You will not finish going through the Cities of Israel before the Son of Man Comes
Matthew 10:5-36 Commentary including Matthew 10:23 Explained! “You will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes”: Summary and Highlights
Many Christians wish to have Matthew 10:23 explained; here Jesus says, “You [the disciples] will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” In Matthew 10:23, Matthew 16:27-28, Matthew 24, Mark 8:38-9:1, Mark 14:61-62, and John 21:22-23 Jesus promises to return within his generation, specifically within the lifetime of the Apostle John and the High Priest Caiaphas. Two first century Roman historians recorded a miraculous event in A.D. 66 that appears to be Jesus Christ in the presence of a multitude of angels in the sky. This miracle marked the start of the most tragic war in Israelite history, a war whose outcome saw the literal fulfillment of seemingly every end time prediction in the Bible.[i] For the incredible evidence see the following commentary on Matthew 10:5-36.
The following may seem unbelievable. However, all information is taken from unbiased historical records and is easily verifiable. Sources listed at the end.
You will not finish going through the Cities of Israel before the Son of Man Comes
5These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.
Matthew 10:5-6 Commentary: With the Jewish War just Decades away, Jesus preached primarily to Jews because belief in His Message saved not only Their Souls, but also Their Lives.
Throughout his ministry, Jesus spoke repeatedly of an impending disaster. Just over thirty years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, Israel faced its darkest hour—the war with Rome. The church historian Eusebius records an exodus of Jewish Christians out of Jerusalem before the arrival of the Roman army.[ii] Faith in Christ and his message not only saved these people’s souls, it also saved their lives. It is for this reason that Jesus limited his ministry to the people of Israel.
14If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. 15I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.
Matthew 10:15 Commentary: Jesus’ Reference to the Day of Judgment in v. 15 is Intentional. The Jewish War began in Tishri, a Month that begins with the Day of Judgment.
Though there is an underlying message about hell in this verse, v. 15 is also fulfilled in the Jewish War.[iii] In A.D. 66, Israel declared war on Rome. Rome responded by sending the 12th legion in addition to thousands of auxiliaries from neighboring kingdoms. These troops arrived under Cestius in Tishri, a month that begins with the Day of Judgment. It is on this day that trumpets sound the somber days of atonement and final judgment.[iv] Thus began the Jewish War.[v]
Matthew 10:15 Commentary: Josephus says the Jewish War was the Worst War the Jews ever Faced.
Concerning this war, Jesus warned, “For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again (Matthew 24:21).” In this verse and v. 15, Jesus prophesied concerning the Jewish War. Confirming Jesus’ prediction, Josephus says that the Jewish War was, in fact, the worst war the Jews ever faced.[vii]
21“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 22All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.
Matthew 10:15 Commentary: A Large Multitude of Christians were Martyred after being betrayed by Their Brethren during Nero’s Persecution.
Partial fulfillment of v. 21 can be found in the details surrounding the Neronic persecution. Concerning this mass execution of Christians, Tacitus writes:
Therefore, first those who admitted to it [being Christian] were arrested, then on their information a very large multitude was convicted, not so much for the crime of arson as for hatred of the human race. Derision was added to their end: they were covered with the skins of wild animals and torn to death by dogs; or they were crucified and when the day ended they were burned as torches.[viii]
According to Tacitus on the testimony of a few, a multitude of Christians were killed in a horrific manner fulfilling v. 21: “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death.” The strife described in v. 21 is mentioned by Jesus again in vs. 34-37. The fulfillment of these verses will be discussed in greater detail there. But before Jesus continues to describe this dissension, he promises to return within the lifetimes of his contemporaries:
23When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
Matthew 10:23 Explained! “You will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes” Matthew 10:23 Commentary: The Initial Aspect of the Second Coming is described in Revelation 19:11-14. Here Jesus leads an Army of Angels in the Sky.
In this verse, Jesus specifically addresses his disciples. Here he promises to return before many of them even finish their ministry in Israel. The initial aspect of the second coming is described in detail in Revelation 19:11-14. Here, Jesus rides a white horse leading an army of angels on horseback on the clouds.
