THE TIME OF JACOB'S TROUBLE
Our Lord Jesus Christ prophesied of the time when tribulation in Judaea and Jerusalem would be great, a time which was to come upon the nation of Israel just before AD70: It was to be the time of Jacob's trouble, prophesied in the Old Testament. In Matthew 24 Jesus said that at that time Israel would suffer great tribulation. Mark wrote it down as a time of affliction (Mark 13:19). In Luke, there would be great distress in the land. Some scholars believe that Jesus named this time of trouble "The Great Tribulation." That is not correct. He didn't name it anything. He said this: "For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be." (Matt. 24:21). Notice, He didn't say that there would be THE great tribulation, or even A great tribulation. If we read the verse properly, He said that then, or at that time, there would be great tribulation. He didn't name it, or identify it as some "technical" segment of time which would be thereafter known as THE "GREAT TRIBULATION." This time of great misery would happen during the "days of God's vengeance" upon the wicked unbelievers of Israel. That would be the greatest calamity Israel had ever known, because never before was Israel as a nation anhiliated. And Israel would never again experience such a time of trouble, because there would never again be an Israel. The Lord Jesus Christ foretold it: "For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled." (Luke 21:22)

ALL THINGS FULFILLED
"All things written," of course, can only mean Old Testament prophecy. Bible scholars, particularly those of the dispensational persuasion, refuse to accept the saying of Christ that all Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled by the end of the Roman siege of AD70. The fact that there are a number of promises God made to Israel which have not been fulfilled is very well publicized by Futurists. The first that comes to mind is the promised Kingdom. And then the promise that they would be in permanent possession of their own land. And additionally, all the promises of peace, prosperity, long life, etcetera, etcetera. And besides all the promises, what about all the prophecies of the future seven year Great Tribulation: you know, the Antichrist, the revived Roman Empire, the thousand year reign of Christ from Jerusalem, and so on and so on. Surely Christ must have been wrong! Or maybe the Bible is wrong! Or maybe we are just reading it wrong! Scholars are working overtime trying to make all the pieces of a great prophetic puzzle fit together and still keep futurism intact. Luke 21:22, which says that all Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled one way or another by the end of AD70 is a bone in the craw of dedicated futurist. It can't be ignored, and it can't be explained away - or can it?

Along comes Dr. John MacArthur with one of his latest books, The Second Coming.

In his book, Dr. MacArthur obviously disagrees that the Lord Jesus Christ is referring to the destruction of the city and the temple in Luke 21:22. Notice how skillfully he begins to build a case for doubt concerning the time of the siege of Jerusalem. "'Jerusalem surrounded by armies,'" he writes. "is actually quite a familiar sight. Jerusalem was sacked by Rome in that famous and devastating siege of A.D.70. Thousands of people did flee into the mountains. and many more traveled as refugees to various parts of the world. (This last statement of the doctor's is noteworthy, i.e., "many more traveled as refugees to various parts of the world." Dr. MacArthur didn't get that from the Bible, which says that "...they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and many shall be led away captive into all nations..." They traveled to various parts of the world, alright, but not exactly as "refugees." And the Bible says nothing about "thousands escaping into the mountains," except those who were Christ's and heeded His warning to flee when they saw the Romans approaching the country and city.)

Now notice Dr. MacArthur's outright denial of clear Scripture. He continues: "Yet those were not, in the words of Luke 21:22, 'the days of vengeance, [when] all things which are written may be fulfilled.'" Here, Dr. MacArthur has denied what any average Bible reader would know to be the clear words of Him who is the Truth. Having denied the obvious, he will now offer several items of "Scriptural proof."

1. "Christ did not return visibly in A.D.70..."
2. "The opposing armies were not defeated by His presence..."
3. "All Israel was not saved.
4. The Jews were not grafted back into the olive tree."

Our answer to item No. 1:
1. "Christ did not return visibly in A.D.70..." That is true; Christ did not return visibly in A.D.70. But if we read the passage carefully, He never said that He would return visibly in A.D.70. That doesn't mean He couldn't or didn't come invisibly, and quite literally. He promised to do so on a number of other occasions: "Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent" (Rev. 2:5). Jesus said, "repent, or else I will come unto thee quickly..." Surely no one,not even the dispensationalist, believes that He was speaking of His physical Second Coming. Yet He said that if they didn't repent, He would come. We can only conclude that this was to be an invisible, spiritual coming in judgement upon an erring church, before His Second Coming in glory. The same is unmistakably true of the promises of His other comings: "Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth" (Rev. 2:16). We ought to notice that He would come and "fight against them with the sword of His mouth," meaning that He would use the Scriptures to defeat those who troubled the church. So it apparently wouldn't be an immediate, smashing, victory. "Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee" (Rev. 3:3).

