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superb temple, from which, and from the general solidity and strength of the building, they probably flattered themselves, and meant to insinuate to their divine Master, that this unrivalled edifice was built for eternity, was formed to stand the shock of ages, and to resist the utmost efforts of human power to destroy it. How astonished then and dismayed must they have been at our Saviour's answer to these triumphant observations of theirs! Jesus said unto them, “See ye not all those things 2 Verily I say unto you, there shall not be left here one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down.” This is a proverbial expression, used on other occasions to denote entire destruction; and therefore had the temple been reduced to ruins in the usual way, the prophecy would have been fully accomplished. But it so happened that this prediction was almost literally fulfilled, and that in reality scarce one stone was left upon another. For when the Romans had taken Jerusalem, Titus ordered his soldiers to dig up
the foundations both of the city and the temple *. The Jewish writers also themselves acknowledge, that Terentius Rufus, who was left to command the army, did with a ploughshare tear up the foundations of the temple+; and thereby fulfilled that prophecy of Micah f, “Therefore shall Zion for your sake be ploughed as a field.” And in confirmation of this remarkable circumstance, Eusebius also assures us, that the temple was ploughed up by the Romans; and that he himself saw it lying
* in ruins S. The evangelist next informs us,
that as Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives, which was exactly opposite to the hill on which the temple was built, and commanded a very fine view of it from the east, his disciples came unto him privately, saying, “Tell us when shall these things be, and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” The expressions here made use of the sign of thy * Joseph de Bello Jud. l. vii. c. i. p. 170. B.
+ See Whitby, in loc. † Chap. iii. 12. § Euseb. Dem. Evang. I. vi. 13.
VoI, II. O
thy coming, and the end of the world, at the first view naturally lead our thoughts to the coming of Christ at the day of judgment, and the final dissolution of this earthly globe. But a due attention to the parallel passages in St. Mark and St. Luke, and a critical examination into the real import of those two phrases in various parts of Scripture, will soon convince a careful inquirer, that by the coming of Christ is here meant, not his coming to judge the world at the last day, but his coming to execute judgment upon Jerusalem *; and that by the end of the world is to be understood not the final consummation of all things here below, but the end of that age, the end of the Jewish state and polity, the subversion of their city, temple, and government F.
See Mark, xiii. 4. Luke, xxi. 7. Matt. xxiv. 4, 5; xvi. 28. John, xxi. 22.
+ The word alwy (here translated the world) frequently means nothing more than an age, a certain definite period of time. See Matt. xxiv. 6, 14. Mark, The real questions therefore here put to our Lord by the disciples were these two: 1st. At what time the destruction of Jerusalem was to take place; “Tell us when shall these things be P” 2dly. What the signs were that were to precede it; “What shall be the sign of thy coming P” Our Lord in his answer begins first with the signs, of which he treats from the 4th to the 31st verse inclusive. The first of these signs is specified in the 5th verse, “many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.” This part of the prophecy began soon to be fulfilled; for we learn from the ancient writers, and particularly from Josephus, that not long after our Lord's ascension, several impostors appeared, some pretending to be the Messiah, and others to foretel future events. The first were those whom our Lord here says should come in his name, and were therefore false Christs. The others are alluded to in the eleventh O 2 verse, verse, under the name of false prophets: “Many false prophets shall arise, and shall deceive many.” Of the first sort were, as Origen informs us”, one Dositheus, who said that he was the Christ foretold by Moses; and Simon Magus, who said he appeared among the Jews as the Son of God; besides several others alluded to by Josephus +.
xiii. 7. Luke, xxi. 9. compared with ver. 20 Hebrews, ix. 26.
The same historian tells us, that there were many false prophets, particularly an Egyptian, who collected together above thirty thousand Jews, whom he had deceived £5 and Theudas, a magician, who said he was a prophet, and deceived many; and a multitude of others, who deluded the people, even to the last, with a promise of help from God. And in the reign of Nero, when Felix was procurator of Judaea, such a number of these impostors made their appearance, that many of them were seized and put to death every day Ş.
The * Origen : Adv. Cels. l. 1. & 6. + De Bell. Jud. l. i. p. 705.