In this section of scripture Jesus discusses some specifics about the times of the end. He is telling his disciples what will be some of the signs of the times at the time of the end and gives his people strong warnings about what will happen and what they should do.
Within the many prophecies of the end times there are certain events that must take place before the end. Each of these can be triggers for others and there is a sequence to be followed. Some of these will give us information as to the start and end of certain prophecies and events.
In this section he begins by saying, “But when you see the desolating sacrilege set up where it ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.” (Verse 14) Now I do not believe he is speaking figuratively here but I believe Jesus is saying literally to “flee to the mountains.” Go to higher ground, especially if you are in Judea and Jerusalem.
This is a strong warning. And in the next few verses he strengthens it by saying, “…let him who is on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house, to take anything away; and let him who is in the field not turn back to take his mantle. And alas for those who are with child and for those who give suck in those days!” (Verses 15-17) It will be so critical and urgent that people flee that they need to go immediately. There will not be time to pack your things, sell the house, collect stuff together or whatever. He is saying to get out quickly and don’t waste any time about it.
But why is this so desperate a plea? The trigger event is back in that first line, “…when you see the desolating sacrilege set up where it ought not to be…” He is referring here to the prophecy of Daniel. There is a ruler yet to come who is universally known as the man of sin. He is evil and will rule the world. Amongst other things he will do is to magnify himself and claim to be a god and he will sit in the temple as if he is god. The temple is yet to be rebuilt in Jerusalem, and it will happen in due course, and once it is built the temple worship rites will be re-set up including the fire of the continual burnt offering. This is all yet to come and is prophesied in a number of places.
But this man of sin at some point will remove the continual burnt offering from the rebuilt temple. He will take it away and that event will mark the beginning of the very last days. The prophet Daniel says there will be a period of 1,290 days from the time that the continual burnt offering is removed and the desolating sacrilege is set up (Daniel 12:11). This is the same event that Jesus is talking about in Mark 13.
After the desolating sacrilege has been set up, the angel speaking to Daniel continues on saying, “Blessed is he who waits and comes to the 1,335 days.” (Daniel 12:12) Why are these people blessed in this great time of evil? I believe it is because that will be the appointed time for the second coming of the Lord. This wondrous and blessed event will take place 45 days after the desolating sacrilege is set up.
Now coming back to why Jesus said in Mark 13 for the people to flee to the mountains, this too comes from prophecy. From what we see above there will be a period of 45 days after the desolating sacrilege is set up and Jesus warned the people to flee to the hills in Judea when they saw that abomination in the holy place, which is in the temple. They will have 45 days to get out of Judea and get into the mountains, to higher ground.
Angels of the Lord told the disciples that, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet…” (Acts 1:11-12) Now if this is true he must return back to the mount called Olivet or the Mount of Olives.
The reason Jesus warns the people to flee to the mountains is found in the prophecies in Zechariah 14. It says, “On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives which lies before Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley so that one half of the Mount shall withdraw northward, and the other half southward.” (Zechariah 14:4) The prophet further adds, “On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea…” (Zechariah 14:8)
So what we will see when the Lord returns is that there will be an almighty earthquake in Judea that will split Jerusalem through the mount of Olives, and Jerusalem will effectively become a seaport with waters running between the sea of Galilee and the Mediterranean Sea.
This is why he tells the people to flee to higher ground in those 45 days after the desolating sacrilege is set up. To escape the splitting of the earth and the devastation that will occur in the region at that instant when the Lord returns. There will be great tribulation and suffering at that time and the Lord will destroy those who have come against him, so he tells his people to head for the hills to escape the wrath that is coming on the evil of this world.
There is much that can be said about these prophecies and what I have said here only scratches the surface of them. More will be covered in due course as we get into other prophetic writings further down the track in this series of studies.
(Picture sourced from stock.xchng http://www.sxc.hu/ taken by Crystal Jensen)