The Apocalyptic Prophecy of Jesus
Consider the apocalyptic prophecy of Jesus Christ as found in places like the Gospel of Mark, chapter 13:
As he [Jesus] came out of the Temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”
When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the Temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?” Then Jesus began to say to them,
“Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs. ...
“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. ...
“And if anyone says to you at that time, ‘Look! Here is the Messiah!’ or ‘Look! There he is!’—do not believe it. False messiahs and false prophets will appear and produce signs and omens, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. But be alert; I have already told you everything. ...
"Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. ...
"So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
“But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. ...” (Emphasis added)
Like the proverbial sandwich board warning, Jesus proclaims "the end is near." And he also warns that, while no one but God knows the exact day and time, the arrival of "the Son of Man" in "great power and glory" will take place within the lives of some of those listening to him at the time, which was presumably around 29-33 AD. To make clear this fact, Jesus associates this blessed event with the destruction of Jerusalem and its famous Temple -- an event which definitely did occur within living memory of Jesus. In fact, Jesus seems to vividly describe the Jewish War that began in 66 CE and resulted in the destruction of the Temple, complete with false Messiahs, famines, starvation sieges and battles seen in the clouds, details all confirmed by the 1st Century Jewish historian Josephus in his record of the Romans’ siege of Jerusalem.
Christians today do not believe that the glorious "Second Coming" has yet happened. If they are right, Jesus was wrong, and he made a serious error that must be counted among the many prophets who have gotten the timing of the Apocalypse wrong ever since.
The imagery Flavius Josephus and Jesus use is clearly also that from the Book of Daniel, who also had a vision of a battle in the clouds that would signal the arrival of "the Son of Man." (Daniel 7:13-14)
For the Flavian historian, Josephus, the events of the Jewish War did presage the immediate arrival of the Messiah, but for him that messiah was the Roman Emperor Vespasian, the general who defeated the Jews and the father of Titus, the emperor who actually did destroy the Jewish Temple. These men indeed went on to rule the world while they were conquering Judea. To Josephus, as reflected in his historical account, the event was worthy of such visions in the sky and merits the clear reference to Daniel’s Old Testament portents of the Messiah's arrival.
But why should Jesus have associated the destruction of the Temple with Daniel's apocalypse? Why should he associate his own glorious Second Coming with such a similar description of the events of the Jewish War? Why should he insist that the Second Coming of the Messiah would occur within the lifetimes of some of those who heard him say it?
The standard answer is that Christians witnessing such apparently apocalyptic events as the Fall of Jerusalem would have presumed that the end must be near. It is they who inserted the error into the mouth of Jesus in the years just after the first Jewish War with the Romans, when they were writing the Gospels. And, surely, an error of this kind cannot be ascribed to Christians later than the 1st Century when it would already been proven false.
It is hard to understand how any Christians could still associate the Second Coming with so thorough a conquest ten, fifteen or twenty years after it had already occurred. To the writers of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke the events of the war had already happened... the only missing piece was the Second Coming. Why then did they have Jesus associate his Second Coming with these events? It is another seemingly insoluble mystery.
The Apocalypse of Jesus they depict is an unmistakable warning to the Jews not to rebel against Rome, and a prediction that it would result in the destruction of their beloved Temple by the Romans.
Jesus himself is shown to be highly critical of how the Temple was managed in his time, and he commenced his own physical attack on the Temple some 40 years before the Roman attack, even as he commands peace with Romans and turning the other cheek.
CREATING CHRIST argues that, far from making any mistake, Jesus was right. The Second Coming and the arrival of the Messiah in power and glory had taken place precisely when he predicted.
For the Jewish War gave rise to the Flavians - the Roman emperors hailed by both Jews and gentiles as the Jewish messiahs of prophecy who had risen from Judea to rule the world...