Matthew 24:21 Study Archive

For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will.


Matthew 24:21
The Great Tribulation

“The expectation of sufferings before the Messiah comes”


Augustine (430)
“In Luke it is thus read, “There shall be great distress upon the earth, and wrath upon this people, and they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations.” [Luke 21:23]

“And so Josephus [marg. note: B. J. vii], who wrote the Jewish History, relates evils so great happening to this people as to seem hardly credible. Whence it was not unreasonably said, that such tribulation had never been from the beginning of creation, nor should be; for though in the time of Antichrist shall be such, or perhaps greater; yet to the Jews, of whom we must understand this, such shall never more befal. For if they shall be the first and the chief to receive Antichrist, they will then [p. 813] rather inflict than suffer tribulation.” (Ep. 199. 30)

Chrysostom (347)
“Note how this speech is directed against the Jews; for when these things were done by Vespasian, the Apostles could neither observe the Sabbath nor fly, seeing most of them were already dead, and those who survived were living in distant countries. And why they should pray for this He adds a reason, “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor shall be.”

“I ask the Jews, whence came upon them so grievous wrath from heaven more woeful than all that had come upon them before? Plainly it was because of the desperate crime   and the denial of the Cross. But He shews that they deserved still heavier punishment than they received, when He adds, “And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved;” that is, If the siege by the Romans should be continued longer, all the Jews would perish; for by “all flesh,” He means all the Jewish nation, those within and those without; for the Romans were at war not only with those in Judaea, but with the whole race wherever dispersed.” (Matthew 24:21, Quoted in Golden Chain)

“Then, to show again the greatness of the calamity, He saith, “Pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath day. For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world until now, neither shall be.” Seest thou that His discourse is addressed to the Jews, and that He is speaking of the ills that should overtake them? For the apostles surely were not to keep the Sabbath day, neither to be there, when Vespasian did those things. For indeed the most part of them were already departed this life. And if any was left, he was dwelling then in other parts of the world.

And let not any man suppose this to have been spoken hyperbolically; but let him study the writings of Josephus, and learn the truth of the sayings. For neither can any one say, that the man being a believer, in order to establish Christ’s words, hath exaggerated the tragical history. For indeed He was both a Jew, and a determined Jew, and very zealous, and among them that lived after Christ’s coming. I should therefore be glad to inquire of the Jews. Whence came there thus upon them wrath from God intolerable, and more sore than all that had befallen aforetime, not in Judaea only, but in any part of the world? Is it not quite clear, that it was for the deed of the cross, and for this rejection? All would say it, and with all and before all the truth of the facts itself.”  (Homily LXXVI.)

Eusebius (325)
“It is fitting to add to these accounts the true prediction of our Saviour in which he foretold these very events. His words are as follows: “Woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath day; For there shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.”

“These things took place in this manner in the second year of the reign of Vespasian, in accordance with the prophecies of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who by divine power saw them beforehand as if they were already present, and wept and mourned according to the statement of the holy evangelists, who give the very words which be uttered, when, as if addressing Jerusalem herself, he said: “If thou hadst known, even thou, in this day, the things which belong unto thy peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a rampart about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee and thy children even with the ground.”(History)

Wayne Jackson
Matthew 24:21 does not refer to the end of time. It’s application, based upon all contextual considerations, was to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70.”

B.W. Johnson (1891)
“21. Great tribulation. The account given by Josephus, the Jewish historian who witnessed and recorded the war, is almost an echo of the predictions of Christ. Women ate their own children from starvation; the Jews within the city fought each other as well as the Roman army; on August 10, A.D. 70, the city was stormed and there was a universal massacre; 1,100,00 persons perished, and 100,000 survivors were sold into slavery.”

