The Abomination of Desolation, Part 2 (Matthew Sermon 123 of 151)
May 09, 2010 | Andrew Davis
Glory of God, Second Coming of Christ, Prophecy, Return of Christ, Animal Sacrificial System
Key Principle: “As it was… so it will be”
One of the most glorious statements in the Bible, one I think about often, came from the mouth of Jesus in the form of a prayer in that greatest prayer in the Bible, John 17, the so-called priestly prayer. An incredibly powerful statement, Jesus makes. John 17:24, he says there, “Father, I want those whom you have given me, to be with me where I am and to see my glory, the glory you gave me because you loved me from before the foundation of the world."
That's what God wants. He wants to live with us, and he wants us to feed on his glory and have our whole beings radiated with his glory, and he wants us to live in a beautiful world, shining with the glory of God and for us to be deeply, and fully, and completely, and perfectly satisfied of that glory. He wants to give us that gift, that's why he made the world. And his desire has never changed, it's what he has always wanted, and Jesus just vocalizes that deep desire. "I want them to be with me, and I want them to see my glory."
Now, twice in redemptive history, in the Old Testament, God testified to that desire in a physical location, a physical reality, a place that you could go, and it was built according to the law given by God, according to a vision and revelation given to a man of God, how it should be constructed, I'm thinking of the tabernacle and of the temple, both of them a location, a place where you could go, and at a certain moment in redemptive history, you could see the glory of God.
At the end of the Book of Exodus, after all of those miracles have happened, and God has brought out the people and they're there at Mount Sinai, and God has described how this tabernacle, this tent was to be made. And really, if you look at it was just a bunch of barriers, a bunch of walls, cloth walls, portable walls, but walls nonetheless, giving a message to the sinful people of Israel that they were not holy enough to come into his presence, they needed to stay at a distance from God. As I've said before, the central message of that animal sacrificial system in the Old Testament, all of those barriers and all that, the message was, “Thus far you may come and no farther,” in the old covenant. “You may not come into my presence.”
The tabernacle testified to that, and when it was built according to the instructions, according to the laws that God had given to Moses, and according to the vision that Moses had had on the mountain of the heavenly reality which was captured in that little tabernacle, that tent. When all of that was done and the ark of the covenant, that golden box wherein was the testimony, the tablets on which the law of Moses was written, The Ten Commandments, all of that was set up, everything ready at the very end, the last paragraph of the Book of Exodus, it says that the glory of God descended in a cloud and filled the tabernacle, and no one could enter because of the glory of God there, and all the people fell down on their faces and worshipped God, and that was just a picture of God's desire to live, to dwell with his people, to be together with them, and to dwell with them, and they with him.
And the word though, as far as I could tell, not found in the Bible, you hear often of the Shekinah glory of God just means that dwelling glory, that place where God would dwell with the people. That's just the word for dwelling, and so God wanted to tabernacle or dwell with his people, and he did that with a glory cloud, the time of the tabernacle.
Then sometime later in redemptive history, King David established over all of Israel, finally ruling over all his heart desired, he was settled and at peace in Jerusalem, he said, “I’d like to build a more permanent structure. Here God is dwelling in a tent and I'm in this palace of cedar, I wanna do something better for God,” and it was a good desire, but God in effect said, “You're not the one to do it at two different levels, but you're not even the one to build the physical one.” And I could just go in and we could just go on and on, the themes on this are just so deep.
But his son Solomon built that temple, it was more permanent - more permanent, but not permanent. You know the difference. Okay, because there is nothing permanent in this world, nothing you can see with your eyes or touch or smell or taste, and anyway, nothing here is permanent, not even that temple was permanent, but still when it was built and Solomon dedicated, then again the glory cloud filled the holy of holies, where the ark of the covenant was. And just again, God's desire to dwell with his people that they would see his glory.
Why then four times in redemptive history in the Bible has God allowed that place to be trampled on by his enemies? Why? And I say it's gonna happen one more time, although it'll be very different that last time because it won't truly be the temple of God, but they will identify it as such, and it's going to happen one more time. But those four times trampled by the enemies of God, why would a sovereign God who rules over heaven and earth allow that to happen?
And that's the focus of our sermon, this is the second part of a sermon that I found impossible to finish last week. A number of people commented on that, they really loved that moment when I said, “I don't know what to do.” So there I was at 12:10, didn't know what to do, lest we have that same problem this morning, we're gonna keep moving.
What is “The Abomination of Desolation”?
