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Sermon No: 42197-Matthew 24 and the Great Tribulation



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SERMON TOPIC: Matthew 24 and the Great Tribulation

Speaker: Gavin Paynter

Language: ENGLISH

Date: 11 February 2019

Topic Groups: FUTURISM, PROPHECY, PRETERISM

Sermon synopsis: The events in 70 AD may be seen as a type of the ultimate fulfilment in the future Tribulation. This is because some, but not all elements of the prophecy were fulfilled in the 1st century but clearly not all (Jesus’ return, false prophets, greatest tribulation ever).

Unfortunately, it is this aspect of prophecy (dual fulfilment) that confuses some and causes Preterist to find some basis for their claims of 1st-century fulfilments.

So it is true that the Olivet discourse (Matt 24 / Luke 21) was partially fulfilled in AD 70 with the destruction of the Temple and the ceasing of sacrifice. But the Temple is going to be rebuilt and sacrifices resumed. It is at this point in the future that the total fulfilment of Jesus’ prophecies will take place, along with the Abomination of Desolation.
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MATTHEW 24

The word Eschatology is derived from:

the Greek Eschatos - last, referring to time 1

-ology A suffix (also derived from Greek) commonly used in English to denote a field of study

Eschatology is a part of theology concerned with the study of the Last Days or End Times.

1 "https:// www.biblestudytools.com/ lexicons/ greek/ kjv/ eschatos.html">https:// www.biblestudytools.com/ lexicons/ greek/ kjv/ eschatos.html

Matt 24:1 Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings.

Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings! (Mark 13:1)

In response, Jesus predicted the Temple’s destruction .

Do you see all these things? I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down. (Matt 24:2)

In fulfilment of Jesus’ prophecy, the Temple was destroyed about four decades later on the 9th day of the month of Av in AD 70 by the Roman military commander and future emperor, Titus.

Speaking of the Temple’s destruction, Jesus had prophesied that “not one stone here will be left on another”. The Romans demolished the Temple stone by stone down to the level of its foundations. Some have surmised that they did this to find hidden treasure.

Titus (41-81)

TEMPLE’S DESTRUCTION

OLIVET DISCOURSE

Temple Mount

Mount of Olives

Dome of the Rock

Al Aqsa

Eastern Gate

Later on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew (Mark 13:3) question Jesus about this, “When will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matt 24:3)

NOTE: There are actually 2 questions.

OLIVET DISCOURSE

Reading from Matthew 24, we see that the disciples seem to assume that the temple’s destruction and the end of the age would happen at the same time.

Jesus responds by saying that there would be many wars “but the end is still to come” (v6).

He refers to famines and earthquakes in various places but calls them “the beginning of birth pains” (v7-8).

He predicts persecution (v9-10), the appearance of false prophets (v11), and an increase of wickedness where the love of most would grow cold (v12).

He then says that the gospel would be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end would come (v14).

OLIVET DISCOURSE

TIMING OF PROPHECY

While most Christians believe in the future return of Jesus, there are several areas which are hot items of debate. These include:

The timing of the Millennium

Premillennialism Amillennialism Post-Millennialism

The timing of the rapture

Pre-tribulation Mid-tribulation Post-tribulation

The timing of Bible prophecy

Futurism Preterism Historicism

AREAS OF DEBATE

The timing of the Millennium

Premillennial, Amillennial, Post-Millennial

The author of the course notes is Premillennial because they believe in a future 1000-year literal reign of Christ on earth.

The timing of the rapture

Pre-tribulation, Mid-tribulation, Post-tribulation

The author believes in a Rapture after no tribulation (because it allegedly happened in the 1st century).

The timing of Bible prophecy

Futurism, Preterism, Historicism

The author of the notes is very inconsistent here.

TIMING OF PROPHECY

The 3 main views regarding the timing of prophecy are:

Preterism - holds that most or all of the biblical prophecies concerning the End Times refer to events which actually happened in the 1st century AD.

Historicism - treats the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation as finding literal earthly fulfillment through the history of the church age.

Futurism - places the fulfillment of the prophecies of Matt 24, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Daniel and Revelation mostly in the future as literal, physical, apocalyptic and global.

