“So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.
(Matthew 24:15-28 ESV)
Jesus was not the first to predict that the end times would be filled with trouble. Such predictions were first made in the Old Testament hundreds of years before Jesus and thousands of years before the events actually happened. God gives us more information in the New Testament. Over the past few days Jesus told us that many terrible things would happen in the world before His return. Like birth pains, these things would happen with more frequency and intensity and then the end would come. Today He describes “the end”.
The culmination of these “birth pains” is the abomination of desolation. This is an event that was described by the prophet Daniel. There is much more to this prophecy than can be covered here. The short version is that someday the world will be ruled by a single man, known as the Antichrist. At first this ruler will seem benign and just what the world needs. He will make a seven-year peace treaty with Israel but half-way through that treaty he will break it and will turn against Israel, seeking to destroy her [Daniel 9:27].
The turning point will be when the Antichrist tries to set himself up to be God and enters the holy place [2 Thessalonians 2:4]. This is likely Holy of Holies in the Temple in Jerusalem (note this implies the Temple will be rebuilt as it currently does not exist). This renders the Temple unusable and it will become desolate.
At this point the entire world will turn their hatred upon the Jews. Things will happen so fast that the one who is on the housetop must not go down to take what is in his house. Nor should the one who is in the field go back to take his cloak. There won’t be time. Women who are pregnant or who have young infants will be especially vulnerable because they will not be able to run fast enough.
The tribulation will be great, such as has not been seen from the beginning of the world. Earth will be in complete chaos and the persecution against God’s people will be the most intense it will ever be. It will be worse than the Roman destruction of Jerusalem. It will be worse than the Holocaust.
Jesus’ words in this passage apply only to those who will actually live through these events. That could be some who are reading this. The world is rapidly moving towards what it calls “unity” and the idea of having a single ruler over the planet isn’t as crazy as it may have once sounded. Things are happening faster and faster all the time and it is certainly conceivable that all this happens within the next few decades.
But notice God will mercifully cut those days short. If he doesn’t every human being on the planet would die. It is at this point that Jesus will return. Jesus’ will return as lightning – unexpected and quick [1 Thessalonians 5:13]. Jesus will describe His actual arrival tomorrow.
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