Revision: 5/13/11

The “Abomination of Desolation” is a Future Event

Matthew 24:15-16, reads,

“So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.”

I find it interesting that to the hearers of these words in Jesus’ day, they would have had the effect of bringing correction to anyone who had been of the opinion that this prophecy in Daniel had already been fulfilled. Per Jesus, the prophecy of Daniel concerning “the abomination of desolation” was to be yet future. In other words, this prophecy of our Lord, would have debunked preterist ideas in Jesus’ day. I believe it is ironic, therefore, this same prophecy of our Lord, when properly unpacked, becomes the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back of all the various forms of modern preterism as well.

Allow me to explain…

There are three passages in the Book of Daniel in which the abomination of desolation is described. These are: Daniel 9:27, 11:31, 12:11 It was the correct understanding in Jesus’ day that this was a prophecy concerning a gentile king who would come to Jerusalem, defile the temple, entering it and setting up an image of himself to be worshipped in the holy of holies.

It is the testimony of Jesus, Paul and John in New Testament that this prophecy was to be yet future. We’ve already read Jesus’ words above. Paul says further,

“Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.” (2 Thess. 2:3-4)

In the Book of Revelation chapter 13, John corroborates aspects of this expectation, where in fantastic imagery he depicts an evil authority in the last times exercising control over the peoples of the earth including Jerusalem and its temple. This evil entity is assisted by a second equally evil entity which causes all under penalty of death to worship an image of this evil ruler.

In prophesying that the abomination of desolation is a yet future event, Jesus ran counter to the beliefs of many Jews in his own day, who believed the prophecy of Daniel had already been fulfilled. Without using the term “preterist”, those who held to the past fulfillment of the prophecy of Daniel were in fact the practical preterists of their day.

Antiochus Epiphanes Installed an Abomination of Desolation in the Temple

Jews had believed the prophecy of Daniel had been fulfilled in 167 BC. Jewish writers of the day used the exact same idiom as we find in Matthew 24:15, to describe the invasion of the Jerusalem temple by Antiochus Epiphanes in 167 BC. It was referred to with the same Greek phrase used for Jesus words to signify “the abomination of desolation”. After entering the holy of holies and demanding that he be worshipped as god, Antiochus had his right-hand-man install an image of himself there as god. For a period of three years the image of Antiochus remained and Antiochus’ assistant remained in Jerusalem to mandate that people worship the image under penalty of death. Sound familiar?

Isn’t it therefore ironic that Jesus' prophecy concerning the abomination of desolation is exactly the passage that overturns preterist ideas in our own day too? You see, the prophecy of Christ, that the abomination of desolation was to be yet future remains unfulfilled.

Titus Would Have Installed an Abomination of Desolation

It is an interesting detail of history that when the Roman-Emperor-to-be, Titus led his forces to Jerusalem to destroy it in 70 AD, he gave specific instructions that the Jewish temple was not to be looted or destroyed. We know this from Josephus. We may rightly speculate as to what plans Titus had for the Jewish temple. Did he intend to install an image in it of the Emperor of Rome to be worshipped? We will never know. You see he was prevented from doing so; in a seeming "fluke of happenstance" during the pitched battle against the Jewish militants in Jerusalem, a torch was tossed on a building nearby the temple. This started a fire which remarkably quickly engulfed the temple and burned it to the ground.

No gentile foot was able to step into the temple to defile it. It was gone. No praises to caesar ever echoed in its corridors. No standards of the effigies of the deities of Rome were able to victoriously march through its interiors. No images of the deities of Rome or of the Emperor were ever installed there. In short, the abomination of desolation never occurred. 70 AD had come and gone without the fulfillment of the prophecy.

It is due to a lack of understanding of the events that actually transpired in AD 70, that some today actually believe that Daniel’s prediction was fulfilled at that time. It was not. It remains to be fulfilled.

The abomination of desolation is to be an idol installed in a Jewish temple in Jerusalem otherwise built for the worship of God. Nothing else would fulfill the words of Daniel, Jesus, Paul and John.

Jesus contradicted ideas of His time in stating the abomination of desolation was yet future. It is even now yet future. The words of Jesus overturned the preterist ideas of his day as they still do to preterist ideas in our own.

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