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Matthew 24:21: "For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will."
There has been some debate about how severe the period of AD70 really was, but there should not be...
'The Siege of Jerusalem' by David Roberts.
First of all, let us consult just a few famous references to the staggering suffering which came upon the Jews during a period of seven years from AD66-73, but especially upon Jerusalem Jews during AD70 with the long siege, burning and wholesale slaughter of the residents of the city.
It has been said that there is scarcely another period in history so full of vice, corruption, and disaster as the six years between the Neronian Christian persecution from around AD64 and the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70. The prophetic description of the last days by our Lord began to be fulfilled before the generation to which he spoke had passed away (exactly as He had stated in Matt. 24:34: 'Truly I say to you, This generation shall not pass until all these things are fulfilled'). The day of judgment upon the Jewish people seemed to be close at hand. This is what the Christians believed and, indeed, subsequently had good reason to believe.
Josephus (a personal witness to the events) claims that over 1,100,000 people were killed during the initial siege, of which a majority were Jewish. 97,000 were captured and enslaved, and many fled to areas around the Mediterranean. Titus reportedly refused to accept a wreath of victory, as there is "no merit in vanquishing people forsaken by their own God." During the siege, there was mass starvation in which cannibalism widely occurred with, it is believed, some mothers even devouring their own children. Later, there were even mass crucifixions to the degree that wood eventually became unavailable.
Let us consider what major early church historian Eusebius wrote about these dreadful events. He wrote around AD325, amazingly close to those events, and with the extensive records of Josephus to draw upon:
"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, who give the very words which be uttered, when, as if addressing Jerusalem herself, he said: "If thou hadst known, even thou, in this day, the things which belong unto thy peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a rampart about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee and thy children even with the ground."
1. After Nero had held the power thirteen years, and Galba and Otho had ruled a year and six months, Vespasian, who had become distinguished in the campaigns against the Jews, was proclaimed sovereign in Judea and received the title of Emperor from the armies there. Setting out immediately, therefore, for Rome, he entrusted the conduct of the war against the Jews to his son Titus.
2. For the Jews after the ascension of our Saviour, in addition to their crime against him, had been devising as many plots as they could against his apostles. First Stephen was stoned to death by them, and after him James, the son of Zebedee and the brother of John, was beheaded, and finally James, the first that had obtained the episcopal seat in Jerusalem after the ascension of our Saviour, died in the manner already described. But the rest of the apostles, who had been incessantly plotted against with a view to their destruction, and had been driven out of the land of Judea, went unto all nations to preach the Gospel, relying upon the power of Christ, who had said to them, Go and make disciples of all the nations in my name.
3. But the people of the church in Jerusalem had been commanded by a revelation, vouchsafed to approved men there before the war, to leave the city and to dwell in a certain town of Perea called Pella. And when those that believed in Christ had come there from Jerusalem, then, as if the royal city of the Jews and the whole land of Judea were entirely destitute of holy men, the judgment of God at length overtook those who had committed such outrages against Christ and his apostles, and totally destroyed that generation of impious men.
4. But the number of calamities which everywhere fell upon the nation at that time; the extreme misfortunes to which the inhabitants of Judea were especially subjected, the thousands of men, as well as women and children, that perished by the sword, by famine, and by other forms of death innumerable—all these things, as well as 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, Daniel 9:27 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.
5. But it is necessary to state that this writer records that the multitude of those who were assembled from all Judea at the time of the Passover, to the number of three million souls, were shut up in Jerusalem as in a prison, to use his own words.
6. For it was right that in the very days in which they had inflicted suffering upon the Saviour and the Benefactor of all, the Christ of God, that in those days, shut up as in a prison, they should meet with destruction at the hands of divine justice.
7. But passing by the particular calamities which they suffered from the attempts made upon them by the sword and by other means, I think it necessary to relate only the misfortunes which the famine caused, that those who read this work may have some means of knowing that God was not long in executing vengeance upon them for their wickedness against the Christ of God. (Church History, Book III, Chapter V).
