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The Abomination of Desolation

The Gospel of Mark  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  47:58
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Good morning church familY
If you have your Bibles let me invite you to open with Me to the book of Mark chapter 13.
We are in the middle of what is the largest collected body of Jesus’ teaching in the Gospel of Mark.
At this point in the story…, Jesus is making his way to the day of his crucifixion.
We are now just two days before his betrayal and arrest.…
and Jesus is preparing his disciples for what is to come.
In verses 1-3, Jesus predicts a very historical event… the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem which occurred about 40 years later.
In verses 4-13.… Jesus prepares his disciples for what life will look like in the days following his resurrection.
by way of recap, here are the truths from that text we studied last week.
These are 5 expectations that Jesus wants to instill in his disciples.
#1 Expect False Teachers
#2 Expect a Hostile World
#3 Expect Persecution
#4 Expect Spiritual Empowerment
#5 Expect Endurance.
Everything in verses 5-13 were somewhat general and we see each of Jesus’ warnings actually taking place in the book of Acts and throughout the epistles and throughout church history and the world today.
but verse 14 takes a turn that appears a bit more specific.
And the language shifts from what they are to expect in “these days” to what the disciples should expect in “those days”
Jesus begins to discuss not just what the disciples will experience in their lives…
But what God’s people will experience as the end of the world draws near.
So we are discussing the end of the world this morning.
and let me warn you on the front in… you will likely be left with more questions then answers.
The point of Mark chapter 13 is not to provide the disciples with answers regarding when these things will happen… but rather…
how they should be prepared to endure as the last day draws near.
so with that in mind lets read and then lets pray together.
Mark 13:14–23 ESV
14 “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. 15 Let the one who is on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house, to take anything out, 16 and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. 17 And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! 18 Pray that it may not happen in winter. 19 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. 20 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. 21 And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. 22 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23 But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.
Lets pray.
There is a word in verse 14 that signals to the reader that Jesus is prophesying something big.
Beyond Mark’s editorial note, “let the reader understand”
There is a phrase which would have packed a big punch.
its the phrase, “abomination of desolation.”
The word “abomination” means something detestable… something appropriately abhorred.
It or he is an abomination that makes desolate. He brings destruction.
its a word pair that appears several times in the prophecies of Daniel.
In fact Matthew explicitly identifies the term with Daniel.
Matthew 24:15 ESV
“So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand),
So in order to get at what in the world Jesus is talking about…
We need to get at what in the world Daniel is talking about and how the disciples would have understood this prophecy.
The book of Daniel is very much about the Kingdom of Man verses the Kingdom of God.
Its a book about Kings like Nebuchadnezzar and his son Balthazar and their arrogance.… their desire to be worshipped as King of Kings.
Daniel living in exile under these kings perseveres in faithfulness under their rule…
We are familiar with the stories of shadrack, meshak, and abednago, refusing to bow at the King’s command. They were thrown into a firey furnace yet protected by God so that everyone would see who the true God was.
Likewise Daniel was thrown into the Lion’s Den at the King’s command because Daniel refused to stop praying to the one true God. Daniel was preserved from the Lion’s so that everyone would see who the true God was.
Daniel is a story about Kingdom of God Citizens remaining faithful and persevering even in the midst of exile in the hostile Kingdom of Man.
and later in the book…, God begins to speak to Daniel in visions.
In these visions Daniel sees symbolic beasts representing powerful Kingdoms like the Persian Empire and the Greek Empire...
Each vision depicts these kingdoms by a grotesque beast which would be ultimately destroyed by God…
In Daniel chapter 11… it is prophesied that one of those beastly kingdoms will in fact set up an abomination in the temple itself.
Daniel 11:31 ESV
Forces from him shall appear and profane the temple and fortress, and shall take away the regular burnt offering. And they shall set up the abomination that makes desolate.
This prophecy states that their would be an evil kingdom to come who would destroy Israel’s place of worship, but not before they set up an abomination within the temple.
Most Jews by Jesus’ day actually believed that this particular prophecy had already been fulfilled.
The same phrase is used In 1 Maccabees 1:54 To describe the action of a Syrian general named Antiochus.
In 168 B.C. Antiochus erected an altar to Zeus on the altar of burnt offering in the temple. He also sacrificed pigs, spread their blood in the temple, and banned any offerings to Israel’s God.
To say the least, this enraged the Jews so much that it is actually what led to the Maccabean Revolt and a century of political self-rule before Roman occupation.
that was the moment that most Jews saw at least some fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy…
but now Jesus highjacks the phrase… abomination of desolation and says that there is something even bigger coming that will more fully fulfill Daniel’s prophecy.
And there is a lot of debate to exactly what “abomination of desolation” that Jesus is referring to.
There Are a few historical options.
Just a few years after this prophecy from Jesus… the Roman emperor Caligula attempted to resurrect a statue of himself in the temple so that the Jews were forced to worship Caesar But he was assassinated before he was successful And the Jews did not have to flee to the mountains at that time… though it would have been a good idea.
Later in A.D. 70, as we discussed a couple weeks ago… The Roman general Titus laid siege to the city of Jerusalem and he himself entered the temple before having it completely destroyed.
some have thought that he was the abomination standing in the temple which led to desolation.
and perhaps he was partial fulfillment…, Just as Antiochus had been a partial fulfillment of Daniel in previous history…
The disciples certainly would have understood these prophecies to be at least partially fulfilled in their lifetimes.
but the passage seems to indicate that these historical moments are simply prequels to an even larger moment yet to come.
“Those days” to come that Jesus speaks of here seem to be bigger then even the moment of Jerusalem and the temple’s destruction.
Jesus describes those days as days the listener should take very seriously.
When the disciples saw the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not ….
They should flee to the mountains.
They should not take anything with them.
It will be especially hard for anyone who is pregnant in those days or nursing infants in those days.
It will be especially hard if you have to flee your home in winter according to verse 18.
In one sense, the disciples should really take note of Jesus’ words here… If they were to have been stuck in Jerusalem when Titus entered the temple and the destruction of Jerusalem began… they may not have made it out alive.
Titus set up a perimeter of his armies around the entire city of Jerusalem so as to trap everyone inside as he began his destruction of the city.
Fleeing to the mountains likely saved many of the disciple’s lives in that very real historical moment.
There is certainly a historical element to this that has already passed…..
But I think there is also a cyclical nature to this...
Daniel spoke of an abomination of desolation… The Kings that Daniel served under constantly tried to set themselves up as the object of worship… later in history Antiochus fits the bill perfectly In his desolation of the temple.
Now Jesus spoke of the abomination of desolation… and within a generation we had one Roman Caesar attempt to fulfill this but fail, and yet another truly fulfill it…
But, I want to pause and just observe something here about what John calls the Spirit of the Antichrist.
1 John 2:18–22 ESV
18 Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. 20 But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. 21 I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. 22 Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son.
1 John 4:2–3 ESV
By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.
There is something cyclical about the way the Bible portrays human history and the impending end of the world.
If your a note-taker write this down.

