CHAPTER XIV

SUCH AS NEVER WAS

It is needful that close attention be paid to the inspired words whereby the distresses attendant upon the destruction of the Jewish nation and their holy city are described in the several prophecies wherein they are foretold. For it is quite a common mistake to assume that the great tribulation was to be a calamity of unexampled magnitude as regards the number of the slain, and the amount of property destroyed. Thus we have had it said to us that the late world war exceeded the tribulation of the Jews during and resulting from the siege of Jerusalem, in that more lives were lost, more towns devastated, &c. 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 earth which now are shall be destroyed by fire (#2Pe 3:6,7). The prophecies we are studying speak not of a tribulation greater in magnitude or extent, but different in kind; and moreover, they speak of one which was to come as a judgment from God upon the Jewish nation. Thus, in Jeremiah 30:6 we read, "Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it; it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble." Here are both of the limitations to which we have referred. The first is in the words "none like it, " which suggest troubles of a peculiar sort; and the second is in the words "Jacob’s trouble." The words of Daniel 12:1 are equally explicit: "And there shall be a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation, ’"etc. The words "such as" point to troubles of a special kind, and the words "since there was a nation" mean a nation of Israel, as the context shows. Finally our Lord’s words are "great tribulation such as was not since the beginning of the world, " etc.; and again the context shows that the calamity He spoke of was to come upon that generation of Israelites. The peculiar character of those self-inflicted sufferings of the Jews during the siege will be clearly seen from the extracts given below from the history of Josephus; but there is also to be taken into consideration the fact that, at the termination of the siege, the whole nation was sold into bondage and scattered to the ends of the earth. Such a thing had never happened before (though Jerusalem had been often besieged); and the words of Christ make it sure that nothing like it will happen again.

The apostle Paul, who is the chief revelator 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 advent. Thus, he says explicitly that "it is a righteous thing .with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; and to you that 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 .... When He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believe .... in that day" (#2Th 1:6-10). This passage speaks plainly of the vengeance that is to fall, when Christ comes again, upon all who reject the gospel; but neither here nor elsewhere in the writings of Paul is there any mention of a special period of tribulation (the last of the seventy weeks of Daniel 9, as some say) preceding the revelation of Jesus Christ. What Paul distinctly foretells in this passage, and refers to in other passages (as #1Th 1:10 5:2,3) is in agreement with the words of Christ, Who, speaking of the time of His coming again in glory with His angels, said, "And then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn" (#Mt 24:30,31).

We are aware that many in our day have so settled it in their minds that the appearing of Christ in glory is to be preceded by a definite period, "the great tribulation" so called, that it is difficult for them even to consider the idea that the period to which our Lord applied that expression is now long past. Nevertheless we are confident that all who are disposed to examine with open minds the testimony of the Scriptures will be constrained to agree with the conclusion we have reached, which is that of practically all the great commentators of bygone days, and of many in our own day. That view is well and concisely stated by Wiston in his preface to Josephus’ Wars of the Jews, where he says:

“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 had directly foretold, (#Mt 24:21 Mr 13:19 Lu 21:23,24) and that they proved to be such accordingly, Josephus is here a most authentic witness.”

MARK’S ACCOUNT OF THE OLIVET PROPHECY

Let us now, with the help thus gained, examine more closely the entire discourse. For this purpose we select the account given by Mark as the basis of our study. This we do because it is the most concise and straightforward. Since it gives the Lord’s answer to the same question of the four disciples, 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 Matthew and Luke would be merely details, or matters collateral to the main subject.

The question—put to the Lord privately by Peter, James, John and Andrew (#Mr 13:3,4)—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 whereof was indicated by the fact that there should "not be left one stone upon another that should not be thrown down" (#Mr 13:2). {a}

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, seem to be not in response to the question put to Him. But they are all the more important for that very reason; for they show that what the Lord deemed most essential 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, whereof He had previously spoken to them (#Mt 16:27; 19:28). He was therefore most explicit in warning them to beware of false Christs, who would arise and deceive many at the time of the siege of Jerusalem. Furthermore, He warned them not to be disturbed by wars or rumours of wars, earthquakes, famines and the like; for such things must occur, but they were not signs of "the end." Thus the subject of His own coming again at the end of the age was introduced, as we have said, in a purely negative way, and solely in order to inform the disciples that His second coming was in no way connected with the events whereof He was then forewarning them.

