The Image in the Temple
Of all the signs and wonders wrought by the Antichrist and the false prophet, that of making the image of the Antichrist become a living person will be considered the greatest. Of the false prophet, we read in Rev. 13:14,15:
And he deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by reason of the signs which it was given him to do in the sight of the beast [Antichrist]; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast who hath the stroke of the sword and lived. And it was given unto him to give breath to it, even to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as should not worship the image of the beast should be killed.
Evidence that this demonstration will be given at Jerusalem in the Jewish Temple which will have been rebuilt by the Chosen People is found in Isa. 66:1-5, Matt. 24:15ff and 2 Thess. 2:4. From Daniel 9:27 we know that this great manifestation of satanic presence and power will be enacted in the middle of the Tribulation.
According to Matthew and Mark, when the image is set up in the Temple a great explosion occurs. Palestine will be the storm center of this great whirlwind of God's wrath and indignation; therefore our Lord warns those who will be living in Jerusalem and Israel at that time to flee for their lives: "Then let them that are in Judaea flee unto the mountains: let him that is on the housetop not go down to take out the things that are in his house: and let him that is in the field not return back to take his cloak" (Matt 24:16-18).
The setting up of this image in the Temple will precipitate a situation from which those who are ensnared will be unable to extricate themselves. Seeing the desperate emergency of that time, our Lord urges those who will then be His disciples and who witness the setting up of the image to flee to the mountains, and escape from the country, not taking time to pack their luggage or to take anything with them. Martial law will likely be enforced immediately so escape from the danger zone will be impossible for those who neglect the warning.
The book of Revelation reveals that the judgments of the Great Tribulation will be worldwide--at least the seals, the last three trumpets and the bowl judgments are scheduled to affect the whole earth, whereas the first four trumpet judgments touch only one-third of its surface; but it is evident from all the testimony of Scripture that Jerusalem and Israel constitute the storm center of God's wrath.
Why Upon Israel?
Why is this? Are not the Jewish people the chosen servants of God through whom He will make known His will to the entire world? Yes, it is to that end that Israel was called. The Lord never abandons His plans nor His purposes, for "the gifts and the callings of God are not to be repented of." Why then, one insists, will God allow His judgments to fall upon the Jew in such severity as set forth in the Scriptures? The answer to this insistent question is found in the miracle which made possible the birth of Isaac. When Abraham and Sarah were past the age of parenthood, God performed a biological miracle which made possible Isaac's birth. By so doing, the Lord injected into the bloodstream of the Jewish nation new life, vitality and potentialities. These powers have lifted the Hebrew race to a plane higher than that upon which any other tribe of people live.Thoroughness of the Great Tribulation
That the Jews are a people endowed with extraordinary intelligence, insight, sensibilities, feelings and recuperative powers is seen by the fact that this race of people has survived ordeals and conditions which would have blotted out the existence of other races. No nation upon the face of the globe has suffered as Israel and survived such horrible persecution. In giving them this wonderful heritage, the Lord intended that the Jews should be the channel through which His blessings would flow to the whole world.
With such endowments and blessings accruing from the revelation of God and His covenants, there has come an added responsibility to Israel, for increased light and opportunities bring increased responsibilities. Inasmuch as she had these superior advantages, much is expected of her. Because she has not lived up to these super- naturally bestowed benefits, the punishment that comes to her is the greater. I can see no other principle by which we can account for the devastating judgments and harrowing experiences through which she shall yet pass in the Great Tribulation.
As has been suggested above, the first four trumpet judgments of Rev. 8 will affect only one-third of the earth, whereas the seal and bowl plagues are worldwide in their scope. I am inclined to believe that the third part of the earth upon which the first four trumpet judgments fall is that portion where the Jews are most thickly settled.
Two similar predictions in the Olivet Discourse: In Matt. 24:16-19 our Lord emphasized the necessity for speedy flight from Jerusalem and its environs immediately upon receipt of the news that the image is set up in the Temple. In giving these instructions His heart went out to the poor, unfortunate mothers and those expecting who would, under such circumstances, be hindered from a hasty departure.
The warnings and exhortations in Matthew are very similar to those in Luke 21. However the context of each prediction shows that: Luke 21:21-23 spoke of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.; Matt. 24:16-19 is obviously said to those living in Israel during the end time.
Notwithstanding the clarity of each passage, some commentators have said both predictions refer to the overthrow of the Jewish nation in 70 A.D. Such a view is a hasty and superficial one, as becomes apparent when studying the two contexts. Without a doubt the war, siege and final fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. was, in a very limited manner, a forecast of the final overthrow of Jerusalem by the armies of the world in the end time. Although this latter calamity and the sufferings experienced will go far beyond anything that ever has occurred, the similarity of the situations requires language and instructions that are similar.
And pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on a sabbath: for then shall be great tribulation, such as hath not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days had been shortened, no flesh would have been saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened (Matt. 24:20-22).
None of the calamities which have ever befallen the human race can compare with the coming Tribulation in intensity and scope. Should we conceive of all the disasters of the ages as a mighty mountain range with towering peaks here and there, we would be compelled to think of the one symbolizing that cataclysmic time as the highest and most colossal of all.
According to these verses, time does not stop when this Tribulation has passed; on the contrary, it continues. Our Lord, in surveying the ages of the world's history, affirmed that this Tribulation towers above all other calamities, past and future, but reassures us there shall never be another catastrophe like it.
In this connection let us notice in vs. 29 that after the tribulation of those days there will be convulsions in nature and then the Son of man will come in power and great glory. Thus the last scene of the Great Tribulation Period is brought to a close by the personal appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ in power and glory upon the earth. He then takes the management of the world into His hands, stops wars, and establishes a reign of righteousness from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth. Christ's regime will last as long as the sun and moon (Ps. 89:34-37). Therefore there will be no more wars or catastrophes; we can see how it was that our Lord said there never again would be any such calamity as the Great Tribulation.
The judgments of this future time of wrath will be so very intense in their nature and so far reaching in their results that if allowed to last for any appreciable time no flesh would be saved; but because of Israel, whom God will yet use in a mighty way in declaring His truth to all the world, these days shall be shortened. The Lord knows the end from the beginning; hence at the psychological moment He will step into the arena, halt the devastating judgments, restore order and peace, and establish His reign of righteousness.