Truth #1 The Spirit of Abomination is at Work in Our World

There is a very real evil in our world and in humanity that seems to be constantly striving against the Kingdom of God And for the wicked kingdom of Man.
Many Roman Emperors throughout their history set themselves up as the one to be worshipped and persecuted Christians terribly.
But consider how this has played out in many nations over the course of many generations.
There are always evil men attempting to set themselves up as the center of human worship and who will kill anyone who stands in their way.
There is a spiritual principle here about the human condition.
We are sinful people with the capacity to commit great atrocities to build our own kingdom.
We should be on guard for this kind of Spirit of the antichrist is one that we can find in our own hearts.
There is also a general principle here for Christians who find themselves living in Kingdoms when such abominations rise to power…
Flee to the mountains… because the abomination of desolation will not spare you.
Jesus’ teaching speaks to a very real historical moment that was coming in 70 A.D.
It speaks to very real historical moments that I think have and will continue to repeat themselves until the end.
But I think that Jesus is also describing something even bigger then that.
verse 19 tells me that Jesus is describing something even bigger then the fall of Jerusalem That will occur In the last days before his return.
Look at verse 19.
Mark 13:19 ESV
19 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.
This verse leads me to believe that whatever Jesus is prophesying here is even bigger and more dreadful of a judgment then any previous judgment including even the flooding of the whole earth in Noah’s day.

Truth #2 The Last Day Will Be Accompanied by Tribulation Led by the Abomination

As bad as Babylon’s invasion was.
As bad as the siege on Jerusalem was.
As bad as WWII was.
There seems to be some kind of tribulation with an abomination of desolation which the world has yet to see… a tribulation that will precede the final return of Jesus.
Paul picks up on this theme, and describes the abomination of desolation character as the lawless one.
We studied this text in depth in our community groups this past spring, but a quick read here will help bring Jesus’ teachings into focus.
2 Thessalonians 2:1–10 ESV
Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, 10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.
Paul confirms what Jesus teaches here and he fills in some gaps for us.
The Last Days will be accompanied by a tribulation led by an abomination, the lawless one, the antichrist.
here are a few things we should all be able to affirm from 2 Thessalonians.
the antichrist will exalt himself over God
the antichrist is presently being restrained by God
the antichrist will be revealed on the last day
the antichrist will deceive many in the last days
Jesus will destroy the antichrist by the breath of his mouth on the last day
It appears to me that there will be many historical anti-christs, or abominations to come and go over the course of human history….
But one day, there will be an ultimate fulfillment of this where God stops restraining the evil one for a time so that the fullness of his evil will be felt, known, and revealed across the entire world…
When that happens, there will be a great tribulation especially for believers.
It appears that this tribulation will be global… but you can see why many Christians over the course of history could have felt that they themselves were enduring such tribulation.
In the first and second century of Christianity, Christians were fed to lions and wild dogs, crucified, and even wrapped in tar and burned alive to provide light for the emperor’s garden parties.
You could not have read the Bible about coming tribulation and not suspected that you were living in it.
In the 16th century, believers were drowned, burnt at the stake, beheaded, and tortured by wicked popes in a corrupted Roman Catholic Church… you could not have read the Bible about coming tribulation and not felt that you were living it.
In the 20th century, believers met in secret under Nazi occupation as millions of Jews were led to the slaughter on the tyranical reign of a lunatic who wanted to establish a new world order. you could not have read the Bible about coming tribulation and not felt that you were living it.
Today, Christians in Afghanistan, Christians In North Korea, they read instruction to believers undergoing tribulation… and they feel that they are living it.
But one day, according to Jesus… God will loosen his restraining hand on the evil in this world…and humanity will be given over to a human kingdom they always wanted…
And the wickedness, vileness, and self-destructiveness of the human kingdom will be displayed in full
and Jesus says…
Mark 13:19 ESV
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.
In those days, people will be so desperate that false christs and false prophets will arise to all the more deceive and lead astray.
Mark 13:21–23 ESV
21 And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. 22 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23 But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.

