The Church During the Destruction of Jerusalem
This Learning Activity is a continuation of the previous Learning Activity, #44, which should be completed before working on this document.
Before continuing the material on where the church was during the destruction of Jerusalem, I think it may be profitable to look at an aspect of the passage we are studying that is a stumbling block to some Christians. Some Christians refuse to see the association between the “these things” statement in the passage we are studying and the “Parousia” or Christ’s coming or presence. The disciples had no such problem. This was because Jesus had made so many statements that He would come in that generation, that is, during the lifetime of those to whom He was speaking.
“Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom” (Matt.16:28).
And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power” (Mark 9:1).
Notice that in Matthew 24:3, they asked Jesus “…what shall be the sign of thy coming…” and in Mark 13:4 they asked about “…when all these things shall be fulfilled?” They definitely connect these two together – the “these things” and “thy coming.” They considered these two events as being identical in timing. Of course you must understand that their understanding was not one of His coming in judgment to destroy the city by use of the Roman army! Nor were they aware that He was going to die at that point in time. Rather, they most likely were looking for Him to show His presence in such a way that judgment would be brought against the Roman authority over their country. This was the common expectation of the coming (presence) of the Messiah.
The material in this Learning Activity and #44 is not an exhaustive study of the “signs” that were to preceed the destruction of the city, the Temple and the “coming” of the Son of man, but I think it is adequate to illustrate the point I desire to make. These signs were given so that the people could be on the alert after the death and ascension of Jesus for these indicators signifying that it was time to leave the city.
1. Matthew 24:16
2. What did Jesus tell them to do in the verse above when they saw the abomination of desolation?
3. Mark 13:14
4. What did Jesus tell them to do in the verse above when they saw the abomination of desolation?
They were to “flee” and flee they did! The following historical account verifies the church leaving the city of Jerusalem for a city to the south-east known as Pella.
“The city [Pella] earned a name in church history in AD 66 when Pella became a refuge for Christians who were fleeing Jerusalem because the Roman army was coming to quiet a Jewish revolution. Pella continued as a strong Christian city after that and hosted many monasteries throughout the prosperous Byzantine period.” The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Volume Four, Page 672.
Eusebius, one of the early church fathers writes:
“The whole body, however, of the church of Jerusalem, having been commanded by a divine revelation, given to men of approved piety there before the war, removed from the city, and dwelt at a certain town beyond the Jordan, called Pella. Here those that believed in Christ, having removed from Jerusalem, as if holy men had entirely abandoned the royal city itself, and the whole land of Judea; the divine justice, for their crimes against Christ and his apostles finally overtook them, totally destroying the whole generation of these evildoers from the earth.” Ecclesiastical History, 3:5:3.
Josephus also verifies the departure from Jerusalem when he writes, “After this calamity [the retreat of Cestius Gallus from Jerusalem after the first Roman attack – see Learning Activity #32], had befallen Cestius, many of the most eminent of the Jews swam [left, departed] away from the city, as from a ship when it was going to sink.”
Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, Book 2, Chapter 20, Paragraph 1, Line 556.
Thomas Newton (1754) writing in his work entitled, The Prophecy of Matthew 24, Dissertation XIX, states, “…all who believed in Christ left Jerusalem, and removed to Pella, and other places beyond the river Jordan: so that they all marvellously escaped the general shipwreck of their country, and we do not read any where that so much as one of them perished in the destruction of Jerusalem. Of such signal service was this caution of our Saviour to the believers.”
Pella was a city in the Decapolis during Roman times and is now known as Tabaqat Fahil. It is in the foothills of the eastern slope of the Jordan Valley about 100 km to the northwest of Amman and about eighteen miles south of the Sea of Galilee.
Pella continued to flourish until the late Byzantine period when a decrease in water supply, an invasion by the Persians, and an epidemic of bubonic plague resulted in a reversal of the growth. A devastating earthquake in CE 747 ended its long history as a city of major influence in the region.
It is clear to the author of this web site that Jesus had adequately taught on the subject of the signs that would preceed the coming judgment and destruction of Jerusalem along with His “coming, presence” and that the believers at that time were well informed on this subject.
The respected author Albert Barnes in his commentary on the book of Matthew wrote, “It is said there is reason to believe that not one Christian perished in the destruction of that city [Jerusalem], God having in various ways secured their escape, so that they fled to Pella, where they dwelt when the city [Jerusalem] was destroyed.”
As we began this Learning Activity area of study I asked the question of what happened to the church during the destruction of Jerusalem? The answer to that question is that they had already left the city when they observed the signs of which Jesus spoke while here on earth as Jesus of Nazareth. As Jerusalem and the Temple were being destroyed the Christian church was safe and sound in the city of Pella!
Whenever I think of the early church and the church today I see a parallel in the thinking they both make that takes them to a wrong conclusion. The early church had an expectation that the Messiah would come and set up an earthly physical kingdom and the Jewish people would be free of Roman domination. They missed the Messiah! Today a large percentage of the church and its man appointed leaders are looking for a soon to be appearance of Christ physically who will set up an earthly kingdom and set the church free from their shortcomings and suffering. They also are misled as they missed Christ’s spiritual return and the setting up of His spiritual kingdom in which they live today without any knowledge or awareness! How sadly so many have repeated almost an identical historical fact!
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