Let The Reader Understand

“So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand” (Matthew 24:15, NIV 1984)

My Musings – The word abomination is typically associated with pagan idolatry and its detestable practices. “They turned their backs to me and not their faces; though I taught them again and again, they would not listen or respond to discipline. They set up their abominable idols in the house that bears my Name and defiled it. They built high places for Baal in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to sacrifice their sons and daughters to Molech, though I never commanded, nor did it enter my mind, that they should do such a detestable thing and so make Judah sin.” ( Jeremiah 32:32–35, NIV 1984).

The Abomination of Desolation, or The Abomination That Causes Desolation, is more specific and likely refers to the presence of an idolatrous person or object in the temple that is so detestable that it causes the temple to be abandoned and left desolate. The reference to the abomination of desolation in Matthew 24 is an allusion the book of Daniel. “The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.” (Daniel 9:26–27, NIV 1984).

There are three potential events that fit the description of the Abomination That Causes Desolation.

The first occurred before Christ’s first Advent. Historically, the fulfillment of Daniel’s prophetic use of the expression was likely the desecration of the temple in 167 BC by the Syrian ruler Antiochus Epiphanes. He erected an altar to the pagan Greek god Zeus over the altar of burnt offering and sacrificed a pig on it (1 Maccabees 1:41–64; 6:7; and Josephus the Antiquities of the Jews 12. 5. 4).

The second occurred after Christ’s Ascension. Josephus, who lived through the war of 66–70 AD, thought the Abomination of Desolation happened in 66 AD, when Zealots shed the blood of priests in the temple. Others date the abomination of desolation three and one-half years later, in 70 AD. The Jews considered it a sacrilege when the Roman standards, which bore the image of the emperor (graven image of a worshipped emperor), were brought into Jerusalem. But in 70 AD, when the temple was destroyed, the Romans went even further when they erected these standards over the desolated site of the temple. Both of these views very well could be fulfillments of Jesus’ prophecy.

The third occurrence may be one that is yet to come. If so, the events of 167 BC and 70 AD were “types” that foreshadowed a final fulfillment of Daniel’s and Jesus’ words that will occur just prior to Christ’s Second Advent. Language in Mark’s Gospel suggests that “the abomination that causes desolation” is a future person “standing where it does not belong.” (Mark 13:14, NIV 1984). This person could very well be the end-time Anti-Christ. “Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.” (Thessalonians 2:3–4, NIV 1984).

He is expected to make a covenant with the Jewish people at the beginning of the seven-year Tribulation period preceding Christ’s Second Coming. The temple will also likely be rebuilt and worship reestablished. “Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, and count the worshipers there.” (Revelation 11:1, NIV 1984). In the middle of this period (after 3½ years) the Anti-Christ is expected to break his covenant, put a stop to temple sacrifices, desecrate the temple, and proclaim himself to be God. “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand.” (Matthew 24:15, NIV 1984).

My Advice – Read to understand. Just make sure it is God’s Word you’re reading and not reading into God’s Word.


Grassmick, J. D. (1985). Mark. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 169). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (Mk 13:14). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Author: thebrewisamusing

I was raised in a Christian family and my earliest childhood memories include regular Sunday school and Church attendance as a family. I was taught that our Judeo-Christian values were not just a part of our Sunday routine they should be part of our character and influence all aspects of our lives. I was also taught that as important as these values were they could not save us. We must also be “born again” by accepting Christ.

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