4 VIEWS ON PROPHECY

Preterism

Fulfilled before 70 AD

Futurism

Historicism

Idealism

70 AD

70 AD

70 AD

PRESENT

PRESENT

PRESENT

Fulfilled across history

To be fulfilled

Perpetual fulfillment

To demonstrate how this influences one’s understanding of Scripture, just consider the views on the Antichrist.

Preterist: a 1st Century emperor (Pagan Rome).

Historicist: the medieval Roman Catholic church or Pope.

Futurist: a future (man) political and religious leader of a future revived Roman Empire.

THE ANTICHRIST

Preterist

Historicist

Futurist

None of the early Christian writers considered the return of Jesus and the resurrection to have already taken place.

There has historically been general agreement that the first systematic Preterist exposition of prophecy was written by the Jesuit Luis De Alcasar during the Counter Reformation. 1 & 2

1 Wikipedia: Preterism 2 Some Historicists have suggested that Preterism was first advanced in 1604 by De Alcasar to counteract the stigma which Reformers had placed on Rome by teaching that the papacy was the historical Antichrist. The early Jesuits were a conspiratorial organisation whose single goal was to overthrow the Protestant Reformation.

PRETERISM - ORIGIN

FULL PRETERISM

But the suggestion that the coming of the Son of Man is completely fulfilled with the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem in the first century is utterly ridiculous. Jesus stated that his angels would be with him, that they would gather his elect and that all men will see him.

“At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.” (Matt 24:30)

“… men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds…” (Mark 13:26-27)

PARTIAL PRETERISM

As clearly none of this happened in the 1st century some have taken the position that most of the prophecies were fulfilled in 70 AD with the exception of Jesus coming back, which is still future. This is known as PARTIAL PRETERISM.

Partial Preterists advocate, in effect, two Second Comings, one in AD 70 and another at the end of the age.

Historicism treats prophecy as finding fulfillment through the history of the church age. It became a dominant eschatological interpretation during the Reformation.

The method of interpretation used is not a literal one as the visions in Revelation are seen as symbolic of known historical events. It is particularly anti-Catholic.

Using the day–year principle, a prophetic ‘day’ is deemed to represent an actual year of time. Thus the 1260 days of the Antichrist’s rule mentioned in Revelation is equated to a period of 1260 years. This allows sufficient room to accommodate the history of the Roman Catholic Church and to identify the Antichrist not as a man but as a system, or more specifically the papacy.

HISTORICISM

With the rise of dispensationalist theology in the 19th century, Historicism was supplanted by Futurism as the dominant eschatological viewpoint among conservative Protestants.

The Futurist believes that, while parallels may be drawn with historical events, Revelation is chiefly referring to events which as yet have not come to pass, but which will come to pass at the end of the age when Christ returns to establish his kingdom. 1

Futurist interpretations generally predict a resurrection of the dead and a rapture of the living, wherein all true Christians … are gathered to Christ at the time God’s kingdom comes on earth. 2

1 Wapedia: Christian eschatology 2 Wikipedia: Book of Revelation

FUTURISM

They also believe a 7-year Tribulation will occur - a period of time when the Antichrist will persecute saints and God will judge the rebellious inhabitants of the earth.

Futurists differ on the timing of the Rapture of believers (the event when believers are caught up to be with Jesus), but there are 3 main views:

before the tribulation

in the middle of the tribulation

at the end of the tribulation.

FUTURISM

TIMING OF PROPHECY

At times the author of the notes is:

PARTIAL PRETERIST – Places the Tribulation (but not the Second Coming) in the 1st century.

HISTORICIST – implies that the pagan temple of Hadrian (2nd century AD) and Al Aqsa (8th century AD) is the Abomination of Desolation.

FUTURIST – Believes in a future Rapture but with no preceding Tribulation (hence presumably no future Antichrist). Yet all the early church writers (including those with links to the apostle John – like Irenaeus and Hippolytus) saw the Antichrist as a future man.

