THE ABOMINATION THAT CAUSES DESOLATION
Jesus warned His disciples, “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel – let the reader understand – then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.” (Matthew 24:15,16, emphases mine) When Jesus spoke these words, He knew that Daniel 11:31 would be fulfilled forty years later. According to Webster, an abomination is “a despicable act, an insult having no equal, a defiant act of insolence and total disdain.” The highest insult or abomination that anyone can commit is to insult or defy God. Consider the following texts taken from the King James Version and notice how the Bible defines “an abomination.”
- Exodus 8:25,26, “And Pharaoh called for Moses and for Aaron, and said, ‘Go ye, sacrifice to your God in the land.’ 26) And Moses said, ‘It is not meet so to do; for we shall sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians to the Lord our God: lo, shall we sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians before their eyes, and will they not stone us?’ ” Verse 26 in the NKJV is alittle easier to understand: “And Moses said, ‘It is not right to do so, for we would be sacrificing the abomination of the Egyptians to the Lord our God. If we sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians before their eyes, then will they not stone us?’ ” (emphases mine) ‘Stone us’ literally means: put us to death by stoning. They considered the slaughter of animals to be a grave insult to their ancestors [who might be living in an animal]. They also considered the killing of animals an abomination to their gods. Knowing this, Moses wanted to leave Egypt and offer animal sacrifices to God in the wilderness to avoid agitating the Egyptians with inflammatory behavior.
- God considers a homosexual relationship to be an abomination. (Lev. 18:20-22) He created us in His image (Genesis 1:26) and is insulted when we debase His image. God also considers a sexual relationship with an animal to be an abomination. Leviticus 20:15
- Proverbs 6:16-19, “These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto Him: 17) A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18) An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, 19) A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.” (emphases mine) God hates these seven things because they destroy love. God will not tolerate these forms of behavior in His coming kingdom because they ruin life, and this is an insult to the Author of Life.
These few verses and many others, define certain actions that God considers an abomination. An abomination is a despicable act directed toward God. God may wink at our ignorance, but He does not tolerate insults very long. King Sennacherib insulted God and an angel struck 185,000 of his soldiers dead in a single night. 2 Kings 19:35
“That Causes Desolation”
The phrase, “the abomination that causes desolation” comes from a Jewish mindset because the Jews regarded their homeland as the “holy land,” that is, land set apart or separated from other nations for Abraham’s descendants. They also considered their homeland to be God’s “holy land” because God dwelt in their land: at the temple in Jerusalem. Here is King David’s song of praise: “He struck down all the firstborn of Egypt, the firstfruits of manhood in the tents of Ham. But He brought His people out like a flock; He led them like sheep through the desert. He guided them safely, so they were unafraid; but the sea engulfed their enemies. Thus He brought them to the border of His holy land, to the hill country His right hand had taken. He drove out nations before them and allotted their lands to them as an inheritance; He settled the tribes of Israel in their homes.” Psalm 78:51-55 (emphases mine)
The word holy means “set apart” from the common or usual. The term “holy land” defines land as that which is set apart from all other lands. God set Israel apart from Egypt as a holy nation of people. (Exodus 19:4-6) He placed Israel in the center of the nations at a special location, called “His holy land.” Ezekiel 5:5
God did not give a share of the Promised Land to the tribe of Levi when Israel entered Canaan. (Numbers 18:20,21) God did this because He wanted to tie the prosperity of the tribe of the Levites to their effectiveness as teachers and pastors of His flock. If the priests were faithful and taught the people the ways of the Lord, the nation would prosper, and the Levites would prosper from the increase in tithe. If the priests failed to teach the people the ways of the Lord, the nation would suffer, and the Levites would suffer because of Israel’s economic failures.
When the time came for Israel to possess the holy land, God gave Moses certain instructions about the Levites. (Numbers 35:1-8) Six cities were set aside as cities of refuge and became known as “holy cities.” When King David overthrew the city of Jebus and established his throne there, he renamed Jebus, “Jerusalem” [City of Peace] and it became the seventh [and last] of the holy cities. After Solomon’s death, the kingdom of Israel was divided into two states and in 722 B.C, the northern kingdom was destroyed. At that time, Jerusalem became the only holy city remaining for the tribes in the south, Benjamin and Judah.
When each “holy city” was established, the nearby pastureland around the walls of the city was “set apart” for the Levites as a place for their gardens and flocks. They called the pastureland around the walls of each city “the holy place” or “holy ground” because it was set apart for the priests to use exclusively. Even after the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem, God planned for the rebuilt city to have “holy ground” surrounding its walls. Ezekiel 45:1-6
With that explanation of how the language is used to describe the pastureland around the walls of the holy cities, let’s examine closely these two texts:
- Jesus said: “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel – let the [Gentile] reader understand – 16) then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17) Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house. 18) Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak. 19) How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! 20) Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath.” Matthew 24:15-20 (emphasis mine)
- Jesus said: “When you see Jerusalem being ‘surrounded by armies‘, you will know that its desolation is near. 21) Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. 22) For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written. 23) How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people.” Luke 21:20-23 (emphasis mine)
There is an interesting difference between these two texts. Both Matthew and Luke heard Jesus give the same discourse. Years later, when the gospels were written, Matthew, the Jew, wrote as a Jew would have remembered Jesus’ prediction. Luke, a Gentile converted to Christianity, wrote according to what he understood Jesus to mean. Both men understood the meaning of Christ’s words.
