question in Matthew 24:3 is divided into two parts. The first question relates to the destruction of the Temple,
which took place in a.d. 70. The second question, composed of two parts
but related to one another, refers to events that are still yet to come. The disciples apparently thought that
all three items, destruction of the Temple, the sign of Christ' s coming, and
the end of the age would occur at the same time. Yet this is not the case.
It was a common
thing for Jesus to correct the misunderstandings of the disciples that usually
represent popular belief of their day. Dr. J. Dwight Pentecost tells us the
The questions showed that they had arrived at certain
conclusions. . . . To these men
Christ' s words concerning the destruction of Jerusalem was the destruction
predicted by Zechariah that would precede the advent of the Messiah. In Jewish eschatology two ages were
recognized: the first was this
present age, the age in which Israel was waiting for the coming of the Messiah;
the second was the age to come, the age in which all of Israel' s covenants
would be fulfilled and Israel would enter into her promised blessings as a
result of Messiah' s coming.
Stanley Toussaint echoes this notion.
This sequence is so clearly in view that Luke records the
question concerning the destruction of Jerusalem only (Luke 21:7). That is, the disciples took the
destruction of Jerusalem to be completely eschatological. Therefore, Luke records this question
only, as though Jerusalem' s destruction would mark the coming of the King to
reign. Bruce is correct when he
asserts, " The questioners took for granted that all three things went
together: destruction of temple,
advent of Son of Man, end of the current age." 
Even though the
disciples merged these events, Christ did not merge these events into a single
time period. In fact, Matthew and
Mark do not deal with the destruction of Jerusalem in their accounts of the
Olivet Discourse. Their focus is
upon the future days of tribulation leading up to Christ' s return. Only in Luke' s account does Christ deal
with the issue (21:20-24). But
Luke also deals with future days of tribulation and Christ' s return as well
(21:25-36). For whatever reason,
Matthew and Mark' s entire focus is upon the last question that speaks of " the
sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age."
The First Question
question by the disciples is " Tell us, when will these things be" (Matt.
24:3)? Since Christ had been
speaking about the Temple and a time when " not one stone here shall be left
upon another, which will not be torn down" (Matt. 24:2), it is clear that Jesus
prophesied the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans in a.d. 70. Jesus had predicted the destruction of Jerusalem and the
Temple earlier in His ministry.
Jesus had just
earlier spoken of Israel' s " house [Temple] is being left to you desolate"
(Matt. 23:38). Luke records
another prediction of judgment upon Israel, as in Matthew 23:37-39, preceded by
Christ weeping over the city of Jerusalem (Luke 19:41). This prophecy occurred at the time of
Christ' s triumphal entry on Palm Sunday, based upon Israel rejection of Jesus
as their Messiah (Luke 19:42).
Jesus prophesied in Luke 19:43-44 as follows:
" For the days shall come upon you
when your enemies will throw up a bank before you, and surround you, and hem
you in on every side, and will level you to the ground and your children within
you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not
recognize the time of your visitation."
We learn a number
of things from this prophecy.
First, " your enemies" undoubtedly refers to the Romans who destroyed the
city in a.d. 70. Second, " will
throw up a bank before you, and surround you, and hem you in on every side," is
a clear description of the Roman siege used to defeat Jerusalem. Third, the Roman siege resulted in a
total destruction of the city and of life within the city. Usually in a war time situation, if
anyone is spared it will be the children, but even most of them were
killed. Fourth, the very words of
Christ from Matthew 24:2 were used by Him earlier in this passage when He said,
" they will not leave in you one stone upon another." Fifth, the reason for the destruction of Jerusalem by the
Romans will be because " you did not recognize the time of your visitation."
of the First Question
Since I will not
be dealing specifically with Luke' s version of the Olivet Discourse throughout
my exposition, I will now look at Luke 21:20-24, since it records the prophecy
about the first question of the disciples. The passage reads as follows:
" But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is at
Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who
are in the midst of the city depart, and let not those who are in the country
enter the city; because these are days of vengeance, in order that all things which are written may be
fulfilled. Woe to those who are
with child and to those who nurse babes in those days; for there will
be great distress upon the land, and wrath
to this people, and they will
fall by the edge of the sword, and will
be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem
will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles
until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled." (Luke 21:20-24)
futurists do not agree on much when it comes to the Olivet Discourse. However, when it comes to the
interpretation of Luke 21:20-24, we both agree that it is a literal prophecy of
the a.d. 70 judgment. Preterist Dr. Kenneth Gentry says, " The
context of Luke demands a literal Jerusalem (Luke 21:20) besieged by literal
armies (Luke 21:20) in literal Judea (Luke 21:21)- which as a matter of
indisputable historical record occurred in the events leading up to a.d. 70."  However, when expounding on Luke
21:25- 28, preterists resort to massive doses of symbolic interpretation in their attempt to give these
verses a first-century fulfillment.
