To Fulfill all that is Written

22for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. (Luke 21:22 ESV)

Jesus’ Prediction

In Luke 21, Jesus gives an prophecy of staggering events that revolve around Jerusalem and His second coming. In the middle of His prophecy, He says that this period of time will be the “days of vengeance” which will fulfill all that is written.

Many commentators have tried to primarily apply the passage in Luke 21 to the events of 70AD, but if we look carefully at verse 22 and the overall flow of the passage it is clear that the events of 70 AD cannot fulfill Jesus’ prophecy. There are key events in the passage that did not take place in the first century and in verse 22 there are two key phrases Jesus’ uses to clearly communicate that this is an end-time prophecy.

“…these are the days of vengeance…” – The first phrase in the verse tells us the timing of the period of time that Jesus is referring to. The phrase “days of vengeance” refers to a very specific time in history. It is a specific Old Testament phrase used by the prophets to refer to an event that has not yet happened.

“…to fulfill all that is written.” – The second phrase in the verse tells us the purpose of this period of time. These days are intended to fulfill all that is written. The prophecy is Jerusalem centric, so Jesus is referring to a fulfillment of all the things written concerning the city of Jerusalem. This is Jesus’ assurance that He will fulfill everything He has said about Jerusalem. Again, 70 AD did not fulfill in any way all the things that are written about Jerusalem. The desolation of the city in the first century did not fulfill all that the prophets have written about the city. If the staggering events of this chapter are intended to fulfill “all that is written” then we should understand the main themes of what was written in order to understand what Jesus is referring to.

The key to understanding the prophecy is to recognize that it is Jerusalem centric. There is a global context to the prophecy (Luke 21:10), but the prophecy is focused on Jerusalem (Luke 21:20) because Jesus is committed to fulfilling all that was prophesied concerning Jerusalem.

20“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. (Luke 21:20 ESV)

In the passage Jesus highlights several prophetic themes related to the city of Jerusalem that will be resolved in the days of vengeance. These themes are all recorded in the Old Testament prophets. By understanding Luke 21, and the Old Testament passages Jesus refers to, we can better understand the themes Jesus was thinking about and the ones He emphasized when He summarized what the prophets predicted about Jerusalem in the time of His return. Key themes that Jesus predicts will be fulfilled in this passage include the following:

The Days of Vengeance – This is a day that the prophets all longed for. It is one of the main timing indicators in the passage (Luke 21:22).

The Invasion and Preservation of Jerusalem – There will be a final assault on Jerusalem from the nations accompanied by a divine preservation of a remnant under siege (Luke 21:20-24). Jesus emphasizes this siege because He wants us to be prepared for it and to understand it (Luke 21:28).

The National Repentance and Salvation of Israel – The result of the siege will be shocking to the nations. It will not end in the destruction of Jerusalem, but instead will set a context for Israel’s national repentance and her national salvation when Jesus intervenes and cuts short the siege (Luke 21:27-28).

The Return of all the Exiles – Jesus connects both Israel’s experience of exile and Israel’s deliverance as a remind that when He delivers Jerusalem He will, as the greater Moses, lead the entire Jewish people back to the land (Luke 21:24, 28).

The Rule of Messiah from Jerusalem – The climax of the prophecy and the resolution of the siege on Jerusalem is the return of Messiah, His judgment of the nations, and the beginning of His Messianic reign in Jerusalem. This is what brings to fulfillment all the written about Jerusalem (Luke 21:22, 27).

Each of these themes must be understood by the church in order to cooperate with God’s purposes. The earth has seen limited expressions of some of the negative and positive dynamics that surround the days of vengeance. However, we have never seen a full expression of the days of vengeance. God has restrained Himself throughout history in order to give time for repentance (2 Peter 3:9). However, Isaiah tells us that He will not always remain silent.

14For a long time I have held my peace; I have kept still and restrained myself; now I will cry out like a woman in labor; I will gasp and pant. 15I will lay waste mountains and hills, and dry up all their vegetation; I will turn the rivers into islands, and dry up the pools. (Isaiah 42:14–15 ESV)

This is exactly why Jesus highlights the days of vengeance. Because we have seen limited expressions of the positive and negative dynamics that are prophesied surrounding Jerusalem – and we will continue to until the end of the age – we need a reference point that indicates the this is the final fulfillment of all that is written. That reference point is the release of God’s vengeance on the nations.

More than once a siege around Jerusalem has brought much destruction and more than once God has released supernatural deliverance in Israel. However, He has never released the full measure of His vengeance and judgment on the nations.

