Header Image: Jewish War by David Roberts

Welcome to Part Two of the Olivet Discourse! It’s been a while, so we’ll pick up right where we left off with Matthew 24 verse 15 onwards, after a small recap of the chapter so far.

The Olivet Discourse begins with the disciples admiring the architecture of the temple in Jerusalem. Jesus responds to this by telling them that it will all be thrown down and destroyed, to the point that not one stone will be left on another. Later on, when they are sat on the Mount of Olives, Jesus’ disciples come to him and ask “when will this happen?” and “what will be the sign” that all of this is about to commence?

Advertisement

If we look at the account in Mark’s Gospel, we can see that it was actually only Peter, James, John and Andrew who came to speak with Jesus privately about these things (Mark 13:3), thus making the audience that Jesus was addressing quite specific! What follows is a long prophetic monologue from Jesus detailing what happens in the lead up to the temple being destroyed, what to expect and what to do they see it about to happen. Which is where we pick up this study.

From verse 15 we start to see what happens after the initial signs and “birth pangs” are finished – now it’s no longer about looking towards an event; now it’s about the event itself! The main show, as it were: the “desolating sacrilege!”

Matthew 24:15-18

So when you see the desolating sacrilege standing in the holy place, as was spoken of by the prophet Daniel (let the reader understand), then those in Judea must flee to the mountains; the one on the housetop must not go down to take what is in the house; the one in the field must not turn back to get a coat.

Advertisement

 

Now Matthew’s Gospel is traditionally understood to have been written to a Jewish audience due to the writing style and linguistic phrases used that were typical of Jewish thought and understanding. This is important to remember when reading the parenthesis in verse 15 which simply states “let the reader understand” as first century Jews would have been very familiar with Daniel’s prophecy more than Gentiles or Jewish converts, for example. This is where the parallel accounts of this passage in the other Gospel account can help us, as we should always endeavour to let Scripture interpret Scripture where possible, rather than jumping to conclusions or assuming things.

So we’ll turn to Luke’s Gospel, which is the account typically understood to have been written to a primarily Gentile (non-Jewish) audience, and so it contains different phrases and wording which can often clarify certain things written in Matthew, for example.

Luke 21:20-22

When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then those in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those inside the city must leave it, and those out in the country must not enter it; for these are days of vengeance, as a fulfillment of all that is written.

 

The “desolating sacrilege” and the “holy place” spoken of in Matthew can be made clearer for us by Luke’s plainer language of the event as being attacking armies (desolating sacrilege) surrounding Jerusalem (the holy place)!

It’s also important to note that Luke adds an additional comment in verse 22 which Matthew and Mark omit: that these are the “days of vengeance” which fulfills “all that is written”. Written where? The Old Testament. This is the “great and terrible day of the Lord” which had long been prophesied in the Scriptures, which cannot be another time in history, other than the time in which Jesus is speaking of!

Advertisement

 

The book of Malachi speaks of the coming of the Lord to his people, and the messenger which he will send first (Mal 3:1), which will lead up to God bringing judgement on the nation (Mal 3:5). The book ends with a prophetic statement about this “Day” which says more explicitly that God will send “Elijah” to his people before the judgement comes.

Malachi 4:5

Lo, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes.

Advertisement

 

Jesus confirms this as the time of Malachi’s fulfillment in Matt 11:7-11 where he says that John the Baptist is “the one about whom it is written” and then even clearer in verse 13 where Jesus says:

For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John came; and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come.

 

Advertisement

Don’t miss the other important part of this verse: that “all the prophets and the law prophesied until John came” – ALL of the Scriptures prophesied until John came!

This is it now, this is the end of the age; the end of the Old Covenant. Jesus was here to bring about the Kingdom and the New Covenant; to purify his people and bring judgement on those who refused him: the great and terrible day of the Lord!

 

Not only is John the final prophet of the Old Covenant bringing the message that God was coming, as Malachi and other prophets of old wrote about, but this also signified that judgement was upon the people of Israel. The book of 2 Peter also makes a link to Malachi 3:2 where God is spoken of as being like a refiner’s fire when he comes during this time. This fits Peter’s theme when he writes about the Day of the Lord in 1 Peter 1:6-7 and 2 Peter 3:10. You can read more about this connection, and a balanced view of 2 Peter 3 in terms of the “new heavens and new earth” and the probable nature of heaven, in an essay here. In short, it’s more in line with much of the rest of the New Testament texts in that Creation is to be renewed and reconciled, rather than scrapped and rebuilt.

