This Olivet Discourse Deception study is about the time of Great Tribulation that Messiah described in Matthew 24.
Note: There are several different times of ‘great tribulation‘ that are defined in the New Testament; which do not point to the same period of time.
One was fulfilled when Satan used the Roman Empire to try to wipe out the Early Church, killing 10 million saints.
Another was fulfilled during the 1,260 years of the reign of the antichrist Popes of Rome, from 538-1798 A.D.; when they killed over 50 million saints. Read 1,260 Years Of Great Tribulation
The other one will be covered on this study.
The proper context of the Olivet Discourse is not the end times, but rather about Messiah’s proclamation that the temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed.
The disciples understood the prophecy in Daniel 9, and they were inquiring about when Messiah would cause the temple and city to be destroyed, thus ending the latter days of the Jews, who Messiah had just berated in Matthew 23.
Matthew is the only one who wrote about the ‘end of the world’, Luke and Mark did not. It should be rendered as ‘age‘, as it points to the latter days of the Jews, from when they were released from Babylon, until the temple was destroyed in 70 A.D.
Daniel 9:26 warned the Jews that the temple and city would be desolated. Daniel understood this to mean that because the Jews would deliver the Messiah up to be killed, they would be desolated. This is why Daniel was so distraught.
“and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.”
In Matthew 24:20-22, Messiah warned about the coming time of Great Tribulation, which Daniel had foretold:
“And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.“
Note: The command for the saints to flee Judea is very specific to the saints in the first century, and can’t apply to saints in the end times where there is no Judea. Praying that their flight would not be on the Sabbath applies to the first century, when the Jewish leaders would have closed the city gates and prohibited them from walking out of the city; which does not apply to the end times.
Then in Matthew 24:34 Messiah told us that all of the things that He just proclaimed would be fulfilled in that generation:
“Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.”
Some people dismiss His words by saying that He was not referring to that generation, but His words to the Jews of His day reveal that He was indeed talking about them:
For as Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation. Luke 11:30
But first must he suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation. Luke 17:25
From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation. Luke 11:51
Because people don’t understand the terrible calamity that happened to the Jews in the first century, they assign the fulfillment to the end times.
But as you will see, this was an intense time of suffering for the Jews, who had rejected the Messiah. When Messiah was being led to be crucified, He said:
“But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children.” Luke 23:28
Note Luke’s explanation:
“For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.” Luke 21:22
The days of vengeance are from Elohim against the apostate Jews, not some end times antichrist.
Judgment had been threatened by almost all the prophets against that wicked city. They had spoken of its crimes and threatened its ruin. Once Elohim had destroyed Jerusalem and carried the people to Babylon; but their crimes had been repeated when they returned, and Elohim had again threatened their ruin. Particularly was this very destruction foretold by Daniel, in Daniel 9:26-27.
Note Luke’s explanation:
“But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, 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 of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” Luke 21:23-24
This clearly shows that Luke anticipated a fulfillment in terms of Jerusalem only — the final Diaspora, and the trodding down of Jerusalem by the Gentiles.
The word gentiles is speaking of the Romans, who were being used to fulfill prophecy about the desolation of the temple, city and Jews.
So let’s take Messiah at His word and see how in fact His words were fulfilled, when the people of the prince, the Roman army, invaded Judea to desolate the temple, the city of Jerusalem, and the Jewish people.
Most Christians severely underestimate the desolation of the Jews in the first century, not understanding how Messiah caused the Roman army to cause calamity unlike any other time in history.
Notice that it says “nor ever shall be“. If this time of Great Tribulation was in fact fulfilled in the last days before Messiah returned, then there would be no more time to have another time of great tribulation; and Messiah’s explanation does not make sense.
Instead the tribulation of 70 A.D., would be followed by other times of tribulation, which fits Messiah’s explanation.
This lines up perfectly with Daniel 12:1, “And there shall be a time of trouble, Such as never was since there was a nation, Even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, Every one who is found written in the book.”
The punishment, which was then about to fall upon the city and people, was to be of an exhaustive character. His words utterly forbid the idea of another and more severe national calamity reserved for a future day. (PM)
Here is a summary of what happened, as documented by Jewish historian Josephus:
On the way through Judea to Jerusalem, the Roman army killed Jews by the 10 thousands in the outlying cities. They invaded Judea from the north, marching along the coast, and killing many – 18,000 at Askelon alone.
