1 ¶ And as he went out of the temple, one of his disciples saith unto him, Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here! 2 And Jesus answering said unto him, Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. 3 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives over against the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, 4 Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled?
Jesus is literally talking about the temple that was finished under Herod the Great’s leadership. Four disciples then later ask Jesus what the signs will be of this great destruction predicted. It has been understood throughout the history of Christianity that prophecies had double-meanings, at least. There is an immediate context and a context of a more distant prophetic import.
When Isaac, carrying what could have been the fuel for his own sacrificial fire, asked his father, Abraham, where the sacrifice was, Abraham replied;
Genesis 22:8 And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.
But, it was a ram, not a lamb, in verse 13, that was provided. Clearly, then this statement had a double-meaning, even if Abraham himself didn’t know what that meaning was. God was revealing His sacrifice of Himself, as the Lamb of God (John 1:29, 36).
In Exodus 12:3-5 the Lord speaks to Moses and Aaron. In each successive verse while describing the Passover Lamb the progression also indicates Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, who is “a lamb” (v.3), “the lamb” (v. 4), and “your lamb” (v.5) which is indicative of Christ as a Saviour (Isaiah 45:21), the Saviour of the world (John 4:42), and then yours and my Saviour specifically (Titus 1:4; 2:13).
In this chapter there will be prophecies that have already been fulfilled in one sense but in another, Jesus links them to future events. Surely, history does repeat itself for a purpose. Remember, the temple at Jerusalem has already been twice destroyed, first by Nebuchadnezzar and then by the Romans.
For instance, at the end of 2 Chronicles, the last part of the Hebrew Bible’s order of books, Cyrus, king of Persia orders the Jews back to the land. This is an immediate command but also reflects prophetically what began in the twentieth century with the return of the Jews to Palestine and to the creation of Israel in 1948.
2Chronicles 36:23 Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, All the kingdoms of the earth hath the LORD God of heaven given me; and he hath charged me to build him an house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all his people? The LORD his God be with him, and let him go up.
Jesus then delivers a prophecy that is applicable to the destruction of the temple in 70AD and the events surrounding it. It is also, by the words and phrases used, clearly applicable to the end of the Tribulation and the end of human-centered history. I will attempt to show both of these applications as this amazing chapter unfolds.