Prophetic Personages and Events

The Bible Monthly vol 1



"When therefore ye see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of by Daniel the Prophet, standing in the holy place (let him that readeth understand), then let them that are in Judaea flee unto the mountains" (Matt. xxiv. 15, 16, R.V.).

One of the great chronological landmarks of the future is the appearance of the abomination of desolation in the holy place. Direct references to this of sign are found in the prophecies of Daniel, and also in the instructions of our Lord, delivered privately to His disciples on Mount Olivet and recorded by Matthew and Mark. If the abomination should be seen in the temple, all those in Jerusalem and the vicinity should take instant flight, because of the out break of tribulation which would immediately ensue. We will first of all examine in some detail the reference made by our Lord to the appearance of this sign.


The Lord, in the course of His ministry, had repeatedly presented Himself to the daughter of Zion as the King of Israel, but in vain. It was now the last week before the crucifixion, and the Lord had formally and solemnly abandoned Jerusalem to the judgments that would befall the nation on account of their rejection of their Messiah (Matt. xxiii. 37-39.) Their house was left desolate, and the Jews should not see Messiah their Prince until they said, " Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord."

Meanwhile, the temple of the Jews, with its goodly buildings, should, the Lord said to His disciples, be so utterly destroyed that not one stone would be left upon another. (Matt.. xxiv. 2.) Now, the temple on Mount Zion was the acknowledged earthly centre of their national religion, and the Lord's announcement of its total destruction awakened a serious difficulty in the minds of the disciples, who were confidently expecting the millennial reign of the Son of David to begin straightway.

They therefore asked the Lord definitely for further information concerning the date of the overthrow of the temple structure, and of the conclusion of the age then present, which was characterised by the subjection of the Jews to Gentile supremacy. That age had begun, so far as the kingdom of Judah was concerned, with the subjugation of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar more than six centuries earlier, and the disciples were hoping that the end of their servitude to a foreign empire was at hand, and that their Master would speedily bring their deliverance to pass.

The question put by the disciples to our Lord was, "Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the age [not, world]." (Matt. xxiv. 3.) In reply, the Lord delivered the lengthy prophecy, to which Matthew, Mark, and Luke refer, and of which each evangelist gives a summary suitable to the design of his own Gospel.

The answer of our Lord, as presented in the first Gospel is divided into sections, the first of which sets forth the general character of the times up to the end of the age. It must, of course, be remembered that the Lord was addressing His Jewish followers, and that they were expecting the immediate establishment of the kingdom of God upon earth (cp. Acts i. 6), and therefore that the turbulent conditions enumerated must be understood to apply either to the questioners themselves, or to others who, entertaining similar hopes, would arise before the end of the age.

The principal features of the coming days would be the prevalence of false Messiahs, international warfare and disasters, persecution and martyrdom, religious deception and general declension from the faith. Finally, the Lord said, the end of the age must not be expected until the gospel of the kingdom (not of the grace of God) had been preached throughout all the world unto all the Gentile nations. This proclamation is the gospel which announces as a warning the coming of the hour of divine judgment (Rev. xiv. 6, 7) , preparatory to the introduction of Christ's kingdom in power.

Having spoken in general terms Of these coming sorrows upon the faithful and believing Jews, the Lord proceeded to warn them specifically against the special time of un paralleled tribulation, which was also to come, and from which, because of its terrors, they would do well to escape. If they paid due heed to His words, they would be able to discern the dark cloud which would be the sure portent of the coming storm, and thereby they would know the hour in which they should flee for their lives (vv. 15-28).

This tribulation will be the climax of all suffering which has fallen upon man to endure. It will be unique in its intensity, "such as hath not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, nor ever shall be." But the pious remnant of that dark hour will not be left without a means of escape from these devastating horrors. The Lord gave them a sign, the appearance of which will be the signal for their instant flight. This signal will be the presence of the abomination of desolation in the holy place. The Lord's words were : "When, therefore, ye see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let him that readeth understand), then let them that are in Judaea flee unto the mountains." (Matt. xxiv. 15, 16.)

