The Destruction of Jerusalem - 70 A.D.
THE LAST MENTION
e have seen how properly understanding that Jesus' discourse in Matthew 24 is actually a commentary on Daniel chapters 11 and 12 is crucial to a proper interpretation of the 'abomination of desolation' and the 'great tribulation'.
There is however one final mention of the 'abomination of desolation' found in Daniel 12:11 which must be considered.
Before examining this passage, I should call attention to the fact that the proper understanding of this verse is difficult regardless of which school of interpretation one takes to be the correct one, therefore we ask the reader for patience. The problem lies in trying to understand the proper application of the three time periods mentioned in Daniel 12; periods of 1260, 1290, and 1335 days which are said to be connected to the 'abomination of desolation' mentioned in Daniel 12:11.
The problem is this: The only reference to 'the abomination which maketh desolate' in the immediate context of Daniel 12:11 is the reference we have previously considered in Daniel 11:31:
We have attempted to show beyond any reasonable doubt that Daniel 11:31 is a reference to the first century destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Roman armies. If this is however correct, in what way can these time periods be applied to that 'desolating abomination' at all? The terminus of ALL the prophetic events of Daniel 11 and 12 seems to be the conclusion of the final period of time mentioned in Daniel 12:12 - the end of a period of 1335 days. But did all of the prophecies mentioned between Daniel 11:31 and the end of Daniel chapter 12 occur within 1335 days of the destruction of Jerusalem? These events would have to include the falling of the Jews by 'sword flame and captivity' (Dan 11:34), the rise and reign of the 'willful king' (Dan 11:36-39), the final military campaigns of the kings of the north and south (Daniel 11: 40-45), and the resurrection itself (Daniel 12:2). Such is not only unlikely, but impossible.
Lest one should pause and think that applying these time periods from the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD lends credence to Preterism which does in fact believe that all prophecy, including the resurrection, was fulfilled with those events, we must point out what we noted earlier: that Preterism itself does not believe Daniel 11:31 (which is the only reference to an 'abomination of desolation in the immediate context) to be a direct reference to the events of the first century, but instead applies those words to Antiochus Epiphanes.
Futurist authors get around this problem by applying ALL these periods to a future time and completely ignoring their historical fulfillment. Historicist commentators have traditionally applied these periods using a 'year day scale' - that the periods of Daniel 12 are actually to be understood as 1260, 1290, and 1335 years. But all attempts to apply these periods, either to the destruction of Jerusalem, the rise of the Papacy, or any other thing that might be called an 'abomination of desolation' have entirely failed. This misapplication of these time periods has often resulted in 'date-setting' and with that has come much humiliation and disappointment on the part of believers.
Whatever our conclusions regarding these words, we must deal with the following facts:
Regardless of the apparent difficultly, these are the facts we must deal with honestly if we ever hope to come to a proper understanding of these time periods.
We believe that the solution to this enigma was properly identified by E. B. Elliot in his monumental Horae Apocalypticae. Elliot Writes:
We produce here images from the interlinear Hebrew text showing what Elliot has pointed out; that the 'abomination of desolation' mentioned in Daniel 11:31 carries the definite article and is thus properly translated as 'THE abomination of desolation' and hence THE desolating abomination that had previously been made known to Daniel - the abomination of Daniel 9:26-27. These unquestionably point to the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.
The 'abomination of desolation' in Daniel 12:11 however does not carry the definite article and should thus be rendered 'AN abomination of desolation'. Elliot argues that the lack of the definite article excludes 12:11 from being a direct reference to the 'abomination of desolation' of 11:31:
Elliot points out that the difficulty in applying the final time periods of Daniel 12, the 1260, 1290, and 1335 days, arises from attempts to apply them to THE 'abomination of desolation' of 11:31, rather than from AN 'abomination of desolation' of 12:11, of which he admits the proper identity must be discerned elsewhere.
It should be mentioned here that this is a matter of no small significance. In Matthew 24:15 Jesus warned of THE 'abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet'. But consider then that of the three possible references to this abomination in the book of Daniel, only one of them can surely be the one to which Jesus referred. While we agree that Daniel 9:26-27 also had reference to the first century destruction of Jerusalem, and also mentioned an 'desolating abomination', as we pointed out the language of that passage is obscure - a fact admitted by all commentators. On the other hand, Daniel 12:11 speaks of 'AN abomination of desolation' as opposed to 'THE abomination of desolation'. Therefore the only sure and safe reference which points to 'THE abomination of desolation' is to be found in Daniel 11:31. Given this it should be thought incredibly strange that it is precisely this conclusion that the vast majority of commentators refuse to admit.
