The Olivet Discourse: “This” Generation Or “That” Generation (Part 3 of 4)


In the first post (Part 1) of this series, we examined the first few verses of Jesus’ famous Olivet Discourse, recorded in Matthew 24:1-3, Mark 13:1-4, and Luke 21:5-7. We saw the disciples admiring the temple, Jesus telling them it would soon be destroyed, and the disciples asking Him when that would take place. In Matthew’s account alone they asked Him about His coming and the end of the age that they were living in. In the second post, we examined a roughly 10-verse segment in each account where Jesus described some of the signs which would take place before the temple’s destruction. We saw how those signs were fulfilled between the time of His ascension around 30 AD and the temple’s overthrow in 70 AD, about 40 years later.

In this post we will look at how Jesus warned His followers living in Judea to flee to the mountains when they saw “the abomination that causes desolation” (Matthew 24:15/Mark 13:14), that is, “Jerusalem being surrounded by armies” (Luke 21:20). We will see some remarkable accounts of how the believers obeyed and did this very thing about 36 years later. We will also consider what Jesus said about a time of great tribulation that was to come.

MATTHEW 24:15-28

MARK 13:14-23

LUKE 21:20-24

15 So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let no one on the housetop go down to take anything out of the house. 18 Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. 19 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! 20 Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again. 22 “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. 23 At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 25See, I have told you ahead of time.26 “So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28 Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather. 14 When you see ‘the abomination that causes desolation’ standing where it does not belong—let the reader understandthen let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 15 Let no one on the housetop go down or enter the house to take anything out. 16 Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. 17 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! 18 Pray that this will not take place in winter, 19 because those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now—and never to be equaled again. 20 “If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, he has shortened them. 21 At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. 22 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 23 So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time. 20 When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. 22 For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written. 23 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. 24 They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

THE ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION

Matt. 24:15-20/Mark 13:14-18/Luke 21:20-21, 23a – Both Matthew and Mark speak of an event which Christ’s followers were to be on the lookout for, “the abomination that causes desolation.” Both writers appeal to the reader “to understand,” and Matthew adds that this was spoken of by Daniel (9:26-27, 11:31, 12:11).  Luke also speaks of an event which would lead to desolation, which he describes as “Jerusalem being surrounded by armies.” Looking at all three accounts together, we can see that these (apparently) two different signs were actually one and the same, for they were to bring about the same response: immediate flight. Luke, addressing a non-Jewish audience, makes plain what the “abomination of desolation” was to be:

AUTHOR:

Matthew

Mark

Luke

CATALYST: “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation’…” “When you see ‘the abomination that causes desolation’…” “When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies… desolation is near.”
RESPONSE: “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.” “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.” “Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains…”

Perhaps overlooking this fact, it is often said by futurists that, at the time of Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD, nothing occurred which may have fulfilled Christ’s prophecy of a coming abomination of desolation. A number of early church writers, however, did teach that this prophecy was fulfilled at that time. These included Clement of Alexandria (150-215 AD), Eusebius (263-339) Athanasius (296-372), Augustine (379), Chrysostom (379), Jerome (347-420), and Remigius (437-533). Eusebius (263-339 AD) was a Roman scholar and historian, known as the “Father of Church History.” In his work entitled “Proof of the Gospel” (Book III, Chapter VII), written in 314 AD, he said the following:

It is fitting to add to these accounts the true prediction of our Saviour in which he foretold these very events. His words are as follows: “Woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath day; For there shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” …These things took place in this manner in the second year of the reign of Vespasian, in accordance with the prophecies of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who by divine power saw them beforehand as if they were already present, and wept and mourned according to the statement of the holy evangelists…

Moreover, the people of the church at Jerusalem, in accordance with a certain oracle that was vouchsafed by way of revelation to the approved men there, had been commanded to depart from the city before the war, and to inhabit a certain city of Peraea. They called it Pella. And when those who believed in Christ had removed from Jerusalem, as if holy men had utterly deserted both the royal metropolis of the Jews itself and the whole land of Judaea, the Justice of God then visited upon them all their acts of violence to Christ and his apostles, by destroying that generation of wicked persons root and branch from among men.

…at last the abomination of desolation, proclaimed by the prophets, stood in the very temple of God, so celebrated of old, the temple which was now awaiting its total and final destruction by fire– all these things any one that wishes may find accurately described in the history written by Josephus.

Remigius (437-533 AD) tells us this:

[F]or on the approach of the Roman army, all the Christians in the province, warned, as ecclesiastical history tells us, miraculously from heaven, withdrew, and passing the Jordan, took refuge in the city of Pella; and under the protection of that King Agrippa, of whom we read in the Acts of the Apostles, they continued some time.

This is fascinating stuff! Athanasius (296-372 AD), the bishop of Alexandria, likewise wrote this:

“And when He Who spake unto Moses, the Word of the Father [i.e. Jesus], appeared in the end of the world [age], He also gave this commandment, saying…, ‘When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place (whoso readeth, let him understand); then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains…’ [Matt. 24:15-16]. Knowing these things, the Saints regulated their conduct accordingly” (Defence of His Flight).

When Athanasius spoke of the believers in Jerusalem living “accordingly,” it’s likely that he meant they lived simply, in order to be prepared for that time when they would need to suddenly vacate. Indeed, we read in Acts that the believers there “had all things in common,” they “were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need” (Acts 2:44-45), and “no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own” (Acts 4:32). Of course, many of these believers were later scattered throughout Judea and Samaria when persecution suddenly arose after Stephen was martyred (Acts 8:1).

SOURCE

From Scripture it seems clear that “the holy place” mentioned by Jesus (Matt. 24:15) was not the temple, but Jerusalem, since the entire city was considered holy (Nehemiah 11:1, Daniel 9:24, Matthew 4:5, Matthew 27:53). In Daniel’s day the temple was holy, but Jesus had just pronounced it desolate (Matthew 23:38). This was the viewpoint of Chrysostom (379 AD), who wrote, “For this it seems to me that the abomination of desolation means the army by which the holy city of Jerusalem was made desolate” (recorded in The Ante-Nicene Fathers). Thomas Newton, in his dissertation titled “The Prophecy of Matthew 24” written in 1753, also took this position:

Whatever difficulty there is in these words [in Matthew 24:15-16], it may be cleared up by the parallel place in St. Luke, ‘And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judea flee to the mountains,’-xxi – 20, 21. So that ‘the abomination of desolation’ is the Roman army, and ‘the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place’ is the Roman army besieging Jerusalem. This, saith our Saviour, is ‘the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet,’ in the ninth and eleventh chapters; and so let every one who readeth those prophecies, understand them. The Roman army is called ‘the abomination,’ for its ensigns and images, which were so to the Jews.

Other commentators roughly contemporary to Thomas Newton held to the same view, i.e. that these words of Jesus were fulfilled in 67-70 AD. These included John Wesley (1754), Adam Clarke (1837), C. H. (Charles) Spurgeon (1868), and Philip Schaff (1877). For example, Charles Spurgeon said (“Popular Exposition of Matthew”),

“This portion of our Savior’s words appears to relate solely to the destruction of Jerusalem. As soon as Christ’s disciples saw ‘the abomination of desolation’, that is, the Roman ensigns, with their idolatrous emblems, ‘stand in the holy place’, they knew that the time for them to escape had arrived, and they did ‘flee to the mountains.’ The Christians in Jerusalem and the surrounding towns and villages, ‘in Judea’, availed themselves of the first opportunity for eluding the Roman armies, and fled to the mountain city of Pella, in Perea, where they were preserved from the general destruction which overthrew the Jews.

The Romans came into Jerusalem bearing standards, emblems, and banners with images of their gods and proclamations of the deity of their emperor. B.H. Carroll (1915), in his well-known work, “An Introduction of the English Bible” (1915), related an interesting incident which took place during the reign of Tiberius (14-37 AD). This incident sheds light on what was constituted as such an abomination at this time:

Pilate, at that time Roman Procurator, sent from Caesarea, the seaport of that country on the Mediterranean Sea, a legion of Roman soldiers and had them secretly introduced into the city and sheltered in the tower of Antonio overlooking the Temple, and these soldiers brought with them their ensigns. The Roman sign was a straight staff, capped with a metallic eagle, and right under the eagle was a graven image of Caesar. Caesar claimed to be divine. Caesar exacted divine worship, and every evening when those standards were placed, the Roman legion got down and worshiped the image of Caesar thereof, and every morning at the roll call a part of the parade was for the whole legion to prostrate themselves before that graven image and worship it. The Jews were so horrified when they saw that image and the consequent worship, they went to Pilate, who was at that time living in Caesarea, and prostrated themselves before him and said, ‘Kill us, if you will, but take that abomination of desolation out of our Holy City and from the neighborhood of our holy temple’ (pp. 263-264).

