AD 70 WAS A TYPE OF THE END OF THE WORLD . . . OR WAS IT?
Don K. Preston
The biblical testimony that Christ’s parousia, the end of the age, and the resurrection were truly near in the first century is virtually overwhelming when one looks candidly at the passages. As covenant eschatology continues to spread, more Bible students are, perhaps for the first time, confronting this irrefutable truth. However, traditions die hard. Prejudice and, in many cases, the power of the creeds makes it very difficult to change long-held views.
One view heard more frequently these days is that the fall of Jerusalem was indeed the end of an age, and was even a "coming" of Christ. There was even a type of resurrection in AD 70! In my debate with James Jordan, he stated that he could argue that all New Testament eschatological prophecies initially applied to AD 70 because he believed that AD 70 was typological of the "real end."1 Likewise, Hank Hanegraaff argues, "The destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 and the prophecies thereof serve as types that at once point forward to and guarantee a day of ultimate judgment when Christ will appear a second time to judge the living and the dead."2 The point is that it is becoming increasingly popular to argue that AD 70 was a type of a yet future, "real" coming of the Lord.
The big question is, of course, "Were the events of AD 70 typological of the real end of the age, the real coming of the Lord, the real resurrection?" I deny that this is true and will present a few points demonstrating that the events of AD 70 were not typological, but substantive and consummative.
#1 – THE OLD TESTAMENT PROPHETS NEVER FORETOLD TWO ENDS OF TWO AGES, TWO RESURRECTIONS, OR TWO LAST DAYS
When the Old Testament prophets foretold the last days’ Day of the Lord, they never hinted that there would be another Day of the Lord beyond the "last days" about which they prophesied. If they did, I would like to ask those making such a claim to present so much as a scintilla of support for that claim. I have discussed this issue with several individuals from different eschatological views and asked for proof for their claims; yet, to this day, I have not been given a single verse in support. I realize that this is somewhat of an ad hominem argument, but when the advocates of a typological application of AD 70 cannot provide a single verse to prove that the Old Testament prophets ever predicted more than one last days’ Day of the Lord, then it is virtually assured that there is no proof for such a claim!
Part of the significance of this first point is that the New Testament writers repeatedly affirm three critical points:
Their eschatology was nothing but the hope of Israel (Acts 3.21-24; 26:21-23).
The "last days" foretold by all of the prophets—"Yea, all who have ever spoken"— occurred in the first century (Acts 3:21-24).
The last days’ Day of the Lord foretold by all the prophets was near in the first century (1 Peter 4:5-17; 2 Peter 3).
The New Testament writers knew of no other eschatology than the Old Covenant’s promises and God’s promises to Israel (e.g., Acts 2:21-24; 24:14f; 26:21-23).
Thus, if (as far as the New Testament prophets were concerned) all eschatological promises and prophecies belonged to Israel and her last days, and if/since they affirmed that all of those promises and prophecies were being fulfilled in their generation and were about to be completely fulfilled, it is more than apparent that they were not looking for another "last days" or another Day of the Lord.
#2 – NO NEW TESTAMENT WRITER EVER STATED THAT THE EVENTS OF THEIR DAY WERE TYPOLOGICAL OF GREATER EVENTS TO COME
Given the fact that no Old Testament prophet ever hinted that the events of AD 70 were to be typological of greater events beyond that event, it is additionally significant that no New Testament author ever stated that the events of AD 70 were typological! Let me reiterate: No New Testament author ever stated that the events of AD 70 were typological. This is significant. Hays, commenting on 1 Corinthians 10:6f says: "The events narrated in Scripture ‘happened as tupoi emon’ (10:6). The phrase does not mean—despite many translations—‘warnings for us.’ It means ‘types of us,’ prefigurations of the ekklesia. For Paul Scripture, rightly read, prefigures the formation of the eschatological community of the church."3
While the New Testament writers positively affirm that the events that occurred in the Old Covenant days were types of what was happening in the days of the apostles, not one New Testament writer affirms that what was happening in their days was typological of what would happen at some distant point in the future. Not one of them says, "We are types of what is coming!" Nor do they say that what was happening in their day would happen over and over and again and again throughout history!
Concerning 1 Corinthians 10:6f, Barton notes, "Christians in Corinth are told, for example, that they are fortunate to be alive when the decisive moment in history came about. So the present has become the moment to which all the Scriptures have been pointing, though their meaning can only be understood with that divinely inspired intuition which flows from acceptance of the Messiah."4 In other words, the goal of all previous ages had, in fact, arrived—not a type or shadow of the "real" consummation or the true goal.5 As Wilkin notes, when the New Testament authors and early Christians thought of the events of their day, "Christians juxtaposed the ‘types’ of the OT and the ‘truth’ of the New. Earlier events were seen as figures or models that prefigured the spiritual events of the New. . . . the type was perishable, the spiritual reality eternal."6
As a direct corollary to this point, no New Testament writer ever compared the fall of Jerusalem with anything beyond it. They always compared it with events that were past. For instance, Jesus compared His coming AD 70 parousia with the days of Noah (Matthew 24:37f), not with any event beyond AD 70.7 Likewise, he compared the days of Lot with his coming AD 70 parousia, but not with any event beyond AD 70. Since no New Testament author ever suggests, in any way, that what was happening or about to happen was typological of yet-future events, it is unjustified to create such a doctrine.
