The Temple Prophecy (aka The Olivet Discourse or Olivet Prophecy)
A Study Of Matthew 24 / Luke 21 / Mark 13
(with thanks to Ralph Woodrow for allowing me to quote liberally from Great Prophecies Of The Bible)
Jesus spoke about the coming destruction of the Temple in three places, Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21, and the general term used for these speeches is the Olivet Discourse. However, as Jesus is prophesying, foretelling of a future event, and as the speech in Luke does not take place on the Mount Of Olives, but actually outside the Temple, I think it is more accurate to call the speeches the Temple Prophecy, as in all three accounts it is exactly the same core message, centred on the imminent demise of the Temple, albeit with some subtle variations of emphasis.
Jesus’s speech is actually very plain and straightforward, however, there are certain issues which have clouded interpretation, and caused a lot of confusion. (Whether the misinterpretations are down to ignorance or subversion is not a topic under scrutiny here).
I believe that there are four major factors that have caused, and continue to cause, an immense amount of puzzlement about the Temple prophecy, leading in turn to some wild and hopeless speculation and contorted end-time exegesis. One is a simple lack of historical knowledge, and a proclivity to imagine that everything Jesus ever prophesied was intended for ‘me and my generation’, (this is just a general observation, but I personally was guilty at one time of reading the Bible like this); I extensively quote from Ralph Woodrow’s ‘Great Prophecies Of The Bible’, as he fleshes out the historical detail without which any fulfilled prophecy will remain just a skeleton. The second is a lack of attention to detail when dealing with the actual initial comments of Jesus; I will cover that as I go through the study. The third is the confusion between the end of the Temple, and the end of the world, both translated as ‘end’ in English, whereas in the Greek Jesus is using two different words, telos and synteleia, in respect of each different matter. The fourth, and perhaps the most significant, is a poor comprehension of The Book Of Daniel. As I have already done extensive studies of Daniel which I advise readers to read before all else, since I view them as the bedrock of Bible prophecy, I will be succinct here. The Church has interpreted Daniel’s 69th/70th week as ending sometime around Christ’s crucifixion; I have read a few of these studies in the past, and they all smack of bodgery to me, a desperate attempt to force dates to fit according to certain pre-conceived notions. My own understanding of Daniel’s prophecy of the 70 weeks on Israel and Jerusalem is that the final week was the Roman war on Judea, starting in AD67 and concluding in AD73. The climactic 70th week of Daniel is a description of Rome laying total waste to Judea, including the troops of Titus coming into Jerusalem and ending the temple sacrifice system and destroying the temple.
26 After the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one (the Church in Jerusalem; this Church was divinely tasked to witness to Israel during their 40 year grace period) shall be cut off (leaves Jerusalem) and shall have nothing (leaving not one single Christian behind), and the (Roman) troops of the prince who is to come (General Titus, later to become Emperor) shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, (flood means an overwhelming force, in this case, fire) and to the end there shall be war (war against Judea lasted to AD73). Desolations are decreed (general destruction of Judea). 27 He shall confirm a strong covenant with many for one week, (enforce the penalty of Mosaic Law) and for half of the week he shall make sacrifice and offering cease (temple destroyed in AD70, the midpoint of the week); and in their place shall be an abomination that desolates (Roman ensign – the eagle, a symbol of Zeus/Jupiter), and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate (remaining Jews sold into slavery abroad).
So it is very important to be clear that the destruction of the Temple was prophesied by Daniel to occur in the last of the 70 weeks, and Jesus confirms that he himself is recapitulating the Prophecy, as he refers to the Book Of Daniel and the Abomination in Matthew 24:15, just so that we are left in absolutely no doubt.
If you do not have the correct understanding of Daniel, you will come to the Temple Prophecy not realizing that the destruction of Jerusalem is the centrepiece of the 70 week prophecy, and that it is a hugely significant event, (for reasons I will discuss later). Furthermore you will not realize that Jesus is not introducing a new prophecy, but really is elaborating and elucidating an earlier prophecy, according to the rules of the previous prophecy, (bearing in mind of course that Jesus is the author of all Biblical Prophecy, but any rules that he has previously set he will adhere to himself).
The accounts in Mark, Matthew, and Luke all differ in subtle ways, which is very important as it gives us three accounts of the same event. It is a kind of triangulation, that allows us to hone in very accurately on the proper meaning of the prophecy; just as in a legal case each witness needs to properly corroborate the others, the same is true of the different accounts. Each creates a pattern that must overlay the pattern created by the other two in order to form a homogeneous and harmonious final picture. Whilst Mark and Matthew’s accounts are very close, Luke’s differs slightly more. Let us take Mark’s account as our starting point, and then go on to corroborate the other two accounts against it.
13:1 As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” 2 Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”
Jesus makes two statements here:
1) that the Temple will be totally destroyed
2) that the Temple will then lie in a state of ruin
3 When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately,
The destruction of the Temple had huge implications for the disciples. When Jesus spoke these words, the Law was still being observed, Israel was a collective entity under the Law, and the notion of ‘the Gospel to the Nations’ was still a mystery. Once the Temple was destroyed, many things in the disciples’ world would be blown apart. The destruction of the Temple meant the end of the sacrificial system and the closure of the Old Covenant, and could be perceived to signify the end of National Israel, (by historical precedent, as previously the Temple had been destroyed when Israel was in Babylonian captivity), and the end of the Law.
The disciples were probably both seriously alarmed and highly intrigued, and without doubt had surely discussed the matter amongst themselves before approaching Jesus for clarification. It is not clear how deeply they understood the ramifications and implications of what Jesus had said; surely they would have had a pretty good idea, how good though, it is hard to say, as they were not clerically educated.
4 “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?”
The disciples ask two questions, based on what Jesus had already told them.
