Although not a popular subject, most Christians who lean towards a literal interpretation of the Bible’s prophetic passages believe that Scripture foretells of an unprecedented, worldwide tribulation, one that will immediately precede Christ’s return. Descriptions of that worldwide tribulation can easily be found in the Book of Revelation, many of the Major and Minor Prophets, and in the teachings of Jesus. For example, during His Olivet Discourse, speaking about the time prior to His return, Jesus said,
For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short (Matt. 24:21-22).
In the original Greek, the “great tribulation” is megas thlipsis. If we take Jesus’ first sentence in the above passage at face value, we have to believe that the megas thlipsis will be the worst tribulation the world has ever seen or ever will see. We all know that history has no shortage of appalling instances of mass human suffering, but the coming tribulation will be the worst ever. How terrible will it be? According to Jesus, apart from God’s intervention “for the sake of the elect,” “no life would have been saved.” It will be much worse than World War II.
Again, if we take Jesus’ words at face value, we cannot conclude that He was only foretelling of the siege and destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. As terrible as that event was—hundreds of thousands perished—it was not the worst the world has seen, nor did it even come close to being the worst holocaust ever suffered by the Jews. Moreover, it is difficult to understand how the Jewish holocaust of 70 AD was cut short “for the sake of the elect” lest “no life would have been saved.”
So, again, those of us who tend to take Jesus’ words literally are persuaded that the world’s worst holocaust is yet to come. Concerning that coming holocaust, Jesus revealed a number of specific details in His Olivet Discourse that no one should ignore. Let’s consider a few of them.
The “Elect” on the Earth During the Great Tribulation
Jesus’ words in the two verses we read above (Matthew 24:21-22) clearly reveal that people whom He views as “the elect” will be on the earth during the megas thlipsis; otherwise His words about “those days being cut short for the sake of the elect” would make no sense. God will favor the elect to the degree that He will cut short the Great Tribulation for their sakes.
And as we continue reading the verses that follow Matthew 24:21-22, it becomes even more clear that there will indeed be “elect” people—Christ’s followers—who will be living on the earth during the Great Tribulation:
Then if anyone says to you, “Behold, here is the Christ,” or “There He is,” do not believe him. For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told you in advance. So if they say to you, “Behold, He is in the wilderness,” do not go out, or, “Behold, He is in the inner rooms,” do not believe them. For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.
But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other (Matt. 24:23-31, emphasis added).
You may believe the rapture of the church occurs before the Great Tribulation (and if you do, don’t worry, I’m not going to try to convince you otherwise). You can’t deny, however, that there will be “elect” people on the earth during the Great Tribulation, and right up until the end. Jesus warned that, during that terrible time, false Christs and false prophets will arise, showing great signs and wonders, “so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect” (Matt. 24:24). So there must be “elect” people on earth for the false Christs and prophets to potentially deceive. Jesus specifically warned His followers not to be deceived by reports they might hear regarding His whereabouts during the Great Tribulation. His closest disciples who actually heard His warning would have assumed His words had application to them. And if there will be no followers of Christ on the earth during the Great Tribulation, Jesus’ warnings are senseless.
Moreover, as we just read, at Jesus’ return, He will “gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other” (Matt. 24:31). So there will be believers on earth right up until the end of the Great Tribulation when Jesus returns. Lest we be tempted to think Jesus was not talking about gathering the elect from the earth, but from heaven, Mark’s version of Jesus’ words reads: “And then He will send forth the angels, and will gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth to the farthest end of heaven (Mark 13:27, emphasis added).
So, again, it is indisputable that there will be followers of Christ on earth during the Great Tribulation and right up until its end when Jesus returns.
What About the “Elect” Who “Come Out” of the Great Tribulation?
Coupled with all those biblical facts is the fact that the Book of Revelation foretells of some saints who will “come out” of the megas thlipsi:
After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”
Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and where have they come from?” I said to him, “My lord, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation [megas thlipsi], and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb (Rev. 7:9-14).
This passage certainly supports the idea that the mega thlipsi is not localized to just Israel or the Middle East (as some say), but worldwide, as the “great multitude” who “come out of the great tribulation” are from “every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues.”
Note that we are not told how that great multitude from every nation and tongue will “come out” of the Great Tribulation to then appear at the throne of God. Most of us would like to think it is via a rapture at some point during the Great Tribulation.
