And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”
And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?” And Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.
“But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
“But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let the one who is on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house, to take anything out, and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that it may not happen in winter. For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be. And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days. And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.
“But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
“But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”
Understanding And Applying the Text
This passage has caused many to stumble. They claim Jesus was wrong. The end of the world did not occur in that generation. “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” In Jewish terms, a generation is about 40 years. The world did not end within 40 years of Jesus’ prophecy.
This is important. If Jesus was wrong, something He said was true was not true. That means He sinned. If He sinned, He is not qualified to atone for our sins. If he did not atone for our sins, we are still in our sins. If we are still in our sins, hell is still our destination. There is much riding on a proper understanding of this passage.
The reason for the error is simple. If the passage is out of context nothing make sense. Jesus is answering a question. The description of the tribulation and destruction is in answer to this question. What will be the sign of the coming destruction of the temple?
When we remember the context, we see by 70 AD all Jesus’ prophecy occurred. That was well within the time frame Jesus gave. Jesus described the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem.
Rome destroyed them both in 70 AD. The Arch of Titus commemorating this victory still stands in Rome.
Not only did Jesus describe the destruction, He described the tribulation that occurred. Rome’s slaughter of men, women, children, and aged was brutal. Here is part of the account of the destruction of the temple. It is recorded by the Jewish historian Josephus in War of the Jews. Book 6, Chapter 5, Paragraph 1
While the holy house was on fire, everything was plundered that came to hand, and ten thousand of those that were caught were slain; nor was there a commiseration of any age, or any reverence of gravity, but children, and old men, and profane persons, and priests were all slain in the same manner; so that this war went round all sorts of men and brought them to destruction, and as well those that made supplication for their lives, as those that defended themselves by fighting. …
Nor can one imagine anything either greater or more terrible than this noise; for there was at once a shout of the Roman legions, who were marching all together, and a sad clamor of the seditious, who were now surrounded with fire and sword. The people also that were left above were beaten back upon the enemy, and under a great consternation, and made sad moans at the calamity they were under; the multitude also that was in the city joined in this outcry with those that were upon the hill.
And besides, many of those that were worn away by the famine, and their mouths almost closed, when they saw the fire of the holy house, they exerted their utmost strength, and brake out into groans and outcries again: Pera did also return the echo, as well as the mountains round about [the city,] and augmented the force of the entire noise. Yet was the misery itself more terrible than this disorder; for one would have thought that the hill itself, on which the temple stood, was seething hot, as full of fire on every part of it, that the blood was larger in quantity than the fire, and those that were slain more in number than those that slew them; for the ground did nowhere appear visible, for the dead bodies that lay on it; but the soldiers went over heaps of those bodies, as they ran upon such as fled from them.
All Christ foretold occurred in 70 AD. This is one of the greatest testimonies to Christ’s deity.
As Jesus and His disciples were leaving the temple, the disciples commented. “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” Jews revered the temple from birth. They had great reverence for it.
The disciples believed from infancy the temple would stand forever. They could not imagine a world without a temple. In their minds, if the temple fell the world fell. That is why Matthew says they asked about the end of the world. When Christ talked about the destruction of the temple, they saw the end of the world.
And in a sense, it was the end of the world as they knew it. It was the end of the Jewish age. It was the beginning of the church age or the age of the Gentiles.
Jesus would soon fulfill the old covenant. The temple was no longer needed. Its presence would draw men to it and away from Christ. Men would forget Christ fulfilled the Law.
God would no longer use the nation of Israel to draw men to Him. That job now passed to the church. The Kingdom of God was no longer geographical.
Christ gave His disciples two charges. First, they were to beware of false teachers. Second, the coming scandals were not to terrify them. Notice Christ did not say if they come in my name. He said when they come in my name. False teachers and scandals were a certainty, not a probability.
Josephus also records about false prophets.
Nor did any one of them escape with his life. A false prophet was the occasion of these people’s destruction, who had made a public proclamation in the city that very day, that God commanded them to get upon the temple, and that there they should receive miraculous signs of their deliverance. Now there was then a great number of false prophets suborned by the tyrants to impose on the people, who denounced this to them, that they should wait for deliverance from God; and this was in order to keep them from deserting, and that they might be buoyed up above fear and care by such hopes.
War of the Jews Book 6 Chapter 5 Paragraph 2
In 70 AD false prophets gave many people false hope. False prophets led Israel astray. False teachers would lead many in the church away from God. It is true men cannot block God’s blessings. God’s mercy does not depend on men efforts. Nor, can men block His mercy. Yet, God may punishment men for their ingratitude towards His mercy and grace.
Christ told the disciples that all these things must happen. He was not trying to explain why. He was not giving a reason. He was warning them. Nothing happens by accident or by chance. Everything is under God’s providence. That bears repeating. Everything is under God’s providence. That includes those things we do not understand. That includes the tragic or disastrous. Everything is under God’s providence.
Christ painted a bleak picture. Then He went on to say but there is still more to come. i.e. “the end is not yet.” Besides tribulations, their faith would be tried. That is, the world would hate and detested them. Christ warned His disciples the Gospel would never be pleasant or agreeable to the world.
