Calamitous Famines Have Disappeared (Implications for Eschatology)


Recently I learned some very good news that should be welcomed by everyone, regardless of one’s viewpoint on world affairs or eschatology. This news is that famines have sharply declined over the last 100 years, to the point of almost disappearing. This post will provide details about this trend and will also discuss why and how Jesus’ well-known prediction about famines had everything to do with His own time period and not ours. Doom and gloom is not this world’s destiny, and we have every reason to rejoice when famines disappear and when the world improves in other ways.

An October 2015 article in The Huffington Post reported that “calamitous famines that cause more than 1 million deaths” have now been completely eliminated (source: the 2015 Global Hunger Index). There has also been a “reduction ‘almost to a vanishing point’ of great famines, which cause more than 100,000 deaths.” Between 1900-1909 around 27 million people died of famine; during the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s that number was cut in half (14 million deaths per decade); that number was divided by 10 by the 1990s (1.4 million deaths by famine); and about 600,000 died of famine between 2000 – 2015. Based on the given data, the trend would look something like this*:

Deaths by Famine Since 1900

*Note that no data was given for the periods of 1920 – 1940 and 1970 – 1990 in the Huffington Post article cited here. Also note that the final period (in purple) covers 15 years rather than 10 years like the other periods.

“Wait a minute. This shouldn’t be happening,” some might say. “Aren’t we in the end times? Didn’t Jesus say there would be famines and earthquakes before the end? Then why are famines going away?” Yes, Jesus did say that there would be famines before the end:

“And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginnings of sorrows” (Matthew 24:6-8; see also Mark 13:7-8 and Luke 21:9-11).

What was “the end” He was speaking of? It was to be “the end of the age” (Matthew 24:3, 14), which would take place when every stone of the temple would be thrown down (Matthew 24:1-3, Mark 13:1-4, Luke 21:5-7). That age did come to an end when the temple was destroyed in 70 AD. It was the age which revolved around the temple, that is, the old covenant age (Hebrews 8:13).

How was Jesus’ prediction about famines fulfilled between the time of His prophecy (around 30 AD) and the end of the old covenant age in 70 AD? A series of famines took place throughout the Roman Empire between 41 AD – 52 AD and another great famine took place in 70 AD. Two of these famines affected Judah and Jerusalem, and both were predicted in Scripture, in Acts 11 and Revelation 6, respectively.

Famines during the Reign of Claudius Caesar (41-54 AD)

A severe famine was predicted by Agabus in Acts 11:28-30.

“And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar. Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.”

Claudius Caesar was the fifth Roman emperor, and he ruled from 41 – 54 AD, immediately before Nero. More than one significant famine took place during the reign of Claudius, but one in particular fulfilled the prophecy of Agabus. The Roman historian Dio Cassius recorded details about each of them, and Luther W. Martin wrote the following helpful summary in a 1955 edition of The Gospel Guardian:

“The first famine during this period was centered around the city of Rome in the years 41 and 42 A.D. The second famine known to have occurred during the reign of Claudius was in the fourth year of his office (45 A.D.), and was particularly centered in Judea. It is this famine to which Luke makes reference in Acts 11:28… The third famine during the time of Claudius was centered in Greece in about A.D. 50. The fourth famine took place in 52 A.D. and once again, plagued the city of Rome.

Josephus, the Jewish historian, supplies further information concerning the intensity of this famine, with its great distress and many deaths. In a footnote, it is indicated that it may have lasted for a three year period.”

In addition to Josephus, the Roman historians Suetonius (“Life of Claudius,” chapter 18) and Tacitus (Annals 11:4) also wrote about the great famine which fulfilled the prediction of Agabus. These remarks were made by Josephus in Antiquities 20.2.5:

“[The arrival of Queen Helena of Adiabene] was very advantageous to the people of Jerusalem; for a famine oppressed them at that time, and many people died for want of money to procure food. Queen Helena sent some of her servants to Alexandria with money to buy a great quantity of grain, and others of them to Cyprus to bring back a cargo of dried figs. They quickly returned with the provisions, which she immediately distributed to those that [had] need.  She has thus left a most excellent memorial by the beneficence which she bestowed upon our nation.”

In 1805 George Peter Holford wrote a book titled, “The Destruction of Jerusalem, An Absolute and Irresistible Proof of the Divine Origin of Christianity,” in which he showed that many of the events recorded by Josephus and other first century historians fulfilled Jesus’ predictions in the Olivet Discourse. Regarding this famine, Holford wrote that it “was of long continuance. It extended through Greece, and even into Italy, but was felt most severely in Judea, and especially at Jerusalem, where many perished for want of bread. This famine is recorded by Josephus also, who relates that ‘an assaron of corn was sold for five drachmae’ (i.e. about 3 1/2 pints for three shilling, three denarius).” One drachma was the daily wage for a soldier at that time, and five drachma were worth about $500 in today’s currency. So three pints of corn sold for about $500 during this terrible famine.

