Instructions to Flee

Matthew 24:15-28

“Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean thing; go ye out of the midst of her; cleanse yourselves, ye that bear the vessels of Jehovah” (Isaiah 52:11 ASV).

by Harry Wildblood

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The Lord’s Great Prophecy is one of the most insightful lessons given by Jesus during his earthly ministry. It was given in the final few days of his life among a series of events which judged the nation, taught the people, prepared his disciples and apostles for the events to come, and strengthened the body
members at the end of the age. It answered questions to things that were keenly sought and anticipated by his faithful followers, not only at the time of the prophecy, but all throughout the age of sacrifice and especially at the time of the Lord’s return and thereafter.

Jesus initially warns of deceptions (Matthew 24:4-5). The verb translated “deceive” means to “deceive,” “seduce,” “go astray,” “be out of the way,” etc., a fitting representation of the goal of the Adversary — to make the body of Christ go astray from its covenant, from its goal. The one to “deceive many” is the papacy, of which Paul warned in 2 Thessalonians 2:3.

Matthew 24:6-14 told of the long period during which Satan’s deceptions would be more or less successful. The Gospel would be preached in all the world for a “witness” (not to convert the world) as a preparation for the end of the age. The Reformation, the Bible Societies after 1799, and the Miller Movement from 1829 to 1844 served to build up, cleanse, and prepare the Lord’s saints for his return. This brings us to verse 15, the message to
the saints at the Lord’s return, the end of the age, at the beginning of the harvest.

Luke 21:20 speaks of the literal destruction of Jerusalem and Judea, and serves to prepare and strengthen his followers for the events that would take place soon after his crucifixion. But Matthew and the Mark accounts bypass this and speak of the great trouble during the end of the Gospel Age.

The Abomination of Desolation in Daniel

Matthew 24:15. “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand [literally, “having stood”; McReynolds’ and Wilson’s diaglotts] in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)”

The abomination of desolation is the Catholic mass, which claims to create the body of Christ afresh to be crucified again, and again, and again, to make Catholic congregations continually dependent upon the priests and the Catholic organization for the remission of sins.1 This is an abomination to God and to all who can “see” the “ransom for all.” Paul clearly tells us, “in that he died, he died unto sin once” (Romans 6:10), “this he did once, when he offered up himself” (Hebrews 7:27), “by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us” (Hebrews 9:12), “but
now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:26).

The Lord’s warning is only to those who can “see” this abomination “having stood” (past tense), meaning to clearly comprehend, to know, to perceive. But not until the Antichrist system was “having stood” would the call to flee go forth (Revelation 18:4 RVIC) — not until some time after papacy was temporarily terminated in 1798-1800.

This abomination of the mass in the holy place (the church) was described by Daniel (12:11): “the abomination that maketh desolate [shall be] set up.” This describes the Catholic mass and the papacy being set up in temporal power, and continuing its influence past 1799 to 1829 when cleansing the sanctuary would continue with the Second Advent movement of William Miller and others through 1846.

The next three verses of Matthew 24 address the spirit-begotten, who should be able to “see” the situation of verse 15 — to realize the misrepresentations of God, his Son, his plan, and the one sacrifice for all. It exhorts them to realize their responsibility to disassociate themselves from false sectarian organizations.

Come Out of Her, My People

Matthew 24:16-18. “Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes.” Judea refers to the nominal system of Jesus’ day, and its antitype, or parallel at the end of the Gospel Age. It would now represent a collection of false systems that claim to represent God and his Son, as “Christ’s Kingdom,” “Christendom,” but do so to control the masses in the name of Christianity. The spirit-begotten are urged to “flee.” They are to realize the doctrinal misrepresentation and oppression they have been under and flee to the freedom of the truth (John 8:32,36).

Those on the housetop are those who do not defend spiritual Babylon. These “housetop” saints must not value the privileges, honor, titles, positions, or other perquisites of the “house,” but leave and not turn back to sectarianism.

Jesus said in another parable, “The field is the world” (Matthew 13:38). Applying this symbol, those in the “field” would be those already dissociated from Babylon, Christendom, and relatively free, who must not to go back to salvage anything (“clothes”) from those false systems for their security, respectability, and justification. “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage [the Law]” (Galatians 5:1). Here, Jesus’ admonition to those in the “field” is not to become entangled again with sectarian bondage.

Matthew 24:19-20. “And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath day:”

This admonition is similar to that of housetop saints. On seeing and understanding the “abomination of desolation,” the saints should obey, leave the nominal system, and “flee to the mountain” (Matthew 24:16). Those “with child” that “give suck” refer to saints feeling responsible to stay for the sake of others they may be nurturing. This is a mistake. It ignores the admonition of Jesus and sets a poor example to others. It is far better to obey, to “come out of her,” and then call to the others to do likewise and leave the nominal system arrangement.

Although Paul called some of the babes in Christ his “little children” (Galatians 4:19), it was clear that they had been begotten by the word of truth, and gave evidence that God
was their father, and not an organization or a person. Paul was glad that he personally had baptized so few, lest it amplify divisions (1 Corinthians 1:12-15). While Paul’s primary responsibility was to his own consecration, he continually exhorted others to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12).

The timing of this flight is a crucial test of the attentiveness, obedience, fervency, and zeal of the one fleeing. The fleeing should not merely be from the bad, but toward the good, not merely from the threat of destruction, but toward a closer relationship to the returned Lord. The Lord’s true saints hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matthew 5:6), and this motivates them to flee to the Bridegroom as they “see” that he has arrived (Matthew 25:6, Isaiah 52:8 NIV). The saints do not hesitate when they receive the message, as the foolish virgins hesitated, or as Lot hesitated to leave Sodom (Genesis 19:13-16).

