Abomination of Desolation is a concept for Jews and Christians referring to a horrible person who defies God and works for Satan.
An expression that occurs three times in the Septuagint of Daniel (9:27; 11:31; 12:11) and twice in the words of Jesus (Matt 24:15; Mark 13:14), where slight linguistic variation exists. Luke’s account of this prophecy (21:20) is more general and speaks of armies surrounding Jerusalem. First Maccabees, quoting Daniel, refers these words to the sacrifice of swine’s flesh on the altar in Jerusalem by Antiochus IV, Epiphanes, in 168 b.c. (1:54). Josephus, without referring to Daniel, recounts this episode in detail (Antiq. 7.5.4). Jesus, in using these cryptic words of Daniel, is also predicting a desecration of the temple, or at least the temple area, which will parallel the catastrophic event of the past, so well remembered by the Jews of his day.
There have been numerous suggestions as to precisely what Jesus meant by this prophecy. It should be noted that for
Jesus, the Abomination has become a personal force rather than an event—he stands (in the holy place [Matt 24:15] where he does not belong [Mark 13:14]). This has caused some to look for a particular historical act by an individual for fulfillment (variously, Pilate, Caligula, or Hadrian, more proximately, or more remotely the Antichrist himself in the end times) as the ultimate Abomination. Others have argued, especially in light of Luke 21:20 and Daniel’s words, that either the destruction of Jerusalem in a.d. 70 or the desecration of the temple at that time, whether by the apostate Jews beforehand or the Romans afterward, fulfilled Jesus’ prophetic words.
Given the nature of prophetic utterance, which often includes a more proximate and remote fulfillment, there is no reason why there could not be truth in both of these approaches. Jesus could very well be referring to the end of the age—he was, after all, answering the questions of “when will this happen” (i.e., the destruction of the temple) and “what will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age?” (Matt 24:3)—as well as to the destruction of Jerusalem in a.d. 70. If this is so, then the early Christians were right when they fled Jerusalem in obedience to Jesus’ words (Matt 24:16-20), but were also right when they looked for yet another, more cataclysmic fulfillment in the more distant future that would constitute the end of the age.
Walter A. Elwell