Friday, March 22, 2013

Signs of the times before the end.

As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, asking, what will  be the sign of His coming, and of the end of the age?’ (Matthew 24:3)   Jesus answered with a list of signs (see verses 5-26)

The first sign Jesus gave was false prophets and those proclaiming to be the Messiah.  Why would anyone still look for the coming of the Messiah?    Because they did not believe the Messiah has come in the first place.   We may not realize that the Jews for the most part did not expect the Messiah to be God in the flesh. They expected him to be human or more like David than God incarnate.  They expected the Messiah to be more like a military leader that would help overthrow the Rome yoke and restore the nation of Israel back to her former place in the world.

In fact the Jews believed if they did not get rid of Jesus Rome would take away their nation. John 11:46-48 But some of them went away to the Pharisees and told them the things Jesus did. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, "What shall we do? For this Man works many signs. "If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the (Romans will come and take away both our place and nation)."

There were many in Jesus’ day that claimed to be the Messiah. In fact, during this period there were many false Christs like no other time in the history of Israel. It was probably due to the prophesies of the Old Testament. Books such as Daniel established a timeline for the coming of the Messiah. The people of that day knew it was about time for Messiah to make His appearing. And there were many who tried to fill the role of the Messiah.

Not long after Christ's ascension, the Samaritan Dositheus appeared and declared himself the Messiah predicted by Moses. The book of Acts lists a number of these impostors. Gamaliel, who was a Pharisee mentions “Theudas who claimed to be somebody” Theudas persuaded a great multitude to follow him to the river Jordan which he claimed would divide the river Jordan to divide. (Act 5:36) The Roman procurator, Fadus, with a troop of horse, pursued them; slew the importer, and many others; and dispersed the faction. Josephus, the noted Jewish historian, also mentions Theudas.

At the time of Felix the governor (who is mentioned in the book of (Acts 23:24), said the country of the Jews was filled with impostors who Felix had put to death EVERY DAY—a statement which indicates that there were "many" of such in those days!

After Theudas another false messiah, rose up named Judas of Galilee, who drew away some people after him (Acts 5:37). There also was an Egyptian impostor, who lead thirty thousand men into the wilderness to be murdered. Thirty thousand followed him, under the persuasion that from mount Olivet they should see the walls of Jerusalem fall to the ground at his command, for their easy capture of the Roman garrison there; and their taking possession of Jerusalem. They were attacked by the Roman governor; four hundred were slain; and the rest dispersed. The Egyptian importer escaped for his life. (Acts 21:38)

Of the false messiahs, Simon is probably the best known: Acts 8:9-11 Now there was a certain man named Simon, who formerly was practicing magic in the city, and astonishing the people of Samaria, claiming to be someone great; and they all, from smallest to greatest, were giving attention to him, saying, ‘This man is what is called the Great Power of God.’ And they were giving him attention because he had for a long time astonished them with his magic arts.   According to Irenaeus, Simon claimed to be the Son of God and creator of angels. Jerome says that he claimed to be the Word of God, the Almighty. I am the Comforter, I am all there is of God." (Kik, An Eschatology of Victory, 92).

Josephus, the historian, verifies the fact that near the time of Jerusalem's fall, many false Messiahs appeared, claiming to be the Christ. He says these became more numerous before the sieges of Titus. Such figures played a leading role in the Jewish revolt in late A.D. 66 that led to the Jewish War.

Many false Messiahs appeared, engaging to break the Roman yoke, if they would follow him into the wilderness; but the deceiver and his followers soon fell a sacrifice to the vigilance of Felix the governor.. Christ had said to the Jews, ‘I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not. If another should come in his own name, him will you receive.' How prone are men to deception.

Wars and Rumors of Wars.

“You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end (Matt. 24:6)."

Perhaps we have heard the expression “Pax Romana.” This speaks of a time of peace and prosperity that Rome, supposedly brought to the world from 27 B.C. to A.D. 180. However, there was one period of time during this reign that was anything but peaceful. In fact, wars and rumors of wars is a very good description of this period especially for Israel. This, of course, is the years preceding the destruction of Jerusalem.

