Was A.D. 70 the End?

Eschatology is the study of Christ’s final coming, the resurrection of the dead, the last judgment, and the new heavens and the new earth; some persons believe all these “last things” have already been accomplished. One small group of realized eschatologists have targeted ad 70 as the time of the end when the “last things” occurred. Michael Hill writes: “Christ’s eschaton . . . began at the cross and ended in his parousia (presence/coming) at Jerusalem at the end of the 7-year war with Rome . . . Thus, true to Jesus’ words, that old world ended, the dead were judged, the saved were resurrected, and a whole new realm of grace began” (The Cure for Millennial Madness, p. 3). Therefore, they say, the Bible teaches absolutely nothing about any event that will occur beyond ad 70.

The tension between the “now” and the “not yet” (Heb. 2:8), i. e., the events surrounding the cross and the coming of Christ, is the focal point of the debate with realized eschatologists. The OT viewed the history of the world in terms of “this age” and “the age to come” (see Matt. 12:32). The Messiah’s presence would mark the end of “this age” and inaugurate “the age to come.” Realized eschatologists have correctly observed that the cross and the parousia are the two focal points of the “last things,” but they have incorrectly argued that biblical teaching about the Lord’s coming is completely fulfilled in the events surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem. The hollow rituals of Judaism that remained until ad 70 had lost their spiritual significance after Jesus nailed the law to his cross (Eph. 2:14-16; Col. 2:12-15).

The biblical theme of “suffering” and “glory” is much too broad for the narrow focus of realized eschatology. The culmination of Jesus’ suffering ended when he died physically and was buried in the tomb, and he was glorified when he rose from the dead and was crowned king (Dan. 7:13; Acts 2:29-36; 1 Pet. 1:11, 21). Likewise, the Christian’s suffering only ends when he personally dies physically, and he will be glorified when he is raised to live with Jesus forever (Rom. 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:17-18; 1 Pet. 5:10). However, the Christian currently lives in a spiritual time warp between what has already been realized “now” and what is still to occur in the future, having “not yet” been glorified.

Furthermore, Jesus “must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be abolished is death” (1 Cor. 15:25-26). At that time “he shall wipe away every tear from [the believer’s] eyes; and death shall be no more; neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain any more” (Rev. 21:4). Realized eschatologists would have us believe that all of these things were accomplished in ad 70. Again, however, their focus is too narrow. The curse of physical death and corruption came not only upon the human race but also upon all creation. The ground itself was cursed (Gen. 3:17; see Gen. 4:11; 8:21); therefore, the whole creation yearns for its deliverance from the curse (Rom. 8:18-23) and to be free from the defilement of sin. Only then can’there be “new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwells righteousness” (2 Pet. 3:13; see Isa. 65:17-25; 66:22-24; Rev. 21:1). Only then “there shall be no curse any more” (Rev. 22:3) because “death and hades” will have been “cast into the lake of fire” with the devil and his angels (Rev. 20:14).

The doctrine of the resurrection of the dead is, perhaps, the greatest stumbling block to realized eschatologists. Despite the fact that they have reinterpreted everything about the resurrection, the continued presence of dead bodies in the tombs of the earth stubbornly testifies against their position. Max King’s The Cross and the Parousia of Christ devotes 285 pages to reinterpreting the doctrine of the resurrection. In fact, 35.6% of the book (pp. 429-666) focuses on a reinterpretation of 1 Corinthians 15:1-58 in an attempt to make Paul’s subject the resurrection of the body of Christ (the church) out of the dead body of Judaism. Despite his effort to convince us otherwise, “all that are in the tombs shall hear [Christ’s] voice, and shall come forth”_ some, “unto the resurrection of life,” and others, “unto the resurrection of judgment” (John 5:28-29).

Realized eschatologists do not understand the proper tension between the “now” and the “not yet” because they do not fully grasp the principle of time-compression in prophecy. Although they properly stress the near-at-hand perspective of many passages, they create confusion over the terms “imminent” and “remote” fulfillment. They argue that the first coming of Christ was “imminent” in OT prophecy, whereas his parousia, which they say occurred in ad 70, was “remote” (see diagrams 1 and 2 in Cross and Parousia) despite the fact that these events occurred within 40 years of each other. However, most of the so-called “imminent” predictions were made 1500-400 years before the events took place (Gen. 32:25; 49:10; Isa. 56:1; Jer. 31:31), and one goes back to Eden (Gen. 3:15)_about as “remote” as could possibly be. Nevertheless, realized eschatologists refuse to admit that another coming of Jesus is “imminent” because 2,000 years have elapsed since the NT predicted it would occur.

If, as Max King concedes, prophetic time-compression blurs the distinction between the “limited” commission and the “great” commission in Matthew 10 (The Cross and the Parousia, p. 458), why not make the same thing between the coming of Christ to judge Jerusalem and his parousia to judge the whole world in Matthew 24. Indeed, the Christian’s hope lies in his belief that the dead will be raised and judged at the parousia of Jesus, and that the righteous will be rewarded with “an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fades not way, reserved in heaven” (1 Pet. 1:4).

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