Jesus describes an event in Luke 21:20-221 that appears to be describing the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. He goes on to say that it would occur “to fulfill all that is written”1. What did Jesus mean by this? Did He mean that everything written in Scripture is fulfilled at the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD?

How Scripture answers "What does Jesus mean by “fulfill all that is written” (Luke 21:22)?"

When Jesus makes the statement “to fulfill all that is written”1 as recorded by Luke, He also summarizes the events of destruction that He describes as “days of vengeance”1. Based on only this immediate context, we could understand Jesus to say that the destruction of Jerusalem was fulfilling literally all that is written. But we could also understand Him saying that the destruction was a fulfillment of all written about the “days of vengeance”. Both readings are plausible, but Scripture interprets this for us…

We have several other examples of Jesus making similar statements about scripture’s fulfillment2,3,4 and they are always qualified to that particular context — just like Jesus’ statement in Luke 211. When Jesus said “all was now finished”3 on the cross, that was qualified. Or several other instances in Luke3,4,6.

“All”1,2,3,5,7,8 or “everything”4,6 in these contexts is consistently applied to be all or everything written/fulfilled that pertains to the topic in the immediate context. We also see similar contextually qualified uses with Joshua7. It’s also how Mark9 or Peter10 would make such comprehensive statements about the fulfillment of scripture in their contexts.

Answer built on scripture-blocks below

But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written.
When you see armies surrounding Jerusalem, you will know that its destruction is at hand. Anyone in Judea should flee the city and anyone outside should not enter since God’s vengeance will be upon it, fulfilling all that is written.

It is Jesus’ final week and He has been spending most of these days in the temple teaching (vs 5, 37) before He and His disciples retire to the upper room (22:7-12).

This address by Jesus in Luke 21:5-36 is often paralleled with the more ‘famous’ and man-titled “Olivet Discourse” recorded in Matthew 24-25 and Mark 13. However, Matthew and Mark’s accounts are with Jesus with His disciples in private (Matthew 24:3, Mark 13:3), while Luke makes it clear He was in the temple and not in private (vs 5).

Scripture-block application to this question

Jesus is foretelling events surrounding the physical destruction of Jerusalem (which occurred in 70AD). As many of God’s prophets would do, He also says these things are “days of vengeance” – presumably God’s vengeance – and they will happen “to fulfill all that is written”.

After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst”. A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished”, and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Jesus knew that everything was finished so to fulfill Scripture He said, “I thirst”. Some sour wine was nearby, so they [His mother, John, and other women observing] soaked a sponge with it and lifted it to His mouth with hyssop branch. After drinking it He said, “It is finished”, and bowed His head and died.

Jesus is dying the cross with onlookers and some close to Him (e.g. His mother, John, John’s mother, and Mary Magdalene from vss 25-26).

Jesus’ quotes as a fulfillment of Scripture come from Psalms 69:21 where David wrote originally about himself, “They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink”.

Scripture-block application to this question

John says that Jesus knew “that all was now finished” when He was hanging on the cross.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

The broader context of events — specifically the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ — serve as qualification of the “all” that was finished (and thereby fulfilled).

And he said to them, O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory? And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
He [Jesus] told them [two disciples on the road] how foolish they were to be slow or resisting believing everything that prophets had spoken about. Didn’t they testify about the sufferings the Christ would endure in order to enter into His glory? So beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He explained all of the Scriptures pertaining to Himself.

Luke’s account of Jesus’ life after his bodily resurrection.  Jesus has appeared to several people already and is here walking with two disciples on the road to Emmaus (vss 13-27).

Scripture-block application to this question

Jesus interprets the “things concerning Himself” that were written in “all the Scriptures” (e.g. the Law and Prophets). These were things pertaining to His suffering, death, and glorification (e.g. resurrection and ascension) — in total, His mission2.

Then he said to them, These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.

Then He [Jesus] told them [disciples, probably the eleven] that everything that had been written by Moses and the Prophets and Psalms was fulfilled while He had been with them.

Luke’s account of Jesus’ life after his bodily resurrection.  Jesus has appeared to several people including the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (vss 13-27) and is here appearing the ten (Thomas is absent).
Scripture-block application to this question

Jesus states that everything written” about Him in the Law, Prophets, Psalms was fulfilled. This is stated in the past tense by Jesus. He had only been raised a few days and He affirms that “fulfill all that is written” has already past!

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

Don’t think that I [Jesus] came to cancel the Law [Mosaic] or the Prophets because I’ve come to fulfill them. What I’m saying is true. Not before all of this world is destroyed will any part of the Law be disregarded; all of it will be accomplished.

After beginning His ‘Sermon on the Mount’ by describing the characteristics of a [new] kingdom citizen (vss 2-14), Jesus clarifies that His coming fulfills the Old Law and does not replace it.

