The Great Tribulation, The Days Of Vengeance
The main thing we want to establish at this point is that when Christ spoke the words found in Matt. 24:21, ["For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be"], He was warning the disciples of the approaching destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. He was letting them know in advance that the sufferings of the besieged people, and the horrors and atrocities of that awful time, would be without parallel in the history of the world - past or future. It was necessary to impress this upon His people of that day, so that they should not delay their "flight" when the sign He gave them should appear.
The prophecy was exceedingly practical. Its purpose was to save the lives of the Lord's own people at a time of extreme danger and distress. And we have only to glance at the three accounts to see that His warning concerning the great tribulation was given for the purpose that His own people might escape from it. We will look at this in more detail later, but for now please note that the greatness of the tribulation was mentioned as the reason why the disciples were to pray that their "flight be not in the winter nor on the Sabbath Day" [Matt. 24:20-21]. Those words clearly confine the application of the prophecy to a time before the dispersion of the Jews. Let it be understood then that we are not making any statements about persecutions, tribulations, and wrath, which are or may yet be future. What we are saying is that the "great tribulation" which our Lord spoke about, and which He called "the tribulation of those days" [Matt. 24:29], was the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in AD 70. And we would say that it is necessary, in order to properly understand other prophecies, that this fact be understood.
The proof is ample. The Scriptures already quoted make it plain that the wrath, which God was about to pour out upon those who had crucified His Son and rejected His offer of mercy, was "wrath to the uttermost." But the clearest proof of all is to be found by simply reading, side by side, the three accounts which God has given us of this great prophecy.
It never occurred to the writer to do this until a few months before these papers were written. But when he did so he was shocked that he had been for so long blinded to a fact which lies plainly revealed upon the surface of the Scriptures.
**Editor's comment: This is a good principle of Bible Study. Always compare all the relevant Scripture - especially different accounts of the same event.**
Briefly, what the writer found, and anyone can see by making the same comparison, is:
1. That the words of Luke 21:20-24, beginning with, "And when ye shall see Jerusalem encompassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh, " refer to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman armies under Titus [no expositor would dispute this];
2. That the words found in the corresponding part of Matthew's account, beginning with the words, "When therefore ye shall see" [Matt. 24:15-22], refer to precisely the same event as that spoken of in Luke 21:20-24. So far as we know, all expositors agree that the words recorded by Luke refer to the then approaching destruction of Jerusalem. A careful examination of the account given by Matthew will show that it refers to the same destruction of Jerusalem and contains details which clearly show that our Lord was speaking of an event then close at hand. [More on this later.]
Now, if you have three Bibles and a table to spread them out on, open each Bible to a different passage: Matt. 24:1-44; Mark 13:1-35; and Luke 21:5-36. Then read each account of this same conversation one after another. If you only have one Bible, or small space, then read them one after another in the same Bible. You will be rewarded for the time you invest studying and comparing these sections of Scripture. [It is the only utterance of any length of which we have three separate accounts, and there must be a reason for this.]
What we would like to emphasize now is that the section beginning "When ye shall see" [Matt. 24:12; Mark 13:14; Luke 21:20] obviously refers, in each account to the same event - the approaching destruction of Jerusalem. "The abomination of desolation standing in the holy place" [Matt. and Mark] means the same thing as do the words "Jerusalem" - the holy city - "compassed with armies" [the armies being the "abomination" which was to make the place a "desolation," Luke 21:20]. We will come back to this later.
The "great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world..." [Matt. 24:21], is the same as "affliction" [the same word as "tribulation" in the original]. In all three accounts are mentioned the same woes, "to them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days," and the same direction for instant flight are given. But in Matthew's account only we have the Lord's instruction to His disciples to pray that their flight be not in the winter nor on the Sabbath day. Those words show clearly that He was speaking of a time when the stringent Rabbinical rules concerning the distance that might be traveled on the Sabbath day would still be in force. That remark fixes the time with certainty as before the destruction of Jerusalem. Those strict Rabbinical rules have not been in force for centuries; and there is no reason to suppose that they will ever be revived. The words do not, of course, imply that Christ's own disciples would be bound by those rules even then; but so long as they were in Judea they would have been hampered by them in their flight, should it take place on the Sabbath.
8. Jesus was letting them know in advance that the sufferings of the besieged people, and the horrors and atrocities of that awful time, would be without ___________________ in the history of the world - past or future.
