Tuesday, January 1, 2013




            In the last article, I analyzed the Preterist understanding of Matthew 24:15-22.  In this article, I shall survey the Dispensationalist understanding of the same passage.  I have introduced the Dispensationalist approach in a previous article.


MATTHEW 24:15-22

A New Representative

To this point I have used J. Dwight Pentecost’s Things to Come as a representative of the Dispensationalist position.  I believe his book is very scholarly and is a fair representation of Dispensationalism.  I have now available John F. Walvoord’s Every Prophecy of the Bible: Clear Explanations for Uncertain Times.  This book is written for a “popular” audience, but Walvoord has written many scholarly articles.  Both Pentecost and Walvoord have been at Dallas Theological Seminary.  I shall use both of these works (hopefully others later) to present Dispensationalist thinking. 

Matthew 24:15 as a Key

            Pentecost focuses on Matthew 24:15 as a key to understanding the Olivet Discourse, especially in establishing it as a discourse on the end times.  The reasoning goes as follows:  the 70th Week of Daniel is predicted by Daniel to include the Abomination of Desolation.  Jesus predicted the Abomination of Desolation as a precursor to the Great Tribulation.  Therefore, the Olivet Discourse is a description of the 70th Week. 

            The 70th Week:  I do not want to belabor the 70th Week of Daniel arguments, but an understanding of Daniel’s prophecy concerning the 70 Weeks is the background for the Dispensationalist approach.  Daniel 9:24-27 says the following:

24“Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin,  and to atone for iniquity,  to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place.  25 Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. 26And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.  Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war.  Desolations are decreed. 27 And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering.  And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.”  (Scripture quotations from English Standard Version unless stated otherwise)


The following is the same passage in the New International Version:

24 “Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place.  25 “Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. 26 After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. 27 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 at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.” (NIV)


In this difficult passage, which is a statement from the angel Gabriel to Daniel, there is a prediction of 70 Weeks (or sevens)—usually understood as 70 seven-year periods, or 490 years—for the Hebrew nation.  Although it is difficult to follow, it appears that 69 Weeks (7 + 62) are forecast until “an anointed one” comes.  This is generally interpreted as the coming of the Messiah (Anointed One).  Then, a series of events take place.  First, the anointed one is “cut off” (killed).  This is understood to be the crucifixion of Christ.  Then, the people of “the prince who is to come” will destroy the city and the sanctuary (Jerusalem and the Temple).  This is understood to be the AD 70 destruction by the Romans.  Then, there are wars and desolations.  Then, “he” will make a “covenant with many for one week…”  This “one week” is understood to be the 70th Week.  The “he” who is the covenant maker is understood to be the “prince who is to come.”  He will end sacrifices after one-half a week.  Then, “on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate.”  This is understood to be the Abomination of Desolation.  I have produced the following table that I hope will be helpful to those who are unfamiliar with these concepts.

70 Weeks
Total time given to complete the list of redeeming works for Israel
Usually understood to consist of three divisions:  7 + 62 + 1 = 70
7 Weeks
Unclear first division of the 70
 Appears to be a time of building
62 Weeks
Second division of the 70
Comes after 7 + 62 Weeks; understood to be the Messiah (Christ)
Cut off or crucified

Prince who is to come
Generally understood to be the Beast/Antichrist
He is “to come” so he is not present at the destruction of Jerusalem
People of the prince
The nation connected to the prince to come; this nation destroys Jerusalem and the Temple (the Romans)
The Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple in AD 70.
Antecedent appears to be the “prince who is to come”
Covenant for 1 Week
This prince makes a covenant with (what is understood to be) the Hebrew nation for 1 Week (7 years)
70th Week
Understood to be this 7 year period of covenant with the Hebrews
Nothing like this covenant has occurred in history.  Therefore, the 70th Week is understood to be in the last days, yet in the future.
½ Week
The prince is understood to betray the people and put an end to their religious rites half-way through the 70th Week
Abomination of Desolation
Some sort of detestable act that desecrates the Temple
It appears to be done by the prince who is to come.  It is assumed to take place at about the same time the sacrifice and offerings cease.

Two things are important in the reasoning for Dispensationalists.  First, there is the idea that the 70th Week of Daniel is to come in the future in the last days.  Second, the Abomination of Desolation takes place in the middle of the 70th Week.  Therefore, the mention by Jesus in Matthew 24:15 of the Abomination of Desolation is a “marker” that establishes that he is talking about events of the last days and not the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.

            Use of 24:15 as a Key:  Pentecost uses the mention in verse 15 as evidence that the Olivet Discourse is all about the 70th Week:  “There are indications that verses 9-26 describe the events of the last half of the week.  The abomination of desolation (24:15) is clearly stated by Daniel (9:27) to appear in the middle of the week…” (Pentecost, page 279)  Walvoord makes a distinction between Luke 21 and Matthew 24 because the wording of Luke 21:20-24 differs considerably from Matthew 24:15-22.  So, he understands Luke 21:20 (“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near.”) to be a prediction of the AD 70 destruction of Jerusalem and Matthew 24:15 ((“So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand))) to be a prediction of a future fulfillment of the prediction in Daniel 9:27 of the Abomination of Desolation (Walvoord, pages 374, 376-377).

