Jesus continued, giving warnings and predictions that applied to the destruction of Jerusalem, the beginning of the time of the end, and the Second Coming of Christ.

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake” (Matthew 24:9). This was fulfilled in the first century with the persecutions of Christians by the Jews, as well as with the brief but vicious persecution by the Romans under Nero, which took place in 64 AD. It was also fulfilled in the Middle Ages by the Inquisition which continued until the time of the end (late 18th-early 19thcentury). And it will be fulfilled again at the end of time when the “great harlot” will be “drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus” (Revelation 17:6).[1]

For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ’ and will deceive many” (Matthew 24:5). “Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many” (v. 11). “For false christs and false prophets will rise, and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (v.24). Jesus warned three times of the appearance of false prophets and false christs (antichrists). This was fulfilled in the apostolic time. John wrote that in his day “many antichrists have come” (1 John 2:18). Even the Apostle Paul was mistaken for a false Egyptian prophet who had deceived 4000 people (Acts 21:37,38). Also, around the beginning of the “time of the end” there was a flurry of those who came with “special messages” from God, such as Joseph Smith who founded the Mormon Church in the 1830’s, and the Fox sisters who started the modern spiritualist movement in 1848. The ultimate example will be just before the Second Coming of Christ when “the lawless one [the final Antichrist] will be revealed with all power, signs and lying wonders” (2 Thessalonians 2:8,9).

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14). Paul declared that in his day “the gospel…was preached to every creature under heaven” (Colossians 1:23), testifying to the power of Spirit-filled men and women who spread the good news of Jesus Christ by word of mouth to the whole known world. In the 18th century William Carey launched the modern missionary movement, which by the mid 1800’s had sent Protestant missionaries to nearly every country. But the ultimate fulfillment will not take place until Jesus’ disciples “preach the gospel to every creature” “and then the end will come” (Mark 16:15, Matthew 24:14).

Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet standing in the holy place…then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains” (Matthew 24:15,16). The parallel passage in Luke gives the application at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem: “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains” (Luke 21:20,21). After years of rebellion and resistance to Roman rule, the Roman army under Cestius Gallus surrounded Jerusalem in A.D. 66, threatening the Jews that they must submit to Rome or perish. According to the historian Josephus, the Romans were on the verge of victory but inexplicably withdrew. The Christians who lived in Jerusalem, remembering the words of Jesus, fled and escaped the slaughter that occurred when the army of Rome under Titus returned and destroyed the city and the temple in A.D. 70.[2] The abomination of desolation was the presence of pagan soldiers in the Holy City, demanding that the Jews surrender or perish.

In the Middle Ages the Roman Catholic Church set up the “abomination of desolation,” this time with the papacy persecuting those accused of heresy (see Appendix 10). The Inquisition formalized the laws and court procedures that were applied against those who refused to submit to the laws of the church, and set up the system of interrogation with torture by the church followed by sentencing and punishment by the government. Faithful Christians such as the Waldenses found refuge in the mountains of Piedmont, and many of the followers of the Protestant Reformation during the 16th century had to “flee to the mountains” of Germany and Switzerland where they found refuge and safety.[3] Again the demand was to submit or perish.

The ultimate fulfillment will take place at the very end of time with the mark and number of the beast.[4] Laws will be passed, first making it impossible to buy or sell without the mark, and finally a death decree will be imposed against those who refuse to submit. At that time it will be essential that true Christians recognize the final “abomination of desolation” so that they can “flee to the mountains” (See 13:15 The Image of the Beast and Appendix 10).

For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened” (Matthew 24:21,22). The siege of Jerusalem with the unbelievable suffering and loss of life rates as one of the greatest human disasters of all times, with the result that the Jews permanently lost their temple. With Jerusalem destroyed, this was the end of the prophecy’s application to the Jews and Jerusalem.

The tribulation of the Middle Ages was the greatest in the sense that it continued for hundreds of years with massive loss of life. The crusades, religious wars and persecutions of the Middle Ages were a bloodbath—some historians estimate that 50 million people were slaughtered.

But there never was and never will be anything that can compare with the “time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time” (Daniel 12:1). This will take place when the “four winds of the earth” are released (the seven trumpets) and “Michael shall stand up” (the seven last plagues). Jesus said, “Unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved” (Matthew 24:22).

Continue to next section: SIGNS

[1] This is not the persecution of the middle ages because “Babylon the Great” is now “The Mother of Harlots” which indicates that the church is now divided into the mother church and her daughters, which did not happen until after the middle ages with the Protestant reformation.

[2] For a full description of this tragedy see Mervyn Maxwell, God Cares 2, (Nampa, ID Pacific Press, 1985) p. 24.

[3] Martin Luther was hidden in the mountain fortress of Wartburg when condemned by Charles V after the diet of Worms. John Calvin, William Farel and John Knox are among the many who fled from France and England and found refuge in Switzerland. See E.G. White, The Great Controversy, (Nampa, ID Pacific Press).

[4] See 13:15 the Image of the Beast through the end of chapter 13 for complete information about the image, mark and number of the beast and the religio-political entities that will be involved.