#2 Standing For The Truth in Troubled Times! Pt.
It is amazing how the scriptures always flow together so smoothly. Scripture always interprets scripture. I want you to remember the opening scene from last week’s lesson. In verse 1 we saw Jesus leaving the temple. This is very significant and I want you to think back to what Keith used to say about the lamp being removed from certain countries when they had rejected the light. He is of the belief that this is the last stop for the lamp and once we have rejected it, the glory will leave here and darkness will ensue.
Again, think back to what Jesus had told the Pharisees at the end of chapter 23. He told them point blank in chapter 23 and verse 38 “See, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” The glory of God had left. We can see illustrations of this in the scriptures when the Ark of the Covenant had been captured and the name Ichabod appeared which means ‘the glory of God had left. Then there is the scene in the book of Ezekiel, chapter 8. It is the scene of the glory of God leaving. And we will notice here that He doesn’t leave in a lurch. Instead He seems to slowly withdraw His hand. It’s kind of like the wording of Romans 1 where we see the progressive ‘giving over’ to sin. In this illustration from Ezekiel it is the same thing. God gives them over to their lusts till they hang themselves and are enslaved to Babylon.
Now the reason I want us to look at the Ezekiel passage is because of its graphic illustration of the excesses of sin and the wanton immorality of the ‘so called’ people of God. And it ties in to our text in Matthew 24 which deals with the consummation of the age of which the destruction of Jerusalem is a type. Let’s just follow the text and remember the setting; Ezekiel was a slave in Babylon and while there, God revealed Himself to him. 1 “It came about in the sixth year, on the fifth day of the sixth month, as I was sitting in my house with the elders of Judah sitting before me, that the hand of the Lord GOD fell on me there. 2 Then I looked, and behold, a likeness as the appearance of a man; from His loins and downward there was the appearance of fire, and from His loins and upward the appearance of brightness, like the appearance of glowing metal. Most commentators agree that this is a pre-incarnate vision of Jesus Christ. You can compare this vision with the one in the book of Revelation and you will see many similarities.
3 He stretched out the form of a hand and caught me by a lock of my head; and the Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven and brought me in the visions of God to Jerusalem, Now what words do men usually use to describe the City of Jerusalem? Don’t they usually use the words “The Holy City?” Well consider the city of Philadelphia. Its name literally means ‘The City of Brotherly Love.” William Penn, the Quaker, founded this city for the purpose of having a haven for Christians. But if you go there today, will you find men and women embracing each other in a Christian manner? I doth say thee nay! They may be embracing each other but it is not in accordance with the founding principles of William Penn. It is the embrace of sin.
This is what we see in the vision before us. Understand that Ezekiel was at the Temple in Jerusalem. He was brought to Solomon’s Temple, the place God had visited with His glory after Solomon’s prayer in 2Chr. 6. This place had become a snare, an idol to the people. They hypocritically worshiped God there as we will see in the verses following. Look with me at (Jer 7:4) “Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD.” And what do we hear these Israelites saying? You can see idolatry oozing out of the passage. The Jews falsely believed that because their temple had been chosen by Jehovah as His peculiar dwelling, it could never be destroyed. And they went through their ‘worship’ with no heart. They merely dwelt on the rituals thinking that mere outward ceremonial observances would replace the need of holiness. Remember what I said about repetition. The triple repetition of “the temple of Jehovah” expresses the intense confidence of the Jews in this building.
To this temple the Spirit of God brought Ezekiel; specifically “to the entrance of the north gate of the inner court, where the seat of the idol of jealousy, which provokes to jealousy, was located.” What is this but an idol! Israel had rejected the Living God for the stone images of Baal, Moloch and Ashtaroth. And they had set their abominations up in the Temple of Jehovah. What audacity! In fact it was Manasseh, the son of the godly Hezekiah, who had done this. He reigned for 52 years and for the better part of his reign he was a bloodthirsty monster who even sacrificed his own children to Moloch in the valley of Ben Hinnom. This man wrought great evil in Israel and after God saved him, he tried to undo all that he had done; but to no avail. The damage had been done. The people merely gave God lip service for they were completely sold under sin. It was to this scene that Ezekiel was brought.
4 “And behold, the glory of the God of Israel was there, like the vision that I saw in the valley.” This is referring to the great vision of God with the wheel within a wheel and the Throne and the living creatures. Notice what our high and lifted up God says. 5 “Then he said to me, “Son of man, lift up your eyes now toward the north.” So I lifted up my eyes toward the north, and behold, north of the altar gate, in the entrance, was this image of jealousy. As stated, this was an idol in the Temple of God.
