The Scriptural Limits of Bible Prophecy: A Discussion

Second Edition

limit line

 Gabriel’s Prophecy of the Seventieth Week and the

Line Beyond Which Early Christian Expectations Cannot Go

by Mark Mountjoy

Introductory Remarks

If there was a possible way or strategy of getting the ear of people who have the disposition and attitude that they yearn to know the whole truth, even if it was something they did not necessarily want to hear—those are the kind of folks we definitely want to get our message in front of. And you (yes you!) can help us accomplish that, if not in a large measure, certainly in small but doable ways.

Now, so many things are being said and so many hopes are being rekindled since May 14, 1948—73 years ago when the Jewish State came back into being. This is after an 18-century hiatus that really began, not in A.D.70, but in A.D.136 when the roof came crashing violently down on the heads of Rabbi Joseph Ben Akiva, Bar Kokhba, his Israelite State and all those Gentile God-fearing sympathizers who bought, hook, line and sinker, the fatal argument that Israel and Israel only was entitled to receive the inheritance of the fifth kingdom of Bible prophecy.


This was a combination of innocent, but deadly assumptions, deliberate disregard, and the acceptable national pretenses that was firmly attached to a similar deception that the Romans were the belligerent fourth kingdom of Bible prophecy and that the Messiah—someone besides Jesus of Nazarethwould oversee the rebuilding of a Third Temple and govern a nation of glory and great renown. These misconceptions and misrepresentations did not come without a cost: BILLIONS died behind them; untold thousands suffered gruesomely for a concept and a notion that was nowhere near the truth, because, in no case whatsoever was it the truth of the Gospel of the one from Galilee who the Bible calls the Faithful Witness and who himself proclaimed I am the way, the truth, and the life, no man cometh unto the Father but by me. Today we want to open up with a word of prayer and commit this study on the limits of Bible prophecy to the glory of God and to the Lordship of Jesus, who both died and arose that we may have life according to his infallible promises. We give God glory, and honor, and praise. We lift up our voices and say,

“You, O Lord are our God and from You, we seek forgiveness and redemption from sins. Wash us, purge us with the sanctifying blood of Your Son, heal us where we are wounded, strengthen us where we are weak. Anoint our eyes that we may see better and touch our tongues that we may speak truthful things in a manner acceptable to Your ears. We depend on You and no other for You are the author of life. Bless Your Church and give its leaders knowledge, wisdom, and understanding.

Do this, O God, not among us alone, but also in the worldwide brotherhood of Christians, its many bishops, and deacons, leaders, and academics. Let their faith in the New Testament be reinvigorated and let their confidence in Jesus gain a brand new momentum. We give glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, three in one. In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen, and amen.”

herods temple

Now, the Olivet Discourse, in Matthew 24-25, Mark 13, and Luke 21 says a lot and is packed with meaning and significance, but in all it says, we do not want to be guilty of either reading something into it the Lord did not say or intended or coming away from it without getting any proverbial mileage from it in terms of its implications.

In the case of the former, we can demonstrate that issues and assumptions, of an imaginary and injurious sort, have worked their way into exegetical efforts about the text, to wit, that the Lord, expressly or by implication, foresaw that a Third Jewish Temple would someday be built before his glorious Second Coming.

But since the Temple is only mentioned in verses 1-3 and 15 (in Matthew 24) or 1-4 and 14 (in the case of Mark 13) and 5-6 (in Luke 21)—in these places, it is perfectly clear, obvious and evident that it is the Second Temple that is the subject.  What this means is that a would-be delineation about a Third, Fourth, Fifth or even a Sixth Temple could not be any further from the truth!

It might be asked why is it so important to understand the Olivet Discourse to be only talking about the Second Temple? 

Why does it really matter which one it is talking about? 

And, finally, how can we be fair to people who sincerely believe Jesus speaks about a Third Temple and how can we wrap our minds around reasons they believe are valid in support of a current events possibility for this entire chapter?

Why the Exact Truth About the Olivet Discourse Matters

We are going to be direct and blunt here and get right down to it!  The reason why the exact truth of the Olivet Discourse should be of great concern to us is that the window of the Second Temple is a true framework, but the window of a Third Temple is a bigger historical opening and is a false, misleading, and deadly one!  What this means is that even if, for the sake of argument, a Third Temple was built, after everything was said and done, nothing (absolutely nothing) would happen—not a promised kingdom of God, or a tribulation or resurrection or a Second Coming—it would surely be anti-climatical in every possible way!

Bible and Ambitions PNG

The Bible study chart to your left attempts to help you visualize what is at stake (because the stakes are high and what you believe about this makes a big difference in your outlook). 

