As the sun sets over Jerusalem, Jesus and the disciples are sitting on the Mount of Olives discussing future events concerning Israel and the end of the age.
Historically, their discourse will be known as the “Olivet Discourse.”
In the third of this sermon, Jesus describes the first half of the tribulation.
1. He warns of a great deceiver.... the arrival of the ultimate Antichrist.
2. He warns that a great war will break out where “nation wars against nation.”
3. He warns that following war would come “inflation, famines, and pestilences.”
The first 3.5 years of Tribulation will carry with it devastating physical effects (Revelation 6:8 - 1/4 of the world’s population will die).... but these effects seems to be dwarfed by an even greater spiritual conflict taking place.
Multiple passages indicate that though the church has been removed from the earth there will still be a great moving of the Spirit of God; however, Jesus is equally clear this great revival will be met head-on by a great persecution.
In the end religious ambivalence will no longer be permissible. Today’s decision, “Will I forsake the world and live my life for Jesus?” will radically change into “Will I forsake the world and lay down my life for Jesus?”
Core question: “What will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?”
This disciples want to know what one, singular event they could look for that would be the indication the end was near and His return was neigh!
At this point everything Jesus has just described He’s defined as the “beginning of sorrows” meaning none of these things was to be this singular, definitive “sign.”
Now Jesus will directly answer their question....
[Mark 13:14a] “So when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not” (let the reader understand)....”
Jesus says the singular event that will mark the beginning of the “end of the age” will be the “Abomination of Desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet.”
Our immediate question: What is the “Abomination of Desolation?”
First Key to Understanding: Jesus directly connects a future event (defined as the Abomination of Desolation) with the descriptions provided prophetically by Daniel.
What does Daniel have to say about the “Abomination of Desolation?”
In Daniel 9 we have the first mention this event towards the end of an incredible prophecy dealing with this final period of 7 years of Tribulation known as “Daniel’s 70th Week.”
[Daniel 9:27] “Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; but in the middle of the week he shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, even until the consummation, which is determined, is poured out on the desolate.”
Daniel 9 provides two important bits of information:
1. The timeline for when this event occurs.
Daniel’s prophecy states that the final 7 years of history (Great Tribulation) begins when “he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week.”
“He” - The great deceiver (Antichrist) Jesus has already mentioned and in which Daniel has already established context for in the previous verse.
Q: What will he do that begins these seven years?
A: The Antichrist will sign a peace accord with Israel.
Imagine finally being able to achieve peace in the Middle East?
Note: Tribulation does not begin with the Rapture of the Church.
Next Daniel provides the halfway year mark: “In the middle of the week (3.5 years from the peace accord) he (Antichrist) shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate.”
It would appear that half way into this peace agreement the Antichrist will commit such an abominable deed that it will set the course for the rest of history.
2. The first clue for what the abomination includes.
Daniel 9 simply says “he shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering.”
Though his prophecy in chapter 9 is rather vague, to further explain what abomination the Antichrist would commit, Daniel uses this phrase “Abomination of Desolation” again in chapter 11:31.
Historically, Daniel is describing the atrocious acts committed by Antiochus Epiphanes.
Note: Daniel prophetically documents some amazing events:
- The fall of Babylon to the Persians.
- The fall of the Persians to the Greeks - the conquests of Alexander.
- The fall of the Greeks and the rise of the Roman Empire.
In chapter 11, one leader in particular would establish the ultimate framework for the fall of Alexander’s Empire.
This leader was Antiochus Epiphanes who would rule from 175-164 B.C.
In 172, Antiochus would attempt to Hellenize the Jewish people under his rule by replacing the ligament High Priest Jason with an impostor.
However, in 169 while Antiochus was campaigning in Egypt Jason would lead a revolt to take back Jerusalem and reverse the effects of Hellenization.
In 167, following defeat in Egypt, Antiochus returned to take Jerusalem.
2 Maccabees 5:11-14, “Raging like a wild animal, he set out from Egypt and took Jerusalem by storm. He ordered his soldiers to cut down without mercy those whom they met and to slay those who took refuge in their houses. There was a massacre of young and old, a killing of women and children, a slaughter of virgins and infants. In the space of three days, eighty thousand were lost, forty thousand meeting a violent death, and the same number being sold into slavery.”
Note: Antiochus not only plundered Israel, but he waged a singular assault on anyone who love and served the God of Israel.
The result would be what is known as the Maccabean Revolt.
[Daniel 11:31] says that during his conquest of Jerusalem Antiochus would “defile the sanctuary fortress; then they shall take away the daily sacrifices, and place there the abomination of desolation (2nd clue).”
