The Significance of the Overthrow of the Old Covenant System in 70 AD (Quotes)


“No matter what view of eschatology we embrace, we must take seriously the redemptive-historical importance of Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD.”

–R.C. Sproul, The Last Days According to Jesus, p. 26

In the last post, Prophecy Teachers Needlessly Prophesy Horrors for Israel, I included a quote from Philip Mauro (1921) in which he said that many “seem not to be aware of the immense significance of the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70…and the vast amount of prophecy which it fulfilled.” Mauro’s viewpoint echoes the understanding of numerous leaders throughout church history, as demonstrated in the quotes below. Many of these quotes also demonstrate a good understanding that what Paul said around 52 AD to the believers in Thessalonica was at the heart of why the old covenant system had to be removed, and why Israel was ripe for judgment:

For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus. For you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, just as they did from the Judeans, who killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they do not please God and are contrary to all men, forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved, so as always to fill up the measure of their sins; but wrath has come upon them to the uttermost” (I Thessalonians 2:14-16)

On a personal note, I was brought up in a Pentecostal church from the time I was three years old (1981), attended Bible College from 1997-2000, and spent significant time in other church circles, but it wasn’t until 2008/2009 – through the internet – that I heard for the first time that some believers found spiritual or prophetic significance in Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD. Before this time, I also hardly knew a single detail about the events of that time period (the Roman-Jewish War of 66-73 AD), and I suspect this was also true of almost every Christian I personally knew. 

The following quotes are adapted from The Preterist Archive, compiled by Todd Dennis, and have been arranged chronologically, ranging from 174 AD to 1997:

[1] Irenaeus (174 AD): “CHAP. IV.–ANSWER TO ANOTHER OBJECTION, SHOWING THAT THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM, WHICH WAS THE CITY OF THE GREAT KING, DIMINISHED NOTHING FROM THE SUPREME MAJESTY’ AND POWER OF GOD, FOR THAT THIS DESTRUCTION WAS PUT IN EXECUTION BY THE MOST WISE COUNSEL OF THE SAME GOD. (1) Further, also, concerning Jerusalem and the Lord, they venture to assert that, if it had been ‘the city of the great King,’ it would not have been deserted. This is just as if anyone should say, that if straw were a creation of God, it would never part company with the wheat; and that the vine twigs, if made by God, never would be lopped away and deprived of the clusters… Even as Esaias saith, ‘The children of Jacob shall strike root, and Israel shall flourish, and the whole world shall be filled with his fruit.’ The fruit, therefore, having been sown throughout all the world, she (Jerusalem) was deservedly forsaken, and those things which had formerly brought forth fruit abundantly were taken away; for from these, according to the flesh, were Christ and the apostles enabled to bring forth fruit. But now these are no longer useful for bringing forth fruit. For all things which have a beginning in time must of course have an end in time also. (2) Since, then, the law originated with Moses, it terminated with John as a necessary consequence. Christ had come to fulfil it: wherefore ‘the law and the prophets were’ with them ‘until John.’ And therefore Jerusalem, taking its commencement from David, and fulfilling its own times, must have an end of legislation when the new covenant was revealed.

[2] Tertullian (160-220 AD): “Therefore, when these times also were completed, and the Jews subdued, there afterwards ceased in that place [Jerusalem] ‘libations and sacrifices,’ which thenceforward have not been able to be in that place celebrated; for ‘the unction,’ too, was ‘exterminated’ in that place after the passion of Christ. For it had been predicted that the unction should be exterminated in that place; as in the Psalms it is prophesied, ‘They exterminated my hands and feet.’ … Accordingly, all the synagogue of Israel did slay Him, saying to Pilate, when he was desirous to dismiss Him, ‘His blood be upon us, and upon our children;’ and, ‘If thou dismiss him, thou art not a friend of Caesar;’ in order that all things might be fulfilled which had been written of Him” (An Answer to the Jews, Chapter VII—Of Jerusalem’s Destruction).

