Abomination of Desolation

“So when you see the ‘ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not” (let the reader understand),”then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.” (Mark 13:14).

“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.” (Dan. 11:31).

Jesus mentioned the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION when His disciples, (Peter, James, John, and Andrew) asked Him privately the three part connected single question of when Jerusalem and the temple would be destroyed; what would be the sign of His second coming (Parousia); and the end of the Jewish age. (Mark 13:2-4; Matt.24:1-3; Luke 21:5-7).

He told them of many signs and events that would occur.  Among them was His prophecy that they would see in their generation the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION that had been spoken of by Daniel the prophet.  At that time those faithful believers who were in Judea were to flee to the mountains because the desolation of Jerusalem was near. (Matt. 24:15-16; Luke 21:20-22).

Abomination of Desolation Option:

No Roman coinage with human images on it could be brought into the temple.  This would have violated the second commandment (no graven images).  Four years before this (AD 62) the Romans (under Nero) had deliberately stopped the minting of any more Torah-compliant coinage.  The Jews were not allowed to mint their own coins that were Torah-compliant, so this meant that the supply of coinage that they had in the temple would be all they could store in the temple treasury.  Unfortunately this supply of coinage had a tendency to dwindle down as a result of the moneychangers, so that eventually they would run out of gold and be forced to bring coins with Caesar’s image into the temple.  Florus wished to hasten this process by seizing all the Torah-compliant gold out of the temple.  The Jews understood very well what Florus was trying to do.  They had seen this on the horizon four years earlier when the Romans stopped minting Torah-compliant coinage.  So when Florus made his attempt with his armies to seize the temple gold, the citizens of Jerusalem “immediately turned back upon him, and stopped the violence of his attempt,” and stopped up the narrow passages” of the city” so that his troops could not get to the temple.

In Jewish eyes, having to use a temple coin with the image of Caesar on it was the same thing as the issue they confronted earlier in AD 40 when Caligula ordered Petronius and his army to go to Jerusalem to have a statue of himself placed in the temple there.  That was an abomination which the Jews were prepared to resist to the bitter end.  Fortunately Caligula died before the order was ever carried out.  But the same kind of thing is involved here with Florus.  He was attempting to force the Jews to bring images into the Temple.  The Jews would rather go to war than allow that to happen.  (See also Wars 2:433, 435; Antiq 20.11.1 (257-258) and 10:137).

This incident fits all the requirements of the Abomination of Desolation that was predicted by Daniel the prophet and reiterated by Jesus in the Olivet Discourse.  It is the very kind of threat against the Temple, at the very time and place, that the prophets had predicted.

Other Options:

There are several other theories as to what the ‘abomination’ was. (a) The Jewish leaders had departed from the true worship of God.  The corrupt high priest offering sacrifices of apostate Judaism was an abomination; (b) The Jewish Zealots, who advocated political and religious freedom from Rome, stormed the temple and allowed criminals to roam in the Holy of Holies, stopped the daily sacrifices, and even murdered in the temple; (c) The Romans caused the abomination of desolation when they overtook and burned the temple in AD 70.  The soldiers set up their Roman symbols in the temple and offered sacrifices there.

20 But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near.  21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her.  22 For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.  (Luke 21:20-22).

Luke reported (above) that the time for the disciples to flee was further evidenced when they saw armies surrounding the city. These were not only the armies of the Jewish Zealot factions inside and outside Jerusalem, but also the local Roman army of the last procurator of Judea (AD 64-66), Gessius Florus.  (Luke 21:20-24 scholars from “all” camps of eschatology concur that these verses refer to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.  However, the major problem for the futurist is v. 22 where it says “‘all things’ which are written may be fulfilled.”) 

The followers of Christ were expecting the temple’s destruction.  (Read) Luke 19:41-44; 21:23-24; 23:27-31.  Was Jerusalem ever surrounded by the armies prior to AD 70?  Yes.  Did the Christians flee the city?  Yes.  We can read the historical records which recorded the events.  See Josephus’ Antiquities X:XI:7. Eusebius in his book, III, V says, “The whole body, however, of the church at Jerusalem, having been commanded by a divine revelation, given to men of approved piety there before the war, removed from the city, and dwelt at a certain town beyond the Jordan, called Pella.  Here, those that believed in Christ removed from Jerusalem, as if holy men had entirely abandoned the royal city itself, and the whole land of Judea.”  See Philip Schaff’s History of the Christian Church, vol. 1, p. 391-404.

