Wednesday, September 7, 2011

"End Times" or the "End of Time?" - Part II

The Temple Mount as seen across the Kidron Valley from the Mount of Olives (1)

A Continuing Exposition of Matthew 24 & Luke 21

It is morbidly interesting to see what the "God is the Temple / The Temple is God" mentality led to.  After the destruction of the Temple and the city of Jerusalem by the Romans, the remaining Jewish fighters fled to the mountain top fortress in the wilderness, Masada.  It was thought that no army could ever defeat it.  The Romans, however, never got the message and built a siege ramp and entered the fortress.  Sadly they discovered the Jews there had all committed suicide.  Why?  Suicide had always been looked upon with distain by God's people.  The reason is that with the Temple destroyed, there could be only one conclusion.  There is no God, there is no afterlife, life is meaningless.  Suicide was the only answer to their now atheistic minds.  Had they only listened to Jesus!  He had (and STILL has!) the words of life!

In vs. 4, Jesus began to answer the disciples first question; "Tell us, when will these things be?"  He clearly states that before "one stone is not left upon another," deceivers will arise and attempt to draw away the disciples.  One of the keys to understanding this passage is to observe the almost redundant use of the personal pronouns of "you" and "your" by Jesus referring exclusively to the disciples.  The text tells us that the "disciples came to Him privately."  There was no one there but Jesus and His disciples when he answered their two questions.  He is not speaking to someone in the distant future, He is speaking to His disciples in the flesh and in their own time.

Throughout this discourse, Christ will give many detailed clues as to when and under what circumstances the destruction of the Temple will take place.  His instructions were so precise that the disciples were able to warn the Christians in Jerusalem at that time to the extent that there is no record of even a single Christian perishing in Jerusalem in 70 A.D.!  We will detail these very clear signs.

As noted, the first sign Christ tells the disciples of the Temples destruction is that there will be an attempt to "lead YOU astray."  Not people in the future but the disciples in their lifetime.  Vs. 5 gives four vivid predictions that begin the signs of the coming destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem in which it is located.  (1) The deceivers will be "many."  (2) They will come in the Name of Christ.  (3) They will claim to be the Christ.  (4) They will lead many astray.  These are warning signs that are spiritual in nature but very observable.  There were also physical warnings that would be very observable to the disciples as well.

Jesus begins to detail these physical warnings in vs. 6.  He says that YOU (the disciples) will "hear of wars and rumors of wars."  Many today fret that the end of time is approaching because we continually hear of "wars and rumors of wars."  Really?  Name a time in history since Cain slew his brother Abel that there has NOT been "wars and rumors of wars?"  War is a constant in the ongoing saga of fallen and sinful man.  Jesus was speaking "privately" to His disciples answering two very distinct questions, the first of which he answered with multiple signs and the latter which He answered with absolutely no sign whatsoever.  Jesus here is referring to specific wars and rumors of wars..."The War of the Jews" as Josephus puts it.  In 66 A.D., after years of protest, violence, civil disobedience and several small but open revolts, the Jewish nation rose up en masse in open rebellion against the hated Romans.  The Romans, in the process of establishing their pax romano (The Roman Peace), were determined to once and for all stamp out all Jewish resistance in a most complete and dramatic way.  The result was so profound that the entire empire took note and complied to Roman rule for the next 300 years.  The destruction was as Christ said it would be; "...great tribulation, such as not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be."  TO BE CONTINUED

[1] Photo Courtesy of:  The extant “Dome of the Rock” is the approx. location of the Herodian Temple.

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