[3] Hyppolytus of Rome, disciple of Irenaeus (170-236 AD): “Come, then, O blessed Isaiah; arise, tell us clearly what thou didst prophesy with respect to the mighty Babylon [Isaiah 13]. For thou didst speak also of Jerusalem, and thy word is accomplished. For thou didst speak boldly and openly: ‘Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire; your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate as overthrown by many strangers. The daughter of Sion shall be left as a cottage in a vineyard, and as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city’ [Isaiah 1:8]. What then? Are not these things come to pass? Are not the things announced by thee fulfilled? Is not their country, Judea, desolate? Is not the holy place burned with fire? Are not their walls cast down? Are not their cities destroyed? Their land, do not strangers devour it? Do not the Romans rule the country? And indeed these impious people hated thee, and did saw thee asunder, and they crucified Christ. Thou art dead in the world, but thou livest in Christ” (Fragments of Dogmatic and Historical Works).

[4] Origen (185-254 AD): “Therefore He [God], also, having separated from her [Israel], married, so to speak, another [the Church], having given into the hands of the former the bill of divorcement; wherefore they can no longer do the things enjoined on them by the law, because of the bill of divorcement. And a sign that she has received the bill of divorcement is this, that Jerusalem was destroyed along with what they called the sanctuary of the things in it which were believed to be holy, and with the altar of burnt offerings, and all the worship associated with it… And what was more unseemly than the fact, that they all said in His case, ‘Crucify Him, crucify Him,’ and ‘Away with such a fellow from the earth’? And can this be freed from the charge of unseemliness, ‘His blood be upon us, and upon our children’? Wherefore, when He was avenged, Jerusalem was compassed with armies, and its desolation was near, and their house was taken away from it, and ‘the daughter of Zion was left as a booth in a vineyard, and as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, and as a besieged city.’ And, about the same time, I think, the husband wrote out a bill of divorcement to his former wife, and gave it into her hands, and sent her away from His own house, and the bond of her who came from the Gentiles has been cancelled about which the Apostle says, ‘Having blotted out the bond written in ordinances, which was contrary to us, and He hath taken it out of the way, nailing it to the cross;’ for Paul also and others became proselytes of Israel for her who came from the Gentiles” (Commentary on the Gospel According to Matthew, Book 2, Section 19).

[5] Lactantius (240-320 AD): “Also Zechariah says: ‘And they shall look on me whom they pierced.’ Amos thus speaks of the obscuring of the sun: ‘In that day, saith the Lord, the sun shall go down at noon, and the clear day shall be dark; and I will turn your feasts into mourning, and your songs into lamentation.’ Jeremiah also speaks of the city of Jerusalem, in which He suffered: ‘Her sun is gone down while it was yet day; she hath been confounded and reviled, and the residue of them will I deliver to the sword.’ Nor were these things spoken in vain. For after a short time the Emperor Vespasian subdued the Jews, and laid waste their lands with the sword and fire, besieged and reduced them by famine, overthrew Jerusalem, led the captives in triumph, and prohibited the others who were left from ever returning to their native land. And these things were done by God on account of that crucifixion of Christ, as He before declared this to Solomon in their Scriptures, saying, ‘And Israel shall be for perdition and a reproach to the people, and this house shall be desolate; and every one that shall pass by shall be astonished, and shall say, “Why hath God done these evils to this land, and to this house? And they shall say, Because they forsook the Lord their God, and persecuted their King, who was dearly beloved by God, and crucified Him with great degradation, therefore hath God brought upon them these evils.”’ For what would they not deserve who put to death their Lord, who had come for their salvation?” (Epitome of the Divine Institutes, Chapter 46).

[6] Eusebius (314 AD): “If any one compares the words of our Saviour with the other accounts of the historian (Josephus) concerning the whole war, how can one fail to wonder, and to admit that the foreknowledge and the prophecy of our Saviour were truly divine and marvelously strange” (Proof of the GospelBook III, Ch. VII).

[7] Athanasius (345 AD): “When did prophet and vision cease from Israel? Was it not when Christ came, the Holy One of holies? It is, in fact, a sign and notable proof of the coming of the Word that Jerusalem no longer stands, neither is prophet raised up nor vision revealed among them. And it is natural that it should be so, for when He that was signified had come, what need was there any longer of any to signify Him? And when the Truth had come, what further need was there of the shadow? On His account only they prophesied continually, until such time as Essential Righteousness has come, Who was made the Ransom for the sins of all. For the same reason Jerusalem stood until the same time, in order that there men might premeditate the types before the Truth was known. So, of course, once the Holy One of holies had come, both vision and prophecy were sealed” (Incarnation, Chapter VI).