1) What will be the precursor event, sign, that indicates that the destruction is about to happen
2) How long will the Temple exist in a state of ruin (‘When’ will it be in a state of ruin)
When we consider the previous destruction of the Temple in 587BC by Nebuchadnezzar, it was at a time when Israel had been sent into exile under Babylon. Around 70 years later the Temple was reconstructed under Ezra and Zerubbabel. It had been a period of intense ignominy for Israel, when they had fallen totally out of favour with God for gross apostasy. So these things were part of Jewish history and well-understood by the disciples, and naturally not only would they want to know the date of the punishment, they would also want to know its duration. Historical precedent would indicate to them that it was a punishment, and would be for a given period of time.
The question of when will Jerusalem be in a state of ruin therefore really divides into two further questions which I think are explicit: when will the Temple be destroyed and how long will it remain so, or, put otherwise, what is the start date and what is the end date for the state of ruin. It is also pertinent to realize that when they asked for a sign, they probably had partly their own self-preservation in mind; they understood the implications of a foreign power destroying the city, and whether they realized it was their spiritual right not to be caught up in the destruction, (which I suppose they would have), it is not inconceivable that they would have been concerned about avoiding the catastrophe themselves.
When we come to Jesus’s reply, we need to properly understand Daniel’s 70 weeks Prophecy, which was an encrypted prophecy. In the Book Of Daniel, Jesus, who is the author of all prophecy and appears as the Man In Linen by the Tigris, prophesied through the Angel Gabriel that, in AD 67-73, Jerusalem and Judea would enter a cataclysmic final week known in Church parlance as The Great Tribulation; it is correctly actually just ‘a great tribulation’ amongst great tribulations, but as Jesus said it would be the worst suffering ever known on earth, we abbreviate it into ‘The Great Tribulation’. However that prophecy was sealed and remained so until fulfillment, “seventy weeks are decreed….to seal up vision and prophecy”; the prophecy was only to be understood after it had been fulfilled. Therefore it was, technically, sealed at the time Jesus was speaking here to the disciples, since he was speaking in AD 33, forty years before the prophecy would be fulfilled. However, Jesus also said that the 70 weeks would be cut short (literally, ‘cut off’, ‘curtailed’) for the Church.
Matthew 24:22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.
‘Days’ here is prophetic language for years, (the last 7 years of the 490 years), so what this means is that the Church would escape from Jerusalem prior to the final 7 years of Daniel’s 490 year prophecy, being, in effect, exempt from the terms of the final week. In order for the pending curtailment to take effect, Jesus then has to explain to the Church in Jerusalem, of which these four disciples will form the core, (James in fact was the leader of the Jerusalem Church), how they need to take themselves out of it. By explaining it, he is also cutting it short insofar as he is explaining it to them prior to its completion, that is to say, he is unsealing, decoding, (giving the meaning of), the 70 weeks prior to its fulfillment. So although the actual cutting short was the escape in AD66 from Jerusalem, and Jesus’s words here are laying the ground for that event, we can also say that, as he is unsealing the prophecy before time, this premature unsealing is in itself a form of cutting short. But this is perhaps a bit semantic; the main thing to understand is that the Church was exempt from the final week.
If Jesus explained the 70th week to the disciples in a simple unembroidered way, that would not be a problem, except that then the gospels which were written pre AD67, (they are generally believed to have been written from AD41 onwards, Luke coming last around AD60), would necessarily disclose this same information about the sealed week. So, if Jesus had have explained the 70th week in simple terms, for instance by giving a precise date for it, then he would have been unsealing Daniel’s prophecy, not just to his private audience of the disciples, but to anyone who read the Gospels. The sealing of Daniel’s prophecy was for a very good reason, namely that it was a judgement, and if the Jews knew that at the end of AD66 the troops of Cestius Gallus would appear inside the precincts of Jerusalem, and that this would be the sign to run for the hills, then God’s prophecy and purposes would be rendered null and void. (One could argue that Jesus could have told the disciples in plain terms, and then the gospel writers, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, need not have recorded it, but if this were so then we would be shorn of a record of the prophecy of the most seismic event in Israel’s history; suffice it to say that, apart from the fact that God is perfect in what he is doing, understanding the destruction of Jerusalem is really integral to the Bible story, and therefore it is in the gospels, and God presented it to us in this format).
So we see that Jesus is really obligated, for want of a better word, not to give a direct answer which would divulge important details about the 70th week. So therefore he answers in a periphrastic way, to conceal vital information. But of course the Word is a double-edged sword, so in the act of concealment, Jesus is also able to divulge lots of vital information to the disciples. So Jesus’s reply to the question of when takes the form of a chronology of events leading up to the actual point in time in question, with a marker for the destruction of the Temple slotted in at the appropriate point; this therefore is a deliberately cryptic response by Jesus for the aforesaid reasons. By giving a chronology as a form of obfuscation, he is however able to impart a lot of vital information to the disciples about the 40 years that will follow his resurrection. Effectively then, he answers a question about a future prophetic event, the 70th week of Daniel, by giving further prophetic information. So he also is using his prophetic authority to furnish more details about the 70 weeks of Daniel by filling in information about what are the 65th-69th weeks in the prophecy.
5 Then Jesus began to say to them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. 6 Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray.
According to Josephus, the noted Jewish historian, twelve years after our Saviour’s death, a certain impostor named Theudas persuaded a great multitude to follow him to the river Jordan which he claimed would divide for their passage. At the time of Felix (who is mentioned in the book of Acts), the country of the Jews was filled with impostors who Felix had put to death EVERY DAY—a statement which indicates that there were “many” of such in those days!
An Egyptian who “pretended to be a prophet” gathered 30,000 men, claiming that he would show “how, at his command, the walls of Jerusalem would fall down.”
Another deceiver was Simon, a sorcerer, who led people to believe he was the great power of God (See Acts 8). According to Irenaeus, Simon claimed to be the Son of God and creator of angels. Jerome says that he claimed to be the Word of God, the Almighty. Justin relates that he went to Rome and was acclaimed as a god by his magical powers.
