TEMPLE MAGNIFICENCE WOULD SOON BE REDUCED TO TEMPLE RUBBLE
Grant Osborne: Impending judgment has been the dominant theme since the symbolic actions of the cleansing of the temple and cursing of the fig tree in 21:12–22. This theme culminates in the Olivet Discourse (named for the place it was presented), or the Apocalyptic Discourse (named for the content), the fifth and final discourse of Jesus in Matthew. The reason for this judgment was presented in the woes and lament of the previous chapter. Now Jesus combines the imminent destruction of the temple and Jerusalem with the events of the eschaton. . .
Jesus has spent most of Passion Week in the temple, first cleansing it and then debating the leaders in it. Now he is about to cap the woes against the scribes and Pharisees by pronouncing imminent judgment on the temple. In 23:35–36 the people were guilty of “all the righteous blood” spilled, and in 23:38 her future was “desolate.” Now that desolation is spelled out. The prophecy of this section will dominate the next two chapters.
Charles Swindoll: The subject of biblical prophecy is like one magnet interacting with another. For many people, it pulls them in. For others, it drives them away. Those drawn to prophecy long to know about the future. They speculate about how current events might relate to their future and how their own lives may be affected by both. Those repelled by the subject of prophecy often fear the implications of coming judgment, find the biblical language and imagery confusing, or don’t believe the future has any practical application for their everyday lives.
David Thompson: As we come to Matthew 24-25, we come to one of the most famous and the final discourse of our Lord–the Olivet Discourse. Jesus had finished His teaching in the temple and was on His way back to Bethany (Matt. 26:6) and He paused to sit down on the Mount of Olives. It is here where the majority of this famous discussion takes place.
Now this discourse needs to be seen as a unit. Chapters 24-25 go together in the context of Israel. These chapters have nothing to do with the Church and nothing to do with the Rapture. Jesus Christ had come to offer Himself as King to Israel. He had offered the kingdom to Israel and she had rejected Him. All discussion in this discourse must be considered in view of this important reality.
CHRIST’S JEWISH DISCIPLES WANT TO KNOW ABOUT FUTURE EVENTS PERTAINING TO THE TEMPLE, ISRAEL, CHRIST’S COMING AND JUDGMENT, SO JESUS VERY SPECIFICALLY INSTRUCTS THEM.
Donald Hagner: It should be remembered, however, that much of the discourse refers to phenomena of the interim period preceding the parousia—if only to indicate that the sufferings of the present are not themselves the end nor even necessarily the harbingers of the end. . .
As far as the apostles were concerned, the ominous words of Jesus concerning the destruction of the temple could point in only one direction: to the experiencing of the eschatological judgment. This was a subject to which Jesus had often alluded in his teaching ministry and therefore something they may well have expected him to indicate. They were accordingly eager to know how soon this might occur and what sign they might anticipate to indicate its approach. Their concern was not one of idle curiosity, for mere information’s sake, but concern that they might be properly prepared for the time of judgment. From their perspective, the destruction of the temple must have meant the coming again of Jesus, not as he now was with them when his glory was veiled but as the clearly revealed Son of God for all to see. Jesus had now to instruct them more closely about these matters, about the future he had intimated in his dramatic oracle of judgment.
Stu Weber: Be prepared. The purpose of all Bible prophecy, such as that in Matthew 24, is to motivate us to live well today. It is not to satisfy our curiosity about the future. It is to intensify our purity in the present (see 1 John 3:3). Jesus was determined to prepare his disciples for their critical mission. And his word motivated them to live faithfully to gain future reward in the coming kingdom. In Matthew 24 he gave his followers a glimpse of the future. But he did not do it so they could get excited about future events. He did it so they would become thoroughly motivated to follow his commission in the present.
I. (:1-2) PROPHECY OF THE COMING DESTRUCTION OF THE TEMPLE
A. (:1) Enamered with Temple Magnificence
“And Jesus came out from the temple and was going away
when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him.”