In this connection the Lord also informed them of the treatment they were to receive, and the sufferings they were to endure (#Mr 13:9-13); and He instructed them what they were to do when summoned before tribunals for His Name’s sake (#Mr 13:11).

The one great thing they were to keep in mind in respect to the unmeasured period that was to elapse before His coming again was that "the gospel must first be published among all nations" (#Mr 13:10). In like manner after His resurrection, when they brought up the same question concerning the restoring of the kingdom to Israel, He turned their minds from that subject, and said, "But .... ye shall be witnesses unto Me, both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth" (#Ac 1:6-8). The end of the age will come when, and only when, the work of the Gospel shall have been finished. Thus He made the work of the Gospel to be the matter of supreme importance.

This reply to their thoughts concerning His second coming is found (with additional details) in (#Mt 24:4-14 Lu 21:8-19). We need not refer at this point to those passages. For what we wish just now to impress upon our readers is that the Lord was not, in this part of His reply, speaking of events that were to happen just prior to His second advent, but on the contrary, was warning them not to take such things as wars, famines, pestilences, &c., as indications that His advent was near.

Obviously that warning applies throughout the entire age; for if commotions of the sort mentioned by the Lord were not indications of the nearness of His coming at the beginning of the age, they would not be indications thereof at any later period.

The Sign. At this point (#Mr 13:14) the Lord changes the subject, as indicated by the word "But"; and He now specifies a definite "sign"—impossible to be misunderstood—whereby they and all the saints of that generation should know with absolute certainty that the predicted "desolation" was about to take place, He says: "But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not (let him that readeth understand), then let them that be in Judea flee to the mountains, " etc.

We have already shown by the corresponding passage in Luke 21:20 that "the abomination of desolation" was the invading army which was about to encircle Jerusalem and accomplish "the desolation thereof." That "abomination, " when it was encompassing Jerusalem, was "standing where it ought not." A comparison of the two passages leaves no room for any uncertainty as to the Lord’s meaning. What has mainly caused certain modern expositors to go astray at this point is a curious mistake in regard to the expression used by Matthew, "standing in the holy place." This point is so important that we reserve it for special comment later on. In view of the very general misunderstanding concerning this particular point, the Lord’s words, "let him that readeth understand, " are very significant.

In this part of the Lord’s answer (#Mr 13:14-23) He gave explicit directions to His people how to secure their own safety; and furthermore He indicated that the complete investment of the city would be so swiftly accomplished that, after the appearance of the armies, their only safety would lie in instant flight. We call attention once more to the exceedingly practical character of this prophecy.

It is important to notice that the word "affliction" in verse 19 of Mark 13, is the same as that rendered "tribulation" in verse 24, and in (#Mt 24:7,21.)

In verse 20 is the promise that "those days"—referring to the horrors of the siege—would be shortened; and we have already shown, in discussing Daniel 12, that the time was shortened, and in a manner evidently providential, so that the Romans obtained sudden, and most unexpected, possession of the last stronghold of the city.

At this point the Lord renews the warning against expecting His return at that time. He speaks with great definiteness, saying, "Then, " that is during those days of siege, "if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ; or lo, He is there; believe him not" (#Mr 13:21). Moreover, He gives the reason for this explicit warning, saying, "For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall show signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect. But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things" (#Mr 13:22,23). These words become very clear and plain when it is seen that the Lord is speaking of false Christs, and false prophets, who would seduce (or deceive) many into the belief that He was about to appear at that time and save Jerusalem from the invading armies. Similarly in the days of Zedekiah, when the city was besieged by Nebuchadnezzar, there were false prophets who deceived the people by telling them that the enemy would not capture the city (#Jer 27:14, &c.). In view of the many interventions by the Lord on behalf of His people, and of the many promises given to them, it was very easy indeed to persuade the Jews to expect a miraculous deliverance. Hence it was exceedingly important that Christ should make His own disciples understand that there was to be no deliverance in this case.

In the corresponding part of Matthew’s Gospel (#Mt 24:15-28) it is plain that we have another account of identically the same future events. Mark says "in those days"—i, e., in the days of the siege of Jerusalem—"shall be affliction (great tribulation), such as was not from the beginning, " &c. Matthew says, "For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not from the beginning, " etc.

