The Abomination Of Desolation
“Therefore, when you see the abomination of desolation [the Gentile Roman army] that was spoken of by Daniel the prophet standing in the holy place—whoever reads, let him understand—then let those who are in Judea flee into the mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not come down to take anything out of his house. Nor let him who is in the field go back to get his clothes.”
The abomination of desolation would be the pagan Roman army in Judea. The Gentile army would be there to desecrate the temple. The Gentiles presence would be an abomination to the Jews. However, all this would be the will of God, who was by the proxy of Rome, bringing judgment on Israel by the power of the Roman armies. Luke recorded, “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near” (Lk 21:20).
Daniel had prophesied of this event in Daniel 9 & 11. Jesus was saying, therefore, that we must understand that the A.D. 70 event was the fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy (See Mk 13:14). This fulfillment was near, not over two thousand years in the future. Daniel prophesied,
“And the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it will be with a flood, and until the end of the war desolations are determined” (Dn 9:26).
Daniel continued by prophesying that forces “will defile the sanctuary fortress; then they will take away the daily sacrifices and place there the abomination of desolation” (Dn 11:31; see Dn 12:7-11). “And there will be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation” (Dn 12:1).
At the beginning of this time of destruction, the resident Jewish Christians of Judea must flee. They must take heed to Jesus’ warnings in order to understand that the nationalistic aspirations of the Jews was futile. It was in the final plan of God to openly demonstrate that He had finished with Israel when the unbelieving Jews crucified His Son on the cross.
The urgency by which Judea Christians must flee is here revealed. In the ancient cities one could actually go from house to house on the roof tops of the houses. The houses were joined together so that one could simply go from one roof to another. In order to accentuate the urgency of fleeing, Jesus said that they must not take the time to return to their houses for coveted possessions when they see the chance to escape. They must flee with what they have in hand.
Jesus also warned that no one was to go to Judea during these days (Lk 21:21). This warning was possibly to those who might travel to Judea and Jerusalem to visit friends and family, and then be caught in the war that was to rage throughout Judea. Jesus’ warning, therefore, was to save lives, the lives of those Jewish Christians who might still be tempted to travel to Jerusalem to visit family and friends during the annual Passover/Pentecost feast.
After Vespasian returned to Rome to be Caesar, the Roman army was placed under the control of Titus, his son. For some reason during the final stages of the assault on Jerusalem, Titus removed his encircling army from the city for a brief period of time. This gave all resident Christians of Jerusalem time to flee. This was possibly the time when Jesus said that they must not come down from their roof tops, but flee immediately. They must take this window of opportunity and flee the city. Only the radical insurrectionists Jews would stay in the city. This may have been the reason why Titus allowed an interlude in the assault against the city. We may assume that this was in the plan of God in order to deliver His people from the calamity.
In the prophecy of Matthew 24, Jesus issued every warning possible to keep the Jewish Christians out of Palestine. But then there were those Jewish Christians who lived in Judea and the city of Jerusalem who would probably be reluctant to leave their homes and flee. This would be particularly true of those Jewish Christians who had unbelieving family members who would not heed the warning of the One they believed was a self-proclaimed Messiah. For this reason, it was very difficult for some Jewish Christians to leave unbelieving family and friends. In His discourse of Matthew 24, Jesus gave some final signs in order that they might save their own lives. When they saw the Roman army outside the walls of the city, then they must conclude that it was all over. Jesus was the rightful Messiah, but the nationalistic Jews had deceived the people into believing that He was not.
Pray For An Easy Flight
“And woe to those who are with child and to those who are nursing infants in those days. But pray that your flight not be in the winter or on the Sabbath.”
It would be difficult for pregnant women to flee during a war. In fact, Paul wrote to those throughout Achaia that it would not be wise to even marry during times of distress (1 Co 7:26). He may have given this advice in view of the conflict that was either present or coming in reference to the Jews’ efforts to establish an independent state of Israel in Palestine.
Those with small nursing babies would also have difficulty in the flight from Judea. The prayers of the saints evidently were certainly a determining factor as to when this destruction would occur, for Jesus asked them to pray that such not happen in winter when the journey of flight would be more difficult. They must also pray that their flight not begin on the Sabbath, for fanatical nationalistic Jews would close the city gates on the Sabbath and hinder any from making any efforts to leave the city. Some fanatical Jews would possibly confront them in reference to violating the “Sabbath day journey” of Judaism (See Mk 2:1-12; Lk 5:17-26; 6:1-5).
The prayers of the saints would determine much concerning the deliverance of the Christians. Though we might not understand how God answered these prayers, the fact that Jesus asked them to pray for these things says that God can work in areas for which Jesus asked His disciples to pray.
[Next in series: Aug. 2]