Before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, Jesus warned of various birth pains that would precede His Coming in destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the Old Covenant (Matt. 24:8). Luke explained that the birth pains were signs (or unusual events) that warned that the end of Jerusalem and the end of the age were near (Luke 21:7). There were going to be signs from Heaven that Jesus’s Kingdom was established in Heaven and that He was, in fact, ruling at the right hand of the Father (Luke 24:31).
There were also going to be signs and indications on Earth that the forces of evil were actively resisting the advancement of God’s plan. False christs and false prophets were going to arise and mislead many (Matt. 24:5,11, 24). Some of the false christs and false prophets would perform great signs and wonders (Matt. 24:24). Professor Craig Keener of Asbury Theological Seminary wrote that “many false messianic figures arose in the first century… [and] they often attracted large and devoted followings.”
One of the most interesting of the probable false christs was a magician by the name of Simon Magus. We first learned about Simon Magus in Acts 8:9-24. He actually became a believer, but history reveals that he later become an evil adversary, who opposed Peter in Rome. Some credit Simon Magus as being the father of Gnosticism. He misled many by false miracles and black magic. There is some evidence that he was attributed god-like powers, and maybe, even worshiped as a god or as a messianic figure. The Historian Josephus wrote about another false prophet named Theudas, who led a rebellion against Rome. Theudas also claimed to have miraculous powers. He claimed that he could divide the waters of the Jordan River. Theudas’s rebellion was crushed by the Romans during the reign of the Procurator Cuspius Fadus (AD 44-46).
As additional birth pains, Jesus warned, “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom” (Matt. 24:6-7).
Stephen Dando-Collins has written a definitive account of Rome’s Legions. In AD 43, the Romans, with a massive army of more than four legions, invaded the area of present-day Britain. The future Emperor, Vespasian, led the invasion of Britain during the reign of Emperor Claudius. Between AD 54-58, the Romans conducted the First Armenian Campaign. They sought to free Armenia from Parthian control. The Romans were led by General Corbulo. In AD 60-61, the British warrior Queen, Boudicca, led a revolt of various tribes in Britain against Rome. Between AD 62-63, the Romans fought in the Second Armenian Campaign against the Parthians, who tried to reassert their control over Armenia. The Romans, once again, were led by General Corbulo. The campaign was settled by a peace treaty, wherein the Romans withdrew from Parthian soil, but the Romans were left in control of Armenia. In AD 66, as we have discussed many times, the Jews revolted against Rome. Also, as we have discussed, between AD 67-69, Emperor Nero appointed Vespasian to lead Rome in the war of retaliation against the Jews. In AD 69, the 3rd Gallica Legion fought and won a great victory against the Roxolani tribe near the Danube River. More than 9000 enemy combatants died, with little loss of Roman lives. Then, the Roman Civil War began in AD 69. First, Legions on the Rhine revolted. Seventy-five thousand soldiers marched on Rome. They wanted to dethrone Otho and install Vitellius as Emperor. Vitellius’s forces defeated the forces of Otho, who committed suicide. However, Vitellius soon learned that the eastern Legions had hailed Vespasian as their Emperor. Ultimately, Vespasian emerged victorious and became Emperor. As previously discussed, Vespasian then appointed his son, Titus, to complete the destruction of Jerusalem.
At Matthew 24:7, Jesus prophesied that there would be famines and earthquakes at various places. At Acts 11:28, we read about the Prophet Agabus, who prophesied that there would be a severe famine, which occurred during the reign of Claudius (AD 41-54). The historian, Josephus, recorded that a famine occurred in Palestine between AD 46-48. In fact, Queen Helena of Adiabene brought food supplies in aid to Jerusalem.
As to earthquakes, it should be noted that an earthquake occurred while Paul and Silas were imprisoned at Philippi (Acts 16:26). There were also significant earthquakes causing great destruction in Colossae and Laodicea during the early AD 60s. Finally, it should be noted that in AD 62, a significant earthquake occurred at Pompeii and Herculaneum. This earthquake was a precursor to the famous earthquake that destroyed Pompeii in AD 79.
