"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
"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
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
"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).
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
"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).
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).
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
"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).
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
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