Now it might be argued by some in the Preterist camp, that since the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD could then be called AN 'abomination of desolation', then it would be lawful to apply these three time periods of 1260, 1290, and 1335 days to those events, and offer this as proof once again that all prophecy was fulfilled by that time. But this is impossible because it does not relieve any of the difficulties and inconsistencies which we have heretofore mentioned. In any case, preterism must attempt to divorce Jesus' words in Matthew 24:15 with those in Daniel 11:31. It must ignore the obvious parallel sequence of events as described in Luke 21, Matthew 24, and Daniel 11 and 12. It must ignore the obvious reference to Daniel 11:36-37 given by Paul in his description of the 'man of sin'. To my mind, any attempt to prove that all prophecy was fulfilled in the first century is utterly baseless unless it is prepared to deal honestly with these issues.
While the purpose of this discussion concerning the last mention of the 'abomination of desolation' as given in Daniel 12:11 is only to show that it and its accompanying time periods provide no difficulty for our previously detailed interpretations of the 'abomination of desolation' and the 'great tribulation', it may be fruitful for those interested to provide some discussion of precisely what may be meant by AN 'abomination' of desolation' along with the time periods associated with it.
If, as Elliot has pointed out, the proper translation of Daniel 12:11 is 'AN abomination of desolation', and if his understanding is correct that this then excludes it from being a direct reference to 'THE abomination' of 11:31, then we might wonder what might be here referred to. Since it seems that the final three periods of time mentioned in Daniel 12, the 1260, 1290, and 1335 days are dated from that particular abomination, it seems to be of some importance to try to properly identify what type of 'abomination' that will be.
While speculations may abound, I feel that the only safe course to take is to stick to the Biblical material alone. We have examined in considerable detail Jesus' reference to the 'abomination of desolation' in Matthew 24. We have seen that the parallel passage in Luke 21 defines what that particular abomination was; namely the presence of the Roman army encompassing and destroying Jerusalem in the first century.
Would it not then at least seem reasonable to suggest that 'AN abomination of desolation', even though not referring specifically to the events of the first century, may again refer to a future Roman desolating military presence in Jerusalem? If that view is correct then it would be from that future desolating abomination that the periods of 1260, 1290, and 1335 days would then commence, with end of the age and the resurrection wrapping up by the end of the 1335 days.
Might I also suggest that such a military presence is clearly delineated in the immediate context of Daniel 11:45. Speaking of the final military rampage of the 'king of the north', we are told that this king will:
This seems to indicate that at the end of this age there will again be one final catastrophe upon the Jewish nation, and that such will be 'AN abomination of desolation' of the magnitude, or even greater, that that of the destruction of Jerusalem in the first century. Notice the words of Daniel 12:1:
This of course calls to mind Jesus' words in Matthew 24:21. But while Jesus' words concerning 'great tribulation since ever was a nation, or ever shall be' encompass ALL of the woes upon the Jewish nation from 70 AD until the second coming, this passage in Daniel seems to indicate that this period will conclude with an extremely severe cataclysm for the Jewish nation.
If such a military invasion and severe woe upon the Jewish nation does in fact lie in the future then the three time periods of Daniel 12; the 1260, 1290, and 1335 days would date from that event:
It may also be asked why here we might understand these periods as literal 24 hour days, whereas elsewhere the historicist position understands that in prophecy a prophetic 'day' is symbolic of a year. Elliot's comments are once again insightful:
Elliot points out that there is difficulty and uncertainty in knowing whether these days are to be understood primarily as literal 24 hour days, or as years.
In order to attempt to ascertain the correct application, we might ask: is there any other place in scripture where we might find a series of 1260 'days', which are reckoned by historicist expositors as years, followed by a final period of 1260 literal days, which in order to be consistent might be referred to as 3 and one half days. In other words, do we find elsewhere in scripture any other place where 3 and one half days would then be understood as 3.5 prophetic years (or 1260 literal days), and can we find such a reference in a context immediately preceding the resurrection as is spoken of here by Daniel?
