FORGET NONE OF HIS BENEFITS
volume 15, number 48, December 1, 2016
“But when you see the abomination of desolation standing were it should not be (let the reader understand), then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains.” -Mark 13:14
Remembering the Word
In the last week of our Lord’s earthly ministry, after His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, He was going in and out of Jerusalem from nearby Bethany. On one of those days, as He left the temple with His disciples, they were marveling at the beauty and magnificence of the temple. And Jesus said to them, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down,” (Mark 13:2). In other words, this massive, magnificent building would be altogether destroyed. And while Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked for a little private information. When was this going to take place? From there Jesus went on to explain the details. There would be wars and rumors of wars. One nation would rise up against another. There would be earthquakes and famines, but none of these signs were the end. The gospel had first to be preached to all the nations.
Many Christians have read the gospel accounts of the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21) as something far in the future, a picture of the return of Christ. After all, Jesus says that they would see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory (Mark 13:26). But clearly Jesus has something else in mind. While we can and certainly should take the principles taught in the Olivet Discourse as something to prepare believers for the return of Christ, even a cursory look at the context shows that Jesus was referring to something in the very near future. The temple would be destroyed. They would see earthquakes, famine, wars, rumors of wars, and strange things happening in the sky. Jesus is telling His disciples that when they see the abomination of desolation standing in the temple, they were to run for their lives. They were to get out of Jerusalem as fast as they could. They were to pray that this did not happen in winter when travel would be difficult. They should hope they are not nursing mothers when it happens, because fleeing would be very difficult for them.
What is the abomination of desolation? When did this occur? Josephus, the Jewish historian who was hired by the Romans to record the history of Israel and Judea, witnessed the siege of Jerusalem by Titus of the Roman Empire. In response to a rebellion led by the Jews, Titus surrounded the city of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., starving the people into submission. There were numerous accounts of women killing and roasting their children for food. Josephus tells us that one million Jews who were within the gates of Jerusalem were slaughtered, that their blood was flowing profusely through the gutters of the city. The godless, pagan Roman military commander, who brought down the temple was the abomination of desolation about which Jesus had prophesied some forty years earlier. This prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem was due to the Jewish people’s rejection of their Messiah (Matthew 23:37).
But the Christians survived the horror of the siege of Jerusalem. Why? They had remembered the words of Jesus. Do not miss the significance of what this means. Jesus had spoken these words to His four closest disciples. They made sure this account was added to each of the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), and they made this known to the believers in Jerusalem over the next forty years. How often did they remind the believers there? We do not know, but clearly they listened. They remembered. They obeyed, and their obedience saved their lives.
Nothing has changed for believers in our day. Remember the word of God. Read it, teach it to your children and your grandchildren. Study it. Meditate upon it. Memorize it. Obey it. Peter, when asked by Jesus, if he too was going to leave Him, said, “Lord where shall we go for You alone have the words of eternal life,” (John 6:68). Jeremiah said, “Thy words were found and I didst eat them. Thy words have become for me the joy of my life and the delight of my soul,” (Jeremiah 15:16). Job said that he had not departed from the command of His lips, that he had treasured the words of His mouth more than his necessary food (Job 23:12). The Psalmist in Psalm 119 repeatedly tells us of his delight in the word of God. “O how I love Thy Law. It is my meditation all the day,” vs. 97. “I shall delight in Thy commandments which I love,” vs.47. “Therefore I love Thy commandments above gold, yes, above fine gold,” vs.127. “Consider how I love Thy precepts; revive me, O Lord, according to Thy lovingkindness,” vs.159.
It seems to me that many of us in the west, perhaps due to our higher level of education, or perhaps because we want to appeal to the erudite, sophisticated, and well educated elitist people in our communities, tend to reject the face value of Scripture. Some of us seem to want to nuance the Scripture. A straight forward reading of the Genesis account of creation, for example, seems simplistic, quaint, a nice notion for simpler times which cannot withstand the harsh, militant atheistic world of today. To say that God created everything in the space of six days is an embarrassment to some of our Christian spokesmen. To tell unbelievers, straight up, without equivocation, that if they do not repent, they will die in their sins and go to hell when they die, seems very harsh, too direct, not intellectually defensible. It seems very difficult to answer a skeptic or mocker of Christianity who asks very directly, “Will my homosexuality send me to hell?”
However, as I interact with believers from developing nations where a revival culture exists, where there is evidence of mass conversions from animism, mysticism, Islam, and Hinduism, where there is little formal theological education; these believers gladly, humbly, and wholeheartedly believe what God says in His word. They treasure the word. They obey it. They act upon it. We would do well to follow their example. Jesus told us that to enter the kingdom of God we must be like little children Matthew 18:3).
1. Flavius Josephus, The History of the Jews