Scripture: “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. 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. Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.“ Matthew 24:15-28 ESV
[Click here to read the entire chapter.]
Observation: Recapping Yesterday’s Daily Focus, Jesus cautions those who follow him not to be seduced by anti-Christs who claim to be him and false prophets who deceive. Instead, his disciples must resist succumbing to fear amid horrific wars and natural disasters, for these tumultuous times are the prelude to his return. And even though his disciples will be despised, abused, betrayed, and even executed on account of him amid a lawless and loveless society, they must persevere and continue to spread his Gospel to all nations, for at humanity’s height of depravation, he will return.
Today’s reading covers Jesus’ second segment regarding Daniel’s record of the abomination of desolation. This gruesome application of the angel Gabriel’s explanation to Daniel of his earlier vision (see Daniel 9:27) describes the similar tribulation encountered in 70 CE when Rome razed Jerusalem and spread terror throughout Israel. But Jesus’ stern warnings reach far beyond the first century to the thousands of years until his return at the end of the age. And while the pain and suffering will be horrendous for most of humankind, his glorious return will far eclipse all that has passed with a spectacular, supernatural display of power and authority that will light up the entire horizon of the earth. (See the above link to yesterday’s Daily Focus for more details regarding Rome’s invasion and a discussion of suffering to our present day.)
Takeaway: Whether Paul knew of Jesus’ teaching on this eschatological matter or received a special revelation from the Holy Spirit, he writes in his second letter to the Thessalonians regarding the Lord’s return, “Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and 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” (2 Thessalonians 2:3–4). Paul adds that this mystery of lawlessness is already at work in our world (v.7) and empowered by Satan to perform false signs and wonders (v.9). Still, for now, our Lord restrains the lawless one’s deceptions until his return when he will kill this lawless one by his sheer breadth (v.8). Lastly, Paul notes that our sovereign Father God uses the lawless one to mete justice to those who reject the truth of our Gospel to pursue the pleasures of unrighteousness (vv.11-12). Click here to read the entire passage.
Additionally, John’s revelation corroborates Jesus’ and Paul’s prophecies and provides more detail. He writes of two beasts. The first suffers what appears to be a mortal wound, and the second, being an extension of the first, forces all the people to worship the first, and he performs “great signs,” thereby deceiving all humanity. Moreover, in exerting his power, all must receive a mark on their right hand or forehead to buy and sell. Click here to read Revelation 13:11-18).
Pretty scary, eh? Why would the Holy Spirit inspire Matthew, Paul, and John to record these prophecies? And how are they helpful to us? Just as Jesus foretold all that would happen to him and his disciples before his arrest, the forewarning of near and distant-future events prepares Christ’s followers to stand firm when he shakes the heavens and earth to remove the temporal elements and retain his unshakable eternal kingdom (see Hebrews 12:26-29). And even with our parents’ generation (who witnessed world wars, a worldwide economic depression, and a holocaust) and our generation (that witnesses genocides, regional wars, and a pandemic), the message of hope in Christ remains the same: together with the Father they exercise authority over creation’s timeline and, in due time, will make all things new (free of sin and suffering) to dwell intimately with us.
Meanwhile, as discussed in yesterday’s Daily Focus, keep an eternal perspective because evil, whether it goes by the name “the abomination,” “the lawless one,” or “the beast,” cannot snatch us from the hands of the Father and Son (John 10:28-29). Also, as the author of Hebrews concludes his appeal to the persecuted first-century church, he offers a list of do’s and don’ts that are fitting for us:
- Keep our eyes fixed on Jesus (12:2).
- Reflect on how Christ endured for us (12:3)
- Remember our adoption as God’s children (12:5) and that he disciplines those he loves (12:6) and uses our suffering to mature us in the faith (12:7-11).
- Seek healing for our souls to take the next step (12:12-13).
- Strive for peace and holiness (12:14).
- Be on guard against growing feelings of bitterness that can lead to acting out (12:15-17).
- Nurture gratitude and worship God with awe and reverence (12:28).
So keep looking up to Christ, who is coming in glory, and appropriate his hope and peace. And keep looking forward, relying on the Holy Spirit to strengthen our weak knees with courage and show us the way home.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for the cohesive, encouraging reality of your Word—even the scary parts that warn of tribulation and suffering because we know the ending: your Son will return with all power and glory and make all things new for us. Still, amid present trials, we can easily succumb to despair. So would you please help us look up to behold your glorious Son for inspiration and lean on the Holy Spirit to lead the way home? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling
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