with Jeremy Westcott –
‘Has not… until now, nor ever will’
Can we put aside everything we may have been taught and read afresh what Jesus actually said?
For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will (Matt 24:21).
Until when? Until ‘now’. That is to say, until the generation to whom Jesus was speaking. The Great Tribulation was about to begin right then. So if you are looking for a Great Tribulation still to come, you are going to be disappointed. At least, ‘disappointed’ is not really the right word; in fact you are going to be blessed, because it is not going to happen. Jesus was quite categorical about that: ‘nor ever will’. The Great Tribulation culminated in the destruction of Jerusalem, and its like will never occur again. It is history.
For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather (Matt 24:27-28). Again, this is covenant language. These things are not literal: corpses and vultures are the language of judgment. It is Jerusalem being described as a corpse where the vultures gathered for the pickings. Flashes of lightning are also covenant language, speaking of the Son of Man coming in judgment.
Luke 21:20-22 is the parallel passage to this:
But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near. Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city; because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled.
Armies, desolation (the house being left desolate, Matt 23:38). When believers saw these things, they were to flee to the mountains. Christians actually did do this. If you read Josephus, the Jewish historian, and his account of the Roman-Jewish wars, he says that all the Christians left Jerusalem when they saw the ‘abomination of desolation’ come. That was because they understood exactly what Jesus was talking about in these warnings, and they did what He said to do. These were days of vengeance that God was bringing on those who rejected Jesus, on those who rejected the Stone. It was not intended to fall upon those who believed in Him, so they were warned to get out of Jerusalem, and stay out. It was good advice. The ‘things which are written’ (Luke 21:22) about God’s vengeance were all to be fulfilled at that time.
Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains (Matt 24:15-16).
That refers to a passage in Daniel which said, ‘and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate…’ (Dan 9:27). That took place in AD 68, when the Idumeans (Edomites) broke into Jerusalem and cut the throats of 7000 priests in the Temple. Blood ran out of the Temple in rivers. This is when the Christians fled, because Jesus had warned them to expect to witness an abomination in the holy place, and to run when they saw it.
I know I am laying out lots of scripture here. Firstly I know we might have lots of questions so I want to give a really firm scriptural basis for seeing things this way. And secondly, believe me, we will need to know the scriptures because if we talk to other Christians about this it will be a challenge for many of them. We will need to be really clear in explaining what we believe and why we believe it, not only so that they can be persuaded, but so that we cannot be led astray.
Times of the Gentiles
So finally for today, let’s go back to Luke 21:23-24 (the parallel passage again). Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days; for there will be great distress upon the land and wrath to this people; and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
Are we living in the times of the Gentiles now? Yes we are. So Jerusalem is still being trampled underfoot by Gentiles? Yes. That may be a bit of a theological struggle for some. Romans chapter 11 is where we can read about what will happen when the times of the Gentiles is fulfilled, but it is not yet.