The release of God’s vengeance means the end of the season of mercy and the beginning of His judgments until renewal. His judgments are connected to His plan for restoration, and the arrival of His vengeance means that He has closed the door for mercy and has shifted into the purging of the earth in preparation for His reconstitutions of the nations under Jesus’ leadership. When God releases His vengeance it will be a terrible thing. We cannot even imagine the magnitude of it. Amos describes the terror of that day:

18Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord! Why would you have the day of the Lord? It is darkness, and not light, 19as if a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him, or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall, and a serpent bit him. 20Is not the day of the Lord darkness, and not light, and gloom with no brightness in it? (Amos 5:18–20 ESV)

The day of God’s vengeance is the day He fully responds to the wickedness of the nations. In that day, God will so thoroughly judge wickedness that no possibility exists past that point for another installment of what the prophets have written. After that point, Jerusalem will never face trouble again. Israel will never be compromised again. The nations will never again display that type of arrogance against God’s chosen King and His chosen city.

Because of the significance of the day of God’s vengeance we must understand what has been written about it and the accompanying prophetic themes that Jesus references in the passage. Each of these themes was significant enough for Jesus to highlight it, so we should be familiar with them.

The Days of Vengeance

In the Old Testament prophets, the vengeance of God is always associated with His zeal for Jerusalem and His repayment to the nations in context to their attitude towards Jerusalem. Jesus associated the phrase “days of vengeance” with the fulfillment of all that is written, because the phrase is an established Old Testament phrase that predicts God’s swift and sudden judgment on the nations who participate in a siege on Jerusalem.

8For the Lord has a day of vengeance, a year of recompense for the cause of Zion. (Isaiah 34:8 ESV)

4Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.” (Isaiah 35:4 ESV)

2to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; (Isaiah 61:2 ESV)

1Who is this who comes from Edom, in crimsoned garments from Bozrah, he who is splendid in his apparel, marching in the greatness of his strength? “It is I, speaking in righteousness, mighty to save.” 2Why is your apparel red, and your garments like his who treads in the winepress? 3“I have trodden the winepress alone, and from the peoples no one was with me; I trod them in my anger and trampled them in my wrath; their lifeblood spattered on my garments, and stained all my apparel. 4For the day of vengeance was in my heart, and my year of redemption had come. 5I looked, but there was no one to help; I was appalled, but there was no one to uphold; so my own arm brought me salvation, and my wrath upheld me. 6I trampled down the peoples in my anger; I made them drunk in my wrath, and I poured out their lifeblood on the earth.” (Isaiah 63:1–6 ESV)

6“Flee from the midst of Babylon; let every one save his life! Be not cut off in her punishment, for this is the time of the Lord’s vengeance, the repayment he is rendering her. (Jeremiah 51:6 ESV)

Many other passages describe God’s judgment of the nations during the days of vengeance. In each of these passages, God releases His judgment in context to Israel. This is also what Jesus predicts in Matthew 25:31-46 when He tells us that He will judge the nations on the basis of how they responded to the “least of these my brethren” who, in context, are the Jewish people. The judgment event predicted in Matthew 25 is the judgment of Joel 3 and Zechariah 14. Jesus affirmed the prediction of the prophets that He would judge the nations in context to their treatment of the Jewish people.

4The sound of a tumult is on the mountains as of a great multitude! The sound of an uproar of kingdoms, of nations gathering together! The Lord of hosts is mustering a host for battle. 5They come from a distant land, from the end of the heavens, the Lord and the weapons of his indignation, to destroy the whole land. 6Wail, for the day of the Lord is near; as destruction from the Almighty it will come! 7Therefore all hands will be feeble, and every human heart will melt. 8They will be dismayed: pangs and agony will seize them; they will be in anguish like a woman in labor. They will look aghast at one another; their faces will be aflame. 9Behold, the day of the Lord comes, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger, to make the land a desolation and to destroy its sinners from it. 10For the stars of the heavens and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be dark at its rising, and the moon will not shed its light. 11I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will put an end to the pomp of the arrogant, and lay low the pompous pride of the ruthless. 12I will make people more rare than fine gold, and mankind than the gold of Ophir. 13Therefore I will make the heavens tremble, and the earth will be shaken out of its place, at the wrath of the Lord of hosts in the day of his fierce anger. (Isaiah 13:4–13 ESV)

15“For behold, the Lord will come in fire, and his chariots like the whirlwind, to render his anger in fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. 16For by fire will the Lord enter into judgment, and by his sword, with all flesh; and those slain by the Lord shall be many. (Isaiah 66:15–16 ESV)

30“And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. 31The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. 32And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls. 1“For behold, in those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, 2I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. And I will enter into judgment with them there, on behalf of my people and my heritage Israel, because they have scattered them among the nations and have divided up my land, 3and have cast lots for my people, and have traded a boy for a prostitute, and have sold a girl for wine and have drunk it. 4“What are you to me, O Tyre and Sidon, and all the regions of Philistia? Are you paying me back for something? If you are paying me back, I will return your payment on your own head swiftly and speedily. 5For you have taken my silver and my gold, and have carried my rich treasures into your temples. 6You have sold the people of Judah and Jerusalem to the Greeks in order to remove them far from their own border. 7Behold, I will stir them up from the place to which you have sold them, and I will return your payment on your own head. 8I will sell your sons and your daughters into the hand of the people of Judah, and they will sell them to the Sabeans, to a nation far away, for the Lord has spoken.” 9Proclaim this among the nations: Consecrate for war; stir up the mighty men. Let all the men of war draw near; let them come up. 10Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weak say, “I am a warrior.” 11Hasten and come, all you surrounding nations, and gather yourselves there. Bring down your warriors, O Lord. 12Let the nations stir themselves up and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; for there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations. 13Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Go in, tread, for the winepress is full. The vats overflow, for their evil is great. 14Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision. 15The sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining. 16The Lord roars from Zion, and utters his voice from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth quake. But the Lord is a refuge to his people, a stronghold to the people of Israel. 17“So you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who dwells in Zion, my holy mountain. And Jerusalem shall be holy, and strangers shall never again pass through it…21I will avenge their blood, blood I have not avenged, for the Lord dwells in Zion.” (Joel 2:30-3:1-17, 21 ESV)