Jesus had told those living in Judea to head to the mountains, predicting such urgency that they weren’t even to grab what was inside their homes. It would be especially difficult for those who were pregnant or nursing. Neither winter (according to Matthew and Mark) nor the Sabbath (said Matthew) would be an ideal time to have to flee. George Peter Holford, in his 1805 book, “The Destruction of Jerusalem, An Absolute and Irresistible Proof of the Divine Origin of Christianity,” notes a very sad situation predicted in the words of Jesus Himself:

The day on which Titus encompassed Jerusalem, was the feast of the Passover; and it is deserving of the very particular attention of the reader, that this was the anniversary of that memorable period in which the Jews crucified their Messiah! At this season multitudes came up from all the surrounding country, and from distant parts, to keep the festival. How suitable and how kind, then, was the prophetic admonition of our LORD, and how clearly he saw into futurity when he said, “Let not them that are in the countries enter into Jerusalem” (Luke 21:21).

Nevertheless, the city was at this time crowded with Jewish strangers, and foreigners from all parts, so that the whole nation may be considered as having been shut up in one prison, preparatory to the execution of the Divine vengeance; and, according to Josephus this event took place suddenly; thus, not only fulfilling the predictions of our LORD, that these calamities should come, like the swift-darting lightning “that cometh out of the east and shineth even unto the West,” and ” as a snare on all of them (the Jews) who dwelt upon the face of the whole earth ” (Matt. 24:27, and Luke 21:35) but justifying, also, his friendly direction, that those who fled from the place should use the utmost possible [speed].

There is also a significant note to be made concerning Jesus’ instructions to pray that their flight from Jerusalem would not be on a Sabbath (Matthew 24:20). Prior to 70 AD the Jews who controlled the city would close the city gates on the Sabbath and there would be no way to escape (See Nehemiah 13:15-22). It’s significant to note that this is not a practice in modern Israel; if it was, it would be helpful to the Futurist view which says that this will happen soon. As one can see from the quotes above, this Futurist view is a new one that doesn’t reflect what has been taught in church history.

GREAT TRIBULATION

Matt. 24:21/Mark 13:19/Luke 21:22-23 – All three writers define this time as one of “great distress.” This is the phrase used in the NIV, quoted above. In most other translations, the phrase used by Matthew and Mark is “great tribulation.”  That time would be more distressful than any other time since the world began. Matthew and Mark add that it was “never to be equaled again.” This statement by Jesus is one more indication that the tribulation He spoke of is already past. For if this refers to a supposed end of the world in the future, and not 67-70 AD, why would Jesus say such a thing? It wouldn’t make sense to use the expression “never to be equaled again” when referring to an event that brings humanity to the very end of time. Instead this phrase implies that a significant period of time would follow the great tribulation Jesus spoke of, which makes sense if it took place in the first century. This passage has several parallels in Scripture, as can be seen from the following chart:

JEREMIAH 30:7 DANIEL 12:1-7 MATTHEW 24:21 LUKE 21:22-23 REVELATION 7:14
“Alas! That day is so great there is none like it; it is a time of distress for Jacob; “At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, “For then there will be great tribulation, “Alas… For there will be great distress upon the earth [or ‘this land’] and wrath against this people.” “And he said to me, ‘These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation’…”
“…there is none like it…” such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be.”
yet he shall be saved out of it.” But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book.”
“And someone said…, ‘How long shall it be till the end of these wonders?’ And I heard…it would be for a time, times, and half a time, and that when the shattering of the power of the holy people comes to an end all these things would be finished.” “for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written” (verse 22).

So among the things which we see are that this tribulation was to be for Israel, it would last for 3.5 years (“time, times, and half a time”) and would end when the power of that people had been shattered (Daniel 12:6-7), and the followers of Christ would experience deliverance. We already saw that God delivered the believers of the first century when they obeyed and fled to Pella. The Roman campaign against Israel did in fact last for 3.5 years, from the time that Nero declared war in February 67 AD and dispatched Vespasian as his general (Revelation 6:2) until Jerusalem fell in August 70 AD (Revelation 18:9-24). This accomplished the shattering of the power of “the holy people” (Daniel’s phrase).

Josephus vindicates the words of Jesus in Matthew 24:21 (“For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be.”) with his own firsthand report: “If the misfortunes of all nations, from the beginning of the world, were compared with those which befell the Jews, they would appear far less in comparison; No other city ever suffered such things, as no other generation, from the beginning of the world, was ever more fruitful in wickedness.”

Luke, in his account, adds a couple of very revealing expressions, saying that this great distress would be “in the land” and that the wrath would be “against this people.” The phrase “the land” is not only a common expression in Scripture indicating “the promised land” (Israel), but Judea and Jerusalem are explicitly mentioned in verses 20, 21, and 24. Luke’s use of the phrase “this people” is also a clear reference to the Jews who lived in that land, who were left behind because they didn’t flee. Those who view the “great tribulation” as future tend to view it as a worldwide event, but these are very clear indications that this judgment was localized to Israel. We also have highly detailed historical records showing how utterly devastating Israel’s downfall was at this time in history (67 – 70 AD). To learn more, see this fascinating timeline here.

Another profound statement is made by Luke. He says that this time of punishment would be “in fulfillment of all that has been written.” Evan Erzingatsian provides the following chart showing how Jesus’ predictions are based on Israel’s covenant contract recorded in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. As Evan says,

“The table below shows the paraphrases (found in Matt 24 and Luke 21) based on the contractual terms found in Deuteronomy 28 and Leviticus 26. Only Israel said ‘Amen!’ to the curses (Deut. 27:15-26). Only Israel was bound to experience the calamitous events found in Matthew 24. This is why Matthew 24 mentions Jerusalem and Judea as the places where the events of the last days would unfold (Matt. 24:16, Luke 21:20-23).”

No automatic alt text available.

It has been said by some futurists that the preterist (past fulfillment) position is anti-semitic, because it takes away prophetic significance from modern-day Israel and the Jewish people (over and above other peoples). Ironically, though, it’s the futurist position which is looking forward to mass devastation for Israel and the Jewish people, a time which will supposedly be even worse than what took place in 70 AD.

Matt. 24:22/Mark 13:20 – Matthew and Mark record that the destruction during this time of tribulation would be so great that no one would survive if it was allowed to continue for long. This would be done, says Matthew, for the sake of the elect. Jerusalem was under a very tight siege for five months, from April through September 70 AD, before the whole city was burned (Matthew 22:7). The famine became so great that mothers even ate their own babies. Dead bodies were piled everywhere, and those who tried to escape the city were crucified by the Romans at such a rate that Josephus tells us more than one Jew would often be nailed to the same cross. Josephus records that 1.1 million Jews were killed at this time.

Source: Cindye Coates (Matthew 24 Fulfilled)

Luke 21:24 – Luke tells us that many would be killed “by the sword” during this time. This, of course, is indicative of ancient warfare rather than 21st century style warfare. It is this section of Luke’s account (Luke 21:20-24) which many futurists admit took place in the first century. At the same time, they often insist that Luke’s phrase “this generation” in Luke 21:32 means a future (or present) generation which will see all these signs come together at once. This position is highly contradictory, for at least the following reason.

In the previous post, we saw that a number of signs precede “the abomination of desolation” and “great tribulation” in the accounts of Matthew and Mark: [1] imposters claiming to be Christ [2] wars and rumors of wars [3] nations and kingdoms clashing [4] earthquakes [5] famines [6] persecution and martyrdom [7] betrayal and hatred. Without a doubt, these exact same signs also appear in Luke’s account before Jerusalem is surrounded by armies and there comes a time of “great distress.” According to the Futurist interpretation, then, the above seven signs precede two entirely different time periods; i.e. in Luke they refer to a time period in the first century, and in Matthew and Mark they supposedly refer to our own generation. As we will see in the next post, however, Jesus says in each account that “this generation will not pass away until ALL these things take place.” The Futurist who admits that the “great distress” in Luke 21:20-24 took place from 67-70 AD, but who says that the rest of the prophecy remains unfulfilled, has already stretched out the definition of a generation more than 1900 years.

