There are some preterists who argue that the New Covenant ended in A.D. 70 along with the Old Covenant. Proponents of this idea believe that the Christian saints were resurrected in A.D. 70 and the living saints were raptured at that time. Therefore, they believe that the kingdom of God just existed in heaven for eternity and there is no legitimacy to Christianity on earth after A.D. 70. First I shall briefly address the evidence that there was no rapture in A.D. 70–a belief critical to this eschatology. Then I will highlight the Bible verses that show a continuation of the New Covenant after the fulfillment of the Old. Finally, I shall address each of their arguments.
First it should be noted that there was no rapture in A.D. 70. There are few periods in ancient history that are more comprehensively recorded than the decades surrounding A.D. 70. The sudden miraculous disappearance of every Christian at this time would not likely go unnoticed. Thus a rapture would have almost certainly been recorded in a time so exhaustively covered by historians who all appear to be so eager to report the supernatural. Normally absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, but in this case the absence of evidence for a rapture borders on proof of it having never occurred. The idea that all living Christians had to be removed from the earth in A.D. 70 is critical to the cessassionist belief that Christianity ended in A.D. 70. After all, how could Christianity end in A.D. 70 when so many first-century Christians were still alive at the time? For historical testimony that the Apostle John, the grandchildren of Jude, and others lived beyond A.D. 70 in addition to the devastating historical fact that the Christians who fled to Pella at the start of the Jewish revolt returned shortly after the war ended in A.D. 70 see Why Did the Disciples of the Apostles like Polycarp Teach a Future Resurrection Beyond A.D. 70?.
Having touched on the rapture, I will now give several Bible verses that clearly show that the New Covenant (Christianity) must have continued after A.D. 70. The first proof is found in Daniel 2: “Then the iron (Roman), the clay (Israel), the bronze (Greece), the silver (Medo-Persia) and the gold (Babylonian) were all broken to pieces and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole EARTH (Dan 2:35).” Notice that the kingdom of God fills the EARTH. The rock that struck the statue at its iron and clay feet is Jesus at His Parousia. Notice that the kingdom of God fills the earth after Jesus’ second coming! This means that the Church MUST continue to exist on earth after A.D. 70.
Let’s look into Daniel 2 a little deeper. In Mt 21:43-45 Jesus identifies the stone that strikes the statue in Daniel 2 as Himself at His Parousia: “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed. When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them.” Also notice that the Pharisees understood that this stone representing Christ at His return was going to hit them. In other words, this stone was going to hit Israel. Since the metal components of the statue of Daniel 2 represent all the Gentile empires that ruled over Israel until the inauguration of the kingdom of God, this implies that the clay of the statue’s feet must represent Israel since the Pharisees understood that the stone was going to hit them.
The fact that the clay is Israel implies that the earth probably is as well since clay and earth are analogous terms. Thus when the rock strikes the statue and a mountain fills the whole earth, this implies that Palestine was to become Christian after Christ’s return. The fact that Palestine would become Christian also appears to be implied directly in Matthew 21:44 itself when Jesus says, “[T]he kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit[.]”
The idea that Christianity was to flourish on earth after A.D. 70 is also implied in Rev 21:2-3: “I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them.” Notice that the New Jerusalem comes down to earth and God’s dwelling is “among the people.” Here we see the kingdom of God being amidst people after A.D. 70, and not just amidst angels and saints in heaven as alleged by cessassionists.
Another example of the continuation of Christianity after A.D. 70 is found in the Parable of the Tenants (Mk 12). In this parable there is vineyard representing Jerusalem. The fact that this vineyard is Jerusalem is implied in vs. 6-7 where the tenants took the vineyard owner’s son, “and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.” Here we see how Jesus was crucified by the people of Jerusalem outside of the city (i.e. the vineyard). Verse 9 then goes on to say, “What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants (the Jews) and GIVE THE VINEYARD (Jerusalem) TO OTHERS (Christians).” Those tenants (the Jews) were “killed” as predicted in Mk 12:9 during the Jewish War. Then notice after these tenants are killed God gave the vineyard “to others (Christians).” This shows Christianity did not end in A.D. 70. The fact that Christians replaced the Jews after A.D. 70 is a matter of historical fact. By the end of the fourth century Jerusalem became exclusively Christian.1 Here we see how Jerusalem, the vineyard, was given to others. And here we also see how Christianity must continue after A.D. 70.
