The Sign—Not Just Past History
IN Jerusalem, in the Middle East, there is a fascinating historic site that demands the attention of thinking people today. It is the elevated area where there stood “a temple of immense wealth,” in the words of the first-century Roman historian Tacitus. No trace of the temple buildings remains, but the platform does. It bears testimony to the truthfulness of a prophetic sign that affects you.
Archaeologists have made many discoveries to the south of the temple platform. “One of the most interesting finds,” states J. A. Thompson in The Bible and Archaeology, “was a number of huge blocks of Herodian masonry evidently cast from the top of the Temple wall at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.”
The destruction of Jerusalem and its temple was foretold 37 years before it happened. No less than three historians recorded Jesus Christ’s words that “not a stone upon a stone will be left here and not be thrown down.” (Luke 21:6; Matthew 24:1, 2; Mark 13:1, 2) A conversation followed that affects everyone today, including you.
“Teacher,” his disciples asked him, “what will be the sign when these things are destined to occur?” According to Jesus, the period leading up to the temple’s destruction would be marked by wars, earthquakes, food shortages, and pestilences. “This generation,” he added, “will by no means pass away until all things occur.”—Luke 21:7, 10, 11, 32.
Did that generation experience fulfillment of “the sign”? Yes. The Bible refers to “a great famine” as well as three earthquakes, two of them ‘great earthquakes.’ (Acts 11:28; 16:26; Matthew 27:51; 28:1, 2) According to secular history, other earthquakes and food shortages occurred during that period. It was also a time of wars, two of which were fought by Roman armies against the inhabitants of Jerusalem. The second siege of Jerusalem resulted in terrible famine and pestilence, leading up to the destruction of the city and its temple in the year 70 C.E. The site in Jerusalem where the temple used to be stands as mute witness to those terrible first-century events.
‘Interesting,’ someone might say, ‘but how does it affect me?’ In that the sign is not just past history. It was only partially fulfilled in the first century. For example, Jesus also foretold a time when mankind would be in great fear because of “signs in sun and moon and stars” and “the roaring of the sea.” This feature of the sign would mark the nearness of “the kingdom of God”—a government that will bring permanent deliverance from world distress.—Luke 21:25-31.
Such things did not happen in the first century. Today, 1,900 years later, mankind still awaits deliverance from wars, earthquakes, food shortages, and pestilences. Therefore, the sign must have a second complete fulfillment. Bearing this out, the book of Revelation contains prophetic pictures that correspond with the sign, and yet it was written after Jerusalem’s destruction. (Revelation 6:1-8) Thus, the important question arises: Has the sign been seen in our day?