Advertisement

The prophet Joel also spoke of this “Day” and that this meant it was the “last days” - a fact which Peter confirms in his famous sermon on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2).

Joel 2:31 says that “[t]he sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes.” Peter ties this prophecy to the Pentecost event when the Holy Spirit was poured out on them, by telling the people watching that “this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel” (Acts 2:16) and then goes on to quote the rest of Joel’s prophecy, beginning with “In the last days…” and ending with the Day of the Lord.

These signs in Joel about the sun being darkened and the moon turning to blood etc, is the same imagery which Jesus uses in his Olivet Discourse with his disciples (cf. Mark 13:24,25; Matt 24:25; Luke 21:25), so we can see that all of these prophetic statements are linked together as one event.

 

Advertisement

In Luke’s Gospel he calls this “the time of the Gentiles”. This is when Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles; Jews will be killed, captured and enslaved until the “time of the Gentiles” is “fulfilled” (Luke 21:23-24 – contrast this with Revelation 11:1-2).

As we see from history, the Gentiles which trampled Jerusalem were the Romans. It was the Roman armies which surrounded the city, who burned it and eventually destroyed the temple, fulfilling all that Jesus had warned his disciples about.

In all three accounts of the “desolation”, Jesus warns his listeners to “flee to the mountains” and if you were in the city, to leave it; if you were outside, to stay out! The early Christians took this seriously and, as is well documented in the historical record, they fled! This is what is known as the “flight to Pella” (Mark 13:14-16; Matt 24:16-18; Luke 21:21).

Pella was about 75 miles north of Jerusalem, which, according to Google Maps, would take you 26 hours to walk! That may seem a long way to go, but this is exactly what the Jerusalem Church did as they heeded the warnings from Jesus, and also from an angelic encounter telling them where to flee to!

The people of the Church in Jerusalem were commanded by an oracle given by revelation before the war to those in the city who were worthy of it to depart and dwell in one of the cities of Perea which they called Pella. To it those who believed on Christ traveled from Jerusalem, so that when holy men had altogether deserted the royal capital of the Jews and the whole land of Judaea…"

Eusebius, Church History 3, 5, 3

For when the city was about to be taken and destroyed by the Romans, it was revealed in advance to all the disciples by an angel of God that they should remove from the city, as it was going to be completely destroyed. They sojourned as emigrants in Pella, the city above mentioned in Transjordania. And this city is said to be of the Decapolis."

Epiphanius, On Weights and Measures 15

Advertisement

So you see, these were not warnings for some far off future event in our lifetimes, but were a very real warning made my Jesus to very real people who were going to live through this terrible time roughly 40 years later (from their perspective)!

 

The “Rapture”?

Taking note of what happened with the Jerusalem Church being forewarned by an angel to flee the impending disaster, could this not be what Jesus was talking about in Matt 24:31?

“And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” 

Advertisement

His elect were gathered by an angel and removed to safety before the great tribulation came upon the holy city!

Finally, towards the end of this great prophecy by Jesus, he concludes with some parables encouraging his disciples to be watchful and not lose hope or faith. Likening this event to a fig tree sprouting when the seasons change, so the disciples must be mindful of all these signs foretelling when the end is near.

Matthew 24:33-34

So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

Advertisement

 

Let’s just break it down a little here:

“when you see these things taking place”

What “things”? The signs of war, armies surrounding the city, “portents” in the sky. Which then means that “the kingdom of God is near.”

Advertisement

 

“this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place”

Who will not “pass away”? The generation of people Jesus was speaking to at the time. Not only that, but they won’t pass “until all things have taken place” - the “things” previously mentioned.

 

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”

This is the part that trips most people up. It’s the “a-ha!” of the Futurist view in that they say “heaven and earth are still here, therefore it’s not happened yet!”

Much has been written about this1 and the “new heavens and new earth” but personally, and arguably contextually, this phrase used by Jesus seems more like hyperbole to emphasise his point that these things were definitely going to happen and nothing could stop it.

 

The New Heavens and the New Earth

Advertisement

This could very well be its own article since much has been written about this topic. But in relation to Jesus’ words in Matt 24:33, there are various views, ranging from it being symbolic of the Old Covenant and the New, to it being simply a renewal of this current Earth through the transforming power of the Gospel and the Church.

