Watch.
Run.
Pray.
Endure.
Discern.
God loves you still; don't ever forget it.


 

"When you see the 'abomination of desolation,' spoken of
by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, then
let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let him
who is on the housetop not go down into the house, nor
enter to take anything out of his house. Let him who is in
the field not go back to get his clothes.

"Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are
nursing babies in those days! Pray that your flight may not
be in winter. For in those days there will be tribulation, such
as has not been since the beginning of the creation. Unless
the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh would be saved;
but for the elect's sake, He shortened the days.

"If anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' do not
believe it. False christs and false prophets will rise and show
signs and wonders to deceive even the elect; see, I have told
you all things beforehand."
                                                         
Mark 13:14-23 NKJV, condensed


"At that time Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch
over your people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never
was . . . . Your people shall be delivered, every one who is found
written in the book. Many of those who sleep in the dust shall awake,
some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt. . . ."

I looked, and there stood two others. . . . One said, "How long shall
the fulfillment
of these wonders be?" Then I heard the man clothed in
linen swear by Him who
lives forever, that it shall be for a time, times,
and half a time; and when the power
of the holy people has been
completely shattered; all these things shall be finished.

Although I heard, I did not understand. He said, "Go your way, for
the words are
sealed till the time of the end. Many shall be purified,
made white, and refined;
none of the wicked shall understand, but
the wise shall understand.

"From the time that the daily sacrifice is taken away, and the
abomination of 
desolation is set up, there shall be 1,290 days. Blessed
is he who waits, and 
comes to the 1,335 days. But you, go your way
till the end; for you shall rest, 
and will arise to your inheritance at the
end of the days." ---Daniel 12:1-13


                              Desecration and Desolation

9/11 is a code word all Americans identify with. On that day people
ran. We knew the fear of not knowing what would happen next.
The attack from abroad changed our lives forever as securing the
homeland became a prime concern. A word striking fear and
terror in the Old Testament was the phrase, "the abomination of
desolation."
Jesus picked up on Daniel's phrase. It was associated
with non-Jewish victors desecrating the temple by moving their own
gods into the sacred place, thereby abolishing religious freedom.

There are interesting parallels between the apocalyptic words of
Jesus and the vision of the prophet Daniel. Both responded to the
question, "How long?" Both refer to protection for God's people,
to hardships like never seen before, and something horrible that
happened in the temple which caused great distress. Neither
should we miss the clear reference to the resurrection of the
dead in the last verse of Daniel. Resurrection was surely topmost
in the mind of Jesus right now.

Daniel could have been describing the 2nd century prior to the
birth of Jesus. In 168 B.C. Antiochus Epiphanes of Syria invaded
Palestine and replaced the God of Israel (rumor was he sacrificed
a pig on the altar!) with Zeus Olympius. The whole of Jerusalem
was captured, plundered and burned. These events inspired the
Jewish resistance, led by the Maccabees, which fought victoriously
to reclaim their city. The temple was purified and rededicated on
the 25th day of the month of Kislev in 164 B.C. This story of
liberation and national survival is still celebrated annually during
Hanukkah.

200 years later, Jesus could have been describing the First Jewish-
Roman War (see notes at bottom of previous page), when again
the temple was desecrated. This time it was 68 - 70 A.D. and the
Roman general Titus who, after starving the city into subjection,
profaned the Holy of Holies. Blood flowed in the streets of
Jerusalem. His troops rampaged the holy city and the Judean
countryside, leaving it ruined and desolate.

People read different things into this futuristic teaching. What
did Jesus actually say? Here's what these verses tell us: When you
see the horrible thing where it should not be, then run. Don't
look back or take a defensive position. Just flee for your lives. Be
sympathetic toward those with special hardships, like pregnant
and nursing women. Pray that it won't happen in winter, the wet
season. People will suffer like never before. Because God loves
you, God will shorten the days. But beware of those who are
intent upon deceiving you. Then Jesus concluded, "Now I have
told you everything."

It leaves us in the 21st century wondering what Jesus meant and
if his disciples understood it any better than we do? Many
Christians still watch and pray, believing Jesus foretold a day in
the future. They claim the blessedness of waiting and continue
to watch for these events to take place in the form of a great
tribulation before the second coming of the Christ. The sign is
the desecration of the Holy by an unbelieving foreign invader,
or more specifically, a sacrilege in the holy city of Jerusalem.

Desecrating the holy leads to great suffering and desolation
in the land. But isn't it a curious thing that Jesus said we are to
run and not take a defensive stance? It's as though God is
enshrined in the hearts and lives of his people, not in buildings
and institutions. The light of the Gospel is not extinguished
when the flame on the altar is snuffed out.

The use of the word "elect" in this passage is also interesting.
Throughout his ministry, Jesus turned the tables on our thinking.
Those favored by God are not the ones at the top of the religious
ladder. Instead, God's favorites are the poor in spirit, the meek,
those who mourn, the pure in heart, peacemakers, the ones
who hunger and thirst for righteousness, and those who suffer
persecution for his sake. Also the humble virgin mother, forgiven
sinners, disciples who left all to follow Jesus, and those who show
mercy, love justice, and lift up the oppressed. 

Another great concern of Jesus is that we will be distracted from
the truth of his gospel and be tempted to jump ship in search
of fairer seas. Jesus, our Good Shepherd, warned many times
about the dangers of being led astray by some razzle/dazzle
charlatan. Or that we simply wander off because we are not
paying attention. God is forever present and acting in our world.
Wake up! Salvation is found by following Jesus. Enough said.

 

Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further
study or reflection.

  

Icebreaker: If you had the chance to know what the future holds for
                      you, would you want to know?   Why or why not?

 

This Olivet discourse comes just a few days before the crucifixion.
If you were about to die, what do you think you would talk about with
your loved ones?
            In what ways would your approach be different than what
                    Jesus said?

 

What event or circumstance could shatter your world?
Infidelity?   Bankruptcy?   An incurable disease?
            As people of faith how are we to respond to these tragedies?
            Are there any words in today's text which would help you cope?
            Is there a promise in this text?   Or any hope and encouragement?

 

Name some things you hold dear which are being profaned in
today's world?
            What is the connection between desecration and desolation?
            How does the former lead to the latter?

 

The focus is on survival instead of saving Jerusalem. Why would Jesus
tell his disciples to flee instead of defending the temple?
            Why the sense of urgency?
            When is it good to put some distance between you and your problem?

 

"Prayer is the power of the powerless. To pray truly is to pray from
where you don't have control, and yet can trust, because you are a
beloved child of God's household." --Henri Nouwen
            How does that definition of prayer fit this "end time" Scripture?

 

If God is in charge of human history, how do we explain the catastrophic
suffering of the innocent?

 

Jesus was very concerned that his followers would be misled.
            Was that a realistic concern?   Why or why not?
            How fragile is your faith?

 

Who are the false messiahs and what are the false teachings which
distract and tempt you to forsake what you have learned from Jesus?

 

The prophet Jeremiah had a litmus test for false prophets: Did their
words come true!  
            How do you determine whether words are true or false?
            How well do you discern between uncomfortably true and
                    pleasingly false?

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