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Abomination of Desolation



Our ability to withstand and operate under pressure is not dependent on gratitude; it’s dependent on hope. In this talk, Ben Stuart teaches from Mark 13:1-37. Despite the confusing nature of this text, it was written by Mark to bring hope to the people of his day, and it still brings hope to us today! We can take comfort in knowing that life will be hard, but there is hope in the midst of it.

Key Takeaway

Trying to define what will happen at the end the the age is difficult. Trying to figure out when Jesus will return is impossible. But Jesus is coming again, and as we walk through difficult days and face rejection, He accepts us and gives us hope in His return.

Prophetic and apocalyptic language is hard to understand. The passage is rooted in Old Testament prophecy and is for the rest of New Testament prophecy. Renowned scholars disagree on what all of this means.

Mark records 2 sermons by Jesus, and this is one of them, so it's highly important. It's out of pastoral concern to comfort those being persecuted. Jesus used it the same way to prepare His disciples. We need it because we need hope to endure in a difficult day. Endurance is focused on future hope, not past gratitude. We are grateful for Jesus's first coming, but we look forward to His second.

There are 19 commands in the passage. Pay attention to the "be aware".

Mark 13:1-2. Remember, Jesus had just condemned hypocritical leadership. Now his disciples mention the stones of the Temple, which seems like a weird thing to note. Herod The Great had rebuilt the Temple. Each stone was over 60 feet long, 11 feet high, and one million pounds. It was impressive and huge, a marvel of the ancient world. It took from 19 BC to AD 64 to build it. Jesus lived from around 1 BC to AD 30, so every time He and his disciples saw it, it had gotten bigger and looked different. That's why the prophecy that Jesus just gave about not one stone will be left on top of the other is so stunning.

In AD 70, all of this came to pass. About 40 years after Jesus's death, the Jewish people rebelled against Nero and cast him out. There were other emperors that came and went, but Titus came to quell the rebellion. He surrounded the city to cut off the supplies, starving the people, and would eliminate anyone trying to escape. This happened 500 years to the day that Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the Temple for the first time. Titus tears the whole Temple down after burning it.

The disciples don't realize what Jesus is saying at the time, they just know it sounds crazy.

Mark 13:3-4. So, the disciples asked when these things would happen. Matthew 24:3 is the parallel passage that helps us understand. To the first-century Jew, the sign of the Messiah's coming and the end of the age are "these things." They know Zechariah 14:4, which says that Jerusalem will be surrounded, and the Messiah will come and establish His Kingdom. It's one event to them, but Jesus makes clear there are two. His first coming was in humility to serve, His second will be in power.

Mark 13:5-8. Be aware, and don't be led astray. There are going to be deceivers and natural disasters. Be aware, and don't be alarmed. So, when you see deceptive leadership, wars, and natural disasters, don't think about the end. Instead, think of the beginning of birth pains. Jesus doesn't want them focused on end-time signals; He wants them and us focused on what they're supposed to be doing

Mark 13:9-13. Be aware. You're going to be persecuted and rejected for His namesake. Three times, Jesus says they'll be delivered. Be aware, and don't be anxious. Know that when you are rejected by others because of Jesus, He will accept you and be with you. Their job is to proclaim the gospel to all the nations. Don't let persecution stop the proclamation.

His Spirit is with you and will tell you what to say. He doesn't say He will remove you from the persecution. He says He'll give you words. He died for our salvation. We'll suffer for its proclamation. There's a strange comfort in knowing that the suffering is coming because you're not surprised.

Mark 13:14-18. What is the abomination of desolation? See also Matthew 24:15 and Luke 21:20. It is a man that will stand in the holy place and take a position of holiness where he does not deserve to be and will do something so horrendous that people will leave it desolate. Daniel mentions the abomination of desolation many times. Many from his day believed that this was fulfilled when Antiochus Epiphanes set up an altar to Zeus and sacrificed pigs on it in the Temple. Jesus is saying that was a picture of this, but more is to come. That's why so many believed it was Titus in AD 70. Jesus warns that if you see it happening, get out.

Mark 13:19-23. Jesus says the tribulation will be the worst ever time. Now, AD 70 was pretty bad, but was it world-ending? This is where the debate starts.

Many Christians do think this passage addressed AD 70, and it's all past tense for us. The problem with that view is that it would mean all nations have already heard the gospel and that there has already been the worst persecution in the history of the world. Others think that this event kickstarts what is to come. Luke helps us here because he says that Jerusalem will be trampled until the time of the Gentiles is fulfilled. Matthew tells us that Jesus will return after this, but it will be obvious.

Mark 13:24-26. Mark says the temple will be destroyed "after that tribulation." People who think that AD 70 was the tribulation would say that Jesus ascending to the Throne with the Father, which is discussed in Daniel and Psalm 2, was a spiritual thing rather than a physical one. Jesus is in rule in Heaven right now, but this passage says we will see Him coming. In Acts 1, the disciples saw Jesus ascend into Heaven, and the angel said He would return the same way. There was a literal physical ascension, and there will be a literal physical return.

Mark 13:28-31. Jesus, again, is teaching sequential timing. We will see these things happen, but more is happening later. There is pain before the Kingdom comes to consummation.

With a lot of the Old Testament prophecies, they would look through the pain to the coming day. There are short-term fulfillment and long-term fulfillment. Jesus is establishing a pattern.

Mark 13:32-37. Be aware, stay awake. No one knows when Jesus is coming back.

The benefit of thinking this was all fulfilled in AD 70: you don't have to think about the end, but you have to diminish the worldwide persecution and the gospel going to all nations, and have to spiritualize the Son of Man coming in glory.

The benefit of thinking this is all in the future: you can just talk about the end times without a break in conversation, but you have to explain that "this generation will not pass away." Some say it's a moral generation, not a temporal one.

Where all Christians agree: Jesus really came, lived a sinless life, died, and rose again triumphantly. Everyone believes Jesus is coming again, also triumphantly, to judge sin and establish righteousness forever. The believers will be gathered and always be with the Lord. In 1 Thessalonians 5:10-11, Paul said to comfort each other with these words. Life will be hard, but our hope lies in His coming. Everyone agrees on what we should be doing.

Be aware, but not alarmed: life will be hard.

Be aware but not anxious: If you associate with Jesus, you will be rejected, but He will accept you and use you for something great. He's coming back again.

Life is hard, but there is hope.


"Don't let persecution stop the proclamation."

Ben Stuart

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Scripture References

  • Mark 13:1-37
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:10-11
  • Acts 1
  • Psalm 2
  • Luke 21:20
  • Luke 6:26
  • Zechariah 14:4
  • Matthew 24:3
  • Matthew 24:15
Ben Stuart Ben Stuart is the pastor of Passion City Church D.C. Prior to joining Passion City Church, Ben served as the executive director of Breakaway Ministries on the campus of Texas A&M. He also earned a master’s degree in historical theology from Dallas Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Donna, live to inspire and equip people to walk with God for a lifetime.