Abomination Of Desolation

So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand.” (Matthew 24:15)

The phrase “the abomination of desolation” refers to the presence of an idolatrous person or object so detestable that it causes the temple to be abandoned and left desolate. (1)

Before Christ – Some argue that Daniel’s prophecy was fulfilled with the desecration of the temple in 167 BC when the Syrian ruler Antiochus Epiphanes erected an altar to the pagan Greek god Zeus over the altar of burnt offering and sacrificed a pig on it (1 Maccabees 1:41–64; 6:7; and Josephus The Antiquities of the Jews 12. 5. 4). (2) But Jesus is referring to this as an event that is yet to happen.

After Christ – Some believe that the prophecy was fulfilled in the first century AD. Jewish historian Josephus, who lived through the war of 66–70 AD, thought the “abomination of desolation” happened in 66 AD, when Zealots shed the blood of priests in the temple. Others date the abomination of desolation three and one-half years later (70 AD) when Titus sacked Jerusalem, the temple was destroyed, and the Romans erected their standards over the desolated site of the temple. (3) Both of these events occurred after Jesus’ prediction and would nicely fit His other prediction that “this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.”

End Times – Others claim that Jesus is specifically referring to a yet future action by the anti-Christ and that the “abomination of desolation” will not be fully realized until the period of the Great Tribulation at the end of the age. (4) Thus, the events of 167 BC and 66-70 AD would merely be “types” that foreshadow the final fulfillment of Jesus’ words just prior to His Second Advent (Mark 13:24–27).

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  1. Grassmick, J. D. (1985). Mark. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 169). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  2. Grassmick, J. D. (1985). Mark. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 169). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  3. Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (Mk 13:14). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  4. Biblical Studies Press. (2006). The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Mt 24:15). Biblical Studies Press.

Worldwide Spread of Gospel

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14)

Despite the widespread apostasy, despite the increasing spread of evil, and despite the downward spiral of love as it grows colder and colder, the end will not come until the Gospel is spread worldwide. This probably seemed like a dauntless task when Jesus commissioned the twelve. Yet within a generation, the Gospel had spread as far as Caesar’s household with the imprisonment of Paul in Rome. By the third century, Constantine had made it the state religion of the Roman Empire.

In the first century, the Roman networks of roads, the Roman peace (pax Romana) and a universal language (Greek) facilitated an explosive growth in Christianity. Since the beginning of the twentieth century, with the advent of radio, television, satellites and social media, new “roads” have been “paved” for an accelerated spread of the Gospel. That being said, one might wonder how we are doing with the worldwide spread of the Gospel in the 21st century.

A recent study of more than 200 countries estimates that there are roughly 2.18 billion Christians of all ages around the world. This is nearly one third of the estimated 2010 global population of 7 billion. Christianity has become so geographically widespread that no single continent or region can indisputably claim to be the center of global Christianity. As recently as a century ago, this was not the case. In 1910, about two-thirds of the world’s Christians lived in Europe, where the bulk of Christians had been for a millennium (the Center for the Study of Global Christianity). Today, only about a quarter of all Christians live in Europe (26%). A plurality (more than a third) is now in the Americas (37%). About one in every four Christians lives in sub-Saharan Africa (24%), and about one-in-eight is found in Asia and the Pacific (13%).

The number of Christians around the world has nearly quadrupled in the last 100 years, from about 600 million in 1910 to more than 2 billion in 2010. But the world’s overall population has also risen rapidly, from an estimated 1.8 billion in 1910 to nearly 7 billion in 2010. As a result, Christians make up about the same portion of the world’s population today (32%) as they did a century ago (35%).

This apparent stability masks a monumental shift. Although Europe and the Americas still are home to a majority of the world’s Christians (63%), that percentage is much lower than it was in 1910 (93%). The proportion of Europeans (from 95% to 76%) and Americans (from 96% to 86%) identifying as Christian also dropped. Over the same time, Christianity grew enormously in sub-Saharan Africa (from 9% to 63%) and the Asia-Pacific region (from 3% to 7%). Unlike a century ago, Christianity is increasingly spreading worldwide. (1)

Then again, is Christianity truly global? Is it a measure of true faith?

Global – According to the Joshua project, there are 16,709 people groups in the world, of which 7,037 (42%) are unreached. That accounts for nearly three billion souls in a world of over seven billion. (2) A people group is considered unreached when there is no indigenous community of believing Christians able to engage in church planting, and where the percentage of evangelical Christians is less than 2 percent. (3)

Faith – While 80% of Americans say they are Christian, only 45% of Americans say they have a personal commitment to Jesus Christ, having confessed their sins and accepted Christ as Savior (The Barna Group). Barna’s study finds that 36-percent of Americans are what he calls notional or nominal Christians. They describe themselves as Christians but do not meet Jesus’ “born again” definition as set forth in the Gospel of John. (4) The reader should note that the terms evangelical Christian and born-again Christian are not always synonymous. There are clearly those within the evangelical community that are not born again, just like there are many within so-called non-evangelical fellowships who are born again.

These statistics imply that there is a long way to go. But they do not necessarily mean that the end is still a long way off. The verse does not necessarily say that the Gospel of God’s grace must be spread to every nation before Jesus can return for His Church (the Rapture) or before the beginning of the Tribulation. It may be the Lord’s return at the end of the age that is in view here. (5) As we have already learned, a vast number of souls will be added to the Kingdom during the Great Tribulation and before the Parousia.

