By Pastor Hal Mayer
Welcome to Keep the Faith Ministry. Once again, I am thankful that you have joined me for this message. We are living in the last days, and Jesus tells us to watch and pray. Watch the signs of the times and develop a prayer life that will reach deep into your soul and bring out all that is in there and lay it at the feet of Jesus. I can help you with the watching part, but I can’t help you with the prayer part. You have to take the initiative to schedule your busy day so that you have time carved out of it to pray.
Today, I would like to present a message that I have wanted to present for a long, long time. As you probably know, or can tell, history is one of my favorite subjects. The reason is because in history we find so many lessons and even prophecies of the last days. There is a certain story in history that clearly represents the final events on earth just before Jesus comes again. The scenes of chaos and destruction are written plainly in the annals of history so that we can understand the consequences of the way in which we choose to live our lives.
But before we begin this important lesson, I’ve got to tell you a great story from Highwood.
”When you sang that song, that’s when I got my faith back,” said Ingrid.
Stine, one of our Highwood Health Retreat team, phoned Ingrid, one of our health guests who had been through our program a number of years ago. She was a social worker who lives in Melbourne. Ingrid was so happy to hear from her that she invited Stine and our manager, Judy, to stay one Friday night in her home.
Ingrid had been a Catholic as a child, but knew very little about the Bible. After her stay at Highwood she went through a very hard time in her personal life. She was deeply wounded spiritually, mentally and physically. She became sick and ended up in hospital on pain medication, some of which was making her so depressed she became suicidal. The hospital couldn’t help her, and the medications and treatment only made her health worse. She decided that “enough was enough” and that she must leave the hospital. But she didn’t know what to do or where to go. A priest came to pray with her before she left, and shortly afterward Highwood popped into her mind. She remembered her wonderful experience at Highwood. She called our team and asked if she could come through another session, straight from the hospital.
During the session Stine was appointed to give one of the evening worship talks. Stine told a story that touched Ingrid’s heart, and then sang a song that she had written. ”When you sang that song, that’s when I got my faith back,” she told Stine when she and Judy came to visit her.
During her short visit, the Highwood team prayed earnestly, and asked God to bring her healing. She did very well and felt so much better after being there. Most importantly, she surrendered her life to Jesus. When Ingrid came to Highwood, she could barely walk. When she left, she was happy and had a new determination to live right.
Stine phoned her a few weeks later, just when she was hungering for spiritual fellowship. Highwood Health Retreat had made such a tremendous impact on Ingrid that she trusted our staff and was now wide open to hear more about God’s love.
When Stine and Judy arrived at her home, she was full of questions. They studied the Bible through Friday evening and talked about God’s love and power and prayed together. Ingrid even invited herself to church with them the next morning. The Sabbath school class was just the encouragement Ingrid needed, and so was the church service which greatly blessed her. The people were so friendly to her that she enjoyed herself immensely. There is no doubt in my mind that God is leading this dear woman to Himself and His last message.
Friends, this is what Highwood Health Retreat is all about! It is a place where people find peace. It is a place where they find God. It is a place where Jesus heals them mind, body and spirit.
Highwood continues to make progress. Our team is full of ideas about how to reach souls. But our needs are great. And we need your prayers. Also, we really appreciate your gifts to support this amazing place in the mountains of Victoria, Australia. Please continue to pray for Highwood that its powerful ministry near Melbourne will flourish.
Now, please bow your heads with me in prayer. Our heavenly Father, in Jesus name we call upon you to give us the Holy Spirit who will sanctify our understanding so that we can see and understand the lessons we need to learn from our study today. As we open scripture and as we study an important era of history, we pray that we may grasp its prophetic implications and apply them to ourselves in the last fleeting moments of earth’s history. In Jesus’ precious and worthy name amen.
Turn with me in your Bible to one of the saddest passages of scripture. It is Matthew 23:37. As we read this passage I want to you think about what Jesus might say to us, to you and to me and to His church today were He here. These are the words He said to His church in His day. Back then, the Jews were God’s church. God’s dealings with them prophetically describe how God is going to deal with His church in the last days.
Here is the verse. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!”
Christ, the Lord of Glory, clothed in human flesh was weeping as He said these words. He was on His triumphal entry just before He was to be crucified. He stopped on the Mount of Olives and wept. He wept for Jerusalem. He wept for her children. He wept over their apostasy and wickedness. All heaven was filled with wonder and amazement at the scene.
Do you think that Christ’s words also apply to us? Do His words apply to His church today? Of course they do.
Jesus was capable of seeing much more than the beautiful city of Jerusalem in his day. He could see more than just a few years in the future. He could see down through all the ages.
