Report From The Tower
I am speaking about major bible commentaries, such as 1) The Pulpit Commentary, 2) Matthew Henry's Commentary, 3) Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary, 4) Albert Barnes Commentary and 5) Adam Clarke's Commentary. These commentaries were written over a period of approximately 200 years and they uniformly present the idea that Matthew 24:15 and Mark 13:14 was fulfilled by the Roman Army in 70 AD when they surrounded Jerusalem and then breached the walls.
An abomination was first required, and that picture is ably filled by the image of the Roman Army, first surrounding Jerusalem and standing where it ought not, and then treading into Jerusalem and treading down the Holy Temple. An abomination, referring to any detestable thing in the broad sense would fit that Roman Army just fine, and I would agree with the commentators if that were the case, but the context is narrowed down by our Lord when He says it refers in some way to the abomination set forth by the prophet Daniel in his chapters 9, 11 and 12. Some of those verses have been problematic in the translation as the Hebrew words that were used, particularly in chapter 9, have created a variety of translations where translators have seen a wing of the temple in verse 27, as well as other takes on those words. Clearly, God left room here. In every case however, those verses in Daniel refer to something that is "set up" or "placed". So, right here at the outset of this article, I have a bit of a controversy with those past bible commentators, for just how was the Roman Army "set up" or "placed" around Jerusalem? Yes, it was an abomination to the Jews for the Romans to lay siege to them and kill them utterly and without mercy, but how was it after the order of that which was prophesied by the prophet Daniel? I tend to look at this scripture in a different way... like this: there is an abomination that God's people commit and this causes a desolation to come upon them, because of their disobedience.
My way of looking at abomination and desolation is more in line with the thinking that was present in ancient Israel from antiquity. There is a passage, found in Josephus (’Wars of the Jews,’ 4.6), in which he refers to an ancient saying that was then current, that "Jerusalem would be taken, and the temple be destroyed, when it had been defiled by the hands of Jews themselves." Jesus had taught that a man is not defiled from without, but from within. Mar 7:15 "There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man." So, I believe it is proper to apply this scripture about defilement to the whole nation as well. The Romans, sourced from the outside, could not really defile the Israelites or the Temple by what they did. No, the Jews were the ones guilty of the real defilement, that God cared about, because they were the Lord's people. The abomination referred to by Daniel refers to some great abomination that was set up or placed, and I believe that abomination was the Lord's body himself, whom they crucified in approximately 30 AD, setting Him up upon a cross on Calvary's hill. The Romans certainly were the agent used by God to pour forth the consequences upon the Jews for committing the great abomination of crucifying their messiah, but I do not believe they were the actual abomination, after the order of Daniel. This level of devotion to detail is important, as I shall later make clear.
I want to say that again, in a little bit of a different way, for this is the reason the Spirit of God has had me write about this subject today. Every time a desolation falls upon God's people as a group or a nation, that desolation will fall upon them because of some abomination God's people have committed! I believe that according to scripture, nothing can come upon the children of God without passing under the purview and approval of the Lord God Almighty. Scripture says that no curse can come without a cause, and a complete desolation is indeed a curse of the worst kind. God would never allow His people to be utterly destroyed and left completely desolate without a cause. Yet, in so many cases, God's people are not willing to ever look within themselves as having been the cause for their desolate state. This is so individually as well as nationally and it is still true today. We may suffer the death of a loved one, but almost no one wants to hear that the early death of one so dear was due to the fact that said loved one opened up a doorway for the devil to enter in and steal his life away before the time.
I tell you confidently that the major commentators of hundreds of years ago had it wrong. They made a critical error and stumbled at the detail of just who or what was the identity of the abomination spoken of by the prophet Daniel. But, alas, our modern commentators have taken these same scriptures in Matthew 24 and in Mark 13 and they have made even more grievous errors than their forerunners have made. First though, before we dive into modern teaching regarding the abomination of desolation, let us step back about two hundred years before the crucifixion of Jesus, to the time of King Antiochus Epiphanes, who ruled over one fourth of the broken up empire of Alexander the Great. The people of God underwent a terrible persecution under his hands over a period of several years.