He continues to give specific examples of how their behavior would need to exceed that of the religious leaders of their day (vs 20 “scribes and Pharisees”).

Scripture-block application to this question

Jesus testifies to the fact that His coming isn’t contrary to anything that was in the Law or Prophets. Just the opposite. He came to fulfill (e.g. complete) them

And taking the twelve, he said to them, See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise. But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.
Jesus took the twelve apostles with Him to Jerusalem where He told them everything that was written about Him by the prophets would take place. Specifically, He would be handed over to the Roman authorities, ridiculed and spit on, beaten, killed, and raised on the third day. However, they didn’t understand any of it since it was hidden from them.
Jesus has been teaching in parables and is concluding His public ministry before going to Jerusalem for His final week on earth.
Scripture-block application to this question

Jesus qualifies His statement that “everything that is written….will be accomplished” as those things pertaining to His death, burial, and resurrection in Jerusalem.

And now I am about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one word has failed of all the good things that the Lord your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed.

And now I [Joshua] am about to die as all living things on earth do, and every bit of your being knows for certain that not one word of God’s promises for you has failed. All of it has come true; not one has failed.

Joshua’s final words to the people following the detailed accounting of the distribution to the land to each of the twelve tribes.  After affirming God’s promises, he warns the people that they must not “transgress the covenant of the Lord your God.” (vs 16)
Scripture-block application to this question

Joshua said that “all have come to pass” regarding “all the good things” that God had promised for His people.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

It’s clear from the rest of Scripture that “all the good things” that God had promised for His people had not yet come to pass. Rather, Joshua’s “all” was referring to the land that God had promised them which is qualified by the immediate context of Joshua’s statement. Joshua will go on to say that if they disobey their covenant they would “perish quickly from off the good land that He has given you”. (vs 16)

For those who live in Jerusalem and their rulers, because they did not recognize him nor understand the utterances of the prophets, which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled them by condemning him. And though they found in him no guilt worthy of death, they asked Pilate to have him executed. And when they had carried out all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb.
Those living in Jerusalem condemned Him and thus fulfilled the things concerning Him [Jesus] because they didn’t recognize Him [as Messiah] and connect what’s read every Sabbath in the prophets concerning Him. Despite the fact they found Him guilty of no crime worthy of death, they demanded that Pilate execute Him. And when everything written about Him was fulfilled, they took Him off the cross and placed Him in the tomb.

Paul’s gospel sermon while in the synagogue in Antioch in Pisidia on the Sabbath day.

Scripture-block application to this question

Paul says “all that was written” about Jesus was “carried out” (e.g. fulfilled) when they killed and buried Him.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

The “all” is not everything that had been written about Jesus. Rather, it would be understood that everything written about His crucifixion had been fulfilled. In fact, Paul goes on to talk about other things being fulfilled at His resurrection (vs 32).

But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so? At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples left him and fled.
But how should the scriptures that say this must happen in this way be fulfilled? Just then Jesus asked the mob how they could be coming with such force when He had been peacefully teaching in the temple day after day. He further testified that all of it was taking place so that the prophet’s scriptures would be fulfilled and then all the disciples fled.

The night (or early, next morning) of Jesus’ arrest in the garden of Gethsemane (vs 36).

Mark 14:47-52 and Luke 22:52-53 are parallel accounts. John also records Jesus’ arrest (18:3-11) but shares several other details.

Scripture-block application to this question

Jesus attributes His arrest in the garden to the “Scriptures of the prophets” being fulfilled.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

Mark’s account simply records Jesus’ statement as “But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.” (Mark 14:49) which seems to indicate a more comprehensive fulfillment of scripture including potentially all of the things happening to Him in Jerusalem in keeping with other places6,8.

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

The Holy Spirit (e.g. “the Spirit of Christ in them”) predicted Christ’s suffering and subsequent glories through the prophets who, when they prophesied about salvation (or, “grace that was to be yours”), wondered and inquired about it themselves. However, they were told they weren’t serving themselves but you [Christians then and now] with the things that have now been fulfilled (“announced”) in the revelation of the gospel by the Holy Spirit.

Peter’s letter(s) of encouragement to the saints who were facing great persecution and longing for their reward in Christ Jesus — revealed to them in the “last time” (vs 3). He goes on to tell them to be prepared for Jesus’ revealing (vs 13).

Scripture-block application to this question

Peter summarizes the things about which the prophets “inquired carefully” as the things pertaining to “the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories” — e.g. a Christian’s salvation. It’s acknowledged that Peter’s point isn’t to say the “suffering” and “subsequent glories” are necessarily all fulfilled, but he is saying they’ve been fully revealed.

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