(Minor Fulfillment of Matt. 24/25 or Revelation
Oswald T. Allis
John A. Broadus
Wilhelm De Wette
Charles Homer Giblin
Johann von Hug
J, F, and Brown
Jean Le Clerc
Jack P. Lewis
Sir Isaac Newton
Dr. John Owen
William W. Patton
Rudolph E. Stier
(Major Fulfillment of Matt. 24/25 or Revelation
John L. Bray
Dr. John Brown
Francis X. Gumerlock
J. Marcellus Kik
Ovid Need, Jr
Milton S. Terry
(Virtually No Fulfillment of Matt. 24/25 & Revelation in 1st
C. - Types Only ; Also Included are "Higher Critics" Not Associated With Any
Alan Patrick Boyd
John N. Darby
Charles G. Finney
J.P. Green Sr.
John N.D. Kelly
Dr. John Smith
George Fox |
Margaret Fell (Fox) |
PRETERIST UNIVERSALISM |
MODERN PRETERISM |
Dr. Stafford North
Professor at Oklahoma Christian
"The signs given in Matthew 24:4-34 apply to the
destruction coming on Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and are not at all signs by which
we today can predict when the world will end."
Faculty Page With
"But of that day and hour" (Matthew 24:36-40). Having
passed verse 34, we would naturally expect that the subject may change
because we are no longer in the section which concludes with "this
generation shall not pass away until all these things be accomplished."
Before verse 34, also, Jesus uses the plural "days" to speak of the event
while after He uses the singular "day." Such a change in terminology
suggests a change in theme. Also the parallel passage in Luke ends at this
point. It is also of interest that He begins verse 36 with the word "but,"
which sets up a contrast."
Dividing Line Between Destruction of Jerusalem and General
Judgment - Matthew 24:36
"Actually, their phrase in Matthew may more precisely be translated from the Greek as "the end of the age." The RSV, in fact, translates it as "close of the age." The destruction of the temple was, in fact, the means God used to mark the "end of the age" of His dealings with the Jews as His chosen people.. The terms "thy coming" and "end of the age" in Matthew were their way of describing what, in their minds, was the cataclysmic event Jesus had spoken about and not a reference to the "end of the world" as we think of it." (Armageddon Again?,
OK, 1991, p. 42)
"Here is the real sign: "When therefore ye see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place" (v.15). This reference is to a passage in Daniel 9:27 where Daniel had spoken of a period of time called "the seventy weeks" which is a figurative way of expressing a time of approximately 490 years."
(Armageddon Again? A Reply to Hal Lindsey, Oklahoma City, OK: Author, 1991, p. 7-10)
"Jesus next explains events which "following immediately" after what He has just described. Since we are still
before verse 34 and since these events happen immediately after those which so clearly apply to the destruction of Jerusalem, we must conclude that the figurative language in verses 29-31 must refer to events which happened
immediately after the fall of Jerusalem.
Eight events are listed: (1) the sun shall be darkened, (2) the moon shall not give her light, (3) the heavens shall be shaken, (4) the powers of the heavens shall be shaken, (5) the sign of the Son of Man in heaven shall appear, (6) all the tribes of the earth shall mourn, (7) they shall see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, and (8) He shall send forth his angels to gather the elect from the four winds.
expressions among these eight might, at first, seem to apply to Jesus' second coming. But because of "immediately" and "this generation" we must ask if all of the eight can apply to what happened soon after the fall of Jerusalem. As we shall see, the answer is, "They can" (Armageddon Again? A Reply to Hal Lindsey, Oklahoma City, OK: Author, 1991, p. 7-10)
the Rapture, I Corinthians 15:50-53)
"This passage, likewise, never mentions 'the rapture,' says nothing about seven years, does not suggest two comings of the Lord, never mentions an earthly reign of Christ." (ibid., p. 91)
(On I Thessalonians 4:17)
"Note that this passage cited as major support for 'the rapture' never mentions 'rapture,' never mentions seven years, never mentions two comings of the Lord, never mentions an earthly reign." (ibid.,
(On I John 2:18)
"J.W. Roberts, in his commentary on the letters of John, explains the Greek
construction: "In Greek neither occurrence of the term last hour in
this verse has the definite article Ďthe.í By this use of the noun and
modifier without the article, John emphasizes that he is speaking in a
qualitative or categorical way and not of a definite last hour, as one might
suppose from the English translation. He means that this is a Ďlast-hourí
kind of situation or time. In line with Johnís use of Ďhourí in the Gospel,
where the word means a decisive time in the history of the world, a time of
importance created by the appearance of Christ into the world (John 4:21,
23; 5:25, 28; 16:2, 4, 25, 32), the writer in this present passage refers to
a time of stress or danger related to the history of salvation. . . . Thus
the term Ďlast hourí in John does not refer to a segment of time as the
culmination of a series in which time approaches an end." From this
statement by Roberts, an outstanding Greek scholar, we understand that John
was not saying, "This is the last hour of time" but rather this is a
Signs of the Times)
"Many these days teach that current wars and world events fulfill Bible prohecies which signal the beginning of the end of the world. These writers present a "drumroll" of earthquakes, floods, famines, and volcanic eruptions to be followed by sudden disappearance of the righteous, a terrible war climaxing in a nuclear holocaust called Armageddon, and finally the return of Christ for a thousand year reign from Jerusalem."
"The signs given in Matthew 24:4-34 apply to the destruction coming on Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and are not at all signs by which we today can predict when the world will end." (Armageddon Again? A Reply to Hal Lindsey,
Oklahoma City, OK: Author, 1991, 7-10.)
40 Years and that Generation)
"Just as Daniel predicted, in 70 A.D., forty years after the anointed one was cut off, the Roman armies marched on Jerusalem. After a siege of 134 days, designed to weaken resistance, the Roman army broke through the walls, destroyed the city and burned the temple. Then, they put their ensigns over the eastern gate of the temple and offered sacrifices to them. (Josephus: War VI, vi. 1 ).
There could not have been a more precise fulfillment of the prophecies of both Daniel and Christ. The city was destroyed and desecrated. Even the stones of the temple were cast down and not one remained upon another."
(Armageddon Again? A Reply to Hal Lindsey, Oklahoma City, OK: Author, 1991, p. 47-48)
The Last Days)
"To put these last verses in context, we recall that Christ is speaking of the end or destruction which would befall the beautiful temple and the city of Jerusalem.. All these things will take place along with the spread of the gospel into all nations, but these are not signs by which you can identify the exact time of the fall of Jerusalem." (Armageddon Again? A Reply to Hal Lindsey, Oklahoma City, OK: Author, 1991, p. 7-10)
The Subject Matter of Revelation, Armageddon)
"THE TERM 'ARMAGEDDON' DOES NOT REFER TO A FINAL BATTLE BETWEEN GOOD AND EVIL THAT BRINGS THE WORLD TO AN END." (emphasis in original) (ibid., p. 290)
"In no way can the term "Armageddon" in Revelation 16:16 be taken, then, as a statement that the world will end with a great final battle between good and evil. What Revelation does picture, rather, is a struggle between Christ and Satan over the minds of men." (ibid.,
1) The entire passage is highly symbolic
employing a dragon, two unusual beasts, and three frogs. Surely these are figurative. 2) The
place of Revelation 16:13-16 in the overall vision of the Book of Revelation
indicates that this is the climax of the conflict between God and the beasts Satan has brought up. 3) That
the struggle here pictured is spiritual is evident from the wording used. 4) The events which follow the call of kings to Armageddon clearly establish that
this event does not mark the end of our time. 5) Whatever is being described through the figures of the two beasts had to happen
within a short span of time after the writing of Revelation. 6)
Our age will not end with a series of events which allow us to know when we are seven years, then three-and-a-half years from the end." (ibid.,
Number of the Beast)
"You may be a little surprised when you read what the Bible says about the subject of "the anti-christ." Only
four verses in the entire Bible use this term and here they are
in full: I John 2:18; I John 2:22; I John 4:3; & II John 7. You have now read
every verse in the Bible that mentions the word "anti-christ." (Armageddon Again?, Oklahoma City, OK: Author, 1991, p. 78-79)
DID JESUS RETURN IN 70 A. D.?
by Stafford North, Oklahoma Christian University of Science & Arts
Recently there has been a resurgence in the doctrine that Jesusí second and
final return was in 70 A.D., at the same time as the destruction of
Jerusalem. This view holds that when Titus, the Roman general, brought his
army to destroy Jerusalem, Jesus returned at that same time, ended the
Jewish age, and established in a complete sense, the Christian covenant.
Those with this view also believe that the promised resurrection came at
that same time, but not as a bodily resurrection.
If the Bible teaches this view, even though it is contrary in so many ways
to what most have believed over the years, it should be fully accepted. If,
on the other hand, it is not in harmony with plain and clear passages, it
should be firmly and completely rejected, no matter how sincere its
This study will first give a brief statement of this belief so the reader
will know the basic elements of the view being studied. Then, we shall
present six reason why we reject this belief as out of harmony with the
Since I have found no statement in the books I have read by the adherents of
this view which clearly summarizes it, I have, from their writings,
developed a chart to aid in understanding the view. Note that 70 A.D. is the
date for the second coming which, they teach, is the time when the Law was
finally removed and the new covenant fully established.
