In Matthew 24 Commentary: THAT Generation Shall Not Pass I explained that I believe that Jesus told His people to flee as soon as they saw the Roman army surrounding Jerusalem beginning in A.D. 66. I also explained that the mentioning of the abomination that causes desolation standing in the holy place or Temple in Matthew 24:15 was simply intended to help Matthew’s readers link this figure or figures with the same abomination of desolation mentioned in Daniel 9:26-27. I do not believe it was Matthew’s intention to tell his readers to leave the city when they saw the abomination of desolation standing in the Temple as this contradicts Luke 21:20. In this commentary I also explained that I believe the “distress of those days” mentioned in Matthew 24:29 refers to the great distress that was cut short mentioned in Matthew 24:21-22, not to the final siege of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. This interpretation then implies that Jesus began His Parousia in A.D. 66, at the start of the Jewish War, not after the fall of Jerusalem as is believed by those who interpret the “distress of those days” in Matthew 24:21-22 as Titus’ siege of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Though these are my current views, I believe that there are several other interpretations of Matthew 24:15-30 that are worth mentioning. I shall address these views here.
An Alternative Preterist Perspective of Matthew 24:15-16: “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.”
Though it is true as stated in Matthew 24 Commentary: THAT Generation Shall Not Pass that outside of Matthew 24:15 “holy place” appears to always be used in the Bible to refer to the Temple, it is not technically inaccurate to call Israel, the holy land, or Jerusalem, the holy city, the holy place. In Daniel 9:24 Jerusalem is called the “holy city” and as such could be considered a “holy place.” Jerusalem is also called the holy city in Matthew 4:5 and Revelation 11:2. Thus when the abomination of desolation is said to stand in the holy place in Matthew 24:15 perhaps it is possible that this could refer to the presence of the Romans in or around Jerusalem in A.D. 66 first under Florus and then later under Cestius?
However, if it was Jesus’ intention to say that the abomination of desolation would stand in the Temple, perhaps Jesus had Cestius’ brief siege of Jerusalem in Tishri of A.D 66 in mind? When Cestius briefly besieged Jerusalem in A.D. 66, he attempted to break into the Temple from the north. At this time the Romans created a testudo or tortoise to protect themselves from arrows and projectiles launched from the walls of Jerusalem while they began to undermine the wall of the Temple. At that time, Josephus says “the first rank of the Romans rested their shields upon the wall [of the Temple.]”1 Though the Romans did not actually enter the Temple in A.D. 66, according to Josephus they forcibly pressed up against its walls. Matthew 24:15 says that the abomination that causes desolation would stand “in the holy place [emphasis mine].” The Greek word translated “in” in Matthew 24:15 is en which means “in, on or among.” Perhaps when the Roman army forcibly pressed up against the walls of the Temple this qualified as standing in, on or among the holy place?
Maybe Jesus meant to warn His people to flee Jerusalem when the Romans truly stood in the Temple? This, of course, happened in Av of A.D. 70. An obvious objection to this idea is that the Roman siege of Jerusalem was almost over at this time, though it should be noted that the Jewish War did not officially come to an end until the fortress of Masada fell on Passover of A.D. 74. Interestingly, as I explain in Daniel Chapter 12: A Preterist Commentary there were exactly 1335 days from the 9th of Av when the Romans worshiped the ensigns in the Temple until the day after Passover of A.D. 74 when the Jewish War officially ended.2 Not only is 1335 days approximately three and a half years (3.66 years) and therefore corresponds with the interval in which the woman was kept safe from the dragon in Revelation 12, it also fulfills Daniel 12:11-12: “From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days. How blessed is he who keeps waiting and attains to the 1,335 days!” The ones who keep waiting and attain to the 1335 days are blessed, of course, because they survived the war.
Given the fact that the 1335 days of Daniel 12:12 seems to have been fulfilled at least in part by the interval between the setting-up of the abomination that causes desolation in the Temple on the 9th of Av of A.D. 70 until the official end of the Jewish War roughly three and a half years later, one might wonder if this is all purely coincidental. In light of this interval, it may be asked if when most or all Christians left Jerusalem in A.D. 66 when Florus and later Cestius arrived outside of the city with the Roman army, what happened to those people who converted to Christianity during the Jewish War?
