By Raymond E. Warfel, Sr.
Several parts of the Bible are misunderstood, misused, and abused but none more so than Matthew 24 and 25. We have those today who claim these things are yet to be fulfilled in the future or soon to be fulfilled in our time. They come to these chapters and declare that the wars and natural disasters that are happening today are the very things Jesus was talking about. They tell us that the “signs of the times” show that Jesus is about to return. Men of the past have made the same claims about the times in which they lived.
As long as the Lord allows time to continue, there will be men arise that pervert the things written in Matthew 24 and 25. To guard ourselves from this deception we first must read and study the Bible for ourselves. God said of his people “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). Most of those who are deceived have very little knowledge of God’s word and are there-fore the more easily deceived. Second, read all that God’s word has to say on the subject.
Most of those who are confused and misled concerning this topic and others usually fail to read and study every thing that God has said about that topic. In studying about “the abomination of desolation” we will need to read at the very least Daniel 9 and 12, Matthew 24-25, Mark 13, and Luke 21. Third, we need to keep in mind that in the discourse of Matthew 24 and 25 Jesus and his disciples had just been in the temple. On coming out of the temple they talked about its buildings and Jesus told them that all they saw would be torn down to the point that not one stone would be left upon another. Jesus and his disciples proceeded to the Mount of Olives from which they had a good view of the city of Jerusalem and the temple. As they are looking upon these things the disciples ask Jesus, “Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matt. 24:3). And so it is that Jesus answers their questions in this discourse.
Jesus answers these questions in order and so he first answers the question “when shall these things be?” (i.e., when shall the temple be destroyed?). He tells them several things that are to happen before the destruction of the temple would take place. First, false Christ would come. Second, they would hear of wars and rumors of wars, but they were not to be troubled by this because this was not the end. In fact there would not only be wars, but there would be natural disasters as well and these were just the “beginning of sorrows.” Third, some of them would be persecuted and killed for his name’s sake. Fourth, many would stumble and would betray one another. Fifth, false prophets would come deceiving many. Sixth, iniquity would abound and love would wax cold. Then with all this gloom and doom he has these words of encouragement, “he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” Seventh, the gospel would have been preached in all the world.
Did the things Jesus talked about come to pass or are they yet to be fulfilled? Well consider this: Josephus, the Jewish historian tells of many false Christ and false prophets that came along before the destruction of Jerusalem. This clearly shows the apostasy Jesus spoke of came to pass. This was also a time of war and natural disasters as well. Many of the small nations went to war with Rome. Remember that Daniel had prophesied that the Roman empire would be one that was “iron mixed with clay,” a kingdom that was composed of many smaller kingdoms which continued to try to free themselves from Rome and fought among themselves as well. The rulers of Rome also seemed to be in constant turmoil. Remember that in the space of about two years there were four men (Nero, Otho, Galba, Vitellius) who seized rule in Rome. History tell us that there was a famine during the time of Claudius Caesar. In fact in Acts 11:27-30 we find a prophecy of a coming world famine such as came in Claudius’ time. There were also numerous earthquakes during this time remember that this area of the world is filled with fault lines.
The Bible in the book of Acts tells of Christ’s disciples being “delivered up.” In chapters 4 and 5 the apostles were arrested and commanded not to preach in the name of Jesus. Steven was martyred in chapter 7. The church was “scattered abroad” because of the persecution at Jerusalem in chapter 8. In chapter 9 Peter and James were imprisoned by Herod, and James was beheaded. Then Paul tell us in Colossians 1:5-6, 23 that the gospel had gone unto all the world.
Jesus was not describing tragedies which would not come until the twentieth or twenty-first century, but in fact those things which occurred during the first century that proceeded the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. This has to be the case because in verse 34 Jesus said, “This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” As we’ve seen these things did take place in the first century and Jesus said after they took place then the end would come. The end that is not yet and the end that would come, is not the end of the world as some have misconstrued, but rather the end of the temple (i.e., it being torn down so that one stone was not left upon another) for that is the question Jesus is answering. The horrible end is seen in that fact that not one stone was left upon another in the temple building. This was brought about by the temple burning and the precious metals seeping into the joints of the stones. To retrieve the gold and silver the Romans literally took the temple apart stone by stone, and it was left totally desolate.
Having told the disciples what would precede the destruction of the temple, he then tells them the last thing to look for, “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place” (Matt. 24:15). Let’s also consider the record of Luke, it will help us in getting a better understanding of what the abomination of desolation is. Luke writes, “And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh” (Luke 21:20).
Though it is hard to say exactly what the abomination of desolation is, it seems clear to me that it has reference to the Roman army and what they would do. When these pagans entered the temple it would be an abomination and when they left, the city would be desolate. So Jesus tells the disciples that when they see the Romans surrounding Jerusalem it is time to get out of the city, and they were to make haste in doing that. Another thing that causes me to think that the abomination of desolation has to do with the Roman army surrounding the city is that this was the last thing to happen before Jerusalem was destroyed, and once the city was surrounded there would be no time to escape. This was just the last of a whole list of things by which God let his people (Christians) know what was about to happen to save them from great suffering. It is generally thought that no Christians died in the siege of Jerusalem. If they had no better understanding of this than those of our day, they most certainly would have perished.
Guardian of Truth XLI: 4 p. 18-19
February 20, 1997