TIMING OF PROPHECY

MILLENNIAL VIEW

Preterist

Historicist

Futurist

Idealist

Amillennial

X

x

x

X

Postmillennial

X

X

X

Premillennial

x

X

Premillennialism is usually associated with Futurism, not Preterism.

Typical Millennial views of Preterists, Historicists, Futurists and Idealists are shown below, with the more likely ones in bold.

SIGNS OF 2ND COMING

STATEMENT: Earthquakes, wars, famines, false Christs are not signs of Jesus’ return because “These events have been happening since the beginning?”

If this is true, then Jesus’ is not answering either of the disciples’ questions, namely:

“…when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matt 24:3)

Many place the Pre-tribulation Rapture and the beginning of the 7-year Tribulation at the 6th seal in Rev 6.

But there are marked parallels between Matthew 24 (“what will be the sign of your coming ”) and the first 5 seals – which immediately precede the Rapture.

Matthew 24

V5: False Christs – “For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Messiah,' and will deceive many.”

Seal

Revelation 6

1

V2-3: White horse – ANTICHRIST

2

V4: Red horse – WAR

3

V5-6: Black horse – FAMINE

4

V7-8: Pale horse – DEATH by sword, famine and plague

5

V9-10: Martyred souls under the altar

V7a “There will be famines…”

V7b “… and earthquakes in various places.” (Luke 21:11 “and plagues”)

V9: “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.”

V6: “You will hear of wars and rumours of wars”

Jesus spoke of these signs of false Christs, wars, earthquakes and famines (which equate to the first 5 seals) as follows.

Matt 24:6 …see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.

Matt 24:8 “All these are the beginning of birth pains.” - Birth pangs are before birth.

Thus it is logical to place the Rapture at the 6th seal and to see the 5 seals (which correlate with Matt 24:4-14) as preceding the Rapture.

SIGNS OF 2ND COMING

CHURCH AGE (TIME OF THE GENTILES) Lk 21:24)

7 YEAR TRIBULATION

Birth Pangs (Mt 24:5-12)

7 CHURCH AGES

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

7 SEALS

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

FALSE CHRISTS

WARS

FAMINE

PLAGUE

PERSECUTION

RAPTURE

7 TRUMPETS

7 TRUMPETS

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

7 BOWLS

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

CHRONOLOGY OF REVELATION & MATT 24

Great tribulation (Mt 24:21)

IMAGE OF BEAST

Abomination of Desolation (Mt 24:15-20)

1260 DAYS

1260 DAYS

The sign of the Son of Man in heaven (Mt 24:30)

DESTRUCTION OF TEMPLE

Not one stone left on another(Mt 24:2)

There are two differing views among Premillennialists as to the timing of prophetic fulfilment of the birth pangs prophesied in the Olivet Discourse.

Matt 24:4-14 is seen as “a unit, describing the general characteristics of the age leading up to the end, while at the same time recognizing that the prediction of the difficulties, which will characterize the entire period between the first and second coming of Christ, are fulfilled in an intensified form as the age moves on to its conclusion.” (Walvoord) In other words, Matt 24:4-14 are “general signs” whereas 24:15-26 are “specific signs.”

Others believe that these signs cannot refer to the current church age, but to a unique period immediately preceding (or during) the Tribulation.

SIGNS OF 2ND COMING

STATEMENT: Earthquakes, wars, famines, false Christs are not signs of Jesus’ return because “They have been happening for thousands of years”.

Yes, they have. But they are called birth pangs. Birth pangs increase in intensity as the time of birth approaches. So too we clearly see an increase in intensity.

Jesus said that these events would be associated with the presence of false messiahs and false prophets. This is where looking for a total and complete fulfilment in AD 70 falls flat. There were no Messiah claimants at this time.

The Futurist view of a future more complete fulfilment has the two main players at the time of the Abomination being the quintessential false messiah (Antichrist) and the ultimate False Prophet.

FALSE CHRISTS

In fact, if you look for a list of recognised Jewish Messiah claimants, this period is conspicuous by its absence of candidates. Here is a list (excluding Jesus) from Wikipedia, 1 spanning the first 1000 years AD.

Simon of Peraea (died c. 4 BC)

Athronges (c. AD 3), a shepherd turned rebel leader.

