Mt Olivet Discourse – Part 3

by Paul George

Matthew 24:15-20

Verse 15 describes an event that fixes the chronological mid-point of the seven-year tribulation. Verses 16- 20 describe the recommended response of the faithful who see the abomination of desolation in Jerusalem. They are to get out of Jerusalem, because the second half of the tribulation will be a time of persecution and great tribulation for the Jewish remnant.

This passage is saying that the moment the Jewish remnant, the elect in verses 22, 24 and 31, sees the beginning of the abomination of desolation then they are to flee to the Judean hills because with the Beast, antichrist, is setting up the abomination of desolation in the rebuilt Jewish Temple, he goes from protecting Israel to persecuting her. Therefore, the sooner that the remnant can get out of Jerusalem and then the less likely it will be that antichrist will be able to persecute them. Another reason why they will be able to flee instantly is that they will be miraculously provided for and protected as they make their way to Petra for three and a half years of safekeeping.

Matthew 24:16- 20 provides a set of instructions for the remnant. Jesus tells them where to go to the Judean Mountains. Jesus says to flee instantly. Do not even take a few minutes to collect a few personal belongings like your cloak in the field or a few items from your house for the journey. He warns that it will be difficult to navigate the mountainous terrain if pregnant or nursing a newborn. Jesus does not say that it will be impossible, but it will be difficult. The difficulty will be compounded if this event occurs in winter or on a Sabbath, because of the added restrictions that these times pose. The winter in Israel is the rainy season which increases the hazards of travel in the Judean hills because the creeks and rivers provide an obstacle not there during other seasons. The Sabbath imposes a travel restriction that is not in force on the other six days of the week that poses a real problem to the observant Jew. So why are the Jewish remnant supposed to be aware of a special event which triggers their escape into the Judea wilderness, yet they are not told to make any preparations for that day? Matthew 24:16- 20 focuses upon the divinely suggested response to the abomination of desolation by the Jewish remnant, other passages provide a more complete picture of this three and a half year wilderness sojourn. The parallel passage of Revelation 12 provides further details of this mid-tribulation escape. Revelation 12:6 says, “And the woman fled into the wilderness where she had a place prepared by God, so that there she might be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days.” The key word in this verse is “nourished.” This explains why the Jewish remnant is told to flee without consideration for any provisions, because God has prepared a place where Israel will be nourished and taken care of for three and a half years, the second half of the tribulation.

Since the wrath of Satan is directed toward the Jewish remnant at the middle of the tribulation, this requires Divine protection. There is cause and effect relationship between the heavenly, the casting of Satan from heaven to earth and earthly, the abomination of desolation events. At the mid-point of the tribulation, Satan now indwells the human antichrist and commences his campaign of anti-Semitism against the Jews with all haste.

Next, Revelation 12:14 says, “And the two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman, in order that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she was nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent.” The “two wings of the great eagle,” do not refer to the Israeli or American Air Forces. Instead, it is a figure of speech denoting Divine assistance, like that given to Israel during the Exodus and for her forty-year wonderings.

It appears that the Jewish remnant can flee Jerusalem without concern for provisions, since God will nurture and care for them as He did the Exodus generation through miraculous means. Very likely, the Lord will provide food, perhaps manna, water, and clothing for His remnant that will be on the run and in hiding to escape the persecution of the dragon during the final half of the tribulation.

It is clear that the Jewish remnant will be fleeing to the Judean wilderness where Old Testament passages teach, along with Revelation 12, that she will be miraculously protected for the later half of the tribulation. The place of her protection Bozrah, “For I have sworn by Myself, declares theLord, that Bozrah will become an object of horror, a reproach, a ruin and a curse; and all its cities will become perpetual ruins. I have heard a message from the Lord, and an envoy is sent among the nations, saying, ‘Gather yourselves together and come against her, and rise up for battle!’” (Jeremiah 49:13- 14) Bozrah is a region in southwest Jordan, where the ancient fortress city of Petra is located. Isaiah 63:1- 3 asks, “Who is this who comes from Edom, with garments of glowing colors from Bozrah, this One who is majestic in His apparel, marching in the greatness of His strength? It is I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save. Why is Your apparel red, and Your garments like the one who treads in the wine press? I have trodden the wine trough alone, and from the peoples there was no man with Me. I also trod them in My anger, and trampled them in My wrath; and their lifeblood is sprinkled on My garments, and I stained all My raiment.” Bozrah is the place where up to a couple million Jews have been hidden away since the middle of the tribulation when they fled from Judea. The Lord has nourished them for those three and a half years and now He defends the Jewish remnant. Christ has blood on His garments from defending the Jews against the army of the antichrist, who have gathered themselves to attack the Jews at Armageddon. Such a force arrayed against the Lord’s people requires His personal intervention. This He does first