But Christ gave them words of encouragement. “And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.”
They could rest in the knowledge they were in God’s will. They did not need to concern themselves about their defense. The Holy Spirit would give them the words to say. So their speech, presence, and demeanor could be bold.
This ought to encourage us as well. We may doubt our ability to sustain the burden God gives us. But, the Spirit is there. He gives what we need.
Christ warned of impostors and false prophets. “See that no one leads you astray.” The only way to avoid allowing someone to lead us astray is to ground ourselves in God’s word. We must know what is true. What deviates from that is Satanic. Yes, I said that. Hinduism, Mormonism, Buddhism, Islam, are satanic. Anything that draws men away from Christ is satanic. Even Rome, with its emphasis on Mary and prayer to the Saints, draws us away from Christ. There are many false religions with false prophets.
Christ warned only those who persevere are saved. Christ requires courage from his followers. We must persist. It is as Paul said in his letter to the Thessalonians, we are not to grow weary of doing good. (2 Thessalonians 3:13.)
Titus destroyed the temple in 70 AD never to be rebuilt. Later Caliph Umar conquered Jerusalem for Islam. He chose the Temple Mount as a place for Muslim worship.
Abomination means profanation. This denotes uncleanness or that which corrupts or overturns the pure worship of God. What is on the location where the temple once stood? An Islamic Mosque. It is an abomination.
The “abomination of desolation” was a citation from Daniel 9:25-27. Mark wanted his readers to understand that. So he added the parenthetical, “let the reader understand”.
Jesus said these things would happen without warning. The destruction was more than anyone could imagine. In antiquity, when an invading army approached everyone fled to the city. The walls offered protection. But this time Christians did not flee to Jerusalem. They remembered Jesus’ warning. They fled to the mountains as Jesus commanded.
Jesus told them to pray that the destruction would not come in winter. The shorter days would impede their escape. The famine would increase as nothing grew in winter.
Two ancient historian record the destruction of the temple. They are the Roman historian Tacitus and the Jewish historian Josephus. They both described it as a catastrophe of supernatural dimensions. They describe armies appearing in the sky and a supernatural voice.
Besides these, a few days after that feast, on the one and twentieth day of the month Artemisius, [Jyar,] a certain prodigious and incredible phenomenon appeared: I suppose the account of it would seem to be a fable, were it not related by those that saw it, and were not the events that followed it of so considerable a nature as to deserve such signals; for, before sun-setting, chariots and troops of soldiers in their armor were seen running about among the clouds, and surrounding of cities. – War of the Jews Book 6 chapter 5 paragraph 3
You may track with me up to this point. You may agree with the evidence that all was fulfilled in 70 AD. But that still leave verses 24- 27. Christ second coming did not occur in 70 AD.
The description of the sun and moon darkening and stars falling is a Hebrew idiom. It shows that during that entire time one misery will follow another. It described a time of such misery that time itself was a misery. Its use is throughout the Old Testament. Amos 5:50; 8:9; Ecclesiastes 12:2; Isaiah 13:10; 30:26; 60:19,20l;Jeremiah 31:35; Ezekiel 32:7; Habakkuk 3:11.
As you can see the use of this idiom was not uncommon. The disciples would have understood it.
Verses 24–27 does not point to Christ’s coming in universal judgment. So this is not the second coming. Rather Christ said, they would see the Son of Man coming clouds of Glory. Again, clouds of glory is an idiom. This refers to Christ reigning in the Kingdom of God. This was not the final judgment.
Verse 27 refers to the worldwide spread of the gospel that followed. Angel or Angelos is the Greek word for messenger. The “angels” are messengers of the gospel. They may be either human or angelic.
Verse 30 is the cause of all the concern. What did Jesus mean by generation? Many have tortured this in several ways. Some take it as meaning “race”. That would give an assurance the Jewish race would not pass away. That is a stretch. It is true, the Greek term γενεά (genea) can have that meaning. But that meaning does not fit well in the context.
Others options are possible. Generation might mean “this type of generation”. That could refer to the generation of wicked humanity. Then humanity will not perish. God will redeem it. Generation may refer to “the generation that sees the signs of the end”. That is, once these signs start, all the events connected with it happen in rapid succession.
These all forget the context. This is in answer to the question, what are the signs of the destruction of the temple.
This passage is about the end times and the return of Christ in judgment. The context does not support that.
The clearest and most plain meaning of generation is a lifespan of a group of people. At the time of Christ, about 40 years. Jesus said that generation would see everything He said. “this generation will not pass away until ALL these things take place.” (emphasis added)
Do not miss read what I wrote. I am not denying the return of Christ. I am not denying the bodily resurrection of the saints. I am not denying the rapport. My only point is, this passage is not about those things.
This passage is evidence of the trustworthiness of Christ words. Christ was not mistaken. Every word He spoke was true. Everything He said would happen, happened. It happened as He said it would.
We are safe in Christ. He has atoned for our sins.