Reaping the Whirlwind

Chapter 34

On His last trip to Jerusalem, Jesus looked out upon the city from the summit of Mount Olivet. A peaceful scene spread out before Him. It was the time of the Passover, and from all lands the children of Israel had come to celebrate the great national festival. Pilgrim tents dotted the green slopes below Him. Surrounded by gardens and vineyards lay Israel's capital. Believing herself secure in Heaven's favor, in her pride she seemed to say, "I sit a queen and shall see no sorrow." The rays of the setting sun shone brightly on the temple's marble walls and gleamed from its magnificent golden gate. "The perfection of beauty’" it stood the pride of the Jewish nation. What a thrill of joy and admiration it stirred in the hearts of those who gazed upon the peaceful scene. Other thoughts, however, absorbed the mind of Jesus. "And when He was come near, He beheld the city, and wept over it." Amid the universal rejoicing of the triumphal entry, while palm branches waved and the hills echoed the thousands of voices as they declared Him king, the world's Redeemer was overwhelmed with a sudden sadness. Jesus, the Son of God, was in tears of unrestrained sorrow.

The cloud of God's long-deferred vengeance that had been gathering through ages of apostasy and rebellion was about to break upon a guilty people. The only One who could save them from their rapidly approaching doom had been rejected and was soon to be crucified. The loss of even one soul is a tragedy outweighing the treasures of a world. What then must Christ's thoughts have been as He looked upon Jerusalem as the doom of a whole nation arose before Him?

It was not only Jerusalem to which Christ's thoughts turned. As He viewed that wicked city, He saw a symbol of the world hardened in unbelief and rebellion, and hurrying on to meet the judgments of God. As He contemplated the record of sin traced in human misery and tears, His heart was moved with pity for the wretched and suffering ones of earth. He was willing to die to bring salvation within their reach, but few would come to Him that they might have life. Millions in bondage to sin would refuse to listen to the words of truth as their hour of opportunity forever slipped away.

Two days before the Passover, when Christ had for the last time left the temple after denouncing the hypocrisy of the Jewish rulers, He declared to the listening disciples the judgments that were to fall upon apostate Israel. Though the dreaded hour would come suddenly and swiftly, before its arrival, unmistakable signs would signal its approach. The Saviour warned His followers: "And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judaea 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."

When the warning sign was seen, those who would escape must do so without delay. He who chanced to be upon the housetop must not go down into his house, even to save his most valued treasures. Those who were working in the fields or vineyards must not take time to return for the outer garment laid aside while they should be toiling in the heat of the day. Even a moment's delay was to risk being involved in the general destruction to come upon the city.

For nearly forty years after Christ had pronounced the doom of Jerusalem, God's judgments were delayed. Wonderful was the patience of God toward the murderers of His Son. There were still many among the Jews who were ignorant of the character and the work of Christ. Through the preaching of the apostles and their associates, God allowed the light of truth to shine upon them. The children were not condemned for the sins of the parents. When, however, they closed their eyes to the fulfillment of prophecy, not only in the birth and life of Christ, but in His death and resurrection, rejecting the additional light granted to them, they became partakers of the parents' sins and filled up the measure of their wickedness.

God's patience toward Jerusalem only confirmed the Jews in their stubborn resistance. In their hatred and cruelty toward the disciples of Jesus, they rejected the last offer of mercy.

All the predictions given by Christ concerning the destruction of Jerusalem were fulfilled to the letter. The Jews experienced the truth of His words of warning: "For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." Matthew 7:2

There was a star resembling a sword, which stood over Jerusalem, and a comet was seen in the night sky for a year. Upon the clouds at sunset were pictured chariots and men of war gathering for battle. During the feast of unleavened bread, at the ninth hour of the night, while the priests were performing their service in the temple, a light appeared in the temple with the intensity of day­light, and lasted for half an hour. The eastern gate which was of brass and so heavy that it was shut with difficulty by twenty men, and which was fastened by iron bolts fastened in a firm floor which was of one solid stone, suddenly opened in the night without visible assistance. To many of the common people, this appeared to be a sign that God was opening to them the gate of happiness, while the more thoughtful read it as an omen that their security was gone and the gate was opened to the advantage of their enemies.

