PMT 2014-137 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
In my previous article (PMT 2014-135) I began a brief (two-part) argument that the first portion of the Olivet Discourse focuses on the destruction of the Jewish temple in AD 70. If you have not read that article, I encourage you to do so before reading this one.
Now we are ready to briefly summarize the evidence for an AD 70 occurrence of the first portion of the Lord’s Olivet Discourse. So then, without further delay, consider the following;
First, in Matt 23:1–33 Jesus issues a long and biting denunciation of the first-century Pharisees. These were the spiritual heroes of the common man and the constant nemeses of the Son of Man. He delivers a seven-fold woe against them here, toward the end of his earthly ministry (Matt 23:13, 15, 16, 23, 25, 27, 29 — Matt 23:14 is textually precarious).
All scholars recognize the historical connection of Matt 23 with Matt 24. How can we not? When you read through Matt 23 you will note that it flows right into Matt 24 without a break. Our modern chapter divisions are not a part of the original text, and sometimes cause confusion.
Second, in Matt 24:1 we read: “Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him.” Since he had just wept over Jerusalem (Matt 23:37) and declared her house “desolate” (Matt 23:38), it is quite natural for the disciples to be surprised since the temple was such a beautiful place to worship God.
Regarding the majesty of the temple the Jewish Talmud declares: that “he who has not seen the Temple of Herod has never in his life seen a beautiful structure” (b. Bat. 4a). In fact, in the other Gospels containing the Discourse we find remarkable statements about the temple: his disciples note “what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings” (Mark 13:1). They point out “that it was adorned with beautiful stones” (Luke 21:5). The disciples’ wonder and dismay spark the Discourse.
Third, in Matt 24:2 the Lord responds to his disciples and explains: “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.” His reference to “these things” clearly refers to the “temple buildings” just mentioned (Matt 24:1). The disciples’ focus is on the first-century temple; Jesus’ response is also on it.
Fourth, in Matt 24:3 we read of the disciples’ response to this statement: “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?’” This is the leaping-off point for the Olivet Discourse.
We should note that they pose two questions, which they believe apply to this one event: (1) When will these things happen? (2) What will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age.” They were certain that the destruction of the temple meant the end of the world, for this was a common first-century belief. For instance, the first-century Jewish philosopher Philo (died AD 50) states:
“The temple has for its revenues not only portions of land, but also other possessions of much greater extent and importance, which will never be destroyed or diminished; for as long as the race of mankind shall last, the revenues likewise of the temple will always be preserved, being coeval in their duration with the universal world” (Spec. Laws 1:14 ).
Jesus divides up their questions, noting that one speaks of AD 70 (Matt 24:4–34), while the other will find fulfillment at the end of history (Matt 24:36–25:46). Matt 24:34 clearly acts as a concluding statement, pointing to the AD 70 event. After this point in the Discourse (see: Matt 24:36), the Lord re-orients his disciples’ attention to another historical episode, the end of history.
Fifth, in Matt 24:15 Jesus associates the warnings in the early portions of the Discourse with the first-century Jewish temple: “when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place [i.e., the temple].” This is the temple which he had just declared “desolate” (Matt 23:38), to which the disciples had just pointed (Matt 24:1), regarding which Jesus had just declared would be destroyed (Matt 24:2), and about which the disciples had just asked (Matt 24:3).
Sixth, in Matt 24:16 Christ gives a warning that has only a local concern, not global: “then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains.” Since the temple was located in Jerusalem (Mark 11:11, 11, 14, 27; Acts 22:17), its destruction (Matt 24:2) quite naturally has dire implications for Judea. After all, this is the region in which Jerusalem and its temple are located (Matt 3:5; Acts 2:14) and which would necessarily be invaded and overrun by the Romans (Luke 19:43; 21:20).
Seventh, in Matt 24:34 Jesus closes out this section of his Discourse with a clear and compelling statement of the timing of these events: “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” This is a concluding statement which closes out this section and allows a new one to be opened. We know that the temple was actually destroyed in AD 70. And it has never been rebuilt. Nor does the Olivet Discourse speak of its rebuilding; it speaks only of its destruction (Matt 24:2, 15).
Thus, the first portion of the Olivet Discourse prophesies the first-century destruction of the temple.