The Olivet Discourse – Views on the Abomination


As we now return our focus to the Olivet Discourse we find ourselves where we left off, in a discussion regarding the “abomination of desolation.” Our detour into Daniel 9 was try and get a background on what the phrase means and how the first century reader, especially Matthew’s readers, the Jews, would respond to this potential event coming their way.

Remember that the first century Jew would most likely recall the story of Antiochus Epiphanes and would be looking for something similar to take place, or at least something equal to the atrocities of that historical event. So it would do us a great service if we looked at the events surrounding the the time constraints of “this generation” to discover just what the Lord may have been giving this warning regarding. Remember here, this was to serve as the final warning for those in Jerusalem to escape the area before the great destruction that would follow.


First let us take a look at the popular, Left behind, view of this phrase. Since the Dispensational places the events of Matthew 24 into our future (despite the time constraints the Lord Himself placed upon the events), the best that can be said for this view is that it is conjecture. The Dispensationalist believe certain thing will happen because of their preconceptions, but cannot be proved wrong because they haven’t happened yet. It’s not great exegesis, but it does help sell books since the claims cannot be disproved.

The events of the abomination according to the Dispensationalist are actually gathered from several different passages and characters, combine them, and artificially bring them to this passage to make a potential hypothesis. They use Daniel (The Prince), Thessalonians (Man of Lawlessness) and Revelation (The Beast and False Prophet) to create the following scenario.

  • Antichrist gains world wide power
  • He establishes a government in Jerusalem
  • He makes a deal with the Jews to allow them to re-institute animal sacrifices in a rebuilt Temple
  • He later abolishes the animal sacrifices
  • He sets his throne in the temple and sits on the throne somewhere in the Temple proper

This popular scenario takes place midway through the 7 Year Tribulation and well after the Rapture – which by the way is conspicuous by it’s absence in the Matt 24 passage. Again here the Dispensational scenario ignores the time constraints and import things into this passage that the passage does not even hint at.

But there are four views as to what the “abomination of desolation” could have been given the time constraint of “this generation” and the events surrounding the destruction of the Temple, which again, we must be reminded is the context of the discourse.


  1. Roman Army
  2. Jewish Zealots
  3. Idumeans
  4. Sacrifices

The four options have been proposed throughout the years. There are probably many more, but these are the four I have been most intrigued and convinced by. We may find that it is a combination of these four that could qualify as well.


  • The term “holy place” references the Holy of Holies (Exodus 28:29), the Temple (Psalm 138:2) or the City of Jerusalem (Neh 11:1)
  • This was first attempted by Caligula when he tried to set up a stature of Zeus in the Temple – this was averted but Josephus commented that many Christians and zealous Jews believed this was Jesus’ warning and the fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy
  • Set up their standards and offered sacrifices to them within the Temple court
  • Laying siege to the city (holy place)
  • This same army eventually sacks the city and levels the temple

These events may be seen as a part of the desolation and are truly abominable, but take place near the end of the events described and do not necessarily give the inhabitants a chance to escape. If the idea of the Roman Army is limited to the surrounding the city then it could qualify and does match with Luke’s interpretation of the discourse.

One should also note that if Jesus is relating this to the Antiochus events then simply the surrounding of the city may suffice in warning of the impending doom. But does that necessarily qualify as “abominable?”


  • A group of political and religious nationalist whose revolt sparked the Jewish War
  • In 67 AD they occupied the Temple area and allowed criminals – including murderers – to roam freely in the Holy of Holies (Josephus)
  • They murdered the High Priest and installed their own High Priest named Phannius
  • The retired High Priest Ananus lamented, “It would have been far better for me to have died before I had seen the house of God laden with such abominations…”
  • They attacked and killed other priest as they were about to perform sacrifices
  • They believed their messiah would appear and help lead them to victory
  • Many of these who escaped in 70 AD were the ones that made their way to Masada


Before the outline of the Idumean atrocities it should be noted that the Jews hated the Idumeans and had for several centuries. they were sworn enemies and their hatred was sparked even deeper when Rome place Herod, an Idumean, as King in Judea.

  • The Idumeans came to Jerusalem at the request of the zealots to help the revolt
  • There were 20,000 in all who were let into Jerusalem by the zealots
  • Josephus claims they murdered over 8,000 civilians INSIDE the Temple court
  • They joined forces with the zealots attacking the retired priests and murdering the former High Priest Ananus and mocked them by walking back and forth over their dead bodies
  • Josephus remarked that this act was what caused God to destroy the city

“I should not mistake if I said that the death of Ananus was the beginning of the destruction of the city…the overthrow of her walls, and the ruin of her affairs.” (Josephus)

  • The Idumeans left soon after and left the rotting carcasses in the Temple


  • The Temple had been turned into a “house of merchandise” – John 2:16
  • Jesus called it a “robbers’ den” – Matt 21:13
  • Like the OT priest who examines and condemns a leprous house (Lev 14) Jesus examines, condemns and leaves the Temple desolate (Matt 23:38)

Leviticus describes the process by which a priest would condemn the house of a leprous person as unclean. After examining the house and attempts to “clean it” were prover fruitless, the priest would walk outside, condemn the building and have it torn completely down, leaving no trace of the buildings existence. This rings quite true of the Temple as well.

  • It was the priests, scribes and elders who led the rejection of Jesus and called down the curse of God upon them – “His blood on our hands and our children’s”
  • The continuation of sacrifices (standing in the holy place) symbolized the continuing rejection of Christ and His atoning work despite the tearing of the veil (Hebrews)

[God] deserted His Temple, because it was only founded for a time, and was but a shadow, until the Jews so completely violated the whole covenant that no sanctity remained in either the Temple, the nation, or the land itself.” John Calvin

Perhaps it is a combination of some or all of the above that would qualify as the “abomination of desolation.” They each have their own very strong points of support. What is important to understand is that there are plenty of potential options for the this phrase to find it’s fulfillment before 70AD and there is no need to bypass that event and force the fulfillment into our future.

Finally we must not forget that truly the desolation took place 40 years before 70 AD…

Matt 23:38 See, your house is left to you desolate


One Response to “The Olivet Discourse – Views on the Abomination”

  1. This will be an excellent book! Your writing style is soooo readable and understandable…I have to admit as I came to many points, I found myself thinking…I actually believed that…duh!

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