A Forecast of the World’s Destiny


From the crest of Olivet, Jesus looked upon Jerusalem. In full view were the magnificent buildings of the temple. The setting sun lighted up the snowy whiteness of its marble walls and gleamed from golden tower and pinnacle. What child of Israel could gaze upon the scene without a thrill of joy and admiration! But other thoughts occupied the mind of Jesus. “When he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it.” Luke 19:41.
Jesus’ tears were not for Himself, though before Him lay Gethsemane, the scene of approaching agony, and not far distant, Calvary, the place of crucifixion. Yet it was not these scenes that cast the shadow upon Him in this hour of gladness. He wept for the doomed thousands of Jerusalem.
The history of more than a thousand years of God’s special favor and guardian care, manifested to the chosen people, was open to the eye of Jesus. Jerusalem had been honored of God above all the earth. The Lord had “chosen Zion … for his habitation.” Psalm 132:13. For ages, holy prophets had uttered their messages of warning. Daily the blood of lambs had been offered, pointing to the Lamb of God.
Had Israel as a nation preserved her allegiance to Heaven, Jerusalem would have stood forever, the elect of God. But the history of that favored people was a record of backsliding and rebellion. With more than a father’s pitying love, God had “compassion on his people, and on his dwelling place.” 2 Chronicles 36:15.
When entreaty and rebuke had failed, He sent the best gift of heaven, the Son of God Himself, to plead with the impenitent city.
For three years the Lord of light and glory had gone in and out among His people, “doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil,” setting at liberty them that were bound, restoring sight to the blind, causing the lame to walk and the deaf to hear, cleansing lepers, raising the dead, and preaching the gospel to the poor. See Acts 10:38; Luke 4:18; Matthew 11:5.
A homeless wanderer, He lived to minister to the needs and lighten the woes of men, to plead with them to accept the gift of life. The waves of mercy, beaten back by those stubborn hearts, returned in a stronger tide of pitying, inexpressible love. But Israel had turned from her best Friend and only Helper. The pleadings of His love had been despised.
The hour of hope and pardon was fast passing. The cloud that had been gathering through ages of apostasy and rebellion was about to burst upon a guilty people. He who alone could save them from their impending fate had been slighted, abused, rejected, and was soon to be crucified.
As Christ looked upon Jerusalem, the doom of a whole city, a whole nation, was before Him. He beheld the destroying angel with sword uplifted against the city which had so long been God’s dwelling place. From the very spot afterward occupied by Titus and his army, He looked across the valley upon the sacred courts and porticoes. With tear-dimmed eyes He saw the walls surrounded by alien hosts. He heard the tread of armies marshaling for war, the voice of mothers and children crying for bread in the besieged city. He saw her holy house, her palaces and towers, given to the flames, a heap of smoldering ruins.
Looking down the ages, He saw the covenant people scattered in every land, “like wrecks on a desert shore.” Divine pity, yearning love, found utterance in the mournful words: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets and stonest them which 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!” Matthew 23:37.
Christ saw in Jerusalem a symbol of the world hardened in unbelief and rebellion, hastening on to meet the retributive judgments of God. His heart was moved with pity for the afflicted and suffering ones of earth. He yearned to relieve them all. He was willing to pour out His soul unto death to bring salvation within their reach.
The Majesty of heaven in tears! That scene shows how hard a task it is to save the guilty from the consequence of transgressing the law of God. Jesus saw the world involved in deception similar to that which caused the destruction of Jerusalem. The great sin of the Jews was their rejection of Christ; the great sin of the world would be their rejection of the law of God, the foundation of His government in heaven and earth. Millions in bondage to sin, doomed to suffer the second death, would refuse to listen to words of truth in their day of visitation.
Magnificent Temple Doomed
Two days before the Passover, Christ again went with His disciples to the Mount of Olives overlooking the city. Once more He gazed upon the temple in its dazzling splendor, a diadem of beauty. Solomon, the wisest of Israel’s monarchs, had completed the first temple, the most magnificent building the world ever saw. After its destruction by Nebuchadnezzar, it was rebuilt about five hundred years before the birth of Christ.
But the second temple had not equaled the first in magnificence. No cloud of glory, no fire from heaven, descended upon its altar. The ark, the mercy seat, and the tables of the testimony were not to be found there. No voice from heaven made known to the priest the will of God. The second temple was not honored with the cloud of God’s glory, but with the living presence of One who was God Himself manifest in the flesh. The “Desire of all nations” had come to His temple when the Man of Nazareth taught and healed in the sacred courts. But Israel had put from her the proffered Gift of heaven. With the humble Teacher who had that day passed out from its golden gate, the glory had forever departed from the temple. Already were the Saviour’s words fulfilled: “Your house is left unto you desolate.” Matthew 23:38.