Hebrews 10 also argues against the idea that the New Covenant ended in A.D. 70. Hebrews 10:1 says, “The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves.” Notice that the New Covenant is expected in the future in v. 1. Echoing this idea, Hebrews 10:10 says that God sets aside the first covenant to establish the second, meaning the Law must be fulfilled before the New Covenant can be fully established in A.D. 70: “He sets aside the first [covenant] to establish the second [covenant].” According to Matthew 5:18 God could not set aside the first covenant until the Law was entirely fulfilled and that did not occur until A.D. 70: “For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” Thus in Hebrews 10:10 we again see that the New covenant could not be fully established until A.D. 70, and no sooner.
Matthew 22:2-14 also implies that the New Covenant did not end in A.D. 70:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. “Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’ “But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless. “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”
Notice the fact that in this parable God sends His servants (the Apostles and Christian saints) to invite His people to the wedding of the Lamb but the people refused and killed the servants. Then in v. 7 the king sent His army to destroy those murderers and burned their city. Verse 7 was, of course, fulfilled in A.D. 70 when the Roman army destroyed Jerusalem. Then notice that after Jerusalem was destroyed God sent His servants, the Christian saints, out again just as He had done before the destruction of Jerusalem when in v. 8 God said, “[G]o to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’” And the servants did as commanded all AFTER THE FALL OF JERUSALEM. Here we can see that the Gospel was expected to continue after A.D. 70.
What is particularly challenging to the cessassionist view in this parable is that the servants sent out after the war are “killed” by the invitees (Mt 22:6). This means that these servants who are sent out to minister before the war (Mt 22:3-4) and then again after the war (Mt 22:7-10) are human beings, not angels, meaning that there was to be no rapture of the living (a critical point to the cessassionist doctrine as you cannot have saints living prior to A.D. 70 still alive after the resurrection in A.D. 70) AND that the gospel obviously was expected to continue after the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, a doubly devastating blow to the idea that Christianity ended in A.D. 70.
Ephesians 3:21 also suggests that the Church would continue after A.D. 70: “to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!” “[T]hroughout all generations, for ever and ever” reads more literally “to all the generations of the age of the ages.” The cessationist belief that the Church stopped existing in a legitimate sense after A.D. 70 seems to contradict this verse since according to this view the Church was only truly in existence during the forty years between Jesus’ ministry and the fall of Jerusalem. These forty years are understood to be one generation (Mt 23:36). Yet according to Ephesians 3:21 Christ was to have glory in the “CHURCH” “to all the generations of the age of ages,” not just one generation between A.D. 30 or 33 and A.D. 70.
Those who believe in the end of the New Covenant in A.D. 70 also allege that there is no further resurrections after A.D. 70. This idea is demonstratably false. We can also know that there were other resurrections after A.D. 70 because the first resurrection of Rev 20:4-6 could not have taken place before A.D. 70 (see A Rebuttal of the Forty-Year Millennium). And the fact that there is a “first” resurrection in A.D. 70 implies that there is at least one other after that time. Rev 14:13 echoes this idea, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.”
The fact that Christians are still resurrected after A.D. 70 and the gospel was expected to spread after that time is also implied in Rev 21:24-26: “The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it.” In these verses the gates of the New Jerusalem are said to always be open to allow the kings of the earth to bring their glory into the city. Those who argue that the resurrection ended in A.D. 70 claim that these gates are open because there is no night in the New Jerusalem and in ancient times the gates of a city would be closed at night for protection. The fact that there is no night in the New Jerusalem therefore means that the gates of the city would never be closed. This argument lacks potency. Gates are always shut to prevent entry. If entry into the New Jerusalem was barred after A.D. 70, why does Revelation 21:24-27 tell us these gates are always open and then go on to say “they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it”? When the gates are said to always be open and that the nations were to bring their glory into the city implies by this context that these gates are open so as to allow continuous entry. The fact that the gates of heaven remained open is important because as stated above there was no first-century rapture. The fact that the Apostle John and many other Christians clearly lived beyond A.D. 70 implies that they must also enter heaven after death even though this was after A.D. 70. The fact that the gates of the New Jerusalem always remained open should be a source of hope to Christians to who lived after the resurrection of A.D. 70.
Those who support the idea that entry into the New Jerusalem is barred after A.D. 70 will sometimes cite the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Mt 25:1-13). In this parable the doors of a home are shut during the wedding banquet of the Messiah preventing five virgins from entering. Does this parable contradict the open gates of Revelation 21:24-27 by implying that no one can enter the New Jerusalem after A.D. 70? The fact that the five virgins are prevented from entering the wedding banquet of the Messiah signifies the fact that the wicked are refused entry into the kingdom of God as made clear in Luke 13:23-28:
Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” He said to them, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ “But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’ “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’ “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out.
