WHY IS AD 70 IMPORTANT?

PMW 2019-038 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

Since “Moses and all the Prophets” point to the first century coming of Christ (Luke 24:27), we know the very “fulness of the time had come” (Gal. 4:4). This ample revelation in the Old Testament word prepares us for the abundant redemption in the New Testament world. All Christians are well aware of the unparalleled redemptive-historical significance of the incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Christ. We are equally well apprised of His victorious pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon the Church in A.D. 30. But too few realize the significance of the pouring out of His holy wrath upon Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

Yet the A.D. 70 events loom large in New Testament prophecy, serving as a dramatic consequence of the first advent. The A.D. 70 holocaust flares up at us in several prophecies in Luke’s gospel alone: Luke 13:32-35; 19:41-44; 21:20-24; and 23:28-31. Furthermore, it is not only the subject of many of the Lord’s parables (e.g., Matt. 21:33-45; 22:1-14) but even causes the Lord’s tearful lament over Jerusalem (Matt. 23:38). And that lament introduces one of His longest recorded discourses, a discourse initially focusing upon that woeful year (Matt. 24-25).

Let us consider the significance of A.D. 70 in just four areas.

A.D. 70 Corroborates the Messiah’s Authority

The A.D. 70 catastrophe results from Christ’s prophetic word, corroborating His Messianic authority in a dramatic way. Not only does A.D. 70 prove his prophecy to be a true word from God (cp. Deut. 18:22) but a judgment word against God’s people.


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See more study materials at: http://www.KennethGentry.com


The disciples’ request for a “sign” marking out “the end of the age” (Matt. 24:3) sparks the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24 and 25. Up through 24:34 Jesus focuses on Jerusalem’s destruction: the devastation of the holy city and conflagration of its holy house become “the sign of the Son of man in heaven” (v. 30 KJV). That is, when the first century holocaust explodes upon Israel, it definitively signifies the divine authority of the One now in heaven (cf. Matt. 26:59-64; Luke 23:20-31).

Too many Christians miss the meaning of Jesus’ cloud-coming in Matthew 24:30 for two reasons: (1) Unfamiliarity with Old Testament apocalyptic language, wherein divine judgments appear as cloud-comings (e.g., Isa. 19:1). (2) Oversight of Matthew 24 interpretive clues: mention of the Temple’s destruction (v. 2), the Judaean focus (v. 16), and the temporal proximity of all the events between verses 4 and 34 (v. 34). Indeed, Jesus warned the very men who sat in judgment over Him: “Hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matt. 26:64).

This is certainly how the ancient church read Matthew 24. Referring to A.D. 70 Eusebius highlights “the infallible forecast of our Saviour in which he prophetically expounded these very things” (Eccl. Hist. 3:7:1). Justin Martyr declares Christ “will pass judgment on the whole human race” (an act of authority) in that “we saw that things had happened accordingly — the devastation of the land of the Jews” (1 Apology 53).

A.D. 70 Concludes the Old Covenant Economy

The Old Testament was replete with signs and symbols foreshadowing the work of Christ. The very nature of that typological era demands that it was a temporary step toward the full redemptive-historical conclusion brought about by Christ, a passing stage moving toward a grand climax. Indeed, the New Covenant vitality could not be contained within the Old Covenant strictures of a racial people, geographical land, and typological Temple, for you cannot “put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled” (Matt. 9:17a).


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The New Testament frequently indicates this looming change of covenantal administration. For instance, Hebrews 8:13 declares: “In that He says, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” Indeed, Hebrews warns Jewish converts not to slip back into Judaism, especially as they see “the day [A.D. 70] drawing near” (Heb. 10:25). Such apostasy would return them to a material and soon-to-vanish copy of the true, for Christ has brought God’s people to “the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands” (Heb. 9:11; cp. 9:24). The spiritual New Covenant is not linked to a physical Temple, consequently it “cannot be shaken” and overthrown (Heb. 12:28). Sweeping aside the Old Covenant structures, A.D. 70 secures the final New Covenant scheme. As the early church fathers note, that fateful year forever dis-established biblical Judaism: Ignatius writes of “a Judaism which has now come to an end” (Magnesians 10).

A.D. 70 Confirms the Gentile Ministry

In the Old Testament God’s people were virtually co-extensive with the Jewish race (Amos 3:2). But all of this changes at the resurrection whereupon Christ commissions His disciples “to make disciples of all the nations” (Matt. 28:19a; cp. Acts 1:8).

Unfortunately, the early church was tempted to rest content in the Jewish mission (witness Peter’s experience in Acts 10-11). With the growing ministry of Paul this begins to change; in the approaching demise of the Temple such a temptation will be forever cured. This remarkable shift of focus from a Palestinian Jewish mission to a world-wide Gentile mission is finally sealed in A.D. 70.

Returning to Matthew 24 we learn that consequent upon the Temple’s overthrow, Christ will send His “messengers” (Gk. angeloi, here they are human messengers) “with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds” (Matt. 24:31a). Thus, at Jerusalem’s fall the final Jubilee (see Lev. 25) — eternal salvation — will be declared to all the world. Now that the Old Covenant constraints are forever removed, the world becomes the mission field for the Church.

Indeed, Paul prophetically relates the ultimate success of the Gentile mission to Israel’s “fall,” i.e., her stumbling over Christ and consequent A.D. 70 destruction. For her “fall is riches for the world,” her “failure riches for the Gentiles” (Rom. 11:12). Indeed, her “being cast away is the reconciling of the world” (Rom. 11:15a).