Listen to this from Great Controversy, page 21. “Looking down the ages, He saw the covenant people scattered in every land, ‘like wrecks on a desert shore.’ In the temporal retribution about to fall upon her children [in the destruction of Jerusalem], He saw but the first draft from that cup of wrath which at the final judgment she must drain to its dregs.”
Did you hear that? In the destruction of Jerusalem we see the first draft, the first swallow if you will, of the cup that must be drained to the last drop in the final judgment, and in the final time of trouble that is to come upon this world. Christ saw the whole history of the world, and He was deeply moved with agony when He considered the loss of souls that would reject his mercy and love. What a tragedy! What a calamity! In Jerusalem’s time of trouble such as never was until that day, He saw the even greater time of trouble such as never was at the very end of time when human probation would close and chaos would be unleashed globally.
As Christ looked down upon the city from the Mount of Olives, “He beheld the destroying angel with sword uplifted against the city which has so long been Jehovah’s dwelling place.” His heart was torn by the burden of human woe and guilt, which fell upon Him. Not only had Jerusalem rejected His servants, the prophets whom He Himself had sent to warn them to turn from their wicked ways, but they had also spurned and rejected the Holy One of Israel, the only one who could save them.
“Christ saw in Jerusalem a symbol of the world hardened in unbelief and rebellion, and hastening on to meet the retributive judgments of God.” Their choices, their pride, and their rebellion had returned evil for good. Christ had done everything possible to win them and draw them to Himself. And they had done everything possible to spurn him, and resist His tender mercies. Now they would be left to the merciless forces of destruction that only Satan, their chosen master could have constructed to humiliate and overthrow them.
The destruction of Jerusalem didn’t happen over night. It took many, many years. As the people turned their backs on the prophets God had sent to warn and enlighten them, they planted the seeds of their own destruction. As they resisted His persistent appeals, they were constructing the battering rams that would destroy the walls of their city. As they turned and persecuted His followers, they were preparing for their own homes to be leveled even with the ground. In other words, the physical destruction of the city was merely the outward manifestation of what had been happening to God’s church spiritually. Their city and temple were gutted with fire; a fitting symbol of the spiritual gutting that had been going on for centuries.
As Israel turned from God’s law and laid transgression upon transgression upon transgression, the cumulative weight of sin rested upon the guilty nation. They would have to suffer the long-delayed consequences of accumulated disobedience.
Let me ask you. Do you think that the tide of human woe that we see in our world today is as bad as it was in Jesus day? Do you think that there is an accumulation of sin and disobedience due to delayed consequences? Do you think that the transgression of God’s law is as bad as or even worse than it was back then?
Listen to this from page 22 of Great Controversy. “Jesus, looking down to the last generation saw the world involved in a deception similar to that which caused the destruction of Jerusalem. The great sin of the Jews was their rejection of Christ; the great sin of the Christian world would be their rejection of the law of God, the foundation of His government in heaven and earth. The precepts of Jehovah would be despised and set at nought. Millions in bondage to sin, slaves of Satan, doomed to suffer the second death would refuse to listen to the words of truth in their day of visitation. Terrible blindness! Strange infatuation!”
So, at the end of time, the key problem is the rejection of God’s law and a turning away from its precepts. Do you think that is happening only in the nation? No, it is also happening in the churches.
By persistent rejection of God’s law, the heart is hardened against righteousness. From Steps to Christ, page 42 we read the following: “Christ is ready to set us free from sin, but He does not force the will; and if by persistent transgression the will itself is wholly bent on evil, and we do not desire to be set free, if we will not accept His grace, what more can He do? We have destroyed ourselves by our determined rejection of His love. ‘Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.’ ‘Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts.’” 2 Corinthians 6:2; Hebrews 3:7, 8
Do you think our world today is on a course of persistent rejection and transgression of the law of God? Do you think that the immorality is so strong that it has become like the days before the flood where the thoughts and imaginations of the hearts of this world’s inhabitants are only evil continually?
Friends, the Jews in the days of Christ were fast approaching the time of their divine retribution. They were deceived into thinking that they were all right and that nothing would happen to them. After all, they were the chosen race. They were the people of God. They felt secure and had no need of repentance. When Christ Himself came to them, they turned on Him and rejected the salvation they were offered.
The Christian world today is the same. When I think of the tornados that desolate homes and even whole towns and cities, I can’t help but think of these words of Jesus Christ, “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.” When a cyclone, earthquake or a tsunami strikes, I can’t help but think that Jesus is saying these words to us now! “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.”
When the destruction finally comes, the words of Jesus will be fulfilled again, “Verily I say unto you, there shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” Mark 13:2. Do you think we are nearing that day? The world and the churches rush on in blindness. A few souls wake up here and there. Many are very concerned about what is taking place in the world. Violence is everywhere. Corruption is rampant. Everywhere you turn there is disease, sorrow and desperation.
