1. Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple.

The temple was not, as many today think of it as having been, just one building. Rather, it was a whole complex of buildings, or a campus, if you will. It included not only many building, but also many outdoor courtyards and the like. The whole temple grounds had been expanded and beautified by Herod, so the temple at that time is sometimes called “Herod’s temple,” although the main temple building had originally been built by Ezra. This temple complex was indeed one of the wonders of the ancient world. In fact, one historian of the day is quoted as saying that you have not seen a beautiful building until you have seen the temple at Jerusalem! In the Old Testament, the temple is called “the Beauty of Holiness.” (see Psalm 29:2 and II Chron. 20:21, for example.) This was indeed an amazing structure, and so we can well understand why the disciples would have been eager to show their Lord its wonders.

2. And Jesus said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”

Josephus tells us that this was literally true, for some forty years later the Romans would level the city of Jerusalem and all the buildings in it, including the temple, to the ground. This did not end God’s purposes for that city, however. In the future, this place will be the very center of His Kingdom on earth. Jeremiah 3:17a says, “At that time Jerusalem shall be called The Throne of the LORD, and all the nations shall be gathered to it, to the name of the LORD, to Jerusalem.” That will be a glorious day for Israel indeed!

3. Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”

This demonstrates to us that “parousia” does not mean merely “coming.” First of all, Jesus was then present with them, so how could they ask Him when He would be coming to them? And, as they were very puzzled every time He told them that He was leaving them (John 13:36, for example,) they obviously didn’t expect Him to leave, so they couldn’t have been asking when He would come back.

Some, realizing that “parousia” does not mean “coming,” have made it to mean a “personal presence.” Although this is closer to the truth, this is not its meaning either, as He was then present with them when they asked this question and, again, they were not really expecting Him to leave them. A “parousia” is not merely a personal presence. The Greeks had a word for this, the Greek word “pareimi.” “Parousia” means a personal presence in an official capacity…you are there because of who and what you are. For example, if I were to attend a meeting of married, black females, I might be personally present, so I would be “pareimi” present, but my presence would not be a “parousia” since I am not a married, black female. If I were to attend a meeting of single, white males, however, one could speak of my presence as a “parousia,” as I would be present because I was filling an office…that of a single, white male, which I am, and for whom the meeting was called. Thus, although Christ was personally “pareimi” present with the disciples, He was not present with them in a “parousia…” He was not present with them as their King, which He in fact was, but as a Servant. His parousia would have to wait until He took His office as King. If He had wished to, He could have taken that office without ever leaving the earth. This is what His disciples were hoping for. So they were asking Him in essence, “When are you going to stop fooling around and start acting like the King that we know You are?”

The “end of the age” is likewise not what we might think of when we think of the “end” of something. The word for “end” here is “sunteleia” in Greek. This word means not the actual end of something, for that is the Greek word “telos” or “actual end.” This word “sunteleia” is rather the word for the consummation of something. When something consummates, it does not so much end as it reaches the point to which it was always striving to attain to from the beginning. For example, we might say that the wedding ceremony is the consummation of a couple’s courtship relationship. Yet it is not the end of their relationship. Rather, it is the beginning of what that relationship was always leading up to and hoping to achieve. So what these disciples were asking was when the “aion” or outflowing of God would at last consummate in the great Parousia of Christ that they were all hoping for and looking forward to.

4. “And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you.

The Lord begins His teaching with a solemn warning. The disciples are not to allow anyone to deceive them about these things. Yet notice one important fact here: Christ uses the word “you” in giving this warning to His disciples. All too often, the pronouns God uses in His Word are misused, and no real thought is given to what the antecedents of the pronouns are. As we know from studying English, every pronoun needs to have an antecedent in the context which it refers back to (unless it is used idiomatically, such as in the phrase, “They say…”) And this pronoun’s antecedent is without a doubt the disciples. So this passage tells us that the disciples will already have risen from the dead and will be back on the earth when these things start happening! This might be a startling thought to some, but it seems to be Christ’s clear intimation throughout this passage. Thus, the idea that the next great event to happen to the earth in God’s program will be Christ’s parousia is not based on Biblical fact. There must be a resurrection to the earth of at least these men, and that is certainly a very significant thing.