On the left, you see a model of the historic Second Jewish State Temple, and on the right, you see a portrayal of the new Temple the Jews hope to build.   

On the left, we can see that the New Testament directly addresses this edifice in a variety of ways and under a number of circumstances, even the “buying and selling” in the context of the Temple sacrifices (Matthew 21:12) has something to contribute to our understanding of what was going on in Revelation 13:17.

We, therefore, reject the idea that Revelation 13:17 has economics, per se, in mind at all.  Rather, we believe the entire situation revolves around Messianism, sacrificial obligations, and Jewish falsehoods which devolved into a deadly civil war and forfeiture of the very inheritance they thought God was obligated to surrender to them without either terms or conditions.

Many people do not now realize the negative and dangerous implications of a wider and longer calendrical window of time. They do not know this idea would also prove devastating to the inspiration and authority of the Bible.  They do not understand the order of events as they are laid out in Daniel 9:24-271 where the city and Temple are rebuilt, first and foremost, then the Messiah comes and is cut off (i.e., killed), then the city is invaded and destroyed and the abomination of desolation, at last, crystallized around the Second Temple that was initially built by Zerubbabel, Nehemiah and Ezra and King Herod began to remodel, expand, and beautify even before Jesus was born. 

This is a completely different scenario than the one that proposes that the New Testament bases its concerns around any Third Temple.

If it was true that would mean that Matthew 24 and its parallels, Acts 6:14, 2 Corinthians 5:1-4; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-13 and Revelation 11:1-2 are completely premature and misplaced in history (as if it would or should be a concern of Jews and Christians in the late Second Temple period!).

The implications and arrangement of the information in Daniel 9 make it certain that the true Messiah of Israel MUST not only come, but also die a death AFTER the construction of the Second Temple, but do all this BEFORE it was demolished

This is a powerful argument in favor of Jesus.  It is so strong that even Christians who full well know the implications of Daniel 9:24ff and argue this to their Jewish friends and loved ones, will turn around and NOT SEE that the Olivet Discourse is about the SAME thing and involves the same implications. 

Indeed, the Olivet Discourse cannot NOT BE about what Daniel 9 is about without introducing an intrinsic fundamental confusion into this subject (which, by the way, this subject is a trainwreck precisely because people do not understand that the Olivet Dsicsours puts limits on Daniel 9 that confine it to the last days of the Second Jewish Commonwealth).  To be clear, because of the timing of when the Olivet Discourse was given and the stated concerns of Peter and James and John and Andrew it has nothing at all to do with either current events or Futurist eschatology, Islam, or Communism.

End of a Biblical Age Now a Fact of History

The reason why Daniel 9:24-27 and the Olivet Discourse and the fulfillment of its prophecies in the history of the ancient Jewish people is so seriously important is that contained in the prophecies a litany of anomalies which, if they never came to pass, consign the apocalyptic claims of the entire New Testament to a demonstrable catastrophe from which its credibility cannot weather, escape or survive.

It is par for the course for many Evangelical enthusiasts to assert that things are already (of late) being prepared for the building of the Third Temple, but any preparation to do so is nothing new nor does it take into account that such ambitions have a long and sad history.  Furthermore, for the very reason that the earliest Christians understood the Olivet Discourse in a very different way than today’s Evangelicals generally do, they argued in the past that under no circumstances would God allow the Jews to raise such a structure in defiance of the Cross Julian the Apostateof our Lord and his passion there.

So when the Emperor Julian the Apostle sought how he might really irritate Christians and destroy their worldview in the most practical way possible, it is no wonder that he landed on the idea of financing, from public funds, a rebuilding effort on behalf of the Temple:-

“Claims about the truth of Christianity and the illegitimacy of Judaism rested heavily on an appeal to palpable events, such as the success of Christianity in winning converts and the presence of ruins at the former site of the Jewish Temple.  What would be the impact of Christian appeals on history if the Temple were no longer in ruins and the Jews not only returned to the city but once again offered sacrifices in their Temple?

Here lies the germ of Julian’s idea to rebuild the Temple.  Earlier critics had disputed Christian claims by showing, in such matters as the observance of the Law, that Christianity had apostasized from Judaism.  Julian now gave new force to these arguments by announcing that he would rebuild the Temple.  What greater proof could there be that Christianity was false and that the Jews, not the Christians, were the rightful inheritors of the ancient tradition of Israel?  His predecessors had had only literary or philosophical arguments to cast against the Christians.  But why should he only rely on words?  He was the Roman emperor.  Why talk about history when he could make history?”2

From the above, we see the fourth century Byzantine Christians did not interpret the Olivet Discourse to mean that a Third Temple needed to be rebuilt, but that the Second Temple was the final one and was proof of the validity of Christianity for all the world to publicly see.  However, Julian, understanding this perfectly well, sought to overturn these results and do so by his pen and a simple but momentous decree.