Matthew 10:23 Explained! “You will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes” Matthew 10:23 Commentary: The Second Coming is recorded in Roman History.
An eerily similar event is recorded to have occurred in Iyyar of A.D. 66 at the start of the Israel’s war with Rome:
[O]n the twenty-first day of the month of Artemisius [Jyar], a certain prodigious and incredible phenomenon appeared; I suppose the account of it would seem to be a fable, were it not related by those that saw it, and were not the events that followed it of so considerable a nature as to deserve such signals; for, before sunsetting, chariots and troops of soldiers in their armor were seen running about among the clouds, and surrounding of cities.[ix]
The Jewish historian Josephus describes a heavenly army in the clouds much like the army Jesus leads in Revelation 19:11-14. The pagan historian Tacitus also mentions this event: “In the sky appeared a vision of armies in conflict, of glittering armour.”[x] The parallels between these two accounts and Revelation 19 are striking.
For a more detailed explanation of this amazing appearance of Christ that literally fulfills Revelation 19:11-14 and many other predictions concerning the second coming see Jesus, the Son of Man, was LITERALLY Seen in the Clouds in A.D. 66. During the Jewish War and the death of the lawless one, Jesus made other miraculous appearances. These various appearances of Christ during and shortly after the Jewish War are a climatic exemplification and fulfillment of seemingly all the various ways in which God appeared to people in the Old and New Testaments. They also seem to literally fulfill every detail of every prophecy concerning the parousia or second coming. See Historical Evidence that Jesus was LITERALLY SEEN in the Clouds in the First Century.
In Isaiah 9:6, the prophet calls the future Messiah the Prince of Peace. In the following verses, Jesus shocks his disciples by promising to bring strife and discord:
34“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.
Matthew 10:34 Commentary: The Sword of the Prince of Peace is the Word of God.
The prophets predicted that the Messiah would come and establish a peaceful kingdom. According to Jesus, this peace was to be preceded by war. In v. 34, Jesus says he brings a sword. The sword spoken of here is pictured in Revelation 19:15. In Revelation 19, Jesus returns with a sword in his mouth leading an army in the sky during the second coming. Ephesians 6:16 indicates that the sword of the Spirit is the word of God. Furthermore, in John 1 Christ is called the Word of God. This title illustrates Christ’s role as the embodiment of God’s message to his people.
One of the central points of Jesus’ teaching was to warn his followers of the coming war. In Matthew 24:21-22, Jesus describes the severity of the coming tribulation and provides his people with signs indicating when they should flee Jerusalem to preserve their lives. One of these signs is mentioned in Matthew 24:30: “At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky.” What could this sign be?
Perhaps it was a sword hovering over the sky of Jerusalem? It would be hard to imagine a better symbol of Christ as the Word of God, since, as stated in Ephesians 6:16, the sword symbolizes the word of God. This symbol of God’s message would remind Jesus’ followers of his teaching concerning the coming tribulation. Upon seeing this omen in the sky, perhaps these Jewish Christians were reminded of Jesus’ words recorded in Matthew 24 warning them that the end is at hand and that now is the time to flee? Is there any historical evidence of such a sign?
Matthew 10:34 Commentary: As a Reminder of Jesus’ Warnings concerning the impending War, a Sword-Shaped Star hovered over Israel in A.D. 66.
Yes. A year before the Jewish revolt, Josephus mentions a star-shaped sword hovering over the city of Jerusalem. Could this be the sign of the Son of Man mentioned in Matthew 24:30? Concerning this portent, Josephus says that the people were so badly deceived by false prophets that they had not given credit “to the signs that were so evident and did so plainly foretell their future desolation; but, like men infatuated, without either eyes to see, or minds to consider, did not regard the denunciations that God made to them. Thus there was a star resembling a sword, which stood over the city, and a comet, that continued a whole year.”[xviii]
It would not be surprising if the zealots, eager to overthrow their Roman oppressors, saw in this star-shaped sword a divine call to arms. Perhaps this omen indicated to them that God would also take up his sword against Rome and aid them in their struggle? In truth, the sword had another function. As indicated in Revelation 19:15, it was Christ’s tool to strike down the nations and that includes both Rome and Judea. This heavenly sword hovering over Judea overlooked a land of strife. In the following verses, Jesus says:
35For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— 36a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’
Matthew 10:35-36 Commentary: Josephus describes how the War with Rome pitted Family Members against One Another.