At the destruction of Jerusalem in
70 A.D., the following are said to happen simultaneously: the end of the age
(Matt. 28:20), the perfect has come (I Cor. 13:10), the end of all things
(Matt. 5:16-17), the restoration of all things (Acts. 3:19-21), all things
are made new (Rev. 21:5), the end of the miraculous age, the consummation of
the age (Matt. 28:20), all things are fulfilled (Luke 21:20-22), Israel is
regathered (Isa. 11:10-12), Israel is planted in their own land (Ezek.
36:24), the old heavens and earth burn up (the ending of the Jewish system
not the end of our world), the new heavens and new earth come (the new
kingdom is fully established) (II Peter 3), the death of Judaism and the
resurrection (new covenant is fully established).
I believe this view is not a correct understanding of the scriptures and
wish to present six reasons why I consider it to be false.
1. The 70 A.D. view is wrong because it makes figurative events the Bible
intends literally. Thus, the corruptible body of I Cor. 15 is said to be the
fleshly or carnal system of Judaism and the resurrection of I Cor. 15 is the
rise of Christianity. The "world" or "fleshly" is redefined to mean the
"Jewish age," while the "spiritual" refers to the Christian age. The old
heaven and earth is Judaism and the new heaven and earth are Christís
kingdom. Such meanings are not the interpretation which the passages where
these terms are found would suggest. In fact, it does an injustice to the
Christian system to suggest that it is the resurrection of dead Judaism.
While the Law of Moses was the "tutor" to bring us to Christ and while it
had to die when the new system came, Christís plan for redemption is not a
resurrection of the Law and does not spring forth out of its death. The Law
was a preliminary measure to prepare the way for the plan God set in motion
before the foundation of the world.
We shall look in detail at two passages frequently cited by those holding
the 70 A.D. view to see the error of this figurative or "spiritualizing"
I Corinthians 15. Here Paul refers to the burial and resurrection of a
physical body, not to burying the Jewish system and the rise of
Christianity. To show this is true, let us step through various portions of
this chapter. Paul begins by referring to the resurrection of Christís body
and tells of those who personally saw the resurrected body. Surely Paul
speaks here of a literal body and with this the parties on both side of this
issue agree. Then he moves to discuss some in Corinth who were denying the
bodily resurrection of others. We know their denial was of a" bodily
resurrection" because Paul begins by saying, "Now if Christ is preached that
he hath been raised from the dead, how say some among you that there is no
resurrection of the dead?" Christís bodily resurrection is a case of the
type of resurrection they were denying. Paulís whole argument here is that
because all agreed that Christ had a bodily resurrection, it is wrong to say
that Christians are not raised in the same manner. To deny one is to deny
Notice further that Paul says, "If the dead [plural] are not raised, neither
has Christ been raised" (verse 16). Thus, if other dead ones are not raised
bodily, neither can Christ have been raised bodily. It would be beside
Paulís point here to say, "If the dead [the Jewish system] has not been
raised [the Christian system], neither has Christ been raised." What would
be the connection with what precedes and why would he use the plural "dead
ones" instead of the singular? But it certainly does make his point to say
that if you do not believe dead bodies come out of graves, then you will
have to deny that Christís dead body came out of the grave.
As corroboration of this view, consider I Corinthians 6:13-14. Here Paul
makes much the same point. He warns against the immoral use of our bodies
for fornication and urges that we use our bodies, rather, for the Lord. What
body does he mean? A body that can engage in a sexual act. He adds that not
only is this body "for the Lord," but "the Lord is for the body and God both
raised the Lord and will raise up us through his power." So the same body
which has sexual capability is the body which we give to God and which then
God raises up, even as He did the body of Christ. So in both I Corinthians 6
and 15, Paul speaks of not only the resurrection of Christís physical body
but of the like resurrection of other physical bodies as well.
Then, Paul writes in 15:22 that Christ is the "firstfruits" of them that are
asleep. In other words, the same thing that happened to Him, a bodily
resurrection, will later happen to us, a bodily resurrection. Paul then
comments (vss. 30-34) that to put your life in jeopardy or to deny yourself
the pleasures of life would make no sense unless there is a resurrection of
the dead when even greater joys will be known. Still, in this section of I
Corinthians 15, then, the message is about a bodily resurrection.
Next, in verses 35 through 49, Paul addresses the question that would
naturally arise, "If there is a resurrection of a dead body, what will the
new body be like?" Just as a seed is planted and produces something based on
itself but not identical to itself, he says, even so will our bodies be
planted in the grave and from them will come forth something from them but
not like them. The new body, for both the righteous and the wicked, will be
a body that does not die again--an eternal body, a body fit for the spirit
realm not the earthly. That Paul still has in mind here a physical body here
is clear from his reference to different types of flesh and then to
different types of bodies--both terrestrial and celestial. Then he says "it
is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption; it is sown in dishonor;
it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power; it is
sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body." "It," here, refers to
the same entity in each of its uses: the physical body--"it" is planted and
"it" is raised. The nature of that body will be different when it is raised,
but Paul still refers to what was planted as that which is raised, even
though it will be in a transformed state. Would any in Corinth, upon reading
this epistle, have thought he meant that Judaism was buried and Christianity
sprang forth? Beyond question, this passage speaks of the burial of our dead
bodies and their ultimate resurrection.
To conclude his discussion, verses 50 to 58) Paul says that "as we have
borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the
heavenly." Notice "we." Human beings not covenants. Then he continues, "we
shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the
twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the
dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." Note several
points from these verses in opposition to the "spiritualized" approach.
(1) Paul speaks of "we," living human beings in the plural, and he contrasts
those alive at any point in time ("we") with those who have already died at
any point in time ("they"). He speaks pointedly to real people and real
circumstances. This is no figurative reference to a theological question.
(2) Some die and are raised, others do not die and are changed. If the
resurrection of the dead is the coming of Christianity out of the grave of
Judaism, what, in such a figure, are those who do not die? What do they
represent? To restate, in Paulís description are three conditions: (a) those
who are dead, (b) those who have been dead and are then raised anew, and (c)
those who do not die and are transformed. If "death" refers to the end of
Judaism and the "resurrection" refers to the coming of Christianity, what is
represented by those who do not die at all? It is evident that it is a
mistake to make this passage represent any thing other than physical death,
a literal resurrection of the bodies of those who have died, and the
transformation of those who are alive at Christís coming.
(3) And when is all of this done? At the last trumpet sound. Could 70 A.D.
be the time of the last trumpet sound? Surely "last trump," while
figurative, must be intended to bring to our minds the last moment of
recorded time, not an event which happened thousands of years before the
time is over.
(4) And as a final piece of evidence that Paul here speaks of the
resurrection of a physical body and not the end of one covenant and the
start of another, notice what comes to a final end and total defeat when
these events take place--death. When the bodies spoken of are raised, "death
is swallowed up in victory." Victory over death is achieved only when all
who have died are raised, not when the covenant with Israel ends and a new
kingdom begins. After the resurrection spoken of here, death will be
destroyed. So, it says, when all are raised and there will be no more dying,
death has been destroyed. Since death is still with us today, the events
spoken of in this passage have not yet taken place. "Death," in verse 55,
then refers not to the death of something [Judaism], but to the end of
dying. Death itself dies. With the resurrection of all of those who have
died, then, physical death itself will have come to an end in that it never
claims another victim. But such did not happen at 70 A.D.
Our point in this study of I Corinthians 15 is two-fold: (1) the subject
under consideration here is that of a bodily resurrection just as Christ
experienced rather than a reference to the death of the covenant through
Moses and the beginning of the covenant through Christ and (2) the
figurative or allegorical interpretation of the 70 A.D. advocates gives
passages a meaning that was not intended by the writer.
II Peter 3:3-12. This second passage we will examine to consider the
figurative approach of the 70 A.D. advocates, speaks of the following events
which shall happen at His coming: (1) the heavens shall pass away with a
great noise; (2) the elements shall melt with fervent heat; (3) the earth
and all the works in it shall be burned up. The 70 A.D. advocates say that
this statement applies to the destruction of the Jewish system and not to
the actual earth and heaven. Such, however, is not in harmony with the
passage. What are the scoffers mentioned deriding? That the physical
universe, that which has existed since creation, is still here even though
God has said it would be destroyed. They were not scoffing because they had
not seen the end of Judaism. According to the 70 A.D. advocates, Peter
should have said to tell them they were looking for the wrong kind of
fulfillment of the promise of the end of the world. Peter does not, however,
take such an approach. Rather, he says those who scoff because His coming
has not happened yet, should be reminded that God did once destroyed the
physical earth--by water. Thus Peter confirms that they were wondering about
the right type of destruction--a physical one. With the physical destruction
of Noahís day offered as a similar event, it is clear that the heaven and
earth mentioned in the same context are also the physical heaven and earth.
Peterís point, then, is that those who scoff should be reminded that God
does keep His promises to destroy. He once promised that He would destroy
the earth by water and while it was over a hundred years before He did it.
He kept His word. In a similar way, He has said He would bring the world to
an end and, while some may scoff because God chooses to wait, He will keep
this promise too. Only the next time it will not be just starting over with
a new family on the same earth, this time all physical things will be
destroyed to be replaced with a "heaven and earth" of a different type.