Jerusalem in those days was a well-fortified city, so well defended that it was considered to be impregnable. Anyone who would have foretold her destruction would be considered an alarmist and a hysterical pessimist. But God’s word cannot fail. Christ had predicted the destruction of the temple and the city, and it would surely come to pass. The prophet Micah had predicted it too. Listen to his words. “Hear this, I pray you, ye heads of the house of Jacob, and princes of the house of Israel, that abhor judgment, and pervert all equity. They build up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity. The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money: yet will they lean upon the Lord, and say, Is not the Lord among us? none evil can come upon us.” Micah 3:9-11.
We see the same thing today. The world is full of iniquity dressed in pious garb. And it is very deceptive. So deceptive, in fact, that most people cannot imagine that their revered leaders, particularly their spiritual leaders, would be anything but godly men and women.
Because of the rejection of the mercy of Christ, the Jewish nation was left to the control of Satan. What do you think happens when a nation is left to the control of Satan? Well, things become pretty chaotic and dangerous. Evil impulses become dominant and conflict and passion hold sway.
Listen to it from Great Controversy, page 28 and 29, “Satan aroused the fiercest and most debased passions of the soul. Men did not reason; they were beyond reason—controlled by impulse and blind rage. They became satanic in their cruelty. In the family and in the nation, among the highest and the lowest classes alike, there was suspicion, envy, hatred, strife, rebellion, murder. There was no safety anywhere. Friends and kindred betrayed one another. Parents slew their children, and children their parents. The rulers of the people had no power to rule themselves. Uncontrolled passions made them tyrants. The Jews had accepted false testimony to condemn the innocent Son of God. Now false accusations made their own lives uncertain. By their actions they had long been saying: ‘Cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us.’ Isaiah 30:11. Now their desire was granted. The fear of God no longer disturbed them. Satan was at the head of the nation, and the highest civil and religious authorities were under his sway.”
Do you think this is the way it will be at the end of time? Will Satan control religious and secular authorities? We should not be surprised in the least when these very ones who are highly respected, will oppress and seek to destroy those who are loyal to Christ.
It was the time of Passover and millions of Jews were crammed into the city. Once the Roman armies locked down the city, all of them were trapped. Warring political factions within the city each had their leaders and like gangs of thieves and robbers violently asserted their power and control over the people. Listen to Josephus. “And now there were three treacherous factions in the city, the one parted from the other… [one faction] plundered the populace… and sallied out in great number upon [the other party]… and… set on fire those houses that were full of corn and of all other provisions.”
The other party did the same thing. “Accordingly, it so came to pass, that all the places that were about the temple were burnt down, and were become an intermediate desert space, ready for fighting on both sides of it and that almost all the corn was burnt, which would have been sufficient for a siege of many years.” The Works of Flavius Josephus, Book V, Chapter one
Jerusalem was actually overthrown by their own violent hands, which burned the stores of food and made the whole city vulnerable to the famine.
But that was only the beginning. Everyone lived in fear of his neighbor. Reading on from Josephus, “And now, as the city was engaged in a war on all sides, from these treacherous crowds of wicked men, the people of the city, between them, were like a great body torn in pieces. The aged men and the women were in such distress by their internal calamities that they wished FOR the Romans, and earnestly hoped for an external war, in order to [be delivered] from their [domestic] miseries. The citizens themselves were under a terrible consternation and fear… nor could such as had a mind flee away; for guards were set at all places, and the heads of the robbers although they were [against one another], yet did they agree in killing those that were for peace with the Romans, or were suspected of an inclination to desert them…” The Works of Flavius Josephus, Book V, Chapter One
Friends, do you understand what this is saying? There were violent gangs at war with each other something like the drug wars in Latin America today, with thousands of senseless killings every year. The gangs in Jerusalem refused to let the innocent citizens leave. Instead, even on mere suspicion of intent to leave the city, they would kill them in cold blood. This is extra-judicial killing, assassination, and murder all wrapped up in one. We now see this today, don’t we, not only in drug wars, and prostitution rings, but from governments themselves. So, when the Holy Spirit is finally withdrawn from the wicked, and the time of trouble comes, people will take matters into their own hands to defend themselves, provide for themselves or to seek personal gain. They have the example of the highest leaders of state. So why would they hesitate to murder others in cold blood whom they think are worthy of death.
Under that kind of pressure the definition of being worthy of death becomes very shallow and superficial. The smallest things or mere suspicion could trigger a summary death sentence. When chaos breaks open in the major cities of the western, high-tech world, the definition of what crimes are worthy of death will become very broad and superficial, and probably very inconsistent from place to place. The “rule of the street” will overthrow the rule of law. Military forces, designed to prevent civilian unrest and chaos will be brought in to restore law and order, but chances are they will not be able to do much. They are already preparing for this.