2Chr 33:5-8 tells the story. 5 “And he (Manasseh) built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD. He was into astrology. 6 And he burned his sons as an offering in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, human sacrifice and used fortune-telling and omens and sorcery, witchcraft and dealt with mediums and with wizards. He did much evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking him to anger. 7 And the carved image of the idol that he had made he set in the house of God, of which God said to David and to Solomon his son, “In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put my name forever, 8 and I will no more remove the foot of Israel from the land that I appointed for your fathers, if only they will be careful to do all that I have commanded them, all the law, the statutes, and the rules given through Moses.” God is outraged at this evil being done in His sight. We read in verse 6 “And he said to me, “Son of man, do you see what they are doing, the great abominations that the house of Israel are committing here, to drive me far from my sanctuary?
(Literally “That I should be compelled by their sin to go far off from My sanctuary.”) This is the sure precursor of its destruction. God will not cohabitate with sin or sinners. Holiness and sinfulness are eternal opposites. He is of purer eyes than to behold evil! Having laid out this monstrous picture of evil you’d think that this was enough. It is like setting up a statue of Jesus in a church, calling it Jesus and saying that it is an aid to worship, Even though God has forbidden any such thing. You’d think that this was the zenith of sin. “But” God says, “you will see still greater abominations.”
Now remember that we are dealing with the Temple at Jerusalem. This is equivalent to a church today. And things are not as they seem. The outward façade hides a monstrous evil within. 7 And He brought me to the entrance of the court, and when I looked, behold, there was a hole in the wall. 8 Then He said to me, “Son of man, dig in the wall.” So I dug in the wall, and behold, there was an entrance. 9 And He said to me, “Go in, and see the vile abominations that they are committing here.” What’s this? Abominations are being committed within the church? In the very building itself?!
Let me get into linguistics for a moment. The definition of abomination is: ‘Strong aversion or loathing, extreme disgust and hatred, anything which incites disgust, hatred or loathing; any detestable act or practice, anything vile or shameful. The definition of vile is; ‘despicable or loathsome, shamefully wicked, sinful, corrupt, filthy, disgusting. So God is telling us that instead of wonderful beautiful uplifting worship that brings glory to the True God, extremely disgusting, despicable, loathsome, shamefully wicked, corrupt, filthy, things are going on inside the Temple that was dedicated to the worship of Jehovah.
In verse 10 we get into specifics and remember that this is only the beginning. We already saw the altars to the host of heaven and the statue of Baal standing in the temple. This is out in the open. Now we see things done in secret. We read; “So I went in and saw. And there, engraved on the wall all around, was every form of creeping things and loathsome beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel. Again I want to point out the fact that this was expressly forbidden. I have selected only two of 26 verses. Ex 20:4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Le 26:1 ¶ “You shall not make idols for yourselves or erect an image or pillar, and you shall not set up a figured stone in your land to bow down to it, for I am the LORD your God.
Despite these prohibitions, Israel dove in. Notice verse 11 “And before them stood seventy men of the elders of the house of Israel, with Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan standing among them. This is important for us to see. It was not just the ‘regular people’ who were involved. The elders of Israel were leading the way. Remember that in this culture, elders were leaders, they were looked up to, trusted; relied upon. Not only were the elders of Israel here but also Jaazaniah, the son of Shaphan. Who is this Shaphan? During the reign of the godly Josiah, Hilkiah the priest had found the book of the law hidden in the temple and had commanded Shaphan who was the scribe, to take it to Josiah. He did so and read it in the kings hearing. Thus began the reforms of Josiah. But sadly, Shaphan’s son had not the heart of his father. Indeed, like Manasseh, the son of Hezekiah, Jaazaniah cared little for his father or his fathers God!
Indeed, he was a leader in the sin of Israel. Notice further what it says; “Each had his censer in his hand, and the smoke of the cloud of incense went up. These men were worshiping idols in the temple and offering up prayers, the incense being part of the process. The prayers would rise up with the smoke to the god they were worshiping. From the lowest to the highest, Israel had forsaken God. And it was for this reason that God had sent them into exile, Ezekiel being one of those who were now in bondage in Babylon. He had been sent back to get a clear picture of why Israel was now enslaved so that he could proclaim all this to the children of Israel.
God speaks to him in verse 12 “Then he said to me, “Son of man, have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel are doing in the dark, each in his room of pictures? I find this quite fascinating for isn’t this what those involved in pornography do. They find some secluded place away from others and commit their deeds of wickedness. And God shows us what goes on in their minds when He says, “For they say, ‘The LORD does not see us, the LORD has forsaken the land.”’ Here are two excuses offered for the evil they were doing. The first is; ‘The LORD does not see us.’ In other words, we’ve found a place so secret that even God couldn’t find us. And then they say, ‘The LORD has forsaken the land.” What they are saying in this horrible excuse is, “God has left us, we have to go after other gods.” And so they put the blame on God. But wait; there’s more. 13 “He said also to me, “You will see still greater abominations that they commit.” 14 Then he brought me to the entrance of the north gate of the house of the LORD, and behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz.
