16 August: “The Abomination that causes Desolation”

Bethel Baptist Church
Worship Service @ Home
16 August 2020

Service available on Youtube, or as text (below), or for audio see the Podcasts page.



Let’s celebrate the Lord’s Supper later on – please have some bread and juice ready!


(Thanks Doreen)

Yes these are very difficult times for all of us, but the Lord is there with us through this ”storm”. Where would we be without Him? All we have to do is keep the faith, for He’s helping us through, and remember, ‘The Footprints in the sand,’ “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you, never, ever! During your trials and testing, when you saw only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.” Many are worse off than we are and I feel sorry for them and pray for them.

Amen, and thanks again Doreen.


(Thanks Doreen)

© 2011 Hillsong Music Publishing (APRA) (admin. in the U.S. and Canada at EMICMGPublishing.com)


So, when you see standing in the holy place “the abomination that causes desolation”

Matt 24:15

“The beginning of the end for Jerusalem” (Matt 24:15-28)

The previous passage has emphasized firstly: “the end is still to come” (Matt 24:6); then, “these are the beginning of birth-pains” (Matt 24:8); then a change happens with the last words in Matt 24:14: “then the end will come.” The next section will indicate the events which lead to the end, i.e. the destruction of the temple. Matt 24:15 begins with the word “so,” which ties it closely to Matt 24:14: “… then the end will come. So when you see standing in the holy place …”

There are many, who, because of the accuracy of these words, claim that they must have been written later than 70 AD. If this was the case then why didn’t Matthew clearly spell out what was the abomination that causes desolation and why did he exhort them to pray that it would not take place in winter or on the Sabbath if it had already happened? (Matt 24:20). The clearest sign that end of the temple being near is: “So when you see standing in the holy place “the abomination that causes desolation,” spoken of through the prophet Daniel – let the reader understand – then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains” (Matt 24:15-16) – note also here the focus is on the people of Judea, not on the whole world, as it will be at the end of the age.                    

 “The abomination that causes desolation”

See Daniel 8:13; 9:27; 11:31; 12:11: In Daniel,

The reference is clearly to the events of 167 BC when Antiochus Epiphanes conquered Jerusalem and prohibited Jewish sacrificial worship, setting up an altar for pagan sacrifices (including the slaughter of pigs) on top of the altar of burnt offering .. it stood in the temple for three years …

(Josephus – quoted by France).

But what was Jesus referring to in His time? There is much debate about this but Luke, in a similar passage, gives us some insight as to what Jesus meant by “the abomination that causes desolation”:

“When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city”

(Luke 21:20-21)

When Roman troops … broke into the temple, the presence of their (idolatrous) standards in the sacred precincts would inevitably remind Jews of Antiochus; Josephus even mentions Roman soldiers offering sacrifices to their standards in the temple courts.


Note the mentality of some Roman Emperors e.g. Caligula (formally Gaius), who ordered that a statue of himself be set up in the temple at Jerusalem in AD 40 – He was assassinated in AD 41 before his order could be carried out! It doesn’t pay to claim divinity!

“For then there will be great distress, unequalled from the beginning of the world until now – and never to be equalled again”

Matt 24:21

Josephus’s lurid description of the horrors of the siege, shows that, while:21 uses the hyperbolic language of apocalyptic, it is an assessment which those involved in the events would have agreed upon. Josephus himself, who was involved in the events, claims that none of the disasters since the world began can compare to the fate of Jerusalem.

(War 1.12; 5.424–38, 512–18, 567-72; 6.193-213) – quoted by France

The phrase “never to be equalled again” also suggests that this is an historical event and not about “the end of the world” which if it was would make it a redundant phrase i.e. if it is about the end of the age then it obviously won’t happen again and Jesus didn’t need to say it.

“At that time” (Matt 24:23-24)

Again, we have a close link with the preceding events by the use of such a phrase. Amidst such strife and sufferings many false messiahs and false prophets will arise as Jesus has already warned about in Matt 24:5, 11.

However, God is sovereign, He is in control and will cut short these days that the elect will survive (Matt 24:22) and not be deceived (Matt 24:24). It is here, that Jesus clearly establishes what the “Parousia,” the coming of the Son of Man will be like. As if to say, look do not be taken in by all this deception, by their great signs and wonders, by claims that they are out in the desert because there will be absolutely no mistaking the coming of the Son of Man when it does eventually take place:

“For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming (‘parousia’) of the Son of Man”

Matt 24:27

Matt 24:28: “Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather” is a difficult phrase to understand and judging also by the various suggestions:

“refers to false prophets gathering to “feed on” those they have deceived”


“The primary reference here is manifestly to the end of history, and the return of Christ (apparently with His angels, swooping upon a ‘dead’ world, rotten with evil)”

M. Green

“This is a second picture of the clear coming. As clear as a carcass is to vultures, so clear is the coming of the Son of Man to the world”


“as easily as vultures are seen when circling over a carcass”