Origen mentions a certain wonder-worker, Dositheus, who claimed he was the Christ foretold by Moses. Another deceiver in those days was Barchochebas who, according to Jerome, claimed to vomit flames. Bar-jesus is mentioned in Acts 13:6 as a sorcerer and false prophet. These are examples of the deceivers of whom history says there were “a great number,” and of whom Jesus had prophesied that there would be “many.”
– from Ralph Woodrow, Great Prophecies Of The Bible
7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. 8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom;
We are told that when Jesus gave this prophecy, the Roman Empire was experiencing a general peace within its borders. Jesus explained to his disciples that they would be hearing of wars, rumors of wars, and commotions. And did they? Yes! Within a short time the Empire was filled with strife, insurrection, and wars.
In the Annals of Tacitus, a Roman who wrote a history which covers the period prior to 70 A. D., we find such expressions as these: “Disturbances in Germany,” “commotions in Africa,” “commotions in Thrace,” “insurrections in Gaul,” “intrigues among the Parthians,” “the war in Britain,” “war in Armenia.”
Among the Jews, the times became turbulent. In Seleucia, 50,000 Jews were killed. There was an uprising against them in Alexandria. In a battle between the Jews and Syrians in Caesarea, 20,000 were killed. During these times, Caligula ordered his statue placed in the temple at Jerusalem. The Jews refused to do this and lived in constant fear that the Emperor’s armies would be sent into Palestine. This fear became so real that some of them did not even bother to till their fields.
– from Ralph Woodrow, Great Prophecies Of The Bible
The ‘end’ Jesus is referring to here is not the end of the world, which is ‘synteleia aion’, but the end of the Temple, designated by the use of the Greek word, ‘telos’. This is in line with the disciples’ question; what are the signs, precursor events, leading to the destruction of the Temple, to which Jesus is laying out a chronological chain of events, but has not yet arrived at the conclusion.
there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.
The Bible records that there was famine “throughout all the world…in the days of Claudius Caesar” in Acts 11:28. Judea was especially hard hit by famine. “The disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea” (V 29). Paul’s instructions concerning this “collection [of fruit] for the saints” is recorded in 1 Corinthians 16:1-5 and Romans 15:25-28.
Historians such as Suetonius and others mention famine during those years. Tacitus speaks of a “failure in the crops, and a famine consequent thereupon.” Eusebius also mentions famines during this time in Rome, Judea, and Greece. Yes, there were famines in those years before the fall of Jerusalem.
Along with famines, Jesus mentioned pestilence; that is, plagues, the spread of disease, epidemics. Famine and pestilence, of course, go hand in hand. When people do not have proper food or insufficient food, pestilence results. Suetonius wrote of “pestilence” at Rome in the days of Nero which was so severe that “within the space of one autumn there died no less than 30,000 persons.” Josephus records that pestilences raged in Babylonia in A. D. 40. Tacitus tells of pestilences in Italy in A. D. 65. Yes, there were pestilences in those years before the destruction of Jerusalem.
During this period, Jesus said there would also be earthquakes in many places. Tacitus mentions earthquakes at Rome. He wrote that “Frequent earthquakes occurred, by which many houses were thrown down” and that “twelve populous cities of Asia fell in ruins from an earthquake.”
Seneca, writing in the year 58 A. D., said: “How often have cities of Asia and Achaea fallen with one fatal shock! how many cities have been swallowed up in Syria! how many in Macedonia! how often has Cyprus been wasted by this calamity ! how often has Paphos become a ruin! News has often been brought us of the demolition of whole cities at once.” He mentions the earthquake at Campania during the reign of Nero. In 60 A.D., Hierapous, Colosse, and Laodicea were overthrown—Laodicea being so self-sufficient that it recovered without the Imperial aid furnished other cities. In 63 A.D,, the city of Pompeii was greatly damaged by earthquake. There were earthquakes in Crete, Apamea, Smyrna, Miletus, Chios, Samos, and Judea. Earthquakes in divers places!
– from Ralph Woodrow, Great Prophecies Of The Bible
Jesus here refers to the cumulative events leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem as birth pains, ‘odin’. This is a complex subject, and not one I am doctrinaire about, but I see it this way. The Kingdom Of God really came into being once the earthly Kingdom of Israel ceased to exist, so whilst Jesus and John preached that the Kingdom was near, it still had not arrived at that point. So in simple terms the birth pains are those of the Kingdom being born; we can say that when Christ started his ministry it was in utero, but when Israel finally ceased in AD70, or AD73, (depending how we view it), then the Kingdom was born. Technically, the Kingdom really was conceived in AD33 when Jesus was resurrected, the firstborn of the dead. Then we see the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Church. 40 years then elapse before the termination of Daniel’s 70th week, in AD73. When the week ends, (‘immediately after the tribulation of those days’), then the Old Covenant ceases to be, and the New Covenant is birthed. The duration of a woman’s pregnancy is 40 weeks, so we could perhaps see this 40 years as representative of the 40 week pregnancy. (We could also draw an analogy between Eve and the Church, and understand her pain in conception and childbirth, [Gen 3:16], as being prophetic of the birth of the church out of old covenant Israel.) Luke in fact indicates that the Kingdom of God does not come into being until after the final week: (Chp 21:31 So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.)
9 “As for yourselves, beware; for they will hand you over to councils; and you will be beaten in synagogues; and you will stand before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them. 10 And the good news must first be proclaimed to all nations. 11 When they bring you to trial and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say; but say whatever is given you at that time, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. 12 Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; 13 and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
The book of Acts gives a complete account of how the disciples were persecuted in the very ways Jesus had predicted. Let us take, for example, Acts 4: “And they laid hands on them [Peter and John], and put them in prison” (V3). They were brought before “rulers” (V5-7). And it turned into an opportunity to testify. Peter explained that “there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (V12). They were given a mouth of wisdom which their adversaries could not gainsay, for the men of the council “marveled” (V13). They were then commanded “not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus” (V18). As Jesus had said, they were hated for his name’s sake!
