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"Let the reader understand"

"Let the reader understand."

This parenthetical remark by Matthew urges the reader of the Mount Olivet prophecy to pay special attention to Jesus' reference to Daniel's prophecy. The context is:
"So when you see the desolating sacrilege 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 him who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house; and let him who is in the field not turn back to take his mantle" (Mat 24:15-18).
Jesus is clearly emphasizing the need to get out fast, not even stopping to get one's coat, much less some prized possession. When forewarned disciples perceived that destruction was about to burst upon the province of Judea and everyone in it, they were to flee. Luke's version of Jesus' words are:
"But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it; for these are days of vengeance, to fulfil all that is written" (Luke 21:20-22).
This added detail points out the city which is doomed to destruction -- Jerusalem! God was taking vengeance upon it, as prophesied earlier in Scripture. Where had this been written? In Daniel, certainly, since Jesus explicitly alluded to him. The probable reference is Daniel 11:31, which says:
"Forces from him [the king of the north] shall appear and profane the temple and fortress, and shall take away the continual burnt offering. And they shall set up the abomination that makes desolate."
This verse is part of a lengthy passage (Dan 10:1 -- 12:13), of which Daniel was explicitly told by the interpreting angel, "[I] came to make you understand what is to befall your people in the latter days. For the vision is for days yet to come" (Dan 10:14).

So Daniel had to be given angelic help to understand events yet future to him and the people of Israel. The exact fulfillment of "the abomination that makes desolate" is not recorded in Scripture. Some Bible students contend that it was fulfilled in 168 BC when Antiochus Epiphanes erected a pagan altar to Zeus on the sacred altar in the temple of Jerusalem. Jesus evidently saw a fulfillment of it subsequent to his prediction around AD 30, and the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in AD 70 certainly fits. Yet surely there is another fulfillment to come "in the latter days", ie, OUR DAYS. How should we understand it?

The point of focus must be Jerusalem. The outworking must involve the people of Israel who live there. And the circumstances must include things that Jesus went on to say in the Matthew and Luke record of the Olivet prophecy:
"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 shortened, no human being would be saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened" (Mat 24:21,22).

"Alas for those who are with child and for those who give suck in those days! For great distress shall be upon the earth and wrath upon this people; they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led captive among all nations; and Jerusalem will be trodden down by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled" (Luke 21:23,24).
Since AD 70, and up until 1967, Jerusalem was "trodden down by the Gentiles". But now the city is back in the hands of the Jews. This is significant, for it sets the stage for ANOTHER FULFILLMENT of Daniel's prophecy!

As modern-day readers of the Bible texts quoted so far, we are encouraged to understand what Daniel (and by implication, Jesus) meant. What was the "abomination that makes desolate"? Ezekiel and Jeremiah, both contemporary prophets of Daniel, are a big help here. They make it plain that the abominable practices of the Jewish people made the desolation of their temple, city and land inevitable (see Eze 5:11; 7:20-23; 8:5,6; Jer 7:8-11,30; 27:17; 44:22). To cite but two of these passages:
"...Because you have defiled my sanctuary with all your detestable things and with all your abominations, therefore I will cut you down; my eye will not spare, and I will have no pity" (Eze 5:11).

"The LORD could no longer bear your evil doings and the abominations which you committed; therefore your land has become a desolation and a waste and a curse, without inhabitant" (Jer 44:22).
So for a modern-day fulfillment, we can first expect to see the Israeli people living in such a way as to be abominable before God. Scripture suggests we look at their religious convictions and practices. In Jeremiah's day, one example of defilement was the hypocritical religion that made mockery of God's house -- it had become a den of robbers (Jer 7:11)! Jesus picked up exactly the same idea when he cast the money-changers out of the temple (Luke 19:46). While there is no temple in Israel today to be defiled, a populace which is reportedly 80% agnostic / atheistic indicates a nation that has turned its back on God. Few try to live according to the principles taught by the prophets. And those Israelis who espouse Judaism are openly hostile to Christianity. It would seem, therefore, that a faithless nation of Israel is positioned for the wrath of God to be poured out upon it one more time.

Note the irony. Because His own people were an abomination to Him, and because they had become no better than the Gentiles whom they hated, God would bring upon them a Gentile abomination to leave their city and land desolate!

But take somber note. Observers of Israel's predicament and impending destruction must realize that when Israel's judgment comes, the judgment of the whole world is soon to follow, by the Coming of Christ. "Let the reader understand!"

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