Luke also speaks of many being taken as prisoners “to all the nations.” We learned from the previous post that when Jesus spoke of all nations (Matt. 24:14, Mark 13:10), this was a reference to the Roman Empire. The same is true here. Josephus tells us that nearly 1.2 million Jews were killed in Jerusalem, and that the Romans carried off 97,000 Jews into international slavery.

Luke tells us that the end of Jerusalem’s trampling by the Gentiles would also be the end of “the times of the Gentiles.” Perhaps the most popular Futurist position is that “the times of the Gentilesbegan in 70 AD, that this continues until today (i.e. it’s the Church Age), and that “God’s program with the Jews will one day soon be resumed.” I believe this to be false, and that “the times of the Gentilesended in 70 AD instead. Without taking up more space here on this subject, I’d like to point to an article by Mike Blume, whom I believe does an excellent job showing that the times of the Gentiles began with Babylon’s affliction and domination of Israel, followed by that of Medo-Persia and Greece, and finally ending with Rome’s destruction of that nation. He also shows that Luke 21:24 is parallel to both Romans 11:25 and Revelation 11:2, which shows that Jerusalem was to be “trampled underfoot” for 42 months. Again, 42 months = 3.5 years, which is precisely how long Rome took to invade and destroy Jerusalem (February 67 AD – August 70 AD).

Matt. 24:23-26/Mark 13:21-23 – Here Matthew and Mark essentially repeat Jesus’ earlier warning (see previous post) about false prophets and false messiahs. Jesus’ 1st century listeners are told to be on their guard (this really did have meaning for them), because these deceivers would even perform great signs and miracles. As David Chilton reminds us, in his 1987 book, The Days of Vengeance (p. 340),

“The Book of Acts records several instances of miracle-working Jewish false prophets who came into conflict with the Church (cf. Acts 8:9-24) and worked under Roman officials (cf. Acts 13:6-11); as Jesus foretold (Matt. 7:22-23), some of them even used His name in their incantations (Acts 19:13-16).”

Matt. 24:27-28 – Jesus compares His coming (which, again, He promised would take place while some of His disciples were still alive – Matt. 16:27-28) to lightning which comes from the east and is also visible in the west. This statement appears only in Matthew’s account, the only account to have specifically mentioned His coming up until this point (in verse 3).

This is possibly a reference to the 12th Roman legion, Fulminata, that participated in the Roman siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD. This legion did not perform well in November 66 AD when Cestius Gallus was defeated by the Jews, but it did very well in 70 AD. Its emblem and nickname was “Thunderbolt.”

Image result for LEGIO XII FULMINATA

Source

Adam Clarke, in his 1810 commentary on this verse, interpreted it this way:

“It is worthy of remark that our Lord, in the most particular manner, points out the very march of the Roman army: they entered into Judea on the EAST, and carried on their conquest WESTWARD, as if not only the extensiveness of the ruin, but the very route which the army would take, were intended in the comparison of the lightning issuing from the east, and shining to the west.”

Then Jesus adds, “Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.” Some translations say “eagles” instead of “vultures.” George Peter Holford (in 1805) noted that not only was Israel fit to be described as a carcass in 70 AD; being spiritually, politically, and judicially dead; but it was also a curious fact that the eagle was the principal figure on the Roman ensigns which were planted throughout the city of Jerusalem in 70 AD and finally in the temple itself. Albert Barnes, in his commentary on these two verses in 1832, agreed:

“The words in this verse are proverbial. Vultures and eagles easily ascertain where dead bodies are, and come to devour them. So with the Roman army. Jerusalem is like a dead and putrid corpse. Its life is gone, and it is ready to be devoured. The Roman armies will find it out, as the vultures do a dead carcass, and will come around it, to devour it… This verse is connected with the preceding by the word “for,” implying that this is a reason for what is said there, that the Son of man would certainly come to destroy the city, and that he would come suddenly. The meaning is, he would come by means of the Roman armies, as certainly, as suddenly, and as unexpectedly, as whole flocks of vultures and eagles, though unseen before, suddenly find their prey, see it at a great distance, and gather in multitudes around it.”

Source: Cindye Coates (Matthew 24 Fulfilled)

Quotes to Note

Jonathan Edwards (1736): “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.”

Philip Mauro, scholar and US Supreme Court bar lawyer (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).

Advertisements

Revelation 20: Minority Views on the Millennium (Part 1)


Revelation 20: Minority Views on the Millennium (Part 1)

Adam Maarschalk: March 20, 2010

Scripture text for this study: Revelation 20:1-15

The primary purpose of these next two posts is to acknowledge that there are some whose beliefs regarding the Millennium do not fit into the three well-known camps: premillennialism, amillennialism, and postmillennialism. In this post I would like to highlight three minority views on this subject which I am aware of: [1] the position of J. Stuart Russell (1816-1895) and Duncan McKenzie (and others) that the Millennium began in 70 AD and continues until now [2] Kenneth Gentry’s newest viewpoint on Revelation 20:4-6; what he calls “The Martyr’s Millennium,” and [3] the position of full-preterism, which does not see Revelation 20 as either a present (ongoing) or future reality, but as having been completely fulfilled in the past. This post covers the first two views. This post and the next are summed up by the following outline:

OUTLINE

A. J. Stuart Russell & Duncan McKenzie: The Millennium Began in 70 AD
B. Kenneth Gentry: “The Martyr’s Millennium” (A Study of Revelation 20:4-6)
C. Full Preterism: One Thousand Years Represents Only 40 Years (30 AD—70 AD)

A. The Millennium Began in 70 AD

We now come to the viewpoint espoused well over a century ago by J. Stuart Russell (and perhaps before that by others) that the Millennium began in 70 AD following the destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple. This is quite similar to amillennialism/postmillennialism which generally proposes that the reign of Christ began with His work on the cross. I haven’t read Russell’s writings on this particular matter, but I would imagine he drew his conclusions from at least the following texts: [1] Daniel 7:21-22, 27 [2] Matthew 21:33-45.

In Daniel 7, the time comes for the saints to possess the kingdom after “the horn” makes war with the saints and prevails over them for a time (cf. Rev. 13:5-7). Most preterists (partial or full) would agree that this passage was fulfilled in the first century, in Nero’s day and shortly after. In Matthew 21 (The Parable of the Tenants), Jesus tells the Jewish religious leaders of His day that the kingdom of God would be taken away from them “and given to a people producing its fruits” (verse 43; cf. verse 41). This is linked to the stone (verse 44) crushing those who had been responsible for killing God’s servants and Son (verses 35-39; cf. Acts 2:22-23, 36; 5:30; 7:52; I Thess. 2:14-15), which many take to refer to God’s wrath poured out on apostate Israel in 70 AD. So it would seem from these texts that the kingdom was inaugurated (or “secured for God’s people,” as Kenneth Gentry says) at this point, even if the kingdom was present from the time of Christ’s ministry. Thought of this way, then, the “already but not yet” phase of God’s kingdom lasted for only 40 years rather than for about 2000 years (as postulated by many premillennialists).

Interestingly, Duncan McKenzie calls his view “The Postribulational (i.e. post AD 70) Beginning of the Millennium.” This is because he believes (as I do) that the Great Tribulation (Matt. 24:21; Rev. 7:14) took place from early 67 AD—mid 70 AD. Before quoting from McKenzie on his views regarding the Millennium, it will be helpful if I can clarify where he stands with regard to preterism. He stands with J. Stuart Russell (1816-1895), the writer of the classic book “The Parousia,” [1] whose position is as follows:

Where Russell’s position is different from full preterism is that it does not hold that all Bible prophecy was fulfilled by AD 70… The position of James Stuart Russell offers a third preterist option that is different from full preterism and traditional partial preterism. Russell’s position is essentially like the full preterist position (i.e. the one and only Second Coming, the judgment and the resurrection happened at AD 70, the resurrection having an ongoing fulfillment since AD 70.[2] Russell’s position sees us as currently in the new heaven and earth, a symbol of the post AD 70 new covenant order). Where Russell’s position is different from full preterism is that it does not hold that all Bible prophecy was fulfilled by AD 70… Russell saw the millennium as beginning at AD 70, not ending at that time as full preterism necessitates. I believe that Russell was right and a wrong turn took place with the advent of full preterism. I say this because of my study of Daniel 7; I believe it lends support to Russell’s position. It should be noted that in Russell’s system there will be a future end to evil at the end of the millennium (Rev. 20:7-10); it sees Satan as defeated, just not disposed of yet.

