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The Abomination of Desolation

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One of the most powerful warnings in the New Testament comes from the lips of Jesus in the Olivet discourse:

"But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, (let him that readeth understand,) then let them that be in Judea flee to the mountains" (Mark 13:14 KJV)

This is no parenthetical statement from Mark, as some commentators have thought. The evangelists are not in the habit of interrupting their Lord with their own comments. Jesus takes a term -- "understand" -- that occurs 27 times in the original Hebrew language of Daniel. Twenty seven times Daniel uses the word "understand." or its cognates. So Jesus takes that word and, very skillfully, places it in the context of this warning about the "abomination of desolation."

You would think that there would be thousands of books written on the topic about which the most influential Figure of all time said, "Understand it." My friend, world-class Bible scholar Dr. Desmond ford, and his wife Gill, set out to look for any scholarly literature about the "abomination of desolation" 26 years ago. Do you know how many books they found devoted to studying this critical issue? None!

There are literally miles of books on shelves about the life and teachings of Jesus. Yet there was not one on the topic of the "abomination of desolation"--until Dr. Ford wrote it! Fabled evangelical scholar, the late F.F. Bruce was Ford's supervisor for his 1972 doctoral thesis The Abomination of Desolation in Biblical Eschatology. Bruce spoke highly of Ford's scholarship and said of his thesis that it "was controlled by the historical-critical method and was based on the primary exegesis of the Biblical text..."

Isn`t it mysterious that so critical an expression has been so overlooked?! Jesus tells us plainly to understand it. A satanic blindness must certainly be in operation here. Do you understand the "abomination of desolation"? If you don't, don`t feel too badly. Most Bible cornmentators don't understand it either.

William Barclay, that wonderful commentator and scholar from Glasgow, Scotland, said nobody knows what the "abomination of desolation" is. Vincent Taylor, another great British scholar, said we haven't an inkling of what it might be. At the end of this study, you are going to be smarter than the Bible scholars of millenniums!

Dr. Ford's intensive scholarship for his thesis on the "abomination of desolation" meant about 16 hours of study a day, six to seven days a week, over a period of years. He had studied it for decades before that. With wife Gill's help, Ford ransacked books in German, French, and Dutch. That's because they exhausted all English material on the topic in just three months. There were no complete books on the topic, just fragments here and there.

So let us launch into a look at the "abomination," confident that we can do better than the commentators! God has held his hand over this Scripture for such a time as this. There's a saying about commentators: "Commentators each dark passage shun; and hold up their tiny candle to the sun." When a Scripture passage is an obscure passage, the commentators are obscure. On easy passages, they are easy to follow.

What is this "abomination of desolation?" Jesus says in the context, "Look, you asked me what will be the sign of the end. Let me tell you. There will be wars, but that is not the sign. There will he earthquakes, but that is not the sign. Iniquity will abound, but that is not the sign. There will be religious persecution, they will betray you, but that is not the sign. "When you see the 'abomination of desolation' spoken of by Daniel, that is it!"

Here's a signal on which the lives of thousands depended--and now depend. Not one Christian died in the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. because of this prophecy. The early Christians quoted it often to one another. They understood it. When the time came-- when Roman armies surrounded the city of Jerusalem in A.D. 67 -- they acted on it. They fled from Jerusalem after the Roman armies mysteriously withdrew their siege forces. They saw "the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not..." and then, because Jesus said "let them that be in Judea flee to the mountains" they fled, because they were in Judea.

But the complete and total fulfillment of Jesus' prophecy is yet ahead. That's because the whole chapter of Mark 13 and its companion Matthew 24, applies not only to the destruction of ancient Jerusalem--it applies to the final tribulations that this rebellious world will experience. The destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 is a symbol for the destruction that is coming upon the whole world before the return of Christ. Everything in Mark 13 and Matthew 24 applies not only to the period of time before the fall of Jerusalem on a local scale, but also to the entire world just before the end of time.

Bible scholars call this the "apotelesmatic application" of a prophecy. Certain predictions are like a series of mountain peaks that have similarities between them--recurring applications. This prophecy is one of them.

Not one Christian perished in the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. That's because the Christians heeded the word of their Lord. My friends, millions need to understand His word through the Bible, if they are going to avoid perishing in the end of the world.

I salute your study of the phrase "the abomination of desolation", for it is of great importance, no trifle. Get out your thinking caps!

Dr. Ford points out what is perhaps the greatest key to the sermon of Mark 13. Daniel 9:24 speaks about the cutting off of the Messiah that makes an end of sin and brings in everlasting righteousness through Messiah the Prince. All Christians have recognized, "That is a prediction of the cross. That refers to the First Advent of Christ. That was accomplished, legally, at the cross when Christ eradicated sin for whoever believes."

However, it is fascinating to find that when Christ quotes this prophecy he applies it to his Second Advent! Of course, it fits both. The Old Testament does not directly distinguish between the First and Second Advents in its prophecies. But when Christ refers to this prophecy from Daniel 9, he applies it to the end of the world.

And it is only when you read Mark 13 that you see the full dimensions of the cross. Who is this man who says:

"At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens." (Mark 13:26-27 NIV)

"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him. he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left" Matthew 25:31-33)

It is this sermon of Mark 13 (repeated in Matthew 24 and Luke 21) that gives the real dimensions of the cross.

