“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her. For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people. And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” (21:20-24)
As Jesus continued his answer to the disciples he noted that Jerusalem would be surrounded by armies when these troubles would be coming towards their end. He tells his identified listeners that there will have been nothing previous to compare it to, (and again) that they would immediately need to get out of Jerusalem and leave the area. The desolation mentioned here surely is the “transgression of desolation” Jesus was recorded to have mentioned in Matthew 24. The different recorders provided a layered richness of detail.
Those without knowledge, or who ignored the Prophet, would not see the force of the storm as it came down on top of them. In all of this it is useful to remember it must all be viewed and understood from the point of view as would have been seen or heard through the eyes and ears of the twelve apostles and the first disciples of Jesus, who were everyone of them religious Jews.
“And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”
That the Roman Legions ransacked and subdued Judea and Jerusalem and chased the Jews out, conscripted them, or simply eliminated them, beginning in 66 AD with a second lighter course in 117 and with a final go at it in 135, should be understood by the student without dispute. That is the lesson of history; and to suggest Jesus was looking out to WW II or beyond into the further reaches of time completely discounts the direct conversation and its particulars.
The point of “the end of the ages,” and the “days of vengeance,” was to portray the pending end of the Jewish or age of Israel. This chosen people were to be chosen no longer. If we should discount these things and think that it would not be viewed as the end of their world, we have missed the point. They had cast aside the son of the vineyard owner and had killed his heir. Jesus told them that they would be overtaken and there would be weeping and gnashing of teeth. That this was what Jesus referred to as the “times of the Gentiles” should also be clear.
I have already mentioned the razing and destruction by the legions under Titus in 70 AD, but did you know that in 135 the Roman’s plowed up the entire temple mound and most of the rest of the city (“…the days will come in which not one stone shall be left upon another that shall not be thrown down.”)? Did you know that because of that destruction, aside from the pools and the area of the temple mound itself, that in modern day Jerusalem no historic site can be accurately placed, so complete was the work? The Romans then renamed the city Aelia Capitolina in honor of the conquering emperor Hadrian and the god Jupiter whose temples they erected in place of the temple ruins atop the temple mound. Did you know that practically no Jews lived anywhere in Palestine for nearly a thousand years so thorough were the slaughters, the removals, and the conscripts? Did you know that Palestine is a Roman name that was coined sometime between 66 and 135? Did you know that from 135 no Jews could enter Jerusalem, but the Romans allowed them to gather on Mount Olivet across from the city once per year to mourn over their plight? These conditions continued until 325 and the issuance of the Edict of Milan under Constantine.
So, do “the times of the Gentiles” continue to this day? Well, perhaps you’re not certain, but the reality is that it is certain that it is not the Jews who have charge of their former capitol; it is a divided city. Old Jerusalem is little more than some rundown buildings all dating from the fourth century and later, surrounding the well kept but poor remains of destruction. The old city is dead. Only a short section of the foundation wall on the west of the temple mound remains of Herod’s Temple complex. The temple mound itself doesn’t even qualify as a ruin, as it has been under the charge of the heirs of Mohammed since 637; and they immediately built a mosque where the Temple had long before stood. It seems the modern day Jews have charge over nothing but memories and rubble. Therefore, we might practically if not accurately stretch that line straight from then to today.
The Jews have no priests or High Priest, they cannot offer the commanded sacrifices; they cannot seek atonement. They have no sanctioned place to gather the nation, where all the males over twenty would come together four times each year. They cannot perform the simplest of the ceremonies of the Law of Moses. They cannot do as they were commanded, they cannot gather as prescribed. They are therefore not their own religious masters.
They had to cease from performing publicly the prescribed ordinances when these events occurred. They had long before that stopped performing the observations from the heart and out of love for God, as Isaiah recorded that God had said: “And in vain they worship me.”
They had substituted in place of God’s directions, the ordinances of their teachers. They were “teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” Beginning with the events of 70 AD the words of Isaiah the prophet, speaking as the mouthpiece of God, had taken on a whole new dimension.