Study Series 7 Lesson 2: Matthew 24:15-28

Study Series 7 Lesson 2: Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21.  This study takes us through Matt. 24:15-28 and continues to delve into the audience relevance and contextual applications of Jesus’ words and predictions, and expounds on how these scriptures interlink multiple passages throughout the rest of the NT, as well as connect and shed light on the fulfilment realities of OT shadows and types.

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Study Series 7 Lesson 2: Matthew 24:15-28 (Matthew 24: Transitional period – Fulfillment of Hebrews 8:13)


(Matt. 24, Mark 13, Luke 21)



15 “Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation, ‘spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand),”

Notice that Jesus used the second person in the three gospels: “When you see” (Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:14; Luke 21:20).  If Jesus had a far future generation in mind, would He not have said, “When they see…?”  The plain interpretation of Jesus’ words is that He was speaking to His disciples standing right there in front of Him about things which were going to come upon their own generation.

The Abomination of Desolation was to be fulfilled in the lifetime of His disciples when they would see Jerusalem surrounded by armies because its destruction was about to happen (Luke 21:20-24 scholars from “all” camps of eschatology concur that these verses refer to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.  However, the major problem for the futurist is vs. 22 where it says “all things”).  (Jesus using the term Abomination of Desolation refers the reader to the Book of Daniel in the Old Testament, Daniel 9 & 12, and implies this would be an event that was to be fulfilled during the lifetime of His disciples.).

There are several theories as to what the ‘abomination’ was. (a) The Jewish leaders had departed from the true worship of God.  The corrupt high priest offering sacrifices of apostate Judaism was an abomination, (b) The Jewish Zealots, who advocated political and religious freedom from Rome, stormed the temple and allowed criminals to roam in the Holy of Holies, and even murdered in the temple, (c) The Romans caused the abomination of desolation when they overtook and burned the temple in AD 70.  The soldiers set up their Roman symbols in the temple and offered sacrifices there.  (We will study into this further in Study Series 9 Lesson 2 and Study Series 16 Lesson 4).

B). BE ALERT AND ESCAPE (Matt. 24:16-20):

16 “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.  17 Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house.  18 And let him who is in the field not to back to get his clothes.  19 But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days!”

  1. (Matt.24:16) FLEE TO THE MOUNTAINS – These verses still focus on Jerusalem and Judea.    Jesus warns the disciples standing in front of Him that when they see these things happen, they should get out of Jerusalem and flee to the mountains.  This is not describing a worldwide tribulation in the future.  Consider that many people in the world do not even live near mountains.  

The followers of Christ were expecting the temple’s destruction.  (Read) Luke 19:41-44; 21:23-24; 23:27-31.  Was Jerusalem ever surrounded by the armies prior to AD 70?  Yes.  Did the Christians flee the city?  Yes.  We can read the historical records which recorded the events.  See Josephus’ Antiquities X:XI:7. Eusebius in his book, III, V says, “The whole body, however, of the church at Jerusalem, having been commanded by a divine revelation, given to men of approved piety there before the war, removed from the city, and dwelt at a certain town beyond the Jordan, called Pella.  Here, those that believed in Christ removed from Jerusalem, as if holy men had entirely abandoned the royal city itself, and the whole land of Judea.”  See Philip Schaff’s History of the Christian Church, vol. 1, p. 391-404.

  1. (Matt. 24:17-18) DO NOT WASTE TIME – Jesus further warns His disciples that those who are on their housetops and also those who are in the fields to move quickly in order to escape danger.  He did not want them to leisurely take their time to escape.  It was so serious, that they were not to waste time getting things from the house or getting their clothes.  In the first century, the flat housetops were the normal locations where the families would spend their time.  It was a social centre for them.  Jesus did not want them to go back inside the house and delay their flight out of the city.  The Christians obeyed this prophecy when they fled to the mountains outside Jerusalem.  
  1. (Matt. 24:19) RUN HARD AND FAST – Jesus said that it would be very hard on pregnant women and nursing mothers to escape the tribulation.  This was due to their added responsibility and burden of children.  This would slow them down when they tried to flee the destruction of Jerusalem.