The Roman army surrounded Jerusalem, cutting off the food supply. Warring factions inside the city destroyed the granaries. This led to a severe famine, killing many. Josephus records that the famine widened its progress and devoured the people by whole houses and families. The upper rooms were full of women and children dying by famine; and the lanes of the city were full of the dead bodies of the aged.
People killed each other as they fought over food. The most horrible and unbelievable torments were inflicted upon all who were suspected of having any food concealed.
The city was divided against itself with rival groups. The most violent party in the city was the Zealots. These called to their aid a band of blood thirsty Idumeans, who set upon the people who were peaceably inclined, and slaughtered young and old until the outer temple was all of it overflowed with blood, and that day they saw 8500 dead bodies there.
But as for the seditious bands themselves, they fought against each other while trampling upon the dead bodies which lay heaped one upon another, and being filled with a mad rage from those dead bodies under their feet, they became the more fierce. They, moreover, were still inventing pernicious things against each other; and when they had resolved upon anything, they executed it without mercy, and omitted no method of torment or of barbarity.
Josephus also tells of the terrible torments inflicted upon nobles and citizens of the better sort who refused to comply with the demands of the Zealots. Those, after being horribly tortured, were slain, and through fear, none dared bury them. In this way 12,000 of the more eminent inhabitants perished.
The noise of those that were fighting was incessant, both by day and by night; but the lamentations of those that mourned exceeded the noise of the fighting.
The dead bodies were not taken outside the city and buried, for fear of being killed, so they stacked up around the city. The blood of all sort of dead carcases stood in lakes in the holy courts themselves.
Pestilence from unclean conditions caused diseases and death.
One man, with the consent of his family, killed his parents, his children, his wife and himself; to save themselves from a worse fate.
A woman, eminent for her family and her wealth, who, while suffering the ravages of famine, slew her infant son and roasted him, and having eaten half of him, concealed the other half.
Because the food supply was cut off by the Romans, Jews out of desperation would sneak out of the city walls at night to find food. They were captured, tortured and crucified by the Roman army. At one point 500 a night were being crucified on the trees around the city, so that all of the trees had multiple bodies on them. And these bodies were not taken down, but left up there to rot and be eaten by birds and animals.
In 70 A.D. when the people of the prince, the Roman army flooded into Jerusalem, they killed the remaining Jews with the sword, trampling over dead bodies.
Birds, dogs and wild animals, ate the flesh of the fallen.
15,000 fugitive Jews were killed by the Romans, and the number of those that were forced to leap into the Jordan was prodigious. The whole country through which they fled was filled with slaughter, and Jordan could not be passed over, by reason of the dead bodies that were in it.
97,000 were taken captive and sold cheaply to places like Egypt, as if back into bondage.
At the end of the siege in 70 A.D., there were 1.1. million dead Jews, none of which were buried.
Their bodies were stacked in the city and fallen in the temple. Their bodies filled all of the trees outside the city. Blood no doubt was everywhere. Wild animals and birds of prey feasted on the dead bodies. The scene and stench had to be intense, unlike anything ever seen before or after.
Of this period of great tribulation Jewish historian Josephus says, in the introduction of his ‘Wars of the Jews‘ historical documentary.
“It had come to pass that our city Jerusalem had arrived at a higher degree of felicity than any other city under the Roman government, and yet at last fell into the sorest of calamities again. Accordingly it appears to me that the misfortunes of all men from the beginning of the world, if they be compared to those of the Jews, are not so considerable as they were.”
The sufferings of the Jews had this peculiar characteristic, namely, that they were mostly inflicted upon themselves by the warring factions within the city, concerning whom Josephus says in another place:
“It is impossible to go distinctly over every instance of these men’s iniquity. I shall, therefore, speak my mind here at once briefly: That neither did any other city ever suffer such miseries, nor did any age ever breed a generation more fruitful in wickedness than this was, from the beginning of the world” (Wars V. 10:5).
Messiah had warned about the bloodshed that would come on this generation.
