IS THE DESTRUCTION OF THE TEMPLE IN 70 A.D. A FULFILLMENT OF PROPHECY?
We read in Matt. 24:1-2, “And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple; and His disciples came to Him for to shew Him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said unto them, ‘See ye not all these things: verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down'”. Was this prophecy fulfilled in 70 AD?
We will consider the following topics in order to come to a correct view of this prophecy:
PROPHECY AND THE DISPENSATION OF THE MYSTERY
MAN’S REALITY AND GOD’S REALITY
We read in Matt. 24:1 that the disciples showed Jesus “the buildings of the temple”. And our Lord told His disciples that “there shall not be left here one stone upon another“. But the western wall, also known as “the wailing wall” proves that some stones were indeed left upon others, proving that this prophecy was not fulfilled in 70 AD.
Some have suggested that the western wall was not part of the temple. Strictly speaking that is true, the western wall was part of the retaining wall that surrounded the temple. But I believe a careful study of the phrase in Matt. 24:1 is called for. That phrase is, “for to shew Him the buildings of the temple”. The Greek word translated “buildings” in this phrase is “kubia”. It is indeed a very interesting word. It is used eighteen times and is translated “building(s)” six times and “edify” or “edification” twelve times. It is clear that the basic meaning of the word is “edification”. The archaic definition of the English words “edify” and “edification” means “build or construct“. The noun form then is “structure”
In fact, if we look again at Matt. 24:1 I think we may see that definition more clearly. “…..His disciples came to Him for to shew Him the buildings of the temple”. Note that we do not read that they showed Christ “the temple” but the “buildings of the temple”. In my opinion, because the Greek word is so often translated “edify” or “edification” this indicates the structures of the temple as that is what “edify” means. (I never cease to marvel at how God used the exact word so that we might know exactly what He intended us to understand.) Let us continue with this phrase “the buildings of the temple” with a consideration of the word “of”. In my opinion the “of” is the Genitive of Relation which the Companion Bible defines as “equivalent to ‘pertaining to'”.
In other words, the phrase “the buildings of the Temple” may be understood as “the structures pertaining to the temple”.
So the Greek word tells us that it means a structure. In that case, I believe that, as used in Matt. 24:1, the word includes the retaining wall. Therefore, we must conclude that this prophecy was not fulfilled in 70 AD. It is as simple as that. God’s prophecies are always fulfilled exactly, not approximately. It is not true that there are no stones left upon another in the structures pertaining to the temple, therefore this prophecy was not fulfilled in 70 A.D.
It should be noted however that some archeologists and scholars believe that the wall was not part of the temple, but rather part of a Roman fortress. But as stated above, others believe that the wall was part of the temple. In other words, we have conflicting views of the scholars. That being the case one would need to decide if the prophecy of Matt. 24 was fulfilled in 70 A. D. by Scripture alone, i.e. without the aid of disagreeing archeologists, which I believe is the best way this question should be addressed anyway. What can we learn from the passage in question that would help us determine if it was fulfilled in 70 A. D.?
The scene recorded in Matt. 24 begins with the disciples bringing Christ to the buildings of the temple. As He sat there Christ told the disciples, “There shall not be left here one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down”. And it was that comment that led to the question recorded in Matt. 24:3, “And as He sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto Him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when shall these things be and what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world (Gr. “aion”, age)?’”
My point is that the question, “what shall be the sign of Thy coming and of the end of the age” did not come out of thin air. It came rather from the statement that the temple would be destroyed. What was it about the statement of destruction that led to the question of the end of the age? It was, of course, the prophecy of the destruction of the temple in the end times recorded in Dan. 9:26. That verse reads, “….and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary and the end thereof shall be with a flood”.
So the disciples understood that Christ’s statement of destruction of the temple came from an end time prophecy. And that is what led them to ask about the end times. In short, both the disciples’ question and Christ’s answer concerned the end times. And the destruction of the temple in 70 A. D. was not recorded, but it is a prophecy of the end times.
So again, we have the choice of basing our conclusion as to whether Matt. 24 was fulfilled in 70 A. D. on Scripture which does describe the destruction of the temple, or on an event that is not mentioned in the Word of God. The former is based on what, as believers, we know to be truth, i.e. the Word of God, and the latter is based on the writings of man which we know as human beings to be flawed.
PROPHECY AND THE DISPENSATION OF THE MYSTERY
When Israel was set aside at the end of the Acts period prophecies concerning Israel were put in abeyance. In other words, during the dispensation of the mystery no prophecies that are centered on Israel are being fulfilled. That being the case, the prophecy of Matt. 24:1-2 could not have been fulfilled by the Romans because that was accomplished after Israel had been set aside, therefore after the beginning of the dispensation of the mystery, i.e. in a dispensation in which no prophecy centered on Israel is being fulfilled.
MAN’S REALITY AND GOD’S REALITY
The argument is made that our Lord was speaking of those very stones that would be destroyed and those very stones were destroyed in 70 A.D. But as we have seen above, those stones were not totally destroyed because the western wall still stands.
I suggest that because the destruction of 70 A.D. was not recorded in God’s Word, it did not happen in God’s eyes. That is to say, in man’s reality the temple was destroyed in 70 A.D., but in God’s reality it never happened. There is a precedence for this suggestion in what we read of Melchizedec.
We read of Melchizedec in Heb. 7:3 that he was, “without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life……”. Let us consider the oft repeated verse that Christ was made “a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedec” (Ps. 110:4, Heb. 5:6, and 7:17). The phrase “after the order of” tells us that Melchizedec was a type of Christ. Melchizedec was therefore a man. As is true of every other man, Melchizedec did indeed have a father, he did indeed have a mother, and he did indeed have a beginning and an end to his life. But Heb. 7:3 tells us that he did not have any of those things. How are we to understand this apparent contradiction in God’s perfect Word?
I suggest that because there is no record in God’s Word of Melchizedec’s parents or his birth and death, that in God’s sight, i.e. in God’s reality, Melchizedec had none of those things.
So too, because the destruction of 70 A.D. is not recorded in God’s Word, in God’s sight, i.e. in God’s reality, it never happened. The fact that even though it is obvious that there will be a temple in the tribulation (see II Thes. 2:4) there is no record of it having been built lends, in my opinion, great weight to this suggestion. That is to say, because the temple was, in God’s sight, never destroyed there is no reason to record the building of it in or before the end times.
This paper was written by Joyce Pollard. If you would like to respond please e-mail be at: email@example.com