Sermon: The Destruction of the Temple and the End of the Age (Pt. 1) (Luke 21:5-24)

The Destruction of the Temple and The End of The Age (Part 1)

Luke 21:5-24

Introduction

This past week, Hurricane Sandy brought our first snow of the season.  I like snow; in this case it was the high winds I could live without.  I always like snow.  To wake up on a snowy morning and look out at the trees, everything looks different.  White is everywhere.

In our text today, Jesus and His followers are walking through the temple and then down the steps of the entrance, they were pointing out to Jesus just how beautiful the temple was.  The key word was…it is no longer standing.  In fact, the temple has not been standing for almost 2,000 years.

Luke’s third prediction of Jerusalem’s fall is by far the most detailed (the others come in 13:34-35; 19:41-44).

Josephus the Jewish historian, who wrote one of his works called Jewish Wars written 73 AD, gives a detailed description of the temple in all its splendor.

Now the outward face of the temple in its front wanted nothing that was likely to surprise either men’s minds or their eyes; for it was covered all over with plates of gold of great weight, and, at the first rising of the sun, reflected back a very fiery splendor, and made those who forced themselves to look upon it to turn their eyes away, just as they would have done at the sun’s own rays. But this temple appeared to strangers, when they were coming to it at a distance, like a mountain covered with snow; for as to those parts of it that were not gilt, they were exceeding white. [1]

What was also impressive were some of the marble stones, which were over 40 feet long, and weighing hundreds of tons.  Not only was this massive structure impressive to see but it had much history surrounding it.  Some of the names associated with the temple were none other than King David, King Solomon, Hezekiah, Josiah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezra and Nehemiah just to mention some.  It was the temple that a traveling Jew or one in captivity would face to pray daily.

It should be noted that King Herod had remodeled this temple in a building project and during the time of Jesus, it was still in the process.  Actually, the building project wasn’t finished until 66AD.

In our passage today, Jesus predicts for the third time, the destruction of the Temple.  There is, however, something else Jesus does in this text that we should understand.  In teaching about the destruction of the Temple in the near future, He leaps ahead through the centuries to also teach about His Second Coming and the destruction of this Age.  So, we must keep in mind that Jesus is speaking of two events not one.  Our dispensational friends see all these words dealing with Jesus’ second coming.  However, there are clear indicators that these are two separate events not one.

The disciples were confused, they thought that the destruction of the Temple was the end of the age so Jesus does some Eschatological clarification for them and us as well.

Notice that Jesus clarifies some things.

First, the destruction of the Temple will happen within one generation, but the end of the age is in the distant future.  Second, since there are signs that the Temple is about to be destroyed, He tells them what to do when they see the signs.  Third, since there are no signs to alert the worshipper of the end of the age and the coming of Christ, they will have to be ready all the time.[2]

Even though Jesus calls these end times events signs, they are not signs in the sense of things one can observe and then spend time getting ready.  They are signs that accompany His return.

Primary Claim

The time of the Old Testament Temple and Priesthood came to an end when the Perfect Temple and Priesthood came.

Human Condition

As believers, when we endure various trials and challenges to our faith, we must persevere to the end keeping our eyes fixed on Christ.  We must see in Christ everything that we need as believers for our good and God’s glory.

We must remember that as sure as the Temple came crashing down in 70 AD so this present age will also come crashing down when our Lord returns.  His call to each and every person is to be ready for that day.

Hear God’s Word for Grace Community Church today…

Luke 21:5 And while some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, he said,

6 “As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

7 And they asked him, “Teacher, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?”

8 And he said, “See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them.

9 And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once.”

10 Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.

11 There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven.

12 But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake.

13 This will be your opportunity to bear witness.

14 Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer,

15 for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict.

16 You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death.

17 You will be hated by all for my name’s sake.

18 But not a hair of your head will perish.

19 By your endurance you will gain your lives.

20 “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near.

21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it,

22 for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written.

23 Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people.

24 They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

1.  The Destruction of the Temple

Luke 21:5 And while some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, he said,

6 “As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

Rather than admiring the Temple like the rest of Jerusalem, Jesus knew the time of the Temple was about over.  On two occasions He runs off those practicing corrupt selling and trading in the Temple courts, He alludes to a time when true worshippers will not worship God in the Temple but in spirit and truth will they worship God.  Now He is speaking about the day when the Temple will be destroyed.  Another indicator that the Temple is no longer needed is the fact that at the crucifixion at the moment Jesus dies, the veil of the Temple is torn in two.

Lk 23:45 while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.   

It was destroyed because after Jesus’ death on the cross the temple was rendered ineffectual for covering sins.  Now sins wouldn’t need to be covered but through the death and resurrection of Christ they would be removed.  It’s the difference of covering sin and removing sin.  The bottom line is the time of the Temple was over and a new day had dawned in redemptive history.

When the disciples heard these very alarming words from Jesus, they believed Him.  They did not doubt what Jesus said, but they had some questions about the timing of it all and sought clarification as to the meaning of this event.

A. There will be visible signs before the Temple is destroyed…

7 And they asked him, “Teacher, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?”

Matthew recorded…

Matthew 24:1 Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple.

