Summary: There is a hidden infection out there, resting under the surface, waiting to erupt into the world system. Do you know what it is and more importantly, are you ready? Learn about end times prophecy and the Rapture of the church.
Last week we talked about a sign – something to show us that the end is near. But instead Jesus gave only vague references to increasing tension, increasing aggression, and decreasing love and devotion to God. Mostly He told us not to be alarmed but to keep on doing what we’re supposed to do – tell people about Jesus.
Why no signs for us Christians? Why can’t there be some definitive event that we can look for and then say "Okay – Jesus is coming to take us off the earth tomorrow." Well, Jesus, I believe, wants us to behave as if any day – any minute - could be the last.
That’s the theme more than anything else of Matthew 24 – be ready. Jesus didn’t give us details about events that would happen before His return so that we could do calculations and predictions – but so that our lives would be lived in such a way that we’d be ready no matter when He came.
A couple of things to understand as we make our way through the text –
1- Jesus is talking about His second coming in general terms – and isn’t making a clear distinction here between the snatching away of the church, known as the Rapture, and His second coming to earth. 2- There is a principal of prophecy that we need to understand – it’s known as dual fulfillment.
Some of these prophecies had been fulfilled by the time Jesus spoke these words – but they would be fulfilled yet again shortly, and then again sometime in our future. We make a mistake when interpreting God’s Word when we pigeon hole Him to single fulfillments of prophecy. So keep that in mind as we work our way through the chapter.
We start with one of the most significant signs of the last days – one that will be readily apparent to any Jew.
15 "So when you see standing in the holy place ’the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel-let the reader understand-
The Abomination of Desolation – what is that? To understand we need to go back, once again, to the prophet Daniel.
If you were with us a few weeks ago when we studied Jesus entry to the city of Jerusalem, you’ll remember that we looked at a section of Daniel 9 to get our timeline – the 70 weeks that has been determined on the nation of Israel. Well, we find out what happens between the 69th and the end of the 70th week there as well:
Daniel 9:26 After the sixty-two ’sevens,’ the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. 27 He will confirm a covenant with many for one ’seven.’ In the middle of the ’seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing [of the temple] he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him."
The idea was that God’s enemy would desecrate the Temple – it can also be translated "desolating sacrilege." This is the most detailed "sign" Jesus gives. And it has already been fulfilled twice before.
The first time was in 186 BC when Antiochus Epiphanes sacrificed a pig to the Greek God Zeus on the altar and made the practice of Judaism punishable by death. This is what led to the Maccabean wars.
The second fulfillment happened a few years after Jesus spoke these words – when the Romans destroyed the Temple in 70AD. And His words applied to those who would be in Jerusalem when the Romans came.
16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.
17 Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house.
18 Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak.
19 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers!
20 Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath.
The idea is that the destruction came suddenly – and that every moment was at stake to escape the Roman Legions. In fact, some took this advice and escaped to a nearby city in 70AD named Pella. They were spared.
But the third fulfillment is yet to come – and the trouble in those days is prophesied by Jesus next:
21 For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now-and never to be equaled again.
22 If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.