Jesus warned us of a time of unprecedented tribulation and persecution after an event He called the Abomination of Desolation. We talked yesterday of this time called the Great Tribulation in the King James Version, or the time of Great Distress in the NIV English Bible. Many, including this writer, believe it to be worldwide persecution of believers in Christ. When asked about signs before His Second Coming, among a few different signs, Christ talked about persecution:
9“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved (Matthew 24:9-13 Emphasis mine).
He then gave us a warning sign that heralds the time of tribulation and persecution. It starts with the conjunction, "so." The "so" links the event to the persecution that is ahead for us. Let's now talk about the event. Here again, is the text:
15“So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), 16then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, 18and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. 19And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! 20Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath.21For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be (Matthew 24:15-21. ESV. Emphasis mine).
The abomination of desolation is a desecration of the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem by the Antichrist. We talked about this a few days ago as one of the three signs written about by the apostle Paul. Here again, is the text written by Paul:
3Don’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. 4He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4 Emphasis mine).
The Book of Revelation also writes of this event when an image is set up for people to worship. Here is the text:
...it deceived the inhabitants of the earth. It ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. 15 The second beast was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that the image could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed (Revelation 13:14-15).
When this event takes place, Jesus warns, there will be great tribulation on earth. I believe that God will use this time of testing to bring a mighty revival and deepen us in our faith and bring maturity and a heavenly perspective to this world. This persecution motivated by the evil one is targeted against those who hold to the God of the Bible, both Jews and Christians. There will be a falling away, rebellion, or apostasy (depending on your translation, 2 Thessalonians 2:3) of those who go to church but have never come into a relationship with Christ. We have looked at the possibility that this falling away might happen when many are required to take the Mark of the Beast. Part of accepting this mark, I believe, will be the acknowledgment of the Antichrist to be god. Many will compromise their faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob when confronted with being forced to take the Mark of the Beast.
When the time comes, the Lord requires us to be faithful and endure even to death if need be. Death is never the end of a believer—it is but a door into eternal life. These words of Jesus should encourage us if we are those alive during this time of persecution. If we see these things take place on the Earth, we know that the time is not far off. If this event should happen in our lifetime, we shall soon see Christ coming in great power and glory to receive us to Himself (Matthew 24:30-31). Keith Thomas