What does this Bible phrase mean? How does it apply to the Jewish desire to build a temple in Jerusalem?
[Gary Petty] Today we are going to talk about the abomination of desolation.
You know, you and I live in turbulent times. And one of the dangerous flames of conflict with international, and prophetic implications, is unknown to most people. It is the Jewish desire to rebuild a temple in Jerusalem and the Muslim desire to keep it from happening.
In the Olivet prophecy, Jesus foretold of a future time of unprecedented global conflict so intense that it will threaten the very existence of humanity. He also gives this curious warning for people in Jerusalem to flee when they see the “abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet” (Matthew 24:15 Matthew 24:15When you therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoever reads, let him understand:)
American King James Version×).
Now how can we decipher this strange phrase—the abomination of desolation? And what does it have to do with the Jewish desire to rebuild a temple in Jerusalem?
The Middle East is a focal point of biblical prophecy and it has far reaching implications. How will future events in Jerusalem affect your life?
Well today, we’re going to explore and answer “What is The Abomination of Desolation?”
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[Gary] When Jesus spoke of the abomination of desolation, He was referring to a phrase from the Old Testament prophetic book of Daniel.
Now Jesus expected His followers to understand the meaning of this enigmatic phrase. In the Gospel of Matthew, Matthew adds an edit to Jesus’ words with “whoever reads, let him understand” (Matthew 24:15 Matthew 24:15When you therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoever reads, let him understand:)
American King James Version×).
But how can we understand Jesus’ prophetic meaning of the abomination of desolation?
An important key to discovering the profound meaning of this prophecy is to recognize the principle of prophetic duality. This means that some biblical prophecies apply to more than one event in history. A prophecy may be partially fulfilled at a specific time in history, but will have a more complete fulfillment at a later time.
To understand Christ's words about the abomination of desolation, we need to recognize that Daniel’s prophecy—where the term is first used—has two fulfillments—one that has already happened in the past and one that is yet to happen in the future.
To comprehend the full story, we must go back in time to a Babylonian king troubled by a nightmare.
When the Babylonian ruler Nebuchadnezzar invaded the kingdom of Judah around 605 B.C., he took many of the most intelligent and talented Jewish youths to Babylon to serve in his court. Now Daniel, who wrote the Old Testament book that bears his name, was taken to Babylon with the first of the Jewish captives. There he was trained to serve in Nebuchadnezzar's government.
Daniel tells us that Nebuchadnezzar was troubled by a dream. In this dream he saw an image of a statue of a man. The image had a head of gold, chest and arms of silver, stomach and thighs of bronze and lower legs and feet of iron and clay. Through Daniel, God revealed to the king that Babylon was to be the first in a great series of four empires (Daniel 2).
History shows these four kingdoms to be the Babylonian, Persian, Greek and Roman empires. The head of gold represented Babylon, the chest and arms the Persian Empire, the stomach and thighs the Grecian Empire and the lower legs and the feet the Roman Empire.
Now with the knowledge of the four successive empires in mind, let's look at a prophecy in Daniel chapter 8.
Daniel had a vision of a ram imbued with the power to stand against all other animals (Daniel 8:1-4 Daniel 8:1-4  In the third year of the reign of king Belshazzar a vision appeared to me, even to me Daniel, after that which appeared to me at the first.
 And I saw in a vision; and it came to pass, when I saw, that I was at Shushan in the palace, which is in the province of Elam; and I saw in a vision, and I was by the river of Ulai.
 Then I lifted up my eyes, and saw, and, behold, there stood before the river a ram which had two horns: and the two horns were high; but one was higher than the other, and the higher came up last.
 I saw the ram pushing westward, and northward, and southward; so that no beasts might stand before him, neither was there any that could deliver out of his hand; but he did according to his will, and became great.
American King James Version×). A goat with a large horn attacks and destroys the ram ((Daniel 8:5-7 Daniel 8:5-7  And as I was considering, behold, an he goat came from the west on the face of the whole earth, and touched not the ground: and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes.  And he came to the ram that had two horns, which I had seen standing before the river, and ran to him in the fury of his power.  And I saw him come close to the ram, and he was moved with choler against him, and smote the ram, and broke his two horns: and there was no power in the ram to stand before him, but he cast him down to the ground, and stamped on him: and there was none that could deliver the ram out of his hand.
American King James Version×). The goat's large horn grew strong but broke off and was replaced by four smaller horns (Daniel 8:8 Daniel 8:8Therefore the he goat waxed very great: and when he was strong, the great horn was broken; and for it came up four notable ones toward the four winds of heaven.