Simon Bar Kokhba (died c. AD 135)

Moses of Crete (5th century AD)

Ishak ben Ya'kub Obadiah Abu 'Isa al-Isfahani (AD 684–705)

1 "https:// en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ List_of_messiah_claimants#Jewish_messiah_claimants">https:// en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ List_of_messiah_claimants#Jewish_messiah_claimants

FALSE CHRISTS

FALSE CHRISTS

The closest claimant to the Temple destruction, who lived after Jesus, is Bar Kokhba who came to prominence some 72 years later in AD 132. So where are the false messiahs and false prophets Jesus said would abound at the time of the Abomination, if AD 70 was the complete fulfilment?

In contrast, a chapter is devoted in Part 1 of my book series to list recent people who have claimed to be Christ.

18th century: 1

19th century: 6

20th – 21st century: 30 (so far)

Our age is much better described as a time when “false messiahs and false prophets will appear”. Note the increase in frequency (birth pangs).

WARS

We see the same trend with wars.

Sure - there has always been wars. But the 20th century with its two World Wars was one of the most violent periods in human history.

According to Associated Press, the century came to a close with a third of the world’s 193 nations embroiled in conflict, nearly twice the Cold War level.

The National Defence Council Foundation listed 65 conflicts in 1999 alone, up from 60 the year before.

During the course of the century, an estimated 191 million people lost their lives directly or indirectly as a result of conflict, and well over half of them were civilians.

Imagine (if you can) seven Boeing 747 jets crashing daily over the period of a year. 1

In 2016, the equivalent amount of people (2740 people) died each day from AIDS-related causes.

1 The 747-400, the most common passenger version 747 in service can accommodate 416 passengers in a typical three-class layout.

PESTILENCE

The

abomination

of

desolation

In Matthew 24, from v.15 onwards (i.e. after the false Christs, wars, earthquakes, pestilences and the gospel going to all nations) Jesus then proceeds to warn about “the Abomination that causes Desolation” that would be set up in the temple. So the Abomination happens in the end times, not at the AD 70 destruction of Jerusalem.

Matt 24:15-20 “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. Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house. Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath.”

OLIVET DISCOURSE

Preterist:

A statue of Caligula

Apostate Judaism

Titus entering the Temple in 70 AD

Historicist:

The Pope who sits in the spiritual Temple (the Church)

Islam’s Dome of the Rock which occupies God’s place on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem

Futurist:

At the end of the age there will be a defilement of the temple (by the image of the Antichrist)

THE ABOMINATION

In the early 2nd century, there were messianic groups in Judea who believed that Jeremiah’s prophecy promising the rebuilding of the Temple 70 years after its destruction would be repeated.

Jeremiah was speaking of the restoration of the First Temple after the Babylonian exile, but these groups held that in a similar fashion, the Second Temple would be restored around AD 140.

These hopes were cruelly dashed by the Emperor Hadrian when he decided to build a new Roman city called Colonia Aelia Capitolina on the ruins of Jerusalem.

Hadrian (76–138)

ROMAN PERIOD

When a Jewish revolt broke out because of Hadrian’s attempted Hellenization of Judea, Roman armies were sent to crush the resistance. Bar Kokhba, a man hailed as Messiah by Rabbi Akiva, was the leader of the resistance.

Roman losses were extremely heavy but Hadrian’s army eventually crushed the rebellion in AD 135, with overall war operations in Judea leaving some 580,000 Jews dead.

After the war, Hadrian continued his persecution of Jews and defiantly erected a temple to Jupiter Capitolinus on the Temple site. In an act of contempt, he also attempted to erase the memory of Judea by renaming the province Syria Palaestina (the origin of the term “Palestine”). This was a deliberate ploy to minimize Jewish identification with the land of Israel by naming it after their old enemies - the Philistines.

ROMAN PERIOD

Jews were prohibited from entering Jerusalem on pain of death, except for one day each year, the 9th day of the month of Av – the anniversary of the Temple’s destruction.

In the 4th century the first Christian Roman (Byzantine) Emperor Constantine most likely destroyed the pagan temple of Jupiter built by Hadrian.