[8] John Calvin (1509-1564): “So in this passage [Daniel 9], without doubt, he treats of the period after the destruction of the Temple; there could be no hope of restoration, as the law with all its ceremonies would then arrive at its termination… That devastation happened as soon as the gospel began to be promulgated. God then deserted his Temple, because it was only founded for a time, and was but a shadow, until the Jews so completely violated the whole covenant that no sanctity remained in either the Temple, the nation, or the land itself. Some restrict this [the abomination of desolation] to those standards which Tiberius erected on the very highest pinnacle of the Temple, and others to the statue of Caligula, but I have already stated my view of these opinions as too forced. I have no hesitation in referring this language of the angel to that profanation of the Temple which happened after the manifestation of Christ, when sacrifices ceased, and the shadows of the law were abolished. From the time, therefore, at which the sacrifice really ceased to be offered; this refers to the period at which Christ by his advent should abolish the shadows of the law, thus making all offering of sacrifices to God totally valueless… The Jews never anticipated the final cessation of their ceremonies, and always boasted in their peculiar external worship, and unless God had openly demonstrated it before their eyes, they would never have renounced their sacrifices and rites as mere shadowy representations. Hence Jerusalem and their Temple were exposed to the vengeance of the Gentiles. This, therefore, was the setting up of this stupefying abomination; it was a clear testimony to the wrath of God, exhorting the Jews in their confusion to boast no longer in their Temple and its holiness.”

[9] Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758): “Thus there was a final end to the Old Testament world: all was finished with a kind of day of judgment, in which the people of God were saved, and His enemies terribly destroyed” (1736).

[10] William Whiston (1667-1752): “Josephus speaks so, that it is most evident he was fully satisfied that God was on the Romans’ side, and made use of them now for the destruction of the Jews, which was for certain the true state of this matter, as the prophet Daniel first, and our Saviour himself afterwards had clearly foretold” (Literature Accomplished of Prophecy, p. 64, 1737).

[11] John Wesley (1703-1791): “Josephus’ History of the Jewish War is the best commentary on this chapter (Matt. 24). It is a wonderful instance of God’s providence, that he, an eyewitness, and one who lived and died a Jew, should, especially in so extraordinary a manner, be preserved, to transmit to us a collection of important facts, which so exactly illustrate this glorious prophecy, in almost every circumstance” (Explanatory Notes Upon the New Testament, 1754).

[12] Dom Toutee (1790): “St. Chrysostom shows that the destruction of Jerusalem is to be ascribed, not to the power of the Romans, for God had often delivered it from no less dangers; but to a special providence which was pleased to put it out of the power of human perversity to delay or respite the extinction of those ceremonial observances.”

[13] William Dool Killen (1859): “Nero died A.D. 68, and the war which involved the destruction of Jerusalem and of upwards of a million of the Jews, was already in progress. The holy city fell A.D. 70; and the Mosaic economy, which had been virtually abolished by the death of Christ, now reached its practical termination. At the same period the prophecy of Daniel was literally fulfilled; for “the sacrifice and the oblation” were made to cease, [168:5] as the demolition of the temple and the dispersion of the priests put an end to the celebration of the Levitical worship. The overthrow of the metropolis of Palestine contributed in various ways to the advancement of the Christian cause. Judaism, no longer able to provide for the maintenance of its ritual, was exhibited to the world as a defunct system; its institutions, now more narrowly examined by the spiritual eye, were discovered to be but types of the blessings of a more glorious dispensation; and many believers, who had hitherto adhered to the ceremonial law, discontinued its observances. Christ, forty years before, had predicted the siege and desolation of Jerusalem; [169:1] and the remarkable verification of a prophecy, delivered at a time when the catastrophe was exceedingly improbable, appears to have induced not a few to think more favourably of the credentials of the gospel. In another point of view the ruin of the ancient capital of Judea proved advantageous to the Church. In the subversion of their chief city the power of the Jews sustained a shock from which it has never since recovered; and the disciples were partially delivered from the attacks of their most restless and implacable persecutors” (The Ancient Church: Its History, Doctrine, Worship, and Constitution, Project Gutenberg, available at http://www2.cddc.vt.edu/gutenberg/1/6/7/0/16700/16700-8.txt).