8On that day the Lord will protect the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the feeblest among them on that day shall be like David, and the house of David shall be like God, like the angel of the Lord, going before them. 9And on that day I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. (Zechariah 12:8–9 ESV)

2For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women raped. Half of the city shall go out into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city. 3Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. 4On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward. 5And you shall flee to the valley of my mountains, for the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azal. And you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him. 6On that day there shall be no light, cold, or frost. 7And there shall be a unique day, which is known to the Lord, neither day nor night, but at evening time there shall be light. 8On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea. It shall continue in summer as in winter. (Zechariah 14:2–8 ESV)

9And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day the Lord will be one and his name one. 10The whole land shall be turned into a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem. But Jerusalem shall remain aloft on its site from the Gate of Benjamin to the place of the former gate, to the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Hananel to the king’s winepresses. 11And it shall be inhabited, for there shall never again be a decree of utter destruction. Jerusalem shall dwell in security. 12And this shall be the plague with which the Lord will strike all the peoples that wage war against Jerusalem: their flesh will rot while they are still standing on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths. 13And on that day a great panic from the Lord shall fall on them, so that each will seize the hand of another, and the hand of the one will be raised against the hand of the other. 14Even Judah will fight at Jerusalem. And the wealth of all the surrounding nations shall be collected, gold, silver, and garments in great abundance. 15And a plague like this plague shall fall on the horses, the mules, the camels, the donkeys, and whatever beasts may be in those camps. (Zechariah 14:9–15 ESV)

It is not enough for the nations to demonstrate their “vengeance” on Jerusalem – God will demonstrate His vengeance as well. This is why the phrase refers to the time of God’s final judgment of the nations and not 70 AD. God clearly did not release His vengeance on the nations in the first century. By quoting these passages, Jesus is connecting the negative events of Luke 21:20-24 with His deliverance which is described in Luke 21:25-28.

By connecting this day of vengeance with the fulfillment of all things, Jesus is echoing the “consummation” language of Daniel 9:27 and the promise of Daniel 9:24. This is the time when both the negative and the positive predictions of the prophets concerning Jerusalem are fulfilled. The “desolation” in Jerusalem that Jesus is predicting in Luke 21:20 will end in the judgment of the nations and the salvation of all of Israel. The “days of vengeance” will be God’s response to the antagonism of the nations against His plan for Jerusalem, and any time of desolation or trouble in Jerusalem that does not result in this end it cannot be the time of desolation and vengeance that Jesus is referring to.

This phrase is intended to both give courage to Israel and serve as a warning for the nations. For Israel, and particularly Jerusalem, this prophesy gives courage because it is a promise that God’s judgment will come on the nations. He will answer them in vengeance for what they do to Jerusalem.

For the nations, this is a warning because Jesus is telling us ahead of time what His emotions and His response will be in the final assault on Jerusalem. The phrase “vengeance” is meant to encapsulate both Jesus’ emotions and His response on behalf of Jerusalem.

God’s vengeance will bring an end to the arrogance of the nations towards God’s plan for Jerusalem and simultaneously secure Israel’s salvation. His vengeance will not come in a vacuum because it is directly related to the other themes that Jesus highlights in these passage. Each of these themes must be fulfilled in the days of vengeance in order to fulfill what the prophets have written concerning Jerusalem.

The Final Invasion and Supernatural Preservation of Jerusalem

God’s vengeance does not simply emerge in a vacuum and this relates to another key prophetic theme – the final invasion and supernatural preservation of Jerusalem. This final invasion will be the ultimate resistance of the nations to God’s plan to set Jesus in Jerusalem as His King (Psalm 2:6; 110:2). This invasion of Jerusalem is what ultimately sets the context for God to demonstrate His zeal and His vengeance on behalf of Jerusalem and the Jewish people.

There are two distinct aspects of this invasion, which must be held in tension. The first is that it represents the final, more terrible assault of the nations on God’s purposes for Jerusalem. The prophets describe it as the most severe hour in Jerusalem’s history. It will be the greatest challenge yet to God’s promises for that city and for the Jewish people.