Until recently, it was widely believed that in the Byzantine period the Temple Mount was abandoned by Christians and turned into a garbage dump. The formerly supressed excavations by Hamilton at Al-Aqsa Mosque between 1938 and 1942 uncovered an elaborate mosaic floor, dated to the 5th to 7th centuries, similar to the one in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Some believe this may be the remains of a public building - possibly a church or monastery - which predated the mosque.

BYZANTINE PERIOD

In AD 637 the Arab Muslims besieged and captured Jerusalem from the Byzantine Empire. There are no contemporary records, but many traditions, about the origin of the two main Islamic buildings on the mount. Umayyad Caliphs commissioned the construction of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock on the site. The Dome was completed in AD 692.

ABOVE: The dome of the Rock BELOW: Al-Aqsa mosque

ISLAMIC RULE

Historicists claim that the abomination is the Pope who sits in the spiritual temple (the Church).

Others believe the abomination is the building of the Dome of the Rock on the former Temple site. They argue that the 1290 days in Daniel 12:11 closely matches the 1290 years from the Siege of Jerusalem in 599-97 BC (“from the time that the daily sacrifice is taken away”) to when the Dome of the Rock was constructed in 691 AD.

This raises the question of how to interpret Daniel 12:12: “Blessed is he who waits, and comes to the 1335 days”, which by the same methodology occurred around 736 AD.

HISTORICIST

Jesus speaks of the abomination standing in the holy place.

Matt 24:15–16 “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.”

At the same time the daily sacrifice is stopped.

Dan 11:30-31 … He will return and show favour to those who forsake the holy covenant. 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.

Dan 8:12 Because of rebellion, the host of the saints and the daily sacrifice were given over to it (little horn).

THE ABOMINATION

Paul refutes a heresy that the Thessalonians encountered (2 Thess 2:1-4) that the Day of the Lord had already come. He makes it clear that this event will not occur until the Antichrist proclaims himself God in the temple.

Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion (apostasy, falling away) occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed… He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.

THE ANTICHRIST

Paul makes it clear that the Antichrist (the man of lawlessness) will come before “the Day of the Lord”.

The act of setting “himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God” is the abomination.

As the future Antichrist sits in the Temple, this cannot be a reference to the 1st century Temple destroyed by the Romans. It must be a rebuilt third temple.

Since the earliest Christian writings, this passage in 2 Thess 2 was equated with the Abomination of Desolation set up by Antichrist (but which the author of the notes alleges is a 2nd century pagan temple or an 8th century Muslim mosque).

1ST CENTURY TEMPLE?

Many Biblical prophecies have dual (or multiple) fulfillments

An initial fulfillment

A final and exhaustive fulfillment. E.g.

The “virgin shall conceive” (Isaiah 7:14) was made regarding Isaiah’s wife. But Matthew applies it to Jesus in Matt 7:14.

Isaiah 14 is spoken regarding the king of Babylon but has its ultimate fulfilment in Satan. (How you have fallen from heaven, morning star…You said in your heart, “I will ascend to the heavens…”). Ezekiel 28 is spoken about the king of Tyre but has its ultimate fulfilment in Satan. (You were in Eden… You were anointed as a guardian cherub, You were blameless… till wickedness was found in you… So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God… )

DUAL FULFILMENT

Some prophecies about the Antichrist have an initial fulfillment in men like Antiochus Epiphanes IV, Nero, Napoleon and Hitler. They were types of the Antichrist. But they also have a final and exhaustive fulfillment in the Antichrist of the end times.

It’s clear that many of the prophecies in Daniel had an initial fulfilment in Antiochus IV Epiphanes. He stormed the Temple and converted it into a pagan worship centre in 167 BC.

Antiochus Epiphanes IV

DUAL FULFILMENT

Antiochus slaughtered a pig on the Temple’s altar and erected a statue of Zeus in the holy place with his own face on it and required worship on pain of death.

In 1 Maccabees this was called the Abomination of Desolation. Jewish rabbinical literature generally considers that the expression “Abomination of Desolation” refers to the desecration of the Temple by Antiochus.