Russell’s position is that what is being shown in Revelation 20 is not two separate throne scenes and judgments (one in Rev. 20:4 and one in 20:11-15) separated by the millennium, but one throne scene and judgment (composed of Revelation 20:4 and 11-15) with a digression of what will happen at the end of the millennium (Revelation 20:7-10) in between. Russell’s position is that John begins describing a throne scene judgment at the beginning of the millennium in Revelation 20:4. At 20:7-10 John digresses about what would happen at the end of the millennium, and then at 20:11 he takes up again the subject of the throne scene judgment he started in 20:4. Russell thus saw the description of the throne scene and judgment that is begun in Revelation 20:4 as being continued in Revelation 20:11. The two sections (Rev. 20:4 and 11-15) are thus describing one throne scene judgment (which happens at the beginning of the millennium), not two throne scene judgments (one at the beginning of the millennium and one at its end).

Russell spoke of Rev. 20:5-10 as a parenthesis and “the sole instance in the whole book of an excursion into distant futurity…matters still future and unfulfilled.” Here, McKenzie is even more clear regarding his own overall position on eschatology, i.e. what has and has not yet been fulfilled:

Like full preterists, I see AD 70 as the time of the Second Coming, resurrection and judgment (with the resurrection and judgment having an ongoing fulfillment since that time).  Like partial preterists I see certain prophetic events that still await fulfillment (e.g., the destruction of Satan at the end of the millennium described in Revelation 20:7-10).  While my position is much closer to full preterism, I strongly disagree with its premise that all biblical prophecy was fulfilled by AD 70.

Our approach is most similar to that of nineteenth-century theologian James Stuart Russell.  Like full preterists, Russell saw AD 70 as the time of the Second Coming; unlike full preterists, Russell saw the Second Coming as the beginning of the millennium, not its end. I call this position “premillennial preterism.”  It is premillennial in that it holds that Jesus returned right before (pre-) the millennium.  Unlike futuristic premillennialism, however, it does not see the millennium as a literal 1000-year period.  My position is preteristic because it holds that the one and only Second Coming occurred at the AD 70 end of the old covenant age.  R. C. Sproul, in his book The Last Days according to Jesus, wrote favorably concerning Russell’s position and his attempt to answer the hard questions related to the New Testament’s teaching of a very soon (first century) Second Coming.

One may also follow the above link to view McKenzie’s arguments on why the Second Coming occurred (once and for all) in 70 AD, based on “the words of Jesus (as recorded by Matthew, Mark and Luke), Peter, Paul, James, John, Jude, and the author of Hebrews.” That discussion falls outside of the scope of our discussion here, but as McKenzie makes brief references (in what is to follow) to a past Second Coming I wanted to point this out for the sake of clarity.  Let us now turn to McKenzie’s discussion of why the Millennium should be thought of as having its formal and official beginning in 70 AD. I have to admit that this is very well argued:

[Revelation 20:1-4] is the famous passage of the binding of Satan and the reign of Jesus and His people. On the surface this passage appears relatively simple; on closer inspection, however, it turns out to be one of the most difficult and debated passages in the Bible. One of the first matters to attend to in understanding the millennium is the question of how it fits in sequentially in relation to the rest of Revelation. Is the binding of Satan in Revelation 20:1 a continuation of the events of Revelation 19 (the AD 70 fall of Babylon and the Second Coming) or is there a recapitulation (a going back and restating of events that happened earlier)? Some say that there is a recapitulation here, that Revelation 20 is going back to the time of Pentecost (c. AD 30) or even the beginning of Jesus’ ministry (c. AD 26). My position is that Revelation 20 is a continuation of the (AD 70) events of Revelation 19, not a recapitulation to the time around AD 30.

In considering the sequence of Revelation 19-20, it is helpful to broaden one’s focus. Here is Revelation 19:11-20:4 without the chapter separation (chapter separations were not part of the original manuscript). For brevity I have left out Revelation 19:12-18 which is mostly a description of the One on the white horse (the Word of God, Rev. 19:13).

“Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True and in righteousness He judges and makes war…And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. Then the beast was capturedand with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh. Then I saw an angel coming down form heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while. And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshipped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.”

Notice the sequence in Revelation 19-20. The individual beast and false prophet (the one who made people take the mark of the beast, Rev. 13:11-18) are captured at the Second Coming in chapter 19 and put in the lake of fire. Satan is then taken and thrown in the abyss as the kingdom is established in chapter 20. Those who had lost their lives for not taking the mark of the beast (cf. Rev. 19:20; 13:15-16) are then resurrected in Revelation 20:4 at the beginning of the millennium. God was letting His first century audience know that the one who was faithful to Him to the point of death (cf. Rev. 2:10-11) would still get to participate in the soon coming millennial reign (Rev. 2:25-27; 3:21).

Notice the reference to the mark of the beast as a past event in both chapter 19 and 20. Revelation 20 is a continuation of the AD 70 narrative of the Second Coming, not a recapitulation to AD 30.

Rev. 19:20 Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image.

Rev. 20:4 And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshipped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.

In Revelation 13:1-10 the seven churches were warned about the soon coming individual beast (cf. Rev. 17:18) that would overcome the saints. In Revelation 13:11-18 they were warned about his mark on the head and hand (cf. Rev. 14:8-11). These events of the tribulation were to happen in the forty-two month period (of AD 67-70) immediately preceding the Second Coming.

And he [the beast] was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months…It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation…[and] as many as would not worship the image of the beast [were] to be killed (Rev. 13:5, 7,15 brackets mine).

In Revelation 19 we are shown the defeat of the beast by the Second Coming. The saints that had been killed for not taking the beast’s mark are shown among those that come to life in chapter 20 as the millennium begins. Revelation 20 is thus a continuation of the AD 70 narrative of chapter 19; it is not a recapitulation back to AD 30. Again, one of the groups that come alive at the beginning of the millennium consists of those who had been killed for not taking the mark of the beast. They had gone through the great tribulation (cf. Rev. 7:9-17) and are being resurrected at AD 70 to participate in the millennium.

The sequence I have proposed above is shown in Daniel 7. 1. The Antichrist (the little eleventh horn, Dan. 7:19-20) overcomes the saints. 2. He is defeated by the coming of God. 3. The court is seated (thrones are put in place as the kingdom reign begins, Dan. 7:8-11) as the saints possess the kingdom.

I was watching; and [1] the same horn was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them, [2] until the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and [3] the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom. Dan. 7:21-22

Again, the same sequence that is shown in Daniel is shown in Revelation. 1. The Antichrist (the individual beast) overcomes the saints (Rev. 13:5-7). 2. He is defeated by the coming of God (Rev. 19:11-21). 3. The saints then possess the kingdom as the millennium begins (Rev. 20:4). This is a pre-millennial sequence; the Second Coming happens right before God’s people possess the kingdom of God. This was James Stuart Russell’s position; he considered any attempts to fit the millennium in before AD 70 to be “violent and unnatural.” [J.S. Russell, The Parousia (Baker, 1999), 514]. It is at the AD 70 coming of God that the saints inherited the kingdom. This explains why one of the groups that come alive at the beginning of the millennium consists of believers who had been killed for not taking the mark of the beast. The millennium began right after the great tribulation at the AD 70 Second Coming, not at AD 30. Again, it was at the coming of God (what the NT will show as the Second Coming) that God’s people possessed the kingdom of God (Dan. 7:21-22; cf. Rev. 19:11-20:4).

Now a full preterist can not accept what I have written here, at least not if he or she wants to stay a 100% full preterist. Full preterism necessitates that all Bible prophecy was fulfilled by AD 70. Thus full preterists have to reject an AD 70 beginning to the millennium; if the millennium did begin at AD 70 it means there is still prophecy yet to be fulfilled (e.g. Satan’s loosing from the abyss at the end of the millennium, Rev. 20:7-10). Full preterists are left with a choice of either accepting what I am saying about an AD 70 beginning of the millennium (which is not going to happen) or attempt to separate the millennial kingdom (which they see as being from around AD 26-30 to sometime before AD 70) from the saints possessing the kingdom at the AD 70 Second Coming (Dan. 7:21-22). Most full preterists (wanting to stay card carrying full prets.) will attempt the latter option (differentiating the beginning of the millennium from the saints possessing the kingdom at the AD 70 Second Coming). Again if a full preterist acknowledges the start of the millennium as being the same as the AD 70 coming of the kingdom (cf. Matt. 19:28; Rev. 20:4), then they violate their basic premise of all prophecy fulfilled by AD 70.