Philip Mauro (1922)
“Another feature of the modern doctrine of Judaistic nationalism should receive brief attention. I refer to the idea of many modern dispensationalists that the supposed national conversion of the Jews is to take place not actually in the millennium itself, but at the interval between the coming of Christ for His saved people and His coming to the earth with them. Those who make the “great tribulation” (Matt. 24:21) a yet future event locate it in this interval, which they commonly refer to as “the tribulation period,” and they who are saved in that period (with a salvation much inferior to that now offered through the gospel) are termed “tribulation saints.” Hence, according to this view, the supposed conversion and restoration of the Jewish nation is to take place not in the millennium but, in a special “tribulation period,” which is to intervene between this present day of grace and the millennial day.” (The Hope of Israel)

“But the people of the church in Jerusalem had been commanded by a revelation, vouchsafed to approved men there before the war, to leave the city and to dwell in a certain town of Perea called Pella.” (Book III, Ch. 5)

Philip Schaff (1877)
“The forbearance of God with his covenant people, who had crucified their own Saviour, reached it last its limit. As many as could be saved in the usual way, were rescued. The mass of the people had obstinately set themselves against all improvement. James the Just, the man who was fitted, if any could be, to reconcile the Jews to the Christian religion, had been stoned by his hardened brethren, for whom he daily interceded in the temple; and with him the Christian community in Jerusalem had lost its importance for that city. The hour of the “great tribulation” and fearful judgment drew near. The prophecy of the Lord approached its literal fulfilment: Jerusalem was razed to the ground, the temple burned, and not one stone was left upon another. (History of the Christian Church p. 397-398)”

C.H. Spurgeon (1888)
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 awlful 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.” (Commentary on Matthew, p. 412,413)

William Whiston (1737)
“That these calamities of the Jews, who were our Savior’s murderers, were to be the greatest that had ever been s nee the beginning of the world, our Savior had directly foretold, Matthew 24:21Mark 13:19Luke 21:2324; and that they proved to be such accordingly, Josephus is here a most authentic witness.” (Wars Preface, Footnotes, 5)

Lorraine Boettner (1998)
“Premillennialists of both schools relate the prophecy concerning a Great Tribulation to a future period, holding that it occurs at the very end of the age, and are so blind to the fact that it already has been fulfilled literally in the year 70 A.D.

One reason that it is so difficult for some people to realize that the Great Tribulation had its fulfillment in the siege and fall of Jerusalem is what a landmark in history the break-up and abolition of the Old Testament economy really was.  For a period of 1500 years God had worked with and through the Jewish people exclusively in matters pertaining to salvation.” (The Millennium, rev. ed., Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, [1957] 1984, p.201)

“We believe that the Great Tribulation is long since past.” (ibid., p. 205)

Adam Clarke (1837)
“Verse 21. For then shall be great tribulation— No history can furnish us with a parallel to the calamities and miseries of the Jews:-rapine, murder, famine, and pestilence within: fire and sword, and all the horrors of war, without. Our Lord wept at the foresight of these calamities; and it is almost impossible for any humane person to read the relation of them in Josephus without weeping also.” (Matthew 24, quoting Newton)

William Cox (1966)
“We know that the great tribulation of AD 70 brought the Jewish state to its complete and final end.” (Cox, p. 103).

Gary DeMar (1996)
“Any tribulation the Jews experience in other countries is not in view here.  The death of six million Jews at the hands of the Nazis did not take place in the land of Israel.  The great tribulation is a description of what happened to Jews living in Israel in the first century.  Over one million Jews died at the hands of the Romans.  Nothing will ever compare to it because of Israel’s special covenantal status.  Her sin was great, therefore her judgment was great.”  (Last Days Madness, p. 129, n 22.)

“The tribulation period cannot be global because all one has to do to escape is flee to the mountains.  Notice that Jesus says “let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains” (Matt 24:16).  Judea is not the world; it’s not even the nation of Israel!” (ibid., p. 121)

James Farquarson (1837)
“Our Saviour certainly referred to the tribulations attendant on the fearful destruction of Jerusalem and the dispersion of the Jewish people by the Roman arms under Titus; and when we understand Daniel’s time of trouble as belonging to the same events, . . . then the whole of his prophecy in this twelfth chapter can be easily demonstrated to have received a signal and complete fulfilment in the Advent of Christ, in the deliverance wrought by Him, . . . in the awakening of men from the death of sin, . . . in the prophecy itself not being understood until explained by Christ (and then not understood by the unbelieving Jews, but understood by the Christian converts), in the continued impenitence and increasing wickedness of the unbelieving Jews, in the judgments at last sent upon them in the Roman war, in the duration of that war, and in the immediate abatement of the sufferings attending it upon Titus’ getting unexpected possession of the last strongholds of Jerusalem.” (Daniel’s Last Vision and Prophecy)

