The “abomination of desolation” is first described in the book of Daniel (Daniel 11:31). A few days before His crucifixion, Jesus spoke to His disciples about this entity saying, “whoever reads, let him understand” (Matthew 24:15).
The meaning of the Hebrew word abomination in the book of Daniel is translated abomination or a detestable thing. Throughout the Old Testament the word is quite common and is almost always used in regard to detestable idols or something to do with idolatry.
In the New Testament the words eramus or eromosis are used for desolation or devastation.
Jesus said, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all nations, and then the end will come [notice the context]. ‘Therefore when you see the “abomination of desolation,” spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place’ (whoever reads, let him understand), ‘then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not come down to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes.’ ” (Matthew 24:14–18). (See also Mark 13:14–16).
The expression “abomination of desolation” is not used in the gospel of Luke, but it talks about the same thing. It says, “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her (don’t return). For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled” (Luke 21:20–22).
This was the clear instruction given by Jesus just a few days before He was crucified. When they saw the abomination stand where it should not, they were to flee out of Jerusalem. If they were in the country, they were not to return to the city.
What exactly is the abomination of desolation?
There have been many different explanations, but here we will stick with inspired statements that tell us what we need to know.
“Jesus declared to the listening disciples the judgments that were to fall upon apostate Israel, and especially the retributive vengeance that would come upon them for their rejection and crucifixion of the Messiah. Unmistakable signs would precede the awful climax. The dreaded hour would come suddenly and swiftly. And the Saviour warned His followers: ‘When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place (whoso readeth let him understand), then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains’ (Matthew 24:15, 16). 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. When the warning sign should be seen, judgment was to follow so quickly that those who would escape must make no delay. He who chanced to be upon the housetop must not go down through his house into the street; but he must speed his way from roof to roof until he reach the city wall, and be saved ‘so as by fire’ (1 Corinthians 3:15). Those who were working in the fields or vineyards must not take time to return for the outer garment laid aside while they should be toiling in the heat of the day. They must not hesitate a moment, lest they be involved in the general destruction.” The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 4, 26, 27.
The signal to flee, according to this passage, was when the idolatrous standards of the Romans were set up outside the city walls. It was so important that they escape that there was no time for delay, not even to go to their house to get a coat.
Unmistakable signs were given by Jesus. “All the predictions given by Christ concerning the destruction of Jerusalem were fulfilled to the letter. The Jews experienced the truth of His words of warning, ‘With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again’ (Matthew 7:2).
“Signs and wonders appeared, foreboding disaster and doom.” The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 4, 31.
What were some of these signs and wonders?
“A comet, resembling a flaming sword, for a year hung over the city. An unnatural light was seen hovering over the temple. Upon the clouds were pictured chariots mustering for battle. Mysterious voices in the temple court uttered the warning words, ‘Let us depart hence.’ The eastern gate of the inner court, which was of brass, and so heavy that it was with difficulty shut by a score of men, and having bolts fastened deep into the firm pavement, was seen at midnight to be opened of its own accord.
“For seven years a man continued to go up and down the streets of Jerusalem, declaring the woes that were to come upon the city.” Ibid.
How many Christians perished in the destruction of Jerusalem?
“Not one Christian perished in the destruction of Jerusalem. Christ had given His disciples warning, and all who believed His words watched for the promised sign. After the Romans had surrounded the city, they unexpectedly withdrew their forces, at a time when everything seemed favorable for an immediate attack. In the providence of God the promised signal was thus given to the waiting Christians, and without a moment’s delay they fled [in the fall of A.D. 66] to a place of safety—the refuge city Pella, in the land of Perea, beyond Jordan.” Ibid., 32.
The greatest sign was when the abomination of desolation stood, but before that there were many other signs that told it was time to get ready to go. When the abomination of desolation appeared, it was the last call for Christ’s followers who had listened to His warning to find safety in flight, and thus save their lives, so that not one Christian perished.
The first siege of Jerusalem, under the Roman army, happened under General Cestius. He surrounded Jerusalem with the Roman armies but, when it seemed favorable to attack, he unexpectedly withdrew his forces. When Cestius began to retreat, he planted the abomination of desolation, the banner of Rome, on the holy ground. When the Roman standards were planted there, right outside the city of Jerusalem, it was the sign for the followers of Christ to flee. All the predictions that Christ gave concerning the destruction of Jerusalem were fulfilled to the letter.