One writer favoring the 70 A.D. coming says that since, after the flood God
promised not again to "smite any more every thing living, as I have done,"
(Genesis 8:21), then Peter could not be referring to a final end when God
will destroy all physical things. But in the very next verse of Genesis 8,
verse 22, the writer continues the quotation from God saying, "While the
earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and
winter, and day and night shall not cease." This promise is "while the earth
remaineth." II Peter 3 speaks of the time when the entire physical universe
shall cease. God does not tell Noah that he will never bring the earth to an
end but that he will not again wipe out virtually all human beings as long
as He is going to let life continue on the earth.
These efforts to make the death of I Corinthians 15 and the destruction of
the world of II Peter 3 to be the end of Judaism are not within the range of
acceptable interpretations of these passages. To view the resurrection of I
Corinthians 15 to be the full establishment of a Christianity which had been
begun earlier but was not complete, is also do violence to this passage.
Treating what the scriptures teach as literal to be figurative is not an
2. The 70 A.D. view is wrong because it is out of harmony with Bible
teaching on Christís second coming.
a. Events said to occur with the second coming did not happen in 70 A.D. If
they did not, then whatever happened in 70 A.D. it was not the second coming
of the Lord. Below are listed passages all would agree speak of Christís
second coming. Those events said to accompany His return are underlined. As
you read this list, ask yourself if you can believe that all of these, or
any of these, happened in 70 A.D.
Matthew 16:27--The Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his
angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. Is there
any record of Jesusí return with angels in 70 A.D.? At that time, He could
not have rewarded "every man according to his works" because every man had
not yet lived to perform works by which to be judged.
Matthew 25:31-32--Jesus says, "But when the Son of man shall come in his
glory, and all the angels with him, then shall he sit on the throne of his
glory: and before him shall be gathered all the nations: and he shall
separate them one from another, as the shepherd separates the sheep for the
goats." In 70 A.D. Jesus did not come with all His angels nor did He gather
all people of all nations before Him and judge them. That this was a
judgment on Jews only does not fulfill "all the nations" being gathered
before Him. Moreover, this judgment ends in a final separation into heaven
and hell (Matthew 25:41, 46). Max King, on the other hand, says it occurred
when Jerusalem was destroyed and was to separate those who "received the
kingdom" and those "who were removed from the kingdom" (Spirit of Prophecy,
Acts 1:11--Jesus is observed with human eyes ascending into heaven and those
who watched are told, "This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into
heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven."
There is no record of a visible coming of the Lord in 70 A.D. Surely if an
event such as this had taken place it would have been noted.
I Corinthians 15:22-26--This passage is a most important one for telling us
what will happen when the Christ returns: (1) those who are Christís will be
raised; (2) then comes the end when Christ will deliver the kingdom back to
God; (3) all rule and authority shall be abolished; and (4) death, the last
enemy, shall be abolished. If Christ came in 70 A.D., then all the righteous
(as well as all others) had to be raised like Christ was since he is the "firstfruits,"
thus indicating that his resurrection is the first of a kind with others
like it to follow. But there is no record of any bodily resurrections taking
place in 70 A.D. John 5:28-29 teaches that "all [plural] that are in the
tombs shall come forth." Those people who are in the tombs shall come out of
them. Although earlier in John 5 Christ uses "dead" in a spiritual sense, in
these verses He clearly means the literal dead for He speaks of tombs and
says this resurrection is followed by our going to our eternal destinies.
I Corinthians 15 also teaches that at Christís return, He will complete His
reign as king not start a new reign. According to the 70 A.D. view, Jesusí
coming in 70 A.D. is the time when His kingdom, although begun on Pentecost,
is fully established. I Corinthians 15:22-26, however, says His return is
the time when He concludes His reign. His reign is over then because with
the resurrection of dead bodies, He conquers His last enemy, death, and so
death is abolished. But how many have continued to die after 70 A.D.? Surely
death was not abolished then. With death overcome with the resurrection
which accompanies His return, Jesus can return the kingdom to God because He
has finished His work as king: all His enemies have been conquered.
Philippians 3:20--Paul writes that we look for the Christ to come from
heaven to change our vile bodies into a body like His glorious body. The 70
A.D. advocates not only do not produce any evidence of such as
transformation in 70 A.D., they deny that any such transformation of vile
bodies into glorious bodies takes place. They believe, rather, that the
resurrection of which the Bible speaks is the transformation of the "dead
law" of Judaism into the "living body" of Christianity. So, when people die,
they go directly to their eternal abode in the state of souls, but not in
resurrected bodies. Philippians 3:20 says, however, that our "vile bodies"
shall be "fashioned anew" into bodies like Christís glorified body. I John
3:2 says that when Christ is "manifested" [comes again] we shall be like
Him. So as Christís dead body was buried but came forth as a new body, so we
shall all die and be buried, but then these bodies shall be resurrected as
I Thessalonians 3:13--When Christ returns, He shall come "with all his
saints." Thus, those who have died already are seen as accompanying Jesus in
His victory because they have returned with Him. There is no indication that
in 70 A.D. there was any such return of saints with Christ.
I Thessalonians 4:15-17--When Christ returns, dead Christians will be raised
from the dead in new bodies and living Christians shall be changed into the
same kind of bodies. Again it is stated that our resurrection will be like
Jesusí resurrection "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even
so them also that are fallen asleep in Jesus will God bring with him" (verse
14). As Jesus rose again--"even so" shall God bring Christians to be with
Jesus. After this change of living and dead bodies, both groups shall go up
into the air and be with Him forever. This word of comfort was given about
"them that fall asleep," again a plural number, not about a dead Judaism.
These deaths were occurring then and Paul deals with how to comfort those
who are separated from Christians they love through death. Paul answers that
those who are alive when the Lord returns will not have any advantage over
those who have died because both will be transformed into new bodies and
then will go together to meet Jesus. To make this passage, which is so
specific about Christians who die, to be a theological discussion about the
end of the law of Moses and the "full establishment" of Christís covenant is
to read into the passage what the author never intended. No person in
Thessalonica reading the message as received from Paul would ever have
dreamed that this passage was not given to comfort those whose loved ones
had died in the faith.
II Thessalonians 1:7-10--"when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven
with his mighty angels , in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know
not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ." Certainly
no such spiritual judgment took place in 70 A.D. and to push this passage
into being a figurative reference to the end of the Jewish nation is to go
beyond the limits of acceptable exegesis.
II Thessalonians 2:3-8--Before the Lord comes must be a falling away led by
"a man of perdition." At His coming, the Lord will reveal this wicked person
(or entity) and shall destroy him. The church had not experienced a major
departure by 70 A.D. The Jewish leaders, destroyed in the fall of Jerusalem
could, in no way, be considered leaders of a digression in the church, so
the promise to reveal and punish this one (whoever he is) did not happen in
II Timothy 4:1--Paul writes that at His coming, Jesus shall judge the living
and the dead. In 70 A.D. there was not a general judgment of all who have
lived, whether they were still living or, by that time, dead. While the
destruction of the Jewish system in 70 A.D. was certainly a judgment of the
Lord on those who had rejected prophets and finally the Son of God, such a
judgment does not qualify as the general judgment on all the living and
II Peter 3:4-13--Considered in detail earlier, this passage is added to this
list to remind that at the coming of the Lord or the day of the Lord "the
heavens shall pass away with a great noise and the elements shall be
dissolved with fervent heat." As shown earlier, this does, indeed, refer to
the physical earth and heaven and, therefore, when this event happens, the
earth as we know it will be burned up.
I John 3:2-3--In this passage, John says that "when He shall be manifested,
we shall be like him." So when Jesus returns we shall be transformed into
the same type of body He has--and this did not happen in 70 A.D.
We have studied passages that speak clearly of the second coming and of
events which shall accompany that coming. We have one of three choices in
interpreting these passages: (1) that the events which are said to accompany
the second coming literally took place in 70 A.D. but we have no record of
it; (2) that since these events did not take place in 70 A.D. (or since)
that we are to continue to look for Jesusí coming when they will take place,
or (3) that there is a figurative meaning hidden in these passages about the
end of the Jewish law and the beginning of the Christian system. We clearly
reject option one because had such spectacular events have taken place, we
certainly would have some record of it. Option three is the view of those
believing Jesus returned in 70 A.D., but to hold this view they must
allegorize these passages when there is no justification for doing so. The
context and language describes real events which are to be expected to
occur. Moreover, John, writing after 70 A.D., still speaks of the coming as
b. The New Testament gives clear indications that the return of Christ would
not be as early as 70 A.D.
When some in the first century began to be too specific about the time of
Christís return, they were rebuked by apostolic authority. Paul wrote in II
Thessalonians 2:2 that the Thessalonians should not think that this even is
just at hand. They should not expect the second coming to be immediate. II
Thessalonians was written in 51-52 A.D. and the Thessalonians are told that
a major departure from the faith would have to occur before the second
coming--something that would likely take more than twenty years. And Peter,
in II Peter 3, also warns that those who scoff because the Lord has not come
yet should not deter Christian from believing He will come because with the
Lord "a thousand years is as a day." They should not, then, be surprised if
He does not come as soon as some might think. II Peter was probably written
about 66 or 67 A.D., only a short time before the fall of Jerusalem in 70
A.D. Peter, moreover, was told by Jesus the manner of death he would die, so
Peter knew the Lordís coming would not be before his own death (John 21:19).
