At this point [Mark 13:14] the Lord specifies a definite "sign" - impossible to be misunderstood - by which His disciples and all the saints of that generation should know with absolute certainty that the predicted "desolation" was about to take place. He said, "But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not [let him that readeth understand], then let them that be in Judea flee to the mountains..."
We have already shown, by the corresponding passage in Luke 21:20, that "the abomination of desolation" was the invading army which was about to encircle Jerusalem and accomplish "the desolation thereof." That "abomination," when it was encompassing Jerusalem, was "standing where it ought not." A comparison of the two passages leaves no room for any doubt as to the Lord's meaning. What has confused some is Matthew's references to "standing in the holy place" and we will look at this in detail later.
In this part of the Lord's answer [Mark 13:14-23] He gave explicit directions to His people how to secure their own safety. In addition, Jesus indicated that the complete surrounding of the city would be so swiftly accomplished that, after the appearance of the armies, their only safety would lie in INSTANT flight. We call attention once again to the exceedingly practical nature of this prophecy.
It is important to notice that the word "affliction" in Mark 13:19, is the same word that is translated "tribulation" in vs 24 and in Matt. 24:7, 21.
In vs 20 is the promise that "those days" - referring to horrors of the siege - would be shortened. We saw in the course "The Seventy Weeks Of Daniel," how the time was shortened, and in a way so obviously providential, so that the Romans got sudden, and most unexpected possession of the last stronghold of the city.
At this point the Lord renews the warning against expecting His return at that time. He speaks with great detail, saying, "Then, [i.e. during the siege] if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ; or lo, He is there; believe him not" [vs 21]. He gives to reason for this explicit warning, saying, "For false christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall show signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect. But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things" [vs 22-23]. These words become very clear and plain when it is seen that the Lord is speaking of false christs and false prophets, who would seduce [or deceive] many into the belief that He was about to appear at that time and save Jerusalem from the invading armies. Similarly in the days of Zedekiah, when the city was besieged by Nebuchadnezzar, there were false prophets who deceived the people by telling them that the enemy would not capture the city [Jer. 27:14]. In view of the many interventions of the Lord on behalf of His people in their history, and of the many promises given to them, it was very easy to persuade the Jews to expect a miraculous deliverance. So it was very important that Jesus should make His own disciples understand that there was to be NO deliverance in this case.
23. The Book of Acts testifies that the gospel __________ go to all nations before AD 70.
24. "The abomination of desolation" was the ____________________ which was about to encircle Jerusalem and accomplish "the desolation thereof."
25. Jesus indicated that the complete surrounding of the city would be so swiftly accomplished that, after the appearance of the armies, their only safety would lie in __________________ flight.
26. The word "___________________" in Mark 13:19, is the same word that is translated "tribulation" in vs 24 and in Matt. 24:7, 21.
27. The Lord is speaking of false christs and false prophets, who would seduce [or deceive] many into the belief that He was about to ________________ at that time and save Jerusalem from the invading armies.
28. It was very important that Jesus should make His own disciples understand that there was to be _____________ deliverance in this case.
In the corresponding part of Matthew's Gospel [24:15-28] it is plain we have another account of identically the same future events. Mark says, "In those days [i.e. days of the siege] shall be affliction [tribulation], such as was not from the beginning..." Matthew says, "For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not from the the beginning..." Matt. 24:27-28 tells what will be the manner of the Lord's appearing when He does come ["as the lightning cometh out of the east..."]. Those words are not in Mark. This further shows that Christ's Second Coming was not the main subject of His teaching here, but was a side matter. Obviously in this place it was mentioned to give emphasis to the warning not to heed the reports which would be current at that time, that He was "in the desert," or "in the secret chambers."
**Editor's comment: Mr. Mauro takes Christ's coming as lighting to refer to the Second Coming. In the context I would believe it refers to the swiftness of Christ's judgment coming [with the Romans as His instrument] not His physical Second Coming.**
The corresponding part of Luke's account is found in 21:20-24. The account is valuable for the very definite statements of vs 24 which tell how the siege was to end: "And they shall fall by the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations; and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled." These few words give a concise and accurate description of the conditions of the city and people down to the present day. They made it plain to the disciples that there was to be no deliverance for Jerusalem at that time.
