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Ecclesiastes Podcast

Matthew 24:1-3

Jesus tells the disciples the temple will be destroyed, and it causes the disciples to ask three questions.  Jesus will answer the questions in the following verses.

At this time the temple of Solomon that had been renovated by Herod the Great (Builder) was still standing.  It had a relatively short life, and likely was still under construction when the Romans fulfilled this prophecy by tearing down the entire temple complex completely in 70 AD.  Indeed, Jesus’ prophecy that not one stone here will be left upon another was literally fulfilled by the Roman destruction. All that remains of the Temple complex from Jesus’ time today is the platform it sat upon (which the Western Wall is a part of). It is likely Jesus spoke these words in the vicinity of 30 AD, just before His death by Roman crucifixion. So this prophecy will be fulfilled one generation, forty years after it was spoken.

The temple was a spectacular structure. It was quite enormous, and had substantial buildings in addition to the temple itself (the tallest structure on the eastern end of the inner courtyard). 

Jesus states to the disciples something that must have been quite shocking to them, that this entire magnificent complex, built by a king in great favor with mighty Rome, would be completely dismantled.

The disciples respond by asking three questions, which Jesus will answer in inverse order;

  1. When will these things happen?
  2. What will be the sign of Your coming?
  3. What will be the sign of the end of the age?

The first question, “When will these things happen?” follows directly from Jesus’ statement to them about the dismantling of the magnificent temple complex.  It is natural when a prediction like this is made for the listener to immediately seek to know “When will that happen?”

The second question “What will be the sign of Your coming?” also flows naturally.  It is clear from many passages in the gospels that the disciples’ overriding expectation was that Jesus the Messiah, the anointed one (Christ) of the House of David, would ascend to the throne of David and reinstate the nation of Israel, throwing off the shackles of Rome.  Even after Jesus rose from the dead, and the disciples believed it was actually Him, their primary question was “Is it now that you are going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6).  So it is natural that when Jesus predicts such a cataclysm for the temple that the disciples might want to know whether this was connected with His ascending to the throne in some way.
The third question “What will be the sign of the end of the age?” might be connected to the prevailing discussion among the Jewish faithful during this era regarding what the scriptures said about the end times. The disciples want to know what signs will mark the end of the age. The fact that a number of scrolls of the book of Daniel were discovered in the caves of Qumran (the “Dead Sea Scrolls) might be an indication that Daniel’s prophecies of the end of the age might have been an active topic.  Given this, it is no surprise that Jesus’ prediction of a cataclysm would trigger such a question. Jesus will answer the second question in part by giving a quote from the book of Daniel.

In keeping with good rhetorical practices, Jesus will answer the last question first.

Biblical Text

Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him. And He said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down.”

As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”