10Your holy cities have become a wilderness; Zion has become a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation. 11Our holy and beautiful house, where our fathers praised you, has been burned by fire, and all our pleasant places have become ruins. 12Will you restrain yourself at these things, O Lord? Will you keep silent, and afflict us so terribly? (Isaiah 64:10–12 ESV)

7Alas! That day is so great there is none like it; it is a time of distress for Jacob; yet he shall be saved out of it. (Jeremiah 30:7 ESV)

1“At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. (Daniel 12:1 ESV)

6And someone said to the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the stream, “How long shall it be till the end of these wonders?” 7And I heard the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the stream; he raised his right hand and his left hand toward heaven and swore by him who lives forever that it would be for a time, times, and half a time, and that when the shattering of the power of the holy people comes to an end all these things would be finished. (Daniel 12:6–7 ESV)

1Blow a trumpet in Zion; sound an alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming; it is near, 2a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness! Like blackness there is spread upon the mountains a great and powerful people; their like has never been before, nor will be again after them through the years of all generations. 3Fire devours before them, and behind them a flame burns. The land is like the garden of Eden before them, but behind them a desolate wilderness, and nothing escapes them. 4Their appearance is like the appearance of horses, and like war horses they run. 5As with the rumbling of chariots, they leap on the tops of the mountains, like the crackling of a flame of fire devouring the stubble, like a powerful army drawn up for battle. 6Before them peoples are in anguish; all faces grow pale. 7Like warriors they charge; like soldiers they scale the wall. They march each on his way; they do not swerve from their paths. 8They do not jostle one another; each marches in his path; they burst through the weapons and are not halted. 9They leap upon the city, they run upon the walls, they climb up into the houses, they enter through the windows like a thief. 10The earth quakes before them; the heavens tremble. The sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining. 11The Lord utters his voice before his army, for his camp is exceedingly great; he who executes his word is powerful. For the day of the Lord is great and very awesome; who can endure it? (Joel 2:1–11 ESV)

16Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of hosts, the Lord: “In all the squares there shall be wailing, and in all the streets they shall say, ‘Alas! Alas!’ They shall call the farmers to mourning and to wailing those who are skilled in lamentation, 17and in all vineyards there shall be wailing, for I will pass through your midst,” says the Lord. 18Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord! Why would you have the day of the Lord? It is darkness, and not light, 19as if a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him, or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall, and a serpent bit him. 20Is not the day of the Lord darkness, and not light, and gloom with no brightness in it? (Amos 5:16–20 ESV)

15“So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), 16then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, 18and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. 19And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! 20Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. 21For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. 22And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. (Matthew 24:15–22 ESV)

14“But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 15Let the one who is on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house, to take anything out, 16and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. 17And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! 18Pray that it may not happen in winter. 19For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be. (Mark 13:14–19 ESV)

20“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. 21Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, 22for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. 23Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people. 24They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. 25“And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, 26people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. (Luke 21:20–26 ESV)

12Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” 13And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. (Revelation 12:12–13 ESV)

17Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea. (Revelation 12:17 ESV)

Daniel asks about the timing of the fulfillment of the things written (Daniel 12:6) and he is told that they will be fulfilled when the strength of the holy people is “shattered.” This does not mean that God is aiming at the destruction of the Jewish people, but rather that He will bring His people to their end of their natural strength. Human solutions will all fail at this time and that will set the stage for God’s supernatural deliverance.

Though passages like Daniel 12 ultimately focus on God’s deliverance of Israel, the body of Jesus will go through the test as well. If Israel will be brought to the end of her strength, we can be sure that God will bring the entire church to the end of her strength as well. This will set the stage for God’s power to be demonstrated in His people.

This is one of the key purposes of this final trial. Israel, and all mankind, will be brought to the very end of human strength and, at the end of that strength, Israel will experience the deliverance of God as He acts on her behalf to secure her salvation.

The second aspect of the invasion that must also be recognized is the supernatural preservation of the city. Multiple passages make it clear that God will preserve a remnant in the city with supernatural power. Though the land endures an unprecedented invasion and the Lord allows Israel to come to the end of her strength, He also divinely preserves portions of the city to make a divine statement that the invasion will ultimately not succeed. In the same way that Jesus suffering on the cross set the stage for His resurrection, Jerusalem’s final suffering will not result in death but in resurrection.

2For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women raped. Half of the city shall go out into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city. (Zechariah 14:2 ESV)

22And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. (Matthew 24:22 ESV)

2but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months. 3And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” 4These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. 5And if anyone would harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes. If anyone would harm them, this is how he is doomed to be killed. 6They have the power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire. (Revelation 11:2–6 ESV)

12Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” 13And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. 14But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. 15The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood. 16But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth. (Revelation 12:12–16 ESV)

This invasion involves both the terror of the final assault on Jerusalem as well as God’s supernatural preservation of the city. The invasion, which is ultimately a statement against God’s promise to Jesus to rule in that city, is what sets up the context for His vengeance. It is one of the things must be fulfilled. His supernatural preservation of a remnant in the city will be a divine witness of God’s promise that deliverance is coming.

