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The Abomination of Desolation
Part 1: An Overview
Thus, verse 27 is simply an expansion of verse 26. Verse 26 says that the Messiah will be sacrificed; verse 27 explains that this ends the sacrificial system. Verse 26 says that the invasions will desolate the Temple and that it is determined. Verse 27 says that wrath will be poured out on the apostate Jews and their High Priest, whose actions desolated the Temple, and that this is decreed.
This correlates magnificently with 2 Thessalonians 2, as we shall see in the next installment in this series.
Now, just because these events were fulfilled in A.D. 70 does not mean that they are irrelevant to us. Churches can also apostatize, and Christ warned the Seven Churches that they too could be destroyed if Christ departed from them. They would be "desolate" and their worship would be "abominable" (Rev. 2-3). The destruction of the Temple and of its Jerusalem-culture, as portrayed in the remainder of Revelation, was thus a warning to the Seven Churches: If you do the same thing, God will do this to you. Thus, the principles are still in force, and serve to warn us today: If our churches depart from Christ, He will destroy both them and our society, which grew up around them.
Last month we surveyed what is meant by the abomination of desolation. We suggested that it refers to sacrilegious acts performed by the religious leaders of Israel, captained by their High Priest, right in front of God's face in the Temple. Later studies in this series will provide evidence for this interpretation, and will survey the numerous times the abomination of desolation occurred in the Old Testament, before returning to a detailed study of the events prophesied in the New Testament. This time we complete our introduction by surveying 2 Thessalonians 2. We shall see that the Man of Sin in that passage is most likely the High Priest of Israel.
2:1. Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to Him. This could refer to the final coming of Jesus at the end of the world, or to His soon coming to render judgment on Jerusalem. There was a "gathering" that took place right after the destruction of Jerusalem (Matt. 24:29-31), and so this verse could be referring to that event. In that case, the verses that follow predict something that will happen right before this gathering. On the other hand, this verse may refer to the Last Advent, as the preceding context in chapter 1 seems to indicate. Whichever is the case, the verses that follow deal with something that is in the near future in Paul's day, something that must take place before the AD 70 advent, and thus also before the Final Advent.
2. That you may not be quickly shaken from your mind or be disturbed either by a spirit or a word or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is upon us. Every Lord's Day is a day of the Lord, but that clearly is not what Paul has in mind. In the Old Testament, God's times of national judgment were called days of the Lord, and so the A.D. 70 Advent was a day of the Lord. Of course, the Final Advent is also a day of the Lord, the climactic one. The Thessalonians were looking for a near day of the Lord, an idea they must have gotten from Paul's teaching. Accordingly, this verse almost certainly is referring to the A.D. 70 Advent, which Paul tells them is near but not as near as certain false teachers have led them to believe. In my opinion, this understanding of verse 2 settles the question of which Advent verse 1 refers to.
3. Let no man in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy [of many believers, Matt. 24:10] comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction. The next verse makes it clear that this is the apostate High Priest, prince of the Temple, no longer a man of God's law but a man of lawlessness, no longer a son of Abraham but a son of destruction.
4. Who opposes and exalts himself against all that is called God and every object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the Temple of God, displaying himself as being God. The High Priest had opposed Christ and God, and thus had opposed the true meaning of all the worship objects in the Temple. "The scribes and Pharisees have seated themselves in the seat of Moses," Matthew 23:2. Those who reject God make themselves God, Genesis 3.
6. And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he may be revealed. The Church and her evangelism in Palestine created fence-sitters who were restraining apostate Judaism. An example is Gamaliel, Acts 5:33-42. Perhaps the falling away of so many early Christians into the Judaizing heresy would release the Man of Sin.
My own best guess is that the restrainer is the presence of believers in Jerusalem, whose presence kept Sodom from being destroyed. Their captain was James.
7. For the mystery of lawlessness [the apostate Judaizing counterfeit of the Pauline Gospel Mystery] is already at work; only he who restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. The Church would be removed from Jerusalem before her destruction; also possibly this means that the fence-sitters like Gamaliel would either be converted to Christianity or would be "converted" to a whole-hearted adoption of apostate Judaism, and in either event would stop restraining. Josephus records that the Zealots and Edomites slew one such restrainer, Zechariah the son of Berechiah or Baruch, in fulfillment perhaps of Matthew 23:35. After the removal of this restrainer, all hell broke loose. See Josephus, Jewish War 4:5:4. Since Jesus had mentioned this man by name, possibly it is he who is particularly referred to here, as one they "know."
