Jerusalem, Jerusalem
Based on Series of Sermons on the Repetition of Name and Titles
Preached in PCC Worship Services, 4 August 2013
Part 3 of 3


We have been considering the Lord’s lament over Jerusalem found in Matthew 23:37-39. We have looked at the context and the lament itself. In this article, we will see the consequences of Jerusalem’s failure to receive Jesus.

The Consequences

Christ said in verse 38, “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.” This is both a pronouncement of God’s judgment as well as a prediction or prophecy of what is to come. The house of Jerusalem refers primarily to the temple at Jerusalem but it would also include the rest of the city which surrounded the temple. 

Just the day before, the Lord went into the temple and drove out all the sellers and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and then He quoted Isaiah 56:7, which contain the words of Jehovah, saying, “My house shall be called the house of prayer, but ye have made it a den of thieves.” (Matt. 21:13) 

In other words, Christ spoke of the temple as the house of Jehovah and elsewhere He calls it His Father’s house. But now, when He comes to pronounce judgment upon Jerusalem, He says, “Behold your house is left unto you desolate.”

Because of her wicked rejection of the Son of God, Jerusalem, as the city of God, was going to be abandoned by God. The glory of the LORD was about to depart from the temple as it did in the past. God was about to disown it. Instead of being the house of the LORD, Christ now says to Jerusalem, “Behold your house is left unto you desolate.” The word “desolate” literally means solitary or lonely. It is used to speak of a desert or wilderness or a deserted and lonely place.

The city that was once the heart of the nation and the pride of the people of Israel was going to be deserted and reduced to desolation. And this desolation and destruction would take place within the generation that Christ was speaking to.

In the first 35 verses of Matthew 24, the Lord would elaborate on the terrible events leading up to and including the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple that would take place within that generation. But before He gives that prophecy, He does something very symbolic and significant.

Remember that Jesus spoke the words of our text while He was still in the temple. But then having declared that the temple would be left desolate in verse 38 of chapter 23, we read in verse 1 of chapter 24, “And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple…” And verse 3 says He goes to the Mount of Olives. We mustn’t miss the significance of what is going on. The Lord’s dramatic departure from the temple for the last time follows the pattern of God’s glory departing from the first temple during the time of Ezekiel and just before the Babylonians destroyed it. Ezekiel 11:22-23 says, “Then did the cherubims lift up their wings, and the wheels beside them; and the glory of the God of Israel was over them above. And the glory of the LORD went up from the midst of the city, and stood upon the mountain which is on the east side of the city.”

It is no coincidence that the mountain on the east side of the city is the Mount of Olives, where Jesus went to after departing from the city. Truly when the Son of God Himself departs from Jerusalem, the city and the temple are left desolate and there is nothing to prevent their total destruction. And within 40 years or one generation of the Lord’s words, the entire city was devastated by the Roman army under General Titus.

The Lord goes on to say in verse 39, “For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” Jerusalem would not see Jesus again in the sense that He would no longer appear to them publicly as a teacher of God’s word as He had been doing these past three years or so. This verse effectively marks the end of His earthly ministry to the Jews.

The phrase “till ye shall say” looks forward to the possibility of a future time when the Jews will say to Christ, “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.”

Now the question is what does the Lord mean? Let me suggest two possibilities. First, the word “till or until” can refer to an indefinite possibility and is equivalent to the word “unless.” Based on this understanding, Christ was saying to them that unless they acknowledged Him as the Messiah, they would not see Him again. That indeed never happened, not in that generation.

But another possible way of understanding our Lord’s words (and the one I like better) is that at the end of time on the great Day of Judgment when these unbelieving Jews stand before Christ, as the great judge of all men, they would indeed say to Him, “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” Sadly though, it will be too late. The day of their salvation was over. The time for making peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ had come and gone. All that was left was for them was to be condemned to eternal damnation.

There is an interesting passage in Luke chapter 13, where our Lord likens the day of judgment to the master of the house rising up and shutting the door, and the unbelieving Jews standing outside knocking and saying, “Lord, Lord, open unto us…we have eaten and drunk in your presence and you have taught in our streets” but the Lord will say to them, “I know you not whence ye are: depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.” And then He goes on to say, “There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. And they (referring to the Gentiles) shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 13:28-29)

Something similar is happening in our text. The Lord was going away and the Jews would not see Him anymore in terms of His earthly ministry. The next time they see Him will be on the Day of Judgment at the end of history. They will indeed say, “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” but it will be too late.

And so the awful consequences of rejecting the ministry of Christ are as follows: their house is left desolate, Christ departs from them in judgment, and they will be cast into eternal hell at the end.

Application

As we close this series of articles, I’ll like to apply our Lord’s words to us in just one way, namely, let us, as God’s covenant people, examine ourselves with regard to how we have received His Word.

The great sin of Jerusalem is that they killed the prophets, abused the messengers of God, and persecuted His servants from city to city. When Christ spoke of gathering His children as a hen gathers her little ones under her wings, He was referring primarily to the many opportunities which they, as God’s covenant people, had to hear God’s word and to hear God’s call and command to come unto Him.

Prophet after prophet had been sent to them but they treated them as enemies because they preached the truth to them.  And finally, when the Son of God Himself came into their midst to minister, they refused to hear Him. Instead, they put Him to death, and as a result, God disowned them and cut them off.

But how about us? How have we been hearing and receiving the ministry of His Word? Like Jerusalem and Israel in the days of Christ, we today enjoy tremendous privileges as the covenant people of God, perhaps even more so than the people in the first century did. We have the word constantly before us, day by day, and week by week.

What has our attitude towards the word been? Are we indifferent to it? Do we take it for granted? Or worse still, do we have a secret inward enmity towards the word? Do we despise it and say I’ve heard it all and I really don’t need to hear anymore? Or there is nothing more that I need to learn? Or I know better? Or it is too dull and uninteresting? Etc.

Dear covenant people of God, let us take heed to the way we hear and receive the word. Someday, God will call us to give an account of our attitude towards and reception of the word. May we not hear Him say to us, “I know you not whence ye are: depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.”

—Linus Chua