The following sixth chapter of this work of Eusebius is so horrible that I have not included it here, but let no-one feel that these horrors which befell the Jews at that period of history are in any way exaggerated!
But, in all of this, we must note how the Christians who had been assembling in Jerusalem were miraculously spared:
"But the people of the church in Jerusalem had been commanded by a revelation, vouchsafed to approved men there before the war, to leave the city and to dwell in a certain town of Perea called Pella." (Book III, Ch. 5).
Eusebius refers to a miraculous event in which the voice of angel was distinctly heard by the Jerusalem Christians in their temple meeting place, saying, "Let us remove from here quickly."
Around a hundred years after Eusebius, Augustine, bishop of Hippo (354-430), probably the first major theologian of the Church, also had no doubt that the events of AD66-73, but especially AD70, were truly momentous from a Christian understanding of Scripture point of view, tieing in those horrible events with such Scriptures as Luke 21. The truth is that all of the leaders of the early catholic church ('catholic' obviously not referring to the Roman Catholic Church which would not arrive for many hundreds of years, but the heresy-free New Testament Church which Jesus founded), thought that the events of AD70 were prophetically momentous.
Another major figure of the early church, Chrysostom, wrote the following:
'Note how this speech is directed against the Jews; for when these things were done by Vespasian, the Apostles could neither observe the Sabbath nor fly, seeing most of them were already dead, and those who survived were living in distant countries. And why they should pray for this. He adds a reason, "For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor shall be."'
'I ask the Jews, whence came upon them so grievous wrath from heaven more woeful than all that had come upon them before? Plainly it was because of the desperate crime and the denial of the Cross. But He shews that they deserved still heavier punishment than they received, when He adds, "And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved;" that is, If the siege by the Romans should be continued longer, all the Jews would perish; for by "all flesh," He means all the Jewish nation, those within and those without; for the Romans were at war not only with those in Judaea, but with the whole race wherever dispersed." (Matthew 24:21)'.
'Then, to show again the greatness of the calamity, He saith, "Pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath day. For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world until now, neither shall be." Seest thou that His discourse is addressed to the Jews, and that He is speaking of the ills that should overtake them? For the apostles surely were not to keep the Sabbath day, neither to be there, when Vespasian did those things. For indeed the most part of them were already departed this life. And if any were left, he was dwelling then in other parts of the world.'
'And let not any man suppose this to have been spoken hyperbolically; but let him study the writings of Josephus, and learn the truth of the sayings. For neither can any one say, that the man being a believer, in order to establish Christ's words, hath exaggerated the tragical history. For indeed He was both a Jew, and a determined Jew, and very zealous, and among them that lived after Christ's coming. I should therefore be glad to inquire of the Jews. Whence came there thus upon them wrath from God intolerable, and more sore than all that had befallen aforetime, not in Judaea only, but in any part of the world? Is it not quite clear, that it was for the deed of the cross, and for this rejection? All would say it, and with all and before all the truth of the facts itself.' (Homily LXXVI.)
This early Christian understanding that the Jewish people were being punished for their rejection of Christ may seem very harsh today, but we must understand that this was a widespread view for many hundreds of years. Only now, in an age of 'political correctness,' 'liberal values,' and a concern for 'human rights,' has it become unfashionable to express such a view. Yet let there be no doubt that when the people of Judea demanded that Barabbas the robber should be released and that Jesus should be condemned, those people apparently accepted a curse upon themselves and upon their children for their rejection of Jesus. Scripture itself states,
Mat 27:25: 'Then all the people answered and said, Let His blood be on us and on our children.'
In more recent centuries, Bible commentator, B.W. Johnston (1833-1894), stated,
'Matthew 24: 21. Great tribulation. The account given by Josephus, the Jewish historian who witnessed and recorded the war, is almost an echo of the predictions of Christ. Women ate their own children from starvation; the Jews within the city fought each other as well as the Roman army; on August 10, A.D. 70, the city was stormed and there was a universal massacre; 1,100,00 persons perished, and 100,000 survivors were sold into slavery.'
