In this post, we’ll wrap up our very long series on New Testament eschatology. As we’ve seen throughout this study, the eschatology of the New Testament, by and large, finds its fulfillment within the same event Jesus warned about — the Jewish / Roman War of 66 - 70 (73) CE. It’s only when we do one of two things (or both) that the New Testament’s eschatology takes on a different meaning:
- The Jewish / Roman War if flatly denied as a possible fulfillment.
- When the letters are believed to have been written after the destruction of the Temple.
Now, these can be in either order and sometimes go hand in hand. Some will contend, “Well, most — if not all — of the New Testament was written after 70 CE. Therefore, they can’t be talking about that.”
Others will contend, “Well, there’s no way the Jewish / Roman War fits all the details of the warning in the New Testament. Therefore, it can’t be the fulfillment of Christ’s prediction.”
Or, a combination of both, “Well, there’s no way the war with Rome fulfills all of the warnings in the New Testament. Besides, most — if not all — of it was written after the fact. So, it’s silly to even suggest it.”
It’s when the War between the Jews and Rome is off the table do all sorts of other speculation creep up. But, as we’ve seen, the Jewish / Roman War fits within the limits set by Jesus and the writers of the New Testament.
While I haven’t mentioned it a lot, Josephus’ book, War of the Jews, reads like a commentary to the Revelation as well as other passages in the New Testament. Here are some examples:
Then the second angel blew his trumpet, and something like a huge mountain burning with fire was thrown down into the sea. A third of the sea became blood…
The second angel poured his bowl into the sea, and the sea turned into blood, like the blood of a corpse, and every living thing in the sea died. The third angel poured his bowl into the rivers and springs of water, and they turned into blood.
...But some of them (the Jews — j+) thought that to die by their own swords was lighter than by the sea, and so they killed themselves before they were drowned; although the greatest part of them were carried by the waves, and dashed to pieces against the abrupt parts of the rocks, insomuch that the sea was bloody a long way, and the maritime parts were full of dead bodies; for the Romans came upon those that were carried to the shore, and destroyed them; and the number of the bodies that were thus thrown out of the sea was four thousand and two hundred. The Romans also took the city without opposition, and utterly demolished it…
...And for such as were drowning in the sea, if they (the Jews — j+) lifted their heads up above the water, they were either killed by darts, or caught by the vessels; but if, in the desperate case they were in, they attempted to swim to their enemies, the Romans cut off either their heads or their hands; and indeed they were destroyed after various manners everywhere, till the rest being put to flight, were forced to get upon the land, while the vessels encompassed them about [on the sea]: but as many of these were repulsed when they were getting ashore, they were killed by the darts upon the lake; and the Romans leaped out of their vessels, and destroyed a great many more upon the land: one might then see the lake all bloody, and full of dead bodies, for not one of them escaped. And a terrible stink, and a very sad sight there was on the following days over that country; for as for the shores, they were full of shipwrecks, and of dead bodies all swelled; and as the dead bodies were inflamed by the sun, and putrefied, they corrupted the air, insomuch that the misery was not only the object of commiseration to the Jews, but to those that hated them, and had been the authors of that misery. This was the upshot of the sea-fight. The number of the slain, including those that were killed in the city before, was six thousand and five hundred.
Then the winepress was trampled outside the city, and the blood came out of the winepress as high as the horses’ bridles for almost two hundred miles.
…But when they (the Romans — j+) went in numbers into the lanes of the city with their swords drawn, they slew those whom they overtook without and set fire to the houses whither the Jews were :fled, and burnt every soul in them, and laid waste a great many of the rest; and when they were come to the houses to plunder them, they found in them entire families of dead men, and the upper rooms full of dead corpses, that is, of such as died by the famine; they then stood in a horror at this sight, and went out without touching any thing. But although they had this commiseration for such as were destroyed in that manner, yet had they not the same for those that were still alive, but they ran every one through whom they met with, and obstructed the very lanes with their dead bodies, and made the whole city run down with blood, to such a degree indeed that the fire of many of the houses was quenched with these men’s blood...
Great hailstones, about the weight of a talent, came down out of the sky on people. People blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, for this plague is exceedingly severe.
...The engines, that all the legions had ready prepared for them, were admirably contrived; but still more extraordinary ones belonged to the tenth legion: those that threw darts and those that threw stones were more forcible and larger than the rest, by which they not only repelled the excursions of the Jews, but drove those away that were upon the walls also. Now the stones that were cast were of the weight of a talent, and were carried two furlongs and further. The blow they gave was no way to be sustained, not only by those that stood first in the way, but by those that were beyond them for a great space. As for the Jews, they at first watched the coming of the stone, for it was of a white color...
The great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. God remembered Babylon the great so that he gave her the wine cup of his furious anger.
WHEN therefore Titus had marched over that desert which lies between Egypt and Syria, in the manner forementioned, he came to Cesarea, having resolved to set his forces in order at that place, before he began the war. Nay, indeed, while he was assisting his father at Alexandria, in settling that government which had been newly conferred upon them by God, it so happened that the sedition at Jerusalem was revived, and parted into three factions, and that one faction fought against the other; which partition in such evil cases may be said to be a good thing, and the effect of Divine justice...
I could go on and on. If you’ve never read Josphus’ War of the Jews, I highly recommend it. In fact, I would suggest reading Revelation 6 - 19 and then the War of the Jews. It will be a mind-blowing experience! But I must caution you — the War of the Jews contains some of the most gruesome stories I’ve ever read.
Another couple of books I would recommend for those who want to study more:
J. Stuart Russell, The Parousia: The New Testament Doctrine of Our Lord’s Second Coming, Baker Books, 1999.
Kenneth Gentry, The Book of Revelation Made Easy, American Vision, 2009.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC
1. The World English Bible (WEB) is in the Public Domain. That means that it is not copyrighted. However, “World English Bible” is a Trademark.