Why Were the Jews Destroyed?
In the collection of verses that we have quoted below, we can see why God brought judgment upon the Jewish nation in AD 70. It was prophesied throughout the Old Testament, and fulfilled in the first century when Christ came to save His people and destroy His enemies. The first section of texts is from the Old Testament, specifically Deuteronomy, where Moses warned the Israelites what would befall them in their Latter Days when they broke the covenant. The second section of quotes is from the New Testament showing that Moses’ predictions were precisely fulfilled in the coming of Christ and the establishment of His Eternal Kingdom:
And Moses summoned all Israel and said to them, “You have seen all that the Lord did before your eyes in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh and all his servants and all his land … if your heart turns away and you will not obey …I declare to you today that you shall surely perish. … for I know that after my death you will act corruptly and turn from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the latter days … They have acted corruptly toward Him, they are not His children, because of their defect; but are a perverse and crooked generation. And the Lord saw this, and spurned them because of the provocation of His sons and daughters. Then He said, ‘I will hide My face from them, I will see what their end shall be; for they are a perverse generation, sons in whom is no faithfulness. They have made Me jealous with what is not God; they have provoked Me to anger with their idols, so I will make them jealous with those who are not a people … Rejoice, O nations, with His people; for He will avenge the blood of His servants, and will render vengeance on His adversaries, and will atone for His land and His people. … There is none like the God of Jeshurun, Who rides the heavens to your help, and through the skies in His majesty. The eternal God is a dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms; and He drove out the enemy from before you, and said, ‘Destroy!’ (Deut. 29:2; 30:17-18; 31:29; 32:5, 19-21,43; 33:26-27)
“…even so you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door. Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” “For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself.” And with many other words He solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!” …There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory and honor and peace to every man who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. …Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ… In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses … He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things upon the earth. …Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? …But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. (Matt. 24:33-34; Acts 2:39-40; Rom. 2:9-10; Eph. 1:3-10; Rom. 8:35-37)
The unbelieving Jews were cut off from their inheritance and destroyed, while the faithful remnant of believing Jews, along with believing Gentiles, inherited those covenantal blessings (Romans 9-11; esp. 11:17-24). Thus, the establishment of the Eternal Kingdom of Christ at the Destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 was the fulfillment of all the things that were promised to God’s chosen people, the true spiritual Israel, which included both believing Jews and believing Gentiles (cf. Rom. 2:28-29; 9:6-8; 9:22-24; 11:5-7).
What About Modern Israel?
The mere mention of that destruction in AD 70 raises legitimate concerns among Jewish people. We wish to reassure the Jewish people that we do not cast guilt upon modern Jews for what some of their first-century ancestors might have done. We have no anti-Semitic bias against the Jewish people at all, but rather a fond appreciation for the rich heritage they have given all mankind (especially to Christians), and a sympathetic understanding of the unspeakable anguish they have suffered throughout history. The world has much to learn from their history and religion, and much to thank them for. Apostle Paul stated that Israel was “beloved for the sake of the fathers” of our faith, and “enemies” only because of their rejection of the gospel and persecution of Christians. It was the Jews who were “…entrusted with the oracles of God.” As Jesus said, “…every scribe who has become a disciple of the Kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings forth out of his treasure things new and old” (Matt. 13:52). And it was through them that the Gentile world has received redemption, “for salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22).
But it needs to be clearly stated that fleshly (racial, ethnic and nationalistic) Israel does not have a guaranteed place in the spiritual Kingdom of Christ, regardless of whether they are fleshly descendants of Abraham or keepers of the Mosaic Law. The physical temple, priesthood and sacrifices were merely types and symbols of the spiritual realities we now have in Christ. A righteous remnant of faithful Jewish believers in Messiah Jesus were grafted back into God’s Olive Tree, along with the Gentile believers, in order to fill up the one Olive Tree of “all Israel” (Rom. 11:17-24; John 10:16). Messiah Jesus has consummated all things in Himself and the true Spiritual Israel (the church, the Kingdom). The modern physical land of Israel is not “the true spiritual promised land,” nor are the modern fleshly descendants of Abraham the true “Chosen People.” Those promises are fulfilled in Jesus and His spiritual Kingdom (“the better heavenly things” – Heb. 9:23; 11:16; 12:22-28) which all Christians now enjoy. Believers in Christ are citizens of the heavenly country, and have a better (spiritual) temple, priesthood and sacrifices. The physical sacrifices, priesthood and temple were destined to “disappear” or vanish away when their true spiritual antitypes arrived (Heb. 7:12, 18-22; 8:13; 9:8-10; 2 Cor. 3:7, 13; Mark. 2:21-22; Col. 2:8-23).
