PMW 2018-081 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

This is the second in a three-part study of the temple’s AD 70 destruction as an historical judgment on Israel that pointed to the Final Judgment on the nations.  The last article set up this and the next article by pointing out: (1) the two-schema structure of history (Heb. 1:1–2) and (2) the nature of the Final Judgment (in Matt. 24:31–46). Having laid this groundwork, we can now start looking at the temple to begin considering how its destruction speaks of the destruction of the world at the Final Judgment

The Olivet Discourse can flow quite easily and most naturally from the destruction of the temple in AD 70 to the destruction of the world at the Final Judgment. We may see this in the very structure of the Discourse itself. Its transition text in Matt. 24:34–36, shifts our attention from the chaotic judgment (vv. 6–7, 9, 11, 16, 19, 21, 29, etc.) in those “days” (plural; vv. 19, 22, 29) to the peaceful setting of the unexpected judgment (v. 26, 38, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 50) of that “day” (singular, Matt. 24:36, 42, 50). [1] But it is not only the literary structure of the text that points to the world’s judgment, but the literal significance of the temple for Israel.

Jesus and temple desertion

As I get started I would point out that in Matt. 23:38 Jesus declares the temple “desolate” (“deserted,” i.e., by God). Then in Matt. 24:1a he dramatically leaves it — never to return again. All of his teaching since Matt. 21:23 has been in the temple courts; but now his public ministry is over. Throughout his ministry he had called Israel to repentance, but she refused his loving overtures (Matt. 23:37). He is finished dealing with her (Matt. 23:39).

The disciples were in shock at Jesus’ words regarding the temple. Upon his promptly departing the premises (Gk. exelthon, 2 Aorist participle), the disciples come to point out the temple’s majesty (Matt. 24:1b). They do this while he is in the very process of walking away from it (Gk. eporeueto, imperfect tense). They are not showing him something he has never seen before — he has just walked out of it! They are incredulously reminding him of its majesty, hoping that he might correct his pronouncement. [2] Their pointing out the temple stones is expressed by epideixei (to “point out), which is the Aorist infinitive of purpose.

But Jesus then responds with an even more dramatic statement: “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” (Matt. 24:2). In fact, the word that introduces Jesus’ comment (which is translated “and” by the NASB), is the Greek word de. Here it is used as an adversative and should be translated (“but”) in order to correct the disciples (see ESV).

The Olivet Discourse Made Easy

Olivet Discourse Made Easy (by Ken Gentry)

Verse-by-verse analysis of Christ’s teaching on Jerusalem’s destruction in Matt 24. Show the great tribulation is past, having occurred in AD 70.

See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com

So now we are ready to consider the temple and how its destruction points to the destruction of the world at the Final Judgment. To begin this process we must put ourselves in first-century Jewish sandals. The Jews were enamored of their temple’s strength and magnificence — as we may surmise from the disciples’ perplexity regarding Jesus’ denouncing it (Matt. 24:1b, see above discussion).

The temple and Jewish hope

The Jews believe the temple will last to the very end of history. Consequently, when Jesus pronounces its destruction (Matt. 24:2), the disciples reflexively associate this event with the end of history, “the end of the age” (Matt. 24:3b; cp.  Matt. 13:39, 40, 49; 28:20). Their thinking has an element of truth in it. But it is a half-truth. The temple’s destruction is associated with the end of the world, though not simultaneously or immediately. Rather its destruction is a typological pointer to that end.

In order to flesh this out, I will focus on two important issues: (1) the Jews view of the temple’s permanence (in this article) and (2) the temple’s decor and its significance (in the next article). Both of these issues will show how its collapse points to the collapse of the universe and the end of history.

The temple’s centrality to Jewish worldview is such that it draws in enormous wealth by means of the free-flowing financial contributions by Jews from all over the Roman empire. The Roman philosopher and statesman Cicero (Flac. 28:66-69) notes that “every year it was customary to send gold to Jerusalem on the order of Jews from Italy and from all provinces.” Josephus (Ant. 14:7:2 §110) notes the same: “Let no one wonder that there was so much wealth in our temple, since all the Jews throughout the habitable earth, and those that worshipped God, nay, even those of Asia and Europe, sent their contributions to it, and this from very ancient times.”