John MacArthur has this to say; “Yet a greater abomination than the secret cult was Israel’s engaging in the Babylonian worship of Tammuz or Dumuzi (Duzu), beloved of Ishtar, the god of spring vegetation. Now who was this Tammuz? He was said to be the son of Nimrod and his wife Samiramus. Nimrod was said to be a rebel against the Lord God; his name means ‘let us rebel!.’ The Jewish encyclopedia declares that Nimrod was (he who made all the people rebellious against God.) After Nimrod died, his wife bore a son whom she named Tammuz. She then went on to declare that Nimrod was reborn, that she had supernaturally conceived this child and that he was a god. Both she and her son were worshiped; this is where the Catholics supposedly came up with Mary worship or mother and child worship. The ‘holy mother’ goes by many names: Shingmoo to the Chinese, Hertha to the Germans, Disa to the Scandinavians, and the Virgo Paritura or mother of god to the druids. This duo also have many titles among the nations who have been duped by this false religious system. The Greeks called them Cybel and Deoius, the Romans, Aphrodite and Jupiter. The Hindus referred to them as Devaki and Krishna, while the Egyptians; Isis and Osirus or Horus. It is interesting that if you look on the back a dollar bill you will see a pyramid with an eye hovering above it; the all seeing eye of Horus.
So this is where Tammuz comes from. Now as usual he was a god of fertility which means that we’re talking about a sex cult. With the worship of this idol were connected the basest immoralities. Were not merely speaking about sexual intercourse of the God ordained nature, but homosexuality and lesbianism as well.” Now the rationalization for this type of worship is that vegetation burned in the summer, died in the winter, and came to life in the spring. The women mourned over the god’s demise in July and longed for his revival. One thing I find really disgusting is that the fourth month of the Hebrew calendar still bears the name Tammuz. Turn please to (De 4:19) and once again hear the clear prohibition against a specific type o sin. God, through His Prophet Moses issues a command to the people of Israel saying “And beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven.”
That should be clear enough. But look further to what He says to us through His prophet Ezekiel. 15 “Then he said to me, “Have you seen this, O son of man? You will see still greater abominations than these.” 16 And he brought me into the inner court of the house of the LORD. And behold, at the entrance of the temple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men, with their backs to the temple of the LORD, and their faces toward the east, worshiping the sun toward the east. Now what are the Israelites doing, IN THE INNER COURT OF THE TEMPLE? They are worshiping the sun. Though Israel came bodily out of Egypt, in spirit, they never really left did they! They were worshiping Ra the sun god of Egypt. Note the symbolic rejection of the True God; though they were in the Temple of Jehovah, they had turned their backs to the Temple and were worshiping the creation rather than the Creator who is blessed forevermore.
Now God levels the indictment against these wicked sinners in verse 17 “Then He said to me, “Have you seen this, O son of man? Is it too light a thing for the house of Judah to commit the abominations that they commit here, that they should fill the land with violence and provoke Me still further to anger? Behold, they put the branch to their nose. As part of their abominable worship, they held up a branch or bundle of tamarisk (called barsom) to their noses at daybreak, while singing hymns to the rising sun. Sacred trees were frequent symbols in idol-worship. CALVIN translates, “to their own ruin,” literally, “to their nose,” that is, with the effect of rousing My anger to their ruin. Judgment is pronounced against them in verse 18 Therefore I will act in wrath. My eye will not spare, nor will I have pity. And though they cry in My ears with a loud voice, I will not hear them.” This is the promise of God to those who wantonly rebel against His Holy Commandments. Indeed as we read in (Ro 3:19) “Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. Without a doubt what we have seen thus far this morning is horrific indeed. And we have seen that the wickedness perpetrated was done so by those who outwardly professed faith in God. Not everyone who calls Jesus Lord is really a Christian. The scriptures tell us that judgment will begin with the house of God.
In (Matthew 3:12) John the Baptist said Jesus is coming and 12 “His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Then we read in (1Pe 4:17) “For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? You get the picture don’t you; obedience to God is not optional and sin will be punished. Israel is Gods illustration of that. Now we turn to our text found in (Matthew 24:14-) 14 And note that this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. Does that mean that the Southern Baptist program of Bold Mission Thrust is the answer? It means exactly what it says. The gospel will be declared by God’s faithful servants and through His glorious creation, leaving mankind without excuse. And then the end will come. This is the end of the world.
