The importance of understanding the prophetic scriptures was never better illustrated than in what happened to the Jewish people when God stood before them as a humble man instead of the expected conquering king. The blindness of the religious leaders to the fulfillment of the greatest prophetic event of all time would prove to have earthshaking consequences for the continued existence of the Jews in Palestine.
After more than three years of miraculous ministry among his people, Jesus made the final sad proclamation of judgment in midst of the last week of his life. The Lord and his twelve disciples were in the temple where they were encountering the hostilities of the scribes and Pharisees. Having been badgered by their unbelief for the past week, Jesus finally lashed out at them in judgment. “Serpents” and “vipers” he called them, as he wondered aloud how they would escape the damnation of hell. Finally, as he walked from the temple he cried out for all to hear.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them who are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!
“Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.
“For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.”
Matt. 23: 37-39
God Almighty was literally and figuratively leaving his holy temple, but the people could not or would not understand. The glory of God which filled the original tabernacle in the wilderness had come to his people in the form of a man and they rejected him. The Creator of the universe stood before his people that day and they refused to acknowledge him (John 1:1-14)! Even after centuries of chastisement and severe judgment because of their disobedience, the chosen people still refused to follow their Lord. Now he was leaving them desolate in their sins. What else could be done for the nation, see that they refused the Lord’s salvation? The author of the book of Hebrews put it this way…
“He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses;
“Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God…?
Hebrews 10: 28-29a
As the Son of God departed from the temple, his disciples sought to appease the tense situation by showing him the beautiful buildings of the surrounding area. Instead, Jesus responded with these somber words:
“See ye not all these things? Verily I say unto you, there shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”
According to Jesus, the judgment upon Jewish people as a result of rejecting their promised Messiah was to be so extraordinary that Jerusalem itself and all the buildings of the temple mount would be utterly destroyed. The Lord came to his people with mercy, willing to save them and lead them back to good standing with God, but he departed in anger, willing to destroy all who did not believe. Everything that Moses had predicted concerning the scattering of the Jews was about to take place. After this final judgment, not even a rudimentary Jewish government would be left in the land of Israel. And when did Jesus say all this would occur? He tells us plainly in Matthew…
“Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.”
Matt. 23: 36
These words were spoken in the spring of 32 AD. Even secular historians will admit that Jesus ministered sometime around this date—give or take a few years. But how do they explain the accuracy of Christ’s predictions when the words were written down by Matthew many years before they were actually fulfilled? For in the year 70 AD, Titus, the son of the Emperor, led four Roman legions to the very gates of the city of Jerusalem. His purpose was to squelch a Jewish rebellion, which had begun several years earlier. By August of that year, the walls were breached and the temple burned and destroyed. By order of Titus, all the people of Jerusalem were taken captive and the city razed to the ground. The Jewish rebellion was finally put to an end in a mass suicide among a few holdouts in Masada three years later.
In Luke chapter 21, the Lord predicts the destruction of Israel in explicit detail. Although primarily a chapter dealing with the prophecies that occur just before Christ returns (similar to the parallel passages in Matthew 24 and Mark 13), several verses can be seen to have a dual meaning relating to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD:
“And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that its desolation is near.
“Then let them who are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them who are in the midst of it depart; and let not them that are in the countries enter into it.
“But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that nurse children, in those days! For there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people.
“And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations; and Jerusalem shall be trodden down by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.”
Luke 21:20-21, 23-24
From Christ’s time forward the nation of Israel has been under the most severe wrath of God, even to the point of being totally forsaken. Scattered into virtually every corner of the globe, the Jewish people have been refugees in countless nations that did not want them. The Lord indicated that this situation wouldn’t change until the end of the age when all the Gentile world powers would be destroyed. In the book of Hosea the Lord predicted this long time of judgment:
“…the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim…”
Since the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., this prophecy has been fulfilled even to the smallest detail. Centuries have passed without Israel having any sort of king or national leader. No sacrifices were possible because the temple had been in ruins since the Romans burned it (the ephod and teraphim mentioned in this verse were part of the trappings of worship). In addition, since that time they have remained remarkably free of any kind of idolatrous activities (i.e., images). For close to two thousand years the Jewish people have survived among the nations without a homeland and without any form of Temple worship, just as Hosea had predicted.
However, the most amazing prediction of the horrible conditions that the scattered Israel would have to endure comes once again from the ancient writings of Moses. In Deuteronomy he said this:
“And among these nations shalt thou find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest; but the Lord shall give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind.
“And thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt fear day and night, and shalt have no assurance of thy life:
“In the morning thou shalt say, Would God it were evening! and at evening thou shalt say, Would God it were morning! for the fear of thine heart wherewith thou shalt fear, and for the sight of thine eyes which thou shalt see.”
According to these words which were written down thousands of years before the fact, the scattered Jews of Israel would have to endure persecution everywhere they went. Their lives would be filled with almost constant terror and uncertainty. The abuse they would have to take at the hands of a hateful world would be so horrible that they would hope for tomorrow to come just to escape the fear of today.
Has the Bible been accurate in this matter? Do a search on Jewish history or pick up a book on the history of Israel. You will discover that for close to two thousand years the prophecies of the scattering and persecution of Israel have been coming true with uncanny precision. No matter in which country they found themselves, the Jews were invariably forced at some point to live in large segregated areas, many times in the worst of slums. Prejudicial treatment, unjustifiable hatred, suspicion, mistrust, conspiracy, and persecution characterized their existence in every generation, even to the point of death.
History cannot be silent with respect to the treatment of the Jewish people. Anti-Semitism has reared its ugly head in every generation, and recent history can claim no exception. The most dramatic fulfillment of Moses’ prophecy was found among the dead in the German concentration camps of World War II. The horrible atrocities that occurred under Hitler’s reign stand as a testament to Biblical prophecy and the truth of Moses’ words. The blood of over six million Jews cries out as proof to the sad truth of Biblical prophecy!
However, don’t blame the Lord for the evil the Jewish people have encountered. While God desired to bless them beyond imagination, sadly Israel brought the curse upon their own heads because of their continued rejection of the love of God and his Christ. For over two thousand years the Lord has forsaken Israel and left them with almost no supernatural protection from the evil and hatred of the world. And as we shall discover, the Bible says that they shall remain in this state until the day that they repent and turn to Jesus in faith and truth.