WAS LUKE 21:20-24 FULFILLED IN A.D. 70?
by Shawn Brasseaux
Friend, if you are familiar with prophecy preachers and teachers, you will have invariably heard the recurrent reference to A.D. 70. Is this year significant in Scripture, as so frequently claimed? We are not interested in theological speculations or religious traditions. “For what saith the Scriptures?”
Luke 21:20-24 is perhaps the passage most commonly utilized to uphold the “A.D. 70” position: “ And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.  Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto.  For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.  But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people.  And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.”
Dr. Scofield attached the following footnote to verse 20:
“Verses 20, 24 are not included in the report of the Olivet discourse as given by Matthew and Mark. Two sieges of Jerusalem are in view in that discourse. Luke 21. 20-24 refers to the siege by Titus, A.D. 70, when the city was taken, and verse 24 literally fulfilled. But that siege and its horrors but adumbrate the final siege at the end of this age, in which ‘the great tribulation’ culminates. At that time the city will be taken, but delivered by the glorious appearing of the Lord (Rev. 19. 11-21). The references in Mt. 24. 15-28, Mk. 13. 14-26 are to the final tribulation siege; Lk. 21. 20-24 to the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus. In Luke the sign is the compassing of Jerusalem by armies (Lk. 21. 20); in Matthew (24. 15) and Mark (13. 14) the sign is the abomination in the holy place (2 Thes. 2. 4).”
Is Luke 21:20-24 in fact, as commonly assumed, a reference to Titus attacking Jerusalem in A.D. 70? While this author once held that view, he has since studied his Bible to see that A.D. 70 is not found here or anywhere else in Scripture. In this study, he will offer his four reasons for abandoning the “A.D. 70 interpretation.”
1. WILL ISRAEL BE DISPERSED NEAR THE END OF THE TRIBULATION, JUST PRIOR TO CHRIST’S SECOND COMING?
The “A.D. 70 proponent” says: “No. Israel was scattered in the A.D. 70 invasion of Jerusalem, but will not be dispersed at the end of the Tribulation. Since Luke 21:24 says Israel will be ‘led away captive into all nations,’ the verse must be speaking of A.D. 70.” (What Scripture can this individual offer to verify his assertion that Israel will not be scattered in the Tribulation? This author knows of no such verse.)
In contrast, this author replies, “Yes, Israel will indeed be scattered at the end of the Tribulation.” Zechariah 14:1-4 says: “ Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee.  For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city.  Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.  And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.”
Verse 4 is obviously Christ’s Second Coming, when Jesus Himself literally stands in wrath and judgment on the Mount of Olives (cf. Acts 1:9-12, especially verse 11). Verse 3 of Zechariah chapter 14 is the Battle of Armageddon, which is paired with the Second Coming. Verse 2, of course, would also be tied to that Second Coming.
What exactly do we find in Zechariah 14:2? “For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city.” Does this not resemble Luke 21:24? “And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” There is war in Jerusalem, the city is captured, the houses are robbed, the women are sexually assaulted and enslaved, half of the city is taken away captive, and a remnant survives and remains in the city. Zechariah and Luke are prophesying the same event!
In light of the above analyses, the “A.D. 70 interpretation” of Luke 21:20-24 only complicates the Bible. On the basis of Zechariah 14:1-4, we would be forced to infer that the Second Coming occurred in A.D. 70. Did it? The preterists say yes, but this author disagrees. He abandoned the A.D. 70 interpretation once he saw these dangerous implications. It is totally inconceivable that Jesus Christ returned in A.D. 70 and fulfilled all Bible prophecy. That was 2,000 years ago, and Satan is working mightily on Earth even now. Israel is still fighting to keep the Promised Land from domineering Gentiles. She is still without her Davidic Kingdom. The curse of sin has yet to be lifted. Is this as good as it will get? Has Christ returned?! (No!) When Christ returns to our planet—yes, that Second Coming is future—we can be absolutely sure all of these problems will be solved. This is how we know Christ did not return in A.D. 70.
2. WHERE DOES LUKE 21:21 FIT ON THE BIBLE TIMELINE? A.D. 70? OR IS IT YET FUTURE?
Read verse 21: “Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto.” According to Matthew chapter 24 (verses 14-21), this will be in the midst of Daniel’s 70th Week. Luke 21:21 must be future because this verse is true during the Antichrist’s reign. Otherwise, we entertained the idea that the Antichrist came in the A.D. first century and forced Jews to flee from Jerusalem then. So, if that is the case, is there a future Daniel’s 70th Week and a future Antichrist? Or, as the preterists argue, is all now past? Inserting A.D. 70 in the Scripture here just adds difficulties… needless snags that could be avoided.
3. WAS “ALL” OF BIBLE PROPHECY FULFILLED IN A.D. 70?
Verse 22 of Luke chapter 21 says, “For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.” Were all Bible prophecies fulfilled in A.D. 70? As briefly noted earlier, the preterists believe that. Furthermore, if we say Luke 21:20-24 applies to A.D. 70, we have no other conclusion to reach but to agree with them—that all prophecy was fulfilled in A.D. 70. Was it? Be consistent, dear friend. Do not split up the passage; we do not have liberty to do that. Friend, we cannot have it both ways. Either all four verses are future from us, or all four are history from us.
4. LUKE 21:23 SPEAKS OF GOD’S WRATH ON ISRAEL, YET THERE IS NO WRATH IN THE DISPENSATION OF GRACE!
Jesus Christ in His earthly ministry never, ever spoke of A.D. 70. Verse 23 foretells wrath: “But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people.”
