by Pastor Bob Conway
Matthew 23:29 -25:46
One of the major emphasis of Holy Week for Christ was to reveal the signs of His second coming to His disciples. Surprisingly, I have not heard anyone speak on these prophecies during Holy Week. Therefore, I will!
During the early centuries following the ascension of Jesus into heaven, Christians often greeted one another by saying, “MARANATHA.” This Aramaic expression means “come, O Lord” and echoed the believers’ cry for the imminent return of Christ. During Holy Week, our Lord revealed warning signs that will herald His return. The fulfillment of several of these signs in our generation points to the imminent return of Jesus Christ.
For centuries the Jews had awaited the first arrival of the Messiah, but when He did come and offer his kingdom and did promise blessing and hope and salvation, instead of receiving Him in faith and love, they rejected Him in unbelief and repulsion. They so despised Him that they wanted to murder Him as their ancestors had done with the righteous before Him.
As a result they identified with their ancestors who murdered the prophets and the guilt and judgment that had been accumulating since the Fall would come down upon the heads of Jesus’ generation. So in a heart-wrenching lament . . . JESUS PREDICTS HIS SECOND COMING, Matthew 23:37 -39 —
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem , you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’ Jesus was neither cold nor indifferent, even toward His enemies, and on this occasion His judgment is mingled with sorrow and deep pathos. His last public teaching is an exclamation of sorrow for Jerusalem. He had tried to bring the Word of God to the people, but the people of Jerusalem had been true to their reputation. The city which had killed the prophets had rejected Christ and was about to kill Him.
This lament of Jesus is filled with theological significance. Herein Jesus declares Himself to be God — the one who has longed to gather His children together. He shows Himself to be loving, kind, merciful and protecting, and yet be a God of wrath. And He reveals that He will come a second time.
The pages of the OT are filled with the LORD’S efforts to gather His people under His protection through His love and discipline and their The pages of the OT are filled with the LORD’S efforts to gather His people under His protection through His love and discipline and their continual withdrawal from Him.
Here Christ expresses the tension between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. Yahweh had chosen Israel as His people but they rejected Him. Though God desired to gather the nation to Himself, the people were not willing. What God desired to come to pass did not occur because He would not violate the free will of man. No doctrine of the predestination of individuals can survive between Jesus’ “I longed” and Jerusalem’s “you were not willing.”
The fate of desolation was chosen by the people, not imposed by God. “Look, your house is left desolate” could refer to (1) the House of David or (2) Jerusalem or (3) the nation of Israel or (4) the Temple . All four are closely allied and rise and fall together. Desolate (erhmov) refers to wilderness, desert or uninhabited region.
It has been well-said that history is destined to repeat itself. In Jeremiah 12:7, Yahweh had predicted what would happen to Jerusalem in 586 B.C. —
“I will forsake my house, abandon my inheritance; I will give the one I love into the hands of her enemies.”
Now Jesus’ prediction is tantamount to what happen to Israel in Jeremiah’s day. Again, God would abandon His inheritance into the hands to her enemies. This time in A.D. 70.
For how long? Until Israel affirms Jesus as Messiah, saying, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD.” Jesus cannot return to reign on earth until all Israel is saved! Ironically, the crowds have already had declared this truth at Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. This declaration comes from a section of Psalm 118, which speaks of the LORD God making His light shine upon Israel in the house of the LORD. Unfortunately, Israel rejected the Light so the desolation of your house also includes the absence of Jesus since He is “the Light.”
We know from Zechariah 12:10-13:9 that Israel will acknowledge Christ Jesus prior to His second coming. Until then the House of David will be forsaken by God and left abandoned to its enemies. As a sign of this desolation . . .
JESUS PREDICTS THE DESTRUCTION OF THE TEMPLE BUILDINGS, Matthew 24:1-2 — Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” Mark 13:1 tells us that one of His disciples said to Him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!”
Jesus’ lament over the desolation of Israel’s house apparently had no impact on the thinking of His disciples as they talked about the Temple complex, which was magnificent by any standard.
At the prodding of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, the Second Temple (Zerubbabel’s) had been completed on March 12, 516 B.C. (Ezra 6:15 ). In the eighteenth year of his reign (19 B.C.), Herod the Great undertook a very great work, to rebuild the Temple of God, making it larger and more magnificent than Zerubbabel’s. Instead of leveling the summit of the mountain, Herod built a vast platform by raising up massive walls enclosing the whole area. On these walls a platform was laid for the Temple .