The same things are seen in Acts 5. Certain authorities “laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison” (V18). Later they were brought “before the council” (V27) and told to answer for continuing to teach in the name of Jesus (V28). Again they had opportunity to testify (V29-32). They were “beaten” (V40). As they departed from the “council”, they rejoiced “that they were counted worthy to suffer for his name” (V41).
Or take Acts 6. There arose certain ones of the “synagogue” that disputed with Steven. “And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spoke” (V9,10). Persecution resulted and he was brought into the “council ” and questioned (V12). Again there was the opportunity to testify, the words of that testimony being given in Acts 7. Steven was killed for his stand (V54-60). Jesus had said that some of them would be killed.
Notice Acts 8: “There was a great persecution against the church.” Christians were put in “prison”, but the result was that the word was preached (V1-4).
In Acts 16, Paul and Silas were beaten and cast into “prison.” But it turned into an opportunity to testify and the Philippian jailor and his family were converted as a result (V22-34). In Acts 21, persecution resulted in Paul being beaten, brought before rulers, before whom he testified (Acts 22). In Acts 22:19 we read that Christians were “imprisoned and beat in every Synagogue.”
In Acts 24, Paul was brought before Felix, the governor, and testified. He was given a mouth of wisdom which his adversaries could not gainsay—though they obtained an orator to speak against him. Paul’s words even made Felix to “tremble.” In Acts 25 and 26, Paul was brought before king Agrippa, the chief captains, and the principal men of the city. He was given a mouth of wisdom, for Agrippa said to Paul, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian” (V28).
Jesus said the disciples would be afflicted, beaten, imprisoned; they would be hated for his name’s sake and some would be killed; they would be brought before councils, rulers, and kings, for a testimony; they would be given a mouth of wisdom which their adversaries could not gainsay. Surely these things came to pass in those years—unmistakably fulfilled in every detail!
– from Ralph Woodrow, Great Prophecies Of The Bible
(verse 10): And the good news must first be proclaimed to all nations.
On the day of Pentecost when the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit, there were present in Jerusalem “devout men, out of every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5). They heard the gospel preached by Peter and 3,000 were converted that day. Many of these returned to their various countries and preached the gospel.
Later when persecution came against the church, the believers at Jerusalem were scattered and “went every where preaching the word”, throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria (Acts 8:1,4). Philip took the message to the city of Samaria with great results (V5-8). Later he was directed to a high ranking government official from Ethiopia who was gloriously converted (V26-40). It is believed that this man took the message to the continent of Africa and many were converted because of his influential testimony.
Peter took the message to the Gentiles at the house of Cornelius, an event that was a turning point in the missionary activities of the church (Acts 10, 11). The book of Acts gives a sketch of the mighty missionary work that advanced rapidly.
The message spread to Rome. By the time of Nero, the Christians had grown so numerous that they aroused the jealousy of the government. The story of the great fire in Rome in 64 A. D. —for which the Christians were falsely blamed—is well known. In writing to the Christians at Rome, Paul opens his epistle by saying, “Your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world” (Romans 1:8), and his closing words talk about the gospel as having been “made known to all nations for the obedience of faith” (16:26).
Concerning even far away England, Newton says: “There is absolute certainty that Christianity was planted in this country in the days of the apostles, before the destruction of Jerusalem.” Eusebius and also Theodoret inform us that the apostles preached the gospel in all the world and some of them “passed beyond the ocean to the Britannic isles.”
By the time Paul wrote his letter to the Colossians, he could say: ‘The gospel…is come unto you, as it is in all the world” (Col 1:6). Likewise, in verse 23, he mentions ‘”the gospel which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven.”
By 70 A. D., the gospel had gone forth to the world for a witness. No longer was God’s message to man be confined to one nation or race!
– from Ralph Woodrow, Great Prophecies Of The Bible
14 “But when you see the desolating sacrilege set up where it ought not to be (let the reader understand), then those in Judea must flee to the mountains;
Having filled in the background events of the first Century, Jesus now responds to the question of the sign which will indicate the imminent destruction of Jerusalem. As this is annotated for the reader, the clear implication is that Jesus was explicit in private conversation with the disciples. That is to say, he would have told them quite precisely what to look for, which was the Roman army camps within the precincts of Jerusalem, as Luke tells us in his account. However, as Mark’s gospel, like Matthew’s, was widely in circulation long before Luke, and both had a primary audience of Jews rather than non-Jews, Mark masks this information, for the reason already discussed, so as not to give any unbelieving Jews the information that would enable them to escape their upcoming judgement. He therefore encodes it as ‘the desolating sacrilege set up where it ought not to be’. There is a complexity here: the Abomination Of Desolation Mark is referencing in Daniel 9 was placed inside the Temple’s inner sanctum. Now were one to take that as the cue to escape Jerusalem, it would be far too late, as it was set up in AD 70, and the time to escape was just before the year turned over from AD 66 to 67, just prior to Passover. So really this is a kind of false clue, designed in a way to trick a non-believing Jew who read it. The Jews experience of the Abomination Of Desolation was Antiochus setting up a statue of Zeus in the inner sanctum. Likewise Daniel 9:27 indicates the second abomination will be a similar event. A non-believing Jewish reader would then be looking for this as the sign. But this is not what Jesus told the disciples; he explained to them, as Luke indicates, that the Roman Armies encamped in the suburbs of Jerusalem was the sign. This duly occurred when Cestius Gallius set up camp in Beth-Aven within the third wall, (which had been constructed in AD44). However, we can still read this event into Mark’s description, because it is ambivalently phrased. The sacrilege was the Roman Eagle on the standard, which was a symbol of Jupiter, (the Roman name for Zeus), and it was of course desolating, as wherever the standard went the Roman army came with it, and the Roman army was in the business of war, death and destruction. ’Set up where it ought not to be’ is of course completely open-ended, but as the whole of Jerusalem, not just the Temple, was considered holy, then setting up the standard in the precincts was clearly a case of the abomination being ‘set up where it ought not to be’. So Mark here has been cleverly ambivalent, saying something the Church through the Holy Spirit will construe one way, and unbelieving Jews will take another way.
