Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. "Do you see all these things?" he asked. "Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down." (Matthew 24:1-2)
What does Jesus mean by the stones being 'thrown down'?The key to Jesus' statement about the stones is the last phrase, "thrown down," which has been translated from the Greek word καταλύω (katalyō). While καταλύω (katalyō) can be translated to 'overthrown' when used metaphorically, the clear meaning of the word is 'to dissolve, disunite, destroy, demolish' according to the lexicon.
The verse previous to this one (Matthew 24:1) describes the context of the statement. Jesus' disciples came to him discussing the buildings. Jesus had been teaching within the temple, and as he was walking away, his disciples began talking about the buildings of the temple. The phrase "to call his attention to its buildings" refers to some redeeming aspect of the temple buildings.
To this Jesus describes the destruction of the buildings, saying not only will there not be one stone on top of another at some point in the future, but its very stones will crumble, and the building will be destroyed.
In other words, the temple buildings and their stones are not permanent. They will eventually crumble.
The word "thrown down" or "torn down" in other translations is taken from the Greek word, καταλύω (katalyō). This means to be destroyed or demolished.
Is this a prophecy?Many have interpreted this statement by Jesus to be some kind of prophecy about the temple and/or church.
Such a thesis misses the point Jesus was trying to make.
Is Jesus talking about a particular event that will tear down this particular temple, or the nature of buildings in general?
Again, the last word indicates something done by nature. Could men dissolve stones during those times? What about fire?
There certainly were fires when the Romans burnt down the Temple of Jerusalem and many other buildings during Roman-Jewish wars that followed Jesus' departure. In this respect, Jesus' statement could be considered a prophecy with respect to the Temple being destroyed by the Romans.
But did the fires dissolve the stones?In modern times, archaeologists have dug up the remains of old temples and other buildings that existed in ancient times. What do they find? Primarily, they find broken up and partially dissolved stones and other structural elements that were once tall buildings. They find that the stones have degraded into rubble and the remains of these buildings are merging into the surrounding soils. Only by archeological technical analysis can it be determined that the remains were once part of buildings.
So what happened to those temples that Jesus was discussing? Yes, they also since collapsed and nature has all but dissolved the stones, while other buildings have been built on top of that ground. Within another thousand years, the stones further dissolve, turning into soil.
This means Jesus was trying to teach his disciples, who were so impressed with the Temple buildings, that these buildings - along with everything else in the physical world - are temporary.
Jesus' message is that all the forms and structures of the physical world are temporary. This goes for our physical bodies as well. There is no permanence here. Everything decomposes/dissolves with time - including our physical bodies. As soon as we leave our body at the time of death, the body begins to decompose, and our membership within a particular church sect or denomination dissolves with it.
On the other hand, the spiritual dimension, our spiritual selves - and our relationship with God - are all permanent. They never go away. They never dissolve.
This was confirmed as Jesus spoke about the effect of his teachings upon his students:
"I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish" (John 10:28)Jesus confirmed the mechanism that produces eternal life:
"But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness" (Matthew 6:33)