There is absolutely no wrath of God being displayed in this the Dispensation of Grace. Israel as a nation does not exist in our dispensation. She is fallen, temporarily blinded; it serves no purpose to judge her when her program is not even operating right now! Read Romans chapters 9-11, friend, and you will see the dispensational boundaries that cannot be crossed. “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Keeping prophecy and mystery separate is absolutely critical to our understanding the Holy Bible.
Romans chapter 11: “ I say then, Have they [Israel] stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.  Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?….  For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.  And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:….”
Second Corinthians chapter 5 characterizes this the Dispensation of Grace: “ Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.  And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;  To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.  Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.  For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
Paul is “the apostle of the Gentiles [all nations]” (Romans 11:13). As God’s spokesman to all nations, Paul was led on 13 occasions to write, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 1:2; Galatians 1:3; Ephesians 1:2; Philippians 1:2; Colossians 1:2; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:2; 1 Timothy 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:2; Titus 1:4; Philemon 3). Each of Paul’s epistles greets the world (including fallen Israel) with “grace and peace” (opposite “wrath and war”). Again, 2 Corinthians 5:19: “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.” Because of Calvary, God is not angry at nations today. He is being kind to them!
Concerning “the Dispensation of the Grace of God” (Ephesians 3:2), God’s attitude toward all nations is “grace and peace.” There is no Law system operating today as in Israel’s program. Israel’s Law system was simply to prove that God would have to save mankind according to His grace, not man’s religious efforts. Now, He is manifesting His grace (unmerited favor) to mankind in a very special way today—the soul salvation found in Jesus Christ’s shed blood. In the Dispensation of Grace, God is freely and unconditionally offering the nations (including Israel) salvation through Jesus Christ. God is longsuffering, and has been for 2,000 years, for the people of the world to respond in faith. Once they trust His Son, He permanently reconciles with them individually.
Again, through the cross of Christ, God is offering to all nations—all the world—a chance to be reconciled with Him. He has suspended Israel’s special status, that all nations approach Him on an equal basis. They can come as individuals (faith in Christ alone) and join the Church the Body of Christ. This began with Paul’s salvation in Acts chapter 9, and carries on even now. It was true in A.D. 70, which shows us that God could not have poured out wrath on Israel (Jerusalem) in A.D. 70. Luke 21:20-24 applies to a future time, a period after our Dispensation of Grace, when God will pour out His wrath on sinners! Until then, Paul’s salvation is the pattern: “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting” (1 Timothy 1:15-16).
Based on the aforementioned Bible verses, what are to believe about A.D. 70 and Luke 21:20-24? Does the Bible speak of A.D. 70 at all?
- Israel being scattered is not limited to A.D. 70. According to Zechariah 14:1-4, there will be a dispersion of Israel just before the Second Coming of Christ. If the scattering of Israel in Luke 21:24 is A.D. 70, that leaves open the possibility that the Second Coming occurred 2,000 years ago as well. This is exactly what the preterists believe, but this author rejects that postulation entirely. In fact, we know that Luke 21:24 is speaking of Israel’s dispersion just before the Second Coming because verses 25-28 are the Second Coming and its precursors. A.D. 70 is not in view in Luke 20:21-24.
- Israel fleeing to the mountains in Luke 21:21 is yet future because the companion verses Matthew 24:15-21 and Mark 13:14-19 are also future (the Antichrist desecrating the Jerusalem Temple). Luke 21:20-24 is entirely forthcoming—none of it was fulfilled in A.D. 70. Furthermore, despite what people say about Luke 21:24 supposedly pointing to A.D. 70, its companion verses (verses 21-23) look 2,000 years into the future… to a time even beyond our day. A.D. 70 cannot be inserted here.
- Luke 21:23 allows only “all” prophecies to be fulfilled—yet, “all things” were not fulfilled in A.D. 70. Or, if we believe Luke 21:24 was fulfilled in A.D. 70, then we make ourselves vulnerable to saying all of the passage (including the Second Coming and its signs in verses 25-28) was fulfilled in A.D. 70. Was all Bible prophecy fulfilled in A.D. 70? If not, then Luke 21:23 says verse 24 was not fulfilled in A.D. 70 either.
- The most glaring error in saying Luke 21:24 was fulfilled in A.D. 70 is to insert the prophetic program into the mystery program. We have the awkward transition from mystery to prophecy and back to mystery again. The Dispensation of Grace (mystery program) is operating with Paul’s ministry in Acts, but it would have to give way to the prophetic program in A.D. 70 so Jesus’ words in Luke 21:24 can be fulfilled. We now have Jesus in His earthly ministry predicting an event in the Dispensation of Grace, which weakens the “secret” emphasis of said dispensation. Mystery somehow (?) returned after A.D. 70, which is where we find ourselves today. If all prophecy has been fulfilled, then the prophetic program is permanently terminated instead of temporarily interrupted.
If the “A.D. 70 interpretation” stands, unanswerable confusion results. There is no smooth narrative in the Bible passages. Two attacks of Jerusalem are not in view in the Olivet Discourse of Matthew chapter 24, Mark chapter 13, and Luke chapter 21. These verses look toward one attack of Jerusalem future from us—just prior to the Second Coming of Christ. In no way would Jesus in His earthly ministry speak of an event that would happen in the Dispensation of Grace. Jesus Christ would never reveal the Dispensation of Grace in His earthly ministry because that information would be kept secret until He revealed it to Paul (Ephesians 3:1-11).
While much more could be said, this author believes the dangers of “A.D. 70” have been underscored enough that this study can now conclude. A.D. 70 has nothing to do with anything in the Bible and the Bible has nothing to do with A.D. 70.
» Are we “doom and gloom” prophecy believers?
» What is the Dispensation of Grace?
» What do you mean—“the prophetic program” and “the mystery program?”