That, however, raises a question: If this great multitude of Revelation 7:9-14 came out of the Great Tribulation via a rapture, why did God apparently leave some saints behind? That is a valid question, because Jesus plainly taught that there would be “elect” people on the earth during the Great Tribulation, specifically during the time when many false Christs and false prophets would be deceiving people, and also at His return at the end of that Great Tribulation when He would gather them “from the farthest end of the earth.”
I suppose no one can answer that question with absolute certainty, but it definitely opens the possibility that the “great multitude” of Revelation 7:9-14 will “come out” of the Great Tribulation via martyrdom. That there will be Christian martyrs during the Great Tribulation seems indisputable from a number of scripture passages. For example, just a few verses earlier in Revelation we read:
When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also (Rev. 6:9-11).
Some suggest that these martyrs who appear underneath the altar are martyrs from all the centuries of church history and not specifically from the Great Tribulation of the end times. The context of this passage, however, is certainly a context of an earthly tribulation that even includes a foretelling of additional imminent martyrs. Moreover, we would have to wonder why martyrs from all the centuries of church history would be calling for vengeance “on those who dwell on the earth,” as their murderers down through the centuries would not be on the earth during the Great Tribulation of the end times. So it seems safe to think that these martyrs also “come out” of the megas thlipsi.
Regardless, and without getting into a debate on the timing of the rapture, all believers who believe Jesus is still yet to return should agree that the Great Tribulation that Jesus foretold will be a worldwide holocaust that will overshadow every other holocaust in human history. It may well result in the martyrdom of millions of Christians around the world, not to mention the deaths of hundreds of millions of other people. World War II took 93 million lives, so the Great Tribulation will have to exceed that if “such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will” (if we take Jesus’ words at face value). And in Revelation 9:15, if it has any relevance to the Great Tribulation, we are told that certain angels “kill a third of mankind.” At the earth’s current population, that would be 2.5 billion deaths.
No wonder so many Christians want to believe in a pre-tribulation rapture! When I was a pastor who at one time taught the idea, I was at least honest enough to tell my congregations, “The main reason I believe in a pre-tribulation rapture is not because I can prove it from the Bible, but because I don’t want to go through the tribulation!”
Another Important Fact About the Coming Holocaust
Another important, yet basic, fact about the future Great Tribulation is that it will be Israel-centric. That is certainly evident from Jesus’ Olivet Discourse, which was spoken while He overlooked Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives:
Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains. Whoever is on the housetop must not go down to get the things out that are in his house. Whoever is in the field must not turn back to get his cloak. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! But pray that your flight will not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath. For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will” (Matt. 24:15-21, emphasis added).
So the Great Tribulation begins with “the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place,” and it ends when Jesus returns, cutting short a holocaust that would otherwise have ended all life.
Daniel prophetically mentioned the “abomination of desolation” three times in the book that bears his name: Daniel 9:27, 11:31 and 12:11. That abomination involves a person, usually identified as the “Antichrist,” who will “put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering, and “set up the abomination of desolation” (Dan. 9:27; 11:31).
The Apostle Paul brought some clarity to all of this in his second letter to the Thessalonians (indicating, by the way, that this is all very relevant to New Testament believers):
Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 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…. Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved (2 Thes. 2:1-4, 8-10).
So we again clearly see the Israel-centric nature of the event that launches the Great Tribulation. All of the future events mentioned by Paul presuppose a “holy place,” which he identifies as “the temple of God,” and which of course was standing in Jerusalem when Paul originally penned his letter to the Thessalonians. That temple, however, was destroyed in 70 AD by the Romans, and will need to be rebuilt if sacrifices are to be offered again which the Antichrist will stop, and if the Antichrist is to “take his seat in the temple of God to display himself as being God” (2 Thes. 2:4).
Additionally, all of that presupposes a Jewish nation, which is why Bible students get so excited about the regathering of millions of Jews from around the world since the late 1800s to the land called Palestine and Israel’s 1948 statehood. Incidentally, I think most readers realize that, if the Jewish temple will ever be rebuilt in Jerusalem where it previously stood, it will require some major political shifts in the Middle East and the Muslim world. Either Israel will become much stronger, or Islam will become much weaker, or both.
A Time to Flee
But let us return to the Olivet Discourse. Jesus’ words there also presuppose a Jewish nation with a Sabbath institution, and they presuppose that He will have followers living in Judea (southern Israel, including Jerusalem). When they see the “abomination of desolation…standing in the holy place,” they “must flee to the mountains” without the slightest delay. There is a mountain range that runs the length of central Israel, as well as a parallel mountain range on the other side of the Jordan Valley in modern Jordan.