C). Great TRIBULATION (Matt. 24:20-22):

20 And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath.  21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.  22 And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.”

  1. (Matt. 24:20) PRAY FOR NO HINDRANCES – Jesus included the difficulties they could have with the weather and also, as Jews, with the Sabbath.  They would be restricted by customs about traveling any distance on the Sabbath.  We note that this event was describing God’s Judgment on Israel and Jerusalem.  It was not primarily to destroy the people, but to once and for all destroy the temple and the Old Covenant symbolism.  Jesus did not describe traffic jams or bombs from airplanes.  His message was about life and resources that were present in that first century.  It was not a worldwide event.  It was local to Judea, which was the Province that included the city of Jerusalem. 

Notice also the description of the era of the time of the end: flat-roof houses, Sabbath observance, field work, and primitive travel.  Those things were certainly not applying to our present period of time.  Ensure that you slow down and consider the importance of “the audience this message is being limited to” by the mention of the Sabbath, as this would not and does not have any concern for Gentiles or any of us today under the New Covenant.

  1. (Matt. 24:21) GREATER THAN ANY OTHER – This judgment was against

     Old Covenant Israel.  This warning was for His disciples and any believing Jews to hastily clear out of Jerusalem.  The tribulation that was to come upon Israel would be greater than any other in their history.  This judgment would never occur again against Israel, because that nation would no longer be God’s covenant people (Hebrews 8:13; 9:8-11 changing of the covenants was about to occur).  


The Messiah had come in judgment and the Old Covenant laws were fulfilled by Him.  Josephus said that more than one million Jews were killed in the Jewish war.  This was the greatest judgment upon Israel ever.  The worldwide Flood was not a judgment on the nation of Israel (they were not a nation yet).  The Nazi holocaust was not a judgment against the nation of Israel (they were not a nation since their destruction in AD 70).  

Speaking of his own generation, especially of the war-events between AD 66-70, the historian Josephus writes, “It is, therefore, impossible to go distinctly over every instance of these men’s iniquity.  I shall, therefore, speak my mind here at once briefly, that neither did any other city ever suffer such miseries, nor did any age ever breed a generation more fruitful in wickedness than this was, from the beginning of the world” (Wars V:X:5, c.f. VI:IX:4).  This coincides very well with Jesus’ statement in Matt. 24:21.  Cf. Daniel 12:1.

We can agree, can we not, that no other crime was as monstrous as killing the “Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:8, also Acts 3:12-26; 1 Thessalonians 2:15).  We should consider that no other generation will ever experience a time of divine punishment as severe as that which fell upon the unbelieving Jews in Christ’s generation, because no other crime could ever be as great as the one which they committed.  Because they rejected and killed their own living God in the flesh, God’s wrath was poured out upon them (Matthew 12:31-32; 21:33-45; 22:1-9 23:31-38; 27:24-26; Luke 11:50-54; 21:23; 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16; 5:1-4, 9; 2 Thessalonians 1:4-10).  

Have you also ever asked yourself the question that if this was the end of the “world/universe?”  Then why did the Holy Spirit bother to enter the end of the phrase, “nor shall ever be.”  That would be a moot point if the end of the cosmos had come.  

  1. (Matt. 24:22) GOD WILL SAVE THE ELECT – Jesus said that the days of this tribulation would be shortened so that not all of His chosen ones would be killed.  This indicates that some of God’s elect people would live safely through this terrible tribulation. 