But the fact of the matter is, last week, I made it clear what was going on in Matthew 24:15. You remember how the Lord had left the temple? Jesus had left the temple after the seven-fold woes, finished with those words, “Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets, and you stone those who sent to you. How often I have longed to gather your children together.” Same desire, I wanna be with you, I wanna live with you, I wanted that, but you didn't want it. “Behold, your house is left to you desolate.” Very significant words.
Notice earlier in Matthew, he had said, concerning the temple, “My house will be a house of prayer for all peoples.” But now, at this point he didn't call it my house anymore, he says it's your house. “Your house is left to you desolate. For you will not see me again until you say ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” Then he leaves the temple. The glory of God just going right out of the temple - Jesus is the glory of God - goes right out of the temple.
And at that moment, the disciples come up to call his attention to the glorious size and majesty of the temple complex, and its big buildings and stones. “Do you see all these things?” Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, not one stone will be left on another, everyone will be thrown down.” Jarring words, because the Jews consistently didn't understand that God would do this to his holy place, why he would do it. It made no sense to them, they were always shocked when it happened, and so the disciples here as well. It didn't make any sense.
So they found Jesus alone on the Mount of Olives, came to him in private. “‘Tell us,’ they said, ‘when will this happen? And what would be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’” So Jesus unfolds in those verses four through 14, what I think covers the history of the world from the first to the second coming of Christ, generally, in general terms, and then he starts to get specific about some things.
Now, this is really, really fascinating. Jesus, I think in 24:15, is answering simply the first question at least. When will this happen? When will Jerusalem be destroyed? And so he's answering that question. “When you see standing in the holy place, the abomination of desolation spoken of by the Prophet Daniel - let the reader understand.” So he's beginning to answer, and I think he is answering that question concerning the destruction of Jerusalem.
Parallel passage in Luke 21 that I read last time, “When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, then you will know that its desolation is near, then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, let those in the country not go into the city, for this is the time of punishment, in fulfillment of all that has been written, how dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! And there will be great distress in the land and wrath against these people, and they will fall by the sword, and they will be taken as prisoners to all the nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”
So he's talking at least about the circumstances surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem, that in fulfillment happened in the year 70 AD, the Romans came and he's describing that. And I think he's giving a specific warning to his followers, the unbelieving Jews aren't gonna listen to his instructions anyway, but he's talking to them, “Spread the word in the church, the church in Jerusalem, get out.” And we'll talk about that more next week. But when you see this, this is how you should behave.
He's at least answering that question, but I tell you based on the Book of Daniel, he's saying more than that. One of the key principles in end time teaching that I've taken to Matthew 24 is from verse 37, “As it was in the days of Noah, so will be at the coming of the Son of Man.” And I've taught that principle to you now for three weeks, “As it was so will be.” History repeats itself, and so therefore the trampling of the holy place by Gentile armies in their blasphemy has happened again, and again, and again. We'll see that this morning, and it's gonna happen one more time.
And so the circumstances that surrounded the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, we're gonna see it again one more time. That's really the point of what I got to last time. Last time we went through the Book of Daniel, and I think another key principle is in verse 25, “Behold, I have told you ahead of time,” and that'll come alive more next week when I preach the sermon, “Run For Your Lives.” But basically, because we are told ahead of time, we will know what to do at that time, we will not be confused, we're not gonna get caught in the Satanic net, we will know what to do. And Jesus has told us ahead of time what's going to happen.
And so he wants the reader to understand so that we can be ready. Now, the reader is the reader of Daniel. Last week's sermon, we were tracing through the phrase “abomination of desolation” in the Book of Daniel, I'm not gonna go through all that again. What I'm gonna do is just summarize what we found last week. If you wanna know more, if you weren't here last week, you wanna hear more, you can get the sermon or listen to it on the internet, but we talked about the abomination of desolation.
The word abomination refers to some form of idolatry, some wicked symbol of human rebellion focused on religion, specifically idolatry and worship. The desolation begins as a spiritual desolation of Israel, they have forsaken God, God has forsaken them, the glory cloud is gone, that place has become just any other place. It's spiritually desolate, and then it becomes physically desolate when the armies flood in and kill everybody and then they leave. And so this happens again and again, and so that's the abomination of desolation.
The basic concept then is that because of their sins, God abandons his people to the power of marauding Gentile armies resulting in a shocking trampling of his holy place. He does this to show that he is holy, that he dwells in a high and holy place, and not in any man-made shrine, he's not held captive to it, and then what God really wants is to dwell in the midst of a holy people who are pure from sin and to dwell that way with them forever.