The only logical reason for Jesus’ followers to flee at that time will be to preserve their lives, and apparently, those who do obey His instructions will have a chance at succeeding if they take advantage of the brief window of opportunity. It gives me hope that no matter where else Jesus’ followers are in the world during worldwide tribulation, some will be able to preserve their lives to see Jesus’ return from an earthly perspective. Jesus clearly declared, however, in His introductory synopsis (Matt. 24:4-14) of the Olivet Discourse, that “they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name” (Matt. 24:9, emphasis added). There will be Christian martyrs, and Jesus’ words again indicate not just a tribulation localized to Jerusalem or Israel, but one that is worldwide, as believers will be hated “by all nations.”
If for no other reason, true Christians will be universally hated during that terrible time simply because they won’t buy the Antichrist’s claim to be God—in contrast to the entire world that is deceived by him (see 2 Thes. 2:8-12; Rev. 13:3; 13:12-14; 17:8). Thus, as “unbelievers,” true followers of Christ will be considered traitors and targets.
Now think: If Judea/Jerusalem is going to be the epicenter of a worldwide tribulation, a holocaust that is unprecedented in human history, and if the only hope of escape for the inhabitants of Judea is a brief window of opportunity, what will become of those who don’t escape? Although we know that Jesus will ultimately intervene and defeat the Antichrist at His return, keep in mind that Jesus Himself said His return will not prevent the Great Tribulation, but rather will only cut it short, otherwise “no life would have been saved” (Matt. 24:22). Again, Jesus comes only after the world has suffered an unprecedented holocaust of which Israel is the epicenter.
Zechariah Weighs In
The 14th chapter of Zechariah is all about Jesus’ coming. It begins with this promise: “Behold, a day is coming for the Lord when the spoil taken from you will be divided among you” (Zech. 14:1). Whoever God is speaking to, they’ve obviously been invaded by a foreign army (or armies), and have been robbed of their possessions. However, God is promising that their stolen property will be returned. In the next verse, we learn to whom He is speaking:
For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city will be captured, the houses plundered [a reference to the spoils mentioned previously that will be repossessed], the women ravished and half of the city exiled, but the rest of the people will not be cut off from the city (Zech. 14:2).
So we learn that the promise of 14:1 was made to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and that the invaders will be “all the nations.” God takes the credit for gathering them against Jerusalem to battle. That sounds like judgment to me, especially since the invaders will succeed. The Spirit foretells through Zechariah that “the city will be captured, the houses plundered, the women ravished and half of the city exiled.” That isn’t blessing from heaven. That is judgment. Remember, God said through Zechariah, “I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle.”
What Zechariah foretold has never yet occurred, and that becomes even more clear as we continue reading what follows in the 14th chapter:
Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle. In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south. You will flee by the valley of My mountains, for the valley of the mountains will reach to Azel; yes, you will flee just as you fled before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the Lord, my God, will come, and all the holy ones with Him!
In that day there will be no light; the luminaries will dwindle. For it will be a unique day which is known to the Lord, neither day nor night, but it will come about that at evening time there will be light.
And in that day living waters will flow out of Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and the other half toward the western sea; it will be in summer as well as in winter.
And the Lord will be king over all the earth; in that day the Lord will be the only one, and His name the only one.
All the land will be changed into a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem; but Jerusalem will rise and remain on its site from Benjamin’s Gate as far as the place of the First Gate to the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Hananel to the king’s wine presses. People will live in it, and there will no longer be a curse, for Jerusalem will dwell in security (Zech. 14:3-11).
It is quite difficult to imagine that Zechariah was not speaking—by divine inspiration—of the return of Jesus at the close of the Great Tribulation, followed by the inauguration of His worldwide reign from Jerusalem. Jesus will return to fight, just as Zechariah describes. That is the same time of which Paul wrote, when “the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming” the Antichrist, the one who will have taken “his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God” (2 Thes. 2:8, 4).
It is also quite difficult to imagine that, when Israel is attacked by armies from “all the nations” and Jerusalem is captured, when “the houses [are] plundered, the women ravished and half of the city exiled,” and when the Antichrist declares in Jerusalem that he is God, that Israel will continue as a sovereign nation. It will then, of course, be subject to the Antichrist and his minions.
