Summary: A teaching about the abomination that causes desolation prophecies of Daniel and Jesus Christ


A Bible Study Series on Prophecy: What do we now know?

By Walter Thomas

This is one in a series of Bible prophecy studies on matters for which we now have considerable certainty. Many prophetic events have already occurred, giving us reference points to connect dots that were here-to-for speculatory, mysterious and unknown.

The very phrase “abomination that causes desolation” sounds mysterious to most readers of the Bible, even causing dread and fear in some. The phrase is mentioned six times in Scripture, 3 by the prophet Daniel and in Mathew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21, the latter three likely being the same instance reported by three different disciple witnesses listening to Jesus explain the signs of the “end of times”.

There have been many speculations and theories propagated through the centuries since the time of Christ trying to explain and interpret these prophetic references to abomination and desolation. Many of them ignore the obvious self-explanations of Scripture and some were mysteries until certain recent events have occurred, that made understanding more possible. Most of the “dispensational” explanations lack Biblical basis and are more speculation than scriptural, while not being supported by history at all.

Serious study of these six scriptures in the gospels and the book of Daniel, along with some in Revelation, allows us to connect some dots that give insight into a number of questions we will raise in this teaching, questions having to do with who, what, when, why and where?

I’ve referred to the study of Biblical prophecy like trying to put together a very large picture puzzle, but you can’t see the picture which is up-side down! So you try to put shapes and pieces together until something fits, and eventually a picture and pattern emerge.

The key reference to the abomination/desolation concept is provided by Jesus in a private conversation with His disciples, when they asked Him questions about when will the end-times be? Mathew 24 is probably the best and longest starting point for our study, which occurs in what is known as the Olivet Discourse, occurring just a few hundred yards east of the temple mount on the outskirts of Jerusalem, which is so easily seen from that elevated point on the mount of Olives. It occurs in the last week prior to the crucifixion of Jesus when His earthly ministry was coming to a close. They had just walked east out of the temple courts and Jesus said (referring to the Temple and Temple Mount) that not one of these stones will be left standing someday. The disciples then asked Him three things: (vs. 3) “Tell us when this will happen, what will be the sign of your coming, and what will be the sign of the end of the age?” Jesus likened the signs to reading the weather signs in the sky and studying the life-cycle of a fig tree, as illustrations of “signs” we understand already. In other words, if a person can look at rain clouds in the sky and know it is going to rain, so one can look at these listed signs and make warranted conclusions. Jesus gave his listeners 25 signs to look for in Matthew 24, to know when these things will be. This abomination/desolation phrase, is sign # 17 and occurs in Matt. 24:15-16,

“And when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel---then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.”

The Gospels of Mark (13:14) and Luke (21:20) record the same teaching, but with a slight variation to be discussed below.

1. WHAT DOES THE PHRASE MEAN? The two words, abomination and desolation, become a good starting point in determining the phrase’s meaning. The Hebrew definition of abomination is shiqquwts {shik-koots’} or shiqquts {shik-koots’} means something that is very detestable or damnable, such as detestable things, abominable filth, abominable idols, or abominable sexual behavior. Abominable objects (detestable things) and behavior would desecrate the Holy Temple and many examples are given in the Torah. Something that was consecrated or sanctified wholly and holy to God would be the opposite of that which is abominable or detestable. Therefore, we can conclude that an “abomination” would be completely abhorrent and repulsive to a Holy God. The word “desolation” or “desolate” comes from the Hebrew word shamem {shaw-mame’}, to lay waste and barren in such a manner as to be stunning and astonishing. A desolate place would be forsaken, abandoned, barren, scarred, defoliated, wasted and un-useful. Therefore, the abomination that makes desolate is something that is totally detestable to God and God’s people, and which is a terribly devastating event that lays everything and everyone waste.

2. WHERE IS IT? This is one of the more easy questions to answer since we are told in Matt. 24 that it will occur in the “holy place”, which is the temple mount that Jesus and the disciples were looking at—and Jesus was probably pointing to it as he spoke. The holy of holies in the Temple, the Temple Mount, and the city of Jerusalem (the Holy City) are inclusive in the term “holy place”. There is no other such designation in Scripture. Mark (13:14) gives further location fact by saying it will be “in a place where it does not belong.” In the Torah, things that belong there are holy, consecrated and dedicated things; while things that do not belong are called detestable and abominable. So connecting this location dot is rather simple: it is in Jerusalem, on the temple mount and particularly in the temple itself. A third gospel reference is made in Luke 21:20 to the same event (“it”), when Jesus says, “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near.” So now we know the location is Jerusalem which is facing desolation.

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