Antiochus Epiphanes was clearly a type of the Antichrist and what he did in the temple clearly prefigures what the future Antichrist will do.

However, in his Olivet Discourse Jesus still referred to the Abomination of Desolation “spoken of by Daniel the prophet” as a future event.

DUAL FULFILMENT

In the same way the events in 70 AD may be seen as a type of the ultimate fulfilment in the future Tribulation. This is because some elements of the prophecy were fulfilled in the 1st century but clearly not all (Jesus’ return, false prophets, greatest tribulation ever).

Unfortunately it is this aspect of prophecy (dual fulfilment) that confuses some and causes Preterist to find some basis for their claims of 1st century fulfillments.

So it is true that the Olivet discourse (Matt 24 / Luke 21) was partially fulfilled in AD 70 with the destruction of the Temple and the ceasing of sacrifice. But the Temple is going to be rebuilt and sacrifices resumed. It is at this point in the future that the total fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecies will take place, along with the Abomination of Desolation.

DUAL FULFILMENT

The term “abomination” was used of idols in the OT.

Dan 9:27 …And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation…

The type of the Abomination was an idol of Jupiter set up by Antiochus. So the image set up by the False Prophet fulfils the type and is consistent with the statement by Paul that the Antichrist demands worship as God.

2 Thess 2:3-4 Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.

THE ABOMINATION

The writings of Irenaeus in the 2nd century are particularly important because he was a second generation disciple of John and it gives us some insight into what the apostle John taught.

Irenaeus and the other early church fathers saw these events (the Antichrist, the Tribulation, the Abomination) as being in the future (despite Preterists looking for fulfilment in the 1st century BC).

Writing in the 2nd century, long after the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, Irenaeus speaks of the Abomination as still being a future event when a literal man who is the Antichrist will sit in the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem proclaiming himself to be God.

THE ABOMINATION

Commenting on 2 Thess 2, Irenaeus identifies the “temple of God” as the Jewish temple (even though it was replaced with a pagan temple in his time) and links these events to the Abomination of Desolation spoken of in Matt 24.

… no one is termed God by the apostles when speaking for themselves, except Him who truly is God… by whose directions the temple which is at Jerusalem was constructed … in which [temple] the enemy shall sit, endeavouring to show himself as Christ, as the Lord also declares: “But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, which has been spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let him that readeth understand), then let those who are in Judea flee into the mountains…” 1

1 Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 5, Chp. 25

THE ABOMINATION

In a chapter entitled “The fraud, pride, and tyrannical kingdom of Antichrist, as described by Daniel and Paul” Irenaeus writes of the Abomination as being an idol in the Temple:

This he does, in order that they who do [now] worship the devil by means of many abominations, may serve himself by this one idol, of whom the apostle thus speaks in the second Epistle to the Thessalonians: “Unless there shall come a falling away first, and the man of sin shall be revealed, the son of perdition, who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself as if he were God.” 1

1 Against Heresies, Book 5, Chp. 25

THE ABOMINATION

After introducing the temple in Rev 11, John seems to be alluding to the same events when he goes on to speak of the false prophet setting up an image:

Rev 13:14-15 … It ordered them to set up an image in honour of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. The second beast was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that the image could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed.

Futurists believe this image is the abomination of Matt 24.

THE ABOMINATION

Is it possible that advanced civilised societies would worship a leader? Look at recent history and the adulation bordering on worship that was given to Hitler - by one of the most advanced civilised nations in Europe.

Similarly the advanced Japanese state worshiped their emperor Hirohito. According to Shinto beliefs, he was a descendant of the sun goddess Amaterasu. In 1946 the allied occupation forces under MacArthur tried to eradicate emperor worship, which they felt had fostered militarism by pressing Hirohito to renounce his divinity.

Look at the personality cults of totalitarian governments in the 20th century, where modern states like the Soviet Union and China had their omnipresent pictures of Stalin and Mao. Likewise the current situation in North Korea.

THE ABOMINATION

Matt 24

2 Thess 2

Rev 13

23 At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it.

3 … and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction.

5 The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies…

21 (NASB) “For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will.