F.W. Farrar (1882)
To minds already glowing with expectations of the Coming of Christ, and the close of the ages, the signs of the times must have worn a portentous aspect.  The sunset sky of the ancient dispensation was red and lowering with the prophecy of storm.  The “woes of the Messiah” — the travail throes of the Future Age — the pangs which were to accompany the new birth of the Messianic kingdom — were already shaking the world. [20]  There were wars and rumours of wars.  There were famines and earthquakes.  The Church had barely passed through the anguish of the great tribulation. ” (The Apocalypse)

Kenneth Gentry
“Of the “great tribulation,” which is a topic for both John (Rev. 7:14) and Jesus (Matt. 24:21), Jesus informs His listeners: “Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away until all these things are fulfilled” (Matt. 24:34). This may explain Peter’s concern that his Pentecostal hearers save themselves from their “perverse generation” (Acts 2:41), which was about to erupt in “blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke” (Acts 2:19). And Paul’s discouragement of marriage in 1 Corinthians 7:26-31, during the “present distress” while “the time is short.” Other inspired writers seem to anticipate a looming judgment compatible with Revelation’s (Heb. 10:2537Jas. 5:8-91 Pet. 4:571 Jn. 2:1718).” (Apocalypse Then)

Thomas Newton (1754)
“In the preceding verses, our Saviour had warned his disciples to fly, as soon as ever they saw Jerusalem besieged by the Romans; and now he assigns the reason of his giving them this caution and ‘For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not from the beginning of the world to this time, no nor ever shall be,’– ver. 21. St. Mark expresseth it much in the same manner: ‘For in those, lays shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created, unto this time, neither shall be,’– xiii 19. This seemeth to be a proverbial form of expression, as in Exodus, ‘And the locusts were very grievous, before them there were no such locusts as they, neither after them shall be such,’ — x. 14: and again in Joel, ‘A great people and a strong, there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations,’ — ii. 2. Of the same kind is that in Daniel, ‘There shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that same time,’– xii. 1 : and that in the first book of Maccabees, ‘There was great affliction in Israel, the like whereof was not since the time that a prophet was not seen amongst them,’– ix. 27. Our Saviour therefore might fitly apply the same manner of speaking upon the present occasion : but he doth not make use of proverbial expressions without a proper meaning, and this may be understood even literally. For indeed all history cannot furnish us with a parallel to the calamities and miseries of the Jews ; rapine and murder, famine and pestilence within ; fire and sword, and all the terrors of war without. Our Saviour wept at the foresight of these calamities, and it is almost impossible for persons of any humanity to read the relation of them in Josephus without weeping too.” (The Prophecy of Matthew 24)

Gary North
“What the Bible teaches is that it took place in A.D.70, and Christians did not go through it.” (preface, The Great Tribulation, xi.)

“Rather than conclude this, dispensational commentators have played exegetical games with Jesus’ clear statement regarding the tribulation that would face the early Church: “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things have been fulfilled (Matt. 24:34). The Great Tribulation took place in A.D. 70: the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple, just as He warned (Luke 21:20-22). It is finished. (p.90)

R.C. Sproul (1998)
“Russell and Calvin agree that the language employed in biblical prophecy is not always cold and logical as is common in the Western world, but adopts a kind of fervor common to the East.  Scripture commonly describes the visitation of God’s judgment with images of convulsion and cataclysms.” (The Last Days According to Jesus, 45)