9. The purpose of this prophecy was to _______________ the lives of the Lord's own people at a time of extreme danger and distress.
10. The "_________________________" which our Lord spoke about, and which He called "the tribulation of those days" [Matt. 24:29], was the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in AD 70.
11. All expositors agree that the words recorded by _________________ refer to the then approaching destruction of Jerusalem.
12. "The abomination of desolation standing in the holy place" [Matt. and Mark] means the same thing as do the words "______________________" - the holy city - "compassed with armies."
13. Those strict ________________________ rules have not been in force for centuries; and there is no reason to suppose that they will ever be revived.
In the light of this comparison of scripture with scripture, we think it plain that the "great tribulation" of Matt. 24:14 was the unparalleled calamity, with its unspeakable sufferings, which befell the city and people in AD 70.
In the history of "The Wars Of The Jews" by Josephus we have a detailed account, written by an eyewitness, of the almost unbelievable sufferings of the Jews during the siege of Jerusalem. To this account we will refer later; but we wish to say now that the distresses of those who were hemmed in by the sudden appearance of the Roman armies were peculiar in that what they endured was mainly self-inflicted. The Jews suffered far more from cruelties and tortures inflicted upon one another, than from the common enemy outside the walls. In this strange feature of the case it was surely, "a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation, even to the same time" [Dan. 12:1].
What went on within the distressed city calls to mind the words of Isaiah 9:19-21:
"Through the wrath of the LORD of hosts is the land darkened, and the people shall be as the fuel of the fire: no man shall spare his brother. And he shall snatch on the right hand, and be hungry; and he shall eat on the left hand, and they shall not be satisfied: they shall eat every man the flesh of his own arm: Manasseh, Ephraim; and Ephraim, Manasseh: and they together shall be against Judah. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still."
"Such As Never Was"
It is necessary to read very carefully the inspired words which describe the destruction of the Jewish nation and their holy city in the different prophecies which relate to it. For it is a common mistake to assume that the great tribulation was to be a calamity of unexampled magnitude in the number of people killed and the amount of property destroyed. Thus we have had it said to us that late world-war exceeded the tribulation of the Jews during the and resulting from the siege of Jerusalem. But the scriptures do not speak of it as a calamity that should exceed all others in magnitude. In fact that could not be, for there has been no calamity to compare in magnitude with that of the flood, and will be none till the heavens and the earth which now are shall be destroyed by fire [2. Peter 3:6- 7].
The prophecies we are studying do not speak of a tribulation greater in magnitude, but different in kind and they speak of a judgment from God upon the Jewish nation. Thus we have in Jer. 30:6-7 "Ask ye now, and see whether a man doth travail with child? wherefore do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in travail, and all faces are turned into paleness? Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it." Here are both of the limitations we mentioned. The first is in the words "none like it," which suggest troubles of a particular kind. The second is in the words "Jacob's trouble," which shows it is talking about Israel.
The words of Dan. 12:1 are equally explicit: "...and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time..." The words "such as" point to troubles of a special kind, and the words "since there was a nation" mean the nation of Israel. Finally our Lord's words are "great tribulation such as was not since the beginning of the world..." This shows that the calamity He spoke of was to come upon that generation of Israelites. Besides the unique type of suffering in the siege of Jerusalem, at the end of it the entire nation was sold into bondage and scattered to the ends of the earth. Such a thing had never happened before [through Jerusalem had often been besieged]. The words of Christ make it sure that nothing like it will happen again.
The apostle Paul, who is the chief revealer of the Second Coming of Christ, speaks definitely and frequently of "the wrath to come," but is absolutely silent as to any "great tribulation" in connection with the Second Coming. So we read in 2 Thess. 1:6-10: "Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day." This passage speaks plainly of the vengeance that is to fall, when Christ returns, on all who reject the gospel; but neither here nor anywhere else in the writings of Paul is there any mention of special period of tribulation BEFORE the coming of Christ. What Paul foretells in this passage [also see 1 Thess. 1:10; 5:2-3] is in agreement with the words of Christ, Who, speaking of the time of His coming again in glory said, "And then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn" [Matt. 24:30-31].
