Abomination of Desolation

"Therefore when you see the 'abomination of desolation,' spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (whoever reads, let him understand)."

One of the most pivotal and relevant prophecies in the Bible centers around the words Christ spoke in Matthew:24:15: "Therefore when you see the 'abomination of desolation,' spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (whoever reads, let him understand)." Let's note what Daniel wrote. "And forces shall be mustered by him, and they shall defile the sanctuary fortress; then they shall take away the daily sacrifices, and place there the abomination of desolation.... And from the time that the daily sacrifice is taken away, and the abomination of desolation is set up, there shall be one thousand two hundred and ninety days" (Daniel:11:31; 12:11). Once the abomination of desolation is placed, a definite countdown is set in motion. This countdown highlights the pivotal nature of this prophecy.

Where will the abomination of desolation be placed? Christ states that it will be placed in the Holy Place. Daniel states that the sanctuary will be polluted and the daily sacrifice will be taken away. He addresses the polluting of the sanctuary and taking away the daily sacrifice in Daniel 8, 9, 11 and 12. So where is the holy place, where is the sanctuary and what is the daily sacrifice? Three principal scenarios have been articulated in an attempt to answer these questions. We need to examine all of these.

First of all, we should define the word "holy." The Hebrew word for holy is qodesh. The Greek equivalent is hagios . Both words refer to setting apart and separateness because God's active presence is in, or upon, holy things or persons. Moses was instructed to take off his shoes, "for the place where you stand is holy ground" (Exodus:3:5b). God's presence was manifested in the tabernacle after it was raised up in the wilderness. It was manifested again in Solomon's temple on the day it was dedicated (Exodus:40:35; 2 Chronicles:5:13, 14). Even though God's Spirit did not openly manifest itself in the restoration temple, He inspired Haggai to write: "According to the word that I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt, so My Spirit remains among you; do not fear!" (Haggai:2:5).

Today, God's active presence, His Holy Spirit, is in each converted person. "Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" (1 Corinthians:3:16). Furthermore, in Stephen's inspired sermon, he stated that, "the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands" (Acts:7:48). Based on the fact that the physical temple has been destroyed, and that God does not dwell in temples made by hands, some have reasoned that the Holy Place that Christ referred to in Matthew:24:15 is the church of God. But the spiritual temple is composed of spirit-led Christians who are scattered around the world. It is not a place.

What is the Holy Place?

So where is the Holy place that Christ refers to in Matthew:24:15? The Bible calls things what they were at the time the prophecy was written. Moreover, it can refer to what existed in the historical sense. For example, Jerusalem is called the Holy City in Isaiah:52:1. But in Revelation:11:8, it is called spiritually Sodom and Egypt.

At the time that Daniel recorded his visions, the Holy Place was the Temple Mount in the city of Jerusalem because God placed his active presence in the Temple. Therefore, the prophecies that were given to him concerning the abomination of desolation, the pollution of the sanctuary and the taking away of the daily sacrifice, refer to the temple site. Christ stated that the abomination of desolation would be placed in a definite place. The Greek word for place is topos. Strong defines topos as place; any portion or space marked off, as it were from surrounding space. "Topos" can also be used metaphorically. However, Christ clearly states that the abomination of desolation would be seen in a definite place.

The fact that Christ states that the abomination of desolation will be placed in a definite place, and that it can be seen, negates any notion that it can be the church or a false teaching in the church. Furthermore, a false teaching in the church does not pollute a place (sanctuary) or take away the daily sacrifice. It is true that Christians are supposed to offer spiritual sacrifices (1 Peter:2:5), but can a person(s), or the action of any person(s), prevent a Christian from offering spiritual sacrifices?

Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego were thrown into the fiery furnace. Daniel was placed in the lion's den. But they cried out to God and were delivered. No person or action of any person(s) can prevent one from offering spiritual sacrifices.

Thus, we can conclude that the abomination of desolation will be placed in a definite "holy" place, a place that can be seen. Moreover, the place is the "sanctuary" where the daily sacrifices were offered.

