Matthew 24:15-28 Part 2

In his Prophecy Knowledge Handbook, John Walvoord, a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, places this passage of Scripture completely in the future.  So, as Jesus speaks here, He means for His disciples to understand that all He’s saying is for hundreds of years later!  And when professor Walvoord deals with the “abomination of desolation” here in verse fifteen, he offers a table of predicted order of prophetic events related to Israel in that prophetically-significant time.

He lists these events specifically, and in order; and included in the list are the recognition of Israel by the United Nations (and the setting aside of five thousand square miles of territory), and Israel’s principle benefactor being the United States.

Now it’s pretty easy to list events which are supposed to happen – if those events have already happened (which they have, and which he did!).  The current “prophecy interpreters” of dispensationalism have this unique ability to publish new books after observing current events!  And then they say, “Oh, that was prophesied!”

 But the problem is, they don’t say where it was prophesied!  There’s no mention in Scripture of the United Nations recognizing Israel as a nation; there’s no mention in Scripture of Israel’s having five thousand square miles set aside by the nations of the world; there’s no mention in Scripture of a great benefactor nation supplying Israel with money and arms; and there’s no mention in Scripture of the United States!  I suppose that “current events interpreters” don’t have to find specific verses in Scripture….  If it happened, then it must be prophesied!  So we can put it in the list!

Associated with all this “current” frenzy of activity is the anticipation of the imminent “rebuild” of the temple in Jerusalem.  Since all these other things that have already happened have been declared “prophetic,” then the new temple rebuild must be near.  The problem is, there’s a huge Islamic mosque on that site!  And Israel is surrounded by a billion Arabs!

Nevertheless, the “prophetic interpreters” continue to insist on a “futurist” view of this text… regardless of what it says!  The whole “scheme” is so absurd that it’s almost laughable.  And it would be if there weren’t so many “churched” people caught up and enflamed by the excitement of an imminent return of Christ, “the tribulation,” and world conflagration.

But what the text says is that the temple is going to be destroyed in this generation – not rebuilt in the future!  And the apostles of Christ and the Church are going to be persecuted in this generation.  And, because of that, the blood of all the righteous from the beginning will come upon Israel in this generation.

And after describing the awful conditions proliferating and multiplying in Israel and Jerusalem (verses four through fourteen), Jesus says, “when therefore you shall see the abomination of desolation, that spoken through Daniel the prophet, stand in a holy place (let the one reading understand), then let those in Judea escape into the mountains….”

We noted last time (as a result of examination of Scripture) that “the abomination of desolation” refers to great armies sweeping away everything in their path, and making all an uninhabitable waste (destruction).  You also remember that Luke, in his version of what Jesus said, interprets it for his Gentile readers.  And he says,” when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near.  Then let those in Judea flee to the mountains….”

So “the abomination of desolation” is no mystery at all.  Jesus is warning his apostles about what they’re going to see in this generation – great, profane, Gentile armies, standing in Israel (a holy place, according to God) ready to lay it waste!

Jesus told His apostles that it was “spoken” through Daniel the prophet.  We’ve seen this word before – it is Rhema, the “Speech of God.”  Now, Matthew doesn’t use this word much; but when he does it refers directly to the speech of God through the prophets concerning the Christ Who comes in judgment and salvation!

Now this word “Rhema” also carries with it the sense of “that which is done,” because the Word and the Act of God are seen as one.  The Scriptures take note of them (the Word and the Act) as if they were the same!  And the reason for that is that it is understood that if God said it, it’s done!  That’s why much of the prophetic Word of the Hebrew Old Testament is in the perfect tense.  The Hebrew perfect tense is the tense of completion.

We have an example of that perfect tense carried forward by Jesus into the Greek here in verse fifteen.  The word “stand” is in the Greek perfect tense.  “When therefore you shall see the abomination of desolation, the thing spoken through Daniel the prophet, stand in a holy place….”  It was spoken (Rhema) (by God is understood) through Daniel the prophet.  The speech of God concerning the armies which would “stand” all around Judah and Jerusalem is seen as accomplished, because God’s “speaking” is identical to the act!

In today’s jargon, or colloquialism, we would say that “when God spoke it, it was a done deal.”  And it was a “done deal” when God spoke it and because God spoke it.

So Jesus recalls the prophecy to His disciples here; and that’s why He can say “when you see it….”!  God spoke it, and it’s going to happen in this generation; so when you see it “those” who are in Judea are to flee into the mountains!