Comparing Daniel 7 with Revelation 20, it is impossible to make a legitimate case that the AD 70 establishment of the kingdom of God of Daniel 7 (vv. 19-27) and the millennium of Revelation 20 are speaking of two different reigns. Of the AD 70 establishment of the kingdom, Daniel 7:9-10 (NRSV) reads, [A] “As I watched, thrones were set in place…[B] The court sat in judgment” (brackets mine). Of the millennium, Revelation 20:4 (NRSV) reads, [A] “Then I saw thrones, and [B] those seated on them were given authority to judge.” I don’t see how one can make these to be two separate events, the first starting at AD 70 the second supposedly starting at AD 30.

…For more on J.S. Russell’s position on the millennium see, http://planetpreterist.com/news-5017.html. For more on the Connection between the little horn of Daniel 7 and the beast of Revelation see, http://planetpreterist.com/news-2622.html.

Duncan McKenzie, in his book “The Antichrist and the Second Coming: A Preterist Examination” (Xulon Press: 2009) also sees the Great White Throne Judgment of Rev. 20:11-15 as beginning to be fulfilled in 70 AD (pp. 398-401):

Despite my disagreements with full preterism, I do agree with many of its conclusions. Let me begin with some of these points of agreement: I agree that the Second Advent happened at AD 70 and that this was when the resurrection and judgment began (it is ongoing from that time, cf. Rev. 14:8-13).[3] According to the book of Daniel the resurrection was to begin at the end of the great tribulation; these events were to happen at the AD 70 shattering of the Jewish nation.

At that time [the time of the king of the North’s attack on Jerusalem, Dan. 11:40-45] Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, every one who is found written in the book. And many who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt… Then I saw the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand to heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever, that it shall be for a time, times, and half a time; and when the power of the holy people has been completely shattered, all these things shall be finished (Daniel 12:1-2, 7; cf. 7:25-27).

The partial preterist attempt to separate the time of the great tribulation (which they say happened at AD 70) from the time of the resurrection (which they say will happen in the future) does not hold up to scrutiny. Consistent with Daniel 12:1-7, Revelation 11:15-18 also shows the resurrection beginning at the destruction of those who were destroying the Land [ten gen] of Israel. This happened at the AD 70 full establishment of the kingdom of God.

Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.” And the twenty-four elders, whosit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying, “We give You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign. And the nations were enraged, and Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to reward Your bond-servants the prophets and the saints and those who fear Your name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth” (Revelation 11:15-18 NASB).

Partial preterists acknowledge that Revelation 11:15-18 is referring to the AD 70 destruction of Israel. Because the creeds do not teach an AD 70 resurrection, however, they maintain that the judgment of the dead in Revelation 11:18 (“and the time came for the dead to be judged…”) is not really the judgment of the dead! They claim this is just showing an AD 70 reward of the martyrs.

Daniel 7 likewise shows the judgment (and thus the resurrection) as beginning right after the tribulation. Consistent with Revelation 11:15-18, chapter 7 shows the judgment beginning at the AD 70 full establishment of God’s kingdom, at the time that the dominion of the little eleventh horn…is taken away:

I was considering the [ten] horns and there was another horn, a little one, coming up among them, before whom three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots. And there in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words. I watched till thrones were put in place, and the Ancient of Days was seated; His garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head was like pure wool. His throne was a fiery flame, its wheels a burning fire; a fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him. A thousand thousands ministered to Him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. The court was seated and the books were opened. I watched then because of the sound of the pompous words which the horn was speaking: I watched till the beast was slain, and its body destroyed and given to the burning flame (Daniel 7:8-11; underlined emphasis mine).

Thus he said: the fourth beast shall be a fourth kingdom on earth, which shall be different from all other kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, trample it and break it in pieces. The ten horns are ten kings who shall arise from this kingdom. And another shall arise after them; he shall be different from the first ones, and shall subdue three kings. He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, and shall intend to change times and law. Then the saints shall be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time. But the court shall be seated, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and destroy it forever (Daniel 7:23-26; underlined emphasis mine).

Contrary to what [most] partial preterists teach, the judgment began at the AD 70 defeat of the little eleventh horn (cf. Matt. 16:27-28; 25:31-46). At this point it is usually assumed by full preterists that because the partial preterist position is shown to be wrong on these issues, full preterism is therefore shown to be correct. This is an error in logic, however; just because a given position is wrong on a number of issues, that does not mean an alternative position is necessarily right on all points. Daniel 7 cuts both ways. Not only does it show the resurrection and judgment beginning at AD 70, it also shows the millennium beginning at that time (i.e. thrones being put in place as the court is seated, vv. 9-10, 25-27; cf. Rev. 20:4). That the resurrection and the millennium began at AD 70 explains why it is that the martyrs of the beast are shown being resurrected at the beginning of the millennium: “I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witnesses to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image…And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years…” (Rev. 20:4).

This last statement by McKenzie is a very fitting transition into the next section.

B. Kenneth Gentry: “The Martyr’s Millennium”

The following information is taken from Kenneth Gentry’s newest book titled “Navigating the Book of Revelation: Special Studies on Important Issues,” published in 2009 by GoodBirth Ministries (Fountain Inn, SC). Gentry discusses Revelation 20:4-6 in chapter 14 (pp. 157-165). This book is a precursor to Gentry’s full-length, verse-by-verse commentary on the book of Revelation which is now nearing completion.

Under discussion in this section are only verses 4-6 of Revelation 20. Gentry says that he maintains “the Augustinian view” on Rev. 20:1-3, i.e. “that the thousand years is a symbolic time frame covering Christian history from the first century down to the end” (p. 157). From what I can see, Gentry maintains his postmillennial viewpoint on chapter 20, except for these three verses [Amillennialism overlaps quite a bit with postmillennialism, which is why I quoted Gentry several times in my posts titled “Revelation 20: Amillennial Viewpoint…”]. Gentry explains how his views on Rev. 20:4-6 have now changed (p. 158), and for the record I’m intrigued by what he has to say because some of it reflects my own musings on this passage (any underlining is mine):

First, I originally held that two groups were in view in Revelation 20:4. I held the common Augustinian view that the martyrs represent deceased Christians in heaven (the Church Triumphant) and the confessors represent the living saints on the earth (the Church Militant). And together these two groups picture all Christians throughout Church history. I no longer accept this interpretation.

Second, I also previously held that the fact that they “came to life and reigned with Christ” (Rev. 20:4c) portrayed the new birth experience, where the Christian arises from spiritual death to sit with Christ in heavenly places. I still believe this doctrinal position, for it is taught in various places in Scripture (see especially Eph. 2). But I do not believe this is a proper exegetical position here in Revelation 20. In other words, I now believe that this view is good theology but bad exegesis—if we draw it from Revelation 20.

Third, I previously held that “the rest of the dead” who “did not come to life until the thousand years were completed” (Rev. 20:5) pointed to the bodily resurrection of all men. As an orthodox Christian I do, of course, believe that John teaches a general resurrection of all men. He even teaches it in Revelation 20. But I now believe he holds off on that until verses 11-15.

Gentry, a little further on, makes a very interesting claim regarding parallels between the books of Ezekiel and Revelation. Having noticed numerous parallels myself between these two books, I’m even more inclined to look into this now that I’ve seen the direct correlations Gentry has proposed (p. 160):

John approaches Israel like Isaiah (see especially Isa. 1), Jeremiah (see especially Jer. 2-3), and Ezekiel (see especially Eze. 2-6, 16). In fact, he organizes his material around Ezekiel’s structure—which explains so many specific parallels to Ezekiel:

Eze. 1 = Rev. 1
Eze. 2 = Rev. 5 (10)
Eze. 9-10 = Rev. 7-8
Eze. 16, 23 = Rev. 17
Eze. 26-28 = Rev. 18
Eze. 38-39 = Rev. 19-20
Eze. 40-48 = Rev. 21-22 (11)

Gentry then examines Rev. 20:4, which reads, “Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the Word of God, and who had not worshipped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” Gentry comments (pp. 160-163),

Previously I held that this presents two separate groups, martyrs and confessors, which themselves represent all Christians in history, dead or living. As such I originally thought these groups portray the whole Christian Church throughout the Christian era. I now believe that John envisions only one group: deceased martyrs who did not worship the beast…

Not only are these enthroned ones deceased, but they are deceased under specific circumstances. They have been judicially killed: “beheaded” is a standard form of capital punishment well-known in the Roman Empire (cf. Matt. 14:10)… Furthermore, this imagery fits all the preceding story of Revelation, where the Jewish aristocracy is drunk on the blood of the saints (Rev. 17:6), as is the Roman beast (Rev. 13:7). This further confirms my redemptive-historical preterism and continues John’s concern for his audience, which is facing the very real prospect of death for their faith.