5. “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.

There are many who have done this all throughout history. Gamaliel tells of two who had claimed this before Jesus Christ even came (Acts 5:36-37.) And we have seen men who have made such claims ever since, one of the most recent being David Koresh of the Branch Davidians. Yet the significance here is obvious, in that these disciples will be on the earth to see this happen! This has not been true of the false Christs of our day, but it will be true when this prophecy comes to pass.

6. “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.

Again, note that Christ uses “you.” This is something that the disciples will hear of. Moreover, this sign would not be significant if it occurred without their presence. There have been wars and rumors of wars ever since the beginnings of man’s recorded history. There is no sign here in Christ’s prediction that what He meant was that these wars and rumors of wars would get worse or more widespread. This is something that modern prophecy interpreters have read into this passage, but this is not what Christ said. What is significant here is THE DISCIPLES hearing of wars and rumors of wars. If you and I hear of wars and rumors of wars, it means nothing. We hear nothing but what has always been going on since time immemorial.

Yet when the disciples hear of these things, they are not to be troubled. Why? Because this is not yet the end, but rather the beginning (verse 8.) This is the real Greek word for end, “telos,” not the word for “consummation” like we had in verse 3.

7. “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.

The first part of this verse quotes from Isaiah 19:2. If these things happen today, they have no significance. Since the old world was destroyed in the flood and the earth was so ravaged by the overflowing of the waters, there have never ceased to be famines and earthquakes. Moreover, pestilences are the result of sin and death, and have been common since the days of Adam, no doubt. Therefore, the presence of these things would be no sign at all. Thus, the significance here must be that these things WILL STOP for a time, and then start up again. Only then would these signs mean anything. Again, there is NOTHING here to indicate that the meaning of the sign is that these things will increase in intensity. That is read into the passage, but that is not what Christ said. The sign is that these things EXIST. Yet that would be a pretty poor sign if that is what Christ meant, for these things have always existed, unless there were to be a time in between now and when this sign occurs when these things cease from the earth. That is the sign that Christ is predicting here…that these things will cease, so that it will be significant when they start up again.

8. “All these are the beginning of sorrows.

These sorts of things happen often in our day, and have happened for hundreds of years. They have to be in conjunction with all the other signs of that time, however, before they become significant, including the sign of the disciples being present to see them.

9. “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation, and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake.

Again, notice the significant use of the word “you.” Some suggest that Christ didn’t know that the dispensation of grace would interrupt God’s Kingdom program, and so He actually thought that the disciples would still be alive when these things happen. Yet this belittles Christ, and breaks the Word of God, which Christ Himself said cannot be broken. This can only be true if the disciples will be raised from the dead to experience these things. Notice too that they are hated by all nations because they are associated with Jesus Christ. This should help us realize that who He is talking about here are not believers out of every nation as we have it today, for then it would be nations hating those of the nations. Rather, this is the nations hating the disciples, God’s leaders in the nation of Israel.

10. “And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another.

The Lord said, “And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” (Matthew 11:6) At this time, many will be offended by what God is doing, and the result will be betrayal and hatred. A sad turn of events indeed!

11. “Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.

Again, this only has significance in connection with the other signs. Moreover, false prophets have always been rising up since the most ancient of times. (see Genesis 4:26b, where “began to call on the name of the LORD” does not indicate that they began to worship Him, for Abel had worshipped Him before this, but rather indicates that they were calling on Him falsely, or calling themselves by His name falsely.) This sign would only seem to have significance if these things stop for a time, and then are renewed. The whole of this passage points to a pre-parousia kingdom dispensation that must take place before these things occur.

12. “And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.

