Home » Advanced Search » What is Desolation?

What is Desolation?


Matthew 23:38-39, “Behold, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.’”


The Desolation of Israel

What catches my attention here is the “for I say to you…” This phrase is introducing the explanation as to why Israel is to be desolate. And what is the reason? Because they will not see Jesus again until they say of Him “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”

“But wait”, someone might say, “didn’t they say exactly that when Jesus entered Jerusalem?” Yes, they said it of Him when He came as one they thought would be a conquering king. However, in the context of Psalm 118 from which Jesus quotes in Matthew23:39, the “one who comes in the name of the Lord” is associated with the “stone the builders rejected [who] has become the cornerstone” (Ps.118:22)—a text that Jesus has already associated with Himself in Matthew 21:42. According to Jesus’ reading of Psalm 118, then, the one who comes in the Name of YHWH is the stone who was rejected and yet reinstated….and until Israel sees the rejected and reinstated one—the crucified and risen one—as the one who comes in and perfectly discloses the Name of YHWH, their house will remain desolate.

So, their house is desolate to them because they will not see Jesus.

At first reading, that might sound like a consequence: “you did not recognize Jesus, and so your house is desolate.” And, of course, there is truth to that. However, the main point here is not that their house has been made desolate because of their failure to recognize Jesus for who He is, rather here the point is that the desolation itself is a not-seeing of Jesus. The content, the experience, the desolation of the desolation, what desolation is, is not seeing Jesus…..not seeing Him as the rejected stone who is reestablished as cornerstone, not seeing Him as the embodiment of their covenant Lord, not seeing Him as their King and Master and Ruler…..not seeing Jesus, being blind to Jesus, being oblivious to the glory of God shining in the face of Christ, this is their desolation.


The Desolation of Us All

And this is true of all people….blindness to the glory of God in Christ is soul-desolation. Paul says as much in 2 Corinthians 4:3-4, and Ephesians 2:12, 4:18, and Peter argues from the opposite direction (ie, to know / see God is Christ is to escape desolation) in 2 Peter 1:3-4. To not know, to not see, to not cherish the fact that the Name of YHWH is disclosed in the crucified Jesus who rises again is to be desolate.

In other words, desolation is to inhabit a worldview in which God is not perfectly, finally, and fully revealed in the crucified and risen Jesus Christ.

A soul that has not beheld the rejected and re-established Christ as God is like a crumbling tower; the original pattern can be discerned, but the windows are uneven and yawning, the stairs are collapsed and unusable, the sides are fallen in and precarious….Our souls are born in this state of desolation and only regress further throughout life. Only the sight of Christ—the true pattern after which the towers of our souls were constructed and in harmony to which they retain whatever semblance of tower-ishness they might have—only the sight of Christ banishes the desolation.


Desolation Undone

Not only for the children of ethnic Israel, but for every single individual, desolation is undone only when we see and say of the crucified and risen Christ, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of YHWH!”