The Great Famine in Jerusalem in 70 AD

In 70 AD, when the old covenant age was coming to its final end, there was another great famine, but only in Jerusalem. This famine was made all the more severe because of the actions of a key leader in the civil war that had been raging in Jerusalem between the revolutionaries and those who wanted to maintain peace with Rome.

To give a little background, Jerusalem had been divided into three factions ever since late 67 AD. These factions were led by [1] Eleazar, who was over the Zealots [2] John of Gischala, who was over the Galileans, and [3] Simon, who was over the Idumeans. This was the civil war described in Revelation 6:3-4, also fulfilling Revelation 16:19 where it is said that “the great city” (Jerusalem – see Rev. 11:8) was divided into three parts. (This mirrors the 3-part division that also took place in Ezekiel’s day (Ezekiel 5:1-12) when Jerusalem was destroyed the first time by Babylon in 586 BC.) In December 69 AD John of Gischala foolishly set fire to the supply warehouses in Jerusalem, and nearly all the grain supplies were burned, which would have lasted the city for years (Josephus, Wars 5.1.4, 21-26).

On April 14, 70 AD the Roman General, Titus, laid a siege around Jerusalem. This took place just before Passover, after hundreds of thousands of Jews had already arrived from surrounding nations for the feast, and it lasted for five months until Jerusalem and the temple were burned. The famine brought about conditions fulfilling Revelation 6:6, where John was told that a quart of wheat would be sold for a denarius, the typical salary for one day’s work. It became so severe that there are records of parents roasting and eating their own children. Moses prophesied that this would happen to the people of Israel (Leviticus 26:29) in their latter days (Deut. 31:29) during a time of sevenfold judgment (Lev. 26:18, 21, 24, 28; note the seven seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments in the book of Revelation), the cutting off of their bread supply (Lev. 26:26), and the execution of the vengeance of His covenant (Lev. 26:25).

Others ate their belts, sandals, dried grass, and even oxen dung, according to Josephus. There were also violent home invasions where anyone who was suspected of hoarding food was tormented until they revealed where it was. Some escaped from Jerusalem to the Romans because they couldn’t bear the conditions in the city any longer. George Peter Holford wrote about the pestilential diseases (Leviticus 26:25; Deuteronomy 28:58-62, 32:24; Matthew 24:7) that accompanied this famine:

“After Jerusalem was surrounded by the army of Titus, pestilential diseases soon made their appearance there to aggravate the miseries, and deepen the horrors of the siege. They were partly occasioned by the immense multitudes which were crowded together in the city, partly by the putrid effluvia which arose from the unburied dead, and partly from spread of famine.”

There is No Prophecy of Famine for Today

Every Biblical prophecy about famines, pestilences, earthquakes, and great tribulation was fulfilled many centuries ago. We can rejoice that famines are disappearing at this time. It’s never been easier than right now for humanitarian workers and agencies to respond to difficult situations and events. Communication and transportation have been made easier and more efficient. Because of the internet and social media, the public is more easily made aware of needs, situations, and how to directly help or at least support humanitarian efforts.

Jesus reigns on the throne of David right now (Acts 2:29-36, Ephesians 1:20-23, Hebrews 1:3-13, Revelation 1:5). We can rejoice over anything else that His government is accomplishing for His glory and for the good of this planet. As Isaiah 9:7 says, “Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

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Daniel 12, Matthew 13, and the Olivet Discourse – The Righteous Are Shining


Don K. Preston produced a short video yesterday comparing Matthew 13 (“The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares”) to Daniel 12:3, and made some interesting observations.  Here’s his introduction, followed by the 7-minute video:

“In Matthew 13:43 Jesus directly echoes Daniel 12:3. How does this impact our understanding of the end of the age and the resurrection? Well, “orthodoxy” says that Daniel and Matthew 13 refer to the “end of human history.” But, Daniel 12 totally refutes that, demonstrating again how badly church history and “orthodoxy” have missed the story of eschatology!”

I created a chart below showing the parallels between Daniel 12 and Matthew 13, as well as parallels between Daniel 12 and the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21).

  Daniel 12:1-7 Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 Matthew 24 / Mark 13 / Luke 21 (Olivet Discourse)
Prophecies regarding the Jewish people “…who stands watch over the sons of your people… your people” (verse 1)   “…who are in Judea” (Matt. 24:16); “pray that your flight may not be…on the Sabbath” (Matt. 24:20); “…all the tribes of the earth” (Matt. 24:30); “…you will be beaten in the synagogues” (Mark 13:9, Luke 21:12); “For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people” (Luke 21:23); “Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles…” (Luke 21:24).
Incomparable time of trouble “…there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation” (verse 1)   “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matt. 24:21, Mark 13:19).
God’s people delivered “And at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book” (verse 1).   “…then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains” (Matt. 24:16, Mark 13:14, Luke 21:21).*
Resurrection “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt” (verse 2).   “And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matt. 24:31, Mark 13:27).
Righteous shining like stars “Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever” (verse 3) “Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (verse 43).  
Timing of these things “…it shall be for a time, times, and half a time; and when the power of the holy people has been completely shattered, all these things shall be finished” (verse 7). “…the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels” (verse 39); “…as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age” (verse 40). [Jesus prophesies that the temple will be completely destroyed (Matt. 24:1-2, Mark 13:1-2, Luke 21:5-6).]