“And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” Luke 21:24
This fulfilled the Parable of the Wicked Vinedressers, when the wicked tenants killed the son of the vineyard owner.
“But when the vinedressers saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours.’ So they cast him out of the vineyard and killed him. Therefore what will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those vinedressers and give the vineyard to others.” Luke 20:14-15
This fulfilled Messiah’s words of Woe to the scribes and the Pharisees.
“Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.” Matthew 23:34-36
Recall what the Jewish leaders said when they handed Messiah over to be crucified:
“And all the people answered and said, “His blood be on us and on our children.” Matthew 27:25
As so it was, as the Roman army flooded into the city and killed 100’s of thousands of Jews by the sword. And those who were captured were sold into slavery.
Titus wanted to save the temple, but the Roman soldiers were so enraged at the wicked Jews, that they tore it down brick by brick, to be able to capture all of the gold.
This fulfilled Messiah’s words in Matthew 24:1-2, “Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”
Video: Rome and Jerusalem at War – The destruction of the Jewish Temple
The following information is from Philip Mauro’s well-documented work, ‘The Seventy Weeks and the Great Tribulation – A Study of the Last Two Visions of Daniel, and of the Olivet Discourse of the Lord Jesus Christ.’
The Jewish historian Josephus devotes nearly two hundred large pages (they would fill upwards of four hundred ordinary size) to the account of the events of’ those ‘days of vengeance’.
We can refer to but a very few of those tragic events; but, inasmuch as not many of our readers have access to the history of Josephus, we believe we are rendering them a service in giving the best idea we can, in small compass, of the happenings of those times.
After the retreat of Roman army leader Cestius, there was a slaughter of about 10,000 Jews at Damascus; and then, it being evident that war with the Romans was inevitable, the Jews began making preparations to defend Jerusalem.
At that time Josephus, the writer of this history, was appointed general of the armies in Galilee. He seems to have had great ability and success as a soldier, though he was finally overpowered and captured by the Romans. Concerning one of his military operations his translator says’ I cannot but think this stratagem of Josephus to be one of the finest that ever was invented and executed by any warrior whatsoever.
At this point the emperor Nero appointed Vespasian, a valiant and experienced general, to the task of subduing the Jews; and Vespasian designated his son Titus to assist him. They invaded Judea from the north, marching along the coast, and killing many–18,000 at Askelon alone. Thus Galilee was all over filled with fire and blood; nor was it exempt from any kind of misery or calamity (III 4:1).
The incidents of this siege were terrible; and among them were events which forcibly recall the Lord’s words, But woe to them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days. The Romans were so enraged by the long and fierce resistance of the Jews that they spared none, nor pitied any. Many, moreover, in desperation, killed themselves.
The life of Josephus was spared in a manner which seems miraculous (III 8:4-7), and he was taken captive to Vespasian, to whom he prophesied that both he and Titus his son would be Caesar and emperor.
Josephus was with Titus during the subsequent siege of Jerusalem, in which the atrocities and miseries reached a limit impossible to be exceeded on earth. Only the state of the lost in hell could be worse.
After Jotapata fell, Joppa was taken, and then Tiberias and Taricheae on Lake Gennesaret. Thousands were killed, and upwards of 30,000 from the last named place alone were sold into slavery. Having now completely subdued Galilee, Vespasian led his army to Jerusalem.
For a right understanding of Matthew 24:15-21 it is important to know that the Roman armies were, for more than a year, occupied with the devastation of the provinces of Galilee and Judea, before Jerusalem was besieged. It should be noted also that Christ’s first warnings to flee were to them which be in Judea (#Mt24:16).
This makes it perfectly certain that the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place, which was the appointed signal for them which be in Judea to flee into the mountains, was not an idol set up in the inner sanctuary of the Temple. For the desolation of Judea was completed long before Jerusalem and the Temple were taken.
At the time Vespasian led his armies to Jerusalem, that doomed city was in a state of indescribable disorder and confusion insomuch that, during the entire siege, the Jews suffered far more from one another inside the walls than from the enemy outside.
Josephus says there were disorders and civil war in every city, and all those that were at quiet from the Romans turned their hands one against another. There was also a bitter contest between those that were for war, and those that were desirous for peace (IV 3:2).
