I have been considering the Olivet Prophecy that Jesus spoke to his disciples in the final week of his life. If we recall from the previous post, Jesus wanted to re-direct the disciples’ attention from the magnificence and beauty of structures (the temple) and show them that God, the Father was not as interested in buildings of worship as He is in the people who worship Him in spirit and truth. The way I am approaching this prophecy is to align the three Gospel accounts: Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21.
It would seem that what Jesus has said to his disciples so far is primarily concerned with signs indicating the destruction of the temple, which took place in AD 70. This is really confirmed by the next series of verses as it relates the the disciples being delivered to the Jewish religious authorities, the distress they would experience and the abomination of desolation.
Tribulation, Witnessing and Death to the Disciples
• Disciples delivered to tribulation and death • Many will fall away and betray one another • False prophets will lead many astray • Lawlessness will increase; love will grow cold • Endure to end will be saved • Gospel proclaimed throughout Roman world
• Disciples delivered to the Council • Disciples beaten in synagogues • Disciples before governors and kings for Jesus’ sake • Gospel proclaimed to all nations • Don’t be anxious when brought to trial: Holy Spirit will give you words • Family members will betray one another to death • Disciples hated for Jesus’ sake • Endure to end will be saved
• Disciples persecuted and delivered to synagogues and prison • Disciples before governors and kings for Jesus’ sake • Opportunity to bear witness • Jesus will give them the words to say • Family members will betray one another to death • Disciples hated for Jesus’ sake • Not a hair on their head will perish • By enduring, saves their lives
Although the conditions Jesus describes may apply to his followers throughout the ages, it applies primarily to the disciples he was speaking to at that time. Great difficulty arose from the Jewish leaders against the disciples for their witnessing to the Gospel message. The life of the apostle Paul, his conversion from being a Pharisee and persecutor of Jesus’ followers to becoming the preacher to the Gentiles, the churches he established, his persecution by the Jewish religious leaders and his imprisonment in Rome, are outlined in the book of Acts and the epistles he wrote.
Abomination of Desolation
• See abomination that makes desolate spoken by Daniel flee to mountains • Flee in haste, don’t turn back • Pray that it does not happen in winter or on Sabbath • A time of great tribulation – not ever seen before or after • Time will be shortened for elect’s sake • False Messiahs will arise; don’t follow them • Coming of Christ like lightning • The vultures will be with the corpse
• When abomination of desolation spoken by Daniel is where is should not be, flee • Flee in haste, don’t turn back • Pray flight not in winter • A time of tribulation – not ever seen before or after • Lord will shorten the time for the elect’s sake • False Messiah’s and prophet will arise & perform miracles • Be on guard
• When Jerusalem surrounded by armies, the desolation is near • Those in Judea to flee to mountains and those in city to leave • These are days of vengeance as written • Great distress on earth & wrath against this (Jewish) people • Jews will die by the sword & go into captivity among nations • Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until times of Gentiles fulfilled
The accounts of Matthew and Mark are quite similar, but it is Luke who describes the events with more detail. It is this detail that helps us to understand what Jesus is speaking about and what the warnings actually are.
The “abomination of desolation” is described by Luke as the armies (Roman) that would surround Jerusalem from AD 66-70. Eventually the Roman Emperor, Titus would enter the temple before completely destroying it. To the religious Jew this would constitute the abomination of desolation or desolating the holy people and holy place. The context shows us that this is the time of “great tribulation”. In fact, Matthew is the only Gospel writer to use the phrase “great tribulation”. Mark says, “such tribulation” (ESV) and Luke says “great distress”.
Both Matthew and Mark indicate that the abomination of desolation was spoken by Daniel the prophet (Daniel 9:24-27). The context is what is called the seventy weeks prophecy. The prophecy is against God’s people, Israel and the holy city, Jerusalem (Dan. 9:24). The prophecy begins with the command to build the temple and goes on to describe time periods, which are symbolic and have led to a number of interpretations. For my purpose, we will briefly consider the content. In Daniel 2:26, Messiah (Jesus Christ), is to be cut off (crucified approximately AD 30-33) and the city and the sanctuary destroyed (AD 70). A covenant is made and the sacrifices and offerings stop. These are the abominations (Gentiles – Pagan Romans) making desolate (destroying the holy city and holy temple and causing the sacrifices to stop) and standing where they are not supposed to (Mat. 24:15; Mk. 13:14).
In other words, Daniel 9:24-27, is completely in line with Matthew, Mark and Luke. Luke tells us that armies would surround Jerusalem and this would be the beginning of the desolation. It is natural for those under attack to flee into the city, secure it and defend it; however, Jesus knew the city and temple would be destroyed. This would bring an end to the “Jewish age” and the start of a period called the “times of the Gentiles” (Luke 21:24). Furthermore, Matthew (24:28) says where the corpse is, the vultures will gather. This is actually the fulfillment of another Old Testament prophecy against the people of Israel:
“The LORD will cause you to be defeated before your enemies. You shall go out one way against them and flee seven ways before them. And you shall be a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth. And your dead body shall be food for all birds of the air and for the beasts of the earth, and there shall be no one to frighten them away.” (Deuteronomy 28:25-26, ESV).
The “abomination of desolation” refers to the Romans destroying Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70 and the Jews being scattered for almost 2000 years. Historical accounts speak of the horrors of those days, and although this was not global in nature, it was catastrophic because God was dealing with His people, His city, and the worship He chose because of their disobedience toward Him. This was the “great tribulation”, which is now a historical event. The crucifixion of Jesus and the scattering of the Jewish people has affected the course of human history for the past 2000 years.