Verses 27 and 28 of Matthew 24 tell what will be the manner of the Lord’s appearing when He does come ("as the lightning cometh out of the east, " &c.). Those words are not in Mark. This further goes to show that Christ’s second coming was not the main subject of His discourse here, but was a collateral matter. Obviously in this place also it was mentioned merely to give emphasis to the warning not to heed the reports which would be current at that time, that He was "in the desert, " or "in the secret chambers."

The corresponding part of Luke’s account is found in verses 20-24 (#Lu 21:20-24). This account is valuable mainly for the very definite statements of verse 24, which tell how the siege was to end: "And they"—the people of verse 23—"shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations; and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled." These few words give a concise and accurate description of the conditions of the city and people down to the present day. They made it plain to the disciples that there was to be no deliverance for Jerusalem at that time.

It is particularly to be noted that Luke, having spoken in detail of a coming destruction of Jerusalem, which everyone admits is that which came to pass in A. D. 70, says not a word of any other tribulation after that one. This forbids the idea that there is yet another tribulation (and even a worse one) in store for the Jews. Their worst enemies could hardly desire it, no reason for it can be conceived, the Scriptures do not reveal it, and we should be very slow to believe that such a thing could be.

Here are three evangelists, selected by God for the special purpose, and inspired by the Holy Spirit, each of whom gives us an account of one and the same utterance of the Lord Jesus Christ. That utterance has mainly to do with an affliction of unparalleled severity, which soon was to fall upon Jerusalem and Judea, to the complete "desolation" of the city and the extinction of the nation, but concerning the approach whereof Christ’s own people were to receive a timely warning and an opportunity to escape. If now it be indeed the case (as some modern expositors affirm) that the affliction whereof Matthew and Mark have preserved a record was not the nearby destruction of the city, but one that was not to happen until the very end of this dispensation, and only after Israel had been nationally exterminated, scattered for an entire age, and regathered in their land and city again (of all which things, however, neither Matthew nor Mark says a single word), how can we possibly account for the fact that Luke, though he speaks most impressively of the nearby destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, and of the world wide dispersion of the Jews, makes no reference at all to that far worse tribulation which is the prominent feature of the accounts given by Matthew and Mark as interpreted by certain modern expositors? Manifestly that could not be. And on the other hand, in view of the prominence given by Luke to the approaching destruction of Jerusalem, and in view also of the identical instructions given to the disciples, as recorded by all three evangelists, it is not supposable that Matthew and Mark would absolutely ignore that unspeakable affliction, and describe—in identically the same context—another tribulation that lay in the far off future.

The statement found in (#Lu 21:22, )" For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled, " calls for attentive consideration. The expression "the days of vengeance" indicates a definite period of judgment; and this is emphasized by the words, "that all things which are written, " which means, of course, all the threats of judgment, recorded in the law and the prophets, "might be fulfilled." Manifestly, if all things of that nature were "fulfilled" at the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, then there could not be after that a further (and a worse) tribulation for Israel.

As a help to the understanding of these words, let us turn to the earliest prophecy which speaks of the days of vengeance that were to come upon the faithless people. It is found in (#De 28:49-59, ) where God gave, through Moses, an outline of the future history of His people, telling how they would depart from Himself, and how He would punish them by bringing against them a nation which should besiege them in their cities. The description fits very accurately the Romans, and the desolations wrought by them. We quote a part of the passage:

“The Lord shall bring a nation against thee from far, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flieth; a nation whose tongue thou shalt not understand; a nation of fierce countenance, which shall not regard the person of the old, nor show favour to the young: *** And he shall besiege thee in all thy gates, until thy high and fenced walls come down, wherein thou trustedst. *** And thou shalt eat the fruit of thine own body, the flesh of thy sons and of thy daughters, which the Lord thy God hath given thee, in the siege, and in the straitness wherewith thine enemies shall distress thee: So that the man that is tender among you and very delicate, his eye shall be evil toward his brother, and toward the wife of his bosom, and toward the remnant of his children which he shall leave; so that he will not give to any of them of the flesh of his children whom he shall eat; because he hath nothing left him in the siege, and in the straitness, wherewith thine enemies shall distress thee in all thy gates. The tender and delicate woman among you, which would not adventure to set the sole of her foot upon the ground for delicateness and tenderness, her eye shall be evil toward the husband of her bosom, and toward her son and toward her daughter, and toward her young one that cometh forth from between her feet, and toward her children which she shall bear: for she shall eat them for want of all things secretly in the siege and straitness wherewith thine enemies shall distress thee in thy gates.”