Revelation 11:2-3 indicates that two witnesses prophesied for 1260 days during the Jewish War. Did these two witnesses cause anyone in Jerusalem to repent and turn to Jesus amidst the war? Likewise, recalling Jesus’ predictions and gradually seeing them unfold throughout the Jewish War and especially during the Roman siege of Jerusalem, did any of the people trapped in Jerusalem consequently convert to Christianity? And if some did, were these saints also kept safe for a different and later three and a half year period? Though I believe that the three and a half year interval mentioned in Revelation 12 in which the saints are kept safe from the dragon was primarily fulfilled in the three and a half year interval between the departure of the Christian saints from Jerusalem upon the arrival of Cestius with the twelfth legion in A.D. 66, perhaps there was a dual fulfillment for these later Christian converts? If these new Christians were able to flee Jerusalem on the 9th of Av during the time in which the Roman army appears to have been distracted with its worship of the ensigns in the Temple, then these saints would have escaped the impending slaughter that began immediately afterwards. And if these new Christians escaped this massacre, then they would have also likely survived the remaining 1335 days before the war officially ended since there was little conflict after the fall of Jerusalem until the siege of Masada at the end of the war.
Maybe Jesus told His disciples more about the abomination that causes desolation during the Olivet Discourse than just what is recorded in Luke 21:20-21 or Matthew 24:15-18 alone? After comparing Luke 21:20-21 and Matthew 24:15-18 side-by-side, perhaps Jesus warned His people to flee on more than one occasion? In other words, maybe Jesus instructed His people to flee the city when they saw Jerusalem surrounded by armies. If these people failed to escape in time and were trapped in the city during the final siege of A.D. 70, maybe Jesus also told his people to make a final attempt to escape while the Romans distracted themselves as they celebrated the capture of the Temple by offering sacrifices to the ensigns on the eastern wing of the Temple? In a way it makes sense that Jesus would warn people trapped in the city to flee on this occasion as the Romans were likely distracted at that time and Titus ordered the slaughter of everyone in Jerusalem immediately after this idolatrous celebration.
An Alternative Preterist View of Matthew 24:22: Are the Days Said to Be Cut Short in Matthew 24:22 Referring to Cestius’ Siege of Jerusalem in A.D. 66?
It is often thought that those days which are said to have been cut short in Matthew 24:22 refers to the interval in which the abomination that causes desolation mentioned in v. 15 surrounded Jerusalem under Cestius in Tishri of A.D. 66. Cestius’ attack on Jerusalem was brief and did not result in the fall of the city. Cestius may have been able to put an end to the Jewish rebellion right then and there in A.D. 66. Yet Cestius and his armies relented and withdrew fulfilling v. 22: “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive[.]” Matthew 24:22 implies that if these attacks were not “cut short” none of the saint or anyone else in Jerusalem would have survived. This assault rather appears to have served as an omen to the saints to flee the city as Jesus indicates in vs. 15-18.
Assuming that the last of the Christians of Jerusalem left the city in either Tishri or Marheshvan when Cestius arrived outside of Jerusalem with the 12th Legion and then left, there would have been approximately 1,260 days or three and a half years until Passover when the two witnesses were presumably killed at the start of the siege of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Was this the 1,260 days of Revelation 12:6 in which the woman, representing the saints, was kept safe? See Revelation 11: A Preterist Commentary–Who are the Two Witnesses? and Revelation 12: A Preterist Commentary.
An Alternative Realized Eschatology View of Matthew 24:27: “For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.”
As stated above the second time Jerusalem was surrounded by armies during the Jewish War was when Cestius encamped with the 12th Legion on Mt. Scopus to the northeast of Jerusalem in Tishri of A.D. 66.3 The 12th Legion was mustered out of Syria where it guarded Rome’s eastern borders against the Parthians. The 12th Legion or Legio duodecima Fulminata means armed with lightning. The military flag of the 12th Legion erected in its presence is a lightning bolt. This army drawn from the eastern borders of the Roman Empire encamped northeast of Jerusalem before entering the city with its flags of lightning flying high outside of Jerusalem may have been another, later symbolic reminder of Matthew 24:27: “For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.”
