Luke 21:20-24: The Fall of Jerusalem
The warning to flee the city
The reason for the fall of the city
If you visit Rome today, among the many sites you will is see the Arch of Titus, an honorific arch built by the emperor Domitian in 81 AD in honour of his older brother Titus and his father Vespasian and their victory in conquering Jerusalem in 70 AD. There is a famous carving of the plunders of war including items of furniture from the temple. Most famous is a depiction of the Menorah, the 7 stemmed candle from the Holy Place, the design of which was used for the emblem of the modern state of Israel. The Chief Rabbi of Rome forbade any Jew walking under the arch because of what it portrayed, the plundering of the temple, the fall of Jerusalem and one of the most terrible events to happen to Jews. This ban was only lifted in 1948 with the birth of the modern state of Israel.
Today we continue looking at Jesus answering the question about when the temple will fall, we will be looking at the details of Titus’ war against Jerusalem and its fall in Luke 21:20-24. As I come to this particular judgement in the Bible, I am overwhelmed with a seriousness and solemnity because of it. God’s judgement on Israel, with the destruction of the temple is the third most serious judgement in the Bible. The judgement of Christ on the cross and the final judgement because the first and second. This judgement is more serious than the flood, more serious than Sodom and Gomorrah, even more serious than the Babylonian invasion of Israel and the first destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. Why is it so serious? Firstly, Israel was always a microcosm of humanity. Just as all of humanity is under a covenant of works in Adam, so Israel was placed under the law as a picture of our accountability, our need for forgiveness of sin, and the inevitable failure of a sinner being able to keep that law and bring judgement upon themselves. The axe of judgment falling upon Israel is a picture of the axe of judgement that must fall upon all those under the law, which is every single one of us. If you are a child of Adam you are under the law. Secondly, Israel is being punished for the rejection of their Messiah. Jesus had come in person to save them, and they killed Him. The judgement they receive is a terrible warning to all who will not receive Jesus Christ. For this reason I feel compelled to linger over what is a terrible holocaust like moment. We want to stop and dig deep into what really happened in history at that time. Not because we have a bloodlust, nor because we are anti-Semitic, but because we want to take to heart that severity of judgement against all those who reject Christ.
We will be looking at these verses in two parts, in v20-21 we want to look at Christ’s warning to flee the city; and in 22-24 Christ’s explanation for the fall of the city.