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The Temple's Destruction

The Gospel of Mark  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  45:40
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If you have your bibles let me invite you to open with me to the book of Mark chapter 13.
We turn to what is the largest block of Jesus teaching in the gospel of Mark.
In each gospel, the author includes what is a kind of final discourse before the events of Jesus’ death, and resurrection.
In these final sections of teaching,
Jesus prepares his disciples for what is to come after he dies, resurrects, and ascends back to the Father.
In this case, Jesus speaks to what life will be like for the Christian in the last days… the days between his ascension into heaven and his return to Earth.
Mark 13 includes prophecy that was to be fulfilled in the more immediate future, and prophecy that is not to be completely fulfilled until the very end of the story.
The trouble, however, is discerning which parts are for the immediate historical fulfillment and which parts are for the further away fulfillment at the end of the world, when Jesus will return again.
For this reason, Mark 13 has been the subject of a lot of debate.
It is easily the most difficult chapter in the gospel of Mark to interpret.
I had originally planned to do all of Mark chapter 13 in just two sermons…, but upon a deeper dive this week I think it will be best that we slow down a little bit and consider what Jesus is preparing his disciples for…, and by extension what he is preparing us for.
So we are going to begin by reading verses 1-13 this morning and then we will pray for understanding…, then we will give our attention to just verses 1-4 this week.… and then 5-13 next week.
So lets read the word of God.
Mark 13:1–13 ESV
And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?” And Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains. “But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. 10 And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. 11 And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. 12 And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. 13 And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
Lets Pray
Everything from Mark chapter 11 through the end of Mark chapter 12 happened within the temple.
If you remember back to a couple months ago in our study of Mark 11…. Jesus has already told us that he is headed to the cross.
Jesus came to die on a cross for the sins of man… and three times he predicted exactly how it would happen…
It would be the religious elite in the temple who would reject him, beat him, and push for his crucifixion.
This is the plan. When Jesus gets to Jerusalem… he heads straight for the temple.
And he was appalled by what he saw there.
The sanhedrin was the collective leadership in the temple.
It was a group made up of different sub-groupings of the religious council.
They were parading themselves around receding the praise of men.… all the while they were getting rich off of the worshippers.
Money exchange tables were positioned throughout the courts of the gentiles so that money was exchanged for a special temple coin, and animals for sacrifice could be bought.
The whole system was rigged to take advantage of the people for the benefit of people who said that they were servants of God. .
In Mark 11, Jesus flips the tables of the money changers in the temple…
He begins to drive them out and he declares judgment over the temple with these words, “my house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations, but you have made it a den of robbers”
That scene caused no little commotion, and in the chapters that followed Jesus was confronted by all three sub-groups of religious leaders in the temple.
the remainder of chapters 11 and 12 describe for us several confrontations between Jesus and the scribes, pharissees, and sadducees within the temple.
With each confrontation, the religious were shown to be foolish, and Jesus was shown to be the one who spoke the very words of God with the authority of God.
Now Mark chapter 13:1 signals a change in scenery.
Jesus and the disciples come out of the temple.
And as they leave, one of the disciples makes what would have been a fairly appropriate passing comment.
Mark 13:1 ESV
1 And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!”
If you were not here for our introduction to the Jerusalem temple, let me set the stage for you so you understand the disciple’s comment.
The temple in Jerusalem was THE place in Judaism where the presence of God was manifested among his people.
It was the center of worship of the one true God.
It was where Jews from all over the ancient world would pilgrimage to worship, to pray, to learn, to make sacrifices.
And its physical construction was meant to point to the magnitude of the one true God.
These are historical facts about a real historical place.
The circumference of the temple court was nearly a mile.
The thirty-five acre enclosure could accomadate twelve football fields and according to Josephus the Jewish historian, the blocks of stone used in construction were up to sixty feet in length and weighed up to a million pounds.
The stones used to build the temple mount exceeded the size of any other temple in the ancient world.
the little group of disciples walking with Jesus out of the temple would have been overwhelmed by its magnitude....
thus the passing comment,
“Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings.”
Their comment was totally understandable...
But Jesus’ response was incomprehensible to them...
Mark 13:2 ESV
2 And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”
This is a declaration of judgment on the temple.