Lutheran theologian Philip Schaff (1819 – 1893), wrote,
'The forbearance of God with his covenant people, who had crucified their own Saviour, reached it last its limit. As many as could be saved in the usual way, were rescued. The mass of the people had obstinately set themselves against all improvement. James the Just, the man who was fitted, if any could be, to reconcile the Jews to the Christian religion, had been stoned by his hardened brethren, for whom he daily interceded in the temple; and with him the Christian community in Jerusalem had lost its importance for that city. The hour of the "great tribulation" and fearful judgment drew near. The prophecy of the Lord approached its literal fulfilment: Jerusalem was razed to the ground, the temple burned, and not one stone was left upon another.' (Schaff, History of the Christian Church p. 397-398).
C.H. Spurgeon (1834-1892), wrote,
'For there shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be." Read the record written by Josephus of the destruction of Jerusalem, and see how truly our Lord’s words were fulfilled. The Jews impiously said, concerning the death of Christ, "His blood be on us, and on our children." Never did any other people invoke such an awful curse upon themselves, and upon no other nation did such a judgment ever fall. We read of Jews crucified till there was no more wood for making crosses; of thousands of the people slaying one another in their fierce faction fights within the city; of so many of them being sold for slaves that they became a drug in the market, and all but valueless; and of the fearful carnage when the Romans at length entered the doomed capital; and the blood-curdling story exactly bears out the Savior’s statement uttered nearly forty years before the terrible events occurred.'
'The destruction of Jerusalem was more terrible than anything that the world has ever witnessed, either before or since. Even Titus seemed to see in his cruel work the hand of an avenging God.' (Commentary on Matthew, p. 412-413).
Bishop William Newcombe, in his 'Harmony of the Gospels,' 1778, wrote,
'The calamities undergone by the Jews were unparalleled in their history, and will remain so. The many and great evils arising from their own distractions and intestine madness, were peculiar to this time. And Josephus asserts in general that no other city underwent such sufferings. In particular he says, that the number of captives, throughout the whole war was 97 thousand and that one million one hundred thousand perished in the course of the siege: To these must be added 237,490 of whom express mention is due by this historian, as being destroyed in other places; besides innumerable others, not subject to calculation, who were swept away by fatigue, famine, disease and every kind of wretchedness and violence. Thus did the awakened vengeance of heaven require of that generation, the blood of all the prophets, which had been shed from the foundation of the world.' (Harmony, p. 246).
In our own day, Gary DeMar has commented,
'The tribulation period cannot be global because all one has to do to escape is flee to the mountains. Notice that Jesus says "let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains" (Matt 24:16). Judea is not the world; it's not even the nation of Israel!' (Last Days Madness, p. 121).
So we may observe that probably the great majority of the evangelical scholars of the church over many centuries, but especially in the early centuries, saw AD70 as being momentous in terms of prophecy and eschatology. Three general points were usually accepted:
1. The Jewish nation incurred the ongoing wrath of God for their rejection of the Messiah.
2. The complete destruction of the Jewish temple system underlined that the temple period was exhausted and complete and would not be restored in that form. From this point, only the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus had God's authority.
3. The events of AD70 plainly fulfilled at least a substantial part of the Mount Olivet Prophecy, if not the entirety of it (Matt. 24; Mark 13; Luke 21).
Only in the 19th century, with the arrival of J.N. Darby's 'Dispensationalism,' and William Miller's Adventism (and the several cults and sects which arose around the same period, many of them clearly stemming from that perverted root of Adventism), did the significance of the events of AD70 start to be downplayed, with several totally new eschatological concepts starting to be taught. At this time the focus was taken off AD70 as a major focal point in biblical understanding and Judeo-Christian history and the concept started to be taught that Matthew 24 and Revelation were more or less entirely futuristic in scope. Also, in contrast to the New Testament model of the 'end of the age' and the 'last days' being a present reality in the apostolic age, these new movements believed that this referred to a brief period prior to the Parousia (the Second Coming of Christ). Interestingly, these 19th century movements also sought to restore the 'high place' of national Israel, seeing much Bible prophecy as being entirely futuristic and mainly concerned with Israel, rather than with the Church. These movements, effectively, demoted the importance of the Church, and they still do!