 

[a] Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matt. 24:3)

 

[b] “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign when all these things will be fulfilled?” (Mark 13:4, Luke 21:7)

 

“Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things are fulfilled” (Matthew 24:34, Mark 13:30, Luke 21:32).

 * Remigius (437-533 AD) tells us this:

“[F]or on the approach of the Roman army, all the Christians in the province, warned, as ecclesiastical history tells us, miraculously from heaven, withdrew, and passing the Jordan, took refuge in the city of Pella; and under the protection of that King Agrippa, of whom we read in the Acts of the Apostles, they continued some time.”

As Daniel 12 and Matthew 13 are related, and Daniel 12 and the Olivet Discourse are also clearly related, so also are Matthew 13 and the Olivet Discourse related. They are related in terms of their content, as well as the time period in which they were to be fulfilled. The “end of the age” referred to the old covenant age, which came to a fiery end when Jerusalem and the temple were burned as Jesus predicted. The power of Daniel’s people was completely shattered at this time, before Jesus’ own generation passed away. The righteous (in Christ) have been shining like the stars from that time, even since the cross.

A detailed study of “the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares” was posted here last year.

Chuck Crisco, pastor of His House Church in Nashville, also has a good article on Matthew 13 and the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares: “Spiritual Myth Busters: Is God Separating the Wheat and the Tares?”

Comparing Matthew 24 and I Thessalonians 4-5


Today a Facebook friend, Chris Palios, shared a chart comparing Matthew 24 and I Thessalonians 4-5. I’ve seen this comparison before, and his post was a good reminder that I’ve been meaning to post it here as well. As Chris said, the similarities between these two passages are fascinating.

While it’s still popular to view Matthew 24 as yet unfulfilled, there are plenty (and even more in church history) who recognize that Jesus was prophesying there concerning Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD and other events which would take place within His own generation. [A detailed study on the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21) can be seen at the top of this page.] However, among those who view Matthew 24 as fulfilled, some believe that I Thessalonians 4-5 speak of future events. Here is the well-known passage that speaks of the resurrection of believers, which others take as being about a “rapture”: 

For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words” (I Thessalonians 4:15-18).

As I’ve promised Steve (who posted a 3-part series here as a guest last year), a deeper study on the resurrection of believers is still in the works. For now, though, here is a chart showing the strong similarities between Matthew 24 and I Thessalonians 4-5. The relationship is so close that I don’t believe it’s possible to view one passage as being fulfilled in the first century AD and the other as not yet fulfilled:

Statements Regarding Jesus’ Coming Reference in Matthew 24 Reference in I Thess. 4 or 5
1. Christ Himself returns Matthew 24:30 I Thess. 4:16
2. From heaven Matthew 24:30 I Thess. 4:16
3. With a shout Matthew 24:30 I Thess. 4:16
4. Accompanied by angels Matthew 24:31 I Thess. 4:16
5. With the trumpet of God Matthew 24:31 I Thess. 4:16
6. In clouds Matthew 24:30 I Thess. 4:17
7. Believers are gathered Matthew 24:31 I Thess. 4:17
8. At an unknown time Matthew 24:36 I Thess. 5:1-2
9. He will come as a thief Matthew 24:43 I Thess. 5:2, 4
10. People unaware of coming judgment Matthew 24:37-39 I Thess. 5:3
11. Judgment comes as travail upon an expectant mother Matthew 24:8 I Thess. 5:3
12. Believers are to watch Matthew 24:42 I Thess. 5:4
13. Warning against drunkenness Matthew 24:49 I Thess. 5:7

Benjamin L. Corey: Jesus Says Those “Left Behind” Are The Lucky Ones (the most ironic thing the movie won’t tell you)


This is an excellent article written by Benjamin L. Corey at Formerly Fundie (Patheos): 

In the lead up to the release of the remake of Left Behind hitting theaters in a few weeks, I wanted to take a moment to tell you about the most ironic thing the Left Behind movie (or rapture believers) won’t tell you about getting “left behind.”

The basic premise of the theology is this: the world is going to get progressively worse as “the end” draws near. Before the worst period of time in world history (a seven year period called the “tribulation,” though there’s no verse in the Bible that discusses a seven year tribulation) believers in Jesus are suddenly snatched away during the second coming of Christ (which rapture believers argue is done in secret and without explanation, instead of the public second coming described in scripture).

