The destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in A.D. 70
After the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in A.D. 30, the second greatest event that affected the disciples in the first century was the consummation of national Israel in the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in A.D. 70. We must not underestimate the significance of this God-ordained historical event in reference to biblical interpretation and the evangelistic work of the early disciples. This is particularly true in reference to Jesus’ teachings in the parables, and specifically, in the context of Matthew 24 where Jesus prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple.
Abraham was called in order that his descendants become a monotheistic nation that would preserve a segment of society through which God could introduce His Son into the world (See Gn 12:1-3). It would be through this nation that God would send the Redeemer into the world, and His message of the gospel. We must understand, therefore, that through the seed of Abraham, the Messiah (the Christ) would come (Gl 3:16). Once the Seed came, then Israel was dissolved in fulfillment of the promise to Abraham (Gl 3:26-29). There was no longer a need for an earthly symbol of heavenly kingdom reign. Citizens of the new kingdom reign of the new King would be the people of all nations who would submit to the gospel of King Jesus.
Those Israelites who were sons of Abraham by faith were brought into Christ, wherein they enjoyed a special new covenant relationship with God (See Jr 31:31-33). However, with the consummation of all that God had accomplished through Israel, it was time in A.D. 70 for the visual removal of Israel as having a special national covenant relationship with God. The righteous of God, the church, would then shine forth under the kingdom reign of King Jesus had begun forty years before on the day of Pentecost in A.D. 30 (See Mt 13:36-43).
After the establishment of the new covenant with God through His Son, no special covenant needed to be maintained with national Israel (Hb 8:7-13). The church of Christ is now the new Israel of God, the members of which God has now established a new covenant relationship through Jesus. It was to this end that God used the vehicle of national Israel to first bring the Savior into the world, and then take the gospel of the Savior into all the world.
The early evangelists and writers of the epistles had in mind the prophecy of Jesus concerning the destruction of Jerusalem when they wrote to the disciples of Christ within two decades before A.D. 70 (See Mt 24). This is particularly true in reference to those epistles that were written in the middle and latter part of the 60s. When Jesus and the New Testament writers prophesied concerning the coming of the Lord in judgment on unbelieving Jews, they were warning Jewish Christians to stay away from Jerusalem and Judaism (See Jd 14,15). When the time came for the destruction to occur, the early disciples had been thoroughly warned and prepared to accept the end of national Israel. The destruction of national Israel, therefore, was the final sign to the world that the church of our Lord Jesus Christ was ordained as God’s people on earth (See Mt 13:36-43).
- Matthew 13:3-9,36-43: The harvest of the parable of the tares reveals the ministry of Jesus and the disciples that would take place before the end of the age of national Israel (Mt 13:39). Jesus first initiated the reaping during His earthly ministry, while His disciples continued to reap from the field of national Israel unto A.D. 70. When national Israel was terminated, then the righteous in Christ were revealed as the true people of God.
- Matthew 21:33-46: The manifestation of the kingdom of God on earth was taken from the Jews who crucified the Messiah, and given to those who believed in the Stone that was rejected by national Israel (See Dn 2:34,35).
- Matthew 22:1-14: Jesus announced to the Jews that they should come to His feast of the gospel. They refused by rejecting Him. They also rejected the disciples as they went forth preaching the gospel to the Jews after the ascension. King Jesus subsequently destroyed the murderers who crucified Him in their city.
- Matthew 23:29-39: All the rejection of the religious leaders throughout history would come upon those leaders of Jesus’ generation. It would come in the destruction of Jerusalem.
- Matthew 24: Judgment on the generation to whom Jesus delivered this final declaration of the termination of national Israel would come to pass in the lives of some of those who were in His immediate audience (Mk 9:1). The fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy concerning the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 was God’s final proof that He was the Son of God.
National Israel was terminated only when God had set in place a new covenant and law. All this took place forty years before the termination of national Israel in A.D. 70. God gave the Jews forty years to repent as the early disciples went forth from one synagogue to another in order to preach that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah, and thus the Savior of the world (At 9:20; 13:5,14,42; 14:1; 17:1,2,10,17; 18:4,19,26; 19:8).