We now need to very closely look at Matthew 24 to see how many of these verses found fulfillment at that dreadful time:
Mat 24:1: And Jesus went out and departed from the temple. And His disciples came to Him to show Him the buildings of the temple. (My insert: Please note that it was the temple and surrounding area which would be the general topic here - this is vital to note).
Mat 24:2: And Jesus said to them, Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, There shall not be left here one stone on another that shall not be thrown down. (My insert: a very clear reference to the destruction of the temple in AD70, of course).
Mat 24:3: And as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the world? (My insert: Obviously, to be true to the Greek, this should be, 'the end of the age.' Jesus did not challenge the disciples' assumption that He was referring to 'the end of the age' since, it would indeed be a momentous time and it would indeed be 'the end of the age' as far as the significance of Israel - as a primary physical people standing right at the centre of the Old Covenant - were concerned; just a little later, the apostles would understand the 'end times' as the period commencing from the First Coming. See here.).
Mat 24:4: And Jesus answered and said to them, Take heed that no man deceive you.
Mat 24:5: For many will come in My name, saying, I am Christ, and will deceive many.
Mat 24:6: And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled, for all these things must occur; but the end is not yet.
Mat 24:7: For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines and pestilences and earthquakes in different places. (My insert: Apparently, all of this was indeed evidenced during this period of time. Much is recorded in Eusebius', Church History, Book 3, chapter 8).
Mat 24:8: All these are the beginning of sorrows.
Mat 24:9: Then they will deliver you up to be afflicted and will kill you. And you will be hated of all nations for My name's sake. (My insert: These comments of Jesus can be seen as being dual in application. Because of Jesus, both Jews would be hated, because of their rejection of Him, and also Christians would be hated by the world which has no understanding of them; Jesus was addressing His comments to people who were both Jews and who - very soon - would be converted Christians).
Mat 24:10: And then many will be offended, and will betray one another, and will hate one another.
Mat 24:11: And many false prophets will rise and deceive many. (My insert: Again, Eusebius records that this was a strong 'flavour' of that period).
Mat 24:12: And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many will become cold.
Mat 24:13: But he who endures to the end, the same shall be kept safe.
Mat 24:14: And this gospel of the kingdom shall be proclaimed in all the world as a witness to all nations. And then the end shall come. (My insert: it is a known fact that from AD 30-70 the gospel spread like wildfire in the Mediterranean world and "all nations" may need to be seen in that context. However, this is probably dual in application, looking beyond the Jewish/Roman war to the bodily Second Coming of Christ yet to occur).
Mat 24:15: Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place (whoever reads, let him understand). (My insert: This was when Jerusalem would be 'compassed with armies' - Luke 21:20 - and the Romans did indeed finally illegally enter the 'Holy Place' of the temple).
Mat 24:16: Then let those in Judea flee into the mountains.
Mat 24:17: Let him on the housetop not come down to take anything out of his house;
Mat 24:18: nor let him in the field turn back to take his clothes.
Mat 24:19: And woe to those who are with child, and to those who give suck in those days!
Mat 24:20: But pray that your flight is not in the winter, nor on the sabbath day; (My insert: Regarding verses 16-20, writers like DeMar are correct in pointing out the localized characteristic of this 'Great Tribulation.' For instance, Jesus had already specifically referred to the destruction of the Jerusalem temple, and it was that temple which was the original subject of this discussion. Also, to 'flee into the mountains' would be the only escape and, quite apart from the Christians, some Jews did indeed manage to do this, thereby avoiding the long siege and famine. Also the 'sabbath day' would only have significance for the Jews, for - very soon - the Christians would not be keeping the sabbath).
Mat 24:21: for then shall be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world to this time; no, nor ever shall be.
Mat 24:22: And unless those days should be shortened, no flesh would be saved. But for the elect's sake, those days shall be shortened. (My insert: Whilst this might be dual in application, the slaughter of Jerusalem Jews was unrelenting and extreme when the Romans finally entered the city).