I'll probably cover this topic in more detail again, so for now I'll present a couple of interpretations — one from the Early Church, and another from more ‘recent’ history:

"For if the heavens are to be changed, assuredly that which is changed does not perish, and if the fashion of the world passes away, it is by no means an annihilation or destruction of their material substance that is shown to take place, but a kind of change of quality and transformation of appearance. Isaiah also, in declaring prophetically that there will be a new heaven and a new earth, undoubtedly suggests a similar view."

Origen (2nd Century), Principles, 2:6:4

"Thus there was a final end to the Old Testament world: all was finished with a kind of day of judgment, in which the people of God were saved, and His enemies terribly destroyed.”

Jonathan Edwards (1739), History of Redemption, vol. i. p. 445

"And the dissolution of the Jewish state was often spoken of in the Old Testament as the end of the world. But we who belong to the gospel-church, belong to the new creation; and therefore there seems to be at least as much reason, that we should commemorate the work of this creation, as that the members of the ancient Jewish church should commemorate the work of the old creation.”

Jonathan Edwards (1739), The Perpetuity and Change of the Sabbath (The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol 2)

Advertisement

 

The Desolation

One of our earliest extra-Biblical sources for showing how the destruction of Jerusalem was seen as the fulfilment of Matt 24 etc. amongst the early Christians comes from the Epistle of Barnabas (not the be confused with the much later 14th century forgery called “the gospel of Barnabas”).

This, along with other early texts known as “the Didache” and the "Shepherd of Hermas”, were books commonly given to new converts to read during the first century (Shepherd was even considered as Canon by various Early Church Fathers, such as Irenæus).

As an intriguing side-note, the 4th century “Codex Sinaiticus” included Barnabas and The Shepherd alongside the rest of the New Testament books in its canon.

Advertisement

Barnabas even links the 70AD event to the completion of “the Week” which harkens back to Daniel’s prophecy, as did many other early Christian writers over the first four centuries, such as: Clement of Alexandrea, Origen, Tertullian, and Athanasius.

You can see why they thought this way if you contrast Daniel 12:4, in which the angel tells Daniel to “seal up” his words “until the time of the end” with Revelation 22:10 where the angel tells John: “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near.

Barnabas 16:5-6

"Again, it was revealed how the city and the temple and the people of Israel should be betrayed … For it is written, ‘And it shall come to pass, when the week is completed, the temple of God shall be built...in the name of the Lord.’ I find...that a temple does exist. Having received the forgiveness of sins…in our habitation God dwells in us….This is the spiritual temple built for the Lord.”

Advertisement

 

The Temple Destroyed

So let's look at how it all “came to pass” according to the historical record by Josephus.

I’ve included some large quotes here from Josephus, documenting the destruction of the temple. It might seem a bit lengthy, but I thought it would be worth it in order to help in understanding just how great and terrible this Day really was!

Then one of the soldiers, without awaiting any orders and with no dread of so momentous a deed, but urged on by some supernatural force, snatched a blazing piece of wood and, climbing on another soldier's back, hurled the flaming brand through a low golden window that gave access, on the north side, to the rooms that surrounded the sanctuary. As the flames shot up, the Jews let out a shout of dismay that matched the tragedy; they flocked to the rescue, with no thought of sparing their lives or husbanding their strength; for the sacred structure that they had constantly guarded with such devotion was vanishing before their very eyes.

Advertisement

 

In Revelation 17:16-17 we see that “the whore” – ie. Jerusalem, will be hated by the Beast and will be motivated by God to fulfil their purposes to “burn her up with fire” as Josephus seems to indicate by saying the Roman soldiers were “urged on” by “supernatural force” to burn the temple, despite orders from their superiors to the contrary.

Crowded together around the entrances, many were trampled down by their companions; others, stumbling on the smoldering and smoked-filled ruins of the porticoes, died as miserably as the defeated. As they drew closer to the Temple, they pretended not even to hear Caesar's orders, but urged the men in front to throw in more firebrands. The rebels were powerless to help; carnage and flight spread throughout.

Most of the slain were peaceful citizens, weak and unarmed, and they were butchered where they were caught. The heap of corpses mounted higher and higher about the altar; a stream of blood flowed down the Temple's steps, and the bodies of those slain at the top slipped to the bottom.

