As we continue our study this chapter, we must keep in mind it’s context, and the disciples question seen in Matthew 24:1-2, 3
As we have seen in this series Jesus had given many warnings about Jerusalem’s fall and the fact that the kingdom of God would be taken from them. The disciples reacted with questions:
We could put the disciples’ question this way, “When will the temple be destroyed and what will be the sign of your presence in power and glory as Messiah and the end of the Jewish age?”
In the previous chapter Jesus talks about a desolation of what was known as the house of Israel. This house was the temple.
Matthew 23:38(NKJV) “See! Your house is left to you desolate;
So in verses 15-20, Jesus gave them a sign that they can’t miss as to the destruction of the temple, His parousia, and the end of the Jewish age. This sign was the decisive one that would prompt an immediate response from them.
15 “Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’[c] spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand),
So what is the “abomination of desolation” that Jesus refers to here. To the Jews, an “abomination” was anything that involved the worship of false gods in sacred places.
The phrase “abomination of desolation” an Hebrew expression also means an abominable or hateful destroyer. To the Jews, the “abomination of desolation” spoken of by Daniel brought to their minds the Assyrian ruler Antiochus Epiphanes.
According to Jewish history which can found recorded in the Apocrypha, the passages in Daniel were fulfilled in the intertestamental time between the Old and New Testaments. The book of 1 Maccabees records how Antiochus Epiphanes (who ruled Syria from 174 to 164 B.C.) came against Jerusalem and what he did that the Jews called “the abomination of desolation.”
This man had surnamed himself Epiphanes, which means “the God Made Manifest.” Antiochus made it his ambition to stamp out the Jewish religion. He issued a royal edict that suspended the practice of the Jewish religion on pain of death. He even turned priest’s rooms and the Temple chambers into public brothels. In December 168 B.C., the Temple was dedicated to Zeus, and over the alter was placed a statue of Zeus which resembled Antiochus. A pig was sacrificed on the alter itself! This was a filthy abomination in the sight of the Jews.
Jesus said that this “abomination of desolation” that was to take place in that generation had been “spoken of by Daniel the prophet.” This expression, “abomination of desolation,” is found four times in Daniel.
13 Then I heard a holy one speaking; and another holy one said to that certain one who was speaking, “How long will the vision be, concerning the daily sacrifices and the transgression of desolation, the giving of both the sanctuary and the host to be trampled underfoot?” (Daniel 8:13)
“And after the sixty-two weeks
Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself;
And the people of the prince who is to come
Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.
The end of it shall be with a flood,
And till the end of the war desolations are determined.
27 Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week;
But in the middle of the week
He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering.
And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate,
Even until the consummation, which is determined,
Is poured out on the desolate.” (Daniel 9:26,27)
31 And forces[j] shall be mustered by him, and they shall defile the sanctuary fortress; then they shall take away the daily sacrifices, and place there the abomination of desolation.(Daniel 11:31)
11 “And from the time that the daily sacrifice is taken away, and the abomination of desolation is set up, there shall be one thousand two hundred and ninety days. (Daniel 12:11)
Jesus calls to mind how this would fulfill the destruction of the temple and land in Jerusalem. He drew a straightforward connection to Daniel’s prophecy being fulfilled in that generation.
Luke’s account gives us a clearer picture.
“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Luke 21:20 (NKJV)
When you look at historical records in line with Luke’s account it is clear that Cestius Gallus and his Roman army were the abomination of desolation. It was fulfilled in A.D.66 when the Romans surrounded the city of Jerusalem.
The Roman armies were an abomination and desolating ones to the Jews. This is so because they were Heathen, uncircumcised and also because of the images of their gods, which were upon their ensigns: for images and idols were always an abomination to the Jews.
C.H. Spurgeon wrote: (1888) “This portion of our Saviour’s words appears to relate solely to the destruction of Jerusalem. As soon as Christ’s disciples saw “the abomination of desolation,” that is, the Roman ensigns, with their idolatries, “stand in the holy place,” they knew that the time for their escape had arrived; and they did flee to the mountains.” (Matthew: The Gospel of the Kingdom. . p. 215).
Then Jesus says
“Whoever reads, let him understand”.
This was intended to draw the attention of the hearers to Daniel’s prophecy and it’s true meaning. When YE shall see the abomination which makes desolation spoken of by Daniel, the prophet, standing in the holy place, where it ought not to be. In other words when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies,’ that is the sign of the destruction of Jerusalem.
“Therefore when YOU see the ‘abomination of desolation.'” He is talking to his disciples who asked him questions at the beginning. He told them when “you” see the “abomination of desolation;” This was not for the Jews in general, or a future generation of Jews.
How would the disciples see it if it is yet in our future 2,000 years later?
The “abomination of desolation” is a past event, fulfilled in the events of AD 66- 70. It was a sure sign for the disciples that Jerusalem was about to be destroyed, and for them to flee from Jerusalem in order to escape the great tribulation which was coming upon the Jewish people.
Then he gave them specific instruction as it relates to this sign.
“then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.” – Matthew 24:16 (NKJV)
When the Roman armies were seen surrounding Jerusalem, this was the sign to get out of the entire country as soon as possible. This would have been against what a Jew would have done. Upon seeing a treat they would want to retreat into the city and take protection from its high and strong walls. This time THIS was a sign to flee to the mountains.
While the Christians fled, the Jews in general rushed into the city, resulting in a horrible blood bath. From the records also we have it that no Christian died in the city when the siege began. They all left before it started.
This is not a future event to look forward in the now or future. To preach it in that direction would be to totally ignore the words of Jesus and eliminate the relevant audience in the prophecy. The church has gone past this event and now we will channel our resources to make the world know of His eternal kingdom that is resident within us; the only hope for true transformation.