The Destruction of the Temple
You don’t need me to state that we are living in very strange times. For those who have had an interest in all things eschatological (regarding the end of days), Matthew 24, known as ‘the Olivet Discourse’, has always provided insights into such times. This was one of Jesus’ last teachings given to His disciples. Like us, they too were just as keen to know the future and its impact on them.
I wanted to know what Matthew Henry, more than three hundred years ago, had to say about these passages. Over the next few days I will break down adaptions from his commentary so that together we can digest it and take from it what is apt for the times we find ourselves in. Quoting from the Book of Esther – who knows but that we have been born for such a time as this.
Tell us when these things will be
The first section of Matthew 24 has to do with the destruction of the then Second Temple in Jerusalem. The passage begins with, ‘Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” Now 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 end of the age?”
Henry says – Christ preached this prophetical sermon in the close of His ministry, as the Apocalypse (Book of Revelation) is the last book of the New Testament. So too the prophetical books of the Old Testament are placed last, to intimate to us, that we must be well grounded in plain truths before we dive into those things that are dark and difficult.
In Matt. 24:1-3 there is the prophecy of various events, especially referring to the destruction of Jerusalem, and the utter ruin of the Jewish church and nation, which took place about forty years later. Looking further to Christ’s coming at the end of time, and the consummation of all things, of which the destruction of Jerusalem was a type and figure, Matt. 24:4-31. The practical application of this prophecy was for the awakening and quickening of His disciples then and now to prepare for these great and awful things.
It is good to be where Christ is, and leave which He leaves
Christ said of the temple in the close of the foregoing chapter, ‘Your house is left unto you desolate’; and here He made His Words good. He went out and quit His public work there. He not only went out of the temple but took His final farewell of it never to return to it again. Note, That house is left desolate indeed, which Christ leaves. [Hos. 9:12 Woe unto them when I depart]; [Jer. 6:8 Be instructed, O Jerusalem, Lest My soul depart from you; Lest I make you desolate]. It was now time to groan, the glory is departed. Three days after this, the veil of the temple was torn. When Christ left it, all became common and unclean. But Christ did not depart until they drove Him away. He did not reject them, till they first rejected Him.
He left the temple, but He did not leave the twelve, who were the seed of the gospel church. When He left the temple, His disciples left it too, and came to Him. It is good to be where Christ is, and leave that which He leaves. When His public preaching was over they came to Him, to be instructed in private, for the secrets of the Lord is with them that fear Him. He had spoken of the destruction of the Jewish church to the multitude in parables, which here, as usual, He explains to His disciples.
The latter Temple will be more glorious, and in it I shall give peace
His disciples came to Him, to show Him the buildings of the temple, It was a stately and beautiful structure, one of the wonders of the world. No cost has been spared to make it sumptuous. It was richly furnished with gifts and offerings.
The disciples had lived mostly in Galilee and had seldom seen it. They were all the more struck with admiration at it and thought Jesus should admire it as much as they did. Even good men are apt to be too much enamoured with outward pomp, and to overvalue it. Whereas we should be, as Christ was, dead to it, and look upon it with contempt. The temple was indeed glorious, but its glory was sullied and stained with the sin of the priests and people. Its glory was eclipsed and outdone by the presence of Christ in it, who was the glory of this latter house [Hag. 2:9 The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘And in this place I will give peace]. The building had no glory, in comparison.
Yet the disciples were grieving that this house should be left desolate; “Lord, let not this holy and beautiful house, where our fathers praised thee, be made a desolation.” They forgot how little God cared for that outward glory which they had so much admired. Christ had lately looked upon the precious souls, and wept for them, [Luke 19:41 Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it]. The disciples look upon the pompous buildings and are ready to weep for them. In this, as in other things, His thoughts are not like ours. It was weakness, and meanness of spirit, in the disciples, to be so fond of fine buildings.
