The secular historical record contains an account of the siege of Jerusalem that is simply amazing to read in light of our study of Jesus’ prophetic words in Matthew 24. I would strongly encourage anyone following this study to read this short synopsis, for by reading it not only will you see our working theory confirmed by actual history, you will discover the reason why Jesus gave the answer that He gave to the disciples’ question.
This history is told by the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus who not only wrote the history of the Jewish people from Genesis to the time shortly before their last war of destruction (65-70 AD) Antiquities of the Jews, but another volume entitled The War of the Jews which gives his eyewitness account of the entire Roman campaign against the Jews, including his eyewitness account of the siege of Jerusalem.
The war began when the Emperor Caligula commanded that his statue be erected in the Jewish Temple at Jerusalem. This so outraged the Jews that they flew to arms and began to attack Roman outposts, beginning in Syria, and spreading throughout the region. A large Roman army under Vespasian began its counter assault in that region, and then moved through Galilee destroying all Jewish opposition in its wake. After ravaging the north, Vespasian returned to Rome, where he participated in a coup that overthrew Caligula (who was insane) and was replaced by Cestius, who was the general who began the siege. Josephus tells of the horrors of this period, and to read his account is truly disturbing. The believers trapped in the city, recalling the words of Jesus must have wondered how they were going to be able to flee as the conditions grew steadily more desperate; then a miracle. The Romans suddenly withdrew! According to Josephus, the Jews celebrated their divine deliverance. The Christians fled to the hills and escaped. What had actually happened was that the general Titus had arrived in the region with reinforcements. Cestius withdrew, joined up with Titus, and with Titus (the higher ranking officer) in command they soon returned to finish the job, only this time there were no Christians in the city: they had all fled because they had been forewarned by none other than Jesus Himself! “See, I have told you ahead of time.” (Matt. 24:25)
As Josephus tells the story, and he was no supporter of the Christians, not a single Christian died in the siege and destruction of Jerusalem. The Jewish deaths were over 100,000. By the time the Romans launched their final assault, there was no resistance, and they had only a mop up operation; murdering the last of the survivors who couldn’t get away. According to Josephus, the Romans discovered to their delight that the Temple itself was full of gold. In fact (as we know) it was inlaid with gold within the wood framework of the stone construction. To render the gold from its structure, Josephus tells that the Romans set it ablaze, and then pried the stones loose from one another to get at the melted gold that had fallen, leaving not one stone upon another. (Matt. 24:2)