In A.D. 60 skirmishes between the Romans and the Jews began to break out. Wars and rumors of wars increased dramatically. When the Jews stopped the daily sacrifice for Caesar and the Roman people, the conflict intensified. This was considered an act of war.

Armies surrounded Jerusalem four times in all.

In A.D. 66 Cestius led Roman armies against Jerusalem. However, for no apparent reason he broke off his attack and retreated. The Jews pursued and killed many Romans thus humiliating the Roman army. This helped create the false assumption that God was on their side.

In A.D. 67 Vespasian led armies in the siege against Jerusalem. However, at Nero’s death, Vespasian withdrew his armies and returned to Rome.

After the death of Nero, Rome fell into civil war. Nations did rise against nations. Rome fell into chaos as the various factions vied for power. In fact, this period was so terrible that it was believed this was the end of the Roman empire. However, Vespasian was able to seize power and regain order. Then he turned the full might of Rome to unfinished business with Israel.

In A.D. 68 Idumeans from the south of Judea camped about the city. They had come to join zealots inside the city. A battle ensued in the temple area where 8,500 people lost their lives.
A.D. 70. The final one. This of course was Titus. Over a million people died in Jerusalem alone. Biblical Judaism has not been practiced anywhere in the world since.

The Jews rebelled against Rome so often there were always rumors of wars. Josephus records the fact that Roman civil wars were so common in the empire during this time that there was no need to write about them in any great detail. This occurred in Jesus’ contemporaries..

Famines and Pestilence.

It should be noted that some of the best manuscripts omit the word “pestilences” in this passage. However, where there is famine, there is always pestilence.)

Both the Bible and the historians of the day show that indeed famine and pestilence did occur before the time of the end. The Bible speaks of famine in Acts 11:27-29. The famine was so great that the church as far away as Corinth participated in relief efforts (1 Corinthians 16:1-5, Romans 15:25-28).

The historians of the day wrote extensively about famines in that day. Secular historians such as Tacitus wrote that famine fell upon the entire Roman Empire. It was established that at one point there was no more than fifteen day’s supply of food in the city of Rome. Josephus said there were famines leading up to the time of Jerusalem’s destruction. He records the consequences in graphic detail.

One woman who had lost everything but her baby to blood-thirsty Jews, then killed her baby son, “and then roasted him, and ate the one half of him, and kept the other half by her concealed.” When the seditious men smelled “the horrid scent of this food, they threatened her, that they would cut her throat immediately if she did not show them what food she had gotten ready. She replied, that she had saved a very fine portion of it for them and uncovered what was left of her son. She said this is my own son and he was killed by my own doing. Come, eat of this food; I have eaten of it myself.  The men left, trembling and frightened and the all the city came under distress when they heard about it. (Josephus pp. 443-444.)    Of course, we know that hundreds of thousands died from starvation during Titus’ final siege of Jerusalem.  

Finally, Titus turned hunger into his most formidable weapon. He had a siege dike dug around the entire city. All supplies were completely cut off. Starvation and madness filled the city. The bodies of the dead filled the streets. Zealot bands roamed the streets killing whole families for even a morsel of food. The stench became unbearable. Josephus wrote that the Jews themselves did far more to destroy Jerusalem than the Romans ever did.   This occurred in Jesus’ contemporaries..

And earthquakes in various places.

Did significant earthquakes happen near the time of the end of the first century?    Absolutely.

In the writings of the first century historian Tacitus we read a description of the conditions in A.D. 51 in Rome: "This year witnessed many prodigies signs or omens... Including repeated earthquakes." Josephus accounts that an earthquake in Judea was such a magnitude that "the constitution of the universe was confounded for the destruction of men."