Milton Terry (1898)
“Immediately after the great tribulation which is to accompany the catastrophe, or in those very days, the Son of man is to be seen coming in the clouds with great power and glory. His coming is described according to the Hebrew apocalyptic style; and then it is solemnly affirmed with an emphatic Amen or Verily, “This generation shall not pass away till all these things be accomplished ” (Mark xiii, 30; Matt. xxiv, 34; Luke xxi, 32). It would seem from all this that the occasion and scope of this prophecy are clear beyond controversy. It was preceded by many a word of rebuke and warning to the hypocritical scribes and Pharisees, and a terrible woe pronounced against Jerusalem, the murderess of saints and prophets. The time-limit so emphatically asserted accords perfectly with the assurance given on another occasion that some of those who listened to the great Teacher should not die till they had seen the Son of man coming in his kingdom.” (Apocalypse of the Gospels)

Stanley Paher (1996)
“Consistent with the context, the tribulation was fulfilled during the time of the Jewish wars, AD 66-70, when Jerusalem under lengthy attack was ‘trodden down’ (Luke 21:24).” (Matthew 24: First Century Fulfillment or End-Time Expectations?, Las Vegas, NV: Nevada Publications, pp 104-105)


Fourfold Gospel (1914)
“21 for then {bthose days} ashall be great tribulation, bsuch as there hath not been the like from the beginning of the creation {athe world} bwhich God created until now, and never, {ano, nor ever} shall be. [These words spoken before the event are strikingly verified by the statements of Josephus written after it. “No other city,” says he, “ever suffered miseries, nor did any age, from the beginning of the world, ever breed a generation more fruitful in wickedness that this was.” And again: “If the miseries of all mankind from the creation were compared with those which the Jews then suffered, they would appear inferior.” The promise that there shall be no days like it of course excludes the terrors and miseries of the judgment day, since it belongs to celestial rather than terrestrial history. Having now the whole paragraph before us, we are ready to discuss the phrase “abomination of desolation” mentioned in Matt. xxiv. 15 (p. 624). Taking it in connection with the entire paragraph, we can readily see, 1. That it was a sign practically simultaneous with the compassing of Jerusalem by the Roman army. 2. That it was a clearly marked sign which was to be followed by [626] immediate flight, even if the day of its appearing should chance to be the Sabbath–a flight so sudden that a man must not stop to enter his house or get his coat. Now, some translate the phrase “abomination of desolation” (or abomination that causeth desolation, for it may be so translated) as referring to the crimes of the zealots, a faction in Jerusalem, who took possession of the temple and profaned its sanctuary by using it as a fort, thus making themselves an abomination in the eyes of the Jews by polluting God’s house and entering where they had no right to enter. But a long interval intervened between this evil deed of theirs and the coming of the Romans, during any day of which a Christian might have taken his departure after the most leisurely manner. Others take the phrase as referring to the entrance of the triumphant Roman army upon the temple courts; but as this was one of the last scenes of the prolonged siege, it could not properly be coupled with the encompassing Roman army. Meyer, aware of this difficulty, takes the position that there were two flights prescribed by Jesus, one from Jerusalem at the time when the Romans appeared, and the other from Judæa at the time when the temple fell. But the language used by Luke (Luke xxi. 20, 21) forbids us to make the flight from Judæa subsequent to the flight from Jerusalem, for both flights were to begin when the Romans appeared. Again it should be noted that the phrase “the holy place” is apt to mislead, especially when coupled with Mark’s “where it ought not.” The words when seen in English cause us to think of some person or thing polluting the sanctuary of the temple by standing in its holy place. But it is evident that the words do not refer to the temple at all. When the New Testament speaks of the holy place in the temple it styles it en too hagioo (in the holy), while the words here are en topoo hagioo (in a place holy). Moreover, after a careful perusal of the LXX. we are persuaded that they used the two terms to distinguish between the holy place in the sanctuary and other holy places, a distinction which the Revised Version recognizes (Lev. vi. 16, 26, 27, etc.). As none but priests could enter [627] the holy place, it is evident that another is meant at Ps. xxiv. 3; but in this place the Septuagint gives us en topoo hagioo. We, therefore, conclude that in this place Matthew uses the term “holy place” to designate the holy territory round about the Holy City, and that the combined expression of Matthew and Mark signifies the investiture of the city by the Roman armies and is equivalent to the plainer statement made by Luke. The Roman armies were fittingly called the abomination of desolation, because, being heathen armies, they were an abomination to the Jews, and because they brought desolation upon the country. The sight of them, therefore, became the appointed sign for Christians to quit the city.] ” (The Destruction of Jerusalem Foretold)