Paul, writing at the end of his life and but a very few years before 70
A.D., warned Timothy that "the time will come when men will not endure the
sound doctrine" (II Timothy 4:3). Thus Paul again predicts a falling away is
coming but that could hardly have been fulfilled before the fall of
Jerusalem. Paul speaks in a similar vein in II Thessalonians 2:3 saying,
"that day will not come, until the rebellion occurs and the man of
lawlessness is revealed."
And in I John 3:2-3, we have this statement from John: "when he shall be
manifested, we shall be like him." John, then, is still looking forward to
the coming of Christ. But virtually all scholars date the epistles of John
after the destruction of Jerusalem--usually from 85 to 90 A.D. From what we
know about the life of John, from the "old age" suggested for the author,
and from the types of problems dealt with, these epistles were clearly
written after 70 A.D. Yet, in this passage, John still speaks of the coming
of Christ as future. "When he shall be manifested," or as other versions put
it, "if he shall be manifested." So for John, the coming of Christ was still
future and when it happened Christians would be like Jesus. This is strong
evidence that the second coming was not in 70 A.D.
The teaching of the New Testament about the second coming of Christ, then,
relates to it many events which did not happen in 70 A.D. Those writing just
before 70 A.D., moreover, suggest that things will happen before the second
coming that did not have time to happen by 70 A.D. and John, writing after
70 A.D. still looks to the coming of Christ as still to happen.
3. The 70 A.D. view is wrong because there is a better explanation of the
passages they say require a first century second coming.
This is a very key point. The beginning point of this theory seems to be
that some New Testament passages seem to teach that Christ would return in
the first century and, if so, then a 70 A.D. coming is the best explanation
of them. The adherents of this view believe that we either must accept a 70
A.D. coming or must admit that inspired writers were wrong when they wrote
verses they say teach a first century second coming. If a meaning other than
a first century return of Christ is a legitimate possibility for these
passages, however, then we have another alternative. We shall look at the
most often used passages of this type and shall ask if a meaning other than
a first century return is possible and even likely. If other meanings are
found, then we do not have to choose between the inspired writers being
wrong and a 70 A.D. coming of Christ.
Philippians 4:5. In this passage, Paul says to rejoice and let your
forbearance be known unto all men because "the Lord is at hand." Note first
that Paul does not say that the Lordís coming is at hand, only that He is
near. The word used for "at hand" is a word that means "near" either in time
or in space. Certainly the meaning here can easily be that the Philippians
are to be patient with others because the Lord is close by them. Nothing in
this passage requires the second coming to be in the first century.
Matthew 26:64. Jesus is being tried before the Jewish High Priest who asks
Jesus if he is the Christ, the son of God. Jesus answers in the affirmative
and then adds, "Henceforth ye shall see the Son of man sitting at the right
hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven." Here Jesus tells the
High Priest that he will see Him both "sitting at the right hand of Power"
and "coming on the clouds of heaven." The most obvious question is how the
High Priest could see Jesus sitting at the right hand of power--obviously a
reference to His being seated at the right hand of God? Jesus would not have
been visible to the human eye while sitting in heaven except by a miracle
such as occurred when Stephen saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God.
We have, then, two possibilities for this part of Jesusí statement: (1) the
High Priest (and others present who heard) would be given a similar miracle
to the one given Stephen, or (2) the High Priest (and others present) would
see some event which would demonstrate that Jesus was seated at the right
hand of power.
Since we have no record of the first, we ask whether some event could have
demonstrated that Jesus was seated at Godís right hand. The answer would
seem to be that His prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem could well
have been the demonstration Jesus had in mind. After all, it was but two or
three days earlier that Jesus had given his prediction that Jerusalem and
the temple would be destroyed and had given his lament over the city (Matt.
23:29-24:35). So the destruction of Jerusalem, in exact fulfillment of
Jesusí prophecy, showed He was sitting at the right hand of God.
But what of the second part of the statement: "coming on the clouds of
heaven?" Is this a statement from Jesus to the High Priest that the High
Priest (and other within hearing) would see Jesus coming on the clouds for
His second advent?
The phrase "coming on the clouds" is an interesting one. Isaiah 19:1 uses
this expression in speaking of Jehovah coming on the clouds to destroy
Egypt. In that passage it does not refer to the physical presence of God but
to His coming (figuratively) to do what He had promised He would do. Again
the expression is used in Daniel 7:13 where one like a son of man (Christ)
comes with the clouds of heaven to approach Godís throne and receive from
God the eternal kingdom. In this passage, again, "coming on the clouds" does
not refer to a coming of Christ to earth but to His approaching the throne
of God in heaven to receive the kingdom. This passage, by the way, makes it
clear that Christ received His kingdom when he went to heaven not when he
returned to earth. This teaching is the same as in I Corinthians 15:22-26
that when Christ returns He ends His reign rather than starts it.
Three times in the New Testament does the expression "coming on the clouds"
appear: (1) in Matthew 24:30 (and the parallel passages in Mark and Luke)
which will be studied later in this paper, (2) in the passage we are
considering about the High Priest, and (3) in Revelation 1:7. Many passages
in the New Testament speak of Jesusí coming, but only these speak of His
"coming on the clouds." Is there some special significance to this? Why this
wording? From the two Old Testament uses it is clear that "coming on the
clouds" was an expression that referred to the movement of deities within
the heavenly realm to carry out some action. It does not mean, in either of
its Old Testament uses, the actual coming of deity to earth.
Would we not, then, look first to that possibility for the New Testament
uses? When this possibility is applied in Matthew 26:64, it certainly offers
a good meaning. Jesus, thus, says to the High Priest and those standing by:
you will see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power when you
recognize that the destruction of Jerusalem comes as I have predicted
publicly and, at the same time, you will see the Son of man coming on the
clouds because you will know that He is the one who, although still in
heaven, is carrying out His promise of the destruction. The passage says,
"Ye shall see me sitting . . . and coming," and speaks of these as happening
at the same time. He could sit and come simultaneously because he was
"sitting" on the right hand of God while "coming" in a figurative sense to
carry out what He had said He would do.
As we will show later, the other two New Testament uses of "coming on the
clouds" also speak of "coming" in a special sense--to carry out a predicted
destruction and not to come in a physical presence.
I John 2:18. In this passage John is warning about the anti-christ, that is
"he that denieth the Father and the Son" ( I John 2:22-23) and who
"confesses not that Jesus Christ cometh in the flesh" (II John 7). John says
that "it is the last hour" because there the anti-christs are already at
work. What, then, does the expression "last hour" mean?
J.W. Roberts, in his commentary on the letters of John, explains the Greek
construction: "In Greek neither occurrence of the term last hour in this
verse has the definite article Ďthe.í By this use of the noun and modifier
without the article, John emphasizes that he is speaking in a qualitative or
categorical way and not of a definite last hour, as one might suppose from
the English translation. He means that this is a Ďlast-hourí kind of
situation or time. In line with Johnís use of Ďhourí in the Gospel, where
the word means a decisive time in the history of the world, a time of
importance created by the appearance of Christ into the world (John 4:21,
23; 5:25, 28; 16:2, 4, 25, 32), the writer in this present passage refers to
a time of stress or danger related to the history of salvation. . . . Thus
the term Ďlast hourí in John does not refer to a segment of time as the
culmination of a series in which time approaches an end."
From this statement by Roberts, an outstanding Greek scholar, we understand
that John was not saying, "This is the last hour of time" but rather this is
a "critical time." If he meant that "the last hour of recorded time is soon
upon us because the anti-christs are here," then he was wrong because that
point in time was not even close to the last hour of recorded time. Over 17
million hours have passed since then so, if he literally meant the last hour
of time is soon to come, he was wrong.
We must, then, look to some meaning other than a strictly literal one and
the Greek makes clear that John referred to a critical hour because of the
false prophets who were there. Those believing that John is referring to the
destruction of Jerusalem with his comment about a critical hour are mistaken
because (1) John was living in Ephesus by this time and had little contact
with Jerusalem and (2) the on-set of this critical hour is brought about by
the Gnostics who taught that Jesus had not come in the flesh and not by a
Roman attack on Jerusalem. And as mentioned earlier, I John was written
years after the destruction of Jerusalem.
The passage in I John 2:18, then, cannot be used as evidence requiring a
first century coming of Christ. It is not a reference to a second coming at
all and its use of "last hour" is best explained in other ways than a
reference to a first century return of Jesus.
I Peter 4:7. Peter declares in this passage that the Christians to whom he
is writing ought to live good lives because "the end of all things is at
hand." Notice that Peter does not specifically mention the coming of Christ.
The "end of all things" has several possible meanings.