Mat 24:23: Then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ! Or, There! Do not believe it.
Mat 24:24: For false Christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders; so much so that, if it were possible, they would deceive even the elect. (My insert: Again, Eusebius informs us that this was a strong flavour of those times).
Mat 24:25: Behold, I have told you beforehand.
Mat 24:26: Therefore if they shall say to you, Behold,
He is in the desert! Do not go out. Behold, He is in the secret rooms! Do not believe it.
Mat 24:27: For as the lightning comes out of the east and shines even to the west, so also will be the coming of the Son of Man. (My insert: This refers to the suddeness of His coming and almost certainly looks beyond the events of AD70 to the future Second Coming of Christ. However, it has been suggested that since the Romans were bearing punishment and judgment on behalf of Christ, this could apply to them, moreover, the Romans finally entered the city from the east).
Mat 24:28: For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered.
Mat 24:29: And immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun shall be darkened and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from the heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken. (My insert: As Adam Clarke wrote, "In the prophetic language, great commotions upon earth are often represented under the notion of commotions and changes in the heavens: - The fall of Babylon is represented by the stars and constellations of heaven withdrawing their light, and the sun and moon being darkened. See Isa 13:9, Isa 13:10. The destruction of Egypt, by the heaven being covered, the sun enveloped with a cloud, and the moon withholding her light. Eze 32:7, Eze 32:8. The destruction of the Jews by Antiochus Epiphanes is represented by casting down some of the host of heaven, and the stars to the ground. See Dan 8:10. ." Nevertheless, this most probably looks to the period yet ahead of us when Christ is about to appear).
Mat 24:30: And then the sign of the Son of Man shall appear in the heavens. And then all the tribes of the earth shall mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of the heaven with power and great glory. (My insert: Lies yet in the future).
Mat 24:31: And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. (My insert: Definitely lies in the future).
Mat 24:32: Now learn a parable of the fig tree. When its branch is still tender and puts out leaves, you know that summer is near. (My insert: Again, Jesus seems to be warning the Jews about AD70).
Mat 24:33: So you, likewise, when you see all these things, shall know that it is near, at the doors.
Mat 24:34: Truly I say to you, This generation shall not pass until all these things are fulfilled. (My insert: Jesus is now very clear in warning about AD70, for those events were less than 40 years away!).
Mat 24:35: The heaven and the earth shall pass away, but My Words shall not pass away.
Mat 24:36: But of that day and hour no one knows, no, not the angels of Heaven, but only My Father. (My insert: Dual, as with all the following verses).
Mat 24:37: But as the days of Noah were, so shall be the coming of the Son of Man.
Mat 24:38: For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered into the ark.
Mat 24:39: And they did not know until the flood came and took them all away. So also will be the coming of the Son of Man.
Mat 24:40: Then two shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
Mat 24:41: Two shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. (My insert: None of this, of course, has any connection with a so-called "rapture" - it could refer to the suddeness of death and judgment, or to the fact that some will rise in the resurrection to life but others will not. Barnes has written, "The word 'taken' may mean either to be taken away from the danger - that is, rescued, as Lot was - Luke 17:28-29 - or to be taken away 'by death.' Probably the latter is the meaning").
Mat 24:42: Therefore watch; for you do not know what hour your Lord comes. (My insert: The remainder of these verses of the Olivet Prophecy could have had an application for the first century but are probably mainly addressed to Christians awaiting the Second Coming of our Lord).
Mat 24:43: But know this, that if the steward of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched and would not have allowed his house to be dug through.
Mat 24:44: Therefore you also be ready, for in that hour you think not, the Son of Man comes.
Mat 24:45: Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his Lord has made ruler over His household, to give them food in due season?
Mat 24:46: Blessed is that servant whom his Lord shall find him doing so when He comes.
Mat 24:47: Truly I say to you that He shall make him ruler over all His goods.
