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Rays of Light Bible Lessons by Keith Holder

WHEN SHALL THESE THINGS BE

Matt 24:6-8 And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. (Also See Matt. 24:9-13; Mark 13:7-13; Luke 21:9-19)

While seated on the Mount of Olives, His apostles asked Jesus to explain future times that were prophesied to take place. Beginning with the lesson text, Jesus reveals the answer to their first question, When shall these things be (Vs. 3)? Since Jesus told them immediately before this question that the temple of Jewish worship in Jerusalem would be completely destroyed, He answers this question first. That you may know the time of destruction is near, you will hear of wars and rumors of wars that will first come to pass. Indeed, this came true. Not only were wars threatened but many actually took place. The Roman emperor, Nero was overthrown and the nation was consumed with many internal political wars that resulted in three succeeding emperors receiving violent death and being supplanted within a period of eighteen months. These were the signs that would tell them that the time of destruction was near. That time began in 66 A.D. with the Roman siege. However, it wasn't until Vespasian became emperor of Rome in 69 A.D. that the complete destruction of the temple, other buildings, and the wall around Jerusalem took place.

No doubt the rise and fall of nations and kingdoms brought other devastating consequences. Just as foretold by Jesus, famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, occurred in divers places. History tells us that severe famines took place, not only in Palestine, but also in many other parts of the Roman Empire during the years of 40-54 A.D. Also pestilences occurred in Babylonia (40 A.D.) and the Italian peninsula (66 A.D.). Many earthquakes would take place in many parts of the known world. History assures that this occurred just as Jesus told them it would take place before the destruction of the temple. Luke adds that Jesus said fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven (21:11b) would also take place. With all these calamities foretold by Jesus, He then adds: All these are the beginning of sorrows. Jesus warns His apostles that these devastating events are only the beginning of even greater sorrows yet to come. By these events they will know that the time of the temple's destruction was eminently near.

This account continues in Matthew, beginning with verse 9. Here Jesus tells His disciples of other events that would occur before the Jewish temple would be destroyed. Warning them, Jesus said that they shall deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you. Mark adds they would be brought before councils, ... the synagogues, ...rulers and kings, and there afflicted, beaten, and slain. This not only refers to the Jewish Sanhedrin, but also to other civil authorities, especially the Roman government. The reason for the persecution of His disciples, Jesus says ,will be for My name's sake, that is, because they were followers of Christ and would soon teach His gospel message of salvation to the Jews, and also among all nations. However, because of the threats of persecutions, verse 10 tells us that many of Jesus' followers will become offended, will fear for their own lives,will turn from serving Him, will refuse to teach His gospel of salvation, and will not allow their own lives to be guided by New Testament doctrine which He established. The devotional love for Jesus will be replaced with the betrayal and hate toward those that remain His faithful followers.

It seems that during the primitive age of Christianity, as well as today, when the human cost of following Christ results in criticism and social rejection by one's peers, many men and women, that were once His followers, will abandon Him, as well as God's plan of salvation which was brought into the world by Him. "Fair weather Christians" enjoy spiritual sunshine. But when the threatening clouds of distress, oppression, or persecution of any kind, rears its ugly head, all too often the spirit of Christ in His followers weakens and selfish, human motives take control of their lives. When this happens, for whatever the reason, men and women become susceptible to the teachings of false prophets and are easily deceived. Following this, sin abounds, which results in a weakened, or complete lack of, love for God and mankind in general (See Vss. 11-12). But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved (Vs. 13). This is Jesus' prophesy for the salvation of Jewish Christians from the Roman army invasion that will soon take place. Then, and only then, will Jerusalem fall and the temple of God destroyed.