The Desolation Of Christendom                ( A commentary by G.Thomas Windsor )     1/2009

 

Allow me to bring some sobering thoughts regarding the church. This may be subject to misunderstanding. Please bear with this author and try to look objectively at the state of Christianity after 2000 years and the question of how to relate this to the prophetic scriptures .

Some of these things may appear discouraging, but God's desire is to prepare us, and in his love he wants us to see the truth and to have us overcome any hardship or darkness. That's very hopeful . He also promises to show his servants what must soon take place .(Rev 1)

In our time we appear to be moving into the very last days. We need to pray that the Lord would give us wisdom concerning how to deal with prophecy in our day . This isn't simply theory ; I believe individuals are going to experience something cataclysmic before the return of the Lord .

There is currently much debate about ,who ,what ,when, where, how and why its all going to happen . I'm not going to get into the various debates about how "End times " prophecies outwork themselves in the natural or geopolitical realm (enough theories already abound.) One thing I think though is certain,that the Desolation (destruction and  emptiness ) of Jerusalem and the Abomination at the Temple are meshed into and are at the heart of the discourse Jesus spoke of when he referred to the time of the end . ( Its also part of most "End times " models )

Luke 21:19-21 "When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then those in Judea must flee..."

Matthew 24:14-16 "So when you see standing in the holy place `the abomination that causes desolation,' spoken of through the prophet Daniel--let the reader understand.."

Mark 13:13-15 "When you see `the abomination that causes desolation' standing where it does not belong--let the reader understand--then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains."

Luke .21.25 " Then they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory."

The question lies then how to interpret the meaning or multiple meanings . The various interpretations yield a wide spectrum of results and how it's outworked in the timing . Thus we have many "End Times" models . What we decide to do with all the scriptures relating to it has important implications . We can't ignore it and just go about our business as usual. Our Lord and his Apostles did not instruct us to take that approach . I'm also not suggesting we follow the sensationalist approach . A whole lucrative industry has been created promoting end times books and seminars ( typically advancing the "we won't be around when it all takes place " view.)

I will try to focus on the spiritual dynamic and spiritual warfare to take place leading up to and intensifying right before his Return .

It's  Not Just  Geopolitical

The most important conflict in the end, I don't believe will take place at a conference of UN nations, or on the sands of the Middle East, or in some world conspiracy , but in the hearts and minds of the believers (the church.)

I don't think we are prepared for the type of deception, temptation, and tribulation that will come. There is a position of "we've always had these things before, what's the difference ?" The difference will be the magnitude of events . It is like a man who won't evacuate the coast because he thinks "we've always had bad storms and besides ,it won't hit hear anyway ," and then the Storm of all time comes and he is swept away.

This is at the heart of what Jesus was speaking of in the Matthew 24, Luke 21, and Mark 13 discourses. In these passages Jesus spoke of a great apostasy, a falling away, and a time of trouble such has never been (known as the Great Tribulation.) Jesus is speaking in a urgent tone of warning and the important question is ; who is it meant for ? Is it for the church or not ? Those who conclude (and teach )in the last generation that it doesn't apply to them , do so at their own peril .

A Rebuilt Temple ?

Often in scripture there is a message in spiritual parallels. Let me say also that this concept doesn't nullify literal fulfillments which serve as a scaffolding . The desolation of Jerusalem and the temple was prophesied and was fulfilled in the natural at least three times . It happened around the years 586 B.C., 185 BC., and also in 70 AD . The fact that there have been many fulfillments (Daniel's' and Christ's specifically ) shows the integrity of God's spoken word . This also leads me to believe it's not necessary for another natural desolation before the return.

Concerning a potential rebuilt temple. If we relegate the prophecies of the desolation of Jerusalem and the temple simply to a bricks and mortar building, I think we miss an astronomical lesson that God has spent 3000 years of history in many lives of trying to warn the Church. " These things happened for our instruction" ( Hebrews.)

Most in Christendom now believe those prophecies (Mt. 24, etc.) only apply to "them" (the Jews ) , or " it's over there " (in the present land of Israel), or think " I won't be around anyway " (the Pretrib Rapture doctrine .) I can only appeal to anyone in those camps of belief to reconsider and to keep reading .