Many futurists (especially premillennial dispensationalists) believe that Christ failed in His mission to set up an earthly Kingdom, and that He will have to come back, restore the old physical temple, priesthood and sacrifices, and try again. The prophecies about the establishment of the Kingdom were supposed to be fulfilled during a time when the temple and sacrifices were in operation, and since they believe the Kingdom is not here yet, they think the temple will have to be rebuilt and the sacrifices reinstated. That would make Christ’s priestly and sacrificial work on the cross meaningless and powerless.
How Does This Shape Our Worldview?
The futurist views of prophecy popularized by Scofield, Walvoord, Lindsey, LaHaye, Tommy Ice, Grant Jeffrey, Van Impe, and others have caused tremendous confusion. The constant false predictions of the date-setters has disillusioned many, and provided ammunition for the critics of Christianity. Every generation thinks it is “the final generation.” The widely divergent views of Bible prophecy has not only confused Christians, but has disillusioned many to the point of leaving the faith altogether, and in some cases even suicide. Back in 1988-1994, some women in Korea, who thought the rapture was going to occur before their babies were born, had abortions.
The worldview which comes out of that kind of futurism is defeatist, retreatist, escapist and pessimistic. It thinks things are just about over, so it has no consistent reason for improving conditions of society for the long-term. It is not interested in “polishing brass on a sinking ship.” It actually believes that things will get worse before the End of the World, so they refrain from doing anything to make it better. Only the preterist view provides the correct optimistic long-term worldview to empower Christians to keep on expanding Christ’s Kingdom and making a big difference in the world in all generations of the future.
What About Us Today?
An AD 70 fulfillment of eschatology raises several questions, such as: “Where do we go from here, if all prophecy is fulfilled? What is left for us today? How does the Preterist view change the way we are supposed to live as Christians on this earth?” The resurrection and judgment at AD 70 were once-for-all events just like the Cross and Christ’s resurrection. They are never to be repeated. And, like the Cross, they have ongoing benefits and implications for all Christians throughout the rest of eternity. David Chilton often emphasized this point by closing his emails with a quotation of Isaiah 9:6-7:
For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders…. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his Kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore…. [italics added]
What kind of “Kingdom,” “government,” and “peace” was Isaiah pointing to? Was it the same kind of Kingdom Jesus had in mind when He said, “My Kingdom is not of this world…[or] realm” (John 18:36)?
Both Ezekiel 47 and Revelation 21 – 22 describe the nature of that ongoing Kingdom. It is like a river of pure water coming from the threshold of the new spiritual temple (the Church) that Christ built in the Last Days, which gets deeper and wider the further it travels outward from Jerusalem. It continues to grow and increase its impact upon all cultures in the world. Christ said that it is like leaven, or like a mustard seed. It starts out small and almost imperceptible, but eventually grows into an inescapable and irresistible cultural and spiritual force. And on the banks of this river of life are luscious trees with leaves that provide shelter and healing to all the nations. All nations walk by its light and bring their glory into it, and are healed by it. This shows the victorious conquest of the Kingdom over all cultures and nations, giving glory to God throughout “all generations of the age of the ages” (Eph. 3:21). This is an ongoing growth of our spiritual dominion in the “new creation.” Some of Jesus’ parables talk about the small beginnings of the Kingdom and its phenomenal growth afterwards.
It is extremely significant that church history right after AD 70 reveals the same small beginnings of the Eternal Kingdom that we see in Ezekiel 47. Many church historians note the silence, inactivity, and obscurity of the Church for about two decades after the Destruction of Jerusalem. This shows that the Kingdom indeed started out as a very small trickle of living water, almost imperceptible at first, but which continues to grow into a mighty river that can purify the culture.
