Continuation of Cliff's Comments .........
Remember, these men still not understand or grasp the concept of Christ's impending death, or His resurrection, or His second coming. And they had been with the Lord for at least 42 months! Would we have understood more? I don't think so. Do we understand today, as we ought to understand? Sadly, we don't. But we, like our Brethren 2,000 years ago, must learn to trust the Word of Yahweh. What has been foretold will come to pass, because nothing in this system of futility that we are bound up in, is designed to be permanent. So the Lord couched His answers to His little band of followers that day in very clever terms. The Master knew that the 70 weeks prophecy of Daniel had all but expired. Every detail of Daniel's prophecy had been (or was about to be) fulfilled, and the time had now come to refresh the vision of the future with a prophecy that a new age of new believers could trust in and identify with, as they prepared for the Lord's second coming. The prophecy given on the Mt of Olives was designed to assist those faithful who would find themselves in Jerusalem less than a generation later, when the Roman Army swept through the land. And it was designed to encourage the faithful who would be living in that blessed generation that will yet see Jerusalem freed from the dominating hand of Gentile dominion.
Can you picture the scene? The Lord began His ministry with a discourse on a Mount outlining His policy Speech for the Coming Kingdom. Now He draws His ministry to a close with another discourse on a Mount outlining the events that will lead to the establishment of that Kingdom. The first mount was in quiet Galilee, the second mount overlooked the City of the Great King. On the first mountain a multitude were eager for His words. At the foot of this second mountain was a multitude that in a short while would be eager for His blood. In a few hours they would be chanting those chilling words, "His blood be upon us and upon our children."
Tragic words. Tragic consequences. No escape!! The man, who had delivered the coming Kingdom's policy speech on a tranquil mountain far away to the north in Galilee 3 + 1/2 years before, was soon to be rejected as the Messiah here in Jerusalem. The only One who could offer true escape from the horrors to come, was soon to be murdered by those He came to save.
"Take heed that no man deceive you, for many shall come in my name, claiming to be Messiah and shall deceive many." And they did. For decades, political aspirants one after the other, claimed to be the answer to the peoples prayer to overthrow the accursed Roman yoke. And many forsook the Lord and threw in their lot with various false prophets, with disastrous consequences. How careful we must be to only follow the Lord and to understand the signs of the times in which we live.
As He mentions a little later in the prophecy, His second coming will not be accompanied by any doubt. "For as lightning cometh out of the east, and shines even unto the west, lightening out of the one part under heaven, and shining unto the other part under heaven, (ie. requiring total darkness) so shall the coming of the Son of Man be". When one sees lightning like that and hears the accompanying thunder, there is absolutely no doubt that there is a storm brewing. And so it will be when the Son of Man returns. There will then be no doubt at all that the Thunder Judgements of the Apocalypse will then be about to take place - Psalm 29; Revelation 10:3.
And so as the end of the Jewish age drew nigh, society in general began to disintegrate. There were wars and rumours of wars throughout the Roman world. Emperor after emperor lost his life in massive political intrigue. Four major famines between AD 41 and AD 54 swept across the Roman Empire. Earthquakes increased in severity and number as the earth prepared to finally convulse the inhabitants of the Israel out of the land of their Fathers and into all nations. Like birth pangs coming on a woman as she approaches her 40th week of pregnancy, so the land experienced sorrow after sorrow increasing in intensity (cp Matt 24:8). Brother turned against Brother, Sister against Sister, as families turned themselves inside out in the very effort to survive the times they were so ill prepared for.
But Christ had warned them (and ourselves) "to take heed". At least four times Mark records in his 13th chapter an exhortation to individually prepare for those sad days of incredible tribulation. But they would not! Matthew encourages us with the words, that "he that shall endure ('stay on after all others have left') unto the end shall be saved."
"Lord, how shall we know when we reach the end of the (Jewish) Age?" they asked. He answered, "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:) then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains...)" It is left to Josephus to record for us that at least 1,000,000 did not read, much less understand these sober words that the Lord spoke, for that is how many chose to ignore His warnings and stay on in Jerusalem, only to be slain by the edge of the sword, with many thousands crucified, in the most terrible sieges of Titus and Vespasian.
