The abomination of desolation

Updated: Sep 20, 2019

Question or Topic

What is "the abomination of desolation" of which Daniel prophesied and to which our Lord makes reference in the Olivet Prophecy?


Matt. 24:15


Interest in this question was stirred by a speech given by a senior public official in Israel, in a rare public appearance on December 16, 2003. "Addressing the Herzliya Conference on Israeli security and strength, Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter also warned of a potential "strategic threat' of Jewish terrorists, which he said dreamed of removing the mosques on Jerusalem's Temple Mount or Noble Sanctuary, a step which he said could turn the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in to a confrontation pitting the world's 13 million Jews against one billion Muslims. 'In my view, the dream of these extremists - in their words to remove the abomination from the Temple Mount, the mosques on Temple Mount - should trouble us greatly,' he said." [Ha'aretz, December 16, 2003]

There is extreme Jewish thought within Israel, which has identified the abomination of Daniel's prophecy as the mosques on Temple Mount. Some of this persuasion is determined to act to effect their removal much to the horror of those charged with Israel's security and international standing. Mr. Dichter went on to say that the danger of their taking action increases as the government of Israel contemplates the dismantling of settlements in the West Bank. Is this contemporary Jewish understanding of "the abomination " in accord with Scripture?

Daniel's Prayer For "Thy Sanctuary That Is Desolate" In the prophecy of Daniel, there are five references to desolation and abomination. The one to which our Lord was making reference appears to have been Daniel 9 and there we shall begin.

This reference is very important in setting the context for all the references to the sanctuary and its desolation. It occurs in Daniel's prayer in Daniel 9:16,17: "O Lord, according to all thy righteousness, I beseech thee, let thine anger and thy fury be turned away from thy city Jerusalem, thy holy mountain: because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and thy people are become a reproach to all that are about us. Now therefore, O our God, hear the prayer of thy servant, and his supplications, and cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord's sake." From this testimony, it is possible to establish the following information:

  1. The sanctuary is the Temple in Jerusalem - even after the Temple had been destroyed; Daniel refers to the site where it once stood as "the sanctuary."

  2. The desolation has pre-eminent reference to the destruction of the Temple although the city of Jerusalem and the Jewish people are also included in its scope. At the time of Daniel's prayer, its ruination had occurred at the hands of the armies of Nebuchadnezzar.

The Overspreading of Abominations. Daniel's prayer was interrupted by the angel Gabriel, who provided the vision of the prophecy of seventy weeks. In this vision, there is a further reference to coming desolation. Daniel was given the assurance that the city would be rebuilt and the offering of sacrifice reinstituted in Jerusalem by the time of the coming of Messiah the Prince. This restoration of Jerusalem was not to be permanent. The city and the sanctuary would again be brought into desolation.

"And after the sixty-two weeks, the anointed one shall be destroyed, and there is no judgment in him: and he shall destroy the city and the sanctuary with the prince that is coming; they shall be cut off with a flood, and to the end of the war which is rapidly completed he shall appoint the city to desolations. And one week shall establish the covenant with many; and in the midst of the week my sacrifices and my drink-offering shall be taken away: and on the temple shall be the abomination of desolations; and at the end of the time an end shall be put to the desolation." (Daniel: 26,27, Septuagint)

This prophecy conveys further information concerning the abomination of desolations that was to come following the sacrificial offering of the Lord Jesus.

  1. It fixes the location of the "abomination of desolations" as on the Temple Mount site after the destruction of the Temple and the city of Jerusalem by an overwhelming army. This war culminated in A. D. 70 when the Roman armies destroyed the Temple.

  2. It indicates that the abomination and its corresponding desolation would continue right up until the end of the time and then it would be brought to a consummation.

  3. It is significant also that the word "desolations" is plural in the Septuagint and "abominations" is plural in the KJV, indicating that this role would be taken by more than one power. Until the seventh century, the primary desolating power was the eastern Roman Empire and thereafter the role passed to a succession of Islamic occupiers of Jerusalem, except for that period when the Crusaders recaptured Jerusalem.

Placing the Abomination That Maketh Desolate in the Sanctuary. In the 11th of Daniel, there is a further reference. "And arms shall stand on his part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate." (Verse 31) It is generally recognized that this prophecy had specific reference to the actions of Antiochus Epiphanes. This Greek ruler desecrated the Temple by setting up an idol to Zeus and sacrificing swine, compelling the Levitical priests to eat unclean flesh. His actions led to the revolt by the Maccabees. While Antiochus Epiphanes did not destroy the temple, his actions showed that introducing rites that were sacrilegious to the Law of Moses and setting up a pagan idol were examples of "the abomination that maketh desolate."

The Olivet Prophecy occurred after the disciples admired the goodly stones of the Temple and the Lord taught them that the Temple would be so completely cast down that one stone would not be left against another. They then enquired concerning the time when these things should be. In the answer provided in the Olivet Prophecy, (as recorded in both Matthew and Mark's account) our Lord referred to the abomination of desolation as a sign of the impending destruction of Jerusalem. When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains: (Matthew 24:15,16).

In Luke's account, there is no direct reference to the abomination of desolation but there is a corresponding reference to the encirclement of Jerusalem by armies: And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh."(Luke 21:20). By comparing these Scriptures, it is reasonable to conclude that the abomination of desolation (of which the Lord spoke) was a reference to the gathering of the forces that would cause the desolation, namely, the Roman legions that came to lay devastating siege to the city of Jerusalem.

It is our conclusion, from this review of Scripture, that the desolations of Jerusalem began with the fall of the city and the destruction of the temple by the Romans in A. D. 70. The abomination was set up in its most direct and specific way when Islamic shrines were built on the site of the sanctuary at the close of the seventh century and which remain there to this day.

These shrines commemorate a religion that cast down truth to the ground by recognizing the offering of Ishmael rather than Isaac and denying the principle of revealed truth; "In Isaac shall thy seed be called." Although the sovereignty of Jerusalem was returned to the Jews in 1967, for the first time since the end of Judah's monarchy about 586 B. C., the Wakf - the Islamic authority - was injudiciously allowed by Israel's Defence Minister at the time, Moshe Dayan, to keep control of Temple Mount. Israel's lack of direct control there has been shown over the past few years by the unsupervised and unauthorized excavations which the Wakf has carried out, without regard to the archaeological significance of the site, and the government of Israel's reticence to intervene by force.

The End of the Abomination. If events concerning the sanctuary were a sign to those who believe concerning the desolation of Jerusalem, might events there not also be a sign concerning the end of the desolation and the consummation of God's purpose with Jerusalem it will bring? In our consideration of what the Scriptures teach concerning the abomination, it is clearly associated with the Temple Mount site, the site of the sanctuary, and with the powers that have been responsible for desolating the land of Israel and the city of Jerusalem, to which Islam answers foremost of all.

Daniel indicates that this abomination shall continue right up "until the end of the time." It would appear, therefore, that the removal of the Mosques on Temple Mount, by whatever means, is a significant terminal point in the time allotted by the Most High for the treading down of the sanctuary in Jerusalem.

The Dome of the Rock is an Islamic shrine that was completed in 691 AD. It is the single most prominent landmark associated around the world today with the City of Jerusalem. The shrine was built by Byzantine artisans and reflects the architectural style of eastern churches from the same period. For a period of 90 years during the Crusader occupation of Jerusalem, it served as a church known as the Templum Domini.