  • (Matt. 24:17-18) DO NOT WASTE TIME – Jesus further warns His disciples that those who are on their housetops and also those who are in the fields to move quickly in order to escape danger.  He did not want them to leisurely take their time to escape.  It was so serious, that they were not to waste time getting things from the house or getting their clothes.  In the first century, the flat housetops were the normal locations where the families would spend their time.  It was a social centre for them.  Jesus did not want them to go back inside the house and delay their flight out of the city.  The Christians obeyed this prophecy when they fled to the mountains outside Jerusalem. 
  • (Matt. 24:19) RUN HARD AND FAST – Jesus said that it would be very hard on pregnant women and nursing mothers to escape the tribulation.  This was due to their added responsibility and burden of children.  This would slow them down when they tried to flee the destruction of Jerusalem.

20 And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath.  21 For then there will be great tribulation,  such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.  22 And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.”

  • (Matt. 24:20) PRAY FOR NO HINDRANCES – Jesus included the difficulties they could have with the weather and also, as Jews, with the Sabbath.  They would be restricted by customs about traveling any distance on the Sabbath.  We note that this event was describing God’s Judgment on Israel and Jerusalem.  It was not primarily to destroy the people, but to once and for all destroy the temple and the Old Covenant symbolism.  Jesus did not describe traffic jams or bombs from airplanes.  His message was about life and resources that were present in that first century.  It was not a worldwide event.  It was local to Judea, which was the Province that included the city of Jerusalem.

Notice also the description of the era of the time of the end: flat-roof houses, Sabbath observance, field work, and primitive travel.  Those things were certainly not applying to our present period of time.  Ensure that you slow down and consider the importance of “the audience this message is being limited to” by the mention of the Sabbath, as this would not and does not have any concern for Gentiles or any of us today under the New Covenant.

  • (Matt. 24:21) GREATER THAN ANY OTHER – This judgment was against Old Covenant Israel.  This warning was for His disciples and any believing Jews to hastily clear out of Jerusalem.  The tribulation that was to come upon Israel would be greater than any other in their history.  This judgment would never occur again against Israel, because that nation would no longer be God’s covenant people (Hebrews 8:13; 9:8-11 changing of the covenants was about to occur). 

The Messiah had come in judgment and the Old Covenant laws were fulfilled by Him.  Josephus said that more than one million Jews were killed in the Jewish war.  This was the greatest judgment upon Israel ever.  The worldwide Flood was not a judgment on the nation of Israel (they were not a nation yet).  The Nazi holocaust was not a judgment against the nation of Israel (they were not a nation since their destruction in AD 70). 

        Speaking of his own generation, especially of the war-events between AD 66-70, the historian Josephus writes, “It is, therefore, impossible to go distinctly over every instance of these men’s iniquity.  I shall, therefore, speak my mind here at once briefly, that neither did any other city ever suffer such miseries, nor did any age ever breed a generation more fruitful in wickedness than this was, from the beginning of the world” (Wars V:X:5, c.f. VI:IX:4).  This coincides very well with Jesus’ statement in Matt. 24:21.  Cf. Daniel 12:1.

We can agree, can we not, that no other crime was as monstrous as killing the “Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:8, also Acts 3:12-26; 1 Thessalonians 2:15).  We should consider that no other generation will ever experience a time of divine punishment as severe as that which fell upon the unbelieving Jews in Christ’s generation, because no other crime could ever be as great as the one which they committed.  Because they rejected and killed their own living God in the flesh, God’s wrath was poured out upon them (Matthew 12:31-32; 21:33-45; 22:1-9 23:31-38; 27:24-26; Luke 11:50-54; 21:23; 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16; 5:1-4, 9; 2 Thessalonians 1:4-10). 

Have you also ever asked yourself the question that if this was the end of the “world/universe?”  Then why did the Holy Spirit bother to enter the end of the phrase, “nor shall ever be.”  That would be a moot point if the end of the cosmos had come. 

As history shows, the Christians (i.e. believing Jews) did hurriedly flee Jerusalem to the mountains just ahead of the attack by Florus’ troops in the upper marketplace of the temple.  This was on the 16th day of Iyar (Gr. Artemisius) (April-May) in AD 66.  More than 3,600 Jews were killed in that assault.  The Zealots fought back and Florus ended his siege, returning to his administrative headquarters in Caesarea.  This was before the main Roman Empire forces led by Vespasian and his son, Titus, got involved in the war a few months later to carry it to completion with the final surrounding  and destruction of Jerusalem with not one stone of the temple left standing upon another by the Fall of AD 70.


See also other related “Topic Studies & Terms”:

That Great City (of Revelation) (The Great City) (Jerusalem)


For a more in-depth study see the related full “Study Series”:

Study Series 7 Lesson 2 Matt. 24:15-28

Study Series 9 Lesson 2 Book of Daniel Chpts. 10-12

Study Series 16 Lesson 4 Rev. Chapters 13 thru 20 on The Beast