On today’s podcast, Gary discusses the “great tribulation” in Matthew 24:21. Was the destruction of AD70 Israel’s greatest tribulation or does it need to be repeated with even worse consequences?
Is the great tribulation of Matthew 24 a description of a future seven-year period where the Antichrist makes a covenant with Israel and then turns on the Jews, bringing about worldwide destruction?
“There will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall” (Matt. 24:21).
One reason offered for the belief that the great tribulation is still a future event is the seemingly unqualified statement in Matthew 24:21 (and Dan. 12:1) concerning a “great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall.” This language is nearly identical to Ezekiel 5:9: “And because of all your abominations, I will do among you what I have not done, and the like of which I will never do again.” Ezekiel 5:9 refers to the destruction of Jerusalem in the sixth century B.C. by the Babylonians, and yet Bible commentators who hold out for a yet future great tribulation state that “never again would God execute a judgment like this.” But God did execute a greater judgment in the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, and dispensationalists claim that there will be yet an even greater tribulation sometime in the near future. The language of Ezekiel 5:9 and Matthew 24:21 is obviously a proverbial rhetorical hyperbole.
Charles H. Spurgeon wrote the following about the covenantal severity of this particular generational tribulation:
“For there shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” Read the record written by Josephus of the destruction of Jerusalem, and see how truly our Lord’s words were fulfilled. The Jews impiously said, concerning the death of Christ, “His blood be on us, and on our children.” Never did any other people invoke such an awful curse upon themselves, and upon no other nation did such a judgment ever fall. We read of Jews crucified till there was no more wood for making crosses; of thousands of the people slaying one another in their fierce faction fights within the city; of so many of them being sold for slaves that they became a drug in the market, and all but valueless; and of the fearful carnage when the Romans at length entered the doomed capital; and the blood-curdling story exactly bears out the Savior’s statement uttered nearly forty years before the terrible events occurred.’
The destruction of Jerusalem was more terrible than anything that the world has ever witnessed, either before or since. Even Titus seemed to see in his cruel work the hand of an avenging God.
Josephus uses language in his The Jewish War, an eye-witness account of the events surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans that is nearly identical to how Jesus describes the impending tribulation:
I shall therefore speak my mind here at once briefly: That neither did any other city ever suffer such miseries, nor did any age ever breed a generation more fruitful in wickedness than this was, from the beginning of the world. (5.10.5).
While the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 was certainly a calamity for the Jews, futurists argue, it was not the great tribulation that will take place on a worldwide scale. The tribulation described by Jesus in Matthew 24 was local, confined to Judea that could be escaped on foot. Jesus condemned the scribes and Pharisees (Matt. 23) and told them that these judgments would come upon “this,” that is, their generation (23:36). He mourned over the city of “Jerusalem” (23:37), not the world, and pronounced judgment upon the temple, leaving it, not a future temple, “desolate” (23:38; 24:2).
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Gary recently debated Dr. Michael Brown online about Matthew 24. Since not every issue and point can be fully addressed in an hour-long debate, Gary decided to do several follow-up podcasts about the debate in general, and Matthew 24 specifically. In this first one, Gary discusses the “great tribulation” in Matthew 24:21. Was the destruction of AD70 Israel’s greatest tribulation or does it need to be repeated with even worse consequences?
 Ralph A. Alexander, “Ezekiel,” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Frank E. Gaebelein, gen. ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1986), 6:773.
 Also see William Greenhill, An Exposition of Ezekiel (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, [1647–1667], 1994), 145–146.