The entire premise of the theology and the Left Behind movie is based on a passage from Matthew that you’ll see in the official Left Behind image included to your left. The passage states:

“Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken and the other left.”

And this is where we get the term “left behind”… Jesus said “one shall be taken and the other left.”

Pretty simple, no? It appears from this passage that Jesus is describing an event where some people actually do “get taken” and the others are “left behind.” It must be a rapture then.

Or maybe not.

As I have explained before, the chapter of Matthew 24 is a chapter where Jesus describes the events that will lead up to the destruction of the temple which occurred in AD 70. That’s not so much my scholarly opinion as it is what Jesus plainly states in the first few verses of Matthew 24; it is a context pretty difficult to explain away since Jesus says “this temple will be destroyed” and his disciples ask, “please, tell us when this will happen.” The rest of the discourse is Jesus prophesying the events that will lead up to the temple’s destruction, which we know historically unfolded as Jesus had predicted. (As I have alluded to in What Jesus Talked About When He Talked About Hell and Don’t Worry The Tribulation Is In The Past, if one does not understand the significance of the destruction of the temple to ancient Judaism, one will have a very hard time understanding what Jesus talks about when he talks about “the end.”)

Anyhow, during the end of this discourse in Matthew we hit the “rapture” verse: “one will be taken and one will be left.” Surely, this part must be about the future, and Jesus MUST be describing a rapture. Since that’s what my childhood pastor taught me, it’s probably a good idea to stick with that.

Just one problem: Matthew 24 isn’t the only place where Jesus talks about “some being taken and some being left behind.” Jesus also discusses this in Luke 17 when he says:

 “I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. 35 Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.”

Building a compelling case for the rapture yet? Not quite. Check this out: Jesus’ disciples in the Luke version of the discourse must have been interested in this left behind stuff, because they ask a critical followup question. However, they actually seem more concerned with those who were “taken” than those who were “left behind” and ask Jesus for a little more information on this whole getting taken away stuff.

“Where, Lord?” is the question of the disciples. Where did all of these people go??

If this were a passage about the “rapture” as depicted in the Left Behind movie, one would expect Jesus to answer something to the point of “they were taken to be with me to wait out the tribulation.” But, that’s not what Jesus says. Instead, Jesus gives them a blunt answer about those who were “taken”: “just look for the vultures, and you’ll find their bodies.” (v. 37)

That’s right. The ones who were “taken” were killed. Not exactly the blessed rapture.

The Roman occupation was brutal, and when they finally sacked the city and destroyed the temple in AD70, things got impressively bloody. To be “taken” as Jesus prophesied, was to be killed by the invading army. This is precisely why, in this passage and the Matthew version, Jesus gives all sorts of other advice that makes no sense if this is a verse about the rapture. Jesus warns that when this moment comes one should flee quickly– to not even go back into their house to gather their belongings– and laments that it will be an especially difficult event for pregnant and nursing mothers. He even goes on to warn them that if they respond to the army with resistance (the very thing that causes the mess in the lead-up to AD70), they’ll just get killed (“whoever seeks to save his life will lose it”). Jesus, it seems, wants his disciples to get it: when the Roman army comes, flee quickly or else you might not be left behind!

Surely, Jesus is not talking about a rapture. He’s not warning people to avoid missing the rapture because they went home to get their possessions… he’s talking about fleeing an advancing army and not doing anything stupid that will get them killed (v 30-34).

Very practical advice for his original audience and would have come in handy for those who wanted to avoid being “raptured” (slaughtered) by the Roman army.

And so my friends, this is the most ironic thing the Left Behind movie won’t tell you: in the original “left behind” story Jesus tells in the Gospels, the ones who are “left behind” are actually the lucky ones.

So the next time folks tell you that they don’t want to be “left behind,” you might want to tell them to be careful what they wish for.

In our study of Matthew 24:36-51, I also proposed that Jesus said it would be better to be “left behind” than to be “taken,” and noted that 2-3 centuries ago this was taught by John Gill (1746-1763) and Albert Barnes (1834). Benjamin Corey does an excellent job showing the revealing connection between what Jesus says in Luke 17 and what He says in the more frequently quoted Matthew 24:40. His article also comes at a good time, less than two weeks before the remake of the Left Behind movie hits the theaters on October 3rd. Hopefully the theology in this film will soon be left behind by many followers of Christ.