We do in fact see this very thing in Revelation 11. There the Two Witnesses prophesy for 1260 days. After their days of prophesying there is 'war' made against them in which they are overcome and killed. Their bodies lie dead in the street for three and a half days after which they are caught up to heaven. Very shortly thereafter the seventh trumpet sounds.
While the details of that particular prophecy are well outside the scope of our current study, all we wish to note is that in prophetic language the above time periods could be understood as follows: The time of the prophesying of the witnesses would then be understood as 1260 YEARS. After they are warred against and killed they would then remain dead for 1260 literal DAYS (3.5 days in the prophesy thus symbolizing 3.5 years). Very shortly thereafter the seventh trumpet sounds signaling, in the opinion of a great many, the time of the resurrection. Thus we see that the prophetic language does in fact allow for an interpretation of a literal 1260 day period immediately preceding the resurrection. While we cannot go into all the detail of this in this current discussion, suffice it to say that I believe this more than allows for us to interpret the final epochs of Daniel 12 - the 1260, 1290, and 1335 days as literal days and not as years.
We might then conclude that the age in which we currently live will conclude with a final desolating abomination; AN abomination of desolation, which may once again be a desolating military campaign in Jerusalem. From that time we would reckon time periods of 1260, 1290, and 1335 literal days. It is during those periods that the 'great tribulation' will finally be culminated, the Jewish people will learn to say 'blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord, Jerusalem will at long last stop being trampled upon by the gentiles, our Lord will return, and the resurrection of the dead will take place. Even so, come Lord Jesus.
1) In Matthew 24 Jesus' disciples come to him with a question regarding the time when the temple then standing will be thrown down. We must assume then that Jesus begins by primarily addressing that question directly.
2) By comparing Jesus' reference to the 'abomination of desolation' in Matthew 24:15 with the parallel and corresponding passage in Luke 21:20, we see that the 'abomination of desolation' is defined as 'when you see Jerusalem compassed with armies, know that the desolation thereof is nigh'. Because the disciples' question was concerned with the city of Jerusalem in the first century and the temple then standing, we must therefore conclude that the 'abomination of desolation' spoken of in Matthew 24:15 is something connected to the first century destruction of Jerusalem.
3) Jesus refers to the 'abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet'. There are three possible references in the book of Daniel. These are: Daniel 9:26-27, Daniel 11:31, and Daniel 12:11.
4) Of these three possible references to the 'abomination of desolation' in the book of Daniel, only one can be considered definitive. Daniel 9:26-27 speaks with extremely obscure language as is admitted by almost all expositors. Daniel 12:11 on the other hand speaks of 'AN abomination of desolation'. Only Daniel 11:31 uses the exact phrase and contains the definite article: 'THE abomination of desolation'. Therefore Daniel 11:31 is the only reference that can be safely admitted to be the one referenced by our Lord in Matthew 24:15.
5) This above thought is confirmed by the fact that Luke's gospel records the words of Jesus that following the desolation of Jerusalem the Jewish people would fall by 'sword and captivity'. Following the 'abomination of desolation' described in Daniel 11:31 we also see shortly following a reference to the Jewish people falling by 'sword flame and captivity' (Dan 11:33). This makes it at once clear that in Matthew 24 Jesus is primarily commenting on the material in Daniel chapters 11-12.
6) Jesus' discourse in Matthew 24 indicates that following the 'abomination of desolation' that there would be 'great tribulation' (Matt 24:21). This tribulation was to last until immediately preceding his second advent (Matt 24:29).
7) Luke's gospel defines and clarifies that language concerning the great tribulation. Great tribulation is defined as 'great distress in the land and great wrath upon the people (the Jews), and that the Jewish people would fall by the sword, and go into captivity, and that Jerusalem would be trodden down by the gentiles until the times of the gentiles were completed. (Luke 21:23-24)
8) Thus the times designated as those of 'great tribulation' are bounded; on the one end by the 'abomination of desolation' which found its fulfillment when the Roman armies surrounded Jerusalem in 66 AD, and on the other by the days immediately preceding the second advent and the resurrection.
9) Because Jesus' reference in Matthew 24:15 to the 'abomination of desolation' is a direct cross-reference to Daniel 11:31, and since the Daniel 11-12 is one long discourse continuing to the consummation of the age, and since in Daniel 12:1-3 we find reference to the consummation of the age, we see the same boundaries of the 'great tribulation' within Daniel 11-12.