National Repentance and Salvation of Israel

The nations will surround Jerusalem for the purposes of destruction, but God will use the situation to bring about the national salvation of Israel. There will be an increasing salvation of the Jewish people throughout the nations, but a saved remnant, no matter how large, is not enough. God has promised a day when Israel will be saved as a nation and therefore to bring this age to a God must save all of Israel (Jeremiah 31:34). The time of the Lord’s vengeance on the nations will be the time of Israel’s salvation.

10“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn. 11On that day the mourning in Jerusalem will be as great as the mourning for Hadad-rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. 12The land shall mourn, each family by itself: the family of the house of David by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself, and their wives by themselves; 13the family of the house of Levi by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the Shimeites by itself, and their wives by themselves; 14and all the families that are left, each by itself, and their wives by themselves. 1“On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness. (Zechariah 12:10–13:1 ESV)

Zechariah is the prophet who most clearly describes this day. Zechariah describes a moment when the nation suddenly recognizes Jesus, “the one whom they have pierced,” as their deliverer. Zechariah’s language invokes a comparison to the story of Joseph and his brothers. Joseph’s rejection by his brothers ultimately served the purpose of God to put Joseph in place so that he could deliver his brothers during a 7-year time of trouble. In the same way Jesus, though rejected by the nation in His first coming, is ultimately going to be the means of Israel’s preservation and deliverance.

Just as there was great weeping when Joseph’s brothers realized who he was and that the one whom they rejected had become their means of deliverance, so also Zechariah describes the tender weeping of the nation as it embraces its elder brother who, though rejected in the past, will be the means of the nation’s deliverance.

It is important to recognize just how central Zechariah 12 is in Jesus’ prediction of the fulfillment of all things. When Jesus describes His second coming in Matthew 24, the first passage He quotes in Zechariah 12. That tells us that when Jesus thinks about His second coming, the first thing in His mind is the moment when He is received by Israel as their deliverer. That is how precious and important this moment is to Him.

30Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. (Matthew 24:30 ESV)

Many read Matthew 24:30 quickly and assume that it is referring to the mourning of the nations because of Jesus’ judgment, but that is not what the verse is referring to. Jesus is specifically quoting Zechariah 12. This tells us that Israel’s salvation and reconciliation with Him as Messiah is the first thing Jesus thinks about when He thinks about His second coming. If it is that big a priority for Him, it should be that big a priority for us as well.

John also emphasizes Zechariah 12 as one of the main purposes of the events in the book of Revelation. When John introduces the book of Revelation and sets the context for the book, one of the first passages he references is Zechariah 12.

7Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. (Revelation 1:7 ESV)

Again, this reveals the significance of this passage to New Testament eschatology. John is setting the context of the book of Revelation and presenting the book as the means by which God will bring Israel as a nation to repentance. By quoting that verse John reveals that this event has a high priority in His thinking and in God’s end time plan. John’s use of this passage in Revelation 1 is an expression of his confidence that the events of Revelation will bring to pass Zechariah’s prophecy and he quotes it to give his readers courage that God will fulfill what He has spoken concerning Israel’s salvation.

At the time of Israel’s salvation, there will also be a supernatural deliverance that involves the release of Jesus’ judgments and the empowering the Jewish people.

6“The sound of an uproar from the city! A sound from the temple! The sound of the Lord, rendering recompense to his enemies! 7“Before she was in labor she gave birth; before her pain came upon her she delivered a son. 8Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Shall a land be born in one day? Shall a nation be brought forth in one moment? For as soon as Zion was in labor she brought forth her children. 9Shall I bring to the point of birth and not cause to bring forth?” says the Lord; “shall I, who cause to bring forth, shut the womb?” says your God. 10“Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice with her in joy, all you who mourn over her; 11that you may nurse and be satisfied from her consoling breast; that you may drink deeply with delight from her glorious abundance.” 12For thus says the Lord: “Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream; and you shall nurse, you shall be carried upon her hip, and bounced upon her knees. 13As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem. 14You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice; your bones shall flourish like the grass; and the hand of the Lord shall be known to his servants, and he shall show his indignation against his enemies. (Isaiah 66:6–14 ESV)

11Now many nations are assembled against you, saying, “Let her be defiled, and let our eyes gaze upon Zion.” 12But they do not know the thoughts of the Lord; they do not understand his plan, that he has gathered them as sheaves to the threshing floor. 13Arise and thresh, O daughter of Zion, for I will make your horn iron, and I will make your hoofs bronze; you shall beat in pieces many peoples; and shall devote their gain to the Lord, their wealth to the Lord of the whole earth. (Micah 4:11–13 ESV)

4On that day, declares the Lord, I will strike every horse with panic, and its rider with madness. But for the sake of the house of Judah I will keep my eyes open, when I strike every horse of the peoples with blindness. 5Then the clans of Judah shall say to themselves, ‘The inhabitants of Jerusalem have strength through the Lord of hosts, their God.’ 6“On that day I will make the clans of Judah like a blazing pot in the midst of wood, like a flaming torch among sheaves. And they shall devour to the right and to the left all the surrounding peoples, while Jerusalem shall again be inhabited in its place, in Jerusalem. 7“And the Lord will give salvation to the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem may not surpass that of Judah. 8On that day the Lord will protect the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the feeblest among them on that day shall be like David, and the house of David shall be like God, like the angel of the Lord, going before them. (Zechariah 12:4–8 ESV)

As Israel embraces their Messiah, God will fulfill His ancient promises to empower them against their enemies and to judge their enemies on their behalf.