It is especially important to note that Luke, having spoken in detail of the coming destruction of Jerusalem, which everyone admits came to pass in AD 70, says not a word of any other tribulation to come after. This forbids the idea that there is yet another tribulation [and even worse one] in store for the Jews. Their worst enemies could hardly desire it, no reason for it can be conceived, the Scriptures do not reveal it, and we should be very slow to believe that such a thing could be.
**Editor's note: In order for there to be a yet worse tribulation for the Jews, they would have to commit a worse crime than the betrayal and murder of the Son of God. Is such a crime possible? I think not.**
Here are three evangelists, selected by God for the special purpose, and inspired by the Holy Spirit, each of whom gives us an account of the same teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ. That teaching has mainly to do with a affliction of unparalleled severity, which soon was to fall on Jerusalem and Judea, to the complete "desolation" of the city and the extinction of the nation, but Christ's own people were to receive a timely warning and an opportunity to escape.
Some say that the tribulation spoken of in Luke is not the same spoken of in Matthew and Mark. If that is the case, why does Luke ignore a far greater tribulation in the future, and why to Matthew and Mark ignore the tribulation which was to overtake their own generation? It is not possible. Even a casual reading of all three accounts and their context reveals they are all referring to the same event.
The statement found in Luke 21:22, "For these be the days of vengeance" indicates a definite period of judgment. This is emphasized by the words, "that all things which are written [i.e. all the threats of judgment recorded in the law and the prophets] might be fulfilled." Obviously, if ALL things of that nature were "fulfilled" at the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, then there could not be after that a further [and worse] tribulation for Israel.
As a help in understanding these words, let us turn to the earliest prophecy which speaks of the days of vengeance that were to come upon the faithless people. Take a minute and read Deut. 28:49-59. God gave, through Moses, an outline of the future history of His people, telling how they would depart from Himself, and how He would punish them by bringing against them a nation which should besiege them in their cities. This description fits very accurately the Romans, and the desolations wrought by them.
These predictions - terrible in their nature beyond all comparison - were fulfilled with appalling exactness and literalness in the siege of Jerusalem, and in the dispersion which followed it. As we come to realize the character of these awful distresses, we should be thankful that "all things which were written," concerning the afflictions of Israel, have now been "fulfilled." We can rejoice that there is no support whatever for the view that a time of distress, exceeding in severity the horrors of the siege of Jerusalem, yet awaits that much afflicted people.
It should be noticed that the nation which Moses speaks of in this prophecy was to come "from far," and was to be one whose tongue the Jews did not understand. Those specifications fit the Romans, but not the Assyrians or Chaldeans. Furthermore, in the tribulation foretold by Moses the people were to be plucked off the land and scattered among all nations "from one end of the earth even to the other." This describes the result of the capture of Jerusalem by Titus, and not that of its capture by Nebuchadnezzar.
Prominent among the "things that were written" before time, and which our Lord said were to be "fulfilled" at the time of the approaching destruction of Jerusalem, was the "time of trouble" in Dan. 12:1, at which time some of Daniel's people were to be delivered, even those who were found "written in the book." The latter expression had come to mean, since the days Moses [Ex. 32:32] those who were accepted by God. Such people [i.e. believers in the Lord Jesus Christ] were "delivered" at that time through giving heed to His warnings.
29. Luke, have spoken in detail of the coming destruction of Jerusalem, which everyone admits came to pass in ___________________, says not a word of any other tribulation to come after.
30. Could there be a greater crime than the betrayal and murder of the Son of God? ____________
31. Even a casual reading of all three accounts and their context reveals they are all referring to the _____________ event.
32. The statement found in Luke 21:22, "For these be the days of vengeance" indicates a definite period of ___________________.
33. God gave, through Moses, an outline of the future ___________________ of His people, telling how they would depart from Himself, and how He would punish them by bringing against them a nation which should besiege them in their cities.
34. We should be thankful that "all things which were written," concerning the afflictions of Israel, have now been "________________."
The Abomination Of Desolation
We need to pay special attention to the words, "When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place [whoso readeth let him understand]; then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains..." [Matt. 24:15-16]. The passage is the same in Mark except that, instead of "stand in the holy place," we read, "standing where it ought not." In Luke the corresponding passage reads, "And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judea flee to the mountains..."
This passage was, to the Lord's disciples then in Jerusalem and Judea, the most important of the entire prophecy. It gave "the sign" where they would know that the "desolation" predicted in Dan. 9:26, was at hand, and upon seeing the sign they were to flee. Luke describes the sign in plain language. The encompassing of Jerusalem by armies was to be the warning that its desolation was near. But Matthew uses terms such that others who were not disciples would not understand it easily. To us it should be clear, by comparing the passages, that the armies which were to accomplish the "desolation" of the city were "the abomination of desolation."
