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The End of Judaism and the Destruction of Jerusalem

The Roman-Jewish War, the End of Judaism, and the Destruction of Jerusalem

A common objection to the idea that the “last days” in 2 Peter 3:3 is a reference to the end of the Jewish system is this: The readers were in Asia Minor, so why would they need to be warned about the destruction of Jerusalem when they’re nowhere near it?

The destruction of Jerusalem was not an isolated event. It was the culmination of a war that lasted 3 ½ years. Beginning in AD 66, the Roman Empire declared war on the Jews. They took this fight to the Jews all across the Empire. That included Galilee, Samaria, and Judea; but it also included Macedonia, Achaia, and Asia Minor. For 3 ½ years, Jews were viewed as public enemy #1 by the Empire. It didn’t matter if they were Christians or not—the Romans didn’t make that distinction. And when you consider that Christianity was viewed as a “sect” of Judaism (Acts 24:5, 14, 28:22), it meant Christians—Jew or Gentile—were also targets.

The Roman army, in preparing for the siege on Jerusalem, sent many of their boats to Caesarea, and in the process destroyed the Jewish navy, filling the shores with their mangled, broken bodies. Other boats landed around Ephesus, unloading thousands of troops who methodically marched their way across Asia Minor, wiping out Jewish communities and settlements as they went. Arriving in Galilee, they destroyed every known town and city, obliterating any city walls and burning every building to the ground.

Tens of thousands of Jews were slaughtered over this time period. This included thousands butchered in Asia Minor. And all of that was before Jerusalem was actually destroyed.

Jesus Christ described these events with the words, “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matthew 24:21). According to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the Roman’s war against the Jews was the most horrifyingly violent and bloody thing to ever happen in the history of the world, and that nothing that comes since then will match it.

Jews from across the Empire (including Asia Minor) all converged on Jerusalem for one of their annual feasts. It was at that point that Jerusalem was sieged, and the people inside the city became so starved during the siege that some women ate their own children to stay alive. Finally, in August of AD 70, the Roman armies breached the walls of the city and went on a murderous spree throughout the city. According to Josephus, 1,100,000 Jews were dead by the time the Romans stopped killing them.

In the process of their destruction of the city, they also set fire to the Temple. By doing so, they fulfilled the words of Jesus in Matthew 24:1-2. The brazen altar melted. The gold on the temple melted. Everything in the temple was completely destroyed.

This was God’s doing. By destroying the temple, the altar, the holy place, and the most holy place, God Himself made it physically impossible for anyone to follow the Old Testament. There was no longer any altar to offer the sacrifices on—therefore no way to obtain forgiveness of sins. There was no most holy place in which to offer the blood once a year—therefore no way for atonement. Not only that, but the records of the genealogies were all destroyed—therefore no one could prove that they were a priest anyway. Everything that was required for forgiveness under the Old Testament was gone, making it impossible to ever follow the Law of Moses properly.

This event, this destruction of Jerusalem after 3 ½ years of intense war on the Jewish people, was the final evidence that God had rejected the Jews and that the Christians were His chosen people. Jesus had foretold it (Matthew 24:1-24, Luke 21:20-22), and if it didn’t happen, then Jesus would be a false prophet. And if Jesus is a false prophet, then Christianity is a fraud.

The objection that the destruction of Jerusalem had no impact on the Jewish Christians (and Gentile Christians) in Asia Minor is historically inaccurate. The destruction of Jerusalem was simply the final act of a war against the Jews that stretched across the entire Roman Empire. Asia Minor was part of that battlefield.

-Bradley Cobb

What the Commentators Have to Say…

When discussing the possibility that Second Peter 3:3 is a reference to the final days of the Jewish system (culminating in the destruction of Jerusalem), I was told, “I’ve been studying the Bible for 44 years, and I’ve never heard that before.”  The next thing was “Guy N. Woods and Gospel Advocate don’t say that.”  Then came, “I searched online, and the only person that says that is Max King!”

These statements were full of logical fallacies (Guy N. Woods isn’t the standard of interpretation, just because you haven’t heard it doesn’t mean it isn’t true, just because you haven’t heard it doesn’t mean people haven’t ever said it, and I’m not Max King–nor one of his disciples).  But, in order to show that this isn’t some new interpretation, and that it isn’t something that was somehow hidden from public view, we present to you the thoughts of many well-known and well-respected commentators.

Burton Coffman on 2 Peter 3:3

Burton Coffman wrote a 37-volume, verse-by-verse Commentary, originally published by Firm Foundation. About this set, the following quotation is given online: “Many people consider the Coffman series to be one of the finest modern, conservative commentary sets written.” The following is from his notes on 2 Peter 3:3. Bold font added for emphasis

Wheaton declared that it is “likely” that the mockers here are the same as the false teachers of the preceding chapter; and Dummelow considered it “probable”; but the view here is that they were almost certainly the same. This is indicated by two considerations: (1) They are sensual characters, walking after their own lusts, as were the false teachers; and (2) they are evidently people who were familiar with the “promise” of the Lord’s coming, who had indeed once believed it, but then became mockers.

