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Part I CHRIST had spoken of the coming desolation of the sacred temple at Jerusalem. The disciples were astonished. “Master, see,” said one, “what manner of stones and what buildings are here!” The Saviour replied:
“Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down." Mark 13:2.
“What Shall be the Sign ?” As soon as they were alone on the Mount of Olives overlooking the city, the disciples came to Jesus, saying:
“Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world?” Matt. 24:3.
Replying to this question, the Saviour spoke first of the fall of Jerusalem; He foretold in a sentence the experiences of His church through dark ages to follow; then He described the events of the latter days, the signs showing His second advent near at hand; and, finally, He pictured the scenes of His own glorious appearing in the clouds of heaven. The fullest record of the discourse is found in the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew.
A Striking Parallel The first portion of the prophetic discourse (verses 4-14) deals with general conditions that were to prevail both in the last days of the Jewish state, and on a yet larger scale in the course of history leading to the last days of the world. There was so close a parallel between these times that Christ, in one description, answered both questions asked, When shall these things come upon Jerusalem? and, What shall be the signs of the end of the world?
The prophetic word foretold the rise of false Christs, the coming of wars, famines, and earthquakes in “divers places." The believers saw these things fulfilled in that generation before Jerusalem fell; but as we read the prophecy, we see the wider application and yet larger fulfilment through the course of history since that day, these calamities increasing in the earth as the end draws near. Before the end of the Jewish state, the believers carried the gospel to all the known world of their day. (See Col. 1: 23.) In these latter days we are seeing the yet wider proclamation of the gospel, as foretold in the fourteenth verse, “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.”
The Last Days of Jerusalem We may note briefly some of the events of Jerusalem's last days. Christ had forewarned the believers:
“Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in My name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many."
Having rejected the true Christ, the nation was open to deception by the false. We catch just a glimpse of the fulfilment in the book of Acts; in secular history the full story is told. Ridpath says:
“Never was a people so turbulent, so excited with expectation of a deliverer who should restore the ancient kingdom, so fired with bigotry and fanaticism, as were the wretched Jews of this period. One Christ came after another. Revolt was succeeded by revolt, instigated by some pseudo-prophet or pretended king.”—“History of the World,” Vol. I, p. 849 (Part III, chap. 19).
During the Saviour's life and ministry a divine hand had to a great extent held the elements of violence in check, but as the light was rejected more and more, the spirit of evil came to hold sway unrestrained. Dr. Mears well describes the changed conditions in these words:
“The narrative of the evangelists presents a tranquil scene, a succession of attractive pictures, in striking contrast to the bloody and tumultuous events which crowd each other in the pages of Josephus.” “From Exile to Overthrow," pp. 256, 257.
Thus the events led rapidly on toward the day of Jerusalem's fall, so long foretold by the prophets.
The Sign to the Believers The disciples had asked for a sign, and Christ gave them a token by which they might know when the time to flee from Jerusalem had come. Here Luke's Gospel gives the fullest record:
“ "When ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.” Luke 21: 20-22.
The unbelieving in Jerusalem and Judea could not conceive that their city, so long protected and favored of God, could be destroyed. Not even the appearance of the Roman