“Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes.” – Matthew 24:15-18
“Then let them which be in Judaea” the word ‘Judaea’ in this sense is key. It helps to pinpoint the original context of the instruction that follows, that being the statements regarding the housetop and clothes. The word ‘Judaea’ according to Strong’s concordance Greek Lexicon, as shown below, is in reference to a region of Palestine. Christ was suggesting that once the recognized sign was seen, that being the armies which were to surround Jerusalem as shown in the previous post, then his followers were to flee.
It is interesting to note that Jerusalem was attacked and sieged twice in the years after Christ’s death on the cross. The first was conducted by a Roman general named Cestius, who attacked and surrounded the city. When everything was favorable for him to take it, he and his armies retreated without explanation. The Christians who were living in the areas surrounding Jerusalem and inside the city itself at this time recognized this as the sign Jesus warned about [Luke 21:20-21, Matthew 24:15, Mark 13:14] and fled the region into the mountains just as Christ had given instruction. Flavius Josephus, in his book “Wars of Jews” writes of this occurrence regarding Cestius’ retreat. The translators of his book, who are apparently Christian, seemed to also recognize a fulfilment of this particular prophecy in question when it comes to Josephus’ descriptions of the event.
In addition, Josephus also describes soldiers led by Titus planting their ensigns and worshipping them outside of the temple gate. Roman ensigns were known to have an eagle on them, which had some connection to idolatrous worship. The translators of Josephus’ book evidently also recognized in this a fulfilment of the words of Christ found in Matthew 24:15. It is important to keep these historical fulfilments of prophecy in mind, as they help to add context to the phrase “Judaea” found in verse 15.
Feminine of G2453 (with G1093 implied); the Judaean land (that is, judaea), a region of Palestine: – Juda.
“7. It then happened that Cestius was not conscious either how the besieged despaired of success, nor how courageous the people were for him; and so he recalled his soldiers from the place, and by despairing of any expectation of taking it, without having received any disgrace, he retired from the city, without any reason in the world. But when the robbers perceived this unexpected retreat of his, they resumed their courage, and ran after the hinder parts of his army, and destroyed a considerable number of both their horsemen and footmen; and now Cestius lay all night at the camp which was at Scopus; and as he went off farther next day, he thereby invited the enemy to follow him, who still fell upon the hindmost, and destroyed them; they also fell upon the flank on each side of the army, and threw darts upon them obliquely, nor durst those that were hindmost turn back upon those who wounded them behind, as imagining that the multitude of those that pursued them was immense; nor did they venture to drive away those that pressed upon them on each side, because they were heavy with their arms, and were afraid of breaking their ranks to pieces, and because they saw the Jews were light, and ready for making incursions upon them. And this was the reason why the Romans suffered greatly, without being able to revenge themselves upon their enemies; so they were galled all the way, and their ranks were put into disorder, and those that were thus put out of their ranks were slain; among whom were Priscus, the commander of the sixth legion, and Longinus, the tribune, and Emilius Secundus, the commander of a troop of horsemen. So it was not without difficulty that they got to Gabao, their former camp, and that not without the loss of a great part of their baggage. There it was that Cestius staid two days, and was in great distress to know what he should do in these circumstances; but when on the third day he saw a still much greater number of enemies, and all the parts round about him full of Jews, he understood that his delay was to his own detriment, and that if he staid any longer there, he should have still more enemies upon him.
