“Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender, and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; 33 even so you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door. 34 “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away (οὐ μὴ παρέλθῃ – ou mē parelthē ) until all these things take place. 35 “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words shall not pass away (οὐ μὴ παρέλθωσιν – ou mē parelthōsin).” (Matthew 24:32-35)
In the above passage, I have emboldened the subjunctives of emphatic negation and provided a transliteration for them.
This passage is very important because of what Jesus is saying with regard to His Second Coming. Now we are not going to get into all of the eschatological views on Christ’s Second Coming with the ‘hair-splitting’ variations in the interpretations of amill-, premill-, postmill-, and preterist approaches; nor will we consider pre-, mid-, and post-tribulation views of the rapture. However, what we do want to do with this passage is mine for some very obvious truths in relation to the context of the 24th chapter of Matthew as a whole. Therefore, we are going to first of all look at the significant verses that precede this passage in seven different sections.
Today, I will offer you the first.
Section I – Matthew 24:1-3
And 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 answered and said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here shall be left upon another, which will not be torn down.” 3 And as He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:1-3)
Jesus Predicts the Destruction of the Temple
In this section, Jesus is telling His disciples of the future destruction of the Temple that will occur in 70 AD under the Roman General, Titus, who later became Emperor of Rome from 79-81 AD:
Titus’ skill in diplomacy brought about a reconciliation . On Nero’s death (June 9, 68), Titus’ diplomatic expertise was once again in demand. He was sent to Rome on a delicate mission, ostensibly to pay his respects to Galba, but in fact to assess his family’s standing with the new emperor. However, on reaching Corinth, he heard of Galba’s death, openly advocated that his father seize power, and returned to Judea. His role in Vespasian’s ultimate success (he was first proclaimed emperor on July 1, 69) was again essentially diplomatic, involving constant negotiations with Flavian supporters in Egypt, Judea, and Syria. As a reward, he was made consul in absentia and replaced Vespasian as supreme commander of the Jewish war. Victory came quickly: by July 70 the Antonia had fallen and in August the temple was taken and destroyed. The rebels were not completely defeated, however, until 74 when the fortress of Masada was taken.1
The Temple Is Destroyed Despite Efforts to Preserve It
There’s something unique about this quote; Jesus spoke these words around 33AD, when Titus was only about six years old,2 and the Jewish Wars had not even begun to commence! How did He know? Jesus, who was God in the flesh “and the exact representation of His nature” (Hebrews 1:3), saw it all, even “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:3-6), and He was telling His disciples what was going to happen. Indeed, Josephus, a Jewish historian of the first century, wrote about the destruction of Rome in 70 AD in vivid detail, as is presented below:
And now, since Caesar was no way able to restrain the enthusiastic fury of the soldiers, and the fire proceeded on more and more, he went into the holy place of the temple, with his commanders, and saw it, with what was in it, which he found to be far superior to what the relations of foreigners contained, and not inferior to what we ourselves boasted of and believed about it. But as the flame had not as yet reached to its inward parts, but was still consuming the rooms that were about the holy house, and Titus supposing what the fact was, that the house itself might yet he saved, he came in haste and endeavored to persuade the soldiers to quench the fire, and gave order to Liberalius the centurion, and one of those spearmen that were about him, to beat the soldiers that were refractory with their staves, and to restrain them; yet were their passions too hard for the regards they had for Caesar, and the dread they had of him who forbade them, as was their hatred of the Jews, and a certain vehement inclination to fight them, too hard for them also. Moreover, the hope of plunder induced many to go on, as having this opinion, that all the places within were full of money, and as seeing that all round about it was made of gold. And besides, one of those that went into the place prevented Caesar, when he ran so hastily out to restrain the soldiers, and threw the fire upon the hinges of the gate, in the dark; whereby the flame burst out from within the holy house itself immediately, when the commanders retired, and Caesar with them, and when nobody any longer forbade those that were without to set fire to it. And thus was the holy house burnt down, without Caesar’s approbation. Now although any one would justly lament the destruction of such a work as this was, since it was the most admirable of all the works that we have seen or heard of, both for its curious structure and its magnitude, and also for the vast wealth bestowed upon it, as well as for the glorious reputation it had for its holiness; yet might such a one comfort himself with this thought, that it was fate that decreed it so to be, which is inevitable, both as to living creatures, and as to works and places also. However, one cannot but wonder at the accuracy of this period thereto relating; for the same month and day were now observed, as I said before, wherein the holy house was burnt formerly by the Babylonians. Now the number of years that passed from its first foundation, which was laid by king Solomon, till this its destruction, which happened in the second year of the reign of Vespasian, are collected to be one thousand one hundred and thirty, besides seven months and fifteen days; and from the second building of it, which was done by Haggai, in the second year of Cyrus the king, till its destruction under Vespasian, there were six hundred and thirty-nine years and forty-five days.3
What is interesting to note about this account is that even though Titus attempted to stop his soldiers from burning and completely destroying the Temple, he failed to do so, and thus, Jesus’ Words, totally apart from his cognizance, were completely fulfilled in Matthew 24:2: “And He answered and said to them, ‘Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here shall be left upon another, which will not be torn down.’”
The disciples next ask Him the question that has continually been asked by believers over the past two millennia: “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”
[For more on this, stay tuned. Next week we will look at verses 4-8.]