There are more quite complicated, interpretative challenges in these verses, but the essential and practical thrust is clear. “Be on your guard” (13:23).
The “abomination that causes desolation” has caused much head scratching among the scholars, as has the phrase—breaking the third wall as cinematographers would put it—“let the reader understand” (13:14). Clearly a reference to Daniel, it probably is a nearer prophetic reference to the blasphemous actions that took place as the city of Jerusalem was destroyed. But I will let the reader chase down the different views in the commentaries for themselves! It does appear that the Christians heard their Master’s warnings about the fall of Jerusalem and were not present at that terrible siege, and had—as he advised—fled from the city beforehand. Verses 21 and 22 may be spanning back to the further eschatological horizon again. Certainly verses 24 to 27 are.
Once more we learn that we are not to be taken in by those who claim that Christ has arrived—for when Jesus returns it will be obvious to all. At the same time when these events coalesce together we may know that he is near at the very gates (13:29). In a sense Jesus has been very near ever since he ascended. All that is necessary for salvation has been accomplished: now he is patient, giving us a chance to repent, and so delays his return. But he is imminent, at the gates.
Finally, we are given a securing promise: Jesus’ Word will last. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”
Be on your guard. And whatever happens know that Jesus’ Word is reliable, secure, and will last.
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