Fortunately, we are told that all of those who were obedient to Christ were able to escape Jerusalem. Think about this for a minute. Jesus told his followers that when they see the Roman armies around Jerusalem and they pull back, they should flee immediately. They should not wait. This window of escape was the period in between the siege of Cestius and the siege of Titus. During the siege of Cestius, the Jews rallied and fought and inflicted a lot of damage on the Roman armies. Cestius also had other pressing problems elsewhere to attend to, so he departed Jerusalem for a while. While fighting Cestius, the Jews were preoccupied, so they could not fight among themselves. Therefore there was a very short window of time for Christ’s followers to leave the city. They didn’t even have time to get their treasures, their coats and other belongings. They just had to go and leave everything behind.
Do you think this is also possible in the last days? Of course it is. You may only have a short window of time to get out of the city, if you live there, my friends. If you are paying attention to the Holy Spirit, He will teach you when that time is. If you delay like Lot, or if you wait too long, the window will close and you will not have a future opportunity. Pray about it earnestly. Ask God to open the way and make you willing to escape. When people get desperate enough, and when the Holy Spirit doesn’t restrain them any more, they will do the most cold-blooded things. I’m sorry to tell you, my friends, but that is what is coming to a big city near you.
It is also clear that the city was in lock-down both from inside and then from outside. Anyone who was suspected of planning escape was cut down in cold blood, instilling fear in the rest of the populace. Josephus says that they “omitted no method of torment or barbarity.” Torture was common. Today cities can easily be locked down so that no one can come in and no one can go out. This is one of the reasons why God tells us to live outside the cities. That way you won’t be caught up in the chaos and be trapped. There were so many dead bodies in Jerusalem that they were piled up in the streets and were trampled upon by the warring parties.
Great Controversy, page 29 adds some shocking details to the saga. “Even the sanctity of the temple could not restrain their horrible ferocity. The worshipers were stricken down before the altar, and the sanctuary was polluted with the bodies of the slain. Yet in their blind and blasphemous presumption the instigators of this hellish work publicly declared that they had no fear that Jerusalem would be destroyed, for it was God’s own city. To establish their power more firmly, they bribed false prophets to proclaim, even while Roman legions were besieging the temple, that the people were to wait for deliverance from God. To the last, multitudes held fast to the belief that the Most High would interpose for the defeat of their adversaries. But Israel had spurned the divine protection, and now she had no defense. Unhappy Jerusalem! rent by internal dissensions, the blood of her children slain by one another’s hands crimsoning her streets, while alien armies beat down her fortifications and slew her men of war!”
What happened in Jerusalem gives us a prophetic picture of what will happen in the last days. Can you imagine the chaos and bloodshed when there will be shortages of food, fuel and other basic items? People will panic. Gangs and thieves will plunder those who live among them, and men’s hearts will fail them for fear. Luke 21:26. This is fear that will drive the people to extreme and desperate measures.
Starvation will plague the cities in countries where there is now plenty of food. Listen to this statement from the Spirit of Prophecy, Vol. 4, and page 446. “While God’s judgments are visited upon the earth, and the wicked are dying from hunger and thirst, angels provide the righteous with food and water.” Just like in ancient Jerusalem, the people in the cities will be dying from hunger and thirst. They won’t be able to get food there. If transportation is disrupted by fuel shortages or some other cause, people will not be able to just go to the supermarket and buy food. Besides, if they did, it would be stolen from them by thieves and gangs. In spite of the violence we see today, things are relatively calm compared to what they will be when it all breaks loose.
Titus besieged the city forcing a famine on them. Reading from Josephus, “The madness of the [gangs and thieves] did also increase together with their famine, and both those miseries were every day inflamed more and more; for there was no corn which any where appeared publically, but the robbers came running into, and searched men’s private houses; and then if they found any, they tormented them, because they had denied they had any; and if they found none, they tormented them worse, because they supposed they had more carefully concealed it.” The Works of Flavius Josephus, Book V, Chapter X
The chaos spread and increased as the famine got worse. Torture was one of the key tools to extract hidden food. The only ones left alone by the thieves and gangs were those that were already giving physical evidence that they were near the point of starvation. Anyone who still had flesh on their bones were under suspicion that they had food stored secretly somewhere. They were the ones that suffered the most cruelly.
“Many there were indeed,” says Josephus, “who sold what they had for one measure; it was of wheat if they were of the richer sort; but of barley if they were poorer. When these had so done, they shut themselves up in the inmost rooms of their houses, and ate the corn they had gotten; some did it without grinding it, by reason of the extremity of the [hunger] they were in, and others baked bread of it, according as necessity and fear dictated to them: a table was no where laid for a distinct meal, but they snatched the bread out of the fire, half-baked, and ate it very hastily.
