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Wednesday, 5/17/2017

The Ruler of the Kings of the Earth”

Matt. 24:15-31
Jesus in this section is giving an explicit and disturbing picture of the destruction of Jerusalem and Judea.  Jesus refers to the “desolating sacrifice” spoken of by the prophet Daniel (Dan. 9:27; 11:31; 12:11).  In Daniel this is the Selucid commander Antiochus Epiphanes who invaded Jerusalem in the second century BC and sacrificed a pig on the altar in the temple.  This was the “desolating sacrifice.”  Antiochus then became a proto-type of the anti-christ.  We know from John that there are many anti-Christs (I John 2:18).
Jesus’ words here are an excellent example of the twofold nature of Biblical prophecy.  In the first instance a prophecy refers to a concrete event in history, usually something that will be fulfilled in the lifetime of its initial audience.  The second instance however jumps ahead to the end of time, to the final revelation of God’s plan for history.  This future informs the hopes and activities of believers in the present, most of whom will not live to see this final end until the Second Coming of Christ (Rev. 19).  An example of this can be found in the closing chapters of the Book of Isaiah which describes Israel’s return from captivity in Babylon beginning in the year 537 BC and then jumps ahead to talk about the new heaven and the new earth at the end of history (Isa. 65:17).
Jesus’ immediate focus here is on the upheavals of 68-70 AD.  Jerusalem was invaded and the temple burnt and destroyed in the year 70 AD.  As we mentioned before this was some forty years after Jesus’ prediction which conforms to a Biblical “generation.”  The periods of suffering throughout history become progressively worse.  Tacitus, the Roman historian, describes this period as “rich in disasters, frightful in its wars, torn by civil strife and even in peace full of horrors.”  Jesus ‘ description of people having to flee for their lives is all too accurate.  Yet those events can hardly compare to the world wars in the twentieth century
Biblical prophecy is in a spiral of fulfillment.  It continues to unfold.  At any given moment people think that their time of chaos and upheaval is the end.  Yet these times of catastrophe are cut short “for the sake of the elect.”  When people claim to know when Christ is returning we are not to believe them.  Immediately after these events Christ will return.  Many of the apostles, including Paul, probably believed that Jesus would come again in their lifetime.  We know that is not the case.  The word “immediately” here refers to the final sequence of these events not every single instance of suffering and conflict.
Jesus warns us that conflict and “great suffering” will be the mark of history from his first coming to his second appearing. Yet as he said we are not to be alarmed.  Christ will return.  Truth and justice will prevail.  The world that has rejected Christ will mourn.  We however are not to lose heart when we see nation rising against nature and evil seemingly triumphant over good.  Jesus even now is the ruler of the kings of the earth.  One day that will be plain for all to see.
Eternal and loving God and Savior.  I thank you that you have declared the end from the beginning (Isa. 46:10).  In the midst of human catastrophes and conflicts you remain supreme.  Encourage me with this truth I pray.  I ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.