A.D. 70 Confronts with the Divine Severity

A.D. 70 emphasizes the reality not only of God’s goodness but His severity. Paul warns those who would call themselves God’s people: “Consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off” (Rom. 11:22).

The “severity” that befalls the Jews in A.D. 70 exhibits God’s judgment upon their unbelief and rebellion. Melito of Sardis speaks thus of the Jews: “thou smotest thy Lord: thou also hast been smitten upon the earth. And thou indeed liest dead; but He is risen from the place of the dead.” Though Israel had a glorious heritage (Rom. 9:3-5), though her “root is holy” (Rom. 11:16) she tragically illustrates the consequences of failing a holy responsibility. We must all learn the lesson therein exhibited, “for everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required” (Luke 12:48b). Israel’s judgment in A.D. 70 underscores the awesome obligation resulting from the divine calling.

But as Israel withers under the scorching heat of God’s severe wrath, the Gentiles will flourish in the cool waters of God’s good mercy (Rom. 11:12, 15; cp. Acts 13:46-47). Such is the goodness of God. Nevertheless, the Gentiles, too, must take the lesson to heart, “for if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either” (Rom. 11:21).

This Jewish-judgment / Gentile-blessing interplay is prophesied by Christ. Speaking of the kingdom He is establishing, the Lord alludes to A.D. 70: “I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 8:11-12).

Conclusion

The specter of A.D. 70 haunts the New Testament record (being frequently and vigorously prophesied); its occurrence dramatically impacts first century history (being one of its more datable and catastrophic events). Jerusalem’s destruction confirms important redemptive-historical truths (Christ’s supreme authority, the Old Covenant economy’s termination, the gospel’s world encompassing nature, and Israel’s judgment) and imparts significant practical lessons to us (our high calling involves holy obligations). We would do well to learn of the ways of God among men. (For more information on the significance of A.D. 70 see Thomas Ice and Kenneth Gentry, The Great Tribulation: Past or Future? [Kregel, 1999].)

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5 thoughts on “WHY IS AD 70 IMPORTANT?

  1. ken hubbard May 10, 2019 at 6:50 pm

    David Chitlon in Days of Vengence says the Jews were allied with the Romans against the Christians. He says it as a matter of fact but doesn’t quote any resources. Where would I find the proof claims?

  2. Kenneth Gentry May 13, 2019 at 7:23 am

    We see this in the Gospels and Acts. In the Gospels the Jews demand Christ’s crucifixion before Roman authorities (John 11:48; 19:15). And Jesus warns that Jewish Christians will be persecuted by the Jews, with the synagogues turning them over to civil authorities (Matt. 10:17-18; 20:18-19). In Acts, Jewish Christians are hounded by Jews and turned over to Gentile (i.e., Roman) authorities (Acts 14:2-6; 21:10-11; 28:17).

  3. Protestant Dad May 13, 2019 at 2:24 pm

    Great article.

  4. ken hubbard May 13, 2019 at 5:49 pm

    Thanks for your time and response. I didn’t make myself clear. I was referring to resources beyond the Bible. Historical documents like from Josephus. I found several from him but I’m sure you have other resources that you use.

  5. Kenneth Gentry May 16, 2019 at 2:31 pm

    Eusebius writes: “Now after the ascension of our Saviour in addition to their crime against him the Jews at once contrived numberless plots against his disciples” and “the other Apostles were driven from the land of Judaea by thousands of deadly plots” (Eccl. Hist. 3:4:5). Tertullian calls the “synagogues of the Jews, fountains of persecution” (Scorp. 10; see also Ad. Nationes 1:14). Apolinarius (quoted by Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 5:16:12) writes: “Or was any one of the women ever scourged in the synagogues of the Jews or stoned?” He uses this to show that the Montanists are not true prophets because they do not suffer under the hands of the Jews like orthodox Christians.

    We see this embodied in the later Jewish writings, which probably reflect actions beginning even from before the temple’s destruction.

    The Minim [apostate Jews, those in “sects”] including Jewish Christians, were indeed excluded from the synagogue, but by other means than the cherem [formal excommunication] or niddui [a formal ban for a set period of time]: all personal and business contact with them were formally cursed in the Shemoneh Esreh.

    In the Jewish Tosefta we read of the Jew’s treatment of Minim: “One does not sell to them or receive from them or take from them or give to them. One does not teach their sons a trade’” (t. Hullin 2:20) and “the Minim and the apostates and the betrayers are cast in [a pit] and not helped out” (t. B. Mezia 2:33).

    Justin records Trypho the Jew as stating: “Sir, it were good for us if we obeyed our teachers, who laid down a law that we should have no intercourse [communication] with any of you” (Dial. 38 §138). This comports with Justin’s reference regarding the first century activities by the Jews: “at that time [after Christ’s crucifixion] you selected and sent out from Jerusalem chosen men through all the land [eis pasan tēn gēn] to tell that the godless heresy of the Christians had sprung up, and to publish those things which all they who knew us not speak against us” (Dial. 17). He also complains to Trypho:

    For the expression, “He that is afflicted [and driven out],” i.e., from the world, [implies] that, so far as you and all other men have it in your power, each Christian has been driven out not only from his own property, but even from the whole world; for you permit no Christian to live. But you say that the same fate has befallen your own nation. Now, if you have been cast out after defeat in battle, you have suffered such treatment justly indeed, as all the Scriptures bear witness; but we, though we have done no such [evil acts] after we knew the truth of God, are testified to by God, that, together with the most righteous, and only spotless and sinless Christ, we are taken away out of the earth. (Dial. 36)

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