Westside church of Christ - Irving, Texas

Revelation and Jerusalem's Destruction

by Rusty Miller

We believe the book of Revelation to be a prophecy regarding the coming destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. But when there is so much disagreement about this in the religious world, how do we prove such?

First, the book would have meant something to its readers. Note that in the letters to the churches (ch. 2-3), two of the churches (Smyrna and Philadelphia) are comforted regarding their persecution by the Jews, whom Jesus calls ""a synagogue of Satan"" (2:9; 3:9). These churches would have been comforted by the coming judgment on Jerusalem. When Jerusalem is destroyed, with it go all the records, genealogies and traditions of Judaism, and the churches would cease suffering at their hands.

In addition, perhaps the best evidence in favor of linking the book to Jerusalem's destruction is found in the descriptions of the book itself. When we couple the words of prophecy with the words of history, it is sometimes uncanny how similar they sound. Let us examine just a few key passages.

In Revelation 6, we find the opening of the first six seals. In the first, a rider on a white horse, symbolizing conquest, and in the second, a rider on a red horse, symbolizing war (bloodshed) ride out through the land. As often follows conquest and war, the third seal features ""a black horse; and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard as it were a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying, 'A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and the wine'"" (6:5-6). As the war against Jerusalem was waged, the Roman siege lines cut off all supplies to the city, and the infighting among various factions of the Jews caused much of the surplus food to be destroyed. Josephus even describes the horrid tale of a woman who roasted and ate her own child, concluding "". . . So those that were thus distressed by the famine were very desirous to die; and those already dead were esteemed happy, because they had not lived long enough either to hear or to see such miseries"" (Jewish Wars, Book 6, Ch. 3).

In Revelation 8, the seven trumpets begin to sound, and here, the descriptions get even more uncannily like the historical record. The first trumpet brings forth hail and fire (v. 7). The armies of the Roman general Vespasian, dispatched by Nero to quell the Jewish rebellion, were equipped with what Josephus calls engines (catapults) which are used to launch arrows, darts, stones and flaming arrows and darts. The result, in the battle for Galilee (the first line of Jewish defense), was ""That Galilee was all over filled with fire and blood"" (Ibid, Book 3, Ch. 4).

The second trumpet sounds, and the terror visits the sea vv. 8-9), and shortly after Vespasian's victory at Galilee, he came to destroy the pirate ships of Joppa. He forces them out to sea, where they are met by a violent storm, which Josephus describes: ""The greatest part of them were carried away by the waves, and dashed to pieces against the abrupt parts of the rocks, insomuch that the sea was bloody a long way, and the maritime parts were full of dead bodies; for the Romans came upon those that were carried to the shore, and destroyed them; and the number of the bodies that were thus thrown out of the sea was four thousand and two hundred"" (Ibid, Book 3, Ch. 9).

Perhaps the most convincing arguments for Jerusalem as the topic of Revelation are found in chapter 11. The chapter begins with John being told to measure the temple (v. 1) and this temple is in ""the holy city"" (v.2). These are clear references to Jerusalem, for that is where the temple was. This also helps in dating the book before the destruction of AD 70, for in that destruction, the temple was destroyed. Imagine John being told to measure something which his 1st century readers all understood was no longer in existence! Chapter 11 continues with the story of the two witnesses of God, and their deaths at the hand of the beast, after which John records, ""And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which is mystically called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified"" (v. 8). First, in both Deuteronomy (32:28-33) and in Isaiah (1:10), God refers to the Jewish people, and Jerusalem in particular, as Sodom, and Ezekiel 23 links Israel to her harlotries in Egypt. So, there is precedent for John's use of these names to describe what had once been the city of God. But if there is any doubt where this evil takes place, John clears it up with his reference to the city ""where also their Lord was crucified."" Jesus was not crucified in Rome, or in Berlin, or in Moscow, or in Washington, D.C. Our Lord was crucified in Jerusalem, and this is the city God has prepared for destruction in the book of Revelation.

Finally, when all the destruction is done, what happens? A new city appears, to take the place of the old harlot which had been destroyed by God's wrath. ""And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband"" (Rev. 21:2). When God is finished with the destruction of Jerusalem, He replaces her with a new city, which He also calls Jerusalem. This new Jerusalem is everything the first was not: pure, spotless, without unbelievers and the immoral. God destroyed the old Jerusalem to make way for the new one.

These are but a few of the references to the destruction of Jerusalem found in Revelation, but they are sufficient to cause us to understand that this is what John's book discusses. We urge you to examine other passages in the book, particularly in tandem with the historical record of Josephus. In such a way, you can obtain a better understanding of this challenging book.