As an additional birth pain and sign of His Coming in judgment, Jesus said, “Then they will hand you over to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name” (Matt. 24:9). Paul’s missionary journeys provide many examples of the growing antagonism against Christians during the First Century. The hostility reached a peak under Emperor Nero’s persecutions. As discussed in previous blogs, a great many Christians were killed in many horrible ways by Nero. The Roman historian, Tacitus, wrote that a huge number of Christians were accused, convicted, and exterminated and that many Romans generally believed that Christians were the “haters of mankind.” It should also be noted that great tribulation occurred during the Jewish War with Rome. Many parts of Palestine, including Galilee, were devastated by the Roman armies. As to Jerusalem, there was horrible suffering that occurred because of Jews fighting Jews, and ultimately during the complete destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans.
Jesus also prophesied that a great many Christians would fall away from the faith. In fact, He said that many would fall away, betray one another and hate one another (Matt. 24:10). He said that their love would grow cold (Matt. 24:12). It is interesting to note that many of Paul’s supporters abandoned him at the end of his life and ministry. Paul encouraged Timothy not to be ashamed of the Gospel (2 Tim. 1:8). Then Paul told Timothy, “Join me in suffering for the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:8). Further, Paul said that many in Asia Minor abandoned him, including Phygelus and Hermogenes (2 Tim. 1:15). At 2 Tim. 2:17, Paul added the names of Hymenaeous and Philetus to the list of those who strayed from the truth. Paul explained that the last days were going to be very difficult (2 Tim. 3:1). In fact, Paul gave a long list of characteristics demonstrated by the apostates and unbelievers, to include: “lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, slanderers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, [and] lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Tim. 3:2-4). Perhaps, some readers might say that such a description sounds a lot like contemporary history in the United States. These characteristics rightly describe any nation or people group in a state of apostasy and rejection of God.
Before His Coming in judgment, Jesus foretold that the Gospel would be preached to the “whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matt. 24:14). Although evangelization spread widely in the First Century, Jesus was not describing a complete evangelization of planet Earth in the First Century. Jesus’s words were the common way of referring to the Roman Empire and the portion of the world inhabited by the Greeks. For example, Luke wrote that the census of Caesar Augustus was taken of the whole world (meaning, the Roman Empire) (Luke 2:1). At Acts 17:6, enemies of Paul accused Paul and his missionary team of upsetting the world. Paul’s missionary journeys focused on the Roman world.
Despite Jesus’s clear reference to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple (Matt. 24:1-2; Luke 21:20-24), many have been confused by some of the language used in Matthew 24 and the other synoptic Gospels. Jesus’ use of apocalyptic and cosmological language has been particularly confusing to modern audiences. For example, at Matthew 24:29, Jesus said, “But immediately after the tribulation of those days THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL FALL from the sky, and the powers of heaven will be shaken.” Some modern readers believe that Matthew 24:29 must refer to some future event because in AD 70 the sun did not literally become dark, the moon did not literally cease to shine, and the stars did not literally fall to the earth. Many readers fail to understand that Jesus was using apocalyptic and cosmological language to alert the reader that AD 70 and the years leading up to AD 70 were world altering and transformational moments in time. The old and dependable source of light and guidance no longer worked as before. There was a great upheaval and change as to how God would henceforth relate to His people and His creation. There was a new world order.
