Today's verses are Mark 13:14-16: "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." Previously, Jesus had been teaching about characteristics of the end times. Now, apparently, he shifts primarily to his own times. He was giving information about what will happen when Rome invades Jerusalem between 66-70 A.D., a time of horrific tribulation.
He begins with a reference to "the abomination of desolation." What is it? Daniel 9:27 tells of "the abomination of desolation" being set up in the temple. At different points in Jewish history, Jews thought this prophecy was being fulfilled in their midst. For example, during the days of the Macabees in 167 B.C., a king named Antiochus IV Ephiphanes commanded that an altar honoring the Greek god Zeus be built in the temple. He also commanded that pigs and other unclean animals be sacrificed on the altar and that the Sabbath day be profaned. As equally offensive to the Jews was when he ordered that circumcision, the sign of the covenant between Jews and God, be halted and abolished. You can see why many Jews thought Antiochus was the "abomination of desolation."
However, it appears here that Jesus is clarifying this interpretation. Evidently, there is still more to be seen and experienced with "the abomination of desolation." First, Daniel's prophecy will be seen with the destruction of the temple by the Romans in 70 A.D. At this time, a Roman eagle, the sign of Roman authority, will also be placed in the temple right before its destruction. This did happen. The temple has never been reconstructed to this day. Second, some believe that the temple will be reconstructed one day and in the end times the Antichrist will enter it and exalt himself as the Christ, the Messiah, as a holy offense to God's Son, Jesus. Third, some believe, in fulfillment of 2 Thessalonians 2:4, the the image of the Antichrist will be stamped on the living temple, the bodies of people, in the last days as humanity exalts itself continually above God.
As with most Biblical prophecy, there is a present and future focus. This seems to be the case with the "abomination of desolation." It had a present meaning for Jesus' listeners and a future focus for all other readers, us included. We can expect there to be some kind of ultimate rebellion against God, led by Satan himself, who will set himself up against God's people in a final conflict. But we should not fear. Even this is overseen by the Father and is a part of his end times conflict which he eventually wins.
In Jesus' context, he warns when this conflict with Rome occurs in the next 30 years, people should "flee to the mountains." The ancient church historian Eusebius said that during the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 A.D. that this is exactly what happened and Christians obeyed Jesus' warning. They fled to the mountains of Pella for safety and protection. They left their housetops and their fields and went down to flee Jerusalem, not even having time to gather their possessions.
What does this teaching mean for us today? It think it's simply this: we need always to be ready. We should be alert to the signs of the times. Jesus could return any moment.
Are we ready? Are we living a life he would find pleasing should he return today? If not, what do I need to change? How might I live a life more pleasing to him?
All Jesus' prophecies come true, especially the one about his imminent return. Therefore, let us serve him today, no matter where we may be, living and serving in a way that would please him should this be the day the Father sends him to retrieve his own.