[14] C.H. (Charles) Spurgeon (1834-1892): “The destruction of Jerusalem was more terrible than anything that the world has ever witnessed, either before or since. Even Titus seemed to see in his cruel work the hand of an avenging God… Truly, the blood of the martyrs slain in Jerusalem was amply avenged when the whole city became veritable Aceldama, or field of blood… There was a sufficient interval for the full proclamation of the gospel by the apostles and evangelists of the early Christian Church, and for the gathering out of those who recognized the crucified Christ as their true Messiah. Then came the awful end, which the Saviour foresaw and foretold, and the prospect of which wrung from his lips and heart the sorrowful lament that followed his prophecy of the doom awaiting this guilty capital…Nothing remained for the King but to pronounce the solemn sentence of death upon those who would not come unto him that they might have life: ‘Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.’ The whole ‘house’ of the Jews was left desolate when Jesus departed from them; and the temple, the holy and beautiful ‘house’ became a spiritual desolation when Christ finally left it. Jerusalem was too far gone to be rescued from its self-sought doom (Commentary on Matthew, 1868, pp. 412-413).

[15] Philip Schaff (1819-1893): “A few years afterwards followed the destruction of Jerusalem, which must have made an overpowering impression and broken the last ties which bound Jewish Christianity to the old theocracy…The awfiul catastrophe of the destruction of the Jewish theocracy must have produced the profoundest sensation among the Christians… It was the greatest calamity of Judaism and a great benefit to Christianity; a refutation of the one, a vindication…of the other. It separated them forever” (History of the Christian Church, Vol. 1, 1877, pp. 403-404).

[16] F.W. Farrar (1831-1903): “The Fall of Jerusalem and all the events which accompanied and followed it in the Roman world and in the Christian world, had a significance which it is hardly possible to overestimate. They were the final end of the Old Dispensation. They were the full inauguration of the New Covenant. They were God’s own overwhelming judgment on that form of Judaic Christianity which threatened to crush the work of St. Paul, to lay on the Gentiles the yoke of abrogated Mosaism, to establish itself by threats and anathemas as the only orthodoxy… No event less awful than the desolation of Judea, the destruction of Judaism, the annihilation of all possibility of observing the precepts of Moses, could have opened the eyes of the Judaisers from their dream of imagined infallibility. Nothing but God’s own unmistakable interposition – nothing but the manifest coming of Christ – could have persuaded Jewish Christians that the Law of the Wilderness was annulled” (The Early Days of Christianity, 1882, pp. 489-490).

[17] Philip Mauro (1859-1952): “It is greatly to be regretted that those who, in our day, give themselves to the study and exposition of prophecy, seem not to be aware of the immense significance of the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, which was accompanied by the extinction of Jewish national existence, and the dispersion of the Jewish people among all the nations. The failure to recognize the significance of that event, and the vast amount of prophecy which it fulfilled, has been the cause of great confusion, for the necessary consequence of missing the past fulfillment of predicted events is to leave on our hands a mass of prophecies for which we must needs contrive fulfillments in the future. The harmful results are twofold; for first, we are thus deprived of the evidential value, and the support to the faith, of those remarkable fulfillments of prophecy which are so clearly presented to us in authentic contemporary histories; and second, our vision of things to come is greatly obscured and confused by the transference to the future of predicted events which, in fact, have already happened, and whereof complete records have been preserved for our information.

“Yet, in the face of all this, we have today a widely held scheme of prophetic interpretation, which has for its very cornerstone the idea that, when God’s time to remember His promised mercies to Israel shall at last have come, He will gather them into their ancient land again, only to pour upon them calamities and distresses far exceeding even the horrors which attended the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. This is, we are convinced, an error of such magnitude as to derange the whole program of unfulfilled prophecy” (Seventy Weeks and the Great Tribulation, 1921, emphasis added).