3 … for that day will not come until the rebellion (apostasy, falling away) occurs …

5 … and to exercise its authority for forty-two months… 10 “If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity they will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword they will be killed.”…

15 So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation’…

4 … he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.

14 It ordered them to set up an image in honour of the beast…

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

15 … and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed.

Matt 24

2 Thess 2

Rev 13-14

24 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.

9 … He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie

13:13 And it performed great signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to the earth in full view of the people.

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

13:7 It was given power to wage war against God’s holy people… 10 This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of God’s people.

30 Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.

8 … the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendour of his coming.

14:14 I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one like a son of man with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand.

Jesus links all these events to “'the abomination that causes desolation,' spoken of through the prophet Daniel”. Daniel speaks of “the prince who is to come” setting up the Abomination in the temple and stopping of sacrifice.

Dan 9:27 … 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

Daniel foresees “a contemptible person” who “will invade the kingdom when its people feel secure, and he will seize it through intrigue” (11:21). He says that “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.” (11:31)

THE ABOMINATION

THE GREAT TRIBULATION

STATEMENT: The Great Tribulation has nothing to do with the Rapture. The Great Tribulation is the destruction of the Temple in AD 70.

These are Preterist views not usually seen as compatible with Premillennialism.

Preterists hold that most or all of the biblical prophecies concerning the End Times refer to events which already happened in 70 AD with the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem.

GREAT TRIBULATION

Why did all the early Church writers still regard the Antichrist and the Abomination of Desolation as future events?

Identifying the tribulation of Matt 24 with the 1260-day rule of the Antichrist is not something invented by modern prophetic teachers – to make money – as is alleged. Again it was first taught by Irenaeus, the second-generation disciple of John. He writes regarding the future church being caught up (i.e. the Rapture).

And therefore, when in the end the Church shall be suddenly caught up from this, it is said, ‘There shall be tribulation such as has not been since the beginning, neither shall be.’” 1

1 Against Heresies 3.29.1

GREAT TRIBULATION

The Shepherd of Hermas (written in the late 1st or mid-2nd century) refers to the great tribulation as still being future (i.e. it wasn’t completely fulfilled in 70 AD).

Go, therefore, and tell the elect of the Lord His mighty deeds, and say to them that this beast is a type of the great tribulation that is coming. If then ye prepare yourselves, and repent with all your heart, and turn to the Lord, it will be possible for you to escape it, if your heart be pure and spotless, and ye spend the rest of the days of your life in serving the Lord blamelessly. 1

1 The Shepherd of Hermas 1.4.2

GREAT TRIBULATION

Matt 24:21 (NASB) For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will.

Matt 24:21-22 (NIV) For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now - and never to be equalled again.

This verse alone indicates that the Preterist view of a complete fulfillment in AD 70 is misguided – if one just considers the Nazi Holocaust.

According to Josephus, the toll of Jewish casualties in AD 70 was 1.1 million. 1 The Roman historian Tacitus gave the figure as 600,000. 2

1 “The Wars Of The Jews” Book VI Ch 9:3 2 The Histories by Publius Cornelius Tacitus, book 5 - (AD 70), 5.13

NEVER TO BE EQUALLED

However 6 million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust.

If the prophecy was fulfilled in AD 70, how could Jesus say that this distress would never be equalled again - when the Holocaust surpassed the tragedy by at least sixfold.

NEVER TO BE EQUALLED

A mass grave at Bergen-Belsen after the camp's liberation by the British in April 1945

In contrast, consider the Futurist position that two thirds of all Jews will be killed by an end times Antichrist.

In Zechariah we are told that before the Lord returns in person to the Mount of Olives (Zech 14) that:

“In the whole land,” declares the LORD, “two-thirds will be struck down and perish; yet one-third will be left in it. (Zech 13:8)

NEVER TO BE EQUALLED

In 2012 the Jewish population worldwide was estimated at 13,746,100. 1 Two thirds of this is 9 million.

Now this figure of 9 million surpasses both the casualty figures at the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 and the Holocaust. So, the Preterist claims that the Abomination prophecies of Daniel and Jesus were fulfilled in AD 70 are simply indefensible in terms of Jesus’ words which quantify the scale of the Jewish massacre.