Caesar … entered the building with his generals and looked at the holy place of the sanctuary and all its furnishings, which exceeded by far the accounts current in foreign lands and fully justified their splendid repute in our own.

Most of them were spurred on, moreover, by the expectation of loot, convinced that the interior was full of money and dazzled by observing that everything around them was made of gold … Caesar dashed out to restrain the troops, [but someone] pushed a firebrand, in the darkness, into the hinges of the gate. Then, when the flames suddenly shot up from the interior … no one was left to prevent those outside from kindling the blaze.

While the Temple was ablaze, the attackers plundered it, and countless people who were caught by them were slaughtered. There was no pity for age and no regard was accorded rank; children and old men, laymen and priests, alike were butchered; every class was pursued and crushed in the grip of war, whether they cried out for mercy or offered resistance.

… such was the height of the hill and the magnitude of the blazing pile that the entire city seemed to be ablaze; and the noise - nothing more deafening and frightening could be imagined.

Advertisement

 

This burning of the city and the temple is also what we can see in Revelation 18:9 which talks about the great city Babylon being ablaze, where the fires could be seen from afar by onlookers.

There were the war cries of the Roman legions as they swept onwards en masse, the yells of the rebels encircled by fire and sword, the panic of the people who, cut off above, fled into the arms of the enemy, and their shrieks as they met their fate. The cries on the hill blended with those of the multitudes in the city below; and now many people who were exhausted and tongue-tied as a result of hunger…

 

The Temple Mount, everywhere enveloped in flames, seemed to be boiling over from its base; yet the blood seemed more abundant than the flames and the numbers of the slain greater than those of the slayers. The soldiers climbed over heaps of bodies as they chased the fugitives.

 

Briefly looking back to Jesus’ other warnings about earthquakes (Matt 24:7), apart from those mentioned in Part One of this study, more happened later on during the siege on Jerusalem. This also ties in more with what is said in Revelation 11:13:

At that moment there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell; seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.

“Taking advantage of the panic caused by the earthquake, the Idumeans, who were in league with the Zealots, who occupied the temple, succeeded in effecting an entrance into the city, when a fearful massacre ensued. 'The outer court of the temple,' says Josephus, 'was inundated with blood, and the day dawned upon eight thousand five hundred dead.'”

— Flavius Josephus, Book IV, Chapter 5

 

To be continued…

To wrap up this before it gets far too long and wordy (there’s just so much more that could be said here!) I will finish with showing how accurate Jesus’ prophecy really was, down to the letter: when he said “not one stone will be left upon one another” he meant it! The Romans actually dug up the foundation of the temple!

“NOW as soon as the army had no more people to slay or to plunder, because there remained none to be the objects of their fury, (for they would not have spared any, had there remained any other work to be done,) Caesar gave orders that they should now demolish the entire city and temple, but should leave as many of the towers standing as were of the greatest eminency; that is, Phasaelus, and Hippicus, and Mariamne; and so much of the wall as enclosed the city on the west side. This wall was spared, in order to afford a camp for such as were to lie in garrison, as were the towers also spared, in order to demonstrate to posterity what kind of city it was, and how well fortified, which the Roman valor had subdued; but for all the rest of the wall, it was so thoroughly laid even with the ground by those that dug it up to the foundation, that there was left nothing to make those that came thither believe it had ever been inhabited. This was the end which Jerusalem came to by the madness of those that were for innovations; a city otherwise of great magnificence, and of mighty fame among all mankind.”

– Flavius Josephus. The Works of Flavius Josephus. Book VII. Chapter 1.1

 

I will address more of the connections and parallels with the Jewish War, the Olivet Discourse and Revelation in the next part of this study. Stay tuned!



Advertisement

 

Further Reading:

Contribute on Patreon

Enjoying this? Consider contributing regular gifts for this content on Patreon.
* Patreon is a way to join your favorite creator's community and pay them for making the stuff you love. You can simply pay a few pounds per month or per post that a creator makes, and in return receive some perks!

Subscribe to Updates
Order my new book today from Amazon or fortydays.co.uk

Subscribe to:

Have something to say? Leave a comment below.

Leave a comment   Like   Back to Top   Seen 722 times   Liked 0 times

Subscribe to Updates

If you enjoyed this, why not subscribe to free email updates and join over 114 subscribers today!

