Roman attack JerusalemPMT 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.

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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 [76]).

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).

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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.


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10 thoughts on “DOES OLIVET POINT TO AD 70? Part 2

  1. Brett Warren November 12, 2014 at 8:46 am

    As a result of reading and studying your works and looking intently at relevant scriptures I am now a convinced postmillennialist, as opposed to a pre Mill person I used to be.

    I have a question for you: Within the post Mill view, do you think that there could be a nuclear third world war?

    After all, there was the unprecedented horror and destruction of WW1 and WW2,so might there not be another great war among the Great powers, with obvious catastrophic consequences for our present godless world system?

    We know that the time will come when the nations of the world will renounce war and everything to do with it, and of course that will be the result of the mighty work of Christ working in people among all nations, but could the worldwide turning away from war ALSO be a result of there having been a nuclear world war, with the survivors in all nations finally realising the insanity of war after perhaps the death of half or less or more of the world’s population?

    Personally, I think this is a very real possibility, though of course I hope not, but then again there were Christians living in Europe and Asia in WW2 who went thru the horror.

    Because of the utter godlessness, rebellion against God and moral depravity sweeping in particular over the Western nations,I can see God allowing such a horrible judgement upon us. We have made the weapons of our own judgement.

    Within the Post Mill view, I can’t see any reason for ruling out such a horrible judgement upon us.

    What do you think? Looking forward to hearing from you.

  2. Kenneth Gentry November 12, 2014 at 8:50 am

    Thanks for your note and comments. Much appreciated.

    It certainly is possible that there could be another world war. We must always remember that you can’t discount postmillennialism on the basis of current news. This is because of the definition of postmillennialism which says BEFORE CHRIST RETURNS there will be a long era of peace and righteousness. So, until Christ returns you can’t say postmillennialism was wrong. AND postmillennialism teaches a gradual growth of the church with fits and starts, like personal sanctification. Another world war could occur in such a definition.

    The postmillennial hope can no more be discounted by the fact that the world is not currently enjoying its blessings, than we can discount the fact that Jesus will return because he has not yet returned.

    But ultimately we will see an era of righteous peace, according to biblical prophecy and redemptive-historical expectations due to the power of Christ’s saving work. He did promise in John 12:32: “I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” It is stated that: “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:17).

    God bless!

  3. Blaine K. Newton November 12, 2014 at 10:44 am

    Ken, there is one common criticism on the preterist interpretation of Matt. 24 that probably warrants a comment.

    As you’re well aware, critics raise the objection that the events discussed by Jesus in this passage couldn’t have been talking about the temple of that day because it says that not one stone will be left upon another… However, we know that the original wailing wall still remains in place to this day.

  4. Kenneth Gentry November 12, 2014 at 11:19 am

    Thanks for you note. I answer this question briefly as follows:

    1. The Wailing Wall remaining in Jerusalem is not a portion of the temple structure itself. Rather it is a portion of the platform on which it was built. The temple structure itself was, in fact, destroyed, being dismantled stone-by-stone.

    2. In Matt 24 the disciples point to the buildings of the first-century temple and Jesus warns them that the buildings they are pointing to will be destroyed. It is that temple, and not some other. Matt 24:1 “Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him. 2 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.” There is no way around the fact that Jesus was speaking of that first-century temple. And we know as a matter of historical, archaeological, and literary (Josephus) fact that this very temple was destroyed in AD 70.

    Interestingly, in Mark’s version the focus is on the very stones in question: Mark 13:1 “As He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down.'”

    Jesus was either right or wrong. All the evidence points to his being correct.

  5. Gary Mays November 14, 2014 at 8:33 am

    A small response on why that Matthew 24 could not be 70AD, also known as the preterist view. They were asking of Christ second coming, and the time of Christ millennial rule on the earth, that was prophesied in the Old Testament, that was prophecy even before the law. then it said he would come with ten thousands of His saints, and the preterist only say that He was seen at the destruction of Jerusalem, like the Angel of the Lord was at during the Judgment of David.

    The early church was totally premillennial until around 300AD. Back then how would any know that all these things happen throughout the world. The Old Testament speaks of a seven year peace accord, and Him that wrote it, would break it in the middle. The abomination of desolation has taken place twice already, even once before Christ came in the flesh. It also says the whole world will witness His coming, not just those in Jerusalem. One thing we have always known is there is a great witness of His coming, even in secular writings, but there is none of His second coming, for it is still future, I believe.