I believe the Spirit of God is trying to get through and plead for us to listen to what these warnings are saying to the church about the final "desolation of Jerusalem," and of course in a related way the Abomination of Desolation." .

Old Testament WARNINGS

The Lord spoke of these things (Mt. 24 etc.) like a capstone of prophecy that had many origins in the the Old Testament . In them we see the pattern of God's people forsaking the Lord and turning to idolatry and bringing upon themselves the judgment's of God and the desolation of Jerusalem and His temple .

What are the spiritual applications and what then are we to understand now?

I'm led to believe the lesson of Jerusalem and the temple is meant for the time of the end to apply to Christendom . It's meant to teach us of an unprecedented spiritual desolation ( a total departure of God's spirit ) in fallen Christendom and the subsequent wrath (blindness and judgments ) to follow because of apostasy.

All throughout the New testament the Apostles are constantly making spiritual applications to the things that have happened in the natural as fulfillments of God's spoken word . Most of the New Testament teaching about the temple refers to the temple of believers (1 Peter 2.4-5, " Be built into a spiritual house... " , 2Cor.6.14-18, Galatians 4:26 ; Hebrews 12:22.)

The statements of Christ and the Apostles can be followed back in the Old Testament. It's a chain of prophesy. Each link showing a similar pattern .

The Old Testament  Patterns

Prophecy is sometimes shown in patterns that repeat themselves. The patterns provide an independent witness of history to help validate our interpretations of what the scripture directly says .

Also, often in prophecy there is a principle that a local event can relate to the universal. It's about different scales . The prophecies surrounding the desolations of Jerusalem also contains references to the Day of the Lord and the final judgment of all mankind and of all the earth . See Jer. 4 and 25, Hab .1, Zeph. 1, Isaiah 29 and 64.Many times in prophecy we see also see types and foreshadowings .

When Jesus spoke concerning the temple in his day: "behold your house is forsaken and desolate !" (Mt. 23 ), he was speaking of something more than just referencing the coming physical desolation to happen in that generation . He was referring to a severing of the spiritual relationship that had existed up to that point and all that was said about the temple in previous generations and what is was to be . But now It was soon to be " Ichobad"- God's glory and Spirit were departing .

The Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Cor. 6:16 " What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. ... Therefore come out from them ..." Gods temple can not endure idolatry .

 The Apostle also spoke of a horrible event that was to happen before the return of the Lord in the temple . 2Thess 2:1 " Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, 2not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. 3Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness[1] is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. 4He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God. ....... 8And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming.

 There where recorded earlier desolations of the temple that has relevance .

2Chronicles 36: 16 But they mocked God's messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the LORD was aroused against his people and there was no remedy. 17 He brought up against them the king of the Babylonians, ..... God handed all of them over to Nebuchadnezzar. 18 He carried to Babylon all the articles from the temple of God,19 They set fire to God's temple and broke down the wall of Jerusalem;...21 The land enjoyed its sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfillment of the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah.

 This was similar to the earlier pattern of warnings God gave before the temple , regarding The Tabernacle . In Psm.78 we read about how the Lord " abandoned his house at Shilo " (1Sam 2.) Because of unfaithfulness, "They moved him to jealousy with their graven images "( Psm 78 -56-62.) Idolatry was always the final act that caused the Lord to depart .

Jer. 32:31 " From the day it was built until now, this city has so aroused my anger and wrath that I must remove it from my sight. 32 The people of

Israel and Judah have provoked me by all the evil they have done-they, their kings and officials, their priests and prophets, the men of Judah and the people of Jerusalem. 33 They turned their backs to me and not their faces; though I taught them again and again, they would not listen or respond to discipline. 34 They set up their abominable idols in the house that bears my Name and defiled it. 35 They built high places.

God showed Ezekiel (Ezekiel 8:2-17) . ' The Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven and in visions of God he took me to Jerusalem, to the entrance to the north gate of the inner court, where the idol that provokes to jealousy stood.

