But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand. Here is certainly a warning for we who do not yet live in a time of tribulation to make ourselves ready for if they should befall us. Now, by making ourselves ready, I do not mean doomsday prepping. I mean preparing as Daniel and his friends prepared for their moments of testing. We must practice and devote ourselves to God in faithfulness during times of peace so that we have built up those muscles to continue being faithful to God should He bring upon us times of tribulation. Indeed, Calvin gives us that very warning: “Let us therefore regard this period of quiet not as something which will last forever, but as a truce in which God gives us time to gain strength, so that, when called to confess our faith, we do not act as raw recruits because we failed to think ahead.”
But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let the one who is on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house, to take anything out, and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that it may not happen in winter. For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be. And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days. And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.
Mark 13:14-23 ESV
It might be helpful as we get into the latter portions of this chapter to talk a little about the different views of eschatology. When it comes to interpreting passages like this one, there are two terms worth noting: preterism and futurism. As the latter’s name would suggest, those with a futurist lens of interpretation will tend to read apocalyptic prophecies such as these as speaking of a still future event. Preterists, however, take the opposite view of seeing almost everything as having occurred in the past. Full preterists argue that that even Christ’s second coming has already been fulfilled, which makes that view erroneous and to be avoided. Partial preterists, however, recognize many events, the return of Christ being a chief one, as still awaiting fulfillment yet still view many prophesies as having already been fulfilled. As you may have picked up from the previous two sermons, I fall under the partial-preterist category.
Beyond views of interpretation, we can only discuss the different views of when Christ’s return will occur. There are four of them: dispensational premillennialism, historic premillennialism, postmillennialism, and amillennialism. They all involve the word millennium because they largely differ on when Christ will return in relation His thousand-year reign upon earth as described in Revelation 20. Both premillennialist views say that Christ will return before the millennium. They generally view the world as being in a gradual decline until Christ’s second coming. Postmillennialists believe that Christ will return after His millennial reign is established through the successful fulfillment of the Great Commission. They generally view the world as being on a gradual incline as the gospel goes into all the world. Amillennialists view the millennium as being symbolic of the present church age, meaning that Christ could return at any moment. They view the world with a more Ecclesiastes-ish lens, that there is nothing new under the sun. there is a constant rhythm of things getting better and things getting worse. If you have not already guessed, I belong to the amillennial category.
Yet we should also note that these differing views are not primary doctrines, such as the Trinity or the divinity of Christ, nor are they secondary doctrines, like credo- and paedo-baptism. Eschatological views are tertiary doctrines upon which we can happily disagree and argue about with joy within the same congregation. Indeed, I would argue that the ambiguity of Christ’s return is meant to foster these different views. When rightly used, the pessimistic view of the world by premillennialists keeps the church focused on our blessed hope. When rightly used, the optimistic view of the world by postmillennialists calls the church to engage in multi-generational culture building. And I like to think that amillennials help keep everyone balanced between the two.
As for our text, Jesus warns of the abomination of desolation, a time of tribulation like no other that must shortly come to pass. 
Such Tribulation as has Not Been
Our text begins with moving beyond the five non-signs that He gave in verses 5-13 (false messiahs, wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes, famines, and persecution). Though each of those hardships are easily taken to be signs of the end, Jesus specifically warns us against doing so, saying rather that we should expect to face them as an ordinary part of living in our broken, sin-stained world. Now, however, Jesus does present us with a definitive sign.
But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that it may not happen in winter. For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be. And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days.
The sign of the end that Jesus gives here is called the abomination of desolation or the abomination which makes desolate, which is a phrase that comes from the book of Daniel. The parenthetical statement, let the reader understand, could have been spoken by Jesus to His disciples or it might be another editorial comment by Mark. Either way, it is probably best taken as a call for us to consider again the prophesies within Daniel’s book.
We will not spend much time here doing so since we studied through the book of Daniel last year. There we find references to the abomination that makes desolate in chapters 9, 11, and 12. As I noted in that study, that event seems to refer to the Seleucid king Antiochus Epiphanes, who converted the temple into a temple to Zeus and forbid the Jews from such practices as circumcision and observing the Sabbath. It was a horrific period of tribulation that lasted for a about three and a half years and ended with Antiochus dying in excruciating pain from a sudden illness. Yet by Jesus’ day, that had happened long ago, so why is Jesus calling His disciples to recall those words. I think William Hendriksen answers that question quite well:
In accordance with that prophet’s prediction Antiochus Epiphanes (175-164 BC), unaware that he was indeed fulfilling prophecy, and being thoroughly responsible for his own wicked deed, erected a pagan altar over the altar of burnt-offering, thus polluting the house of God and rendering it desolate and unusable. This had happened long ago. See I Macc. 1:54, 59. Nevertheless, Jesus says, “Now when you see ‘the desolating sacrilege.’” The implication is that a divine oracle may apply to more than one historical situation. The sacrilege that results in the desolation of city and temple takes place more than once in history… Just as in the past the holy places of the Lord had been desecrated, so it will happen again. And it did indeed take place when the Roman armies, with the image of the emperor on their standards, an image and an emperor worshiped by them laid siege to the city of Jerusalem (Luke 21:20).
Thus, a new period of tribulation and desecration of the temple was coming, like what occurred in second century BC yet much worse. Here again I believe that we ought to keep the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70 squarely in our focus, for it certainly seems to have been the fulfillment of these predictions. Sam Storms does a particularly wonderful (if that word can be applied to such discussion…) work detailing the horrors of AD 70, citing frequently from the Jewish historian Josephus, yet the following descriptions will be drawn from multiple sources.
The Jewish-Roman War began in 66 with many skirmishes between particularly the Zealots and the Romans. As the Roman armies grew larger and a full siege of Jerusalem became evident, Jewish Christians obeyed Christ’s words in our passage and fled to the hills surrounding Jerusalem. These believers were considered traitors by the Jews that remained, and Nick Needham says, “the ultimate effect of the Jewish War was to cut Christianity off almost entirely from its Jewish origin.” Yet we should very much take note from this, as well as many scenes within the book of Acts, that Christ does not expect His people to never flee from hardship and tribulation.
And that siege did come in April of 70. Titus, the newly crowned emperor’s son, encircled Jerusalem in the days following the Passover, leaving many of the yearly pilgrims caught within the city. Yet “the The zealots rejected, with sneering defiance, the repeated proposals of Titus and the prayers of Josephus, who accompanied him as interpreter and mediator; and they struck down every one who spoke of surrender.” Indeed, Josephus was then able to observe firsthand the ensuing chaos within Jerusalem over the next several months looking down from the Mount of Olives.