Summary: What I do want to leave you with is a firm belief in Christ’s return and with a wonder and joy of that last wondrous event for which we are waiting.
Let’s begin by reviewing briefly the message from last week which covered verses 1-13. First, the goal of this series. It is not so much to convince you of one view, as it is to have a charitable attitude towards the different opinions. I want you to realize how complex this issue really is. And as I stated, if you have not done much study on the subject, you will not be able to have a firm position when these sermons are done. I cannot cover all the issues and Scripture involved to do the topic justice. What I do want to leave you with is a firm belief in Christ’s return and with a wonder and joy of that last wondrous event for which we are waiting.
The outline of the series is as follows: verses 1-13 cover the “birth pains” – the troubles and persecutions that the church will face; next, verses 14-23 present a special day of tribulation; third, verses 24-27 present Christ’s return; and finally, verses 28-37 instruct us about what we are to be doing as we wait for our Lord’s return.
I presented two end time views – postmillennialism and amillennialism, terms that define how Christians understand what the millennium stands for in Revelation 20:1-6. Postmillennialists believe there will be a long period of peace and blessing on the earth because of the gospel’s penetration into the hearts of people and into the societies throughout the world. After that millennial period Christ will return and this world’s history end. The amillennialists believe the millennium is a figure of speech for Christ reigning now in heaven. At any time he may return and the end come. This morning I will present premillennialism. Postmillennialism and amillennialism have been the prevalent views of the Christian church for most of its history, and still remains so in Reformed churches. Premillennialism, however, is not the prevalent view among evangelical Christians.
We are first going to study our text. Be alert that I will be interpreting it in the manner that a post and amillennialist would, but I will present later how most premillennialists would interpret the passage.
14 “When you see ‘the abomination that causes desolation’ standing where it does not belong—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.
What is this abomination that causes desolation? Our clue, as with so many of Jesus’ statements, lies in the Old Testament, in this case the book of Daniel. There are four passages that either use the phrase or similar language. They are 8:13-14, 9:25-27, 11:34, and 12:9-12. Teachers differ (usually according to millennial position) on how to interpret these passages.
Are all four speaking of the same event? Is the abomination that causes desolation the same each time? Is the NIV translation in Daniel 9 accurate? The NASV, which gives a closer rendering to the Hebrew, reads, “on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate.” One passage seems to speak of an object being set up in the temple; Daniel 8:13 seems to refer to acts of desecration. The NASV reads, “while the transgression causes horror.” Some apply these passages to Antiochus IV, who in 167 B.C. turned the temple into a Greek temple, offering sacrifices to Greek gods. Others apply them to the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 A.D. Still others apply them to a time yet to come when a new temple will be built. Some apply different passages to different events, so that all three interpretations are used.
Interpreting the passages correctly involved interpreting the whole book of Daniel correctly. It requires understanding the context in which he wrote and then discerning how much he is applying to his times. It requires understanding his use of numbers. Some say take the numbers for what they literally are and use them to calculate dates. That approach ignores the way the Bible uses numbers. For us to make an informed decision, we need to explore the use of numbers in Scripture.
Here is another question. Can one prophecy apply to more than one historical period or event? To decide that, we need to study prophecy in general. Sooner or later, we also need to decide how to interpret the entire book of Revelation. We also need to do a thorough study of the term “kingdom of God” throughout Scripture, because how we understand that affects how we interpret end time prophecy. Do you get the idea? This is not easy stuff, and don’t let anyone fool you that it is.
Let’s get back to the text. I said that our clue to Jesus’ use of the phrase abomination of desolation (NASV) is found in Daniel. We can all agree from Daniel that whatever precisely it is, it is something really bad, so terrible that it signifies a great catastrophe of judgment.