10) Therefore the material between Daniel 11:31 (the placing of the abomination of desolation) and Daniel 12:1-3 (the consummation and the resurrection) must be describing events which take place during the great tribulation.
11) Because the above points are manifest and clear, and rely on simple comparisons of scripture with scripture we will reject any system of interpretation which attempts to undermine that which seems so clearly obvious.
12) Because the preterist position fails to account for the material of Daniel 11:32-45 within the bounds of what they consider to be the times of 'great tribulation' (66-70 AD), and since their system must assign the fulfillment of this portion of Daniel to a time which in their view precedes the 'great tribulation' we reject it.
13) Because the futurist position in our opinion does not deal honestly with the fact that the 'abomination of desolation' had a primary historic fulfillment to events which transpired in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, and since they seek to look for primary fulfillment of these events in the future, then we must also reject futurism.
14) Since not all of Daniel 11:32-45 has yet found its fulfillment in this age, and since it must all find its fulfillment before the second advent and the resurrection, then we conclude that we are still in the times of 'great tribulation'.
15) Since Luke 21 informs us that Jerusalem would be trodden down by the Gentiles until the times of the gentiles are fulfilled, and since this trampling by the nations has not yet ceased, we then conclude that the 'times of the gentiles' are still ongoing.
16) Because Paul declares in Romans 11 that 'blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the gentiles be come in', and since that blindness remains to this day, we conclude that the 'fullness of the gentiles' has not yet 'come in'.
17) Since Paul declares that 'the redeemer shall come out of Zion and turn ungodliness from Jacob', and since it is manifest that Jacob has not yet turned from its unbelief and ungodliness' we then conclude that the redeemer has not yet come out of Zion.
18) Since Jesus declares to his hearers that 'this generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled', and since it is manifest that we do not yet see 'all these things' fulfilled, we then conclude that 'this generation' meant more to our Lord than mere span of 40 years, and that the generation to which he referred is still ongoing.
19) We find that 'this generation' referred to the Jewish people in unbelief. The Jewish people would remain a desolated, unbelieving people, and that they would not pass from that condition until all the prophesied desolations which were to befall their nation were fulfilled.
20) It is declared by the apostle Paul in 2 Thessalonians that the 'Day of Christ' would not come unless there first came an apostasy ' and that a 'man of sin' must be revealed.
21) The language quoted to describe this 'man of sin' is taken from a description of a 'willful king' found in Daniel 11:36-37. Because, as noted earlier, this reference in Daniel is bounded between the 'abomination of desolation' in Daniel 11:31 and the consummation found in Daniel 12:1-3, we then conclude that the 'willful king' - which is also the 'man of sin' - is a feature of the 'great tribulation'.
22) We will not then accept any theory or interpretation which places the rise and reign of the 'willful king' or the 'man of sin' outside the bounds of the 'great tribulation'.
23) As a feature of the 'great tribulation' which takes places between the placing of 'abomination of desolation' and the second advent, Jesus mentions a very grave threat - that there would be the appearance of false Christs and false prophets who with all manner of signs and wonders would deceive a great many, and if possible the very elect.
24) Paul combines the language of Jesus - that a great deception involving lying signs and wonders would come preceding the second advent - and applies this language to his description of the 'man of sin', which is itself connected to the 'willful king' of Daniel 11:36-37.
25) We thus conclude that the great deception involving signs and wonders and capable of deceiving if possible the very elect has direct and specific reference the material in Daniel 11:36-37 and the description of the 'willful king'.
26) We will not then accept any interpretation which identifies the character in 2 Thessalonians 2 as something different as that which is referenced in Daniel 11:36-37.
27) Daniel 12:11 makes one final reference to the 'abomination of desolation', but in fact calls it 'AN abomination of desolation' thus excluding it from being a direct reference to the abomination of Daniel 11:31.
28) We believe that the fulfillment of this final abomination of desolation remains in the future, and speculate that once again it may be a desolating military presence in Jerusalem.
29) We believe that from that final desolation there will be 1335 days to the final and full consummation of the age and the beginning of the millennium; the 1260 and 1290 days making off various epochs within those 1335 days. (see Daniel 12:1-13)