Puritan Gems

Monday, November 27, 2006

Signs of the Olivet Discourse Part IV


Matthew 24:15-22
“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 Judaea flee into the mountains: Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.”

What exactly is the Abomination of Desolation? The Rapture Ready Website is more than willing to share the popular definition with us.

"Abomination of Desolation: When the Antichrist sits down in the rebuilt Jewish Temple and declares himself to be God, the great tribulation of 42 months will then begin. At the occurrence of this event, the Jews living in Israel are commanded to flee into the wilderness. All tribulation saints will know, from that day on, they must now wait 1260 days before the Lord returns.
(Dan 9:27), (Mat 24:15-19)"

Is this accurate? I challenge anyone to “[examine] the Scriptures … to see if these things [are] so” (Acts 17:11). Look up Daniel 9:27 or Matthew 24:15-19. Do these passages mention anything about “antichrist”? How about a “rebuilt Jewish Temple”? Where does the “desolation” fit in? As anyone can see from the plain reading of these scriptures, the popular dispensationalist view of the abomination of desolation requires the reader to import items into the text that just aren’t there.

Fortunately, like most of the items in Bible Prophecy, we need not resort to such guesswork to get the correct interpretation. The best way to interpret Scripture is with Scripture, and the Bible itself plainly tells us what the abomination of desolation is. Let’s compare the accounts of the Olivet Discourse given in Matthew 24 and Luke 21.

Matthew 24

Luke 21

15 "Therefore when you see the "abomination of desolation,' spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place" (whoever reads, let him understand),

16"then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.

17Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. 18And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes.

19But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days!

20And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath.

21For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.

22And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened.

20 "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near.

21Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her.

22For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.

23But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people.

24And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

The Abomination of Desolation was the armed invasion of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD. The prophecy says absolutely nothing about the modern day middle east. It was within that generation (Matthew 24:34) that the Christians were to leave Judea.

First Century Fulfillment:
“And now, as the city was engaged in a war on all sides, from these treacherous crowds of wicked men, the people of the city, between them, were like a great body torn in pieces. The aged men and the women were in such distress by their internal calamities, that they wished for the Romans, and earnestly hoped for an external war, in order to their delivery from their domestical miseries. The citizens themselves were under a terrible consternation and fear; nor had they any opportunity of taking counsel, and of changing their conduct; nor were there any hopes of coming to an agreement with their enemies; nor could such as had a mind flee away; for guards were set at all places, and the heads of the robbers, although they were seditious one against another in other respects, yet did they agree in killing those that were for peace with the Romans, or were suspected of an inclination to desert them, as their common enemies. They agreed in nothing but this, to kill those that were innocent." (Josephus – Wars 5.1.5)

As with the rest of the Olivet Discourse, the Abomination of Desolation is past history. This was the near unanimous view for most of Church History.

St. Augustine of Hippo (379)
"Luke to show that the abomination spoken of by Daniel will take place when Jerusalem is captured, recalls these words of the Lord in the same context: When you shall see Jerusalem compassed about with an army, then know that the desolation thereof is at hand (xxi. 20). For Luke very clearly bears witness that the prophecy of Daniel was fulfilled when Jerusalem was overthrown."

Clement of Alexandria (Second Century)
"For he said that there were two thousand three hundred days from the time that the abomination of Nero stood in the holy city, till its destruction... These two thousand three hundred days make six years four months, during the half of which Nero held sway"

Eusebius Pamphilius (325)
"But the number of calamities which every where fell upon the nation at that time; the extreme misfortunes to which the inhabitants of Judea were especially subjected, the thousands of men, as well as women and children, that perished by the sword, by famine, and by other forms of death innumerable,--all these things, as well as the many great sieges which were carried on against the cities of Judea, and the excessive. sufferings endured by those that fled to Jerusalem itself, as to a city of perfect safety, and finally the general course of the whole war, as well as its particular occurrences in detail, and how at last the abomination of desolation, proclaimed by the prophets, stood in the very temple of God, so celebrated of old, the temple which was now awaiting its total and final destruction by fire,-- all these things any one that wishes may find accurately described in the history written by Josephus."

Up next, I’ll outline some Apocalyptic Language in the Bible. Seeing how certain phrases are used in Scripture will help us understand their meaning, and will be most necessary to understand the rest of the Olivet Discourse.

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