“Let the Jewish Temple be restored to its former glory, and let Jewish leaders reinstitute the ancient tradition of offering animal sacrifices to God.  What more effective way to isolate the Christians from all the other citizens of the empire!  The Jews, who had shunned the public religion, would now be able to join with the other citizens in “offering prayers on behalf of the Imperial office.”3

Julian the Apostate was certainly a thinker and he was determined to put the hated Christians in their place with these new hostile measures which would publically confute them and call into question everything they believed about Israel and the Church, Jesus, and prophecy.

“Restoration of the Temple in Jerusalem would not only cast doubt on Christian claims to be the true Israel as well as strengthen Julian’s program of religious reform; it would also provide additional proof that Jesus was not divine.  For if the Temple were rebuilt, Jesus’ prophecy that “no stone will be left standing on another” would be proven false.”4

Now, for the past two hundred or so years, with the rise of Dispensational Premillennialism Christians look upon the prospect of a rebuilt Temple with eager anticipation and stars in their eyes.  And, if the truth is told, they want to help make this happen in order for their hopes of a future Second Coming to seem to be guaranteed to be so much nearer.

But the superficial step of building a Temple would not be a way to force the hand of Almighty God to be obliged to fulfill anything—especially since there is every reason to believe he already fulfilled what he promised to do at the proper time.  And now is not that time (nor is the future a proper moment for such a thing as this). 

Hence, efforts to mock up and prop up a convincing scenario that would easily suggest to the world that Jesus is coming soon will, predictably, end in some unforeseen catastrophe or, at any rate, dismay, disappointment, and embarrassment.

Ben-Sasson writes,

“There is a record of thousands of Jews from Persian districts making their way to Jerusalem to take part in the rebuilding of the Temple during Julians Persian campaign and being killed on their way by the Persians.  The Persian King, Shapur II, remained suspicious of the Jews ever after.

The Christian reaction was naturally, one of fury.  Many ecclesiastical authors inveighed against the building of the Temple by a heathen emperor.  More sympathetic was the attitude of the Hellenes.  The pro-Jewish mood among Hellenic writers is particularly evident in the works of Libanus of Antioch, a close friend of the emperor.  The building work required many preparations.  In particular, it was necessary to demolish and remove the remains of the pagan temple built by Hadrian when he founded Aelia Capitolina, which had been abandoned since Constantine’s days.”5

Ben-Sasson goes on to falsely claim that reports of a miraculous fire that destroyed the work were really attributable to arson by Christians, but ignores the important fact that all the Christians in the world could not prevent the rebuilding of something God really wanted for himself and for the Jewish people.  What kind of excuse is this that blames Christians for preventing God from doing something he supposedly wants to do?

As for the Emperor Julian, just as soon as he thought everything was going his way, he lost his life on the battlefield, and the sinister project which he financed exploded when Jerusalem was shaken by an earthquake and subterranean fires erupted to the surfaced and singed and burnt the workers and set afire the scaffolds.  And so, under the circumstance in which the Second Temple was destroyed and all the anomalies that have prevented efforts, first under Bar Kokhba, then Julian, after all this time, if we consider everything together, it is not in God’s will that such a structure and such sacrifices function on earth for any reason.  For, in reality, the only reason why the Jews would need another Temple would be if their true Messiah had never come and died for their and our sins (Isaiah 53). 

But since Christ has already fulfilled Isaiah 53 this the notion that a Third Temple should be built and operated regardless is an act of defiance but so far no man has been able to open the door Jesus shut tight in A.D.70.  If we want to think about this matter in another way, we may say that something so important happened before the Second Temple was destroyed that it called for the removal of that Temple, but also remains as the very reason why it is important to God Most High that there never be another Jewish Temple in Jerusalem again.  And we believe, based on the sequence of Bible prophecy, both in Daniel 9 and in the Olivet Discourse that that reason is Jesus Christ and the Scriptural limits of Bible Prophecy and none other than that.

Endnotes

1 Darius the Great is mentioned by Josephus in his Antiquities of the Jews 10.11.4:248 as the kinsman of Cyrus and the son of Astyages and the Jewish historian, like the author of the Book of Daniel, claims this Darius was sixty-two years old when Babylon fell.  

2 Wilken, Robert L., The Christians As the Romans Saw Them, Julian the Apostate: Jewish Law and Christian Truth, pp. 188-189.

3 Ibid. p. 189.

4 Ibid. pp. 189-190.

5 H.H. Ben-Sasson, A History of the Jewish People, pp. 353-354.