Mat 24:48: But if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My Lord delays His coming,
Mat 24:49: and shall begin to strike his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken,
Mat 24:50: the Lord of that servant shall come in a day when he does not look for Him, and in an hour which he does not know.
Mat 24:51: And He shall cut him apart and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Modern King James Version throughout).
So we see that the Mount Olivet Prophecy primarily warned the Jews and the early church about events which would befall Jerusalem within a generation. There is, though, just an element of duality with certain verses almost certainly looking beyond the judgment on the Jews and on Jerusalem to other judgments yet to come, especially just prior to the Second Coming of our Lord. The primary focus, however, is on the events of AD66-73 (the final slaughter at Masada occurred in AD73). Jesus saw no harm in including all of these things under one prophetic umbrella since the coming of God in judgment can always be expected during the present age.
Likewise, much within the Book of Revelation also had/has a strong application:
a. In the first century (Rev. 1:1).
b. Throughout church history.
c. At the time of the Second Coming.
Since Revelation, for many years, had been claimed to have been written around AD90-95, one might wonder why any of its verses might have even some application to the events of AD64-70, however, the late date for Revelation has now been greatly revised, especially from the extensive studies of J.A.T. Robinson onwards. It now seems far more likely that Revelation was written around AD62-66. It had been thought that Revelation was written during the reign of Domitian (81-96), but the reign of Nero (54-68) now has very strong advocacy. As Dr Kenneth Gentry has written,
'There are suggestive evidences within the book to date it in the mid- to late-60s of the first century. In fact, the evidence is persuasive enough that it convinced such notable scholars Moses Stuart, F. J. A. Hort, B. F. Westcott, and F. W. Farrar in the last century, and J. A. T. Robinson, R. A. Torrey, Albert A. Bell, and C. F. D. Moule in our own day.
Two leading indicators of the early date are: (1) The "temple" in the "holy city" is still standing as John writes, though it is being threatened with devastation (Rev. 11: 1-2). We know as a matter of historical fact that the Jewish temple was destroyed in A.D. 70, and has never been rebuilt. (2) The sixth "king" is presently ruling from the "seven mountains" and will do so until a king comes who will reign a "short time" (Rev. 17:9-10). The preterist takes this to be a clear enough allusion to Nero Caesar. According to the enumeration found in Josephus' Antiquities (18:2:2,6, 10) and Suetonius' Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Nero is Rome's sixth emperor, following Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Gaius, and Claudius. The next reigning emperor, Galba, reigned but six months, the shortest reigning emperor until that time. ' (Source: http://www.kennethgentry.com/Merchant2/apocalypse.htm).
However, the dating of Revelation is not the primary point of this article and we now need to move on to our conclusion.
So what conclusions may one draw from all of these things?
It is not even possible to exaggerate the terrible suffering which came upon the Jewish people AD66-73, but especially in AD70. It is true that the twentieth century holocaust might be said to be even worse, especially in the total numbers of people who actually died, yet the horrors of AD70 must never be underestimated. That year was indeed a landmark year for Christianity, and a huge point in Bible prophecy. From that point, our God conclusively demonstrated that the era of the New Testament Church was truly underway and that any sympathies with the Old Covenant system should be firmly put aside (Hebrews 8:13). God placed a clear 'marker' between two ages through this momentous seven year 'Great Tribulation,' and nothing within Scripture really suggests another 'Great Tribulation' on such a scale in the future. Having said that, we know that the Bible offers strong suggestions of a final time of trouble when Satan is released from captivity and we know that a day is coming when the world will rejoice when all Christian witnessing is finally silenced (Rev 11:7-12). Yet even this could have had a type of fulfillment in the past, yet, without doubt, frightening events will befall this world just before Christ returns in power and glory.
For many hundreds of years AD70 was the pivotal prophecy focus of the Church. Only in the 19th century were new theological concepts introduced, especially in a new, adventuristic approach to Bible prophecy and a revival of the 'high view' of national Israel. The new trend necessarily led to a perspective which effectively reduced the importance of the Church.
Robin A. Brace, February, 2009.