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Alex's Blog - August 14, 2009 - The Restoration of the Jews (Part 3)
By Alex Dodson
Jesus in giving the Olivet discourse in Matthew 24 (also, Mark 13, Luke 21), describes primarily what would happen when the temple and city would be attacked and destroyed in 70 AD. Luke makes it clear that Jesus' prophecy would come to pass when the armies came to attack Jerusalem. John L. Bray wrote a whole book showing that Matthew 24 primarily describes the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Although I do not agree with everything he says, he does make many good points and shows from an historical perspective that much of what Jesus prophesied in Matthew 24 has already come to pass in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD and the dispersion of the Jewish people at that time. He writes, "The entire 24th chapter of Matthew concerns the prophecy of Jesus Christ concerning the coming destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in the year A.D. 70." (p. 5 Matthew 24 Fulfilled) He tends to go too far in saying that everything in the chapter applies only to what happened in 70 AD but he makes a good case to show that the chapter primarily refers to what happened then.
The Rejection of Israel
Ezekiel prophesies a day when the people of Israel will be brought back from being scattered to all the nations. It seems very evident that this scattering that Ezekiel referred to took place primarily in 70 AD when Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed by invading armies. The Messiah had visited the land of Israel and the majority of the people had rejected Him and continued in their self righteousness and unbelief. As a result God brought judgement upon them as a people. Jesus had foretold that this would happen. We read in Luke 21:20-24 - "When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled." We know that Jerusalem was invaded and destroyed by the Roman armies in 70 AD in fulfillment of this prophecy. Jesus had made it clear on other occasions that this would happen. In Matthew 21:43, Jesus says: "Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit." It is interesting to note that in the chapter preceding Matthew 24, Jesus warns the Jewish people of the judgement that will come upon them. In addressing the Pharisees, He says, "Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berakiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation." (Matthew 23:34-36) We know that the Jews persecuted the early Christians in the years before 70 AD. The apostles suffered at the hands of their fellow Jews. Acts 8:1 talks about a great persecution that broke out against the church at Jerusalem after the stoning of Stephen. Paul was persecuted by the Jewish people in the cities that he preached. So, not only did the Jewish people reject the Messiah but they persecuted His people. That doesn't mean that all the Jews were involved in this rejection of Christ. There was a faithful remnant who welcomed the Messiah and followed Him. They were the seed of the early church.
Jesus further prophesied of this judgement upon Israel. At the time when Jesus road into Jerusalem on a donkey (the triumphal entry), Luke 19:41 - 44 records what He said - "As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, 'If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace - but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you." The comment in the Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible on these verses says, "The city would be completely destroyed. The people would have to live with their rejection of God's Messiah." (p. 1682) This judgement upon Jerusalem happened, as we have noted above, in 70 AD.
As God brought judgement upon Israel and Judah in times past because of their sin and rejection of Him, He does so again after they rejected the Messiah and persecuted the early Christians rejecting God's prophets and teachers. John Gill (1720-1771)writes concerning this destruction of Jerusalem that Jesus prophesied, "So shall also the coming of the Son of man be; which must be understood not of his last coming to judgment, though that will be sudden, visible, and universal…but of his coming in his wrath and vengeance to destroy that people, their nation, city, and temple; so that after this to look for the Messiah in a desert, or secret chamber, must argue great stupidity and blindness; when his coming was as sudden, visible, powerful, and general, to the destruction of that nation, as the lightning that comes from the east, and, in a moment, shines to the west." (Bray, p. 123-124)
Yet, just as sure as the Lord restored the Jewish people of old after being in Babylon for 70 years, so He will once again restore the Jewish people in the future. They were judged for rejecting the Messiah and the gospel and persecuting the followers of Jesus but God will once again restore them. In our next blog we will look at more prophecies from both the Old and New Testaments concerning their future restoration.
All Scripture quotations are from the New International Version unless indicated otherwise.
Bray, John L. Matthew 24 Fulfilled. American Vision Press, Powder Springs, Georgia, 1996.
Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible. Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI 2003.