The Abomination and The Tribulation
In our previous study titled WHAT IS THE TRIBULATION – Part 1, we looked at what the bible says about the “Abomination of Desolation” and about the “great tribulation”. Both of these phrases are used in Mathew 24:15 & 21, and also in Mark 13:14 & 19. We also looked at Daniel 11:31, which prophesied about the “abomination of desolation” being set up, and “standing in the holy place”, as Jesus phrased it. Remember that Daniel had prophesied that, “Forces from him will arise and desecrate the sanctuary and do away with the regular sacrifice. And they will set up the abomination of desolation.” Dan 11:31
As we ended our previous study, I said that we’d look at the reason WHY Jesus was talking about the great tribulation, and the abomination of desolation. And that’s what we’re going to do right now.
Listen to this account given in Mark 13:1-4. “And as He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him; Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” And Jesus said to him; “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down!” And as He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, opposite the temple, Peter and James, and John and Andrew were questioning Him privately. “Tell us WHEN these things will be, and what will be the SIGN when all these things are to be fulfilled?”
In the account that Mathew gave, He seems to have elaborated a bit on these questions. He wrote, in Mathew 24:3, “Tell us when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?” It might sound like the disciples were associating the destruction of the temple, with the second coming of Jesus, and with the end of the world. But what they were referring to was Christ coming to restore the kingdom to Israel, which the Jews thought would be a Physical kingdom. The Jews never looked for a “second coming” of Christ. Just one coming, to establish His kingdom, and to reign over Israel. The apostles asked Jesus just before He ascended back to heaven.. “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” Acts 1:6
As to the “end of the age”, that was in reference to the end of the present age, and the beginning of Christ’s reign in the “Messianic Age”. The Jews believe to this day, that when the Messiah comes, He will restore the physical kingdom of Israel, and He will reign over that kingdom, during what they call, the “Messianic Age”. That is the age that they believe will last until the end of time.
Let’s look at what Luke wrote for us, in Luke 21:5-7. “And while some were talking about the temple, that it was adorned with beautiful stones and votive gifts, He said; These things which you are looking at, the days will come, in which there will not be left one stone upon another which will not be torn down. And they questioned Him saying; Teacher, when therefore will these things happen, and what will be the sign when these things are about to take place.
Jesus had just revealed to them, the fact that the holy temple in Jerusalem would be utterly destroyed! “Not one stone shall be left upon another..” And His disciples naturally wanted to know when such a great event was going to happen. And as always, as was the case in those days, they wanted to know what SIGN would come, to tell them of this approaching destruction. And so they questioned Jesus saying, “Teacher, when therefore will these things happen, and what will be the sign when these things are about to take place.” This is almost identical to what Mark had recorded in Mark 13:4
But remember that Mathew had added these specifics… “..and what will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?” Mat 24:3. And we’ve already seen what was being referred to there.
The Jews didn’t realize that Jesus was going to establish a “spiritual” kingdom, which would “reign in the hearts of men”. Jesus made this statement just hours before His crucifixion.. “My kingdom is not of this world”, and again, “My kingdom is not of this realm”. John 18:36 Literally, “it’s not from here”.
Jesus Gives His Answer
It’s very interesting for us to note, that Jesus doesn’t correct them here, concerning the nature of His kingdom. Instead, he begins to tell them of things that will happen, before “the end”. Let’s take a look at how Jesus answers these questions. I’ll begin with Mark 13:5 and the following verses..
“And Jesus began to say: See to it that no one misleads you. Many will come in My name saying; I am He, and will mislead many”. Keep in mind here, that this was the last week of Jesus’ life. So the things He describes here, were things that would occur AFTER He was gone. And His spiritual kingdom will already have been established and “opened” to all who would obey. The apostle Peter was given the “keys to the kingdom” by Jesus Himself, as told in Mathew 16:18, “..And I will give you the keys to the kingdom”.
And Peter used those “keys”, to “open the doors to the kingdom”, you might say, in Acts chapter 2. (I hope you’ll read about it.)
Now back to what Jesus said will happen..
“And when you hear of wars, and of rumors of wars, do not be frightened, those things must take place, but that is not the end yet. For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; There will be earthquakes throughout places; There will be famines. These things are merely the beginning of birth pains.” Mark 13:5-8
Jesus uses a figure of speech here doesn’t He.. When He says, “These are just the beginning of “birth pains”? Birth pains are at the beginning of life aren’t they? So really what Jesus is saying is that “the end” wasn’t going to be any time soon. If all these things that He described; Wars, and rumors of wars, and nations and kingdoms rising up against each other, are simply the very beginning of what will take place before the end comes, then “the end” obviously wasn’t “imminent”.
