What did Jesus say about the future? (Part 1)

In the Christian worldview, history is a linear recording of past events, with Creation, the Fall of Man, and the Resurrection of Jesus being the most noteworthy. These three are significant because they explain our origin, morality, and rescue. Ultimately, history’s line will come to a terminal point: Judgment Day. The eternal states of heaven or hell will follow that Last Day. Jesus spoke of Judgment Day, and what portents precede it.

In Matthew 24 (see also Mark 13 and Luke 21), Jesus made a prophecy that shook the apostles to their core: Jerusalem’s temple would be torn down, stone upon stone. “Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. ‘Do you see all these things?’ he asked. ‘I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down’” (Matthew 24:1-2).

Jesus revealed a horrific event that would occur approximately forty years in the future. History records that Jerusalem’s temple was totally destroyed by Titus Vespasian and the Romans in 70 AD. Furthermore, it records that Jesus’ prophecy literally came true—every stone was knocked down.

Anyone who has read Josephus’s description of the Roman siege of Jerusalem, including the great famine and infant cannibalism, cannot help but be moved by the unspeakable horrors the people endured while the Roman army crushed the revolt and burned the temple to the ground. In fact, once the temple burned—accidently and against Titus’s orders—the soldiers were so eager to retrieve the gold which melted and had flowed into the cracks between the stones that they overturned the huge stones of the burned-out building to retrieve the gold. As Jesus himself had predicted, not one stone was left standing upon another.

Today, we would be totally shocked if someone announced, “Washington, D.C. will be annihilated.” We’d assume the United States would be no more. Likewise, because of the gravity of Jesus’ revelation, the apostles asked Him to explain signs of the temple’s destruction. And since He was already revealing the future, they requested signs of the end of the world as well.

Matthew 24:3 says, “As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. ‘Tell us,’ they said, ‘when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’” That’s significant for understanding this chapter. The apostles asked two questions: when will the temple be destroyed, and what are signs of Jesus’ return and the end? The key to deciphering the rest of the chapter is to know what events already took place in 70 AD, and what events are yet to be fulfilled.

The next blog will continue with Jesus’ words about the future.

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