Pentecost’s Interpretation

            In a previous article I have stated Pentecost’s position that all of Matthew 24:4-26 refers to the 70th Week, that is the future seven year period before the return of Christ:  “Consistency of interpretation would seem to eliminate any application of this portion of Scripture to the church or the church age, inasmuch as the Lord is dealing with the prophetic program for Israel.”  (Pentecost, page 278)  He believes that verse 4-8 refer to the first half of the 70th Week, and that verses 9-26 refer to the second half:  “The word ‘then’ in verse 9 seems to introduce the great persecutions against Israel that were promised them…”  (Pentecost, page 279)

            In analyzing these verses, Pentecost jumps back and forth between verses 9-14 and 15-22.  Verses 9-14, he understands, are events that take place in the latter half of the 70th Week (Pentecost, pages 279-280). However, verses 15-22 also describe that period.  Verse 15 announces the Abomination of Desolation, and verses 16-20 constitute Christ’s warning to Israel to flee because of the Great Tribulation that is to come (verses 21-22) (Pentecost, pages 249 and 279-280).  I have given a summary of Pentecost’s scheme in the following table (based mostly on Pentecost, pages 279-280):


Abomination of Des.
Warning to flee
Great persecutions
Great Tribulation
Unbelieving Israel
Unbelieving Israel
Believing Israel
witnesses to the
Second Coming of


            Incidentally, Pentecost clarifies the usage (especially among Dispensationalists of the term “tribulation.”   “[The word “tribulation”] is used in its technical or eschatological sense in reference to the whole period of the seven years of tribulation as in…Matthew 24:29.  It is also used in reference to the last half of this seven year period, as in Matthew 24:21.”  (Pentecost, page 170)

Walvoord’s Interpretation

            Generally, Walvoord and Pentecost agree, though there is some difference of emphasis.  One major difference is that Walvoord sees a twofold fulfillment of verses 4-14:

Still another point of view presented in this writing is that the entire period described in verses 4–14 are general prophecies that can find fulfillment throughout the present age, with verses 15–30 fulfilled in the great tribulation. However, these same prophecies and the events predicted in verses 4–14 are repeated in the great tribulation, when what was perhaps partially fulfilled earlier will have a very literal and devastating fulfillment.  (Walvoord, page 371)

            Walvoord clarifies a concept that Pentecost also mentions (Pentecost, page 276).  This concept is that Luke 21 records Christ’s answer to the FIRST question of the Disciples and Matthew 24 records His answers to the other questions, as follows:

Matthew did not deal, however, with the first question the disciples asked of when the destruction of Jerusalem would take place, as predicted by Christ in verse 2. This is answered, however, in Luke’s gospel.  (Walvoord, page 374)

Luke stated that the sign of Jerusalem being surrounded by armies should alert them to the fact that its destruction was imminent: “When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near.”  (Walvoord, page 374)

            He compares the two periods of history—the AD 70 war and the Great Tribulation—as follows:

Jesus, having described the signs relating to the destruction of Jerusalem, which some of them would live to see, and the general signs of the progress of the present age, then revealed in detail the specific signs which would be unmistakable evidence that the second coming of Christ and the end of the age was near. It is important to note that the specific signs are entirely different from the signs for the destruction of Jerusalem, though there are some similarities. In both, Israel will be in time of trouble and tribulation. In both periods those in Judea are urged to flee to the mountains. In both cases Gentile power, at least at first, will be triumphant. But the specific signs of the end of the age and the coming of Christ do not occur in connection with the destruction of Jerusalem but await the future period leading up to the second coming of Christ, which will be the specific sign of the end.  (Walvoord, page 376)

Note in the passage above that Walvoord, along with Pentecost, understands the warnings in verses 16-20 to be to Israel and not to the church (Pentecost, page 280).

Walvoord’s comments on the Abomination of Desolation include the understanding that this act in the future will be a desecration of a Jewish Temple that will be in existence in the last days (Walvoord, pages 376-377):  For example, he says, “This is called ‘an abomination that causes desolation’ because it destroys the sacred character of the sacrificial altar and the temple that will be in existence at the time.”  (Walvoord, page 376)






            To a great deal, I have already analyzed much of what Pentecost has to say because his understanding of verses 9-14 overlaps his view of verses 15-22.  I have synthesized his views in a table earlier in this article.  As I have analyzed Matthew 24, I have observed a definite turning point between verses 14 and 15.  There are some reasons why Pentecost and I disagree on this point.  (Most of the following references to Pentecost are from pages 279-280.)

·         Pentecost is strongly committed to the idea that the entire narrative of verses 4-26 concerns the 70th Week.  I understand that verses 4-14 are developments in the church age.

·         Pentecost sees a major break in the narrative at verse 9, and he concludes this corresponds to the change of conditions for Israel with the change in the attitudes of the Beast/Antichrist in the middle of the 70th Week.  I understand the narrative shifts in verse 9 from events of the world at large to developments within the church.