(1) Those holding the 70 A.D. return believe that Peter was warning that the
second coming would be soon and it was because it came in 70 A.D., not long
after Peter wrote these words. This view cannot be the correct one, however,
because the end of Jerusalem does not qualify as being broad-scaled enough
to be called "the end of all things." Surely some event of wider
significance must be in Peterís mind. While the fall of Jerusalem was an
important event, particularly to Jews, it would not be the end of
(2) Another option is that Peter is saying that Christians should live good
lives because the "end of all things" (end of time) is imminent. "At hand"
could be taken in the sense that it might happen at any moment. Jesus and
many other New Testament writers have spoken of how Jesusí return will be
like a "thief in the night," that is, it will come unexpectedly. In this
view of the passage, the end of the world is always "at hand" because it
could happen at any time. This is certainly a possible meaning because Peter
is urging the "end" of which he speaks as motivation for faithful living.
The coming end of the world, at any time, is surely such motivation.
(3) A third possibility is that Peter could be speaking of the "end" for
each one individually. For every person, the end of things (for him) could
be at any moment. It may be that we die or it may be that Christ will
return. In either case, we are to live each moment as if it might be our
last--for indeed it might. We are not required by this passage, then, either
to place the second coming in the first century or declare Peter mistaken
because there are other views which can fit the passage. Besides, Jesus told
Peter the manner of death he would die, as noted earlier, so Peter knew the
Lord would not come during his lifetime.
Hebrews 10:37. The writer of Hebrews here quotes a passage from Habakkuk
2:3. He uses it as a means of encouraging the Hebrews just as Habakkuk had
encouraged the people of his day. First, what did Habakkuk mean when he
wrote: "For yet a very little while, He that cometh shall come, and shall
not tarry. But my righteous one shall live by faith: And if he shrink back,
my soul hath no pleasure in him." Habakkuk had previously said that God
would use the Babylonians as his agent to punish Judah, but then promised
that God would eventually destroy Babylon. Since some might think God was
delaying, Habakkuk here states that Godís promise about the Babylonians is
sure even though it might take longer to be fulfilled than some might wish.
Habakkuk was not dealing at all with the second coming of Christ but with
the approaching destruction of a nation. If Habakkuk had been speaking of
the second coming, then he was mistaken for it certainly did not happen
The writer of Hebrews appropriates the language of Habakkuk to make a
similar use. He, also, is seeking to encourage a discouraged people; he also
is seeking to get those who are growing weak to hold on until some event
which is soon to come and which would strengthen them. For the people of
Habakkukís day, the event soon to come was the fall of Babylon which had
destroyed Jerusalem and carried away many into captivity. To take Habakkukís
statement to the people of his day about the coming fall of Babylon and
apply it here to Christís second coming would not at all fit the purpose of
the writer of Hebrews. Rather, he is describing an event parallel in nature
to what Habakkuk was presenting--the coming fall of a nation.
The passage in Hebrews 10:37-38, then, is a first century re-application of
Habakkukís message to the people of his day. To the discouraged Hebrews
among Godís new people, Christians, the writer says, just as the prophet of
old encouraged Godís people to hang on because God would one day bring down
their persecutor so the writer here says to Godís new "nation" that they
should hang on because God will soon bring down their persecutor. Who was
the persecutor of the Hebrew Christians in the time of this writing, the
60ís A.D.? It was, of course, the Jews and the reference is to the coming
destruction of Jerusalem and to Judaism as it was then practiced. While not
all Jewish persecution of Christians ended in 70 A.D., it certainly was
reduced. This message fits the meaning of the passage in Habakkuk and the
use of it by the Hebrew writer.
James 5:8. This passage says, "You also be patient. Establish your hearts,
for the coming of the Lord is at hand." The whole thrust of this passage is
for Christians to be patient--to endure --because Christís coming is near.
This passage could mean: (1) donít give up now because Christ will return in
a short time; or (2) be patient because Christís return is always "at hand"
and could happen at any moment, or (3) be faithful because the destruction
of Jerusalem [but not the second coming] will soon happen and that will give
you relief from some of the trials you are under. Since either the second or
third options are possibilities, we are not forced to accept, on the basis
of this passage, a first century coming.
Revelation 1:7. John writes: Behold, he cometh with the clouds; and every
eye shall see him, and they that pierce him; and all the tribes of the earth
shall mourn over him." And in Revelation 22:7, "Behold, I come quickly." Now
the question here is whether the coming mentioned in these passages is
Christís second coming. If so, then Christ told first century Christians he
would come soon.
To get the full context of these verses, one would have to study the entire
Book of Revelation because these passages are related to the basic meaning
of the book. Such is, of course, beyond the scope of this paper. A brief
resume of the book will, however, be helpful. John wrote Revelation while on
the island of Patmos, off the coast of Asia Minor and Christ instructed him
to send it to congregations in seven cities of Asia Minor, that is, to
Ephesus and nearby cities. Satan is pictured in the symbolic book as a
dragon (Rev. 12:9) who is plotting to overthrow the church by persecution
(Rev. 12:17). Satanís primary helper in this attempt to persecute the early
church out of existence is a seven-headed beast described primarily in
chapters 13 and 17. Imagine that you live in Ephesus in the first century
and receive a book which describes some entity by the following terms: (1) a
beast like the fourth beast of Daniel 7--that is with ten horns; (2) a beast
with seven heads each of which represents a king--five are already gone, one
is in power at the moment, and another is yet to come; (3) the seven heads
also represent seven hills; (4) this beast has authority over "every tribe
and people and tongue and nation and all that dwell on the earth, except
Christians, worship him"; (5) this beast shall persecute Christians.
You, as a Christian in Ephesus in the first century, ask yourself then, what
political power now reigns over all the earth, was represented as Danielís
fourth beast, has kings who are worshipped, persecutes Christians because
they will not worship him, and has a connection with seven hills. The answer
would not be hard to find. Danielís fourth beast was the Roman Empire. The
emperors of Rome were worshipped and Christians were persecuted because they
refused to worship him. The city of Rome was famous for being built on seven
hills and, of course, Asia Minor was a Roman province in which all of the
seven cities addressed in Revelation were located and where Emperor worship
was particularly strong.
The Book of Revelation, then, is written to Christians in a Roman province
where persecution from Rome had already occurred and was soon to get worse.
The book is an encouragement to these Christians to persevere under the
worst persecution Christians have ever faced and a promise that God will
eventually balance the scales by bringing the Roman Empire to defeat.
The harlot of Revelation is another symbol of interest in this connection.
In Revelation 17, she is introduced as riding on the back of the
seven-headed beast (the Roman Empire) and is described as the great,
luxurious city, drunk on the blood of the saints and who reigns over tribes
and tongues and peoples. Since this city rides on [controls] the Roman
Empire, is rich, and persecutes Christians, the reference clearly is to the
city of Rome. Jerusalem was not a luxurious city in that time nor was it, in
any sense, ruling over great numbers of people. It was, rather, a city
controlled by an outside empire. Certainly Jerusalem did not ride on the
back of the Roman Empire to direct its affairs.
Two more comments about Jerusalem being the focus of the book of Revelation.
The book is addressed to the seven churches in the Roman province of Asia
and is particularly about their circumstances and their needs. They were
under far more jeopardy from the Romans for refusing to worship the Emperor
than they were from the Jews. Why direct to the seven churches of Asia,
then, a book which is primarily about events which were of secondary concern
to them. If the book is about the fall of Jerusalem, why not direct it to
those most concerned with that topic?
A second added comment is about Revelation 11:8, a passage often cited by
those who believe the book of Revelation is about the fall of Jerusalem. But
look at this passage carefully. "And their dead bodies lie in the street of
the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also
their Lord was crucified." Here a great city is identified by three terms:
Sodom, Egypt, and where their Lord was crucified. Obviously the same city
cannot literally be all three of these and so the verse is introduced by
saying--this description is spiritual or figurative. The city was called
Sodom because it was immoral; it is called Egypt because it persecuted Godís
people; it is called where the Lord was crucified because it led in the
effort to reject Jesus and "crucify him afresh." None of these terms
describes the city literally--but all describe it figuratively. What great
city would fit? Rome, of course. It was immoral, it led in the persecution
of Godís people, and it rejected Christ and His people even as Jerusalem
had. It is certainly incorrect to take the first two elements in this list
of three as figurative and the last one as literal.
The first verse of the first chapter says, "The Revelation of Jesus Christ,
which God gave him to show unto his servants, even the things which must
shortly come to pass." And verse three says, "the time is at hand." Clearly
Revelation is to be about things that will begin soon. In Revelation 22:6,
John is told that the things he has been told about "will shortly come to
pass" and in the next verse, "Behold, I come quickly."
But now back to the question of what "coming" He speaks? The coming quickly
is a coming to carry out the prophecies written in the book. Just as Isaiah
19:1 speaks of the Lord "coming" to carry out his promise to overthrow
Egypt, in the Book of Revelation Jesus uses the same type of terminology--I
will come to overthrow the persecutor described in this book. The coming
referred to is not His second coming to raise the dead but, rather, a coming
to His use of power to overthrow a corrupt government which Satan has used
as his instrument to try to persecute the church out of existence before it
could get firmly established. The message of Jesus in Revelation is, "I will
let Satan persecute the church because, eventually, that will strengthen not
weaken the church. As I overthrew nations in former days, however, I will
also overthrow the Roman Empire and that it will not be long in coming. I
will come quickly to begin to unfold the drama which I am describing in
symbolic terms in the Book of Revelation. The persecution predicted began in
about 90 A.D. and by 450 A.D. the Roman Empire was gone.