The historian Josephus wrote how the slaughter of the Christians, and the decimation of the church, between AD 63-66 was so severe that if the Jewish/Roman war had not broken out in AD 66 then he states that Christianity was on the verge of being wiped out.  The Jews and Rome had joined in an unholy alliance against Christians which commenced in AD 63 when Nero had set Rome of fire and then blamed the Christians for it, and then focused efforts with the Jews in this great persecution attempting to annihilate every Christian.  However, as the Lord had promised to “shorten those days,” this unholy alliance came to an end in AD 66 when the Jews refused to continue to allow the Roman sacrifices in the Jerusalem temple.  Nero then turned his main focus and barbaric efforts away from the church and onto the Jews, and attacks and destruction broke out throughout the Roman empire from city to city against the Jews, forcing the fleeing survivors further and further back down into their country, as the Roman army decimated their entire nation as they moved down to swell the majority remaining into Jerusalem, where they ultimately quashed the rebellion, slaughtered mass numbers of the people, and burned and destroyed their capital and not leaving one stone upon another in the temple, thus fulfilling exactly Jesus’ promise of Matthew 24:2.

In verse 22, the elect were the Jewish remnant Christians who escaped the city, as well as those who were not yet regenerated spiritually who saw the ominous warning signs.  Some of these yet unregenerate people who escaped, as well as others, would undoubtedly be future new Christians to carry the gospel forward after AD 70.

Again, we need to ask ourselves that if this was to be, in our understanding of things, the end of the “world/universe,” then why would the Holy Spirit tell us He was going to shorten those days to save some “flesh?”  Save them for what, if all things were done and no planet left to live on? 

What were the Apostles trying to tell their believers whom they were speaking to “right there and then in their first century time” – (read) 1 Cor. 7:29-31, 10:11, 

Heb. 1:1-2, 9:26, 1 Pet. 4:7, 17, 5:1, 1 John 2:17-18. 

D). COMING OF THE SON OF MAN (Matt. 24:23-25):  

 23 “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or “There!’ do not believe it. 24 For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.  25 See, I have told you beforehand.”  

(Matt. 24:23-25) THERE WILL BE FALSE CHRISTS – Jesus said that there would be false christs and false prophets, who would rise up and show great signs to deceive many.  (1 John 4:1, 2 Pet. 2:1).  Although unbelieving Jews try to deceive the elect, there is no possibility of that happening.  God will keep His elect believers secure in His love (Rom. 8:31-39; John 10:28-29).  Matt. 24:25 is explained in even more direct audience description in Mark 13:23 (read) Clearly instructing His 1st century audience to pay attention and watch, as it was going to be relevant to them and their time.

We have also seen in the previous passages in Matthew 24:4, 5, 9-12 about the false christs and the false prophets/teachers.  Jesus warned His disciples in advance.  Acts and the epistles record many pre-AD 70 examples: Acts 8:9, 13:6, 19:14, 5:34-38; widespread Judaizer influence in Acts 15; Rom. 14; Col. 2:16 and Gal. 1:6-7; false teachers/apostles in 1 Cor. 1:12-13, 4:17-19; 2 Cor. 11:12-13; 2 Thess. 2:1-3; 2 Tim. 2:17-18; Jude 4; Rev. 2:2.  The Apostle John in his epistles warned that many antichrists had gone out and that it was “the last hour” (1 John 2:18-19; 4:3; 2 John 7).  Do we have any historical evidence that Jews used “signs and wonders” to deceive the many?  Plenty! (just copy/paste following entire “bold” into Google for link to Josephus’ writings) See in Josephus, The Antiquities of the Jews: XX:VIII:6; Wars of the Jews: VI:V:2, 3.  I am sure that God used Josephus to witness all these events and record them for all of us to read and to see the meticulous details, and word for word fulfillments of His prophecies.

E). LIGHTNING AND EAGLES (Matt.24:26-28):

26 “Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it.” 27 For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.  28 For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together.”

