JERUSALEM’S SECOND DESTRUCTION INDICATED AS AT HAND
15. What did Jesus say would indicate the close nearness of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish system, and what did he say to do thereafter?
15 Having shown in considerable detail the preliminaries that were to precede “the end,” Jesus now specified the particular thing that would indicate the close nearness of the end of Jerusalem and the system of things that was centered in her and her temple. He said: “Therefore, when you catch sight of the disgusting thing that causes desolation, as spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in a holy place, (let the reader use discernment,)
But what is the “disgusting thing” the sight of which standing in the holy place would certify that not much time was left now before the devastating “great tribulation” was right at hand?
18, 19. (a) By whom had this disgusting thing that causes desolation already been foretold, and where? (b) How did Jesus, according to Luke’s account of his prophecy, show what that disgusting thing would be?
18 Jesus left no doubt as to what it was. He said it was the disgusting thing “as spoken of through Daniel the prophet.” (Matthew 24:15) The “disgusting thing” that is foretold by the prophet Daniel in connection with the second destruction of Jerusalem is the one described in Daniel 9:26, 27 (especially according to the Greek Septuagint Version of the Hebrew Bible text).* Secular history reveals that “disgusting thing” to be the pagan Roman armies under their “leader.” That this is the proper explanation of the prophecy is borne out by a comparison of Matthew’s account of Jesus’ prophecy at this place with Luke’s account at the corresponding place in Jesus’ prophecy. Luke 21:20-24 says:
19 “Furthermore, when you see Jerusalem surrounded by encamped armies, then know that the desolating of her has drawn near. Then let those in Judea begin fleeing to the mountains, and let those in the midst of her withdraw, and let those in the country places not enter into her; because these are days for meting out justice [or, days of vengeance], that all the things written [including Daniel 9:26, 27] may be fulfilled. Woe to the pregnant women and the ones suckling a baby in those days! For there will be great necessity upon the land and wrath on this people; and they will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled on by the nations, until the appointed times of the nations are fulfilled.”—Compare also with Mark 13:14-20.
20, 21. (a) When was it that the Christian Jews in Judea saw the disgusting thing standing in a “holy place”? (b) How long did that disgusting thing thus stand?
20 It was in the year 66 C.E. that the Christian Jews in Jerusalem and Judea began to see the “disgusting thing that causes desolation, as spoken of through Daniel the prophet,” take a stand in a “holy place,” namely, Jerusalem and its environs. It was in that year that the unchristianized Jews revolted with Messianic aspirations against further rule by the Roman Empire. In reaction to this, the Roman general, Cestius Gallus, came down from Syria and surrounded Jerusalem with “encamped armies.” It was at the time that the Jews celebrated the Festival of Booths (or, Tabernacles) from Tishri 15 to 21, which in that year should have run for the seven days of October 22-28 (Gregorian calendar). General Cestius Gallus brought his armies up to within “fifty furlongs” of the celebrating city. The Jews, well armed, sallied forth in attack and inflicted some damage on the Romans.
21 There now followed a “wait for three days.” Then General Gallus, forcing the Jews back to Jerusalem, brought his troops up close to the city. But it was first on the last day of the month Tishri (about November 5) that he got his troops into the city of Jerusalem. He was indeed now in a place considered “holy” to the Jews. For five days the Romans made an attack on the temple wall, and on the sixth day they undermined the wall. This certainly was an assailing of what the Jews considered most holy. Easily the Romans could have now captured the whole city, but then, suddenly, without any valid reason for doing so, General Gallus withdrew from the city and retreated. The elated Jews went in hot pursuit and harassed the retreating Romans and inflicted considerable harm, so that the retreat turned into a rout.* This was a stinging blow at the pride of the world-conquering Romans. Jerusalem was liberated! And in commemoration the Jews coined some new silver shekels bearing on one side the inscription “Jerusalem the Holy.”
22. Why were the Christianized Jews not deceived by that reestablishment of Jerusalem’s independence, and how did they safeguard themselves?
22 Were the Christianized Jews in Jerusalem and in the province of Judea deceived by this reestablishing of the independence of this land of the Jews? Not those who took to heart Jesus’ prophecy and his counsel. They had actually seen the holy city of Jerusalem surrounded by encamped armies. They had seen the “disgusting thing that causes desolation,” with its military standards that were idolized as gods by the soldiers, standing “in a holy place,” “standing where it ought not.” (Mark 13:14) From this they were to “know that the desolating of her [Jerusalem] has drawn near.” (Luke 21:20) It was now high time either to get out of Jerusalem or not to enter into her but to flee from all the province of Judea to the mountains outside, for instance, eastward across the Jordan River to the province of Perea. There, outside the doomed territory, these Christianized Jews could continue their preaching of the good news of God’s true Messianic kingdom, instead of perishing with the doomed unbelieving Jews.