The temple’s majesty and significance is such that in the OT the Jews believe it to be invulnerable (Psa. 46; 48; 76; Isa. 17:12–14; 29:1–8; Lam. 4:12; cp. Jer. 21:13). Due to Israel’s sin, however, Jeremiah warns them against such pride (Jer. 27:14). Elsewhere he rebukes Israel in this regard: “Do not trust in deceptive words, saying, ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord’” (Jer 7:4).

Rather, Israel’s covenantal failure should render any hope of the temple’s inviolability null and void: “And you will say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord, “If you will not listen to Me, to walk in My law, which I have set before you, to listen to the words of My servants the prophets, whom I have been sending to you again and again, but you have not listened; then I will make this house like Shiloh, and this city I will make a curse to all the nations of the earth”’” (Jer 26:4-6).

Elsewhere Israel arrogantly declares: “Is not the Lord in our midst? / Calamity will not come upon us” (Mic. 3:11). But God responds: “therefore, on account of you / Zion will be plowed as a field, / Jerusalem will become a heap of ruins, / And the mountain of the temple will become high places of a forest” (Mic. 3:12). The Lord even warns: “What right has My beloved in My house / When she has done many vile deeds? / Can the sacrificial flesh take away from you your disaster, / So that you can rejoice?” (Jer. 11:15).

Thus, Alan Beagley (1987; p. 126) reminds us that “one attitude with which the prophets had to contend time and time again was the belief that Jerusalem was inviolable.” Alan T. Davies points out that “the city came to be regarded as a veritable extension of the Temple” so that “Jerusalem and the Temple . . . became almost inseparable realities” (Davies 1974: 152, 153).

Before Jerusalem FellBefore Jerusalem Fell BOOK
(by Ken Gentry)

Doctoral dissertation defending a pre-AD 70 date for Revelation’s writing. Thoroughly covers internal evidence from Revelation, external evidence from history, and objections to the early date by scholars.

See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com

We see this line of thinking in the words of first-century Jewish writers. The Jewish philosopher, Philo (Spec. 1:76) comments on the economic value of the temple in words assuming the temple’s perpetual endurance:

“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.”

This shows how the Jews expected the end of the world were the temple to be destroyed.

Responding to Josephus’ pleas to surrender to Rome in the first-century Jewish War, John of Gischala declares that “he did never fear the taking of the city, because it was God’s own city” (J.W. 6:2:1 §98). Josephus (J.W. 5:11:2 §459) records the widespread confidence of the beleaguered city when they mock Titus. They believe “that yet this temple would be preserved by him that inhabited therein, whom they still had for their assistant in this war, and did therefore laugh at all his threatenings, which would come to nothing, because the conclusion of the whole depended upon God only.”

As the Sib. Or. 5:420–23 expresses the matter, the “temple of God [was] made by holy people and hoped by their soul and body to be always imperishable.” The later Christian writer Barnabas (16:1) derides Israel for this: “Moreover, I will also tell you concerning the temple, how the wretched [Jews], wandering in error, trusted not in God himself, but in the temple, as being the house of God. For almost after the manner of the Gentiles they worshiped him in the temple.”

Thus, in all of this we can see why there would be a linkage between the temple’s destruction and the end of the world. The Jews were wrong to think there was a direct linkage that required the world to end with the temple’s demise. But we will see that they were correct to see a linkage. But the linkage will be by way of pointing to or symbolizing the Final Judgment.

To be concluded in my next article.

1. Jesus’ mention of the “days” of Noah (v. 37–38) after the shift at v. 36 is not referring to the “days” of the judgment. Rather it is referring to Noah’s time, drawing attention to the fact in Noah’s time the people were wholly unaware of approaching judgment. The unknown and surprising judgment will come unexpectedly.

2. Despite trusting the Lord as “the Christ, the Son of the living God’ (Matt. 16:6), Peter rebukes him when he informs the disciples he must die in Jerusalem (Matt. 16:22).

I am currently researching a commentary on Matthew 21–25, the literary context of the Olivet Discourse from Matthew’s perspective. My research will demonstrate that Matthew’s presentation demands that the Olivet Discourse refer to AD 70 (Matt. 24:3–35) as an event that anticipates the Final Judgment at the Second Advent (Matt. 24:36–25:46). This will explode the myth that Jesus was a Jewish sage focusing only on Israel. The commentary will be about 250 pages in length.

If you would like to support me in my research, I invite you to consider giving a tax-deductible contribution to my research and writing ministry: GoodBirth Ministries. Your help is much appreciated!

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  1. Bob Jersey June 27, 2019 at 5:12 am

    Excellent study! Thanks for your work.

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