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The Destruction of Jerusalem - 70 A.D.
 
PART TWO

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 -PART FOUR-    -PART FIVE-   -CHART-
 

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DISCOVERING THE KEY WHOSO READETH, LET HIM UNDERSTAND 

feel that the key to discovering the proper interpretation of Matthew 24 lies within verse 15: 

Mat 24:15  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:) 

What is it about this information that is so vital that we are admonished to make sure we have properly understood it?  Have you ever stopped to think about that?

WHOSO READETH, LET HIM UNDERSTAND'.

It almost seems as though the writer anticipated that it was at this very point that a great many may NOT understand. 

Now, one would think that such an admonition would be rather straightforward; we are to look to Daniel’s prophecies concerning the ‘abomination of desolation’ in order to  properly ascertain what is being spoken of here. 

Before looking at those prophecies in Daniel, I wish to remind the reader of the importance to remember that Jesus is answering the disciples’ question regarding the destruction of the temple then standing.  Current ‘pop prophecy’ literature has indoctrinated many with the idea that the ‘abomination of desolation’ will occur when an ‘antichrist’ marches into a newly rebuilt temple in Jerusalem, sits down in the holy of holies and proclaims himself to be God.  In spite of the fact that such an idea should seem absurd to any reasonable student of the Bible, it is also simply not a possibility.   Whatever is referred to as the ‘abomination of desolation’ must have primary reference to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple of the first century.  That is not speculation; it is simply dealing honestly with the text. 

A SECOND WITNESS – CLARIFYING THE LANGUAGE OF MATTHEW 24 

It is a scriptural principle that ‘in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established’ –Matt 18:16, and 'It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true' John 8:17.

Keeping this principle in mind we should then consider that it is most unwise to draw conclusions about the 'abomination of desolation' and the 'great tribulation' from the material in Matthew 24 alone, without diligently comparing it to its parallel passages in the other Gospels.

 Indeed, when we compare Matthew chapter 24 with its parallel in Luke chapter 21 we get  a much clearer picture of what this ‘abomination of desolation’ really is, as well as further proof that it does in fact refer to the first century destruction of Jerusalem and it’s temple. 

Compare carefully the following two passages: 

Matthew 24

 

Luke 21

Mat 24:15-16  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:)  (16)  Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains:

Abomination of Desolation

 

Luk 21:20-21  And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.  (21)  Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains;

 Notice carefully here how one passage defines the other. What Jesus calls the ‘abomination of desolation’ in Matthew 24 is clearly defined in Luke 21 as “Jerusalem compassed with armies”.  This comparison alone should serve to show exactly what the ‘abomination of desolation’ is. In spite of all the speculations of commentators it should be obvious that the ‘abomination of desolation’ is clearly defined as the military presence of the Roman army in Jerusalem.  Nor can there be any mistake about when these events were to take place – the information about the ‘armies’ and the ‘desolation’ here spoken of is once again clearly given to answer the disciples’ question about the temple and the fact that Jesus had told them that ‘not one stone would be left upon another’.  That is to say, here we have a clear prediction of the Roman destruction which would come upon Jerusalem in 70 AD.  Jesus calls these events 'the abomination of desolation'. It seems to me to be a fallacy of interpretation to try to give to these passages as their primary meaning a fulfillment which would not take place until the 21st century or beyond. 

THE SEVENTY WEEKS PROPHECY 

Jesus tells his disciples that the 'abomination of desolation' was spoken of by Daniel the prophet.  Now to what text in Daniel was our Lord referring when he spoke of this ‘abomination of desolation’?  We have three possibilities; the first given in Daniel 9:26-27 within the context of the ’70 weeks’ prophecy.  The second occurs in Daniel 11:31 within a long discourse concerning the kings of the north and south.  Lastly we have a final reference in Daniel 12:11 within a series of time prophecies which have baffled commentators for centuries.  We will look at these individually.  

Dan 9:25-27  Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.  (26)  And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.  (27)  And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate. 

It is not within the scope of this present discussion to go into all the particulars of Daniel’s ’70 weeks’ prophecy, but only to try to establish the fact that it encompasses the same events as described in Matthew 24 and Luke 21: namely the first century destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish temple at the hands of the Romans.