“It was now a miserable case, and a sight that would justly bring tears into our eyes, how men stood as to their food, while the more powerful and more than enough, and the weaker were lamenting [for want of it]… Children pulled the very morsels that their fathers were eating out of their very mouths… So did the mothers do… to their infants; and when those that were most dear were perishing under their hands, they were not ashamed to take from them the very last drops that might preserve their lives… When [the gangs] saw any house shut up, this was to them a signal that the people within had gotten some food; whereupon they broke open the doors, and ran in, and took pieces of what they were eating almost up out of their very throats, and this by force: the old men, who held their food fast, were beaten; and if the women hid what they had within their hands, their hair was torn for so doing; nor was their any commiseration shown either to the aged or to the infants, but they lifted up children from the ground as they hung upon the morsels they had gotten, and shook them down upon the floor. But still they were more barbarously cruel to those that had prevented them coming in, and had actually swallowed down what they were going to seize upon, as if they had been unjustly defrauded of their right…”
“So fierce were the pangs of hunger that men would gnaw the leather of their belts and sandals and the covering of their shields.” Great Controversy, page 31
Can you imagine, my friends, the terrible calamity that fell upon these poor souls? This was primarily due to their disobedience of God and disregard of His law. When the Holy Spirit is withdrawn from man he will stop at nothing to get his way. Human life becomes meaningless.
They also invented the most terrible and cruel tortures to discover where any food was… inflicting pain on the most sensitive parts of the body, “in order to make [a man] confess that he had but one loaf of bread, or that [the thief] might discover a handful of barley-meal that was concealed.”
“These men went also to meet those that had crept out of the city by night, as far as the Roman guards, to gather some plants and herbs that grew wild; and when these people thought they had got clear of the enemy, the [gangs] snatched from them what they had brought [back] with them, even while they had frequently entreated them… to give them back some part of [it]; though these would not give them the least crumb.” They were to be glad that they were only relieved of their food and not their lives.
From Maranatha, page 181 we read, “The Lord has shown me in vision, repeatedly, that it is contrary to the Bible to make any provision for our temporal wants in the time of trouble. I saw that if the saints have food laid up by them, or in the fields, in the time of trouble when sword, famine, and pestilence are in the land, it will be taken from them by violent hands, and strangers would reap their fields.”
People who cannot get food in the cities will come as far out into the suburbs and into the country as they can to steal food from those who might have it in their gardens. So it pays to live some distance from the city.
Titus would also arrest those who went out of the city to find food and would crucify them in huge numbers outside the city in sight of the walls. More than 500 Jews per day were arrested and crucified. There were so many crosses that were set up that there wasn’t any room for more, and it was difficult to walk between them. There were so many people to be crucified that there weren’t enough crosses.
Think about this for a minute. Do you remember when Jesus was at Pilate’s palace and the Jews demanded that Pilate crucify him? What did they say to Pilate when he tried to wash his hands of the blood of Christ, an innocent man? They said, “His blood be on us, and on our children.” Now with terrible force this calamity came upon them as thousands were crucified outside the unholy city. Remember there were millions of distressed people trapped in the city because of the Passover all of them frantic to find food.
Amid skirmishes between the desperate Jews and the Roman armies the famine only got worse. It “devoured the people by whole houses and families; the upper rooms were full of women and children that were dying by famine, and the lanes of the city were full of the dead bodies of the aged; the children and also the young men wandered about the market-places like shadows, all swelled with the famine, and fell down dead, wheresoever their misery seized them.” The Works of Flavius Josephus, Book V, Chapter 12
Some were so desperate that they killed their children and ate them. No doubt children did the same to their parents. In this the prophecy of Jeremiah in Lamentations 4:10 was fulfilled to the letter. “The hands of the pitiful women have sodden their own children: they were their meat in the destruction of the daughter of my people.”
Another fourteen hundred year-old prophecy of Moses was fulfilled. “The tender and delicate woman among you, which would not adventure to set the sole of her foot upon the ground for delicateness and tenderness, her eye shall be evil toward the husband of her bosom, and toward her son, and toward her daughter,… and toward her children which she shall bear: for she shall eat them for want of all things secretly in the siege and straitness, wherewith thine enemy shall distress thee in thy gates.” Deuteronomy 28:56, 57
Some, by strategy, managed to sneak out of the city and flee to the Romans. But their fate was even worse. Word got around that they had swallowed pieces of gold, and that it was in their bellies, for Jerusalem was full of gold and silver. Their intention was to later collected it from their stool and use it to purchase food and survive outside the city. But when they came to the camp of the Romans pleading for protection, the soldiers would cut their bellies open and examine them for gold and then leave them to die. Not only was the gold worthless in the city, it became the cause of destruction to those who tried to escape with it.
