One of the most important events in Christian history is rarely spoken of. I have only occasionally heard it mentioned in passing in sermons and I would say most of you have never heard it talked about from the pulpit. Yet failing to understand the importance of the events of AD 70 has led many Christians to misinterpret key Scriptures and become vulnerable to false teachers.
What happened in AD 70 that was so important? To answer that we have to look at the basic purpose and plan of God. While we look at this in detail in our Love Covenants course, we will do a basic overview.
God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it… Gen. 1:28, NASB
God desired Adam, Eve and their descendants to fill the earth with Godly people [there would be no other kind without sin] who would enjoy an intimate relationship with God and work together to manage and develop the earth. God is a God of relationship and that has always been His desire. He has perfect love and communion within the Godhead and He wanted to include us in that joy.
We know; however, that Adam choose to open the door for sin to enter the world and its cancer quickly infected everything. Yet God did not change His original goals and desires. He began the work of redemption…bringing human beings back to a place where they could enjoy perfect union with Him.
“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” Gen. 3:15, NIV
Right in the midst of the judgment of the Fall, God promised an Offspring [or Seed, KJV] which would crush the serpent’s head. This process of preparing the world to receive Christ to destroy the Devil would take about 4,000 years.
In a series of progressive steps God set up the Old Covenant system [which included 6 major covenants]. This is where some people get confused. They believe that Israel was the goal of God’s actions. This is not true. God’s love and plan has always been for the world.
“…and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.” Gen. 22:18, NIV [Also see Gen. 12:3, 18:18, 26:4, 28:14]
God left Abraham no doubt that he was going to be the instrument of blessing all nations. He was to have the honour of heading the family/nation through which Christ would come, but the end goal was always all nations.
“All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee. For the kingdom is the Lord's: and he is the governor among the nations.” Ps. 22:27-27, KJV
“For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” Hab. 2:14, KJV
“In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever.” Dan. 2:44, NIV
The Tabernacle/Temple, sacrifices and other rituals of the Old Covenant were never intended to be permanent. They prepared the way for Jesus to come and establish the New Covenant which was the end goal all the time. While sometimes the words “eternal” and “everlasting” are used in relation to some aspects of the Old Covenant it is the true fulfillment and not the type or shadow that is everlasting.
“They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises.” Heb. 8:5-6, NIV
Now we are getting close to our questions about why AD 70 is so important.
When was the New Covenant established and when was the Old Covenant done away with? The New Covenant/Kingdom of God was established at the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. It was empowered at Pentecost. Spiritually and officially the Old Covenant was over when Christ rose from the dead. While, from our vantage point in history, it is easy to say this is the exact time it happened, in practical application there needed to be a transition period as the New was being implemented and the Old was being phased out. This transition period lasted 40 years from the resurrection of Jesus in AD 30 to the destruction of the Temple in AD 70.
From this we can see that Jesus lived under the Old Covenant system and the Acts and New Testament letters were written during the transition period. Consider for a moment how many passages in the Old Testament prophets were written to warn the people of Israel about the Babylonian Captivity. It would be strange if the people writing in the transition period did not spend as much or more time warning about the much greater devastation that was just ahead in AD 70. And, in fact, they did. When you know what you are looking for, you can find many references and warnings to the looming judgment and outpouring of the wrath of God.
Note: To be very clear, the Bible teaches [and the Church has constantly believed in] the physical, visible return of Jesus Christ at the end of the New Covenant age. However, many of the Scriptures that have been applied to this Second Physical Coming in our modern interpretations are actually references to the Judgment Coming of Christ in AD 66 - 70. For example, the entire Book of Revelation is surrounded with a sense of urgency [shortly, quickly come to pass, do not seal up, etc.] which is not only unnecessary but also deceptive IF the events it predicts were in the distant future for its original readers. We examine this in our course on Revelation.
In AD 70 the Jewish nation, Jerusalem and the Temple were totally destroyed.
1. While God tore the Temple veil in half at the death of Christ [Matt. 27:51] - showing that as far as God was concerned the Old was done and a new way into His presence had been made - the Temple continued to be used as if nothing had happened. Even the Jewish Christians continue to meet in the Temple. When the Temple was destroyed, the sacrificial and priestly system of the Old Testament forever disappeared. It was the end of the age of the Old Covenant. To the Jew it was the end of the world as they had known it for over 1500 years.
2. This event permanently ended the place of Israel in the redemptive purpose of God. Their mission had been to be the womb through which the Messiah was to be born. With the arrival of Jesus that mission was accomplished. If they had accepted the Messiah, they would have been honoured and able to lead the world into the New Covenant age - as many Jewish individuals did. However, as a nation they rejected their destiny even through God gave them a full 40-year transition period to repent. AD 70 marked the spiritual end of the Jewish nation. In modern times they are as much loved by God as every other nation - no more, no less.
3. Jesus said that the blood of the righteous people of all the previous generations up to that point was going to be required of that generation [Matt. 23:35]. In the Jewish War there was incredible suffering and over a million Jews were killed [many by fellow Jews!]. They had cried for the guilt of the blood of Christ to be on their heads [Matt. 27:25] and it came.
4. AD 70 marked the end of the Jewish nation until recent history.
5. The Jews had viciously persecuted the Christians throughout the transition period and now the Christians were released from this persecution.
6. The Church was free from any bondage to the Temple and Jewish tradition and was able to enter into the fulness of what God has provided in the New Covenant age.
7. Jesus and the apostles gave multiple signs and warnings to the Jewish Christians as to when these events would happen and as a result not one Christian is known to have suffered in the horrendous Jewish War. They watched for the signs and fled at the appropriate time.
An understanding of the events of AD 70 and their spiritual and physical implications is necessary to understand some of the otherwise confusing or misapplied Bible verses in the New Testament.