Clearly, the Lord revealed this sign, not to satisfy mere idle curiosity concerning the events of the future, but that His followers might be preserved from the cruel and name less horrors of a relentless persecution unto death which will arise in the period of the great tribulation, the intention of which will be to wipe out every believer on Christ from the face of the earth, and which, unless its days are mercifully shortened, would see the end of all flesh (v. 22). In speaking of the great sufferings which were to come, the Lord displayed His marvellous compassions, and offered His counsel to the feeble and delicate and others whose rapid flight might be impeded by special difficulties. His eye and heart were upon the one on the housetop or in the field, the women folk, the rigours of winter, and the limitations of the sabbath day, and there was a word given for each (vv. 17-20).


We may now seek the light of Scripture upon the meaning of the term itself, as well as consider the allusion which the Lord made to the use of this term in the prophecies of Daniel.

The word "abomination " occurs in various connections in the holy writings, and signifies what is impure and detest able, but particularly what is so estimated by a pure and holy God. For instance, certain animals are described as unclean and others abominable (Lev. xi. 4, 13), because of the ceremonial pollution which would follow their use as food. But the term has a much more frequent application to idols (Dent. vii. 26; xxix. 17; 1 Kings xi. 5, 7; 2 Kings xxiii. 13, 24; Isa. xliv. 19; lxvi. 3; and other passages.) When, there fore, our Lord spoke of the abomination which will be set up in the holy place, we may understand that the reference is to some object of idolatrous worship, which at a future date will be introduced into the temple in displacement of the worship of the living and true God.

Now, when we consult the Old Testament, it is specially noteworthy in connection with the present subject that the introduction of heathen abominations into the house of the LORD at Jerusalem was the primary cause of those divine judgments which fell so heavily upon the children of Judah, and caused the destruction of the city and the sanctuary and the exile of the people to Babylon (Jer. vii. 30; xxxii. 34.) . Ezekiel was shown in his visions that these were the evils of his people which had aroused the anger of Jehovah. He was himself a priest of God in captivity, and he was called, as a priest as well as a prophet, to look upon the great abominations committed in the very temple itself and its courts (Ezek. viii. 6, 9, 10, 13, 15, 17). He was thus divinely instructed that for these things the wrath of God was poured out upon the guilty house of Israel, so that its cities were laid waste and the land became a desolation (Ezek. xii. 19, 20) for the space of seventy years (Jer xxv. 11; Dan. ix. 2.)

Thus we find that in the past history of the Jewish nation there was a period when the setting up of abominations in the holy place at Jerusalem coincided with the outbreak of terrible judgments from God which were executed by the hand of the Gentile king. In the future history of the nation, as Daniel said and our Lord corroborated; there would be an analogous period, but on a larger scale of intensity.

There will, however, be this difference that whereas Ezekiel saw many abominations in the temple of Jehovah, the Jewish remnant are directed b y our Lord to look for the abomination of desolation, apparently a single object of idolatry pre-eminent in comparison with other objects also present in its audacious rivalry to the only living and true God, the Jehovah of Israel. The presence of this abomination in the holy place is to be the sure indication to those who believe the Lord's warning that the great tribulation is at hand, and that they should without delay take cover, and hide themselves until the indignation be overpast (Isa. xyvi. 20; Jer. xxx. 7.)


Looking back at the prophecies of Daniel, we see that in the last chapter this time of unparalleled tribulation for the Jews is foretold. Daniel was told "there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that time " (Dan. xii. I). The prophet, who was in anguish of spirit because of these afflictions in store for his beloved people, goes on to ask, "What shall be the end of these things? " (v. 8.) In the course of the reply given to this question, Daniel was informed that the vision was sealed, and that further and fuller revelation could not be made, but as a word of assurance it was added that the tribulation should be of limited extent : "from the time that the continual burnt offering shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days. Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days " (vv. 11,12). At the completion of these days, those who have waited in patience will see the end of the tribulation and the deliverance of the people, as the first verse of this same chapter shows.

