Abomination of Desolation

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The Abomination of Desolation is a Biblical term for a specific act: the desecration of the Jewish temple via the setting up of an image of a pagan god inside the sanctuary, followed by the sacrifice of a sow or other animal considered unclean. This act occurred only once in the historical record, when Antiochus IV Epiphanes profaned the Second Temple, sparking the Maccabean Revolt.


The Hebrew root for abomination is שׁקץ, shākac, “to be filthy,” “to loathe,” “to abhor,” from which is derived שׁקּץ or שׁקּוּץ, shikkuc or shikkūc, “filthy,” especially “idolatrous.” This word is used to describe specific forms of idolatrous worship that were especially abhorrent, as that of the Ammonites and the Moabites (1 Kings 11:5-7; 2 Kings 23:13). When Daniel undertook to specify an abomination so surpassingly disgusting to the sense of morality and decency, and so aggressive against everything that was godly as to drive all from its presence and leave its abode desolate, he chose this term as the strongest among the several synonyms, adding the qualification “that maketh desolate” (Daniel 11:31; 12:11). The same noun, though in the plural, occurs in Deuteronomy 29:17; 2 Kings 23:24; Isaiah 66:3; Jeremiah 4:1, 7:30, 13:27, and 32:34; Ezekiel 20:7-8 and 20:30; Daniel 9:27; Hosea 9:10; and Zechariah 9:7. The New Testament equivalent of the noun is βδέλυγμα, bdél-ug-ma = “detestable,” i.e. (specially) “idolatrous.” Alluding to Daniel, Christ spoke of the “abomination of desolation” in Matthew 24:15 and Mark 13:14.

Historical Background

Since the invasion of the Assyrians and Chaldeans, the Jewish people had been without political independence. From the Chaldeans the rulership of Judea had been transferred to the Persians, and from the Persians, after an interval of 200 years, to Alexander the Great. From the beginning of the Persian sovereignty the Jews had been permitted to renew their religious and political commonwealth, thus establishing a state under the rulership of priests, for the high priest was not only the highest functionary of Judaism, but also the chief magistrate in so far as these prerogatives were not exercised by the king of the conquering nation. Ezra had given a new significance to the Tōrāh by having it read to the whole congregation of Israel and by his vigorous enforcement of the law of separation from the Gentiles. His emphasis of the law introduced the period of legalism and finical interpretation of the letter which called forth some of the bitterest invectives of our Saviour (Mathew 23). Specialists of the law known as “scribes” devoted themselves to its study and subtle interpretation, and the pious beheld the highest moral accomplishment in the extremely conscientious observance of every precept. But in opposition to this class, there were those who, influenced by the Hellenistic culture, introduced by the conquests of Alexander the Great, were inclined to a more “liberal” policy. Thus, two opposing parties were developed: the Hellenistic, and the party of the Pious, or the Chasidim, hăsīdhīm (Hasidaeans, 1 Maccabes 2:42; 7:13), who held fast to the strict ideal of the scribes. The former gradually came into ascendancy. Judea was rapidly becoming Hellenistic in all phases of its political, social and religious life, and the “Pious” were dwindling to a small minority sect. This was the situation when Antiochus IV Epiphanes set out to suppress the last vestige of the Jewish religion by the application of brute force.

Antiochus Epiphanes

Antiochus IV, son of Antiochus the Great, became the successor of his brother, Seleucus IV, who had been murdered by his minister, Heliodorus, as king of Syria (175-164 B.C.). He was by nature a despot; eccentric and unreliable; sometimes a spendthrift, fraternizing in an affected manner with those of lower station; sometimes cruel and tyrannical, as witness his aggressions against Judea. Polybius (26 10) tells us that his eccentric ideas caused some to speak of him as a man of pure motive and humble character, while others hinted at insanity. The epithet Epiphanes is an abbreviation of theós epīphanes, which is the designation given himself by Antiochus on his coins, and means “the god who appears or reveals himself.” Egyptian writers translate the inscription, “God which comes forth,” namely, like the burning sun (Horos or Helios) on the horizon, thus identifying the king with the triumphal, appearing god. When Antiochus Epiphanes arose to the throne, Onias III, as high priest, was the leader of the old orthodox party in Judea; the head of the Hellenists was his own brother Jesus, a man who preferred to designate himself by the Greek name Jason, indicating the trend of his mind. Jason promised the king large sums of money for the transfer of the office of high priest from his brother to himself and the privilege of erecting a gymnasium and a temple to Phallus, and for the granting of the privilege “to enroll the inhabitants of Jerusalem as citizens of Antioch.” Antiochus gladly agreed to everything. Onias was removed, Jason became high priest, and henceforth the process of Hellenizing Judea was pushed energetically. The Jewish religion was not attacked, but the “legal institutions were set aside, and illegal practices were introduced” (2 Maccabees 4:11). A gymnasium was erected outside the castle; the youth of Jerusalem exercised themselves in the gymnastic art of the Greeks, and even priests left their services at the altar to take part in the contest of the palaestra. The disregard of Jewish custom went so far that many artificially removed the traces of circumcision from their bodies, and with characteristic liberality, Jason even sent a contribution to the sacrifices in honor of Heracles on the occasion of the quadrennial festivities in Tyre.