This word “Abomination” appears 29 times in the OT and always presents the idea of an unclean idol being set up and worshipped in the Temple of God.
One Historian commented, “Antiochus put to death anyone who worshiped God, or studied Torah. He brutally punished circumcision, Sabbath-keeping, and eating kosher. He hung freshly circumcised baby boys around their own mothers’ necks. Here, their little bodies rotted as a warning to others. In some cases, soldiers pushed mothers of circumcised boys off city walls to their deaths below.... He killed anyone who would not eat pork.”
William Barclay, “Antiochus desecrated the Temple by offering swine’s flesh on the great altar and by setting up public brothels in the sacred courts. Before the very Holy Place itself he set up a great statue of the Olympian Zeus and ordered the Jews to worship it.”
Antiochus had what many would refer to as a “God Complex.” Though “Epiphanes” means “God Manifest” contemporaries called him “Epimanes” or “The Mad One” because of his evil proclivities.
Q: How can you connect Daniel’s prophecies about Antiochus with the Antichrist?
A: Initially, it would be easy to see how the “Abomination of Desolation” would have found its fulfillment in the deeds of Antiochus; however, in referencing Daniel, Jesus uses a future tense. Jesus viewed Daniel’s prophecy as being unfulfilled “so when you see....”
This creates major complications for the Preterists view.... If Daniel’s prophecies concerning the “Abomination of Desolation” find their fulfillment with Antiochus in the 2nd century BC, then what is Jesus talking about in the Olivet Discourse?
David Guzik, “As bad is this act was was, it did not fulfill the abomination of desolation because Jesus said these words long after Antiochus.”
Though Daniel is writing prophetically concerning Antiochus, his evil deeds would serve as a prophetic precursor as to what would be done by the Antichrist in the future.
So what is the abomination? - The “abomination” was not that the Antichrist sets up an idol in the Temple (which had been done before), Jesus says in Matthew 24:15 the idol is placed “standing where it ought not.”
Paul provides additional insight in 2 Thess 2:3-4, “That day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshipped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.”
According to Scripture the “Abomination of Desolation” occurs when at the 3.5 year mark the Antichrist (foreshadowed by Antiochus) enters the Temple, puts an end to sacrifice and the worship of God, sets himself up as God, and demands complete worship or immediate death!
Revelation 13:5-8, “And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months. 6 Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”
The “Abomination of Desolation” is an act of the Antichrist so blasphemous and egregious that it singularly triggers the devastating judgment of God.
[Daniel 12:11] provides one more additional insight we should consider: “And from the time that the daily sacrifice is taken away, and the abomination of desolation is set up, there shall be 1,290 days (until the end).”
Jesus and Daniel are clear that the “Abomination of Desolation” is the “sign” the end is near.... exactly 3.5 years from this moment Jesus will return to earth in His glory.
Writing in the late 2nd century AD early Christian writer Irenaeus wrote, “But when this Antichrist shall have devastated all things in this world, he will reign for three years and six months, and sit in the temple at Jerusalem; and then the Lord will come from heaven in the clouds, in the glory of the Father, sending this man and those who follow him into the lake of fire; but bringing in for the righteous the times of the kingdom.”
Observation: You cannot have the abomination without the Temple.
In the Book of Ezekiel we’re given the architectural design of a third Jewish Temple.
A fact Preterists love to overlook in their eschatological position.
Prophetically speaking sometime between now and the “Abomination of Desolation” the third Temple will be built in Jerusalem on the Temple Mount.
Today, the “Temple Institute” which is located in Jerusalem is prepared to begin immediate construction of a new Temple. Everything is in order!
However, there are 2 things holding back their plans:
1. The Temple mount is controlled by the Muslims.
2. There isn’t a will to see a Temple built by a largely secular Jewish people.
Recent Poll: Only 40% of Jews are in favor of rebuilding the Temple.
Truth: Something major will need to occur to see these hurdles overcome.
Ezekiel 38-39 presents a miraculous intervention by God to save Israel.
Discovery of the Temple treasure under the Temple Mount.
The Temple become the linchpin in this 7 year peace accord.
Jesus continues by explaining that 2 things will follow this sign:
[Mark 13:14b-18] “Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not go down into the house, nor enter to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! And pray that your flight may not be in winter.”
1. There will be a mass exodus from Judea.
Following this audacious act of the Antichrist, Jesus encourages those in Jerusalem and the surrounding region to immediately flee to the mountains for refuge.
