Destruction of Jerusalem
Jesus was to send His disciples unto the Jewish nation and the world (Matthew
28:18-20; Mark 16:15,16; Luke 24:45-49; Acts 1:8), who would be endowed with
special gifts (Mark 16:17-20; 1 Corinthians 12:28-30) and would bear witness that
they were from God (Hebrews 2:1-4) until the full revelation of God was given in
the perfect law of liberty (James 1:25; 1 Corinthians 13:8-10; Ephesians 4:10-14).
These disciples would be prophets, wise men, and scribes, some of whom would
be scourged (2 Corinthians 6:3-10; 11:23), some of whom be persecuted from
city to city, and some of whom would be killed, even by crucifixion. This is what
the Jews of Jesus time were to do and did to those whom He sent forth, for the
Jews were the same in character as Cain who slew Abel, and their fathers who
had slain Zacharius.
Truly they did fill "the measure" of their fathers (Matthew 23:29-33). The Jews
had constantly striven against the Holy Spirit by rejecting the messengers sent of
God, even the only begotten Son of God (Acts 7; Matthew 21:33-46). Therefore,
they would pay in the present generation of Jesus' time the price for shedding
righteous blood, "all the righteous blood shed upon the earth." "Verily I say unto
you, All these things shall come upon this generation."
Jerusalem, that great city of God, the place of the temple, the capitol of Israel and
Judah; yet, the same people who rejected the messengers of God, the prophets,
killing them, stoning them. How often God had sent tot hem His Word to draw
them back in the olden days! How often Jesus would have turned them back to
God and taken them under His loving protection! Yet, they rebelled! They
refused! Because they have left God, not because God has left them, their
house is left desolate. They have forsaken He Who could fill their house with
blessings, and therefore have nothing. The nation of Israel would not see Jesus
again until He came in His kingdom in fulfillment of Psalm 118:19-29. They would
see Him through the eyes of faith as the corner stone rejected, proclaiming with
their heart and soul, "Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the LORD."
Jesus having departed from the temple, was approached by His disciples for the
purpose of showing Him the buildings of the temple -- those edifices which were
the pride of Israel, because of the mammoth size of the construction and the
precious materials used, leading the national pride of Israel to believe that the
buildings would last until the end of the world itself. (The disciples evidently took
part in this national pride.)
Jesus responded to the disciples that not one stone would be left upon another; it
would all be destroyed.
When Jesus sat down upon the Mount of Olives, the disciples questioned Him
further about His statement about the temple. The disciples really asked two
questions which were fused into one in their mind because of the national pride in
the temple. (1) When shall these things (the destruction of the temple buildings)
be?; and, (2) What shall be the sign of Jesus' coming, and the end of the world?
Although the questions fused as one in the minds of the disciples, they are
separated in answer and fact by Jesus and History.
Jesus answered the questions of the disciples in the same manner in which we
would do if asked a series of questions, in the order they were asked. First,
Jesus speaks concerning the destruction of the temple buildings (Matthew
24:4-35; Mark 13:1-31; Luke 21:5-33); and then, speak of His second coming
and the end of the world (Matthew 24:36-25:46; Mark 13:32-37).
The disciples are warned to not be deceived by the many false Christs, or
Messiahs, which would come into the world claiming to be the Promised One of
Israel deceiving many people. Josephus records a number of parties after the
death of Christ claiming to establish a physical kingdom, making a messianic
claim (Ant. XX.5.1; 8.6,10; Wars II.13.4,5).
Wars and rumors of wars, nation rising against nation, kingdom against kingdom,
would come to pass before the end of the temple buildings. The disciples should
not be troubled by these things for they must come to pass, but the end of the
buildings would be later. Time and time again the Romans and the Jews fought
against one another and spoke of fighting against one another. The Roman
empire was in an almost constant state of war before the destruction of Jerusalem.
In addition to the political unrest in world, there would be numerous "natural"
disasters: famines, pestilences, and earthquakes, in various places. Josephus,
Tacitus, Suetonius, Philostratus and Seneca are all unbelieving historians who
write of famines (such as told of in Acts 11:28), pestilences (one which destroyed
over 30,000 people in the city of Rome alone), and earthquakes (such as in
Crete a.d. 46 or 47; in Rome a.d. 51; in Apamaea a.d. 53; in Laodicea a.d. 60;
and in Campania a.d. 62 or 63), all before the destruction of Jerusalem by the
Romans in a.d. 70.
Yet, the political unrest and the natural disasters were but the beginning of
sorrows (ASV -- travails). The disciples were to be delivered to be afflicted and to
be killed, and they were hated by all peoples for the sake of Christ. Indeed, the
prophecy of Jesus on the persecution of the disciples was fulfilled prior to a.d. 70,
as even a casual reading of the Acts of the Apostles will bear out (Acts 4:3;
5:18,40; 7:59; 8:3; 12:1,2; 14:19; 16:19-24; 22:30; 24:1; 25:2,3). According to
Tacitus, Suetonius, and Pliny, Christians became the scum of the earth for the
Roman Empire. Christians were persecuted for one reason, they were
Christians. According to tradition, John was the only apostle alive at the time of
the destruction of Jerusalem; all the others had been killed. Many stumbled and
sinned; many betrayed their brethren (Matthew 10:34-37); hatred was common
amongst families; even as Jesus foretold. False teachers arose from without and
within. All of the books of the New Testament in the epistles were written before
the downfall of the temple buildings. A casual reading of these epistles will show
the reality of false teachers deceiving many. Jesus promised His disciples the
inspiration of the Holy Spirit to guide them as they were brought before the
tribunals. They would not have to think or study what to say, but the Holy Spirit
would inspire them. The evil persecution and wicked condition of society caused
many to fall from grace. But those who endured the sorrow, the travail, the
persecution, shall be saved, not physically (although a physical deliverance was
to be given), but more importantly spiritually.
