When Jesus said, “When you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place …” (Matt 24:16) he was drawing a dynamic prophetic scene that would unfold gradually over several fulfilments! Accordingly, as soon as his sacrifice abolished the former order (Hebrews 8-10), left standing in the Holy place was the high priest who rejected what God had done. He and his altar – yes, the temple altar – became the ‘Abomination that leads to desolation.’
But did not Jesus also say, “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies …?” (Luke 21:20) Did that happen in AD 30? The answer is no, but what did happen was an ‘overspreading’ of the same abomination every year and every day until AD 66 when Jerusalem was indeed surrounded. The believers, recognising Christ’s words, fled the city and were saved. Some of his words were fulfilled AD 30 and some AD 66-70. It was unfolding gradually!
Now, here is where it gets really interesting. In Marks account of the same prophecy he says,
“When you see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains … For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be. And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved.” (Mark 13:14-20)
Did a tribulation of such proportion occur in AD 70? (nothing like it from beginning of creation – no human being saved etc. etc.) Was it that bad? Preterists try hard to paint Jerusalem’s siege as the ‘mother of all tribulations’ but, as awful as it was, it fails to match the description given. The overarching picture, when all Bible references are compared, show AD 70 as a fulfilment like Antiochus Epiphenes was – a fulfilment in part, and precursor to something much greater to come.
My point is this: There was a fulfilment of an ‘antichrist’ in 168 BC; there was a fulfilment of an abomination in AD 30; there was a fulfilment of a tribulation in AD 66-70 and there will be a fulfilment again in the future. We have had a series of precursors but the full picture has been (and still is) developing.
The common objection to this idea is, “where does it stop?” but no one is saying dual fulfilment repeats indefinitely. A prophecy is totally fulfilled when all aspects of that prophecy have taken place. Take for example Luke’s mention of armies. This obviously relates to the Roman siege of Jerusalem; however Luke telescopes beyond then to apocalyptic visions of waves and seas roaring. (Luke 21:25) Were there reports of violent tidal activity in AD 70? No, because, it did not happen then! It waits a time when the heavenly bodies are shaken.
So, a future day is coming when a shocking event will re-occur centered on an ‘antichrist’, and around a blasphemous object standing with him in the temple. (2 Thess. 2:3-4, Mark 13:14, Daniel 11:36) Whether this is a Jewish temple or a ‘politically correct’ world religion is a matter of opinion; it is not the purpose of this article to speculate beyond the basic elements of what the abomination will be.
However, four things can be deduced because the prophecy has already happened before, hence a future completion of it will be of the same nature – a reflection, of the original fulfilments.
- Firstly, the abomination has something to do with the place where the temple once stood.
- Secondly, it will involve an alternative method of atonement to the blood of Christ.
- Thirdly, it will culminate in a man claiming to be God and standing where he ought not be.
- Fourthly, it will erupt into severe tribulation which, except for divine intervention, would destroy mankind.
So, this particular prophecy is unfolding gradually. I believe the popular ‘Abomination’ doctrine needs to be reappraised along these lines.