Matthew 24:15-28 Part 1

It needs to be said again, right at the beginning here, that the context is exactly the same as it has been for the last six sermons.  (It’s easy to become focused when we change to a new passage of Scripture.)  But all of chapters twenty-four and twenty-five contains the words of Jesus to His disciples (as He’s sitting on the Mount of Olives).  He’s describing, in prophetic language (Hebrew terminology), that which will happen (in this generation) – leading up to, and including, His Parousia and consummation of the age.

After this two-chapter discourse (beginning chapter twenty-six), Matthew records Jesus and His disciples going into Jerusalem at Passover, and the institution of the Lord’s Table for the New Israel (the Church).  But everything in these two chapters is Jesus’ discourse on what was about to occur!

Now, in verse fourteen we heard Jesus saying that the Gospel would be proclaimed in all the nations during this generation (thirty or forty years), and then the “end” would come (the consummation), which included the destruction of the temple.  Remember, that’s the issue that the disciples brought up:  “Tell us when these things shall be, and what (shall be) the sign of your coming (Parousia) and consummation of the age.”

And now, in verses fifteen and beyond, He’s to give them specific information, right out of the prophets, about those things that will occur near the “end” (between now and consummation), and a warning about what they (and God’s elect remnant) should do when they “see” it coming!  In other words, the thing that was going to happen, signaling the end of the age, was going to be seen by them – by these apostles, and others.  And, anticipating its coming, they could then take specific action… they could do what Jesus says here in this passage!  When you see it, this is what you must do immediately!

Again, there’s nothing “mysterious” or “mystifying” here.  There’s nothing which might set us to trembling about our future and the future of the world.  There is no “pre-tribulation” or “mid-tribulation” or “post-tribulation” rapture of the Church here.  There is no mention of “Russia,” or the “ten-nation European common market.”  And there’s no intimation at all about atomic warfare and destruction of the world!

This is the same context that we’ve heard from Jesus before, isn’t it… such as in chapter sixteen, when He said, “Truly I say to you, there are some standing here which shall not taste of death until they see the Son of Man ‘coming’ in His Kingdom!”

And in chapter twenty-three (speaking to the priests and pharisees of Israel), He said that they would persecute and kill His apostles; and the blood of all the righteous from the beginning would come upon them.  And then He said, verse thirty-six, “Truly I say to you, all these things shall come upon this generation!”

So again, should there be confusion in the minds of any concerning some imminent, “dark hour” of judgment and conflagration in your time, it has not been generated by God or by Satanic activity.  It’s purely self-motivated – by refusal to see and believe what is plainly written in the Word of God.  We don’t need to be stirred and thrilled by false prophecies that make our skin tingle and our hair stand up on end!  We don’t need to be provoked and enflamed by predictors of imminent cosmic spectacles!  We don’t need darkness and confusion!

God’s Anointed Christ is Light!  And certainty!  And faith!  He said, “I Am the Way, the Truth and the Life.  No man comes unto the Father but by Me!”  The words He spoke are cast in eternity; and there need be no darkness and uncertainty.

There is no sealed, secret book yet to be opened.  There is no labyrinth, no maze through which one must mysteriously choose his way; there are no secrets, no enigmas, no contingencies; there is no unintelligible paradox.  There is no mysterious power in the tombs of dead Egyptians!  And there is no universal “dark side!”  There is no extra-human “higher consciousness.”  There is absolutely no mystery about drug induced ecstasy and euphoria!  There is nothing hidden, or concealed….

For The Light has come!  And all darkness is illuminated.  The only darkness and mystery that exists is in the minds and hearts of dead, depraved people who bear all the responsibility for their own rebellion and unbelief.  Darkness and mystery and confusion exists only with those who dwell in it!  And, again, demonic activity associated with eschatological events was over… two thousand years ago!!  So not even that can be claimed in last resort to excuse one’s self for unbelief of the clear words of our Lord.

But the full (i.e. plenary) Revelation of God, in His Word and in the Son of God, has been manifested!  And it is perspicuous (clear).  The Light came, and the darkness did flee!  So no one has an excuse for his own self-inflicted condition!

And neither is there any mystery in what Jesus said (recorded in verse fifteen)!  “Therefore when you shall see the abomination of desolation, that spoken through Daniel the prophet, standing in a holy place (let the reader understand), then let the ones in Judea escape….!”

