“And as he went out of the temple, one of his disciples saith unto him, Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here! 2 And Jesus answering said unto him, Seest thou these great buildings? There shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. 3 And as he sat upon the Mount of Olives over against the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, 4 Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled? 5 And Jesus answering them began to say, Take heed lest any man deceive you: 6 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. 7 And when ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars, be ye not troubled: for such things must needs be; but the end shall not be yet. 8 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles: these are the beginnings of sorrows” (Mark 13:1-8).
Jesus Christ ministered among men as a Priest, a King, and a Prophet. As the King of all kings, the Lord preached the doctrine of the kingdom of God (Mark 1:14) and invited individuals to follow Him.
As a Priest after the order of Melchisedec (Heb. 5:10), the Lord prayed for His people. The Great High Priestly prayer of Christ is recorded in John 17.
As a Prophet, the Lord foretold many events and they all came to pass.
Jesus predicted His arrest, sufferings, death, and resurrection.
Jesus said that Peter would deny Him three times.
Jesus said that John would live to be an old man.
Jesus warned of the utter destruction of Jerusalem.
Destruction would come to Jerusalem in the form of Divine discipline, because the nation had rejected the gospel, turned away from its spiritual heritage, and killed the Son of God. There would be days of vengeance (Luke 21:22) as the fury of God’s wrath fell.
The prediction of the fall of Jerusalem by Christ was precipitated by something that was said in a casual conversation by the disciples. “And as he went out of the temple, one of his disciples saith unto him, Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here!” (Mark 13:1).
Like so many Jews, the disciples were impressed with the magnificent Temple. The Temple had a long history, going back to the days of Solomon. Tragically, that structure had been destroyed in 586 BC by the army of Nebuchadnezzar. Following seventy years in captivity, the Jews in exile were allowed to return to Palestine. Under Ezra and Nehemiah work on a Second Temple began, the work of reconstruction did not bring the Temple back to its original glory.
The centuries passed. Then came Herod. As an appointed ruler of the Jewish people by Rome, Herod knew he had to do something to curry favor with the Jews. He decided upon a building program. Herod would take the Temple, and not only return it to its original splendor, he would surpass it. Work began, and the objective was accomplished. Herod’s Temple became the architectural pride of Israel.
But Jesus was not impressed with the building, because the Lord knew that the glory of God had departed from the land. Bishop J. C. Ryle reminds us that “the true glory of a Church does not consist in its buildings for public worship, but in the faith and godliness of its members.”
Because the Lord was not impressed with outward symbols over inward substance, because the Jews had invited judgment upon themselves and their children, because Christ knew His Father was angry with national Israel, He took the opportunity to make a prophetical utterance that shocked His disciples. “And Jesus answering said unto him, Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down” (Mark 13:2).
Josephus describes the fulfillment of this prophecy.
“Caesar gave orders that they should now demolish the entire city and temple, but should leave as many of the towers standing as were of the greatest eminency…and so much of the wall as enclosed the city on the west side. This wall was spared in order to afford a camp for such as were to lie in garrison; as were the towers also spared, in order to demonstrate to posterity what kind of city it was, and how well fortified, which the Roman valor had subdued; but for all the rest of the wall, it was so thoroughly laid even with the ground by those that dug it up to the foundation, that there was left nothing to make those that came thither believe it had ever been inhabited” (Joseph, v. 1, p. 473).
Jesus said all this would happen. But not only did the Lord predict the final fall of Jerusalem, He foretold the events leading up to the final destruction of Herod’s Temple. God clearly knows the details of all events, for His sovereignty is absolute. When Peter and James, John and Andrew asked Jesus in private how to know when the destruction of the Temple would take place, and the sign leading up to the destruction, the Lord was ready to provide some details. Before we look at the signs of the time that Jesus gave for the destruction of Jerusalem some preliminary observations should be made.
First, the events that Christ foretold in AD 30 became a historical event. Jesus said that great tribulation was coming upon Jerusalem and what the Lord said would happen, history records as having taken place. From the vantage point of time, we know that the year Christ had in mind for the destruction of Jerusalem was AD 70. Consider the evidence for such a conclusion.
After giving all the signs of the time Jesus said, “Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done.” Who was He speaking to? Was the Lord referring to a generation of Jews 2001 years into the distant future? No, He was talking about the generation in which He and the disciples lived. How do we know? How can we be so certain? The answer is by comparing Scripture with Scripture. When that is done, a particular word or phrase can become more understandable.
The following passages should be studied to find out how the phrase “this generation” is used.
Matthew 1:16 “whereunto shall I liken this generation?”
Matthew 12:41 “shall rise in judgment with this generation.”
Matthew 12:42 “rise up in the judgment with this generation”
Matthew 12:45 “shall it be also unto this wicked generation”
Matthew 23:36 “things shall come upon this generation”
Matthew 24:34 “This generation shall not pass, till all”
Mark 8: 38 “shall no sign be given unto this generation”
Mark 13:30 “that this generation shall not pass, till all”
Luke 11:29 “He began to say, This is an evil generation”
Luke 11:31 “the men of this generation and condemn”
Luke 11:30 “also the Son of man be to this generation”
Luke 11:32 “with this generation and condemn it”
Luke 11:51 “It shall be required of this generation”
Luke 17:25 “and be rejected of this generation”
Luke 21:32 “This generation shall not pass, till”
Acts 2:40 “yourselves from this untoward generation”
When the word of God wants to indicate another generation, than the present one, the proper language is used as in Hebrews 3:10 where the Lord says He was grieved with “that generation.” Everyone understands that the generation the Lord was not pleased with was the Exodus generation.