And Rufus ploughed the ground
Christ here foretells the utter ruin and destruction that were coming upon this place, Matt. 24:2. A believing foresight of the ruining of all worldly glory will help to take us off from admiring it and overvaluing it. The most beautiful body will be shortly worms’ meat, and the most beautiful building a ruinous heap. The disciples would have Christ look upon the temple and be as much in love with it as they were. He would have them look upon it and be as dead to it as He was. Instead of reversing the decree, Christ ratifies it; ‘Verily, I say unto you, there shall not be left one stone upon another.’ All judgment being committed to the Son, the warnings, as well as the promises, are all yea, and Amen, in Him. [Heb. 6:17, 18 it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us].
He speaks of it as an utter ruin, utterly demolished and laid waste. Not one stone shall be left upon another. In the building of the second temple one stone was laid upon another [Hag. 2:15 And now, carefully consider from this day forward: from before stone was laid upon stone in the temple of the Lord]. Here in the ruin, of not leaving one stone upon another. History tells us, that this was fulfilled to the letter. When Emperor Titus, took the city, he did all he could to preserve the temple, yet he could not restrain the enraged soldiers from destroying it utterly. It was done to the degree that Turnus Rufus ploughed up the ground on which it had stood. Thus that scripture was fulfilled [Mic. 3:12 Therefore because of you Zion shall be ploughed like a field, Jerusalem shall become heaps of ruins, And the mountain of the temple Like the bare hills of the forest].
Adapted from the Matthew Henry Commentary
1. Christ’s prophecies were given to awaken and quicken His followers to prepare for the forthcoming great and awful things.
2. It is good to be close to Christ, to be where He is and leave what He says leave.
3. The reverential fear of the Lord is the beginning to understanding His secrets.
4. Do not be enamored with outward shows of opulence and glamour for it shall all one day come to ruin. Instead have regard for our own heart and the hearts of men that need the good news of salvation.
Jesus came to replace the Temple sacrifice
In John Chapter 2 we find Jesus driving out the merchants from the Temple, the people were asking for a sign to prove that He was the Messiah. He replied with, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” But He was speaking of the temple of His body. Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.
Throughout the Bible we have a plethora of shadows and types. Jesus had come to replace the need for the Temple. At the point of His death the curtain in the inner sanctuary was torn in two. Jesus provided the ultimate atonement for our sins. He was the penultimate sacrifice. May we come to the cross daily and have our sins forgiven. For He has paid in full.
The Ache of Love Cry unto Me and I will hear you. Use not the resources of your mind. But My unlimited stores for your needs and others. Seek My wonderful truths and you shall find. There may come times when you sit in silence, When it seems as if you are left alone but then, I command you to remember I have spoken to you As I spoke at Emmaus to those men. But there was the time in the Upper Room, After My Ascension Day. When My disciples had to comfort themselves by saying, “Did He not speak to us by the way?” You will have the consciousness of My Presence, When no other voice you hear. Abide in that Presence, “I am the Light of the World”: In Me there is no fear. But sometimes in tender pity, I withhold too glaring a light. For the dazzling brightness could cause you to stray From the daily path that I have deemed is right. At the moment you journey on Though you are never alone. But not until heaven is reached do souls sit and drink In the ecstasy of God’s revelation to His own. You are simply pilgrims needing only, Marching orders for the day. And strength and guidance To continue in My Way. Oh! Listen to My Voice, eagerly, joyfully. Never crowd it out; never run to hide. I have no rival claimants, if men seek the babble of this world Then I simply step aside. Scarred lives empathise I feel your pain within. Life has hurt you, But yours is not to escape My discipline. It is the hallmark of discipleship My children, trust Me always. Never, never rebel, Let your pain be a vehicle for praise. The heartache of rejection Can be taken away, By the simple trust Given by Me today. I died for you. In your hearts this you know Then why, oh why, My children Do you treat Me as though this was not so? By the late Andrew Feakin (passed away 16th March 2019)
Prayer: Father we come to You anew. Thank You that in these times we can be assured that You hold all things together. We choose to trust in You, that You are working Your purposes out. Remind us of the cross again and again. Remind us that the sacrifice has been paid and we have free access to Your throne. Forgive us where we fall short and draw us closer to your Heart. In the name of Christ we pray. Amen.