After a brief attack on the city, Cestius withdrew from Jerusalem with the 12th Legion shortly thereafter. The next and final time in which the Roman army surrounded Jerusalem during the Jewish War was in A.D. 70 under Ceasar Titus. With the aid of the 12th Legion together with several additional legions and auxiliary cohorts, Titus besieged Jerusalem on Passover of A.D. 70. Five months later Jerusalem fell, many people in the city were killed and exiled, and the city was burned. A few of these Roman legions encamped east of the city on the Mt. of Olives before the seige of the city began.4 These legions would have raised their main ensign high as they encamped east of Jerusalem before the seige. Remember that the main ensign and symbol of Rome and its legions, the Aquila, carried Zeus’ lightning bolt in its talons. Perhaps this image of these legions stationed on the Mount of Olives east of Jerusalem with their Aquilas standing tall also fulfill, in part, the lightning from the east of Matthew 24:27?
Preterist View of Matthew 24:27 Explained! “For as LIGHTNING that comes from the EAST is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.”: A Rain Storm hit Jerusalem at the Arrival of the Romans in A.D. 70, Did Lightning mark the Coming of Christ on the Clouds at that Time as well?
Perhaps the lightning from the east might also point to the coming of Christ at the start of the seige of Jerusalem in A.D. 70? As explained in Historical Evidence that Jesus was LITERALLY SEEN in the Clouds in the First Century, I believe the parousia began in A.D. 66 and continued until the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Remember that whenever God came on the clouds in judgment in the Old Testament, the spirit of God was pictured riding dark storm clouds as illustrated in 2 Samuel 22:10-15. In 2 Samuel 22:12 dark storm clouds render God invisible: “He made darkness his canopy around him—the dark rain clouds of the sky.” Storm clouds are often accompanied by lightning like that mentioned in 2 Samuel 22:13-15: “Out of the brightness of his presence bolts of lightning blazed forth. The Lord thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded. He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy, with great bolts of lightning he routed them.” In light of how the coming of the Lord on the clouds is depicted in 2 Samuel 22:10-15 as a vilent storm with rain, thunder and flashes of lightning, it is not surprisng that lightning is also said to accompany the parousia in Matthew 24:27. Regarding what appears to be the fulfillment of this lightning in A.D. 70, Josephus says that the drought which preceded the siege of Jerusalem ended at the arrival of Titus and his army in A.D. 70. The fact that a rain storm seemingly marked the arrival of the Roman army outside Jerusalem in A.D. 70 is a sign that God had come on the clouds in judgment at that time precisely as pictured in 2 Samuel 22:10-15. And because lightning often accompaines rain storms, perhaps lightning also lit up the sky over Jerusalem at the coming of Christ in A.D. 70 in fulfillment of Matthew 24:27? It is also worth mentoning that as stated above just as God was invidible during these violent storms as indicated in 2 Samuel 22:12 cited above, Jesus was also presumably invisible in A.D. 70 during this aspect of the parousia. Did Jesus also come on the clouds in judgment at the start of the siege of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 in fulfillment of Matthew 24:30? And did these dark rain clouds darken the sun and moon as predicted in Matthew 24:29? For additional details see The Coming of Christ in A.D. 70–Like You’ve Never Heard it Before!
“A.D. 70 Doctrine” and Matthew 24:29: What is the Sign of the Son of Man?
Regarding that aspect of the Parousia in which Jesus came on the dark storm clouds of the Glory Cloud which darkened the sun and moon in v. 29 upon the arrival of the Roman army to besiege Jerusalem in A.D. 70, perhaps the sign of the Son of Man in heaven at this time was less literal than the visible signs seen in heaven in the initial aspect of the Parousia of A.D. 66? See Matthew 24 Commentary: THAT Generation Shall Not Pass. The sign of the Son of Man in heaven in Matthew 24:30 is often understood to mean that when all the prophecies of Matthew 24 are fulfilled culminating in the destruction of Temple in A.D. 70 that the disciples would know that Christ had truly come on the clouds of heaven as predicted in Matthew 24:30. Thus many preterists believe that the sign of the Son of Man in heaven is a sign pointing to Jesus’ presence in heaven. This sign of Jesus’ presence in heaven is the fulfillment of all Jesus’ earthly predictions mentioned in the Olivet Discourse culminating in the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70 when no stone was truly left on another. Thus the fulfillment of all these events are a sign or signs of Jesus’ presence in heaven ruling with all dominion and authority.5
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 18.104.22.1687.