Suppression of the Jewish Religion

Under these conditions it is not surprising that Antiochus should have had both the inclination and the courage to undertake the total eradication of the Jewish religion and the establishment of Greek polytheism in its stead. The observance of all Jewish laws, especially those relating to the Sabbath and to circumcision, were forbidden under pain of death. The Jewish religion was set aside, and in all cities of Judea, sacrifices were ordered to be brought to the pagan deities, with representatives of the crown everywhere enforcing the edict. Once a month a search was instituted, and whoever had secreted a copy of the Law or had observed the rite of circumcision was condemned to death. In Jerusalem on the 15th of Chislev of the year 145 aet Sel, (December, 168 B.C.) a pagan altar was built on the Great Altar of Burnt Sacrifices in front of the Temple, and on the 25th of Chislev, sacrifice was brought on this altar for the first time (1 Maccabees 1:54, 59). This evidently was the “abomination of desolation.” The sacrifice, according to 2 Maccabees, was brought to the Olympian Zeus, to whom the temple of Jerusalem had been re-dedicated. This act of Antiochus was considered so revolting that Mattathias, a former priest of the course of Joarib (1 Chronicles 24:7), overthrew the pagan altar and summoned any who would follow him to drive away the pagan deities, leading to the revolt under Judas the Maccabee. See Maccabees, Books of.

Future or Futurism Christian Eschatology

In Matthew 24:15, Christ told His disciples that during the last days, those who would see the abomination of desolation as spoken by Daniel the prophet needed to flee to the mountains. This event is to occur once again in the re-built Third Temple during the seventieth week (Daniel 9:27; 12:11) when the Antichrist breaks his seven-year covenant with Israel and erects an image to himself in the sanctuary.

Much more elaborate forecasting which connects the Abomination of Desolation to both Antichrist and to the desecration of a rebuilt Third Temple is held by Futurism-style eschatologists.

Some Evangelical (viz., Futurism - Christian eschatology)-interpreters of the End Times see in Daniel 7-12 the repeated references to the desecration of the temple under Antiochus IV Epiphanes as a prototype of the latter-days' Antichrist or the Beast - that there are two future applications: (1) The future desecration of a rebuilt Jewish Third Temple by the Antichrist known as the Abomination of Desolation (i.e., "earthly"); and (2) The desecration of the body of Antichrist II Thessalonians) through the incarnation of Satan wherein the parody of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ takes place (i.e., "spiritual" or "heavenly") and the Antichrist is from then on entitled the Beast(See: Revelation 11:7 and Revelation 13:1-8), (Ref: the Antichrist and Whore of Babylon, i.e., Mother of Harlots and Abominations of the Earth).

Futurist Christians consider the Abomination of Desolation prophecy of Daniel mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 24:15 and Mark 13:14 as referring to an event in the end time future, when a 7-year peace treaty will be signed between Israel and a world ruler called the Man of Sin or the Man of Lawlessness, or the Antichrist affirmed by the writings of the Apostle Paul in II Thessalonians.

Premillenialism-style futurists like Arthur Pink in his classic work The Antichrist attribute vast portions within the Old and New Testament to this future figure. Doug Krieger, in his e-books entitled Antichrist Reflections on the Desolator[1] (January 22, 2008) and Antichrist and the Gog-Magog War[2] (March 27, 2005) identifies the future Antichrist as the product of Greco-Roman man or a future leader of the West (viz., the United States of America)--tracing the portions of Daniel 7-8 to the Beast of Revelation 11 and Revelation 13, yet to ascend from the sea as a composite of a final Gentile World Power with the same animal-empire descriptions found in Daniel ("Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion" - Revelation 13:2).

