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From Here to Forever

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    Portents of Disaster

    All the predictions given by Christ concerning the destruction of Jerusalem were fulfilled to the letter. Signs and wonders appeared. For seven years a man continued to go up and down the streets of Jerusalem, declaring woes to come. This strange being was imprisoned and scourged, but to insult and abuse he answered only, “Woe, woe to Jerusalem!” He was slain in the siege he foretold.*Milman, History of the Jews, book 13.HF 22.2

    Not one Christian perished in the destruction of Jerusalem. After the Romans under Cestius had surrounded the city, they unexpectedly abandoned the siege when everything seemed favorable for attack. The Roman general withdrew his forces without the least apparent reason. The promised sign had been given to the waiting Christians. Luke 21:20, 21.HF 22.3

    Events were so overruled that neither Jews nor Romans should hinder the flight of the Christians. Upon the retreat of Cestius, the Jews pursued, and while both forces were thus fully engaged, the Christians throughout the land were able to make their escape unmolested to a place of safety, the city of Pella.HF 22.4

    The Jewish forces, pursuing after Cestius and his army, fell upon their rear. With great difficulty the Romans succeeded in making their retreat. The Jews with their spoils returned in triumph to Jerusalem. Yet this apparent success brought them only evil. It inspired that spirit of stubborn resistance to the Romans which brought unutterable woe upon the doomed city.HF 23.1

    Terrible were the calamities that fell upon Jerusalem when the siege was resumed by Titus. The city was invested at the time of the Passover, when millions of Jews were assembled within its walls. Stores of provision had previously been destroyed through the revenge of the contending factions. Now all the horrors of starvation were experienced. Men gnawed the leather of their belts and sandals and the covering of their shields. Great numbers stole out at night to gather wild plants growing outside the city walls, though many were put to death with cruel torture. Often those who returned in safety were robbed of what they had gleaned. Husbands robbed their wives, and wives their husbands. Children snatched the food from the mouths of their aged parents.HF 23.2

    The Roman leaders endeavored to strike terror to the Jews and thus cause them to surrender. Prisoners were scourged, tortured, and crucified before the wall of the city. Along the Valley of Jehoshaphat and at Calvary, crosses were erected in great numbers. There was scarcely room to move among them. So was visited that awful imprecation uttered before the judgment seat of Pilate: “His blood be on us, and on our children.” Matthew 27:25.HF 23.3

    Titus was filled with horror as he saw bodies lying in heaps in the valleys. Like one entranced, he looked upon the magnificent temple and gave command that not one stone of it be touched. He made an earnest appeal to the Jewish leaders not to force him to defile the sacred place with blood. If they would fight in any other place, no Roman should violate the sanctity of the temple! Josephus himself entreated them to surrender, to save themselves, their city, and their place of worship. But with bitter curses, darts were hurled at him, their last human mediator. In vain were the efforts of Titus to save the temple. One greater than he had declared that not one stone was to be left upon another.HF 23.4

    Titus at last decided to take the temple by storm, determined that if possible it should be saved from destruction. But his commands were disregarded. A firebrand was flung by a soldier through an opening in the porch, and immediately the cedar-lined chambers about the holy house were in a blaze. Titus rushed to the place and commanded the soldiers to quench the flames. His words were unheeded. In their fury the soldiers hurled blazing brands into the chambers adjoining the temple and then slaughtered those who had found shelter there. Blood flowed down the temple steps like water.HF 24.1

    After the destruction of the temple, the whole city fell to the Romans. The leaders of the Jews forsook their impregnable towers. Titus declared that God had given them into his hands: for no engines, however powerful, could have prevailed against those stupendous battlements. Both the city and the temple were razed to their foundations, and the ground upon which the holy house had stood was “plowed like a field.” See Jeremiah 26:18. More than a million perished: the survivors were carried away as captives, sold as slaves, dragged to Rome, thrown to wild beasts in the amphitheaters, or scattered as homeless wanderers throughout the earth.HF 24.2

    The Jews had filled for themselves the cup of vengeance. In all the woes that followed in their dispersion, they were reaping the harvest which their own hands had sown. “O Israel, thou has destroyed thyself”; “for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.” Hosea 13:9; 14:1. Their sufferings are often represented as a punishment by the direct decree of God. Thus the great deceiver seeks to conceal his own work. By stubborn rejection of divine love and mercy, the Jews had caused the protection of God to be withdrawn from them.HF 24.3

    We cannot know how much we owe to Christ for the peace and protection which we enjoy. The restraining power of God prevents mankind from passing fully under the control of Satan. The disobedient and unthankful have great reason for gratitude for God's mercy. But when men pass the limits of divine forbearance, restraint is removed. God does not stand as an executioner of the sentence against transgression. He leaves the rejectors of His mercy to reap that which they have sown. Every ray of light rejected is a seed sown which yields its unfailing harvest. The Spirit of God, persistently resisted, is at last withdrawn. Then there is left no power to control the evil passions of the soul, no protection from the malice and enmity of Satan.HF 25.1

    The destruction of Jerusalem is a solemn warning to all who are resisting the pleadings of divine mercy. The Saviour's prophecy concerning judgments upon Jerusalem is to have another fulfillment. In the fate of the chosen city we behold the doom of a world that has rejected God's mercy and trampled upon His law. Dark are the records of human misery that earth has witnessed. Terrible have been the results of rejecting the authority of Heaven. But a scene yet darker is presented in the revelations of the future. When the restraining Spirit of God shall be wholly withdrawn, no longer to hold in check the outburst of human passion and satanic wrath, the world will behold, as never before, the results of Satan's rule.HF 25.2

    In that day, as in Jerusalem's destruction, God's people will be delivered. See Isaiah 4:3; Matthew 24:30, 31. Christ will come the second time to gather His faithful ones to Himself. “Then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” Matthew 24:30, 31.HF 25.3

    Let men beware lest they neglect the words of Christ. As He warned His disciples of Jerusalem's destruction that they might make their escape, so He has warned the world of the day of final destruction. All who will may flee from the wrath to come. “There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations.” Luke 21:25. See also Matthew 24:29; Mark 13:24-26; Revelation 6:12-17. “Watch ye therefore,” are Christ's words of admonition. Mark 13:35. They that heed the warning shall not be left in darkness.HF 26.1

    The world is no more ready to credit the message for this time than were the Jews to receive the Saviour's warning concerning Jerusalem. Come when it may, the day of God will come unawares to the ungodly. When life is going on in its unvarying round; when men are absorbed in pleasure, in business, in money-making; when religious leaders are magnifying the world's progress, and people are lulled in a false security—then, as the midnight thief steals within the unguarded dwelling, so shall sudden destruction come upon the careless and ungodly, “and they shall not escape.” See 1 Thessalonians 5:2-5.HF 26.2

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