Josephus further tells of the utter disgrace and ruin of the high priesthood, the basest of men being exalted to that office; and also of the profanation of the sanctuary.
The most violent party in the city was the Zealots. These called to their aid a band of blood thirsty Idumeans, who set upon the people who were peaceably inclined, and slaughtered young and old until the outer temple was all of it overflowed with blood, and that day they saw 8500 dead bodies there.
Among the slain was Ananias, formerly high priest, a venerable and worthy man, concerning whom Josephus said:
“I should not mistake if I said that the death of Ananias was the beginning of the destruction of the city, and that from this very day may be dated the overthrow of her wall, and the ruin of her affairs; that being the day whereon they saw their high priest, and the procurer of their preservation, slain in the midst of their city. * * *
And I cannot but think it was because God had doomed this city to destruction, as a polluted city, and was resolved to purge His sanctuary with fire, that He cut off these, their great defenders, while those that a little before had worn the sacred garments and presided over the public worship, were cast out naked to be the food of dogs and wild beasts.
Now after these were slain the Zealots and the Idumeans fell upon the people as upon a flock of profane animals, and cut their throats.”
Josephus also tells of the terrible torments inflicted upon nobles and citizens of the better sort who refused to comply with the demands of the Zealots. Those, after being horribly tortured, were slain, and through fear, none dared bury them. In this way 12,000 of the more eminent inhabitants perished (IV 5:3). We quote further:
“Along all the roads also vast numbers of dead bodies lay in heaps; and many who at first were zealous to desert the city chose rather to perish there; for the hopes of burial made death m their own city appear less terrible to them. But those zealots came at last to that degree of barbarity as not to bestow a burial either on those slain in the city or on those that lay along the roads; as if at the same time that they defiled men with their wicked actions they would pollute the Deity itself also, they left the dead bodies to putrefy under the sun. (IV. 6. 3).
About this time above 15,000 fugitive Jews were killed by the Romans, and the number of those that were forced to leap into the Jordan was prodigious. The whole country through which they fled was filled with slaughter, and Jordan could not be passed over, by reason of the dead bodies that were in it (IV. 8. 5, 6).
VESPASIAN RECALLED. TITUS PLACED IN CHARGE
At this point Vespasian was called to Rome by reason of the death of the emperor Nero, and the operations against the Jews devolved upon Titus. Vespasian himself was soon thereafter made emperor.
Meanwhile another tyrant rose up, whose name was Simon, and of him Josephus says: Now this Simon, who was without the wall, was a greater terror to the people than the Romans themselves; while the Zealots who were within it were more heavy upon them than both the other.
Those Zealots were led by a tyrant named John; and the excesses of murder and uncleanness in which they habitually indulged are indescribable (see Bk. IV, ch. 9, sec. 10).
In order to overthrow John, the people finally admitted Simon and his followers. From that time onward the civil warfare within the city became more incessant and deadly. The distracted city was now divided into three factions instead of two.
The fighting was carried even into the inner court of the temple; whereupon Josephus laments that even those who came with sacrifices to offer them in the temple were slain, and sprinkled that altar with their own blood, till the dead bodies of strangers were mingled together with those of their own country, and those of profane persons with those of priests, and the blood of all sort of dead carcases stood in lakes in the holy courts themselves (V 1:3).
Surely there never were such conditions as these in any city before or since.
Among the dire calamities which befell the wretched people was the destruction of the granaries and storehouses of food;so that famine was soon added to the other horrors. The warring factions were agreed in nothing but to kill those that were innocent. Says Josephus:
“The noise of those that were fighting was incessant, both by day and by night; but the lamentations of those that mourned exceeded the noise of the fighting. Nor was there ever any occasion for them to leave off their lamentations, because their calamities came perpetually, one upon another.
But as for the seditious bands themselves, they fought against each other while trampling upon the dead bodies which lay heaped one upon another, and being filled with a mad rage from those dead bodies under their feet, they became the more fierce. They, moreover, were still inventing pernicious things against each other; and when they had resolved upon anything, they executed it without mercy, and omitted no method of torment or of barbarity” (V. 2. 5).