Krieger claims that the title of Antichrist (found only in I John 2:22, I John 4:3 and II John) is given to this future figure who will parody Jesus Christ in his death and resurrection when, as the leader of the West, he will feign himself as a Messiah-like figure to both Jews and Gentiles for the first three-and-one-half years of Daniel's yet future Prophecy of Seventy Weeks (Daniel 9:24-27). Paul states in II Thessalonians: "...the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God." In his thesis, Krieger cites Donald Barnhouse in his commentary on Revelation (1971, Zondervan) who affirms that the Beast of Revelation is the incarnation of Satan into the body of Antichrist and that the Abomination of Desolation is this future event. This revelation of the "man of sin" is two-fold: (1) he is assassinated in a rebuilt Jewish Temple (the so-called Third Temple) when religious Jews become outraged over his self-deification and declarations of godhood—a blatant desecration; and (2) whereupon Satan incarnates himself into Antichrist's body and feigns the resurrection (i.e., "temple" as when Jesus said: "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up...he was speaking of the temple of his body" - (John 2:19-21). John the Apostle in Revelation 11:7; and Revelation 13:3 describes the Antichrist transformed into The Beast for the final half of Daniel's Prophecy of Seventy Weeks: "And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast." Paul's description of the "man of sin" as the "son of perdition" in II Thessalonians 2:2-3 parallels the account when "Satan entered into Judas" {Luke 22:3; John 13:27) to commit the act of betrayal. Jesus entitled Judas as "the son of perdition" (John 17:12); therefore, the incarnation of Satan into the body of Antichrist in the middle of Daniel's Prophecy of Seventy Weeks (Daniel 9:27) terminates the sacerdotal rites of the Third Temple (Daniel 8:11-14; Daniel 11:31-32; Daniel 12:11)- this is the Abomination of Desolation or Transgression of Desolation (Daniel 8:13; Daniel 9:27; Daniel 11:31; Daniel 12:11) - both the desecration of the literal Third Temple and the desecration of the Antichrist, whereupon he is entitled the Beast (i.e., without divine capacity to fellowship with God - the "son of perdition" or "destruction" and "utter damnation"), are considered as the Abomination of Desolation (II Thessalonians 2:2).

The typology of the Holy of Holies or the innermost sanctuary of the Jewish Temple is, according to many Evangelicals (especially among the Plymouth Brethren) the picture of a man's being: spirit, and soul and body (I Thessalonians 5:23) which is likened to the Jewish Temple's "outer court" (i.e., the body); the "Holy Place" (i.e., the soul) and the Holy of Holies (i.e., the spirit of a man). Jesus taught that unless a man were "born anew" he could not see the kingdom of God. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3:6). The desecration of the Holy of Holies would be likened to the desecration of the human spirit - this is the part of man that would be entered into by Satan as Satan in Revelation 13 would enter into the lifeless body of the Antichrist. Once this act of interior desecration occurs, Antichrist takes the title of the Beast (Revelation 11:7 and Revelation 13:1-10). A beast, affirmed by orthodox Christianity, is not made in the "image of God" - cannot fellowship or commune with God; therefore, as the entitlement of the "son of perdition" the Beast has no possibility of salvation or fellowship with the Almighty. It is the "temple" of the body of Antichrist that is desecrated in the "spiritual realm" - as it is the future Third Temple in Jerusalem (i.e., earth) which awaits the final confrontation and desecration. (See: 2300 Day Prophecy of Daniel 8 - Sacrifice and Desecration - Futurism (Christian eschatology) and the Prophecy of Seventy Weeks)