In the Jewish mind, the city of Jerusalem was an object of highest adoration and exaltation. Jerusalem was the hub of Judaism. Jehovah’s temple was located on Mount Moriah, and the Jews regarded Jerusalem as the invincible City of God. Given this ideology, the Jews considered the presence of an uncircumcised Gentile army standing in the land dedicated to the Levites to be an insult to God. Luke confirms this understanding. He interprets Jesus’ words to mean “when you see Jerusalem being surrounded by foreign armies, you will know that its desolation is near.”
Jesus was trying to warn His followers about a future event that was something unbearable to hear. Why would God allow His holy city and His temple to be subjected to barbarians bent on destruction? His justification for destroying Jerusalem a second time was the same as the first destruction of the city and temple by Nebuchadnezzar. God destroyed Israel because of apostasy defiant.
Jesus quoted Daniel 11:31 saying, “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel . . .” because the first fulfillment in Daniel, Chapters 10-12, was about to reach fulfillment in A.D. 70. This portion of Daniel’s prophecy was fulfilled when Vespesian set siege to Jerusalem in A.D. 68. He surrounded Jerusalem so that no one could enter or leave the city. However, Nero died shortly after the siege began, and Vespesian ordered his troops to return to Rome to secure his position on the throne. The following year, the siege was renewed under the leadership of Vespesian’s son, Titus. In A.D. 70, the city of Jerusalem fell and was totally destroyed.
When Vespesian lifted the siege on Jerusalem and returned to Rome because of Nero’s death, a short window of time opened up. The retreat gave believers enough time to escape the city of Jerusalem. Early Christians understood Daniel’s words, as well as Jesus’ warning. When Titus destroyed Jerusalem the following year, few, if any, Christians perished. Thousands of Christians survived because Jesus pointed them to Daniel 11:31. The dispersion of thousands of Christians from Jerusalem in A.D. 69 forced the Gospel into many places where it had not gone before.
Remember, God gave this vision to Daniel about 540 B.C., and it was meant to benefit two groups of people who would be separated by almost 2,000 years.
- Early Christians experienced the destruction of Jerusalem.
- Great Tribulation Christians will experience the destruction of earth.
The ‘abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of in Daniel 11:31, is the Universal Death Decree [also referenced in Daniel 12:11] which is set up on the 1,290th day of the 1,335 days of Daniel 12:12.
So, an abomination that causes desolation is this: a great insult, an evil act committed against Almighty God; a detestable plan implemented by man for the purpose of destroying an object of God’s affection. Just as wicked men surrounded ancient Jerusalem to destroy it, so wicked men will surround the saints of God with an intent to destroy them during the Great Tribulation. (Revelation 13:15) From the casting down of the censer, there will be 1,290 days before a universal death decree is issued against the saints. [See the book of Esther for a parallel story about an abomination that almost caused desolation.] This is why the Bible says, “Blessed is the one who waits for and reaches the 1,335th day.”
Those people who live beyond the universal death decree will see Christ appear in clouds of glory and victory. They will witness the most powerful battle ever seen on earth as Jesus destroys the false prophet and the beast. The redeemed who live to see Jesus come will be the eyewitnesses who can sing the song of mighty deliverance, and they will also tell of this glorious rescue to those individuals who slept in death through this event. What a blessing God will give the people who will endure to the end. They kept the faith and He who is Faithful and True kept them from death!
By the way…….History records that when Jerusalem was destroyed in A.D. 70, every stone in the temple was pulled apart by Roman soldiers to retrieve the gold that melted during the great fiery conflagration. (Matthew 24:2) According to the Jewish historian, Josephus, more than one million Jews were killed and 97,000 were taken captive. The amazing thing about this story is historical records claim that not one Christian perished during the destruction of Jerusalem.
When Vespesian abandoned the siege, all of the Christians who had been trapped inside the city escaped for their lives to Pella. They understood and believed the prophecy of Daniel 11 which had been highlighted by Jesus just 40 years earlier. [Do you think those early Christians would say that understanding prophecy is important?]
Most Christians today have no idea about the events that are coming. They are like the Jews living inside ancient Jerusalem. Vespesian’s departure did not mean an end to Rome’s hostilities against Jerusalem, as the Jews mistakenly presumed. It was merely a signal of a reprieve — a window of opportunity to escape. Christian believers who understood Jesus’ words knew what was coming next and fled the doomed city.
In our day, people who understand Daniel’s words can know what is coming next and when the time becomes appropriate, they will flee from Babylon and separate themselves from this horrible system that will form. God wants His people to understand the big picture before it happens.
As I understand it, the meaning of three elements in Daniel 12:11,12 is most important.
- The termination of the daily refers to the corporate intercession of Jesus in Heaven.
- The abomination that causes desolation at the 1,290th day refers to a universal death decree issued against the saints.
- The blessing promised to those people who wait for and reach the 1,335th day refers to those people who are eye witnesses to the majesty and glory that belongs to Jesus as He crushes His enemies at the Second Coming.
Why are these three elements united in these two verses? Because there will always be some eye witnesses who live through all of the end-time events and these people will testify throughout eternity about God’s wrath and God’s grace! Think about this. These eye witnesses will observe something that no one else has ever seen nor will ever see again. They will not only behold the fiery zeal of God’s wrath, but they will also experience the generosity of God’s offer for salvation to the entire human race, within a maximum of 1,335 days!