#8– Was the Message of The Fall of Jerusalem “the Gospel of the Kingdom”?
Was AD 70 the Time of the Fulfillment of All Things?
In this installment in this series investigating the question: How could the fall of Jerusalem be called the “gospel of the Kingdom?” I want to look at the idea that the end of the Old Covenant age, the fall of Jerusalem, was to be the time of the fulfillment of all eschatological prophecies. Needless to say this is a hotly contested claim, but, I am convinced that it is absolutely true. Notice the words of Jesus in Luke 21:22 as he described that coming catastrophe:
“These be the days of vengeance in which all things that are written must be fulfilled.”
Now, on a surface reading of this passage it certainly appears that Jesus was saying that the events leading up to and consummating in the fall of Jerusalem would be the time of the final fulfillment of all eschatological prophecies. But, of course, this view is denied by all futurist views. There are about three or four “explanations” for Jesus’ words that are offered to counter the idea that the fall of Jerusalem was the time when all prophecy would stand fulfilled.
Before examining those objections let me address a claim being made by former preterists, such as Sam Frost. In a recent FaceBook exchange, Frost claimed that preterists believe that all prophecy was fulfilled in AD 70. Sounds like what I am affirming, right? But, it is not even close to what I am and other preterists teach. What Frost is claiming is that, for instance, the Virgin Birth was fulfilled at that time! In other words, Frost was claiming that preterists do not believe that any prophecy was fulfilled until AD 70. This claim is beyond ludicrous and ridiculous. It is patently false and Frost knows full well that his accusation is false. When I called him out on his false claim, he did not respond with a single key stroke.
Let me examine now the objections that are normally lodged against the claim that in the events leading up to and consummating in the destruction of Jerusalem, the process of fulfillment that had begun with John the Baptizer (“The law and the prophets were until John. Since then, the kingdom of God is proclaimed and all men press into it” – Luke 16:16) would be finalized. In those climactic events, the process of fulfillment would be completed, and there would be no more eschatological prophecies to be fulfilled.
Naturally, objection is raised to this claim. I have encountered basically four major objections to the claim that all prophecy was fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem. I will briefly examine each of those objections.
Objection #1 – All Does Not Mean Comprehensively “All”– Only the prophecies of the fall of Jerusalem were fulfilled.
First of all, (pun intended), it is to be admitted that the word “all” can be and often is qualified and limited. Context is king, and it is often the case where “all” refers to all of the things that refer to the subject at hand and not comprehensively “all.” Undoubtedly, some will jump on this and say, “Preston has surrendered his argument, because he agrees that “all” can be qualified / limited. It is more than obvious that in Luke 21, the discussion is about the fall of Jerusalem. That means that, “all things written” refers only to all of the prophecies concerning the fall of Jerusalem would be fulfilled at that time.”
My response is, “I agree that the context of Luke 21 is the judgment of Jerusalem! But, that means that the resurrection, the coming of the Lord and the judgment and kingdom has been fulfilled, because all of those things are inextricably linked with the fall of Jerusalem!” For brevity, I will give only a partial list of some of the texts that make this connection. In this brief list one should be able to see how the declaration of the coming destruction of Jerusalem in Jesus’ generation could be called “this gospel of the kingdom.”
A. Isaiah 25:1-9:
“O Lord, You are my God. I will exalt You, I will praise Your name, For You have done wonderful things; Your counsels of old are faithfulness and truth. 2 For You have made a city a ruin, A fortified city a ruin, A palace of foreigners to be a city no more; It will never be rebuilt. 3 Therefore the strong people will glorify You; The city of the terrible nations will fear You. 4 For You have been a strength to the poor, A strength to the needy in his distress, A refuge from the storm, A shade from the heat; For the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall. 5 You will reduce the noise of aliens, As heat in a dry place; As heat in the shadow of a cloud, The song of the terrible ones will be diminished. 6 And in this mountain The Lord of hosts will make for all people A feast of choice pieces, A feast of wines on the lees, Of fat things full of marrow, Of well-refined wines on the lees. 7 And He will destroy on this mountain The surface of the covering cast over all people, And the veil that is spread over all nations. 8 He will swallow up death forever, And the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces; The rebuke of His people He will take away from all the earth; For the Lord has spoken. 9 And it will be said in that day: “Behold, this is our God; We have waited for Him, and He will save us. This is the Lord; We have waited for Him; We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.”