This is the only verse in the passage that talks about anything increasing, and it is lawlessness that it says will increase. The result of this is that the love of many will grow cold. The problem here is that they fail to endure through the time of turmoil. Thus, the contrast with those who do endure in the following verse.

13. “But he who endures to the end shall be saved.

Endurance will be important in that day, even as it is now. As it is stated in II Timothy, “If we endure, we will also reign with Him.” (II Timothy 2:12) Yet what they endure in that day is far different than what we endure now. Moreover, the result of endurance is far different. Then, “he who endures to the end shall be saved.” This will be true in that day, yet now no one is saved because he endures! Today, endurance produces rewards, not salvation. We must not mix up the truths of this kingdom dispensation with the truths for today!

14. “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.

The gospel of the kingdom is not to be confused with the gospel that we preach today. A gospel is a message, one which is right, is fitting, offers hope, and has an element of promise, among other things. The truth of the soon-coming parousia is the gospel which will be preached at this time in all the world. The word for “world” here is not “kosmos” (system or order,) but “oikoumene,” which means the inhabited world. Everywhere men live, in other words, this true message about the kingdom will be proclaimed. That is a promise for that future day. Yet some have stretched this promise back into our current dispensation of grace, and have used this passage to declare that the criterion that must be met before Christ can come back is that every person in the world must be reached with the gospel! Then they look to our missionary efforts of today, and claim that these efforts will accomplish this goal. They are attempting to speed Christ’s return, they claim, by reaching the world with the good news! Yet the good news they preach is not the gospel of the kingdom, but the gospel of the grace of God. There is no promise of the return of Christ associated with this gospel that we preach to all the inhabited world. Moreover, this preaching of the gospel of the kingdom, when it does happen, will not happen as a result of the missionary efforts of men or of “the church,” but rather because of the power of God.

15. “Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand),

This “abomination of desolation” is a special abomination that will be set up in the holy place of the temple in Jerusalem. We read about this event in II Thessalonians 2:3-4.

“Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.”

Here we learn of a “man of sin” who sets himself up in the temple to be worshipped. Whether or not there will also be an idol involved is debatable. The point is that he wishes people to worship himself as God. This man is the same as the “anti-Christ” that we read about in I John 2:18.

Notice where he sets himself up: the temple. Some imagine that this temple might be built in our day. Perhaps, they speculate, the Jews will cut some kind of deal with the Muslims to allow them to reconstruct their temple. Or perhaps Israel might get some sort of resolution by the United Nations that will allow them to rebuild the temple and restart their religion. Then, the temple would be ready for the “man of sin” to defile it. What those who speculate this way do not understand is that a few Jews deciding to cut a deal and build a temple does not translate into the temple being one that is accepted by God. In order for a temple to be God’s temple, God must command the building of it. God will never accept a temple that He Himself did not order to be built. “Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it.” (Psalm 127:1a) Both Solomon’s temple and Ezra’s temple were built by His command, not the whims of men. In fact, when David came up with the idea of building a temple, God did not allow him to do it, warning him to wait until the man God had chosen to build the temple arose: his own son, Solomon. (II Samuel 7) “Herod’s temple,” as some call the temple that was in existence at the time of Christ, was actually just Ezra’s temple. Herod had redecorated it and restored it, but he did not tear down the old temple and build a new one. That would not have been allowed. No, only at a command from God Himself could a new temple be built. And no such command will ever come forth in this, the dispensation of the secret. God does not speak directly from heaven in our day.

Moreover, God would never accept a temple built by those who were in rebellion against His Messiah. Those who are to build His building must be in wholehearted allegiance to Him, and those who are in rebellion against Jesus Christ do not qualify as such. Israel while still in rebellion against God and His Messiah cannot possibly build a temple that God would acknowledge so that it would mean anything when the “abomination of desolation” is set up in it. If an abomination was set up in a temple that rebellious Jacobites took it upon themselves to build, it would mean little more than if such an abomination were set up in the current Dome of the Rock, for it would not be God’s temple and He would little care what happened to it. No, this passage shows us that the temple will have to have been rebuilt by God’s direct command during a pre-tribulation kingdom dispensation. Israel must return to God and receive a command from Him to rebuild the temple before this prophecy can ever come to pass.

