21. It seems that the history of the first century is very important in the study of this debate.
That is certainly correct.
22. What are some of the more important historical details?
Obviously, this is simply a brief answer. But the purpose of this is to enable us to see that there is at least one other plausible time of fulfillment for the prophecies of the Old and New Testament than our own day, or some day in the future.
The Roman Emperors:
The first emperor of Rome was Julius Caesar. Although he never took the title emperor on account of the anti-monarchical prejudice of the Romans, he was an emperor in fact, and he was reckoned as such. He reigned from 49-44 B.C.
Following him was Caesar Augustus. Christ was born during the reign of Augustus. Although he was a decent leader on the political level, he allowed himself to be worshiped as deity. The cult of emperor worship was begun, and was particularly strong in Asia Minor. The seven churches of the early chapters of Revelation were located in Asia Minor. Augustus reigned from 31 B.C. to A.D. 14. His reign was the golden age of the Roman Empire. After Augustus, the moral character of the emperors plunged drastically.
Next was Tiberius Caesar, who reigned from A.D. 14-37. After that was Gaius Caesar, more popularly known as Caligula. He reigned from A.D. 37-41. It is important to notice that Caligula was reigning during the formative years of the Christian church. He was also the instigator of an incident which may have been referred to in the New Testament. He ordered a statue of himself to be set up in the Temple at Jerusalem, and sent a man named Petronius with an army to enforce the edict. Only Caligula’s death prevented a war.
Then came Claudius. He reigned from A.D. 41-54. The most infamous of them, Nero Caesar, was next. His reign was from A.D. 54-68. He killed himself in the summer of 68, leading to a tumultuous year, which can be called “The Year of the Three Emperors.” The death of Nero resulted in civil war. He was followed by Galba, who only managed to hang onto the throne for seven months. Galba was replaced by Otho, who in turn was replaced by Vitellius. Vitellius was replaced by the general Vespasian who had been conducting the war in Judea, which was not yet over. Vespasian left his son Titus in charge of the remainder of the war. Vespasian restored order, became emperor, and his son became emperor after him.
23. What about the Church?
Christ was born around 4 B.C., and His ministry ended in the mid to late 20’s A.D. The church was greatly expanded shortly after, with the giving of the Spirit at Pentecost. The first book of the New Testament was probably Galatians, written in the early 40’s. The rest of the New Testament was probably completed within the next 30 years.
In other words, we must remember that if we were permitted to read all the “newspapers” of that era, it would throw a completely different light on the contents of the New Testament. And while we do not have all that information, we do have much more than we usually pay attention to. It is important to look for the intention of any New Testament writer with regard to the understanding of his first readers.
24. What was the situation in Judea?
History tells us that the Jewish revolt against Rome was utterly crushed. But at the time it began, the revolt looked to be quite promising. Nero died in A.D. 68. The revolt began around the same time (67-68), and did not end until three years later when Titus took the city of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Remember that during this same time, Rome was involved in civil war, and the barbarians on the northern frontier were restless. It was a time of great turmoil and civil uncertainty for the Romans.
Nevertheless, the war ended in A.D. 70 with the utter destruction of the Jewish state. The Jews had been the principal persecutors of the Christians and this hindrance was now gone. In addition, the removal of the Temple also removed many problematic questions of lifestyle for the many new Gentile converts. Even though the issue had been decided theologically at the Jerusalem council of Acts 15, the issue was now decided practically. It was now a moot point.
25. What are some places where this background information is helpful?
A good place to start is with the book of Hebrews. Look closely at Hebrews 10:24-31; 8:13; and 6:1-8.