The end of the world will happen in 2068.
Apophis is an asteroid discovered in 2004 and since has been under a watchful eye by the world of astronomers. The asteroid is named after the demon serpent in ancient Egyptian mythology who personified evil and chaos. Apophis passes earth every 7 years at a safe distance, but, in 2029 you will be able to see it whiz between us and the moon with your own eyes. So mark your calendars for Friday the 13th of April 2029 (a little cosmic wink at us). Then 39 years later, in 2068, scientists calculated that there is a 1 in 150,000 chance of Apophis blasting into earth. The impact with earth would be equivalent to over 1B tons of TNT exploding. Massive death and disruption to our climate would follow.
If we had no God and no communication from Him in the Bible, what would we think about such things? How would we view our existence? We are just a tiny speck in this vast universe, riding a high-speed, spinning ball in the middle of nothing. Life is just the motion and collisions of material.
The idea of an asteroid like Apophis colliding with earth and ending all life on this planet is one End-Times scenario put forth by those who reject the Bible. Destroying our planet with climate change is another one. Nuclear War between earth’s superpower nations is another. There are all kinds of ideas of how this planet can go from 7B people to zero; from flourishing life to empty wasteland.
We could call these: Material Eschatology. Material meaning all that exists is the physical world. Eschatology means study of the end times. The End Times is simply how the world will end due to random motions of materials. They come from people who reject God’s Revelation in Scripture about the end times. The do not believe that there is an invisible spiritual reality that exists and at some point is going to invade our physical realm. Instead the future, according to a Material Eschatology, will simply be the result of physical motions of our universe, one material thing crashing into another material thing and causing destruction and death of any life. And people think religionists are the only pessimists?
The Bible tells us how its going to end. It won’t be from a random collision with an asteroid. It won’t be from people making the earth too hot or too cold. It won’t be from nuclear superpowers destroying themselves and everyone else. We know humanity is not going to annihilate humanity because Scripture tells us that earth and humanity will be here when Jesus comes back. The Bible says Jesus is how the world is going to end.
In Mark 13 (and Mt 24 and Lk 21) we find Jesus speaking to His disciples. He is answering their questions about the end of the age and the destruction of the Temple and His return. We begin to realize, however, that while Jesus is speaking to them, He seems to be speaking to more than just them.
Jesus is doing something that the Biblical authors do often, especially in the OT. They speak to someone, but, they also speak beyond them to someone else. They speak of future events not directly relevant to the audience of their day, but, to a future audience. Not everything God told the prophets was for the prophets or the people of their day. Consider Psalm 102:18; Isaiah 14:12-14; Ezekiel 28:11-19; Daniel 9:1-3; Habakkuk 2:2-3; Romans 4:23-4; 15:4; 1 Corinthians 9:10; 10:11; 2 Timothy 3:16.
According to 1 Peter 1:10-12 the prophets would pore over their own prophetic writings trying to figure out the time and circumstances of Christ’s coming.
A certain ruler is coming. He has a number of titles. You may know him as “the Lawless One”, or, “the man of Perdition”. He is sometimes referred to as the “Little Horn”, or, the “Coming Ruler”, or “the man of intrigue”. Perhaps more familiar to you he is “the Beast”, or arguably most famously, the world knows him as “Antichrist.”
Antichrist is 2 words put together: “anti” and “Christ”. Anti means “in place of” or “against”. Both apply. Antichrist will be against the real Christ in every way and he will also be “in place of” the real Christ. He truly will be Satan’s masterpiece. God has His Christ and Satan will put forth his own imitation.
His true colors will come out halfway through the Tribulation. The Tribulation is a seven year period that is still in the future from right now. We know about this period because of Daniel 9:26-7. A coming ruler will make a 7 year covenant with the Jews that allows them to operate their sacrificial system in their Temple. Guess where the Temple will be? On the exact spot where the previous Jewish Temples stood. Guess where that is? Where the 3rd most holy site in Islam currently stands: the Dome of the Rock. How many of you think the Muslim world is going to give that real estate up peacefully?
Perhaps in the future a war breaks out between Israel and the surrounding Arab nations and the Jews retake that property from the Arabs. If that happens, and they destroy the Dome of the Rock, perhaps a charismatic political leader will arise who will negotiate peace between Israel and her enemies. Perhaps one of the terms of that peace is the Jews get to keep that property and they can rebuild their Temple on it. Perhaps that peace treaty will be 7 years.
