Matthew 24:17 (Upon the Housetop: The Urgency of Fleeing)

Jesus is on the Mount of Olives returning to Bethany after forsaking the temple to those who had rejected Him as their Messiah.  As a consequence of that temple’s spiritual desolation it would also in time be so physically desolated that not one stone would be left upon another (Mat 23:38-24:3).  In response to the disciples’ request for a sign for when such things would happen lest they too be swept away in that destruction, Jesus warned about being deceived by false Christs and false prophets whose promises for a more worldly salvation would appeal to the desires of sinful men for a more worldly leader (Mat 24:4).  Such would be especially tempting because of the tribulations that would arise against those seeking first the true Christ’s spiritual kingdom.  As a result of those persecutions, many would fall away and even betray and hate one another (Mat 24:9-10).  While Christ both warns and encourages that it is the one who endures to the end that will be saved, He by no means expects His people to needlessly throw away their lives; hence, at such time as they should see “the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place”—which we understand to be spiritual idolatry in the hearts of those who claim to be God’s people so they are no longer the preserving salt that stays God’s hand of judgment—then He commands that they must “flee to the mountains” (Mat 24:13-16)—which we understand to be those quiet places of solitude where Moses, Elijah, and even Jesus went to escape the din of the world and find God and His protecting presence[1].

With what urgency does Jesus say His followers must make their escape at such time?  See Mat 24:17-18.  Whose example in particular does He seem to have in mind in regard to urgently fleeing to the mountains in order to escape imminent destruction?  See Gen 19:15-17, and with Mat 24:36-41 cf. Luk 17:26-37.  What is the significance to Jesus’ intent of a person upon a housetop?  I.e., what would a person be doing upon the roof?  See 2Sa 18:24 and consider how the rooftop provided a vantage point from which one could observe the approach of things from a greater distance and hence have more time to prepare or even escape if necessary.  See also Act 10:9 and consider that the rooftop was more peaceful and isolated from “the things that are in his house”, i.e., the cares of life below, and so provided one’s own personal “high place” from which to be alone and commune with God; cf. Jer 19:13, 32:29, Zep 1:5 for the false worship that also commonly took place on the rooftops.  In what way does separation from the world and communion with God in prayer provide us a vantage point from which to “see” spiritually into the distance?  What then is the spiritual counterpart of a person who sees danger approaching from his housetop?  Cf. Mat 16:1-3.  When a person through prayer and separation from the world discerns through the eyes of the Spirit that the “abomination of desolation” is standing in the holy place so that destruction is imminent, does Jesus say he should come down and try to rescue as much as he can from those things of his that are below?  Cf. Luk 9:24.  What does He say?  See Mat 24:17; cf. Pro 27:12.

Although viewed at a distance from the vantage point of one’s rooftop, what does the urgency with which Jesus says His followers should make their escape indicate about how swiftly approaching destruction can overtake a person?  What warning does this offer for the judgment we see approaching from a distance in our own day?  Consider that although we may see approaching judgment from our housetop, those who don’t have our vantage point may not understand the urgency and seek to dissuade us, supposing they are already safe in their walled city.  Although it is still far off so we have time to escape, if we trust in the world’s security or dally over its cares, what is the danger that we will become distracted and miss our opportunity?  Cf. Luk 21:34-35, 2Co 6:2.  In what way is this true in regard to the judgment that must overtake each one of us, and even those still in their youth, even if we live to be a hundred years old and die a natural death?  Cf. Heb 9:27, and consider how easy it is to suppose, especially in youth, that our death is a long way off and there will be plenty of time to prepare for it as we grow older.  But in fact, as we grow older our responsibilities in life only increase so that we have even less time to prepare.  For as we trust in the world’s securities and allow ourselves to be caught up in its cares and concerns, that central part of our lives that ought to be fashioned by the things of God, instead fashions us after the pattern of the world so that we come to have no delight in those things that can save us; cf. Ecc 12:1.  What does this teach us—whatever our station in life may be—of not delaying but acting immediately to escape the coming judgment when God in His mercy opens our eyes to see its imminent approach?  In regard to the judgment that must overtake each one of us at the end of our lives, to which mountain must we flee?  See Isa 2:3.  How do we make it there safely?  See Act 16:30-31; cf. Mar 1:14-15; contrast Luk 3:7-9, 8:12.  Shall we ever suppose that because salvation is freely available to us today, we can put it off until tomorrow?  Cf. 2Co 6:2.

1. Note, In times of imminent peril and danger, it is not only lawful, but our duty, to seek our own preservation by all good and honest means; and if God opens a door of escape, we ought to make our escape, otherwise we do not trust God but tempt him… He that flees may fight again.  Matthew Henry.

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