He’s speaking of the elect remnant who are to be saved – the same ones He sent the disciples to find from all over Israel.  Here He’s giving them the Word beforehand:  this is it!  When you see it, here’s what you are to do!  Escape into the mountains.  God will hide you there with His hand; He will shelter you under His wings; He will feed you with the ravens; He will rescue and deliver you.  When you see it… flee!

If one is on the housetop when the armies move into Israel, don’t even go down to get your things (verse seventeen)!  Do it now!  Escape!

Housetops in Israel were rooms.  They were used as a vital, functional part of the house (remember, Bathsheba was even bathing on her roof). 

So whoever is on the roof doing whatever, when it becomes evident that that which God spoke through Daniel the prophet stands in a holy place, don’t even think about going down and packing!  Go!  Escape into the mountains.

And the one who’s out in the field (verse eighteen) … tending flocks or working the land or harvesting a crop, or even going from one place to another… don’t even go back to town to get your clothes!  Right then… escape!  It’s spoken (Rhema).  Therefore it’s done!

In verse nineteen here, we see Jesus provide His disciples with a situation of great hardship that will occur at the time when escape is critical.  Pregnant women and women with babies.  The conditions will be so severe and so critical for them in fleeing to the mountains – and then into the nations.  I think the reason Jesus uses this example is to emphasize to His disciples the scope and magnitude of what is going to happen to Israel.

And if pregnancy or the care of infants should be used as a reason for not escaping, then the alternative would be too horrible to even compare!  For we know (from Josephus) that even before the armies devastated the cities the slaughter of babies for food was widespread.  And any that were left were all hacked to death by sword.

Then in verse twenty Jesus commands them to pray that their escape shall not come during winter nor in Sabbath.  Neither a regard for the sacredness of the day, nor the weather would prevent an escape.  And all conditions aside – escape must be immediate.  So God’s people must pray to God that winter weather would not require all their clothes and all the things that infants need!  And that the gatherings at synagogue meetings and temple worship on the Sabbath wouldn’t distract them from their readiness to escape immediately.

Climbing mountains and living in crevasses and caves; and flight in boats; or traveling to other lands in the dark of night in an attempt to avoid soldiers – all of these things make unfit conditions for pregnant women and babies.  And, obviously, winter storms would multiply the problems.

Now, while the Churches in Rome were concerned about this oppressive Roman government; and while the Churches in Thessalonica were worried about those who had died… missing the Parousia of Christ; and all the Churches being concerned about the false teachers from the Pharisees; and the apostles urging holiness in living and obedience to civil authority, the believers in Israel and Judea (those who were left) had these warning words of Jesus as their handbook!  They were ready to escape at the first evidence.  They became “watchful” of the signs, because it was “spoken”!

They had oil in their lamps; and they had food ready; and they had clothes ready; and their animals were made ready; and they stayed in a state of anticipation because of the warnings of Christ and the spoken word of the prophet Daniel!  Paul even remained unmarried, and recommended that unmarried state, during this period leading up to the “Day of the Lord.”

And the faithful prayed.  They stayed ready and they prayed that their escape would not be during winter storms nor in Sabbath.  God is the One Who controls the seasons and the times, you see.  And Messiah Himself had told them to pray to Him concerning the very elements of the creation – the weather and the days in which events would occur!

It wasn’t strange!  God said it!  And Messiah warned them!  He told them beforehand what to look for!  And they had a promise from God that every one of His elect remnant would be delivered!  Every one!  God would move the seasons, and shorten events, and control the weather, and command the principalities and powers of the air in order to deliver all of His elect people!

In considering these things I am reminded at once (there are other events too, but) I am reminded of that great day (in about 1400 BC) when Joshua needed more time to complete the defeat of five pagan, Canaanite armies at Gibeon.  The army of Israel had put them to flight; and God rained hailstones down upon them and killed more of them than the fighting had killed!  He commanded the weather!

But then, Joshua prayed to God for the sun and the moon to stand still so he would have more time to complete the slaughter.  And this is what it says in Joshua chapter ten:  “And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies.  The sun stood still in the midst of heaven and did not move on for about a whole day.”

The text goes on to say that Joshua completely destroyed the five armies and their kings!  But the point is here that Jesus is commanding His disciples and the remnant believers of Israel to pray to God that He would control the very elements of His Creation in order that they might be delivered as promised!  “Pray that your escape shall come neither during winter nor in Sabbath.”

“… For then (verse twenty-one) there will be great tribulation (thlipsis megale – mega-tribulation) such as has not happened from origin of cosmos until the present, nor shall there ever be.”