So, what are some obvious examples of the new world order? Since the sacrificial death of Jesus, there is no longer a need for the Levitical sacrificial system and the Jewish dietary laws (Heb.10:4; Acts 10:14-15). Additionally, circumcision is now a voluntary choice and is no longer a religious requirement (Gal. 6:15). Further, Sabbath observance is no longer required (Col. 2:16). Even more importantly, there is no longer a separation between Jew and Gentile (Eph. 2:12-14). We have a bold, new access to God and opportunity for fellowship with God. Under the Old Covenant, there was a pronounced separation between God and His worshippers. As an example, only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies, and he could do so only one time each year. Now, every believer has immediate access to God, every moment of every day, because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We are called a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). God is in us, and we are in God (Rom. 6:11; 8:9-11). Our new Spiritual Life is in Christ. God’s Spirit indwells every believer. Every believer can walk by the Spirt (Rom. 8: 5-7). The Old Covenant had 613 laws. In contrast, our new way of being is described as the glorious freedom of the children of God (Rom. 8:21). We are simply commanded to walk by the Spirit, wherein the Word is a light to our feet, to trust in Christ Jesus, while having no confidence in our inherent capacity to live this new, supernatural way of being (Ps. 119:105; Rom. 2:28-29; Phil. 3:3). This is the New Covenant. We are called to believe (or trust) in God. We are called to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor, as ourselves (Luke 10:27). The Old Heaven and Earth have passed away (Matt. 24:35). There is a brand-new relationship between Heaven and Earth. Spiritually, the Heavenly and Earthly can be united and co-exist in each human when he or she functions in Christ.
Jesus explained, “For just as the lighting comes from the east and flashes as far as the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matt. 24:27). The Lord’s Coming in Judgment focused on Jerusalem, but the ramifications were observed across the Roman Empire. Jesus, who is the ultimate controller of human history, is seated and ruling at the right hand of the Father. The immediate context of Matthew, Chapter 24 involved the persecution of the Church, followed by the judgment of Jerusalem (and Palestine), together with the judgment of the Roman Empire. In answer to the prayers of the persecuted, Jesus came in rescue of His beleaguered people. Rome suffered a devastating civil war. The Julio-Claudian line of Emperors came to an end. Jerusalem and the Temple were completely destroyed. Not one stone of the Temple was left standing, just as Jesus stated (Mark 13:2), ending forevermore the Old Covenant and the Jewish sacrificial system.
Matthew 24 is not specifically about the Second Coming of Christ. However, Christ’s Coming in judgment between AD 66 to AD 70 and Christ’s Second Coming are both correctly classified as a Day of the Lord event. There may well be similarities. Jesus will come in answer to the prayers of His people, who pray: “Your Kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). His people will be saved, the persecutors of His people will be judged, and His visible rule on planet Earth will begin.
The featured artwork on this page is titled “The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans Under the Command of Titus, A.D. 70” by David Roberts, c. 1850 CE.
 Keener, Craig S. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Second Ed. InterVarsity Press, 2014.
 “Simon Magus.” The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: Volume IV. Gen. Editor Geoffrey W. Bromiley, et al., William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1988
 “Theudas.” The Anchor Bible Dictionary: Volume 6. Editor-in-Chief, David Noel Freeman, et al., Doubleday, 1992.
 Dando-Collins, Stephen. The Legions of Rome: The Definitive History of Every Imperial Roman Legion. St. Martin’s Press, 2010.
 Dando-Collins, pp 285- 290.
 Dando-Collins, pp 296- 298.
 Dando-Collins, pp. 302-304.
 Dando-Collins, pp 313-315.
 Dando-Collins, pp 315-317.
 Dando-Collins, pp 320-321.
 Dando-Collins, pp. 322-335.
 “Agabus.” The Anchor Bible Dictionary: Volume 1. Editor-in-Chief, David Noel Freeman, et al., Doubleday, 1992.
 “Colossae” and “Laodicea.” Unger, Merrill F. The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary. Chicago, Moody Press, 1988. See also, “Colossae” and “Laodicea.” The Anchor Bible Dictionary, edited by David Noel Freedman, Doubleday, 1992.
 Jashemski, Wilhelmina Feemster. “Pompeii”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 2 Mar. 2021, https://www.britannica.com/place/Pompeii. Accessed 5 January 2022.
 Bell, Jr Albert. Exploring the New Testament World. Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1998, p. 65 (quoting, Tacitus, Annalas 15.44).
 “G3625 – oikoumenē – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 3 Jan, 2022. https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g3625/nasb20/mgnt/0-1/