At the time described in the preceding paragraphs, the Roman armies had not yet reached the city, and inasmuch as the Passover season now came on, and things seemed to quiet down momentarily, the gates were opened for such as wished to observe the great feast. The translator, in a footnote, says:
“Here we see the true occasion of those vast numbers of Jews that were in Jerusalem during this siege by Titus and who perished therein. For the siege began at the feast of Passover, when such prodigious multitudes of the Jews and proselytes were come from all parts of Judea, and from other countries.
As to the number that perished during this siege, Josephus assures us, as we shall see hereafter, they were 1,100,000, besides 97,000 captives.
This is notable as the last Passover. That joyous feast of remembrance of God’s great deliverance of His people out of Egypt ended in an orgy of blood.
The tyrant John took advantage of this opportunity to introduce some of his followers, with concealed weapons, among the throngs of worshipers in the temple, who slew many, while others were rolled in heaps together, and trampled upon, and beaten without mercy.
And now, though the Roman armies were at their gates, the warring factions began again to destroy one another and the innocent inhabitants.
“For”, says Josephus, they returned to their former madness, and separated one from another, and fought it out; and they did everything that the besiegers could desire them to do. For they never suffered from the Romans anything worse than they made each other suffer; nor was there any misery endured by the city which, after what these men did, could be esteemed new. It was most of all unhappy before it was overthrown; and those that took it did it a kindness. For I venture to say that the sedition destroyed the city, and the Romans destroyed the sedition. This was a much harder thing to do than to destroy the walls. So that we may justly ascribe our misfortunes to our own people (V. 6. 2).
This is the most astonishing feature of this great tribulation; for surely there never was a besieged city whose inhabitants suffered more from one another than from the common enemy. In this feature of the case we see most clearly that it is one of judgment; and that, as the apostle Paul said, the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.
At this point the siege began in earnest. Titus, however, sent Josephus to speak to the Jews, offering them clemency, and exhorting them to yield. Josephus made a most earnest plea to them not to resist the might of Rome, pointing out that God was no longer with them.
But it was to no purpose. So the siege proceeded outside, and the famine began to rage inside, insomuch that children pulled out of their parents’ mouths the morsels they were eating, and even mothers deprived their infants of the last bits of food that might have sustained their lives.
The fighters, of course, kept for their own use what food there was, and it seems that they took a keen delight in seeing others suffer. It was a species of madness. They invented terrible methods of torments, such as it would not be seemly for us to describe. And this was done, says Josephus, to keep their madness in exercise (V 10:3).
The most horrible and unbelievable torments were inflicted upon all who were suspected of having any food concealed. The following passage will give an idea of the conditions:
“It is impossible to give every instance of the iniquity of these men. I shall therefore speak my mind here at once briefly:–that neither did any other city suffer such miseries, nor did any age ever breed a generation more fruitful in wickedness than this was, from the beginning of the world. (This forcibly brings to mind the Lord’s own words.) Finally they brought the Hebrew nation into contempt, that they might themselves appear comparatively less impious with regard to strangers. They confessed, what was true, that they were the scum, and the spurious and abortive offspring of our nation, while they overthrew the city themselves, and forced the Romans, whether they would or no, to gain a melancholy reputation by acting gloriously against them; and did almost draw that fire upon the temple which they seemed to think came too slowly” (V. 10. 5).
Under pressure of the famine many Jews went out at night into the valleys in search of food.
These were caught, tortured and crucified in sight of those on the walls of the city. About five hundred every day were thus treated. The number became finally so great that there was not room enough for the crosses, nor crosses enough for the victims. So several were ofttimes nailed to one cross.
A little later the Roman armies encompassed the entire city, so that there was no longer any egress therefrom.
“Then, says Josephus, did the famine widen its progress and devour the people by whole houses and families. The upper rooms were full of women and children dying by famine; and the lanes of the city were full of the dead bodies of the aged. The children also and the young men wandered about the marketplaces like shadows, all swelled with the famine, and fell down dead, wheresoever their misery seized them (V. 12. 3).
Thus did the miseries of Jerusalem grow worse and worse every day.
And indeed the multitude of carcases that lay in heaps, one upon another, was a horrible sight, and produced a pestilential stench which was a hindrance to those that would make sallies out of the city and fight the enemy (VI. 1. 1).