It is important to understand the timeline of God’s judgment. God’s final judgment of Israel will precede His final judgment of the nations. Therefore, the hour of Israel’s national salvation will also be the hour of the judgment of the nations. This is why God’s judgment of the nations is described as the time of His vengeance on the nations for the sake of Israel. He releases His judgment on the nations after He is finished with Israel’s covenant discipline. Peter summarizes this biblical principle in 1 Peter.

17For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? (1 Peter 4:17 ESV)

Peter summarizes the Old Testament prediction God’s judgment of Israel precedes His judgment of the nations (Isaiah 10:12. Jeremiah 25:29; 49:12. Ezekiel. 9:6. Malachi 3:5). Because God releases His vengeance on the nations after His judgment of Israel that is another reason why the “days of vengeance” signal the time of the fulfillment of all things. When God releases His vengeance on the nations, it will mean that Israel’s final judgment is complete, and He will never judge Israel again. All that the prophets have written about Israel’s trouble at the hands of the nations will be fulfilled when the days of vengeance begin.

Notice also that Peter describes the severity of God’s judgments. God’s judgment of His own people can seem severe, but there is a profound difference in His judgments that lead Israel to salvation and His judgments on the nations.

After Israel’s national salvation, Jerusalem and the land will dwell in peace and safety. Jerusalem will never again come under the kind of siege and invasion it will endure in the end times. God has long promised that a day will come when Israel possesses the land in peace and safety and that peace and safety will be the result of the release of His vengeance on the nations (Genesis 12:1-3, 7; 13:15; 15; 17:7-8, 19; 25:5-6; 26:3; 28:3-4; 35:9-15; Leviticus 26:42; Deuteronomy 32:43; 1 Chronicles 16:17-18; Psalm 105:10-11; Isaiah 32:17-18; 60:21; 61:8-9; Jeremiah 24:6; 32:40-41; Ezekiel 11:17; 36:26-28; Amos 9:15).

Return of all the Exiles

What begins in Jerusalem will affect the entire nation of Israel and the Jewish people throughout the nations of the earth. A key part of the salvation of Israel will be the end of the exile. While God has brought the Jewish people back to the land multiple times since the exile began, biblically the exile does not come to a final end until all Jewish people are brought back to the land. Biblically, exile is an expression of God’s discipline, and so the salvation of the nation will set into motion the fulfillment of the promise to bring the entire Jewish people back to the land. This is a key prophetic promise in the Old Testament since the days of the Assyrian invasion of northern Israel.

10In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious. 11In that day the Lord will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant that remains of his people, from Assyria, from Egypt, from Pathros, from Cush, from Elam, from Shinar, from Hamath, and from the coastlands of the sea. 12He will raise a signal for the nations and will assemble the banished of Israel, and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. 13The jealousy of Ephraim shall depart, and those who harass Judah shall be cut off; Ephraim shall not be jealous of Judah, and Judah shall not harass Ephraim. 14But they shall swoop down on the shoulder of the Philistines in the west, and together they shall plunder the people of the east. They shall put out their hand against Edom and Moab, and the Ammonites shall obey them. 15And the Lord will utterly destroy the tongue of the Sea of Egypt, and will wave his hand over the River with his scorching breath, and strike it into seven channels, and he will lead people across in sandals. 16And there will be a highway from Assyria for the remnant that remains of his people, as there was for Israel when they came up from the land of Egypt. (Isaiah 11:10–16 ESV)

8Behold, I will bring them from the north country and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, the pregnant woman and she who is in labor, together; a great company, they shall return here. 9With weeping they shall come, and with pleas for mercy I will lead them back, I will make them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble, for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn. 10“Hear the word of the Lord, O nations, and declare it in the coastlands far away; say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him, and will keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock.’ (Jeremiah 31:8–10 ESV)

25“Therefore thus says the Lord God: Now I will restore the fortunes of Jacob and have mercy on the whole house of Israel, and I will be jealous for my holy name. 26They shall forget their shame and all the treachery they have practiced against me, when they dwell securely in their land with none to make them afraid, 27when I have brought them back from the peoples and gathered them from their enemies’ lands, and through them have vindicated my holiness in the sight of many nations. 28Then they shall know that I am the Lord their God, because I sent them into exile among the nations and then assembled them into their own land. I will leave none of them remaining among the nations anymore. (Ezekiel 39:25–28 ESV)

