The Church During the Destruction of Jerusalem
We have discovered from Learning Activities #32, #33, and #34, that Jerusalem was destroyed in AD 70. The question might arise as to what happened to those believers who were living in the city at that time?
By way of an introductory analogy, let us suppose that you were living in a geographical area that was susceptible to the path of hurricanes and that the weather service issued an alert that in twelve hours a ferocious hurricane with devastating winds and flooding was headed into your area. The severe weather advisory indicated you should evacuate your home and travel out of the path of the hurricane immediately for your personal safety. I think the majority, if not all people would leave the area immediately!
Let us now look at some scripture that was uttered by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself to those He had been ministering to before His death at Calvary.
1. Mark 13:1
2. What were the disciples of Jesus telling Him in the verse above?
3. Mark 13:2
4. What was Jesus’ response to what the disciples had told Him about the Temple?
5. Mark 13:4
6. What did Peter, James, John and Andrew ask Jesus in the verse above?
Jesus answered them by giving some specific signs they could look for.
7. Mark 13:5–6 (Note: This same passage appears in Matt.24:4–5).
8. What was the “sign” of the destruction of the Temple that Jesus gave in the verse above?
It is a historical fact that under the procuratorship of Pontius Pilate, one such false Christ appeared in Samaria and deluded great multitudes. In AD 45, another appeared under the procuratorship of Cuspius Fadus. During the government of Felix (AD 53–60), Josephus tells us the country was full of robbers, magicians, false prophets, and impostors who deluded the people with promises of great events. This account is found in The Antiquities of the Jews, Book 20, Chapter 8, Paragraphs 5–6.
9. Mark 13:7
10. What sign did Jesus give in the verse above that would precede the destruction of the Temple?
Early in the decade of AD 60–69, skirmishes began to break out between the Jews and the Romans. Wars and rumors of wars were rampant during that time period. In AD 66, Roman armies commanded by Cestius Gallus came to put down a Jewish rebellion in the city of Jerusalem. After surrounding the city, they began their siege. Then, for no apparent reason, Cestius withdrew his troops and left. The Jews pursued the Romans slaughtering many and capturing their abandoned war machinery. This withdrawal by the Romans gave the Jews a false sense of security and an atmosphere of “peace and safety.” These same words were used by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:1–4 which was written in about AD 50. Notice that Paul also says in verse four that “ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.” The reason Paul can make that statement is because the “brethren” had been instructed as to what the signs would be to warn them when the destruction was coming. Paul also says this in verse one of the same passage, “But of the time and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you.” The coming of the Lord and the destruction of Jerusalem would come as a thief to unbelievers, but not to believers! The believers would remember “these things” that Jesus had told them. Although Jesus would have ascended to the Father by that time, He would send the Holy Spirit to bring “these things” to memory.
Dr. John Gill, wrote in his work entitled, An Exposition of the New Testament, 1809, “…it is remarked by several interpreters, and which Josephus takes notice of with surprise, that Cestius Gallus having advanced with his army to Jerusalem, and besieged it, on a sudden without any cause, raised the siege, and withdrew his army, when the city might have been easily taken; by which means a signal was made, and an opportunity given to the Christians, to make their escape: which they accordingly did, and went over to Jordan, as Eusebius says, to a place called Pella; so that when Titus came a few months after, there was not a Christian in the city…” More on this later!
When the news of Rome’s defeat at the hands of the Jews reached Nero he was upset with Cestius’ poor generalship. He ordered Vespasian, a veteran general, back to Jerusalem in AD 67 to crush the Jewish uprising and to avenge Rome’s humiliation and the damage to its ruling prestige. Vespasian advanced into Galilee, a region north of Jerusalem. He conquered its major cities and subdued the land of that area. After his Galilean campaign in the north, he marched south and encamped around Jerusalem. But when word came of Nero’s death, Vespasian delayed his plan for taking Jerusalem, withdrew his troops, and returned to Rome to become Emperor. Again, the Jews prevailed and the church had additional time to leave the city (if not already gone!).
Shortly before Passover in AD 70, Titus, the son of Vespasian, arrived with his legions at the northern outskirts of Jerusalem to finally put an end to the Jewish revolt and crush the insurrection. He marched south through Galilee and set up three camps overlooking the city. During the final siege, those who sought to flee were either prevented from doing so, killed by the Jewish factions inside, or captured, tortured, and crucified by the Romans at the city wall so that all could see. By this time it was too late to flee. All inside the walls were entrapped by Titus and his Roman legions.
Josephus, a Jewish historian, details how the Romans encircled and built an embankment or rampart to breach the city walls, just as Jesus had foretold in Luke 19:43–44. Josephus further notes that five hundred or more were captured daily and that soldiers out of rage and hatred amused themselves by nailing their prisoners in different postures; so great was their number, that space could not be found for the crosses nor crosses for their bodies (The Wars of the Jews, Book five, Chapter eleven, line 451). Josephus goes on to say that 1.1 million Jews were killed in the city and 97,000 were taken into captivity during the destruction of Jerusalem!
It is more than coincidental that sometime around AD 63, and prior to the arrival of the first invasion, the Apostle Peter made the following statement.
11. 1 Peter 4:17
12. What is Peter’s message in the verse above?
13. 1 John 2:18 (Note: The KJV has translated the Greek word “hora” as “time” while it should be “hour”).
14. In the verse above, what statement does John make twice?
Even John the Baptist in AD 27 warned his generation to flee from the coming wrath in Luke 3:7. There is no need to side-step or try to explain away these passages. Nor should we believe that we have been living today in the “last hour” for almost 2,000 years as some in the church do. Also, contrary to another popular end-time notion, the king or invader from the north spoken of in Daniel eleven and Ezekiel thirty-eight and thirty-nine is not a modern-day Russian or an Iraqi army invading from countries located directly north of Israel. Rather, it was the Roman army of that first century. In all three campaigns against the Jews, the Roman army came from the north and fought many battles as it systematically marched south. It is both historically and prophetically significant that the Romans chose to invade from the same direction from which Babylon invaded in 597 BC, just as Ezekiel and Daniel had prophesied.
15. Mark 13:14 (Note: This passage also appears in Matt.24:15).
16. What was the “sign” of the destruction of the Temple that Jesus gave in the verse above?
Jesus expected those to whom He was speaking to understand what He was talking about without having to explain any details because most of them were schooled in Jewish history. They knew that the last abomination of desolation that stood or took place was the Temple desecration and temporary cessation of religious practices caused by Antiochus Epiphanes in 167–164 BC.
Early in the decade of AD 60–69, an unqualified Jew was appointed to the position of high priest. Prior to that time, nothing secular or unholy was allowed in the Temple. This high priest and his staff of other priests failed to properly perform the daily sacrifices and many other required Temple duties. Instead, they made a mockery of the holy ordinances. In AD 66, priests and zealots fought each other in the Temple courts. Josephus reports that the floors swam with the blood of more than eight thousand who stabbed each other. Many more atrocities (abominations) between the zealots and other Jewish factions occurred in the holy place between AD 66–70. The final abomination that caused the final desolation was similar to that of Antiochus Epiphanes. What happened before, happened again. It came in the same way, when another foreign Gentile army, the Roman army, stood in the Temple, and raised and honored its standards, as was the custom. Thereafter, the Romans destroyed the Temple and tore it down stone-by-stone.
This material will be continued in the next Learning Activity.
Click on Self-Check below to check your answers.