A similar, though not quite identical, expression occurs -in two other passages of Daniel. In one of them we read, "they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place [or, set up] the abomination that maketh desolate " (Dan. xi. 31). This prophecy was fulfilled subsequent to Daniel's day, but was a past historical fact in our Lord's time. While it cannot, therefore, be the prophecy to which our Lord alluded as one that had still to be accomplished, it may be regarded as a type of that crowning act of sacrilege to which the Lord pointed.

Let us look more closely at the prophecy in the eleventh chapter. This particular vision was granted to Daniel in the first year of Darius the Medo-Persian king (Dan. xi. 1.) Therein the prophet saw what would ensue when the power of Greece (the third empire) succeeded in displacing the power of Persia (the second empire). There would be in the Grecian empire, after its dismemberment, two active combatants, known as the king of the north and the king of the south, whose mutual struggles would bring distraction and misery upon the land of the Jews which lay between their respective territories. These contests between successive monarchs of the enemy states would extend over many years, and they are described throughout the early part of this chapter (xi. 1-35).

One of these northern kings was an exceptionally evil and contemptible person, and, moreover, was a particularly bitter enemy of the Jews. This king is referred to in verses 21-35, and the climax of his infamy was the desecration of the temple at Jerusalem. The prophetic language directly concerning this event has already been quoted above (Dan. xi. 31).

We are told in secular history that Antiochus Epiphanes, one of the Graeco-Syrian kings, in the year B.C. 168, prohibited the daily burnt offering in the temple, polluted the sanctuary and the holy people, sacrificed swine's flesh, set up an idol altar in the holy place, and enjoined the worship of Jupiter instead of Jehovah. Penalties of death were imposed upon those who did not comply with these edicts, and a period of furious persecution followed for the Jews. Nevertheless, severe as it was, there is worse to come; for the tribulation which the Lord foretold will be one the like of which has not been, nor ever will be. We gather, there fore, that the abomination that maketh desolate spoken of in Daniel xi. 31 is not the one to which our Lord alluded, but to that in Daniel xii. 11, which is the abomination of desolation.


Help in understanding what is implied by the latter part of this phrase—"of desolation "—is afforded by another passage in the prophecies of Daniel. This passage is found in chapter ix. 27, and it shows that the reference is to the desolation which will come upon Jerusalem and the apostate Jews because of the abomination set up in the holy place, and that these severe judgments are executed by an enemy power, which is called the "desolator."

A revised translation of the verse in question will make the meaning of the verse clearer, and the following quotation is from J.N.D.'s version, which agrees with the Revised Version in the main : " And he shall confirm a covenant with the many for one week; and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and because of the protection of abominations there shall be a desolator, even until that the consumption and what is determined shall be poured out upon the desolate " (Dan. ix. 27).

In the context, the prophet is recording the events of the closing week of the series of seventy which Gabriel said were decreed upon Daniel's people and upon Jerusalem. He speaks of a prince, not of Messiah, but of a Roman prince, that is, of the fourth Gentile empire, who shall come. This coming prince will make a covenant or agreement for one week or for seven years, with the many, that is, with the majority of the Jewish people who will then be in their own land. In the middle of the week this Roman prince will renounce this covenant, and forbid the further offering of the sacrifice and oblation in the temple which will then have been resumed.

Following the enforced discontinuance of the Mosaic offerings, there will be, as we have learned from other scriptures, the setting up of the abomination in the holy place.