There were 354 days per year in the Hebrew lunar calendar. The time between the old and new moon is roughly 29.5 days and because there were 12 months in a lunar year, each year was expected to be 354 days long with each month alternating between 29 and 30 days. However, another month was added to the calendar approximately every three years in order to prevent seasonal overlap. Assuming a standard 354 day lunar year with a 30 day leap month sometime within these three and one half years, there is exactly 1335 days from the 9th day of Av in A.D. 70 until the day after Passover, the 16th of Nisan, in A.D. 74, the first official day of peace after the war. Josephus says that the 960 Jewish rebels at Masada committed suicide on the “fifteenth day of the month of Xanthicus [Nisan].” (Josephus The Wars of the Jews 7.9.1) Therefore, the first day of peace was the 16th of Nisan of A.D. 74. It is important to note that the Hebrew lunar calendar was not fixed until Hillel, 4th century A.D. Before Hillel, there was no fixed calendar. In other words, it was impossible to determine with certainty when the next month would start. Each month, the Sanhedrin would dictate whether a month would be 29 or 30 days in length. The length of each month was determined when the following month’s new moon was first seen. Thus there was some flexibility in the calendar in which one might expect the leap month to vary between 29 and 30 days depending on when the new moon was first seen to mark the following month because the time between the old and new moon is roughly 29.5 days. Since there were 12 months in a lunar year, each year was expected to be 354 days long with each month alternating between 29 and 30 days.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 2.19.4.
- Ibid., 5.2.3.
- That said, I believe some Preterist scholars incorrectly link the Parousia with Daniel 7:13-14. In Daniel 7:13-14 Jesus is seen approaching the presence of the Father on the clouds of heaven to receive all dominion and authority. Thus when Jesus said that He will come on the clouds of heaven in Matthew 24:30, this coming is often understood to be that which is described in Daniel 7:13-14 when Jesus was seen coming on the clouds to approach the Father in heaven. I believe Daniel 7:13-14 is a visionary description of Jesus approaching the Father on the clouds of heaven upon his ascension mentioned in Acts 1:9-11:
After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
The initial aspect of Daniel 7:13-14 in which Jesus approached the Father on the clouds of heaven to receive all dominion and authority, I believe, was witnessed by the disciples in Acts 1:9-11. Here the apostles saw Jesus rise up to heaven in a cloud. The fact that Jesus had subsequently received all dominion after His ascension on these clouds is indicated in Ephesians 1:19-23:
That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
By the time in which Ephesians was written, Daniel 7:13-14 appears to have been fulfilled. In other words, according to Ephesians 1:19-23 Jesus appears to have already received “all rule and authority, power and dominion” prior to the Parousia. Thus when Jesus ascended up to heaven in a cloud in Acts 1:19-11, He had subsequently been seated at the right hand of the Father and received all dominion and authority as per Daniel 7:13-14. (George E. Kouri and Richard Hogue, The Sign of the Kingdom: The Present Reign of Christ in Light of the Olivet Discourse, (Apostolic Ministries International, 1998), 146-147.)
Not only does Acts 1:9-11 mention the initial aspect of the fulfillment of Daniel 7:13-14, it also distinguishes this event from the Parousia which is said to occur later and be very similar. In Acts 1:9-11 an angel told the disciples, “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” In other words, in the same way that Jesus was taken up to heaven on the clouds of heaven in Daniel 7:13-14 and Acts 1:9-11, He was also to return in judgment later on the clouds of heaven at His Parousia. According to Acts 1:11, it is this return in judgment that is said to be very similar to his ascension in Daniel 7:13-14 that is mentioned in Matthew 24:30: “They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.”
It should also be noted that I believe that the signs mentioned in Matthew 24:29 may have also been fulfilled in A.D. 79 at the coming of Christ at the death of the lawless one, the emperor Vespasian. Revelation 19:19-20 and 2 Thessalonians 2:1-9 indicate that Christ will also appear at the death of the beast or lawless one. As explained in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-9: A Preterist Commentary–The Man of Lawlessness Revealed!, the lawless one is Vespasian. Vespasian died in the summer of A.D. 79. Around the time of his death a star fell from the sky, and the sun and moon were darkened over Rome. The darkening of the sun points to the death of a king (Psalm 72:5, Isaiah 24:21-23). If this is true then of course in this case this omen was fulfilled in the death of Vespasian, the emperor of Rome. For a detailed explanation of the LITERAL fulfillment of Matthew 24:29-31 in the appearance of Christ at the death of Caesar Vespasian in A.D. 79 see The Miraculous Historical Appearance of Christ at the Death of the Beast Fulfills 2 Thessalonians 2:8 and Revelation 19:19-20.