In the verse below, one does not have to wait for His visible return. The implication is that if a man hears His voice, and opens the door, He will come in unto him. "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me" (Rev. 3:20). God is a Spirit; He can come visibly, or He can come anytime in a way that we landlocked mortals don't even know He's around.

Answer to item No. 2:
2. "The opposing armies were not defeated by His presence..." What opposing armies? Scriptures don't say anything about defeating any opposing armies during the days of vengeance which ended about AD70. The only "opposing armies" in view at the time were the armies of the Roman Empire, and Christ was using them to deal with Israel.

Answer to Item No. 3:
3. "All Israel was not saved." Dr. MacArthur may not know this, but all Israel was saved by A.D.70. Paul identifies "all Israel." "Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel" (Rom. 9:6): "Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called" (Rom. 9:7). "That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed" (Rom. 9:8). To put it in clear terms, any Israelite who was not faithful to God was not an Israelite, even though he was a descendant of Abraham. The context of these Scriptures demands that only the descendants of Abraham who were faithful to God were the true Israelites. And their salvation was not to be future. It happened between Pentecost and the holocaust of AD70.

The epistle to the Romans was written well before the end in AD70. The Gospel was going out to all the Jews at the time Paul wrote this, and it would be going out all over the then known world until the end. And it did. "If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and [be] not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, [and] which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;" (Col. 1:23) God was able to save all the Israelites who accepted the Gospel before the holocaust of AD70, as the next verse makes clear: "And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: For God is able to graft them in again."(Rom. 11:23), Notice that God is able to graft them in AGAIN. This is quite interesting, even though dispensational mis-teachings have caused it to seem more complex than it is. Jews have always been God's people. But now, preparatory to this final event, God concluded all Israel in unbelief (Romans 11:32), taking away their special status as children of God, and making them no different than Gentiles. You might say He "killed" all Israelites - spiritually - that is.

On the cross, the way was opened for all, Jew and Gentile alike, to come into the Family of God, but only through faith in Jesus Christ. For Gentiles, it would be their first trip. For Jews, who had been there before, this would be their second trip. (that's where the expression "born again," comes from. We Gentile Christians have appropriated that expression for ourselves, thinking that "born again" speaks of physical birth, followed by a spiritual rebirth - accepting Christ. But the Bible here is not speaking of physical birth at all, and why should it? No one alive needs to be reminded that he is here because he had been physically born. Instead, Scripture is speaking of a spiritual birth. When we Gentiles get saved, we are spiritually born for the first time. Jews had always been in the family of God, even from the day they were physically born. But at some time before the cross of Christ, all Israel had been concluded in unbelief. All Jews, whether faithful, or unfaithful, whether good, or bad, all became as unbelievers, just like the unsaved Gentiles. In other words God cast them out of His Household, out of the family of God. But He did not cast them away. They all heard the Gospel. Those who believed the Gospel, and believed in both the Father and the Son, God was able to graft them in again into the "Olive Tree," which was no longer Israel, but the Family of God.

Some Bible scholars do not understand the meaning of the term, "Olive Tree" in that passage in Romans. The late Dr. J. Vernon McGee, for example, states that, "The 'olive tree' is a picture of the nation Israel, and the wild olive tree is the church." But if Dr. McGee were correct, then according to verse 17 the Church, the "wild olive tree," is grafted into Israel! This would contradict the idea that the Church and Israel were distinct entities, an idea embraced quite strongly by dispensationalists. At one time, the Olive tree meant Israel. But no longer. Now the "Good Olive Tree" is a metaphor for the Family of God, of which Israel, itself, had been only a metaphor, as such, before its final fall. The "wild olive tree" is not the Church, it is a biblical term, at least in Romans, of the unsaved Gentile who, during those crucial 40 years, gave his heart to Jesus and was grafted in among believing Jews.