I was talking to Calvin this week, and we were driving in on - it was Thursday morning - and he's going over Ephesians and we're going, and we're just talking about salvation, and we got to, “What is the finish line?” And I said, “Calvin, for you, the finish line is going to be that your soul will be perfect, living in a perfect body, living in a perfect world in perfect fellowship with God.” That's the finish line. That's where we're heading friends. Perfect souls, in perfect bodies, living in a perfect world in perfect fellowship with God, that is where we're going.
And you know what? By the sovereign power of God, we are gonna get there. But we have some wretched times to go through first. Like labor pains on a pregnant woman, it's going to be tough to get there, it's going to be difficult, and we need these warnings, and so therefore, it's gonna happen one more time.
The man of sin is coming, the antichrist is coming. That's spoken of in the book of Daniel, in Daniel chapter 8 and chapter 11, that little horn pictures, prefigurement of the antichrist. And it's going to happen again. And that's a summary of what we discussed last time.
Dress Rehearsals for the Final Act: The “Abomination of Desolation” Across History
Now, what I wanna do, is I wanna show you how four times God has allowed his holy place to be trampled, and then I'm gonna talk about the rebuilding of the temple and why I think it's going to happen and what I think God thinks about it, and how that will bring down the curtain in human history. So let's talk about that first, quickly, let's go through four acts of this drama.
Phase I: The Philistines at Shiloh in the Days of Eli (1 Samuel 2)
Phase one. And again, I'm talking about a holy place that God sets up and then he allows the Gentiles to trample it. The first phase happens in the book of 1 Samuel, early chapters of 1 Samuel. Eli was the judge, he was a priest, he was a nice guy. He was, he was a nice guy, but nice guy isn't enough when you're the high priest and you're the judge, and he let his sons run amuck and they showed utter disregard and disrespect for the sacrifice of the Lord, and though he did somewhat mildly upbraid them, he could not restrain them, and God judged him through two different prophets, the second being little boy, Samuel, that it was finished, he was losing his position, and he said, “You will know that I'm judging your family when your two wicked sons, Hophni and Phinehas die on the same day.”
Well, what happened was God - because the people were wicked, not just Eli's ministry there, but the people in general were wicked and idolatrous - God brought Gentile hoard, the Philistines in to fight against them. And on the first day of battle, the Philistines just destroyed the Israelites, they just beat them badly.
Well, the Israelites were very discouraged and dejected, and so they said, “Well, tell you what, let's go to Shiloh where the tabernacle of the Lord is, and let's get the ark of the covenant, and if we bring the ark, the ark is gonna whoop up on the Philistines. So we just go get the ark and bring it, then the ark is going to destroy the Philistines just like it did…” Or something like that, anyway, “back with the Egyptians.” So the ark was nothing more than a good luck charm. 1 Samuel 4:3, “Let us bring the ark of the Lord's covenant from Shiloh so that it may go with us and save us from the hand of our enemies.” Not he; it. That is a good luck charm. Well, let me tell you something, the ark of the covenant is no good luck charm. I think it's probably the most dangerous golden box there has ever been in history, that ark.
And so they brought the ark in there, and immediately the Philistines were dismayed and discouraged, 'cause the Israelites were cheering like crazy for the ark, and they thought, “Oh no, we're in trouble, but what else can we do? We gotta fight the battle, so let's just go die like men, 'cause these are the great gods that destroyed Pharaoh and all that, and we're in trouble, but we don't wanna run, so might as well fight.” Well, that was at least for them at that moment, a good idea, because they fought and they won and they captured the ark. They captured the ark of the Lord. Eli was terrified of this very thing. I think he knew in his heart probably it was gonna happen, what happened with the ark. And when he found out that the ark had been captured by Gentiles, he fell over backwards, his neck was broken and he died. So he died the same day as his sons. The ark was captured.
Now, I'm not gonna go into the rest of the story, you know what happened, the ark didn't stay in Philistia. Everywhere it went, there were cancerous tumors and plagues and idols falling down and breaking, and then finally, the Philistines said, “We have got to get rid of this thing,” and so they sent it back. Well, that's what happened. Let me tell you something, God can take care of himself. You don't need to protect the ark, you don't need to worry, God can take care of himself. He knows what he's doing, that's the lesson in that. I could preach 30 different sermons today, but keep on the track, keep on track.
Psalm 78 describes this tragedy, “They angered him with their high places, they aroused his jealousy with their idols. When God heard them, he was angry.” When he heard, “Hey, let's bring the ark, it will save us.” When he heard that, he was angry. “He rejected Israel completely. He abandoned the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent he had set up among men. He sent the ark of his might into captivity, his glory into the hands of the enemy.” It was no accident, that's the first phase of this drama, first time he did it.
Phase II: The Babylonians at Jerusalem in the Days of Jeremiah
Phase two, many centuries later, past the Assyrians and the deportation of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, past the time of Hezekiah when the angel of the Lord had killed all those Assyrian troops, past all of that into the days of Jeremiah. Now, the threat is not the Assyrians, it's the Babylonians. Jeremiah gets this ministry: “Go tell the Israelites, you're finished in the promised land. ‘Where shall we go?’ You'll say to me. I'll tell you, to the sword, famine or plague, that's where you'll go.” Imagine that ministry. That was Jeremiah's job, day after day.
And so the Lord came to Jeremiah in Jeremiah 7. Says this, “This is the word of the Lord that came to Jeremiah from the Lord. ‘Stand at the gate of the Lord's house,’” the temple, “‘and there proclaim this message: “Hear the word of the Lord all you people of Judah who come through these gates to worship the Lord. This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel says: Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place. Do not trust in deceptive words, saying, ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.’”’”
It's an amazing passage. Why would it say it three times? 'Cause that's what they're murmuring and saying, “Look, God's not gonna ever let the temple get destroyed. Look what he did with Hezekiah, he's gonna protect the temple for his own glory. So we don't need to worry about anything. We can do whatever we want.” Jeremiah said in Jeremiah 7:8-12, “But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless. ‘Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house which bears my name and say, “We are safe” - Safe to do all these wicked things? Has this house which bears my name become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching!’ Declares the Lord, ‘Go now to Shiloh, where I first made a dwelling for my name, and see what I did to that place because of the wickedness of the people then.’”
That's phase two friends. You see, Shiloh was the first. Jeremiah said, “Go back and see what I did. Didn't I let the ark get captured? Didn't I do that? How can you possibly say that I would not let that happen to the temple?” Jeremiah warned them plainly not to trust in simply having the temple, but they didn't listen.
And in that same chapter, Jeremiah 7, the prophet revealed that the people were stubborn in refusing to listen to the prophets, and the end result would be - Here it is - the desolation of the land. Jeremiah 7:34, “I will bring an end to the sounds of joy and gladness, and to the voices of bride and bridegroom in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem, for the land will become desolate.” It's the same word, friends.
And so the Babylonians came and God gave the temple. Read it in Daniel chapter 1, God gave the temple of the Lord into the hands of the Babylonians and they destroyed it. That's act two of this drama.
Phase III: The Greeks at Jerusalem in the Days of the Maccabees
Phase Three happened over four centuries later. After 70 years, the Lord in his grace allowed the Jews to return to the promised land. But now, under Gentile domination. The Babylonian era had passed. Now is the time for the Medo-Persians, the Medes and the Persians were ruling. And Cyrus the Great, in a decree allowed them to go back after those seven years and rebuild Jerusalem, and they went back and they rebuilt the walls, and they rebuilt the temple, and they re-established a life, under Gentile domination, but a life there.
The Medes and the Persians were in turn defeated by the Greeks under Alexander the Great. Alexander, at the height of his power was cut off, he died, his kingdom was divided under his four top generals, because he had no ancestor who could take over and rule and so the Greek Empire was divided into fours. Quadrants. And then as history unfolded, these Greek generals who were immediately kings of their little realms had descendants and then a history.
And just typical of Greeks before Alexander and Philip of Macedon, they're just fighting each other all the time. These fighting Greek states and the Ptolemies and the Seleucids. The kings of the North, kings of the South fought over that crossroads known as Palestine and Jerusalem. Jerusalem’s caught in the midst of all that. Okay, just a quick summary of what's going on.
Phase three happens, and Daniel 8 predicts it. The little horn that comes along, this individual, a Greek king, who in a special way dominates Jerusalem and in a very spiritual kind of way, vaunts himself against the God of heaven and desecrates the temple that had been rebuilt under Haggai. This man, his name was Antiochus IV, as I mentioned last week, he called himself Epiphanes, or the manifest one. He believed he was god in the flesh, or a god in the flesh.
And I mentioned last time that the Greeks had a propensity for this. Alexander the Great thought he was Zeus-Ammon, and so there are horns coming out of his head on these coins they found in Egypt that he had minted for himself, that's Alexander. Philip of Macedon was his father, he said, “The man purported to be my father.” That was Alexander. Okay, so from time to time, these Greeks had these delusions of grandeur and they felt that they were actually gods in human body, Antiochus IV was like this.
And what does it say about him? Daniel 11-31, “His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice, then they will set up the abomination that causes desolation.” The book of First Maccabees, the apocryphal book that's in Roman Catholic Bibles, but it's not in our Bible, because we don't believe it's inspired scripture. However, I do believe it's faithful history of the time. And so during the Maccabees, this Antiochus sets himself up and he sacrificed pigs. He sacrificed pigs in the Holy of Holies. Now, why would he do that? He didn't care about the Jewish dietary regulations, any of that, he's trying to find the way to be most offensive to the God of the Jews.
And so he does this, he sacrifices specifically pigs so that he can be most offensive to the God of the Jews, he did it to enrage the Jews. So he had allowed them to carry on their animal sacrifice, but then he stops the sacrifice, and then he goes and establishes himself up as god in the temple and worships in his own way, accepts worship and sacrifices in a desecrating way in the Holy of Holies. That's phase three.
Phase IV: The Romans at Jerusalem in the Days of Titus
Alright, phase four. When Jesus spoke these words, was yet to come. And that was the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem by the Romans. In the year 70, the Jewish zealots had wanted the Romans out. They were sick to death of Gentile rule. But they can't do anything about it. Couldn't do anything. It was from the Lord, it was what Jesus called the times of the Gentiles. There was nothing they could do, but they wanted to be free, and so the Zealots were pushing, pushing, pushing all the time. Rome had to keep sending more troops to keep the peace, and finally they just got sick of it, and the war started, the wars with the Jews started, and the Jews had no chance at all.
The Roman empire, the most powerful military empire the world had ever seen up to that point. Titus, who was in command of the legions, did not want the temple destroyed, but they did it anyway, they wanted the gold and the other stuff off of the temple, and I think it was an accident, Josephus tells us it wasn't intentional. I don't know if that's true or not, but what can we do? I wasn't there. Josephus was, I guess. So he tells us what happened. In any case, the temple was destroyed.
How is it the abomination of desolation? We don't know for sure. Although some people think that the standards that the Romans used to carry, which had insignia of Caesar, whom they worshipped as a god would be enough to make it an abomination of desolation, and that's good enough for me. And so in some way, they desecrated through idolatry, the Temple Mount, and they destroyed the temple completely. The Jews were slaughtered by the hundreds of thousands, and when I talk about that more next week, you'll see, but just a horrible bloodbath, and that was the fourth phase.
Key Question: Will the Temple Be Rebuilt?
Jesus’ Phrase: The “Holy Place”
Now we come to it. Will there be a fifth phase? Will there be a fifth act in this drama, the abomination of desolation, has it been fulfilled? Is it done now? Or is there one more act in this drama? I think there is one more act in this drama of it, the only way it could happen is if the temple would be rebuilt, and here we come to a sticking point: how can the temple be rebuilt? How can we understand the rebuilding of the temple? Jesus says, “So when you see standing in the holy place, the abomination that causes desolation,” so the most common understanding of that is the temple.
The Temple Sacrifices Fulfilled
And a key principle for me as a Christian dear friends, is that Jesus Christ has fulfilled the law, he has fulfilled the animal sacrificial system, it's fulfilled. “Do not suppose,” Jesus said, “That I came to abolish the law or the prophets. I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them.” Jesus's death on the cross is the fulfillment of all of the animal sacrifices that were offered legally under the laws of Moses. When John the Baptist saw him, he said, “Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”
When Jesus died, in John 19:30, “Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ And with that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” And it says in Matthew 27:51, “At that moment, the curtain in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” Oh, how significant is that moment. What a miracle. If you had been there, the curtain, torn in two from top to bottom. All the animal sacrifices done in the temple were merely pictures of the final sacrifice of Christ, and once he said “it is finished,” it was done, there was no need again for those animals. They had no efficacy anyway, to remove sin. Hebrews 10:4 says, “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin.” It never took away sin ever, it was just a symbol.
The Temple Sacrifices Obsolete… Forever
And so when Jesus died, the time for animal sacrifice ended forever. According to the book of Hebrews, this meant that the Old Covenant sacrificial system was obsolete and aging and would soon disappear. The author of Hebrews tells us, that's Hebrews 8:13, “By calling this covenant new, he has made the old one obsolete, and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.” That tells me that the book of Hebrews was written before the destruction of the temple, and that the destruction of the temple caused the animal sacrificial system and the Old Covenant to disappear from the earth.
The Jewish Desolation: Clinging to the Old Covenant
Now, the tearing of the curtain, and two from top to bottom was a symbol of God's completion of the animal sacrificial system. It's his way of saying that time is finished, the animal sacrifices are done, and he's actually beautifully saying more than that isn't he? Do you remember I told you the old covenant message was, “Thus far, you may come and no further?” You know what the New Covenant message is? “Let us draw near to the throne of grace.” Let's go by a new and living way, right into the very presence of God, sinners like you and me.
How is that possible? Because Jesus, the Lamb of God, has taken away sins for people like you and me. And all we have to do is just believe in Jesus, if you just trust in him, if you look to Christ, to the shedding of his blood. Your sins, all of them will be forgiven, and there will be no hindrance to you whatsoever to come right into the Holy of Holies, right into the presence of God as adopted children of the living God. Oh, dear friends, who just dedicated your babies, teach your children that, teach them that the blood of Jesus can cleanse them from their sins, bring them to the cross again and again, bring them through the new and living way into the presence of God, through the New Covenant bring them there.
That curtain was torn in two from top to bottom, but now I'm gonna use a bit of sanctified imagination. I think that there were some unbelieving priests in the temple that day who watched that happen. Did you see that? Top to bottom, meaning God did it, and it was torn. And they could even probably see in there, and it was just shocking to them, so they probably went and reported to their boss, Caiaphas. What do you think Caiaphas would make of that? Nothing. What did he make of the resurrection of Lazarus? “We gotta kill him too,” that's what they made of that.
So I think that Caiaphas ordered that the torn curtain be taken down and repaired. Why? So that they could continue the animal sacrifices that wicked priests operating through wicked unbelief ordered that that curtain be sewn back together. “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces. You don't enter and nor will you let others enter who are trying to.” As I've said before, quoting the one on divorce and marriage, there he said, “What God has joined together, let man not separate.” In like manner I say, “What God has pulled apart, let man not sow back up together.”Amen.
But the curtain wasn't symbol enough, I guess, so why not just destroy the whole thing? Destroy the temple so that not one stone is left on another, it cannot be then that animal sacrifice will continue. God the Father said, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet. Watch what I'll do to that sinful building, which Jesus at the end of Matthew 23, called your house. It's not my house anymore. My name is gone. Watch what I'll do to your house. I will destroy it.”
But I believe that the same spirit of unbelief that led the priests to sew up that curtain lives today in the hearts of Jews who want the temple to be rebuilt, they want the temple to be rebuilt so that they can offer animal sacrifices in fulfillment of the law of Moses.
Now, for the longest time as a Christian, I heard that the temple is going to be rebuilt. I think I started studying eschatology the second day after I was a Christian. I don't know what it is, like exciting stuff, and people were telling me this stuff right away, and I learned right away all this stuff about the temple, and I heard it was going to be built again. And I said, “Alright, well, that's interesting,” and read all kinds of stuff. Read Chick tracts, those are really exciting for that kind of theology and read all about what's gonna happen, I read that stuff and I was whatever until I really carefully started the book of Hebrews, and then I kinda went, “Oh my goodness.”
Can I say to you plainly, the message of the book of Hebrews is that God will never again accept the blood of an animal as a religious offering to him, never. It's finished on into the millennium and on into eternity. Never again will he accept it. So if that messes with the whole Ezekiel temple for you, then let it mess with it, but the message of Hebrews is it is finished, he will never again offer or accept animal sacrifice. But that doesn't mean the temple won't be rebuilt, and it doesn't mean that God didn't predict that it would be rebuilt. I'm just telling you, he doesn't accept the sacrifices and offering there.
A Key Verse: 2 Thessalonians 2:4
So a key verse for me, if you would turn there in your Bibles to 2 Thessalonians 2, 2 Thessalonians chapter 2, I think was really the tipping point for me. I was like, “I just don't think the temple is gonna be rebuilt. I think they're interpreting scripture wrong.” Which is actually not a hard thing to do when you come to these end time things in the book of Daniel, it's not an easy book to interpret.
In 2 Thessalonians 2, Paul is dealing with the Thessalonians who had a specific kind of false teaching that had come to them. Some false teachers had come and had spread a report saying that the day of the Lord had already come. You've heard of the Left Behind series, that's the early version of the Left Behind, you all missed the day of the Lord, you've been left behind. How depressing is that? Not just that, you might be left behind, you were left behind.
And so Paul writes to address that, he says in verse three and four, “Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction, he will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or his worship, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God.”
Final Phase: The Abomination of Desolation in the Days of the Antichrist
That brings us to the final phase, the abomination of desolation in the days of the antichrist, the words of 2 Thessalonians 2, 3 and 4, almost exactly parallel Daniel 11:36. Really just look down at verse 3 and 4 of 2 Thessalonians, and just hear me read Daniel 11:36, and you'll see the similarity.
Now I'm reading Daniel now, Daniel 11:36 about Antiochus and about the antichrist. Listen, “The king will do as he pleases, he will exalt and magnify himself above every god, and will say unheard of things against the God of gods. He will be successful until the time of wrath has been completed, for what is determined must take place.” He's just about exactly paraphrasing Daniel 11:36. So what that tells me is that Daniel has yet more to tell us about the future, because when Paul wrote this, all of that stuff was yet to come, and he said the end won't come until that happens, the end didn't come when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem. It still hasn't come, because the man of sin hasn't come yet and set himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God and accepting worship. Friends, that hasn't happened yet. But it's coming.
This is the very one, Daniel 11:36 mentioned just a few verses before in Daniel, his armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and abolish daily sacrifice, then they will set up the abomination that causes desolation. And so this evil figure of 2 Thessalonians, number one, opposes every god or everything called God, so all religions shut down; number two, he exalts himself over every god and over the true God, “I am greater than all of them,” he exalts himself. He didn't just shut down all religion, he shuts it down in favor of himself. “Worship me,” he's saying. He sets himself up, it says in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God. And notice that he's in God's temple. That phrase is a difficult phrase for me.
In what sense is it God's temple? God has abandoned it. It's a God-forsaken temple. But if you look at the verse, every use of the word “God” in the verse is kind of, you could put in quotations. It says there, look at verse 4, “He will oppose and will exalt himself over every so-called God,” or everything that is called God or his worship. “So that he sets himself up in so-called God's temple, proclaiming himself to be so-called God.” So you really shouldn't stumble over the fact that it's called God's temple.
This is what I think is happening. The Jews of the time will think that it's God's temple, they will think they're honoring the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, though it cannot be done apart from Jesus. “Whoever honors me,” said Jesus, “Honors the father. Whoever does not honor the Son, does not honor the Father.” So they think they're offering sacrifices to God, but he's not accepting, but that's what they think, so they will call it God's temple, the Jews will having been permitted, I believe, by the antichrist to reestablish that temple, they will call it God's temple.
Antichrist knows what they think, and he wants to go to that so-called Holy Place and violate it, just like Antiochus did with the pigs. Why did he choose pigs? Because it violated the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, he's trying to be offensive to that God. So he goes to God's temple and he sets himself up there, he ends animal sacrifice, and I think at that moment, sets the Jews to running. Their time is finished. They're in mortal danger. And I think at that point, God is going to finally take the hardness out of their hearts, and they will call on Jesus, they will look to Jesus by faith and they will trust in him. Romans 11 will come true. And so all Israel, at that time, all Israel will be saved. I think that's what's going to happen.
Now, the Puritans and reformed people, they're always telling us that the antichrist is the Pope, and so they say God's temple isn't a physical structure, but it's just the church. The problem is that has not been fulfilled in redemptive history, and it just doesn't do justice to the depth of this Daniel connection. The fact is there's going to be a rebuilt temple, a man is gonna take it over and set himself up as God. I think it's the perfect wicked end to human rebellion, in which we took God's place and sought worship ourselves rather than to worship and serve the true God.
Let the Reader Understand
Alright, Jesus said at the end of that little section, “Let the reader understand,” you've had two weeks to hear this. How's your understanding? It's like, “I always thought I knew the Bible, but whenever I come to First Baptist, I just get confused.” I just, look, I prayed for clarity. If this isn't clear to you, I'm sorry, I've done my best, alright? But Jesus is challenging you to try to understand, work at it. Go and read Daniel for yourself. Study it carefully.
Run for Your Lives
But let me tell you one more thing that hit me, okay? For us, if we're not the final generation, “let the reader understand” is an exhortation to study, so study, listen to sermons like this one, try to understand these themes. But I believe there will be a generation that will come, that will need more than just study, they will need to know what this says. And we're gonna talk about that more next week in the “Run For Your Life” sermon. They will need to know how many days they need to survive before Jesus comes back, and at that point, “let the reader understand” will be similar to God's statement in Genesis 1:3, “Let there be light.” And there was what? There was light. And so over that generation, he will say, “Let the reader understand,” and they will understand, they will know when Jesus is coming, they will know precisely what to do, even the mysteries of the end of Daniel chapter 12, that Daniel didn't even understand. They will know.
So “When you see standing in the Holy place, the abomination that causes desolation spoken of through the prophet Daniel...” Come next week to find out what to do, I've already told you four times, “Run for your lives,” that's what he's saying. I'm gonna explain next week why you need to run, let me take a few moments to apply the scripture and we'll be done.
Come to Christ Now While There is Time
First, I've already said once, come to Christ now while there's still time. Could be there are some relatives here that came to see a baby dedicated. If you haven't trusted in Christ through the forgiveness of your sins, the blood of Jesus, all of that, you are on the outside looking in, and if you were to die tonight, you would go to hell, you would spend eternity apart from God. Come to Christ. I'm just inviting you, come to Christ, trust in him for the forgiveness of your sins. That's the most important lesson. That's what the animal sacrifice was pointing to all the time.
No Permanent Dwelling Place on Earth
Secondly, dear friends, there is no permanent dwelling place here on earth. God four times has trashed his dwelling place, he is saying we are moving. There is no permanent place here. God says in Isaiah 57:15, “I live in a high and holy place, but also with him whose heart is humble and lowly and can try to revive the spirit of the contrite and to revive the heart of the lowly.” God lives in heaven and we're on earth. There is no permanent dwelling place here on earth, while this present age continues, Christ had no permanent resting place, “Foxes have holes, birds of the air have nests but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” He had no permanent tomb. You can't go anywhere to find the tomb of Jesus, I don't care what shrines they have in Jerusalem. I have no idea which of those places - Actually it wouldn't surprise me if Jesus tomb actually has dead bodies in it, but it wouldn't surprise me. It wouldn't bother me, I just know it's not his dead body. Amen. He has risen.
Alright, what happened to the space and place? Doesn't matter to me. God isn't doing that now, neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. God is spirit. We're not looking for the holy place, this place can be every bit as holy as any place in Jerusalem, dear friends, there is no permanent dwelling place here on earth.
I mentioned this last week, concerning desolation, let not your heart be desolate toward God, be rich and full in your relationship with God. Do not be empty.
The pull is always towards richness with God or idolatry, that's the pull all the time, you will fill that empty space inside you with something, it's either going to be an idol or the living God, don't let your own heart be an abomination of desolation. Don't turn to money and possessions and vacations and careers, and even children or any of the good blessings of God. None of the good blessings of God are meant to be enjoyed apart from fellowship with him, all of them are meant to be enjoyed in him, any of those things can be idols.
Marvel at What God will Do to Have a Pure People
And marvel what God will do and has done to have a pure people, he'll destroy the Holy of Holies, he'll let the ark get captured. He'll do all of this stuff so that he can have a pure and holy people. That's what he wants, then strive for holiness in your life.
Marvel at the Intricacies of Redemptive History
Hate the sin that defiles your heart, live free from idols, and marvel at the intricacies of redemptive history. Yes, there's a milk in here, but I hope at this point, you don't just want the milk, that you wanna know these things, you want to wrestle with these things you wanna take “Let the reader understand” and go work on it. Marvel the intricacies of redemptive history, this is a complex story to tell. I have never and probably will never again preach two sermons on one sentence fragment, I'll probably never do that again, but this is a complicated story, fall down in wonder.
Don’t Trust in any Man-Made Sanctuary
And don't trust in any man made sanctuary. This is a beautiful place that we meet in every week, isn't it? It's beautiful, it's comfortable. The carpet's, nice. The outside looks beautiful. Some people have worked very hard to make it look beautiful outside, they've done a great job, they should be encouraged for it. People work very hard to make this place clean and attractive and pretty every week. That's a good thing. That's a good ministry.
Friends, it's not permanent. He's going to shake everything, heaven and earth, including this place. Don't trust in this man-made place, God himself will forsake this place if we forsake Him, and if we turn away, this place will be an empty nothing on Sunday mornings, 20, 30 years from now, if we don't continue to follow him.
Watch Out for Pride
And finally watch out for pride. More on this next week, but what caused the antichrist to set himself up to be worshipped? A desire, a pride. That's at the root of our sin problem. We make too much of ourselves. Humble yourself under God's mighty hand. Let him lift you up. Close with me in prayer.