The disciples had been filled with wonder at Christ’s prediction of the overthrow of the temple, and they desired to understand the meaning of His words. Herod the Great had lavished upon it both Roman and Jewish treasure. Massive blocks of white marble, forwarded from Rome, formed part of its structure. To these the disciples had called the attention of their Master, saying: “See what manner of stones and what buildings are here!” Mark 13:1.
Jesus made the solemn and startling reply: “Verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” Matthew 24:2. The Lord had told the disciples that He would come the second time. Hence, at the mention of judgments upon Jerusalem, their minds reverted to that coming, and they asked: “When shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” Matthew 24:3.
Christ presented before them an outline of prominent events before the close of time. The prophecy He uttered was twofold in its meaning. While foreshadowing the destruction of Jerusalem, it prefigured also the terrors of the last great day.
Judgments were to fall upon Israel for their rejection and crucifixion of the Messiah. “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.” Matthew 24:15, 16.
See also Luke 21:20, 21. When the idolatrous standards of the Romans should be set up in the holy ground outside the city walls, then the followers of Christ were to find safety in flight. Those who would escape must make no delay. Because of her sins, wrath had been denounced against Jerusalem. Her stubborn unbelief rendered her doom certain. See Micah 3:9-11.
The inhabitants of Jerusalem accused Christ of being the cause of all the troubles which had come upon them in consequence of their sins. Though they knew Him to be sinless, they declared His death necessary to their safety as a nation. They concurred in the decision of their high priest that it would be better for one man to die than for the whole nation to perish. See John 11:47-53.
While they slew their Saviour because He reproved their sins, they regarded themselves as God’s favored people and expected the Lord to deliver them from their enemies!
God’s Long-suffering
For nearly forty years the Lord delayed His judgments. There were still many Jews who were ignorant of the character and work of Christ. And the children had not enjoyed the light which their parents had spurned. Through the preaching of the apostles, God would cause light to shine upon them. They would see how prophecy had been fulfilled, not only in the birth and life of Christ, but in His death and resurrection. The children were not condemned for the sins of the parents; but when they rejected the additional light granted to them, they became partakers of the parents’ sins and filled up the measure of their iniquity.
The Jews in their stubborn impenitence rejected the last offer of mercy. Then God withdrew His protection from them. The nation was left to the control of the leader she had chosen. Satan aroused the fiercest and most debased passions of the soul. Men were beyond reason—controlled by impulse and blind rage, satanic in their cruelty. Friends and kindred betrayed one another. Parents slew their children, and children their parents. Rulers had no power to rule themselves. Passion made them tyrants. The Jews had accepted false testimony to condemn the innocent Son of God. Now false accusations made their lives uncertain. The fear of God no longer disturbed them. Satan was at the head of the nation.
Leaders of opposing factions fell upon each other’s forces and slaughtered without mercy. Even the sanctity of the temple could not restrain their horrible ferocity. The sanctuary was polluted with the bodies of the slain. Yet the instigators of this hellish work declared they had no fear that Jerusalem would be destroyed! It was God’s own city. Even while Roman legions were besieging the temple, multitudes held fast to the belief that the Most High would interpose for the defeat of their adversaries. But Israel had spurned the divine protection, and now she had no defense.
Portents of Disaster
All the predictions given by Christ concerning the destruction of Jerusalem were fulfilled to the letter. Signs and wonders appeared. For seven years a man continued to go up and down the streets of Jerusalem, declaring woes to come. This strange being was imprisoned and scourged, but to insult and abuse he answered only, “Woe, woe to Jerusalem!” He was slain in the siege he foretold.
Not one Christian perished in the destruction of Jerusalem. After the Romans under Cestius had surrounded the city, they unexpectedly abandoned the siege when everything seemed favorable for attack. The Roman general withdrew his forces without the least apparent reason. The promised sign had been given to the waiting Christians. Luke 21:20, 21.
Events were so overruled that neither Jews nor Romans should hinder the flight of the Christians. Upon the retreat of Cestius, the Jews pursued, and while both forces were thus fully engaged, the Christians throughout the land were able to make their escape unmolested to a place of safety, the city of Pella.
The Jewish forces, pursuing after Cestius and his army, fell upon their rear. With great difficulty the Romans succeeded in making their retreat. The Jews with their spoils returned in triumph to Jerusalem. Yet this apparent success brought them only evil. It inspired that spirit of stubborn resistance to the Romans which brought unutterable woe upon the doomed city.
Terrible were the calamities that fell upon Jerusalem when the siege was resumed by Titus. The city was invested at the time of the Passover, when millions of Jews were assembled within its walls. Stores of provision had previously been destroyed through the revenge of the contending factions. Now all the horrors of starvation were experienced. Men gnawed the leather of their belts and sandals and the covering of their shields. Great numbers stole out at night to gather wild plants growing outside the city walls, though many were put to death with cruel torture. Often those who returned in safety were robbed of what they had gleaned. Husbands robbed their wives, and wives their husbands. Children snatched the food from the mouths of their aged parents.