An Altar at the Western Wall?

Since the area (Temple Mount) where Solomon's temple and the restoration temple were built, are now under control of the Arabs, some people have speculated that the Jews might build an altar at the western wall (wailing wall) of the old city. Since this is as close as the Jews can get to the "holy" place.

There are two principal factors that legislate against such speculation. First of all, before the priesthood was established, and before the tabernacle in the wilderness was raised up, and before Solomon's temple was built, the patriarchs built altars in various locations and offered sacrifices. But after the priesthood was established and the tabernacle and temple were constructed respectively, sacrifices could only be offered by the Levitical priesthood at those altars. Those who varied from these instructions were swiftly and severely punished. Secondly, the priests and the temple area had to be purified before sacrifices could be offered. The book of Leviticus explains these rules of purification in great detail.

In view of the reasons stated above, the building of an altar and offering sacrifices at any place other than the Holy place, on the Temple Mount, would constitute an egregious breech of the Holy Scriptures. Religious Jews are well versed in the consequences associated with disobeying the Scriptures. The Temple Institute, as we shall see later, has dedicated much of its resources in fulfilling the Biblical requirements for restoring temple worship. This includes building a third temple, preparing temple vessels, securing an acceptable red heifer from which the ashes are used in purifying the temple site and training young men to serve as Levites. There is virtually no evidence to support the Jews building an altar or offering sacrifices at any site other than the temple mount.

According to the Jewish Chronicle of July 31, 1998, there are groups in Jerusalem who have never visited the area around the Temple Mount for fear of sacrilege. A Jewish text, the Rambam, clearly states that "even though they are desolate, the sanctuaries retain their pristine holiness." The ground is so holy that it would take special preparations, including the sprinkling of the ashes of the red heifer, and the re-institution of the priestly duties-to make even this minimal act (set foot on the area) feasible for many halachically observant Jews. Halachic thought is against the restoration of the temple by man.

The text of Rambam insists that it will be restored only by the Messiah (Hichot Melachim 11:1). Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the first Chief Rabbi of pre-state Israel, expressed similar reservations regarding the possibility of rebuilding the Temple before the appearance of the "sacred spirit" (ruach hakodesh) among the people of Israel.

Despite these views, interest in the restoration of temple worship is flourishing. This same issue of the Chronicle states that this in nowhere more tangible than in the Temple Institute. The Institute is very near the Temple Mount. "The Institute founded in the 1980s is dedicated to spreading an awareness of what the Temple service looked like." On display at the Institute's richly endowed museum, are life-size models of some 60 out of the 90 known Temple vessels-the menorah, lavers, saucepans, spice boxes, and priestly garments, including the High Priest's breastplate. It also shows computer-generated animated films of what a Temple service might have looked like. Although the Institute's stated mission is one of education, they have prepared many of the items needed for the restoration of Temple Worship.

The Chronicle story titled, "Visionaries Prepare for Third Temple," continues by showing the link between the government and religious leaders in promoting the building of a third Temple. "Rabbi Chagi Yekutiel, a lawyer, works as an assistant to the National Religious Party leader and Minister of Education, Rabbi Yitzchak Levy. Yekutiel, a graduate of the army's yeshivat hesder program, openly promotes the immediate rebuilding of the Temple next to the al-Aqsa mosque, seeing no problem in sharing the ground between the two religions that hold it sacred.

A Red Heifer

"Temple-mania also includes the raising of red heifers in Kfar Chasidim, and on a farm near Eilat" ( Jewish Chronicle July 31, 1998).

Jewish mystical traditions say the sacrifice of the red heifer took place nine times, the last being some 2,000 years ago. The tenth sacrifice will precede the rebuilding of the sacred Temple in Jerusalem, allow the purification of the Jewish people, and signal the coming of the long awaited Messiah.

An example of the purification steps that are necessary for the restoration of Temple Worship are described in 2 Chronicles 29 and 30. After Hezekiah opened the doors of the Temple, the Levites were instructed to sanctify themselves, the Temple, the vessels and the congregation. Hundreds of animals were sacrificed and their blood was sprinkled on the Temple, the altar, the vessels and the people in the purification process.

