Jerusalem Surrounded

Series: An Eschatological Mix

Link to sermon video: Jerusalem Surrounded - T Siverd


Sermon By Terry Siverd / June 27, 2021 / Cortland  Church of Christ

Eschatology is the study of end-time things.  Notice that I said “end-time things” not “the end of time”.  The New Testament speaks often about the time of the end, but never about the end of time.  The text of Mt.24 (aka, the Olivet discourse) is loaded with prophetic eschatological utterances spoken by Jesus.  This chapter opens with Jesus' judgment against the Jewish temple in Jerusalem (Mt.24:1-2) - - not one stone would be left upon another, which will not be torn down.  In vss.4-14, Jesus equated these events to the beginning of birth pangs.  The term “birth pangs” connotes the impending arrival of something new (i.e., the new covenant/new and living way).

 The heartbeat of the chapter comes in vss.29-35, with a string of verses that sounds so futuristic to many.  sun & moon darkened … stars falling from the sky .. powers of heavens shaken ... The sign of The Son of Man appearing in the sky … coming on the clouds with power and great glory … angels appearing with a great trumpet gathering together God's elect.  We must not detach or divorce this section from that which precedes it nor that which follows it.  Jesus declared that these eschatological events would transpire IMMEDIATELY AFTER the tribulation of those days.  He then punctuated His declaration specifying,  this generation will not pass away until ALL these things take place.  The context demands that the vss.1-34 be viewed as indivisible.  All of these verses apply to the fall of Jerusalem.  Because the language is so explicit, many are convinced that this first portion of Mt. 24 is focused solely upon the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Jewish temple in AD 70.  Yet many still argue for a transition text - - a pivot point where Jesus alters the aim of His prophetic utterances - - shifting from a judgment on Jerusalem in the first century to another coming which they claim is yet-future to our world.  We will address this attempt to force a faulty division in an upcoming sermon.

This morning our focus is on Mt.24:15-28 - - Follow along as I read this entire section.


Mt.24:15 notes, therefore when you see the abomination of desolation, standing in the holy place - -  which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet - - then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.  Since Jesus referenced Daniel's prophecy, let's rehearse what Daniel envisioned.  Dan.9:27 records, On the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.  an.11:31 adds, forces from him will arise, desecrate the sanctuary fortress, and do away will the regular sacrifice.  And they will set up the abomination of desolation.    Dan.12:11 gives more details, stating, from the time that the regular sacrifice is abolished, and the abomination of desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days.

I  have titled today's message, Jerusalem Surrounded, which is a phrase used in Lk.21:20 - - when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is at hand.  In 2Thess.2:1-4,The apostle Paul wrote about this same event.  As to the coming of the will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so called or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.  This abomination of desolation was a sign that the end was drawing near (Lk.21:20b).   Once again, the text is not speaking about the end of time, but the time of the end of Old Testament Judaism.


This abomination of desolation took place in the midst of “a great tribulation” (Mt.24:21).  The “great tribulation” (Mt.24:21) is not a reference to the Roman-Jewish war, which ended around AD 70.  Rather, it addresses a time just prior to the Roman-Jewish war, when Jewish zealots sought to annihilate the church.  Around AD 64-66, Gessius Florus (the Roman governor of Judea) ignited a Jewish revolt.  He demanded gold from the temple treasury.  When he was mocked he responded by killing some 3,600 Jews.  This outraged the Jewish zealots.  Florus then ordered two additional cohorts of soldiers into Jerusalem, where they proceeded to kill many others en route to attempt to seize all of the gold in the temple.  Eleazar Ananias, captain of the temple guard, blew the ram's horn to rally the zealots for a fight.  They successfully blocked Florus' plans and caused him to withdraw his troops.  Had Florus succeeded, the temple would have been defiled by unclean, uncircumcised Roman soldiers.  It was a only temporary blockage with thousands of troops returning to destroy Jerusalem later on in AD 70.  In the meantime, this radical Jewish terrorist named Eleazar Ananias took control of the temple.  He was a man of lawlessness who epitomized the descriptions provided by both Daniel and Paul.  Ed Stevens wrote about this historical event in the latest edition of Fulfilled Magazine (summer of 2021, pgs.6-7).  He states, “from that time onward, the temple was constantly desecrated, defiled and polluted by bloodshed and other atrocities which Eleazar allowed to occur both inside the temple and in Jerusalem.”  The rise of these Jewish zealots had been restrained by the arrest of Paul and the execution of James in AD 63.  Once they were dealt with the floodgates opened and a great tribulation raged against the early Christians.  (As to this restraining power cf. 2Thess.2:7 with Acts 20:28-30 and 1Thess.2:14-16 combined with the overall ministry of Paul).


When the abomination of desolation took place, Jesus urged His devoted followers to FLEE (Mt.24:16ff).  With great urgency Jesus tells these first-century disciples to flee to the mountains … run and don't look back.  This revolt of the Jewish zealots) further angered the powers in Rome, but with an unexpected twist the subsequent attack on Jerusalem by the Romans served to quell “the great tribulation”.  Jehovah God's sovereignty and loving providence provided an open door for the Christians to escape.  This “great tribulation” inflicted upon the disciples by the Jewish zealots was “cut short” (Mt.24:22).  Now the mighty Roman armies were stirred into action and would eventually utterly destroy Jerusalem.  Here again is the setting for the Lord's directive (Mt.24:16f) to run to the hills and not look back.  This is the context of Jesus' words in Lk.17:32, Remember Lot's wifecf. My essay by the same title.

Rev.6:10 records the prayer of these early Christians - - How long, O Lord, holy and true, wilt Thou refrain from judging and avenging our blood...”  In Rev.2:10 the angel to the church at Smyrna writes about the soon-coming judgment on the synagogue of Satan.  Do not fear what you about to suffer.  Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison,that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days.  Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.  Heb.10:35-37, which was written to Christians just prior to the fall of Jerusalem contains this exhortation.  Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.  For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.  For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come and will not delay.

According to Mt.24:27-28, the coming of the Son of Man (Jesus) would show itself in the fall of Jerusalem.  Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.  cf. Mt.24:28 & Lk.17:37.  Everything that we've encountered in this Mt.24 text is focused on events that would occur in the first century.  When we understand this there will be no need for us to wring our hands worrying about the future.  

In a future lesson I want to talk to us about not only entering God's REST but also about living in God's REST.

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