LET THE READER UNDERSTAND

The Final Discourse Part 3  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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I don’t know about you, but there have been times in my life when I’ve read something without understanding it at all. As a student science textbooks would always loose me. I do not have a scientific mindset at all. And H.S. science classes were pure torture for me. Give me a book on history or a book about the elements of music, especially music theory, and I was in seventh heaven. But books about math and science or the theories of education would put me to sleep.
This morning we continue in our sermon series titled THE FINAL DISCOURSE. Though Jesus had another discourse a day after this one, this is the final once recorded for us in the Gospel of Matthew. Last week we took a necessary detour and looked at the Seventy Weeks of Daniel in order that we might better understand this week’s passage. As we go through our passage this morning, , we are going to look at it in terms of the things which the reader must understand. First, let’s read the passage together.
As we look at this passage this morning we should note that because of the intensity of the horrors that will occur prior to Christ’s return, Jesus warns the readers so they can be prepared.
Who is the Reader?
Before we look at what the reader must understand, we must determine who the reader is.
Is this a reference to reading the Gospel accounts of Matthew and Mark, or a reference to reading the prophecies of Daniel?
Is this a reference to Jews?
Is this a reference to the soon to be founded church?
Is this a specific reference to those living in the first century A.D.?
Is this a specific reference to those living in the end times?
There are both broad and narrow answers to this question. Let’s consider the broad answer first.
Broad View
The reader is the believer
This passage is written for the sake of believers of all times since all Scripture is written for their benefit.
2 Timothy 3:16–17 NIV84
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Thus, there is great profit for the believer in studying this, as well as all other passages in the Bible.
Now for the more narrow and difficult understanding of whom Jesus referred to as “the reader.” There are various lines of thoughts:
Some believe that “the reader” was a reference to first century Jewish believers living in or near Jerusalem. These same folks tend to believe that the events in this prophecy were fulfilled when both Jerusalem and Herod’s temple, which was in Jerusalem, were destroyed by Titus in 70 A.D.
Some believe that “the reader” refers to Tribulation Saints who are dwelling in the vicinity of Jerusalem.
Some believe, as I do, that there is a double fulfillment.
Some believe, as I do, that there is a double fulfillment.
The destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. was a partial fulfillment and pointed to the full fulfillment just prior to the Second Coming of Christ
Narrow View
The reader is believers living in the vicinity of Jerusalem during the time of The Abomination of Desolation
And so I believe the reader is best defined as believers living in the vicinity of Jerusalem during both the mid first century and the Tribulation Period.
Further, since the abominable things that happened in the first century are long in the past, the most obvious application at this present time is for those who come to faith in Christ during the seven year period known as the Tribulation.
While I believe there are multiple layers to the fulfillment of what Jesus is addressing in this passage, the further we go into this discourse the more futuristic it becomes.
Reading Daniel or Matthew?
Next, let’s address whether Christ is addressing the readers of Daniel, or of the Gospel accounts. On the one hand, the Gospel accounts were yet to be written. The earliest of the gospels were not written until twenty or more years after the death and resurrection of Christ. And so it seems to that Jesus is referring to the readers of Daniel. But of course, being God in the flesh, Jesus knew in advance about the writing of the Gospel accounts. And since Jesus gives some warnings and instructions we must consider that Jesus is referring to one whose study takes him from the Gospel accounts to the prophecy of Daniel.
Now l would like us to consider
The first thing the reader must understand is:
THERE IS MORE TO THE ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION THAN COMMONLY THOUGHT
Last week we looked at the passage from Daniel which referred to the abomination of desolation. We saw that it would be perpetrated by a ruler who made a covenant with Israel, but then broke that covenant midway through the seven year period which Daniel wrote of.
Commonly, first century Jews held that this was a reference to Antiochus Epiphanes who, around 165 B.C. put an altar to Zeus in the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem. And if that wasn’t sacrileges enough, he offered a pig on the altar.
But Jesus is obviously saying that there is more to Daniel’s prophecy than meets the eye. The implication is that there would be a future abomination of desolation.
As I’ve stated before, my firm belief is that the Roman conquest of Jerusalem around 70 A.D was a partial fulfillment of this prophecy, but the full fulfillment will be at the midpoint of the Tribulation when the Anti-Christ will commit even more abominable atrocities than have ever been committed before. Paul wrote of this in his second letter to the church in Thessalonica. Someone had written a letter to them claiming that the Day of the Lord had already occurred and they had missed out on it. This, of course, was quite worrisome to them. So Paul wrote:
2 Thessalonians 2:3–4 NASB95PARA
Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.
What Paul says here, in my limited understanding, can only apply to the end-times. The man of lawlessness is another way of referring to the Anti-Christ. And though he will dupe the world into believing that he is a man of peace during the first half of the Tribulation, he will be revealed to all as the son of destruction at the midpoint of this seven year period.
We are living in the Times of the Gentiles
Jesus spoke of this in Luke’s account of this same discourse.
Prior to the beginning of the Tribulation the Church will be raptured. The members of the church are the temple of the H.S. after their rapture then the restraint on Satan and his host, which the Church brings, will disappear and pave the way for the man of lawlessness.
Next, the reader must understand that
The Abomination will be a sign to flee Jerusalem
Luke 21:24 NASB95PARA
and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
Based on what we learned from Daniel’s vision last week, we understand that the Anti-Christ will make a treaty with Israel which will bring in a false peace. It seems that he will build a new temple in Jerusalem during the first three and a half years. But midway through this seven year period he will break his treaty and commit the true abomination of desolation, taking a seat in the temple and proclaiming himself to be God.