What is more, I now realize that structurally Revelation 20:4 is really the answer to the prayer of Revelation 6:9-11. In fact, it clearly repeats some of the same thoughts and words. Revelation 6:9-11 speaks of “the souls of those who had been slain.” These did not just fall over and die; they were slaughtered (esphagmenon, Rev. 6:9). They are crying out for God to avenge [ekdikeis] their blood on those who “dwell in the Land [tes ges]” (Rev. 6:10). Revelation 20:4 and 6:9 are doublets, based on replicated wording and strong parallels: Note:

Revelation 20:4

Revelation 6:9

And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of the testimony of Jesus and because of the Word of God. I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the Word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained.

…I would argue that these two passages represent promise and fulfillment… The “souls” at the altar in Revelation 6:11 are told to “rest for a little while longer,” until others join them in a martyr’s death, being “killed even as they had been.” Since Christ’s judgment-coming against Israel in Revelation 19:11ff (cp. Rev. 6:12-17) results in the glory of Revelation 20:1-4, John appears to be stating that by A.D. 70 the martyrs will be vindicated within the promised time frame of “a little while” (chronon micron, Rev. 6:11; cp. Luke 18:7-8). Thus, their “coming to life” as fulfillment of the promise given to them (which is given to them while they already are in heaven, Rev. 6:11), appears to be an image of their vindication in the death of their opponents in A.D. 70 rather than at the very moment of their entering heaven. This is unique to John—whose work is unique in many respects.

Some of what Gentry is saying here reflects the misgivings I’ve had for a long time with some of the things I’ve heard about the Millennium. Gentry rightly points out that the text says that those who were to be seated on thrones and to reign during these thousand years were only those who [1] had been beheaded because of their righteous testimony and [2] did not worship the beast and his image. I’m not likely to be beheaded in my lifetime, and most believers throughout Church history were never beheaded either. Nor have the vast majority of believers in Church history been faced with the prospect of worshipping the beast and/or his image. Are we not then disqualified from sitting on these thrones? At the same time, though, not all of Jesus’ disciples or John’s faithful first century readers were beheaded either, though many of them were martyred by some means. Peter, for example, never gave his allegiance to Nero (whom I believe was the beast in the singular sense), but he was crucified upside down rather than beheaded. So is “beheading” used in the text to represent all forms of capital punishment at that time, with beheading being perhaps the most common form?

Also, does this have anything to do with the promise Jesus gave to Peter and His other disciples? “Truly, I say to you, in the new world [regeneration], when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matt. 19:28). Likewise, in Luke 22:28-30 Jesus said to His disciples, “You are those who have stayed with Me in My trials, and I assign to you, as My Father assigned to Me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” At the same time, though, Paul in I Corinthians 6:2-3 says that “the saints will judge the world” and also “are to judge angels.” Paul’s use of “the saints” here seems to be wider than simply the twelve apostles.

In any case, Gentry’s conclusions on this passage (Rev. 20:4-6) are these (pp. 163-165):

Now all of this means that those who are on the thrones in the millennium are not living Christians. Nor are they simply deceased Christians. Nor are they Christians from all ages. They are deceased Christians in heaven, who are martyred in the first century. This is John’s point: Keep the faith! Withstand your oppressors! You will be greatly rewarded in heaven even if you die! Indeed, that is effectively how he introduces his book: “I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus” (Rev. 1:9).

Of course, heavenly reward awaits all Christians in all ages. But that is not John’s point here. We learn this extended truth from other Scriptures. Here in Revelation 20 he is speaking from a particular context in completing a long-running call to accept martyrdom rather than succumbing to the beast or the false prophet. Remember how Hebrews warns Jewish converts to Christ not to apostasize—especially since the old covenant is “obsolete and growing old” and “ready to disappear” (Heb. 8:13)? John is doing the same in Revelation, only more dramatically.

So then, my first two changes in my understanding of Revelation 20 are: I now see only one group in the vision; and that one group involves only the first century martyrs. Revelation 20:4-6 does not speak of the reign of the Church in history, nor does it prophesy a still-future political reign on earth. Though again: I do believe the Church reigns in history (I Cor. 3:21-23; Eph. 1:19-23), and that we are seated with Christ in heavenly places (e.g. Eph. 2:6; Col. 3:1)… But John’s express teaching regards the first century persecuted Church and her two persecutors, Rome and Israel.

[“The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection.” (Rev. 20:5)]

It does not seem that “the rest of the dead” are the unbelievers of all of history who stand before God on Judgment Day. They have not been mentioned yet. I do hold that all unbelievers will stand before God on Judgment Day. And, as I stated above, I believe John teaches that—in Revelation 20:11-15. But he does not teach this here in Revelation 20:5. Who are these “the rest of the dead” then? How are they related to John’s overarching story-line?

“The rest of the dead” are the other dead mentioned in the preceding context [Rev. 19:11-21]. Who did we last hear had died in John’s narrative? Revelation 19:19-21 answers this: “And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies, assembled to make war against Him who sat upon the horse, and against His army. And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone. And the rest [hoi lopoi] were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat upon the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh.”

“The rest” of the dead are the ones allied with the first-century beast and his false prophet, the ones responsible for executing the martyrs… John is encouraging his first century audience to withstand their assailants. Those enemies have a hollow victory: they will die and lie in the chains of darkness until the resurrection at the end of history. But the martyrs will not only enter heaven and eternal bliss, but after entering into heaven will be elevated and “come to life” and begin reigning in the presence of God and Christ.

Remember: Christ dies and is resurrected, then ascends into heaven and sits at God’s right hand in victory. And He is publically vindicated against His tormentors in A.D. 70. As Jesus warns the high priest and the Sanhedrin during His trial: “You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matt. 26:64; cp. Mark 9:1). Likewise, His faithful martyrs will also die, arise to new life, and experience heavenly vindication. Thus, they actually will live in the glory of triumph and heavenly vindication while their persecutors die in ignominy. This is John’s point. This fits everything he has been saying previously.

This passage [Rev. 20:4-6] is really not useful to the “millennial” debate.

———————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

In Part 2 we will look at one more minority view on the Millennium, and that is the full-preterist view.

All of our Revelation chapter-by-chapter studies, and any other posts related to the book of Revelation, can be found here.

All of our studies on Revelation 20 and the Millennium can be found here.


[1] Charles Spurgeon is one who highly esteemed Russell’s work, despite some reservations, saying: “Though the author’s theory is carried too far, it has so much of truth in it, and throws so much new light upon obscure portions of the Scriptures, and is accompanied with so much critical research and close reasoning, that it can be injurious to none and may be profitable to all” (Charles Spurgeon, The Sword and the Trowel, 1878 edition). This book has been reprinted in modern times by Baker House, and has gained the deep respect of R.C. Sproul and others of our day.

[2] When McKenzie says that “the resurrection [is] having an ongoing fulfillment since AD 70,” I believe what he means by this is that those who die in Christ experience their personal resurrection at that time along with their redeemed bodies. Todd Dennis, the founder of the highly resourceful Preterist Archive, even believes that the “coming” of Jesus to receive His own and take them to be where He is (John 14:1-3) takes place each and every time a follower of Christ passes from this life (Hebrews 9:27-28). The Bema Seat judgment (Romans 14:10-12; I Cor. 3:12-15; II Cor. 5:10) also takes place at this time, on an individual basis. This understanding is related to the words recorded in Rev. 14:13, saying, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!

[3] In other words, for McKenzie (and Todd Dennis—see previous footnote) there is a future “resurrection of the dead” for every person living today. It’s only a past event for those who have already died. It’s future for everyone else, but will be experienced on an individual basis, not as a singular event on a given future Day. The “resurrection of the dead” and “judgment” was, however, a singular event (in 70 AD–in heaven) for those who had died prior to 70 AD.

Revelation Chapter 7


REVELATION 7

Dave: September 10, 2009/Adam: August 2011

Scripture text for this study:  Revelation 7

Notes from Adam were edited into this post in November 2009, and again in August 2011, and are in red:

Background Note: Chapter 7 is an interlude between the sixth seal (6:12) and the seventh seal (8:1). Revelation 6 ends with a statement that the great day of the wrath of the Lord had come, along with a question about who could stand in that day. That question is answered here in this chapter.