Dr. MacArthur writes: "...There is much pertaining to the Day of the Lord and His vengeance against sin that yet awaits fulfillment." His vengeance against sin? Yes, of course. But this was vengeance against a particular sin, and against a particular people. The way Dr. Macarthur puts it, this "day of vengeance" could be construed as God's judgement against any sin at any time. The doctor's futuristic mind-set has severely distorted his view of the Scriptures. He is convinced that just about everything the Bible talks about has not yet happened, and awaits a future fulfilment.

Continuing to defend his mistaken stand against the words of Christ, he writes: "In the Middle Ages, especially during the Crusades, Jerusalem was surrounded by armies many times. Jerusalem was repeatedly attacked, and control of the city changed hands several times from the start of the First Crusade in A.D. 1095 until the time of Suleiman the Magnificent, the great Ottoman Sultan, in the early 1500's... Even today Jerusalem is surrounded by hostile nations... And so Jerusalem is 'surrounded by armies' in a figurative sense right now.... So if the gathering of armies against Jerusalem is supposed to be a sign, as Luke 21:20 suggests, how can this sign be distinguished from all the other times throughout history when the city has been under siege?" (IBID p 104,105)

"And so Jerusalem is surrounded by armies in a figurative sense right now!" It is amazing how easily and quickly Bible experts of the school of master "literal interpreters" are able to switch from "literal" to "figurative" as needed, without batting an eyelash.

But Dr. MacArthur wonders "how can this sign be distinguished from all the other times throughout history when the city has been under siege?"

It is no small wonder that a Bible scholar of Dr. MacArthur's caliber would even ask such a question. The answer should be obvious to him. The clear sign that Jesus was speaking of the siege of A.D.70 was the destruction of the temple. There was not another time in history when the temple could have been destroyed, because there never was another temple since then. Only forty years after He spoke, the greatest of all calamities befell Israel. Just as He predicted, the temple was completely destroyed, and the city desolated. But of course, futurists are not convinced.

Ignoring the obvious, they have fabricated a "rebuilt Tribulation Temple," which will be destroyed in that "future siege" upon Jerusalem. Those, they say, will be the "days of vengeance" which Luke 21:22 is speaking of. But that defies all logic. How can any Bible scholar even think to convince us that Jesus was speaking of some mythical "Great Tribulation" thousands of years in the future, and ignore an event just around the corner? The facts do not fit. Here, briefly, is the scenario they offer of the coming "Great Tribulation."

The antichrist makes a "firm covenant" of peace with Israel for seven years. But three and a half years later, the antichrist, devious fellow that he is, sets up some kind of statue or image of himself in the temple, and commands all the Jews to worship him. The "godly remnant" of Jews start a rebellion, and the terrible second half of the Tribulation begins. After about three and a half years, just as the antichrist and his armies are about to demolish the Jews, Christ arrives with His armies, and defeats the antichrist, rescuing Israel from annihilation. Christ then sets up the Millennial Kingdom, and all is well.

Great story! But...

Dr. MacArthur tells us that this is a future siege.
Nonsense! It can't be. The way the Lord Jesus Christ describes it, many of the Jews would fall by the edge of the sword, and others would be led away captive into all nations. But according to the dispensational description above, Christ comes, rescues Israel, and destroys the Antichrist and his armies. No one is led away captive into other nations.

And here is another dispensational oversight: in the siege of A.D.70, Christ predicted that Jerusalem would be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles would be fulfilled. But dispensationalists teach that the times of the Gentiles will end at the same time the "Great Tribulation" ends. So Gentiles will have no time to trod down Jerusalem. Dr. MacArthur, defending the doctrines of futurism, forgot to cover some small but very important details.

The Lord Jesus Christ didn't lie, and He made no mistake. When He said what He did in Luke 21:22, all things which were written were fulfilled one way or another by the end of the war of A.D.70. God had made no unconditional promises to Israel in the Old Testament. They would either be blessed or cursed. God's patience with His nation, and the mercy showed them in the past should not be construed as something He had obligated Himself to do, whether they accepted His mercies or not. The condition was that they accept His promised offers. The key word is "accept." When He sent His only begotten Son to the nation, to confirm His promises to them, offering salvation to Israel, the line was drawn in the sand. This would be the last time He would show mercy to a rebellious people. Most of them refused this final offer. During a time span of about forty years, only a remnant of Israel accepted, and only a remnant of Israel was saved. Then the nation of Israel came to a close. Today, as far as the Bible is concerned, there is no Israel, and there are no Jews. That is something the Bible makes clear, and Christians, of all people, should understand it.

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