American King James Version×). Out of these four horns would grow an even smaller horn that would invade the “Glorious Land,” establishing the “transgression of desolation” (Daniel 8: 9-14).
So how can we make any sense of Daniel's vision of a ram and a goat?
Well there are two important terms in this passage we need to look at; one is the “Glorious Land.” Jerusalem is ground zero for biblical prophecy. The Glorious Land is a reference to the land of Israel. The second term is the “transgression of desolation.” Two other passages in Daniel mention events known as the “abomination of desolation.” You can get more details about the prophecies in Daniel that we are covering on today’s program by going to BeyondToday.tv.
Now besides realizing that prophecies can be dual or have multiple fulfillments, a little exploration shows that the Bible often interprets itself. If we read just a little farther in Daniel 8, we find that God sent the angel Gabriel to reveal to Daniel the meaning of the vision.
Gabriel explains to Daniel that the ram represents the kingdom of Persia and the goat, the kingdom of Greece. The goat's large horn represents the first Grecian king. The four horns represent four more kings who would follow the first king (Daniel 8:15-22 Daniel 8:15-22  And it came to pass, when I, even I Daniel, had seen the vision, and sought for the meaning, then, behold, there stood before me as the appearance of a man.
 And I heard a man's voice between the banks of Ulai, which called, and said, Gabriel, make this man to understand the vision.
 So he came near where I stood: and when he came, I was afraid, and fell on my face: but he said to me, Understand, O son of man: for at the time of the end shall be the vision.
 Now as he was speaking with me, I was in a deep sleep on my face toward the ground: but he touched me, and set me upright.
 And he said, Behold, I will make you know what shall be in the last end of the indignation: for at the time appointed the end shall be.
 The ram which you saw having two horns are the kings of Media and Persia.
 And the rough goat is the king of Grecia: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king.
 Now that being broken, whereas four stood up for it, four kingdoms shall stand up out of the nation, but not in his power.
American King James Version×). This is a remarkable prophecy of events that happened actually many years after Daniel's death.
It is also important to what we are discussing today because it is a Greek king who brings about the first abomination of desolation. We’ll see the relevance of that in just a moment.
The Greeks, under Alexander the Great—who is the great horn of Daniel 8—overthrew the Persian Empire in 331 B.C. Alexander, after conquering much of the known world from the Mediterranean to India, died in his early 30s around 323 B.C. The Greek empire was thrown into confusion and divided among four of Alexander's generals. Now these generals are the four horns that followed the first great horn, the first king.
Historians record that the four kingdoms rising out of Alexander's empire eventually came together into a northern kingdom ruled by the Seleucids and a southern kingdom ruled by the Ptolemies.
Now according to Daniel's vision, these four kings were to be followed by a “little horn.” A king who would come after the division of the empire into four parts.
This little horn, a Grecian king, is prophesied to invade the “Glorious Land.” Now remember that the Glorious Land is the land of ancient Israel which is the same area as the modern day Israel.
In Daniel 8:11 Daniel 8:11Yes, he magnified himself even to the prince of the host, and by him the daily sacrifice was taken away, and the place of the sanctuary was cast down.
American King James Version×we find that this king, “…even exalted himself as high as the Prince of the host; and by him the daily sacrifices were taken away, and the place of his sanctuary was cast down” (verse 11).
Now notice Daniel 8:12 Daniel 8:12And an host was given him against the daily sacrifice by reason of transgression, and it cast down the truth to the ground; and it practiced, and prospered.
American King James Version×: “Because of transgression, an army was given over to the horn to oppose the daily sacrifices...”
The prophecy of the little horn, a Grecian king who would come after the death of Alexander the Great and the division of the Greek Empire, involves the cessation of the daily sacrifices in the Jewish temple which he enforces by military power.
Now remember, Daniel was given this prophecy during the Jewish Babylonian captivity. At the time of Daniel's prophecy, Solomon’s temple had already been destroyed by the Babylonians. There were no daily sacrifices being offered in Jerusalem. For this prophecy to be fulfilled, there had to be a future second temple.
Shortly after Daniel wrote his book, God began to intervene in human history. Jewish refugees were allowed to return to their homeland. Under the leadership of men like Ezra, Nehemiah and Zerubbabel the Jews rebuilt Jerusalem and the temple and renewed the temple sacrifices. These events had to happen before Daniel’s prophecies could even be fulfilled.