The gospel of the kingdom had to be preached unto all the world before the end
of the temple buildings and Jerusalem. The good news that the kingdom of God
and of Christ was among men "was preached to every creature which is under
heaven" prior to a.d. 70 (Colossians 1:23).
When the disciples saw the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel, they
were to flee. Daniel spoke of unholy men standing upon the holy ground
surrounding Jerusalem (Daniel 9:23,25,27; 12:11). Luke reads: "But when you
see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that her desolation is at
hand." "Holy place" here is a different phrase in the Greek than that referring to
the "holy place" of the temple. The phrase used to describe the holy place of the
temple is en too hagioo (in the holy); but, the phrase used here is en topoo
hagioo (in a place holy). Those in Judea were to flee into the protection of the
mountains. There was no time for delay! The man on the housetop would not
have time to gather any of his possessions from the house, the man in the field
would not have time to go back for a coat; they must flee immediately. Trouble
would be those who were slowed in their escape, those who were pregnant and
had infants. The disciples needed to pray that the time would not come on a
sabbath when the gates of Jerusalem would be shut and they could not leave,
nor that it would be in the wintertime that the weather would hinder their flight.
The time of the abomination of desolation with the destruction of the temple would
bring a time of great tribulation, greater than the world had ever seen, or ever
would see. "No other city ever suffered such miseries, nor did any age, from the
beginning of the world, ever breed a generation more fruitful in wickedness than
this was." "If the miseries of all mankind from the creation were compared with
those which the Jews then suffered, they would appear inferior." So Josephus
describes the destruction of Jerusalem, a.d. 70. Mothers ate their babies; men
starved; civil war prevailed in Jerusalem; men ate bird droppings; etc. One
million, one hundred thousand people died in two months. The tribulation was of
such a great extent that all involved would be destroyed except it be shortened;
and for the sake of Christians God did shorten it.
Again, following the tribulation, Jesus warns the disciples against false Christs
and false prophets. These evil men would work "great signs and wonders"
deceiving the people, even the faithful if possible. This is a continuing warning.
They were not to believe it if they were told Jesus was in the desert; they were not
to go forth to private places. As the lightening that comes from one end of the
sky and lightens up the opposite end that all can see, so the physical coming of
the Son of God shall be. One can tell where the carcass is by the flight of the
buzzards. The second coming of Christ (in the physical sense) will be public,
open to all (Revelation 1:7).
Immediately after the tribulation there appear great signs in heaven: the sun
darkened; the moon not giving light; the stars fall from heaven; the powers of the
heaven shaken. These same symbols are used in Isaiah 13 and Joel 2 to
describe the wane of the glory, honor, prestige, and power of Babylon and
Jerusalem. The signs immediately follow the destruction of the temple buildings;
they are not removed, but are immediate. Therefore, the most reasonable
explanation is that these signs bespeak of he wane of the glory, honor, prestige,
and power of the Jewish nation upon the destruction of Jerusalem. The coming
of Jesus then must be understood in the light of the same type of signs and
symbols as are found in the preceding verse. In Isaiah 19:1, the Lord is spoken
as coming in the clouds of heaven in judgment upon Egypt. Thus here, is
continued the prophetic language of the Old Testament in the prophets speaking
not of a literal physical coming, but of a coming in judgment upon Jerusalem. The
messengers of the Lord (for that is what the word angel means) are sent to the
four corners of the earth to gather together those who are called according to the
gospel of the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The gospel, although spread
throughout the world prior to the destruction of Jerusalem, enjoyed an almost
uninhibited spread with the removal of the last bastion of its greatest opposition,
Judaism. Now the gospel goes literally from one end of the earth to the other.
Everything in verses 29-31 must be understood in the light of verse 34. The
qualification that Jesus, Himself, put upon the verses prior to His statement of
verse 34 cannot be ignored. Jesus said, "Verily, I say unto you, This generation
shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled." Everything that He has said prior
to verse 34 must take place during the existence of the generation htat He is then
The disciples could look at the fig tree and see that the time of summer is getting
close by the buds that it put forth. Even so as they saw the signs which Jesus
gave unto them, they would know ahead of time of the destruction of Jerusalem.
Jesus speaks clearly and directly. It is absolutely true that "this generation" (the
generation standing before Jesus at that time, those people to whom He spoke,
the generation of the disciples) would in no way pass from this earth (or die) until
ALL the things concerning the destruction of Jerusalem (everything from verses 4
to 33) will take place. Either these things took place during the lifetime of those
to whom Jesus spake, or Jesus was a liar. One or the other! Jesus did not say
some, but all. He did not say begin to happen, but be fulfilled (filled full), done
The surety of Jesus' words is re-emphasized. "Heaven and earth shall pass
away, but my words shall not pass away." Jesus' words are surer than the
existence of the heaven and earth.
Additional notes on Luke 21 and Mark 13
The only question asked in Luke 21 is the question concerning the destruction of
Jerusalem, no mention is made of the end of the world, or the second coming of
Christ. The same is true of the question asked in Mark 13:4, although the answer
to the other question of the second coming is found in verses 32-37.
The answer given in Luke 21 is the same as given in Matthew 24 through verse
35, which indicates strongly that this is the answer to the first question concerning
the destruction of Jerusalem, and does not deal with the second coming.
The reference in Luke 21:24 to the time of the Gentiles is shown by Romans
11:25-27 and 2 Corinthians 3:14-16 to be a reference to the time of the New
Covenant. The destruction of Jerusalem would signal once and for all the
fulfillment of the prophecies of the Gentiles being accepted into the household of