Now looking at verse 15 we have a bit of a dilemma. This could have a double meaning: if you believe that a third Jewish Temple is going to be built. Many do and many don’t. All I can tell you is that the Jews already have plans to build, have all the utensils and the furniture prepared and even produced a red heifer to make the anointing oil. It definitely has a past fulfillment in the destruction of Jerusalem which took place forty years after Jesus spoke them. “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), This phrase originally referred to the desecration of the temple by Antiochus Epiphanes, king of Syria in the second century b.c. Antiochus invaded Jerusalem in 168 b.c., made the altar into a shrine to Zeus, and even sacrificed pigs on it. However, Jesus clearly was looking toward a yet-future “abomination of desolation.” Some suggest that this prophecy was fulfilled in a.d. 70 when Titus invaded Jerusalem and destroyed the temple. One commentator spoke of a picture of Titus being hung in the temple. This is open to conjecture. But it is a fact that the emperor Caligula put a statue of himself in the ruins of the destroyed temple. However, the Apostle Paul saw a still-future fulfillment (2 Thess. 2:3-4), (he wrote in A.D. 51-52 and so one could make the case that when Titus Vespatian destroyed the temple in 70 A.D. this was fulfilled)
But then we have the Apostle John writing in (Rev. 13:14-15). The problem we have is that John wrote the book of Revelation in A.D. 95, fifteen years after the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. So historical fact seems to suggest a future Antichrist, (the man of sin, son of perdition), who will come and set up an image in a restored temple, during the future seven year tribulation period. I believe that Christ’s words here therefore look to 70 A.D and beyond; to a time of even greater global cataclysm that will immediately precede His coming. Looking ahead to the terrible time of destruction at the hands of Titus Vespatian in 70 A.D Jesus said in verse 16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, 18 and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. The instructions are; RUN FOR IT! GET OUT WHILE THE GETTING IS GOOD!
Listen to the commentary of John Gill here; “When this signal is given, the abomination of desolation in whatever form it takes, its time to act; let them that are in the city of Jerusalem, depart out of it; any who are in any other parts of Judea, in any of the towns or cities; do not seek shelter in Jerusalem.
Don’t be so foolish as to imagine that you will be safe within the walls of the city no matter how strong and fortified the place may appear to be. Instead flee elsewhere. Now, he writes, see what happened; many did flee at this time as is remarked upon by several interpreters. Josephus, who was there, speaks with a sense of surprise that Cestius Gallus having advanced with his army to Jerusalem, and besieged it, suddenly, without any cause, withdrew his army when the city might have been taken easily.
At this time all the Christians in the area made good their escape over Jordan, to a place called Pella; so that when Titus came a few mouths after, there was not a Christian in the city. They had obeyed the word of the Lord. Speaking of the harshness of the time we read in verse 19 “How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! 20 Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great distress, unequalled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equalled again. 22 If those days had not been cut short, no-one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. Again I see a double meaning here. The siege of and the destruction of Jerusalem were horrific; 1 million people slaughtered and nearly that many enslaved. The people inside the city walls had been reduced to cannibalism. Those who tried to run away were caught by the Roman soldiers who had been told that the Jews had swallowed jewels. They were immediately disemboweled ‘to get the loot!’
Now I’m sure there were some who cried out to God. but as we already saw in our look at Ezekiel God said, 18 Therefore I will act in wrath. My eye will not spare, nor will I have pity. And though they cry in My ears with a loud voice, I will not hear them.” This is the promise of God to those who wantonly rebel against His Holy Commandments. This terrible time is a shadow, a precursor to the end of the world when all hell will literally break loose.
At that time people will say ‘the savior is here!’ This is what they are saying of Barak Obama. The story is out there that he was born in a manger. Then there is the false prophet Algore who is declaring a false prophecy of the end of the world. Jesus warns us about this in verse 23 saying “At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible. 25 See, I have told you ahead of time. 26 “So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the desert,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.”
Shall we listen to the ‘prophets of doom’? Shall we believe the reports of the godhood of Barak Obama; that only he can save the soul of America? NO! These reports have come from false teachers and false prophets! There is only one true God. Paul in (1Co 8:6) said “yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him. Here is our solid rock. We must stand firm on the solid rock of the truth of the word of God, clothed in the armor of light and truth. These are indeed troubled time when the false gospel of socialism is being propagated and when we are being asked to look to a man for salvation. In response to the doctrine of the social gospel which says “yes we can!” I would respond with the biblical answer; “NO WE CAN’T.” The whole reason for Jesus’ coming was because we were lost and undone, without hope and without God. He bought us back from the slave market of sin. Therefore we must stand firm in the Truth of God for only God’s truth can set us free!