“But when you see the desolating sacrilege set up where it ought not to be (let the reader understand), then those in Judea must flee to the mountains; the one on the housetop must not go down or enter the house to take anything away; the one in the field must not turn back to get a coat. Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that it may not be in winter. For in those days there will be suffering, such as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, no, and never will be. And if the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would be saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he has cut short those days. And if anyone says to you at that time, ‘Look! Here is the Messiah!’ or ‘Look! There he is!’—do not believe it. False messiahs and false prophets will appear and produce signs and omens, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. But be alert; I have already told you everything.
“But in those days, after that suffering,
the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light,
and the stars will be falling from heaven,
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
I had to look up the phrase “desolating sacrilege.” In Daniel it is used in reference to a pagan shrine being set up in the Temple, and it is possible Jesus is referring to a similar event in His time, possibly a statue of Caesar. But the general idea is the same of the two previous passages: bad stuff is going to happen.
Jesus says that the suffering coming will be the worst in history, so bad that we wouldn’t be able to endure it if God didn’t end it. False prophets will be everywhere, He says, but we can’t listen to them. Jesus has already told us everything we need to know. Then, just when things get so bad that we think we can endure no more, Jesus will come and save His people.
I want to draw attention to when Jesus says that when this time comes, those in Judea must flee to the mountains. Now, what I can’t decide is whether this refers to literal Judea, or the people of Judea. It could mean that Judea will be the center of all the bad stuff, and you need to leave or die. Or it could mean that Jesus’s people must flee from any idol worship etc. to avoid the worst suffering and temptations. Now, the internet didn’t seem particularly interested in this, they were much more concerned with the “desolating sacrilege” phrase that hooked me up at the beginning, so I had to come to my own conclusions. I feel that I clearly won’t be safe from suffering just because I’m on another continent. So regardless of what Jesus meant, I think it’s definitely not a bad idea to act as though He’s talking to us all. Better safe than sorry.
I also want to point out the purpose of these depressing passages. Jesus isn’t trying to scare us, though He may be succeeding anyway. The purpose is to warn us about what is coming so we can be prepared. We need to know what to do! If we didn’t know to watch out for false prophets, we might be led astray by one. If we didn’t know how to act during persecutions, we might try to be eloquent ourselves and completely put our foot in our mouths. Jesus is basically giving us a vague, rather scary how-to manual for the end of days. We just have to have the faith and trust to follow it.