Abomination Of Desolation
The term abomination of desolation found in the Bible has perplexed many biblical scholars, and students of God's Word, in the context of the end-times prophesies. In this article, well take a brief look at the theological positions on the mysterious event spoken of by the prophet Daniel in the Old Testament and Jesus Christ in the New. Daniel was the first to speak of specific events that pertained to the last days of history. In the Scriptures we read, "And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined." (Daniel 9:26) The prophet goes on to write about the coming of shameful things: "And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured out upon the desolate." (Daniel 9:27)
Before investigating the different positions on these passages, a look at the word "abominations" might be helpful. To understand the message God is communicating, we must understand that these mystifying words not only point readers to the last of days, but direct students of the Bible to serious application. To grasp what the Lord speaks of when His prophet writes of the abomination of desolation, it is important to do a word study. In the English language, the word abomination signifies something that is hateful, vile, or extremely loathsome. In rabbinical Hebrew, the word used often relates to an idol, that which competes for the hearts of God's people, or better said, that which created being worship instead of their Creator. We can get a close look at the heart of God when we read Proverb 6:16-19. In this character-revealing passage, we discover that the Lord has seven things that are abominations to him. These dishonorable acts include pride, lying, murder of innocent victims, wicked schemes, and those who promote conflict. Considering that abomination is often referred to as idolatry, it is interesting that the Lord uses this as a way to explain his feelings about these particular sins. The passage implies that to partake in pride or dissension, or any of the other sins listed, is to devote oneself to an idol of sorts.
Jesus spoke to His disciples about Daniel's prophecy. "When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whosever readeth, let him understand:)" (Matthew 24:15) Some commentators believe this Scripture to refer to the image of the beast spoken of in the book of Revelation. The beast is an idol the Anti-Christ and the false prophet set up to be worshipped by the global community, the most despicable of abominations. The image is believed to have out-stretching arms, a false image of the original cherubim found on the mercy seat in the temple. These commentators believe that when this idol is put into the reconstructed temple, this will signal to the world that the last prophesies are fulfilled.
There have been events in Jewish history that led students of eschatology to believe that the prophecy was, in fact, fulfilled. The most infamous is when Antiochus Epiphanes, the Seleucid King, had an altar to Zeus, the Greek God, constructed inside the God's temple. He even had a swine sacrificed on the altar. This would certainly look to those living at the time as the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel and by Christ because Jews considered pigs unclean animals. However, Paul the Apostle clarifies that the Anti-Christ will claim himself to be God, the ultimate of abominations or idolatry. To date, this has not happened.
Perhaps one of the life-lessons that we can glean from these hard-to-understand prophecies is that God has the end-time events completely under His control. Prophecies have multi-faceted purposes and one of these is to offer security, not fear, to those who belong to Him. Also, Scriptures tell us that we are to be watchful, looking for fulfillment of prophecy. This is in part to keep us prepared for opportunity. We are to be working for the kingdom of Heaven now, but as we see lawlessness increase and signs multiply, we can begin work with a greater sense of urgency, knowing the time of Christ's return is near. When God's children look forward to the coming of His kingdom, their peace will demonstrate His sovereignty to a world in crisis.
Bible teachers and students believe that most biblical prophecies have come to completion. The abomination of desolation is one that most consider yet to be fulfilled. Because there are varying teachings and interpretations of the rapture of the church, it is difficult to say at what point in the end times this awful act will occur. To begin to understand how events will unfold, a full study of all passages from the Old and New Testaments pertaining to the last days would be in order. The Apostle Paul addresses confusion about these matters in his letters to the churches of the day, and these need to be taken into consideration when taking a deep look at prophecy.