[18] John Piper (1996): “It is almost impossible to exaggerate the importance of what happened in A.D. 70 in Jerusalem. It was an event that, for Jews and Christians, was critical in defining their faith for the next 2000 years.”

[19] R.C. Sproul (1997): “The coming of Christ in A.D.70 was a coming in judgment on the Jewish nation, indicating the end of the Jewish age and the fulfillment of a day of the Lord. Jesus really did come in judgment at this time, fulfilling his prophecy in the Olivet Discourse” (The Last Days According to Jesus, p. 158, 1998). “The most significant, redemptive, historical action that takes place outside the New Testament, is the judgment that falls on Jerusalem, and by which judgment the Christian Church now [clearly] emerges as The Body of Christ” (R.C. Sproul, Dust to Glory  video series, 1997).

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One thought on “The Significance of the Overthrow of the Old Covenant System in 70 AD (Quotes)

  1. I’m just going to go with Hyppolytus of Rome, who obviously can’t defend himself, but I trust you will do a good job Adam. Isaiah 6:11 contains the word “desolate” also, but in it Isaiah is expressing the cry of a heart that knows God has made great and exceeding “I will” promises to the nation of Israel. Isaiah cries out, ‘Yes, Israel is indeed desolate, but for how long Oh, Lord? This can not be your final statement.’ And then God reiterates what He told Moses long ago. Deuteronomy 32:26-36. If you only read verses 26, skip verse 27, read verses 28-35 and then stop before you get to 36, you will come to the same conclusion Hyppolytus did when he stopped reading in Isaiah 5 and did not continue on to 6:11. God answers Isaiah here, and He does not say that this being desolate is permanent, does He? Isaiah is asking about national Israel, that is the whole point of Chapter 5 agreed? Pasture land, streets, animals, people and their behavior, Right? When Isaiah poses the question in 6:11 that is still the subject, not some spiritual “nation” that does not have pasture land, animals, streets, etc. God is talking about the people and the nation that Isaiah is being sent to, they are dull of hearing and Paul explains why in Romans 11:25-27, the partial hardening had a purpose, and of course we disagree about the “fullness of the gentiles” but there is that word “UNTIL” again. Until, speaks of a God who has a bigger plan than just a simple, ‘I reject them, I start over formula.’ This new birth of a nation happens the same way it did for us as individuals, it is a resurrection phenomenon, which is foretold in Deut. 32:36, Daniel 12:1,2 (which ties the event to a physical resurrection) 12:7 also puts it at a time when their power is shattered, of course the resurrection of dry bones in Ezekiel, Hosea 5:15, same song, different verse and other places, the key word is UNTIL and the key principle of interpretation is, if God is speaking of the judgment of a physical nation of people, then when He goes on to prophesy blessing in the same book/section of scripture, he is talking about the physical nation still. Isaiah 49:8, 49:19, 54:3. Okay, let’s stop and look at 54:3 shall we? “For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left. And your descendants will possess nations And will resettle the desolate cities.” Sounds pretty physical to me. Sounds like there is an, us and them, aspect to this promise, ‘your descendants will possess nations.’ Does Jeremiah agree with Isaiah, yes he does. Jeremiah 33:9-11, again streets and beasts being restored, again “us and them” the glory that is placed on Jerusalem is displayed before the ‘nations.’ Does Ezekiel agree, chapter 36 is filled with restoration of the land and the people, before the nations, for the glory of God. And my personal favorite from Zechariah 14:16-19 the yet future, never happened in history, yearly event, “16 Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths. 17 And it will be that whichever of the families of the earth does not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, there will be no rain on them. 18 If the family of Egypt does not go up or enter, then no rain will fall on them; it will be the plague with which the Lord smites the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Booths. 19 This will be the [h]punishment of Egypt, and the [i]punishment of all the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Booths.” One final word, beware of this attitude, Matthew 23:29-31 29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 and say, ‘If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 So you testify against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.” Nothing in Israel causes God to turn back to them, nothing in us causes God to make us alive. All the glory goes to Him. To be clear, I agree that 70AD was significant, but it was not God’s final word, He yet has an “until” up His sovereign sleeve!
    Thanks for letting me argue with Hyppolytus.

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