Thus the Futurist view foresees a Tribulation that exceeds the Holocaust, while the Preterist view proposes a Tribulation that is overshadowed by the Nazi genocide of the Jews.

1 "http:// www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/ jsource/ Judaism/ jewpop.html">http:// www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/ jsource/ Judaism/ jewpop.html

NEVER TO BE EQUALLED

Furthermore if the Tribulation was in the first century AD when did this happen?

Matt 24:29 (NASB) “But immediately after the tribulation of those days THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL FALL from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.”

SIGNS IN THE HEAVENS

Jesus said that “when you see all these things, you know that it is near”. But no matter how creative you get with the events surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem, the generation Jesus addressed did not see all the things he listed, because it’s complete fulfilment will be in the End Times.

Or did Jesus perhaps come back when no one was looking and without any fanfare, contrary to what his prophecy suggests would occur? The prophecies regarding everyone seeing Jesus in the sky and the angels gathering the elect clearly had no corresponding event which could seriously be termed a fulfilment in AD 70, no matter how much you spiritualise what he said.

SIGNS IN THE HEAVENS

Preterists also use the following statement by Jesus in the Olivet Discourse to support their claims:

Matt 24:34 “I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.”

They apply the term “this generation” to the generation of people living when Jesus spoke i.e. those living in the first century.

But it is debatable whether the Greek term ‘genea’ even means ‘generation’, as both ‘generation’ and ‘race’ are acceptable translations in this context. Thus some believe that Jesus is actually referring to the nation of Israel enduring until the End Times.

THIS GENERATION

The New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance defines the Greek word as having the meanings:

race, family, generation

The Strong’s Concordance definitions are:

age, generation, nation, time

While some regard this interpretation as an invention of modern Dispensationalists, it was mentioned by Jerome (c. 340 – 420 AD) a Christian theologian best remembered for the Vulgate (a Latin translation of the Bible, which became the standard Bible for almost 1000 years).

Commenting on this passage, Jerome wrote:

By ‘generation’ here He means the whole human race, and the Jews in particular.

THIS GENERATION

Matt 24:15 “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation’ …”

Preterists insist that, by virtue of addressing a 1st century audience, the above words of Jesus must have had a 1st century fulfilment. A typical Preterist argument goes like this:

This makes a lot of sense when we take the word of Jesus to the disciples literally. “Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation.’” He is talking to his disciples. He told them when “you” see the “abomination of desolation;” not the Jews in general, not the Jews of some future generation.

WHEN YOU SEE

But let’s take that argument to its logical extreme – i.e. when Jesus says “when you”, it applies only to the immediate people and age he is addressing. If that were the case, we’d have to believe the following:

Only those present at the “Sermon on the Mount” need to give to the poor. (Matt 6:3 But WHEN YOU give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing…)

Only the Twelve would be persecuted. (Matt 10:23 “WHEN YOU are persecuted in one place, flee to another…”)

Only the Twelve need to pray and to forgive others. (Mark 11:25 “And WHEN YOU stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him…”)

WHEN YOU SEE

The reality is that, according to Mark 13:3 Jesus actually only addressed the words “When you see ‘the abomination that causes desolation” to four disciples (Peter, John, James and Andrew). But in fact, none of those four men witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem. James was beheaded in AD 44, Andrew was crucified in AD 60 and Peter was crucified in AD 66. John left Jerusalem before its destruction in AD 70. Consequently, Jesus’ warning about fleeing Jerusalem was addressed to only four people, of which three were no longer alive and the other was not present in Jerusalem in AD 70. Therefore, his use of “when you” is not to be viewed in an extremely wooden literal sense, but in the same way that we often use the same term – in a general manner addressed to anyone, present or not, who may come across our words.

WHEN YOU SEE

In closing, let us remember the words of Jesus:

CONCLUSION

That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. (Matt 24:39-42)

COPYRIGHT INFORMATION

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations are taken from the NIV:

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB:

New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission. ("http:// www.lockman.org/ ">www.Lockman.org)




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