Does that remind you of what the Bible says will happen to gold and silver? James 5 says it will become worthless to us, and a witness against us. You see, my friends, riches will not save you when chaos breaks out in the last days. When the rule of law is overthrown by massive civil uprisings, and lawless regimes reign supreme, what are houses, lands, possessions and large balances in your bank account going to do for you then? You will just be plundered.
When the economy collapses, when strife and commotion and bloodshed are everywhere in the big cities, what are you going to do to protect yourself? Your only hope is in God. It is hopeless to rely on the police, the courts, or the government or your finances. You can’t even rely on your own wits, guns or munitions. God alone has to be your protection.
Psalm 91 says that if you are in the secret place of the most high, which means that you are living by all His commandments and following in all His ways, you will be protected from the great terror, war, famine and other distress. Thousands will die around you but you will be preserved. Verse 2 says, “I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.”
Friends, this sad picture is also what is coming soon to the big cities of our planet. Men and women will be starving to death from famine and their mouths will be parched with thirst, because they cannot get food and drinkable water.
The stench from the dead bodies everywhere around Jerusalem was so bad that not even the gangs could stand it. They insisted that the dead be buried from the public treasury, but no one could do it because there were too many bodies. So, eventually, thousands of the bodies were taken to the top of the city wall and dropped into the valleys below. “Titus, in going on his rounds along those valleys, saw them full of dead bodies, and the thick putrefaction running about them, he gave a groan; and, spreading out his hands to heaven, called God to witness that this was not his doing…” Titus realized that it was only a matter of time before the Jews would be so weak that they would either come out to him, or they would surrender the city.
“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: ‘With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.’ Matthew 7:2.
“Signs and wonders appeared, foreboding disaster and doom. In the midst of the night an unnatural light shone over the temple and the altar. Upon the clouds at sunset were pictured chariots and men of war gathering for battle. The priests ministering by night in the sanctuary were terrified by mysterious sounds; the earth trembled, and a multitude of voices were heard crying: ‘Let us depart hence.’ The great eastern gate, which was so heavy that it could hardly be shut by a score of men, and which was secured by immense bars of iron fastened deep in the pavement of solid stone, opened at midnight, without visible agency.
“For seven years a man continued to go up and down the streets of Jerusalem, declaring the woes that were to come upon the city. By day and by night 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 against the temple! a voice against the bridegrooms and the brides! a voice against the whole people!’ This strange being was imprisoned and scourged, but no complaint escaped his lips. To insult and abuse he answered only: ‘Woe, woe to Jerusalem!’ ‘woe, woe to the inhabitants thereof!” His warning cry ceased not until he was slain in the siege he had foretold. That is from The History of the Jews, by Henry Hart Milman, Book 13, and quoted in Great Controversy, page 29-30
“The blind obstinacy of the Jewish leaders, and the detestable crimes perpetrated within the besieged city, excited the horror and indignation of the Romans, and Titus at last decided to take the temple by storm. He determined, however, that if possible it should be saved from destruction. But his commands were disregarded. After he had retired to his tent at night, the Jews, sallying from the temple, attacked the soldiers without. In the struggle, a firebrand was flung by a soldier through an opening in the porch, and immediately the cedar-lined chambers about the holy house were in a blaze. Titus rushed to the place, followed by his generals and legionaries, and commanded the soldiers to quench the flames. His words were unheeded. In their fury the soldiers hurled blazing brands into the chambers adjoining the temple, and then with their swords they slaughtered in great numbers those who had found shelter there. Blood flowed down the temple steps like water. Thousands upon thousands of Jews perished. Above the sound of battle, voices were heard shouting: “Ichabod!”—the glory is departed. Great Controversy page 33
Friends, what a terrible description of the destruction of the sacred city and temple! The power of it is overwhelming when you think that this is, in fact, a description of what is going to happen to the world after the close of human probation, when the Holy Spirit will no longer restrain the murderous passions of millions.
Titus twice tried to get the soldiers to save the temple, but in vain. Their rage and fury knew no bounds.
“It was an appalling spectacle to the Roman—what was it to the Jew? The whole summit of the hill which commanded the city, blazed like a volcano. One after another the buildings fell in, with a tremendous crash, and were swallowed up in the fiery abyss. The roofs of cedar were like sheets of flame; the gilded pinnacles shone like spikes of red light; the gate towers sent up tall columns of flame and smoke. The neighboring hills were lighted up; and dark groups of people were seen watching in horrible anxiety the progress of the destruction: the walls and heights of the upper city were crowded with faces, some pale with the agony of despair, others scowling unavailing vengeance. The shouts of the Roman soldiery as they ran to and fro, and the howlings of the insurgents who were perishing in the flames, mingled with the roaring of the conflagration and the thundering sound of falling timbers. The echoes of the mountains replied or brought back the shrieks of the people on the heights; all along the walls resounded screams and wailings; men who were expiring with famine rallied their remaining strength to utter a cry of anguish and desolation.