Dr. D.A. Carson (1984)
“There have been greater number of deaths – six million in the Nazi death camps, mostly Jews, and an estimated twenty million under Stalin – but never so high a percentage of a great city’s population so thoroughly and painfully exterminated and enslaved as during the fall of Jerusalem.” (“Matthew,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, gen. ed Frank E. Gaebelein, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984. 8:501)

H.A. Ironside
“The Preterists maintain that the Great Tribulation took place at the time of the trouble which the Jewish people passed through when the Roman armies, under Titus, destroyed Jerusalem and wrought havoc throughout Palestine.  The Great Tribulation, according to them, began in A.D. 70 and ended a very short time afterward.” (The Tribulation)

Brant Pitre (1007)
“It is readily apparent from the evidence collected in this chapter than any claim to restrict the expectation of eschatological or messianic tribulation to the period following A.D.70 fails on two points.  Such a position must either ignore the substantial evidence from the late Second Temple period itself or operate with an extremely narrow and ultimately erroneous definition of the tribulation.  Before the destruction of the Second Temple, there was clearly a widespread expectation that a time of suffering and catastrophe would in some way be related to the advent of the eschatological deliverer of the last days.  Although this is not the case with every document surveyed herein, it is a frequent enough occurrence to posit a widespread Jewish concept of the messianic tribulation (or “Messianic Woes”) before the time of Jesus.”

“It is important that we sum up our results by briefly cataloguing several major aspects of the tribulation which will prove to be significant for situating the Jesus tradition in its late Second Temple Jewish context.  They are arranged in the order of most frequent to least frequent, with the textual representatives listed in the footnotes:

  1. The tribulation is tied to the restoration of Israel and the End of the Exile.
  2. righteous remnant arises during the tribulation.
  3. The righteous suffer and/or die during the tribulation.  This sometimes includes the suffering and/or death of a messianic figure.
  4. The tribulation is tied to the coming of a Messiah, sometimes referred to as the “Son of Man”.
  5. The tribulation precedes the final judgment.
  6. The tribulation is depicted the eschatological climax of Israel’s exilic sufferings, often through the imagery of the Deuteronomic covenant curses.
  7. The tribulation has two stages, (1) the preliminary stage, and (2) the Great Tribulation.
  8. The tribulation preceds the coming of an eschatological kingdom.
  9. An eschatological tyrant, opponent, or anti-Messiah arises during the tribulation.
  10. Typological images from the Old Testament are used to depict the tribulation.
  11. The tribulation preceds the resurrection of the dead and/or new creation.” (Jesus, The Tribulation, and the End of Exile, p. 127-130)

Date: 09 Jan 2004
Time: 11:47:58

They say that John was exiled to the Island of Patmos sometime during the reign of Roman Emperor Domitian – after A.D.70. He was exiled there for preaching the Word of God and having the testimony of Jesus Christ. While on the Island, Jesus sent His angel who instructed him to write the seven letters to angels (pastors) of the seven churches in Asia, not far from Patmos. Jesus did not commend all of the church highly, but there is no indication that any of these pastors did not preach the Word of God, or have the testimony of Jesus Christ. Why was John only singled out for exile, and not these other pastors? Mac BibleBits.Com

Date: 09 Aug 2010
Time: 12:11:28

In dealing realistically with Matthew 24:15-20 it is important to realize 2 things; #1 The desolation is in Jerusalem (First Century) #2 Question; How could anything in verses 15-20 (Fleeing,coming down,in the field, having a child,and the sabbath day) have anything to do with an “instantaneous” catching up of the Church? These verses correspond with Luke 21:20/Mark 13:14 and have to do with “Jerusalem compassed with armies” and an abomination standing where “it” ought not. Doug Lamb

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