#3 – THE OLD COVENANT WAS THE TYPE, THE NEW COVENANT IS THE REALITY AND SUBSTANCE
When Paul dealt with the Judaizing movement in Colossia, he presented some truth that must be considered. Jewish and Gentile Christians were being pressured to obey the Torah and submit to the Old Covenant mandates in order to be known as Christians. However, Paul rejected that and told his audience not to be judged by the Old Covenant: "So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a
festival or a new moon or Sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ" (Colossians 2:16f). Thus, Paul sets forth the truth that Christ is the reality, not the shadow! What Christ accomplished and established is not typological, but "the body," "the reality."
Consider this also: if Christ’s AD 70 parousia was typological, then why is everything leading up to that event not typological as well? It is illogical to suggest that Christ’s AD 70 parousia was typological, but that everything leading up to it is the reality of what was foretold. The implications of such a position are clearly disturbing, not to mention a rejection of the gospel.
Is the death, burial and resurrection of Christ typological of something else, something greater to come, at the end of another age? If not, why not?
Is the outpouring of the Spirit in the last days typological of another, greater, outpouring of the Spirit? If so, where is the Scripture to support such a claim?
Is the establishment of the church a type of the establishment of another body of Christ that is greater than the church for which he died?
Is the Abomination of Desolation that occurred in the first century typological of a yet-future, greater Abomination of Desolation?8
Is the Great Tribulation that occurred during the end of the Old Covenant age in the first century typological of another, greater Great Tribulation that is yet to come?
It is illogical, and without any scriptural merit, to suggest that Christ’s AD 70 parousia was typological of a yet-future event, while denying that all the antecedent signs and precursors of that parousia are typological as well.
#4 – JESUS SAID THE EVENTS SURROUNDING HIS AD 70 PAROUSIA WERE THE GREATEST THAT HAD BEEN, OR EVER WOULD HAPPEN
It must be kept in mind that types always go from the lesser to the greater in significance. So to suggest that any of these things listed above were typological of some yet-future event, or typological of events to be repeated over and over, demands that the yet-future events must be greater and more meaningful than what happened in the life, ministry, resurrection, and parousia of Christ. To suggest that anything could be greater than these things is surely dangerous: it is, at heart, an anti-gospel claim. Now consider this:
For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. (Matthew 24:21)
Jesus said that the events of the end of the Old Covenant age would be the greatest that had ever occurred or that ever would occur! I concur with Gentry,9 DeMar,11 and others that when Jesus described the events leading up to and including the fall of Jerusalem as the greatest events in history, Jesus was not focused strictly on the number of people who died, but rather on the covenantal significance of the event. Jesus was emphasizing the point that the events of the first century, namely, the Great Tribulation and His parousia, were to be the greatest events that had ever occurred or that would ever occur! Do you catch the power of that?
Remember that types always move from the lesser to the greater. Since the New Covenant of Grace is greater than the end of the Old Covenant of Torah, would not it’s end be more catastrophic? The end of the gospel, purchased by the Son of God’s blood, would be greater than anything else that had or could occur. Would not the end of time be far greater than the fall of Jerusalem and the end of the Old Covenant theocracy?
I am confident that everyone would agree that anything associated with the traditional views of eschatology—that is, the end of time, the destruction of the cosmos, the end of the Christian age, etc.—would be far greater in scope and meaning than the fall of Jerusalem and the end of the Old Covenant age. Yet, Jesus leaves no room for argumentation. He said that the events surrounding the end of that Old Covenant age would be the greatest ever. How then is it possible to argue that Christ’s AD 70 parousia was simply typological? Logically, scripturally, textually, you cannot tenably make that argument.
#5 – "THESE BE THE DAYS OF VENGEANCE WHEN ALL THINGS THAT ARE WRITTEN MUST BE FULFILLED"
Jesus said that during the fall of Jerusalem "all things that are written must be fulfilled." Jesus’ words in Luke 21:22 are as emphatic as his words in Matthew 24:21. This leaves us with few options in our understanding:
Jesus did not mean "all things that are written." Those who would make this argument bear the burden of proof to demonstrate that, in this text, "all things that are written" does not mean "all things that are written."
If Jesus’ words are true (and, of course, they are), then this destroys the idea that his AD 70 coming was typological, that is, predictive of another yet-future event. You cannot agree that all things that are written were fulfilled and then suggest that "some things written" remain unfulfilled.
If Christ’s AD 70 parousia fulfilled all things that are written, then any suggested future coming of Christ, end of the age, etc., has no scriptural merit. It is not written and, if it is not written, we cannot hold it as a scriptural truth!
Therefore, the suggestion that the AD 70 parousia was simply typological of the "real" Second Coming (or, for that matter, of Christ’s coming again and again throughout history) contradicts Luke 21:22. Jesus did not say He was coming in AD 70 and would continue coming repeatedly. Alphaeus Crosby, writing in 1850, made a valid point: "Whether we suppose his predictions to have had two or twenty senses, whether he spoke of two comings or two hundred, did not the comprehensive words ‘all these things’ include the whole?"11 If all things that are written were fulfilled in Christ’s AD 70 parousia—and Jesus said they would be—it is patently false to say that there are more prophecies to be fulfilled or that Christ must somehow come again and again. This is a denial of what our Lord said.
There is a great deal more that we could say on this issue, but space forbids. I have attempted to offer clear-cut, textual evidence to demonstrate that Christ’s AD 70 parousia was not typological, but was in fact the fulfillment of "all things that are written." The suggestion that it was but a type has no scriptural or logical support, and is therefore untenable.