Thus, this prominent preacher/writer/teacher in the church of Christ realized that the “mockers” in 2 Peter 3:3 are to be identified as the “false teachers” of 2 Peter 2. It is not a separate group of people. If it is the same group of people, then 2 Peter 3:3 describes the “mockers” that were working in Jude’s day (Jude 16-19).

College Press Commentary on 2 Peter 3:3

Usually called the “Old Green Commentaries,” the College Press Commentary set was written by members of the Christian Church and the church of Christ. Bold font added for emphasis.

“The last days” is a term used sometimes in the New Testament with reference to the last days of Judah (and Jerusalem) as a nation (Acts 2:17, James 5:3). This could be true here

The author of that volume went on to say that it seemed more to him that it was the end of the world. But he did make it a point to say that this phrase could be a reference to the last days of Judah and Jerusalem in this passage. That was published in 1962.

John Sutcliffe on 2 Peter 3:3

John Sutcliffe, a Methodist preacher, wrote his commentaries on the New Testament in 1835. Bold font added for emphasis.

[Note on 2:10] That walk after the flesh — and despise government. The Jews, at the time of the writing of this epistle, were beginning the war against the Romans. The old proverb was realized in them: He whom God destroys is first mad. The reins were launched to passion, and the tongue to infamy.

[Note on 3:1-2] This second epistle is, with one undeviating design, to stir up your pure minds to watchfulness and prayer, and that ye may be mindful of the words of the holy prophets, and also of the cautions repeated by Christ, and by us his apostles, against all false teachers and scoffers at what we say concerning the visitations of God on the Jewish nation, and of the fall of the sacred temple. Lactantius says, “Peter and Paul preached at Rome, and what they preached, being written, remained as a record. In which they predicted many astonishing events, and this among others, that after a short time God would send a king who should vanquish the Jews, should level their cities with the ground, and besiege them so closely, that they should be so far reduced by famine, as to feed on the bodies of one another.” — This record is in perfect unison with the Holy Scriptures.

[Note on 3:3] Scoffers. The heretics described in the preceding chapter, who scoffed at prophecy respecting the fall of Jerusalem, like the filthy sinners which the deluge washed away. See the reflections on Genesis 8.

The idea that applying these verses to the final days of Judah and Jerusalem is somehow a “new” idea is false. The above was written nearly 200 years ago.

N.T. Caton on 2 Peter 3:3

N.T. Caton’s Commentary on the Minor Epistles is part of the “New Testament Commentary” series, done by members of the Lord’s church in the late 1800s. J.W. McGarvey, Moses E. Lard, and Robert Milligan also wrote volumes for this collection. Bold font added for emphasis.

Verse 3.—Knowing this first, that scoffers…

Among other things, remember that both prophets and apostles have told you that in the last days of Judaism scoffers will appear. These, walking after their own passions, deride, ridicule and attempt to make sport of the doctrine of the cross, and the teaching therewith connected.

This book was originally published in 1897, showing that this was the belief of well-respected members of the Lord’s church over a hundred years ago. This is not a new idea.

John Gill on 2 Peter 3:3

John Gill was a English Baptist who lived in the 1700s. He wrote his N.T. commentaries between 1746-1748. Bold font added for emphasis.

“the last days”; either in the days of the Messiah, in the Gospel dispensation, the times between the first and second coming of Christ; for it is a rule with the Jews(s), that wherever the last days are mentioned, the days of the Messiah are intended; see Heb. 1:1; when the prophets foretold such scoffers should come; or in the last days of the Jewish state, both civil and religious, called “the ends of the world”, 1 Cor. 10:11; a little before the destruction of Jerusalem, when iniquity greatly abounded, Matt. 24:11;

This well-known man presented this interpretation as a possibility over 250 years ago.

Thomas Coke on 2 Peter 3:3

in 1803, Thomas Coke, a prominent Methodist preacher, published his final New Testament commentary. Bold font added for emphasis.

Knowing this first— That is, either what was to happen first in order of time, or as a premise, from whence they might conclude, that they ought to remember the predictions of the prophets, and the commandments of the apostles. The last days particularly and more immediately refer to the last days of Jerusalem, or of the Jewish state. See Jude 18-19.

Again, the idea that 2 Peter 3:3 refers to false teachers prior to the final days of the Jewish system is not a new one. Here is another very well-known commentary which presented that exact interpretation over 200 years ago.

Adam Clarke on 2 Peter 3:3

Adam Clarke spent 40 years preparing his 6,000-page commentary collection, and it has been recognized as a “standard” work for nearly 200 years.