The prophecy goes on to declare that the people of Israel were to be greatly diminished in numbers, were to be "plucked off the land, " and were to be scattered "among all people, from one end of the earth even to the other, " where they were to "find no ease."

These predictions—terrible in their nature beyond all comparison—were fulfilled with appalling exactness and literalness in the siege of Jerusalem, and in the dispersion which followed it, and which has lasted until now. As we come to realize the character of these awful distresses, we shall surely be thankful that "all things which were written, " concerning the afflictions of the people of Israel, have now been "fulfilled." We can but rejoice that there is no support whatever for the view that a time of distress, exceeding in severity the horrors of the siege of Jerusalem, yet awaits that much afflicted people.

It should be noticed that the nation whereof Moses speaks in this prophecy was to come "from far, " and was to be one whose tongue the Jews did not understand. Those specifications fit the Romans, but not the Assyrians or Chaldeans. Furthermore, in the tribulation foretold by Moses the people were to be plucked off the land and scattered among all nations "from one end of the earth even to the other." This describes the result of the capture of Jerusalem by Titus, and not that of its capture by Nebuchadnezzar.

Prominent among the "things that were written" aforetime, and which our Lord said were to be "fulfilled" at the approaching destruction of Jerusalem, was that "time of trouble" foretold in (#Da 12:1, ) at which time some of Daniel’s people were to be delivered, even such as should be found "written in the book." This latter expression had come to mean, since the days of Moses (#Ex 32:32) those who were accepted by God and owned as His. Such (i.e., believers in the Lord Jesus Christ) were "delivered" at that time through giving heed to His warnings.

THE ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION

There is need that special attention be given to the words, "When ye therefore shall see THE ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place (whoso readeth let him understand); then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains, " etc. (#Mt 24:15,16). The passage is the same in Mark except that, instead of "stand in the holy place, " we read, "standing where it ought not." In Luke the corresponding passage reads, "And when ye shall see JERUSALEM COMPASSED WITH ARMIES, then know that THE DESOLATION thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judea flee to the mountains, " etc.

This passage was, to the Lord’s disciples then in Jerusalem and Judea, the most important of the entire prophecy; for it gave "the sign" whereby they were to know that the "desolation, " predicted in Daniel 9:26, was at hand, and upon "seeing" which they were to flee. Luke describes the sign in plain language. The encompassing of Jerusalem by armies was to be the warning that its desolation was nigh. But Matthew (for a reason which can be discerned) uses terms such that others than the disciples would not readily "understand" the meaning. To us, however, it should be clear, upon a mere comparison of the passages, that the armies which were to accomplish the "desolation" of the city were "the abomination of desolation." But we will look further into the matter.

We have already pointed out that the word "abomination" means any hateful or detestable thing. It would most fittingly apply to the Roman armies on their mission of destruction. Indeed the descriptive words, "of desolation, " fix the meaning definitely. Yet, according to an interpretation that is widely accepted at this time, it means the setting up of an idol for worship in a Jewish temple which (it is supposed) will be built at Jerusalem in the days of Antichrist. But, in that case, the words "of desolation" would be quite out of place; for no one will contend that Jerusalem is to be again made a desolation. Another insuperable objection to that view is that God would not regard or speak of any part of such a temple as "the holy place."

Our modern expositors have been misled by this expression (used by Matthew) "the holy place." They have assumed that it meant the holy of holies in the temple. But it does not mean that at all. Anyone, with the help of a concordance (as Young’s or Strong’s) or a Greek dictionary, can see for himself that the word used for "place" in Matthew 24:15 (#Mt 24:15) is topos, which means simply a locality (we derive from it the words topical, topography, etc.). It is used in expressions like "a desert place, "" dry places." The holy land, Judea, is therefore the "holy place, " where the heathen armies, with their idolatrous standards and pagan sacrifices, were to stand. Mark puts it simply as "standing where it ought not." On the other hand, the term hagios topos is never used of the holy of holies of the temple. (See original text of #Heb 9:12,24,25.)