The development of an acceptable breed of red heifer is an amazing story that goes by way of Canton, Mississippi. The story was recently chronicled by Joe Atkins in the Clarion Ledger July 26, 1998. One evening nine years ago, while reading Genesis, Clyde Lott-a Pentecostal Evangelist and cattle farmer-from Canton, Mississippi, was struck by the importance of unblemished animals in offering sacrifices. Then he read God's command in Numbers 19 concerning the role of the ashes from a red heifer in the purification ceremonies of Temple Worship. Clyde Lott knew he was the farmer who could provide such an animal.

According to Atkins, Lott contacted Rabbi Chaim Richman, author of the book, The Mystery of the Red Heifer: Divine Promise of Purity, and a religious leader whose Temple Institute in Jerusalem devotes its energies toward the restoration of the Temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Moslems view the site of these mosques as the third most sacred place on earth.

Over the next several years, Lott and Richman developed plans to raise Red Angus cattle on Lott's ranches and ultimately in Israel. In a dramatic November 1994 visit described in detail by writer Lawrence Wright in The New Yorke r magazine recently, Richman, looking every bit the Orthodox Jewish Rabbi with his beard, glasses, cap, black jacket and white shirt, came to Canton, met with local evangelicals and saw the red heifer that Lott calls Dixie. Richman put his hand on "Dixie" and said, "This is the one. This is the mother."

Lott took Richman to various evangelical Churches across the Deep South to raise funds for their joint cause. Lott also went to Israel, where he and Richman have reached an agreement with settlers in the West Bank to raise some of the cattle on that much disputed territory. Lott and Richman hold vastly different views on the significance of the red heifer. Lott believes the Jews must build a temple before Christ returns and the red heifer will play an important role in helping the Jews to restore Temple worship. Richman, on the other hand, believes strictly in the Old Testament and that the Temple movement is preparing the Jewish people to move into the Messianic Age.

Sensitive Negotiations Required

Since the Temple Mount contains two mosques that are very sacred to Moslems, the building of a Jewish temple on that site has far reaching geopolitical implications. Therefore, very strategic and sensitive negotiations must take place before the Jews would be allowed to build a temple on that site.

In the technical sense, the Holy of Holies was located several feet north of the Dome of the Rock. It is possible to build a small edifice and altar in that area without destroying the Dome of the Rock.

But, regardless of the technicalities as to whether the Jews must gain control of the entire Temple Mount, or only a portion of it, dramatic changes have to take place before any Jewish altar or temple can be constructed on that site. There are two basic ways to gain the desired access to the Temple Mount. One way is through political negotiations. Such negotiations would lead to various signed agreements in which the negotiating parties are assigned specific areas of control.

In Revelation:11:1-2, John is instructed to measure the temple of God, the altar and those who worship there. But he is told to leave out the court which is outside the temple, because it has been given to the gentiles and they will tread it under foot for forty-two months. These verses can of course have spiritual implications for the church because the people who worship there are measured also. People are measured or judged by the word of God. But the church is not the "gentiles" and they do not tread down the holy city for forty-two months. So this prophecy definitely points to future dividing of the city. Zechariah:14:2 sheds additional light on this: "For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; The city shall be taken, The houses rifled, And the women ravished. Half of the city shall go into captivity, But the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city." It is interesting to note, that half of the city goes into captivity, but the remnant shall not be cut off from the city. The term "remnant" nearly always refers to God's people. Both of these prophecies clearly indicate that Jerusalem is going to be divided into two sectors before the second coming of Christ.

Such agreements would probably require a third ("neutral") party to enforce the agreements. In recent times, that "neutral" enforcement agency has been the United Nations (U.N.). Troops under the banner of the U.N. have been deployed as a peacekeeping force in various sensitive areas around the world.