Order my new book today from Amazon or fortydays.co.uk

I've already subscribed / don't show me this again

Recent Posts

Lent, Lament and Lockdown

| 2 days ago | Coronavirus

Lent is a time of self denial and of giving things up, and also a period of lament in the lead up to Easter where we remember the Passion and death of Christ before we celebrated the glorious resurrection.  Often this is a personal affair on the discipline side of things, even if it's a practice shared within your church community, but this year has been so very different. With the outbreak of the coronavirus, or COVID-19, the whole world has slowly gone into lockdown country by country, creating a strange sort of global “Lent” where everyone is having to practice self control and self denial. This has been underpinned with a sense of lament at the way things were, the way things should be, and all of the things—and people—we've lost.  I don't think it's coincidental that the most isolating part of this pandemic happened during the Lenten season, causing us all, Christian or otherwise, to stop, step back and reflect on life. While it can feel a little gloomy of late with all the isolation and lack of social and religious meetings, we mustn't think that God has abandoned us—likewise we also shouldn't lose faith.   The Bible isn't a stranger to times of lament and distress, and we see it often in the Psalms. At times like this of limited food and resources and job loss, we can probably relate to David when he wrote things like this: Psalms 86:1 Incline your ear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. Psalms 102:1-2 Hear my prayer, O LORD; let my cry come to you. Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress. Incline your ear to me; answer me speedily in the day when I call. And such poetic sadness from the book dedicated to lament; Lamentations 3:16-18 He has made my teeth grind on gravel, and made me cower in ashes; my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, “Gone is my glory, and all that I had hoped for from the LORD.”   Hope in the face of darkness As we look forward to the end of this pandemic with hope like a light at the end of a tunnel, in the meantime we just learn to live in the darkness as the Apostles did on those gloomy days between the crucifixion and the resurrection; when their world ended but was then reborn better than ever expected! They only had to wait a couple of days to see their hope realised, whereas we have no idea how long this will last. How long will we go without seeing friends and family, meeting up at restaurants or going to church again? Only time will tell, but in the midst of this, we shouldn't worry but rather cling onto the hope of God as the Psalmist did, as the Apostles did and so many others before us.  And in the words of the author of Lamentations: “...the Lord will not reject forever … for he does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone.” (Lamentations 3:31,33).  There is always light at the end of darkness if we put our hope in Christ.  May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)...

Christians and the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

| 20th March 2020 | Coronavirus

We currently live in troubled times lately with a lot of uncertainty around us, both locally and globally. But even now as I write this and think on the topic of the virus, one verse in particular springs to mind: Psalm 23:4Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of deathI fear no evil;for you are with me;your rod and your staff — they comfort me. It does feel a little bit like we are all walking through “the valley of the shadow of death” at the moment! But as the Psalmist says, “I fear no evil” for God is with us and comforts us. That doesn’t necessarily mean we won’t get sick (or die), but that no matter what is happening around us, internally we should be at peace and have a stilled mind; not one filled with worry and hopelessness. John 14:27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. Not to mention the mandate to not worry about what we’ll eat or wear etc. (Matthew 6:25–34) especially in this time of panic buying where shops are facing food shortages. We must strive to avoid this type of thinking and behaviour, because not only does it not help anyone (and is incredibly selfish), it just causes more panic. As Christians we should keep in mind what God has spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.” (Isaiah 41:10), and what Paul wrote to Timothy that “God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power” (2 Timothy 1:7). Christians and Plagues Throughout History Disease, plagues and pandemics are not new things in this world. History is replete with sickness and death, the only difference now is that since around the 20th century, modern medicine and vaccines have improved to such a degree that we are fairly well protected against anything on a pandemic, or even an epidemic, level. Sickness is often relegated to a temporary inconvenience during winter, which we can pop pills for; whereas the more serious sickness and death are hidden away in hospitals and care homes out of sight for the most part. Prior to this time, past generations just had to deal with recurring diseases and plagues killing off the populations fairly regularly. Just take a look at this infographic to see the scale and frequency of them! It dates back all the major pandemics to the second century, of which there are about twenty, so that’s just over one global disease per century. As scary as the current times are, this is nothing new, historically speaking. In these past times of plague and disease, many people would flee their towns and cities if they weren’t obviously sick to try and escape the looming deadly virus — but the Christian communities often had the opposite response: they stayed with the sick and dying! In the year 249 AD, a pandemic swept the Roman Empire known as The Plague of Cyprian, named in commemoration of Cyprian, the bishop of Carthage, as he was a witness to it. At the height of the outbreak, it was thought that around 5,000 people a day were dying, and it almost toppled the Empire. Cyprian wrote about the plague in his On Mortality, describing its symptoms, which some modern historians think could describe a type of Ebola: This trial, that now the bowels, relaxed into a constant flux, discharge the bodily strength; that a fire originated in the marrow ferments into wounds of the fauces; that the intestines are shaken with a continual vomiting; that the eyes are on fire with the injected blood; that in some cases the feet or some parts of the limbs are taken off by the contagion of diseased putrefaction; that from the weakness arising by the maiming and loss of the body, either the gait is enfeebled, or the hearing is obstructed, or the sight darkened… As gruesome as that sounds, Cyprian, a couple of chapters later, writes in praise of those who forsook their own well-bei...

