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Desolation and the times of the nations

Dec 16, 2014

After a time of persecution, Jesus said, Jerusalem will be “surrounded by armies” (Luke 21:20). Matthew’s account says, “when you see the abomination of desolation… standing in the holy place” (Matthew 24:15). Each gospel writer reveals different details, showing what is important for his purpose.

Matthew was referring to a prophecy in Daniel 9:25-27. Daniel had prophesied that the Messiah would come to do His work (on the cross) 490 years after a certain decree, which we know as the Decree of Artaxerxes (458 B.C.) He divided this 490-year cycle into 7 62 1. Daniel 9:26 says,

26 Then after the sixty-two weeks [of years] the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince [Rome] who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined.

The interpretation of this prophecy can be determined today by its actual fulfillment, though it was somewhat obscure before the first century. The 7 62 weeks extended from 458 B.C. to 26 A.D., as I showed in the latter part of chapter 9 of Secrets of Time. The final “week” was from 26-33 A.D. Jesus was baptized in the midst of the week (September of 29 A.D.) and began His ministry in early 30 A.D. after John was cast into prison.

The War

Daniel 9:26 above might be interpreted to mean that Jerusalem would be destroyed immediately after the Messiah was to be “cut off.” However, history shows that this did not happen. As we have said, Ezekiel’s intercession gave Judah an extra 40 years of grace. John was executed by Herod at Passover of 30 A.D., and this is when Jesus succeeded John as the high priest (in the sight of God). Forty years later, on Passover of 70 A.D., Jerusalem was surrounded by Rome’s armies, and the siege began.

Josephus, the first-century Jewish historian, wrote about the death toll in the siege of Jerusalem:

“… no fewer than a hundred and fifteen thousand eight hundred and eighty dead bodies in the interval between the fourteenth day of the month Xanthicus [Nisan] when the Romans pitched their camp by the city, and the first day of the month Panemus [Tamuz].” (Wars of the Jews, VI, xiii, 7)

He tells us that the Roman siege began on the day that the people were supposed to kill the Passover lambs that year. In that this was precisely 40 years after Jesus’ full ministry began (after the death of John), we see how Ezekiel’s intercession had its effect on the city. The city and the temple were destroyed about four months later at the end of the siege.

The final battle in that war ended with the taking of Masada at Passover of 73. Masada was the fortress occupied by the Sicarii, “dagger people,” who were the most extreme terrorist group of that time. Josephus tells us that they were mostly the Edomite portion of Jewry, for their forefathers had been converted to Judaism in 126 B.C. The night before the Romans took the fortress, most of the people committed suicide, and Josephus tells us,

“… This calamitous slaughter was made on the fifteenth day of the month Xanthicus, or Nisan” (Wars of the Jews, VII, ix, 1).

In other words, it occurred on the day of Passover in 73 A.D., forty years after Jesus was crucified at Passover of 33.

The “abomination of desolation” is also mentioned in Daniel 11:31 and in Daniel 12:11, where the KJV renders it “the abomination that maketh desolate.” This probably captures the sense of the prophecy, for whatever the abomination is, it is the cause of desolation. On the surface, the Roman army might be seen as the abomination that brought about the desolation of Jerusalem. However, the real cause of the desolation was the abominable activity going on in the temple itself.

Casting Out the Usurpers

When the chief priests usurped the throne of Christ (as prophesied by Absalom’s overthrow of King David), in essence, they declared themselves to be the Messiah-King, setting up their throne in the temple as if they were God (or gods). This is what Paul meant when he wrote in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 4,

3 Let no one in any way deceive you, for it [the Day of the Lord] will not come unless the apostasy [apostasia, “casting away”] comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed [exposed], the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.

While many have thought that Paul was referring to a future Antichrist occupying a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem, the apostle was actually referring to the chief priests who had already usurped the place of Christ. Paul said that the Day of the Lord could not come until they were cast out of their position of power, even as Absalom had been cast off the throne a thousand years earlier. Paul was not speaking of apostasy in the sense of a falling away, but rather about a casting away. It is an overthrow, not a stumble.