Some have suggested that the Temple Mount will be taken by war. Even if the Temple Mount were taken by war, the international community would have to enforce any kind of "negotiated" peace that might be achieved after such a war is over. In other words, for the Jews to erect a place of worship on the Temple Mount, and restore any elements of temple worship, there must be a period of peace. The book of Daniel clearly indicates that the person who is responsible for taking away the daily sacrifice, comes to power in the name of peace. Then after a period of "pseudo" peace, the truce is broken. Then with the aid of Satan and powerful armies, this person places the abomination of desolation and takes away the daily sacrifices.

The "Little Horn"

We need to examine the Scriptures that describe how this person comes to power and his activities before he places the abomination of desolation. Daniel 8 describes a vision of a ram with two horns (the kings of Media and Persia) pushing westward, northward and southward. No nation or person was able to stand up against the ram. Then suddenly out of the west a goat with a notable horn (Alexander the Great) runs into the ram and crushes its horns. The notable horn is broken, and in its place four horns stand up. Out of the four horns arises a little horn. This little horn waxes exceedingly great toward the east, the south and the pleasant land. This person exalts himself against the heavenly host, pollutes the sanctuary and takes away the daily sacrifice (Daniel:8:1-12).

After Daniel receives the vision, he seeks to understand it. Eventually, Gabriel comes to him and explains the vision (Daniel:8:16). In verse 17, Gabriel informs Daniel that the vision refers to the time of the end. The significance of verse 17 should be duly noted. Some Bible commentators believe that Antiochus Epiphanes fulfilled this prophecy in 168 B.C. when he offered swine's blood on the altar and placed a statue of Jupiter Olympus in the Holy of Holies. The actions of Antiochus can obviously be viewed as a type of fulfillment. But the angel Gabriel reiterates in verse 19 that the vision is for the end time: "Look, I am making known to you what shall happen in the latter time of the indignation; for at the appointed time the end shall be."

In verses 20-22, Gabriel identifies the ram with the two horns as the kings of Media and Persia. And the male goat is the kingdom of Greece. The large horn is its first king (Alexander). The broken horn (Alexander the Great), met an early untimely death. No king succeeded Alexander to the throne. The four notable horns that stood up after Alexander died represent four divisions of his empire that were placed under the jurisdiction of four of his principal generals.

In verse 23, the prophecy moves forward to the end time. "And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors have reached their fullness, a king shall arise, having fierce features, who understands sinister schemes." The king of "fierce features" is the little horn of verse 9 that grows out of one of the divisions of Alexander's empire. So at the end of the age, a person from one of the four divisions of Alexander's empire comes to power. This person is energized by a power (Satan) greater than himself. He uses deceit to corrupt the holy people. His strategy brings about prosperity and this causes people to be destroyed (corrupted) in their prosperity. This person is on the scene during a time of pseudo peace and prosperity. Furthermore, he is on the scene when Christ comes again: "He shall even rise against the Prince of princes; But he shall be broken without human means" (Daniel:8:25b). This verse parallels Revelation:17:13-14; "These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast. These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful." Thus the "king of fierce features" described in Daniel 8 is equated with the beast of Revelation 17. In verse 26 of Daniel 8, the angel Gabriel instructs Daniel to seal the vision "for it refers to many days in the future."

The "Vile Person"

The activities and strategy of the person in Daniel 8 is very similar to that of the "vile person" who is described in Daniel:11:21-45. A careful reading of Daniel 11 will show that the "vile person" introduced in verse 21 is the same person who places the abomination of desolation in verse 31. He is the willful king of verse 36; the "him" of verse 40 who is attacked by a king of the South and a king of the North; the "he" or "him" of verses 41-44. He is the one (verse 45) who plants his tabernacles between the two seas.

It should be noted at this point that various Bible commentators and historians attempt to make the activities of Antiochus Epiphanes fulfill verses 21-35. Antiochus may have been a type of what is to come, but when Christ referred to the placing of the abomination of desolation, he was referring to a future event. We have already noted in Daniel:12:11 that the placing of the abomination of desolation marks the beginning of the countdown of twelve hundred and ninety days. So there will be another person who comes on the scene at the "appointed time" who will be the anti-type of Antiochus. This person's activities will lead to the final fulfillment of these verses.

