DUNCAN/The destruction of Jerusalem
Please turn with me in your Bibles to Matthew 24:15-23. Now today in our passage, here in verses fifteen and following, Jesus specifies His instructions for His followers in Jerusalem who were about to undergo a severe testing. But in the process, He also teaches us truths which are relevant and important for Christians in all generations. When you pick up a passage about the end times, whether it refers to things far off, or whether it refers to things that have already been fulfilled, you are tempted to think, well, that doesn't apply to me because I didn't live then and I’m not going to live then. But the word of God is profitable for instruction. And this word is just as applicable to us as it was to the people that Jesus primarily spoke it to. So, let's look at five things in this passage that I’d like you to see today. First, even the Christian’s trials are in accordance with the plan of God revealed in His word. Second, Christians must be ready to be persecuted for righteousness’ sake but are not to court conflict. Third, Christians must not be surprised at the intensity of our trials and must pray for God’s strength to endure. Fourth, Christians must never forget God’s special watch care over them. Fifth, Christians must be careful not to be deceived by false christs.
I. Even the Christian Trials are in Accordance with the Plan of God Revealed in His Word.
In verse fifteen you'll see the first one. Jesus, in verse fifteen, indicates that the siege and destruction of Jerusalem is a fulfillment of prophecy. Jesus is telling the Jewish Christians that the Roman siege, which is going to occur around Jerusalem in about thirty years is a fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy. In other words, Jesus is saying to these Jewish Christians, when you see the armies of Rome surrounding Jerusalem, when you hear of them coming, and when you see the imperial banners planted here, as it were, on holy ground, and when you see on those banners the declaration that the Roman emperor is divine, and when your heart feels like the very holy ground of Jerusalem has been blasphemed by the claims of a mortal man to be the divine god, then you know that the fulfillment of prophecy is in place.
But that word is also relevant to us. Because even the Christian trials that we face are in accordance with the plan of God revealed in His word. The word of God warns us for trials, just as Jesus warned those Jewish Christians about trials, and so trials in this life do not disprove the sovereignty of God. They prove the sovereignty of God. If the Bible tells us we're going to face trials as Christians, and we don't, then the Bible is wrong. And so, when you do face trials, you're seeing a fulfillment of the faithful word of your Lord in scripture. Troubles prove god's truthfulness.
II. Christians Must be Ready to be Persecuted for Righteousness’ Sake but are not to Court Conflict
In verses 16-18 Jesus tells these Jewish Christian believers in Jerusalem that when they see the abomination of desolation, they are to flee Jerusalem. And so, we learn as believers from this passage that Christians need to be ready to be persecuted for righteousness’ sake, but we are not to court conflict or martyrdom. This is very important because many Christians in the wake of Jesus' ascension actually exalted martyrdom to the point that they actually tried to get people to martyr them so that they could be numbered among those who had given their lives for the faith. But isn't it interesting that Jesus gives the practical instruction to the Christians in Jerusalem–don't sit there and be slaughtered with everybody else. Get out! Run away! Flee the destruction! Spread the word somewhere else. So, Jesus makes it clear that though we are to be ready to be persecuted, we're not to seek it. We're to use wisdom and common sense as we approach our conflict with the world.
III. Christians Must not be Surprised at the Intensity of Our Trials and Must Pray for God’s Strength to Endure
Then in verses 19-21 Jesus says a third thing. He tells these believers in Jerusalem to brace themselves for hardship and to pray for their endurance. These verses make it clear that Jesus is speaking about the coming destruction of Jerusalem in His generation, and they show us the practical counsel that Jesus has given for those Jewish Christians. They need to understand how intense this persecution is going to be. So, the Lord Jesus in His love for His people is even thinking about what His people are going to have to go through in a time of trial and tribulation. The Lord Jesus shows concern for the difficulties that His people are going to have to go through. And yet again, we learn in this passage that Christians ought not to be surprised at the intensity of our trials. We need to pray for god's strength to endure.
IV. Christians Must Never Forget God’s Special Watch Care Over Them
Then in verse 22 Jesus reminds believers in Jerusalem of God's special providence over His chosen people. Look what He says: Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved, but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. The Lord Jesus wants His disciples to know just how hard it is, but at the same time He also wants them to know that God has put a limit on the duration of that trial because of His love for His people. Now there is such an important lesson in that for us, because Christians must never forget God's special watch care over them. God is saying in the way He works out the very history of nations, He always bears His children in mind in what He does. He's saying that He even limited the amount of the destruction of Israel for the sake of the people that He loves.
V. Christians Must be Careful not to be Deceived by False Christs
You'll see it in verses 23-24 Jesus warns the believers in Jerusalem against false messiahs. There would be many false messiahs in the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, and Jesus warns His people not to be deceived. This is a major warning from the Lord Jesus Christ. He's deeply concerned that these Jewish Christians may be misled by the many, many people who came and presented themselves to be the messiah. And He's saying, don't be deceived by them. If we ever are asking ourselves if someone is the Christ, then we have our answer, for when Christ appears, we will know it. May God bless His truth to our hearts.