Bible Studies for Life Sunday School Lesson for May 1

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Bible Studies for Life Sunday School Lesson for May 1


Matthew 24:15–22

Jesus continues the discourse from the beginning of the chapter in which He answers the disciples’ questions about the destruction of the temple and the end times. As with all end-time discussions, there are multiple interpretations. Is Jesus referring to the destruction of the temple, His Second Coming or both? While one can see parallels to prophecies of the Second Coming, the present verses apply to the destruction of the temple when future Roman emperor Titus destroyed Jerusalem and the temple, effectively ending the Jewish nation. The Romans renamed the province “Palestine,” Greek for “Philistine,” to eliminate Jewish references.

The desecration of the temple signals the coming end. (15–16)

The “abomination of desolation” comes from Daniel 12:11, another passage associated with end times. Most Jewish readers of Jesus’ day would interpret it as a prediction of Antiochus Epiphanes, who ruled the Holy Land after Alexander the Great. In 167 B.C., he desecrated the temple by sacrificing a pig on the altar, confiscated the gold dedicated to the temple and burned all available copies of the law to eliminate Jewish worship practices.

Both Matthew and Mark (Mark 13:14) insert a cautionary note to their readers, saying, “(let the reader understand)” (see also Mark 13:14). It is not clear whether they were encouraging caution in the reading of Daniel or the Gospels. In either case, they were implying the passages might not be referring to Antiochus alone.

There is another abomination yet to come, and it will signal the start of a grim time for the Jewish people.

As mentioned above, some Christians interpret these verses to apply to the end times. This is problematic. The temple was torn down in A.D. 70. Nearly 2,000 years later, it has not been rebuilt. Clearly, Jesus did not mean that His return would follow closely after the temple’s destruction. However, it did signal, at least in the Jewish Christian mind, the start of the final stage of God’s redemptive plan in which we eagerly anticipate Christ’s return.

The distress that follows will come suddenly. (17–20)

In these verses, Jesus augments the urgency of the situation. People used the flat rooftops as an extended living space. If one on a housetop saw the armies approaching, that person should take the quickest escape by running from housetop to housetop. The Jewish historian Josephus reports this is how many people fled in A.D 70.

If one were in the field, having left a coat back home, the wisest action would be to forget the coat and run. Understandably, pregnancy, infants in arms or winter weather would make escape more difficult.

The time of distress will be so severe that God will mercifully cut it short. (21–22)

Jesus continues to emphasize the severity of the coming disaster. By calling it the worst distress that has ever happened or ever will happen, He presents the destruction of the temple as an archetype for the end times. He will address the end in coming verses.

Here, Jesus simply presents both events as arduous. But He adds a note of encouragement. Even during the greatest crisis in all creation, God will be aware of the plight of His followers. God will still be in control. He will not allow His people to suffer needlessly. When the proper time arrives, He will step in and put an end to the pain and grief.

He sustained the Jewish people through the destruction of the temple. He will sustain and redeem those who belong to Christ when the end times come.

By Daryl Watts
Watts is a church consultant in Fresno, California.

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