Notice that it is the “evildoers,” not those who just so happened to live after A.D. 70, who are not allowed to enter the doors of the house signifying the kingdom of God in Luke 13:23-28. Similarly, the fact that the wicked are also not allowed to enter the New Jerusalem is indicated in Rev 22:14-15: “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” This picture of the wicked being barred from entering the kingdom of God is also found in Mt 25:32 and Lk 16:26-27. Here we see in the verses cited above that the five virgins were most likely not allowed to enter the wedding banquet because they were “evildoers,” not because they lived after A.D. 70.
Having offered the evidence that the New Covenant continued after A.D. 70, I will now address Mt 24:14-16 and other verses cited as evidence that the New Covenant ended in A.D. 70. Matthew 24:14-16 says, “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” Though it is certainly true that the gospel was preached to all the world before the fall of Jerusalem (Colossians 1:23), what end is being spoken of here? Is this the end of the New Covenant (Christianity)? Is this the end of the Old Covenant age? Or is it the end of Jerusalem? Jesus never says, but in light of the evidence presented above, the “end” in Mt 24:14-16 cannot be the end of the New Covenant, Christianity. The end referred to in this v. may be the end of the Old Covenant Age as the end of the age is often mentioned in the New Testament (Mt 13:40, 49). But if the end referred to in Mt 24:14-16 is the end of the Old Covenant Age, the New Covenant cannot end at that time since the New Covenant Age is called the “age to come” (Mt 12:32, Mk 10:30, Lk 18:30) thus implying that the end of the age (of the Law) must precede the establishment of the “age to come” (New Covenant Age).
Now proponents of the cessation of the Gospel post A.D. 70 will argue against what I have just said by claiming that the “age to come” is only in heaven. This is a strange thing to say when the Old Covenant Age was clearly an earthly matter. Yet despite this fact, these cessationists will cite Lk 20:35 as proof: “But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage[.]” At first glance this v. seems to imply that the age to come must be heaven since people still marry on earth after A.D. 70. But is that really what Jesus is saying? Lk 20:35 reads, “But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come AND in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage[.]” Notice Jesus says those worthy to take part in the age to come AND the resurrection do not marry. Obviously people still alive on earth after A.D. 70 had not yet been resurrected so this v. does not apply to them until they die and are resurrected in that age. Only then after being resurrected after A.D. 70 do the saints not marry. Having undermined the cessassionist view that the Age to Come is just in heaven, let us now turn back to the “end” referred to in Mt 24:14-16. Though the end here may refer to the end of the Old Covenant Age. It seems more likely that the end here is just a reference to the end that was to come upon Jerusalem and Israel due to the war with the Romans (A.D. 66-74). Generally, when the Bible refers to the “end” without qualifying it, it is implicitly referring to the end of a city or kingdom due to military defeat—just like the war with the Romans that was soon to befall Palestine about forty years after Mt 24:14-16 was originally spoken. For example, Amos 8:2 reads, “The end has come for My people Israel. I will spare them no longer.”2 The end spoken of in this v. is the Assyrian conquest of the northern kingdom of Israel in the eighth century B.C. Similarly, Hosea 1:4 reads, “Call him Jezreel, because I will soon punish the house of Jehu for the massacre at Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of Israel.” The end of Israel in Hosea 1:4 was fulfilled in the Babylonian conquest of Israel in the sixth century B.C. There are many other examples in the Bible in which “end” is used to clearly refer to the end of a city or kingdom by means of war (Jer 48:35; Ezek 7:2, 6; 11:13; 21:25-29; Dan 5:26; 8:17-19; 9:26). Because “end” is used so often in this manner, statistically it is most likely the case that the end referred to in Mt 24:14-16 was also referring to a coming military defeat and certainly not the end of the New Covenant.
What about Romans 11:25-26? “Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved.” (Romans 11:25-26) Those preterists who believe that the resurrection was a one-time event that ended in A.D. 70 argue that because the “full number of Gentiles has come in” and “all Israel” was saved, this means there are no people after A.D. 70 who were raised from the dead and allowed to enter heaven. As we have shown above, this idea that no one is saved or resurrected after A.D. 70 cannot be true as it comes with may Biblical contradictions like the ones previously cited. For example, recall that the first resurrection was in A.D. 70 implying there is at least one other after this time (see A Rebuttal of the Forty-Year Millennium).
