Acts 17:11 Archives

The Abomination of Desolation

A interpretation by Dean VanDruff about what this future trigger point of God's judgment is.

Is 66:3 (NIV) But whoever sacrifices a bull is like one who kills a man, and whoever offers a lamb, like one who breaks a dog's neck; whoever makes a grain offering is like one who presents pig's blood, and whoever burns memorial incense, like one who worships an idol. They have chosen their own ways, and their souls delight in their abominations.

Mt 24:15 (NIV) "So when you see standing in the holy place 'the abomination that causes desolation,' spoken of through the prophet Daniel--let the reader understand."

I do not believe that the temple must be built in Jerusalem, as is currently popular in evangelical eschatology. It might be built, and certainly there is a lot of expectation that it will be built. But it is not required to be built, based on scripture, and may never be. My concern is that many Christians have let an interpretive lark set their expectations, and perhaps missed the point of the passage. Here are but a few reasons why I think Jesus was not referring to a physical temple in speaking of the abomination that triggers desolation:
  1. The abomination that caused desolation (Mat 24:15) had already occurred physically when Jesus referred to it, where what Daniel prophesied occurred by the hands of Antiochus Epiphanes in 168BC. Such was a well-known, historic fact when Jesus was speaking; and He also predicted the destruction of the temple of His time. So it seems odd to interpret that what Jesus meant by referring to "the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet" was that what Antiochus did was going to physically happen yet again in another "rebuilt" temple. Was He saying a nearly identical thing was going to happen twice, or was He telling us that what Antiochus did physically was a prophetic harbinger of what was to come in the spiritual?

  2. We have no temple explicitly prophesied elsewhere as being built before the millennium. The only "proof" we have is the assumption that the texts in question must be literal, and thus the otherwise non-prophesied temple must be built.

  3. Am 3:7 (NIV) Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.

  4. The supernatural aspects of the temple (the eternal flame, the presence of God in the Holy of Holies, etc.) are historically marked as ceasing at the time of the crucifixion, and we know for sure that the veil was radically torn the very hour of Christ's death (Lu 23:45) as a way of the Father saying that He was finished with regarding a physical structure as the temple.

  5. Acts 17:24 (NKJ) "God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands."

    1Cor 6:19a (NIV) Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit?

  6. When God looks down at planet earth, does He not see only one "temple": the "body of Christ"? Even if you allow some space for "old covenant" spillover in terminology, and even if a physical temple were built by the Jews as an insult to the completed work of Christ, would God now consider it "the holy place"?

  7. 1Cor 3:16 (NIV) Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?

    Acts 7:48 (NAS) "...The Most High does not dwell in houses made by human hands..."

    2Cor 4:18 (Wey) ...We look not at things seen, but things unseen; for things seen are temporary, but things unseen are eternal.

Thus, I interpret the "abomination" not to be yet another desecration on yet another rebuilt altar. If a building and altar were erected by unbelieving Jews, it is hard to imagine that God would consider it "the temple", and surely He would not consider it "the holy place". It would, if done, be a great offense to God; so it is especially odd to see Christians rallying around the idea. Rather, I expect something as outrageous as what Antiochus did physically to occur spiritually within the only and true "temple" and "holy place" from God's point of view. In a word, I see what Jesus refers to as the "abomination" as the same thing as Paul's "apostasy", using much of the same terminology.

2 Thes 2:3-4 (Wey) Let no one in any way deceive you, for that day cannot come without the coming of the apostasy first, and the appearing of the man of sin, the son of perdition, who sets himself against, and exalts himself above, every so-called 'god' or object of worship, and goes the length of taking his seat in the very temple of God, giving it out that he himself is God.

