Thursday in the Twenty-Fifth Week of Ordinary Time

Matthew 24:15-28; Mark 13:14-23; Luke 21:20-24

So as to Lead Astray the Elect, If That Were Possible, Which It’s Not

Jesus’ discourse continues.  I said yesterday that the passage combines two events: Our Lord’s foretelling of the destruction of Jerusalem (which came to pass in A.D. 70) and his foretelling of his return (which, of course, we still await).  I mentioned that we have to disentangle these two events in the passage to interpret its meaning rightly.  However, I also think that the two events are combined by our Lord on purpose as similar events and circumstances apply to both.

That part of the passage today obviously refers first to the destruction of Jerusalem.  In Matthew and Mark, Jesus speaks of the “abomination of desolation” which would be the sign that great tribulation is coming.  (This “abomination” is also prophesied in Daniel 9:27, and many think it referred to the invasion the Seleucid King Antiochus IV Epiphanes who erected an altar to Zeus in the temple and sacrificed unclean animals there several centuries after Daniel in 167 B.C.)  As for exactly what abomination Jesus is addressing, Luke tells us plainly: “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near.”  So this is the abomination of desolation Jesus speaks of: The destruction of Jerusalem.  And this makes perfect sense given his instructions: Flee the city and don’t return, not even to get your coat; just go!  The word about pregnant and nursing mothers simply illustrates that such times are especially hard on the most vulnerable.  There is a repeat of the warning from earlier that false christs and prophets will arise.  Times of great tribulation always birth fake saviors (think political) to whom people flock if only for the promise of a morsel of bread and security.  “Don’t believe them,” Jesus says.

Well, if this is all about the destruction of a city that happened almost two-thousand years ago, what has that to do with us?  This is where I add a twist: I think that the instructions Jesus gave to his people about the destruction of Jerusalem which was still in the future for them, apply equally to us as we await the even greater tribulation that precedes his return.  Get to a safe place and don’t believe the false prophets, even if they work “miracles.”  But there is also a word of comfort: God’s elect cannot be fooled.  Why is that?  First, because He chose them (hence, they are called, “elect”), and, second, because he tells us that his next coming will be as lightning across the sky.  And, another word of comfort, the days will be cut short for our sake.  The One who called us out of darkness into light is not going to allow us to return to the darkness, even in the darkest of times.

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