  1. (Matt. 24:26) NOT OUTSIDE OR INSIDE – Jesus told His disciples not to believe the reports of anyone who says that Christ had come in some private or secret way without it being an event that would be known.  If someone says that He had come and was in a place in the dessert, or in some room, where they could go to and see Him, it will not be a true report.  Jesus was telling them that it would be an event that would be visible and known and that they would not need someone to tell them to come somewhere to see Him.  
  2. (Matt. 24:27) COMING LIKE LIGHTNING – Jesus said that just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also would be His coming (Parousia) in judgment on Jerusalem and the Old Covenant temple system.  The fact that Jesus used lightning to describe His Parousia, shows that it would be visible to local Israel and not worldwide.  The lightning over Jerusalem would be seen in parts of Judea.  A person could escape it by fleeting to the mountains.  It would also come quickly at an unknown time.  His Parousia would be one of judgment.  It would be obvious for all in Jerusalem and surrounding areas to see.  The fact that Jesus uses this description of lightning also indicates that His coming would be visible.  He said that He would appear in the clouds and there would be angelophanies and signs and wonders in the sky and distress and perplexities on the earth when He was coming in the clouds to bring the final judgment on Israel and the Old Covenant system.  The visible results of His Parousia would be evident to everyone in the area as Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed.  

In the Bible, lightning is judgment language that is used often to mean the presence of the Lord or His coming in judgment.  The use of the words ‘world’ and ‘earth’ are used to describe the land or area that was under judgment.  LIGHTNING in abundance and He vanquished them (Psa. 18:13-14).  The LIGHTNINGS lit up the world (Psa. 77:18).  His LIGHTNINGS light up the world, the earth sees and trembles. (Psa. 97:4).  Flash forth LIGHTNING and scatter them (Psa. 144:6).  

See also: Exodus 19:16; 20:18; Job 36:29-31; Ezekiel 21:15, 28-29; Zechariah 9:14.  We know that God was not physically present during any of these Old Testament comings/judgments.

  1. (Matt. 24:28) VULTURES GATHER – Wherever the carcass is, the eagles will be gathered together.  Jesus explains that His coming (Parousia) will be as clear as when eagles or vultures go after a dead animal.  The eagles represent the Roman armies that surrounded the symbols of the dead Old Covenant system.  The physical city of Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed for all of Israel to see and for people everywhere to understand.  The physical nation of Israel was no longer God’s people.  Instead, the Kingdom of God was forever consummated in the true spiritual Kingdom that had been given to “another nation” (Matt. 21:43).  God’s true people/Kingdom would forever be spiritual Israelites made up of believing Jews and believing Gentiles.
    1. The Jewish nation is represented here as a “corpse” and the Roman armies as the “eagles” who have gathered together to destroy the unbelieving Jewish nation.  It is interesting that Jesus spoke in much the same way as the prophet Jeremiah spoke before the destruction of Jerusalem in his day (See Jeremiah 7:1-34; 19:7-8).  As He did in Jeremiah’s generation, God was about to judge those who rejected His covenant in Christ’s generation.

Those last two years prior to AD 70 were chock full of false messiahs, rumors of war, abominations, lawlessness, signs in the heavens, signs on earth, angelophanies, and voices heard coming from the unseen realm.  All the final events that Jesus predicted in Matthew 24 were exploding on the scene like a grand finale fireworks display.  All these things are recorded by historians and various reliable sources in the pages of our history for us to be able to read of the power and the amazing details.

Before we go to the next verse in Matt. 24, we need to go to Luke 21:22-24 which speaks of events which fall between Matthew 24:28 and 29.  Notice Luke 21:22 says, “These are days of vengeance, in order that all things which are written may be fulfilled.”  This is a very important passage because it plainly teaches that all things written in Scripture would be fulfilled with the culmination of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, and this did happen in AD 70.  This would mean that the seventy weeks spoken of in Daniel (Dan. 9:24-27) would have to have been completed at that time.  See Daniel 12:7 and Revelation 10:5-7.

Luke 21:23 was fulfilled.  The historian Josephus recorded many of the atrocities which were committed during those days, in The Wars of the Jews: II:XIV:8, 9; II:XVIII:1-5; III:VII:36; III:XI:2-4; III:X:9; IV:VI:3; V:IX:4; V:XI:1-2; V:XII:3-4 and VI:IX:3-4.  Those passages will help you get some idea what it was like in that perverse generation.

Also, notice “great distress upon the land, and wrath to this people.”  Which land and people was Jesus talking about in this context?  It was only the land of Israel and the Jewish people.