15 the one on the housetop must not go down or enter the house to take anything away; 16 the one in the field must not turn back to get a coat. 17 Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! 18 Pray that it may not be in winter. 19 For in those days there will be suffering, such as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, no, and never will be.
These are the simple instructions to flee for safety.
20 And if the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would be saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he has cut short those days.
As already discussed, only 69 of the 70 weeks of Daniel applied to the Church. They were relieved of being subject to the 70th week, and so were able to escape to safety. There were however Jewish survivors in Jerusalem after the desolation, so the clear implication here is that if the Church itself had stayed within Jerusalem’s walls during the siege and destruction, then the Jewish mobs and factions would have exterminated them all, man, woman, and child.
21 And if anyone says to you at that time, ‘Look! Here is the Messiah!’ or ‘Look! There he is!’—do not believe it. 22 False messiahs and false prophets will appear and produce signs and omens, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23 But be alert; I have already told you everything.
This is just a salutary warning not to get dragged out of hiding; as Jesus says he has told them everything already, it really refers back to the threats already discussed concerning false messiahs and prophets, who were legion.
24 “But in those days, after that suffering,
the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light,
25 and the stars will be falling from heaven,
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
The Great Tribulation, the suffering referred to here, was the final week of Daniel, from AD 67-73; so ‘those days’ refers to the time period after AD 73. Days here, like ‘desolating sacrilege’ in verse 14, is deliberately ambivalent, though for different reasons. It could be literal days, it could be days in the prophetic sense of years, or even thousand year periods. As the date of Jesus’s return is not a piece of information that is ever given to us, the ‘days’ are necessarily open-ended in meaning.
The celestial language Jesus uses here is a direct quotation from Ezekiel 32. Here the prophet describes Egypt being destroyed as a nation; again we see information being masked. Israel was indeed Egypt as we are told in Revelation, but the Jews would not have understood this:
15 When I shall make the land of Egypt desolate, and the country shall be destitute of that whereof it was full, when I shall smite all them that dwell therein, then shall they know that I am the Lord.
7 And when I shall put thee out, I will cover the heaven, and make the stars thereof dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give her light. 8 All the bright lights of heaven will I make dark over thee, and set darkness upon thy land, saith the Lord God.
The point Jesus is making here is that the Old Covenant is now, at the exact end of AD 73, effectively terminated. Once the justice of the Law had had its demands met, the surviving Jews were sent into exile, Israel became a wasteland, Jerusalem a bomb crater landscape, the Israelites as a people no longer existed, and Israel as a nation-state was finished. This celestial symbolism actually comes from Joseph’s dream (Genesis 35) where the stars represent his brothers, that is to say, here, the tribes of Israel and all Israelites, the sun represents his father, Jacob, that is to say, Israel, and so here, God’s covenantal blessing on Israel, and the moon his mother, which as Paul explains in Galatians, represents Jerusalem, and so here, earthly Jerusalem. The shaking of the powers of heaven refers to a change in the authority structure in heaven. So in these two verses Jesus is really describing the end of the Old Covenant, his ascension to the Throne Of David in heaven, the inauguration of the Kingdom Of God, the end of earthly Jerusalem as a centre of worship and God’s presence, and the end of the Israelites as a physical designation. In short, Jesus is saying the Old Covenant is now done away with, and the New Covenant is fully in force.
26 Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. 27 Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
And now Jesus takes us directly to his second coming. Although this looks abrupt, and engenders lots of confusion, it is actually logical. Israel is out of covenant, and the time period put on that event is not stated. So it is just simply saying what it says; Israel will be out of covenant for an unquantified period of time, and then, after that, God returns. As Peter says in his letter regarding the Second Coming, a thousand years to God is as a day, so therefore an apparently huge hiatus like this is really just a nominal blip to God. (Think in terms of someone reading Mark in AD100; they would construe Christ’s return as imminent, which is what Christ wanted. He wants the Church to be ready for his return at all times).
The question it of course raises is what do Israel’s dissolution and Christ’s return have to do with the duration of the Temple lying in ruins, the original question posed by the disciples. One can only assume that either it is totally open-ended, that it will be a ruin until the unstated moment Jesus returns, or that the inference here is that once Israel returns to its land they will rebuild the Temple, which will be the catalyst for Christ to return. That is certainly my understanding of Thessalonians, but I am happy to leave it as an open question.
28 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
The Jews only had two seasons, summer and winter. The Hebrew summer incorporates what we call spring, and actually started with the advent of the New Year, in Nisan. Passover comes 15 days later. In AD67 the Jews coming to Jerusalem for Passover were then locked in by Titus to endure the siege of Jerusalem. History records that the Church fled Jerusalem right at the very end of AD66, the last day of the old year. This then accords with Jesus’s warning. The precise time when the Church needed to leave Jerusalem was just before the end of the year, AD66, just before the advent of Summer, that is to say, the advent of AD67.
32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. 35 Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, 36 or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”
Finally, Jesus then switches his focus from the end of the Temple to his second coming, warning the Church to be vigilant and ready at all times for him. As I have already stated, this period of time is deliberately obscure, which is why the narrative runs seamlessly from the dissolution of the Old Covenant in AD73 straight to the second coming; from the moment the New Covenant was entered, Jesus wanted the Church to be behaving as if he would return tomorrow.
We have used Mark to establish the basic template, and now I will just go through Luke and Matthew, and pick out what disparities there are, and see if they cause any encumbrance to the present reading.
Luke’s account takes place outside the Temple, while both Matthew and Mark’s accounts start at the Temple and then shift to the Mount Of Olives. Whilst Mark’s account involves two questions specifically from Peter, James, John and Andrew, and Matthew’s account involves three questions from all the disciples that are somewhat different to the other accounts, in Luke we are not told who asks the questions, which are the same questions as we see in Mark’s gospel.
