When you’re speaking with someone who is new to the topic of Fulfilled eschatology, (the understanding that all Bible prophecy, including Jesus’ coming, was fulfilled by 70AD) there is one objection that often comes up. It goes something like this, “Well the Bible says that the coming of Jesus can’t happen until the Gospel is preached to the whole world!”
And this is true. The Bible does say that. In fact, it says it several times, in several ways.
But the Bible also says something else that most Christians miss – even most pastors and theologians today. And it’s something you should know. Would you believe that the Bible says the Gospel WAS PREACHED to the 1) WHOLE WORLD, to 2) ALL NATIONS, to 3) ALL THE WORLD, to 4) EVERY CREATURE UNDER HEAVEN and even to the 5) ENDS OF THE EARTH — all BEFORE 70AD?
Read it for yourself.
This shows that, yes, this prophecy was fulfilled. But, like many prophecies, it was fulfilled according to the way THEY understood their terms, not the way WE define those same words today. This is why it’s important to remember original audience relevance and continue to try and put ourselves in their sandals. We must continually ask, “What did THEY think this meant? In what sense do THEY interpret this passage?”
Indeed, the Gospel had been preached to what THEY considered to be the whole world. And “the end” that THEY were anticipating – that is, the end of the Old Covenant world – came to pass, in 70AD, when the very center and symbol of that world, Temple and Jerusalem, were destroyed.
The “end” that Jesus said would come after the Gospel reached “all the land” was a covenantal end. This is why He called it the “End of the Age” they were in, which was the Old Covenant Age. There is no reason, from the text to believe that Jesus was talking about the ‘end of the world’, neither in that passage, nor any other passage. Despite poor Bible translations which misinterpret ‘end of the age’ for ‘end of the world’, a look at the Greek will reveal that Jesus was always talking about the end of the Old Covenant AGE – NOT the material world. Jesus was anticipating a new world and a new spiritual reality, or Kingdom, FREE from Mosaic law and sacrifice. That Old Covenant age would pass away with a roar and flames of fire at the destruction of the Temple. And this happened. Just as and when Jesus said it would in his Olivet Discourse — to that first generation of saints to whom the New Testament was written (Mt 24, Mk 13, Lk 21).
Once again, original Hebrew audience relevance and context are key to understanding what kind of “end” THEY thought Jesus and the prophets were talking about. Does this negate one’s desire to preach the Gospel in the wider world as we understand it? Of course not. But it effects our motivation and our message. We don’t need to act as if we’re sharing God with people to hasten a mysteriously “delayed” coming of Jesus. (As if good news is telling people that they get to wait indefinitely with us for something awful to occur. How is that good news?). Instead, we can joyfully and confidently go forth sharing a returned, present and reliable Jesus; One who is HERE WITH US right now. One who is working in and through us amidst the ups and downs of life on earth NOW. We can be sure of this because He did what He said He would do, and when.
1 Thess. 4:16-18 says “the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God…then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the breath [of God] /air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” How was this fulfilled?
Many Christians are not aware of the incredible signs, events and fulfillments that happened before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD. Fulfillment is a matter of historical record by Josephus, Eusebius, Tacitus and the Talmud. Trumpets, voices of angels, chariots of fire, a star like a sword, a comet, an earth quake, the Temple doors opening by themselves and a rush of spirits departing from it were seen and heard in the time leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem (66 AD). Why don’t people know about these crazy historical events?! Why are we talking about anything else right now in church? Why don’t we have art on our walls depicting this? If more people knew about it, it would cause quite a bit of buzzing and discussion! Unfortunately many Christians are not being taught this by futurist churches and authors.
Josephus Wars Book 6, Chapter 5, Sections 2 and 3
War 6:289 (22.214.171.1249) Thus there was A STAR RESEMBLING A SWORD, which stood over the city, and a COMET [Hailey’s], that continued a whole year.
War 6:290 (126.96.36.1990) Thus also, before the Jews’ rebellion, and before those commotions which preceded the war, when the people were come in great crowds to the feast of unleavened bread, on the eighth day of the month Xanthicus [Nisan], and at the ninth hour of the night, so GREAT A LIGHT shone round the altar and the holy house, that it appeared to be bright day time; which light lasted for half an hour.
War 6:291 (188.8.131.521) This light seemed to be a good sign to the unskillful, but was so interpreted by the sacred scribes, as to portend those events that followed immediately upon it.