He also wrote that earthquakes were "a common calamity", and indicated that God Himself had brought them about for a special purpose.   Then there is the book of Acts that records "a great earthquake that shook the foundations of the prison house" (Acts 16:26).   There were earthquakes in Crete, Smyrna, Miletus, Chios, Samos, Laodicea, Hierapolis, Colosse, Campania, Rome, and Judea. Paul started churches at Colosse and Hierapolis. However, these two cities, along with Laodicea, suffered a great earthquake in approximately A.D. 61. Laodicea was rebuilt soon after the earthquake, but Colosse and Hierapolis were not.

The earthquake at the latter place was so destructive, that the emperor, in order to relieve the distresses of the inhabitants, remitted its tribute for five years. Both these earthquakes are recorded by Tacitus. There was one also, in the same region of Crete. This is mentioned by Philostratus, in his Life of Apollonius, who says, that 'there were others at Smyrna, Miletus, Chios, and Samos; in all which places Jews had settled.' In the reign of Nero there was an earthquake at Laodicea. Tacitus records this also.

It is likewise mentioned by Eusebius and Orosius, who add that Hieropolis and Colose, as well as Laodicea, were overthrown by an earthquake. There was also one in Campania in this region (of this both Tacitus and Seneca speak ;) and another at Rome in the reign of Galba, recorded by Suetonius; to all which may be added those which happened on that dreadful night. When the Idumeans were excluded from Jerusalem, a short time before the siege commenced. "A heavy storm (says Josephus) burst on them during the night violent winds arose, accompanied with the most excessive rains, with constant lightnings, most tremendous thundering, and with dreadful roarings of earthquakes. It seemed (continues he) as if the system of the world had been confounded for the destruction of mankind; and one might well conjecture that these were signs of no common events." All this occurred in Jesus’ contemporaries..

Persecution and Falling Away.

Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. (Matt. 24:9-13)

This passage could not be a more accurate description of the events leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.   One only has to read the Bible.  The Bible records Jewish apostasy from the faith was already underway in the early 60s     John writes: They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, in order that it may be shown that they all are not of us. (1 John 2:19).  Some followers of Christ who remained zealous for the law and Temple system were departing from the new faith and falling back into the old ways. Thus, they had one foot in the Old Covenant and one foot in the New. The Judaizers departure from the church was evidence that they did not truly belong to the church. 

The book of Hebrews was written in an effort to keep believers from falling back into the Old Covenant world which was about to be judged.     It exhorts Christians to hold fast that they might partake of the glory that was about to be revealed. The book of Acts as well as the epistles speaks of intense persecution coming against the church.

The Jews of other sects (Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, etc.) had severely persecuted Christians in the attempt to stop them before they were firmly established.   These Christians provoked suspicion among the Judaizers who rejected the gospel.  Soon the Jewish authorities felt threatened by this oddball new religion and forbid Christians to speak the name of Jesus. (Acts 4:1-22)   The primary enemies of the Church in the early years were the unbelieving Jews.    Paul said, “Five time I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes” (2 Corinthians 11:24) as well as in ‘dangers from my countrymen’ (11:26).   

Then at Lystra,’... Jews came from Antioch and Iconiun, and having won over the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to dead’ (Acts 14:19)  Of course, when the unbelieving Jews instigated the Gentiles, they also joined in persecuting Christians. (Acts 14:2)  It shows how passionate the Judaizers hatred was against the Christians.   Luke closed the book of Acts recording in 23:14 how the chief priests and elders has made a great oath to even kill Paul. These Judaizers did everything they could to stamp out Christianity. This occurred in Jesus’ contemporaries..

The Gospel goes to all the World.

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. Matthew 24:14

In our day there are many, are saying current missionary efforts are bringing the Gospel to the world and will usher in the second coming of the Lord.  While these endeavors are good, those who make such statements overlook one thing. This passage was already fulfilled in the first century.

How do we know? Very simply the Bible says so.

Romans 16:25-27. Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began, but now has been made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures has been made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith—— to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.
Romans 1:8. First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.

Romans 10:18. But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed: “Their sound has gone out to all the earth, And their words to the ends of the world.”

Col. 1:5-6... the gospel, which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth;

Col. 1:23. if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.