The Hebrew convention for emphasising something is to repeat it. When Jesus said: “Verily, verily”, it was not because he was hesitating in some way, but because he was being extremely emphatic. Any re-iteration of this kind denotes something of great significance from the Lord. So the fact that the Temple Prophecy appears in the Gospels on three separate occasions should really shout to us, loudly and clearly, ‘this is monumentally significant’. I personally believe that the destruction of the Temple was hugely momentous, and that likewise Jesus and the Holy Spirit, who author the Bible, are telegraphing to us in no uncertain terms through this prophecy that this event is of the utmost importance and centrality.
In Luke’s account, Jesus statement is slightly different to that in Mark and Luke. He tells the crowd that ‘the days will come’ when Jerusalem will be a ruin. When he spoke the words, that could indeed have meant just days, however, a prophetic day equals a thousand years, so speaking prophetically he can, and in fact does, mean just that, that Jerusalem would be a ruin for over a thousand years. I will explain this further later on.
A similar question format is observed in Luke as in Mark, but in Matthew, the questions asked are wholly different. The disciples ask:
“Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
My belief is that the three Temple Prophecies are not the same event told in three different ways, but rather three different events. They could have occurred over consecutive days during the presentation days prior to Passover. Luke tells us that Jesus starts speaking ‘on one of those days,’ i.e. on one of the days prior to Passover when the lamb was presented to the priests to check that it was without blemish.
The first of the days then would be Luke’s account in the morning, followed by Mark’s account later in the day, and perhaps the next day comes Matthew’s account. So initially Jesus is responding to some crowds. One or all of Peter, John, James and Andrew overhear the prophecy, and later in the day one of them provokes Jesus with the same statement about the temple being beautiful. The four disciples, Peter, John, James and Andrew, then at the end of the day approach Jesus on the Mount Of Olives to ask more in depth questions, and Jesus again gives the same prophecy. Then the disciples collectively discuss it all, perhaps after Jesus has fallen asleep, or in the morning walking back into Jerusalem, and then the next evening, the disciples now having a deeper understanding of what Jesus has said having discussed it extensively all day, approach Jesus with new questions that illustrate that they now have an enhanced level of understanding.
So the disciples in Matthew’s account ask an entirely new question. We could surmise that having understood from the previous day that the ruined temple segues into Christ’s return, they now view the destruction of the temple and Christ’s return as linked events, and they want more details about his return; so they also ask what sign, what indicator, will precede his second coming and the end of the world. This would be logical in respect of Mark’s account, where Jesus simply delineates the destruction of Jerusalem followed by Israel being out of covenant followed by his return. So they want to know more about this indeterminate gap of Israel being out of covenant, namely, what great event will signal the abrupt return of Christ.
When the disciples ask about the end of the world, the Greek word used is ‘synteleia’. Wherever this is used in any of the accounts it denotes Jesus’s second coming and the end of the world. Whenever Jesus refers to the end as ‘telos’, he means the end of the Temple system and the old covenant. In Luke the question is simply about the destruction of the Temple, and when it will come to pass. In Mark, the question is when will all these things be fulfilled, using the verb, ‘synteleō’, suggesting that the disciples now have a more developed idea about Christ’s message, and in Matthew, they now want to know specifically about the end of the world, ‘ synteleia aion’. What appears to have happened is that, in Mark, the four disciples have already, following Luke’s prophecy, conceptually conjoined the end of the temple with the end of the world and Christ’s return. However this conjunction is made properly explicit in Matthew’s account. What is missing from the English is the clear differentiation between telos and synteleia; there are two distinct terminal points in view, the end of the Temple and the Old Covenant, signified by the Greek word ’telos’, and the end of the world ushered in by Christ’s return, signified by the word ’synteleia’, which also means ‘end’, but carries the connotation of consummation. The inability of English translations to convey this difference is a major reason for confusion.
All three accounts have significant differences in their descriptions of the events leading to AD67.
In Luke, he gives us:
seizure of Christians
delivering up to synagogues
being sent to prison
appearing before kings and leaders
betrayal by family
hatred by all men
wars and commotions
earthquakes famines and pestilences
great signs in the sky
That sequence of events is quite simple to understand, given that the Great Persecution of the Church started when Stephen was stoned, around AD37. Although Mark and Matthew present the timeline differently, I think it actually adheres to Luke’s timeline. I think the persecution events have both specific applications, but also general ones and are ongoing up until AD67. (For instance, Nero went mad in AD 64 and started using Christians as human torches to light Rome), whereas the sequence of wars, civil war, earthquakes, famine and pestilence are clear timeline events prior to the last week.
Luke tells us that in spite of some being put to death, ‘not a hair of your head will perish.’ The head here really means the Church in Jerusalem, and the hairs denote its members. The head denotes spiritual leadership, e.g. the man is the head of the woman, (see also Deuteronomy 28:13 & 44). So whilst some church members were martyred prior to the wrath, when it came to the time for the Church to escape Jerusalem, every hair being numbered, not one Christian was caught up in the punishment. (Ezekiel 5 uses individual hairs as a figure for individuals living in Jerusalem).
Regarding the Abomination of Desolation, Matthew (24:15) actually cites Daniel (9:27). We know it is the second Abomination of Desolation because the other Abomination Of Desolation in Daniel had already been fulfilled by Antiochus Epiphanes. So this really destroys any Futurist attempts to recreate the 70th week in modern times. Jesus has told us here quite explicitly, in linking the Abomination of Desolation which clearly occurs in the 70th week of Daniel to the destruction of Jerusalem, that the 70th week has therefore taken place.