Daniel's vision then sweeps across the time some three and a half centuries to 167 B.C. At that time, one of the Seleucid rulers, Antiochus Epiphanes, known as Antiochus IV, invaded Judah (Daniel 8:23-27 Daniel 8:23-27  And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up.
 And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power: and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practice, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people.
 And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand.
 And the vision of the evening and the morning which was told is true: why shut you up the vision; for it shall be for many days.
 And I Daniel fainted, and was sick certain days; afterward I rose up, and did the king's business; and I was astonished at the vision, but none understood it.
American King James Version×).
The historical book of 1 Maccabees describes the actions of Antiochus Epiphanes:
> “The king then issued a proclamation to his whole kingdom that all were to become a single people, each nation renouncing its particular customs. All the gentiles conformed to the king's decree, and many Israelites chose to accept his religion, sacrificing to idols and profaning the Sabbath.
“The king also sent edicts by messenger to Jerusalem and the towns of Judah, directing them to adopt customs foreign to the country, banning burnt offerings, sacrifices and libations from the sanctuary, profaning Sabbaths and feasts, defiling the sanctuary and everything holy, building altars, shrines and temples for idols, …so that they should forget the Law and revoke all observance of it. Anyone not obeying the king's command was to be put to death” ( 1:41 1:41
American King James Version×, 44-50, New Jerusalem Bible).
[Gary] For Jews who refused to adopt paganism, punishment was swift and brutal.
Not content to merely stop the sacrifices, Antiochus desecrated the temple by setting up a statue of Jupiter in the sanctuary. The Greeks sacrificed pigs on the altar previously used to sacrifice to God. This is the past abomination of desolation that Jesus said was relevant to understanding future events that are to happen before His return.
Notice, however, that Daniel's prophecy also has a fulfillment “in the latter time of indignation” (Daniel 8:19 Daniel 8:19And he said, Behold, I will make you know what shall be in the last end of the indignation: for at the time appointed the end shall be.
American King James Version×), “when transgressors have reached their fullness” and the king of the “abomination” rises against the “Prince of princes” (Daniel 8:23-26 Daniel 8:23-26  And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up.  And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power: and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practice, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people.  And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand.  And the vision of the evening and the morning which was told is true: why shut you up the vision; for it shall be for many days.
American King James Version×). This king is to fight against the Messiah, who comes to establish God's Kingdom on the earth!
In Daniel 11 and 12 there are prophecies about the abomination of desolation that weren’t fulfilled at the time of Antiochus Epiphanes but will be fulfilled before Christ returns. It is this future abomination of desolation Jesus talks about in the Olivet prophecy.
Jesus warned the inhabitants of Jerusalem of a future siege and destruction. Here’s what he said: “For the days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation” (Luke 19:43-44 Luke 19:43-44  For the days shall come on you, that your enemies shall cast a trench about you, and compass you round, and keep you in on every side,
 And shall lay you even with the ground, and your children within you; and they shall not leave in you one stone on another; because you knew not the time of your visitation.
American King James Version×).
Luke's version of the Olivet prophecy supplies another warning: “…When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near” (Luke 21:20 Luke 21:20And when you shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is near.
American King James Version×).
Those who actually heard Jesus give this prophecy experienced a time when the Romans surrounded Jerusalem with armies and destroyed Herod’s temple. But when we read all of the Olivet prophecy, we see that Jesus is also referring to the time just before His return as King of Kings.
Just as the partial fulfillment of the abomination of desolation by Antiochus Epiphanes involved invading Jerusalem, desecrating the temple and forbidding the daily sacrifices, the future fulfillment will involve armies surrounding Jerusalem and the cessation of animal sacrifices.
This means that for Jesus’ prophecy to be fulfilled, animal sacrifices will again be instituted in Jerusalem before Christ's return.
You need to be aware of an important movement in modern Israel to rebuild a third temple. An organization called the “Temple Institute” in Jerusalem has been working for years towards this end. They have even established a school to train men who have been carefully identified as descendants of the ancient priestly tribe of Levi. They’ve studied the Torah and reproduced the temple utensils and priestly garments to precise specifications, including the garments worn by the high priest. Through genetic engineering they are attempting to reproduce the “red heifer.” This animal is needed as a sacrifice to purify the temple (Numbers 19:2 Numbers 19:2This is the ordinance of the law which the LORD has commanded, saying, Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring you a red heifer without spot, wherein is no blemish, and on which never came yoke:
American King James Version×).
