Jewish Revolt and Destruction of the Temple
As historian Mark Noll notes, in the first century world, tensions were high between the Roman Empire and Jews living in Judea. What contributed to the mounting conflict? Factors were many, including social, economic, and political unrest. The heavy hand of Roman oppression was felt in all areas of life. In AD 66, a Jewish-led revolt broke out. The Jews achieved early victories in their revolt but the mighty Roman army advanced upon the city of Jerusalem. In April, AD 70, Jerusalem fell under attack by the Romans. Later that year the temple, the very center of Jewish life, was destroyed.
Impact on the Church
Consider for a moment what the fall of Jerusalem meant for the early church. Mark Noll writes, “The great turning point represented by the destruction of Jerusalem was to move Christianity outward, to transform it from a religion shaped in nearly every particular by its early Jewish environment into a religion advancing toward universal significance in the broader reaches of the Mediterranean world and then beyond.”
The fall of Jerusalem was a moment of distinction for the church. In the beginning, Christianity had been viewed as a sect of Judaism. Now, there were clear and obvious differences, with Christians claiming Jesus as the Anointed One, the Messiah who is Lord. But Christianity was still seen and understood from a predominantly Jewish paradigm. Christianity was shaped in every way, as Noll says, “by its early Jewish environment.” But now, because of these events in Jerusalem, Christianity set itself apart all the more from Judaism.
Jerusalem was the center of Judaism; and in many ways, it was also the center of the Christian faith as well. With the fall of Jerusalem, this would no longer be the case for the Christian faith. Christianity had already spread well beyond Jerusalem and Judea, but now its outward trajectory was solidified, spreading throughout the Roman Empire and eventually the world.
The Worldwide Movement of Christianity
The worldwide movement of Christianity was well under way. Consider the words of Jesus, from Matthew 28: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (vv. 18–20).
As the church moved out, as disciples were made of the nations, the Lord was with them. Of course there have been times when the church has forgotten her missionary character and calling to go and make disciples. We certainly see this in church history, even as we may sense that in our own lives. And yet, the Lord was and continues to be on the move, drawing us into the Lord’s mission.
As you consider the ever-widening movement of our Lord, the ever-expansive reach of His grace, spend some time praying for those who seem far from the Lord.