The Abomination of Desolation

Jesus referred to "the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet" in Matthew 24:15. The context there indicates a reference to Daniel 9:26, 27, which was fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. But the reference in Daniel 12:11 points to A.D. 508. There must, therefore, be two abominations described in Daniel. And we shall see from our study that the first typified the second.

Jesus' warning concerning the destruction of Jerusalem is recorded in Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:14; and Luke 21:20. In Matthew's and Mark's account, it says, "When ye shall see the abomination of desolation . . ."

Luke's account gives the interpretation. There we read, "And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies . . ." So, the abomination was when Jerusalem was surrounded with Roman armies prior to its destruction. That event was a sign to the Christians that the desolation of the city was nigh.

Why was the surrounding of the city an abomination? Mark records, "When ye shall see the abomination . . . standing where it ought not." Matthew's account speaks of it standing "in the holy place." Notice the following commentary:

"When the idolatrous standards of the Romans should be set up in the holy ground, which extended some furlongs outside the city walls, then the followers of Christ were to find safety in flight." The Great Controversy, p. 26.

The abomination occurred when the "idolatrous standards" of the Romans were set up on the holy ground where they ought not.

We must now notice Luke 21:24. "And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled."

This verse is explained in its parallel passage, Revelation 11:2, which says, "For it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months." So the times of the Gentiles would be 42 months. This is the same as the 1260 days, which extended from 538-1798. During that time "Jerusalem" would be trodden down of the Gentiles. This is clearly a reference to spiritual Jerusalem (the church), because the 1260 days had nothing to do with literal Jerusalem.

The sequence goes like this:

  1. The idolatrous standards of the Romans were set up where they ought not. This was the abomination spoken of in Daniel 9:27.
  2. Literal Jerusalem was destroyed in A.D. 70. This was the desolation spoken of in Daniel 9:27.
  3. The abomination of Daniel 12:11 was set up in A.D. 508.
  4. Spiritual Jerusalem, the church, was trodden under foot for 42 months from 538-1798, according to Revelation 11:2. This was the desolation of Daniel 12:11.

Just as the first abomination was a sign to literal Jerusalem that its desolation was nigh, and that the Christians were to flee, so the abomination of A.D. 508 was a sign to spiritual Jerusalem that its desolation was nigh, and that the "woman" of Revelation 12:6 was about to flee into the wilderness.

What was the abomination of A.D. 508? To answer that question, we must go back to our definition of the abomination which preceeded the destruction of literal Jerusalem. The abomination at that time was the setting up, by military force, of the idolatrous standards of the Romans. Just as the planting of pagan Rome's standard by military force was a sign to the Christians in Jerusalem, so the planting of papal Rome's standard by military force would be a sign to the church: The time of papal supremacy was about to begin.

The military arms employed to accomplish the latter abomination were those of Clovis, king of the Franks. "It is to them [the Franks] that the political inheritance of the Roman Empire passed; to them came the honor of taking up and carrying on . . . the political work which Rome had been doing." George Burton Adams, Civilization During the Middle Ages, pp. 137-144.

What would be the "idolatrous standard" of papal Rome? The word "idolatrous" denotes false worship. The "standard" of papal Rome is the creed for which it stands. When the creed of the papacy had won military victory and was planted on the ground where truth had once stood, that act would be the abomination that maketh desolate.

Here is how one church historian has described it:

In the setting up of this "abomination that maketh desolate" (Dan. 12:11), we see that five distinct steps were taken: -

  1. Forming a creed, expressing their faith in man-made phrases instead of adhering to the word of the Lord.
  2. Making that man-made creed a test of fellowship, and denouncing all as heretics who would not assent to the exact wording of their creeds.
  3. Making the creed a rule by which all heretics must be tried. Many were thus declared sinners whose faith was more in harmony with the direct statements of the Bible than that of those who decreed against them.
  4. Constituting themselves a tribunal for the trial of heretics, and excluding from their fellowship all who would not assent to their creeds. Not content to debar such from church privileges in this world, they declared them subjects for the lake of fire.
  5. Having thus kindled a hatred in their own hearts against all who did not conform to their creeds, they next invoked and obtained the aid of the civil power to torture, and kill with sword, with hunger, with flame, and with beasts of the earth, those whom they had declared unfit to remain in the world.
Then appeared on the stage of action one class of professed Christians with a head over them, actually declaring that he was "God on earth," persecuting another class of Christians who were conscientiously following the Lord and his Word.

J. N. Loughborough, The Church, Its Organization, Order, and Discipline, pp. 76, 77.

So the setting up of the abomination that maketh desolate, marking the beginning of the 1290 years of Daniel 12:11, was the employment of civil power for the establishment of the Catholic creed. Clovis' victory over the Visigoths in the year 508 was the great theological turning point. It determined that trinitarianism would rule in Western Europe. Stated again, the military triumph of the Catholic creed was the abomination that maketh desolate.

The papacy is characterized by a union of church and state. Catholic history indicates that church and state first united for the purpose of overthrowing what they termed Arianism. It was to establish their fundamental creed that the Catholic Church first sought the arm of the civil government.

"Two major elements come together here: (1) the blending of the political arm of the state and the religious arm of the church, and (2) the use of the arms of the state to accomplish the ends of the church. With the defeat of the Visigoths as heretical Arian Christians, the church came to use the military power of the state to enforce its dogma. . . . Thus the setting up of the abomination of desolation of Daniel 12:11 can be seen as the union of church and state and what the church set out to accomplish through the power of the state. This had the effect of eclipsing the true ministry of Christ as our High Priest in the heavenly sanctuary." William H. Shea, Bible Amplifier - Daniel 7-12, pp. 220, 221.

It was only by the crushing of "Arianism" that Catholicism could triumph:

"The man of sin was raised to his presumptuous throne by the defeat of the Arian Goths." Uriah Smith, Daniel and the Revelation, p. 270.

"The contest between Arianism and the orthodox Catholicism was the means of enthroning the papacy. . . . Every principle of truth was crushed, and with 538 was ushered in the Dark Ages." S. N. Haskell, The Story of Daniel the Prophet, p. 266.

"It was apostasy that led the early church to seek the aid of the civil government, and this prepared the way for the development of the papacy - the beast." The Great Controversy, p. 443.

"There [shall] come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed." 2 Thessalonians 2:3.