Matthew 24:14: As Jesus’ discourse approaches the mid-point of the seven-year tribulation, verse 14 raises a number of interpretive issues. What exactly is meant by “the gospel of the kingdom?” Is this proclamation still a future event? What does “a witness to all nations” mean? What is meant by “then the end shall come?”

Some interpreters of Matthew 24:14 believe that “gospel of the kingdom” is the gospel or the message about forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ, as preached in the New Testament epistles. Others believe that it describes the coming of Christ’s kingdom, which we know as the millennium. The Greek word “gospel” is a compound word made up of “good” and “message.” It meant originally the reward given to the messenger, but came to be used for the good news he brought. The word by itself simply means “good news.” The good news depends upon what is being talked about. Here the phrase would mean good news about the kingdom.

During the time that the politico-religious system of the beast is in absolute control, the gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world (Matthew 24:14). Both Jesus and John (Matthew 3:2; 4:17) preached the gospel of the kingdom. This was the announcement of the good news that the kingdom was near. The gospel of the kingdom preached in the Tribulation will have two emphases. On the one hand, it will announce the good news that Messiah’s advent is near, at which time He will introduce the messianic age of blessing. On the other hand, it will also offer men salvation by grace through faith based upon the blood of Christ.

The word “world” is used in the New Testament to refer to “the Roman Empire of the first century,” its basic meaning is that of “the inhabited earth.” The inhabited world could refer to the Roman Empire; however, this word was earlier used of the Greek cultural world.

Since the word, “inhabited world” has multiple possibilities depending upon the referent. If the contextual referent is Roman, then it will mean the Roman Empire as in Luke 2:1. However, if its referent is global, then it must include the entire world as in Acts 17:31, which says, “He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness.” Surely, this speaks of the whole globe since not a single individual will escape God’s judgment.

Then the end shall come. Earlier Jesus said, “for these things must take place, but that is not yet the end” (Matthew 24:6). Now He says, that after the successful preaching of the gospel of the kingdom to the entire planet, “then the end shall come. The end spoken of here is not the end of the end. It means the end of the age of the tribulation through the second coming of Christ (Matthew 24:27-31). The end will occur one thousand years later as the millennial kingdom of Christ comes to its end.

Since Matthew 24:14 is a future event, then the gospel will be preached across the globe as described in Revelation 14:6-7. Both passages are set in contexts that tell us that this global evangelization will take place just before the middle of the seven-year tribulation. Jesus’ claim in 24:14 does not imply that all peoples will be converted, but that the kingdom will not come in its fullness until all peoples have had the opportunity to embrace or reject the King who will be their judge (Matthew 25:31- 32).

“Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoke of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand) ( Matthew 24:15). The passages in Daniel that mention the term “abomination of desolation” are Daniel 9:27, 11:31 and 12:11. The phrase refers to an act of abomination that renders, in this case, the Temple, something unclean. Daniel 11:31 speaks of an act that was fulfilled in history before the first coming of Christ.

In Daniel 11:31, a prophecy was written by Daniel in the sixth century b. c. about a future Syrian ruler by name of Antiochus Epiphanes who reigned over Syria 175-164 b. c., about 400 years after Daniel. History, of course, has recorded the reign of this man. In verse 31, Daniel prophesied about his activity: “Forces from him will arise, desecrate the sanctuary fortress, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they will set up the abomination of desolation.” This would be very difficult to understand if it were not for the fact that it has already been fulfilled. Anyone can go back to the history of Antiochus Epiphanes and discover what he did as recorded in the apocryphal books of 1 and 2 Maccabees. He was a great persecutor of the children of Israel and did his best to stamp out the Jewish religion, and wanted to place in its stead a worship of Greek pagan gods. One of the things he did was to stop animal sacrifices in the temple. He offered a sow, an unclean animal, on the altar in a deliberate attempt to desecrate and render it unholy for Jewish worship (1 Maccabees 1:48). First Maccabees 1:54 specifically records that the abomination of desolation was set up, fulfilling Daniel 11:31. In the holy of holies, Antiochus set up a statue of a Greek god. In keeping with the prophecy the daily sacrifices were stopped, the sanctuary was polluted, desolated and made an abomination.