“The slaughter within was even more dreadful than the spectacle from without. Men and women, old and young, insurgents and priests, those who fought and those who entreated mercy, were hewn down in indiscriminate carnage. The number of the slain exceeded that of the slayers. The legionaries had to clamber over heaps of dead to carry on the work of extermination.” The History of the Jews, by Henry Hart Milman, book 16, quoted in Great Controversy, page 34 and 35
And notice this amazing statement from The Truth About Angels, page 241. “Angels of God were sent to do the work of destruction, so that one stone [of the temple] was not left upon another that was not thrown down.”
“After the destruction of the temple, the whole city soon fell into the hands of the Romans. The leaders of the Jews forsook their impregnable towers, and Titus found them solitary. He gazed upon them with amazement, and declared that God had given them into his hands; for no engines, however powerful, could have prevailed against those stupendous battlements. Both the city and the temple were razed to their foundations, and the ground upon which the holy house had stood was ‘plowed like a field.’ Jeremiah 26:18. In the siege and the slaughter that followed, more than a million of the people perished; the survivors were carried away as captives, sold as slaves, dragged to Rome to grace the conqueror’s triumph, thrown to wild beasts in the amphitheaters, or scattered as homeless wanderers throughout the earth. Great Controversy, page 35.
Friends, I cannot help but feel burdened for souls when I read the descriptions of the wasted city. Great and longsuffering is the God of heaven. He delays His judgments in love and mercy so as to give the sinner time to repent and to give nations and churches time to repent. Friends, there are millions of lost souls to win. We don’t have much time left before a similar tragedy unfolds globally.
Listen to it from the book Great Controversy. “The Saviour’s prophecy concerning the visitation of judgments upon Jerusalem is to have another fulfillment, of which that terrible desolation was but a faint shadow.” Think about that my friends. The destruction of Jerusalem as brutal and ruthless and terrible as it was, is but a faint shadow of what is coming at the time when the door of human probation has closed. Oh, my friends, we desperately need God’s protection don’t we? We need His presence in our hearts constantly, otherwise we will fall into sin and turn from His mercy and His loving call to our hearts. Oh friends, don’t you want Jesus? Don’t you want His mercy to protect you? Today you can let Him in. You can turn over your worthless life to Jesus and He will heal you and restore you. He will forgive you of all your sins and He will free you from guilt. His sacrifice paid for your sins. And if you turn your life over to Him, and determine in your heart that you will obey all His commandments, He will certainly cover you with his feathers and under His wings shall you trust.
Let me read on about the future. “In the fate of the chosen city we may behold the doom of a world that has rejected God’s mercy and trampled upon His law. Dark are the records of human misery that earth has witnessed during its long centuries of crime. The heart sickens, and the mind grows faint in contemplation. 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,—the long procession of tumults, conflicts, and revolutions, the “battle of the warrior . . . with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood” (Isaiah 9:5),—what are these, in contrast with the terrors of that day when the restraining Spirit of God shall 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. Great Controversy, page 36 and 37
Friends, during the “time of trouble such as never was” (Daniel 12:1) we will see these kinds of scenes again. Blood will flow. The great cities of the plains and of the coastal regions will be destroyed. Listen to this from Manuscript Releases, Vol. 21, and page 66. “Men will continue to erect expensive buildings, costing millions of money; special attention will be called to their architectural beauty, and the firmness and solidity with which they are constructed; but the Lord has instructed me that despite the unusual firmness and expensive display, these buildings will share the fate of the temple in Jerusalem. That magnificent structure fell.”
The coming destruction of the cities is prophetically prefigured by the destruction of the city of Jerusalem for her iniquities. But what could be the meaning of the destruction of the temple?
In Matthew 24 Jesus answered a question of His disciples. Turning His back on the temple had prompted their question. The first verse says, “And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple.”
In other words, the disciples sensed that Jesus had finally turned His back on the church of their day. They may have sensed too that it was because of the Jews rejection of Christ. But they were very worried. They thought that there could be no church without the temple structure. That was so theologically important to the Jews that they taught it as if it were veritable “truth.” Jewish youth had the doctrinal importance of the temple structure imbedded in their deep psyche from infancy. They even viewed the temple as a symbol of the whole system of organization and structure of the hierarchy. Any suggestion that the temple wasn’t necessary to salvation or that it wasn’t necessary to God’s church, was considered to be disloyalty and even treason. How could Jesus turn his back on the temple? Wasn’t He, in doing so, turning His back on God’s church? This really bothered them because they thought that in order to be saved, you had to be in communion with the temple and its hierarchy. But Jesus was about to start a new church without the temple, wasn’t He? The new church would have a simple structure for organization purposes, but it would not include the former edifice. But it would not be a hindrance and get in the way of the Holy Spirit as the Jewish structure had eventually done.