At the time of Christ, Herod’s Temple was not completely finished, yet it was one of the wonders of the world and its massive stones and the magnificent buildings impressed His disciples. Jesus responded to their observation with a question and statement, “Do you see all these great buildings? Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” Notice that Jesus specified that the stones of the Temple buildings would be thrown down. The massive stones used to support the platform remain in place today. Fulfilled biblical prophecy is always accurate down to its smallest details.
In A.D. 70, Titus’ soldiers so completely destroyed the Temple buildings that their exact location on the Temple Mount is disputed. The Romans rushed from the Tower of Antonia into the sacred precincts, the halls of which were set on fire by the Jews themselves. It was against the will of Titus that a Roman soldier threw a firebrand into the northern buildings of the Temple , which caused the inferno of the whole structure, although Titus himself endeavored to extinguish the fire (War, 6:4). Gold and silver melted in between the stones and the soldiers turned each and every one upside down to get the precious metals. Josephus remarks that the Temple was destroyed on the same month and day as the holy house was burned by the Babylonians in 586 B.C., that being July 28th. A coincidence! No! A God sighting!
Jesus’ prediction must have amazed and disturbed the disciples as they made their way up the Mount of Olives . As they looked over their shoulders, they could see the Temple standing there on Mount Moriah in all its glory.
The disciples still believed that the earthly Kingdom of God would appear immediately. The destruction of the Temple did not fit the outcome of the Messiah’s arrival that they envisioned.
The Jews of Jesus’ day were looking for the day of God’s intervention, “the Day of the LORD,” at the end of the age. But they were caught between unconquerable optimism and bleak pessimism. They believed God would break into history and rescue them and that this world was so utterly bad that only its complete destruction and the emergence of a new world would suffice. They were not looking for a reformation. The most distant thing from their minds was the spiritual renewal that John the Baptist and Jesus preached: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” So, we read in Matthew 24:3 — As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” The catastrophe of the destruction of the Temple would foreshadow and guarantee the predictions of judgment at the close of the age, but it would not coincide with the signs of His second coming and of the end of the age. The expression “Second Coming” does not appear in the NT, the nearest approximate is found in Hebrews 9:28:
So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
The disciples used the word Parousia (parousia), which denotes the presence, coming, arrival, advent of Christ. At this moment in time, they did not understand that there would be two comings of Christ. So . . . JESUS UNVEILS THE SIGN OF HIS SECOND COMING AND OF THE END OF THE AGE, Matthew 24:4-51.
We call this section of Jesus’ teaching, THE MOUNT OLIVET DISCOURSE. In this discourse, Jesus reveals that at the Parousia this Present Age gives way to the Millennial Kingdom in the Day of the LORD. In doing so, He reveals the conditions on earth as the sign of the time of His return. This is what the future holds according to Jesus.
FIRST, THERE WILL BE THE BEGINNING OF BIRTH PAINS, MATTHEW 24:4-8. Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth-pains. THE FIRST PROPHETIC SIGN THAT WILL SIGNAL CHRIST’S SECOND COMING INVOLVES THE RISE OF FALSE CHRISTS AND DECEIVERS IN THE LAST DAYS. Though there are no historical references to any false messiahs prior to the resurrection of Jesus, many false messiahs have appeared throughout the centuries following His ascension. In our generation alone these impostors and deceivers include Charles Manson, Rev. sun Myung Moon, Jim Jones and David Koresh.
THE SECOND PROPHETIC SIGN THAT WILL SIGNAL CHRIST’S SECOND COMING WILL BE THE HEARING OF WARS AND RUMORS OF WARS. When Jesus spoke these words, the Roman Empire was enjoying a long era of peace. But about four decades later political turmoil would upset the great realm from one end to another. Wars and rumors of wars have occurred since. The end will come with such swiftness that it will be like a flood according to Daniel 9:26– After the sixty-two ‘sevens’, the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. Since the end of World War II the number of wars in our world has increased dramatically. new nations have demanded independence as old empires disintegrate. Though there have been numerous peace treaties, the world has not known a single day without some nation at war with another somewhere on the earth.
How often has the United States been involved in a war in the last hundred years? World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Desert Storm, Bosnia, and now the War with Iraq. And there are rumors of wars with Syria and other nations.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that wars are occurring more frequently like the beginning of birth-pains!
While nations have always found reasons to hate one another, Jesus warned that worldwide hatred would increase between nations and kingdoms. What do you think? Is the last month has relations between Arabs and Jews grown closer or further away? How about Arabs and Americans? Or Europeans and Americans?
Wars and rumors of wars are a prelude to the final war at the end of this present age when the LORD gathers the kings of the earth and their armies together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon to be cut down with a sharp sickle, and gathered as grapes and thrown into the great winepress of God’s wrath.