6“I will strengthen the house of Judah, and I will save the house of Joseph. I will bring them back because I have compassion on them, and they shall be as though I had not rejected them, for I am the Lord their God and I will answer them. 7Then Ephraim shall become like a mighty warrior, and their hearts shall be glad as with wine. Their children shall see it and be glad; their hearts shall rejoice in the Lord. 8“I will whistle for them and gather them in, for I have redeemed them, and they shall be as many as they were before. 9Though I scattered them among the nations, yet in far countries they shall remember me, and with their children they shall live and return. 10I will bring them home from the land of Egypt, and gather them from Assyria, and I will bring them to the land of Gilead and to Lebanon, till there is no room for them. (Zechariah 10:6–10 ESV)

God has been gracious several times in history to regather a large number of the Jewish people back to the land, but the prophets predict that the exile must end with a return of the entire Jewish people to the land. This return is predicted in numerous passages including Psalm 14:7; 102:13,19, 20; Isaiah 11:11-12,15-16; 27:12-13; 35:5-6; 41:9; 42:6-7; 43:6-7,16; 49; 52:11-12; 60:4; 61:1-3; 66:20; Jeremiah 31:8-10; Ezekiel 39:25-28; Joel 2:32-3:1; Hosea 11:11; Micah 2:12-13; 4:6-7; 5:6; 7:12; and Zechariah 10:6-11. The exiles will not only be brought back to the land, this time they will be brought to the land in peace and safety because the final end of the exile is also the final end of God’s judgments on Israel.

The Rule of Messiah from Jerusalem

The salvation of Jerusalem and the resolution of the military crisis that surrounds it is all part of a plan to bring about the ultimate prediction of the prophets – the rule of Messiah from Jerusalem. The Messianic Psalms that are most quoted in the New Testament all emphasize God’s unmovable prediction that His Son will reign from Jerusalem. This is the great capstone – the ultimate fulfillment of all that is written concerning Jerusalem. This is the prophetic fulfillment that ultimately secures the fulfillment of all the other prophecies.

1Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 2The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, 3“Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” 4He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. 5Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, 6“As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” 7I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. (Psalm 2:1–7 ESV)

1The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” 2The Lord sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your enemies! (Psalm 110:1–2 ESV)

14Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! 15The Lord has taken away the judgments against you; he has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil. (Zephaniah 3:14–15 ESV)

4and said to him, “Run, say to that young man, ‘Jerusalem shall be inhabited as villages without walls, because of the multitude of people and livestock in it. 5And I will be to her a wall of fire all around, declares the Lord, and I will be the glory in her midst.’ ” (Zechariah 2:4–5 ESV)

1And the word of the Lord of hosts came, saying, 2“Thus says the Lord of hosts: I am jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I am jealous for her with great wrath. 3Thus says the Lord: I have returned to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem, and Jerusalem shall be called the faithful city, and the mountain of the Lord of hosts, the holy mountain. (Zechariah 8:1–3 ESV)

Messiah is the one who will march on the city of Jerusalem filled with zeal. He is the one who will personally execute the days of vengeance.

1Who is this who comes from Edom, in crimsoned garments from Bozrah, he who is splendid in his apparel, marching in the greatness of his strength? “It is I, speaking in righteousness, mighty to save.” 2Why is your apparel red, and your garments like his who treads in the winepress? 3“I have trodden the winepress alone, and from the peoples no one was with me; I trod them in my anger and trampled them in my wrath; their lifeblood spattered on my garments, and stained all my apparel. 4For the day of vengeance was in my heart, and my year of redemption had come. 5I looked, but there was no one to help; I was appalled, but there was no one to uphold; so my own arm brought me salvation, and my wrath upheld me. 6I trampled down the peoples in my anger; I made them drunk in my wrath, and I poured out their lifeblood on the earth.” (Isaiah 63:1–6 ESV)

This is the ultimate promise that must be fulfilled. God must establish His King in the city of Jerusalem, and the coronation of the King will be what brings the fulfillment of all that is written concerning Jerusalem (2 Samuel 7:12-13; Psalm 2; 27:7-10; 98:6-9; 110; Isaiah 9:6-7; 11:1-10; 32:1-2; 63:1-3; Ezekiel 37:24-28; Zephaniah 3:14-15; Zechariah 14:9; Matthew 1:1; 9:27; John 1:49-50; Acts 17:7; Revelation 19:14-16).

This is the reason that Jesus answered the rulers of Jerusalem that way He did in Matthew 23:39.

39For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’ ” (Matthew 23:39 ESV)

In Matthew 23:39 Jesus tells the leaders of Jerusalem that they will not see Him again until they welcome Him as the one sent by the Lord. After giving them that prediction, He walks out of Jerusalem and He leaves the city the way following the same path that David followed when Absalom betrayed him (2 Samuel 15:30). The greater David, like the ancient David, also suffered betrayal in Jerusalem.

