LET THE READER UNDERSTAND - A re-appraisal of the Abomination of Desolation

"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."   (Matthew 24:15-16)

Best efforts notwithstanding, the reader has not understood at all when it comes to the 'Abomination of Desolation.' The popular end-time scenario depicts an idol standing in a Jewish temple thereby desecrating it, however two questions beg to be asked. First, how can it happen if there is no temple in existence? Second, if a temple is built in the future, how can it be desecrated if it has not been anointed in the first place? This last question is most pertinent because God does not anoint what he has replaced, and replaced he surely has when it comes to the temple! Indeed, this is what the book of Hebrews is all about, if not the entire New Testament, so what holy thing is there to abominate?

The Abomination is not what we thought

The purpose of this article is to offer a scriptural and credible alternative to the prevailing theories and we would do well to start by noticing how the Abomination of Desolation is 'telescoped' through more than one fulfillment. Therefore, when Bible commentators describe Antiochus Epiphenes and the sacrifice of swine on a Jewish altar as the 'abomination' (167 BC, Dan 11:31) they are quite right insofar as a precursor is concerned but it was not the final one. The latter part of the same prophecy (Dan 11:36-44) goes beyond Antiochus' description and projects future events, the earlier precursive event providing the clue - that is to say, the abomination would relate to the temple, and to the altar and to the sacrifice done upon that altar.

Therefore, when Daniel speaks of another abomination, this time during the seventieth 'week' we can expect it to have something to do with the altar, and something to do with what was performed on it. It would happen, the prophecy indicated, at the same time as sacrifice was abolished. Accordingly, the seventieth 'week' came between AD 26 – 33 and sacrifice ceased (as far as God was concerned) in the midst. (AD 30) So, the question has to be asked, did an abomination also occur in the midst? The answer is yes, but it did not cause the sacrifice to cease as so often taught. Rather, it was God who abolished the sacrifice, and the abomination which occurred in the middle of the 'week' was the continuation of animal sacrifice after God had declared it complete! In other words, the sacrifice itself became the abomination of desolation - the blood of bulls and goats like that of unclean flesh.

Do not be offended at this. Be shocked rather that when Messiah was being nailed to the cross, the same priests who sent him there were preparing the morning sacrifice. Not only that, they were slaughtering for the great fifteenth day of Nisan - two bulls, one ram, seven lambs and a male goat to make atonement for the people. These were meant to be the conclusion. It was the morning of the fifteenth day of the first month at about the time the cross was being raised off the ground. What could be a greater abomination than to reject the Son of God simultaneously performing the rituals of atonement in place of God's lamb?

Please look again at the source references and let the reader unhook their mind from previous explanations long enough to reconsider.

"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." (Dan 9:27)

"From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days." (Dan 12:11)

When taken together these verses mean Messiah abolished temple sacrifice and simultaneously an abomination appeared in the temple contradicting His atoning blood. It is not known how many days it took to set up - to stitch the massive temple curtain resuming sacrifice in defiance of his "it is finished!" But from the abomination until the end of the seventieth week (including leap-month) was 1290 days.

Will there be a future Abomination of Desolation?

We have seen how the Abomination's fulfillment took place in the temple at the time of the Cross but that does not mean there will not be a future AoD. It is needful to have discernment here because some prophetic scriptures have more than one fulfillment, this one being a case in point. It happened in prototype 167 BC, and then with its full face in AD 30. A precursor occurred again in AD 66 and there is good reason to believe the abomination of desolation is about to appear one more time.

The difficulty in presenting this is because a shrill argument exists between Preterists and Futurists and their debate has become so polarized that middle ground tends to get caught in the crossfire. The Preterists quote early church historians who report how, when Judea rebelled against Rome, Christians in Jerusalem escaped the city, AD 66/67, fleeing to a place in the Jordan hills called Pella. They claim it was the complete realisation of Jesus words but their explanation is inadequate because the fulfillment (as Jesus described it) was not complete in the Pella case. Nor did it take place during the seventieth week.

Futurists quote Matthew 24:15-22. "So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel ... then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved." They say it has not happened as of yet and verse 22 seems to bear that out. But to prove their point futurists adopt an unnatural disconnect between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks projecting it 2000 years into the future.

Our alternative interpretation places the primary fulfillment in the midst of the 'week' where it belongs, then takes into account the near/far aspect of prophecy over several fulfillments beginning AD 30. Indeed, the prophecy tells us: "and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate" (Daniel 9:27 KJV) In other words, the abomination would repeat itself! It spanned a period of nearly forty years past the seventieth week, the term 'overspreading' (or wing) meaning that, not only was the abomination committed once, but continued for the length of its span. It was referring to the continuation of animal sacrifice in denial of Christ's "It is finished."

Dual fulfillment is a biblical concept and this example is referenced in a number of places indicating, not only a 40-year 'overspeading' but also a future day when a shocking event will reoccur centering on an 'antichrist' and around a blasphemous object standing with him in the temple. (2 Thess. 2:3-4, Mark 13:14, Daniel 11:36) Whether this is a Jewish temple or a 'politically correct' world religion is a matter of opinion; it is not the purpose of this article to speculate beyond the basic elements of what the abomination will be. However, four things can be deduced because the prophecy has already happened once, hence a future completion of it will be of the same nature - a reflection, of the original fulfillment.

  • Firstly, the abomination has something to do with the place where the temple once stood.
  • Secondly, it will involve an alternative method of atonement to the blood of Christ.
  • Thirdly, it will culminate in a man claiming to be God and standing where he ought not be.
  • Fourthly, it will erupt into severe tribulation which, except for divine intervention, would destroy mankind.