Is fasting an expectation for Christians?

| 29th February 2020 | Fasting

The season of Lent is here once again which of course brings up the topic of fasting, since the tradition of Lent comes from following Jesus’ example of his time in the wilderness (Luke 4:1–2). I wasn’t planning on writing anything specific this year like I have previous in previous years, but I felt inspired today at church from one of Gospel readings: Matthew 9:14–15 Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “The wedding guests cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.” Often times when the topic of fasting, or Lent, comes up, people are quick to defend their inaction towards self-denial by claiming that, “Jesus didn’t command us to fast!”. Let’s take a look at that claim for a moment. There may be no chapter and verse you can point to where Jesus says, “Thou shalt fast” — but it was certainly implied in a couple of places when Jesus spoke on the topic, the verse from Matthew above being one of those times, when he finishes off by saying: “and then they will fast” after the “bridegroom” (ie. Jesus) is taken away (death and ascension into heaven). The other time Jesus talks about fasting is a little earlier on in Matthew’s Gospel, in chapter six: Matthew 6:16–18 And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Here we can see that Jesus clearly speaks with the expectation that his followers will fast and even gives instructions and guidance on how to do so and how to avoid being lumped together with the “hypocrites” (sometimes translated as Pharisees). When Jesus tells us how to fast and when it will be appropriate, he was making sure to raise the bar again as he did with many things he taught on. As the Jewish leaders would fast in an obvious way to make sure that everyone could witness their apparent piety, Jesus was telling his followers to go about the business like normal; to get up, have a wash and not look miserable in their hunger. Reading past the Gospels and into Acts and the Epistles, we begin to see how the Apostles and other early believers took Jesus seriously and did begin to fast once the “bridegroom” has been taken away from them. In Acts, the Church was fasting and praying when making decisions about missionary work and who to send (Acts 13:2–3), before appointing leaders (Acts 14:23) and oftentimes fasting preceded receiving visions from God, which we see in both Old and New Testaments (Acts 10:10; 11:5; 22:17). Fasting was also used for various other needs people wanted from God, like petitioning for answers in prayer, for protection, forgiveness or simply for humbling yourself (Ezra 8:21; Nehemiah 1:4; 9:1; Esther 4:3; Psalm 35:13; 69:10; Daniel 9:3; Joel 2:12; Zechariah 8:18–19). As you can see, fasting has a long and active tradition within Judaism, which passed on into Christianity quite naturally. During Second Temple Judaism, biweekly fasts were a common practice amongst Jews (see Luke 18:12 for a brief mention of it), and this is what Jesus would have been targeting in his teaching in Matt. 6. A late first century text from the early church, called The Didache (which was a sort of “church handbook”), expands on this teaching of Jesus and demonstrates to us how the earliest believers understood this and carried on the practice of fasting, taking the familiar model they were used to in Judaism, and reshaping it: But let not your fasts be with the hypocrites; for they fast...

Losing a Loved One: A Few Ways to Find Solace

| 29th January 2020 | Death

This week I have a guest post by Lucille Rosetti from thebereaved.org looking at the hard topic of death. As Christians we shouldn't fear death, and ought to look on it with a paradoxical hope, since we know that through Christ death has lost its "sting" (1 Cor 15:55-57) and that we look forward to the Resurrection and life to come. But even with that in mind, the physical and earthly loss is still hard and something we need to process and deal with, and the following guest post aims to help with the practical side of loss which still needs to be dealt with. Leave your thoughts in the comments! Losing a loved one is difficult. It always comes as a shock and requires you to set aside some time to properly grieve your loss. In addition to dealing with your emotional