We are aware that many in our day operate with the preconceived idea that the Second Coming of Christ is preceded by "the great tribulation." It may be difficult for them to even consider the idea that the period of time to which our Lord applied that expression is now long past. Nevertheless, we are confident that all who are willing to examine with open minds the testimony of Scripture will agree with the conclusion we have reached [which practically all the great commentators of bygone days agree with]. This view is concisely stated by Wiston in his preface to Josephus' Wars of the Jews: "That these calamities of the Jews, who were our Saviour's murderers, were to be the greatest that had ever been since the beginning of the world, our Saviour directly foretold, Matt. 24:21; Mark 13:19; Luke 21:23-24; and that they proved to be such accordingly, Josephus is here a most authentic witness."
**Editor's comment: The greatest way that this judgment was worse than all the others was Spiritual. It was here that Israel permanently lost their place as the people of God. The Blood Covenant had been broken and AD 70 was the final dismissal. It had never happened before and it can never happen again. Just as Christ's greatest suffering on the cross was His spiritual rejection by the Father so the greatest suffering of the Jewish nation was their spiritual rejection by God.**
14. The Jews __________________ far more from cruelties and tortures inflicted upon one another, than from the common enemy outside the walls.
15. The prophecies we are studying do not speak of a tribulation greater in ___________________, but different in kind and they speak of a judgment from God upon the Jewish nation.
16. Besides the unique type of suffering in the siege of Jerusalem, at the end of it the entire nation was ____________ into bondage and scattered to the ends of the earth.
17. Nowhere in the writings of Paul is there in mention of special period of tribulation _________________ the coming of Christ.
18. The greatest way that this judgment was worse than all the others was ______.
19. It was here that Israel ______________ lost their place as the people of God.
Mark's Account Of The Olivet Prophecy
Keeping the above in mind, let's now look more closely at what Jesus said. For this purpose we select the account given by Mark as the the basis of our study. We do this because it is the most concise and straightforward. Since it gives the Lord's answer to the same question of the four examples, we must assume that it is complete in the sense of containing everything said by the Lord that relates directly to that question. Additional statements found in Matt. and Luke would be extra details or matters related to the main subject.
The question - put to the Lord privately by Peter, James, John, and Andrew [vs. 3] - was this: "Tell us when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled?" The expression "these things" [or these events] is important for identification. It meant the terrible overthrow which the Lord had just announced to them, the completeness of it was indicated by the fact that there should "not be left one stone upon another that should not be thrown down" [vs 2].
The Lord's reply begins very significantly with the words, "Take heed lest any man deceive you." These, and the words which follow to the end of verse 8, do not seem to be in response to the question. They are all the more important for that reason. They show that what the Lord considered most important was to correct the erroneous thought in their minds that the time of the happening of "these things" was to be the time of His coming again in power and glory to set up His visible Kingdom. He was therefore explicit in warning them to beware of false Christs, who would arise and deceive many at the time of the siege of Jerusalem. He goes on to warn them not to be disturbed by wars or rumors of wars, earthquakes, famines, and the like. Such things must occur, but they were not signs of "the end." In effect, Jesus told His disciples that His Second Coming was in no way connected with the events He was then foretelling.
In this context the Lord also told them of the treatment they were to receive, and the sufferings they were to endure [vs 9-13]. Jesus also instructed them what they were to do when summoned before tribunals for His Name's sake [vs 11].
20. What the Lord considered most important was to correct the erroneous thought in their minds that the time of the happening of "these things" was to be the time of His coming again in power and glory to set up His _____________ Kingdom.
21. In effect, Jesus told His disciples that His _______________________ was in no way connected with the events He was then foretelling.
22. Jesus also instructed them what they were to do when summoned before ________________ for His Name's sake.
**Editor's Note: Mr. Mauro believes that in Matt. 24:4-14 [and related passages] Jesus is warning His disciples not to except the Second Coming immediately. He bases this on the fact that Jesus said the gospel must first be preached to all nations. Personally, this seems an unnatural break in the flow of the passage. Surely these verses must be included in the statement of Matt. 24:34 which plainly states that all these things were going to happen to that generation of Jews. The Book of Acts also testifies that the gospel DID go to all nations before AD 70. See Acts 17:6, 24:5, Rom. 1:8. You must study and decide for yourself the correct application of these scriptures.**
Feed Yourself Students
1. Answer all the questions.
2. Carefully read and compare all three accounts of the Olivet Discourse.
Return to The Great Tribulation Lessons.