The futurist does not need to make such adjustments and continues a plain or literal reading of the text. I believe that Luke 21:25-28 is a brief
prophecy that parallels Matthew 24 and Mark 13, as I will expound upon in the
demonstrates that preterists take prophecy literal when it is alleged to
support their view, but if a passage would lead to a non-preterist view, if
interpreted literally, they allegorize.
On the other hand, futurists are able to take all parts of Christ' s
Olivet Discourse, and all prophecy literally.
It is clear that
Luke 21:20-24 is spoke of the first-century Roman invasion of Jerusalem. Note that I have placed in italics the
key phrases from Luke 21:20-24 above, that supports the a.d. 70 fulfillment.
The entire passage speaks over and over again of judgment and wrath upon
the Jewish people and their city, just as Christ prophesied in Matthew 24:2 and
the other passages noted above.
Yet, when one searches prophecies of Matthew 24 and Mark 13 this
language is missing. Instead of
" great distress upon the land, and wrath to this people," Matthew 24 speaks of
rescuing the Jewish people who are under great distress (Matt. 24:29-31).
Contrasts Between a.d.
70 and a Future Temple
to misuse Luke 21:20-24 and say that all of Matthew 24 was a prophecy of the
Roman conquest in a.d. 70. Dr. Randall Price has noted six major
differences between the a.d. 70
Temple and the Temple of the future tribulation period spoken of in Matthew 24.
During this time Jesus speaks of a signal event connected with
the Temple- its desecration by an abomination which was prophesied by the
Prophet Daniel (Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:14). What Temple is being spoken of here by Jesus? Was the Temple that was to be
desecrated the same Temple as the one predicted to be destroyed? There are a number of contrasts within
this text that indicate that Jesus was talking about two different Temples:
(1) The Temple described in Matthew 24:15 is not said to be
destroyed, only desecrated (see Revelation 11:2). By contrast, the Temple in Jesus' day (or Matthew 24:2) was
to be completely leveled: " not one stone would be left standing on another"
(Matthew 24:2; Mark 13:2; Luke 19:44).
(2) The Temple' s desecration would be a signal for Jews to
escape destruction (Matthew 24:16-18), " be saved" (Matthew 24:22) and
experience the promised " redemption" (Luke 21:28). By contrast the destruction of the Temple in Matthew 24:2
was a judgment " because you did not recognize the time of your visitation
[Messiah' s first advent]" (Luke 19:44b) and resulted in the Temple being
level[ed] to the ground and your children [the Jews] within you" (Luke 19:44a).
(3) The generation of Jews that are alive at the time that the
Temple is desecrated will expect Messiah' s coming " immediately after" (Matthew
24:29), and are predicted to not pass away until they have experienced it
(Matthew 24:34). By contrast, the
generation of Jews who saw the Temple destroyed would pass away and 2,000 years
(to date) would pass without redemption.
(4) The text Jesus cited concerning the Temple' s desecration,
Daniel 9:27, predicts that the one who desecrates this Temple will himself be
destroyed. By contrast, those who
destroyed the Temple in a.d. 70
(in fulfillment of Jesus' prediction)- the Roman emperor Vespasian and his son
Titus- were not destroyed but returned to Rome in triumph carrying vessels from
the destroyed Temple.
(5) The time " immediately after" (Matthew 24:29) the time of
the Temple' s desecration would see Israel' s repentance (Matthew 24:30),
followed by, as Matthew 23:29 implies, a restoration of the Temple. By contrast, the time following the
destruction of the Temple only saw a " hardening" happen " to Israel," which is
to last " until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in" (Romans 11:25)- still
2,000 years and counting.
(6) For the Temple that is desecrated, the scope is of a
worldwide tribulation " coming upon the world" (Luke 21:26; compare Matthew 24:21- 22;
Mark 13:19- 20), a global regathering of the Jewish people " from one end of the
sky to the other" (Matthew 24:31; Mark 13:27), and a universal revelation of
the Messiah at Israel' s rescue (Matthew 24:30- 31; Mark 13:26; Luke 21:26- 27). This scope accords with the prophesied
end-time battle for Jerusalem recorded in Zechariah 12- 14, where " all nations
of the earth will be gathered against it" (Zechariah 12:3). By contrast the a.d. 70 assault on Jerusalem predicted in Luke 21:20 is by
the armies of one empire (Rome).
Therefore, if there are two different attacks on Jerusalem, separated by
more than 2,000 years, then two distinct Temples are considered in Matthew
24:1- 2 and Matthew 24:15.
The above points
demonstrate preterist problems that have no resolution in their attempt to cram
still future prophecy into a past mold.
Details of Matthew 24 cannot be made to fit into a first century
Continued . . .)