POSITION PAPER #8
The Pre-AD 70 Exodus from Jerusalem!
"Then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains. Let him
which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house:
Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe
unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days. But
pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day"
(Mt. 24: 16–20).
As we studied Matthew 24 in Position Paper #1, we
noted that Jesus gave His disciples a number of signs that would precede His
return presence (parousia) back to earth after He had left it due to His
resurrection and ascension. When the believing church had observed these signs
start to appear the church was flatly told to "get out of town fast." The
Matthew text makes it obvious as to why Jesus had given this warning and command
in the verse that followed: "For then shall be great tribulation, such as was
not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be"
(Mt. 24:21). That verse was a one line description of what would be
happening during the events leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD
What historical records and documentation do we have that confirms
the above portion of the Scriptures?
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 (See
Position Paper #7). In AD 66, Roman military commanded by Cestius Gallus
came to Jerusalem to put down a Jewish rebellion. After surrounding the city
they began their siege. Then, for no apparent reason, Cestius withdrew his
troops and left the area. The Jews pursued the Romans slaughtering many and
capturing their abandoned war machinery. This fact of history has been recorded
for us by the Jewish historian, Josephus, in his work entitled, The Wars of
the Jews, Book 2, Chapter 19, Paragraph 7, Line 540.
gave the Jews a false sense of security and an atmosphere of "peace and
safety." These same words were used by the Apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians
5: 1–4 which was written about AD 50. Notice in Paul's writing that he
states in verse four that "ye [the Thessalonians], brethren, are not
in darkness, that that day [the day of judgment and destruction–see
Learning Activity #37 and Learning
Activity #47] should overtake you as a thief." The reason Paul could
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 presence of the
Lord and the destruction of Jerusalem would come as a thief in the night to
unbelievers, but not to believers! The believers would remember the "these
things" that Jesus had told them. Although Jesus would have ascended to the
Father by that time, He would have sent the Holy Spirit to bring the "these
things" to memory as promised in John 14:26.
Dr. John Gill wrote in
his work entitled, An Exposition of the New Testament, in 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 the Jordan, as Eusebius [an early church
father] says, to a place called Pella; so that when Titus [another Roman
general] came a few months after, there was not a Christian in the city..." More
on this later!
When the news of Rome's defeat of Cestius at the hands of
the Jews reached Nero [who was the emperor of Rome at that time] he was upset
with Cestius' poor generalship. Nero then 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 by the Cestius
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 back in Rome, Vespasian delayed his plan for
taking Jerusalem, withdrew his troops, and returned to Rome to become emperor.
Once again, the Jews had prevailed and the church was given additional time to
leave the city, if they had not already left. The work of destroying Jerusalem
was left to Titus, the son of Vespasian, who did so in AD 70 (See
Learning Activity #44 on this web site).
The church was to flee
Jerusalem when they saw the signs of the parousia (presence) of Christ and the
coming destruction, and flee they did! The following historical account verifies
"The city [Pella] earned its 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
wrote: "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.
also verifies the Christian departure from Jerusalem when he wrote, "After this
calamity [referring to 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 at that time a city in the
Decapolis. In modern times it is known as Tabaqat Fahil. It is located 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
flourished until the late Byzantine period when a decrease in the water supply,
an invasion by the Persians, and an epidemic of bubonic plague resulted in a
reversal of its growth. A devastating earthquake in CE 747 ended its long
history as a city of major influence in the region.
It is clear from the
Scriptures that Jesus had adequately taught on the subject of the signs that
would precede the coming judgment and destruction of Jerusalem along with His
"coming, presence," and that this teaching had been spread to the Christian
community so that they were well informed and watchful for these events. When
the events began to unfold the Christians took note, left Jerusalem, thereby
escaping the destruction that followed during the Roman siege and leveling of
that great city, Jerusalem. As the city was being destroyed the Christians were
safe and sound in the distant city of Pella!
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