This past Sunday I explained how Jesus’  prophecy of the abomination of desolation and the great tribulation were fulfilled in AD 70 with the destruction of the temple.

For those who are interested, there are two excellent sources.

Bob Burridge of the Genevan Institute for Reformed Studies (GIRS) has written a concise paper the adequately deals with nearly all of the issues involved in interpreting Matthew 24.  Here is a link to his page:

http://www.genevaninstitute.org/syllabus/unit-seven-eschatology/lesson-2-the-great-tribulation-of-matthew-24/

Brian Schwertley has also written an excellent paper, or rather, an excellent book.  It is a 95 page pdf.  In this paper, Brian leaves no stone unturned.  Every phrase is chased down.  Every concept is cross-referenced.  And above it all, Brian lets Scripture speak for Scripture.  If you have the time, this needs to be read.

http://www.reformedonline.com/uploads/1/5/0/3/15030584/matthew_24_and_the_great_tribulation.pdf

There are three Lessons (at least) that we need to learn from the fulfillment of Christ’s prophecy regarding the Abomination of Desolation and the Great Tribulation.

  1. First, we need to recognize that prophecy is always a Call to faithfulness in the church.

When we consider the OT prophets and what their role was in redemptive history, we see that their concern was to call God’s people to covenant faithfulness.  For example, when Daniel delivered the prophecies concerning the abomination of desolation, he was writing in a time when the people were in exile and questions abounded about whether they would ever return home.   So the call to covenant faithfulness was also an encouragement to continue trusting in the fact that God was a covenant keeping God.

In Revelation’s 7 letters, we have this same principle being applied to the NT covenant people, the church.

The implicit warning was that if the local church did not remain faithful and obedient to God’s Word then they would go the same route of the OT people of God.  They would become a synagogue of Satan and God would remove their candlestick, i.e. their place as a True Church.

Therefore, even this prophecy concerning the abomination of desolation and the great tribulation, even though they have been fulfilled, is a call to faithfulness.   If any particular church doesn’t remain faithful and obedient to God’s Word, we should expect God to close it down because it has become a synagogue of Satan.

This is why truth/doctrine is so important.  Often times, the only difference between the synagogue of Satan and the True Church is doctrinal profession.   Many churches which were once part of the True Church are now satanic synagogues, yet they do a lot of socially good things.  [I am purposefully avoiding saying that they do good works, because ‘Good Works’ are done in obedience, faith and to God’s glory, which the Satanic synagogues can’t do. See the Heidelberg Catechism #91]  A church’s faithfulness is not determined by what social deeds it performs, or by the programs it offers, but by the truth/doctrine it proclaims.  Social works and social programs don’t conform or change people to the image of Christ, but only the Word of God by the power of the Holy Spirit.    This is why it is dangerous to choose a church based on what they are doing or what they offer.

So at GCC, we are going to continue studying truth and proclaiming truth.  Jesus even prayed in his high priestly prayer, John 17:17, “Sanctify them in Truth.  Your Word is truth.”  So a church that deviates from the Word of God ceases to be a part of the True Church and instead becomes part of the synagogue of Satan.

  1. The second lesson we need to learn is the Cost of Discipleship.

The disciples of Jesus had to be prepared with God’s word to act obediently when the time came.  And, in order for them to be obedient, they had to be more concerned with faithfulness and love to Jesus, than with materialism and the love for worldly things.

Jesus said in Matt 24:17, when you see the desolation, “Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house.” What is more important, believing and acting upon God’s Word, or your material belongings?  This seems like such an easy principle to learn, yet because of the sinful remnant, the old man is still set on the things of the World and not on the things of God.  Therefore, in order to be prepared to obey, when the cost of obedience is the materials of this world, only a heart that loves Christ more will be able to obey.

There are so many ways this could be applied today, but I have to leave it at that.

  1. The third lesson we need to learn is the care of the Savior.

Jesus is speaking truth to his disciples in order to prepare them for what was coming.  He tells them in Matthew 24:16, when you see the desolation, “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.”

The common sense of the day was to flee into the fortified city.  There was protection, water and some amount of food.  And Jerusalem had proved itself to be a city that could support those within her for an extended period of time.   When you couple the strategic abilities of Jerusalem with the religious arguments, the idea of fleeing away from Jerusalem would have been foolishness.

The religious argument being put forward was that Jerusalem was the place where God had set his name.  Therefore, God would not allow the city to be destroyed.  This was even the disciple’s expectation and understanding of the Messiah before Jesus opened their eyes to understand God’s plan of salvation!

But Jesus said when you see the desolation flee.  Some people have argued, if the desolation is going to surround Jerusalem, how can the Christians be obedient and flee?  Historically, and for reasons we will never know, the Roman Army pulled back for a time.  They marched on Jerusalem, and then the retreated.  Historians tell us that during that brief interlude and retreat, the Christians wholesale abandoned the city so that not a single Christian was left there.

Christians have a Great Shepherd who know everything, including what is best for us.  Though his council is often directly contrary to the wisdom of the world, He is always right.  And because He cares for the good of his people, He sometimes even delays and withholds his wrath from people who certainly deserve it.

This is the very meaning of Matthew 24:22, “And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.”

God’s wrath was delayed because evidently, there were still some of God’s elect among the city’s population.  Though the Christians had left, God would use the events of this devastation to bring His elect to himself.  Josephus records that over 1 million Jews were killed.  The wrath of God fell on them, yet because of the love and care of Jesus for his people, not only was the church protected, but even the unregenerate elect were saved.

So in the prophecy of the Abomination and the Great Tribulation, there is a great warning and a great cost to us to pursue faithfulness and obedience.  But there is also this great promise of comfort, that Jesus cares for his people and will work out all things as Romans 8:29 says, for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes.