Olivet Discourse – Matthew 24:15-22—Tribulation Upon Israel

View from the Mount of Olives

Matthew 24:15-22 (KJV) “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) 16 Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: 17 Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: 18 Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. 19 And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! 20 But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: 21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. 22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.”

Up to verse 14 conditions leading to the “end of the age” are laid out: continual wars, turmoil, unrest, famines, earthquakes, pestilence, persecution, hatred, heartlessness, general disobedience, false prophets, false Christs, falling away of the Church, and disbelief in God.  In verse 15 Jesus shifts focus, stepping back in time to His day.  He begins addressing the impending destruction of the Temple and the imminent fall of Jerusalem-

“…See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown” Matthew 24:2 (KJV).

The keyword in verse 15 is “therefore.”  Jesus is saying, “now that you know” what things are coming upon a disobedient, idolatrous world…coming to a crescendo at the end of the age…know also that judgment is coming upon an unfaithful, idolatrous Jerusalem.

“For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, 44 And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation” Luke 19:43-44 (KJV).

The “Great Tribulation” of 70 A.D. – (Mark 13:14-23; Luke 17:23,24,37; 21:20-24)

Matthew 24:15 (KJV) “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)”

Verse 15 begins a prophecy concerning Israel in the time of the Apostles.  It is NOT “End-Time” as most scholars teach.  Prophecy students assumed Jesus is speaking of the End-Times because that is where they place Daniel’s prophecy.  However, Daniel 9:24-27 is specific.  Without going into an exhaustive analysis of Daniel 9, let’s take a quick look from 30,000 feet.  From the decree of Artaxerxes* to restore and rebuild Jerusalem to Messiah the Prince will be 69 weeks.  On the Hebrew calendar that would be 360 days x 7 weeks x 69 years = 173,880 days.  Any rabbi of Jesus’ day studying Daniel would have known that He entered Jerusalem riding a donkey (humility) exactly on that day as the Angel prophesied to Daniel.  After all, even the heathen gentile Maji knew and came looking for Israel’s King…Daniel was their teacher, “Then the king made Daniel a great man, and gave him many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief of the governors over all the wise [men] of BabylonDaniel 2:48 (KJV).

*Ezra 7:21-28.  Also see The Coming Prince by Sir Robert Anderson.

Daniel goes on to say that after the 69th week, “…shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself….”  In simple terms, after the 69th week, Christ would be Crucified.  Then Daniel warns that the people of the “prince that shall come will destroy the city and the sanctuary.”  That is to say, Titus, the Roman general and his army.  And so he did, plunging Israel into the time of “vengeance” from God, “Jacob’s trouble,” from which they still have not recovered.  Not until the Jews acknowledge Jesus as the Christ will their persecution end.

As Jesus shifts His focus in verse 15, the readers must shift their focus right along with Him.  We can’t keep marching off in a straight line as is common in Western thought.  Eastern thought is non-linear.  It follows patterns, not timelines.  This prophecy now focuses on first-century Israel rather than on the end of the age events.

In the first century, it was common to make oblique references to Rome to avoid conflict with the authorities.  Our Lord may have been doing just that here in His use of Daniel.  He is teaching that Rome is the “abomination” that will defile the Temple in 70 A.D.  Matthew adds, “let the reader understand,” so that we know to keep this prophecy in the same context as Daniel’s prophecy.  In today’s terminology, we would say it with a wink and a nod.

2 Thessalonians 2 is NOT the “abomination of desolation.”  Antichrist’s temple cannot be defiled as it, in itself, is an abomination to God.  Jesus Christ is the end of the Sacrificial system.  The Jews will unwittingly erect a temple for “the man of sin” because they have not yet accepted Jesus as their Messiah.  That temple will not be a “holy” place.

 Adam Clark’s Commentary—The Roman Army:

The abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel – This abomination of desolation, (explained in Luke 21:20-21), refers to the Roman army; and this abomination standing in the holy place is the Roman army besieging Jerusalem; this, our Lord says, is what was spoken of by Daniel the prophet, in Dan 9 and 11; and so let everyone who reads these prophecies understand them; and in reference to this very event they are understood by the rabbis.  The Roman army is called an abomination, for its ensigns and images, which were so to the Jews.  Josephus says (War, b.  6 chap.  6), the Romans brought their ensigns into the temple, and placed them over against the eastern gate, and sacrificed to them there.  The Roman army is therefore fitly called the abomination, and the abomination which maketh desolate, as it was to desolate and lay waste Jerusalem; and this army besieging Jerusalem is called by Mark, (13:14), standing where it ought not, that is, as in the text here, the holy place; as not only the city, but a considerable compass of ground about it, was deemed holy, and consequently no profane persons should stand on it. 


Matthew 24:16-20 (KJV) 16 “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains17 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 go back to get his clothes.  19 But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! 20 And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath.

When you see the Roman army coming and gathering around the city, flee! The Sabbath was a bad day to try and flee. In Temple times the city gates were closed and locked on Sabbath days making a quick exit quite impossible.

This prophecy is quite obviously a warning to those living in Judea in Apostolic times, during the Roman occupation.  Jesus warned those who would listen to act with urgency when these events begin to occur.  They would happen quickly.  All who were watching did heed the signs and fled before the impending catastrophe.  As someone aptly pointed out, not one Christian obedient to the words of Christ was caught off-guard to lose their life.  The Church fled to the hills as instructed. 


Matthew 24:21(KJV) “For then (at that time)shall be great tribulation (upon Israel), such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be (again).”

“And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation (the coming of Christ)Luke 19:44 (KJV).