Philip Mauro (1921): Prophecy Teachers Today Needlessly Prophesy Horrors for Israel


This is a great quote from Philip Mauro, almost 100 years ago, regarding the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, its significance in relation to Bible prophecy, and how popular beliefs on Bible prophecy speak to the people of Israel today:

“It is greatly to be regretted that those who, in our day, give themselves to the study and exposition of prophecy, seem not to be aware of the immense significance of the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, which was accompanied by the extinction of Jewish national existence, and the dispersion of the Jewish people among all the nations. The failure to recognize the significance of that event, and the vast amount of prophecy which it fulfilled, has been the cause of great confusion, for the necessary consequence of missing the past fulfillment of predicted events is to leave on our hands a mass of prophecies for which we must needs contrive fulfillments in the future. The harmful results are two fold; for first, we are thus deprived of the evidential value, and the support to the faith, of those remarkable fulfillments of prophecy which are so clearly presented to us in authentic contemporary histories; and second, our vision of things to come is greatly obscured and confused by the transference to the future of predicted events which, in fact, have already happened, and whereof complete records have been preserved for our information.”

“Yet, in the face of all this, we have today a widely held scheme of prophetic interpretation, which has for its very cornerstone the idea that, when God’s time to remember His promised mercies to Israel shall at last have come, He will gather them into their ancient land again, only to pour upon them calamities and distresses far exceeding even the horrors which attended the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. This is, we are convinced, an error of such magnitude as to derange the whole program of unfulfilled prophecy.”

–Philip Mauro, “Seventy Weeks and the Great Tribulation,” 1921

For some good information on the historical events that took place from 62 AD – 70 AD, and the spiritual significance of many of these events in light of Bible prophecy, please see the following posts:

1. The Historical Events Leading Up to 70 AD, Part 1
2. The Historical Events Leading Up to 70 AD, Part 2
3. The Historical Events Leading Up to 70 AD, Part 3
4. The Spiritual Significance of [Events in] 70 AD

Visitors are also encouraged to check out our series on the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21) and our series on the book of Revelation, for some good information on how these prophecies were fulfilled by first century historical events.

Matthew 24 Fulfilled: Quotes From 200 AD – 1868 AD


When it comes to the study of “the last days” (eschatology), Matthew 24 might be the passage cited most often. Known as The Olivet Discourse, it foretells earthquakes and famine, wars and rumors of war, the great tribulation, etc. Parallel passages are in Mark 13 and Luke 21. While many look to newspapers and CNN for signs that these events are coming to pass, it’s instructive to know that church fathers, reformation leaders, and others in church history looked in the rear-view mirror at these events.

The following quotes are commentary from various leaders on Matthew 24:34, the summary verse where Jesus says to His disciples: “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened” (See also Mark 13:30 and Luke 21:32). These quotes are buried at the end of a previous post, but I wanted to draw attention to them separately here:

Clement (150-220 AD): “And in like manner He spoke in plain words the things that were straightway to happen, which we can now see with our eyes, in order that the accomplishment might be among those to whom the word was spoken.”

Eusebius (263-339 AD): “And when those that believed in Christ had come thither [out] from Jerusalem [in obedience to Matthew 24:15-16], then, as if the royal city of the Jews and the whole land of Judea were entirely destitute of holy men, the judgment of God at length overtook those who had committed such outrages against Christ and his apostles, and totally destroyed that generation of impious men (Proof of the Gospel, Book III, Ch. 5)… [When] the lamentation and wailing that was predicted for the Jews, and the burning of the Temple and its utter desolation, can also be seen even now to have occurred according to the prediction, surely we must also agree that the King who was prophesied, the Christ of God, has come, since the signs of His coming have been shewn in each instance I have treated to have been clearly fulfilled” (Proof of the Gospel, Book VIII).

John Calvin (1509-1564): “This prophecy does not relate to evils that are distant, and which posterity will see after the lapse of many centuries, but which are now hanging over you, and ready to fall in one mass, so that there is no part of it which the present generation [in Jesus’ time] will not experience.”

John Wesley (1754): “The expression implies that great part of that generation would be passed away, but not the whole. Just so it was; for the city and temple were destroyed thirty-nine or forty years after.”

Adam Clarke (1837): “It is literally true in reference to the destruction of Jerusalem. John probably lived to see these things come to pass; compare Matthew 16:28, with John 21:22; and there were some rabbins alive at the time when Christ spoke these words who lived till the city was destroyed, viz. Rabban Simeon, who perished with the city; R. Jochanan ben Zaccai, who outlived it; R. Zadoch, R. Ismael, and others.”

Charles Spurgeon (1868): “The King left his followers in no doubt as to when these things should happen: ‘Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled.’ It was just about the ordinary limit of a generation when the Roman armies compassed Jerusalem, whose measure of iniquity was then full, and overflowed in misery, agony, distress, and bloodshed such as the world never saw before or since. Jesus was a true Prophet; everything that he foretold was literally fulfilled.”

For a detailed study on how the Olivet Discourse was fulfilled by 70 AD, within Jesus’ own generation, see our Olivet Discourse page and this 4-part study (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4) in particular.