Most christians today are probably not aware of it, but Daniel's prophecy of an abomination, set up or placed, that caused a desolation to fall upon God's people is presented as fulfilled in the Catholic Bible and by the reformers as well in the Geneva Bible by this very persecution of God's people at the hands of Antiochus Epiphanes. Though the source, 1 Maccabees 1:39-60, is apocryphal, the historical accuracy of this book cannot be challenged. (I have modernized the spelling from the Geneva Bible for your convenience). This also means that though the history is accurate, the scriptural and prophetic conclusions made in it may not necessarily be as accurate. So, let us take a look at this Maccabbean passage:
1Ma 1:39 "For they shed innocent blood on every side of the Sanctuary, and defiled the Sanctuary, Insomuch that the citizens of Jerusalem fled away because of them, and it became an habitation of strangers, being desolate of them whom she had borne: for her own children did leave her. Her Sanctuary was left waste as a wilderness: her holy days were turned into mourning, her Sabbaths into reproach, and her honour brought to naught. As her glory had been great, so was her dishonour, & her excellency was turned into sorrow. Also the King wrote unto all his kingdom, that all the people should be as one, and that every man should leave his laws. And all the heathen agreed to the commandment of the King. Yea, many of the Israelites consented to his religion, offering unto idols, & defiling the Sabbath. So the King sent letters by the messengers unto Jerusalem, and to the cities of Judah, that they should follow the strange laws of the country, And that they should forbid the burnt offerings, & sacrifices, & the offerings in the Sanctuary, And that they should defile the Sabbaths and the feasts, And pollute the Sanctuary & the holy men, And to set up altars, and groves, and chapels of idols, and offer up swines flesh, and unclean beasts, And that they should leave their children uncircumcised, & defile their souls with uncleanness, and pollute themselves, that they might forget the Law, and change all the ordinances, And that whosoever would not do according to the commandment of the King, should suffer death. In like manner wrote he throughout all his kingdoms, and set overseers over all the people, for to compel them to do these things. And he commanded the cities of Judah to do sacrifice, city by city. Then went many of the people unto them by heaps, every one that forsook the Law, and so they committed evil in the land. And they drove the Israelites into secret places, even wheresoever they could flee for succor. The fifteenth day of Kislev, in the hundreth and five and fortieth year, they set up the abomination of desolation upon the altar, and they builded altars throughout the cities of Judah on every side. And before the doors of the houses, and in the streets they burnt incense. And the books of the Law, which they found, they burnt in the fire, and cut in pieces. Whosoever had a book of the Testament found by him, or whosoever consented unto the Law, the Kings commandment was, that they should put him to death by their authority."
The writer of the Maccabees concludes that the idol set upon the altar according to the orders of Antiochus was the abomination of desolation. True, it does qualify as an abomination before the Jews and true, it was set up or placed upon the altar. Pigs blood was also placed there. This caused a desolation of Jewish worship, as the temple altar was defiled and could not be sanctified again without holy, consecrated oil, of which there was only a small quantity sufficient to last a mere day. More could not be consecrated without the ashes of the red heifer and those could not be consecrated unless the temple lampstand could give its' light for eight days. So, the Jews were in a catch 22 of desolation. God had to step in with a miracle they called Hanukkah and this gave birth to a new festival, called the "Festival of Dedication", which Jesus attended in Jerusalem. So, in this case, an idol and some pigs blood, placed on the altar, put a stop to Jewish worship for an approximately three and a half year period, leaving the temple desolate. Twenty verses before this story is told, the Maccabean author told the story of sin in the camp: Verse twelve relates the story that "there went out of Israel wicked men, which enticed many, saying, Let us go, and make a covenant with the heathen, that are round about us, for since we departed from them, we have had much sorrow. So this device pleased them well. And certain of the people were ready, and went to the King, which gave them license to do after the ordinances of the heathen. Then set they up a place of exercise at Jerusalem, according to the factions of the heathen, and made themselves uncircumcised and forsook the holy covenant and joined themselves to the heathen and were sold to do mischief."
The abomination of desolation prophecies of Daniel clearly evidenced this cause and effect relationship of which I am now speaking. Verse 9:27 says that "for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate". There is an abomination or abominations that will come and because of them, he, meaning either Jesus or the prince who is to come, or perhaps both of them at different times, will make it desolate. Verse 11:31 agrees with this flow of thought: "they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate" Verse 12:11 agrees: the abomination that maketh desolate set up". We see all are in agreement: the abomination is something placed or set up, and this abomination causes the desolation that follows. Those in the days of Antiochus were looking at some idol he had ordered to be placed on the altar and had identified that as the abomination. They were looking outward for the abominating cause when they should have been looking at the defilement within and the sin that had taken place among the people of Israel. They were forced to look outwardly at that abominating idol and pigs blood because God's ceremonial law gave them rules regarding the operation of the temple. Yet, there is found the real, defiling abomination that had laid those people open to attack and occupation by an oppressive madman of a godless king and that is the tragedy of their own sinfulness. God would have never allowed the followers of Antiochus to defile the altar with an idol and pigs blood if God's people had not already committed abomination before Him.
Mat 23:37-39 "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord."
Jesus had told them forty years earlier that their house was left unto them desolate. Now, the time had come and in 70 AD, the desolation arrived. The house and temple mount have remained desolate ever since that time. During the last one hundred years, a new interpretation of these scriptures has arisen to the effect that a new abomination is said to take place at some time in the near future: that a newly rebuilt Jewish temple with restored animal sacrifice will have that sacrifice interrupted when an idol or statue is placed there by a world wide anti-christ after the order of the "Left Behind" movie series. Then, the great tribulation will begin and just before it falls, whooooooooosh, away we go in the rapture! Yippeeee!