(30) There may another very important, and very providential, reason be here assigned for this strange and foolish retreat of Cestius; which, if Josephus had been now a Christian, he might probably have taken notice of also; and that is, the affording the Jewish Christians in the city an opportunity of calling to mind the prediction and caution given them by Christ about thirty-three years and a half before, that “when they should see the abomination of desolation” [the idolatrous Roman armies, with the images of their idols in their ensigns, ready to lay Jerusalem desolate] “stand where it ought not;” or, “in the holy place;” or, “when they should see Jerusalem any one instance of a more unpolitic, but more providential, compassed with armies;” they should then “flee to the mound conduct than this retreat of Cestius visible during this whole rains.” By complying with which those Jewish Christians fled I siege of Jerusalem; which yet was providentially such a “great to the mountains of Perea, and escaped this destruction. See tribulation, as had not been from the beginning of the world to that time; no, Lit. Accompl. of Proph. p. 69, 70. Nor was there, perhaps, nor ever should be.”–Ibid. p. 70, 71.” – Flavius Josephus, Wars of The Jews, book 2, Ch 19 [with translator’s note]
“1. AND now the Romans, upon the flight of the seditious into the city, and upon the burning of the holy house itself, and of all the buildings round about it, brought their ensigns to the temple (24) and set them over against its eastern gate; and there did they offer sacrifices to them, and there did they make Titus imperator (25) with the greatest acclamations of joy. And now all the soldiers had such vast quantities of the spoils which they had gotten by plunder, that in Syria a pound weight of gold was sold for half its former value. But as for those priests that kept themselves still upon the wall of the holy house, (26) there was a boy that, out of the thirst he was in, desired some of the Roman guards to give him their right hands as a security for his life, and confessed he was very thirsty. These guards commiserated his age, and the distress he was in, and gave him their right hands accordingly. So he came down himself, and drank some water, and filled the vessel he had with him when he came to them with water, and then went off, and fled away to his own friends; nor could any of those guards overtake him; but still they reproached him for his perfidiousness. To which he made this answer: “I have not broken the agreement; for the security I had given me was not in order to my staying with you, but only in order to my coming down safely, and taking up some water; both which things I have performed, and thereupon think myself to have been faithful to my engagement.” Hereupon those whom the child had imposed upon admired at his cunning, and that on account of his age. On the fifth day afterward, the priests that were pined with the famine came down, and when they were brought to Titus by the guards, they begged for their lives; but he replied, that the time of pardon was over as to them, and that this very holy house, on whose account only they could justly hope to be preserved, was destroyed; and that it was agreeable to their office that priests should perish with the house itself to which they belonged. So he ordered them to be put to death.” – Flavius Josephus, Wars Of The Jews, Book 6, Ch 6
The instruction to flee to the mountains, much like the abomination of desolation, has been recognized by some as having a duel application. The 1st being as noted, where Christ’s followers were to flee to the mountains before the destruction of Jerusalem. The second being for us today, that as we see the garbage of the last days occurring we’re to flee into the mountains. This is a possible conclusion, given the overall context of Matthew 24 surrounding the original question of the disciples. It would especially be applicable as one observes the future fulfilment of the abomination of desolation taking place. At that point, it may be time for God’s people as well to flee into the mountains.
The word “Judaea” however places the instruction of Jesus found in Matthew 24 under a more direct context of the destruction of Jerusalem. This was shown from its Greek meaning to be a region of Palestine, which is certainly not a place that most of us live [unless you happen to be reading this blog post from modern-day Israel/Palestine.] Therefore the instructions with regards to clothing and not taking anything out of your house would logically have this context as well. Note especially that you can draw this point by a comparison with similar instructions found in Luke 21:21-22.
It is interesting to note that the word translated as “clothes” in the King James Version has been translated as “coat” in the ISV, “cloak” in the ASV, and “cloke” again in the RV. All three texts in question have been produced below, along with the Greek meaning of the word which offers some explanation of this. The reality is that the word “Clothes” as found in Matthew 24:17 was referring to perhaps specific articles of clothing, in this sense taking time to secure these items rather than fleeing when time was of the essence. Especially the words “return back” stick out, as the suggestion carried by these words is that the Christian was not to return to acquire anything, but to flee immediately.
“Anyone who’s on the housetop must not come down to get what is in his house, and anyone who’s in the field must not turn back to get his coat.” – Matthew 24:17-18 ISV
“let him that is on the housetop not go down to take out the things that are in his house: and let him that is in the field not return back to take his cloak.” – Matthew 24:17-18 ASV
“let him that is on the housetop not go down to take out the things that are in his house: and let him that is in the field not return back to take his cloke.” – Matthew 24:17-18 RV
Neuter of a presumed derivative of ἕννυμι hennumi (to put on); a dress (inner or outer): – apparel, cloke, clothes, garment, raiment, robe, vesture.
The calamity originally foretold, that being the destruction of Jerusalem, was apparently such a situation that time should not have been spent in attempting to acquire things. But instead their flight was to occur immediately. It is probable that as we approach the final events of this earth’s history, Christians may not have time to gather their things together, but instead should simply flee without delay.
It should be noted that similar instructions appear in Luke 17:31-32. Only aspects involving the retrieval of articles of clothing are missing, with instead a warning to “Remember Lot’s Wife.” In Genesis 19:17-26, there is a brief account of this particular story. Lot and his family were told specifically to not look back at Sodom and Gomorrah, neither were they to remain in the plain, but they were to escape for their lives. Lot’s wife looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt. It is likely that she was still attached to the city, and looked back with the thought or hope of returning. This attachment logically caused this episode with being turned into a pillar of salt.
