A missionary friend to the Jews in Miami reminded me often that if I ever lost my way in charting the future to watch Israel. These words still reverberate in my mind today. They have not gone away – nor have the Jews. God promised blessings on an obedient Jewish nation. He said that if they walked in His statutes and kept His commands, He would give rain for their crops and their land, and trees would produce in abundance. They would have plenty of food. He also promised that they would live in peace with their enemies. No animals would harm them, and their enemies would run from them. Further, God said that He would set His tabernacle in their midst and that He would be their God and they would be His people (Lev. 26:1–13).
Then, as we often see in God’s word, a contrast is marked out by the little word “but.” God used this word to warn the Jews that if they turned their backs on Him again, He would judge accordingly. God would put in play five cycles of discipline, each worse than the previous one (Lev. 26:14–33). First Cycle: loss of health, pain, inability to raise crops, lost battles, lost freedom (vs.15–17). Second Cycle: He would bring on them seven times the punishment of the first cycle plus there would be no rain, therefore no crops (vs.18–20). Third Cycle: seven times the punishment of the first two cycles, plus the invasion of wild beasts taking the lives of children and livestock (vs. 21–22). Fourth Cycle: seven times the punishment of the previous cycles, plus being delivered into enemy hands and famine (vs. 23–26). Fifth Cycle: seven times the punishment of the above, as well as cannibalism, high places and altars destroyed, cities laid waste, land becoming desolate, and Jews scattered throughout the world (vs. 27–33).
Once again, the Jews broke God’s covenant. Rather than casting them away, God put them through the five cycles of discipline. In 70 A.D., they entered the fifth cycle when the Roman emperor Titus Vaspacius laid siege to the city of Jerusalem, starved them out, and burned their temple. Thousands of Jews died, many from hunger, and others cannibalized their own children. Horrible! Incredibly, God had predicted this very event (Lev. 26:29).
God told them that He would scatter them among the nations. They would always live in panic mode. No group of people have been more hated than the Jews (remember the Holocaust). He said that they would be so stressed at times that the sound of a shaking leaf would scare them (Lev. 26:36). These familiar words from their Messiah must ring in our ears. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate” (Matt. 23:38).
As He left the temple, His disciples reminded Him of the beauty of the temple. The King shocked them when He told them that the temple was going to be destroyed – burned (happened in 70 A.D.). Not one stone would be left on the other (Luke 21:6). The Romans searched for the melted gold that had flowed down through the stones. They pulled apart every stone looking for it. Amazing!
The disciples asked, “When will these things happen?” (Matt. 24:3). Our Lord had already said that the things of which He spoke would come upon this generation (Matt. 23:36; Mark 13:30; Lk. 21:32). By using this expression many times, Christ did not necessarily mean the generation he was speaking to – but the generation that would be alive when these things happen. Just a casual reading will tell you this.
As with many prophesies, there is a short-range and a long-range fulfillment. Jesus was reading from the book of Isaiah. In the middle of Isaiah 61:2, He separated “To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” and the “day of vengeance of our God”. The reason? There would be many years between the two events (Luke 4:19; Isa. 61:2). The first fulfillment was during Jesus’ first coming. He will fulfill the last part when He comes again (2 Thess. 1:6-10). The long-range fulfillment is marked by our Lord’s words, “For I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’” (Matt. 23:36–39) This future event will happen when the King rides into Jerusalem, not on a donkey, but on a white horse and not to wear a crown of thorns but a royal crown of the King (Rev. 1:7; Rev. 19:11-16; Zech. 14:1-11). The Jews remain under the fifth cycle of discipline. It will end with a very intense seven years of tribulation (Matt. 24: 9-14; Rev. 5-19; Dan. 9:24-27). God will cause the Jews to pass through the fires of judgment in order to purge them of their rebellion and purify them, thus preparing them for the coming of their Messiah (Mal. 3:1–3; Zech. 13:9). Stay safe and stay tuned.