Verses 1-3: Here we see that four different angels have been given power to harm the earth and sea. However, with more judgment about to come, another angel intervenes and strictly commands the four angels to hold back this judgment until God’s servants could first be sealed on their foreheads. This intervening angel is said to have “the seal of the living God.” He also comes from the east. Why is that?

One possibility relates to what we know from the history of the Jewish-Roman War (66-73 AD). During the 5-month siege on Jerusalem in 70 AD, Titus made his headquarters on the northern ridge of the Mount of Olives, which was on the eastern side of Jerusalem. Attack plans and strategies were made from this location, which Titus called “Lookout Hill” (Mount Scopus). From there he was able to look into the city over its fortified walls. It was also from there that the famous 10th Legion of Rome used catapults to launch huge stones weighing 75 – 100 pounds into the city (this will be discussed further in our study of Revelation 16), causing much devastation. 

Arethas, the Bishop of Caesarea in the 10th century AD, gave an interesting commentary on these verses:

Here in a suitable manner are shown those evangelists which openly remained among the Jews in the war against the Romans in the avenging affliction of the Lord. For, the four angels saved the guards upon the four corners of the land of the Jews putting to flight their fear, whether it be fear of the certain sufferings and injuries or the unseasonable affliction of the country or of their beloved wives. These things, which were a near threat to Judea, are designated figuratively. But also the winds are to be prohibited from blowing upon the land or upon the sea . Upon the land indeed, lest either they find a small consolation in the time of war against the Romans or the vegetable farmers diligently arise rejoicing because their plants are being refreshed by the blowing of the winds. [Or the land or the sea may designate] the foot soldiers fighting in the war or the navy, since as Josephus says, ships also were used in the attack. For all these misfortunes happened to them.

Source: Francis Gumerlock, Revelation in the First Century, 2012

Verses 4-8: What do we know about the 144,000 from the text?

  • They are “sealed” on their foreheads (verse 3; compare with Rev. 3:12, 13:16).
  • There are 12,000 from each of the twelve tribes of Israel.
  • They have been protected from the wrath to be poured out on the earth (verse 3).

Q: Where else does the Bible talk about His people being sealed?
A: Ephesians 1:13-14, Ezekiel 9:4-6.

In Steve Gregg’s book, “Revelation: Four Views (A Parallel Commentary),” he points to a remarkable parallel event, recorded by Ezekiel, which occurred shortly before Jerusalem fell the first time:

Jerusalem twice fell to invaders because of God’s judgment upon them: first, in 586 B.C., to the Babylonians; and second, in A.D. 70, to the Romans. Prior to the conquest in 586 B.C., God took care to identify His own and to separate them for safety during the holocaust. This fact was symbolically portrayed to Ezekiel in a vision of an angel marking God’s faithful with an ink mark on their foreheads. Following this marking, six angels with deadly weapons were dispatched against Jerusalem to slaughter its inhabitants (Ezekiel 9).

Here a similar vision is given to John prior to the second destruction of Jerusalem in his own day. This time, before the four winds (v. 1) are unleashed upon Israel, God’s servants are sealed on their foreheads for their preservation… Those who survived the holocaust of A.D. 70 were those who possessed the seal of God (Eph. 1:13), that is, the Jewish believers in Christ (pp. 126, 128).

Steve Gregg also wrote about the believers in Jerusalem successfully escaping before Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD, just as Jesus warned them to do in Matthew 24:15-21 and Luke 21:20-24:

Just prior to the siege of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, the Jewish Christians in that city were warned by a prophetic oracle to flee from the city (echoing Jesus’ own warning in Luke 21:20ff). Historian Eusebius (c. 325) wrote: “The whole body, however, of the church at Jerusalem, having been commanded by a divine revelation, given to men of approved piety there before the war, removed from the city, and dwelt at a certain town beyond the Jordan, called Pella.”

The normative view among evangelical preterists is that this 144,000 is a symbolic number representing the full number of Jewish Christians who escaped the doomed city before its destruction. That this group lived in the first century is confirmed in another passage, which calls them the “firstfruits to God” (Rev. 14:4). Since the church age has been one long harvest of souls (Matt. 9:37f; John 4:35-38), the “firstfruits” must have come in at the beginning of this time (compare James 1:1, 18, which speaks of the Jewish believers as “firstfruits”). If this 144,000 referred to some future group living in the end times (as the futurists believe), one would expect them to be called the “last fruits.”

Regarding the escape of believers to Pella (Jordan) before 70 AD, more is written about that here:

https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/16/pp14-abomination-of-desolation/ and
https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/22/pp18-the-historical-events-leading-up-to-70-ad-part-2/
 (includes a map)

The 144,000 are mentioned again in Rev 14:1-4. What additional information about this group do we find there?

  • They have the name of the Lamb and His Father’s name written on their foreheads.
  • They were redeemed from the earth.
  • They are virgins.
  • They follow the Lamb wherever He goes.
  • They are said to be redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb.
  • In their mouth no lie was found.

Q: Who do scholars think that they are?
A:
According to proponents of the Pre-tribulation rapture view, they are Jewish believers brought to faith after Jesus returns and removes (raptures) the church from the earth. Some view the 144,000 as the church.  According to John M. Frame and Vern S. Poythress, for example, the visions of the 144,000 and the international multitude are “complementary perspectives” on the Church. This view holds that the 144,000 and the group in 9-17 are the same people. Why this view is problematic to the leader of this study (Dave):

  • The group in 9-17 is “innumerable”; the group in 4-8 is numbered.
  • The group in 4-8 is from the 12 tribes of Israel; the group in 9-17 is from “all tribes and peoples and languages.

Kenneth Gentry, in his book, Before Jerusalem Fell (1998), says (pp. 232ff), ” The 144,000 are Christians of Jewish extraction.”

  • Jewish, because they are “in the land”
  • Jewish, because they are from the twelve tribes of Israel
  • Jewish, because they are contrasted with the multitude in 9-17

Verses 9-17: John then sees “a great multitude.” What do we know about this group from the text?

  • They are innumerable.
  • They come from all tribes and peoples and languages.
  • They are clothed in white robes.
  • They have palm branches in their hands.
  • They extol God for His salvation.
  • They are seen “coming out of the great tribulation”.
  • They are purified by the blood of the Lamb.
  • They are before the throne of God and serve Him night and day.
  • They are sheltered by His presence.
  • They no longer experience hunger or thirst.
  • They are no longer able to be overcome by heat.
  • The Lamb, who is said to be in the midst of the throne, is their shepherd.
  • He guides them to springs of living water (see John 4:14, 7:37-38; Isaiah 49:10).
  • God wipes away every tear from their eyes.

What is the great tribulation mentioned in verse 14?
A: Here are several views, depending on one’s interpretation of this term:

  • Futurist Pre-Tribulationist view: Seven years of suffering for those “left behind” after a future Rapture of the Church
  • Futurist Post-Tribulationist view: An “end-times” generation will suffer through a future 7-year outpouring of God’s wrath
  • Historicist view: The sufferings of the church from its inception (John 16:33)
  • Preterist view: A 3.5 year period that occurred in history, beginning with Nero’s declaration of war against Israel in February 67 AD until Jerusalem’s destruction in August 70 AD (Matthew 24:21; cf. Daniel 12:1, Jeremiah 30:7). This is our view, and more details can be seen in Part 3 of our series on the Olivet Discourse.

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————

It may be helpful to further clarify our reasons for believing that the predicted judgments alluded to here in this chapter were to be poured out primarily on the land of Israel. As noted above, one of the reasons Kenneth Gentry gave for seeing the 144,000 as believers of Jewish extraction was that they were shown to be “in the land,” a reference to verse 3 (some translations say “earth”). In our study of Revelation so far, we have suggested that many of the references to “the earth” in the book of Revelation are not meant to be taken as worldwide in scope, but as dealing instead with the land of Israel/Palestine. In a 3-part study on this subjectbeginning with this post, I have outlined nearly 20 instances where this appears to be the case.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————

Our study of Revelation 8 can be found here.

All of our Revelation chapter-by-chapter studies, and any other posts related to the book of Revelation, can be found here.