Just as the Lord had prophesied! If only they had listened!! "And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem ("The City of Peace") shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled." Obviously the times of the Gentiles still hang over Jerusalem, even 1900 years later, for the modern city must be trodden down yet again, under the feet of Gentile armies before their Messiah returns to rescue them from certain annihilation - Zech 12-14, Joel 3.
"Lord, what shall be the sign of thy (second) coming"? "Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not giver her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken..." And so it was. After AD 70, the Jewish Commonwealth ceased to exist for a period of nearly 1900 years. No guiding political or ecclesiastical lights shone in the Jewish Political Heavens for over 18 centuries. The wandering Jew became a proverb and a byword among the nations, just as Yahweh had foretold in Deut 28:62-68.
"And then (about 2,000 years after AD70) shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven." The nation of Israel would begin to regather heralding the impending arrival of the Son of Man with all His Holy Angels. The Crimean War in the 1850's would pave the way for the Turkish Empire to relinquish control of the Holy Land. The establishment of Kibbutzim in the land during the 1880's would ignite the fires of imagination in the hearts of the early settlers. The Zionist movement in the 1890's under Theodore Herzl would begin to provide Political Luminaries to lead the nation into the 20th Century. Eleazar Ben Yehuda would revive the ancient Hebrew language so the people could all speak a common tongue. The First World War would finally rid the land of the oppressive Turk. And the Second World War would provide a good reason for the scattered nation to regather back into the land. The Six Day War in 1967 would give the Brotherhood a taste of what will ultimately be accomplished under their hands as the militant Bride of Christ, when Jerusalem is finally freed from all Gentile dominion.
"When ye see these things begin to come to pass, then look up and lift up your heads for your redemption draws nigh." No need to fear, like those who do not understand, - Dan 12:10. They have heart attacks worrying about the things they see coming on the earth, - Luke 21:26-28. His followers, on the other hand, have heart palpitations because their Bridegroom is nearly here.
Israel established as a nation again in unbelief of the Messiahship of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, is the wondrous parable of the Fig Tree, - Matt 24, Luke 21, Mark 13. A nation symbolised as a fig tree, in the midst of a number of other nations which have also sprung up as "trees" in the Middle East - Ezek 31, bringing forth leaves (signs of life) ever so slowly. But like the fig tree that Christ blasted 2,000 years ago, this modern "Fig Tree Nation" will refuse to bring forth Fruit meet for repentance, and will need to be blasted yet once more, to elicit a true bond with their Messiah they rejected so long ago. Israel will yet experience "a time of trouble such as has never been seen, from the beginning of creation to that same time."
"When ye see these things come to pass, know that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand." Everything concerning the nation of Israel that was to be fulfilled in the past has faithfully transpired. "So likewise this generation shall not pass away, until all be fulfilled."
"So when shall these things be? "Of that day and hour knows no man, no not the angels of heaven, neither the Son, but my Father only." Which was true in the day Christ spoke those words. Of course, He had become privy to the full plan of the ages by the time He revealed the Apocalypse to the Apostle John some 65 years later. And somewhere in that Revelation is contained the crucial key to unlocking the exact season He will return, but for now we must observe the trends and individually prepare ourselves, just like the faithful did in Judea 19 centuries ago.
"As it was in the days of Noah and Lot, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be!"
(Q) What was it about those days that is relevant to us today?
(A) Only those who identified with Noah and allowed themselves to be shut into the ark were saved. Only those who identified with Lot and left the wicked ways of the world behind escaped the fiery judgments that rained down on their comfortable abodes.
What was the world really like in those days (of opportunity)?
In Noah's day God gave them 43,830 opportunities to repent (120 years). But the general population was paralysed by the present. There is no mention of God in their lives, for they had no time to listen to Him. They were so busy with all the "legitimate" things of life, that they had no time for the things that really mattered. They were trapped by trading and possessed by possessions.
Sound familiar?? "Even thus shall it be in the day (of destiny) when the Son of Man is revealed."
"Take heed, watch and pray: for you know not when the time is, watch therefore, lest coming suddenly He find you sleeping."