Daniel and the Destruction of Jerusalem

One of the most fascinating, yet difficult prophecies to understand and explain, is the vision revealed to Daniel by the angel Gabriel which concerned the ultimate end of the holy city, Jerusalem. Found in Daniel 9, the prophecy designated 70 weeks “to finish transgression, to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity” (Dan. 9:24). The prophecy predicted the revelation of the Christ, His being cut off and ultimately that “the prince that shall come shall destroy the holy city and the sanctuary (temple)” Daniel was warned that “upon the wings of abomination shall come one that maketh desolate” (Dan. 9:27).

When Jesus predicted of the temple “not one stone shall be left upon another” (Mt. 24:1f), He referenced this prophecy of Daniel, necessarily implying that the fulfillment of His prediction about Jerusalem’s destruction was an enlargement of the earlier prophecy of Daniel. He said, “When therefore ye see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let him that readeth understand) then let them that are in Judaea flee unto the mountains, let him that is on the housetop not go down to take anything out …” (Mt. 24:15-17). The prophecy of Jesus altered nothing that Daniel spoke; it did, however, add details which Daniel had not given.

First, Jesus told when the destruction of Jerusalem would take place: “This generation shall not pass away till all these things be accomplished” (Matt. 24:34). While Daniel did point to the same approximate time Jesus spoke of, Jesus was specific: it would occur during the lifetime of some of His apostles. Thus, Matthew 24’s account of the destruction of Jerusalem does not refer to some future event for us who live today. It would take place while some of Jesus’ disciples then lived. So if Jesus’ words were true, the destruction He (and Daniel) prophesied of has already taken place.

Second, Jesus added another feature to Daniel’s prophecy which Daniel had not revealed. Jesus revealed a way by which some then living could avert the carnage that would befall the city. That escape was connected with Daniel’s “abomination of desolation,” as spoken in Matthew. However, it was described by Luke in these words: “But when ye see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that her desolation is at hand” (Lk. 21:19). The “abomination of desolation” of Daniel is identical with “Jerusalem being encompassed with armies” of Luke. And when those of Judea and Jerusalem saw Jerusalem encircled by the Rome’s armies, that was their clue: Get out of the city (Luke 21:21). It was reported that when Roman armies encircled Jerusalem, for some unknown reason, she withdrew her armies briefly. This was the sign Christians in the city were looking for, and many fled her certain destruction. The words of both Daniel and Jesus came to pass just as both of them said they would.

How marvelous is God’s Word! It gives assurance and hope to believers in the literal fulfillment of its prophecies. Hundreds of years may pass from the utterance to the fulfillment of the prophecy (in the case of Daniel, about 600 years), but remember: “One day is with the Lord as a thousand years and a thousand years as a day.” Fulfilled prophecies set the Bible apart as a book like no other. Precious are God’s promises to those who both believe and obey Him.

Jim McDonald