What is the abomination of desolation (desolating sacrilege)?
We have discussed Jesus’ warnings about the signs of the end, where he mentions the abomination of desolation (or desolating sacrilege), but what is it?
So when you see the desolating sacrilege standing in the holy place, as was spoken of by the prophet Daniel (let the reader understand), then those in Judea must flee to the mountains; the one on the housetop must not go down to take what is in the house; the one in the field must not turn back to get a coat. (Mt 24:15-18)
But when you see the desolating sacrilege set up where it ought not to be (let the reader understand), then those in Judea must flee to the mountains; the one on the housetop must not go down or enter the house to take anything away; the one in the field must not turn back to get a coat. (Mk 13:14-16)
He shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall make sacrifice and offering cease; and in their place shall be an abomination that desolates, until the decreed end is poured out upon the desolator. (Dn 9:27)
Forces sent by him shall occupy and profane the temple and fortress. They shall abolish the regular burnt offering and set up the abomination that makes desolate. (Dn 11:31)
From the time that the regular burnt offering is taken away and the abomination that desolates is set up, there shall be one thousand two hundred ninety days. (Dn 12:11 )
Now on the fifteenth day of Chislev, in the one hundred forty-fifth year, they erected a desolating sacrilege on the altar of burnt offering. They also built altars in the surrounding towns of Judah, and offered incense at the doors of the houses and in the streets. (1 Mc 1:54-55)1
Scholars conclude the abomination of desolation is “a despicable misuse of the temple of the Lord during a time of great trouble - an event foretold by the prophet Daniel” (Youngblood, 7). Some believe Daniel’s prophecy was fulfilled when Antiochus IV Epiphanes desecrated the Jerusalem temple (see Powell, 6). This prophecy may have been fulfilled also when the Romans destroyed the Jerusalem temple in 70 A.D., but others believe Daniel’s prophecy will happen near the end of time, before Jesus’ return (2 Th 2:3-4; see Powell, 6).
Both historical possibilities for the abomination of desolation occur at the hands of a totalitarian regime. Jesus warns us that this threat is not only a thing of the past, but a sign of his return. We know from our studies, that the first beast of Revelation was, is and will be a satanic government. Furthermore, in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells us the abomination of desolation occurs with the siege of the holy city by an army (“And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.” (Lk 21:20)).
In conclusion, the abomination of desolation involves two components: (i) the desecration of holy places; (ii) by a satanic government.
Attridge, Harold W. ed. The HarperCollins Study Bible, Including Apocryphal Deuterocanonical Books. New York: HarperCollins, 2006.
Harrelson, Walter J., ed. The New Interpreter’s Study Bible: New Revised Standard Version with the Apocrypha. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2003.
Powell, Mark Allan, ed. The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary. 3rd ed. New York: HarperOne, 2011.
Youngblood, Ronald F., ed. Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary: New and Enhanced Edition. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2014.
1 Second Maccabees elaborates: “Not long after this, the king sent an Athenian senator to compel the Jews to forsake the laws of their ancestors and no longer to live by the laws of God; also to pollute the temple in Jerusalem and to call it the temple of Olympian Zeus, and to call the one in Gerizim the temple of Zeus-the-Friend-of-Strangers, as did the people who lived in that place. Harsh and utterly grievous was the onslaught of evil. For the temple was filled with debauchery and reveling by the Gentiles, who dallied with prostitutes and had intercourse with women within the sacred precincts, and besides brought in things for sacrifice that were unfit. The altar was covered with abominable offerings that were forbidden by the laws.” (2 Mc 6:1-5)