Thursday, February 22, 2018

82 - Flee For Your Life

"Therefore when you see the 'abomination of desolation,' spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place" (whoever reads, let him understand), 
 then let those who are in Judea flee upon the mountains. 
Let the one on the housetop not go down to take the things out of his house. 
And let the one in the field not turn back to take his clothes. 
But woe to those women who are pregnant, and to the women nursing a baby in those days! 
But pray that your flight may not take place in winter, nor on the Sabbath. 
For then there shall be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until now, nor by any means shall be. 
And unless those days were cut short, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake, those days will be cut short. Mat 24:15-22
For wherever the carcass may be, there the eagles will be gathered together. Mat 24:28

Double Prophecies

Matthew 24 can be divided this way:
  1. Verses 1-8 - life in general will be worse than normal just before Rome's fatal attack (or just before Christ's return). 
  2. Verses 9-14 - Christians will become the "scapegoats" for the problems in Jerusalem (or anywhere in the world just before Christ's return).  
  3. Verses 15-28 - The fall of Jerusalem (or the return of Christ). 
  4. Verses 29-34 - Destruction at the hands of the Roman army (or the rapture of the Church.
  5. Verses 35-51 - Examples of lifestyles before the fall of Jerusalem (or before the Rapture).
It has been observed that there are prophecies in the Bible which serve as a prophecy of things close at hand as well as a distant prophecy.    One example of this is the birth of Isaiah's son.  That birth was predicted before the baby was born (Isa. 7:14-17) but then, about 700 years later, Matthew took that prophecy and applied it to the birth of Christ.

It is obvious that the words of Christ, as recorded in the first part of Matthew 24, must be applied to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD.  Nevertheless, they also serve as a warning to future generations. there could ... have been “a more remote” reference to events lying far in the future, in which there would be a more complete fulfillment ... of the meaning of the words. [Barnes]  The secondary message is, Christ will return unannounced and as quickly as a bolt of lightning.  After that, there is no time for repentance.  

Rome Attacks Jerusalem

From the time of Moses, the Jews were under strict orders not to make any graven images of any life form.  

when you see the 'abomination of desolation ... standing in the holy place.  When the Roman army invaded Jerusalem they were, of course, carrying their "standard" which had an image of an eagle on it.  The Romans took their "standard" directly into the temple, and to the Jews, this was the ultimate in sacrilege.  This is what Daniel's prophecy was about - the abomination ... standing in the temple.  This happened before Rome actually intended to destroy Jerusalem.  They wanted to honour Ceaser by putting his ensign into the Jewish temple.

Essentially, the abomination of desolation speaks of the ultimate desecration of a Jewish temple, an idolatrous image in the holy place itself, which will inevitably result in the judgment of God. It is the abomination that brings desolation.
The abomination of desolation is “the object of religious nausea and loathing who has to do with desolation.” (Wuest) [Guzik]

Let the one on the housetop not go down to take the things out of his house.  In the Eastern nations, it was common for houses to have flat roves.  These were used in a similar way we use our patios - to catch a few refreshing, cool, evening breezes.  Christ warns the believers He is talking to when you see the army coming, run for your life.  There are a lot of caves in the mountains; go hide there.  If you happen to be on the rooftop when you see the army approach, don't take the time to collect your belongings - just flee.

woe to those women who are pregnant.  Religious history shows that the Roman soldiers were particularly ruthless to women, and so women "with child" or with a baby in arms did not stand a chance at escaping.

pray that your flight may not take place in winter because, without shelter, you will probably freeze in the higher altitudes of the mountains or you will starve to death because you will find nothing to eat.

pray that your flight may not take place on the Sabbath - This is not because the Lord is hung up on the law that allows only a Sabbath days journey (2/3 mile) on the Sabbath.   It was the Jewish leaders who would vehemently condemn those who broke their law. 

For then there shall be great tribulation such as has not been since the beginning of the world until now.  Reading the history that Josephus wrote about Rome's invasion of Jerusalem, at times, is so repugnant that it is very difficult to continue reading. 

unless those days were cut short, no flesh would be saved.  History says that Titus laid a siege against Jerusalem to starve the inhabitants of the city. However, because of military problems in other parts of the Roman empire he lifted the siege and, for awhile, the Jews were free to leave the city and escape - so some were saved.