The Daniel 9:27 passage says that this abomination is to take place in the middle of a seven-year period. The passage says, “in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate.” In other words, the future prince will do exactly what Antiochus did in the second century b.c. but Daniel goes on to say that the one who commits this act will be destroyed three and a half years later. Daniel 12:11 says “And from the time that the regular sacrifice is abolished, and the abomination of desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days.” In addition to the three passages in Daniel, the two references by Jesus in Matthew and Luke, 2 Thessalonians 2:4 and Revelation 13:14-15 also have this event in view. Therefore, the abomination of desolation, which the reader is to understand, includes the following elements: (1). It occurs in the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem (Daniel 11:31; 2 Thessalonians 2:4). (2). It involves a person setting up a statue in place of the regular sacrifice in the holy of holies (Daniel 11:31; 12:11; Revelation 13:14-14). (3). This results in the cessation of the regular sacrifice (Daniel 9:27; 11:31; 12:11). (4). There will be a time of about three-and-a-half years between this event and another event that brings to an end this event (Daniel 9:27; 12:11). (5). It involves an individual setting up a statue or image of himself so that he may be worshipped in place of God (Daniel 11:31; 2 Thessalonians 2:4; Revelation 13:14-15). (6). The image is made to come to life (Revelation 13:14). (7). A worship system of this false god is thus inaugurated (2 Thessalonians 2:4; Revelation 13:14-15). (8). At the end of this time period the individual who commits the act will himself be cut off (Daniel 9:27).

There are those who claim the “abomination of desolation” in Matthew 24:15 was fulfilled in the first century destruction of Jerusalem. Even though there are similarities between the past destruction of Jerusalem and a future siege, there are enough differences to distinguish the two events. Luke 21:20-24 does refer to the a. d. 70 destruction of Jerusalem. Therefore, when verse 20 says, “when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is at hand,” it is describing in clear language the destruction of Jerusalem. The language of the rest of the passage, especially verse 24, vindicates this: “and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot.” Matthew 24:15 says, “when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet standing in the holy place”

Comparison of the description in Matthew and Daniel with the passage in Luke yields differences, which prove that they are two separate events. In the a.d. 70 destruction of Jerusalem there was (1) no image set up in the holy place. (2) No worship of the image was required. (3) No three-and-a-half year period of time between that event and the coming of Christ. This is especially true since the destruction of Jerusalem occurred at the end of the siege by Rome. It was over in a matter of days. By the time the Romans had actually desecrated the temple in a.d. 70, it was too late for anyone in the city to flee. (4)

No image came to life and beckoned men to worship it.

Josephus tells us that Titus did not want the Temple burned. However, the Roman solders were so upset with the Jews that they disobeyed his orders and burned the temple anyway. All Titus was able to do was to go in and tour the holy place shortly before it burned. This does not agree with the biblical picture of the image to be set up on the altar in the middle of Daniel’s seventieth week, resulting in cessation of the regular sacrifice and a rival worship system set up in its place for three-and-a-half years.

If the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel 9:27 and 12:11 is foreshadowed by Antiochus Epiphanes (11:31), it would be best to say it is a desecration carried out by a person who sacrilegiously uses the Temple to promote the worship of a god other than Jehovah. This is what is anticipated in 2 Thessalonians 2. According to Matthew 24 neither the city nor the temple are destroyed, and thus the two situations stand in sharp contrast. The Luke 21:20-24 reference does record the “days of vengeance” which befell Jerusalem. Luke shifts from the a.d. 70 destruction of Jerusalem in 21:20-24, to the second coming of Christ in 21:25-28, he tells them in verse 28 to “straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” This is the language of deliverance from the threat of the nations, not destruction. This language of deliverance is reflected in Zechariah 12- 14. These three chapters include three important factors: (1) Jerusalem surrounded by the nations who are seeking to destroy it (12:2-9; 14:2-7). (2) The Lord will fight for Israel and Jerusalem and defeat the nations who have come up to lay siege against the city (14:1-8). (3) At this same time, the Lord will also save Israel from her sins and she will accept Him as their Messiah (12:9-14).

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