Well, hold on there for just one minute. The past regarding this subject is quite difficult to sort out...so difficult that translators, theologians and commentators have changed their minds many times and offered up a myriad of views. I have presented a few of the most compelling ones, but one thing is clear about the past: THE PEOPLE WHO WERE DESOLATED WERE THE JEWS, AND THEY WERE THE PEOPLE OF GOD. No worldly gentile was desolated. This prophecy did not have anything to do with some worldwide destruction like the flood of Noah, nor did it have to do with the destruction of some worldly cities where wickedness got out of control, as in Sodom. No, this prophecy has always had to do with God, working to bring desolation to His own people. How were they desolated? In their religious practice, in the making of their temple to be incapable of function. In the first case, the temple was defiled; in the second case, the temple was destroyed. Now, some moderns are saying that we will have a third temple in Jerusalem, but they are apparently unaware that it would require a miracle from God to consecrate such a structure without the sanctified, holy oil and without the ashes of the red heifer.
I have said that a compelling case can be made that the prophecy of Jesus regarding this subject is fully wound up in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. However, our moderns are quite content to forget about Jerusalem and they turn a blind eye to the activities of the Papacy and his proclamations regarding his deity, infallibility and godhood (I have dealt with this in other articles). Let us look at it though from their perspective: Jesus did lay out this mystery while he was preparing His disciples for the end of their Jewish world and He then moved to a discussion in order to prepare us for the end of our christian world. It is somewhat difficult to know just where to draw the lines in knowing just what end He was referring to, but let us say that we will have our very own abomination and our very own desolation in our time. If we are to have it, will not the desolation fall SOLELY upon the people of God in our time? Who are they? Christians! Apostate christians to be specific. What is the temple of our day? The bible says that we are the many membered temple of God! (2 Co 6:16) Why will such a desolating interruption of worship occur? They will commit some abomination before God, in the house of God and it will stand where it ought not and then God will allow some agent which is an abomination to us to carry out His sentence, and God's disobedient people will be desolated, or in some way deprived of christian worship.
Note the preposterous arguments that many make today. They say that this new, third temple in Jerusalem, will have an abomination set up within it, then the rapture will occur, and then the great tribulation will fall upon all of the people who are not God's people along with those whom they say will be "left behind". They miss the promise of Jesus, made to Jerusalem at the end of Matthew 23, that their house is left to them desolate, and they would not see Him again until they would be saying blessed is He who cometh in the name of the Lord. They also miss the fact that the mere preparation of architectural plans to build such a temple would be an abomination before God in that it would represent a denial, once again, by the Jewish people of their Messiah. Such a third temple would not be holy ground, but unholy. Nothing set up or placed within that structure could make it any worse or abominable than it would already be in the sight of God. History says that God's desolating judgements fall upon His disobedient people and on them ALONE.
Finally, I have maintained for more than the last twenty years that we have done something in the house of God during the last forty years or so that seems to me to fit this abomination/desolation scenario quite well: we have committed abomination with respect to all of the teachings regarding tithing, offering and first-fruits, taking that which should be freely offered, without compulsion, and imposing force and with the force of legal pressure. We have glorified ministers who have taught by word and by their lifestyle examples that financial gain is godliness. We have for many generations abandoned the plural elder leadership, given by Jesus, where none of those elders was to set themselves forth as the greatest, lording over the flock. In its' place, we have substituted the pyramidal leadership, in the form of the Senior Pastor and fashioned after the model of earthly kingdoms and profit making enterprises. The corruption is utterly through and through and the tissue of the body is fit for nothing but removal. We certainly have abominations enough and the Lord will raise up an agent to spread forth the desolation in His faux house, which in actuality is not His House at all, just as He raised up the Romans to deal with abomination in Jerusalem in 70AD.
Judgement must begin at the House of God. The Lord cared about His chosen apostles. They were Jewish followers of the Lamb. He knew they were going to endure very traumatic things at the hands of the Romans. Their whole lives had revolved around Jerusalem and the temple. That was going to change. God also cares about His remnant now, who have been told that they will fly away by light and fluffy leaders. Our whole lives have revolved around church activities. That is going to change. God's remnant bride is going to endure very traumatic times between now and when we see our Lord Jesus in the air. The Lord wanted us to know about it and sent clues in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. He also sent forth His prophets to tell you to gird yourselves up and strengthen yourselves in the faith, for great stresses are coming. Great destruction will be unleashed upon a church that no longer holds to the head, Christ Jesus. Her leaders no longer care what shameful behavior they commit in the daytime. Hold tightly to Him remnant, for He is coming soon.
Stephen L. Bening
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