The Roman leaders endeavored to strike terror to the Jews and thus cause them to surrender. Prisoners were scourged, tortured, and crucified before the wall of the city. Along the Valley of Jehoshaphat and at Calvary, crosses were erected in great numbers. There was scarcely room to move among them. So was visited that awful imprecation uttered before the judgment seat of Pilate: “His blood be on us, and on our children.” Matthew 27:25.
Titus was filled with horror as he saw bodies lying in heaps in the valleys. Like one entranced, he looked upon the magnificent temple and gave command that not one stone of it be touched. He made an earnest appeal to the Jewish leaders not to force him to defile the sacred place with blood. If they would fight in any other place, no Roman should violate the sanctity of the temple! Josephus himself entreated them to surrender, to save themselves, their city, and their place of worship. But with bitter curses, darts were hurled at him, their last human mediator. In vain were the efforts of Titus to save the temple. One greater than he had declared that not one stone was to be left upon another.
Titus at last decided to take the temple by storm, determined that if possible it should be saved from destruction. But his commands were disregarded. A firebrand was flung by a soldier through an opening in the porch, and immediately the cedarlined chambers about the holy house were in a blaze. Titus rushed to the place and commanded the soldiers to quench the flames. His words were unheeded. In their fury the soldiers hurled blazing brands into the chambers adjoining the temple and then slaughtered those who had found shelter there. Blood flowed down the temple steps like water.
After the destruction of the temple, the whole city fell to the Romans. The leaders of the Jews forsook their impregnable towers. Titus declared that God had given them into his hands: for no engines, however powerful, could have prevailed against those stupendous battlements. Both the city and the temple were razed to their foundations, and the ground upon which the holy house had stood was “plowed like a field.” See Jeremiah 26:18. More than a million perished: the survivors were carried away as captives, sold as slaves, dragged to Rome, thrown to wild beasts in the amphitheaters, or scattered as homeless wanderers throughout the earth.
The Jews had filled for themselves the cup of vengeance. In all the woes that followed in their dispersion, they were reaping the harvest which their own hands had sown. “O Israel, thou has destroyed thyself”; “for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.” Hosea 13:9; 14:1. Their sufferings are often represented as a punishment by the direct decree of God. Thus the great deceiver seeks to conceal his own work. By stubborn rejection of divine love and mercy, the Jews had caused the protection of God to be withdrawn from them.
We cannot know how much we owe to Christ for the peace and protection which we enjoy. The restraining power of God prevents mankind from passing fully under the control of Satan. The disobedient and unthankful have great reason for gratitude for God’s mercy. But when men pass the limits of divine forbearance, restraint is removed. God does not stand as an executioner of the sentence against transgression. He leaves the rejectors of His mercy to reap that which they have sown. Every ray of light rejected is a seed sown which yields its unfailing harvest. The Spirit of God, persistently resisted, is at last withdrawn. Then there is left no power to control the evil passions of the soul, no protection from the malice and enmity of Satan.
The destruction of Jerusalem is a solemn warning to all who are resisting the pleadings of divine mercy. The Saviour’s prophecy concerning judgments upon Jerusalem is to have another fulfillment. In the fate of the chosen city we behold the doom of a world that has rejected God’s mercy and trampled upon His law. Dark are the records of human misery that earth has witnessed. Terrible have been the results of rejecting the authority of Heaven. But a scene yet darker is presented in the revelations of the future. When the restraining Spirit of God shall be wholly withdrawn, no longer to hold in check the outburst of human passion and satanic wrath, the world will behold, as never before, the results of Satan’s rule.
In that day, as in Jerusalem’s destruction, God’s people will be delivered. See Isaiah 4:3; Matthew 24:30, 31. Christ will come the second time to gather His faithful ones to Himself. “Then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” Matthew 24:30, 31.
Let men beware lest they neglect the words of Christ. As He warned His disciples of Jerusalem’s destruction that they might make their escape, so He has warned the world of the day of final destruction. All who will may flee from the wrath to come. “There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations.” Luke 21:25. See also Matthew 24:29; Mark 13:24-26; Revelation 6:12-17. “Watch ye therefore,” are Christ’s words of admonition. Mark 13:35. They that heed the warning shall not be left in darkness.
The world is no more ready to credit the message for this time than were the Jews to receive the Saviour’s warning concerning Jerusalem. Come when it may, the day of God will come unawares to the ungodly. When life is going on in its unvarying round; when men are absorbed in pleasure, in business, in money-making; when religious leaders are magnifying the world’s progress, and people are lulled in a false security—then, as the midnight thief steals within the unguarded dwelling, so shall sudden destruction come upon the careless and ungodly, “and they shall not escape.” See 1 Thessalonians 5:2-5.

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