Its something that Jesus actually alluded to at the beginning of this whole section on the temple.
Remember the fig tree episode upon Jesus’ first visit to the temple In Mark 11.
In Mark 11, Jesus came upon a fig tree that appeared to have fruit, but upon closer examination was actually a fruitless tree. Jesus verbally cursed the tree, and said that it would never bear fruit again.
Then Jesus visited the temple… where he discovered it to be beautiful upon the outside, yet spiritually fruitless on the inside.
When Jesus leaves the temple, the disciples see the fig tree which he had verbally cursed And the tree had withered away to the roots.
It was a living parable. It was a sign to the power of the authoritative words of Jesus.
When Jesus declares judgment over something… its going to happen.
When Jesus says something will happen… His very words have the power to make it so.
Now here, a couple chapters later…. we have Jesus very clearly declaring judgment over one of the largest and most magnificent structure in the ancient world.
“There will not be left one stone upon another that will not be thrown down”
Its not the first time, that judgment on the temple was predicted in Israel’s history.
Even at the temples inauguration in 1 Kings, the possibility of its destruction was made clear.
Here the Lord’s word to Israel in 1 Kings.
1 Kings 9:6–8 (ESV)
But if you turn aside from following me, you or your children, and do not keep my commandments and my statutes that I have set before you, but go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land that I have given them, and the house that I have consecrated for my name I will cast out of my sight, and Israel will become a proverb and a byword among all peoples. And this house will become a heap of ruins...
Later, when Israel did turn their backs on God… the prophet Jeremiah warned of impending destruction throughout his ministry.
Jeremiah 22:5 ESV
But if you will not obey these words, I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that this house shall become a desolation.
The prophet Ezekiel sees a vision of God’s presence literally departing from Israel’s midst.
In his vision, God stands up from the mercy seat in the temple… and then he walks out the door.
The vision was meant signify that God’s presence was departing, and the coming judgment was imminent.
Ezekiel 10:18–19 ESV
18 Then the glory of the Lord went out from the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubim. 19 And the cherubim lifted up their wings and mounted up from the earth before my eyes as they went out, with the wheels beside them. And they stood at the entrance of the east gate of the house of the Lord, and the glory of the God of Israel was over them.
Ezekiel 11:22–23 ESV
22 Then the cherubim lifted up their wings, with the wheels beside them, and the glory of the God of Israel was over them. 23 And the glory of the Lord went up from the midst of the city and stood on the mountain that is on the east side of the city.
After this rejection of God in Israel’s history… the temple was destroyed by Babylon, and was later rebuilt…
Now again… Israel is rejecting God… this time by they are rejecting God specifically by their rejection of Jesus.
Jesus actually leaves the temple in the same way that the presence of God left the temple in Ezekiel’s vision.
They exit the temple and head to the Mt. Of Olives on the east side of the city and they look back at the temple.
To an avid Old Testament reader… the scene sounds familiar.
Ezekiel 11:23 ESV
23 And the glory of the Lord went up from the midst of the city and stood on the mountain that is on the east side of the city.
The glory of the Lord has once again departed the temple…
and destruction has once again been declared over the temple because they have rejected the one true God…, namely God in the flesh… Jesus of Nazareth.
And as they stand on the Mt. of Olives gazing back at the temple doomed for destruction… the disciples ask Jesus a question.
Mark 13:4 ESV
“Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?”
The disciples recognize that with the destruction of the temple comes a terrible judgment on the whole region.
In fact, they probably assume, that the destruction of the temple also means the end of the world as they know it.
Surely the destruction of the temple would mean the inauguration of the Last Day… the day of judgment on the world and all of God’s enemies.
This is a big deal… and the disciples want to know WHEN it will happen.
They get caught up on what so many get caught up on… WHEN is this gonna happen?
But they don’t ask WHY is this going to happen…. nor do they ask… WHAT shall we be doing in the mean time?
Jesus doesn’t answer the when in this text.… in fact he discourages any attempt to try to figure out the when.
Jesus emphasizes the what to expect in the mean time?
That’s what we are going to talk about next week…
but before we get there…., I think we should pause and ask the question that the disciples do not ask.
We should ask the question “Why?”
“Why” is it so significant that the temple be utterly destroyed?
Mark, obviously understands the event to be significant.
He has structured three chapters of his gospel around the events in the temple beginning with Jesus’ indictment of the temple…, then ending with Jesus’ final sentencing of the temple.
Upon Jesus’ death in just a couple chapters… even more evidence of the temple’s end will be put on display when the veil in the temple is ripped from top to bottom at the very moment of Jesus’ death.
But again… why is this so important?
Before progressing further into chapter 13 we are going to pause here this morning and look at three reasons this prophecy is significant.
Firstly… this prophecy is historically significant… because it actually happened

