Summary: We hear about violence and famine, war and crime every day on the news. Jesus said this was the beginning of the end for this world - but He also says something else to us - "Don’t be alarmed." How do we keep a peaceful heart in times of great storm?
There’s an attitude that exists, certainly among scientists, the educational elite – and surprisingly even among Christian professors – that the Bible is not historically accurate. "It is an account that was crafted by men who had a point to make, so the details don’t necessarily match up with what really happened," they say.
Now, I’m not here to get into a philosophical debate about the veracity of the Scriptures – we can have that discussion at another time.
That being said – did you all pick up the latest edition of Biblical Archeology Review? Well, if you didn’t, perhaps you read about this on the front page of the Oregonian newspaper. Scholars are now saying that an ossuary, which is a box containing human bones – contains an inscription that is the earliest known reference to Jesus Christ outside of the Bible.
The box contains these words: "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus." The box and the inscription date to the first century AD, and the unusual nature of the inscription lends to its authenticity. One scientist said this is "the first ever archaeological discovery to corroborate Biblical references to Jesus."
Although it is significant, it is not surprising. You see, scientists have scoffed at many passages in the Bible, until evidence of their truth is unearthed in some dig in the Middle East.
But I want to point out something – the Bible doesn’t hinge upon whether or not we can prove its historical accuracy by extra Biblical evidence. That is where faith comes in. Paul wrote in the book of Romans the gospel is the power of God. His Word is true, and it is powerful – and it doesn’t need a scientist to lend authenticity to it.
But His Word can be trusted – and should be relied upon not only to guide our present, but to tell our future. That’s where we are today in our journey through Matthew – the drama of Jesus’ earthly ministry is almost over, and His disciples – always the inquiring mind – want to know "is this it – are You going to restore Israel now?"
So Jesus, always patient with His people, gives a glimpse into the future – "you want to know when the end is near – here’s how you can know – follow the signs."
Now even before we begin I want you to notice something – the audience is made up of Jews. They will be Christians, but Jesus is speaking prophetically to the Jews – this is important because the signs He talks about will tell the Jews remaining on the earth during the Great Tribulation what to expect and what to do.
Anyway – the conversation starts as the group walks away from the Temple area, after a very heated rebuke from Jesus on the Pharisees.
24:1 Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings.
In Mark’s gospel we read the disciples were actually quite taken with the Temple. And beautiful it was – this was Herod’s Temple – a huge expansion on the one built by Ezra in the sixth century BC. Herod didn’t believe in Yahweh, but he wanted to impress his subjects and leave a massive monument to himself.
The Temple covered about 1/6th of the land area of ancient Jerusalem. It wasn’t one building but a series of porches and colonnades. The foundation stones were so massive that some believe the footings still exist to this day.
But calling attention to the buildings only gave an opportunity for Jesus to point out that anything that impresses us, but leaves out God is a waste.
2 "Do you see all these things?" he asked. "I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down."
This came true, of course, only a few years after Herod finished his construction project – in 70AD when the Romans destroyed the Temple. But it was also true spiritually – as Jesus dismantled the empty religion that had rejected Him – the true sacrifice.
You see – this Temple was only supposed to be a reminder – a model if you will – of a greater reality in heaven.
The book of Hebrews in Hebrews 9:24 says: "24 For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence."
Jesus telling His disciples that the Temple was to be destroyed would have been a shocker – but in their minds the idea of a suffering Messiah was still foreign – they were looking for an earthly king to restore their nation – so if destroying the Temple was what it took, then they went with it – probably wondering the whole way up the slope of the Mount of Olives.