So, the disciples showed him the buildings of the temple structure, the sacred buildings that meant so much to them historically, spiritually, and even doctrinally. But Jesus sorrowfully answered them and said in verse two, “See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”
To the disciples, this was a shocking statement! They knew this could get Jesus in a lot of trouble and themselves also. He was predicting the desecration of the holy temple, which the Jews idolized. Since this was a comment in a public place the disciples asked no more questions lest Jesus would say even worse things. But they were eager to know more. So when they got to the Mount of Olives the scripture says in verse three that “the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?”
Notice that they asked two questions, though they equated them as happening at the same time. One question was about the church or the temple, and one about the world at the end of time. Christ did not distinguish these two in His response, as you might have expected Him to do, but wrapped them up together. The destruction of Jerusalem and the temple give us a rather clear picture of what is going to happen at the close of human probation. Church structures will be destroyed, and so will great cities.
In fact, persecution under the pressure of a universal Sunday law will make it very difficult for the structure of God’s last church with its organization, its hierarchy, its complex entities, and its economy, to do its work. That structure will most likely disappear, as it will be impossible for it to continue under the new hostile conditions and economic sanctions of the no-buy-no-sell law described in Revelation 13:16-17. But God’s church does not fall. It can never be destroyed! It will lose its outward forms and systems. But faithful souls, who have always constituted the church, led by the Holy Spirit will continue the closing work of God in unity; not an artificial unity around a set of rules and church manuals, which only bring functional agreement. The Holy Spirit will provide true unity, which comes in truth. He will organize and coordinate the work and workers and they will work miraculously under His power, the later rain power.
In the story of the fall of Jerusalem, we have two aspects referred to. The destruction of the city, which represents the destruction of the world and its cities, and the destruction of the temple which represents the destruction of the church structure, which may have been a convenient tool of organization while it served its purpose.
Keep in mind that throughout history we have many examples of what happened to church structures when under persecutions of various forms; from eastern European and Soviet communism, to Chinese communism, to strong Islamic nations, etc. Many times the faithful followers of Jesus had to go “underground,” and establish secret churches. And so it will be in the final moments of earth’s history.
I’m telling you this so that you won’t be surprised when it happens, and so that you can prepare your mind and heart to fully depend on Christ now, so that it will be natural then. Too many people are dependent on human structures and the arm of flesh when in reality they must learn to depend fully on Christ. Perhaps my words, like Christ’s can be easily misunderstood and misrepresented. But I have tried to explain what appears from Bible prophecy. It was Jesus Himself who predicted the fall of the Jewish church structure and also applied it to the end of time.
The surrounding of the city of Jerusalem by the Roman armies including their withdrawal and return, prefigures the Sunday law in 1888, and then again at the end of time. We are in the period, as it were, between those two anti-typical “sieges.”
The Sunday law is an assault on God’s people who keep all His commandments, especially the seventh-day Sabbath commandment. The temple was destroyed because of the iniquity, wickedness and stubborn impenitence of God’s church. In the last days, church structures will also be destroyed for the same as well as other reasons relevant to the conflict between Christ and Satan.
“But in that day,” says the book Great Controversy, “as in the time of Jerusalem’s destruction, God’s people will be delivered, everyone that shall be found written among the living. Isaiah 4:3. Christ has declared that He will come the second time to gather His faithful ones to Himself: ‘Then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other…’” Matthew 24:30, 31 [Won’t that be a wonderful day?]
“The world is no more ready to credit the message for this time than were the Jews to receive the Saviour’s warning concerning Jerusalem.”
Great Controversy, page 37 and 38
Friends, do you think that the story of the destruction of Jerusalem is only a story? Do you think that it doesn’t have prophetic implications today? Oh, my friends think again. God didn’t put that story out there for us to study without a purpose. He meant it for our benefit, for our admonition, and so that we can prepare by becoming united to Him in our hearts and minds, so fully that He can put His seal on our foreheads. We need Jesus’ seal don’t we? I do! I know you do too! May God help us get ready for the awful “time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation, even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, everyone that shall be found written in the book.” Daniel 12:1
Let us pray. Our loving, heavenly Father, we long for the second coming of Jesus. We want our names written in the book. We tremble at the lost souls who will perish because of their rejection of the wonderful salvation offered to them. Please sanctify us by Your Holy Spirit so that we may live holy lives. Please lead us in the ways of righteousness for your name’s sake. Please show us how to surrender our lives to Jesus Christ and live for Him fully and completely. We now see that our world is headed for a lot of trouble. Please show us how to turn aside from all earthly priorities and live by heaven’s priorities. We pray that we will be under the Savior’s wing of protection. In Jesus’ name, Amen.