“For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.”Luke 21:22

Israel rejected God the Father when they demanded a king be over them — 1 Samuel 8:7-8 Israel had already deviated from faithfulness, but here, she formally rejects God as her Ruler, taking a major step toward being like all the nations around her.  Then she rejects Jesus Christ when the people cried out, in Matthew 27:25, “…His blood [be] on us, and on our children.”  Finally, Acts 7:54-60,Israel rejected the Holy Spirit when the Sanhedrin, gnashing their teeth in anger, and stopping their ears, dragged Stephen out of the city and stoned him for his testimony.

In context, these are days of vengeance from God upon unfruitful, unfaithful Israel.  This is Israel’s punishment, their estrangement from the LORD their God for their infidelity and rejection of Christ their King and Messiah.  These verses in Matthew are in perfect alignment with Jeremiah 30 – 31 and Deuteronomy 28.  This “is” the beginning of the Diaspora, when the Jews were scattered throughout the earth, never to take root outside of Israel.

“For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth.” Amos 9:9 (KJV)

The diaspora* will not conclude until Israel repents, “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate: and verily I say unto you, Ye shall not see me, until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” Luke 13:35 (KJV).

*1948 was only a partial fulfillment of the return of Israel to the land.  The “times of the Gentiles” have not ended.  Israel is under relentless scrutiny from the international community.  The Temple mount is still under Gentile control and will be until Christ returns to redeem them.

Matthew 24 is NOT the tribulation of Revelation 6 which comes “upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth” Revelation 3:10

Remembering Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and many other prophets, Israel was forewarned time and again of the coming destruction of Jerusalem, Israel’s exile from the land and the loss of God’s grace for their disobedience, sins, and rejection of their salvation—their King and Messiah Jesus Christ.  These past 2000 years have surely been, “Jacob’s Trouble.” [see post “Jacob’s Trouble.”]

For their insurrection, God used Rome to take away their land, their nation, their scepter, their Temple…stone by stone…their priests (murdered them all), and their religion.  Today there is “NO” Biblical Judaism.  Jews are practicing a non-scriptural, illegitimate, manmade, rabbinical Judaism.  They have no means to justify themselves under the Law. 

“And the Lord shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other; and there thou shalt serve other gods, which neither thou nor thy fathers have known, even wood and stone.  And among these nations shalt thou find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest: but the Lord shall give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind: And thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt fear day and night, and shalt have none assurance of thy life.” Deuteronomy 28:64-66 (KJV)

Jesus is their only hope.

“For it shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD of hosts, that I will break his yoke from off thy neck, and will burst thy bonds, and strangers shall no more serve themselves of him: 9 But they shall serve the LORD their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up unto them” Jeremiah 30:8-9 (KJV).

“Josephus, in describing it [the devastation of Jerusalem], uses almost the very words of our Saviour.  “All the calamities, says he, which had befallen any nation from the beginning of the world” were but small in comparison with those of the Jews. – Jewish Wars, b. i.  preface, section 4.  He has given the following account of one part of the massacre when the city was taken:
            “And now rushing into the city, they slew whomsoever they found, without distinction, and burned the houses and all the people who had fled into them; and when they entered for the sake of plunder, they found whole families of dead persons, and houses full of carcasses destroyed by famine, then they came out with their hands empty.  And though they thus pitied the dead, they had not the same emotion for the living, but killed all they met, whereby they filled the lanes with dead bodies.  “The whole city ran with blood,” insomuch that many things which were burning were extinguished by the blood.” – “Jewish Wars,” b.  6 chapter 8, section 5; chapter 9, section 2,3.  He adds that in the siege of Jerusalem not fewer than “eleven hundred thousand” perished (Jewish Wars, b.  6 chapter 9, section 3) – a number almost half as great as are in the whole city of London.  In the adjacent provinces no fewer than “two hundred and fifty thousand” are reckoned to have been slain; making in all whose deaths were ascertained the almost incredible number of “one million three hundred and fifty thousand” who were put to death.”

Adam Clarke’s Commentary

Barnes adds: “These were not, indeed, all slain with the sword.  Many were crucified.  “Many hundreds,” says Josephus (“Jewish Wars,” b.  v.  chapter 11, section 1), “were first whipped, then tormented with various kinds of tortures, and finally crucified; the Roman soldiers nailing them (out of the wrath and hatred they bore to the Jews), one after one way and another after another, to crosses, “by way of jest,” until at length the multitude became so great that room was lacking for crosses, and crosses for the bodies.” So terribly was their imprecation fulfilled – “his blood be on us and on our children,” Matt 27:25.  If it be asked how it was possible for so many people to be slain in a single city, it is to be remembered that the siege of Jerusalem commenced during the time of the Passover, when all the males of the Jews were required to be there, and when it is estimated that more than “three million” were usually assembled.  See Josephus, Jewish Wars, b.  6 chapter 9, section 3,4.”  Albert J. Barnes’ Notes

Adam Clark continues:  Matt 24:21 “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world .  .  .”  No history can furnish us with a parallel to the calamities and miseries of the Jews:-rapine, murder, famine, and pestilence within: fire and sword, and all the horrors of war, without.  Our Lord wept at the foresight of these calamities; and it is almost impossible for any humane person to read the relation of them in Josephus without weeping also.  Luke 21:22, calls these the days of vengeance, that all things which were written might be fulfilled.”

1.  These were the days in which all the calamities predicted by Moses, Joel, Daniel, and other prophets, as well as those predicted by our Saviour, met in one common center, and were fulfilled in the most terrible manner on that generation.

2.  These were the days of vengeance in another sense, as if God’s judgments had certain periods and revolutions; for it is remarkable that the temple was burned by the Romans in the same month, and on the same day of the month, on which it had been burned by the Babylonians.  See Josephus, War, b.  6 c.  4.  Adam Clarke’s Commentary

Exploring Scripture~because it matters-it really does!



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