2 But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

3 As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?”

Mark’s account is very similar to Matthew’s record.  Luke takes a near and far look at Jesus’ Words.

B. Do Not Be Led Astray

8 And he said, “See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them.

Jesus’ primary concern was for His immediate followers.  The temple was on its way out.  With the new order there would be the temptation by many to capitalize on Christianity’s infancy.  Some would come twisting Jesus’ words, others would simply make up new teachings of their own.

Within a couple of decades of Jesus’ death we see the rise of Gnosticism…the idea that there is special knowledge available to the real believers.

We see the rise of Docetism…The basis of Docetism is that Jesus was truly a spiritual being, and as such, could not have had a true body.

His first concern was that His disciples remained true to His teaching and were not led astray by false teachers.

He begins His clarification that the Temple and the end of the age are two different events altogether.

Here, Jesus is describing the destruction of the Temple.  The disciples wrongly connected the destruction of the Temple with the end of the age.  This was such a huge event to get their heads wrapped around that they thought, this must be the end of the age, as seen in Matthew’s and Mark’s Gospels.  Jesus, however, will explain to them that they will see the Temple destroyed but this is not the end of the age.

C. Do Not Be Afraid

9 And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once.”

Jesus begins to explain the signs that will precede the destruction of the Temple.

Wars, Earthquakes, famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. 

Jesus was referring to the destruction of the Temple and the signs that His disciples should look for to be  when that day happens.  The idea, is when you see these things beginning to take place realize the Temple will be destroyed.

9 And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once.”

10 Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.

11 There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven.

Jesus tells His immediate followers to not be afraid when they begin to witness some of the signs that Jerusalem and the Temple is about to be destroyed.  The event took place in 70AD when Titus marched his armies into the holy city and leveled it.  Most of the inhabitants were first starved to death in the siege and the others killed with the sword.

All the signs and the destruction of the Temple took place within one generation of the disciples.  Many of them were still alive when the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD.

Looking back to historical events leading up to the 70 AD destruction of the Temple, we can see some of the signs Jesus spoke of, we see:

61 AD- Very Very Severe earthquake in Phrygia, north of Jerusalem.

63 AD- Eruption of Mount Vesuvius that destroyed the City of Pompeii

During these years, there were recorded great famines in the regions of Claudius and Nero.

66 AD- The war between the Jews and Rome, which led to the 70 AD destruction of the Temple.

Also in those days there was a comet that appeared very brilliantly night after night in the shape of a drawn sword.

Jesus warns His followers not to be afraid.

Jesus is telling His followers, the Temple is going to be destroyed and when it is, don’t be led astray and don’t be afraid.

He goes on to tell them not to be afraid of the persecution that will take place prior to the Temple’s destruction.  We see this in the history of the church and in the Book of Acts.  Many are persecuted.

These signs were very apparent to the early first generation church.  These signs could hardly be overlooked, don’t be led astray, remain faithful, don’t be afraid.

The reason for these signs was so that they could escape the wrath of Jerusalem’s enemies before the Temple was destroyed.

2. The Destruction of the Priesthood

Primary Claim

The time of the Old Testament Temple and Priesthood came to an end when the Perfect Temple and Priesthood came.

I have mentioned the fact that after Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Temple no longer served its former purpose.  It was rendered obsolete and useless.  The next day after Jesus’ resurrection the Temple still stood and they were still doing the things they did before but their sacrifices and offerings now had no meaning to God at all…they were just killing animals.  The priests still did their thing but their roll was now obsolete.  Their day was also over.

We live in a much brighter day because we’ve been born in the New Covenant days.  We live in the days between the destruction of the Temple and the Return of Christ.  We don’t have to go to the Temple to pray or make sacrifices.

– Our Great High Priest is Eternal and Sinless

Hebrews 7:23 The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office,

24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever.

25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

26 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.

27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.

– Our Great High Priest has Eternally Entered the Holy of Holies

Hebrews 9:24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.

25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own,

26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

– Our Great High Priest’s Work is Eternal

Hebrews 10:11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.

12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,

13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.

14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

Primary claim refocused

Primary Claim

The time of the Old Testament Temple and Priesthood came to an end when the Perfect Temple and Priesthood came.

Are we seeing in Christ everything we need?

That’s who Christ is.  He became the final Priest and the final Sacrifice.  Sinless, He did not offer sacrifices for Himself.  Immortal, He never has to be replaced.  Human, He could bear human sin.  Therefore, He did not offer sacrifices for Himself; He offered Himself as the final Sacrifice.  There will never be a need for another.  There is one Mediator between us and God.  One Priest.  We need no other.  Oh, how happy are those who draw near to God through Christ alone.[3]

Human condition changed or Human need met

Are you looking to Christ daily?  Are you finding in Christ alone everything you need?

2 Pt 1:3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 

Exhortation in godly living

As surly as the Temple fell our Lord will return.  Next week we’ll look at what Jesus teaches us concerning His second coming and the end of this age.


[1] Josephus, Jewish Wars: Chapter 5 Section 6 http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/josephus/war-5.htm

[3] John Piper, Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die, pgs. 70-71

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