·         I understand “this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed” (verse 14) to mean that the gospel of salvation through faith in Jesus will be proclaimed.  Pentecost understands “gospel of the kingdom” to mean a gospel about the coming Millennial Kingdom.

·         I understand the descriptions of events in 9-13 of persecution, apostasy, false prophets, and cold love to be developments in the church, whereas Pentecost attributes these same developments to occur during the Tribulation with Israel as the subjects.

·         I understand verse 15 does take place during the 70th Week and the warning to flee in verses 16-20 would apply to Christians who would be knowledgeable of Christ’s words (including Jewish Christians).

If I understand Walvoord correctly, he agrees with me on the break in the narrative at verse 14.  However, he sees a double fulfillment for verses 4-14—as “general signs” of the coming last days and as also having “a very literal and devastating fulfillment” during the Tribulation (Walvoord, page 371).  I am not sure why he concludes this.  One would assume he would agree with Pentecost’s analysis.

            I cannot agree with Pentecost’s analysis of verses 9-14.  Russell (see my previous article) equates the Great Tribulation of verses 21-22 to the AD 70 destruction of Jerusalem.  He does that without any close analysis or reason for that idea.  I have demonstrated that analysis of 15-22 does not “fit” well at all with that historical event.  Moreover, verses 4-14 do not fit well at all with the 40 year period from AD 30 to 70, as I have demonstrated in another article.  In Russell’s case, I believe he can see a few specific markers in the narrative which he can identify with certain historical events.  For example, some of the persecutions of verse 9 fit will with the first century.  Any markers that do not fit so well, he simply ignores or “waves a hand” toward.  This would be true for the description of world upheaval of nations in verses 6-7 and for the description of apostasy in the church in verses 10 and 13. 

In the same way, Pentecost makes things fit for the narrative, yet close analysis does not bear out his conclusions.  For example, he attributes apostasy in verse 10 to “unbelieving Israel” (Pentecost, page 280).  But an unbelieving people would not go into apostasy.  He also ignores the prediction of verse 12 about the love of many growing cold.  If Israel comes to Christ in great numbers (as well as many Gentiles) in a period of seven years, it is difficult to conceive of a simultaneous growing cold of such a fervent group.  I believe that Pentecost has backed himself into a corner in his interpretation by maintaining that the whole passage is about the Tribulation (or 70th Week) period.  This is consistent with his (and most Dispensationalists’) position that the 70th Week is all about Israel and not the church.  And that position is because of their belief in the Pre-Tribulation Rapture.  (Although they would maintain that the cause-and-effect relationship is in the other direction.)

Walvoord and Pentecost believe that Christ’s warning to flee to the mountains in verses 16-20 is a warning to Israel.  The practicality of that view is difficult to maintain.  Two possibilities of how this warning would apply to Israel can be considered.  One is that it is to be to any Jews/Israelites in Judea at the time of the Abomination of Desolation.  Non-Christian Jews are very unlikely to be aware of Jesus’ words and would not heed them if they were aware.  Christian Jews would be aware of His words as would non-Jewish Christians to whom the warning might apply.  This subject brings up another issue, which is the presence or non-presence of the church at the time.  I shall deal with that at another time.

In neither Pentecost nor Walvoord, there is not a great deal of material about the Tribulation period itself as they respond directly to these verses.  They certainly—especially Pentecost—have a great deal to say about the Tribulation.  I shall refrain also from dealing with that subject until another time.

I believe the statement of Walvoord with regard to Luke 21:20-24 is very interesting.  I shall put off dealing with that Scripture until I deal with the parallels to Matthew 24 in Mark and Luke.

Summary:  J. Dwight Pentecost’s and John F. Walvoord’s views of Matthew 24:15-22 have been surveyed.  Their views are very similar except that Walvoord understands Matthew 24:4-14 to be fulfilled in the church age as well as having a second fulfillment in the Tribulation period.  Pentecost understands verses 9-14 to be parallel in time to verses 15-22.  Walvoord and Pentecost believe that Luke 21:20-24 addresses the signs signaling the approach of the AD 70 destruction of Jerusalem whereas Matthew 24:15-20 deals with events in the last days.  Both men believe that the warning of verses 16-20 apply to Israel.

I have reiterated my objections to Pentecost’s views of verses 4-14, which I believe apply to the church age, as does Walvoord.  I also have stated my views on how verses 16-20 in practicality would apply only to believing Jews/Israelites and not all of Israel.

NEXT:  Preterist view of verses 24-31



Crossway Bibles (2009-04-09). ESV Study Bible (Kindle Locations 235445-235449). Good

News Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Pentecost, J. Dwight.  Things to Come.  Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan Publish. House, 1958.

Walvoord, John F.  Every Prophecy of the Bible: Clear Explanations for Uncertain Times.

Colorado Springs, CO:  David C Cook. Kindle Edition, 2011.

International Bible Society.  Holy Bible, New International Version.  Grand Rapids, MI:  Biblica,

Inc., 2011. (courtesy www.biblegateway.com)

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