Truth #1 The Temple’s Destruction Points to the Reliability of God’s Word

Jesus’ prophecy here is not something that we are still waiting for.
This was not hypothetical or allegorical.
Jesus literally promised that the literal physical building of the temple was going to be so totally destroyed that one stone wouldn’t remain on top of another.
And in the year A.D. 70 within the disciples’ lifetime…, that is exactly what happened.
40 years later, Julius Caesar ordered that the entire temple be destroyed.
We have an actual historical account of much of what went on in the first century in the writings of a Jew from the first century named Josephus.
he writes summarizing what took place in AD 70,
“Caesar ordered the whole city and the temple to be razed to the ground.… All the rest of the wall encompassing the city was so completely leveled to the ground as to leave future visitors to the spot no ground for believing that it had ever been inhabited” - Josephus
This book is not fairy tale.
This is not mythology.
It contains a prophecy publicly made by the person of Jesus about the physical destruction of a temple so completely that a stone would not be left upon another.…
and here is the historian of that age… saying thats exactly what happened.
Did Rome’s Ceasar in A.D. 70 intend to fulfill Jesus’ prophecy no?
Was he a follower of God? No.
But did he unintentionally fulfill exactly what God had said? Yes.
God is sovereign over every detail in the world including historical and geopolitical movements that seem uncontrollable.
There is no event in history, that God cannot and does not use for his Glory and for the good of those who have trusted him…
Proverbs 21:1 ESV
The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.
If nothing else, this prophecy of Jesus and its subsequent fulfillment should give you a confidence this morning.…
a confidence that God’s word is trustworthy.
He brings to pass what he promises.
Just because there are promises that he has made to us that have not yet been experienced, it does not mean that those promises have been broken.… they are just on their way to fulfillment.
2 Peter 3:8–9 ESV
But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
There are promises that God has made to us, much like Jesus’ prophecy about the temple.
Remember this promise from Romans 8.
Romans 8:28 ESV
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Jesus made this prophecy in AD 33… the fulfillment occurred in AD 70….
What if in AD 69, people fell away from following Jesus, because of this unfulfilled prophecy?
Don’t doubt the promises of God…, simply because we can’t see the fulfillment of what we want fulfilled in the timing we want it fulfilled…
Listen …
God’s sovereignty over every detail in the cosmos is such that he orchestrates the invasions of whole countries in accordance with one sentence uttered by the Son of God.
If nothing else, let this fulfilled prophecy renew in you a resolve to trust what God says.
There is no politician, no government, no dictator, nor army, no cell in the human body…. that operates in total freedom from the restraining and directing hand of the Almighty.
God is always accomplishing a plan that is bigger then our comprehension.
There is a historical significance to this prophecy.

Truth #1 The Temple’s Destruction Points to the Reliability of God’s Word

but thats not all…

Truth #2 The Temple’s Destruction Points to a New Temple Through a Final Sacrifice

This is recap for some of you… but i pray it’s a helpful recap…
Everything about the Old Testament’s story points forward to a greater fulfillment.
Every structure, every character, every law, every religious system in Old Testament Judaism pointed beyond itself like a shadow of the main event.
The physical temple in Jerusalem as magnificent as it was was still only a shadow of things to come.
It was the place where God’s presence dwelt.
It’s magnificence pointed to the uniqueness of the one true God.
It’s sacrificial system highlighted the separation between God and man and the need for a blood sacrifice to reconcile Sinful men to a holy God.
every day… priests made blood sacrifices as offerings to God which symbolized the gruesomeness of sin and the true blood penalty it deserved.
But when Jesus died on the cross…, he fulfilled what the temple system only foreshadowed.
He became the perfect sacrifice which paid the blood penalty.
By taking on himself all our sin, guilt, and shame… and then suffering the consequence on our behalf.
Jesus not only makes a way for us to be forgiven…, but he cleanses us so that we ourselves as God’s church, God’s people… we can now function as God’s temple in the world.
When people want to know the one true God, they no longer have to go to a physical structure… they can go to and inquire of God’s people.
They can watch how God’s people interact with one another and the world.
When people want to learn about God, and how to reconcile to God… they can go to the people who have truly been covered by the perfect sacrifice and who are now indwelt by the presence of God.
We church.. are the new temple… that Jesus made possible by his own blood.
1 Corinthians 6:19–20 ESV
19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
Just like the temple was a testimony to the world about the one true God…
You are a testimony to the world about majesty and magnificence of the one true God.
1 Peter 2:9–12 ESV
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
This is why the temple curtain was torn in two when Jesus breathed his last breath.
We now have access to God through the blood of Jesus…
and the lost and unbelieving world can have access to that saving message through us.
The temple was physically destroyed… so that God might make clear to the Jews that
- no more sacrifices were to be made,
- no more priests were to be appointed,
- and no more temples were to be built…
Jesus was the perfect sacrifice,
Jesus fulfilled the roll of a perfect priest,
and the church is now the temple of God taking the presence of God all over the world.
Let me ask you this… what does the world think about your God by watching your life?
If someone’s exposure to our God, and our church was only through observing your life… would they get an accurate picture of the glory of the good news of Jesus?
Would they see a majestic temple dressed in holiness?
Or would they see a cleaned up version of the rest of the world?