    There is a difference from Israel, and the church. Israel forever blessing is not done, for yes the old covenant was conditional, the Abrahamic covenant was only conditional on Christ. Yes, I would say Christ is ruling now in the hearts and lives of the believers, but a millennial ruling is with Him here, not the church. I believe the church today can be as triumph off its utter obedience of Christ now, and have seen it to degrees in some churches, but not like it will be during the millennial age.

    I know there are greater minds, then mine that believe different, and yours to be one brother Ken, and I say these things knowing it will not change your mind, for on eschatological views of the future, most my friends do not agree, and that is ok, but at this time I believe I am right, for no other view has swayed me, I do like and believe more with you than not. Yes, I am some what negative now about our time, for I am looking forward to a time of His ruling, and it to show us a point, that of man’s sinfulness, and of His faithfulness.

  6. Kenneth Gentry November 14, 2014 at 8:33 am

    Gary: Remember that the disciples were often confused at Christ’s teaching. They did not even know he would be resurrected until it happened, even though he often taught it and the OT taught (Jn 20:8-9; cp. Jn 2:22; Matt 22:29).

    It is true that in Matt 24:3 they were asking about his second coming. As was the case with many first century Jews, they assumed the temple would last until the end of the world (as we see from the writings of Jews in that era, especially Philo). Therefore, Jesus has to sort out their question, giving them a double answer that corrects their error.

    He informs them, first, that those very stones at which they were looking and to which they pointed would be thrown down (Matt 24:1-2). That and the events leading up to it will occur in “this generation” (Matt 24:34). We know that that temple was destroyed in this very generation.

    Second, then he shifts their attention away from “this generation” forward to “that day” (Matt 24:36). He now points to the second coming which is distant (Matt 25:5, 19), rather than near (Matt 24:34). The era of the destruction of the temple is painted as noisy, destructive, dangerous period filled with signs that he mentions in Matt 24:4-34. But after he shifts to the distant future, all becomes quiet and peaceful where men would not be expecting the second coming (Matt 24:36ff).

    What Jesus has separated, let no man put together. Else you will be like the disciples: confused.

  7. Mark November 2, 2015 at 1:07 pm

    What exactly is “the end” to which Jesus is referring in Matthew 24:6, 14? As preterists, I’m guessing we would say He’s referring to the destruction of the temple. But if that’s what Jesus meant, isn’t He adding to the disciple’s confusion since they were associating “the end” with His second coming (parousia)? Combine this treatment of “the end” with the similar language used in 24:30-31 and 25:31ff (a description of Judgment Day) and it seems like a person would have at least some warrant to claim that Jesus said He was going to return before “this generation” passed away.

  8. Kenneth Gentry November 4, 2015 at 8:02 am

    Thanks for your question and your contemplation of the issues.

    We know Jesus’ disciples were often confused. They did not even understand that he must die (John 20:9), which was the primary reason he came into the world and about which he often spoke.

    But we should also notice that he provides a structural shift in his Discourse by presenting a transition passage: Matt 24:34-36. If they would recognize the shift of focus and action in the passage, they should understand the “end” originally mentioned by him was the end of the temple and the temple system of worship.

    Regarding later uses of the “end,” we have to recognize that terms can be used differently in different contexts. Similarity does not entail identity. There is an end to the temple system, which was a dramatic, important redemptive-historical reality. But there is also an end to history. In fact, the end of the temple is a distant adumbration of the end of history, a microcosmic picture of that macrocosmic event. In fact, this is true of each individual “day of the Lord” prophecy in the Old Testament: each separate Old Testament judgment-event was a small picture of the final consummation.

  9. Jessie Doughty December 14, 2018 at 9:23 am

    Hi there,
    Can you help clarify why in the first part of Matthew 24 jesus keeps saying “…the end”, if in fact he is actually speaking of the events in AD 70? I see it in verses 6, 13, 14, 28.

    The question asked by disciples is two part, I see that. They asked (at least in the translation I’m reading) “when will these things take place and when will be the sign of your return and the end of the world?”

    If, in verses 4 through 35 he’s answering the first part of their question why does he keep repeating the words “the end” which was part of how they asked the second part of their question?

    I actually think I lean more toward the post millennial view. And I can see the very clear change in discourse in vs 36, so it makes sense that the first part refers to the events in AD 70. I’m a bit hung up on what I noted above. Part of me just needs more understanding so that is why I ask. I’m very curious how you see to best explain this part of the text.

    Thanks so much!

  10. Kenneth Gentry December 14, 2018 at 10:13 am

    Thanks for reading. And thinking through the issues. I will be answering that question in a series beginning on January 4, 2019. Stay tuned!

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