Note: Rock city of Petra is believed to be one of the refuge cities.
The abomination will reveal to the Jews the Antichrist was nothing more than a false Messiah. At this point the nation will accept Jesus as the true Messiah.
Because of this reversal of fortunes, the Antichrist will subsequently launch a holocaust-style persecution and purging of the Jewish people (described in Revelation 12) adding further weight to Jesus’ exhortation for an immediate exodus.
Daniel 12:1 indicates a supernatural protect of Israel by Michael the Archangel, “At that time Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, every one who is found written in the book.”
Revelation 19:11-21, Jesus will ultimately intervene by crushing the armies of the Antichrist saving the Jewish people from the coming destruction.
Note: This exhortation has led some to believe that everything Jesus speaks of here was fulfilled in the first century, in the Roman destruction of Jerusalem.
It is true that this exhortation by Jesus was taken literally by Christians in 66 AD when Roman armies first came to Jerusalem. At that time, Christians fled to the mountains and were spared the great destruction of 70 AD.
The problems with this is 2 fold:
1. In Luke 21:36, Jesus encouraged the disciples to pray that they would be counted worthy to escape this period of tribulation.
1. This exodus and persecution will follow the “Abomination of Desolation.”
2. This event will be followed by an even greater period of tribulation.
[Mark 13:19-20] “For in those days there will be tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the creation which God created until this time, nor ever shall be. And unless the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake, whom He chose, He shortened the days.”
It is my conviction the first 5 Seal Judgments and the first third of the Olivet Discourse describe the first 3.5 years before the abomination (“beginning of sorrow”) while the Trumpet and Bowl Judgments (Revelation 8, 9, 16) cover the second 3.5 years (a “tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the creation”).
Description of these Judgments as laid out in the Book of Revelation:
- 1/3 of all vegetation is burned up.
- 1/3 of the seas become blood killing 1/3 of sea life & destroying 1/3 of the ships.
- 1/3 of all the fresh water become blood limiting the drinking water.
- 1/3 of the sun, moon, stars were darkened.
- Great astroids hit the planet.
- Locus from the bottomless pit are loosed to torment humanity.
- Demons are loosed from Euphrates and given permission to kill 1/3 of mankind.
- A loathsome sore comes upon any man who’d taken the Mark of the Beast.
- The remainder of the sea and fresh water becomes blood.
- The sun scorches men with fire.
- The world is covered with a supernatural darkness that torments mankind.
- Their were incredible thunderings and lightnings.
- A great earthquake occurs unrivaled from anything that has ever happened.
- Islands and mountains are removed - great cities are laid to ruin!
- Great 100 pound hail stones fall from the sky.
It really is true that “unless the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake, whom He chose, He shortened the days.”
Though the abomination of the Antichrist will spark a revival among the Jewish people, it is equally true these events will cause some to waiver in their faith. Jesus continues....
[Mark 13:21-23] “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘Look, He is there!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. But take heed; see, I have told you all things beforehand.”
Once again there are those who see Jesus’ reference of the “elect” as being evidence the church will go through this period of incredible judgment; however, they overlook the O.T. Scriptural context that references the “elect” as being the Jewish people.
Isaiah 45:4, “For Jacob My servant's sake, And Israel My elect, I have even called you by your name; I have named you, though you have not known Me.”
Isaiah 65:9, “I will bring forth descendants from Jacob, And from Judah an heir of My mountains; My elect shall inherit it, And My servants shall dwell there.”
Note: This would have been the disciples context for this word.
[Mark 13:24-27] “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars of heaven will fall, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then He will send His angels, and gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven.”
Paul says in Romans 8:22 that “creation is groaning for its Maker.”
It would appear that leading up to the end creation is screaming for its Maker.
This kind of cosmic calamity is described in many OT passages: Isaiah 13:9-11, Ezekiel 32:7-9, Joel 2:30-31, Amos 8:9-10, Zephaniah 1:14-15.
Everything will build to one last crescendo before the 2nd Coming of Jesus Christ when He returns to destroy the armies of the Antichrist, restore a broken planet, bind Satan for 1000 years, and establish His millennial reign over the earth.
Next week we’ll look at two parables Jesus uses to conclude this sermon, but before we close I want to leave you with a simple exhortation.
Q: What made the Antichrist’s actions such an abomination?
A: The Antichrist enters the Temple and declares himself to be God.
And whereas we consider the audacity of such an act in the context of the future.... we should think.... the one act Jesus describes as an “abomination of desolation” is that a man would occupy a place that was only God’s by right to occupy!