In 168 BC the Greek Hellenistic King, Antiochus Epiphanes slaughtered a pig on the altar and offered it to Zeus in the Temple in Jerusalem, it became known as the ‘abomination of desolation’. This description was used around 600 years previously in a prophecy by Daniel (chapter 9) as the people of God were exiled in Babylon. Was the prophecy fulfilled in 168 BC? According to Jesus the answer was it was still to come.
“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. Let no one on the housetop go down to take anything out of the house. Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great distress, unequalled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equalled again.” (Matthew 24 v 15-21)
In AD 70 Titus and the Roman Army moved in to Jerusalem. They reduced the Temple to rubble and took the holy artefacts back to Rome. During this ‘abomination of desolation’ over 1 million Jews died. However the Jewish Christians heeded Jesus warning and when the Romans were approaching fled the city.
Luke’s gospel details this prophecy of Jesus in referring to AD 70. Matthew and Mark indicate that it has more than one event in mind. Was the holocaust an abomination of desolation? It certainly was for those going through it. Is Paul referring to this prophecy regarding his ‘man of lawlessness’ (2 Thess 2)? Again does John have this in mind in his vision of the beast (Revelation 13)?
It would seem that there is an abomination to come, for many, they are currently experiencing it. The spirit of the Anti-Christ is in the world increasing in every generation its abhorrent acts against God’s people. Yet there is one last abomination to come, ‘unequalled from the beginning of the world until now – and never to be equalled again.’
Many write their interpretation of the end times using this and other passages. It is a minefield of understanding. Do we have a detailed plan of what will happen and what to look for? No. The variants are many. Over the next few days we will walk slowly though the verses.
But to close note one thing Jesus calls us to do. ‘Pray’. In the time of the escape, in the time of fear and wondering what exactly is going to happen, make sure you are talking to God. Jesus says pray that you will be able to escape easily, not in winter or with religious restrictions. The encouragement is to talk to God throughout this difficulty.
And so today, whatever you are facing and it won’t be the abomination, but for some in our world it will feel like it as they plan their escape, pray. If you can talk to God then He is there with you. If you can talk to God then there is hope.