As they were leaving the temple after this last day of the Lord's public teaching, the disciples pointed to the great stones of the temple, and the beauty of the temple building, and the Lord said that the time would come when it would all be thrown down and not one stone left upon another.
Then they crossed over the Kidron valley and sat on the Mount of Olives, looking down on the beautiful city of Jerusalem with its magnificent temple in the lengthening shadows. The temple was built by Herod and perhaps not wholly finished when the Lord was here. It was built of huge blocks of white marble. It was a saying of the Jews that one had seen nothing if he had not seen the temple. As they looked upon the city and the temple from the Mount of Olives, the, disciples asked when it would all be overthrown. The Lord answered in a parable. As we read it together you will see that it tells of dark and troubled times, and of brighter times to come afterward.
But they must watch and pray. For as a householder in leaving his house would give each servant his work to do and tell the porter to watch, so He in leaving His disciples told them to watch that they might be ready to receive Him. And we all must watch and pray, for do we know when the Lord will come to take us to our heavenly home? He may come when we are young or when we are grown or when we are old, but He will surely come sometime and we must be ready.
Perhaps the afternoon shades were lengthening as the Lord with the disciples went out from the temple and across the Kidron to the Mount of Olives. Picture the city as it lay before them; the palace and towers on Mount Zion, the white buildings of the temple, and the wall with its great stones, some, it is said, thirty and even forty feet in length. "Master," one of the disciples said, "see what manner of stones, and what buildings." "Seest thou these buildings?" the Lord answered, "there shall not be left one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down." His words were literally fulfilled in the year 70, when the Roman general Titus destroyed Jerusalem. But the Lord spoke not so much of the natural city and, temple, as of true ways of life and worship which were nearly at an end among the Jews. On the same last day in the temple He said, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not." (Matthew 23:37)
As the Lord sat on the slope of the Mount of Olives, over against the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew, and perhaps other disciples, sat with Him and listened as He told them more of the sad days which should come. He told them of wars and famines and earthquakes, and days of trial when the love of many should wax cold. The sun and moon would be darkened and the stars would fall. But then would come brighter days, as when after winter the trees begin to bud and give promise of summer, for He Himself would come again to comfort His people. The disciples thought only of natural wars and natural darkness, but we know that the Lord spoke of wars and darkness in men's minds. And the coming again which He promised, was a new and more powerful sense of His presence, which is even now taking place, through the opening of His Word to the New Church.
1. Who built the first temple in Jerusalem? The temple that stood there in Gospel days? When was this temple overthrown?
2. What troubles that were coming did the Lord foretell? What beautiful sign did He also promise?
3. When does the Lord come for each one of us? How should we watch for His coming?
The stones of the temple. What did the Lord say is the stone of which His church is built? The sure, unchanging truth that He is the Christ the Son of the living God - God become man to dwell with us. (Matthew 16:16-18) This was the corner stone which the builders rejected. (Mark 12:10) This and other holy truths about the Lord and heaven are represented by the beautiful stones in the walls and foundations of the Holy City. Jews and Christians have been proud of the holy truths in their possessions; they have boasted of the great stones of their temple. But the stones have fallen apart and crumbled when the Commandments of God have been made of none effect by disobedience and by the inventions of men. Read of the stones of Solomon's temple. (1 Kings 6:7.) (E.411; A. 8581.)
As you read the predictions of the last days, keep in mind that they describe the time of spiritual distress, before the Lord's second coming through the opening of His Word to the New Church. Notice a few particulars. There have been wars between truth and falsity and between different false teachings in the church; there have been earthquakes, when all that was accepted as most sure has been overthrown; and famines, when souls have starved for some true knowledge of heavenly things. And why all this? Because they have rejected the Lord's apostles, His words of Divine truth. But the Lord provides that something of heavenly life shall survive the dark times. In those days of desolation there is safety in the mountains, in states of simple goodness. The sun and moon and stars are darkened when all heavenly light is extinguished. Then the clouds of the Lord's Word open to bring Him again near to men. Trees of intelligence of every beautiful and useful kind, spring into life. We see them all about us, especially the fig tree of interest in good works of natural benevolence. It is the sign of the Lord's coming, and of brighter, happier days. (R. 331-334; E. 403)