Romans 11:25-26 is similar to Genesis 15:16 which reads, “In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.” Did the Amorites stop sinning after their sin reached its “full measure”? No. Why? Because the “full measure” of the Amorites’ sin was all the sin God would tolerate before He sent the Hebrew slaves from Egypt to take their land. The Amorites continued to exist after the Hebrew conquest and, of course, still sinned. In light of this understanding, let us now look again at Romans 11:25-26: “Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved.” If the Amorites continued to sin after their sin reached its “full measure,” could the resurrection continue after the “full number” of Gentiles had come in? Of course! Because the “full measure” of sin of the Amorites and the “full number” of Gentiles is the totality of sin and people that were preordained by God before a particular event. The “full measure” of Genesis 15:16 was the total amount of sin God would allow before punishing the Amorites. Similarly, in Romans 11:25-26 the “full number” was the total number of Gentiles elected by God to be grafted into Israel before the end of the age. And because the Amorites continued to sin after their sin reached its full measure, we cannot assume that Gentiles were not still grafted into Israel after the “full number” of Gentiles came into Israel at the time of the end since this “full number” is just the total number or amount of something before a particular event.
But what about the fact that Romans 11:26 goes on to say, “and in this way all Israel will be saved.” Doesn’t “all” mean everyone without exception? According to Matthew 2:1-3 “all” of Jerusalem was disturbed at the Messiah’s birth: “When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.” (Mt 2:3) In Matthew 10:22, Jesus tells the disciples, “All men will hate you because of me.” The Bible is littered all over with examples like this in which “all” or “every” has obvious and abundant exceptions. This is because the Bible often employs hyperbole more as a rule than as an exception. Thus when Romans 11:26 says “all Israel” will be saved, this does not necessarily mean that every single person grafted into Israel would be saved by A.D. 70.
Those who believe that Christianity ended in A.D. 70 also sometimes cite Ephesians 1:13-14 or similar verses (Eph 4:20, 2 Tim 1:14). Ephesians 1:13-14 reads, “When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” Cessassionists argue that the Holy Spirit was just a seal guaranteeing the inheritance of the saints at the resurrection in A.D. 70. Once the resurrection of A.D. 70 occurred there would be no purpose for the Holy Spirit. Proponents of this teaching believe there is no resurrection after A.D. 70 so this verse seems to support their view. But as I have argued above, there is at least one other resurrection after A.D. 70 (and likely myriads of individual ones). So it is possible that the Holy Spirit could be a deposit guaranteeing the resurrection of each believer up to and after A.D. 70. There is nothing specifically in this verse to support the A.D. 70 terminus especially if one or more resurrections occur after A.D. 70.
What about 1 Cor 13:8-12?
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1 Cor 13:8-12.)
Cessassionists sometimes use 1 Cor 13:8-12 to claim that the gifts of the Holy Spirit ended after A.D. 70 implying that no one has the Holy Spirit today. Is this what is being implied in 1 Cor 13:8-12? Probably not. Matthew 12:32 seems to imply that the Holy Spirit would still be present in the age to come which is the age after the Old Covenant Age which ended in A.D. 70: “Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” Armed in part by Matt 12:32 it seems that 1 Cor 13:8-12 is probably not referring to the end of the Holy Spirit and its gifts after A.D. 70. Recall as I stated above the age to come was not just heaven.
When we examine 1 Cor 13:8-12 carefully we see that prophecies, tongues etc “pass away” “when completeness comes”? What is this “completeness,” is it life on earth after A.D. 70? Not likely. 1 Cor 13:12 expounds upon this time of completeness as when “we shall see [God/Jesus] face to face.” Did people on earth see Jesus and God “face to face” after A.D. 70? Of course not! This completeness when the saints see God face to face refers to the resurrection to heaven beginning in A.D. 70 when the saints are raised to the presence of God in heaven and literally see Him “face to face.”
What about Matthew 28:20? “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Mt 28:20.) Cessassionists claim that this verse is evidence of the cessation of the Holy Spirit and Salvation after A.D. 70. However, the I in this verse is Jesus, not the Holy Spirit, and Jesus’ audience is His twelve disciples, not the Church before or after A.D. 70. Cessassionists are usually quick to point out audience relevance and yet in this particular case they forget who Jesus’ audience is in this verse. Remember Jesus told His Disciples that many or all of them were going to be killed before Jesus returned except John (John 21). Thus Jesus was going to remain with the Disciples to aid them until the fulfillment came. Jesus was not speaking to you or I or anyone else thus this verse cannot be used to support a cessationist perspective.