I will only notice a few quick bullet points:
✔ – The time in view is the time of the resurrection (v. 8). This is surely the best of news!
✔ – “In that day” (v. 6), the Lord would create the Messianic Banquet on Mt. Zion. What wonderful news!
✔ – In that Day salvation would come- v. 9!
✔ – In that Day, the fortified city and the temple would be totally destroyed (v. 1-3). This is the “bad news” the horrific news. On the one hand, Jerusalem and the temple, the center of Israel’s world, would be destroyed. But, at that time, joy, gladness, salvation and resurrection would be fulfilled!
B. Isaiah 26:16-19 –
“Lord, in trouble they have visited You, They poured out a prayer when Your chastening was upon them. 17 As a woman with child Is in pain and cries out in her pangs, When she draws near the time of her delivery, So have we been in Your sight, O Lord. 18 We have been with child, we have been in pain; We have, as it were, brought forth wind; We have not accomplished any deliverance in the earth, Nor have the inhabitants of the world fallen. 19 Your dead shall live; Together with my dead body they shall arise. Awake and sing, you who dwell in dust; For your dew is like the dew of herbs, And the earth shall cast out the dead.”….For behold, the Lord comes out of His place To punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; The earth will also disclose her blood, And will no more cover her slain.”
✔ – The passage speaks of the chastening of Israel, her “labor pains” to bring forth salvation, all to no avail. Those labor pangs of Messiah, as the scholars and the rabbis called them, are bound up with Israel’s last days (cf. Jeremiah 30:5f), and Jesus spoke of the labor pangs that would take place in the first century prior to his coming in the fall of Jerusalem (Matthew 24:8).
✔ – There is the prediction of resurrection (v. 19)– and as seen in chapter 25, that is the time of salvation. It should be noted that in the context of Isaiah 25-26 the “death” that is in view is the death of nations. Israel saw herself as “in the dust” because of her exile and punishment. She rejoices that “other gods have ruled over us” but, speaks confidently of the fact that “they are dead and shall never rise.” (This is in v. 13f). But, she also speaks confidently of how she will rise from the dust; “Awake and sing, you who dwell in dust; For your dew is like the dew of herbs, And the earth shall cast out the dead.” The issue is not human corpses in the dust, but rather the national “death” of exile because of sin. See Ezekiel 37 as a parallel.
✔ – This time of deliverance would be at the coming of the Lord, when the martyrs would be vindicated (v. 21). Jesus leaves no doubt as to when all the blood, of all the martyrs would be vindicated. At his coming in judgment against Jerusalem in his generation (Matthew 23:29f / 24:29-31).
So, in Isaiah 26 – and we have kept our comments on this chapter to a bare minimum, we have the promise of the resurrection, the promise of Israel’s tribulation, at the time of the coming of the Lord to vindicate the martyrs, which Jesus posited for the time of the destruction of Jerusalem.
C. – Isaiah 27:9-13
Therefore by this the iniquity of Jacob will be covered; And this is all the fruit of taking away his sin: When he makes all the stones of the altar Like chalkstones that are beaten to dust, Wooden images and incense altars shall not stand. 10 Yet the fortified city will be desolate, The habitation forsaken and left like a wilderness; There the calf will feed, and there it will lie down And consume its branches. 11 When its boughs are withered, they will be broken off; The women come and set them on fire. For it is a people of no understanding; Therefore He who made them will not have mercy on them, And He who formed them will show them no favor. 12 And it shall come to pass in that day That the Lord will thresh, From the channel of the River to the Brook of Egypt; And you will be gathered one by one, O you children of Israel. 13 So it shall be in that day: The great trumpet will be blown; They will come, who are about to perish in the land of Assyria, And they who are outcasts in the land of Egypt, And shall worship the Lord in the holy mount at Jerusalem.”
✔ – I should note that in Isaiah 27:1-2, we are told that “in that day” which is the day of the Lord of chapter 26, the time of the resurrection and the coming of the Lord to vindicate the martyrs, that would be the time when the Lord would destroy “Leviathan” i.e. the Devil! This is, once again, the time of salvation (27:2f) when “the vineyard of the Lord” would be redeemed. The vineyard of the Lord was Israel (Isaiah 5). Let us not forget that Paul affirmed, through inspiration, that the destruction of Satan was imminent when he wrote Romans (Romans 16:20).