Lastly, in Luke 21:24, “They will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles until the time of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” 

It would be advantageous for us to do a short topic study right here to allow the Bible to put into perspective for us what it is referring to when it talks about a “time of the Gentiles,” and/or a “trampling/treading.” 

Luke 21:24 lists 4 constituent elements: Gentiles, Time, Jerusalem, Trampling.  Let us look at some other verses in the Bible to see if other scriptures help to shed some light on the meanings in this verse.

(Read) Lam. 1:15, “The Lord has trampled underfoot all my mighty men in my midst…the Lord trampled as in a winepress the virgin daughter of Judah.”

  • Jeremiah is mourning over the past events of the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians in 586 BC.  The Lord used the Babylonians to carry out His judgement, but Jeremiah refers to this as being “the Lord” who did the trampling.
  • This battle and destruction by the Babylonians was not a long drawn out process over decades, centuries or millennia – it was a swift battle over, a time of trampling and destruction – it was the time of judgement on Judah for all the violations and breaking of the Mosaic law/covenant.
  • Throughout the Bible you will often find this type of talk and descriptions, and not as a drawn out period, but speaking of this “time of the Gentiles” as referring to the fulfilling of judgement and the pouring out of God’s wrath.
  • You will find these exact same 4 constituent elements in: Dan. 12:6-7 and Rev. 11:1-2.

**** Not one single reference found in the Bible ever refers to a time of trampling, or Gentiles or nation, as a long drawn out time.  

Let’s also look at the following:

  • (Read) Dan. 7:7, 17, 19, 21-23, 25, “Fourth beast…iron teeth…devouring, breaking in pieces, and trampling…shall persecute the saints…the saints shall be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time.”
    • Same 4 constituent elements – and look at the time this is stated to take place – during the time of the forth beast, or forth empire (same as Dan. 2:40-43), and this is widely acknowledged among the scholarly world as the Roman Empire.
    • Dan. 7:7 is also stated in “past tense” – not a long or drawn out or continuing process.
  • An example of this same descriptive language referring to Gentile nations being trampled by another Gentile nation is in (read) Ezek. 30:3-5, “…the day of the Lord; it will be a day of clouds, the ‘time of the Gentiles.  The sword shall come upon Egypt…Ethiopia…Libya, Lydia…Chub…”
    • This was all in a 3 ½ year period around 586 BC.  In addition to Jerusalem, Babylon took all of these nations as well, and it is called “the day of the Lord,” and “the time of the Gentiles.”  God used a Gentile nation to carry out His judgement.
    • Babylon’s time would come as well, and we are told of this in (read) Jer. 27:7, “So all nations shall serve him…until the time of his land comes; and then many nations and great kings shall make him serve them.”
      • This “time of his land comes” is referring to the time when Belshazzar will see the writing on the wall, speaking of Babylon’s own “time” of destruction at the hands of the Medes and the Persians.  (That was a time of swift battle and destruction – not any long drawn out process).

Here are some other verses showing Treading/Trampling is a short-time:

  • Isa. 10:5-6, 16:8, 63:3, 6, 18; Jer. 21:10; Ezek. 26:11; Mic. 5:6; Luke 8:5; Rev. 14:20, 19:15; Deut. 28:33.

This “times of the Gentiles” in Luke 21:24 clearly refers to, and is confined to, the time of the four kingdoms/beasts described in Daniel 2 and 7.  Rome was clearly that fourth/final kingdom to oppress Israel.  God used the Roman armies to “pour out His wrath” on OC Israel for their continual breaking of their covenant/marriage with Yahweh, and He would conduct this 3 ½ year “times of the Gentiles” to trample the adulterous OC wife and destroy their earthly temple and burn up their city of Jerusalem (Matt. 22:7, 23:38; Lev. 21:9; Ezek. 16:41; Rev. 11:2, 17:16).

** This phrase “times of the Gentiles” is not to be mistaken with Paul’s statement of “the fullness of the Gentiles” in Rom. 11:25!  (We will do a thorough study into this “fullness of the Gentiles” in Study Series 11 Study on Romans 11.)