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  • Writer's pictureMichael Filipek

What Is the Abomination of Desolation?

Updated: Jan 27


In our previous article, we focused on understanding the identification of the pronoun “he” in Daniel 9:26 and 27 (part of Daniel’s famous “seventy weeks prophecy” in Daniel 9:24-27). We concluded that this figure refers to Titus Vespasian and his destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. However, we noted how, especially in Verse 27, the identity of this figure clearly transcends Titus Vespasian, and in a more ultimate sense, refers to the character many know as the Antichrist – and his final act of desecration (the abomination of desolation) in the future rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem during the final seventieth week (or the Tribulation). When we look at this while enjoying the benefit of the other clarifying parallel passages in scripture, we can clearly see that the actions of Titus may, at most, act as a mere shadow of this ultimate and final evil figure. And this abomination of desolation that this ultimate figure causes, is clearly in the context of a future end-times event that occurs prior to Christ’s Second Coming.


As a review, Daniel 9:26-27 reads:


And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And he [Antichrist] shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate. -Daniel 9:26-27

We are told that this future Antichrist character will confirm or enforce a covenant, presumably with Israel, since the context of the seventy weeks is the Jews and Jerusalem (Daniel 9:24). We don’t know exactly what this covenant, or treaty, is, but we know it marks the beginning of the final week. Many believe it has something to do with the Temple, since we’re told that in the middle of the week, he will cause the “sacrifice and the oblation to cease.” In other words, be breaks his covenant.


This of course, implies that the Jews will be back in the land (this part already is being fulfilled, and has been for the last century with the Jews returning to Israel). It implies that the Jews will have rebuilt the Temple and have returned to the Levitical system of sacrifices (these things have not yet been fulfilled, but are well under way). This expectation of the Temple being rebuilt in the final seventieth week aligns with the rest of prophetic scripture, as Jesus, Paul, and John all allude to its existence at that future time.


Verse 27 also tells us that “for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even unto the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.” Although we touched on this in the last article, let’s delve into it further here, but this time connecting it with the words of Jesus, who described a future event that will transpire in similar fashion.


Many Christians are surprised to find out that the New Testament actually refers to the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah. This reference is found in John 10:22 – called the “feast of dedication” in the winter, which refers to Hanukkah. Scripture seems to assume that its readers should be familiar with this event. Why? Because this rededication of the Temple was a pivotal event in “recent” Jewish history at the time the New Testament was written.


Previously, we had referenced the abomination of desolation committed by Antiochus Epiphanes (the Greek-Seleucid ruler) in 167 BC. Among many of his other actions of persecution toward the Jews, He most famously erected an idol to Zeus in the Holy of Holies and sacrificed a pig on the altar in the Temple.


As we also mentioned, the near-term fulfillment of this abomination of desolation event was prophesied of by Daniel in Daniel 11:31 several hundred years before it took place. Then, around two hundred years after the events of Antiochus’s desolation, Jesus makes reference to the abomination of desolation in a prophetic briefing (which we call the Olivet Discourse) given to His disciples, as recorded in Matthew 25:15.


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:) -Matthew 24:15

Jesus was referring back to the events surrounding Antiochus’s desecration of the Temple – which any Jew, especially in His day, would have been intimately familiar with. Yet, Jesus spoke of it in a future eschatological context, allowing us to understand that the ultimate fulfillment is still to come. Jesus was answering the disciples’ question of, “what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” in Verse 3 of Matthew 24.


Daniel doesn’t only mention the abomination of desolation in Daniel 11:31 and 9:27, but he also mentions it in Daniel 12:11, in which it’s used as a marker for this time period near the end of the age. The context of Daniel 12 is clearly the eschatological future Tribulation and Second Coming.


So, there should be no confusion about the fact that Jesus’s discourse in Matthew 24 was focusing on end time events that will occur during the judgment phase of the broad period of the Day of the Lord, of which the seventieth week of Daniel (or the Tribulation) is the concluding and culminating subset. The actions of Antiochus that occurred two hundred years before Jesus made this statement were simply the shadow, or type of an ultimate fulfillment, or antitype. Jesus was telling His listeners that there will be an ultimate abomination of desolation in the future seventieth week, perpetrated by the Antichrist. This interpretation also aligns with the other parallel passages describing this event and time period – such as Daniel 7, 2 Thessalonians 2, and Revelation 13.


So, we understand from the words of Jesus that this future leader will evidently repeat (ultimately fulfilling) the “abomination of desolation” event performed by Antiochus in 167/168 BC – and possibly in some ways also foreshadowed by Titus Vespasian in 70 AD. But as we discussed in the previous article, the actions of Titus do not perfectly fulfill what Jesus spoke of, as for one thing, he did not erect an idol inside the Holy of Holies in the Temple, nor do anything even remotely similar. History records that he did not even want the Temple to be burned and destroyed. [1] [2]


In fact, this prophetic event that Jesus described has not yet happened since the time He predicted it – which is another reason we know the seventieth week has not yet occurred. However, a Roman emperor did once unsuccessfully try. This was Caligula in 40 AD, who instructed his general Petronius to erect his image in the Holy of Holies. Petronius refused, knowing this would result in a Jewish revolt. Before Petronius could be executed for his refusal, Caligula died, letting him off the hook. [3] It would seem God would not allow this type of desecration to happen again until the seventieth week, as predicted by Daniel and Jesus.