How Daniel saw more than one!

Abominations of the blasphemous kind tend to repeat because they are the fruit of an antichrist spirit which is always with us. Whenever the spirit manifests itself in the form of a man we get 'Antichrist' and that is why St John says, "... you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come." (1 John 2:18) With this in mind, we observe Daniels visions having several (not just one) antichrists, hence abominations (plural) and the gradual revealing of a future 'man of sin.'

The first example in Daniel's book is Nebuchadnezzar. He set up an abomination, a statue representative of Babylon and of himself ("You are that head of gold" Dan 2:38), and all people everywhere were forced to worship it. (Dan 3:1-7)

The next example is an overview of world history as it pertains to 'beast' dominions that would arise. They were a lion (Babylon), a bear (Medo-Persia), a leopard (Greece) and a terrifying beast. (Rome) Their characteristics were that of antichrist - conquest and power. Then, from out of the fourth beast came ten 'horns' and from out of these another horn who, "had eyes like the eyes of a human being and a mouth that spoke boastfully." (Dan 7:8) He would, speak against the Most High and oppress God's holy people who would be delivered into his hands for a "time, times and half a time." (Dan 7:25) This is Antichrist who is yet to come.

It might be helpful at this point to notice how the 'times' mentioned are the same period referenced in the book of Revelation. The end-time 31/2 years are not taken from Daniel chapter nine as so often assumed since that would require the 'seventieth week' to be broken off and sent to the future. Such an interpretation is unnecessary because a different 31/2 year period is already revealed in Daniel chapter seven.

The best known AoD in the book of Daniel is that of Antiochus Epiphanes who desecrated the Jewish temple in 167 BC. This is the subject of chapter eight which is described in such detail that liberal scholars have tried to 'doctor' the authorship so to make it appear written after the advent had already happened.

The least understood case of abomination is the one which happened in the middle of the seventieth week. (AD 30) Some have muddled it with the AoD to come but it was really the continuation of sacrifice after Christ had said, "Finished!" In this case it overspread from the initial blasphemy for another forty years until the desolation of the temple became complete.

Chapter eleven provides the fifth example, an interesting one because it demonstrates dual fulfilment, ie. how some prophecy has a near fulfilment with a far one later on. The first section predicts more background of Antiochus culminating in, "Then they shall take away the daily sacrifices, and place there the abomination of desolation." (Dan 11:31) From verse 36 however, the text telescopes forward to a different person, similar in 'spirit', but whose actions no longer match the Greek tyrant. It is obviously alluding to a future Antichrist.

We finally come to Daniel 12:11 speaking about the '1335 and 1290 days.' The figures given have no connection to the Antiochus figures quoted in chapter eight, so there is obviously more than one abomination of desolation in Daniels writings. The figures do tie in with the calendar at the time of the cross, so the temple's alternative sacrifice makes two abominations. However, the context of chapter twelve references future aspects awaiting fulfilment which indicates a 1290-day span may come around again. That makes three separate, identifiable AoD's in the book of Daniel, four if we count Nebuchadnezzar's statue.

The prophecy that unfolds gradually

When Jesus said, "When you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place ..." (Matt 24:16) he was drawing a dynamic prophetic scene that would unfold gradually over several fulfilments!

In AD 30 an amazing 1335/1290 day sequence occurred in the ancient calendar climaxing in Messiah's atonement and the abolishing of the former order. (Hebrews 8-10) Left standing in the Holy place was the high priest who rejected what God had done. He and his altar - yes, the temple altar - became the 'Abomination that leads to desolation.'

But did not Jesus also say, "When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies ...?" (Luke 21:20) Did that happen in AD 30? The answer is no, but what did happen was an 'overspreading' of the same abomination every year and every day until AD 66 when Jerusalem was indeed surrounded. The believers, recognising Christ's words, fled the city and were saved. Some of his words were fulfilled AD 30 and some AD 66-70. It was unfolding gradually!

Now, here is where it gets really interesting. In Marks account of the same prophecy he says,

"When you see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains … For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be. And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved." (Mark 13:14-20)
Did a tribulation of such proportion occur in AD 70? (nothing like it from beginning of creation - no human being saved etc. etc.) Was it that bad? Preterists try hard to paint Jerusalem's siege as the 'mother of all tribulations' but, as awful as it was, it fails to match the description given. The overarching picture, when all Bible references are compared, show AD 70 as a fulfilment like Antiochus Epiphenes was - a fulfilment in part, and precursor to something much greater to come.

Our point is this: There was a fulfilment of an 'antichrist' in 167 BC; there was a fulfilment of an abomination in AD 30; there was a fulfilment of a tribulation in AD 66-70 and there will be a fulfilment again in the future. We have had a series of precursors but the full picture has been (and still is) developing.

The common objection to this idea is, "where does it stop?" but no one is saying dual fulfilment repeats indefinitely. A prophecy is totally fulfilled when all aspects of that prophecy have taken place. Take for example Luke's mention of armies. This obviously relates to the Roman siege of Jerusalem; however Luke telescopes beyond then to apocalyptic visions of waves and seas roaring. (Luke 21:25) Were there reports of violent tidal activity in AD 70? No, because, it did not happen then! It waits a time when the heavenly bodies are shaken.

So, this particular prophecy is unfolding gradually. This author believes the popular 'Abomination' doctrine needs to be reappraised along these lines.

The Atonement Clock

For related matters about the 1290 and 1335 day astronomic formulas, see Christian Gedge's book, 'THE ATONEMENT CLOCK'

Could it be a clock was behind history counting down toward a destiny which had already been written?

More information here.