Matthew 24:15-21

[Jesus said:] “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand— then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the housetop go down to take anything out of the house. Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again.

Scripture is filled with prophecies, both in the Old Testament and in the New. Many of the prophecies in the Old Testament were about Jesus, the Messiah who would bring the kingdom of heaven to man. As we know, these prophecies came to pass a little over two thousand years ago. In the New Testament, most of the prophecies were made by Jesus. As we have been reading over the past few days, one of them was about the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, which was a magnificent edifice.

Both came to pass. During the rule of the emperor Titus, the Roman army besieged Jerusalem. It took place in stages over several months until troops from four legions surrounded the city. Finally, Titus ordered a wall to be built to cut off the inhabitants completely. In a matter of days, the "desolation" Jesus spoke about was complete. Now listen to this. The Christians who lived in Jerusalem and paid heed to his warning fled the city when the first sign of soldiers appeared. Jesus' warning, combined with a more recent revelation, prepared them for an evacuation, and consequently were spared from the effects of the siege.

Another prophecy is contained in this passage, which is a little strange. Jesus says, "Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled." What could this mean? The "Gentiles" are non-Jewish people who moved through Jerusalem for centuries. However, in 1949, the modern State of Israel took control of Jerusalem's western and southern portions. Jordan controlled the eastern portion and the Old City, but during the 1967 war, Israel took possession of the entire city. However, the temple mount is still under Muslim control. The Dome of the Rock, one of the holiest places of Islam, is situated there.

So, does that have to come under Jewish control for the prophecy to be fulfilled? I don't pretend to know, but I do know that, like the Christians who took Jesus' warning seriously and were spared, we need to take heed of the things that Jesus says, too, because these are not just matters of life and death as we understand life and death; these are matters of everlasting rest or eternal condemnation. I also know that Jesus will return, only this time it will be to judge us. And we need to be ready because it can be any time.

It could be today.

May the Spirit be with you.

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