In verse 21, we see the "vile person" comes in peacefully and seizes the kingdom by intrigue. His personality and ability to deceive are so strong that he becomes strong with a small people (Hebrew gowy which is translated 374 times as "nation" and only 11 times as "people"). Even though Antiochus, as a king of the North, may have been a type of the vile person who will come on the scene at the end of the age, Daniel:11:40 reveals that the antitype will be attacked by the king of the North and the king of the South. At that time in history, Syria was a respected military power. Antiochus was never popular with the Jewish people. But the person, who is the anti-type, becomes strong with a small nation.

In verse 24, we see him entering into the richest places of the province, peaceably (Hebrew, shalvah ). "Shalvah" means quietness, ease, prosperity. So he enters into the best places of the province and gains favor by giving the people some of the riches he has acquired. He begins to make plans against the strongholds (Hebrew, mibtsar, fortified city.) Bible prophecy reveals that Jerusalem will become one of the most fortified cities in the world. Some military analysts now believe that the nation of Israel is the second greatest military power on earth.

Verses 25 and 26 describe warfare between the "vile person" and the king of the South. The king of the South is not able to stand against him. Then in verse 27, we see the "vile person" and the king of the South sitting at a table, in apparent peace negotiations. But they are speaking lies to each other. So the peace does not prosper i.e., endure. Because there is more to happen at "the appointed time."

In verses 28, we note that after the peace negotiations, he returns home but his "heart shall be moved against the holy covenant." After some time passes, the "vile person" mounts another campaign toward the south, but he is met with ships from Cypress (Hebrew kittiy ) a general term referring to all the Islanders of the Mediterranean Sea. He is grieved at being turned back and is enraged against the holy covenant. He returns and forms an alliance against those who forsake the holy covenant. He gathers a great army and defiles the sanctuary, takes away the daily sacrifices and places the abomination that makes desolate (Daniel:11:29-31).

We can now clearly see that the strategy and activities of the "king of fierce features" of Daniel 8 and the "vile person" of Daniel 11 are identical. Each one comes in peacefully and gains the kingdom by flatteries, each one corrupts the holy people, each one pollutes the sanctuary, each one takes away the daily sacrifice, and each one is on the scene at the end time. There can be no doubt that the "king of fierce features" and the "vile person" are one and the same person.

70 Weeks Prophecy Mentions Same Leader

The seventy weeks prophecy is also relevant in describing events that lead up to the placing of the abomination of desolation. Daniel 9 describes how he seeks to understand the seventy years of desolations of Jerusalem spoken of by the prophet Jeremiah. While Daniel was praying for understanding, God sends Gabriel to give him understanding (Verses 20-23). Gabriel tells Daniel that: "Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy" (Daniel:9:24).

A literal translation of "seventy weeks" is "sevens," or seven times seven. In Bible prophecy a day represents a year. There are seven days in a week. So seven times seventy equals four hundred and ninety years. The angel Gabriel specifies certain intervals of weeks (years) as the various items of the prophecy are fulfilled. The seventy weeks have a definite starting point. "Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks" (Verse 25).

A great deal of controversy has surrounded the date of the giving of the command to build Jerusalem. The date most widely accepted is 457 B.C. The prophecy states the Messiah will appear after sixty-nine weeks (7 times 69 equals 483 years). When 457 is subtracted from 483, the difference is 26. There is no year zero. One year must be added to twenty-six. In 27 A.D., when Jesus was about thirty years old, he began his public ministry.

Verse 26 states that the Messiah will be cut off after sixty-two weeks (literally sixty-nine weeks, since the seven weeks from verse 25 must be added). "And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, and till the end of the war desolations are determined." This prophecy was fulfilled when Jesus was crucified after sixty-nine weeks and when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the sanctuary (temple) in 69-70 A.D.

