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What is the “abomination of desolation”

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What is the “abomination of desolation” Jesus talked about in Matthew 24? Is it a sign of the time of trouble?


Steve Answers:

Here’s the statement you referred to in Matthew 24:15, 16: “‘When you see the “abomination of desolation,” spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place’ (whoever reads, let him understand), ‘then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.’”

When Jesus coupled the words “when you see the ‘abomination of desolation’” with “flee to the mountains,” it’s an indication of some type of trouble! Seventh-day Adventists often think of the time of trouble as the final period of trouble in earth’s history (see Daniel 12:1). Already there have been many times of trouble on this earth.

Since Jesus referred to “the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet,” maybe we should look at what Daniel wrote about this topic! The phrase, or some form of it, is found in four different passages in Daniel: 8:13; 9:27; 11:31; and 12:11. You can look up all four passages, but here is Daniel 11:31: “Forces shall be mustered by him, and they shall defile the sanctuary fortress; then they shall take away the daily sacrifices, and place there the abomination of desolation.”

What does this mean? From a Hebrew perspective, it’s intimately tied to the relationship between God and His people and the accompanying worship services. Daniel’s references to the “abomination of desolation” often include the sanctuary—the presence of God—and its elements and activities, such as the cleansing of the sanctuary.

Solomon built for God what’s probably been the most magnificent sanctuary on earth. Yet Solomon also added worship places for his wives’ false gods. The Bible referred to this as an “abomination.” You can read about it in 1 Kings 11 and 2 Kings 23. Putting another god in place of the true God is abominable. That sounds like a direct defiance of the first commandment: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3, KJV).

“Desolation” is the result of what you get without God. John wrote: “He [Jesus] came to His own, and His own did not receive Him” (John 1:11). Near the end of His life Jesus uttered a series of scathing rebukes to the religious leaders, because they had persistently led the people away from God to the point of rejecting God. He finished this judgment with these words: “Your house is left to you desolate” (Matthew 23:38).

When Daniel wrote about the “abomination of desolation,” the sanctuary in Jerusalem had recently been destroyed (see Jeremiah 52:12-14). In fact, the entire city and even the wall of the city were demolished; the place was left desolate. But Daniel also wrote about the sanctuary being restored (see Daniel 9:25).

By the time Jesus issued His warning about “the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet,” another pagan leader had desecrated the temple. Christians don’t often think much about the Maccabean revolt more than 150 years before Christ’s birth. The Jews still celebrate this as Hanukkah. This came about because the sanctuary at that time had suffered an “abomination of desolation” from a pagan king. When Jesus spoke of an “abomination of desolation,” it was after the Maccabean revolt.

You mentioned that Matthew wrote about this. So did Mark (see Mark 13:14). So did Luke. He wrote: “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains” (Luke 21:20, 21). It happened in A.D. 70 when the Romans destroyed the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. History seems to repeat itself, doesn’t it? And what Jesus said about the destruction of Jerusalem seems to be a pattern or foretaste of what will happen on a global scale at the end of the world.

Many Protestants, including Seventh-day Adventists, consider the Christian church’s apostasy during the Dark Ages in Europe to be an abomination of desolation. Statues were added to Christian churches, people were encouraged to pray to dead saints instead of to Jesus, and people started confessing their sins to a priest instead of to Jesus. Ironically, the Christian church was keeping people away from Jesus!

These things went on for hundreds of years. This could certainly be considered a long-term “abomination of desolation.” It led to the reformation of the Christian church, and we Seventh-day Adventists consider ourselves to be a continuation of the need to reform in order to be more and more of what God desires us to be.

Some consider this long-term “abomination of desolation” to be what Jesus spoke about in Matthew. I think it is. But I agree with your suggestion that this also relates to the very end of this world, when there will be “a time of trouble, such as never was” (see Daniel 12:1).

Each time of trouble that you and I experience now is a testing time that lets us know where we stand. It also gives us a foretaste of where we will likely stand when the final abomination of desolation takes place.

While the phrase “abomination of desolation” petrifies some people, I want to respond the way Daniel’s friends did when they were threatened by the decree to worship false gods: “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up” (Daniel 3:17, 18).

While the majority of the people did worship a false god, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego walked in the midst of the fire with the Son of God (see Daniel 3:25). That’s what I want to do. How about you?



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