20 “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near. 21 Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city; 22 because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled. 23 Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days; for there will be great distress upon the land and wrath to this people; 24 and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
Josephus, who is an ancient historian outside of the Bible, and Tacitus, who is another historian outside of the Bible—not necessarily Christians, they just tell history—they confirm that all of this happened just like Jesus promised. The people in the city literally starting starving to death and dehydrating.
This went on for months. As I told you previously in another sermon, Josephus records that upwards of a million people died. Tacitus says that perhaps that number was 500,000. Whatever it is, it was a holocaust in that day and people died. And by the time the Romans decided that they would actually take the city and the temple, there was no resistance. People were dead, they were malnourished, they were starving, they were dying, they were grieving, they were hopeless.
And the city was besieged. And the command was given to not destroy the temple, but there was, according to history, an “accidental”—again, the sovereignty of God—an accidental fire was started by a soldier that destroyed a certain portion of the city and temple. And so then the order was given to literally raze the city, to take it all to the ground. And the city of Jerusalem was laid waste. And the temple was literally torn apart stone by stone.
Judaism was about the temple, the priests, the sacrifices for sin. That has not existed since AD 70. It’s over.
When I was there talking to some devout Jews, very sweet, very nice, nothing personal, just a very important disagreement. They would say, “Oh, but one day Messiah will come and he will rebuild the temple and we’ll have sacrifices.” It’s been two thousand years. Furthermore, that area of the temple is now controlled by the Muslims. And the vast majority of people who live in the old city of Jerusalem in the walls are Muslims.
This is not going to be the revival of Judaism. It’s over. Why? Because we don’t need it. We don’t need the temple, we don’t need the priests, we don’t need the sacrifices. We have Jesus. He is our Holy of Holies. He our Great High Priest. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. And so the center of our faith today is not a place, it’s a person. We don’t go to Jerusalem. We don’t go to Mecca. We don’t go anywhere. We go to Jesus. He says he would never leave us, nor forsake us; that he would be with us always to the end of the age. We don’t go to be with God, but God has come to be with us in Jesus Christ Immanuel, which means “God is with us.”
"Immanuel" always makes me think of Christmas, probably because I most often hear that name in Christmas carols. As we begin preparations for the busy and festive Christmas season, let's keep that name in our hearts and celebrate His birth, His coming for US, above all else.
Tomorrow's scripture focus: Luke 21:25-28