It should especially be noted that verses 28-30 of Luke 17 add context stating, “Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the son of man is revealed.” Verse 30 especially places these Scriptures into an end times/second coming context. These words of Jesus in verses 31-32, and the statements in Matthew 24:15-18 are both essentially saying “do not turn back for anything when you make your flight.” This would perhaps be the best way to summarize the overall point of the instruction.
“And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.” – Matthew 24:19-22
Verse 19 targets those who are pregnant or who are nursing children, hence “them that are with child, and to them that give suck.” A “woe” is pronounced on them that are in this state during the destruction of Jerusalem. Given verse 15, which references “Judaea” [a region of Palestine] the destruction of Jerusalem would be the overall context of this woe or warning.
The statement with regards to the Sabbath which follows is especially interesting. The Christians living in Jerusalem were to pray that their flight was neither in winter, nor on the Sabbath day. The majority of Christians today believe that the Sabbath [that being the 7th Day or Saturday] was nailed to the cross. There is of course no harmony whatsoever with this thinking, and the fact that Jesus instructed his followers to pray that their flight from the destruction of Jerusalem was not to take place on the Sabbath. Such instruction clearly implies an assumption on the part of Christ that it would be kept at this time, and therefore the Christians should pray that they would not have to flee on the Sabbath.
The word “For” in verse 21 suggests that the reason for the previous two passages worth of instruction was that there would be “great tribulation.” It should be noted that the wording of this statement from Christ shares some similarities to a passage in the book of Daniel, which references a “time of trouble.” I’ve underlined both texts below in order to make the striking similarities between these verses stick out.
“For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” – Matthew 24:21
“And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.” – Daniel 12:1
In view of the overall context of Matthew 24 from the disciples’ original question, there are two ways in which I would apply verse 21.
- To the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple.
- To the time of trouble foretold in Daniel 12:1.
These applications harmonize with the original context of Matthew 24 found in verses 1-3, and the immediate context found in verses 15-16. The logical deduction also is that when the words “Immediately after the tribulation” are used in Matthew 24:29 later on, Jesus had the same period in view. At this point, it should be noted that some Scholars and Bible students have connected this tribulation foretold in Matthew 24 to the 1260 day prophecy which makes an appearance at various locations across the Scriptures. One of which is of course Daniel 7:25. [Stay tuned, posts on this are forthcoming.]
I have no quarrel with those who hold to these beliefs. If you personally hold to this thinking, and can produce sufficient and convincing Scriptural evidence to make your case, it perhaps can be added to the numbered list above of applications for verse 21. If you connect the 1260 days to the tribulation foretold in Matthew I’m open to you making your case in the comments section of this post. But points 1 & 2 in my mind are quite solid and will probably remain. The shared wording between Daniel 12:1 & Matthew 24:15 coupled with the overall context gives too much support for such a position to be reversed at this point in time.
The point arrived at next is the shortening of the days, which appears in verse 22. It is noted that the time of trouble, or “great tribulation” is predicted to be “shortened.” This is done strictly for the salvation of the elect. Evidently the time of trouble is so bad that if it were allowed to continue going on nobody would have salvation because of the intensity of the ordeal. With salvation obviously in view from the phrase “there should no flesh be saved” [unless this statement is targeting the literal preservation of one’s life] the statement in regards to the shortening of days is not a literal shortening [a day going from 24 hours to 6 hours], but instead a statement targeting the overall length of the ordeal.
“Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, behold he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.” – Matthew 24:23-26
Verse 23 clearly mirrors earlier instruction given near the beginning of the chapter, with regards to those who would claim to be Jesus. [Matthew 24:4-5.] In this sense it seems to be applied to those who would claim to have seen him here or there. Christ here tells us not to believe anyone claiming that Christ is to be found at specified locations here on earth, as though he has already come. In the verses that follow, he goes so far as to target some very specific things, such as the desert or secret chambers.
Evidently this wording implies attempts by the powers of darkness to counterfeit the second coming. Their efforts take on the appearance of showing up here or there, and having been seen at this or that location. But in reality this does not come close to matching the direct manner of the second coming. It should be observed that in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, we’re told that he shall “descend from heaven with a shout” with the “voice of the archangel” and the “dead in Christ shall rise first.”
