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What Is the Abomination of Desolation Mentioned in Bible Prophecy?

What Is the Abomination of Desolation Mentioned in Bible Prophecy?

Past the Babylonian stories from Daniel 1-6, readers run into an interesting six chapters at the tail end of Daniel. These prophecies appear to affect Israel in the near future, but also, they seem to hint at the end times and connections with the book of Revelation.

"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 at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him." - Daniel 9:27

One such prophecy, the Abomination of Desolation (also mentioned in Daniel 11:31 and 12:11) appears throughout history and in the age to come. The antichrist figure who sets up an abomination in the place of worship has had a role throughout history. This article will dive into what the abomination of desolation is, the typology of the figure behind the abomination, and what this means for Christians today.

What is the Abomination of Desolation?

The Applied Old Testament Bible Commentary on Daniel 9:27 explains: A"ccording to verse 26, after Jesus is “cut off,” the people of the ruler (the Romans) will destroy the city and the sanctuary; indeed, the Romans under Titus destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Then Daniel writes: War will continue until the end. Jesus Himself taught that wars and hardships would continue right up to the end of the present age (see Mark 13:1–8). Notice that these events described in verse 26 take place after the seven sevens and the sixty–two sevens have passed. But what has happened to the final “seven,” the seventieth seven? It is mentioned in verse 27; presumably there is an interruption of many centuries between the sixty–ninth seven and the seventieth seven; this “interruption” is the current age in which we are now living. This final “seven” will come just before Christ returns to earth; it will be a time of great tribulation."

We read further in Daniel: “His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice. Then they will set up the abomination that causes desolation” (Daniel 11:31).

The abomination of desolation is also mentioned in Matthew 24:15-16 - "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will 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." - this is one of the signs of the end, when the antichrist sets up an abomination in the holy place and will command the people to worship it. This object of disgust, an idol, will cause desolation, causing those in Judea to flee to the mountains.

In history, this abomination was an idol (more on that later in the article). But in the case of the end of days, the antichrist will set himself up as the idol for the people to worship (Revelation 13:14). Warren Weirsbe Bible Commentary on this passage in Revelation detail: "When our Lord ministered on earth, Jewish leaders often asked Him to perform some sign to prove that He was indeed their Messiah, and Jesus refused. But the false prophet will perform deceptive signs that will lead the world into devil-worship (see 2 Thess. 2:9). His greatest sign will be “the abomination of desolation” mentioned by Daniel (Dan. 9:27; 11:36), Jesus (Matt 24:15), and Paul (2 Thess. 2:4). What is “the abomination of desolation”? It is the image of “the beast,” set up in the temple in Jerusalem. An idol is bad enough, but setting it up in the temple is the height of all blasphemy. Since Satan could not command worship in heaven, he will go to the next best place—the Jewish temple in the Holy City (see Dan. 8:9–14)."

Understanding the Historical Prophecy of the Abomination of Desolation

Undoubtedly, theologians have surmised the greatest contender in history for this abomination, referred in Daniel, to be Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

In fact, some theologians have gone as far to say Daniel 7-12 were written separately from the first six chapters, saying a different author wrote the latter half to comfort the Jewish people during the time of Antiochus Epiphanes IV. The author of this article strongly believes Daniel 1-12 were written during the lifetime of Daniel, foreshadowing the events to come in four hundred years, and in the end times.

Known by his nickname Epimanes (madman),Antiochus would attempt to oppress Israel unlike any other empire before, writes Jason Jackson. Reigning between 175 BC to 164 BC, this Seleucid King was known for trying to spread Hellenistic influence throughout Israel.

So much so that he oppressed the Jewish people in a number of ways:

  • He erected an altar to the Greek god Zeus in the middle of the Israelite temple and sacrificed a pig, both items strictly forbidden in Jewish law, according to this article from Encyclopedia Britannica.
  • He regarded himself as Zeus, a manifestation of a god, and thus wanted Israel to worship him (foreshadowing what the antichrist would do, force everyone to worship a false god).
  • He outlawed circumcision under penalty of death and forced the Jews to sacrifice to the Greek gods.
  • He killed a great many of the Jews and sold many into slavery when they protested his abomination of desolation.

Not only did he suppress Jewish culture, but he attempted to stamp it out. The Maccabean revolt arose from this, and the Israelites overcome his oppression (these events led to the eventual celebration of Hanukkah).

Daniel 11:21-35 perfectly describes Antiochus. He invades during a time when everyone least suspects it. For instance, the Israelites had rebuilt the city and temple after the time of the Babylonians; he will loot his people (he ends up looting the temple); he will act deceitfully — especially true in the case of the antichrist — and will desecrate the temple and abolish the daily sacrifice. In other words, not only does he defile the temple, but he also forces the Jews to stop their daily, religious rituals. Those who know God will resist him, as we see in the case of the revolt.

The Antichrist and the Abomination

Prophecy in Scripture can often have multiple fulfillments, and in the case of the latter passages of Daniel, the Abomination of Desolation is without exception.

Not only will we see the antichrist forcing everyone to worship an abomination (himself, Matthew 24:15), but many of Antiochus IV Epiphanes’ characteristics will appear in him as well.

He will deceive many (Revelation 19:20). Satan comes disguised as an angel of light, and so the one to whom he will give his power, the antichrist, will operate under the same guise. He will lead many to trust him and will turn on them in the end.

He will have great dominion and power. Like Antiochus, his armies will crush and oppress God’s people when we least expect it.

He will persecute God’s people. The antichrist will create laws that will outlaw Christianity, and any who resist will be put to death or severely persecuted. He will do this for three and a half years.

He will force the people to bow down to him, like Antiochus had forced the Israelites to sacrifice to Zeus. He will set himself up as a god.

He will turn the temple of God into the place of worship. The temple, destroyed in 70 AD, will be rebuilt in Jerusalem to accommodate this.

What does this mean for us?

As Christians, we can glean a number of things from this passage.

First, we do have to keep in mind history has a way of repeating itself. We can learn from the time of Antiochus IV Epiphanes to anticipate what sort of persecution we will meet in the end times.

Second, we can have hope that the antichrist will only last for a short period of time. Although we will endure great persecution, that will only happen for a brief period in comparison with the joy of eternity that awaits us.

Third, we know what to look for in the future antichrist. Using this criteria, and watching for the abomination to be placed in the rebuilt temple, we will be vigilant when the times of the antichrist arrives.

Photo credit: Unsplash/Joshua Earle

Hope Bolinger is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E. and graduate of Taylor University's professional writing program. More than 400 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer's Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her column "Hope's Hacks," tips and tricks to avoid writer's block, reaches 6,000+ readers weekly and is featured monthly on Cyle Young's blog, which receives 63,000+ monthly hits. Her modern-day Daniel, “Blaze,” (Illuminate YA) released in June, and the sequel “Den" releases a year from now. Find out more about her here.