The references to Christís coming in Revelation 1:7 and 22:7 and similar
passages in the book, then, are not to Christís final return, but, rather,
are His assurance that He will "come" to carry out the promise of this book.
The message given in the Book of Revelation will begin to unfold soon after
the time it is written resulting eventually in the final overthrow of Rome.
Our previous study of "coming on the clouds" as referring to this figurative
type of coming rather than to an actual coming also bears on the meaning of
Revelation 1:7 where similar terminology is used.
We have now examined carefully those passages cited by the advocates of the
return of Christ in 70 A.D. which, they say, require a first century second
coming. In each case, however, we have seen that the passage not only does
not require a first century return but that the best explanation of the
passage is some other meaning. In view of this, we do not have to have a
return of Christ in 70 A.D. in order to fulfill the meaning of these
passages and one cannot successfully argue that other passages in the Bible
must be interpreted in a way to harmonize with a first century coming.
4. The 70 A.D. view is wrong because Jesus did "completely establish" His
new covenant before 70 A.D. In the King-McGuiggan debate, Max King affirmed
the proposition that "The New Covenant was not completely established until
the fall of the Jewish commonwealth in A.D. 70." King stated that he
believed the new covenant began to be established with the death of Christ
and the proclamation of the gospel on Pentecost but that it was not fully
established until 70 A.D. Along with this, King says that the Jewish law was
not taken away until the fall of Jerusalem and, thus, that Jews were to keep
the law until that time.
Do the scriptures teach a forty year transition period during which the law
of Moses was still in force and the law of Christ was beginning but not yet
fully established? Max King suggests that the law remained in full operation
until 70 A.D. but that the new covenant was not fully established until that
same date because then Christ returned to receive His kingdom. Can we
believe that the Law was in full operation after the cross but the gospel
was not? There are many passages which demonstrate the error of this view.
a. Hebrews 9:16 states that at the death of a "testator" his will takes
effect. The inspired writer applies this to the death of Christ and the
beginning of His covenant. So at Christís death, His will went into
effect--the gospel was preached, sinners were called to salvation, and the
church was begun. Let those who say Christís covenant was not yet full
established tell us what spiritual benefits were available after 70 A.D.
under the "fully established covenant" that were not available after
Pentecost but before the destruction of Jerusalem. When a will goes into
effect, all its provisions are in force and there is no indication in the
scriptures that the covenant Christ established with His death would take
effect gradually. It is true that not all details of Christís plan were
revealed on the day of Pentecost but there is a difference in when a will is
in full effect and when all its provisions are known. How congregations were
to be organized with elders and deacons, for example, was not revealed on
Pentecost because it was not needed yet, the apostles being present with the
believers to give them guidance. But this unfolding of such details as they
became needed in no way means that the covenant was not in full force at the
death of Christ.
b. Hebrews 4:14, 8:1, and many other passages in Hebrews, teach that Christ
was completely active as a high priest at the time of the writing of that
epistle, before 70 A.D. He had already offered Himself, He had already
entered the Holy Place, He had already presented His blood, He already was
interceding on behalf of His people. What more would he do as high priest
after 70 A.D.? Since Hebrews 8:4 states that Christ could not be a priest
"on earth" because he was not of the tribe of Levi, it is certainly strange
that He would start His work as High Priest when He returned from heaven.
But if the Old Law was still in force until 70 A.D., that is exactly what
had to happen because Christ could not become a High Priest until it was
taken away. Hebrews 7:12 states, "For the priesthood being changed, there is
made of necessity a change also of the law." In order for Christ to be a
high priest, then, both the old priesthood and the old law had to be taken
away. If they operated with Godís approval until 70 A.D., then Christ could
not have been a high priest until after that date. The book of Hebrews,
written before 70 A.D., however, makes it very clear that Christ was at that
time the high priest who had taken His place (Hebrews 4:14-16). So if the
Law was in effect until 70 A.D., Christ was not a High Priest until after
that time and become one only when He returned. Who was the High Priest for
Christians from 30 to 70 A.D.? The Jewish High Priest who rejected Christ?
or did they have none?
The Jews continued to observe the law after Christís death because they did
not believe it had been changed. After the fall of Jerusalem, of course,
they were hindered in observing the law. But if an attempt to observe the
Law of Moses means that the Law of Christ cannot yet be fully established,
then Christís law would not yet be fully established for some still try to
carry out the law. Moreover, not all Jewish persecution of the church ended
in 70 A.D.
c. Romans 7:1-7 is also a significant passage in this study. It likens the
Jews and their relationship to the law to a woman and her husband. Without
being an adulteress, she cannot be joined unto a second husband until the
first husband is dead. The point here is specifically made that "if the
husband die, she is free from the law [of that husband], so that she is no
adulteress, though she be joined to another man." According to Max Kingsís
view, however, Jews were allowed to be joined to Christ while their first
husband, the Law of Moses, was still alive.
The truth is that the Law of Moses died when Christ died for "he hath taken
it out of the way, nailing it to the cross" (Col. 2:14). Had it not been so,
the new covenant could not have begun to be in force. That some continued to
follow the Law is not surprising for they did not understand that it had
been abolished. When as tax law is changed, some still file their taxes as
if it still existed for they do not understand the change. But that does not
keep the new law from being fully established.
But let us ask, if the Law of Moses was still in force after Christís death,
who was subject to it? Gentiles never were so they were not under it. Jews
who had become Christians certainly were not under it for Paul said that if
they went back to the law after being joined to Christ they were severed
from Christ (Gal. 5:4). They could keep some of their national customs, such
as circumcision, if they wanted to and they were obliged to keep some
principles that pre-dated the law such as not eating blood or worshipping
idols. They were not, however, to consider themselves as subject to the law.
This leaves only the Jews who did not become Christians as being subject to
the law. If they were following a law that was acceptable, then why
evangelize them, as Paul and others did, asking them to leave the Law of
Moses and follow the law of Christ? If their service through the law was
acceptable, why would Paul have offered to become anathema from Christ if it
would mean their acceptance of Christ (Rom. 9:3)?
Finally, on this point, is it in harmony with the scriptures for Christ to
return, whether in A.D. 70 or any other time, and receive a kingdom when He
returns? I Corinthians 15:22-26 makes it very clear that Christ will not
return to earth to receive a kingdom but, rather, when He returns the second
time He will end His reign, turn the kingdom back to the Father, and usher
in the new age with no death. Peter declared that Jesus was Lord and Christ,
sitting at the right hand of God at the time of Pentecost (Acts 2:36). And
in Daniel 7:13-14, one like a son of man comes to the Ancient of Days to
receive a kingdom which shall not be destroyed. Thus Christ is pictured as
coming to God in heaven to receive the kingdom, not returning to the earth
to receive it.
These passages, and many others to which reference could be made,
demonstrate that Christ fully established His law and His kingdom at the
time of His death, burial, and resurrection and that the apostles began, a
few days later to "read the will" by preaching the gospel. There is nothing
that became available under this law after 70 A.D. that was not available
before that and so the covenant was fully established at Christís death.
Moreover, the Law of Moses had to end in order for Christís law to take
5. The 70 A.D. view is wrong because the resurrection of the dead described
in the scriptures did not occur in 70 A.D. We have earlier discussed the
meaning of I Corinthians 15 to show that the resurrection promised in the
scriptures is not the coming of Christianity after the fall of Judaism but,
rather, that the resurrection of the New Testament is a resurrection of the
body from the grave. Let us carry this point a step further, however, by
showing that the resurrection of the scriptures could not have occurred in
a. In John 6:40, Jesus said that He would raise those who believe on Him "at
the last day." In verses 44 and 54 of John 6, Jesus repeats the same words.
What does He mean that He will raise the righteous "at the last day?" Does
He mean that He will raise dead bodies in 70 A.D.? Not only did He not do
this, but no one contends that He did. The 70 A.D. advocates suggest that
the only resurrection of the New Testament, besides that of Jesus, is the
"resurrection" of the kingdom. But surely Jesus is not saying that the
kingdom, the new covenant will be raised up on the "last day" of time? That
would not give long for the gospel to be preached.
The 70 A.D. advocates say that Jesusí reference to the "last days" is the
same as the term "last days" and make it apply to the period between
Pentecost and 70 A.D. (King, Spirit of Prophecy, p. 222.) Certainly there is
a difference between "last day" and "the last days"--a phrase with a variety
of meanings in the scripture. And "last day" cannot mean the day Jerusalem
fell because it was certainly not the last day. By "last day," Jesus means
that He will raise the dead on the last day of time--at the end of the
world. He uses this phrase again in John 12:48 when He says that the wicked
will be judged "in the last day." The judgment and the resurrection, then,
will both be on the last day and that last day is the last moment of
recorded time--not in 70 A.D. Then Christ will raise the dead and judge
b. In I Corinthians 15:22-26, Jesus says He will raise the dead and then
give the kingdom back to God because all His enemies, including death, will
have been conquered. But if the resurrection of which Paul here speaks does
not occur on the last day of time, and there are other deaths that follow,
then Jesus did not complete His work of destroying death when He came. Since
the resurrection of this passage cannot be followed by more human deaths,
then, it cannot have been in 70 A.D.
c. In John 5:25-29, Jesus refers to death in two ways. First there are the
spiritually dead and these can pass out of death into life through hearing
Jesusí words and believing them. The time for this kind of resurrection,
Jesus says, is at the very moment He is speaking. "The hour cometh, and now
is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear
shall live." Even as He spoke, those who heard and obeyed would be able to
enter the new kingdom in a very short time. But He speaks next of the dead
who are "in the tombs." Of this resurrection, Jesus says "The hour cometh."
