Many survival writers and instructors have tackled the problematic question of bugging out versus bugging in. For the most part, we all say that the average person is better off bugging in, than they are bugging out. I’ve taken that stand myself on more than one occasion, but I’m not so sure that the Lord agrees with me.
Jesus Himself actually addressed this issue in the Gospel of Matthew, saying:
When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand) 16 Then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains. 17 Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: 18 Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. (Matthew 24:15-18)
This is about as clear a description of bugging out as you can ask for, taking into account biblical language, as compared to today’s language. The term “bugging out” wasn’t part of the ancient Hebrew language, nor was it part of their culture. Nevertheless, we find Jesus admonishing those who were listening to Him to flee when the abomination of desolation should appear.
The first question that this section of Scripture begs is: What is this abomination of desolation? There are many ways that that phrase can be understood, both in a cultural context of that day, as well as taking it to be in reference to End Time theology. The fact that reference is made to Daniel’s prophecy makes us quickly jump to thinking of End Time theology, but Daniel’s prophecies actually started being fulfilled long ago. So, it could refer to events in Jesus’ time.
If you look at most commentaries, you’ll find that this abomination of desolation refers to the Roman army and their destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. That would tend to close the story, showing us that prophecy had been fulfilled and we need not concern ourselves with this verse — except for one thing … the context.
When we talk about context, we are asking ourselves two things: Who was he talking to and in regards to what? This is extremely important, especially when we are talking about biblical prophecy. It is always imperative in biblical interpretation to take context into account. Most false doctrine comes about from failure to obey this one precept.
Earlier in the chapter we find the answer to those questions. It says in verse three that “…the disciples came to him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?'”
This then answers the question of who Jesus was talking to and in what context. He was talking to His disciples, in private, responding to a question about His return and the End Times. This is important, because even though He hid many things from the crowds who gathered to hear Him speak, Jesus was always honest in answering His chosen disciples.
So, while Jesus might have made reference to the destruction of Jerusalem in this passage, we also know that He was talking to His disciples about His return and the End Times. That puts the verse into a totally different timeframe. This is no longer something that just referred to the Jews or to His disciples, but it is something that applies to every believer from the time of Christ up until the End Times have been completed. Since that hasn’t happened yet, that includes us as well.
Before giving this instruction, Jesus gives His disciples a number of “signs” that the end is coming:
For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. 6 And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. 8 All these are the beginning of sorrows. Matthew 24:5-8
These signs have been used throughout the ages to say that the time of the Lord’s return is near. But tell me, when in the history of the world have there not been wars, rumors of wars, famines, pestilences and earthquakes? There always have been and there always will be. That isn’t the answer. In fact, right in the middle of all that, Jesus said, “all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.”
Jesus refers to those times as “the beginning of sorrows.” What an apt name. Whenever any of those events happen, they bring sorrow, regardless of whether they are connected to the End Time prophecy or not. No, they aren’t portents of the End Times; they are just the problems of life.
So, what is the sign of the end coming, then? If we go back to verse 15, we see it; the “abomination of desolation.” Jesus is clear. He says that when we see that sign, then we are to flee; then we are to “bug out.” But what is the abomination of desolation?
That we don’t know. If we were to take it as the Roman Army, as many have, then we could say that UN troops rolling down the road would be that sign. But UN troops have rolled down many roads around the world in the last 50 years, without the end coming. So, I would have to say that this would be a false sign, nothing more.
In reality, we don’t know what this name refers to. We just know that it is associated with End Time prophecy and that when it comes, it’s time to flee.
Historically, mankind has been very poor at interpreting prophecy before it happens. Perhaps that’s because we’re not supposed to be able to identify it before it happens, but rather, as it’s happening. We can look back and see prophecy fulfilled, but when we look forward to see it coming, we tend to misinterpret it. Even our greatest End Times theologians are probably making mistakes in their interpretation. We will never know until those events come to pass.
We do know the end is coming. We also know that it will be a worldwide event. We also know, from what Jesus said in these verses, that when it comes, we’d better get out of town. So I would say prudence is our best course of action. When a worldwide catastrophe comes, it’s time to grab out survival kits or bug-out bags, and head for the hills. For that matter, we’d better have our bags with us, because Jesus warns us not to go into our homes to grab them.
Why would Jesus say this? Clearly He knows things that we don’t. He has already foreseen these events and knows exactly what is going to happen. In the light of this, He is giving us a warning: Get out.
So, I don’t know about you, but if I see a worldwide event unfolding around us, I’m fleeing. I’ll figure out if I’m right or wrong later.
In the larger sense, there is some wisdom in bugging out. In almost any disaster scenario you can imagine, city dwellers will have a harder time than those in the suburbs, and those in the suburbs will have a harder time than those in rural areas. So, maybe it’s time to rethink our philosophy. If the Lord says it’s better to flee than to be caught in the city, who are we to argue?
Obviously, that means having a plan, a destination and the proper preparations in place to survive, once we bug out. While Jesus may say run, without returning to the house to grab your coat, there’s nothing wrong with being prepared. Yes, we must put our trust in Him, but we are responsible for doing our own part as well.
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