From the General to the Specific
Text: Matthew 24 : 1 - 51
The disciples of Jesus wanted as much knowledge as possible concerning what Jesus predicted about the destruction of the Temple. They were also not quite sure about the doctrine of the “end times”. How would they piece together all the events?
Instead of giving them all the information they desired, Jesus focused on helping them to cultivate a strong mindset. The end was not in sight just yet! Knowledge of events that would not take place may not serve His disciples much good. However, if they were more mentally and spiritually fortified, they would be lots better off!
Jesus painted a rather bleak but realistic picture of tough times ahead. The disciples had been forewarned. They must now seek to be forearmed. From general instructions, Jesus now went to the specifics.
“Therefore when you see ‘the abomination of desolation,’
spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place,
(Whoever reads, let him understand),
then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.
Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything
out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back
to get his clothes. But woe to those who are pregnant
and to those who are nursing babies in those days!
And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath.”
DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM ALSO PREDICTED
Jesus had already predicted the destruction of the temple (Cf. Matthew 24:2). If the temple would indeed be destroyed, then of necessity the city of Jerusalem must also be attacked! With what certainty did Jesus speak such solemn words? Though there was grumbling against Rome, the nation had learned to live reasonably well under their rule. To speak of destruction of both the temple and Jerusalem in peace time would be hazardous, unless the words came from a truly authoritative source!
‘Spoken of by Daniel the prophet’
Jesus based his remarks on a prophecy that Daniel the prophet made. Let us take time to consider the text found in Daniel’s prophecy.
“And after the sixty two weeks
Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself;
And the people of the prince who is to come
Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.
The end of it shall be with a flood,
And till the end of the war desolations are determined.
Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week;
But in the middle of the week
He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering.
And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, Even until the consummation, which is determined,
Is poured out on the desolate.”
Jesus did not go into the details of Daniel’s prophecy. His disciples would not have understood all that Daniel said at that point of time. He only brought out the salient points. Firstly, in this prophecy, Daniel warned that both “the city and the sanctuary” would be destroyed”. Secondly, because this is a “war” situation, “desolations” must be expected. Both the city and the temple would not be spared!
“Flee to the mountains…”
How serious would this conflict be? Jesus warned all not to take this warning lightly. Using language that chilled the bravest, Jesus painted a grim picture! To flee for their lives would be the only course of action left! They must be prepared to lose their houses, clothes… everything! They must escape with their lives! Such was the terror of destruction that would take place!
Those who were pregnant would suffer terribly. Those with nursing infants would not be spared suffering either! Those who were fastidious about the keeping of the Sabbath would be even harder hit. Their determination to keep the letter of the law, would mean that they would not be able to travel out of harm’s way. The traditions of the Jews disallowed anyone to travel more than three miles on the Sabbath. Those left behind in Jerusalem would be massacred!
HOW BAD COULD THINGS GET?
Just how bad could the conditions be? The disciples had never seen Jesus more solemn as He spoke to them.
“For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been
since the beginning of the world until this time, no,
nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened,
no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake
those days will be shortened.”
“Great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world…”
Jesus refused to elaborate. He had said enough! There was no need to go into gory details! To be warned in this manner would be sufficient to challenge all to take heed of what He had said. Would they be drawn to look up what Daniel had prophesied?
“But for the elect’ sake those days will be shortened”
Would the elect have to undergo such suffering too? Jesus’ focus at this juncture was the destruction of the temple and the city of Jerusalem! The elect would have to undergo suffering if they were to be found in Jerusalem when the city was under attack.
Mercifully, for the sake of God’s elect, the suffering would be “shortened”. Things could be far worse than what was predicted. God would not allow His beloved elect to be tested beyond their strength! For their sake, great mercy would be shown.