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The Prophecies of Jesus

A quick look at some prophecies made by Jesus.

It is interesting to note that Jesus happened to have issued prophecies during his ministry. This page examines those prophecies and discusses possible fulfillment or lack of fulfillment.

Jerusalem Was Not Destroyed

In Luke,

41 As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it,
42 saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.
43 Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side.
44 They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.”[b]Luke 19:41-44

Obviously, the prophecy here is for Jerusalem to be completely destroyed, which conclusively never happened – least of all because we still have the Western Wall; many other parts of Jerusalem exist from the Herodian period including the Single Gate leading to the area of the Temple Mount known as Solomon's Stables (which, additionally, still stands today), and the Huldah Gate, at the southern wall of the Temple Mount. There are many other structures from that time period still standing. You can see modern photos of them on any tourist site and on Wikipedia.

The Sign of Jonah

In Matthew, we see Jesus stating he will give the sign of Jonah.

38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.”
39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.
40 For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so for three days and three nights the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth.
41 The people of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the proclamation of Jonah, and see, something greater than Jonah is here!
42 The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and see, something greater than Solomon is here!Matthew 12:38-42

The simple and obvious comment here is that although Jesus promised to give the scribes and pharisees a sign as requested – the sign of Jonah, he had failed to do so.

The Christian Response

The Christian response attacks this question on three fundamental grounds. First, it claims that Jesus never promised to give the scribes and pharisees a sign. Support for this claim mainly comes from Mark 8:11;

11 The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, asking him for a sign from heaven, to test him.
12 And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to this generation.”
13 And he left them, and getting into the boat again, he went across to the other side.Mark 8:11-13

However, far from solving this issue it moves “out of the frying pan and into the fire,” so to speak, because now we have the serious issue of a contradiction in the narrative. Did Jesus say he was going to give the sign of Jonah, or not? If we assume he never said he was going to give a sign, what do the words in Matthew mean “…no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.”? Surely, to claim he never said he would not give a sign is not an acceptable response, nor is it the kind of response a Christian would issue if he wants to retain credibility.

The Sign Was Fulfilled

The second kind of response that I have seen is that the prophecy actually was fulfilled, and it was simply not written down. Well, we can check this in John 2 which recounts the story a little differently by including who Jesus appeared to.

So, to discuss the other issue, that it may not have been written down, we can look at John 2.

18 The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking of the temple of his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.John 2:18-22

In John 2 it states without hesitation that Jesus had appeared to his disciples. This is supported by other passages in the gospels which show Jesus appearing to his disciples. So we know, that he did not appear to the scribes and Pharisees because we know to whom Jesus appeared after he had risen.

It may also be then that Jesus had appeared to the pharisee Paul, or when all the dead Jews rose from the grave and walked around in Jerusalem in Mathew 27:52. Frankly there are serious issues with these ideas which make them difficult or impossible. For Paul, Jesus didn't appear to Paul in a Physical form. And even so, he still would not have appeared to the scribes and Pharisees who had requested the sign. Secondly, a bunch of dead people rising up and walking around Jerusalem would have made headlines all around the world. And if such a thing did happen, it is difficult to imagine that everyone's first thought would have been Jesus. Jesus wasn't the only person crucified on that day, and thousands of Jews were crucified by the romans. It was not an unusual event. The romans kept meticulous records and histories, so we would certainly have some verification if any such thing happened. For example? Josephus seems to mention Jesus and other events which support the Christian narrative, yet this is not mentioned. Yet we note, even if this did happen, it is not a fulfillment of the sign of Jonah – that Jesus himself would appear to them as he had promised.

The Second Temple Will Be Destroyed

Bizarrely, Jesus issues a second prophecy regarding the destruction of a temple. In Mark, Matthew and Luke we read that the physical Temple will be destroyed as well.

1 As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!”
2 Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”Mark 13:1-2

1 As Jesus came out of the temple and was going away, his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple.
2 Then he asked them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly I tell you, not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”Matthew 24:1-2

5 When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, 6 “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.”Luke 21:5-6

The Western Wall was part of the most magnificent building Jerusalem had ever seen: it was one of four walls Herod the Great built to support the 1,555,000-square-foot plaza on which the Temple stood. In the above passages, Jesus predicts the destruction of the second temple. However there are two serious issues with what Jesus is saying here. The first one is obvious, the second temple was not completely destroyed; the western wall still stands to this day.

