One day, as they exited the Temple complex, one of the disciples said to Jesus,
Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” (Mark 13:1-2)
Did they hear Jesus right? Was he predicting the total destruction of the Temple?
And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?” (Mark 13:3-4)
Then Jesus went on to deliver a cryptic account of the signs of things to come. He mentioned nation rising against nation, kingdom rising against kingdom, earthquakes and famines… Even the sun, moon and stars would somehow be dramatically affected.
Jesus foretold the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. He also warned his followers to be on guard — for they would be arrested, tried, tortured, and killed on account of their association with him. He spoke of terrible times in the future, but also gave hope for his glorious return to set things right again.
Over the last 2,000 years, theologians have debated what Jesus really meant in his discussion of the “end times.” There are a wide variety of theories regarding these Gospel passages, especially the signs and timing of this “end of days” scenario. However, we do know that in 70 AD — some 37 years after Jesus made this prediction — Rome sacked Jerusalem and destroyed it. The historian Josephus actually witnessed the siege and aftermath, and said…
Now as soon as the army had no more people to slay or to plunder, because there remained none to be the objects of their fury, Titus Caesar gave orders that they should now demolish the entire city and Temple…”
Other than a few towers and forts for the Roman garrison, everything was destroyed.
It was so thoroughly laid even with the ground by those that dug it up to the foundation, that there was left nothing to make those that came thither believe Jerusalem had ever been inhabited.”
(The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem. Book VII, Chapter 1.1)
Aftermath of the Temple destruction
Then, about 60 years later, the Roman Emperor Hadrian commenced with finishing the job of complete annihilation of Jerusalem and much of the land of Israel. By 135 AD, nearly 600,000 Jews were killed and over 1,000 towns and villages were razed to the ground. The practice of the Mosaic Law was prohibited, the sacred scrolls were burned, and circumcision was outlawed. All that remained on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem were a few Roman statues of a few Roman gods.
In an attempt to erase any memory of Judaea and Jerusalem, Hadrian renamed the territory “Syria Palaestina” — a complete eradication of Jewish title in favor of the ancient Philistines. He also renamed Jerusalem, “Aelia Capitolina,” which was a loose combination of Hadrian’s family name and a hill dedicated to the Roman God Jupiter. The Jewish people were strictly forbidden to enter their own capital, except once a year on the holiday commemorating the destruction of the Temple.
These huge stones lying at the base of the southern section of the Temple Mount are a testament to the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy. Between 70 and 135 AD, the Roman soldiers stripped the Temple Mount bare — every stone was thrown down… And the remnant of Israel was scattered to the four corners of the earth. The destruction of the Temple foretold by Jesus was complete.