By Nathan Jones
What three questions did Jesus' disciples ask Him regarding the future?
I was recently interviewed by Vic Batista, senior pastor of the Miami-based Calvary Chapel Aventura on his radio program "The Truth Will Set You Free" via TWave Radio. "Pastor Vic" (as he likes to be called) was born in the Dominican Republic and is as active in planting churches and helping orphans there as he is in southern Florida, reaching out with the Good News of Jesus Christ to both the English and Spanish speaking audiences.
In this "The Truth Will Set You Free" episode, we'll marvel at Jesus' prophecy concerning the destruction of the Temple.
The Three Questions
Vic: Nathan, could you read Matthew 24:3?
Nathan: Sure, it says, "Now as 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?'" The disciples finally got the nerve to ask Jesus how He could possibly declare the Temple would be destroyed and the circumstances.
When reading Luke 21 and Matthew 24 together, you'll realize Jesus disciples were asking three questions. When will the Temple fall? What will be the signs of the end of the age? And, what will be the sign of Jesus' coming?
The answer to the first question actually has two answers two answers because prophecy usually has a near and a far fulfillment. Did you ever used to watch Grover on Sesame Street when you were a kid?
Vic: Yes, I did.
Nathan: Grover was notorious for explaining the concept of near and far. He'd run to the back of the set and say "Far" and then he'd run up to the front and say "Near." So, too, with a prophetic perspective we have near and far fulfillments of prophesy.
In the case of a near fulfillment to the first question, that would be when the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD. I'll go into more detail concerning that in just a minute. The far fulfillment is talking about the end of our age, the end of our time, the end of the Church Age, which I would argue is the time we are living in now.
Vic: Yes, I agree.
Nathan: Also, something Grover didn't teach us is a concept that there is an even farther view, which in our case points to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, which is a future time. So, we're actually talking about two Temple destructions — one near in the New Testament which happened in 70 AD, and one far which will happen just before Jesus comes at the Second Coming.
The Roman Conquest of Jerusalem
Nathan: Judah, or Judea as it was called by the Romans, was notorious for rebelling against the Roman Empire. The Hebrews hated Roman control. Zealots and rioters were always trying to break away from the Roman Empire. The governor at the time of the First Coming was Pontius Pilate, who didn't handle rebellions well at all. Riots weren't like they are today when the police use water hoses and rubber bullets. No, in Roman days they would send in the centurion with his legion and they would kill all the rebels.
Vic: The soldiers of the legion were the elite soldiers, right?
Nathan: Yes. The Romans did everything expediently and ruthlessly and showed no mercy. So, when the Jews started to rebel in 67 AD, Rome was like, "We've had enough of this!" They thought if they destroyed the Jewish capital city and their Temple that it would cause the rebellious Jews to be disillusioned before dispersing them. And, that's exactly what the Romans did.
The Romans sent their general, Titus Vespasian, who would later become a Caesar himself, and they sent him with four legions of Roman troops. These four Legions came down and besieged Jerusalem for about three years.
There's all sorts of accounts through Josephus and other historians about the suffering that went on in the besieged Jerusalem, even about how some Jews resorted to cannibalism. Eventually the Romans broke through the walls of Jerusalem and went into a destructive frenzy. They set fire to the Temple. The fire melted all the gold and the gold seeped down between the rocks of the Temple Mount. The Romans being so desperate to get to the gold pried the stones apart. By the time they were finished, not one stone was left upon another — just as Jesus had said.
Today you can go to Jerusalem and a place that's called the Wailing Wall, or Western Wall. Many people think that it's part of the Temple, but it's not. The Western wall is only a retaining wall that held the dirt up around the Temple Mount. The reason the Jews there today go and "wail" there is because they want to one day rebuild the Temple. And, one day they will, all according to prophecy.
Vic: That's amazing!
Nathan: Daniel talks about the future destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple happening in Daniel 9. He explains how the legions would come and destroy the Temple. He also talked about a one-world ruler — the Antichrist — who would come from the people who destroyed the Second Temple, meaning the Romans. The Temple was prophesied to be destroyed just before Daniel's time in the Sixth Century BC, and it was again a second time in the First Century AD.
Remember at that time Daniel was in exile, so there wasn't even a First Temple to destroy. It had already been destroyed by the Babylonians. It hadn't been rebuilt yet. Daniel was prophesying that the Temple would be destroyed again, and history reveals that the people who did destroy it again was the Romans. That's how today we know the Antichrist will rise from Rome, or the European Union, because the Antichrist is of the people who destroyed the Temple.
Vic: Excellent point! We see how God allowed the Roman soldiers to destroy the Temple through their greed for gold. The prophecy, "Not one stone will be upon another," came true.
Nathan: Correct. As a matter a fact, you can go and see the Arch of Titus where this whole story is carved. On the arch there is depicted the Romans carrying off all the treasures of the Temple. We see how vicious Titus was and how he absolutely annihilated Jerusalem. And yes, just as Jesus said, the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD. Not one stone was left upon another. The nation of Israel was absolutely destroyed and the people dispersed to the four corners of the earth, just as the Minor Prophets had foretold.
Vic: What an amazing prophecy! Thank you, Nathan, for sharing these great details with us. We pray that everyone would take hold of these incredible truths from the word of God. Jesus Christ was also a true prophet, for everything in the Word of God that was said was going to happen happened in perfect detail.
In the fourth part of this discussion with Pastor Vic on the prophesied destruction of the Temple, we'll learn about the destruction of the Third Temple — a temple that hasn't even been built yet.