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.