The number of those that perished by famine in the city was prodigious, and their miseries were unspeakable. For if so much as the shadow of any kind of food did anywhere appear, a war was commenced presently, and the dearest friends fell a fighting one another about it.
In this connection Josephus relates in detail the case of a woman, eminent for her family and her wealth, who, while suffering the ravages of famine, slew her infant son and roasted him, and having eaten half of him, concealed the other half.
When presently the seditious Jews came in to search the premises, and smelt the horrid scent of this food, they threatened her life if she did not show them what food she had prepared. She replied that she had saved for them a choice part, and withal uncovered what was left of the little body, saying, Come, eat of this food; for I have eaten of it myself. Do not you pretend to be more tender than a woman, or more compassionate than a mother. Even those desperate and hardened men were horrified at the sight, and stood aghast at the deed of this mother. They left trembling; and the whole city was full of what the woman had done. It must be remembered that all this time the lives of all in the city would have been spared and the city and temple saved, had they but yielded to the Romans. But how then should the Scripture be fulfilled? (see #De 28:56,57)
Soon after this the temple was set on fire and was burned down, though Titus tried to save it. Josephus says:
But as for that house, God had for certain long ago doomed it to the fire; and now that fatal day was come, according to the revolution of ages. It was the tenth day of the month Ab, the day upon which it was formerly burnt by the king of Babylon (VI. 4. 5).
Further Josephus says:
“While the holy house was on fire everything was plundered that came to hand, and ten thousand of those were slain. Nor was there commiseration of any age, or any reverence of gravity; but children, old men, profane persons, and priests were all slain in the same manner.
Moreover many, when they saw the fire, exerted their utmost strength, and did break out into groans and outcries. Perea also did return the echo, as well as the mountains round about Jerusalem, and augmented the force of the noise.”
Yet was the misery itself more terrible than this disorder. For one would have thought that the hill itself, on which the temple stood, was seething hot, as if full of fire on every part, that the blood was more in quantity than the fire, and that the slain were more in numbers than they who slew them. For the ground did nowhere appear visible because of the dead bodies that lay upon it (VL 5. 1).
In describing how a number were killed in a certain cloister, which the soldiers set on fire, Josephus says:
“A false prophet was the occasion of the destruction of those people, he having made a public proclamation that very day that God commanded them to get upon the temple and that they should receive miraculous signs of their deliverance. There was then a large number of false prophets suborned by the tyrants to impose on the people, who announced to them that they should wait for deliverance from God (VI. 5. 2).
In this detail also the Lord’s Olivet prophecy was most literally fulfilled.
When at last the Romans gained entrance into the city, the soldiers had become so exasperated by the stubborn resistance of the Jews, that they could not be restrained from wreaking vengeance upon the survivors.
So they indulged in slaughter until weary of it. The survivors were sold into slavery, but at a very low price, because they were so numerous, and the buyers were few. Thus was fulfilled the word of the Lord by Moses, And there ye shall be sold unto your enemies for bondmen and bondwomen, and no man shall buy you (#De 28:68).
Many were put into bonds and sold to slavery in the Egyptian mines, thus fulfilling several prophecies that they should be sold into Egypt again, whence God had delivered them (#Ho 8:13; 9:3).
This fulfills Luke 21:24, “And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations.”
In concluding this part of his history Josephus gives the number of those who perished (a million one hundred thousand) and of those sold into slavery (ninety seven thousand), and explains, as we have already stated, that they were come up from all the country to the feast of unleavened bread, and were on a sudden shut up by an army. And he adds:
“Now this vast multitude was indeed collected out of remote places, but the entire nation was now shut up by fate as in prison, and the Roman army encompassed the city when it was crowded with inhabitants. Accordingly the multitude of those that perished therein exceeded all the destruction’s that either men or God ever brought upon the world” (VI. 9. 4).
Thus ended, in the greatest of all calamities of the sort, the national existence of the Jewish people, and all that pertained to that old covenant which was instituted with glory (2 Corinithians 3:7,9,11), but which was to be done away.