What this means is that the Tribulation cannot happen without Jews rebuilding their Temple. It will be the 3rd Temple: the first was Solomons, the 2nd was Herod the Great’s. Listen, there are two ways we know a Jewish Temple will exist during this 7 year period.
First, because Scriptures say that the Jewish sacrifices and offerings will be in operation during this time. “In the middle of the seven” Daniel 9:27 tells us, “he will put an end to sacrifice and offering…” To stop them they have to be happening.
The second reason a Temple must exist in the Tribulation is because Scriptures tell us at that time the Antichrist will sit in God’s Temple demanding to be worshipped as God. Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 2:4, “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.”
ABOMINATION CAUSING DESOLATION
And here we get to the main topic: the abomination that causes desolation. Notice in verse 14 Jesus says,
“When you see ‘the abomination that causes desolation’ standing where it does not belong…then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.”
Matthew and Luke also record Jesus speaking here and they say:
“So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation’, spoken of through the prophet Daniel….then flee to the mountains” (Mt. 24:15)
“When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near.” (Lk. 21:20)
What is Jesus referring to? What did Daniel say 600 years earlier about this “abomination that causes desolation”? Turn with me to Daniel 9:27
“He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven’. 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…”
Here’s what the verse is saying: the antichrist will make a 7 year treaty with the Jews but half way through he will break the treaty and bring out the abomination that causes desolation.
Abomination and desolation are important words. Abomination is something horrendously offensive. The Antichrist will do something in the Jewish Temple that will be horrendously offensive. It will be offensive to God and to the Jews. Which is where the idea of desolation comes in. Desolation means to make empty, deserted, but in a way that the place is bleak and depressing. The Jews will be offended by this ruler. They will be aghast that he stops their sacrificial worship and replaces it with something else that is grossly idolatrous. The result will be that they flee the city. Or as Jesus said, “Let those in Judea flee to the mountains”
They will “get out of Dodge”. And this is the particular Biblical meaning of desolate here: their city Jerusalem will be desolate in the sense that no Jews will be found in it.
So this is the abomination that causes desolation. Three and one-half years into the 7 year treaty the Antichrist will break that treaty with the Jews. He will stop their Temple worship, demand that they worship him as God, and begin persecuting them for refusing. This wicked abomination in God’s Temple will cause them to flee and run, and thus make the city and the Temple desolate. Hence: the abomination that causes desolation.
But a question arises: What triggers this? Why does the Antichrist renege on his deal with the Jews? I will show two things that lead to his change: one on earth and one in heaven.
First, the one on earth. Luke tells us foreign armies have surrounded Jerusalem (21:24). So the earthly circumstances, you might say, have led to the Antichrist being “cornered”. Perhaps in this moment he seeks something supernatural for help and this brings the opportunity for Satan to fill him and control him and empower him. This is not far-fetched in the least. National leaders have been turning to the gods since the beginning of time – in wartime especially. Many of our beloved Psalms come from David’s own distressed situations militarily. Hitler and his generals were notoriously involved in the occult, seeking the aid of the supernatural. Now that leads to our 2nd point….
The second reason Antichrist turns on his deal with the Jews is a heavenly reason: Satan, according to Revelation 12, is kicked out of heaven down to earth. Revelation 12 goes on to inform us that Satan chases the Jewish people but they flee to safety out of his reach. Now take a moment and add some things together that are happening at the midpoint of the Tribulation and see how this makes sense:
- Satan is kicked out of heaven down to earth and he’s raging mad
- Antichrist is surrounded in Jerusalem by foreign armies
- Antichrist will suffer a fatal wound (prob from the foreign armies’ attacking)
- He will get authority and power from Satan (Rev. 13)
- He will recover from that wound, or, be resurrected
- Antichrist will suddenly stop the Jews from worshipping God in their Temple
- He will insist he is God and demand to be worshipped.
- Gentiles will worship him as God
- The Jewish people will be horrified and flee Jerusalem to get away from Antichrist
AGITATION AGAINST BELIEVERS
However, what will happen leading up to the abomination of desolation? What is going on the first 3 ½ years of this Treaty with the Jews? It is described in verses 5-13.
Again, realize this is all very Jewish. Jesus is speaking to Jews: “flogged in synagogues” (v9)…”flee Judea” (14)…. “pray it will not happen on a Sabbath” (Mt. 24:20) …. “When you see Jerusalem surrounded..” (Lk. 21:20) …. “Jerusalem trampled by Gentiles” (Lk. 21:24).