ApostasyThe apostasy of the church is a topic of much discussion these days as theologians, lay persons, and even the non-believing sector look to see what Biblical prophecy has to say about the current times and culture. Many prophetic writings from the Old and New Testaments have been fulfilled and most who have studied the Bible have come to the conclusion that the return of Christ is very, very near. But, among the different denominations throughout the world, there are radically different teachings on the final event that will usher in a dynamic, but evil leader that leads the world on a course of spiritual and physical destruction. This leader is known as the Anti-Christ because he will oppose everything that Christ is; the exact opposite representation of the true Lord of All. While most Christians are very aware of the miraculous signs that will occur surrounding this final staging of the church age in world history, there is one specific event that seems to baffle and discourage the believers in Christ Jesus, and this event is referred to in scripture as the great falling away.
Scripture is clear that God provides a road map into all future world events, and He does so to not only prove His sovereignty, but to assure believers that He is faithful. The great falling away if clearly foretold, in the New Testament, Christ spoke in great detail concerning a time in the future known as the "end times". In the book of Matthew, chapter twenty-four, His words support the writings of Daniel that were written over 500 years earlier. And, Paul the Apostle speaks to the church in Thessalonica about the same, furthering support of the Christ's teachings. Paul restates what Daniel and Christ both taught, explaining to his readers that there would be an apostasy of the church that will reveal to true believers who the Anti-Christ is. "Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition." (2 Thessalonians 2:3)
The somewhat debatable issue of this great falling away is what has many church people baffled. The confusion seems to surround the idea that if Christians are heeding the signs that accompany the end times, then human reasoning would indicate that there should actually be an out break of revival throughout the churches of Christ, as they harken to the footsteps of His coming. Could apostasy actually occur during the onset of the greatest event for mankind? Looking back at Christ's words in Matthew, there is a warning to believers indicating that during the physical upheavals occurring throughout the earth, there will be simultaneous destructive conditions occurring within the church. "And Jesus answered and said unto them, "Take heed that no man deceive you. For many will come in my name, saying I am the Christ; and shall deceive many.'" (Matthew 24:4-5) He continues with the warnings saying, "And many false prophets shall rise and deceive many." (Matthew 24:11). And, Christ tells us how to recognize these false teachers and prophets, "For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect." (Matthew 24:24) For more important issues like false prophets, false traditions and cults, visit our Bible resources.
Evidently, the warnings of Christ are pointing to the great falling away that Paul speaks of in Thessalonians. In the end times, there will be signs and wonders, or miracles, that look to be of Christ, but are actually of His counterfeit, Satan. And, many in the Christian churches will be fooled and follow these false teachers that come in Christ's name. It will be difficult for even the most educated to discern between what is good and what is evil, during the times spoken of. And, this has a hauntingly familiar ring - not unknown to world, culture, and even church of today. With the teachings of relevancy in society and the teachings of tolerance within the church, the lines between Holy and unholy have become quite obscure to the casual observer. An apostasy does not necessarily mean that good church people will leave their built sanctuaries to go into the halls of doom and worship Satan. The great falling away will be within the hearts of many who follow after what looks good, brings release, and pleases the ear. A turning away from Christ, or the great falling away, will be a heart issue for those in the church, much like the heart issues of the Pharisees that Christ addressed and rebuked.
These days are the very days that Christ spoke of. Throughout the entire globe, there are church leaders that pick and choose which scriptures can apply and which ones cannot. There are verses that get taken out of context and manipulated to fit comfort and earthly endeavors. There are signs and wonders performed by seemingly Christian leaders who pay little or no attention to the teachings of the Word. It is simply amazing to discover how easily mankind can go chasing after the latest religious fad, never turning to the actual teaching and leading that God provides through His written Word. The Bible refers to itself as the ultimate authority in all matters (2 Timothy 3:16), one must make the decision to follow it completely or to not. To half-way put faith into the Word of God is to commit apostasy.
The only safe-guard against heresy in scripture is to saturate one's self in scripture. It is within the pages of the Bible that the Holy Spirit will begin to equip the true believers in Christ with spiritual discernment. To begin the journey of Biblical discovery, building a sure foundation, take a Bible quiz by clicking the Apostasy link above and test how much you really understand what God's Word has to say to believers about the end times.