Along with the overthrow of the usurpers, there is also the betrayer called “the man of lawlessness” and “the son of destruction” (perdition) who must be exposed. In David’s time this role was played by Ahithophel, David’s counselor and friend who betrayed him (2 Samuel 15:12). Ahithophel later hanged himself (2 Samuel 17:23, KJV). Ultimately, Absalom himself was killed in the final battle (2 Samuel 18:15).

In the New Testament rerun of this prophetic story, the chief priests played the role of Absalom, Jesus played the role of David, and Judas played the role of Ahithophel. We read in John 17:12 that Judas was the “son of perdition,” (apoleia). It is the same term that Paul used in 2 Thessalonians 2:3.

Paul said that the casting away (of the temple priests) and the exposure of the son of perdition (the betrayers) would have to occur prior to the Day of the Lord. He did NOT say that an Antichrist would arise in the future, but speaks of it as a present reality in his time. The future event is the resolution of this conflict, prophesied by the final battle in which David’s army defeated that of Absalom and cast the usurper off the throne.

The point is that the temple priests’ rejection of Christ was the underlying abomination that caused the desolation of Jerusalem forty years later. All of this was a conflict over the right to rule in the throne of David. The priests were Levites, not Judahites, and so they had no right to hold the scepter of Judah (Genesis 49:10).

The Resolution

When Absalom usurped the throne, David made a sacrifice on the summit (rosh, “head, skull”) of the Mount of Olives (2 Samuel 15:30, 32). This prophesied of Christ’s crucifixion on the same spot a thousand years later. David then went to Mahanaim in the land of Gilead (2 Samuel 17:24, 26). The name Mahanaim means “two camps.” It is the place where angels met Jacob and Jacob divided his family and his goods (Genesis 32:2, 7). He named the place, saying, “This is God’s camp.”

When David went there, he prophesied of Christ’s ascension to heaven (“God’s camp”) after His throne was usurped by the chief priests. There Christ will remain until the final battle, when He returns to reclaim His throne. Because the story says that Absalom was killed in this final battle, it suggests that those who usurped Christ’s throne will not be made rulers in the Kingdom. In fact, those who have supported the usurpers (as Judas) will also suffer judgment as sons of perdition. Some may be so remorseful that they will literally hang themselves, as did Ahithophel and Judas.

The original conflict was over the scepter of Judah, but the present dispute is over the birthright of Joseph, as I explained in my book, The Struggle for the Birthright. In other words, it is a dispute over who has the right to claim the name Israel, which is the birthright name given to Joseph and his sons (Genesis 48:14-16).

Hence, those who currently support the usurpers of that birthright name are the betrayers of our time and will not be entrusted with the reins of government in the Kingdom. The city of Jerusalem, allegorically known as Hagar (Galatians 4:25), will be cast out, Paul says, “for the son of the bondwoman shall not be an heir with the son of the free woman” (Galatians 4:30).

The Times of the Nations

Jesus said that when they saw the armies surrounding Jerusalem, they should leave the city in order to avoid the divine judgment. He then continues in Luke 21:23, 24,

23 Woe to those who are with child and to those who nurse babes in those days, for there will be great distress upon the land, and wrath to this people, 24 and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles [ethnos, “nations”] until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.

The times of the nations did not begin in 70 A.D. but in the first destruction of Jerusalem in the days of Jeremiah. This was when God took the Dominion Mandate from the kings of Judah and gave it to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon (Jeremiah 27:6). It has now been 2,600 years since the times of the nations began.

The number 26 means “Power of Salvation,” and suggests that we are at the point in time where the gospel will go forth to all nations in great power. See The Biblical Meaning of Numbers.

The times of the nations are the years in which the “beast” nations were given power to rule, because the kings of Judah had abused their mandate. It may be that this time was to begin and end with the destruction of Jerusalem, with an extra destruction in 70 A.D. Being “trampled under foot” does not picture occupation per se but rigorous dominion.

Jesus’ advice was directed primarily to His disciples and those believers who would be living in Jerusalem at the time of its destruction. We know, of course, that just before Jerusalem’s destruction, they did depart, escaping to Pella on the other side of the Jordan River. I believe that any Christians presently in Jerusalem ought to heed Jesus’ advice once again in order to avoid the final disaster that is soon to come.


This is the 120th part of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Luke." To view all parts, click the link below.

Studies in the Book of Luke


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Dr. Stephen Jones


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