The Lord was referring to the particular "abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet, " and at this point occurs the exhortation, "Whoso readeth let him understand." The expression "abomination of desolation" is found only in the Septuagint version of Daniel 9:27 (#Da 9:27). what then was it that is referred to in that verse? Clearly it is that which was to be God’s instrument in bringing about the predicted "desolation." The Hebrew text, of which our A. V. is a translation, reads "and for the overspreading of abominations, he shall make it desolate." If instead of "for, " we read, "by the overspreading of abominations, " we have a very good indication of the spreading abroad of the Roman armies.

In Daniel 11:31 and 12:11, (#Da 11:31, 12:11) is a slightly different expression which makes the meaning more clear, namely, "abomination that maketh desolate."

That the words "When ye see the abomination of desolation stand in the holy place" do not mean the setting up of an idol in the inner sanctuary, further appears by consideration of the fact that it was when the disciples should see the thing referred to, that they were to know it was time for them to flee. Manifestly the setting up of an idol in the inner sanctuary could not be a sign to the Lord’s people to flee. That would be a thing which only the priests could "see." And it could not possibly be a sign to "them that be in Judea." Whereas the invading armies would be a sight which all could see.

Furthermore, the setting up of an idol in the sanctuary is a thing which could not be done until the city and temple were taken by the enemy, which would be at the end of the siege. Hence it could not possibly serve as a sign to the disciples to save themselves from the horrors of the siege by timely flight.

The difference between the way Matthew describes this sign to flee, and the way Luke describes it, is accounted for by the fact that Matthew’s Gospel was written primarily for circulation among the Palestinian Jews. We can understand, therefore, why the Holy Spirit inspired him to use an expression which would not be understood except by the disciples. But no such reason would exist in the case of Luke’s Gospel, he being the companion of Paul in his journeys through the Greek provinces, and his Gospel having been written primarily for Gentile converts. Matthew and Mark have the significant admonition, "Whoso readeth let him understand." But in Luke, where the meaning is stated in clear words, that admonition is not found.

In confirmation of our view as to the abomination of desolation, we quote the following from a sound and standard work, Smith’s Bible Dictionary:

“Abomination of Desolation, mentioned by our Saviour, (#Mt 24:15, ) as a sign of the approaching destruction of Jerusalem, with reference to (#Da 9:27; 11:31; 12:11). The prophecy referred ultimately to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, and consequently the abomination must describe some occurrence connected with that event ..... Most people refer it to the standards or banners of the Roman army.”

We believe, however, that it is not the standards carried by the armies, but the armies themselves that constituted the abomination of desolation, or that maketh desolate. This conclusion is fully supported by the facts, (1) that where Matthew says "when ye see the abomination of desolation, " Luke says "when ye see Jerusalem encompassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh"; and (2) the armies were the agency whereby the "desolation" was accomplished.

In further confirmation of our view as to this point we quote also from Farquharson the following clear passage:

“Christ expressly names it (the abomination of desolation) as one of the previous signs, whereby those whom He then addressed would become aware of the immediate approach of that destruction of Jerusalem which He Himself foretold, and which, He said, would occur before the generation contemporary with Himself on earth passed away (#Mt 24:34). Besides, Christ, by the term ’abomination of desolation’ did not mean any temple built to a strange god, or any profane sacrifices. These are indeed abominable; but they are not desolators. Luke has preserved the explanation which Christ Himself gave of those terms (’when ye see Jerusalem compassed with armies, ’etc. #Lu 21:20), as we shall have occasion afterwards more particularly to show; and Bishop Newton, in his illustration of Christ’s own prophecy, refers to the explanation furnished by Luke and admits that the abomination of desolation signifies the heathen armies.”

