Jesus was standing in the court of God’s holy Temple making powerful declarations against the Pharisees and religious leaders. Now it was time for the seventh and final woe (see Story 167 for the first six woes). The fullness of Christ’s righteous wrath and hatred for sin and corruption poured out in a stunning rebuke. Imagine the fierce and holy zeal of His voice:
“‘Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, “If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.” So you testify against yourselves that you are descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers!‘”
How magnificent He must have been, standing in righteous glory, defying the arrogance of wicked and powerful men. The wrath of God is often described in Scripture as the filling of a cup. God endures with sinful humanity for a certain period of time until that cup is full. At that point, the cup will pour out and the unrepentant wicked will have no choice but to drink the consequences of what their choices have wrought (see Job 21:20-21; Is. 51:17-22; Jer. 25:15; Rev. 14:10 and 16:19). It is a frightening and awesome image that should drive each one of us to our knees in prayer!
For thousands of years, sinful leaders in Israel had persecuted God’s messengers. Wicked kings brought idols into God’s holy city and false prophets declared lies to the people. God sent His righteous servants…judges and prophets and kings…to purify His nation, but often, the evil men of their time would oppress them and try to silence them as they preached God’s Word. God’s wrath against those who persecuted His saints had been filling up throughout the history of God’s nation. As the religious leaders of Jesus’ day rejected the Savior, as they tried to silence His message and plotted His death, they were filling that cup all the more. The time was coming when God would fully vindicate His faithful ones. His wrath was going to be poured out.
With His final woe, Jesus cried out:
“‘Ýou snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to Hell?'”
The sin of the religious leaders was not only destroying the hope of the nation, it was sealing their own eternal fate. As the Son of God declared their final doom, did their hearts tremble at all?
“‘Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify: others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah’s son Berekiah, whom you murdered between the Temple and the altar. I tell you the truth, all of this will come upon this generation.'”
Wow. What a prophecy! Jesus declared that He was going to raise up people to proclaim His truth, and these very religious leaders would hunt them down and kill them, just as the evil men of history who were full of violence and murder had done. He declared that the fullness of God’s wrath against all the terrible times of history when His righteous ones were persecuted would be poured out on the religious leaders for their relentless evil and rebellion. And Jesus predicted that it would all come about in the lives of those who were standing in the Temple courts that day.
We can look back on that generation and see that the words of Jesus came true. These very religious leaders who rebelled against their Messiah would also persecute the servants of Christ. They would put His disciples to death, chase them out of Jerusalem, and hunt them down across the land. They would utterly reject God’s magnificent blessing of honoring the nation of Israel with the Savior of the world.
How the Lord Jesus grieved! How deep was His sorrow that they did not return His love! This is what He said:
“‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you, desolate. For I tell you, you will not see Me again until you say, ”Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'”
Once again, the Lord was declaring a prophesy about the future. As He walked through the City of David over His years of ministry, He had longed and yearned to gather up His people in His arms, taking them under His wings in loving protection, but they would not let Him. And so a great desolation was coming. The city that was meant to welcome the Messiah had refused its purpose. And judgment would come in the form of a desolation.
We know now that this prophesy was absolutely true. Within Christ’s generation, Jerusalem would be utterly destroyed. In 70 AD, the city of Jerusalem was laid completely waste by the Roman Empire, and the nation of Israel was wiped off the map. The Jewish people fled out to other places, creating small, scattered remnants throughout the surrounding nations. They were expelled from the Land of Promise and exiled to pagan nations that had no regard for their way of life. Israel would not become a nation again for almost two thousand years. But one day, the time will come when Jesus will return. He prophesied that on that day, the people of Jerusalem will sing, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” Finally, finally, He will gather His people…those who put their faith in Him…under His wings for all eternity.