The disciples must have been astounded at what Jesus told them during what we know as the Olivet Discourse. They had exclaimed about the grandeur of the temple, and He told them it would be completely destroyed. They asked when that would happen and what the sign indicating the temple’s destruction would be, and He told them about the end of the Church Age. Talk about a non-sequitur! The future that Jesus bombarded them with must have had their minds reeling.
There were many disturbing things that Jesus told the disciples. Given their initial focus on the temple, what must they have thought when He spoke of its desecration? In Mark 13:14, Jesus said:
“But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.”
Of course, the parenthetical admonition was Mark’s as the author. But how shocked the disciples must have been at Jesus saying this about the temple. They must have immediately reflected on the event perpetrated by the Greek king Antiochus Epiphanes some 200 years prior in 167 BC. His army had come into Jerusalem and captured the city. He thrust aside the altar of Yahweh and erected a statue of the Greek god Zeus in its place. On that altar, he sacrificed a pig, an unclean animal, to show his disdain for the Lord God of Israel.
Can you imagine what the disciples were thinking? “What? Our sacred temple will be desecrated once again? How can this be? How can Yahweh allow such a thing?”
Then it gets worse. Jesus tells them that not only will this beautiful temple be destroyed, but the people of Jerusalem will of necessity flee from the city. Now, the way Jesus foretold this wasn’t chronological. The disciples couldn’t apprehend the sequence of events. We know from history that the Second Temple during Jesus’ time was the one that would not have a single stone remaining on top of another. This temple was razed in 70 AD when the Romans destroyed it completely. The reason no stone remained, as Jesus described, was due to the fire that burned everything to the ground and melted all the gold furnishings. To get at this rich bounty, the Roman soldiers literally tore the stones apart in their goldlust.
Jesus then jumped 2,000 plus years into the future to discuss the next temple desecration during the 7-year Tribulation. By saying the Second Temple would be destroyed, then telling the disciples the temple would be desecrated, He was clearly saying that a Third Temple would be built in order for these things to happen.
At the time of this horrendous event, the warning Jesus gave is of grave importance to the Jews in Israel today and for believers who come to Christ during that Tribulation period. Jesus says in Mark 13:19-20:
“For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be. And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days.”
Jesus warns of the terrible final 3 1/2 years of the Tribulation. It will be so bad that He admonishes the Israelites to flee immediately once the temple event occurs. Don’t turn back to get anything, He warns. You won’t have time. For those who have become His followers during the Tribulation, He tells them that as they see this day approaching to pray for it to happen during a propitious time. Winter can be difficult in Israel with rains and flooding streams making travel a challenge. If it’s Sabbath (sundown Friday through sundown Saturday) all transportation in Israel is shut down. No buses, trains, or taxis will be running. Those without a vehicle will be forced to ride with those who have cars or flee on foot. They will be heading toward Petra in Jordan, which is about 125 miles away. If a woman is pregnant, her difficulties will be amplified during this time of flight.
Jesus describes this last half of the Tribulation as the worst time ever in the history of the world. The stresses and challenges for mankind will be enormous – in fact, beyond man’s ability to cope. The one piece of good news that Jesus brings is that the Tribulation has an expiration date. If God allowed the events during this period to continue, all humanity would be destroyed. But, God has mercy upon those who come to know Him through His storm of judgment. He will cut short the event and limit it to only seven years. Beyond that and nothing on this earth would be left.
This day is indeed approaching. It bodes great darkness for those on the earth who haven’t previously confessed Jesus as Savior and Lord, and been snatched away by Him as a protection for His Bride.
That’s the exceedingly Good News in this story. Christ will not allow His beloved to be beaten and destroyed prior to their wedding. He loves His true church too much – those who love Him and desire with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength to honor and revere Him. All we can say is , Thank You, Lord, for Your mercy!