Some within Premillennial Futurism affirm that the 2300 days of Daniel 8:14 have not yet occurred and refer to the future sacerdotal rites of a yet future Third Temple to be built during Daniel's Prophecy of Seventy Weeks - which also is yet future. The "reign of the Beast" commences at the midpoint of Daniel's Prophecy of Seventy Weeks found in Daniel 9:24-27 and thus ensues in days (lit. evening and morning - Daniel 8:14) the 1290 days of "desolations" or "abominations" (Daniel 12:12). These "desolations" or "the host to be trampled underfoot" (Daniel 8:13) must be calculated by adding the days of the "daily sacrifices" in a restored or rededicated Third Temple, yet future, to the "days of desolation" or 1010 (days of sacrifice) + 1290 (days of desolations-(Daniel 12:11) = 2300 days: "'How long will the vision be, concerning the daily sacrifices and the transgression of desolation, the giving of both the sanctuary and the host to be trampled underfoot?' and he said to me, 'For two thousand three hundred days; then the sanctuary shall be cleansed.'" (Daniel 8:14) The calculation of the 1010 days of sacrifice is determined by subtracting the 1290 days of desolation found in Daniel 12:11 from the total of 2300 days found in Daniel 8:13-14. Krieger claims that the thirty day extension of the 1290-1260 = 30 days expands as follows: (1) The final half of Daniel's Seventieth Week concludes at the terminus of the 1260 days which will be the prewrath rapture of the Church and the sealing of National Israel; (2) the 30 days beyond the 1260 day latter half of Daniel's Seventieth Week will be the period of the "Wrath of God" or the "Wrath of the Lamb" found in Revelation 14:17-20 or the conclusion of the Armageddon Campaign - i.e., "the Battle of Armageddon" (Revelation 16:16); (3) at the conclusion of the 1290th Day will be the Second Coming of Christ, the Messiah, to the earth; and (4) the 45 day extension beyond the 1290th Day or until the 1335th Day mentioned in Daniel 12:12 will be the period of time in which Messiah shall unveil or reveal Himself to National Israel and the fulfillment of "Blessed is he who waits, and comes to the one thousand three hundred and thirty-five days" (Daniel 12:12) will be fulfilled (cf. Romans 11:26-27; Luke 13:35). The initial 250 days of the first half of Daniel's Seventieth Week will initiate in the "Treaty of Death and Hell" between Antichrist and Israel's majority (Daniel 9:27; Isaiah 28:15; Isaiah 28:18) and almost immediately thereafter will be what is known as the Gog - Magog War (See: Daniel 11:40-43 and Ezekiel 38:1-23 and Ezekiel 39:1-16). This will be during the first 40 days of the Seventieth Week and then in the aftermath of the Gog-Magog War it will take some seven months (i.e., 210 days or 7 x 30 = 210 - see Ezekiel 39:7) - this brings one to the 250th day of the first half of Daniel's Seventieth Week, leaving an additional 1010 days of "sacrifice" which would constitute the entire first half of the Seventieth Week (or - 40 days + 210 days + 1010 days = 1260 days or 3 1/2 years or 3.5 days of a week). Then will come the Abomination of Desolation and the 1290 days of abominations mentioned in Daniel 12:11.

Donald Barnhouse, Hal Lindsey, John Walvoord and many other premillenarian futurists affirm that the prophecies of the Antichrist and the Abomination of Desolation are futuristic, based upon the many citings found in Daniel 7-12; likewise, these prophecies were not fulfilled by the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD, which is the claim of Preterism. These eschatologists conclude that the Prophecy of Seventy Weeks is directed to Jews in a regathered Israel in the "latter days" ("Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city" - Daniel 9:24). Premillenialism-style futurists like Arthur Pink in his classic work "The Antichrist" attribute vast portions within the Old and New Testament to this future figure and see the 1260 days of the first part of the Prophecy of Seventy Weeks as literal days, as well as the additional 1290 days or period of the days of abomination.

It is within the context of a future Prophecy of Seventy Weeks that the final week is separated out from the original 69 weeks (just as the first and second comings of Christ have a "gap" - even so, the final week is separated from the original 69 weeks; hence, the "gap." The final week is broken up into two parts (the initial 1260 days of the prevailing testimony of the Two Witnesses (which mirrors the time frame of Jesus' earthly ministry) until the "middle of the week" being the Abomination of Desolation and the final 1260 days (or 42 months; time, times and half a time; 3.5 days (Revelation 11:9-11) of the reign of the Beast being the latter half of the week, with 30 days unto the 1290th day (Daniel 12:11) being the period known as the Wrath of the Lamb or Wrath of God {Revelation 14:17-20 and Revelation 16:12-21). It is this Beast - now inhabited by Satan as the second son of perdition who shall desecrate the Third Temple and begin his beastly reign for 1290 days (Daniel 12:11). But, as Antichrist, prior to his reign as the Beast, he will "make a covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering" (Daniel 9:27). The final 45 days beyond the 30 days (comprising a total of 75 days beyond the final week of Daniel's Prophecy of Seventy Weeks commences with the Second Coming of Christ and the unveiling of Messiah to Israel prior to the literal Millennium or 1,000-year rule and reign of Messiah - this is the time of "Blessed is he who waits, and comes to the one thousand three hundred and thirty five days" (Daniel 12:13).

Text used in part from the 1913 International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, a work in the public domain.

See also