When examining the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew, it is clear that the first prophecy Jesus made was that of the destruction of the Second Temple in particular and of the fall of Jerusalem in general when he said, “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down” (v. 2). (Footnote: All biblical verses are taken from the NIV Bible.)
Did Jesus desire the destruction of the Temple and that of Jerusalem? Did he wish for the persecution and death of some people and not others?
It is written in the Bible as follows:
As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (cf. v. 3)
And Jesus, being the type of heavenly teacher that he was, complied with the request of his disciples by enlightening them with all sorts of signs, including calamities, which were going to take place in the Last Days.
We know that Jesus was talking to his disciples. These folks were Jews; not Gentiles. They were Jews who believed in Jesus. At that time, they believed in Jesus as a Rabbi, a great teacher, a great prophet; not as the Messiah who has come to wash people’s sins away.
Even though he said that Jesus was the Messiah (cf. Mt. 16:16), it is rather uncertain that Peter himself believed so.
Given that the disciples of Jesus were neither Christians nor Christian Jews, I would like us to think as to whom was Jesus referring to when he made prophecies of calamities and suffering that were going to take place at the end of time. Was he referring to Jews (both as believers and as a people)? Was he referring to Christian Jews alone, those Jews who would later believe in him as the Messiah? Or was he referring to Christians in general (both Jews and Gentiles who would later believe in him as the Messiah)?
Since the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew is long, and provided that I do not wish to write an article that is too long, I would like to focus on one small passage, which reads as follows:
“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (vv. 9–14)
Of course after reading the above passage it is very difficult to pinpoint whom it was that Jesus was talking about when he alluded to persecution and death. Was he implying that his disciples will be persecuted and killed? We know for a fact that they were. But did their persecution and cruel treatment mark the end of time? Of course not because the Gospel of the Kingdom was not yet preached all around the world.
It is debatable whether Jesus was referring to his disciples or the Jewish people at large. This is because, it was not only the early Christians who were persecuted and killed in the name of Jesus, but the non-Christian Jewish people as well suffered persecution and death in the name of Jesus.
I bet you that any Jew who has the chance to read Matthew 24:9–14 will more than likely feel that Jesus was talking about Jews altogether; not Christians. Think about it. There were no Christians at the time Jesus made these prophecies. There were no Gentiles following Jesus at that time. There was no Christianity at that time. Jesus frequented synagogues and the Temple, he read the Torah, and he lived by observing and, from time to time, challenging the Jewish Laws. So in short, Jesus considered himself a Jew. As a matter of fact, he was a Jew.
Upon close examination of the above passage, and the whole chapter twenty-four of Matthew for that matter, one would agree that it proves ignorant to exclude Jews, both as believers and a people, from among those who were to experience such suffering. This is because, again, not only Jews who believed in Jesus as the Messiah but the whole of the Jewish people suffered the consequences of rejecting the Messiah. For instance, the destruction of the Temple and the fall of Jerusalem impacted all Jews—believers as well as non-believers, Christian Jews as well as traditional Jews.
Also throughout history, considering only the Current Era, Jews were “handed over to be persecuted and put to death” (v. 9a) regardless of whether they believed in Jesus; they were hated by all the nations because of Jesus (cf. v. 9b), including Christian nations up until not long ago; many of them turned from their faith and betrayed and hated each other (cf. v. 10), especially around the middle of the twentieth century; there were many false prophets who appeared and deceived many of them (cf. v. 11), namely Simeon Bar Kochba and Sabbatai Sevi, Just to name a few; most of them experienced the love of their loved ones and that of some of the most faithful among them grow cold (cf. v. 12), again one can only refer to the Period of Inquisition and the time period around World War II; but yet through all that, some of them remained confident and stood strong believing that their Messiah was on his way (cf. v. 13).
As with reference to verse 14, the Gospel of the Kingdom has now been preached throughout the world since a few centuries ago. Today, there is not one country in the world where we will find not even one person who knows nothing about Jesus.
I personally believe that if Jews put their bias of Jesus aside and read the words that are attributed to Jesus in the New Testament, they will believe that he was the Messiah whom their ancestors failed to accept. They should not fear retribution for there would be none. Jesus is love and has pioneered the path of love and forgiveness that all who believe in him embrace.
I believe it is of paramount importance to answer the question: Whom was it that Jesus was referring to when he made prophecies of calamities that would take place at the end of time when the Son of Man returns? This is because the more we fail to recognize the rightful audience, the more the gap between them and Jesus will increase, the more that gap increases, the more calamities will befall them as well as the whole of humanity.
None of these prophecies should continue to come to pass. How much calamities do we want to see before we embrace the Messiah? We ought to remember that these prophecies are not absolute but conditional. This means that they can only come to pass if certain conditions are not met. And the major condition that is to be met is: embracing the Messiah.
Now is the time for Jews to put their pride aside, reexamine their beliefs, and embrace Jesus as the Messiah. They are the lost sheep who are to return home before the Kingdom comes (cf. Luke 15:1–7).
The reality of more Jews accepting Jesus as the Messiah is not only the responsibility of the Jewish people alone; it is also the responsibility of contemporary Christians.
So Christians, whatever your denomination or affiliation, prepare to welcome your siblings to the bosom of Christ.