PP14: Abomination of Desolation


This is now the fourteenth post in our series on “A Partial-Preterist Perspective on the Destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.” This is the same title as a term paper I recently submitted to Northwestern College. All the previous posts can be found here, and it’s recommended that they be read in order before reading this post:

[1] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/13/brief-explanation-of-partial-preterism/
[2] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/13/pp2-references/
[3] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/13/pp3-external-evidence-for-an-early-date-revelation/
[4] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/14/pp4-internal-evidence-for-an-early-date-revelation-part-1/
[5] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/14/pp5-internal-evidence-for-an-early-date-revelation-part-2/
[6] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/14/pp6-internal-evidence-for-an-early-date-revelation-part-3/
[7] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/14/pp7-internal-evidence-for-an-early-date-revelation-part-4/
[8] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/14/pp8-daniels-70-week-prophecy-part-1/
[9] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/15/pp9-daniels-70-week-prophecy-part-2/
[10] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/15/pp10-jerusalems-destruction-foretold-in-the-olivet-discourse/
[11] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/15/pp11-did-jesus-come-in-70-ad-part-1/
[12] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/15/pp12-did-jesus-come-in-70-ad-part-2/
[13] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/16/pp13-signs-of-the-close-of-the-age/

This will be the last of four posts in which we are considering the words of Jesus in the Olivet Discourse related to the predicted judgment on apostate Israel in 67-70 AD.  We have already considered Christ’s non-physical return in judgment on Jerusalem in 70 AD, and His declaration that His generation would not pass away until all that He had prophesied would take place. In the previous post we  examined the signs that Jesus said would lead up to the end of the age. In this post we will speak of the abomination of desolation, as well as the great tribulation which Jesus said would find no comparison in history.

Adam Maarschalk

———————————————————————————————————————————————————-

III. The Abomination of Desolation

It is said by a number of futurists that, in the time of Jerusalem’s destruction, nothing occurred which may have fulfilled Christ’s prophecy of a coming abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel (8:13; 9:26-27, 11:31, 12:11). Of this, Jesus said, “when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains” (Matthew 24:15-16). A number of early church writers, however, did teach that the abomination of desolation occurred in the time period of Jerusalem’s destruction. These included Clement of Alexandria (150-215 AD), Eusebius (263-339) Athanasius (296-372), Augustine (379), Chrysostom (379), Jerome (347-420), and Remigius (437-533). Eusebius, for example, said:

…the many great sieges which were carried on against the cities of Judea, and the excessive sufferings endured by those that fled to Jerusalem itself, as to a city of perfect safety, and finally the general course of the whole war, as well as its particular occurrences in detail, and how at last the abomination of desolation, proclaimed by the prophets, stood in the very temple of God, so celebrated of old, the temple which was now awaiting its total and final destruction by fire– all these things any one that wishes may find accurately described in the history written by Josephus (Dennis [4], 2009).

Sam Storms (2006) is one contemporary pastor and author who believes that the abomination of desolation and the great tribulation are already long past. He says, “[A] careful study of [Matthew 24 and Mark 13] will reveal that ‘the abomination of desolation’ to which [Jesus] refers, as well as the ‘great tribulation,’ pertain to the events of 70 a.d.”

From Scripture it seems possible that the holy place mentioned by Jesus was not the temple, but Jerusalem, since the entire city was considered holy (Daniel 9:24, Nehemiah 11:1, Matthew 4:5, Matthew 27:53). In Daniel’s day the temple was holy, but Jesus had just pronounced it desolate (Matthew 23:38). This was the viewpoint of Chrysostom, who wrote, “For this it seems to me that the abomination of desolation means the army by which the holy city of Jerusalem was made desolate” (recorded in The Ante-Nicene Fathers). Thomas Newton, in his dissertation titled “The Prophecy of Matthew 24” written in 1753, also took this position (Todd Dennis [12], 2009):

Whatever difficulty there is in these words [in Matthew 24:15-16], it may be cleared up by the parallel place in St. Luke, ‘And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judea flee to the mountains,’-xxi – 20, 21. So that ‘the abomination of desolation’ is the Roman army, and ‘the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place’ is the Roman army besieging Jerusalem. This, saith our Saviour, is ‘the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet,’ in the ninth and eleventh chapters; and so let every one who readeth those prophecies, understand them. The Roman army is called ‘the abomination,’ for its ensigns and images, which were so to the Jews.

Other commentators roughly contemporary to Thomas Newton held to the same view, i.e. that these words of Jesus were fulfilled in 67-70 AD, also allowing that “the holy place” was not the inner temple but Jerusalem itself. These included John Wesley (1754), Adam Clarke (1837), C. H. (Charles) Spurgeon (1868), and Philip Schaff (1877). For many of these commentators, it was enough of an abomination that the Romans came into Jerusalem bearing standards, emblems, and banners with images of their gods and proclamations of the deity of their emperor.[1] B.H. Carroll (1915), in his well-known work, “An Introduction of the English Bible,” related an interesting incident which took place during the reign of Tiberius (14-37 AD). This incident sheds light on what was constituted as such an abomination at this time:

Pilate, at that time Roman Procurator, sent from Caesarea, the seaport of that country on the Mediterranean Sea, a legion of Roman soldiers and had them secretly introduced into the city and sheltered in the tower of Antonio overlooking the Temple, and these soldiers brought with them their ensigns. The Roman sign was a straight staff, capped with a metallic eagle, and right under the eagle was a graven image of Caesar. Caesar claimed to be divine. Caesar exacted divine worship, and every evening when those standards were placed, the Roman legion got down and worshiped the image of Caesar thereof, and every morning at the roll call a part of the parade was for the whole legion to prostrate themselves before that graven image and worship it. The Jews were so horrified when they saw that image and the consequent worship, they went to Pilate, who was at that time living in Caesarea, and prostrated themselves before him and said, ‘Kill us, if you will, but take that abomination of desolation out of our Holy City and from the neighborhood of our holy temple’ (pp. 263-264).

As we will see later, it’s a historical fact that thousands of believers, recalling Jesus’ words, did flee to the mountains around 67 AD. According to Remigius, they did so as the Roman army approached, even a couple years before the Romans invaded the temple itself:

[F]or on the approach of the Roman army, all the Christians in the province, warned, as ecclesiastical history tells us [referring to Eusebius], miraculously from heaven, withdrew, and passing the Jordan, took refuge in the city of Pella; and under the protection of that King Agrippa, of whom we read in the Acts of the Apostles, they continued some time.

IV. No Greater Tribulation Before Or Since

Holford writes that in the final days and hours of the siege on Jerusalem, when the temple was penetrated, many Jews inexplicably forsook the towers of the temple which they had arrogantly deemed to be impenetrable. In a panic, they “sought refuge in caverns and subterraneous passages; in which dismal retreats no less than two thousand dead bodies were afterwards found. Thus, as our Lord had predicted, did these miserable creatures, in effect, “say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the rocks, ‘Cover us’ (Luke 23:30; cf. Rev. 6:16).” Even the Roman general Titus recognized the hand of God in Israel’s destruction, for he exclaimed, “Had not God himself aided our operations, and driven the Jews from their fortresses, it would have been absolutely impossible to have taken them; for what could men, and the force of engines, have done against such towers as these?”

Josephus vindicates the words of Jesus in Matthew 24:21 (“For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be.”) with his own firsthand report: “If the misfortunes of all nations, from the beginning of the world, were compared with those which befell the Jews, they would appear far less in comparison; No other city ever suffered such things, as no other generation, from the beginning of the world, was ever more fruitful in wickedness.”

This statement by Jesus is one more indication that the tribulation He spoke of is already past. For if this refers to a yet future time just prior to the Second Coming, and not 67-70 AD, why would Jesus use the phrase “and never will be”? It wouldn’t make so much sense to use the expression “and never will be” when referring to an event that brings humanity to the very end of time. Instead this phrase implies that a significant period of time would follow the great tribulation Jesus spoke of, which makes sense if it was completed by 70 AD. The final section will show in more detail how awful that tribulation was.


[1] E.g. Spurgeon said, “This portion of our Savior’s words appears to relate solely to the destruction of Jerusalem. As soon as Christ’s disciples saw ‘the abomination of desolution’, that is, the Roman ensigns, with their idolatrous emblems, ‘stand in the holy place’, they knew that the time for them to escape had arrived, and they did ‘flee to the mountains.’ The Christians in Jerusalem and the surrounding towns and villages, ‘in Judea’, availed themselves of the first opportunity for eluding the Roman armies, and fled to the mountain city of Pella, in Perea, where they were preserved from the general destruction which overthrew the Jews (Haynes, 2001).