Luke tells us that the destruction of Judea and Jerusalem constitutes ‘days of vengeance, as a fulfillment of all that is written’. Clearly, as already discussed, the days here are the seven days of Daniel’s last week. The fulfillment of all that is written pertains to the fulfillment of the Law; disobedience to the Law entailed harsh penalties – Leviticus 26, Deuteronomy 32. When Jesus said in Matthew 5:
18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
I think what he really means is that only when the Law has properly exacted its penalties will it be fully satisfied. All Jews could have accepted Christ theoretically, and therefore there would have been no need for this punishment. In fact, the same can be said for all mankind; if the Law is the judgement scale at the day of judgement, (I have not got a clear understanding on this yet), then likewise, if all mankind accepted Christ, it will have no force. So whether the Law still carries weight after the end of the Old Covenant, I am simply unclear, but it is clear that the Law exacted a very severe penalty in the AD67-73.
In Matthew, we see further additional information that we do not see in the other accounts. Before we get to that, I need to deal with another issue that plagues many attempts to understand the prophecy. There is a very easy way to differentiate when Jesus is talking about his second coming, and when he is talking about the destruction of Jerusalem. The destruction of Jerusalem and the events leading up to the event are collectively termed, “these things”. Jesus’s second coming is termed, in clear contradistinction, “that day”.
“These things” is used in all the accounts.
6 As for these things which ye behold (tauta)
7 Master, but when shall these things be? (tauta)
9 for these things must first come to pass; (tauta)
28 And when these things begin to come to pass, (touton)
31 when ye see these things come to pass (tauta)
36 that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass (tauta)
In verse 28 of the KJV ‘de’ is mistranslated as ‘and’, but it should read ‘but’ or ‘however’ according to its more normal usage. The ‘but’ indicates a switch of theme by Jesus, from his second coming in the previous verse, back to the events in Jerusalem AD70 in verse 28.
34 and so that day come upon you unawares. (ekeinos hemera)
Again the same problem occurs as in verse 28. ‘De’ should be ‘but’, indicating a shift in topic, this time back to the second coming.
4 when shall these things be (tauta)
29 when ye shall see these things come to pass (tauta)
30 this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done.(tauta)
as opposed to
32 But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.
2 See ye not all these things?
3 when shall these things be?
33 So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.
34 This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.
as opposed to
36 But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.
There are a few outstanding differences between the accounts to clear up. Matthew adds additional information about Christ’s second coming:
27 For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28 Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather………..
30 Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven,
In Matthew the disciples specifically ask about the sign of Jesus’s coming, (and the end of the world), a question that we do not find in the other accounts.
In verse 27 he explains the nature of his return, in order that none of the Church in the first Century could be duped into believing that he had already returned. So it is a follow-on comment regarding false Christs and prophets in the 70th week. (A standard misreading here tries to attribute the previous verses to Christ’s 2nd coming, but that is a misreading of the text). Verse 27 also constitutes a total refutation of the rather barmy Preterist / Amillennarian doctrine, which tries to conflate the destruction of Jerusalem with Christ’s second coming.
Luke’s parallel description of this time frame is:
they will fall by the edge of the sword and be taken away as captives among all nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled
Again, likewise, Luke compresses an enormous time frame into an economic expression, ‘the time of the gentiles’. Now, to understand what the time of the gentiles is we need to infill some prophetic background. When Judah ceased to be autonomous, and went into captivity in 608BC, she came under gentile, (external nations), control. So she endured 70 years of captivity in Babylon, which terminated in 538BC when Cyrus overran Babylon. However, she then received a punishment multiplied by 7, as per Leviticus 26, which amounted to a further 490 years of punishment, as explained by Daniel in Daniel 9.
Now, when Ezekiel was told to lie on his side for the sins of Israel and Judah, the sins being missed land sabbaths whereby every seventh year the land should have lain fallow, he was given 390 years and 40 years respectively for Israel and Judah. Judah as we know absorbed 70 years of the punishment in Babylon, which means out of the 430 years total for Israel and Judah, 360 years were still left. Israel therefore got 360 years of punishment, duly multiplied by 7, which amounts to 2520 years.
Bearing in mind that a prophetic year is 360 days, and a solar year is 365.25 days, then
2520 prophetic years = 2483.78 solar years
2483.78 is 2483 years and 285 days
In Ezekiel 16, God talks about three wicked sisters. These are in fact Judah, Israel (the Northern Kingdom), and Jerusalem (which King David had actually turned into a city state). So we have three prophetic entities in play here.
Now although Judah went into captivity in 608BC, the temple was not destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar until 587BC. The temple was then rebuilt under Ezra and Zerubbabel between 520 and 516BC. However, although it was finally completed in the 6th year of Darius, 516BC, we are told in Zechariah (see Zechariah 7 & 8 NIV version) that, in the 4th year of Darius, which would be 518BC, the inhabitants of Bethel, (Beth-el means ‘House of Bread’, which is also a type of the Church), asked if they could now stop fasting and mourning. They were mourning for the ‘desolation of Jerusalem’ (see Daniel 9:2) which had a prophetic duration of 70 years. God said ‘yes’ to the request. (Bear in mind that Bethel was a mile or so from Jerusalem, so they obviously at that point could see that enough of the Temple had been built to ask if they could stop mourning, so perhaps just the court of the gentiles was what remained to be completed). Anyway, on the 4th day of the 9th month, that is Kislev 4 518BC, God decreed that mourning for Jerusalem could now cease, which meant that the 70 year desolation of Jerusalem was then officially over. The temple in God’s eyes was now complete. From 587BC to 518BC equates to 69 normal (solar) years, which equals 70 prophetic years.
They asked God on Kislev 4 of 518BC. They had a lunar calendar back then, which means that every month was 29.5 days, and so each year was 354 days and every five or so years they would add an extra month to the calendar to make up the lost days.
Kislev 4 is 114 days before the end of the lunar year. Jerusalem was retaken by Israel on June 7 1967.
From Kislev 4 518BC – June 7 1967 amounts therefore to 2483 years & 272 days. (There is no year 0 between 0BC and 0AD.)