Incidentally, how long will it be between Jerusalem’s fall and Jesus’ return? I don’t know. Some say 3½ years for reasons I will not explore now.
The Coming Great Exile
Take note that half of Jerusalem’s citizens will be “exiled,” or as the KJV says, “go forth into captivity.”
At the city’s current population, one-half would be 428,000 exiles.
And why will only half of Jerusalem’s inhabitants be exiled, and why does Zechariah specifically tell us that the other half will not be exiled, writing, “but the rest of the people will not be cut off from the city” (Zech. 14:2)? It would seem reasonable to assume that the foreign occupiers will set some criteria for who will be exiled and who will be permitted to remain in the city. Might there be a religious test? Currently, 64% of Jerusalem’s population is Jewish, 34% is Muslim, and 2% are Christian.
Of course, it will not only be Jerusalem that will fall before invading armies, but likely all or much of Israel (see Matt. 24:16), which would mean there might be millions of Jewish exiles who are taken captive by the invading nations.
And this is yet another reason why, in my opinion, we should be cautious claiming that Israel’s 1948 statehood, and the 1880-to-the-present regathering of Jews to Israel from around the world, is a fulfillment of the many prophecies in Scripture that speak of such a last days regathering. That promised regathering is often mentioned in Scripture as being coupled with everlasting peace, but the regathering that has occurred over the past 14 decades is destined to become a holocaust that will include yet another dispersion, according to what we just read in Zechariah 14.
Ignoring that fact, some prophecy teachers claim that scriptures such as Amos 9:14-15, for example, have seen their fulfillment over the last 14 decades:
“Also I will restore the captivity of My people Israel, and they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them; they will also plant vineyards and drink their wine, and make gardens and eat their fruit. I will also plant them on their land, and they will not again be rooted out from their land which I have given them,” says the Lord your God.
This promise, however, could not have been fulfilled by the 20th-century regathering, because God guaranteed Israel that “they will not again be rooted out from their land which I have given them.” Israel’s coming holocaust will uproot hundreds of thousands, and perhaps millions, of Jews.
In addition, it cannot be said that any of the Jews who immigrated to Israel between 1880 and the present day escaped “captivity” as Amos wrote. All of them were living in nations from which they could choose to emigrate. Clearly, however, according to Zechariah, one-half of Jerusalem’s population will be exiled and become captives. When Jesus returns, however, God will keep His promise to “restore the captivity of My people Israel” and plant them permanently in their ancient homeland. And then they will rebuild the ruined cities and will never again be uprooted.
That will also be the time of Israel’s national repentance. We read, for example, in Ezekiel:
Thus says the Lord God, “Though I had removed them far away among the nations and though I had scattered them among the countries, yet I was a sanctuary for them a little while in the countries where they had gone…. I will gather you from the peoples and assemble you out of the countries among which you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel. When they come there, they will remove all its detestable things and all its abominations from it. And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them. Then they will be My people, and I shall be their God (Ezek. 11:16-20, emphasis added).
When one subscribes to the idea that the 1880-to-the-present regathering of Jews from around the world is the fulfillment of this particular prophecy (and others like it), one must explain why half of it has not come to pass. The usual explanation is that this is a two-phase prophecy…first there will be a physical restoration and then, at some later point in time, decades later, there will be a spiritual restoration.
But when one subscribes to the idea that this prophecy (and others like it) will be fulfilled after the exile of the Great Tribulation, one does not have to force something into it that is simply not there. Just as this prophecy seems to indicate, Israel’s physical and spiritual restoration will essentially occur at the same time, which makes perfect sense, seeing as how Jesus will have just returned to the earth, ended the Antichrist’s reign of terror, cut short the world’s worst holocaust for the sake of the elect, and set up His new kingdom in Jerusalem! Chances are pretty good that most regathered Jewish exiles are going to acknowledge that Jesus is Lord!