It takes some time for nations to come to power doesn’t it? And it takes more time for other nations to overthrow those nations, and to come to power themselves. And we know that as the years go by, earthquakes are common from place to place. And this is all very “normal”. And it was evidently very “normal” back then as well.
Jesus said that many people would arise “claiming” to be the resurrected Christ. But they would be “false prophets”! Jesus warned His disciples, and He warns us too, not to be deceived by these false prophets claiming to be sent from God. Here’s something thing that the bible is crystal clear about.. When Jesus comes again, we’ll know it!
“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout! With the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God! And the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain, will be caught up with together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord.” 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17. Did you catch the fact that we’ll meet Him “in the clouds” and “in the air”? Jesus won’t even set foot on the earth when He comes again!
“Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye shall see Him! Even those who pierced Him, and all the tribes of the earth shall mourn over Him. Even so, Amen!” (Amen means, “So be it”) Revelation 1:7
When Jesus returns, we’ll ALL know it! There’ll be no need for anyone to say, “I am he”. If someone has to SAY, “I am he”, you’ll know he’s a liar! Heaven itself will proclaim Christ’s coming. He’ll descend with a “shout”, with the “voice of the archangel”, and with the “trumpet of God”! Need we say more?
Let’s switch over to Luke’s account of this. Luke 21:8, “See to it that you be not misled, for many will come in my name saying; I am He!, and The time is at hand! Do not go after them.” Now ask yourself this question.. If a man came claiming to be the Christ, and he said, I am He, the time is at hand!, what “time” would he be referring to? Well, I believe it’s obvious that the “time” being referred to would be the “end of time”, and the resurrection and the judgment. Jesus had already spoken clearly that “An hour is coming, in which all who are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth. Those who did good deeds, to a resurrection of life. Those who committed evil deeds, to a resurrection of judgment.” John 5:28-29. When Lazarus, a friend of Jesus had died, Jesus said to Martha, a sister of Lazarus, “Your brother shall rise again”. And Martha answered by saying, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day”. John 11:23-24.
But Jesus tells His disciples, “Don’t be misled, for many will come in My name saying, I am he, and The time is at hand! DO NOT go after them!”
Beloved, believe NOT every spirit, but try the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world”. 1 John 4:1
Now Jesus tells them what else will happen before the destruction of the temple, and before “the end”.
Jesus says in Mark 13;8-10, “But be on your guard; For they will deliver you to the courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them. And the gospel must first be preached to all nations!”
Just before Jesus ascended back to heaven, He said to His apostles, in Mathew 28:19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit” He said in Mark 16:15-16, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who believes and is baptized shall be saved, but he who disbelieves shall be condemned”
I think it’s obvious that ALL subsequent generations have the responsibility to continue to preach the gospel to all nations, so that all people who ever live will have the same opportunity to hear the word and be saved. We’re told in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of salvation to all who believe..”
Now back to Mark 13.. “And when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not be anxious beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; For it is not YOU who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit! And behold brother will deliver brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise up against parents, and have them put to death. And you will be hated by all on account of My name, but it is the one who endures to the end, he shall be saved.” V’s 11-13
God was promising that His very Spirit would guide the apostles as to what they should say in their defense of the gospel, and their defense of themselves for proclaiming and adhering to the gospel in their lives. Even though they would be commanded by the high priest and the Jewish Sadducees, to stop preaching about Jesus being the Christ, their response was, “We must obey God rather then men!” Acts 5:29
Summary of Jesus’ answer thus far..
The questions.. When will the temple be destroyed? What will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?
The answer.. Jesus said; Don’t be deceived by the many who will come claiming that “I am He”, and claiming to have come “in My name”. They are simply deceivers! The end isn’t here. And don’t be frightened into thinking the end is here just because you hear of wars taking place, and of nations rising up against one another. And just because you hear of natural disasters such as earthquakes occurring. These things don’t mark the end; They’re simply the beginning of “birth pains”. Struggles will go on as they’ve always gone on.
But “be on guard” personally for yourselves. You will personally be persecuted for your faith and for taking a stand for the name of Christ. You’ll be “delivered to the courts”. You’ll be “flogged in the synagogues”. You’ll be required to “stand before governors” to testify of Me. But all of these things are what must take place as the “gospel is preached to all nations”. Have confidence because when you ARE “arrested and delivered up” to stand trial, God Himself will provide you with the proper things to say, through His Holy Spirit.
But because of taking a stand for Christ, even families will turn on each other. “Brother will deliver brother to death, and a father his child, and children shall rise up against parents and have them put to death. And you will be hated by all on account of My name..” But no matter what happens, know this.. “..it is the one who endures to the end, HE shall be saved!”
