So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand) … Mt 24:15
The Olivet Discourse, the longest of Jesus’s recorded discourses in the synoptic gospels, is prompted by the disciples’ question in light of Jesus’s shocking revelation regarding the destruction of the Jewish temple (24:1-2). “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Mt 24:3). Jesus’s response seems to point to two distinct historical events – the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and His yet future second coming.
In verses 4-14 of chapter 24, Jesus describes a series of “non-signs” of His return. I call these “non-signs,” as the events He prophesies do not point specifically to the end of the age, but instead they are warnings that the disciples would not find themselves deceived by the coming of a false messiah. We have seen how these signs – false prophets, wars, famine, earthquakes, tribulation, apostasy, and a lawless faith and frigid love – were fulfilled, and continue to be fulfilled, throughout the history of the church age. But like birth pains that portend the child’s birth, these afflictions and trials will intensify as the consummation of the age approaches. In particular the “apostasy,” and people following after “lawlessness,” will climax with the coming of “the man of lawlessness,” or “Antichrist;” the one who the book of Revelation refers to as “the beast,” who comes to conquer the saints.
In verse 15 Jesus begins to describe the terror of the days prior to His return. Destruction will arrive so quickly that believers ought waste no time in preparing their escape. The imagery of sacrilege that Jesus uses, “the abomination of desolation,” calls to mind Paul’s second epistle to the Thessalonians chapter 2: “For that day will not come, unless … 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.” Matthew also calls us to discerningly read the book of Daniel – in particular Daniel 9:27 and 12:9-11.
This week, read Matthew 24, Daniel 7:19-28, chapters 9 & 12, and Revelation 13:1-10. Try to read them without any presupposed end-time position; as you do, make notes as to what they reveal to you about the “the beast,” and in particular the “abomination of desolation.”