There were also various kings who would set up, and promote the worship of other gods . 2 Chronicles 33:7 He took the carved image he had made and put it in God's temple, of which God had said to David and to his son Solomon, "In this temple and in Jerusalem, ....

So the LORD said, .... I will reject Jerusalem, the city I chose, and this temple, about which I said, 'There shall my Name be " [ 23:27 1 Kings 8:29 ](This whole pattern will hopefully be expanded in a future writing as there are many other examples )

Here we see types of the "Abomination of Desolation ". God is a jealous God and His Spirit cannot abide with idolatry. He hasn't changed ! God does extend manifold grace, but there is a limit.  There reaches a point at which God gives no more lessons, no more warnings and corrections .

God's covenant of grace doesn't lessen his final response, it only makes us more accountable. Idolatry can not be set up ( to reign ) in a temple of God unless that individual or corporate entity has been given over to it . Blindness and hardness of heart are also part of the pattern before the departure .

As said before , often these natural and literal fulfillments show us about figurative, and spiritual meanings . In light of the New Testament teaching referring to the temple of believers (those gathered in His Name,) all of these repeated natural desolations in the Old Testament are meant to warn us. They are a foreshadowing of future events.

A Warning  !

I'm concerned most in the church worldwide could be locked into a position of "I wont be here, or if I am, Antichrist won't be here until there's a rebuilt temple in national Israel. " Consider this. What if he does come only in the "temple " of the church ? Or even if a temple is rebuilt, his appearance in the temple of believers " proclaiming himself as God " could still be THE catastrophic overwhelming event (2Thess 2.)

It could be a total stealth attack completely missing the radar . We are told he (the Man of Sin ) will come in an unexpected way. "Without warning he will come ..." (Daniel 11.24 .) We must be careful we don't "bolt down our radar dish " of future events in a single direction . Christ and the Apostles emphatically told us to "watch out ...,be on your guard..., be alert.. " etc. I don't believe the greatest deception of all time is going to be that obvious. It will require discernment by God's Spirit .

If the first coming of Christ , The Light ,was for the most part prophetically difficult to realize (almost everyone missed it ,) how much more difficult to see will be the coming manifestation of Darkness? How much more when the greatest deception of all time shall appear on earth !

One of the earmarks of great catastrophes is when there is an underestimation of the forces at work and a fundamental lack of preparedness amongst a multitude of victims . Christ began his teachings about the end by saying "Take heed that you are not led astray " ! (Mk13.5 )

 We live in a age of endless denominations and "brands" of Christianity . There are churches to suit any particular liking . Whatever form of religion, disobedience, or sin a person chooses to live in , a church and a doctrine can be found to accommodate and even affirm that lifestyle (2 Tim 4.3-4) . These churches look very good to the natural eyes but are counterfeit. (The tares look just like the wheat and the wolves come in sheeps' clothing ) All that was Christianity has been and its slowly imperceptibly being substituted by a replacement .

God has endured with almost unending patience , but that has a limit that I believe we are fast approaching . He cannot dwell with or have partnership with what has gone on in much of church history and is going on now .

Another related issue to this, is that of the prophecies concerning "coming out of " Babylon. Historically, when God told his people to come out of that country ( Zech. 2 ), they had to literally flee . It already has been fulfilled in the natural . So now , there is a spiritual meaning for God's people to flee the Harlot religion ( Revelation 18:4) in the time of the end .

The kingdom of Antichrist will rise before the final consummation of the kingdom of God.

The Antichrist doesn't come in isolation. It isn't simply one person but a whole movement . This is the spiritual background to the apocalyptic writings ; a rebellion , a great falling away , wickedness multiplied and the love of many (believers ) growing cold . It is in this matrix that "the final Desolation " comes .

Daniel 8:13 -Then I heard ...."How long will it take for the vision to be fulfilled-the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, the rebellion that causes desolation, and the surrender of the sanctuary and of the host that will be trampled underfoot?"

Daniel 9:26-28  "He will confirm a covenant with many for one `seven.' In the middle of the `seven' he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing [of the temple] he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him. "

Daniel 11:30-32 "His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice. Then they will set up the abomination that causes desolation."