Now, what do we always do when we meet with (what seems to us as) obscure terminology in the ancient languages of Scripture?  Do we let our minds go free so we can fantasize about what it is?  Do we love the darkness and mystery of it all so much that we dabble a little with the occult?  Or do we gleefully jump into eschatological bed with the predictors of “the end of the world” – the “666” crowd?

Or, do we carefully search the Scriptures in order to do what Jesus commands here… “let the reader understand.”  As soon as one cuts himself loose from the Spirit and the Word, he goes into the “bondage” of darkness and confusion and occult fantasy!  But as long as we purposefully restrain ourselves to stay under the authority of the Spirit and the Word, then we’ll remain “free.”

So let’s go, then, to the authority!  When we don’t know enough (or have enough sense) to understand, it’s not a problem with the Word… the problem is us!  We have to pray… and do a little work!  We have to get under the authority of the Word and find out what it says!

So, what did Jesus mean, in chapter twenty-three, when, in speaking to the priests and pharisees, He said, “lo, your house is left unto you desolate!”  And here in verse fifteen He says, “when you see the abomination of desolation… spoken through Daniel the prophet….”  Is this a connection?

We’ve seen the words “desolate” and “desolation” a number of times before; and we’ve noted, on every occasion, that it has to do with uninhabited, or uninhabitable, wasteland – fit only for animals and birds of prey and scavengers.  And that is borne out in every occasion in which it appears.

For example, in Genesis chapter three, when Adam and his wife sinned against God, the curse extended to the earth as well.  And henceforth it brought forth only thorns and thistles.  It was made desolate.  (Israel was a new heaven and earth created by God – full of milk and honey and cultivation and order and law….  A new paradise!)

And that concept of desolation is used constantly in the prophets as an end result of rebellion and idolatry.  In his prophecy of that which was to come, Isaiah, for example, says this in chapter thirteen:  “It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation… but the wild beasts of the desert shall lie there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and owls shall dwell there… and the wild beasts of the islands shall cry in their desolate houses…” etc.

Jeremiah wails in lament at the coming end of Judah and Jerusalem as she is “decreated.”  Listen to him in chapter four:


“I beheld the earth, and lo, it was without form and void; and the heavens had no light.  I beheld the mountains, and lo, they trembled, and all the hills moved… I beheld and lo, there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens were fled.  I beheld and lo, the fruitful place (paradise) was a wilderness, and all the cities thereof were broken down at the presence of the Lord and by His fierce anger.  For thus hath the Lord said, ‘the whole land shall be made desolate….  For this shall the earth mourn, and the heavens above be black; because I have spoken it; I have purposed it, and will not repent… the whole city shall flee for the noise of the horsemen and bowmen.  They shall go into thickets and climb up upon the rocks.  Every city shall be forsaken, and not a man dwell therein….”

(Decreation of God’s heaven and earth – Israel.)


And Isaiah says, “Who will be sorry for you?  Desolation, and destruction, and famine and sword… by whom will I comfort you?”

And John the apostle brings that exact same language from the prophets to his Revelation, as he sees what is to happen to the city of Jerusalem, in chapter eighteen:  “Alas, alas, that great city wherein were made rich all that had ships in the sea, by reason of her richness.  For in one hour is she made desolate.”  And listen to what he says at the end of that chapter – in fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy concerning the blood of the saints from Abel to the present:  “And in her was found that blood of prophets and of saints… all of them that were slain upon earth.”

And lastly, before we look at Daniel’s prophecy (the one Jesus refers us to), John, in Revelation chapter seventeen, verse sixteen, refers to Jerusalem as the harlot who will be made “desolate” by her lovers (the peoples of the empire).  There is four-fold violence dealt to her by them:  they will make her desolate, and strip her naked, and will eat her flesh and burn her with fire! 


This is the four-fold prophecy!

·      The nations will turn on the whore who gave herself to them, and they will hate her and desolate her (the prophecy of Daniel nine).

·      And then one of the punishments for a convicted adulteress was to strip her naked in public before she was executed (referred to in Isaiah forty-seven).

·      Jerusalem is also often referred to as “Jezebel” who was eaten by dogs after she was killed (I Kings twenty-one).