Here may be seen an example of the thoroughness of God’s judgments, when He arises to do His strange work. Judgment must begin at the house of God; and in view of what is brought to our notice in this history of Josephus, how impressive is the question, And if it begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? (1 Peter 4:17).
Commentaries on the Abomination of Desolation of Matthew 24:15:
Alfred Edersheim – Life And Times Of Jesus The Messiah
This, together with tribulation to Israel, unparalleled in the terrible past of its history, and unequalled even in its bloody future was about to befall them. Nay, so dreadful would be the persecution that, if Divine mercy had not interposed for the sake of the followers of Christ, the whole Jewish race that inhabited the land would have been swept away. There should have been no flesh saved.
The Jews impiously said, concerning the death of Christ, “His blood be on us, and on our children.” Never did any other people invoke such an awful curse upon themselves, and upon no other nation did such a judgment ever fall. We read of Jews crucified till there was no more wood for making crosses;
Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible:
There shall be great tribulation. The word tribulation means calamity, or suffering. Lu 21:24 has specified in what this tribulation should consist. “They 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 shall be fulfilled.” That is, until the time allotted for the Gentiles to do it shall be fully accomplished; or as long as God is pleased to suffer them to do it.
The first thing mentioned by Luke is, that they should fall by the edge of the sword. That is, should be slain in war, as the sword was then principally used in war. This was most strikingly fulfilled. Josephus, in describing it, uses almost the very words of our Saviour. All the calamities, says he, which had befallen any nation from the beginning of the world, were but small in comparison with those of the Jews. Jewish Wars, book i., preface, 4.
He has given the following account of one part of the massacre when the city was taken: “And now rushing into the city, they slew whomsoever they found, without distinction, and burnt the houses and all the people who had fled into them. And when they entered for the sake of plunder, they found whole families of dead persons, and houses full of carcasses destroyed by famine; then they came out with their hands empty. And though they thus pitied the dead, they had not the same emotion for the living, but killed all they met, whereby they filled the lanes with dead bodies. The whole city ran with blood, insomuch that many things which were burning were extinguished by the blood.” Jewish Wars, book vi. chap. 8, 5; chap. 9, 2, 3. He adds, that in the siege of Jerusalem, not fewer than eleven hundred thousand perished (Jewish Wars, book vi., chap. 9, 3)–a number almost as great as are in the whole city of London. In the adjacent provinces no fewer than two hundred and fifty thousand are reckoned to have been slain; making in all whose deaths were ascertained, the almost incredible number of one million three hundred and fifty thousand, who were put to death. These were not indeed all slain with the sword. Many were crucified. “Many hundreds,” says he, (Jewish Wars, book vi. Chap. xi Chap. xi. 1) “were first whipped, then tormented with various kinds of tortures, and finally crucified: the Roman soldiers nailing them (out of the wrath and hatred they bore to the Jews) one after one way, and another after another, to crosses, by way of jest, until at length the multitude became so great that room was wanting for crosses, and crosses for the bodies.” So terribly was their imprecation fulfilled–” His blood be on us, and on our children,” Mt 27:25. If it be asked how it was possible for so many people to be slain in a single city, it is answered, that the siege of Jerusalem commenced during the time of the passover, it is estimated that more than three millions were usually assembled. See Josephus, Jewish Wars, book vi., chap. ix., 3, 4.
A horrible instance of the distress of Jerusalem is related by Josephus. The famine during the siege became so great that they ate what the most sordid animals refused to touch. A woman of distinguished rank, having been plundered by the soldiers, in hunger, rage, and despair, killed and roasted her babe, and had eaten one half of him before the deed was discovered. Jewish Wars, book vi., chap. 3, 3, 4. This cruel and dreadful act was also in fulfillment of prophecy, De 28:53,56-57.
Another thing added by Luke Lu 21:24) was, that “they should be led captive into all nations.” Josephus informs us that the captives taken during the whole war amounted to ninety-seven thousand. The tall and handsome young men Titus reserved for triumph; of the rest, many were distributed through the Roman provinces, to be destroyed by wild beasts in theatres; many were sent to the works in Egypt; many, especially those under seventeen years of age, were sold for slaves. Jewish Wars, book vi., chap. 9,. 2,3.