The word that Jesus uses for world in Matt. 24 is 'oikoumene' which means 'land.' This word is generally used in the New Testament to denote the Roman Empire. However, no matter what world Jesus was referring to in Matthew 24, it is obvious that the inspired apostles considered this prophesy fulfilled. This is perhaps why there was an increasing expectation of the Lord’s return as A.D. 70 approached. All the signs pointed to the fact that end was near.

Abomination of Desolation.

“Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (whoever reads, let him understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Matthew 24:15 through Matthew 24:16"

The problem in seeing the fulfillment of this passages is not whether there was an abomination that led to the desolation of the temple.    It is deciding which abomination Jesus is speaking of here. There were so many abominations both in Israel and the temple as A.D. 70 approached that it is difficult to pick just one that fulfills Jesus words. There are three possibilities.

The Jewish Priesthood. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, the whole temple system had become an abomination to God. Now that the Lamb of God had given Himself as a one time sacrifice for all, the sacrifices of the temple had become an insult to God. Every one of them was a denial of the Savior. Shortly before the cross Jesus had pronounced judgment on the whole temple system.

"And He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’” Matthew 21:13

Moreover, the priesthood of that day bowed to the power of Rome. At the temple, a twice daily sacrifice was instituted for Nero. When the Jews stopped this sacrifice in 66 A.D., it was considered an act of war.

Jewish Zealots. As the conflict between Rome and the Jews grew increasingly tense, bands of zealots rose to power. Many of these thought God would divinely deliver them from the hands of Rome. Many false Messiahs and false prophets arose from these groups. Among the zealots two came to power that could have been the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophesy.

Menahem In 66 A.D. Menahem was the son of a rebel named Judas the Galilean. Judas believed the Jews should have no ruler but God, and of course murder was the way to accomplish this. Menahem took his father’s philosophy to new heights by raising a powerful band of cutthroats. He overpowered his opponents who preferred peace with the Romans, and made a triumphant entry into Jerusalem dressed as a king. Menahem then took control of the temple and had the high priest Ananias put to death. He committed all sorts of abominations. Finally, when he was entering the temple dressed in royal robes, an angry mob seized and killed him.

John of Gischala Late in 67 A.D. John of Gischala rose to power. He was even more brutal than Menahem. He had tens of thousands of people put to death. Anyone who supported the Romans or desired peace was worthy of death in John’s eyes. The priesthood supported peace with the Romans, so they became his enemies. At one point he seized the temple with the help of the Idumeans and killed the high priest. So fierce was the fighting that 8,500 died on the temple grounds. John then appointed a high priest that was a mockery. John of Gischala continued his murderous rampage until Jerusalem fell in 70 A.D. He was captured by the Romans and lived the rest of his life in prison.

The Romans. The final abomination that brought total desolation to the temple was the Roman general Titus. He laid siege to Jerusalem in the most horrible way. Historians of the day record that the Romans were inhumanly cruel to the Jews during this time. The Jews in Jerusalem were surrounded by Roman cruelty outside the city. Inside zealots fought each other with murderous insanity. Starvation took hold, and many resorted to cannibalism. It is estimated that as many as 1.3 million Jews died during this last siege.

Titus finally entered the city and a great slaughter followed. He then set the Roman standard in the temple and declared the Caesar was god. What followed was the complete destruction of the temple. The Romans in their search for gold and insane anger against the Jews left not one stone on top of another. Eventually the site of the temple was ploughed under, and later a Roman temple was built on the site.

The Christians, however, remembered the words of the Lord and left the city when they saw the approaching chaos and desolation. It is uncertain when they left, but they are believed to have fled to Pella. One historian records that there is evidence that not a single believer died in Jerusalem during this great tribulation.

Here is what some of the early church fathers had to say about this time:

Eusebius (AD 260-340) was not only a leader in the church but also an historian. He gives us much insight into the Christian community of the first three centuries. He wrote concerning Matthew 24:

“All this occurred in this manner, in the second year of the reign of Vespasian according to the predictions of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…. The abomination of desolation, according to the prophetic declaration, stood in the very temple of God… which was approaching its total downfall and final destruction by fire.”

Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 153-193-217) speaking of the abomination of desolation of Daniel's 70th week prophecy pointed to this same time period. He said: ' in the one week; was He Lord. The half of the week Nero and in the half of the week he was taken away, and Otho, and Gaiba, and Vitallus. And Vespasian rose to the supreme power, and destroyed Jerusalem, and desolated the Holy place."

Earlier even that Clement of Alexandria, was Clement of Rome, who wrote to James and told him what Peter had to the Jews, thusly: "'For we;' said I, 'have ascertained beyond doubt that God is much rather displeased with the sacrifices which you offer the time of sacrifices having now passed away; and because ye will not acknowledge that the time for offering victims is now past, therefore the temple shall be destroyed, and the abomination of desolation shall stand in the holy place; and then the Gospel shall be preached to the Gentiles for a testimony against you....; 'When I had thus spoken, the whole multitude of the priests were in a rage, because I had foretold to them the overthrow of the temple...;'

Tertullian (145-220) told of how the coming of Christ and the destruction of Jerusalem was a fulfillment of predictions that had been made in Daniel 9:26. He said: Accordingly the times must be inquired into of the predicted and future nativity of the Christ, and of His passion and of the extermination of the city of Jerusalem, that is, its devastation. For Daniel says, that 'both the holy city and the holy place are exterminated together with the coming Leader, and that the pinnacle is destroyed unto ruin; And so the times of the coming Christ, the leader, must be inquired into, which we shall trace in Daniel; and, after computing them, shall prove Him to be come, even on the ground of the times prescribed, of the consequences which were ever announced as to follow His advent; in order that we may believe all to have been as well fulfilled as foreseen.

"In such wise, therefore, did Daniel predict concerning Him, as to show both when and in what time He was to set the nations free; and how, after the passion of the Christ, that city had to be exterminated;, (The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 3, p. 158).

St. Athanasius (296-372) "And when He Who spake unto Moses, the Word of the Father, appeared in the end of the world, He also gave this commandment, saying, "But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another" [Matt. 10:23]; and shortly after He says, "When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place (whoso readeth, let him understand); then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains: let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes" [Matt. 24:15]. Knowing these things, the Saints regulated their conduct accordingly."(Defence of His Flight [11])

Augustine (379) "Luke to show that the abomination spoken of by Daniel will take place when Jerusalem is captured, recalls these words of the Lord in the same context: When you shall see Jerusalem compassed about with an army, then know that the desolation thereof is at hand (xxi. 20). For Luke very clearly bears witness that the prophecy of Daniel was fulfilled when Jerusalem was overthrown." (vol. 6, p. 170)

Rooftops and Sabbaths.

"Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath." Matthew 24:17-20

These passages point to the fact that Jesus was talking to the people of His generation and not a generation in our day. In verse seventeen Jesus said “Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house.” In that day they built single story dwellings with flat roofs.  The roof served as an extra room or a place to relax in the cool of the evening.   The flat top roof style of architecture is still around in Jerusalem, but folks don’t hang out on their roofs like they used to. With the advent of multi-story buildings and modern conveniences, this passage has lost much of it relevance for today. Rooftops in modern Jerusalem are still used by some people, but most everybody in Jesus’ day did extensively.

In verse 20 Jesus says “pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath.” In the first century Jerusalem was a completely walled city. The gates of the city would be closed on the Sabbath. No one would be allowed to enter or leave. Moreover, if anyone tried to leave, they could be killed by the zealots of the day. Also, winter travel would be many times more difficult in the first century than it is today. This passage along with verse seventeen simply fits Jesus’ day much better than ours.

Great Tribulation.

“For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. “Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. (Matt 24:21-22)"

The following is a thumbnail sketch of the Roman/Jewish war that led to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 A.D. I have deliberately left out many of the graphic details of this conflict. However, if one reads the full account given by historians such as Josephus, it becomes quite clear that this period was the worst tribulation Israel had ever known or will ever know. When it was all done, the bodies of those who died from starvation and bloodshed filled the streets, Jerusalem was in complete ruins, and the temple was torn down with not one stone left on top of another.

