Desecrating the Sanctuary


Desecrating the
Matthew 24:23–28 “As the lightning
comes from the east and shines as far as
the west, so will be the coming of
the Son of Man. Wherever the corpse is,
there the vultures will gather” (vv.

The best way to make sense of the Olivet Discourse is to look at
its parallels
in the gospels of Mark and Luke. Indeed, it is beneficial to
examine the ways
the four evangelists record the same episode in their
gospels, but this is
especially true when the passage in question is uniquely
frustrating to
interpreters. Luke 21:5–33, which parallels Matthew 24:1–35,
is the best help
for understanding what Jesus is speaking of in this hotly
contested portion of

Luke 21:20 reveals that the first part
of the Olivet Discourse predicts the
siege and destruction of Jerusalem under
the Roman general Titus, who in 70
had his army surround the Holy City to
squelch a four-year long revolt for
good. Most Jews despised Roman
occupation, but a tipping point was reached
when governor Florus stole from
the temple treasury in 66. Conflict ensued
among Jerusalem’s leaders as well
as between Rome and the city’s inhabitants.
There were points between the
years 66 and 70 when the Romans paused their
assault and gave the Jews a
respite, but Jerusalem was in dire straits by the
end of this “Jewish War.”
Access to food was cut off with Rome surrounding the
city, and some within
its walls resorted to cannibalism. More than one million
Jews died in the
war, hence Jesus’ emphasis on the terror of those days and
the need for His
followers to flee Jerusalem and escape Roman aggression

That Matthew 24:1–35 is a warning about the events of AD 70 is
also evident
when we consider “the abomination of desolation…standing in the
holy place”
(v. 15). The “holy place” is the temple. After entering the city,
Titus placed
his army’s standards at the temple’s eastern gate and offered
sacrifices to
the Empire, defiling what was left of the Holy City — the
“corpse” of verse
28. The Greek word the esv translates as “vultures” here is
the plural form of
aetos, which was also used of eagles. Notably, the Roman
standard, a long pole
that bore a legion’s insignia into battle, was always
topped with the figure
of an eagle, the symbol of the empire. Given this
context, “eagles” is
probably a better translation than “vultures” in verse
28; thus, Jesus’
reference to eagles gathering at the corpse naturally
foresees the
eagle-topped standards of Titus standing amidst Jerusalem’s

Coram deo: Living before the face of
In the days ahead we will
look further at how the destruction of Jerusalem
vindicates Jesus’ teaching
and how it resulted from the nation’s rejection of
the Messiah. For now, be
reminded of the disaster that ensues when we refuse
to receive Christ. Though
He is gracious to us, our Lord takes our commitment
to Him seriously and is
displeased when we break it. May we be good and
faithful servants, not like
those in AD 70 Jerusalem who did not submit to

For further

Jeremiah 9:1–11

The Bible in a year:

Jeremiah 12–13

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