Coke’s Commentary on the Holy Bible
Then shall be great tribulation— In the preceding verses our Saviour warned his disciples to fly as soon as ever they saw Jerusalem besieged by the Romans, and now he assigns a reason for his giving them this caution. The words used in this verse seem to be a proverbial form of expression, as in Exodus 10:14. Joel 2:1 Maccabees ix. 27. Our Lord, therefore, might fitly apply the same manner of speaking upon the present occasion: but he does not make use of proverbial expressions without a proper meaning; and this may be understood even literally.
For indeed all history cannot furnish us with a parallel to the calamities and miseries of the Jews; rapine and murder, famine and pestilence within, fire and sword, and all the terrors of war without. Our Saviour wept at the foresight of these calamities; and it is almost impossible for persons of any humanity to read the relation of them without weeping too.
The Jewish historian might well say, as he does in the preface to his history: “If the misfortunes of all, from the beginning of the world, were compared with those of the Jews, they would appear much inferior upon comparison. In short, no other city ever suffered such things, as no other generation from the beginning of the world was ever more fruitful of wickedness.”
John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible
For then shall be great tribulation, This is urged as a reason for their speedy flight; since the calamity that would come upon those who should remain in the city, what through the sword, famine, pestilence, murders, robberies, etc. would
be such as was not since the beginning of the world, to this time, no, nor ever shall be. The burning of Sodom and Gomorrha, the bondage of the children of Israel in Egypt, their captivity in Babylon, and all their distresses and afflictions in the times of the Maccabees, are nothing to be compared with the calamities which befell the Jews in the siege and destruction of Jerusalem. Great desolations have been made in the besieging and at the taking of many famous cities, as Troy, Babylon, Carthage, etc. but none of them are to be mentioned with the deplorable case of this city. Whoever reads Josephus’s account will be fully convinced of this; and readily join with him, who was an eyewitness of it, when he says1, that
“never did any city suffer such things, nor was there ever any generation that more abounded in malice or wickedness.”
And indeed, all this came upon them for their impenitence and infidelity, and for their rejection and murdering of the Son of God; for as never any before, or since, committed the sin they did, or ever will, so there never did, or will, the same calamity befall a nation, as did them.
Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible
Mark hath the same in effect, Mark 13:19-20. Luke speaks more particularly, Luke 21:23-24, “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 of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.”
These verses must be understood with reference to the Jewish nation, and whoso shall read in Josephus the history of the wars of the Jews, will easily agree there is nothing in all the foregoing Jewish story which we have recorded in Scripture like unto it; the final destruction of them by Titus was rather an abatement of miseries they suffered by the factions within themselves, than any thing else.
And thus some think that God shortened those days of their misery by sending the Roman armies to quiet the seditions and factions amongst themselves, which were more cruel one to another. God promises to shorten these days for the elect’s sake that were amongst this sinful people. So that as the city was taken in less than six months, so was their whole country in less than eighteen months more. And if the Lord had not, in compassion to those amongst this people who belonged to his election of grace, shortened these days of calamity, both by sending the Roman armies to quiet their intestine divisions, and then giving these armies so quick a victory, none of the Jews would have been left alive, which indeed any one will judge that shall but read those histories.
“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.”
The People’s New Testament
The account given by Josephus, the Jewish historian who witnessed and recorded the war, is almost an echo of the predictions of Christ. Women ate their own children from starvation; the Jews within the city fought each other as well as the Roman army; on August 10, A.D. 70, the city was stormed and there was a universal massacre; 1,100,00 persons perished, and 100,000 survivors were sold into slavery.
As you can see, the time of great tribulation that Messiah foretold in the Olivet Discourse was fulfilled in the first century, and that it was horrifying in its intensity.
Next Olivet Discourse Deception Study: Messiah Coming In The Clouds
Additional Study Resources:
Flavius Josephus describes the destruction of Jerusalem. http://www.bible.ca/pre-flavius-josephus-70AD-Mt24-fulfilled.htm
Jerusalem, AD70: The Worst Desolation Ever? http://www.ukapologetics.net/09/AD70.htm
Keys To The Great Tribulation – Historicist.com http://www.historicist.com/historicism/keys-to-the-great-tribulation