For seven years, beginning four years before the war that resulted in Jerusalem's destruction, while the city still enjoyed peace and prosperity, a man wandered up and down its streets, declaring the woes that were to come upon the city. "Night and day he chanted the wild dirge: 'A voice from the east, a voice from the west, a voice from the four winds, a voice against Jerusalem and the holy house, a voice against the bridegrooms and the brides, and a voice against the whole people!' " The Life and Works of Flavius Josephus, 825. Though he was beaten and imprisoned, he did not utter any ill words against those who mistreated him. His mournful cry did not stop until he was cut down in the destruction he had foretold.

Thirty-five years after it had been predicted, the storm suddenly broke upon Jerusalem with a fury unimaginable. It was the time of the Feast of Tabernacles and the Jews were assembled to celebrate the feast when the Romans under Cestius had surrounded the city. Just when everything seemed favorable for an immediate attack and those within the city, despairing of successful resistance, were on the point of surrender, quite unexpectedly the siege was abandoned. This unexpected withdrawal encouraged the Jews within the city to rush out and pursue the retiring army.

The promised sign had been given to the waiting Christians, and an opportunity was now offered for all who would, to obey the Saviour's warning. Events were so overruled that neither Jews nor Romans should hinder the flight of the Christians; thus the Christians throughout the land were able to make their escape unmolested. Without delay, they fled to a place of safety—the city of Pella, in the land of Perea, beyond Jordan.

The Jewish forces pursued after Cestius and his army, attacking their rear with such ferocity as to threaten them with total destruction. It was with great difficulty that the Romans succeeded in making their retreat. The Jews escaped almost without loss and, with their spoils, returned in triumph to Jerusalem. Yet this apparent success brought them only evil. The Jewish victory transformed all of Palestine into open rebellion, inspiring them with a spirit of stubborn resistance against the Romans.

In the spring of A.D. 70, the siege was resumed by Titus. It was the time of the Passover, and millions of Jews filled the city. Fighting between various factions of the Jews resulted in the destruction of stores of grain that, properly preserved, would have lasted for years. The resulting shortages led to wide-spread hunger. Uncontrolled by reason, men acted by impulse; blind rage made them tyrants. Satan was at the head of the nation, and the highest civil and religious authorities were under his sway. During the resulting siege, thousands died by violence within the city; and thousands more perished from famine and disease.

In their rejection of Christ and the persecution of His disciples, the Jewish nation had fully divorced themselves from God. In the utter destruction that befell them as a nation, they were but reaping the harvest that their own hands had sown. Their own course of action had caused the protection of God to be withdrawn from them, and Satan was permitted to rule them according to his will.

We cannot know how much we owe to Christ for the peace and protection that we enjoy. The restraining power of God is all that prevents mankind from passing fully under the control of Satan. When, however, men pass the limits of divine patience, that control is no longer exercised and the rejecters of God's mercy are left to reap that which they have sown. The Spirit of God, persistently resisted, is at last withdrawn from the sinner; and then there is left no power to control the evil passions of the soul and no protection from the cruelty and hatred of Satan. The destruction of Jerusalem is a fearful and solemn warning to all who are trifling with the offers of divine grace and resisting the pleadings of divine mercy.

The fate of Jerusalem is but the foreshadowing of the doom of a world that has rejected God's mercy and trampled upon His law. Terrible have been the results of rejecting the authority of Heaven. But a scene yet darker is presented in the revelations of the future. The records of the past become of relatively minor importance in contrast with the terrors of that day. At that time, the restraining Spirit of God will be wholly withdrawn from the wicked, no longer to hold in check the outburst of human passion and satanic wrath. The world will then behold, as never before, the results of Satan's rule.

In that day, as in the destruction of Jerusalem, God's people will be delivered. Christ has declared that He will come the second time to gather His faithful ones to Himself. Like Israel of old, the wicked, by a life of sin, will have placed themselves so out of harmony with God, their natures will have become so debased with evil, that His glory will be to them a consuming fire.

The world today is no more ready to accept the truth 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 unexpectedly to the ungodly. When life is going on in its unvarying round; when men are absorbed in pleasure, in business, and in money-making; when religious leaders are singing the praises of the world's progress, and the people are resting at ease in a false security-then, as the midnight thief, sudden destruction will come upon the careless and ungodly, "and they shall not escape." 1 Thessalonians 5:3

This chapter is based on Luke 19, 21