Ellen White wrote in Christ’s Object Lessons, 296, that when Jerusalem was destroyed, the whole area where the temple had been was plowed like a field.
In the spring of A.D. 70, when there were over a million Jews inside the city of Jerusalem for the Passover, the Roman army, with Titus at its head, returned and surrounded the city again. This second and final siege lasted from the time of the Passover in March/April until the city fell about August 30 of that same year.
Ellen White describes it this way: “Terrible were the calamities which fell upon Jerusalem in the siege of the city by Titus. The last desperate assault was made at the time of the passover, when millions of Jews had assembled within its walls to celebrate the national festival. Their stores of provision, which if carefully preserved would have been sufficient to supply the inhabitants for years, had previously been destroyed through the jealousy and revenge of the contending factions, and now all the horrors of starvation were experienced.” The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 4, 32.
Horrible things happened. “The Roman leaders endeavored to strike terror to the Jews, and thus cause them to surrender. Those prisoners who resisted when taken, were scourged, tortured, and crucified before the wall of the city. Hundreds were daily put to death in this manner, and the dreadful work continued until, along the valley of Jehoshaphat and at Calvary, crosses were erected in so great numbers that there was scarcely room to move among them.” Ibid., 33.
The destruction of Jerusalem is a type of what is going to happen at the end of the world. “The Saviour’s prophecy concerning the visitation of judgments upon Jerusalem is to have another fulfillment, of which that terrible scene was but a faint shadow.” Ibid., 37.
This is a scary thought! History records that over a million Jews were slaughtered during the destruction of Jerusalem. We have no idea just how many were led away captive and taken to Rome. Some of them were killed by gladiators for their entertainment in the coliseum. Others were made slaves and sent all over the world. What happened then was to have another fulfillment.
Ellen White says that that terrible scene was “a faint shadow” of a future event. The word faint means small, almost insignificant.
She says, “The second advent of the Son of God is foretold by lips which make no mistake: ‘Then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory’ (Matthew 24:30). …
“Let men beware lest they neglect the lesson conveyed to them in the words of Christ. He has declared that He will come the second time, to gather His faithful ones to himself, and to take vengeance on them that reject his mercy. As He [Jesus] warned His disciples of Jerusalem’s destruction, giving them a sign of the approaching ruin that they might make their escape, so He has warned His people of the day of final destruction, and given them signs of its approach, that all who will may flee from the wrath to come. Those who behold the promised signs are to ‘know that it is near, even at the door’ (verse 33, last part).” Ibid., 38.
What is the abomination of desolation today?
Remember, this is a two-fold prophecy. We know what the abomination of desolation was to the Christians in Jerusalem, but what does it represent today? Christians must identify the banner or flag of Rome, today. It is Sunday worship. The abomination of desolation today is Sunday worship, the symbol, sign, and mark of Rome’s self-assumed authority.
Look back again at Matthew 24:14–18. “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. ‘Therefore when you see the “abomination of desolation” spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place’ [remember, Jerusalem was called the holy city] (whoever reads, let him understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes.’ ”
Notice, the gospel goes to all the world and then the abomination of desolation is planted.
Let’s look at the first fulfillment. In his letter to the Colossians, Paul said that the gospel had been preached throughout the world. He said, “If indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister” (Colossians 1:23). This letter was written before A.D. 66.
“After the truth has been proclaimed as a witness to all nations, at a time when every conceivable power of evil is set in operation, when minds are confused by the many voices crying, ‘Lo, here is Christ,’ ‘Lo, He is there,’ ‘This is truth,’ ‘I have a message from God,’ ‘He has sent me with great light,’ and there is a removing of the landmarks, and an attempt to tear down the pillars of our faith—then a more decided effort is made to exalt the false sabbath, and to cast contempt upon God Himself by supplanting the day He has blessed and sanctified.” Selected Messages, vol. 3, 406.
