In the two previous installments of this subject, we twice alluded to the complete destruction of Jerusalem that occurred in 70 A.D. as foretold by Jesus Christ. The statements of Our Lord himself will provide the evidence of His intentions and purpose.
Christ wove a rich fabric of prophecy during the week before the Crucifixion denouncing the stubborn refusal of the majority of His people to believe in His divine mission. He declared His love not only for them but also for all nations and omitted nothing for their salvation.
But he also warned of a Day of Judgment for those who refused to believe in Him and obey Him. He warned of earthquakes, floods and other natural disasters, and also persecution of those who followed Him and added other misfortunes: internal and external wars, hardness of heart, betrayal, hatred and great tribulation. Saint Luke summed up Our Lord’s thinking quite well (21:22-23), “For these are the days of vengeance… There shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people.”
Our Lord reached the culmination of His warnings of persecution at the Last Supper during which He described the ongoing struggle with the forces of evil. He revealed, “If the world hate you, know you that it has hated me before you. If you had been of the world, the world would love its own. But all these things they will do to you for my name’s sake.” (John 15:18, 19, 21). When Christ used the term “world,” He meant the spirit of evil in the world, a spirit opposed to Him and His teachings.
Bossuet, the eloquent French bishop from the 17th century saw the picture in its entirety: All the senses, all the passions were fighting for idolatry. It is the eternal struggle of evil against the good, of sin against grace, of vice against virtue. The wicked at all times wish to destroy the Church, which is the body of Christ.
Fall of Jerusalem
In the years just before the final agony, civil war and rebellion raged throughout Judea and the Jews and Syrians took to slaughtering each other’s minority populations in the towns of the North. Leading the rebellion against the Romans was a group of terrorists from the lower levels of society known as the Zealots. These fanatics attacked a Roman legion in 66 A.D., scattered them and captured their baggage and siege equipment. This successful but foolhardy move placed the Jews in great jeopardy, for the Romans certainly would not allow the provocative insult to remain unpunished.
Flavius Vespasian, a methodical experienced general moved 60,000 well disciplined troops into the northern areas of Palestine and systematically conquered all of Galilee and Samaria. He tightened the noose around the rebellion until only Jerusalem was left and effectively blockaded the city. Unaccountably, the rebels gave into their passions and went on a spree of bloodshed amongst themselves.
Class Warfare and Moral Depravity
The extremists began by killing the moderates, who were less enthusiastic about the war. Then they murdered the chief priests and prominent leaders and extended their social hatred by slaughtering the upper classes, especially the youth. They split up into three rival gangs, who alternated between pillaging the hapless citizens and destroying each other and the valuable grain supply.
The zealots, not content with looting and killing, indulged in more debased pastimes. They attired themselves in women’s clothing. Applied makeup and perfume, and were “guilty of intolerable un-cleanliness.” Rarely have the abject conditions of human society without grace reached such depraved and sordid depths. Also a curious phenomenon developed: as man descends into evil he abandons his God-given nature and gravitates towards violent hatred, elements of socialism and homosexual practices. Sound familiar?
Toward the end of the siege, a terrible famine fell upon the doomed city and devoured whole families. Entire households were full of the dead and dying. Piles of corpses filled the streets. In one infamous case a famished mother butchered and roasted her own child.
When Titus, who had replaced his father as commander-in-chief, saw the valleys filling up with the dead that had been thrown over the walls. He groaned and called upon God to witness that this was not his doing and to lay the blame on the city itself. Five months after the siege began, Titus captured the city and with the exception of one small portion of a wall that still stands, completely demolished the Temple.