When we see how far Christianity has progressed since its beginning in the First Century, who is not amazed at its growth! No culture has been able to resist its influence after the gospel has gone there. Already the Bible has been translated into all major languages and most dialects. There are Christian missionaries in every nation on earth. All nations will ultimately be changed by its transforming power, the same way the Western Hemisphere has been. However, it will never convert every person in every culture, just as not every person in America was converted. But it does mean that every culture will be impacted by Christianity at least as much as America has been. And Christ is here to live in us and through us forever, to enable us to be His ambassadors to have that kind of spiritual influence and dominion for His glory.
All the moral, ethical, and spiritual principles revealed in the Bible will continue to apply to each succeeding generation of human history. Human nature has not changed, nor will it ever change. Therefore the Biblical principles which govern our lives never need to be changed. The Bible is the book for all of human history, both now and for all ages to come. Since humanity will continue to exist for “all generations of the age of the ages,” our children and their descendants will continue to live in this universe for the eternal future. That means we need to take care of this planet and its resources, and teach our children to have dominion over it and be faithful caretakers of it.
In short, the Preterist view is the only prophetic view which faithfully interprets the PAST, teaches us how to live righteously in the PRESENT, and equips all FUTURE generations for fruitful and productive life somewhere in this infinite universe.
Life Now in the Eternal Kingdom
If Christ has already returned and established His Eternal Kingdom, what does that mean for us saints today? Some think that our life now should be like heaven on earth. But that is not the description of life in the Kingdom that Jesus and the apostles gave us.
They taught a lot about what life on earth would be like after the Kingdom arrived. And now that the Kingdom has arrived, all of that teaching about how to live in the Kingdom fully applies to us. It did not somehow lose its relevancy to us at AD 70. Instead, it only just began to be fully relevant and applicable to us after AD 70. (Please see eschatology Study Series 13b on “How Shall They Live Now.”)
Jesus taught many parables about what life in the Kingdom would be like. Some of those parables talk about the afterlife in heaven, while others talk about how we should live our lives here on earth. The Kingdom exists in both realms. That is why Jesus taught us to pray that His Kingdom would come on earth as it already is in heaven.
Things here in this physical life have always been, and will always be imperfect. Perfection is only found in heaven. But when the eternal Kingdom arrived in AD 70, it began the process of renewal and regeneration. And even though life on this earth will never reach perfection, the good news of the Kingdom will continue to purify the culture and heal the nations throughout all generations to come (Ezek. 47:8-12; Rev. 21:24-27; 22:1-2). So, this life on earth is a preparation for our eternal afterlife in heaven. This is why the Scriptures command us to pursue after sanctification in this life, without which no one will see the Lord (Heb. 12:14).
An Even Better Afterlife Hope
When I first heard about the Preterist view many years ago, my first thought was that it must be robbing us of our hope for an afterlife in heaven with our new immortal bodies. But as I studied the various biblical texts that relate to resurrection and heaven, I quickly saw that it provides an even better hope than what I had as a futurist.
The average Christian today believes that when we die, our bodies go in the grave, and our disembodied souls go to Hades to wait for the resurrection, when we will get our physical bodies back and live forever on a renewed earth. But that concept of resurrection and afterlife never seemed quite right. And it was a long-delayed hope.
Solomon reminds us that “hope deferred makes the heart sick, but desire fulfilled is a tree of life” (Prov. 13:12). If the Cross of Christ purchased our redemption from Hades, why would the saints have to wait thousands of years to be raised out of Hades and go to heaven?
The book of Hebrews talks about a “better hope” (Heb. 7:19), a “better resurrection” (Heb. 11:35), and a “better country, a heavenly one” (Heb. 11:16). What could be better than a physical resurrection to live again on the physical earth? Apostle Paul answered that for us when he explained the resurrection and our afterlife in heaven.
When Christ came with His angels to rescue His living saints out of their tribulation, and pour out His wrath upon their persecutors, He raised the disembodied souls of the dead saints out of Hades and gave them their new immortal bodies that had been reserved in heaven for them (1 Cor. 15:37-49; 2 Cor. 5:1). That resurrection of souls out of Hades occurred in the unseen realm (Rev. 20:13-15).