The Lord mentions the fact that Daniel the prophet spoke about this “abomination of desolation.” We must make careful note of the difference between speaking of something and writing about it. There are some prophecies quoted in the New Testament that were spoken by the prophets, but never written. Failing to note this has led some to look to things like the apocryphal “Book of Enoch” for the source of the quote, when all they need do is make note that the quotation is not referring to a written prophecy at all, but to a spoken one. The Lord reveals here the fact that Daniel had spoken about the setting up of this abomination. Yet, in this case, we upon searching can discover that he not only spoke about it, but also wrote about it in the book that bears his name. We first read about it in Daniel 9:27.

“He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing [of the temple] he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.”

We read of it as well in Daniel 11:31:

“His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice. Then they will set up the abomination that causes desolation.”

The last passage regarding it in Daniel’s book is in Daniel 12:11.

“From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days.”

Thus Daniel confirms what we read about here concerning the “abomination of desolation.” It also gives us additional information: this will be set up on a wing of the temple, it will replace the daily sacrifice to the Lord, and will remain for three-and-a-half years.

Returning to Matthew, we see that whoever reads this is called upon to “understand” or observe attentively what is said. We cannot really do this today, as we do not fully understand these events that are yet to take place in the future. This command is particularly meant for those living at that time who will see these events take place. Then, when those who take this command seriously see these things happen, they will know that it is time to obey the command in the following verse.

16. “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.

The result of their seeing this abomination that causes desolation set up is that those who are in Judea are to flee to the mountains. Yet notice that this is specifically to the people who are in this territory called Judea. It is the ultimate foolishness to suggest that when this happens, everyone everywhere should flee to the mountains. I live in Minnesota. Which mountains should I flee to? There are no mountains anywhere even close to where I live! Those who say that this applies to the world fail utterly in believing what this verse actually says. The entire world is not to flee to the mountains. Only those who are in Judea are commanded thus to flee! This command does not even extend to all of Israel, for no similar command is made for those dwelling in Galilee. Only those living in Judea are to obey this command, and when they obey it, they will know exactly what mountains they are to flee to: the mountains that border on Judea. This command cannot be stretched out to cover all the inhabited earth. This is a foolish and irresponsible way to interpret the Word of God, and an utter failure to “rightly divide the word of truth.” II Timothy 2:15.

When one reads the Bible through and makes note of the prophecies regarding Jerusalem in the future, it becomes clear that this city will be characterized in the future, not just as a place for Israelites to live, but as a center of government. We might compare it to Washington, D.C. in the United States. Although there are people who live in that city, the primary function of that city is to be a center of government. And in the county around it, if we were to draw a circle some fifty miles or so around the city, we would find that the majority of people living in that area would be those who have to do somehow with the government of the United States. Well, that is the way it will be with Judea in the future. It will be the county, we might say, that surrounds Jerusalem, the governmental center of the world in God’s government. The majority of those living there and working there are those who have something to do with the government at that time. And it is these, the governors living in this province of Judea, who are commanded to flee to the mountains, for they are the ones who are in great danger at this point.

17. “Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house.
18. “And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes.

From these verses, we learn that when they see this setting up of the abomination of desolation take place, their flight is to be urgent. They are to flee so quickly that they do not even go back into their houses to pack if they are outside, but rather they are immediately to head for the mountains and not look back. No matter what they are doing, they must drop it and go. Like Lot’s wife, those who do not obey this command but rather look back will pay for it. At one time interpreters of Scripture might have had trouble with this, for how is the news of the setting up of the abomination to spread if everyone who hears about it immediately flees to the mountains, for then there would be no one left to carry the news to others? In our day, though, this question seems no longer so difficult, for with the advent of radio, television, and even the Internet, we can well imagine how everyone in Judea could hear of the news at once without anyone having to carry the message or spread it to their neighbors. And how is it that they can flee to the mountains with no food or supplies to care for them while they are there? The answer is that God will take care of them, and rescue them from the attacks of Satan. We know that he took care of all the Israelites in the past for forty years in the wilderness. We read of this in Deuteronomy 8:3-4.