(2) Daniel 9:27, 11:31, 12:11
(3) Or, him
(4) Or, vultures
(5) Or, earth,
(6) Lit. seasons Cf. verse 8; chapter 12:42,56; Revelation 12:14.
(7) So p75B(א ;… and, …) {L omit or,} 579 sys,c. 1241 R and a majority of lesser Gk. mss. read Lo, here! or, Lo,
there! 33 W* vg ite read Lo, here! Lo, there! (copsa,bo) read Lo, here or there!
(8) Or, lightning, when it lighteneth But see usage of the Gk. word astrape (bright shining) in chapter 11:36. Also
chapter 10:18 and Matthew 24:27.
(9) So א L 579 1241 R and the majority of lesser Gk. mss., copbo (sys,c) vg geo arm. p75B D copsa (ite) almost
alone omit in his day


The “winter” of this parable is the onset of the destruction of Babylon, Christendom, showing that the earlier admonitions and warnings had gone unheeded. By this time, the pending destruction would be understood by those who had been warned earlier. They are then motivated more by fear, than by a desire for the bridegroom. The great prize has been lost, and their only opportunity is to wash their robes in the blood of the lamb and disassociate themselves from Babylon (Revelation 7:14).

Great Tribulation

Matthew 24:21-22. “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.”

The ending of the 2520 years of Gentile dominion was accompanied by the loosing of the four winds and the great time of trouble. (R5752, Elijah’s Flight and Vision. R5863,
The Second Epistle of St. Peter). This was the “wake-up call” to the spirit begotten children of God who were “attempting to live on the husks and skimmed milk of human tradition — brethren in Christ starving for the pure food offered in the Word of God” (R5478, The Voice From Heaven).

The end of the Gentile dominion was initiated by the Great War and prolonged by the greatest turmoil in human history, which has not yet ended. The carnage and destruction of the world wars have been followed by rampant selfishness and unprecedented, concentrated wealth; along with abject poverty and hopelessness among the billions of humanity. God has put a limit on these sorrows, which will be ended by the inauguration of the Mediatorial phase of Christ’s Kingdom.

Matthew 24:23-26. “Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.”

This seems to refer back to verses 4-5, and then warns of Satan’s additional deceptions. Since his masterpiece, the great Antichrist system, was not successful in defeating the body of Christ, warnings continue about Satan’s additional methods. There would be claims that Jesus would return physically, in the desert, in a specific country, etc. Many nominally Christian, with a fundamental misunderstanding of verse 30, believe they will see Jesus appear bodily in the sky, “coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (even though anything in a cloud is not visible).

Another powerful deception is Spiritism, that Christ at his return can be contacted through seances. This appeals to the carnal senses that Christ’s return can be seen with the natural eye, and heard with the natural ear, in the “secret chambers” controlled by mediums and necromancers — by those who have been specifically condemned by God (Deuteronomy 18:10-12). These deceptions lead away, rather than toward, the true message of the Scriptures. They promise hope, but deliver destruction and death.

Characteristics of the Parousia

Matthew 24:27. “For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming [presence] of the Son of man be.”

This prophecy is a message to the body of Christ. (These are the only ones who can “see” in verse 15.) This light, this bright-shiner, represents the light of truth shining brightly in the minds and hearts of the faithful saints. Those who recognize his presence “go out to meet him” (Matthew 25:6) and are fed and strengthened by the meat in due season (Matthew 24:45) to enable them to grow up into Christ (Ephesians 4:13). This light leads to the sealing in their foreheads and hearts.

Br. Russell chose to discuss verse 28 as the conclusion of verse 41 (see D583 on Luke 17:36-37). Verse 41 discusses the “two grinding at the mill” and is followed by verse 42, “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.” This shows that the context for verse 27 is a message to the church, and not to the world, since watching would avail the world nothing. Only the faithful, watching, bride class would hear the midnight cry, “behold the bridegroom,” and would go
out to meet him.

The truth given to the saints by the returned Lord was and is bright compared to the relative darkness before his return. Many saints feel as though they are walking almost by sight rather than by faith, because their faith has become a living reality. This light of truth is illustrated as shining from “east to west” (everywhere in the lives of the saints), as the sun dispelling darkness (2 Peter 1:19). This true light to the saints is also pictured in the holy of the tabernacle, where only the body of Christ can venture. This light is from the candlestick (lampstand), the word of God, shared by the church with those who are in the holy — the church. Jesus also said to his followers, “Ye are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). The saints are also
privileged to share their light with the world now, to the extent that it can be received.

Matthew 24:28. “For wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together.”

The carcass is the truth of God’s plan, with Christ’s ransom sacrifice as its hub — its central feature. Many translators say the “vultures” flock to the carcass. Vultures are far-seeing like eagles but do not kill their own food; and unlike eagles, they are social eaters. The ransom and its understanding were provided to the Lord’s saints. They did not devise or prepare it themselves but found it clearly taught in God’s word (1 Timothy 2:4-6). The carcass, the ransom, is found at every study, every meeting, and every convention (gathering) of the saints. The typical convention program greeting says, “Welcome to all believers in the ransom,” as if to say, “Ransom spoken here!” This is where God’s truth is shared among the saints in the Holy.



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