One of the signs that precedes the setting up of the abomination of desolation is a removing of the landmarks of the Seventh-day Adventist faith—a removing of the landmarks.
There is a good reason that the magazine we publish here at Steps to Life is called LandMarks of Historic Adventism. There are many baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist church who do not know the historic fundamentals of Adventism. That is why we hold that name—because a removing of the landmarks and the pillars of the Adventist church has been going on for a long time.
Let’s review the history of ancient Jerusalem and pay particular attention to the events surrounding the planting of the abomination of desolation. In The Spirit of Prophecy, volume 4, page 31, it says, “Signs and wonders appeared, foreboding disaster and doom.”
She says, “A comet, resembling a flaming sword, for a year hung over the city.” Ibid. Because the Chinese began documenting signs in heaven over 200 years before Christ, we have accurate records of the history of Halley’s comet from that time clear up to the present day. And we know then, that Halley’s Comet was seen by those in Jerusalem around February, of A.D. 66. Cestius began his siege a few months later. Halley’s comet was one of the major signs warning of impending destruction in Jerusalem.
“At the time of the siege, the Jews were assembled at Jerusalem to keep the Feast of the Tabernacles, and thus the Christians throughout the land were able to make their escape unmolested. Without delay they fled to a place of safety.” The Great Controversy, 31. This was in the fall and Halley’s Comet was in the spring.
The siege was not resumed by Titus until Passover time, A.D. 70, which was a little over three years later. Why is it that Jesus said in both Matthew and Luke that when that happens, flee? Don’t even come back down into your house. Don’t even come back from the field. Flee, right then. I don’t know if I know the complete answer to that question yet. I have been thinking about this and studying it for a long time. But, part of the answer had to do with the internal corruption that occurred in Jerusalem during that time.
The people were instructed by false teachers that no matter what happened, you should stay in the city to be protected, but that was an error. What the people were taught was exactly opposite of what Jesus had predicted. So if you believed what Jesus said, you fled and got out. If you listened to what the church said, you stayed in and perished.
“In their blind and blasphemous presumption the instigators of this hellish work publicly declared that they had no fear that Jerusalem would be destroyed, for it was God’s own city. To establish their power more firmly, they bribed false prophets to proclaim, even when Roman legions were besieging the temple, that the people were to wait for deliverance from God.” Ibid., 29.
The leaders instructed not to flee. Stay right there, and God will save you. Everybody who listened to their lie got slaughtered. It says, “To the last, multitudes held fast to the belief that the Most High would interpose for the defeat of their adversaries.” Ibid.
The greatest danger of coming back to the city of Jerusalem was the risk of being deceived by the false teachers saying that safety and security was in staying there and waiting for deliverance that would never come. Sadly, the majority of the people obeyed man instead of God. They showed that they loved man and their church more than God whom they professed to follow and obey.
Who represents Jerusalem today?
Now we come to a critical question. As the abomination of desolation is a two-fold prophecy, meaning that it is going to have another occurrence in the last days, then who represents Jerusalem today? Who is God’s chosen church, as was Jerusalem, that has been given the oracles of God?
Referring to the Seventh-day Adventist church, Ellen White said, “Jerusalem is a representation of what the church will be if it refuses to walk in the light that God has given. Jerusalem was favored of God as the depositary of sacred trusts.” Testimonies, vol. 8, 67.
Has the Seventh-day Adventist Church been favored of God as the depositary of sacred trusts? Who is it that has all the publishing rights to the prophetic works of Ellen White? The Seventh-day Adventist Church is the depositary of sacred trusts.
“But her people perverted the truth, and despised all entreaties and warnings. They would not respect His counsels. The temple courts were polluted with merchandise and robbery.” Ibid.
“There was danger that Battle Creek would become as Jerusalem of old—a powerful center. If we do not heed these warnings, the evils that ruined Jerusalem will come upon us.” Ibid., 133.