War 6:296 (184.108.40.2066) So these publicly declared, that this signal foreshowed the desolation that was coming upon them. Besides these, a few days after that feast, on the twenty-first day of the month Artemisius [Jyar],
War 6:297 (220.127.116.117) a certain prodigious and incredible phenomenon appeared; I suppose the account of it would seem to be a fable, were it not related by those that saw it,
War 6:298 (18.104.22.1688, 299) and were not the events that followed it of so considerable a nature as to deserve such signals; for, before sunsetting, CHARIOTS AND TROOPS of SOLDIERS IN THEIR ARMOUR were seen RUNNING about among the CLOUDS and surrounding of CITIES. Moreover at that feast which we call Pentecost, as the priests were going by night into the inner [court of the] temple, as their custom was, to perform their sacred ministrations, they said that, in the first place, they felt a QUAKING, and heard a great noise,
War 6:300 (22.214.171.1240) and after that they heard a sound as of a great multitude, saying, “Let us remove hence.”
War 6:286 (126.96.36.1996) Now, there was then a great number of false prophets suborned by the tyrants to impose upon the people, who denounced this to them, that they should wait for deliverance from God: and this was in order to keep them from deserting, and that they might be buoyed up above fear and care by such hopes.
War 6:288 ¶ (188.8.131.528) Thus were the miserable people persuaded by these deceivers, and such as belied God himself; while they did not attend, nor give credit, to the signs that were so evident and did so plainly foretell their future desolation; but, like men infatuated, without either eyes to see, or minds to consider, did not regard the denunciations that God made to them.
Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, Book 3, Chapter 8, Sections 1-6
1 Taking, then, the work of this author, read what he records in the sixth book of his History. His words are as follows:94 “Thus were the miserable people won over at this time by the impostors and false prophets;95 but they did not heed nor give credit to the visions and signs that foretold the approaching desolation. On the contrary, as if struck by lightning, and as if possessing neither eyes nor understanding, they slighted the proclamations of God.
2 At one time a STAR, in form like a SWORD, stood over the city, and a COMET which lasted for a whole year; and again before the revolt and before the disturbances that led to the war, when the people were gathered for the feast of unleavened bread, on the eighth of the month Xanthicus,96 at the ninth hour of the night, so great a light shone about the altar and the temple that it seemed to be bright day; and this continued for half an hour. This seemed to the unskillful a good sign, but was interpreted by the sacred scribes as portending those events which very soon took place.
3 And at the same feast a cow, led by the high priest to be sacrificed, brought forth a lamb in the midst of the temple.
4 And the eastern gate of the inner temple, which was of bronze and very massive, and which at evening was closed with difficulty by twenty men, and rested upon iron-bound beams, and had bars sunk deep in the ground, was seen at the sixth hour of the night to open of itself.
5 And not many days after the feast, on the twenty-first of the month Artemisium,97 a certain marvelous vision was seen which passes belief. The prodigy might seem fabulous were it not related by those who saw it, and were not the calamities which followed deserving of such signs. For before the setting of the sun CHARIOTS AND ARMED TROOPS were seen throughout the whole region in MID-AIR wheeling through the CLOUDS and encircling the CITIES.
6 And at the feast which is called Pentecost, when the priests entered the temple at night, as was their custom, to perform the services, they said that at first they perceived a movement and a noise, and afterward a voice as of a great multitude, saying, ‘Let us go hence.’98
Tacitus, Histories, Book 5
Prodigies had occurred, which this nation, prone to superstition, but hating all religious rites, did not deem it lawful to expiate by offering and sacrifice. There had been seen hosts joining BATTLE IN THE SKIES, the fiery gleam of ARMS, the TEMPLE ILLUMINATED by a sudden RADIANCE FROM THE CLOUDS. The doors of the inner shrine were suddenly thrown open, and a voice of more than mortal tone was heard to cry that the Gods were departing. At the same instant there was a mighty stir as of departure. Some few put a fearful meaning on these events, but in most there was a firm persuasion, that in the ancient records of their priests was contained a prediction of how at this very time the East was to grow powerful, and rulers, coming from Judaea, were to acquire universal empire.
Sepher Yosippon (A Mediaeval History of Ancient Israel) Excerpts from Chapter 87 “Burning of the Temple”
For one year before Vespasian came, a single great star shining like unsheathed swords was seen over the Temple. And in those days when the sign was seen it was the holiday of Passover and during that entire night the Temple was lit up and illuminated like the light of day, and thus it was all seven days of the Passover. All the sages of Jerusalem knew that it was a malevolent sign, but the rest of the ignorant people said that it was a benevolent sign.
…Now it happened after this that there was seen from above over the Holy of Holies for the whole night the outline of a MAN’S FACE, the like of whose BEAUTY had never been seen in all the land, and his appearance was QUITE AWESOME.
Moreover, in those days were seen CHARIOTS OF FIRE AND HORSEMEN, a great force flying across the sky near to the ground coming against Jerusalem and all the land of Judah, all of them HORSES OF FIRE and RIDERS OF FIRE. When the holiday of Shavu’oth came in those days, during the night the priests heard within the Temple something like the sound of men going and the sound of men marching in a multitude going into the Temple, and a terrible and mighty voice was heard speaking: “Let’s go and leave this House.
Translated from the Hebrew by Steven B. Bowman.