city who live there, we would want to know when. Jesus gave his disciples some time signs, but he never did tell them the day, date or hour when the great Temple would be pulled down into ruins. He told them many of the things that would be going on in the world at that time, as well as in the land of Palestine. But he said that his coming in destruction upon the city and Temple would be sudden like lightning flashing from the east to the west (Matthew 24:26). By this, he meant it would be sudden and unexpected. Why would it be that way? Would it be because the Jews did not know that the Roman army was on the march in the land? No, it would be unexpected because this generation of Jews would be like those in the days of Jeremiah and Ezekiel. The Jews thought that because they were the seed of Abraham physically, and because the Temple stood in their sacred city, no power on earth could destroy them. Consequently, when the destruction came, they would not be expecting it to happen because they believed it could not happen. So, Jesus gave no calendar dates and no hour for them to watch. They would be going about life as usual, just like the people who were destroyed in the days of Noah's flood.
However, he spoke a parable to the disciples so they would be ready to escape the city when the time came. He said that one observes the fig tree and sees the branch is tender and budded to put forth leaves, then they knew summer was near. He continued pointing out, that when they observed the things going on in Palestine, of which he had previously spoken, they would know that the destruction was near, "at the very doors"! Then, in the very next verse, he came as close to setting a time as he ever came by telling them that their generation would not pass away until all the things he had predicted, both regarding the Temple and the signs preceding its destruction would all be fulfilled. Not one thing he prophesied was going to fail, all would come to pass just as he said it would. He emphasized that by saying, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away" (Matthew 24:35 NKJV). (We wish we had time and space to discuss the meaning of "heaven and earth" here; unfortunately, we do not.) Jesus meant to emphasize that nothing in all this world was going to stop his prophecy from coming to pass. The emphasis here is very much like that in Matthew 16:18 when he said the "gates of hades" would not "prevail against" the building of his church.
Why was it necessary that the disciples should give their attention to these signs? Because they were to flee from Jerusalem when they saw "the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet standing in the holy place." What did all that mean? Luke makes the matter crystal clear when he wrote that Jesus said, "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her" (Luke 21:20-21).
"The abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet" was Jerusalem's being "surrounded by armies." It was important for Christ's disciples to know when Jerusalem's destruction and the leveling of the Temple was "at the very doors," so they could flee from the disaster coming on the city and all who resided there. God always provides for his own!