Now we can see that the two figures I have shown are extremely close to one another, 2483 years, and in one instance 272 days, and in the other, 285 days. The 13 day difference between the two can easily be explained by the lunar calendar ‘wobble’. The lunar year loses 6 day to the prophetic year, so over a 2 year span, 12 days are lost. As Hebrew days start at evening, we can also lose a day through transfer from the ancient lunar to the modern solar calendar. So a 13 day disparity is very easily explained. Assuming these reasons hold, then these two figures match each other perfectly. (Clearly this is not absolutely proven, but I am not sure either we have the records for it to be provable; what strikes me however is how extremely close these two figures are, and how, under perfectly reasonable conditions, they can actually be a perfect match).
Did the time of the gentiles, the period when Jerusalem was trodden underfoot by the nations, end on June 7 1967? I don’t know; I need to do further study on this, but I am tentatively suggesting that it did. The further point is this: the New Covenant, the Church Age, in one sense has an indeterminate duration, as Jesus said we do not know the time of his return. However, when we dig down on Luke and Matthew, (and consider Peter’s letters), it is clear that what is described in very few words can in fact be referring to a very long period of time of around 2000 years. This encapsulation of a long period in a brief description is a major reason why people get confused over the temple prophecy. In essence, Jesus said that after the destruction of the temple comes the Church Age and then comes his return. This is logical and sequential, but we also need to be aware that the Church Age has a long duration.
Luke gives us this further detail about the period immediately preceding Christ’s return. I believe this actually cross-references with Revelation, which is why Matthew does not disclose it.
25 “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26 People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory
So now I will just summarize each account in the order I suspect they were delivered.
In Luke Jesus states that the days will come that the temple will be destroyed and remain a ruin (V6). He is asked what sign will presage the destruction, and when it will lie a ruin (V7). Jesus then gives them a timeline of events leading to its destruction (V8-19), and gives the sign of its imminent demise as armies encamped within the walls of the city (V20). At this point he instructs the Church to escape, as the ‘days of vengeance’, that being Daniel’s 70th week, have arrived (V21-22). When the week is up, any survivors will be scattered abroad as slaves (V24), and the temple will remain a ruin until the time of the gentiles has terminated (V24), which I believe may be 1967. (There is also a timeline that ends 2017, so this needs further investigation). Jesus then tells us that cosmic disturbances will occur which precede his coming back (V25). He then concludes by telling them that the sequence of events leading to the destruction of Jerusalem are the prelude to their redemption (V28), redemption here in the sense of deliverance, insofar as when they look up and see the Roman armies on the horizon, then they need to escape from Jerusalem. He then gives the parable of the fig tree, which is an alert that they must be out of Jerusalem before Nisan 1, the start of summer (V29-33). He concludes with a warning to Christians to be vigilant about the second coming which will come unexpectedly (V34-36).
In Mark, Jesus states that the temple will be destroyed and remain a ruin (V2). He is asked what sign will presage the destruction, and when it will lie a ruin (V4). Jesus then gives them a timeline of events leading to its destruction (V5-13), and gives the sign of its imminent demise as the abomination of desolation from the Book of Daniel standing where it should not be (V14). At this point he instructs the Church to escape, (V14 -18), as it will be a time of suffering like no other, (V 19), and if the Church was not exempt from this (7 year) period of judgement, it would be totally wiped out (V 20). He then warns the Church not to be conned into leaving hiding (V21 – 23). He then indicates that Israel will cease as an old covenant tribal entity and that the heavenly power structure will change (V24 – 25). After this he tells us that his second coming occurs (V26 – 27). He then gives the parable of the fig tree, which is an alert that they must be out of Jerusalem before Nisan 1, the start of summer (V28-31). He then concludes with a warning to Christians to be vigilant about the second coming (V32-37), which will come unexpectedly, but maybe not for an awfully long time, ’34 For the Son of Man is as a man taking a far journey’.
In Matthew, Jesus states that the temple will be destroyed and turned into a ruin (V2). He is then asked when it will be destroyed and lie a ruin, and what sign will indicate the end of the world and that he is returning, and by implication, the end of the period of ruin (V3). Jesus then gives them a timeline of events leading to its destruction (V4-14), and gives the sign of its imminent demise as the abomination that causes desolation from the Book of Daniel standing in the Holy Place (V15). At this point he instructs the Church to escape, (V16 – 20), as it will be a time of suffering like no other, (V21), and that if the Church was not exempt from this (7 year) period of judgement, it would be totally wiped out (V22). He then warns the Church not to be conned into leaving hiding (V23 – 28); in verse 27 he specifically warns the Church not to confuse the judgement of Jerusalem with his second coming. He then indicates that Israel will cease as an old covenant tribal entity and that the heavenly power structure will change (V29). After this a sign will appear to show that Jesus reigns in heaven, which is followed by the whole world mourning, and then Jesus returning on a cloud (V30), followed by the ingathering of the Church (V31). He then gives the parable of the fig tree, which is an alert that they must be out of Jerusalem before Nisan 1, the start of summer (V32 – 35). He then gives various parables regarding the conditions on earth prior to his second coming (V36 – 51)
All three accounts line up with each other, and the underlying message, in answer to how long temple will remain a ruin, is: until Jesus returns. All three accounts segue from the end of Jerusalem straight to the second coming, at first blush suggesting immediacy, but all three also subtly intimate a long time period will actually occur. Luke refers to the time of the Gentiles, Mark refers to a ‘far’ journey, and Matthew interpolates the Book of Revelation, which contains very long timelines when properly understood.
Regarding the significance of the destruction of the temple, I will cover this in a separate piece. For me, the main question thrown up is how we should interpret Jesus telling us that the temple will be a ruin until he returns. The inference I understand is that the Jews will in fact rebuild the temple, which in turn will cause Jesus to return to earth post haste. But this is very much open to debate.
Two issues still bother me. One is the sign of the son of man; I am still meditating on this. The other is the Time of The Gentiles. I believe actually this period is AD 70 – 2030. I will do a standalone explanation of this, as it is slightly complicated, and it derives from Daniel 9.
Having completed the study, I realize now that it would have been far more logical to have studied first Luke, then Mark, and finally Matthew.