Nothing about its being "now," for Jesus knew this was still future. From
this resurrection, those who have done good will go away "unto the
resurrection of life and those who have done evil will go away "unto the
resurrection of judgment." Jesus here speaks of a resurrection of those in
the tombs--not of the death of Judaism and a coming of the kingdom, and the
result of this resurrection will be that some will go into life while others
will go into judgment or having been judged as unworthy.
So the resurrection of the New Testament is not a figurative pronouncement
about the death of Judaism and the rise of Christianity, but is rather a
presentation of the real resurrection of the dead. And of this, Jesus says
it will occur on the last day, that it will bring bodies out of the tombs,
and that it will bring all before the judgment of God.
6. The 70 A.D. view is wrong because it does not correctly use Matthew 24
and 25. Max King, for example, says that in Matthew 24:3, "Jesus joined the
end of the world (or consummation of the age) with the fall of Jerusalem."
But a reading of the text will demonstrate that Jesus did not do this.
Actually, Matthew 24:3 is a question from the apostles and is not even the
words of Jesus. We do not know exactly what they meant by their question. In
Matthew it is stated like this: "When shall these things be? and what shall
be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?" In Mark 13:4 and
Luke 21:7, which speak of the same event, the questioners ask: "When shall
these things be and what shall be the sign when these things are about to
come to pass?" By asking about "these things," the apostles, undoubtedly,
had reference to what Jesus had just spoken of: the destruction of Jerusalem
and, in particular, the temple. So they were asking, "When will this
destruction take place and what will be the signs by which we will know it
is coming?" The question in Matthew adds, "what shall be the sign of thy
coming?" By this phrase they either meant the same thing as in Mark and
Luke, that is, "What will be the signs by which we can tell this destruction
of the temple, which to us is the end of the world, is approaching?" or they
were asking about two different events--the destruction of Jerusalem and the
end of the world. Since the prior context is so clearly on the destruction
of Jerusalem from Matthew 23:29 through 24:2, the most obvious answer is
that all of the question in Matthew, as it is in Mark and Luke, is about the
destruction of Jerusalem. But even if we grant that the questions deal with
both the fall of Jerusalem and the end of the world, Kingís statement that
"Jesus joined the end of the world (or consummation of the age) with the
fall of Jerusalem in Matthew 23:3 is not correct.
We need to be more concerned, however, about Jesusí inspired answer than
with the apostleís uninspired question. In Jesusí answer, He does speak of
both the fall of Jerusalem and the end of the world, but He sets the two
events in complete contrast rather than making them the same or making them
parallel. It is also interesting to note that King and others who hold the
"70 A.D." view believe that all of Matthew 24 and 25 is about the
destruction of Jerusalem and none of it about the end of time.
Having seen the question which began Jesus discourse in Matthew 24 and 25,
let us now study it further because it is such a key passage in the whole
question under consideration. Our study of these chapters falls into ten
a. The occasion (Matthew 23:29-24:2). Jesus here condemns the scribes and
Pharisees for their hypocrisy and says that the retribution of the blood of
all the slain prophets will come upon "this generation," those hearing him,
who would slay the son of God. At this point Jesus weeps over Jerusalem
saying, "Your house is left unto you desolate." Jesusí disciples then show
Him the buildings of the temple and he replies that "There shall not be left
here one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down."
b. The question (Matthew 23:4). As mentioned above, the apostles asked Jesus
when such destruction would come and what would be the signs by which to
tell it was coming. According to Matthew, they may also have asked about the
end of the world although this part of the question may simply be a
different way of asking about the signs for an event which they would have
considered to be the end of their world (or age).
c. The possibly misleading and preliminary signs (Matthew 24:4-14). Notice
that as Jesus begins His answer to the questions raised, He says, "Take heed
that no man lead you astray" or "Be careful lest someone mislead you on this
matter." Jesus will tell his disciples in verse 34 that everything he is
saying before that verse will happen during the lifetime of "this
generation." Think of what this means. He has told them that the temple will
be completely destroyed--not one stone left upon another--and that it will
happen while the generation to whom he is speaking is still alive. What he
wants to prevent is their thinking that every time they hear of a problem
somewhere in the world that such is a sign that the templeís destruction is
If, for example, a prophet told you your house would be destroyed before ten
years passed, then every time you heard a tornado warning or of the
possibility of a flood or even about an international crisis, you would
think, "This is it." So Jesus begins His discussion of this topic by listing
some things that will be happening during the times of that generation but
from which they cannot draw any conclusions about when the fall of Jerusalem
So, He says, do not be misled to the conclusion that the destruction will be
soon just because you hear of people claiming to be the Christ, or of wars
or rumors of wars, or of famines or earthquakes. Do not even conclude that
the fall of Jerusalem is soon to come because Christians are persecuted or
even when the gospel is preached throughout the world (as Paul declared it
had been by the time of his writing to the Colossians--Colossians 1:23).
These events will be happening, but none is a sign for making any
predictions about the time of the fall of Jerusalem.
d. The real sign (Matthew 24:15). In this verse Jesus tells His disciples
exactly how they can know that the destruction of Jerusalem is immediately
at hand--"When, therefore, ye see the abomination of desolation, which was
spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place" then you
will know that the time has come. In the parallel passage as Luke records
this same sermon Jesus says, "But when ye see Jerusalem compassed with
armies, then know that her desolation is at hand" (21:20). So Jesus
interprets Danielís "abomination of desolation" as a foreign army coming to
surround and eventually to destroy the city. So, Jesus says when you see a
foreign army coming to surround the city, then you will know that the time
of the destruction is near and you should do something about it.
e. What to do when the sign comes (Matthew 24:16-20). We can learn much
about the subject Jesus is discussion here by noting carefully what He tells
His disciples to do when the sign appears. He says those in Judea should
flee to the hills and that they should leave so quickly that they do not
even stop to pack a bag. Those on the housetops should leave by the outside
stairs and not even go inside. Those in the field should leave from there,
not going back to the house. They were also to pray that the time would not
come in the winter when leaving quickly would be much harder and that it
would not be on the Sabbath when the gates would be closed, making it harder
to get out of the city. Jesus also says it will be hard on those with small
children because they will have more difficulty in leaving quickly. All of
these statements fit clearly an attempt to escape from a city when it is
about to be besieged. None of them, however, would be applicable to the
coming of the end of the world. Josephus states that Christians did escape
from Jerusalem before the Roman army closed its noose and so avoided the
terrible things that happened to those inside the city. So the early church
properly understood these words.
f. The nature of the coming event (Matthew 24:21-28). The time will be one
of great suffering when deceivers would try to give a false hope to many.
From historical records we know that the people did suffer tragically and
the description here of their pain is accurate. Jesus states, in this
section, that if someone comes claiming to be the Christ, they should know
immediately that such a claim is false. How would they know? When Christ
returns, Jesus says, it will not be in secret but as public as the lightning
which strikes in the eastern sky and is seen even to the west. This
statement is a clear warning to any who would say, ever, that Christ has
come and it was not so public as to be known to all.
g. Striking events to follow immediately (Matthew 24:29-31). Jesus next
explains events which will happen immediately. If we have been correct about
the prior verses predicting the fall of Jerusalem, then we must apply the
statements in verses 29-31 to the time immediately after this fall. This
section is also prior to verse 34 which says that everything mentioned prior
to that verse will occur during the lifetimes of those in the generation
hearing this lesson.
Admittedly there are some expressions here that are difficult to interpret,
but it is certainly possible to understand their meaning, particularly when
we study similar phrases that are used elsewhere in scripture.
The first four listed are that the sun and moon shall be darkened, the stars
shall fall, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken. Similar
expressions occur in such Old Testament passages as Isaiah 13:10; 34:4-5;
Ezekiel 32:7-8; and Joel 2:28-32. In these places such expressions are used
to underscore the great importance of an event, particularly the end of a
nation. We might say, for example, that some event was "earth-shaking,"
without actually meaning that the earth would be literally shaking. In a
similar way, Bible writers sometimes underscore the importance of an event
by saying "the sun will be darkened" or "the stars will fall." None of the
scriptures mentioned above which use such phrases is speaking of the end of
the world so these expressions are not to be understood to mean that. What
Jesus means to convey, then, is that the fall of Jerusalem will be a very
important event--one similar in importance to the fall of Babylon or Idumea
to which such phrases were applied in the Old Testament.
Then comes the statement, "then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in
heaven." Note carefully what is said--not that the Son of man shall appear
but that His sign shall appear while He remains in heaven. One of Jesus most
specific and striking predictions was of the fall of Jerusalem and when it
came to pass, one of His most important signs or miracles was done--thus,
this sign appeared.