Truth #3 The Last Days Will Be Accompanied by a Great Deception

Isn’t it interesting that the war between good and evil is never just about physical suffering.
The war is for what you believe.
The war is for what you worship.
Notice that the primary warning that Jesus gives is not just that you preserve your physical life…, but its that you preserve your spiritual and intellectual faith in the right Jesus.
There will be in the last day to a greater degree what we see every day… false Christs spreading a false message even claiming to do signs and wonders.
thats an important point…
Jesus warns against believing someone, just because they can do, or they say they can do signs and wonders. There is a sort of thing as supernatural demonic power even in this world today.
Just because you see or hear of something supernatural, it does not mean that it is from God.
Jesus essentially tells his disciples to cling to what they know of Jesus and what Jesus has clearly said even if some miracle worker starts teaching otherwise.
Paul says something similar in Galatians.
Galatians 1:6–9 ESV
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
This is why Paul is so insistent that the church and every Christian be people of the book…people who cling to what has already been said, rather than the development of any new teachings.
2 Timothy 4:1–5 ESV
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
Truth #1 The Spirit of Abomination is at Work in Our World
Truth #2 The Last Days Will Be Accompanied by a Great Tribulation Led by the Abomination
Truth #3 The Last Days Will Be Accompanied by a Great Deception
But be encouraged… we will close with this truth and we will begin with this truth next week.

Truth #4 The Last Day Will Be Accompanied by a Great Salvation.

Notice the ray of hope in verse 20.
Mark 13:20 ESV
20 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.
As those last days of tribulation run their course,
the man of lawlessness is unrestrained to do his evil works,
the false prophets proclaim their false message….
there will be a group of people who with stand the fullness of it.
Jesus calls these people the elect whom God chose.
We will look at this language in more detail next week as Jesus uses it again in verse 26 and 27.
Mark 13:26–27 ESV
26 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
On the last day God will reach into the depths of the tribulation and the suffering and the fullness of everything man’s kingdom had to offer…. And he will save his people.
No amount of tribulation
no amount of deception
no abomination of desolation
can stop the eternal purpose of God to save his people who have trusted his savior.
here these words about the unchangeable end for those whom God has chosen for himself…, those who have put saving faith in the work of Jesus on the cross.
Do not be anxious about the end of the world if you are a Christian.
God aims to gather his chosen people to himself fully and finally.
This is the plan of God… just listen as I read these words from Ephesians 1 over you.
Ephesians 1:3–14 ESV
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
The Last Day Will Be Accompanied by a Great Salvation.
Jesus prepared his disciples for both the difficulty they would pass through and the glory they would enjoy on the other side.
Mark 13:23 ESV
But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.
One of the questions we will look at next week is simply this…
“what does it mean to be on guard in light of all this?”
“what does it mean to stay awake? And be prepared?”
I’ll close with just one suggestion this morning and we will flesh it out more next week.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus.
Jesus speaks all of this “beforehand”
So that you would know that Jesus is Lord of all even in the midst of the tribulation you endure.
The tribulations in our life both small and great including even the greatest tribulation at the end of time….
They are not surprises to King Jesus.
They are not a competing forces of which Jesus has no control.
Jesus knows exactly what is going to happen,
And exactly how he is going to overthrow the fullness of all evil at the end of time.
Jesus is unfolding an eternal plan that he has invited us to participate in.
He is unfolding a grand redemptive history over which he will be triumphant over every ounce of evil.… even the evil of your heart.
He was making his way to a cross so that he might be the perfect sacrifice to take the punishment for all of your personal wickedness.
He offers you a way of forgiveness and a way of transformation so that you will not follow the way of the abomination of desolation……
….but rather you will give yourself to the true king of kings and lord of lords…, Jesus of Nazareth.
If you are obsessed by this topic of the end of the world… and you want to know who the abomination is, and when these things will happen…
your missing the point as to why Jesus told us these things before hand.…
he told us these things so that we would not turn to false Christs… but that we would cling to the true Christ
he told us these things so that we would turn our eyes upon Jesus our savior, and our lord
Only by looking to the promises of Jesus and only by enjoying the presence of Jesus in our lives will we would find comfort to our restless souls as the day draws near.
Lets Pray
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