After predicting the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple Jesus has been answering His disciples’ request for a sign of His coming and of the end of the age. He has just spoken of the darkness that would follow the tribulation of those days as the powers of heaven would be shaken, at which time the sign of the Son of Man would shine forth and all the tribes of the earth would mourn to see Him coming on the clouds with power and great glory. Why would they mourn the shaking of the existing powers and the coming of Christ and His kingdom? See Rev 18:9-20. What does Jesus now say would accompany His coming upon the clouds of heaven to establish His kingdom? See Mat 24:31. What is the relationship between gathering together the elect who are choice in the sight of God, and the establishment of Christ’s kingdom? Think: can there be a kingdom without loyal subjects? What had Jesus just previously said in regard to gathering together His people before He left the temple? See Mat 23:37. Although the Jewish nation was chosen in Abraham from among all other nations to be God’s people (cf. Gen 18:19), what does Mat 23:37 say prevented them from being gathered together under His wings as His select servants? See also Mat 22:1-6. What happened since they would not be gathered into His barn as the good fruit with which He desired it to be filled? See Mat 22:7-9; cf. Mat 3:12, 13:30,40-43. Could the same thing happen today to those He would gather into His Church?
Consider the many Jews who rejected Jesus as their Savior from sin in favor of a worldly kingdom promised by the false messiahs He warned against. As these were misled by them to the supposed safety of Jerusalem where they became trapped and were eventually destroyed by the Romans who set their city on fire, in what way could they be compared to the tares in Jesus’ parable that were gathered together and bound in bundles to be burned? Cf. Luk 19:43-44 and consider again Josephus’ account of the great fire that accompanied the destruction of the city, and cf. 2Pe 3:7. Consider too that as the Jewish nation was being bound and destroyed, the Church was growing so that it spread throughout the Roman empire and beyond; in what way could the many Gentiles who were added to Christ’s kingdom during this time and in the centuries that followed be compared to the wheat that was gathered into His barn, and who came to shine forth as the sun (which is a type of Christ; Psa 19:4-6) in the kingdom of their Father as they carried the light of the gospel throughout the whole world?
Who did Jesus say in His parable of the tares would gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to be burned? See Mat 13:30,39,41. Although in a very real sense the unbelieving Jews were gathered together and bound in bundles that were burned as the Romans destroyed all the cities of Judea, culminating in the last great bundle in Jerusalem that was destroyed in its conflagration, was it the case that they were supernaturally snatched up and transported away to their destruction by angelic beings as is popularly imagined from a reading of this parable? Although the Romans were the instrument God used to destroy the Jews in a physical sense, in what sense should we understand that they were ultimately gathered together and destroyed by angels? Cf. 1Ki 22:19-23, 2Ki 6:17, 19:7, Zec 4:6, 2Co 10:3-4, Eph 6:12-13, 2Th 2:11-12, Rev 16:13-16.
Who does Jesus say in Mat 24:31 that He would send forth to gather together His elect? Cf. the reapers in Mat 13:30,39. Consider that while the result was no less real in its physical outcome, it was not in a physical but a spiritual sense that the angels gathered the tares out of the Lord’s field and bound them in bundles to be burned; shall we then suppose that it is in a physical or a spiritual sense that the Lord’s angels will gather His elect into His kingdom from the four winds? Would we expect the physical outcome to be any less real? As the Romans were the physical instruments through which the Lord’s angels manifested their spiritual power to destroy the Jewish nation, who are the physical instruments through which their power is manifested to gather choice subjects into His kingdom? See Mat 28:18-20, Act 5:19-20, 8:26, 10:3, 12:7-11, 27:23. Considering the mighty power of God’s holy angels, what does this remind us about why we need not fear and can be bold in proclaiming the truth and carrying out the Great Commission? How should this understanding of the relationship between the spiritual and the physical also guide our understanding of other Scripture that is apocalyptic in nature?
1. The Jewish War 6:271-276 271 While the holy house was on fire, everything was plundered that came to hand, and ten thousand of those who were caught were slain; nor was there a pity of any age, or any reverence of gravity; but children, and old men, and common persons, and priests were all slain in the same manner; so that this war went around all sorts of men, and brought them to destruction, and as well those who made supplication for their lives, as those who defended themselves by fighting. 272 The flame was also carried a long way, and made an echo, together with the groans of those who were slain; and because this hill was high, and the works at the temple were very large, one would have thought the whole city had been on fire. Nor can one imagine anything either greater or more terrible than this noise; 273 for there was at once a shout of the Roman legions, who were marching all together, and a sad clamor of the seditious, who were now surrounded with fire and sword. … Perea did also return the echo, as well as the mountains around [the city], and augmented the force of the entire noise. 275 Yet was the misery itself more terrible than this disorder; for one would have thought that the hill itself, on which the temple stood, was seething hot, as full of fire on every part of it, that the blood was larger in quantity than the fire, and those that were slain more in number than those who slew them; 276 for the ground did nowhere appear visible, for the dead bodies that lay on it; but the soldiers went over heaps of those bodies, as they ran upon such as fled from them. The Jewish War 5:566 I will not hesitate to say what gives me pain: I believe that, had the Romans delayed their punishment of these villains, the city would have been swallowed up by the earth, or overwhelmed with a flood, or, like Sodom, consumed with fire from heaven. For the generation which was in it was far more ungodly than the men on whom these punishments had in former times fallen. By their madness the whole nation came to be ruined. Cf. Mat 11:23-24.↩