According to the prophecies of Daniel, sacrifices—outlined in the ancient laws given to Israel—will once again be established in Jerusalem. With the Muslim occupation of the Temple Mount this seems utterly impossible. The Bible reveals that there is coming a time when unbelievable events will bring about the reestablishment of Jewish sacrifices. This is one of the important signs that the return of Jesus Christ, the Messiah is close at hand.
And now, here is how this may affect you and me, with far reaching implications. Just like Antiochus Epiphanes desecrated Solomon’s temple and tried to stamp out the worship of the true God, a future influential and powerful leader will play a pivotal role in end-time events. In addition to performing great miracles, according to the apostle Paul he “exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (2 Thessalonians 2:4 2 Thessalonians 2:4Who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sits in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.
American King James Version×). He will by the power of Satan deceive people “with all power, signs and lying wonders.” He will be a great false Messiah.
God, however, calls him “the lawless one” (2 Thessalonians 2:9 2 Thessalonians 2:9Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,
American King James Version×). He represents a governmental and religious system that opposes God's law. Antiochus Epiphanes, who engineered the original abomination of desolation, he is a minor player in world history compared to this end-time “man of sin.”
Antiochus Epiphanes tried to stamp out worship of God by ruthlessly persecuting all who remained obedient to Him. Many prophecies tell us history will repeat itself. You and I must be aware and vigilant to recognize the coming deception.
Jesus encouraged His followers to “watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming” (Matthew 24:42 Matthew 24:42Watch therefore: for you know not what hour your Lord does come.
American King James Version×). Understanding these two fulfillments of the abomination of desolation helps us know what to watch for in world events amidst the growing conflict, and chaos and violence.
Now we’re going to discuss the abomination of desolation with the Beyond Today panel but first let’s recap what we’ve covered so far.
First, Christians need to watch for a religious movement to reintroduce daily sacrifices in Israel.
Two, Christians need to watch for the rise of the “man of sin,” a charismatic leader who claims to speak for God.
Three, Christians need to watch for the geopolitical events that will lead to armies amassing around Jerusalem.
Before Christ's return, the world will suffer a “great tribulation” like no other time in history. Then God will send His Son to earth to save humanity from self-destruction. Understanding the prophecies about the abomination of desolation will help you watch for and prepare for these end time events.
To continue to explore what Jesus meant by the abomination of desolation, we’re joined by bellow Beyond Today presenter, Darris McNeely.
Matthew adds this comment to Jesus’ prophecy about the abomination of desolation—“whoever reads, let him understand.” Why would he add this comment to what Jesus said?
[Darris] Well, it’s a part of the inspired Scripture, Gary so there is a very important lesson for any student of prophecy to look at. Obviously, this topic of the abomination of desolation is a very key event. Christ talks about it. He pulls it in from the book of Daniel and highlights it in this very important Olivet prophecy. Students of prophecy, no matter where they dip into the topics, always come out with differing ideas and differing interpretations.
On this one, it is very critical to understanding a great deal about prophecy and about the Bible. But, the understanding has got to be coming from a proper historical setting of the Jesus Himself in front of the temple there on the Mount of Olives and the event of Antiochus Epiphanes that you were talking about there and what he did. That was an event, even to Christ’s own audience, that was rather fresh in their minds even though it had been less than 200 years in the past. But because of the severity of persecution, the significance of it as an event upon their own national history—kind of like with America or Australia today and events of the last century impacting even generations today—that event had impacted Christ and they knew about it. Even their historian Josephus had talked about that. So it was a very real event that they understood.
As we seek to understand it, we’ve got to go back and understand the setting of the Greek world, the impact of Jerusalem within that setting. How all of that impacted them and the religious significance of such an act of sacrilege that was done in the temple upon the people and in its relationship, the relationship that God, the Creator God, what that meant to Him. All of this is very, very important. Understanding it properly comes out with a proper interpretation.
[Gary] What you just said is very important in that those people who are hearing Jesus talk…
[Gary] They knew about Antiochus Epiphanes and they called that the abomination of desolation. So they understood what He was talking about there was going to come a future destruction of the temple. So that is very important.
[Darris] And they, still living in a sense, with generational memories that was very, very long, recognized that it was a horrific event Christ was talking about.
[Gary] Okay, so Matthew adds this comment, that look you better look beyond what they were just seeing even then. So what can we do or how can we go back to Daniel? What can we take from that abomination of desolation and apply it to what we know are the future events before Christ returns?