The elect are "God's chosen people - the Jews".  

For wherever the carcass may be, there the eagles will be gathered together. Christ did not see the Jewish religious leaders as being alive; they were like a carcase and so He said, Jerusalem is where the eagles (the Eagle was the Roman symbol as it is America's) will gather together to devour the spiritually lifeless Judeans.

Friday, February 16, 2018

81 - The Disciples of Christ

This post is an addendum to my previous post about the disciples preaching the Gospel of the kingdom to the whole then known world before the fall of Jerusalem.  This addendum also shows the deaths of many of them.

Many other Jewish Christians were also dispersed to various countries and they also spread the Gospel wherever they went.

The Disciples

Peter - It is traditionally believed that Peter first traveled to Antioch and established a community there. ... After that he may have visited Corinth before heading to Rome. There he helped form the Christian community and was ultimately martyred in the Circus of Nero around 64. 

Andrew - many ancient traditions point to Andrew, Peter’s brother, as the Apostle to the Greeks. It is believed that he preached to Greek communities and was martyred at Patras on a cross in the shape of an X. 

James the Great - (Not the writer of The Epistle of James)  It is held that James was the first apostle to be martyred. In the Acts of the Apostles it reads, “Herod the king laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword” (Acts 12:1-2). He died in 44 AD in Jerusalem.
John - The author of the Gospel of John and the Book of Revelation, John was the only apostle not to have a martyr’s death.  He died around 100 AD and is buried near Ephesus.
Philip - In the years following Pentecost, Philip ministered to Greek-speaking communities. Little is known about his adventures, except that he was martyred around 80 AD. 
Bartholomew - Various traditions have him preaching in different areas. It is believed that he was martyred.
Thomas - The “doubting” apostle, Thomas is widely known for his missionary efforts in India. ... He died around 72 AD and his tomb is located in Mylapore, India.
Matthew - Matthew is most well known for his Gospel. He preached to various communities in the Mediterranean before his martyrdom in Ethiopia. His tomb is located in the cathedral in Salerno, Italy.

James the Less - Scholars believe that Saint James the Less authored the “Epistle of St. James”. After the apostles dispersed and left Jerusalem, James remained and became the first bishop in the holy city. He remained there for several decades until he was stoned to death by the Jewish authorities in the year 62. []

Friday, February 9, 2018

80 - Jerusalem's Fall Predicted

What Shall be the Sign of Your Coming

Matthew 24 and Luke 21 are very difficult chapters to come to grips with as one finds out when one reads the various Bible commentaries.  Some believe that these two chapters hold the bulk of what we know about the Rapture of The Church.  Others believe that these two chapters hardly even mention the Rapture.  So, with that division in mind, we will spend several posts looking at various ideas which have been presented.  

Of course, it must be understood that even if Matthew, Mark, and Luke did not write about the rapture it still does not diminish the fact that Paul and John both did.  What they wrote very closely aligns with what the Gospel writers wrote in these two chapters.  

My point of view is that if we limit these chapters only to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD we are missing the best, the deepest, the most exciting meaning of these two chapters.  

In the same context, Mark wrote then they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.  And then He will send His angels, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from the extremity of earth to the extremity of heaven. Mark 13:26-27.  It is hard to imagine the Roman army as being the "angels" who went to the extremity of the earth to gather His elect.  In spite of that difficulty that argument is actually made.

as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the world?
And Jesus answered and said to them, Take heed that no man deceive you.
For many will come in My name, saying, I am Christ, and will deceive many.
And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled, for all these things must occur; but the end is not yet.
For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines and pestilences and earthquakes in different places.
All these are the beginning of sorrows.
Mat. 24:1-8

The End Is Not Yet - 1-8

We learned earlier that when people called Jesus "son of David" they meant "the Messiah".  We also learned that the words "Messiah" and "Christ" have exactly the same meaning.  The disciples had come to believe that Jesus was the Messiah and that, therefore, He would set the Jewish nation free from Roman tyranny.  

They believed this until Christ threw a "curve ball" at them.  He said that He must go to Jerusalem and while there the Jewish leaders would kill Him.  Christ also had said to them,  I am going to My Father and you (will) see Me no more; John 16:10.   