This sermon was spoken on Tuesday of Passion Week. Jesus was going to die on Friday. The One who was going to hang on the cross is the One who owns all the armies of heaven. He is the One who is going to return in glory, the One before whom you and I will stand on that great Day.

This One quotes Daniel 9 and applies not to His first coming, He applies it to the future. In doing so, He uses certain key words. There is "Watch." Again and again the thought of watching occurs repeatedly. Another favorite word is "Hour." "No one knows about that day or hour" (Mark 13:32). Another word is "Betray." "Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child" (Mark 13:12).

These three key words of the Second Advent sermon (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21, all connected to the prophecies in Daniel), reoccur in the following story of the sufferings of Christ. These words about his coming passion and death are found in the prophecy about the fate of his church at the end time.

Here is the critical and substantial point: If you want to know more details about what is coming upon our old world--study the last hours of Christ! The key words in Christ's Second Advent sermon, which is based on Daniel 9, are Watch, Hour, and Betray. As soon as you turn the page and read about Gethsemane, Jesus is asking his disciples, "Could you not keep watch for one hour!" (Mark 14:37). He prays to his Father that, "if possible the hour might pass from him" (Mark 14:35). And when the wicked men come to take him, he says, "The hour has come" (Mark 14:41).

Before he prays his Gethsemane prayer, Jesus tells his disciples, "Stay here and keep watch" (Mark 14:34). Then later, "Could you not keep watch for one hour! Watch and pray" (Mark 14:37-38).

As Judas and the mob approach to arrest him, Jesus says, "Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!" (Mark 14:41-42).

The last hours of Christ are a prophecy of the church's future tribulations during the reign of antichrist. What happened during those last hours? One of his professed followers, Judas, betrayed him.

The Bible calls Judas "the son of perdition." (John 17:12 KJV) This expression is used in only one other passage in Scripture, Second Thessalonians 2:3. There it applies to Antichrist. Do you understand? Judas is a type of Antichrist.

Judas professes to follow Christ. He kisses Jesus, then turns around and sells him for 30 pieces. That is Antichrist. But please note that Judas still thought he was a "Christian" when he did this. He thought that Jesus would work a miracle when the soldiers came for him. He thought the Messiah would cast off the Roman yoke through a major display of miracle power and then He would be crowned king. And thus in his own odd way Judas thought he was helping the self-effacing Jesus obtain what was rightfully His. In Judas we see personified the dangers of following our own thinking, our own plans, while we are yet claiming to be followers of Christ. We call Judas a betrayer, but that is not how he viewed himself. Apart from the illumination of the Holy Spirit we are all betrayers.

Thus the antichrist prefigured by Judas is not a Hitler. He does not fit the scenario of most modern evangelical interpretations of antichrist. Judas was a professing member of the church, and he was respected by the other disciples. He was entrusted with the treasury and he was the scholar of the group. His pedigree was certainly greater than a mere fisherman like Peter. He had obvious connections with the chief priests, Jerusalem's movers and shakers.

He told these big-shot priests that he could bring them Jesus. The antichrist to come will surely promise the same. He will tell the world's religious leaders that he will bring them Christ. He will not, as so many evangelical scenarios claim, be against Christians and the Christian church. He will be a professing member. These religious leaders, in the final one-world government, will believe they have Christ, just as Caiphas and Annas and Pilate thought they had Him. They think they are in control. They think that they can manipulate the Christ to fit their politics and theology. They are not against Him (so they think) just very poor representatives of Him, to the point of being misrepresentatives.

But the elect will know. They are in Judea, the true Judea, the promised land of faith in the living God. They will know when they see this abomination, this Christless christ, that it is time to flee to the mountains.

When Judas kissed Christ, he was a type of the abomination. He was standing in the holy place, the presence of Jesus, where he ought not to have been. It was immediately after the appearance of this abomination that terrible persecution came to Christ's body. Scourged, spat upon, cut, tortured, crucified. Surely, had not Christ been our Savior undergoing these abuses on our behalf, it would have been good for him to flee to the mountains.

He was persecuted by a merger of church and state. The religious leaders took false charges to the officials of state so that the state's legal power could be used against Christ. Such persecution against minority religious views (certainly at that time the Nazarene's small band of followers was a peculiar minority!) always arises when church and state merge their powers and authorities. The Founding Fathers of the United States certainly knew understood history's record when they made the very first plank of the Bill of Rights a prohibition against the state establishing religion. Had not their forefathers fled to America from English church-state persecution? Had not they seen history's ledger of inquisitions, of church conspiring with the state to punish "heretics"?

So the ultimate fulfillment of the Abomination of Desolation will be the formation of a world government, which in some way recognizes an official world religion. When this horrible merger is set up--this terrible abomination--it will be the fulfillment of Jesus' words of warning in Matthew 24:15-19:

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!

I would submit that most Christians do not take seriously enough the warning given here. When Jesus says the appearance of this church-state monster indicates a need to "flee into the mountains" this is a literal warning that major convulsions will erupt at this time. There will be major earthquakes, atomic explosions, major disruptions of the superstructure and all business-as-usual. It is a warning to be ready and able to head for remote regions and to be able to sustain life during the tribulations that will characterize Planet Earth in its final period before Christ's Return.

It will probably take a major catastrophe like an limited nuclear exchange to get the world to the point where now-sovereign nations would join in a world government. But even before this catalyst event, signs of world amalgamation are on the horizon.

 

Maranatha!

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