Did Jesus actually predict this event? In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus made predictions with specific details regarding the desolation of Jerusalem and the Temple (Luke 19:41–44; 21:5–24). The destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple did occur in AD 70.
Now, the unbeliever may pass over these predictions as being written after the event and that these things are another thing placed into the mouth of Jesus by the writers of the Bible. Many skeptics believe that Jesus’s predictions were written after AD 70 implying via the prejudice of skepticism that this record is written by false witnesses. However, some critical scholars recognize that Jesus did make these predictions in Mark 13 where Jesus urged prayers that the destruction of Jerusalem not come in the winter when the destruction actually came in August (Mark 13:18). Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s Gospels contain this prediction, and eyewitnesses testified that Jesus said these words.
The Evidence that Jesus Predicted Jerusalem’s Destruction
To historically show that these predictions existed before AD 70, one should first look at where these predictions in detail from the Gospel of Luke. The Gospel of Luke was written before Luke’s other work “Acts of the Apostles,” and this is key to knowing if Jesus’s predictions as found in Luke 19:41–44 and 21:5–24 are real. The Gospel of Luke is presented in the first sentence of Acts, which presents a review of Luke’s Gospel (Acts 1:1-4). Acts is significant because it concludes with the Apostle Paul under house arrest (Acts 28:30–31) in about AD 60–62 before his death in AD 65–66. If Acts was written after 70, then why did Luke not reveal what happened to Paul in trial and even his death? If Acts ended with Paul’s death and even Peter’s, then the dating of Acts could have been after the desolation of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple, but this is not the case though James’s and Stephen’s deaths are recorded. Acts ends with mentioning Paul’s house arrest lasting two years implying knowledge of Paul’s release and nothing further (28:30). Luke does not tell what happened in Paul’s trials in Rome when the rest of the book has covered Paul’s trials in detail. The fact that Acts ends without resolution concerning Paul’s trials and without mentioning his death is very important in showing that Acts was written before the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, and so the predictions in Luke’s earlier writing of the Gospel of Luke would have been before the event of the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Along with all of this, Acts presents an optimistic view of the government of Rome, which would have changed by the Neronian persecution to start in AD 64–65. This also helps affirm the existence of Jesus’ predictions prior to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.
One more piece of evidence is that Paul who died in about AD 65–66 quotes the Gospel of Luke calling it Scripture (1 Tim 5:18; cf. Luke 10:7). Luke must have been written before Paul’s death in AD 65–66.
Details of Jesus’s Predictions
Because Luke wrote his Gospel before the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, Luke presented the details of what Jesus predicted. Luke contains two passages of Jesus’s predictions of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in Luke 19:41–44 and 21:5–24.
In Luke 19:41–44, Jesus predicted:
*The enemies of Jerusalem would build an embankment around it (19:43).
*Jerusalem would be closed in on every side (19:43).
*Jerusalem would be leveled to the ground with no stone upon stone (19:44).
In Luke 21:5–24, Jesus predicted:
*The buildings of the temple would be thrown down (21:5-6).
*People would hear of wars along with nation rising against nation, and kingdom against kingdom (21:9-10).
*There would be earthquakes, famines, and pestilences. (21:11)
*Apostles and disciples would be around at the beginning of the signs of these things, and they would even be persecuted in the persecution to come before these signs came to completion (21:12).
*Some of these disciples would die before these signs came to pass (21:16).
*Some of the disciples would see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then desolation is near (21:20).
*Many would die by sword or be taken captive unto all the nations (21:24).
*Jerusalem would be trampled underfoot by Gentiles (21:24).
History Attests the Fulfillment of Jesus’s Predictions
The Roman record written by the Jewish historian, Josephus, confirms these events. Josephus was at the capture of Jerusalem. The predictions were fulfilled that the enemies of Jerusalem would build an embankment around it (19:43), and Jerusalem would be closed in on every side (19:43). The Jewish historian, Josephus, confirmed this truth in his history (War of the Jews 6.8.1). The Temple being thrown down and made desolate is confirmed by Josephus too (War of the Jews 6.4.7; 6.5.1–2; 6.6.1; 7.1.1). Jerusalem would be leveled to the ground with not one stone upon another (19:44). The buildings of the temple would be thrown down (21:5–6). This was the greatest desolation that the world had known until this time (War of the Jews 6.10.1; 7). Josephus presents clearly that the only parts of the city left were three towers while the rest of the city and the Temple were completely leveled.
Concerning Jesus’s prediction of nation rising against nation and kingdom against kingdom, Josephus again presented these things (Wars of the Jews Preface 2; Book 6). This is proven thoroughly and seen in the fact of the Jewish rebellion that led to this destruction. Also interesting is that from June 68 to December 69 there was a civil war for Rome. AD 69 is known as “the Year of Four Emperors” when Rome went into civil war following the death of Nero. As a result of the instability of Rome, there were many other rebellions from Gauls, Germans, Sarmatians, Parthians, and Armenians (War of the Jews 7.4, 7). The unrest between the nations of the world at this time is very unique.
There would be earthquakes, famines, and pestilences (Luke 21:11). There was a famine during Caesar Claudius’ reign (Josephus. Antiquities of the Jews 20.2.1, 3, 5,). This famine is also mentioned in the prediction by Agabus in Acts 11:28. Philostratus records earthquakes during the time period in Chios, Miletus, Samos, and Smyrna. Tacitus mentions earthquakes in Laodicea and Rome under Nero, and other earthquakes in Colossi and Hierapolis (The Annals 12, 14). The philosopher Seneca records an earthquake at Campania. Suetonius records an earthquake in Rome during the reign of Galba. Josephus writes of great earthquakes in Judea in the years just before the desolation of Jerusalem when the ground made a great noise, which earthquakes also happened during a great storm with winds, lightnings, and thunder like never heard before in Judea (Wars of the Jews 4.4.5). The famine that went along with the Roman siege of Jerusalem was also very great in that many people starved to death (Wars of the Jews 5.10.2–3; 6.9.2–4).
Now, the rest of these predictions are left confidently to implication like the taking of captives when Josephus is one himself. There are obvious deaths that would occur in such an event as recorded by Josephus. Certainly, many living in the world at this time might have thought that the world was coming to an end especially if one knew the Old Testament prophecies and, or being familiar with Jesus’s predictions.
The occurrence of these things together in predictions by Christ before the desolation of Jerusalem and the Temple proves Christ, God, His Word, and His greatest institution, the Church. Though many skeptics will admit these predictions of Jesus, they also pass it off as just a lucky guess and lie saying that Jerusalem got sacked every few decades, which is not true. Josephus presented that Jerusalem had been taken five times and made desolate only once before by Nebuchadnezzar and now by Rome (Wars of the Jews 6.10.1). The destruction of Jerusalem was not something that happened every generation or every other century.
Who could possibly have predicted when Jerusalem would meet such desolation as Jerusalem in AD 70? Certainly, a person who was truly guided by supernatural knowledge would have. Jesus claimed to have such knowledge being God and Christ. What is also very interesting is the note of Eusebius, the Christian historian. Eusebius noted that all Christians were warned and escaped to Pella (History of the Church 3:5). The Gnostic Epiphanes confirmed this too. Jesus gave a warning to the disciples to warn those who are in Judea and in Jerusalem to leave (Luke 21:21). This is another amazing miracle!