R. T. France: The traditional chapter division leads most commentators to treat these verses as the start of the long discourse which follows in 24:3 – 25:46, and it is true that they form the basis for the question which will launch that discourse in v. 3. But they are also in an important sense the climax to the whole section 21:23 – 23:39, which has depicted Jesus in the temple. Now, having entered the temple dramatically and controversially in 21:12–16, he leaves it with an equally emphatic and more far-reaching statement about its future. He is abandoning it, never to return, and after that it has no future except to be destroyed. What has been hitherto the earthly focus of the presence of God among his people is so no longer. There is a direct sequence from 23:38: the “house” which is now being left deserted (by God and by Jesus) is ripe for demolition, to make way for “something greater than the temple” (12:6); cf. Mark’s language, surprisingly not taken up by Matthew, of a temple not made by hands to replace the one made by hands (Mark 14:58).
John Walvoord: The temple had been under construction since 20 B.C., and, though not actually completed until A.D. 64, its main buildings apparently were largely finished. To the disciples, the temple seemed an impressive evidence of the solidarity of Israel’s religious life and of God’s blessing upon Jerusalem.
Grant Osborne: The disciples have not understood the meaning of the temple cleansing and cursing of the fig tree, nor of the woes and lament at the wickedness of the leaders and the city. They are still enamored with the wonder of the temple, which certainly deserved such exclamations on the face of it. The temple was indeed considered, even by the Romans, to be one of the most beautiful structures in the ancient world (Josephus, J.W. 6.267). The walls were made of huge stones, some up to forty feet long, and the top was adorned by pure white marble, with gold plates on the façade so numerous that people were almost blinded when the sun shone on it.
William Barclay: The summit of Mount Sion had been dug away to leave a plateau of 1,000 feet square. At the far end of it was the Temple itself (the naos, G3485) . It was built of white marble plated with gold, and it shone in the sun so that a man could scarcely bear to look at it. Between the lower city and the Temple mount lay the valley of the Tyropoeon, and across this valley stretched a colossal bridge. Its arches had a span of 41 1/2 feet, and its spring stones were 24 feet long by 6 inches thick. The Temple area was surrounded by great porches, Solomon’s Porch and the Royal Porch. These porches were upheld by pillars, cut out of solid blocks of marble in one piece. They were 37 1/2 feet high, and of such a thickness that three men linked together could scarcely put their arms round them. At the corners of the Temple angle stones have been found which measure from 20 to 40 feet in length, and which weigh more than 100 tons. How they were ever cut and placed in position is one of the mysteries of ancient engineering. Little wonder that the Galilaean fishermen looked and called Jesus’ attention to them.
Henry Alford: From Mark we learn that it was Peter and James and John and Andrew who asked this question.
B. (:2) Enlightened Regarding Temple Destruction
“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.’”
Charles Swindoll: This unexpected response to their enthusiasm over the temple complex may have felt like a slap in the face, but it was a necessary correction to their fixation on the physical and their obsession with the opulent.
Leon Morris: The disciples were doubtless moved by admiration for the magnificent building, and they probably expected some expression of appreciation from Jesus. But (there is adversative force in the conjunction) they got nothing of the sort. Instead Jesus invited their attention to all these things and went on to prophesy solemnly the total destruction of the temple. He uses the emphatic “Truly I tell you,” goes on to employ the emphatic double negative, and supplies the detail that a stone will not be left upon a stone. Jesus is making clear that, while the temple was undoubtedly a wonderful building, the disciples should not be beguiled by its beauty. What matters is that God’s people should live godly lives. When they do not, disaster in some form is inevitable. For the Jews that was going to include the destruction of their beautiful place of worship.