My own best guess, however, is that it is James who is referred to. James was martyred in A.D. 62 by a particularly wicked High Priest, Ananus, who was immediately deposed. He was succeeded by Jesus the son of Damneus, who was succeeded by Jesus the son of Gamaliel. Presiding over all these acting high priests, however, was the retired but still active Ananias, the same Ananias whom Paul rebuked in Acts 23:3. This corrupt man presided over everything in the Temple like a spider. Shortly after James's murder the Temple of Herod was finally completed. If there is anyone who is a likely candidate for Man of Sin, or at least the first person to occupy that position, it is Ananias. You can read about him briefly in Josephus's Antiquities 20:9, where the martyrdom of James is also recounted. (I might add that according to Luenemann's commentary on Thessalonians, which is part of Meyer's Commentary on the New Testament, an expositor named Harduin suggested that Ananias was the Man of Sin; Meyer's Commentary, vol. 7, p. 614.)
8. And then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and nullify by the appearance of His coming. The "breath of His mouth" might refer to Gospel preaching, which slew apostate Israel, as Chilton points out in his liturgical remarks throughout Days of Vengeance. But the Greek verb translated "consume" is used for Divine destructive fire in Luke 9:54 and in the Greek Old Testament. My believe is that this verse pictures Jesus as the True Dragon, of whom Satan is the counterfeit (compare Job 41). We can correlate this with the outpouring of fire on Jerusalem in the book of Revelation.
The "appearance of His coming" refers to Daniel 7:13 and to Jesus' prophecies in Matthew 26:64, that the High Priest would "see" (discern) the Son of Man "come" to the Father to receive His Kingdom. When the fact of that "coming" become apparent ("appears"), the Jews will be without excuse, and will be destroyed. Note: the "coming" is not the Second Coming, nor is it a "coming in wrath upon Jerusalem," but is the event predicted in Daniel 7:13 and shown in Revelation 5. Christ came to the Father at the ascension, and this was "shown" to Israel for 40 years. When Israel rejected this "second chance," they were destroyed. Jesus' entrance into the heavenly Temple "nullified" the earthly high priesthood and the earthly Temple.
Ananias was slain by Zealots in A.D. 66. Those who followed him enthroned in the Temple were equally bad. The whole company of them was brought to an end in A.D. 70.
9. The one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan [the High Priest as son of Satan, not of Abraham; "You are of your father, the Devil," John 8:44], with all power and signs and false wonders [see Chilton and Josephus on the situation in Jerusalem just before the end].
10. And with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. [This clearly describes the situation of apostate Judaism.]
11. And for this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they might believe what is false. [Compare Romans 1:21-32 and 1 Kings 22:19-23.]
12. In order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth but took pleasure in wickedness.
When the Veil of the Temple was rent, the mystery locked up in the Holy Places was revealed. Parallel to this, the mystery of evil, the counterfeit of the gospel mystery, was also released (Zechariah 5:8; Revelation 17). Initially, many Jews accepted the gospel, but then under the influence of the mystery of lawlessness, many apostatized into the Judaizing counterfeit. Between the years AD 30 and 70, the mystery of lawlessness gained momentum, until it drew forth an Antichrist, the Man of lawlessness, who "incarnated" the mystery of iniquity. Parallel to this social development of wickedness was the continuing building of the Temple in Jerusalem, which was completed in A.D. 64. (Parallel to the development of wickedness and of the false Temple was the development of the true Church and Temple of God during this period.) The statement that this Man sat in the Temple, passing judgments on God Himself (on Christ and His followers), indicates that the focus and concentration-point of this phenomenon was in the High Priest, who was the head of Judaism and thus also of the Judaizers.
It was the preaching of the gospel and the presence of believers in Jerusalem that restrained the mystery of iniquity from reaching a climax (Gen. 18:22-33; Rom. 9:29; Rev. 11:8). I believe that the removal of that restraint happened initially with the martyrdom of James, and was worked out as the faithful Jewish Christians were massacred by the Jews and Judaizers during the next few years, immediately preceding the investiture of Jerusalem (see Revelation 7:3-8; 11:3-13; 14:1-4, 12-20; 15:2-4). Revelation 11:3-13 shows that the death of some Christian witnesses caused many Jews to convert, and I believe it is this event that Romans 11 prophesies. This multitude of new believers were massacred in Revelation 14, joining their Savior "outside the city." This massacre of Christians was the climactic abomination of desolation. At this time, when the Zealots were butchering people right and left, other Christians fled the city (Matt. 24:15-21). By driving the Christians from the city, the Jews and Judaizers drove the presence of God from their midst, leaving the city desolate. The blood of the martyrs of Revelation 14 was poured out on the city in Revelation 16 and was drunk by the Harlot in Revelation 17:3-6.