·      And the prophets who spoke of Jerusalem as the great Whore had said that, just as a priest’s daughter who became a harlot was to be “burned with fire,” so God would use Jerusalem’s former lovers to destroy her and burn her to the ground (Jeremiah four, and Ezekiel sixteen).


So John’s four-fold description of Jerusalem’s treatment by her former lovers is taken right out of the prophets – including the term “desolation” as our Lord uses it.  And it is clear that this term, and how it is used in Scripture, has to do with making a city and a nation an uninhabitable wasteland.  That one place on this cursed earth that God created for Himself and set apart for Himself, and which He called “heaven and earth” (new edemic paradise), was now to be decreated and made a cursed wasteland fit only for scavengers.  And the means by which He would do that was by the great armies of the Roman Empire.

Now let’s hear what Jesus said again in verse fifteen:  “When therefore you see the abomination of desolation, that spoken through Daniel the prophet, standing in a holy place (let the one reading understand), then let those in Judea flee….”

Now, here’s what Daniel says in chapter nine:  “…and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof will be as a flood; and to the end of the war He shall appoint the city to desolations.”

“And (Messiah) shall confirm the covenant with many for one week; and in the midst of the week He shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease; and for the overspreading of abominations He shall make desolate, even until the consummation….”

The angel speaking to Daniel then closes the vision with these words, in chapter twelve:  “And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination of desolation set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days.”  (That’s three and a half years.)

And it just so happens, according to the history, that in July of 66 AD, just three and half years before the final destruction of Jerusalem in late 70 AD, the sacrifices in the temple for Caesar and the Roman Empire (which had long before been instituted) were halted!  And when Israel would no longer sacrifice on the altar for Caesar, that spelled the beginning of their end – for Rome then began moving against her and her rebellion.

Now, without getting into all the various intricacies of the Hebrew language with you, let me say that Daniel’s vision clearly has reference to a flood of armed soldiers desolating whatever is in their path!  They are an evil and profane abomination (Israel’s lovers) which God will use to lay waste to His holy covenant nation.

They grew weary of Israel’s rebellion and became especially incensed when Israel ceased sacrificing for Caesar; and the legions from Rome and the auxiliary armies from many nations moved into Israel (the holy place) in full regalla and with trumpets and banners and armor and horsemen and foot soldiers by the thousands.  And they began laying waste to city after city, making them uninhabitable to men and giving the scavengers their fill!

But this is exactly what Jesus refers to in verse fifteen:  “Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation, that spoken through Daniel the prophet, stand in a holy place (let the reader understand), then let those in Judea escape….”  When the abomination that makes desolate sets foot on holy soil, then it’s time to flee.  It’s time for “mega-tribulation.”

Now, as far as the interpretation of Daniel’s vision is concerned, the rest of Scripture makes it “window-pane” clear, doesn’t it?  And except for the blindness that had come over Israel it would be near impossible to miss the absolute facts about what was going to happen!

But even with all that, we have an even clearer statement in the Gospel of Luke concerning these very things!  As we’ve mentioned before, the differences between Matthew’s Gospel and Luke’s Gospel turn primarily upon the parties to whom they were written.  Matthew wrote his Gospel to Jews; and therefore His language doesn’t deviate from the Hebraisms from the older Testament prophets which would be easily understood by the new Christian Jews.

But Luke was writing primarily to Gentile Christians; and obscure Hebrew prophetic terminology such as “abomination of desolations” might not be as easily understood.  So Luke, at the leading of the Spirit of Christ, interpreted that term for them!

And we use his interpretation this morning to give us Gentile Christians absolute certainty of what was prophesied for Israel, and what did indeed happen to Israel.  It is found in the twenty-first chapter of Luke’s Gospel, which is his account of this very discourse which we’re hearing from Matthew.

This is what he says, verses twenty through twenty-two: 


And when you shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation of it is near.  Then let them who are in Judea flee to the mountains; and let them who are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the nations enter thereinto.  For these are the days of vengeance – that all things which are written may be fulfilled.


So neither the Older Testament nor the Newer One leave any room at all for misinterpretation!  There is no mystery, for the Light has shined in the darkness; and the darkness did flee from Him.  And the glorious King has set at liberty all the nations of the earth.

God destroyed His Own Covenant nation for our benefit; and He gave His Only Son for our salvation.  So there is no other response from His people than thanksgiving, obedience and service.