A common belief is that a future Antichrist will set up an altar to himself in the Jerusalem temple. This event is often called the Abomination of Desolation. The expression "abomination that causes desolation" comes from Daniel 9:27. Some Bible teachers teach incorrectly that Daniel's prophecy refers to the end of the world. This is not correct. The passage describes the effects of the cross and the destruction of Jerusalem (see Seventy Weeks).

Jesus confirmed this interpretation when warning his disciples of the destruction of Jerusalem. When asked for a sign, he warned of a number of false signs that would occur. He then gave the key sign. Its fulfilment would mean that the destruction of Jerusalem is at hand.

So when you see standing in the holy place "the abomination that causes desolation," spoken of through the prophet Daniel - let the reader understand - then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains (Matt 24 15,16).

The meaning of the expression is made clear by Luke in his account of Jesus' words. He records Jesus' explanation of his words:

When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city (Luke 21:20,21).

The "abomination that causes desolation" is not some future antichrist, but quite simply the Roman army surrounding Jerusalem. It would make the city desolate. The Roman army is called an abomination because it carried ensigns consisting of eagles and images of the emperor. These were often worshipped by the soldiers. In the Bible, an abomination is an idolatrous practice.

The sign that the desolation of Jerusalem is at hand was the Roman army surrounding Jerusalem. When they saw this sign the Christians were to flee to the mountains. There was a tremendous urgency attached to this warning.

Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of his house. Let no one in the field go Back to get his cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers. Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath (Matt 24:17-20).

There would be no time to wait around or to gather possessions together. The flight would have to be instantaneous to avoid being caught by the siege.

Jesus' warning saved the lives of many of his followers. Although a million Jews lost their lives in the siege of Jerusalem, none of them were Christians. The Christians heeded Jesus' warning and fled at the first signs of the siege.

Jesus' words were also a warning not to confuse the siege of Jerusalem with the events described in Zechariah 14. That passage describes a siege in which the Lord would miraculously rescue his people. Many Jews expected this to happen in AD 70, but were disappointed. Jesus' warning makes it clear that Zechariah 14 describes a later stage in Jewish history. His disciples did not expect this dramatic rescue in AD 70. They knew in advance that Jerusalem would be destroyed.

The abomination of desolation has already occurred. Christians should not be looking forward to it happening in the future.


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