Thus, Paul wrote to the Thessalonians that the world-shaking events they were expecting were not going to happen immediately, but over the next couple of decades they would watch them unfold.
What I intend to do in this series of studies is this: First, in the present essay we shall survey the occurrences of the Abomination of Desolation in the Bible in a cursory way, in order to get the fundamental pattern before us. Next time, we shall look at the Hebrew words underlying the English word "abomination," and we shall find that the "abomination of desolation" is a technical phrase indicating a sin that only God's peculiar people can commit. Then we shall go back and look at the particular historical occurrences in more detail.
The Abomination of Desolation pattern is an extension of the basic Fall pattern seen repeatedly in the Bible. The Fall pattern is this: God gives His people a kingdom, and then immediately they fall into sin and lose the kingdom, but God is gracious and restores them. At certain climactic times, though, when their sin is extremely great, prolonged, high-handed, and performed right in front of His face, God brings His wrath upon them. God withdraws His presence from them, leaving them desolate, because their sins have become abominable. Once God departs, He brings in an enemy army to destroy His ruined house and His ruined city. The result is that His people are driven into exile, just as they drove Him into exile: eye for eye and tooth for tooth.
There are four occurrences of the Abomination of Desolation pattern in the Old Testament, and two preliminary occurrences. They are:
1. The Flood of Noah.
2. The Apostasy of Eli's Sons.
3. The Apostasy of the priesthood in Ezekiel's day.
4. The Apostasy of the priesthood in the days of the Maccabees.
The final and climactic occurrence of the pattern comes in the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
The pattern stands as a warning to every Church in every time. If we commit pronounced and prolonged sins of apostasy, God will do to us as He did to them (Rev. 2-3).
Let us now survey the occurrences of the pattern. First, let us consider the Fall of Man. Because the Fall of the first man was a unique event, we cannot expect to see the pattern in all its details, but we can see it in its essence. When Adam sinned in the Garden, he did so on the sabbath, in the sanctuary, right at the center where the two trees were located. Adam was a priest, and his sin performed right before God's face was a desolating sacrilege. Instead of leaving the Garden, God drove Adam out of it. Essentially the pattern is present, however, because Adam's expulsion separated him from God's blessing and protection. God brought in an enemy to throw Adam out: the cherubim.
Yet, in the Fall we do not see the climax of sacrilege that leads to God's destroying His house. That comes at the Flood, when wickedness has matured. At the Flood, God does depart from the Garden of Eden, and brings in an enemy (the Flood, which becomes a symbol for the enemy later in the Bible) to destroy it and to destroy all the people. A remnant joins Him in exile, in the Ark, and then is returned to start a new covenant.
Second, the Golden Calf. Notice that the people committed a religious crime (idolatry) accompanied by gross sexual sin (sat down to eat, rose up to "play") right in front of God's face, for they were in the sacred area at the foot of Sinai. They got the High Priest, Aaron, to lead them in this. God's response was to withdraw from the camp and pitch His tent far outside of it. This exposed the camp to destruction. Moses was able to persuade God to return, however, and so the full pattern of destruction was averted (Exodus 32-34).
Yet, in the Golden Calf we do not see the climax of sacrilege that leads to God's destroying His house. That comes after many years of maturing evil, described in Judges, climaxing in the apostasy of Eli's Sons. Again we are in the sanctuary, and again it is the priests who, reflecting the sins of the people, take a lead in committing sacrilegious abominations. They stole God's sacrifices and committed ritual fornication (1 Sam. 3:12-17; 22). Eli refused to stop them. As a result, God desolated the sanctuary and went into exile. The priests were killed and a permanent curse put on Eli's house (1 Sam. 3-4). God brought in the Philistines to conquer and punish Israel. But God was gracious. While in Philistine exile, God defeated the gods of the Philistines and returned to Israel with much spoil (1 Sam. 5-6). Then the covenant was renewed (1 Sam. 7).