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  1. http://www.pewforum.org/2011/12/19/global-christianity-exec/
  2. http://joshuaproject.net/global_statistics
  3. http://www.peoplegroups.org/
  4. http://wordunplugged.com/forty-five-percent-born-again/
  5. Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 1, p. 87). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

Love Grows Cold

Rev 2 Cover

…the love of most will grow cold.” (Matthew 24:12b)

The love spoken of here is the highest form of love defined in Scripture (agape). It is one in which “spiritual energy is blighted or chilled by a malign [ant] or poisonous wind.”(1) Love growing cold is being cultivated by the increase of evil (“because of the increase of wickedness“).

Those who once were true to each other will betray each other, suggesting that marriages, homes, and nations will be torn asunder because of lack of loyalty.(2) By way of just one example (we will look at more in a later chapter), see Figure 2.4 on divorce trends.

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What is particularly chilling about this prediction by Jesus is the attachment of the superlative “most.” Of course, marriage is just one, albeit very important, subset of love. But it takes only a casual survey of the headlines and social media exchanges to see just how polarized and militant society is becoming in terms of politics, religion, race relations and sexual preferences (to name just a few).

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  1. Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Mt 24:12). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.
  2. Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 1, p. 87). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

 

Increased Wickedness

Because of the increase of wickedness…” (Matthew 24:12a).

In most respects, civilization is more advanced today than it has ever been. Paradoxically, the advancement of civilization has not led to a corresponding advancement in civility, as even a casual survey of “traditional” and “social” media will attest. Some may even argue that civilization (or at least civility) has retreated rather than advanced. But how does one accurately measure the decline in morality and the increase in wickedness when the standard of measurement is constantly being redefined by society? As it stands, things that a generation ago would have been universally condemned or considered abnormal are now tolerated or considered praiseworthy and acceptable. This phenomenon was illustrated quite eloquently in the following invocation.

Heavenly Father,

We come before you today to ask Your forgiveness and to seek Your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, “Woe to those who call evil good,” but that is exactly what we have done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values.

We confess:

We have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your Word and called it Pluralism. We have worshipped other gods and called it multiculturalism. We have endorsed perversion and called it alternative lifestyle. We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery. We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare.

We have killed our unborn and called it choice. We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable. We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem. We have abused power and called it politics. We have coveted our neighbor’s possessions and called it ambition. We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression. We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment.

Search us, Oh God, and know our hearts today; cleanse us from every sin and set us free. Guide and bless these men and women who have been sent to direct us to the center of your will. I ask it in the Name of Your Son, the living Savior, Jesus Christ.

The prayer is represented to be a fairly accurate transcription of the actual prayer delivered before the Kansas House of Representatives by Central Christian Church Pastor Joe Wright on January 23, 1996. It has circulated continuously on the Internet ever since,(1) although sometimes erroneously attributed to either Paul Harvey of Billy Graham.

That prayer was delivered over twenty years ago. Can we honestly say that things gotten better, or like “the beginning of birth pains,” have they gotten worse? Like birth pains they may seem trivial, inconsequential or even mistaken for something else (false labor) in the beginning. But as they occur more frequently and become more intense as the labor continues, there is soon no mistaking what is taking place. James, in his epistle says that “after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown; gives birth to death” (James 1:15).

To further illustrate and underscore the unmistakable increase in wickedness and man’s inhumanity to man, Figure 2.3 lists seven of the worst genocides that have taken place in just the last 100 years.

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To put these atrocities in perspective, the estimated victims in the last one hundred years approximates the low-end of what the estimated total world population was two thousand years ago at the time of Christ’s Olivet Discourse. Yet we have not yet reached the end of the “birth pains,” sin is not yet “full-grown,” and “the end is still to come.”

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  1. http://urbanlegends.about.com/library/bl_pastor_joe_wright.htm
  2. http://www.borgenmagazine.com/worlds-worst-genocides
  3. http://www.abort73.com/abortion_facts/us_abortion_statistics

Dispensation

DISPENSATION – In its verb form the word dispensation means to manage, administer, regulate, or plan. The Biblical usage of this concept, however, has a deeper theological sense, in which certain responsibilities are placed on mankind by God during different ages. In Ephesians 3:2 and 3:9 Paul indicates that the current dispensation (age of grace) has been extended to the Gentiles, a mystery revealed by Christ that was kept hidden in past ages (dispensations – e.g. age of the law). Paul indicates earlier in the epistle that there is a coming future end time dispensation “to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment” in order to “bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ” (Ephesians 1:10). This is something that will not happen during the age of grace. See also Colossians 1:25–29. This seems to suggest that Paul believed Continue reading “Dispensation”

Armageddon, Millennium and Last Judgment

ARMAGEDDON – Another word that is referenced a lot in modern discussions of the end times, but occurs only once in the Bible (Revelation 16:16) is Armageddon. It refers to the place where the last great battle of the ages will take place and has become synonymous with the end of the world. The battle will coincide with the second coming of Christ (Revelation 16:15), when all the hosts of evil will be defeated (Revelation 19:11–21). (1)

MILLENNIUM – The word millennium is derived from the Latin words mille meaning a thousand, and annus meaning year, i.e., a period of one thousand years. Although the concept of the millennium has its foundation in certain unconditional covenants from the Old Testament, Revelation 20:4–6 specifically and unmistakably mentions that Christ will reign on earth for a thousand years. (2) There are three primary views on the millennium. Continue reading “Armageddon, Millennium and Last Judgment”

The Anti-Christ

THE ANTI-CHRIST – The anti-Christ is the end-times antagonist of God and His people. He is a person who will be empowered by Satan and will function as an enemy of Jesus Christ and the Church. In the context of apocalyptic literature, this figure performs false miracles, deceives many in order to discourage people from worshiping the true God, and persecutes God’s people. The term anti-Christ could be interpreted either as Continue reading “The Anti-Christ”