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In much of Matthew 24, Jesus is warning followers who, like Peter, want an optimistic promise of the future (16:21-23) that realism is more important. His followers must prepare themselves to die for his honor before the coming of the end (compare 16:24-28). The introduction to this part of the discourse makes some crucial points.
It is difficult to deny that Jesus accurately predicted the temple's destruction. Even on minimal historical grounds, we have good reason to agree with Matthew that Jesus did so (see, for example, Hill 1979:62-63; Aune 1983:174-75; E. Sanders 1993:257). First, although the later church may have forgotten the significance of some of Jesus' words and deeds against the temple, they preserved them. Thus we learn of a symbolic act of judgment there (Mt 21:12), testimony of witnesses the Christians believed to be false (26:61; compare Mk 15:29; Jn 2:19; Acts 6:14), and a tradition about its destruction that must come from before it was destroyed (Q tradition in Mt 23:38 par. Lk 13:35). Jewish Christians who continued to worship in the temple (Acts 2:46; 21:26-27) nevertheless remained faithful to a saying of Jesus which they would surely not have created (compare Hare 1967:6). Finally, someone making up Jesus' prediction after the event would have fitted it more literally to its fulfillment, whereas Jesus' saying retains its prophetic hyperbole (such as not one stone . . . on another).
Jesus pronounces woes against religious leaders of his day (23:13-32) and then hints about judgment against the temple, the ultimate symbol of the religious establishment's power (23:38; compare 21:13). As in many Old Testament prophets, nearer judgments foreshadow the final judgment; Matthew recognizes in the temple's destruction in A.D. 70 a vindication of Jesus' prophecy and an assurance that his other prophecies will also come to pass.
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@1ST PAR = The Temple's Destruction (24:1-3)