Third, the apostasy of the priesthood in Ezekiel's day. The kingdom had been given to David, and 1 Chronicles describes how David as a new Moses set up the priesthood. David fell into sin right away, but God restored him through much trauma (2 Sam. 7; 11-19). The full climax and maturation of evil comes in the years immediately preceding the exile. Ezekiel 8-11 describes in fullest detail the detestable acts that cause God to desolate His Temple. The people committed every kind of idolatry right before God's face in the Temple, and the priests were the leaders in it. Ezekiel sees God pack up and move out of the Temple, leaving it desolate. Soon God sent in Nebuchadnezzar to destroy the Temple and the city -- and remember that Daniel was Nebuchadnezzar's right-hand man at this time. The people joined God in exile, receiving a punishment equal to what they had done to Him. Again, however, God was gracious, for in Babylon God went to war with the false gods (Dan. 4-5). Eventually the people returned to Israel, with God, and the covenant was renewed.
Fourth, the apostasy in the days of the Maccabees. The kingdom of God had been restored in the days of Ezra, and then the people had immediately fallen into sin (Ezr. 9-10; Neh. 13; Malachi). God had restored them, however. Their sinfulness continued, though, and climaxed in the days of the Maccabees. This is prophesied in Daniel 11, and recorded in Josephus and in 1 & 2 Maccabees. The people rejected the Lord, and the High Priests self-consciously adopted Greek religion. They did this in the Temple, right in God's face. For political reasons, they asked Antiochus Epiphanes to come to the city and set them up in power. As a result, God desolated the Temple and city, and caused the people to anger Antiochus, who returned to the city and instituted a reign of terror. Antiochus defiled the Temple, but this is only the aftermath of what the Jews had already done. Antiochus could not really defile the Temple, because he was not one of God's peculiar people and he had no legal access to it. His defiling the temple is not the abomination of desolation, therefore.
Finally, the fulfillment of this pattern is seen in the events leading down to A.D. 70, as predicted in Daniel 9, Matthew 24 and parallel passages, many places in the epistles, and the book of Revelation. The Jews continued to do sacrifices in the Temple, right in front of God's face, after the final sacrifice had been made. They then compounded their sin by persecuting the Christians. They were eventually joined in this by apostate Christians, the Judaizers. The apostasy of the Judaizers is the "fall" of the new kingdom, but as before, God did not destroy them when they fell. He gave them opportunities to repent, but they only got worse and worse. We see in the book of Acts that it was the Jews and Judaizers who kept asking the Romans to persecute the Christians, as the High Priests in the days of the Maccabees asked Antiochus to do. The persecution of Paul by the Judaizers encapsulates the events leading to A.D. 70. In A.D. 62, they slew the Apostle James. As A.D. 70 approached, they massacred many Christian Jews. The final abominating event was the invitation by the Zealot Jews to the Idumeans (Edomites) to invade the Temple and kill anyone not favorable to the Zealot cause. This massacre of righteous people in the holy place, I believe, was the event to which Jesus pointed in Matthew 24:15-25. (See Josephus, Jewish War 4:3-6.)
At this point, God stopped giving the Jews a second chance, which He had been doing ever since Pentecost. They had committed blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, by rejecting this second chance. They had committed a desolating sacrilege by attacking His bride. So, He finally abandoned them. Then He brought in an army, the Romans, to destroy the Temple and the city.
But God was gracious. He went with His new people, the Church, into the Roman world, and made war on the gods of Rome, defeating them. He offers His Church to anyone, including those who think of themselves as Jews, who wants to enter her.
This is the Abomination of Desolation pattern. In our next study, we shall look at the laws of Leviticus, and we shall find two different Hebrew words, indicating that an "abomination" is any gross moral sin committed in the land, while a "detestable act" is immorality mixed with idolatry committed in God's sanctuary. We shall see that a better translation of the phrase Abomination of Desolation would be "detestable act causing desolation," for it is the Hebrew word for "detestable" that is used in the phrase we render in English "abomination of desolation." This study will prove that it is God's people and not gentiles (Antiochus; Titus) who commit the sin known as the Abomination of Desolation.
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Could you please explain where Revelations 13 fits into your theory? Were the wicked priests the same as the beast and false prophet? Did they reign for 42 months? Did they make all the earth to worship them (other than christians?) I believe Jesus and Daniels predictions of the destruction of jerusalem and the temple happened in 70 AD. On the other hand I think what John wrote in revelations does not easily fit with these. Revelations maybe written primarily for Christians. Where as 70 AD was about the Jews and scattering their power (as per Daniel). Revelations 12:6 discusses that Israel (the woman) fled to where she had a place prepared by God and that they would be fed there for 3.5 years. This is right after Jesus ascends to his throne Revelations 12:5. Now in Revelations 12:14 the woman (Israel) is flown into her place in the wilderness where she is again fed for 3.5 years. This second 3.5 year period is caused by Satan being thrown out onto the earth. I think Revelations could be fulfilled through Chapter 11 and through Chapter 12 verse 6. Is there any evidence in the time just before 70 AD where the two witnesses are documented who laid dead in Jerusalem for 3.5 days and then came to life and acsended into heaven? Thanks and you can reach me at email@example.com
Date: 19 Nov 2006
Sounds good! BUT what about the present day we are in now? Isn't the church gone apostate falling into a delusion believing the lie that the Middle East "state" of Israel is the true Israel of the bible? Indeed it is NOT. There are two apostates, the "state" incorporated churches and the "state" of Israel!
