Was the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 the last event predicted by the Old Testament (OT) prophets? Or does the OT contain predictions that reach beyond the first century?
Jesus told His disciples: “When you shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh… these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled” (Luke 21:20, 22). “Written” refers to the OT because that is all that was written when Jesus lived. Some Bible students believe Jesus was saying: When Jerusalem is destroyed, every prediction in the OT will have been fulfilled.
Let’s take a closer look. Yes, the context predicts the destruction of Jerusalem. What, then, was Jesus saying? Was He saying that, once Jerusalem was destroyed, all OT predictions would have been fulfilled? Or, was Jesus saying that in A.D. 70 God would pour out His vengeance, fulfilling all He said He would do to rebellious Jerusalem? In other words, is “all things which are written” a global statement about all OT prophecies on every subject? Or is the “all” limited by the context?
Acts 13:29 can help us, because it has a similar remark. Speaking of the Jews, Pilate, and Jesus, it says: “When they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulcher.” The Jews and Pilate fulfilled “all that was written” of Jesus. How are we to understand “all that was written”? The Jews and Pilate did not fulfill prophecies of Jesus being born of a virgin or rising from the dead. Clearly, “all that was written of him” refers to the Jews and Pilate’s rejection and crucifixion of Jesus. The expression cannot extend beyond that.
Surely, the same principle should be applied in Luke 21. The context tells of the punishment upon Jerusalem because of the unbelieving, rebellious Jews. Jesus was saying that all the OT predictions related to those events would be fulfilled. There is nothing in the context to suggest that Jesus was discussing the totality of OT prophecy from Genesis to Malachi. Just as “all that was written” in Acts 13 is limited to the topic under discussion, so “all things which are written” in Luke 21 is surely likewise limited to the topic under discussion.
Examining Luke 21 further will help confirm this view. Those who believe that all OT prophecy was completed in A.D. 70 also quote verse 32: “This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled.” So, there it is: Everything will be fulfilled within the lifetime of those listening to Jesus. But, if common sense does not tell us that “all” refers to the topic under discussion, let’s check the parallel verses in Matt. 24:34 and Mark 13:30: “This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled,” and “This generation shall not pass, till all these things be done.” In both cases, it is not simply “all,” but rather “all these things.”
Someone will say, “Luke does not include “all these things,” so we can ignore that and just stick with “all.” Really? Can we treat the Bible or any historical record this way? Whatever the source, be it newspaper, history book, or the Bible — as long as the source is trustworthy (which we do not question with the Bible) — there is no way a briefer account can negate details in a fuller account. Rather, a fuller account supplements and amplifies a briefer account. So, when Luke records that Jesus said, “all be fulfilled,” if our common sense did not nudge us to explain this in context, both Matthew and Mark come to the rescue by giving a more complete account of what Jesus said: “all these things.”
“All these things.” The entire discourse began when Jesus predicted that one day there would “not be left one stone upon another” in the great and beautiful temple (Luke 21:6). And, as we have seen, verse 20 says: “When you shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.” All that was predicted regarding God’s punishment of Jerusalem would be fulfilled before the generation hearing Jesus passed away. All the clues we have indicate that this is what “all things,” “all these things,” and “all things which are written” refer to. There is not one clue to indicate that any of these statements refer to the totality of OT prophecy. That is a totally different topic.