Now all those things that Jesus described are no doubt “bad, but it gets even worse! Listen to what Jesus says next..
Mark 13:14-18, “BUT, when you see the abomination of desolation, standing where it should not be (let the reader understand) THEN, let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. And let him who is on the housetop not go down nor go in to get anything out of his house. And let the one who is in the field not turn back to get his cloak that is left behind. And woe to those who are with child, and to those who are nursing infants in those days. And pray that it might not be in winter.”
Those words that are in parenthesis (let the reader understand) are in the bible text, and they are inserted there by the writer, for the benefit of “us” the reader of this letter. They evidently emphasize the fact that those disciples who Jesus were speaking to, understood what He was referring to; But those of us who would read this later on, are expected to gain the proper understanding of what is meant by “the abomination of desolation standing where it should not be“. Remember that Mathew had recorded the words of Jesus in this way.. “When you see the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place..” Mat 24:15
But now, when we go to the account written by Luke, with one sentence he leaves no doubt about what Jesus is talking about..
Luke 21:20, “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that the desolation is at hand!” Now we know for sure! The “holy place” referred to, is Jerusalem! “The abomination of desolation standing where it should not be”, are the armies of the Roman empire, surrounding the holy city of Jerusalem, getting ready to utterly destroy it! And “Not one stone (of the temple) will be left upon another, which will not be torn down”.
The disciples had asked for a “SIGN of when these things are to be fulfilled”, and Jesus gives them the sign. He says, “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies.. Get out of the country! “Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are in the midst of the city depart. And let not those who are in the country, enter her (Jerusalem), because these are days of vengeance! In order that all things which were written may be fulfilled”. Luke 21:21-22
Mark writes these words.. “For in those days there will be a time of tribulation such as has not occurred since the beginning of the creation which God has created, until now, and never shall!” And unless the Lord had shortened those days (in other words, if God hadn’t put an end to the tribulation), no life would have been saved; But for the sake of the elect whom He chose, He shortened those days. And then, if someone says to you; Behold, here is the Christ, or Behold, He is there; Do not believe him. For false Christs and false prophets shall arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order if possible, to lead the elect astray. But take heed, behold, I have told you everything in advance.” Mark 13: 19-23
There would be some that would think that a tribulation of this magnitude IS indicating the end of the world. The scripture said.. there will be “false Christs, and false prophets” claiming that “I am He”, and “The time is at hand”, but the time is NOT at hand! It’s NOT the end yet! Jesus said, those claims would be for the purpose of “leading the elect astray”. But Jesus assures us that when He really does come again, everyone will know it! He said, “For just as the lightning comes from the east, and flashes to the west, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be.” V-27. “Take heed, Behold I have told you everything in advance!” V-25.
And He’s told US everything in advance also. The “abomination of desolation” is the setting up of the armies, which would surround Jerusalem, before it’s destruction. this “abomination” has NOTHING to do with the end of the world, or “the end of the ages”. And the “great tribulation” is NOT a period of time before “the end”, and it’s NOT a period of time after God “raptures” the saved from the earth! The “great tribulation” is the terrible and even gruesome tribulation, that the people of Jerusalem would go through at the hands of the Roman armies, as the armies utterly destroyed the city and ALL it’s inhabitants.
Listen to the words of Luke 21:23-24, “Woe to those who are with child, and those who are nursing babes in those days. For there will be great distress upon the land, and wrath to this people. And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and they will be led captive into the nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.”
Remember that Jesus had said in V-22, “In order that all things which were written may be fulfilled”. This was the fulfillment of the prophecy of Daniel, in Dan 1:31-33. “And forces from him (the Roman emperor) will arise, desecrate the sanctuary, and do away with the regular sacrifice. And they will set up the abomination of desolation. And with smooth words he will turn to godlessness, those who act wickedly toward the covenant, but the people who know their God will display strength and take action. And those who have insight among the people will give understanding to many; Yet they will fall by sword and by flame, by captivity, and by plunder for many days”.
The prophecies of God have always been fulfilled, exactly as spoken! And this time was no exception. When you read about the siege and destruction of Jerusalem, from secular history, you hear truly gruesome details about starvation and killing and even cannibalism that took place within the walls of the city of Jerusalem. It was truly just as Jesus had said, “A great tribulation such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall be.” Mathew 24:21
That concludes what Jesus had to say about the abomination of desolation and about the great tribulation. Jesus then turned His attention to what would happen “AFTER the tribulation of those days..” V-29, but that will have to wait until our next study. We’ll go into detail in that next study, about the rest of the words of Jesus on this subject.
Thanks for being here as we let the bible answer the question, “What is The Tribulation ?” I hope you’ll join us for Part 3, coming shortly.