Here’s another one of Ezekiel’s prophecies that is often misapplied to the 20th-century regathering. I have numbered five specific details that prove this prophecy has not been fulfilled yet:
Therefore thus says the Lord God, “Now I will restore the fortunes of Jacob and have mercy on the whole house of Israel; and I will be jealous for My holy name. They will forget their disgrace and all their treachery which they perpetrated against Me, when they  live securely on their own land with no one to make them afraid. When I bring them back from the peoples and gather them from the lands of their enemies, then  I shall be sanctified through them in the sight of the many nations. Then  they will know that I am the Lord their God because I made them go into exile among the nations, and then gathered them again to their own land; and  I will leave none of them there any longer. I will not hide My face from them any longer, for  I will have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel,” declares the Lord God (Ezek. 39:25-29)
Has modern Israel had “no one to make them afraid” since 1948? Has God become “sanctified in the sight of many nations” as those many nations have witnessed the slow regathering of Jews from 1880 to the present day? Do all the people in Israel know that the Lord is God because of their previous scattering from Israel and God’s subsequent regathering of them? Do any Jews currently remain outside of Israel? Has God poured out His Spirit on the house of Israel (that is, all descendants of Israel)? If the answer is “no” to any or all of these questions, then the prophecy we have just read from Ezekiel has not been fulfilled during the 1880-to-the-present regathering of Jews from around the world.
Interestingly, some Christians, due to a limited understanding of prophecy, are so pro-Israel that anyone who suggests God might orchestrate judgment upon it are labeled “anti-Semitic.” I’ve been given that label since my previous article was published. But I’m simply reporting what Scripture plainly teaches is going to occur. If that makes one anti-Semitic, then I suppose God is anti-Semitic! (But He isn’t.)
Personally, I’m pro-everyone, including both Jews and Arabs, because I believe Jesus died for everyone. The gospel message that Christians carry is not one that favors any group, including Jews. (Incidentally, the term “anti-Semitic,” which has come to refer to being anti-Jewish, actually means to be anti-any-descendant of Noah’s son Shem, a group that also includes Arabs.)
More Evidence for an Exile
Most students of prophecy know that Jesus’ Olivet Discourse, part of which we considered at the beginning of this article, was recorded by Matthew, Mark and Luke, and that their three renditions aren’t identical. In fact, they seem to differ on some points, and because Christian interpreters believe that inspired authors cannot contradict each other if they are actually inspired by God, interpreters seek to harmonize the apparent contradictions.
For example, consider the two passages below, one from Matthew’s rendition of Jesus’ Olivet Discourse, and the other from Luke’s, and in which I’ve italicized the parts that are essentially identical between the two:
Matthew: Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains. Whoever is on the housetop must not go down to get the things out that are in his house. Whoever is in the field must not turn back to get his cloak. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! But pray that your flight will not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath. For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will (Matt. 24:15-21).
Luke: But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near. Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city; because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled. Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days; for there will be great distress upon the land and wrath to this people; 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 until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled (Luke 21:20-24).
The differences between these two passages are often explained by saying that Matthew recorded Jesus’ remarks about the future time of the Antichrist (because of the reference to the abomination of desolation), and Luke recorded Jesus’ remarks about the destruction of Jerusalem that would occur in about 40 years (in 70 AD). Somewhat coincidentally, both events would require a similar response by Jesus’ followers living in Jerusalem.
If that interpretation is true, however, it requires that Jesus spoke both passages separately, and each in their entirety, giving very similar instructions for (1) what His followers should do when they see Jerusalem surrounded by armies in 70 AD, and (2) what His followers should do centuries later when they see the abomination of desolation in the holy place. That interpretation also requires that Matthew and Luke both completely excluded what the other recorded, and that Jesus twice spoke those phrases and sentences that are so similar in both passages. For example, Jesus allegedly said twice (in reference to both events), “Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days.”
Perhaps that is what did actually occur—as odd as it may seem—and even though neither Matthew or Luke gave any hints to support that idea.
It is also possible, however, that each author simply included a few details that the other did not, while both reported Jesus’ singular instructions regarding what His disciples should do when they saw the simultaneous events of (1) Jerusalem surrounded by armies and (2) the abomination of desolation in the holy place, thus contradicting the idea that Luke 21:20-24 has any application to Jerusalem’s fall to the Romans in 70 AD.
It stands to reason that the Antichrist will not just be a tourist who sneaks into the temple to announce that he is God (as Jerusalem police cart him off to jail), but rather that he, by the time he enters the temple, will have full military command of Jerusalem. So it seems reasonable to think that both events, that is, armies surrounding Jerusalem, and the Antichrist entering the temple, will occur during the same time frame.
If that interpretation is correct, then it affirms not only the future Israel/Jerusalem-centric holocaust, but also the subsequent exile of its citizens, as Luke foretells that “there will be great distress upon the land and wrath to this people; and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations” (Luke 21:22-23, emphasis added).
Moreover, Jesus continued, saying, “Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” Those words are often interpreted to mean that, once Jerusalem fell to the Romans in 70 AD, it would be continually occupied by Gentiles—but only until “the times of the Gentiles would be fulfilled.” And since Israel gained control of the old city of Jerusalem at the close of the Six-Day War in 1967, that means the “times of the Gentiles” ended in 1967.
It is not difficult to poke some holes in that popular interpretation, not the least of which is the fact that both Jewish and Gentile feet (including mine) have been trampling Jerusalem’s streets for many decades since 1967. But if Jesus was actually referring to a military invasion of Jerusalem that is still yet in the future, and if the half of the city that will be exiled then (as revealed by Zechariah) consists of the entire Jewish population, then Jesus’ foretelling that “Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” actually means there will be no Jewish feet, but only Gentile feet, trampling Jerusalem’s streets from the time of the future Jewish exile at the beginning of the Great Tribulation until the time of Jesus’ victorious return, at which time He will defeat the Antichrist, set up His kingdom, and regather all the exiled Jews from all over the world, who will then turn to Him in faith and repentance.
I think that interpretation best fits what Jesus said in both Matthew 24 and Luke 21. But when you start to talk about eschatology, you soon find out there are many people who have it all figured out much differently than you! May I go on record to say that I love them all. (Not only do I love partial preterists, but even full preterists…)
The pro-Israel, anti-Arab political stance many of us hold is odd in light of the Bibles that we own. There is no such stance taught in the New Testament. None of the apostles taught anything about supporting political Israel, or taking Israel’s side against Arabs or anyone else. God is on the side of those who do His will. He is not a racist. It was His intention from the calling of Abraham to bless all the ethnic groups of the world through Abraham’s singular seed, Christ (see Gen. 22:18; Gal. 3:16). Jesus told His followers to make disciples of all the world’s ethnic groups (Matt. 28:19). On the day of Pentecost, both Jews and Arabs were filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:11). Christ currently has followers among both Israelis and Arabs.
For these reasons and many more, rather than taking political sides on the basis of a few out-of-context scriptures, we’d be better off demonstrating to the world that God’s children are like God, loving righteousness, hating injustice, showing partiality to no one, and trying to persuade everyone to repent and follow Christ.
One of the worst forms of unbiblical pro-Israelism I’ve heard is the idea that, every time an American lawmaker suggests that Israel compromise with Palestinians on a political issue, God sends a natural disaster somewhere in America that wipes out innocent people. I’m not joking…books have been written to show that this has happened so many times that it can’t be coincidental. It portrays God as a monster of injustice who punishes the innocent, and one who is more concerned over who holds title to some land in the Middle East than He is about people’s rejection of His Son, or the annual slaughter of a million American babies (to name just two things that could spark His wrath).
And speaking of wrath, again, Israel’s worst-ever judgment is coming—on the authority of no less than Jesus. So why is any Christian thinking that Israel is currently a uniquely-favored nation in the eyes of God, one that the Lord holds to a lesser moral standard than all other nations, one that we should always side with politically, and one that will soon experience a great spiritual awakening?
Yes, there is coming an awakening, but it won’t be until Jesus returns, which occurs at the close of the horrible holocaust of the Israel-centric Great Tribulation. As Paul wrote:
A partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob [Israel]. This is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins” (Rom. 11:26-27).
Paul knew the passage he paraphrased from Isaiah 59 was a reference to the future national repentance of Israel that will occur when Jesus, “the Deliverer,” “will come from Zion,” that is, Jerusalem. When you read the actual verses straight from Isaiah, you can easily see why Paul was so sure of his application:
A Redeemer will come to Zion, and to those who turn from transgression in Jacob [Israel’s national repentance will not be divinely imposed, but divinely catalyzed],” declares the Lord. As for Me, this is My covenant with them,” says the Lord: “My Spirit which is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your offspring, nor from the mouth of your offspring’s offspring,” says the Lord, “from now and forever (Is. 59:20-21, emphasis added).
“Forever” is the telling word.
I encourage you to read all of Romans 11 to gain God’s view of Israel, at present and the future, hardened now and softened then. It is tragic that it will take terrible tribulation to effect that transition. And so like Jesus, we weep for Jerusalem (Luke 19:41). — David
When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation (Luke 19:41-44).
 Those who believe that every event Jesus foretold in His Olivet Discourse was fulfilled by 70 AD also point out these facts to buttress their position.