We’ve already done some work with the term “mega-tribulation,” so I’m not going to go over all of that again; but, just to follow up on it, here’s what Luke says:


“Then let them which are in Judea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the districts enter into it; for these are days of vengeance – all the things having been written to be fulfilled.  Woe to the pregnant women and to those giving suck in those days; for there will be mega-distress on the land, and wrath to this people; and they will fall by the edge of the sword and will be led captive in all the nations until the times of the nations are accomplished….”


Although he doesn’t bring in the full context from chapter twenty-three as we’ve done, Calvin’s understanding of the scope of the disaster about to occur is superior.  Listen while I quote what he says about verse twenty-one of our text:


“Since the people, through obstinate malice, had then broken the covenant of God, it was proper that alarming changes should take place, by which the earth itself, and the air, would be shaken.  True, indeed, the most destructive plague inflicted on the Jews was that the Light of heavenly doctrine was extinguished among them, and that they were rejected by God; but they were compelled – as the great hardness of their hearts made it necessary that they should be compelled – to feel the evil of their rejection by sharp and severe punishment.  Now the true cause of such an awful punishment was that the desperate wickedness of that nation had reached its height.  For not only had they haughtily despised, but even disdainfully rejected the medicine which was brought for their diseases; and, what was worse, like persons who were made or possessed by the vengeance on those men for their inveterate contempt of the Gospel, accompanied by incorrigible rage, let their punishment be always before our eyes; and let us learn from it, that no offence is more heinous in the sight of God, than obstinacy in despising His grace.  But though all who in like manner despise the Gospel will receive the same punishment, God determined to make a very extraordinary demonstration in the case of the Jews, that the coming of Christ might be regarded by posterity with greater admiration and reverence.  For no words can express the baseness of their criminality in putting to death the Son of God, who had been sent to them as the Author of life.  Having committed this execrable sacrilege, they did not cease to incur the guilt of one crime after another, and thus to draw down upon themselves every ground of utter destruction.  And, therefore, Christ declares that never afterwards will there be such tribulation in the world; for, as the rejection of Christ, viewed in itself, and especially as attended by so many circumstances of detestable obstinacy and ingratitude, was worthy of abhorrence above all the sins committed in all ages, so also it was proper that, in the severity of punishment with which it was visited, it should go beyond all others.”


I wanted to read that for you for a couple of reasons – not only to gain the support from one of the great men of the faith, but also for all of us to acquire some insight, not just of the magnitude of the event which was about to happen, but also the scope and sphere and dimension!  As Calvin implies, and as verse twenty-one says, there will be no judgment in the history of the world to be compared with this that wiped out the Old Covenant nation of the Jews.

Matthew, quoting Jesus, presents an appalling view of those days and the slaughter to come; but at the same time he mingles it with consolation – that the desolation to come would be sufficient to exterminate the very name of the Jews if God did not look to His elect, and, on their account, grant some alleviation and compassion (verse twenty-two)!

The statement here by Jesus echoes Isaiah chapter one, verse nine which says, “Unless the Lord had left us a small seed, we would be as Sodom and Gomorrah.”  For the vengeance of God would be fulfilled at the coming of Christ the Warrior/King.  But God will spare His elect according to Isaiah’s other prophecy (chapter ten, verse twenty-two):  “Though thy people were like the sand of the sea, a remnant only shall be saved.”

The Lord God of Heaven and Earth would control the very elements of His creation and cut the devastation short in order to deliver His elect!  Otherwise all Jewry would have been exterminated from the face of the earth – not just in Israel and Jerusalem, but in every land!

But a nation was made desolate, a covenant was terminated, an age was ended and the entire created order was shaken to its very foundation.

These things will never again occur, according to the promise of God.  The New Israel (the Church) will remain and fill the earth.  God promised it to His Son, and He died for it.

At the preaching of this passage, it is for us to faith in what our Lord has said and done.  He has controlled the elements of His creation for us; He has shaken heaven and earth for us; He has cut off His covenant nation for us; He has become sin and died for us.  We have been adopted by grace into His new family of humanity.

As Calvin said, quoting the apostle, shall we remain now in ingratitude?  Shall we now remain in sin in order that grace may abound?  God forbid!  Know this:  that our old man was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be destroyed – that we should no longer serve sin… for sin shall not lord it over us… but thanks be to God, we were delivered from sin and enslaved to righteousness.

Next time we meet we will begin at verse twenty-three and receive from the Lord’s Table.