The event which follows is that “then we which are alive and remain are caught up together with them [being the dead in christ] in the clouds.” Therefore it is logical to conclude that Christ will not touch the ground, that we will not have to go out of our way to some place where he has come secretly [hence “secret chambers”], and that there will not have to be a major effort on our part to go find him. The book of Revelation even goes so far as to suggest that “every eye will see him” [Revelation 1:7.]
The statement which follows in Matthew 24 suggests that false Christs and false prophets shall arise, both of which were warned about in previous passages. They’re described as showing “great signs and wonders”. Then the words which follow are, “insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” The word “great” is an obvious statement of size and intensity, indicating the seriousness of the signs and wonders produced by the false Christs and Prophets. The miraculous phenomenon produced by these persons will be so great that the very elect, if not grounded in Scripture, could be endangered by it.
In the book of Deuteronomy, we’re essentially told that miracles alone are no test as to whether or not some one is a true or false prophet. Matthew 7 provides the test of the fruits, and Isaiah 8:20 admonishes us to test everything by our Bibles. We should not accept the messages of anyone professing to be a prophet unless we’re certain that they pass Scriptural tests of the prophetic office. [Deuteronomy 13:1-4.]
Zero back in on the phrase “great signs and wonders” and “the very elect.” For a moment, contemplate these statements. Most Christians regard some one such as Joseph Smith with a high degree of suspicion. In fact, very few ‘modern prophets’ last long before receiving the title of “false prophet.” Their messages tend to not survive debunking by believers. Yet these prophets foretold by Christ are such a threat at the end of time that “if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” The implication is that something much more sinister than old Joe Smith is around the corner, something which Christians of long-standing who’re normally suspicious of anyone professing to be a prophet may be deceived by.
Than it is of the utmost importance that we practice discernment. It starts with us testing those who preach from the pulpit and by us gaining a thorough knowledge of the word. Then when some one comes and tells us something different from the Bible, we may instantly know where they’re in error, when they’ve read a text with Esiegesis, and when something has been taken out of context to support error. Unfortunately, in a previous post I’ve detailed how we as Christians are in trouble in this area.
“For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.” – Matthew 24:26-28
The flash of lightning is bright, visible, and powerful. It comes with the roar of rolling thunder, making it equally audible. During some thunder storms, I personally have witnessed a bright blue flash penetrate the curtains and windows of my home at night as it lights up the sky. This representation of lightning is obviously meant to convey the idea that the second coming is not a secret, it is not some hidden thing in which Jesus will show up in some guy’s secret chambers, or show up here or there.
It will be loud, visible, audible, and so powerful that everyone will see it. [Revelation 1:7.] Lightning is probably one of the most powerful object lessons from nature Christ could have drawn to paint a proper picture of his second coming. The people who every once in a while appear on the scene claiming to be Christ do not in any way come close to the sheer power of the event, which according to other Scriptures as we will see will rock this earth and strike terror into the hearts of those who do not obey the gospel.
The next statement of Christ seems cryptic, and not easily understood. What did he mean when he said, “For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together”? The term “eagles” bears some similarities to descriptions found in the book of Revelation, particularly around chapter 19, which is also speaking about the second coming of Christ.
In verses 17-18 specifically, we find statements which help unravel the meaning of Christ’s apparent cryptic language. “And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves unto the supper of the great God; That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great.” – Revelation 19:17-18.
In these texts the “fowls” [which are birds] are invited to feast on the flesh of kings, captains, mighty men, and horses. The language employed here yet again paints a picture of birds feasting on carrion. This is even verified as you scroll down to verse 21 in which you find the statement, “And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.” – Revelation 19:21
While a sword in the symbolic language of the Scriptures often represents the word of God [Hebrews 4:12], it is clear from other texts of Scripture that the wicked will be slain during the second coming. In 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9, Jesus is described as taking vengeance in “flaming fire” on “them that know not God and obey not the gospel.” This mirrors the way that the man of sin is slain by the “brightness of his coming.” [2 Thessalonians 2:8-9]. The reason behind the ‘super of the birds’ in Revelation 19 and Christ’s illustration of birds feasting upon carrion in Matthew 24 is simple. It is because the wicked will be destroyed at this point, slain and then reserved for their final punishment at a later time.
These texts of Scripture make it clear that there is no universal salvation. The entire world will not be converted before the coming of Christ, as some have taught in times past. But instead those who persistently refuse the gift of salvation offered by Jesus and his death on the cross will eventually be slain at the climax of this earth’s history. The choice that we have is one road or the other.
Part 4 will pick up from verse 29.