[Darris] Good question. Here we are in the 21st century. We look at Jerusalem, the Middle East and world situation today and it’s very easy to make the connection between our time today and what Jesus was talking about, even to the point of Daniel’s day. And what Daniel was talking about actually took place in the second century B.C. Jerusalem—the city, Judea—the land of Israel, the land of promise, Palestine today, the State of Israel, all of that at that time, the setting of the abomination of desolation was—Jerusalem was a kind of a pawn caught between the world powers of the day. And the great world power at that moment was Greece and its aftermath. You had the King of the North and the King of the South anchored in what is today Syria and Egypt.
[Gary] The Ptolemy, Seleucids...
[Darris] Right, right. And Jerusalem was right in the middle and it was kind of a pawn. And, we read about Jerusalem being, becoming the capital of either a Palestinian State or the capital of the State of Israel and the contention that is there. So, you start with Jerusalem and understand its biblical, historic, prophetic, spiritual importance… you have number one…
[Gary] So the abomination of desolation is going to be…
[Darris] Right there in that spot. In Jerusalem, yes.
Secondly, religion. Understanding the role of religion in the entire conflict is critical, too. Today, Jerusalem is the seat of three great world monotheistic faiths: Judaism, Islam, Christianity. And it’s a simmering caldron. The Jews want to go up on the Temple Mount and make sacrifices as you were talking about. That would inflame the Muslim world. That would create an international situation. You still have a very strong Christian presence there. And at times there is a thought or desire that maybe someone out of the Christian world would be a meditator in the conflicts that are simmering at the surface there. So religion is still…
[Gary] It’s the catalyst.
[Darris] It’s the catalyst there. So, Jerusalem as a geopolitical point on the compass. Religion and its role in the life of the nations—you can’t deny it. Understand that and you are more than halfway there to a critical understanding of this prophecy.
[Gary] And, of course, it’s interesting, this also involves armies.
[Gary] Multiple nations coming together so this is going to be a focal point too of violence.
[Darris] And even today, Israel, the State of Israel—it’s an armed camp. They are under siege always. They have nuclear weapons. There is the threat of nuclear annihilation from other countries. They are constantly on alert. Some type of a religious, spiritual incident that could spark what you are talking about there is not very far from the imagination.
[Gary] When we look at the end-time Antiochus Epiphanes. When we look at the end time man of sin, it says he deceives the world.
[Gary] How could Christians be sure that we’re going to be able to resist that, understand that and not be deceived?
[Darris] Well, it is more than Christians. Scripture says that the entire world will be deceived, all religions, people of all faiths and even people of no faith will be deceived. I think that we need to look for the spiritual answer to that as something in a sense, likely even far beyond what we can imagine today. Even with the prevalence of the three religions I talked about, but even people who read the Scriptures and have an understanding that something could happen and they plot out a way by that happening with the current map, they are subject to being deceived. I think that what the book of Revelation in Christ’s own words tell us is that we had better be looking far deeper than anything we can imagine for the type of deception that is described there as a man sitting there in a place claiming to be God and miracles that are causing people to worship a being, a figure in a way unlike any in past history.
[Gary] What I find interesting is it’s an ecumenical movement.
[Darris] It is.
[Gary] Because all religions are involved. So this is going to be a, not something that happens in…
[Darris] I would call it a spiritual movement beyond anything the world has seen to that point.
[Gary] Good way to put it. During today’s program, I’ve covered much about the abomination of desolation—as well as why it is important to keep up with major world events—especially in the Middle East. But with the global order experiencing constant and turbulent change, how can you make sense of what is happening, and why? To help you accomplish this, we have prepared a valuable, free study aid: The Middle East in Bible Prophecy.
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[Gary] “Whoever reads, let him understand.”
That is what Matthew wrote to those who would read Jesus’ prophecy about the abomination of desolation. To not understand is to risk being deceived into following the coming anti-Christ.
Watch for a growing movement in Judaism and Christianity to rebuild a Jewish temple in Jerusalem and renew the temple sacrifices. Watch for the rise of a charismatic leader who will promise worldwide peace and claim to speak for God and be worshipped as God.
Perilous times are coming upon all humanity—only God can save those who are faithful to Him, those who strive to live by His ways.
Join us next week on Beyond Today as we continue to discover the gospel of the Kingdom of God. We also invite you to join us in praying, “Thy Kingdom come.” For Beyond Today I’m Gary Petty. Thanks for watching.
[Announcer] For the free literature offered on today’s program, go online to BeyondToday.tv. Please join us again next week on Beyond Today!