The Idolatry of the End

From the first emphatic command of God to the admonitions of the last apostles, the call was to have " no other God, " and to keep ourselves from idols . Yet Christendom as a whole has not heeded this in its Idolatry . It has "married the world "with its lust for power and authority (the precepts of men ) , the praise of men (typically the clergy ), materialism in all its buildings and religious trappings , and the scandals and the secret love of pleasures that has gone on for 20 centuries (Jude 1-17-19 , Acts 20.29-31) while outwardly hiding the sin .

  The Lamp is Put Out

God takes away the lampstand when the church is not shining forth the light. Jesus spoke a word of warning: "If you do not repent I will come to you and remove the lamp stand from its place" (Rev.2:5). If it is removed then the church no longer corporately represents him to the world. It is also a false church following a false Christ . It can no longer be called a lampstand in God's view. And when the eye is full of darkness, then the whole body, that church, is in darkness. If something else is at the center of the church, from the kingdom of darkness , then the whole body is full of darkness.

How many times in church history have we seen a group start out in the spirit yet ending in the flesh and in error . Churches and congregations that were at one time beacons of light and truth that carried the gospel and where lives were changed and God was worshiped in humility and sincerity, are now becoming and will finally be given over to be vast swamps of heresy, worldliness , false prophecies , iniquity, schisms, enmity, etc. It becomes a " haunt of every foul spirit " (BABYLON ) (Rev. 17,18 ,1Tim.4.1, 1Pet 2.1-3 ,2 John 1.7-11 .2 Tim3.1-9)

The whole " body becomes full of darkness "as Jesus said . When The Holy Spirit departs a body, it is similar to when seven unclean spirits enter it ( Christ spoke this concerning individuals , but it also applies to church bodies.) Christ warns the church "you have the name of being alive , but you are dead ." also "you are blind (Rev 2.,3 ) The body apart from the Spirit is dead ; mere lifeless institutions of men .

There reaches a point in an individual's life or a corporate body where if someone persists in hardness of heart they are given over to a lie and a delusion (Rom1 , 2Thess 2). God takes no pleasure in this , but he can't compromise his holiness and justice .

Christendom will finally experience an astonishing spiritual devastation and will be given over to the enemy . "Where the body is, there the eagles (vultures) will gather "( Mt24 ,Hos.8,1.) (Many times in the O.T. pattern this happened to Israel ) Though outwardly the "church " will still retain a righteous appearance and be seen by many as being prosperous .

The true worship of God (sacrifice and offering )shall be replaced by the idolatry of the worship and glorification of man (wicked shepherds ) and ultimately the worship of the one known as the Antichrist (Dan11.36) . The temple will be profaned and desecrated and Satan will rule in the midst (2Thess 2, Dan.7, Rev 13 ) .

The Faithful Remnant

However, there will be those who stand firm, hold fast and refuse compromise ," those who truly know God " (Dan 11.32.) They will also by the Holy Spirit bear witness in that day and will overcome, though they will fall for a short time and go through tribulation. It remains for the church at that time to put on the whole armor of God to stand in the evil day and to build themselves up in their most holy faith . Also it remains for his people to search his Word and by his Spirit find out what are his specific instructions concerning that time . For , those Days will be so difficult that if they weren't shortened , no human being would be saved .

In the midst of this darkest night Christ will come in all power and glory like the lightning and shall triumph and bring deliverance to his elect saints. All eyes will see him in majesty seated upon His throne bringing recompense to his enemies, and deliverance and eternal life to his people.

The Hope

This is the ultimate hope, this is what we must look to, in the face of the coming events. God will save a remnant , as He always has done and as is shown in the pattern of scripture . God saves the humble and those who seek him with their whole heart . May we be that people .

The final temple will be set up by Christ at his return and beyond when God's heavenly (dwelling) Temple comes down to earth (Rev 21.) Revelation 3:12, "Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God ." God will ultimately dwell with the saints .

 I pray this is helpful . I don't claim to have it all figured out and I would welcome any feedback . Allow me to humbly submit though , If we miss the warning in the scriptures shown in the pattern above, there are eternal consequences.

 Please pray about and consider these things ,

In the grace and fear of God .

 G. Thomas Windsor

 

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