The friction between Rome and the Jews began to intensify around 60 A.D. By 66 A.D. the situation had become a powder keg ready to ignite. Israel itself was deeply divided between those who favored peace with Rome and those who believed that God would deliver them from Roman rule. The chief supporters of peace were the temple priesthood and many of the rich and affluent Jews. Those who pursed war were known as the zealots. Many of these were fanatics that believed God had chosen them to deliver Israel.

Roman corruption and abuses led to open rebellion in 66 A.D., but when the Jews stopped the twice daily sacrifices for Caesar in the Temple, this was considered an act of war. This caused hostilities to increase dramatically. Menahem, a messiah figure, gained early success against the Romans killing many of them. He entered Jerusalem dressed as a king, seized the temple complex, and had the High Priest put to death. Menahem’s reign did not last long however. The people rose up against him and tortured him to death.

It fell to the Roman Cestius to put down the revolt. He marched against Jerusalem with about 30,000 men. However, when victory was within his grasp, he mysteriously retreated. The Jews pursed the retreating Romans and killed many of them. This was taken to be a sign that God was indeed fighting against Rome.

In A.D. 67 Nero appointed Vespasian to bring Roman order back to Israel. He began a murderous campaign in the Galilee region. Vespasian was the epitome of Roman cruelty and brute force. He killed every male in several cities, took the women and children into slavery, and then marched on Jerusalem.

Escaping the wrath of Vespasian was a man named John Gischala. Upon entering Jerusalem, instead of speaking of Roman victories, he spoke of their weakness. He roused the zealots into a terrible battle with those who wanted peace. A battle on the steps of the temple ensued where 8,500 men perished. Finally, John killed the High Priest and appointed a buffoon in his place. Once in control of the temple this zealot brutalized the city killing tens of thousands who were thought to support Rome.

In A.D. 68 Nero died. What followed was Roman civil war. Vespasian was forced to call off his attack. By A.D. 69 Vespasian sat on the throne in Italy as Roman Emperor. He turned Roman might to unfinished business with the Jews. Titus, the emperor’s son, was appointed to deal with Israel. He followed in his father’s brutal footsteps.

By this time insanity reigned in Jerusalem. Zealot groups with would be Messiahs fought each other. And those who wanted peace joined in. Josephus said that “Blood stood in lakes in the holy courts themselves.” At one point in an effort to burn each other out two zealot groups set on fire the grain reserves for the city. These could have sustained the Jews for years against a siege. In the mean time, Titus began his barbarous march on Jerusalem. The final siege began.

Even with huge siege engines and towers, the Romans had little success breaching the three walls of Jerusalem. The Jews mocked the Roman soldiers which only increased Titus' cruelty. The Romans stripped all wood for an eleven mile radius around the city and still ran out of wood for crosses to crucify the rebels.

Finally, Titus turned hunger into his most formidable weapon. He had a siege dike dug around the entire city. All supplies were completely cut off. Starvation and madness filled the city. Bodies of the dead filled the streets. Zealot bands roamed the streets killing whole families for even a morsel of food. The stench became unbearable. Josephus wrote that the Jews themselves did far more to destroy Jerusalem than the Romans ever did.

At last Titus gained access to the city. As he approached the temple, a battle broke out that was so fierce as to be inhuman. Still, Titus gave orders to spare the temple. However, in the ensuing madness the temple was set ablaze. Then the Roman general brought the Roman standard and offered sacrifices as the ultimate defilement. In an effort to salvage the gold that lined much of the temple, the Romans tore apart the structure leaving not one stone left on top of another.

Titus ordered Jerusalem to be destroyed and burned. Countless thousands met death at the end of a Roman sword. The rest were taken into slavery or killed later for sport. Josephus writes that after all was done, it was hard to believe that anyone ever inhabited the city. It is estimated that over a million Jews died in this conflict. This was the end of Biblical Judaism and the Old Covenant world.