Also from the same author we quote the following passage, which occurs in the course of his comments upon Daniel 12:1, "And at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book":—

“The prediction of the prophet then, in this latter part of the first verse, was fulfilled in that part of Daniel’s people who, obeying the call of the Saviour to faith in Him, and repentance and new obedience, obtained through His blood eternal redemption. Although the Jewish rulers and the greater part. of the nation would not have Him to be their King, but delivered Him up to the Gentiles, yet says Paul, ’God hath not cast away His people which He foreknew, ’but, as in the days of Elias He reserved to Himself seven thousand men who had not bowed the knee to the image of Baal, even so now, ’at this present time also, there is a remnant according to the election of grace’ (#Ro 11:2-5). Within a short time after Christ’s ascension this ’remnant’ amounted to several thousands (#Ac 2:41 4:4); and afterwards ’believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of men and women’ (#Ac 5:14). These were at that time ’delivered.’ *** But there was added to the eternal deliverance they thus obtained a temporal deliverance also, in that ’time of trouble, ”during which their unbelieving countrymen perished by sword and famine. For He in Whom they believed had taught them the signs that should precede the approaching calamities, and had warned them to escape from them by a timely flight (#Mt 24:15,16). Of His warnings they availed themselves. We learn from ecclesiastical histories, ’says Bishop Newton, ’that at this juncture (the approach of the siege of Jerusalem) all who believed in Christ departed from Jerusalem, and removed to Pella and other places beyond the river Jordan; so that they all marvellously escaped the general shipwreck of their countrymen; and we do not read anywhere that so much as one of them perished in the destruction of Jerusalem.’ Thus, in every sense, ’at that time Daniel’s people were delivered, all who were found written in the book.’ "

LUKE’S ACCOUNT. IS IT THE SAME DISCOURSE?

We would notice at this point an idea which has been advanced by a few commentators (not any of prominence so far as we are aware) namely that the account found in Luke 21 is that of a different utterance of Christ from that reported in the corresponding parts of Matthew and Mark. This idea is really a confirmation of what we have been seeking to prove; for those who suggest it must have recognized that, if Luke 21 (#Lu 21$) gives us an account of the same utterance as is reported by the other two gospel writers, then it must be that the "great tribulation" of the latter is the fall of Jerusalem described by the former, and "the abomination of desolation" is the armed Roman force.

But the idea referred to above is utterly untenable. According to each of the three writers the discourse occurred just after Christ left the temple for the last time; and according to each it began with the same words ("not one stone shall be left upon another"); and moreover the prophetic part was spoken in reply to the question of the disciples ("tell us, " etc.). And not only so, but the account by Luke follows the same order as the others, and uses in many passages precisely the same words. It is simply an impossibility that there should have been two distinct discourses on the same day, arising out of the same incident, and in response to the same question, from the same disciples.

It is nothing to the purpose that Matthew and Mark state the place where the conversation took place (the Mount of Olives) whereas Luke omits mention of that detail. There would be as much ground to argue that Christ endured two different agonies on the night of His betrayal, in two different places, because, while Matthew and Mark give Gethsemane as the place, Luke does not specify the name of the locality where what he describes (with differences of detail from the others) took place.

The proof is conclusive that the three accounts refer to one and the same discourse, and that what Luke plainly identifies as the then approaching destruction of Jerusalem, the other two evangelists spoke of under the general term "great tribulation."

ISRAEL’S LAST PROBATION

We have sought to impress upon our readers the fact that the destruction of Jerusalem, and the final breakup of the Jewish nation, was a matter of immense importance in the history of the world, as divinely viewed and written. We would now, in closing this chapter, call attention to the fact that God, in marvellous forbearance and goodness, did not execute His righteous judgment upon the nation at once, but gave them a final period of probation, which lasted just 40 years, from A.D. 30, when the Lord was crucified, to A.D. 70, when the city was destroyed and the nation exterminated.

The number 40 appears to be the measure of full probation. The Israelites were tested for 40 years in the wilderness at the beginning of their national career. That was under the Law. And at the end thereof, God gave them another probation of 40 years, under the Gospel. Other periods of full probation are found in the Scriptures, as when Moses left the people to themselves, while he was in the mountain 40 days. The first three kings of Israel (Saul, David and Solomon) reigned the full period of 40 years. And finally our Lord was tested for 40 days in the wilderness, with the wild beasts, and tempted of the devil.

THE TIME OF JACOB’S TROUBLE

The reference to "the time of Jacob’s trouble" is found in (#Jer 30:5-7). From what appears in chapter 29:1, as well as from the immediate context, it is evident that the prophecy concerning Jacob’s trouble was spoken after the captivity in Babylon had begun; so it was not the punishment inflicted by Nebuchadnezzar that the prophet was foretelling. This is made very plain by the verses immediately preceding the prophecy of Jacob’s trouble, in which God says that He will bring again the captivity of His people and cause them to return to the land of their fathers. So the predicted order of events was the return of the captivity from Babylon, and after that the time of Jacob’s trouble, which is foretold in these striking words:

“For thus saith the Lord; We have heard a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace. 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”(#Jer 30:5-7).

The destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans is a complete fulfilment of this prophecy. Why then should we ignore a conspicuous historical fulfilment and surmise a fulfilment in the future, for which there is no proof?

The words "none is like it" establish the fact that "the time of Jacob’s trouble, " foretold by Jeremiah, is the same as the "time of trouble such as never was, " foretold to Daniel by the man clothed in linen, and the same as the "great tribulation such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, nor ever shall be, " foretold by the Lord as then about to come upon the people. For there cannot be two such times of trouble.

Likewise the words of Jeremiah, "But he shall be saved out of it, " agree with the words, "Thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book" (#Da 12:1); and with the words of Christ, "But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved" (#Mt 24:13). The agreement is striking.

Jeremiah, after prophesying the time of Jacob’s trouble (of the particulars whereof he gives no description) proceeds to speak of another captivity for the nation, and of God’s purpose to gather His people out of it, and to restore them again to their own land (#Jer 30:10,11). This confirms the view that the captivity referred to in verse 3 is that in Babylon. Moreover, the terms used in describing the captivity spoken of in verses 10 and 11 show that it was a world-wide dispersion. For God says: "I will save thee from afar … and Israel shall return and be at rest, and be quiet, and none shall make him afraid." So here we have a captivity in distant lands, to be followed by a restoration and blessing—not by another tribulation. Further, we read: "For I am with thee, saith the Lord, to save thee: though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of end of thee" (#Jer 30:11).

Thus, according to all these three great prophecies which we have been studying and comparing, there was to be a time of unequalled trouble for Israel, followed by a world wide scattering of the survivors, and with this, history is in perfect agreement; for the time of trouble, such as never was either before or since, came within the generation specified by Christ, and was immediately followed by a world wide dispersion of the Jews, which has lasted until now; yet God has not made a full end of them.

All this is completely reversed by a current system of interpretation of prophecy, which makes the dispersion of the people of Israel come first, and the time of "trouble such as never was" to be reserved for them afterward, when God shall have brought them again, and finally, to their own land.

THE GREAT TRIBULATION OF REVELATION VII

In Revelation 7:9-17 (#Re 7:9-17) is described the vision of a great multitude which no man could number, of all nations and kindreds, and people, and tongues, of whom it is said that "These are they which came out of great tribulation" (or "out of the great tribulation") "and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."

There is nothing in this passage to show that the tribulation referred to is yet future, or to justify the expression, commonly heard in some quarters, "tribulation saints." What John is here permitted to see is, not a future tribulation, but the future blessedness of those who, while on earth, were in great tribulation. The time when the tribulation occurred is not indicated at all.

We do not identify the tribulation of Matthew 24:21 with that of Revelation 7:14. The former is a specific event in history, and one that pertained strictly to the Jewish people. The latter is general and indefinite. There were people out of every nation, kindred, tongue and tribe, involved in it. The probability is (though at present we cannot express a decided opinion about it) that the company referred to (whose blessedness is precisely the same as that of all the redeemed as described in (#Re 21:3,4)) embraces all those who have suffered for the truth’s sake, during all the centuries of persecution under imperial Rome and papal Rome. That tribulation, being of quite a different sort from the concrete tribulation which befell Jerusalem in A.D. 70, does not come into comparison with it. There was to be nothing of that sort to exceed it.

There is no good reason for doubting that the A.V. gives the true sense in saying, "These are they which came out of great tribulation, " which words do not specify a special class of sufferers, who passed through some special period of affliction. We utterly reject the idea of a separate company of "tribulation saints, " segregated from the main company of the redeemed, and appointed to some inferior sphere of blessing.

{a} The stones of the Temple were of huge dimensions. Edersheim says: "According to Josephus the city was so upheaved and dug up that it was difficult to believe it had ever been inhabited. At a later period Turnus Rufus had the plowshare drawn over it. In regard to the temple walls, notwithstanding the massiveness of the stones, there was nothing left in place, with the exception of some corner or portion of wall—left almost to show how great had been the ruin and desolation."

Index - 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 - 11 - 12 - 13 - 14 - 15 - 16 - Appendix