This understanding as the "abomination of desolation" being in the temple of us is supported by dismal experience as well as scripture. I am not sure if you have seen apostasy up close; but we have, both individually and in groups. There has been a distinct spiritual quality to these episodes that has burned into our souls like few other things in life have; and the Spirit whispering "like this" in terms of what is to come and the abomination. Upon seeing our "church" in Austin taken over by demons, with our friends writhing on the floor, accepting what was clearly demonic because they were spiritually horny, blasphemies being spoken from the pulpit, discordant demonic cackling resulting from blasphemies spoken... all I can tell you is that I felt very interested in the "end times" all of a sudden. If this was not the end, it was certainly a portent of things to come. Picture, if your imagination will, actually seeing such a scene as we saw with our own eyes, with people you knew participating, and your God being slandered and mocked in a "church" meeting. I have never been able to shake the idea that the abomination will be like that.

Was the demonic "cackling" deal it? We wondered at the time, but figured it was just a warm-up early-warning of the detestable things "christians" could indulge in without circumspection or repentance. So no. This, by the way, marked the end of the move of the Spirit (1994) that we once enjoyed and observed around the world; and we have yet to see it return in full measure. And there is yet another and worse abomination coming. Those who participated in the first, unrepentant; and are ripe for the picking, as well as many others who steered clear of it. For I suspect that the future and ultimate abomination is not going to be by pagans or unbelievers, but from within "the Holy Place" of the temple; i.e. among us.

Dan 9:27b (NAS) "On the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate."

Dan 11:31-35 (NAS) "Forces from him will arise, desecrate the sanctuary fortress, and do away with the regular sacrifice. And they will set up the abomination of desolation. By smooth words he will turn to godlessness those who act wickedly toward the covenant, but the people who know their God will display strength and take action. Those who have insight among the people will give understanding to the many; yet they will fall by sword and by flame, by captivity and by plunder for many days. Now when they fall they will be granted a little help, and many will join with them in hypocrisy. Some of those who have insight will fall, in order to refine, purge and make them pure until the end time; because it is still to come at the appointed time."

I try to take these texts literally, but then I remember seeing a "church" filled with writhing bodies cackling to some apostasy spoken from the pulpit. I have to weigh this against the alternative view: the possibility of a speculative physical "Temple" being re-built and then being desecrated in strange repetition with another idol or pig on an unauthorized "altar". For me, the figurative seems fit the reality of the prophecy much better than the literal. As Reggie Kelly says, "Perhaps both will happen?", but if one doesn't, I suspect it will be the physical--since it already has. God "no longer dwells in temples made of stone."

Admittedly, my case is not air-tight. Reading through prophetic texts about the "abomination" does indeed leave one with a literal feel as to the descriptions. A temple may indeed be rebuilt, just as many suspect it will be. But still I think the more important interpretation is to the spiritual meaning, rather than the literal fulfillment. And, in case my guess is right and no temple is ever built, we do not want to be found in error by clinging to the literal when the spiritual is at hand.

Independent of figurative or literal temples, a man who is the antithesis of Christ, the opposite of Christ (or anti-christ, if you will) will be accepted as Christ. You can see how the "cackling" thing (the acceptance of what is classic demonic behavior as a work of the Holy Spirit) is a sort of prelude "warm-up" for this. Perhaps there will be a few more successively worse blasphemies before the final insult to God's truth as revealed by the Son is revealed?

Along this line, Jesus was oddly shy about saying who He was in His "anointing" / as Christ. Most often, He did not assert His deity but only confirmed it when others "saw the light", and one wonders why. Well, we may have the answer in the depictions of the "man of sin"; for He is a boaster, especially about being "anointed". His mouth speaks bold things; he exalts himself; he is arrogant, haughty, ignorant of God, without the fear of God. In all aspects he is the opposite of what we know to be true about Christ. It seems to me, then, that Jesus was deliberately setting up a contrast with His shyness (if you will) about telling people about the miracles (the antichrist will do just the opposite, he will advertise his "signs and wonders", no matter how "lying"), never boasting of who He was, avoiding self-promotion, publicity, the crowds, etc. Jesus was dead-set on getting arrested and crucified, in fact, to the chagrin and denial of His followers. Christ the real, vs. Christ the anti.

John 5:31 (NIV) "If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid."