This brings us to the controversial verse 27: "Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; but in the middle of the week he shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, even until the consummation, which is determined, is poured out on the desolate" (margin, desolator). The controversy centers around who is the "he" of this verse. The nearest antecedent of the pronoun "he" is the prince (ruler) who is to come of verse 26. Some commentators attempt to make the word "Messiah" in verse 26 serve as the antecedent for the pronoun "he" in verse 26. The attempt to make this connection centers on an attempt to link a Wednesday crucifixion with the expression, "Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; but in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering" (Verse 27a).

Let's examine the facts. The pronoun "he" refers to the nearest antecedent noun, the prince who is to come. This prince destroys Jerusalem and the sanctuary. Jesus did not confirm any covenant with anyone for a week. The Hebrew states that this person confirms (Hebrew, gabar meaning to prevail, have strength, be strong) a covenant for one week. Christ perfectly fulfilled the conditions of the Old Covenant, but He did not come to confirm the Old Covenant. He came to install and mediate the New Covenant. He established the New Covenant on the night of the Passover before his death. He did not confirm any covenant with anyone for one week. Moreover, the death of Christ did not cause the sacrifice and oblation to end. The Jews continued to offer sacrifices until the Romans destroyed the temple. Furthermore, the last part of verse 27 states that on a wing of the temple shall be one who makes desolate. In addition, this abomination remains on the wing of the temple until the consummation is poured out on the desolator i.e., the one who make it desolate. Jesus does not place an abomination on the wing of the temple. But of more significance, the returning Jesus Christ is the one who pours out the consummation on the desolator. Christ is surely not the "desolator."

We have already noted in Daniel 8 and 11 that a person comes in peacefully. He makes a league with certain parties and then behaves very deceitfully-breaks the covenant and in each case and winds up defiling the sanctuary and placing the abomination of desolation. So in Daniel 9 we see the how the last week of the 70 weeks prophecy will be fulfilled. A covenant is made (a peace covenant) and in the middle of the week (after three and one-half years), the covenant is broken. He causes the sacrifices and offerings to end. An abomination is placed in a wing of the sanctuary. This action parallels Daniel:11:31. The placing of the abomination of desolation marks the countdown of the final twelve hundred and ninety days. This includes the final 1,260 days of the seventy weeks prophecy.

We can now see how vital the peace negotiations are between the Arabs and Jews over the question of Palestine and Jerusalem. We can also why the Matthew 15 is such a pivotal prophecy. We should keep our eyes on the peace negotiations and the attempts to rebuild the temple and restore temple worship. The abomination of desolation will not be placed until temple worship is restored.

Bin Laden Connection with the Temple Mount

World affairs will be filled with events that are relevant and critical to the fulfillment of placing the Abomination of Desolation. According to CNN, some of the recent terrorist activities of Osama Bin Laden were directed against the United States since they appear to be in support of what he calls "the ever increasing encroachment on the Islamic Mosques located on the Temple Mount." As a result he and his followers have declared "Holy War" against the United States. Whether or not the United States' bombing of terrorist facilities in the Sudan and Afghanistan will precipitate an all out war in the Middle East remains a question. This is indeed the time to watch and pray. WNP


jgehrke's picture

I appreciate your discussion, and wish to offer some concerns and comments. If we restrict our understanding to our Lord's return to depend on a rebuilt Temple on the Mount, then surely we have zero reason to expect Him any time soon. This seems to contradict His statements that He will return in a hour not expected, and that we should simply be ready. Another idea I recently heard concerns Our Lord being the Temple, and as the cornerstone came and with the first fruits is built - and the only Holy place being Scripture. The seemingly difficult idea from this idea is the abomination is certain false teachings one false prophet included (Saul of Tarsus). I do not claim this to be correct or true, although I do believe we are charged with studying Scripture and being ready for His return at any time.

Ivan Veller

Ivan Veller's picture

I would take extreme caution with the idea of excising Paul's inspired writings from the holy canon: "If anyone takes away any words from the book...God will take away his portion of the tree of life" (Revelation 22:19a, ISV 2010). To quote Paul: "All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:17).

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