What Is the ‘Abomination of Desolation’?

Posted: September 8, 2014 in Bible Study, Bible Study - Mark, Misused Bible verses, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Dan Doriani writes an excellent take on the ‘Abomination of Desolation’ of Matthew 24:15, Mark 13:14 and Luke 21:20:

What Is the ‘Abomination of Desolation’? | TGC | The Gospel Coalition.

I would just like to add my 2c worth…

In Mark 13:14 the sign for the disciples that the destruction of the temple is soon to happen is this ‘abomination that causes desolation’. This term appears 3 times in Daniel 9,11 & 12. In each case it is associated with the putting to an end the sacrifices – ie. the Temple itself will be desecrated, made unclean, so that it can no longer be used for worship, and is no longer a suitable house for God’s glorious presence. In 68AD, with tension between the Jews and Rome on a knife edge, the Zealots (Judas was a member of this group), who saw that the Kingdom of God would be brought in only when they rebelled against Rome and took Jerusalem by force, had the High priest and those loyal to him murdered, installed their own man ‘Phanni’ as High Priest, and turned the Temple into their fortress. The temple was filled with the blood of humans, and became a place of violence, drunkenness and immorality. In response the Romans multiplied their armies, and literally surrounded Jerusalem, until in 70AD they besieged the city, slaughtering all they came across – men, women and children – and destroyed the Temple and all who were in it. They literally trampled Jerusalem underfoot.

So I put it that the Abomination is not primarily the Romans, but the Zealots – those who themselves were Jews had brought desolation to their own Temple!

The Jews saw this as an action for which the wrath of God would come upon the Romans; yet Jesus describes it as ‘wrath against this people’ (23). Just a few days earlier he had stood weeping over Jerusalem:

“Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation (Luke 19:42-44)

This was not about Rome storing up judgement for herself; it was about the judgement that Jesus’ own people had already stored up for themselves by rejecting him as their Messiah. They should have recognised that their responsibility as God’s chosen people was to welcome the Messiah when he came; to recognise Him as the fulfilment, the ‘Yes’ to all of God’s promises to bless them and to make them a blessing to the Nations; yet they forsook this commission, wanting to keep all of God’s blessing for themselves, and cut themselves off from and despised the nations.

Yet God’s promises and plans were not to be thwarted by Israel’s disobedience. Paul speaks in Romans 11 about the necessity of this judgement:

So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean (Romans 11:11-12)

…a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in (Romans 11:25)

This is the ‘time of the Gentiles’ that Jesus speaks of here (24). The old system of the Temple with all its rituals; the city, nation and people of the Jews, has been brought to an end because now the Gospel is going out not just to Jews by to every tribe and people and tongue and nation.

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Comments
  1. Stuart Archer says:

    Luke seems to identify the Abomination of Desolation in this way: “…When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near.” There would seem to require a very specific ‘signal’ to flee, and the urgency suggests a small window of opportunity, and we know that the armies withdrew for a season, which those who fled took advantage of.
    Would this then not imply that the abomination of desolation (or rather ‘that brings desolation’) was Rome ie Rome was the vehicle that was to bring desolation to Jerusalem that had heaped up judgement upon itself for reasons you give. Judgement was upon Jerusalem but the vehicle that brought this desolation was Rome, much as it had been Antichus IV Epiphanes had been the earlier Abomination spoken of by Daniel.
    Cheers Stuart

    • JK says:

      Stuart, thanks for the comment.
      I agree there is a connection here, and Luke is reporting the same conversation as in Mark 13. However I’m not sure that the use of the same word ‘desolation’ necessarily means it’s the same part of the conversation. In Mark he speaks of the Abomination ‘standing where it ought not be’, and it’s a clear reference to a sacrilege in the temple. Luke 21:20 however speaks of armies surrounding Jerusalem, and the desolation is of the city, rather than the Temple. So while the Romans did bring desolation, I still believe the ‘abomination’ was the actions of the Jewish zealots within the Temple which desecrated the Holy Place. In that sense, the desolation was a spiritual one, to which God responded by bringing the physical desolation through Rome, marking the end of the Old covenant and the beginning of the new age in which the physical Temple will never again be used as it is made obsolete through Jesus.

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