The war with Rome tore families apart. Concerning this dissension, Josephus writes:
There were besides disorders and civil wars in every city; and all those that were at quiet from the Romans turned their hands one against another. There was also a bitter contest between those that were fond of war, and those that were desirous of peace. At the first this quarrelsome temper caught hold of private families, who could not agree among themselves; after which those people that were the dearest to one another, brake through all restraints with regard to each other, and everyone associated with those of his own opinion, and began to stand in opposition one to another; so that seditions arose everywhere.[xix]
In the quote above one can see the literal fulfillment of vs. 21 and 35-36: “For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.”
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Interested in THE PRETERIST VIEW OF ESCHATOLOGY, or are you a PRETERIST struggling with a prophecy or verse? It DID happen just like the Bible says! If you liked this essay, see PRETERIST BIBLE COMMENTARY for a detailed explanation of the FULFILLMENT OF ALL MAJOR END TIME PROPHECIES IN THE BIBLE. The more unbelievable the prophecy, the more amazing and miraculous the fulfillment!
Also see Historical Evidence that Jesus was LITERALLY SEEN in the Clouds in the First Century. For an explanation of how the end of the age and its fulfillment during the Jewish War mirror Genesis 1-3; how the Bible teaches that the resurrection of the dead is a resurrection of heavenly bodies to heaven, not a resurrection of perfected earthly bodies; and how the resurrection is a mirror opposite of the fall see How the Jewish War and Resurrection to Heaven Mirror Genesis and the Fall; and How Preterism fixes the Age of the Earth Problem and unravels the Mysteries in Genesis.
[ii] Eusebius The History of the Church 3.5.
[iii] Perhaps the Jews who rejected the teachings of the apostles were consigned to a more severe punishment in the life to come than the citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah?
[iv] This fact accounts for the seven trumpets of Revelation.
[v] Josephus indicates that the twelfth legion and a number of auxiliaries arrived in Ptolemais seemingly at the end of Elul or the beginning of Tishri. (Josephus The Wars of the Jews 2.18.9) Josephus describes several brisk marches and brief skirmishes throughout Galilee that would seem to last roughly one month before Josephus states that Cestius had arrived in Lydda. When the Roman general arrived at Lydda, he found the majority of the city had left to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. This holiday began on the fifteenth of Tishri and ended on the twenty-second. This gave the Romans about fourteen to twenty-four days to complete the battles described by Josephus in The Wars of the Jews 2.18.9-2.19.1 taking into account the fact that the people of Lydda would have to travel twenty miles to Jerusalem. By my estimation, it seems that the Romans must have begun their attack not more than a couple days away from the Feast of Trumpets, on the first day of Tishri, because fourteen to twenty-four days is a very likely timeframe between the arrival of the Romans and Cestius’ arrival at Lydda described in this portion of The Wars of the Jews.
[vii] Josephus The Wars of the Jews preface 1, preface 4.12, 5.10.5.
[viii] Tacitus Annals 15.44.4, cited in Robert E. Van Voorst, Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmanns, 2000), 42.
[ix] Josephus The Wars of the Jews 6.5.3.
[x] Tacitus The Histories 5.13.
[xviii] Josephus The Wars of the Jews 6.5.3.
[xix] Ibid., 4.3.2.
Matthew 10:5-36 Commentary including Matthew 10:23 Explained! “You will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes”: Conclusion
As explained in this preterist commentary on Matthew 10:5-36 including Matthew 10:23 explained, it appears that Jesus was right when he said to his disciples, “You will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”