It is written:
“Therefore when you see the ‘ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand)”. (Matthew 24:15).
What is the abomination of desolation?
The Book of Daniel (written in the seventh century B.C.) mentions the abomination of desolation on several occasions.
Daniel 11 contains dozens of prophecies written by the Prophet in the sixth-seventh centuries B.C. The majority of these prophecies deal with events which would take place during the Intertestamental Period (the time between the closing of the Old Testament to the opening of the New Testament, a period of about four hundred years). In one particular section, Daniel writes:
“And forces shall be mustered by him, and they shall defile the sanctuary fortress; then they shall take away the daily sacrifices, and place there the abomination of desolation.” (Daniel 11:31)
The text makes reference to how a wicked ruler would set up “the abomination of desolation.” The word “abomination” carried with it the idea of a terrible religious sacrilege, while the word “desolation” had the idea of “devastation, destruction, ruin,” etc.
Historically, the passage lines up with a wicked ruler named Antiochus. He did two things which were especially wicked.
First, he ordered Grecian priests to go to the temple in Jerusalem and set up the worship of pagan gods and goddesses, as displayed by meteorites.
“As if these steps were not bad enough, Antiochus took the ultimate drastic step of converting the holy temple into a pagan shrine. The process involved several steps. First, the altar dedicated to Jehovah was desecrated through the sacrifice of unclean animals, in this case pigs. Second, an altar of idols—three meteorites representing the three principal deities of the pagan cult (accounts differ on what was actually erected)—was placed on or over the one dedicated to the Lord. Third, sacred prostitution was established within the walls of the temple. The day was an intolerably dark one for most Jews.” (S. Kent Brown & Richard Neitzel Holzapfel, Between The Testaments: From Malachi To Matthew, 856-862 (Kindle Edition)).
Second, Antiochus ordered his priests to slaughter a pig on the altar in the Temple, which was a terrible desecration. That the “abomination of desolation” had reference to these events is clear from the wording of the phrase “abomination of desolation.”
“As Lucas explains, the phrase “abomination of desolation” is a derogatory pun on the name “Baal Shamen,” the Aramaic form of “Zeus Olympios,” the god to whom Antiochus sacrificed the swine (2 Macc 6: 2).[ 323] To get an idea of just how blasphemous and offensive this was to the faithful in Israel, Russell likens it to a wave of vandalism in London about thirty years ago in which Jews found the tombstones of their deceased marred by swastikas. “What they saw was an obscenity, a spitting in the face of God.” (Michael Michael Whitworth, The Derision Of Heaven, 141 (Kindle Edition); Bowie, TX; Start2Finish Books)
Finally, the Jews who lived during the time of Antiochus understood these events to be the ‘abomination fo desolation.” One book written during that time, 1 Maccabees, declares:
“Now the fifteenth day of the month Casleu, in the hundred forty and fifth year, they set up the abomination of desolation upon the altar, and builded idol altars throughout the cities of Juda on every side;”. (1 Maccabees 1:54)
These religious abominations led to “desolation” in that Israel was plunged into war with the Greeks for several years.
All of this was a perfect foreshadowing (type) of what Jesus said would happen with the destruction of Jerusalem.
The abomination of desolation instituted by Antiochus (Daniel 8:13; 11:31) was a perfect type/foreshadowing of the abomination of desolation brought on by the Romans centuries later (Daniel 9:27; 12:11; Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:14; Luke 21:20). In fact, Jesus makes it clear that the abomination of desolation spoken of in Matthew 24:15 had reference to the armies of Rome surrounding Jerusalem:
Luke 21:20-But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near.
“This must also occur in the first century, however, for the following reasons: (1) This “abomination” stands in the “holy place,” i.e., the temple standing immediately before them (cp. Matt 23: 38—24: 2). (2) His audience could imagine no other locality, for Jerusalem is the “holy city” (Neh 11: 1, 18; Isa 48: 2; 52: 1; Dan 9: 24; Matt 4: 5; 27: 53) (3) Christ is responding to questions pertaining to that very temple (cf. Matt 24: 1, 2). He even points to the temple as he answers. That holy place will be dismantled by the Roman soldiers within forty years, a generation. The “abomination of desolation” is the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by pagan Roman armies. Luke’s parallel account makes this clear. He takes Matthew’s Hebraic language and interprets it for his Gentile audience: “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is at hand” (Luke 21: 20). He tells us what the abomination is: Jerusalem being surrounded by Roman armies for the purpose of decimating her temple.” (Ken Gentry, Postmillennialism Made Easy: You Can Understand Bible Prophecy, 933-944 (Kindle Edition); Draper, VA; Apologetics Group Media)
Josephus records the pagan practices of the Roman armies before the destruction of Jerusalem:
“1. (316) And now the Romans, upon the flight of the seditious into the city, and upon the burning of the holy house itself, and of all the buildings round about it, brought their ensigns to the temple, and set them over against its eastern gate; and there did they offer sacrifices to them, and there did they make Titus imperator, with the greatest acclamations of joy.” (Flavius Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, 6.315-316.)
This religious desecration-just like the one brought about by Antiochus-led to horrible war and devastation.
Finally, the text from Daniel declared that from the time of the abomination of desolation till the destruction of the city there would be “time, times, and half a time” (Daniel 12:11). This phrase meant 3 and 1/2 (days, months, years, or even centuries depending on the context).
Amazingly, from the time the Romans arrived at Jerusalem and set up their “abomination of desolation” till the destruction of the city, it was approximately 3 1/2 years (AD 67-70)!
The abomination of desolation Jesus referenced in Matthew 24:15 was fulfilled in the Roman armies which surrounded the city of Jerusalem (Luke 21:20). This was fulfilled in the first century, as Christ prophesied (Matthew 24:34).