Specifically, many find the real Christ and what He did quaint, cute, perhaps a little off-putting, but they like the whole social thing of church and to get the occasional splash of spiritual thrill. They like the idea that they are going to heaven, and so forth. But, down deep, they really don't like Jesus. He is wimpy where he ought to be macho, he is exceptionally assertive where he ought to be polite. He says the most outrageous things in one unwelcome instance (causing many of his rag-tag followers to leave Him) and then refuses to answer an important question from experts in the Law the next. He gets vexed in spirit when the crowds get larger, and disappears or retreats. His overall strategy to "win" looks a whole lot like failure. And so on and so on. We all experience a bit of this reaction, or have (2Cr 5:16), but some of us have grown to love Him who "has no form or comeliness, that we should desire Him" (Is 53:2) by the power of transformation and new birth. But for those who harbor offense at Christ, who causes men (carnal men) to stumble, along comes a Saul / Esau / Cain like character who is full of himself, inspires confidence, looks good on camera, loves the crowds and the limelight, exaggerates rather than hides miracles, and claims to be anointed (or the Christ, translated). Get it? This man will insist that he is God, and he will "set himself up in the 'holy place'" as such. This, to me, will be the fulfillment of Antiochus Epiphanes' "abomination" way back when. Since blasphemies of the Antichrist and the "falling away" are clearly prophesied, and this fits seamlessly with Jesus' words, why look elsewhere for a less clear interpretation? This time, it is in the temple God really cares about that such abominations will be done, and which will trigger His ultimate anger and wrath.

"...if it were possible... to deceive the very elect!" It was possible then, and happened; and it is possible now--proven over and again in experience. "Who warned you?"

This is why we felt the Bible Study series on Spiritual Adultery was so important and needed. Beyond such pragmatic preparation as this, the core issue is to know and love (and be loved by) Jesus Christ. "For I know in whom I have believed..." Let us clean out the closets of our minds of any residue of dislike or misunderstanding towards God, lest these be used like nose rings to drag us away in deception to the lawless one coming in direct counterpoint. For if there is any residue of dislike to Christ, what He did, His Name... then we are set up to resonate with one who is coming who will slander, blaspheme, and "make fun of" our God. Many will inwardly cheer this, as they have secretly thought so all along. I, for one, have had this scurrilous instinct within me in the past, and know I could thus be deceived in my own self, but I very much do not want to be included in the apostasy to come. Thus, my basic defiant and opposed-to-the-Lordship-of-Christ nature must be successively killed off, and something else must resurrect in its place. I suspect to some degree this is true of all believers. We must confront people (ourselves included) with the Holy One of Israel" (Is 30:11) in these last days.

Even if you disagree about the physical temple being rebuilt, please do not miss the point that the physical is only a shadow for the real, the temporal a symbol for the spiritual. When Antiochus did his "abomination" way back when, profane as it was, God remained in heaven, watching. When the "abomination" of the future occurs, the Lord rises and returns in fury and rage. I might be wrong about a physical temple not being required to be built; but regardless, God is right about the apostasy that is coming. We have been warned about the sort of man/men it will come through and what the basic message will be. In the meantime, Christians the world over are hankering after extremely anti-christ religious clowns who have no real power and from whom they receive no real benefit (Jude 1:12), and yet such people feel confident they will reject the Antichrist (with a capital A) when He comes with much power and claiming to be "anointed".

It is time to consider who Christ really is, and if we truly love Him. If we do, we will hate that which is the opposite from Him... not be attracted to it or deceived by it. If we have such "rings in our noses" of deception now, a very strong man is coming along who will grab them and we are in for a long ride down. Better to have the rings surgically removed now, with the result that we will not be so easily led astray by every passing religious huckster.

Better to prepare for the coming storm while the weather permits. Better to prepare for the long night while it is still day. The work to be done is in our own souls, in our remaining strange attraction to what is the opposite of Christ. "Lord, heal us!"

Rom 15:15 (NIV) I have written you quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me.

2Pet 1:12 (NIV) So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have.

2Tm 4:1 (NIV) The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.

2Tm 3:12-14 (NIV) In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it.

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