“The ‘parousia’ of the Son of Man will be as obvious as the presence of a carcass”


There are many others, but I prefer this explanation:

“That simply meant that a thing would happen when the necessary conditions were fulfilled. That means for us that God will bring Jesus Christ again in His good time. We cannot know that time; we dare not speculate about it. We must live so that whenever He comes, at morning, at midday or at evening, He will find us ready”


“The End of the Temple and the Triumph of the Son of Man” (Matt 24:29-31)

The siege of Jerusalem has taken place along with all the distress and suffering that went with it. We now have another time indicator for we are told:

‘Immediately after the distress of those days ‘“the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken

Matt 24:29

For those who assume that Matt 24:29-31 refer to the “Parousia” and “the end of the age,” even those these terms (in the Greek) are not used here, they have a difficulty in explaining how “immediately after” (the distress of the destruction of the temple) fits in? Some interpreters go so far as to suggest that Matthew inserted the word “immediately” (‘eutheos’) because he actually thought that the “Parousia” was soon to happen and then explain that Jesus didn’t intend His predictions to be so closely coupled:

“This setting of Matthew against Jesus is clearly uncomfortable to Hagner as a conservative scholar, but he concludes that “no hypothesis is able to dissolve completely the tensions that lie in the material of the discourse.” Unfortunately, he declines to consider the exegesis followed in this commentary, which shows the supposed “tensions” to be illusory”


Furthermore, Matthew has consistently referred to “those days”:

“How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers!”

Matt 24:19

“If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.”

Matt 24:22

and also here

“Immediately after the distress of those days

Matt 24:29

again indicating the same time scale, not “As … many interpreters resort to imprecise talk about “prophetic perspective” which merges far distant events into a single time-frame” (France). The word “distress” likewise has already been introduced:

“For then there will be great distress, unequalled from the beginning of the world until now – and never to be equalled again”

Matt 24:21

and is taken up again, in Matt 24:29, linking it to the same time-frame: “‘Immediately after the distress of those days” (Matt 24:29).

Now we come to the difficult part and again I am leaning heavily on France for an understanding of these words in their context:

“the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken”

Matt. 24:29

In the NIV we have a footnote to these words referenced to Isaiah 13:10 and Isaiah 34:4 which read:

The stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light. The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light”

Isaiah 13:10


“All the stars in the sky will be dissolved and the heavens rolled up like a scroll; all the starry host will fall like withered leaves from the vine, like shrivelled figs from the fig-tree”

Isaiah 34:4
[For those who like to look up the Scriptures, there are a number of Old Testament references of similar wording: e.g. Ezekiel 32:7-8; Amos 8:9; Joel 2:10, 30-31; 3:15]. However, it is likely that Jesus based His words here on the two Isaiah references, the first part on Isaiah 13:10 and the second part on Isaiah 34:4 both almost identical in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the OT).

“The ‘cosmic’ language of Matt 24:29 is drawn directly from OT prophetic passages where it functions not to predict the physical dissolution of the universe but as a symbolic representation of catastrophic political changes within history”


In these two passages, and most of the others mentioned above, the context is that of God’s impending judgment on cities and nations, even Israel itself. In Joel, for example, it refers to the swarm of locusts so numerous that the light of the sun could not be seen. Isaiah 13:10 refers to the coming judgment on Babylon and Isaiah 34:4 to that on “all nations” which is then made more specific to refer to Edom:

“Language about cosmic collapse, then, is used by the OT prophets to symbolize God’s acts of judgment within history, with the emphasis on catastrophic political reversals … When Jesus borrows Isaiah’s imagery, it is reasonable to understand it in a similar sense. If such language was appropriate to describe the end of Babylon or Edom under the judgment of God, why should it not equally describe God’s judgment on Jerusalem’s temple and the power structure which it symbolised?”



Let’s Celebrate Communion

Please read 1 Corinthians 11:23-32; Have a time of confession, and thanksgiving for all the Lord has done. Minister the bread and wine with the words: “The body of Jesus given for you”; “The blood of Jesus shed for you”

Quote of the Week

“Endurance is not just the ability to bear a hard thing, but to turn it into glory”

William Barclay

Verse of the Week

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand”

Isaiah 41:10

Let’s Pray

Heavenly Father, You are worthy of all praise, honour and glory, for You have created all things and by Your will and power they were created. But Lord this world is a fallen, broken world so we pray the more that You would come with Your healing, come with Your salvation, reveal Your hope to each and everyone.

We pray for the people of Lebanon and in particular those in Beirut. Lord after so many years of pain, suffering, and hopelessness, visit that nation with Your Spirit. But Lord the same is true of so many nations in the world were we see war, famine, earthquakes, natural disasters.

So, Lord, reveal more of Your glory through Your Son in the power of Your Spirit. You are the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, pray work out Your sovereign purposes in the nations of the world, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the Glory of Your Name, Amen!