On the first Palm Sunday, Jesus rode a donkey, heading to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover. His short journey began in the nearby town of Bethphage.
The road was crowded with disciples, Pharisees, scribes, and thousands of pilgrims from the Jewish Diaspora. Jerusalem’s normal population of 120,000 swelled to over a million people during a Passover feast because Jews from all over the Middle East returned to observe it.
As Jesus rode along, His disciples praised God, saying, “Hosanna! Blessed is the kingdom of our father David. Blessed is the King.” They sang these praises hoping Jesus would be their new King David who would return Israel to its former glory.
Jesus paused at a spot on the Mount of Olives, overlooking Jerusalem and the Temple. This was the exact spot where Jews throughout history had mourned over the Temple.
When Jesus stopped, the people probably hushed, anticipating a historic speech. All would have squeezed forward to hear Him say:
If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now, they have been hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you on every side, and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation. (Luke 19:42-44)
The people had to be shocked by His words.
Their beloved King David had prophesied the death of Jerusalem and the Temple. Judaism was a non-functioning religion without the two. No more altar. No more sacrifices. No more priests. No more City of God. Where would God go? After all, He lived in the Holy of Holies.
For thirty-four years, after Christ’s crucifixion, Christianity had an up and down relationship with Judaism. Times of heavy persecution were followed by times of coexistence. The Roman leaders paid little attention to Christians and considered them a small offshoot of Judaism during much of this period.
Jerusalem’s Christians assembled in home churches, but Jerusalem Christianity still had a distinct Jewish flavor about it. A few modern writers even refer to Jerusalem’s brand of Christianity as “Temple Christianity,” distinguishing it from Paul’s Christianity.
But all of this peaceful coexistence changed in 64 AD when Nero began persecuting Christians. Jewish zealots openly fought Roman armies in 66 AD.
In 66 AD or 67 AD, depending on which source you read, a Christian prophesied to the Jerusalem church. In it, Christians were reminded of Jesus’ prophecy and warned about the soon coming devastation of Jerusalem by Rome. All were advised to flee the city.
The Christians in Jerusalem heeded the prophecy by 69 AD. They left their homes, their livelihoods, and their Jewish friends. They relocated to Pella (a city sixty miles northeast of Jerusalem) and other Transjordan cities.
Even though the prophecy was specifically spoken to Christians, believers certainly would have explained to their neighbors why they were leaving. They would have mentioned both prophecies, attempting to convince their Jewish neighbors to flee, too. The neighbors would have repeated the conversations to others. On and on it would have continued until the whole city knew the reason for the Christian exodus: the soon coming destruction of Jerusalem.
But the Jewish zealots were winning the war with Rome at the time. The Jews still presumed God would protect Jerusalem and His chosen people. The result was that very few Jews listened to the Christians.
The siege of Jerusalem by the Roman armies in 70 A.D., under the command of General Titus, lasted five brutal months. Thousands starved to death or died of plagues. People drank urine because of the lack of water.
The siege finally ended when unarmed Jewish citizens surrendered to the onrushing Romans. As they stood there with their arms in the air, the Romans butchered them with swords. Pregnant woman had their stomachs slashed open and babies ripped out. The babies were then smashed against walls. Hundreds of people burned to death atop the Temple’s roof as they knelt in prayer, crying out to God for mercy. Men, women, and children of all ages were slaughtered.
The destruction of Jerusalem resulted in 1.1 million people being killed during the five-month long siege. Another 95,000 Jews were taken captive as slaves by the Romans.
(An excerpt from Planning + Preparation = Survival by Larry Nevenhoven, Amazon eBook, © 2013)
If we think God won’t remove America because there are thousands of Christians living in our nation, we had better rethink our theories. You see, God removed Jerusalem after He had first sent all of the believers out of the city.
(Continued in Part 4)