The Significance of the Word “Desolate” in the New Testament


Series: “Little Gems from Our Study of the book of Revelation”

The word “desolate” (or the related word “desolation”) only appears 12 times in the New Testament. Seven of these appearances are in the gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and five of them are references to Jerusalem’s condition in Jesus’ day and to what was about to happen to that city. This word does not appear in John’s gospel account, but its final two appearances in the New Testament demonstrate that John, in the book of Revelation, was showing Jerusalem to be every bit the desolate place that Jesus said it was.

Like the previous post, this one is also inspired by a recent discussion here. PJ Miller, of Sola Dei Gloria, observed the similarity between Matthew’s use of the word “desolate” in both chapters 23 and 24:

[1] “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” (Matthew 23:37-38).

[2] “Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand), “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains” (Matthew 24:15-16).

[1] In Matthew 23:38, Jesus summed up what had become of Jerusalem in His lament over that city. Although formerly God’s house, Jesus now spoke of Jerusalem (and/or the temple) as “your house,” for He had abandoned it and left it to them as “desolate.”  About 650 years earlierGod said the same to Jeremiah just before Babylon destroyed Jerusalem in 586 BC:

I have forsaken My house, I have left My heritageI have given the dearly beloved of My soul into the hand of her enemies… ‘Many rulers have destroyed My vineyard, they have trodden My portion underfoot; They have made My pleasant portion a desolate wilderness. They have made it desolate; Desolate, it mourns to Me; The whole land is made desolate, because no one takes it to heart” (Jeremiah 12:7-11).

(In two recent posts, we discussed how first century Jerusalem became infested with demons, but how God chose new Jerusalem, the bride of Christ, as His house and His dwelling place.)

Strong’s Concordance defines the word “desolate” (#2048), used in Matthew 23:38, as “lonesome, waste, desert, solitary, wilderness.”

[2] In Matthew 24:15, Jesus warned His followers living in Judea to flee to the mountains when they saw the “abomination of desolation.” Matthew’s Jewish audience was familiar with this phrase, and would understand the reference to Daniel, but Luke quotes Jesus differently for his mostly Gentile audience:

But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains…” (Luke 21:20-21).

So the “abomination of desolation” was in the hands of foreign armies coming to complete Jerusalem’s desolation. The warnings of Matthew and Luke, stated differently, were to bring about the same response: immediate flight. In 314 AD, Eusebius, known as the father of church history, wrote the following about the obedience of Jesus’ followers to His words in Matthew 24:

“The people of the church at Jerusalem, in accordance with a certain oracle that was vouchsafed by way of revelation to the approved men there, had been commanded to depart from the city before the [Jewish-Roman war of 67-73 AD], and to inhabit a certain city of Peraea. They called it Pella [in modern-day Jordan]. And when those who believed in Christ had removed from Jerusalem, as if holy men had utterly deserted both the royal metropolis of the Jews itself and the whole land of Judaea, the Justice of God then visited upon them all their acts of violence to Christ and his apostles, by destroying that generation of wicked persons root and branch from among men” (see here for more about this event).

The word “desolation” in Matthew 24:15 is #2049 in Strong’s Concordance, and the definition there is: “from 2048; to lay waste (lit. or fig.): -(bring to, make) desolate (-ion), come to nought.” The word “desolation” in Luke 21:20 is entry #2050, and Strong’s simply points back to #2049. So we can see that all three entries (#2048, #2049, and #2050) are essentially the same word, just as the words “desolate” and “desolation” are essentially the same in English.

“Desolate” and “desolation” appear in Mark 13:14 and Luke 13:35 as direct parallels to Matthew 24 and Matthew 23, respectively. Otherwise, these words only appear six other times in the New Testament.* We’ll look briefly at four of these instances, before looking at their two appearances in Revelation: 

The word “desolation” appears in Matthew 12:25 and Luke 11:17 (parallel passages), where Jesus responds to the Pharisees who question by what power He was casting out demons: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.”

The word “desolate” appears in Acts 1:20 regarding Judas Iscariot: “’For it is written in the Book of Psalms: ‘Let his dwelling place be desolate, and let no one live in it.”

It also shows up in Galatians 4:27, in Paul’s argument that God’s people belong to the Jerusalem above, and not the Jerusalem below. He quotes Isaiah 54: “For it is written: ‘Rejoice, O barren, you who do not bear! Break forth and shout, you who are not in labor! For the desolate has many more children than she who has a husband.’”

The Strong’s entry for Acts 1:20 and Galatians 4:27 is #2048, and the entry for Matthew 12:25 and Luke 11:17 is #2049.

*A different Greek word for “desolate” appears in I Timothy 5:5, and refers to a widow’s grief.

The final two places where this word shows up in the New Testament are in Revelation 17:16 and Revelation 18:19 (Strong’s #2049), regarding the burning of the harlot and the great city:

And the ten horns which you saw on the beast, these will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire.”

They threw dust on their heads and cried out, weeping and wailing, and saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city, in which all who had ships on the sea became rich by her wealth! For in one hour she is made desolate.’”