“3. So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD. 4. Your garments did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years.”

If the Lord could take care of the children of Israel for forty years in the wilderness, He can certainly take care of the inhabitants of Judea for three-and-a-half years in the mountains of Judea! Moreover, we know that He will do this, as we read about it in Revelation 12:13-17.

“13. Now when the dragon saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male Child. 14. But the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent.”

This passage gives us another description of this coming time. Thus, we see that these people need not fear traveling into the mountains without packing food or clothing. They have need for none of these things with the Lord on their side and providing all that they require!

19. “But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days!

The word “woe” as it is used in the Greek can have two meanings. One is sorrow, as we would usually think of the word woe. The other, however, means to pay attention or to give due heed to something. This is the use of woe as Christ uses it elsewhere in Luke 6:26, where He says,

“Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.”

Now it would not be a terrible or a sorrowful thing to me if all men spoke well of me. If all men considered mine to be a good reputation and if all men would listen to my message, I would be very happy. Yet what Christ is warning His disciples about here is to take due heed if all men are speaking well of them, for the fact is that men are more likely to speak well of false teachers than they are of true. Thus, all men speaking well of them would be a warning, although not necessarily a sorrow.

Now in this passage, remember, as we said above, the Lord is speaking to those in Judea. And the fact is that I believe that these twelve disciples will be men living in Judea at that time, for they will be sitting on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel, as the Lord promised them in Matthew 19:28 and Luke 22:30. Thus, this word is to those who are leaders in charge of the people who are fleeing at that time. He is telling them that they are to give due heed to those who are pregnant and those who are nursing babies in those days. It would certainly be a particularly difficult thing to be pregnant and to have to make this sudden, desperate flight! It may well be that those who will participate in this flight will have sufficient warning in advance to know that this is not a good time to be having babies, so that anyone who suffers from this has nothing but herself and her husband to blame. Certainly, the signs leading up to this event should be clear to all who understand the Scriptures. Yet it will still certainly be that there are some in this condition at this time, and so those who are in leadership are commanded to have compassion on such women and to take due heed to their special needs. This is really the Lord’s compassion showing through here on these unfortunate women.

20. “And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath.

We know that in our time, a winter flight in Israel could be quite uncomfortable, as the temperature can get down to forty degree Fahrenheit at night. Whether or not conditions in Israel will be the same at that point it is hard to say. We need to realize that winter is not just a technical term for a certain time of year, but rather it is a term for a condition of things. There are some places in this world that never suffer from winter conditions at all, and others, like the state where I live, where winter often lasts far longer than the three months allotted to it. Yet these people were to pray, and the Lord would see to it that their flight would not be in winter. Even if, by the calendar, their flight takes place at that time of year, He would see to it that winter conditions would not be present so that they could make their flight with more ease and comfort.

Also, this flight would be a great problem for them if it was on the Sabbath, as then they would not be able to do any work which might be necessary in expediting their flight. No doubt if those who are in Israel at that time will pray as they should, God will see to it that the flight does not take place on this particular day of the week either.

Notice the reference to the Sabbath, another proof that this flight is meant only for Israelites living at that time. A seventh-day man recently tried to convince me from this passage that everyone is supposed to keep the Sabbath even today because this passage mentions not making the flight on the Sabbath! This man, of course, did not pay any attention to the fact that this passage is written only to “those who are in Judea,” nor would he acknowledge this fact even when I pointed it out to him! Those who reject dispensational teaching often refuse to believe the truth even when it is right before their faces. Thus replacement theology leads to a view of the Bible that is little better than that of the higher critics!