When Jesus told the leaders of the city they would not see Him again, He was not simply referring to them visually seeing Him. They would see Him again later that week because they would arrest Him and participate in His public crucifixion. Jesus was referring to the sight of Him entering the city as its King because Matthew 23 is part of a narrative that begins in Matthew 21:4-11 with Jesus’ triumphal entry into the city.

In Matthew 21, Jesus enters Jerusalem in the way Zechariah prophesied the Messiah would and Jesus appears ready to rule. However things go horribly wrong from there and in the chapters that follow, Jesus exposes the deep conflict between Himself and Israel’s leaders. His summary of that conflict is Matthew 23:39 – the leaders of the city will not see Jesus enter the city as it’s King again until they are in agreement with Him and welcome Him as the one sent by His Father.

This verse sets the context for Matthew 24 in which the disciples ask Jesus a key question:

3As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3 ESV)

The disciples saw Jesus enter Jerusalem in Matthew 21 the way that Zechariah prophesied the Messiah would, so this is a very fair question – if the fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophesy was not the initiation of the Messianic reign what would be?

Jesus gives His answer in Matthew 24-25, by describing events that will set up the context for Matthew 23:39 to be fulfilled. Matthew 24-25 is a parallel passage to Luke 21 and helps us to understand that the ultimate point of both Matthew 24-25 and Luke 21 is the fulfillment of God’s promise that His Son will rule and reign in the city of Jerusalem. The days of vengeance described in Luke 21:22 can only be fulfilled when Jesus comes as King because He is the one who will execute God’s judgment on the nations.

27For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. (Matthew 16:27 ESV)

18And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. (Matthew 28:18 ESV)

22The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, (John 5:22 ESV)

27And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. (John 5:27 ESV)

42And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. (Acts 10:42 ESV)

31because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:31 ESV)

16on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. (Romans 2:16 ESV)

1I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: (2 Timothy 4:1 ESV)

This is precisely why Paul tells us that Jesus is the one who will release God’s vengeance.

7and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. (2 Thessalonians 1:7–10 ESV)

Because Jesus is the one who will judge the nations and release God’s vengeance, the “days of vengeance” are inseparable from Jesus. Jesus only releases God’s vengeance when He is put in His proper place in Jerusalem. Vengeance will not be released o the nations until Jesus is put in place because He is the one who must execute it and this is why this period of time is so central to the fulfillment of what is written. Vengeance begins when the Son takes His place in Jerusalem and that is the ultimate fulfillment of all the things written about Jerusalem.

Conclusion

Jesus is committed to fulfill everything that is written in the prophets concerning Jerusalem, and that fulfillment will come in the day that He releases His vengeance. The release of His vengeance is both a hope for Israel and a warning for the nations. The release of God’s vengeance on the nations means the end of Israel’s trouble because it is an expression of God’s retribution on the nations for Israel’s trouble. The promise of His vengeance is the promise that He will defend Israel and respond to her suffering.

Just as God did with His Son Jesus and just as He does with all His people, God will mature Israel through suffering and when she is brought to maturity He will vindicate her in the sight of the nations. Jesus suffered, but will be vindicated in a spectacular way, and the same will be true for Israel. She has suffered, but her vindication is coming and it will be spectacular when it comes.

The release of His vengeance also means the full expression of God’s judgment, which is something the nations have never seen in history. When this happens it will be staggering. The Exodus and the Flood are both prototypes of this event – both are of the same kind as the final judgment, but of a lesser measure. What is coming will exceed them both.

Jesus gave the information in Luke 21 to encourage Israel. He knew 70 AD was coming and that the centuries that followed would make the situation of Jerusalem and the Jewish people seem hopeless. He also knew that Israel would emerge again in 1948 and again face what seems like a hopeless situation. He knew that Jerusalem would be under siege both in 70 AD and again at the end of the age. He gives a firm assurance that everything that is written concerning Jerusalem will come to pass in order to put hope in our hearts.

Jesus also gave this information as a warning to the nations. That means we must understand His warning make it plain to the nations. We are called to warn the nations about Jesus’ zeal to fulfill all that is written concerning Jerusalem which includes the coming days of vengeance when He will suddenly and dramatically fulfill all that is written. As a people we are called to understand not just so that we can teach the nations, but also so that we can understand what is coming and partner with God’s plan with understanding in confidence that He will bring it all to pass.

Luke 21 is a Jerusalem centered passage. There are other unique dynamics in the end times besides the things that specifically relate to that city. There are also other things written that will be fulfilled during the millennium and even beyond. However, Luke 21 is a passage focused on what has been written concerning the city of Jerusalem.

By looking at the things Jesus highlights in Luke 21, we can see what was in Jesus’ mind when he thought about the fulfillment of all that was written about Jerusalem. That fact that Jesus emphasized Jerusalem’s prophetic future tells us how central it is to Him.

In Luke 21:22 Jesus also tells us that end time fulfillment revolves around the release of God’s vengeance on the nations. In that single statement Jesus summarizes several prophetic predictions concerning the city of Jerusalem and also makes Himself, as the Judge, central to the fulfillment of the promises.

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