As we discussed in a recent post (“Jerusalem, a Dwelling Place of Demons“), “the great city” was first identified as the place “where also our Lord was crucified (Rev. 11:8).” Of course, Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem. This city was also aptly named “the harlot,” the same name given to it by Jeremiah (3:6-8), Ezekiel (16:15), and Hosea (6:10) because it was full of spiritual adultery at that time. Revelation 16-19 repeatedly holds “the great city”, “the harlot,” and “Babylon the great” (different names for the same entity) responsible for shedding the blood of God’s saints, prophets, and apostles. Jesus left no doubt who was responsible for shedding this blood, and when the resulting judgment would come: Israel, in His generation (Matthew 23:29-38).

Jesus declared Jerusalem in His day to be a desolate house, and He warned that “the abomination of desolation” would come and complete its desolation in His own generation. John, in his visions of “things which must shortly take place…for the time is near…at hand” (Rev. 1:1, 3; 22:10), saw the outcome of what Jesus prophesied, Jerusalem made desolate and burned to the ground.

Seeing how the word “desolate” is used here in Revelation 17 and 18, concerning the harlot and the great city, is good confirmation that John was showing Jerusalem to be every bit the desolate place that Jesus said it was in Matthew 23 and 24. This desolation was made complete in the year 70 AD. Gratefully, we can rejoice that we are children of the Jerusalem above (Galatians 4:26), the new Jerusalem aligned with the new covenant established by the blood of our Savior (Hebrews 12:22-24).

Luke 17 Shows That Matthew 24 Can’t Be Divided


Scripture passages for this study: Matthew 24:1-51 and Luke 17:20-37

This post was prompted by a discussion under a recent post, concerning what might be and what might not be fulfilled in Matthew 24 (the Olivet Discourse). There was a time when I didn’t believe that any of Matthew 24 has been fulfilled. Then I came to believe that most of Matthew 24:1-34 was fulfilled in Jesus’ generation, before acknowledging that verse 34 doesn’t allow for only some of it to be fulfilled (“Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place“). At that point, I believed there must be a breaking point somewhere after verse 34, a dividing line after which the rest of the chapter would be fulfilled about 2000 years later (i.e. in our own future). I never could pinpoint that dividing line, though, and be at peace with it.

There are numerous reasons why I now believe all of Matthew 24 was fulfilled in the first century AD, in Jesus’ own generation. This post highlights one of those reasons, which is that Luke 17:20-37 demonstrates the impossibility of any time division. Luke 17 scrambles and reorders various portions of Jesus’ predictions in Matthew 24, predictions which are located before and well after verse 34. What is ordered as “1, 2, 3, 4, 5” in Matthew 24:1-41 is ordered as “2, 4, 1, 5, 3” in Luke 17:23-37, as shown in this diagram by Ed Stevens in his book titled, “What Happened in 70 AD?”

Matthew 24 Undivided

Source: World Without End (December 5, 2013); Better design seen here

David Curtis, the pastor of Berean Bible Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia, has also produced a similar chart, in which he fully writes out the passages shown in the diagram above

Matthew 24

Luke 17

SECTION ONE Verses 1-35

1. Matthew 24:17-18 (NKJV)
Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. 18 “And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes.

2. Luke 17:23-24 (NKJV)
“And they will say to you, ‘Look here!’ or ‘Look there!’ Do not go after them or follow them. 24 “For as the lightning that flashes out of one part under heaven shines to the other part under heaven, so also the Son of Man will be in His day.
2. Matthew 24:26-27 (NKJV)
“Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it. 27 “For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.
4. Luke 17:26-27 (NKJV)
“And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: 27 “They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.
3. Matthew 24:28 (NKJV)
“For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together.
1. Luke 17:31 (NKJV)
“In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away. And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back.

SECTION TWO Verses 36-51

4. Matthew 24:37-39 (NKJV)
“But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 38 “For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 “and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.

5. Luke 17:35-36 (NKJV)
“Two women will be grinding together: the one will be taken and the other left. 36 “Two men will be in the field: the one will be taken and the other left.”
5. Matthew 24:40-41 (NKJV)
“Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. 41 “Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left.
3. Luke 17:37 (NKJV)
And they answered and said to Him, “Where, Lord?” So He said to them, “Wherever the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together.”
Those who attempt to divide Matthew 24 say that SECTION ONE refers to the events of AD 70. But they say SECTION TWO refers to events yet future to us. If the five prophetic events of Matthew 24 that are found in Luke 17 are numbered 1-2-3-4-5, Luke’s numbering of the same events would be 2-4-1-5-3. Luke has an event from section 1 followed by one from section 2, then another from section 1 followed by section 2, and finally one from section 1. This shows the impossibility of dividing Matthew 24 with a 2,000 year gap.

 What do you think? Is this a valid conclusion? Why or why not?

