In Matthew 12 we find a short passage that intrigues me. In it Jesus said that when a demon is cast out of a man it wanders around in dry places looking for a new host. Unable to find one it returns to its original host and finds it empty, swept clean and decorated. It then invites seven other spirits more evil than itself to join it. The final condition of that man is far worse than the first.
Now, I always thought Jesus was teaching about demonology. But he wasn’t.
It’s the next sentence that gives us the reason for the teaching. Jesus finished by saying that this is what life will be like for this evil generation. The New American Standard version says it the best: That is the way it will also be with this evil generation. The teaching on demons was just an analogy, it was not meant to be taken literally. He was talking about a whole generation of Israelites, the whole nation. So, what was Jesus referring to?
For a clue, let’s look at one of his other similar statements for a clue. Matthew 24:1-35 gives us great detail about what is going to happen to this generation (Verse34). The passage begins with the disciples calling Jesus’ attention to the physical glory and architectural spendour of the temple in Jerusalem. Jesus immediately tells them that the temple is going to be demolished in violent fashion. Intrigued, the disciples ask for more details so Jesus spends verses 3 to 34 telling them what will happen in the lead up to the destruction of the temple. We know the passage has nothing to do with the end times as it finishes with him telling them this generation will not pass away until all these things have happened. There’s that term again.
Over in Luke 11: 45-53 we see the same term pop up in the same context. An expert in the law attacked Jesus for insulting him (verse 45). To which Jesus made some very strong remarks and finished with the statement that this generation will be held responsible for all the blood of the prophets shed since the beginning of the world.
So now we have three instances of the same term being used for the same purpose; to give a prophetic announcement that the Judaic system of religion with its ridiculous laws, social suppression and control, its inbuilt hypocrisy, onerous systems of worship, and cultural pride would be demolished within a generation.
And it happened just as Jesus prophesied.
In the late first century the Jews rebelled against their Roman occupiers. By 70AD Jerusalem was been retaken and then completely wiped out. Over a million people died in the rebellion and 100,000 were taken to Rome as trophy slaves to be employed building their famous Colosseum. Titan’s victory arch next to the Colosseum still displays the images carved in stone of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD. This wholesale destruction of Israel was what Jesus was talking about. The Christians were warned and when they saw the storm clouds on the horizon the fled Israel as told to by Jesus (Matthew 24:15-20). Israel as a nation ceased to exist in 70AD until May the 14th 1948!
In fact, the Book of Revelation is also mostly about this single seismic event. Consider the following clues:
First, the book of Revelation itself opens by telling all who were about to read the document that it concerns events that must shortly take place (Rev 1:1). The original readers were also told, as concerns the book, to heed the things which are written in it, for the time is near (Rev 1:3). Clearly the events prophesied in the book had immediate relevance to the original readers.
Second, the theme of the book is strongly connected with the destruction of Jerusalem (Rev 11:2, 8, 17:18, 18:9, 19-20), an event that historically took place in 70AD.
Third, John speaks of Nero Caesar as still on the throne (Rev 17:9-10), Nero died in June 68AD.
Fourth, Daniel spoke of the future restoration of Jerusalem, the coming of the Messiah, the sealing up of prophecy and vision, and the destruction of Jerusalem along with its temple in Daniel 9:24-27. Daniel also told us that all prophecy would be sealed before the destruction of Jerusalem, and we know from history that Jerusalem was destroyed in 70AD.
So, there is a lot more to this little passage than meets the eye. I’m sure the statements about demons coming home to roost in an empty human host are correct, but the bigger picture here is the gigantic spiritual switch from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant as witness by the physical, spiritual, political and religious divorce of the nation of Israel once the birth of the church had been completed.
The rest, they say, is history!