But there are 2 kinds of Jews to recognize here that Jesus is speaking of: those Jews who believe in Him and those that won’t. Those that don’t believe in Jesus will persecute those Jews that do believe in Jesus. This will happen primarily in the first half of the 7 years.
Here’s how it makes sense to me:
Think of how the Jewish people as a whole are going to feel at the beginning of the Tribulation. They will have just finished a successful war and reclaimed the Temple property. They will have just secured a 7 year peace treaty with surrounding nations, facilitated by a charismatic political leader whom they don’t yet know is the Antichrist. This will lead to a massively historic moment: Rebuilding their Temple. Rebuilding their Temple will mean the final component of Jewish life will be in their grasp: the Jewish people in the Jewish land finally with their Jewish Temple.
(Did you know right now the Jews have everything ready to go to rebuild the Temple? They have all the stones, all the materials, all the equipment and supplies, all the animals, even the priests and all of it. Its all ready to go if they ever get that piece of property back from the Muslims.)
Here’s where I’m going with this: can you imagine the enthusiasm and excitement that every single Jew would feel beholding their Temple? They haven’t had a Temple since 70AD when it was burned to the ground. For nearly 2,000 years they’ve wandered the earth, never losing their Jewish identity and solidarity. Then those same people get placed back onto their same land in 1948, the 3rd time in history! There is nothing like it in history. And there wouldn’t be a single Jew who wouldn’t be filled with religious excitement at the sight of their people in their land worshipping in their Temple. Imagine how sure they would feel that God was moving on their behalf!
Now think about something: how do you think those future Jews are going to react to Jewish believers in Jesus? Those future Jews will offer sacrifices in their Temple because they think that will atone for their sins. But there will be Jews, like the 144,000 who believe in Jesus and will say that only Jesus can atone for sins. Only His one-time sacrifice on the cross. They will rebuke the OT system that has been resurrected. All the Jews who reject Jesus but are surging with religious zeal will consider them traitors. They will see them as Jews-who-hate-Jews.
Then ask yourself: What do you think those Jews will do to those Jewish believers? The same thing unbelieving Jews have been doing to Jewish believers in Jesus from the beginning: persecute. And this is what Jesus tells us in verses 9-13. Any Jew who believes in Jesus will be persecuted by Jews who don’t believe in Jesus.
AFTER THE ABOMINATION IS REVEALED (v14-23)
Once the Antichrist sets up the abomination in the Temple several things happen
First, the Jews flee Jerusalem. The 2nd Diaspora begins and Jews will disperse throughout the world to all the nations. Let me give you two passages that tell us this. Luke 21:24 says “There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people [Jerusalem and Jews]. They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations.” They will flee Antichrist, but be captured and imprisoned and transported by foreign armies. How do we know this? Because a couple verses earlier Luke says “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies you will know its desolation is near.” We know from Revelation 11 that the Antichrist has to die and come back to life (or at least appear to). When he comes back to life by Satan’s power Antichrist will demand to be worshipped and people will worship him. He will prohibit the worship of anyone else. The Jews will see this and be mortified and run (“flee!” Jesus said).
The second verse that tells us that the Jews will flee to the nations is Revelation 12:13-14, “When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child.” Symbolically, the woman is Israel, the child is Jesus, and the dragon is Satan. Verse 14, “The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she migh tfly to the place prepared for her in the desert, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent’s reach.” The woman flees the dragon: the Jews flee Satan as he pursues them through the raging Antichrist. She will be cared for in the desert: the Jews will be cared for in the surrounding lands, meaning the Jews would not be annihilated, but divinely preserved until Jesus comes. For a time, times, and half a time is 3 ½ years. At the end of that time Jesus comes. This is the last half of the Tribulation, this is specifically “The Great Tribulation”. Some will end up on the run in other nations while others are captured and transported by those foreign armies that just sacked Jerusalem.
This dispersion of persecuted Jews around the world sets the stage for the Judgment of Jesus in Matthew 25 where Jesus separates the nations into goats and sheep. The nations will be judged for how they treated those fleeing Jews (“Whatever you did for the least of these you did for Me”).
A political commentator who is also a home church pastor stated “prophecy is not so you can know the future but so when it is fulfilled you know God is God”. I would disagree and say his dichotomy is false – it is not an either/or. It is both. Prophecy is given precisely because God wants you to know whats coming, Jesus says that explicitly in the chapter “Be on your guard! I have told you everything ahead of time.”
But yet prophecy when fulfilled demonstrates God is God, for only God knows the future. But knowing what is comi g is fundamental to hope, which is an expectation of things to come because God has foretold those things.