Passage: Mark 13:14-23
"But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let the one who is on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house, to take anything out, and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that it may not happen in winter. For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be. And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days. And then if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or 'Look, there he is!' do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.
In AD 70, Roman standards, bearing the images of Caesar, stood on the site of the ruined temple. Later, of course, after the revolt of AD 135, when the statue and temple of Zeus stood on the ruined site of the temple in Aelia Capitolina, as rebuilt Gentile Jerusalem was called, the horror was complete: for orthodox Jew, the ultimate desolation had come. The 70AD event of the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem city, as a mark of the end of the old Judaistic religious order happened in the lifetime of most of the disciples who were listening to Jesus on this Tuesday morning.
It was God’s ultimate desertion of Israel as an ethnic people of God as their judgment and it is a miniature picture of the judgment of the world when Jesus returns. For this reason the language in this passage carries pregnant eschatological overtones. The concept of abomination of desolation is from Daniel 9:27; 11;31; 12:11 and there is an element of prophetic foreshortening. Because although these events may be an abomination of desolation, it points to the abomination of desolation of a persona anti-Christ, yet to be revealed before the second coming of Christ. It will be fully displayed at a point when Paul describes like this in 2Th 2:3-4
Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.
The judgement of Jerusalem and the desecration of the temple is clear evidence that the Lord is not tied to anything of His creation – even what He Himself has ordained anything for His use. He does not dwell on temples built by human hands.
However, I would like to warn you of some very common error of our day. Whenever we talk about the future end of the world, many people are too excited that they end up with many ideas about what shall happen and so miss the point of Jesus’ lesson in bringing this events to us. In our talk we must be very careful to keep close and very close to what the Lord Jesus Christ says in Scripture. We must not run away with wild imaginations. His main agenda in this passage is to tell us to be ready and prepared when this events come.
1. Keep your focus and do not allow for any distraction (14-18)
Very swiftly, and urgently, the Lord in the passage before us gives not just a prophecy, but also the mind of God as to the future of Christendom for the preparedness of His disciples. Before His second advent, the Lord very clearly recounts the time of trouble, displacement, discomfort, anxiety and suffering for His people. Perilous and evil days are coming – be ready! This are the instructions our Sovereign omniscience God is giving so that we must be ready, prepared, and set to obey His matching orders.
The Lord expected the disciples to be on their guard or vigilant so that they will know what is supposed to be where at every given point so that they were to;
a) Keep focus by being observant: “And but when you see…” Jesus expects His disciples to be vigilant and focussed on eternal things. Remember this is first of all dealing with what was to happen in Jerusalem in AD70. This would be in 40 years from the time of this warning. The Roman army would come, surround and destroy the city and the temple and kill many people. But the abomination here refers to the sacrilege to the temple. First, the Gentiles entering the temple is an abomination. Secondly, they offered pig and animal sacrifices in the temple as the Romans butchered the Jews. The Lord is telling them to be on the lookout for sacrilege leading to the desolation or destruction of the city and the temple, that had been sanctified for God’s holy use.
b) Do not allow for any distraction: “…let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let the one who is on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house, to take anything out, and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak...” When you see the armies coming do not wait for another trumpet blast as an alarm. This is it – I have sounded it personally! Flee for your dear lives. Do not go back to pick an extra pair of clothes, or to pick money, or anything else, your life is more valuable! Run! Illustrate the aeroplane warning – in case of emergency fix your own oxygen mask before helping anyone else – even your child!
c) Keep up with prayer: “And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that it may not happen in winter.” The Lord recognizes the special needs of some people, the women who are elsewhere regarded as the weaker vessel by Peter (1Peter 3:7). It is not biblical to have women join the army – never do we see the women recruited in the army in Scriptures! The Lord specifically says that pregnant and nursing women will particularly find this time unbearable because of both their personal needs and the priority of their lives. These events will distract them from their primary roles of being mothers – so pray for them that sufficient grace and strength will be supplied. Moreover, it will be more difficult for everyone to flee from Jerusalem if will be on winter when the roads are impassable and make their flights challenging.
1) Our focus is Christ – Col. 3:1-2: If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. Heb. 12:1-2.Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
We must put aside every weight, everything that comes our way to keep us from faithfully following our Lord must be put away. For faithful continuance in this, much vigilance is necessary. Much prayerfulness is expected. You need other believers to hold you up, by sharpening you as iron sharpens iron, community and fellowship is absolutely necessary to be able to keep up and to keep on. He is our hope and our trophy – He and He alone must we look up to and look out for.
2) Whatever we have is not more important than what we are. The Lord says here that His disciples must leave whatever is in the house to flee for their lives. Do not think that your job, your property, even your family is more important than the salvation of your soul. Mark 8:35-37.For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? Mark 9:43-48.And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, 'where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.'
3) We must employ means to be saved: The Lord in these verses informs and instructs us to use lawful means to provide for our own personal safety. We must never think that it is unworthy of Christians to flee or run away from danger. You are wise to take measures to avoid peril. You must not neglect the use of means such as medication. A believer must not suppose that God will take care of him, and provide for his wants, if he does not make use of means and common sense which God has given him, as well as other people. (J.C. Ryle) Certainly the Lord will help us in every time of need, but we must expect it in the diligent use of lawful means. So Paul told his fellow seamen - Acts 27:31 Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, "Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved."