\✔ – Pay particular attention to verse 9– “By this the iniquity of Jacob will be covered; And this is all the fruit of taking away his sin: When he makes all the stones of the altar Like chalkstones that are beaten to dust.” Here we have an emphatic declaration that Israel’s sin would be taken away at the time of the destruction of the temple and the altar – at the fall of Jerusalem.
✔ – We are told that the reason for this coming judgment was: “For it is a people of no understanding; Therefore He who made them will not have mercy on them, And He who formed them will show them no favor.” This passage is a direct echo of Deuteronomy 32:28. That chapter, Deuteronomy 32, is about Israel’s last days (32:19f / 29f). And the NT writers are very clear that they were living in the days foretold by Moses.
So, Isaiah 27 would be the fulfillment of Deuteronomy 32. Deuteronomy 32 is about Israel’s last days. The NT writers apply Deuteronomy 32 to their day, to their generation. Therefore, the prophecy of Isaiah 27 – the time of Israel’s salvation, the time of the resurrection– was to be in the first century.
✔ – Notice now, verse 13: “So it shall be in that day: The great trumpet will be blown; They will come, who are about to perish in the land of Assyria, And they who are outcasts in the land of Egypt, And shall worship the Lord in the holy mount at Jerusalem.”
The writer says that “in that day” the scattered would be gathered. This is the resurrection! (I will not document here that the ancient rabbis and the scholars clearly see this as a prophecy of the resurrection. See my book, The Resurrection of Daniel 12:2: Fulfilled or Future? for that documentation).
Notice, “in that day” is a direct reference to the time when the people that YHVH had created, the people of no understanding, would be judged, when the city and the temple would be destroyed! However, “in that day” the Lord would sound the Great Trumpet and gather those perishing in the lands of “exile” – that is the gathering of the dead!
As we have shown, Jesus was drawing from – directly echoing – Isaiah 27:13 in Matthew 24:31 – “And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”
Now, since Jesus was drawing on Isaiah 27 in Matthew 24, this means that Jesus was predicting the resurrection. The parallels between Isaiah 27 and Matthew 24 are clear and undeniable:
They both speak of the judgment of Jerusalem and the Temple.
They both speak of the judgment on the disobedient people.
They both speak of the gathering of the elect.
They both speak of the gathering at the sound of the Trumpet.
They both speak of the coming of the Lord at the time of the vindication of the martyrs (Isaiah 26:21 / Matthew 23-24).
Now, unless one can show that either Isaiah 27 had nothing to do with Jesus’ day and the events he was predicting,
It can be shown that Jesus was not echoing the prophecy of Isaiah and applying it to his coming,
It can be shown Isaiah’s prophecy did not include the resurrection and the parallel constituent elements just listed are not truly parallel,
Then, it is more than evident that Isaiah’s prophecy of the coming judgment of Jerusalem with the attendant destruction of the Temple was indeed a good news, bad news situation.
It was bad news because it was to be such a horrific judgment.
It was good news, because it was to be the time of the salvation of the righteous remnant, the time of the resurrection, the time of salvation!
D. – Daniel 12 – I will not discuss Daniel 12 for space considerations, but, needless to say, that passage is determinative. It foretold the Great Tribulation (really bad news!). It foretold the resurrection (really good news!). The kingdom, the end of the age. And all of those things were to be fulfilled “When the power of the holy people has been completely shattered” (Daniel 12:7).
The attempts by some former preterists to escape the force of Daniel 12 are literally astounding! They are now inserting 2500 year gaps between Daniel 12:1 and verse 2– based strictly and solely on their literalistic and presuppositional insistence on a physical resurrection. It is amazing, and amazingly sad to witness the theological gymnastics taking place! Be sure to get a copy of my book on Daniel 12 just mentioned for an in-depth discussion of that great chapter.
In the meantime, I think one can see that Jesus prediction of the coming destruction of Jerusalem, as horrific as that was to be, was nonetheless, “this gospel of the kingdom” because of the blessings, the spiritual blessings that would become a reality at that time.
In the next installment, I will respond to another objection that is commonly lodged against the claim that the judgment on Jerusalem was the time of the fulfillment of all things written, so stay tuned!