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Previous posts on the Olivet Discourse can be viewed at this page, including a 4-part series (titled “This Generation Or That Generation?”) examining the accounts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke in a parallel fashion.

Revelation: The Land (“Ge”) Is Referenced 22 Times More Often Than the World (“Kosmos”)


It’s well-known that the book of Revelation foretells, among other things, a series of frightening judgments falling upon an entity known as Babylon the Great and “the harlot.” Just as importantly, Revelation also portrays beautiful worship scenes and glorious destinies and realities for God’s people. Regarding the judgments, Does John picture them being poured out upon the entire planet, or upon a particular location?

Jonathan Welton, author of the book “Raptureless,” has created another helpful graphic illustrating the fulfillment of Bible prophecy (See his previous graphic on Daniel 2 illustrating that God’s kingdom has come). Titled “John’s Olivet Discourse: A Look at the Writings of John,” Welton’s graphic [1] makes a case that the book of Revelation contains John’s version of the Olivet Discourse [2] shows some of John’s time tables [3] notes an important principle of Bible interpretation, and [4] shows that John speaks far more about local events in Revelation than he speaks about global events.

We can also add Revelation 1:1 and 1:3 to Welton’s list of time statements made by the apostle John:

The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place.
Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.

The last part of Welton’s graphic is very informative. The following chart takes the numbers he provides (plus a couple more that I looked up) and allows us to see how focused John was on local events in the book of Revelation compared to his gospel account:

John’s books Number of chapters in each book Number of times John uses the word “kosmos,” meaning the entire planet Number of times John uses the word “ge,” meaning the land (a region)
The Gospel According to John 21 57 3
I John 5 17 1
II John 1 1 0
III John 1 0 0
Revelation 22 3 67

In other New Testament passages where the word “ge” is translated as “earth,” many assume that those passages are speaking about the entire planet. We need to be more careful with this assumption. One instance where it appears is in Luke’s version of the Olivet Discourse (Luke 21:23). There, Luke is clearly speaking about Israel. Some Bible versions translate this word as “earth,” while others translate it as “land.” Here is how Luke 21:23 reads, in context:

But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are 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” (Luke 21:20-23).

The same word that Luke used in reference to Judea is the one that John used 67 times in the book of Revelation.

18 Case Studies on How John Used “Ge” to Speak of 1st Century Israel in Revelation

In 2010 I wrote a 3-part series tracking this phenomenon throughout the book of Revelation. The phrase “those who dwell on the earth” appears 10 times in Revelation, and at least a couple dozen more times in various forms. This series presents 18 case studies showing when and how this expression is used, examining the context in each case, and seeing how it’s used elsewhere in Scripture. A strong case is made that this expression in Revelation indicates 1st century apostate Israel. This series can be seen here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. If you have the time to read it, I believe you’ll find it informative.

A Final Note on How John Used the Word “Kosmos” Three Times in Revelation

Although it’s fun and enlightening to see how John used the word “ge” so many times in reference to the land of Israel, it’s also enlightening to see how he used the word “kosmos” to speak of the planet on which we live. Two of these instances concern those whose names are, or are not, written in the Book of Life. This is a global reference, as it ought to be, for the body of Christ is global and the message of the gospel is for every nation, tribe, language, and tongue. The third reference is to the kingdom of God, its triumph and greatness over all the kingdoms of this world (planet), and the eternal and universal reign of Jesus Christ:

1. “Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!'” (Rev. 11:15)
2. “All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8).
3. “The beast that you saw was, and is not, and will ascend out of the bottomless pit and go to perdition. And those who dwell on the earth will marvel, whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world, when they see the beast that was, and is not, and yet is” (Rev. 17:8).

Video: The 3.5 Year Siege of Jerusalem (66 – 70 AD)


I recently became aware of an hour-long video on YouTube, depicting Rome’s 3.5 year advance on Jerusalem resulting in its destruction in 70 AD. This video is part three of a 2006 TV series titled, “Ancient Rome: The Rise and Fall of an Empire” (BBC). It’s based on the writings of the Jewish historian, Josephus. The filmmakers consulted with Martin Goodman, professor of Jewish Studies at Wolfson College, Oxford, who has also written extensively on Jewish history in the Greek/Roman period.

I’m posting this video for its educational value and because of its relation to the study of eschatology, particularly the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21) and 1st century history. It does portray fairly graphic violence (ancient warfare) at times, but you can turn your head when it happens and not really miss anything.

Among other fulfillments of Jesus’ words, this film depicts the civil war and famine that plagued Jerusalem from 67 – 70 AD (see Matthew 24:6-8/Mark 13:7-8/Luke 21:9-11 and Revelation 6:3-6). It also depicts the roughly 100 pound stones that the Romans catapulted into the temple complex in Jerusalem (see Revelation 16:21; the film shows the Romans doing this in Jotapata where Josephus was captured, but Josephus records that they also did this against Jerusalem in 70 AD).