2. Know that God has special care for the elect (19-20)
At this point the Lord is not just describing the events that were to happen in the lifetime of His immediate hearers. There are a number of evidences to show this – what with a tribulation He describe as having been experienced before (v.19) and the Lord will cut short the days or shortened the days (v.20).
a) Be prepared for the greatest tribulation: In those days there will be events of universal, even cosmic magnitude – the sun being darkened, the moon will not give its light. But even worse is the tribulations described as follows:
“…there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be…”
This speaks of the greatest tribulation in human history. It is incomparable from the beginning of time and for ever. Its extent and intensity are such that this is the one in all human history. This surely is the time when the earth and the heavens will be rolled up as a scroll. This is the time when the world will come to the end, to pave way for the new heavens and new earth.
b) Be prepared for the Lord has made special provision for His people: Thank the Lord that the Lord has special means in place for the care of His people. This special care for His people, the elect is twice described to show the emphasis in the care of His people.
“…And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days…”
The Lord in caring for the elect will cut short the days and He has shortened them for the sake of the elect. The period is shortened to care for the elect. It is also necessary to notice that the false teachers are also as interested in the elect in order to draw them away (v.22). There is no question that the Lord has a people that He chose before the foundation of the world - even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, Ephesians 1:4-5.
Of these two verse, I cannot say better than the old saint of Chester:
Election, or choice, respects that lump or mass of mankind out of which some are chosen, from which they are separated and distinguished. Predestination has respect to the blessings they are designed for; particularly the adoption of children, it being the purpose of God that in due time we should become his adopted children, and so have a right to all the privileges and to the inheritance of children. We have here the date of this act of love: it was before the foundation of the world; not only before God's people had a being, but before the world had a beginning; for they were chosen in the counsel of God from all eternity. It magnifies these blessings to a high degree that they are the products of eternal counsel. The alms which you give to beggars at your doors proceed from a sudden resolve; but the provision which a parent makes for his children is the result of many thoughts, and is put into his last will and testament with a great deal of solemnity. And, as this magnifies divine love, so it secures the blessings to God's elect; for the purpose of God according to election shall stand. He acts in pursuance of his eternal purpose in bestowing spiritual blessings upon his people. He hath blessed us - according as he hath chosen us in him, in Christ the great head of the election, who is emphatically called God's elect, his chosen; and in the chosen Redeemer an eye of favour was cast upon them.
To the saints belong the wonderful blessings of justification, sanctification, and glorification and form the universal body of Christ.
Please notice that this passage shows that God’s election in the eternity past upholds human responsibility. There is no enmity between the two for they are close friends! It is for their care that the Lord will make the days shorter. There are a lot of blessings that the Christians, by the virtue of being in the world, bring the world. It is because Lot was in Sodom that the Lord did not rain sulphur and brimstone immediately. And then the Lord said that if there were ten people there He would not destroy the city, but as it turned out, there were no ten people and so sent the retribution to the wicked city. This brethren, calls us to be faithful in the dissemination of the gospel as it is the means of the preservation of the world. Until the gospel has reached every nation, He is not going to come the second time. Matthew 24:14, And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
3. Do not believe everything you hear! (21-23)
Jesus warns us that false teachers will come. Some will say that Jesus has come back and persuade you to believe them. What are they going to employ to achieve their wicked end? The Lord leaves us well informed as to their tactics, for:
a) They will use ordinary means of deception
“… And then if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or 'Look, there he is!' do not believe it.”
Very ordinary people - your neighbours, your relatives, your friends will tell you, anyone. The devil was able to use a serpent to deceive Adam and Eve. But now he now uses those who are very familiar to you so that you will be unsuspecting and so be deceived. He continues to repeat the old trickery, but employs different tools to do it.
Very ordinary arguments and reasoning – they say to you. Words that you know. “Look here is the Christ” ,or “there he is.” Do not think that they will come speaking necessarily in the tongues of angels. They will come in very ordinary language and you will be unsuspecting if you are not vigilant. Do not believe it for they are employed by your adversary the devil. Please I beseech you by the mercies of God – do not be gullible like your mother Eve. Do not just stand there idly like our father Adam – do something. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Thank God that He has given us sufficient ability to successfully resist this wicked liar. Thank God that He can and will actually flee from you.
b) They will use extra ordinary means of deception.
“…For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.”
It appears that two specific methods are employed by the extra-ordinary deceivers:
Claim big titles for themselves: The Lord here also warns His disciples against the extra-ordinary fellows who identify themselves as ‘christs’; ‘prophets’ and miracle workers. These people, the Lord says have an agenda to lead astray anyone, even the elect. These are deceivers and imposters, do not swallow their bit. Do not accept or believe their well-crafted stories – they have nothing good to give you.
Perform miracles, signs and wonders: The devil is the father of all lies and is capable of producing counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders. It should be always understood that miracles are ambivalent and sometimes ambiguous. True signs, like those of Christ were signs pointing forward to the reality, namely Christ. The reality of the miracles of Jesus was two-fold: they pointed first of to the fact that Jesus was the Messiah, the Redeemer of His people and secondly they were redemptive, portraying the power and the willingness of the authentic Messiah to save from sins and its misery as well as to deal with all the enemies of God’s people. False signs on the other hand point you away from the reality. They cause you to believe a counterfeit instead of the genuine one. For this reason do not depend on them!
Jesus is telling the disciples here not to confuse the two events – the destruction of Jerusalem and His second coming, for such a blander could lead to them being led astray by false teachers.
There is a real danger before us. All Christians in view of the eternal blessedness that awaits us, must be ready, yet we must be prepared by being on the guard, vigilantly anticipating the second appearing of Christ. Evil forces are up in arm against us and we must resist them by being on the watch. When these terrible times come, our Lord wants us to be prepared and ready in Him and not be deceived. He would not want us to believe lies and falsehood. He wants us to trust Him and depend on Him, even though it is hard. He has warned us by telling us all things beforehand. Now we know and we have been well prepared.