"All of the tribes shall mourn." "Tribes" usually refers to tribes of the
Israelites and certainly when their city was destroyed they would mourn.
"And they shall see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power
and great glory." As we have studied earlier, whenever Christ is said to
move "on the clouds" the reference is not to a physical presence but to a
spiritual one. Just as God "came on the clouds" to destroy Egypt (Isaiah
19:1) so Jesus came on the clouds to destroy Jerusalem. He predicted it, He
told when it would be, He told His disciples how to recognize when it was
upon them, and He told them how to escape it. He also worked through
providential means to see that the Roman army, even as predicted by Daniel,
would be the agent through which this destruction was done. Surely under
such conditions Jesus may be identified as the force which brought such
destruction about and, thus, He came on the clouds to do it even though He
did not leave His place in heaven to carry it out.
"He shall send forth his angels " to "gather together his elect." The word
"angel" means messenger and is applied in the scriptures to both human and
heavenly messengers. The expression here, then, may mean either (1) that
Christ has sent His human messengers throughout the earth to spread the call
of the gospel with less hindrance from the Jews than before or (2) that in
some way He has sent heavenly messengers. The former meaning certainly fits
with the context of the passage as we have explained it and seems to be the
best choice of the possible meanings.
So all of these striking events did take place immediately following the
fall of Jerusalem and during the lifetime of the generation who heard Jesus
deliver this message. But none of them was a miraculous occurrence and none
of them requires the personal return of Jesus to fulfill. We are not
required by this section of scripture, then, to believe in a personal coming
of Christ in 70 A.D. in order to give proper meaning to this passage.
h. "In this generation" (Matthew 24:32-35). When a fig tree begins to put
out leaves, Jesus says, you know that summer is coming. In the same way,
when you see the sign I have told you about the coming armies, you will know
that the destruction of Jerusalem is near. And, says Jesus, I will give you
this additional clue. It will happen before "this generation" passes away.
In Matthew 23:34-36, on that same day, as Jesus began His discussion of the
destruction, He said that the punishment due to the Jews for killing a long
line of prophets, concluding with their killing of the Son of God, would be
heaped upon the ones to whom He was speaking. "Upon you," He said, "upon
this generation," shall all these things come. So in 24:34, He repeats the
same thing. "This generation shall not pass away until all these things be
accomplished." And, of course, it did come with the destruction of
i. "But of that day and hour" (Matthew 24:36-40). Having passed verse 34, we
would naturally expect that the subject may change because we are no longer
in the section which concludes with "this generation shall not pass away
until all these things be accomplished." Before verse 34, also, Jesus uses
the plural "days" to speak of the event while after He uses the singular
"day." Such a change in terminology suggests a change in theme. Also the
parallel passage in Luke ends at this point. It is also of interest that He
begins verse 36 with the word "but," which sets up a contrast.
But not only are there these indications of a change, the message is
definitely different, too. Jesus had spoken at first of an event about which
He knew. He knew the sign which would show its approach and He knew when it
would happen for He said it would be in their lifetimes. Of the new event
introduced in verse 36, however, Jesus says, "But of that day and hour
knoweth no one, not even the angels of heaven, neither the Son, but the
Father only." Jesus knew of the first, but He did not know of the second.
Clearly we are introduced to a different event and this event is called
"that day." In Matthew 7:22, Jesus used the expression "that day" to mean
the day of judgment: "Many will say to me in that day, Lord did we not
prophesy in thy name. . ."
In Matthew 24:37, the very next verse, Jesus Himself names the event to
which He is referring: "the coming of the Son of man." So now we are in a
section of Matthew 24 which is not predicting the fall of Jerusalem but
which is speaking of the second coming--and the two events are clearly
distinguished. Notice the great differences suggested in Matthew 24-25 about
the two events. Of the fall of Jerusalem, Jesus knew the time, but of His
coming, He says He does not know when it will be. The fall of Jerusalem will
be proceeded by the coming of an army to encircle the city and make terrible
times but before the coming of the Son of man, life will go on as usual as
it did in the days before the flood--eating and drinking, marrying and
giving in marriage. Terrible events are connected with one while normal life
precedes the other. There is a sign by which Christians can tell that the
fall of Jerusalem is approaching--the coming of the army predicted by
Daniel. But there are no signs to warn of the coming of the Son of man--life
goes on as usual. In fact, it will come without warning--like a thief in the
night. This expression surely is to convey to us the unexpectedness of His
coming. Just as no one knows when a thief will come, even so no one knows
when the Lord will return. Verse 50 even says, in an hour when he expecteth
not the servantís lord will come. Thus, even Christís servants will not know
and will not expect. One more contrast: Christians were warned to flee from
the fall of Jerusalem--"let those that are in Judea flee to the mountains."
But of the coming of the Son of man, there will be no running--two men in
the field and one is taken and the other left; two women grinding and one is
taken the other left. There is a suddenness suggested here that is not true
of the fall of Jerusalem.
To summarize, then. The fall of Jerusalem will come in bad times, and Jesus
does not know when it will be. There will be a sign, however, to warn and
those who understand can run and escape. The coming of the Son of man, on
the other hand, will be when times are normal, there will be no signs to
warn, there will be no running to escape and even Jesus does not know when
it will come.
Some say that the fall of Jerusalem is a type of the second coming. But it
is far more a contrast than a parallel. Those holding to the 70 A.D. return
of Jesus say that only one event is described here because they believe that
the destruction of Jerusalem and the second coming were at the same time.
But, as this analysis shows, there are two separate events with greatly
j. "Watch therefore" (Matthew 24:41-25:46). The concluding part of Matthew
24 and all of Mathew 25 are centered around the theme of being prepared for
the Lordís return. Just as a servant who does not know when his master may
return should be constantly ready, so Christians, who do not know when Jesus
will return, should live in a state of constant readiness. Even into chapter
25, still a part of the same discourse, Jesus speaks first of the foolish
virgins who were not ready and then of the servants who were given talents
(money) to invest until their Lord returned. Then in verse 31, Jesus speaks
directly again of His coming and of the judgment when "all the angels" will
be with him and He shall "sit on the throne of His glory and before Him
shall be gathered all the nations: and he shall separate them one from
another, as the shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats." Such an event
did not happen in 70 A.D. Then Jesus did not sit on the throne of His glory
with all His angels and gather all the nations before Him. So this
description is of what will happen at His second coming but is not of the
destruction of Jerusalem.
In sum, a careful study of Matthew 24 and 25 do not support the view of it
taken by those who hold a 70 A.D. return of the Lord.
A complete study of all aspects of the 70 A.D. theory would have to be more
extensive than the topics covered here for it reaches into many elements of
basic Christian beliefs. The topics covered here, however, are sufficient to
show its fallacy because if this paper is correct on the points covered,
then the heart is taken from the theory and it will not stand.
Summarizing, then, the matters covered:
1. the "spiritual" or "figurative" treatment given to a number of biblical
concepts such as the resurrection, the new heaven and earth, and the world
are not borne out by careful study.
2. a study of the second coming shows that what the Bible teaches will
happen when Christ returns did not happen in 70 A.D. and the intent of the
passages was that they would literally happen.
3. the passages given by 70 A.D. advocates to show that Christís return had
to be in the first century do not support that view.
4. the covenant Christ came to make was fully established at His death and
the Law of Moses was taken out of the way then.
5. the resurrection of the dead did not occur in 70 A.D. for the passages
that teach about the resurrection show it will be on the "last day" and give
details about it which did not happen in 70 A.D. Christ did not come back to
earth to receive His kingdom, rather He received it when He ascended to His
place at the right hand of God following His resurrection and when He
returns He will give the kingdom back to God for His last enemy, death, will
have been destroyed by the resurrection of all the dead.
6. the view of 70 A.D. advocates on the Book of Revelation and Matthew 24-25
are not in harmony with the proper understanding of those passages.
In view of these findings, it is necessary to reject the view that Christ
returned in 70 A.D., raised the dead and carried out judgment and received
His kingdom at that time.
But what is the significance of holding this teaching. Is it a matter of
important consequence. Certainly none of us expects every other person in
the church to agree with him on every point, and certainly not in the
meaning of every prophecy. Those who hold this view are often serious
students of the Bible and hold it to be inspired.
Yet, their view changes the meaning of so many passages and concepts in the
scriptures. It gives a different view to the meaning of the second coming,
the resurrection, and the judgment. It creates a period of 40 years during
which the kingdom is not yet fully established, thus confusing the
establishment of the church, the nature of the kingdom, and the role of
Jesus as high priest. This theory is so pervasive that it affects the
approach one takes to many of the teachings of Jesus, to the meaning of many
Old Testament prophecies, to much in the epistles of Paul, Peter, and John,
and to the Book of Revelation.
While it is not our place to judge our fellow servants, we can say that this
view has serious implications about oneís treatment of the scriptures and
those who hold it tend to focus on it to the point of dividing those who
will agree from those who will not. It has caused troubles between brethren
in many places. In view of all of this, surely this view is to be rejected.
What do YOU think ?
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- 09 Mar 2004
Would please comment on how to approach (the 'hermeneutics?) passages we often say are from a "cultural context' (e.g., foot washing, head covering, etc)?