The word "abomination" means any hateful or detestable thing. It would most fittingly apply to the Roman armies on their mission of destruction. The descriptive words, "of desolation," fix the meaning definitely. Yet, according to an interpretation that is widely accepted today, it means setting up an idol for worship in a Jewish temple which [it is supposed] will be built at Jerusalem in the days of Antichrist. But, in that case, the words "of desolation" would be quite out of place; for no one will argue that Jerusalem is again to be made a desolation. Another objection to this view is that God would not regard or speak of any part of such a temple as ‘the holy place."
Many modern teachers have been misled by this expression [used by Matthew] "the holy place." They have assumed that it meant the holy of holies in the temple. But it does not mean that at all. Anyone, with the help of a concordance [as Young's or Strong's] or a Greek dictionary, can see for himself that the word used for "place" in Matt. 24:15 is "topos," which means simply a locality. It is used in expressions like "a desert place," and "dry places." The holy land - Judea - is the "holy place" where the heathen armies, with their idolatrous standards and pagan sacrifices, were to stand. Mark puts it simply as "standing where it ought not." On the other hand, the term "hagios topos" is never used of the holy of holies of the temple.
The Lord was referring to the particular "abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet." At this point we have the exhortation, "Whoso readeth let him understand." The expression "abomination of desolation" is found only in the Septuagint version of Daniel 9:27. What then was it that is referred to in that verse? Clearly it is was God's instrument in bringing about the predicted "desolation." The Hebrew text, of which the King James Version is a translation, reads, "and for the overspreading of abominations, he shall make it desolate." If instead of "for," we read, "by the overspreading of abominations," we have a very good indication of the spreading abroad of the Roman armies. In Dan. 11:31 and 12:11, is a slightly different expression which makes the meaning more clear - "abomination that maketh desolate."
That the words "When ye see the abomination of desolation stand in the holy place" do not mean the setting up of an idol in the inner sanctuary, is further proven by the fact that it was when the disciples SAW the thing referred to, they were to know it was time for them to flee. Obviously the setting up of an idol in the inner sanctuary could not be a sign for the Lord's people to flee. Only the priests would be able to see it. Also, it certainly could not be a sign to "them that be in Judea." However, invading armies would a sight which all could see.
In addition, the setting up of an idol in the sanctuary is a thing which could not have been done until the city and the temple were captured by the enemy, which would be at the end of the siege. So it is impossible to serve a sign to the disciples to save themselves from the horrors of the siege by timely flight.
The difference between the way Matthew describes this sign to flee, and the way Luke describes it, is accounted for by the fact that Matthew's Gospel was written primarily for the Palestinian Jews. We can understand why the Holy Spirit inspired him to use an expression which would not be understood except by the disciples. But no such reason would exist in the case of Luke's Gospel, which was written primarily for Gentile converts. Matthew and Mark have the significant instruction, "Whoso readeth let him understand." But in Luke, where the meaning is stated in clear words, that warning is not found.
In confirmation of our view as to the meaning of "abomination of desolation," we quote from Smith's Bible Dictionary: "Abomination of Desolation, mentioned by our Saviour, Matt. 24:15, as a sign of the approaching destruction of Jerusalem, with reference to Dan. 9:27; 11:31; 12:11. The prophecy referred ultimately to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, and consequently the abomination must describe some occurrence connected with that event...Most people refer it to the standards or banners of the Roman army."
35. Which passage was the most important one for the disciples? ____________
36. The ________________________ of Jerusalem by armies was to be the warning that its desolation was near.
37. The ________________ which were to accomplish the "desolation" of the city were "the abomination of desolation."
38. The holy land - ________________ - is the "holy place" where the heathen armies, with their idolatrous standards and pagan sacrifices, were to stand.
39. The expression "abomination of desolation" is found only in the ___________ version of Daniel 9:27.
40. Invading armies would a ________________ which all could see.
41. The difference between the way Matthew describes this sign to flee, and the way Luke describes it, is accounted for by the fact that Matthew's Gospel was written primarily for the _______________________ Jews.
Feed Yourself Students
1. Answer all the questions.
2. Analyze Deut. 28:58-59.
Return to The Great Tribulation Lessons.