“The same danger exists today among the people who profess to be the depositaries of God’s law. They are too apt to flatter themselves that the regard in which they hold the commandments will preserve them from the power of divine justice. They refuse to be reproved for evil, and charge God’s servants with being too zealous in putting sin out of the camp. A sin-hating God calls upon those who profess to keep His law to depart from all iniquity. Neglect to repent and obey His word will bring as serious consequences upon God’s people today as did the same sin upon ancient Israel. There is a limit beyond which He will no longer delay His judgments. The desolation of Jerusalem stands as a solemn warning before the eyes of modern Israel, that the corrections given through His chosen instruments cannot be disregarded with impunity.” Ibid., vol. 4, 166, 167.
If we don’t listen to the warnings God has given to us, the ruin that came upon Israel will come upon us. Ellen White said in a letter in The Early Elmshaven Years, 45, 46: “For a week before I fully consented to go to Battle Creek [church headquarters], I did not sleep past one o’clock. Some nights I was up at eleven o’clock, and many nights at twelve. I have not moved from impulse, but from the conviction that at this time that I must begin at Jerusalem.”
This is a very interesting statement. Jerusalem represents the headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Will the abomination of desolation, that is, the banner of Rome, Sunday worship, be planted in the headquarters of the professed Seventh-day Adventist Church?
In Ezekiel 8, the prophet in vision is told about abominations in the temple in Jerusalem. Then in chapter 9, it tells about the destruction that is going to occur because of these abominations and about the people of God who are sighing and crying for these abominations that are occurring within the church.
Years ago, while I was attending Walla Walla college and studying these prophesies, my teacher tried to explain to me that this was all about something that was going on in Ezekiel’s time. But that is not the case.
In Selected Messages, vol. 3, 338, it says, “Each of the ancient prophets spoke less for their own time than for ours, so that their prophesying is in force for us.” They spoke more for our time.
“All the great events and solemn transactions of Old Testament history have been, and are, repeating themselves in the church in these last days.” Ibid., 339.
“The last books of the Old Testament show us workers taken from the laborers in the field. Others were men of high ability and extensive learning, but the Lord gave them visions and messages. These men of the Old Testament spoke of things transpiring in their day, and Daniel, Isaiah, and Ezekiel not only spoke of things that concerned them as present truth, but their sights reached down to the future, and to what should occur in these last days.” Ibid., 419, 420.
Daniel, Isaiah, and Ezekiel are specifically mentioned that they had “their sights” clearly down on our time. When we read from Ezekiel, we are not just reading about something that happened several hundred years before Christ. We are reading about something that’s going to happen in the last days.
Ellen White said that the prophecy in Ezekiel 9 will be fulfilled to the very letter. (See The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, 1303.)
When Ezekiel mentions Jerusalem, he is talking about the Seventh-day Adventist church. When He talks about the temple, He is talking about the headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist church. These abominations in Ezekiel 8 will be seen occurring within the Seventh-day Adventist church and we need to be aware of these things.
Ezekiel 8 verse 16 states: “So He brought me into the inner court of the Lord’s house; and there, at the door of the temple of the Lord, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men with their backs toward the temple of the Lord and their faces toward the east, and they were worshiping the sun toward the east.”
This is what the faithful were sighing and crying about in chapter 9. Did you notice how many people there were? “About twenty-five men.”
In the 1901 General Conference Bulletin, on page 378, it says, “The general conference constitution.” Under article 1 it says, “This organization shall be known as the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.” [April 22, 1901-Extra # 17]
Under article 2, “Object. The object of this Conference shall be to unify and to extend to all parts of the world, the work of promulgating the everlasting gospel.”
Article 4, on the executive committee, section 1, on page 379, says: “The Executive Committee of this Conference shall be twenty-five in number.” Interesting!
This article is not intended to point a finger at anybody. God’s people interpret prophecy that has been fulfilled in the past and we try to understand prophecy that will be fulfilled in the future. However, if you look at history you will find that we have a very poor track record at recognizing when a prophecy is being fulfilled right in front of us.
Remember, Jesus came to His people and said, “This day” this prophecy is “fulfilled in your ears” (Luke 4:21). And what happened? They tried to kill him.
We have a very poor track record.
My dear friends, prophecy is being fulfilled right in front of our eyes, and the question is, Will we not recognize it until it is too late?
We had better pay attention and recognize the signs. They are like the handwriting on the wall and we would not want to miss them.
(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New King James Version.
Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: email@example.com, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.