Truth #2 The Temple’s Destruction Pointed to a New Temple Through a Final Sacrifice

But I think there is one more element this prophecy that we will see all the more as we progress through Mark 13.
The event of the temple’s destruction was a cataclysmic one.
As we have discussed, the temple was one of the most staggering physical structures made by man in the ancient world.
It was a man-made temple…, that over time became corrupted with man’s desire for his own glory rather than God’s.
And in just a short time it was brought to absolutely nothing.
The disciples thought that this moment must have been tied to the end times, where God will settle all scores…
They were right and they were wrong.
They were right in the since, that the temple’s destruction was tied to final judgment
But it was not the time marker for the final judgment to begin… rather it was a foreshadow of a future event.
It was a foreshadow of how intense and comprehensive the final judgment would be.
In Mark 13 Jesus very easily transitions from talking about the historical day that the temple would fall… to talking about the final day where every man-made structure that does not honor God will fall.
We will take a deeper look at this later but just listen to the teaching that Jesus transitions into.
Later in chapter 13 Jesus transitions from speaking about “these days” to speaking about those days that will come later.
Mark 13:24–27 ESV
24 “But in those days, after that tribulation, 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. 26 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And 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.
In AD 70, Israel was surrounded besieged, starved, destroyed, and burned into nothingness.
It’s destruction was comprehensive.
The city of Jerusalem and the temple specifically was one of the wonders of the world created with all the wisdom, innovation, and will power that man had to give.…
but all its massive stones, all its gold, and silver, and decorated columns became only a shrine to humanity’s pride and rebellion against God…
and in a word… Jesus spoke its future destruction into being.
but even that was only a small glimpse of the judgment to come.

Truth #3 The Temple’s Destruction Points to a Final Destruction

One day all the things we thought were most impressive.
All our large stones, and tall buildings, and all our structures and ideologies we built to serve our selves will come toppling over.
And there will only be one safe space to stand… the solid rock of faith in Jesus Christ our Lord.
The religious elite in the temple had built their lives on the wrong foundation.
They had constructed meaning and value for their lives from the wrong raw materials.
And it was all going to come crashing down…
but let me ask you…
What structures have you built?
What impressive pedigrees, life goals, and human innovation have you rested your life on?
Will the priorities, values, and accomplishments you spend most of your time thinking about stand on the last day?
Paul speaks of that day in this way.
1 Corinthians 3:10–16 ESV
10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. 16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?

Truth #1 The Temple’s Destruction Points to the Reliability of God’s Word

Truth #2 The Temple’s Destruction Pointed to a New Temple Through a Final Sacrifice

Truth #3 The Temple’s Destruction Points to a Final Destruction

Let me close with a few takeaways:

#1 Believe the Word of the Lord

God’s word said that the temple would be destroyed and it was destroyed.
God’s word says that sin will destroy your life… it has consequences that you could have never anticipated…don’t doubt God’s word on this.
Believe the word of the Lord

#2 Be the Temple

Take seriously your purpose as a representative of God’s glory. You absolutely should care about what other people think… because you should care about what other people think about God.
May your holiness actually lead others to pursue a holy God.

#3 Build Your Life to Survive the Final Destruction

Do a hard look on the things that you find most important… and ask yourself what it would look like to build your life with the things that will endure into eternity.
It starts with a return to the foundation.
We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone to live for his glory alone.
Lets pray.
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