Since it seems that this future prediction is clearly located in the vicinity of Jerusalem, some have postulated that God will continue to pour out His wrath on Israel for having rejected His Son. And that the Anti-Christ will be used, inadvertently, to do God’s bidding.
Next, the reader should understand that
There is no time to waste in fleeing Jerusalem
Our passage references the necessity of a quick departure from Jerusalem.
Relaxing on the Roof
In first century Israel most houses had a flat roof. It was a common things for people to use the roof as a porch, and to climb an outside stairway to the roof and relax in the evening. It is reported by Jewish historians such as Josephus that when the Roman General, Titus, came to Jerusalem to lay seige, many folks who were on their housetops, rather than taking the time to come down, jumped from one housetop to the next in order to escape. Apparently the houses were really close together.
Working in the Fields
When working in a field the worker would commonly take off the outer layer of clothing and leave it at the edge of the field. And Jesus’ warning was not to take the time to retrieve it. Time is of the essence, so just take off and flee to the mountains.
Difficult & Limited Travel Conditions
Jesus moved on to talk about difficult and limited travel conditions.
Great Tribulation
In the view of Dispensationalism there are two distinct periods in the Tribulation. Each being three and a half years longs. The first period will be a time of relative, yet false peace. The last period, often referred to as The Great Tribulation will be when God pours out the fullness of His wrath on the earth. As Jesus said in verse 21, “there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will.”
Although many of the statements up to this point can be seen as having a near and far fulfillment, I can not say that for this statement. To say that this was fulfilled when Rome sacked Jerusalem falls short, since Jesus stated as being the “world” and not Israel. Furthermore, I’m not convinced that the brutality of the Romans in 70 A.D. was anymore devastating than the Holocaust of last century. Or the atrocities committed against Jews by the Russians.
But non of the above mentioned atrocities will compare to what will happen when the Anti-Christ makes war on the Jews during the last three and a half years of the Tribulation.
Daniel referred to this again in Daniel. The aged prophet had seen a vision which was so secret that he was told
Daniel 12:4 ESV
But you, Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.”
In this vision someone asked “How long shall it be be till the end of these wonders?” And the reply was “It will be for a time, times, and half a time.” This is the second such reference in Daniel, and it is mentioned in Revelation as well. Which means that it is an important reference.
Speaking of the coming Anti-Christ in an earlier vision of we read:
Daniel 7:25 NASB95PARA
He will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One, and he will intend to make alterations in times and in law; and they will be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time.
Later in it goes from time periods to a specific number of days:
Daniel 12:9–11 ESV
He said, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are shut up and sealed until the time of the end. Many shall purify themselves and make themselves white and be refined, but the wicked shall act wickedly. And none of the wicked shall understand, but those who are wise shall understand. And from the time that the regular burnt offering is taken away and the abomination that makes desolate is set up, there shall be 1,290 days.
1,290 days is three and a half years.
In Revelation, in the context of the two witnesses it is referred to in months as well as days.
Revelation 11:2–3 NASB95PARA
Leave out the court which is outside the temple and do not measure it, for it has been given to the nations; and they will tread under foot the holy city for forty-two months. And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for twelve hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.”
In , in the context of the woman, who seems to represent Israel, and the dragon who represents Satan, we are told:
Revelation 12:14 NASB95PARA
But the two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman, so that she could fly into the wilderness to her place, where she was nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent.
Finally, in the context of , referring to the Anti-Christ as a beast, we read:
Revelation 13:5 NASB95PARA
There was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies, and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him.
Let’s consider now how the reader should understand that
God will care for His elect during this time of flight
Notice verse 22. Let’s first consider who the “elect” are.
For the near fulfillment the elect would be believers (primarily Jewish, but possibly Gentiles as well) in the vicinity of Jerusalem at the time leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem.
For the future fulfillment the elect will be the spiritual remnant of Israel which will include Gentile believers who come to faith during the Tribulation.
There are different ways of understanding the phrase: Unless those days had been cut short.
It could be a reference to a relative short period of time such as three and a half years
It could be a reference to stopping short of total clamity
It could be a reference to daylight hours being cut short, which may aid the elect as they seek to escape the grasp of the Anti-Christ
MacArthur points out that
“At least three times during the Great Tribulation the heavenly bodies that give light to the earth will be radically altered in ways that will progressively reduce the daylight...” (pg. 45)
These would be during the sixth seal, the fourth trumpet, and the fifth bowl judgments.
Revelation 6:12–14 NASB95PARA
I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood; and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.
Revelation 8:12 NASB95PARA
The fourth angel sounded, and a third of the sun and a third of the moon and a third of the stars were struck, so that a third of them would be darkened and the day would not shine for a third of it, and the night in the same way.
Revelation 16:10 NASB95PARA
Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom became darkened; and they gnawed their tongues because of pain,
Let’s consider next how the reader should understand that
They should not be misled by false christs and prophets
So if all of this is for those in the vicinity of Jerusalem at times of desolation, what does it mean to us who are so distantly removed from this.
Unbelievers need to repent and receive Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Believers need to:
Continue to persevere in the faith
1 Corinthians 15:58 NASB95PARA
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.
Be prepared for persecution
1 Peter 4:12–13 NASB95PARA
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.
Be active in the work of the Great Commission
Paul indicates that this is a part of desiring to please God.
2 Corinthians 5:9 NASB95PARA
Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.
Paul further states that the motivation for the believer to be involved in the Great Commission work is the reward we will receive.
2 Corinthians 5:11 ESV
Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience.
Let’s pray.
Closing Song: #682
Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah
Numbers 6:24–26 CSB
“May the Lord bless you and protect you; may the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; may the Lord look with favor on you and give you peace.” ’
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