This is not what the disciples expected from their Messiah; The real Messiah must rule as The King now.  However, His story does not stop here; He also said, I will come again and I will receive you unto Myself; so that where I am, there you may be also. John 14:3 

When they could finally speak to Him in private the disciples asked when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the world? 

Christ answered their questions but He did not go directly to what shall be the sign of Your coming.  Reading between the lines, what He said might have been something like, first of all, there is something vitally important for you to think about.  Jerusalem is about to be overthrown, but before that happens here are some warning signs:
  1. many will come in My name, saying, I am Christ, and will deceive many.  Among these are mentioned particularly Dositheus, the Samaritan, who affirmed that He was Christ; Simon Magus, who said He appeared among the Jews as the Son of God. [Barnes]   Simon Magnus is mentioned early in the life of the church.  [Acts 8]
  2. you will hear of wars and rumors of wars.  Rome constantly needed to defend its outlying territories.
  3. nation will rise against nation.  For example Rome against Great Britain and also against Judea.
  4. And there will be famines - these are a natural outcome of wars as we have recently seen in Syria and many other countries.  It is very remarkable that not a single Christian perished in the destruction of Jerusalem, though there were many there when Cestius Gallus invested the city; ... when he unexpectedly and unaccountably raised the siege, the Christians took that opportunity to escape. [Gill]   I have trouble accepting this statement as fact, but if it is true it could be because the Christians took seriously the warnings Christ had given His followers, about fleeing from Jerusalem, about 40 years earlier.
and pestilences - diseases naturally follow wars and famines. 
earthquakes in different places. Tacitus mentions one in the reign of Claudius, at Rome, and says that in the reign of Nero the cities of Laodicea, Hierapolis, and Colosse were overthrown, and the celebrated Pompeii was overwhelmed and almost destroyed by an earthquake. [Barnes]

Christ continues by saying All these are the beginning of sorrows, but the end is not yet.

In Christ's answer, it seems as if there is a distinct change between verses 8 and 9. In the first eight verses, He spoke of the events which affect people at large.  Then, starting in verse 9, He limits His predictions to those who will follow Him in the early Church.

You Shall Be hated - 9-14

Then they will hand you over to tribulation and they will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations, on account of My name. 
And then many will fall away, and they will betray one another, and they will hate one another. 
Then many false prophets will be raised up, and they will deceive many. 
And because lawlessness will increase, the love of many will grow cold. 
But he who endures to the end shall be saved. 
And this good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed in all the world for a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come. Mat. 24:9-14

The nonchristian world will blame followers of Christ for natural tragedies and anything else they can "hang" them for. 
  1. they will hand you over to tribulation; (to be afflicted - KJV).
  2. they will kill you [as noted in my next post]
  3. you will be hated by all nations, on account of My name. It is not at all unusual for non-Christians to blame Christians when things go wrong.
  4. then many will fall away. Many Christians will turn away from following Christ because they are afraid of persecution and death. 
  5. they will betray one another.  To save their own lives they will snitch on a fellow Christian. Father will be divided against a son and a son against father, a mother against a daughter and a daughter against a mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law." Luke 12:53.
  6. they will hate one another.  In every house the merest hint of food sparked violence, and close relatives fell to blows, snatching from one another the pitiful supports of life. [Josephus]
  7. many false prophets will be raised up.  They did come and many people followed them to their death in various wildernesses.[Josephus]
  8. because lawlessness will increase, the love of many will grow cold.  If you can't trust your policemen and soldiers you start looking after yourself without any concern for anyone else.
Christ also said this good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed in all the world ... and then the end will come.  Concerning the statement, in all the world, we need to remember that the people in the near East, living in the first century, and many centuries before that, thought of the area around the Mediterranean Sea, and a few other not so distant countries, as being the whole world.  As Christ had predicted the good news of the kingdom had been preached in all the (then known) world before the fall of Jerusalem happened. [as noted in the next post]

Even though Christ is ranked as a prophet, it did not need the insight of a prophet to see that the fall of Jerusalem was imminent.  The way the "would-be rulers" of Judea kept on harassing the Roman powers it was bound to lead to a showdown and catastrophic loss for Judea's capital - Jerusalem.

then the end will come.  According to some teachers, this does not refer to the end of the Church age, not the end of time, but the end of Judea as that generation knew it. That is what Christ describes for us in Mat. 24:15-28.