Date: 03 Aug 2007
Mr. Jordan errs in several areas.
First he errs, as others also have, in referring to the idea that the Jewish people are a race. They are not a race. The Jewish people are a community of physical descent from Abraham. A community of descent is different from a race. One man can father children of differing races! (The church is the community of spiritual descent from Abraham, also made up of different races.)
Second has made a mistake in following Arthur Koestler's discredited hypothesis of "Thirteenth Tribe." While it is true that some Ashkenazi Jews are descended from the Khazars. A quick visit to Wikipedia yeilded this quotation:
"No modern mainstream scholars support Koestler's hypothesis. As Bernard Lewis wrote:
This theory… is supported by no evidence whatsoever. It has long since been abandoned by all serious scholars in the field, including those in Arab countries, where the Khazar theory is little used except in occasional political polemics."
While not a race, still there is a common ancestry among most of the Jewish people, as genetic studies have confirmed.
Third, he brings forth no evidence of Jewish revival having taken place before 70 AD. His argument regarding Revelations 10 is exceedingly weak and unconvincing.
Fourth, his exegesis of Romans 9-11 comes more from fitting it like a round peg into an artificially constructed square preterist hole. It simply does not fit. We do far better if we pay more attention to John Murray, Geerhardus Vos, John Calvin, Charles Hodge, Matthew Henry, John Owen and the Westminster Divines on the restoration of the Jewish people to faith. They might all be wrong, but their testimony carries tremendous weight! See www.chaim.org for more on this.
Finally, if there is yet to be a post-millennial "Christianization of the world," as Jordan contends, then the Jewish people will yet be a part of it --no matter how you understand them!
As someone involved in Jewish ministry for many years, even if Jordan's erroneous position were true, it would not affect my motives or the need for Jewish ministry. The Jewish people still need Jesus, and they need to hear about him in a way that they can understand, just like any other people group!
Perhaps Mr. Jordan will change his theology again on this matter. He has gone through a number of shifts and redirections over the years, and some of them are very disturbing, such as his Federal Vision advocacy. I pray God blesses him with a change of thinking on this and other issues!
Rev. Fred Klett, PCA minister to the Jewish people.
Date: 08 Jul 2010
Killing Christians inside the temple seems to be the only abomination significantly worse than continuing to offer animal sacrifices, which God could have avenged shortly after the crucifixion.
Where be ye link to the next study?
Date: 20 Nov 2012
The new heaven and the new earth is in place. If the wicked repent they have access to the True Kingdom within themselves where The Father and Christ will live spiritually inside of them and commune with them. This was not available before Christ. The gathering of the Saints and Prophets into the Heavens happened in AD 70 but was not witnessed by the unbelievers as it was not a physical return because Christ came in His Glory and Humans can't see that true Glory of God.
However, as John points out the true people of God will see him only because they will be at His Return just like him in their own Glorious bodies.
All is fulfilled we only need to Believe the True Words of Christ and understand that he meant what he said and he did not try to confuse us. It was at hand , and must shortly come to pass and all is fulfilled that was written then i.e. the old testament.These are the True saying of GOD. Salvation is available to us today just as it was to those of Paul's and Johns day. We will move straight to Christ at death. The wicked will remain wicked still and the righteous will remain righteous still and them that lead into captivity will go into captivity and he that lives by the sword will die by the sword. On the other hand those that die in Christ will go to the New Heaven (Where Satan and His angles are no longer allowed) and new Earth (Where we have a body just like Adam and Eve once had) and dwell in the New Jerusalem and their works will go with them. It is impossible for the Righteous and Glorious true state of GOD and Christ to dwell with flesh as stated in Genesis and by Christ himself. It was never possible and never will be we must receive our new bodies to see the new Jerusalem where God and Christ are at this very day.The Good news is if we live out our life now as we are supposed to and accept the truth of the gospel we will not taste death but move into life in a new body able to see the Father , Christ and our Holy Brothers just as Adam and Eve could before they believed they knew more that God and wanted to make their own decisions instead of just believe that what God says is exactly what God means.
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