Then the mortal bodies of the living saints were changed into immortal bodies, which put them into the unseen realm with the resurrected saints (1Cor. 15:51-52). Then both groups of saints were caught up together to meet Christ and remain with Him forever in the unseen realm of heaven (1 Thess. 4:16-17).
This means that Hades was emptied at the coming of Christ. Saints no longer go there at death. Instead, we receive our new immortal bodies and go to heaven. Since we do not go to Hades, we will not need to be raised back out of Hades. This means that resurrection out of Hades no longer applies to us. When we die, we receive our new immortal bodies and go straight to heaven to live forever. That is a “better hope” and a “better resurrection” and a “better country” to live in forever.
This is the same afterlife hope that saints of all ages have longed for. It is exactly what those first century saints hoped for and expected and waited anxiously for. And that hope was fulfilled. Now we saints no longer have to go to Hades and wait for a resurrection back out of there. Instead, at death we immediately receive our new immortal bodies and go to heaven. That fulfilled hope is a better hope.
The Preterist view of prophecy is very conservative in its response to the liberal/skeptic attack on the inspiration of the New Testament. In fact, it is the ONLY realistic and satisfying solution to that dilemma. It gives us absolute dates to pinpoint the completion of the NT canon, especially for the date of the book of Revelation. That enables us to more easily and confidently interpret the book of Revelation, since knowing its TIME of fulfillment helps us understand its NATURE of fulfillment. There is a huge interpretative dilemma that arises for futurists when they try to divide Matthew 24 into two different “comings of the Son of Man” separated by thousands of years. Christ was supposed to fulfill all of the OT predictions about Him in that generation. The OT predicted His return. If that didn’t happen in the first century, the Jews have a legitimate excuse for rejecting Jesus as their Messiah.
We provided lots of documentation of historical fulfillments from Josephus and other ancient writers. We showed the inconsistency of the partial Preterist view, and the more serious fallacy of the creedalists, and that the Preterist view is the only one which has satisfying and consistent answers to all the nagging questions about prophecy that have baffled the Church for all these centuries.
There is no compromise of essential truths, nor does it rob us of any essential motivation for living the Christian life. All of us have to physically die (Heb. 9:27), and there is no second-chance after that (Luke 16:26). Regardless of whether we believe there might be a “return of Christ” in our future, we still need to be ready to face the Lord at physical death. That should be enough to motivate anyone.
This view of past fulfillment at AD 70 may perplex some Christians since it implies that traditional Christianity misunderstood end time prophecy for its first two thousand years. Those who think the creeds are infallible, inspired and authoritative will take special offense at this. But the dilemma remains. We need to “finally decide.” Will we deny the inspiration of Jesus and the NT writers in order to maintain the integrity of the uninspired creeds and church fathers, or will we affirm the inspiration of Jesus and the NT and correct the erroneous interpretations and applications of the historic church? This latter choice is the only viable course of action.
Thus, it does not matter what the creeds and church fathers say, if the New Testament is wrong. If the NT predictions about Christ’s return in their lifetime were mistaken, the whole historic faith handed down by the church fathers is meaningless and worthless at its core. But, if the NT predictions are correct, then it only means that the non-binding interpretations of the church fathers were mistaken. Our faith cannot be shaken if the uninspired church fathers were mistaken. But it is completely overturned if Jesus and the inspired NT writers made a mistake in their predictions. This is the dilemma that Christianity desperately needs to face and resolve.
The liberals, skeptics, and other critics will relentlessly attack Jesus at this very point. The battle started over two hundred years ago in the critical schools of Europe. The Preterist view came to the defense of the faith then, through the writings of conservative scholars like J. S. Russell and others. In the past one hundred years it has gained much momentum as the only viable solution to the dilemma posed by the liberals, skeptics, and critics. Give your faith a huge boost by taking a serious look at the Preterist view.
[For a more in-depth study see eschatology “Study Series 16 Lesson 10 Rev. Chapter 22”]