Brooks: The Destruction of Jerusalem
I. An illustration of the instability of all earthly grandeur.
II. An instance of God’s punishment of sin in the present world.
III. An example of the fulfilment of Scripture prophecy.
IV. A proof of the abolition of the Mosaic economy.
V. A cause of the dispersion of the Jews.
Stu Weber: In spite of the temple’s outward beauty, Jesus was more concerned with the inward condition of God’s people. Israel had broken its covenant with Yahweh, this time by rejecting the Messiah. Of little consequence was the time interval before his judgment broke through the dam of his forbearance. Judgment was certain to come. So Jesus did not see the beauty that should have been reflective of a submissive people and an accepting God. Rather, he saw horrible destruction wrought by the rebellious hearts he had been debating that week in the temple courts. In fact, the purpose of the Great Tribulation to come would be the purging of God’s covenant people Israel in preparation for the Messiah-King’s return to the throne of David.
Jeffrey Crabtree: This much is certain: the return of Christ and its accompanying judgment are at the ultimate point of this discourse. Among all the lessons these chapters teach, Barclay (2:367) rightly highlights two.
- First, Jesus wins. There is no doubt that the one who rides the clouds is victor.
- Second, this world is going somewhere. Life on earth is not an endless, meaningless continuum.
II. (:3) QUESTIONS REGARDING THE COMING MESSIANIC AGE
“And as He was sitting on the Mount of Olives,
the disciples came to Him privately, saying,”
“Tell us, when will these things be,”
Grant Osborne: The disciples clearly link the destruction of the temple with the arrival of the eschaton. Moreover, since Jesus in 23:36 said the judgment was to take place during “this generation,” the disciples assumed everything would happen soon. Their question is twofold, centering on the time (“when” [πότε]) of “these things,” namely, the whole complex of events the disciples associated with the OT “day of the LORD” and in their minds would be inaugurated by the destruction of the temple; and the “sign” (σημεῖον) they should look for to herald those events. Jesus will answer the first question negatively when he tells them, “you do not know on what day your Lord is going to come” (24:42) and “you do not know the day or the hour” (25:13). The time is not for them to know.
Thomas Constable: The disciples asked Jesus two questions. The first was, “When will these things be?” The second question had two parts as is clear from the Greek construction of the sentence. It linked two nouns, “coming” (Gr. parousias) and “end” (Gr. synteleias), with a single article, “the” (Gr. to), and the conjunction “and” (Gr. kai). The second question was, “What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” By asking the question this way we know that the disciples believed that Jesus’ coming (Matthew 23:39) would end the present age and introduce the messianic age. [Note: See Edersheim, The Life . . ., 2:434-45, for an explanation of the Jewish expectation connected with the advent of the Messiah.] The first question dealt with the time of the destruction of the temple. The second dealt with the sign that would signal Jesus’ coming and the end of the age.
B. What Will Be the Sign?
“and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”
Grant Osborne: The second question is in fact addressed by Jesus. He will spend the first part of his address telling what are not the signs (vv. 4–14, 23–26), and then will elucidate what are, namely, the “abomination that causes desolation” of v. 15, the “great tribulation” of v. 21, and especially “the sign of the Son of Man” coming in v. 30. The coming and the eschaton are considered a single event by the disciples, as indicated by the article governing both. They have also connected both of these to the destruction of the temple.
Brian Bell: The signs are: Spiritual Deception. International Disruption. Physical Destruction. and, Religious Discrimination. Though these have always been with us, obviously they will accelerate.
Van Parunak: Some people think that the second question is really two, but the disciples are asking for only one sign, not two. To see the identification of the two parts, we should understand that “world” is αιων (Strong 165, = Hebrew עולם), and is chronological, not geographical. The Jews distinguished “the present world of toil (‘olam ha-zeh’)” from “a Sabbatical millennium, ‘the world to come’ (‘olam ha-ba’…). The coming of the Messiah would be a distinctive feature of the future age. This distinction is reflected elsewhere in the NT:
Mat 12:32 And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.
Eph 1:20 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, 21 Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:
The “world to come” is the day of the Lord, the Millennium, the Messianic age. So “thy coming” and “the end of the age,” in their minds, refer to the same point in time. They recognize that the degree of destruction the Lord has anticipated in v. 2 can only reflect the promised Day of the Lord, and want to know more about it.