Christian Response to Western Wall

The immediate response to this is that the Western Wall was not part of the temple. This is all well and good, but it is not completely accurate.

The wall was originally erected as part of the expansion of the Second Jewish Temple by Herod the Great, which resulted in the encasement of the natural, steep hill known to Jews and Christians as the Temple Mount, in a large rectangular structure topped by a huge flat platform, thus creating more space for the Temple itself and its auxiliary buildings.Western Wall, Wikipedia

Today, “The Western Wall is considered holy due to its connection to the Temple Mount.”

Second (if not primarily) to all of this, in the section above (Jerusalem Was Not Destroyed) we have just seen that Jesus also prophesied that all of Jerusalem would be destroyed in the same manner. Therefore whether or not you think the Western Wall was part of the temple, it is still not possible to say his prophecy was fulfilled.

Yet, there is still more. Even if we were to concede this and Jerusalem, which we do not concede, there is a second dimension to this prophecy; In all three instances (in each Gospel where it is recorded,) Jesus also tells his discipled exactly when the prophecy would happen.

3 When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately,
4 “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?”
30 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.
31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. Mark 13:3-4,30-31

3 When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
34 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.
35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. Matthew 24:3,34-35

7 They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?”\\…
32 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place.
33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. Luke 21:7,32-33

Jesus made this prophecy in about AD 33, and the temple was destroyed in AD 70. This means one full generation did in fact pass away before the prophecy was fufilled. In particular, Andrew was killed in AD69 before the temple was destroyed. James son of Zebedee, AKA James the Greater, was killed by Herod Agrippa in Acts 12. Philip went to Heliopolis, where he was scourged, thrown into prison, and crucified in 54 AD. Needless to say, Judas died shortly after Jesus (source: NatGeo). So no matter how you look at it, either within the lifetimes of the people listening, or in terms of a generation (20-30 years) this prophecy was not fulfilled when Jesus said it would be.

Earth Cannot Pass Away

Hold on, there's more. Perhaps most bizarrely, Jesus states his prophecy in terms of something that is never going to happen (according to the old testament). The Word of God is very clear that God has established the planet Earth until the end of time;

40 Keep his statutes and his commandments, which I am commanding you today for your own well-being and that of your descendants after you, so that you may long remain in the land that the Lord your God is giving you for all time.Deuteronomy 4:40

69 He built his sanctuary like the high heavens,
like the earth, which he has founded forever.Psalm 78:69

4 A generation goes, and a generation comes,
but the earth remains forever.Ecclesiastes 1:4

Now, it is true that in Psalm 102 it says that the earth will perish; however this statement is being made in contrast to God's everlasting being, since the earth is one of his creations (and thus inferior to him). Nevertheless this statement of Jesus appears odd, and not least of all because it never seems to have occurred.

A Non-Prophecy

Ultimately it must be appreciated that Matthew and the other gospels were written 10, 20, 30 years after the destruction of the second temple. For example Matthew was written in AD80. But we don't need to make the case that the events were penned in after the fact. The truth is, the Jews already knew the temple was about to be destroyed.

The Jewish Talmud says that 40 years before the Temple was destroyed the gates of the temple opened by themselves, until Rabbi Yohanan B. Zakkai rebuked them (i.e., the gates) saying, “Hekel, Hekel, why do you alarm us? We know that you are destined to be destroyed” (Yoma 39b). The priests understood that, for Ezekiel's prophecy to be fulfilled (Ezekiel 40-48), the existing temple would have to be destroyed and a new one built.

Therefore Jesus would obviously have to have said the temple would be destroyed before the messianic era would come, or else people would have said he is changing the words of the prophet Ezekiel. It therefore wasn't a prophecy in the truest sense of the word, it was just a reminder that Ezekiel had previously made the same claim. We also note that none of the problems that exist with Jesus' prediction exist in Ezekiel's original prophecy. The end result of all of this is that the fulfillment of this prophecy gives more credibility to the Jewish prophets and less credibility to Jesus' ministry.

Jesus Did Not Return Soon

Matthew 16.

28 Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”Matthew 16:28

In Matthew 16 we read that Jesus said he will return before all of his apostles died. This did not happen. In order for this prophecy to be still open, one of his apostles would have to have been taken up into heave. Unfortunately while we do not know how and where all of the apostles died conclusively, we do in fact know they are all dead. NatGeo, ABT and are a few example pages which give us a run-down.

the_prophecies_of_jesus.txt · Last modified: 2018/01/27 17:25 (external edit)