Let’s now look further into the timeline and events of this future and final week. There are around thirty-three titles for the Antichrist in the Old Testament, and thirteen in the New. For example, he’s called the “Beast” in Revelation Chapters 11 and 13. In 2 Thessalonians 2:3, Paul calls him the “Man of Sin” and the “Son of Perdition;” then in Verse 8, he calls him the “Lawless One.” John calls him the Antichrist (or pseudo-christ) in 1 John 2.


We understand from Daniel 9:27 that this Antichrist or Beast will confirm a covenant for seven years, but in the middle of this week (or three and a half years into this final seventieth week), he will put a stop to the daily sacrifices and will commit the abomination of desolation. Revelation 13 gives us a clue as to what this abomination entails, as it explains that the Beast will have an image of himself that all are required to worship – and that the image will in some way become animated.


Saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live. And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. -Revelation 13:14-15

Daniel 11:31 seems to imply that this image will be placed in the Temple, similar to how Antiochus Epiphanes erected an idol of Zeus in the Temple.


And arms shall stand on his part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate. -Daniel 11:31

2 Thessalonians 2 tells us the Antichrist will also himself sit in the Temple, as if he was God, requiring the world to worship him.


Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition [the Antichrist]; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. -2 Thessalonians 2:3-4

This aligns with the statement by Jesus in Matthew 24:15, saying that the abomination of desolation would “stand in the Holy Place” in the Temple.


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:) -Matthew 24:15

Revelation 13:5 says that this will go on for forty-two months, which is three and a half years. Since Daniel 9:27 says that this will happen in the “middle of the week,” and Revelation 13:5 says that the Beast will do this for a period of forty-two months, it is easy to see that the total length of time in this “week” is eighty-four months, or seven years. Also see Daniel 7:25, which mentions “time, times, and half a time” (time = one year; times = two years; half a time = half a year; giving a total of three and a half years). What happens during this three and a half year period?


  • Daniel 7:25 describes it as the period that Tribulation saints are given into the Antichrist’s hands.

  • Daniel 9:27 describes it as the period between the breaking of the Antichrist’s covenant with Israel and subsequent abomination of desolation, and the establishment of Jesus’s earthly Kingdom.

  • Daniel 12:7 describes it as the duration of the worst “time of trouble” for Israel.

  • Revelation 11:2 describes it as the period that the holy city will be tread underfoot by Gentiles.

  • Revelation 11:3 seems to describe it as the period of ministry for the Two Witnesses, though some believe this takes place in the first half of the week.

  • Revelation 12:6 and 12:14 describes it as the period that the remnant of Israel is preserved by God in the wilderness.

  • Revelation 13:5 describes it as the duration of Antichrist’s authority to rule, persecute and blaspheme.


So, taking all these together, we are obviously dealing with the last half of Daniel’s seventieth week – a time repeatedly described in scripture with more detail than any other time in human history.


Daniel's 70 Weeks Timeline Chart

In Matthew 24, Jesus tells us that the abomination of desolation that occurs around this mid-point of the seventieth week is a marker for the beginning of “great tribulation” – the name we now commonly apply to this final three and a half year period (the Great Tribulation). He also tells the Jews living in Jerusalem at that time that when they see this event take place, it will be their sign to immediately flee, as it will initiate a time of unparalleled distress for Israel.


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:) 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. 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: For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. -Matthew 24:15-21

So, let’s review. From the passages we’ve examined – and a few that we only referenced in passing – that all describe this abomination of desolation (which the reader is commanded by Jesus to understand), we see that it includes the following elements:


  • It occurs in the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem (Daniel 11:31; 2 Thessalonians 2:4).

  • It marks the beginning of the Great Tribulation, or the latter three and a half years of the final seventieth week of Daniel – the worst persecution against the Jewish people in history (Daniel 9:27; Matthew 24:15, 21).

  • It seems to involve the Antichrist setting up a statue or some sort of image of himself so that he may be worshipped in place of God (Daniel 11:31; 2 Thessalonians 2:4; Revelation 13:14-15).

  • The image is made to come to life or become animated in some way (Revelation 13:14).

  • A worship system of this false god is thus inaugurated (2 Thessalonians 2:4; Revelation 13:14-15).

  • The Antichrist himself sits in the Temple claiming to be God and demanding worship (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4).

  • The abomination results in the cessation of the regular sacrifice (Daniel 9:27; 11:31; 12:11).

  • At the end of this time period, the Antichrist who commits the act will himself be cut off (Daniel 9:27).


 

[1] Ray C. Stedman, “What’s This World Coming To?” (An expository study of Matthew 24-26, the Olivet Discourse). Palo Alto, CA: Discovery Publications, 1970, Ch. 1.

[2] Joseph Jacobs and Samuel Krauss, Jewish Encyclopedia, entry “Titus (full name, Titus Flavius Sabinus Vespasianus)” JewishEncyclopedia.com. (http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/14412-titus - Retrieved 11/3/20)

[3] Petronius, Publius,” Encyclopaedia Judaica, Encyclopedia.com.(https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/petronius-publiusdeg - Retrieved 11/2/23)

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