To contend that Jesus was speaking of things to come in a future generation is confusing at best, and a violation of the normal usage of language. Jesus spoke many things that would come to pass in the generation in which the disciples lived, and history confirms that what the Lord said would happen, did indeed happen.
Some of the disciples would live to see the fall of Jerusalem. Others would take part in those events leading up to the destruction of the Holy City. Notice the personal pronouns of Mark 13.
Mark 13:7 And when ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars, be ye not troubled: for such things must needs be; but the end shall not be yet.
Mark 13:9 But take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten: and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them.
Mark 13:11 But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost.
Mark 13:13 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.
Mark 13:14 But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, (let him that readeth understand,) then let them that be in Judaea flee to the mountains:
Mark 13:18 And pray ye that your flight be not in the winter.
Mark 13:23 But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things.
Mark 13:29 So ye in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors.
Mark 13:30 Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done.
The language Christ used would not apply to modern warfare of nuclear capabilities.
Mark 13:15 And let him that is on the housetop not go down into the house, neither enter therein, to take anything out of his house:
Mark 13:16 And let him that is in the field not turn back again for to take up his garment.
Mark 13:18 And pray ye that your flight be not in the winter.
There is nothing in the passage that indicates a dual fulfillment of the signs of the time. A wise admonition would be this: “Where the Scriptures are silent, be silent. Where the Scriptures speak, speak.”
Christ spoke of a great tribulation for those who lived during the days of His earthly ministry. He told His disciples that they would be caught up in the details leading up to the destruction of the Temple. Some would even live through the Great Tribulation period, such as John. With these concepts in mind consider some of the signs of the time Jesus gave just before His crucifixion.
First Sign: Jesus warned of false messiahs. “And Jesus answering them began to say, Take heed lest any man deceive you: 6 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many” (Mark 13:5-6).
Second Sign: Jesus warned of wars and rumors of wars. “And when ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars, be ye not troubled: for such things must needs be; but the end shall not be yet. 8 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom:” (Mark 13:7-8a).
Third Sign: Jesus warned of earthquakes in various places. “and there shall be earthquakes in divers places,” (Mark 13:8b).
Fourth Sign: Jesus warned of famines. “and there shall be famines and troubles: these are the beginnings of sorrows” (Mark 13:8c)
There are many today that believe this passage has reference to events at the end of the twentieth century. But that is not possible, for Jesus was referring to events before the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. The first sign which Jesus mentioned would occur was the rise of false Messiahs. Jesus said that many would appear. And that is exactly what happened. Acts 8:9-10 tells of one such false Messiah. “But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: 10 To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God”.
Several of the early church fathers wrote about Simon Magus. For example, Eusebius (b. 260 – d. 340) quoted Justin Martyr (d. c AD 165) as saying: “After the Lord was taken up into heaven the demons put forth several men who claimed to be gods. These not only escaped being persecuted by you, but were actually the objects of worship—for example Simon, a Samaritan from a village called Gittho, who in Claudius Caesar’s time, thanks to the art of the demons who possessed him, worked wonders of magic, and in your imperial city of Rome was regarded as a god, and like a god was honored by you with a stature in the River Tiber between the two bridges” (Eusebius, p. 86).
Other examples could be given such as:
Dositheus the Samaritan, who claimed to be the Messiah, predicted by Moses.
Theudas, who, 12 years after the departure of Christ claimed to be a great prophet and deceived many people into believing he could divide the River Jordan for their passage. He is mentioned in Acts 5:36. “For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nought.”
The Egyptian Fraud of Acts 21:38 who gathered around him 30,000 Jewish followers. A Roman army at the gates of Jerusalem defeated him.
Judas of Galilee mentioned by Gamaliel in Acts 5:37 “After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed.”
Following the prophecy of Jesus in AD 30 and before the Fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 there were many false Messiahs. There were also many wars and rumors of wars.
In AD 40 there was a disturbance at Mesopotamia which, according to Josephus, caused the deaths of more than 50,000 people.
In AD 49 a revolt in Jerusalem at the time of the Passover resulted in the death of 10 to 20,000 Jews.
At Caesarea contentions between Jews and other inhabitants brought about the murder of more than 20,000 Jews.
As Jews moved throughout the empire Syrians killed over 20,000.
At Scythopolis over 13,000 Jews were killed.
In Alexandria, 50,000 were killed.
At Damascus, 10,000 were killed in an hour’s time one day.
The years between AD 30 and the fall of Jerusalem were turbulent years. There were wars and rumors of wars. And there were famines. I have read that over 24,000 people died in the world each day due to starvation. That is a staggering statistic and hard to comprehend. It also happens to be true.
But hunger is not something that is new to humanity. Jesus mentions famines in His day. As the Lord predicted, famines came to pass and history records some dark moments. Acts 11:28 “And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar” (the emperor AD 41-54). There was also a famine in Rome and parts of Italy, which began in AD 41 and lasted until AD 42. In the tenth or eleventh year of his reign there was another famine.
Then came the earthquakes. They occurred at Crete, Smyrna, at Miletus, at Chios, at Asmos, and Rome. The city of Laodicea was destroyed by an earthquake, as were the cities of Hierapolis and Colosse. In this manner, the words of Christ came true. Jesus established Himself once more as a Prophet. But what does all of this mean?
It means that the great tribulation is a historical reality.
It means that Jesus is very God of very God and is confirmed in His claims.
It means that the Christians need to be very careful about supporting ministries which teach contrary to the Word of Truth lest they take part in helping to make merchandise out of God’s people.
It means that it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of an angry God.
It means we should not be careless. Rather we need to flee from the wrath to come in the form of eternal damnation.