The last days – Probably refer to the conclusion of the Jewish polity, which was then at hand.

This interpretation is not new, nor is it something that was somehow kept secret. Adam Clarke’s commentary collection has sold literally over a million copies since it was first published. And it is also included in almost every computer Bible program, adding up to millions more copies spread throughout the world.


The idea that the “last days” in 2 Peter 3:3 is a reference to the final days of the Jewish system (including Jerusalem) is not a new idea. It has been presented in popular and well-known commentaries for at least 250 years. Until Guy N. Woods’ commentary came out in the 1950s, the most widely-read commentary in the Lord’s Church on Second Peter was the one by N.T. Caton—and he stated clearly that the end of Judaism was under consideration in this passage. This proves that not only is this interpretation not new, but also that it was the primary view held in the Lord’s Church less than 100 years ago.

Bible Q&A – Did the Apostles Expect Christ to Return During Their Lifetime?

Question: A man I was talking with told me that the Bible isn’t true because it shows the Apostles thought Jesus’ return would be during their lifetime. And that, since Jesus didn’t come back when they expected it (and still hasn’t), they obviously didn’t have any idea what they were talking about. Can you help me?–C.F. from Indiana.

Thank you for asking such a great question. Believe it or not, this is actually a common attack against the Bible. Unfortunately, though, many people who try to defend the Bible answer this attack in ways that are actually self-defeating. By that, I mean many of the answers that Christians give to this attack are actually in favor of the attacker!

Let me give you some examples. These are not quotes, but paraphrases of what some Christians have said in the past to answer this attack.

  • When they said that the coming of Jesus was “at hand” (that is, very close), the Apostles were just saying that we should live like Christ could come in our lifetimes.

Do you see that on one hand, these Christians acknowledge that the Bible says the coming of Christ was indeed “very close,” but then on the other hand, they deny what they just admitted.

  • The Apostles expected the coming of Jesus to be during their lifetime, but they were just humans and didn’t know everything. But that doesn’t affect the reliability of the Scriptures.

The problem with this argument is that by saying the apostles were mistaken, or just expressing their opinion on when Jesus would return, it calls the rest of the New Testament letters into question. After all, if a plain, direct statement such as “the coming of the Lord is at hand” (James 5:8) was just an opinion, how many other things are actually just opinion? It undermines the credibility of the entire New Testament.

What is just as unfortunate is that these arguments are used in Bible classes to “explain” (or better stated, “explain away”) these statements about the coming of Christ.

Let’s look at two things which will answer the question.

The First Thing.

the New Testament writers absolutely stated (by inspiration) that Jesus would return during the first century. There is no sense in denying these clear Bible statements:

  • “Therefore, YOU [first century Christians] be patient unto the coming of the Lord” (James 5:7).
  • “The coming of the Lord is at hand” (James 5:9).
  • “The end of all things is at hand” (I Peter 4:7).
  • “Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of THESE [first century false teachers], saying ‘Behold the Lord is coming with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.’ These [first century false teachers] are [present tense] murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaks great swelling words, having men’s persons in admiration because of advantage” (Jude 14-16).
  • “…Things which must shortly come to pass. …the time is at hand. …Behold He [Jesus] is coming [present tense] with clouds” (Revelation 1:1, 3, 7).

The New Testament writers believed Jesus would return very soon after they wrote. But this wasn’t just their guess or their opinion. This was an inspired message from the Holy Spirit! It was God Himself giving this message to the first-century Christians.

The Second Thing:

These statements of the imminent coming of Jesus Christ–the coming that the New Testament writers expected to come in the first century–weren’t about Jesus Christ coming at the end of time to destroy the universe. They were in regards to a different “coming” of Jesus Christ.

In Matthew 24, Jesus Christ talks about the destruction of the city of Jerusalem. He says that it will be the worst destruction to ever befall a nation in history. In fact He says there’s never going to be any national destruction worse than what would happen to Judah and Jerusalem (Matthew 24:21). Jesus also gives them a time-frame so they would know when to expect it: “this generation shall not pass until all these things be fulfilled” (Matthew 24:34). This destruction, prophesied by Jesus, would come during the lifetime of some of those who were listening to Him.

You might ask Why is that important? It’s because of this: Jesus describes this destruction, this judgment on the Jewish nation, as “the coming of the Son of man” (Matthew 24:27, 30).

This destruction, this coming of Jesus Christ in judgment on Jerusalem, happened in AD 70–and it is this coming of Jesus that the apostles spoke about as being imminent. This took place during the lifetime of some of Jesus’ original disciples.

The apostles knew what they were talking about, and they were right when they said that Jesus’ coming [in judgment on Jerusalem] was “at hand.”

When we understand that there’s more than one “coming” of Jesus Christ mentioned in the Bible (one of them imminent, the other one not imminent), this once-confusing “problem” disappears.

-Bradley Cobb