This act of outrage upon the faith of the Israelitish fathers will be, as it appears, the joint act of the Roman political power and of the religious power in Jerusalem, the latter of whom is variously known in other scriptures as the Anti-christ, the Man of sin, and the false Prophet. Both of these influential leaders are seen in the Apocalyptic visions under the symbols of the two beasts. (Rev. xiii.) And John saw in that vision that the image of the beast will be set up as an object for general worship (Rev. xiii. 14, 15), even as Nebuchadnezzar erected a golden image on the plain of Dura for general worship (Dan. iii). Moreover, the apostle Paul showed the Thessalonians that the Man of sin would, in the great apostasy, exalt himself in the temple of God as the supreme object of veneration (2 Thess. ii. 3, 4), and it would seem that this particular act is the one alluded to as the abomination of desolation, accompanied, as it no doubt will be, by other lesser abominations.

It will, as it appears, be with a view to carry out this stroke of policy that the great political power of the Western world (the revived Roman empire) will combine with the Jewish religious leader (the false Messiah) for the extinction of all true believers in God, and for the protection and propagation of idol worship in the holy city, which will be their centre of government. This evil alliance of Gentile and Jew is similar to that which compassed the crucifixion of our Lord (Acts iv. 27), to both of which events the second Psalm points (Ps. ii. 2, 3).

Turning back to our verse (Dan. ix. 27) we find that this protection afforded to idolatry in Jerusalem is the cause of the desolation that follows. In our ordinary version, we read of the "overspreading of abominations," the figure used being that of a wing, which often occurs in Scripture to signify that which covers or protects. (Ps. xxxvi. 7; lvii. 1). On account of this protection of consummate evil God will raise up a power which shall bring desolation upon this unholy alliance. The words are : "For {or, on account of] the protection [or, wing] of abominations, [there shall be] a desolator, even until the consummation, and that deter mined shall be poured out upon the desolate." Jerusalem is the desolate. She was left so spiritually by our Lord (Matt. xxiii. 38), and is still trodden down of the Gentiles (Luke xxi. 24), but at that time further desolations will be poured upon the desolate one until the vials of God's wrath are exhausted, and the nation has received the full reward of her sins. Compare the language of Psalm lxxiv., which looks forward to this time.

The external enemy of the Jews who will be employed as the executor of these judgments upon desolate Jerusalem will be the king of the north, the great Assyrian power, of whom we read in the latter part of Daniel xi., but of whom we cannot say more on this occasion.


The installation of the abomination of desolation in the holy place is a clear indication that the Jews will again abandon themselves to the worship of idols. This evil practice ceased on their return from the Babylonish captivity. And the nation was free from it at the coming of their Messiah. The Lord Himself mentioned, in a figurative way, this departure of the unclean spirit of idolatry, but He also warned of its future return in a more virulent form than before, alluding, no doubt, to the time of the setting up of the abomination of desolation.

The Lord's words were : "But the unclean spirit, when he is gone out of the man, passeth through waterless places, seeking rest, and findeth it not. Then he saith, I will return into my house whence I came out; and when he is come he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he and taketh with himself seven other spirits more evil than himself, and the y enter in and dwell there : and the last state of that man becometh worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this evil generation " (Matt. xii. 43-45, R. V.)

The empty and desolate, though swept and garnished, house is a picture of the present condition of the Jews. Jehovah no longer dwells in their midst. But the unclean spirit will return, accompanied by seven others worse than himself, and the power of Satan will assume proportions never known before. The last state of that wicked generation will be worse than the first. As He that hath the seven Spirits of God walks in the midst of the churches of God (Rev. i. 13), so one having seven spirits of evil with him will in that awful time take possession of the empty house of Judaism. Then the great mass of the people will be hurried to their doom, even as the herd of swine were stampeded to destruction b y the legion of demons. But a remnant will be saved, and Jehovah's promise to them is, "From all Your filthiness, and from all your idols, will 1 cleanse You." (Ezek. xxxvi. 25.)

The scriptures we have consulted have shown us that a premonition of these times will be the presence of the abomination of desolation in the holy place.