Years ago, as a Baptist, I was taught that there was a ‘gap’ in this prophecy between the 69th and 70th weeks.  I was told that after the 69th week, when the Messiah was ‘cut off’ that God’s ‘prophetic time clock’ stopped, and that it would not resume; that is, the 70th week would not take place until after the ‘rapture’ of the church.  Needless to say, such an exposition seems impossible if we keep a few basic facts in mind: 

1)      To what time period did the disciples’ question of Matthew 24 as well as Jesus’ answer refer to?  Doesn’t it seem obvious that the immediate context of the question was temple that was THEN STANDING?   

2)      If this is the case, then wouldn’t it naturally follow that Jesus’ reference to the ‘abomination of desolation’ and ‘Jerusalem compassed with armies’ also had reference to the first century destruction of Jerusalem and the temple? 

3)     And because Jesus referred to these events as those ‘spoken by Daniel the prophet’ doesn’t it then follow that those events in Daniel must be understood within that same period of time? 

The only way a futurist expositor can get around these obvious conclusions is by resorting to the following: 

First, by asserting that these verses have no reference to the events of 70 AD at all, or second, by stating that they have a dual fulfillment -   the 70 AD destruction of Jerusalem and its temple being a ‘type’ of ‘great tribulation’ at the end of the age.  In either case the futurist must see in these verses a primary fulfillment at the end of the current age, and not in 70 AD. 

But this seems most unnatural and these points are all well documented by Preterist commentators and others who find the Futurist viewpoint untenable.  To them, Daniel is very straightforward – the 70th week immediately follows the 69th week, and the desolating abomination mentioned in these verses is indeed the Roman destruction of Jerusalem. 

With this we would agree but would add a few comments: 

First, that although we feel that the ‘abomination of desolation’ spoken of by Daniel to which Jesus refers is to be found in Daniel 9:25-27 within the 'seventy weeks' prophecy, we must state our conviction that it is not the ONLY passage in Daniel which mentions the ‘abomination of desolation’ – the other references must be considered equally as well.  While this seems obvious, as this study continues it will become clear as to why this passage in Daniel 9:25-27 is usually believed by many commentators to be the main reference in Daniel to which Jesus was referring rather than the passages in Daniel 11:31 and 12:11. What needs to be examined however is whether one of these passages which speak of the 'abomination of desolation' should be emphasized over the others.  Many commentators do this very thing - why they do it, and whether or not their logic is valid is what must be examined.

Second, the above point, namely that Daniel 9:25-27 is usually taken by many as  the primary ‘abomination of desolation' reference in lieu of the others, becomes very curious when one realizes that the actual phrase ‘abomination of desolation’ is not to be found in Daniel 9 at all 
 

Second, the above point, namely that Daniel 9:25-27 is usually taken by many as  the primary ‘abomination of desolation' reference in lieu of the others, becomes very curious when one realizes that the actual phrase ‘abomination of desolation’ is not to be found in Daniel 9 at all.  While most commentators agree that the same object is in view (a conclusion we agree with), it is important to note that this exact phrase ‘abomination that maketh desolate’ IS to be found in Daniel 11:31.  Therefore, if the information in Daniel 9 has bearing upon Jesus’ words in Matthew 24, then surely the more precise reference in Daniel 11:31 should carry the same, or even more weight. 

Third, the language of Daniel 9:26-27 is obscure.  We note the words of Albert Barnes: 

And for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate - The marginal reading here is very different, showing clearly the perplexity of the translators: “Upon the battlements shall be the idols of the desolator.” There is great variety, also, in the ancient versions in rendering this passage. The Latin Vulgate is, “And there shall be in the temple the abomination of desolation.” The Greek, “And upon the temple shall be an abomination of desolations.” The Syriac. “And upon the extremities of the abomination shall rest desolation.” The Arabic, “And over the sanctuary shall there be the abomination of ruin.” Luther renders it, “And upon the wings shall stand the abomination of desolation.” Lengerke and Hengstenberg render it, “And upon the summit of abomination comes the destroyer.” Prof. Stuart, “And the water shall be over a winged fowl of abominations.” These different translations show that there is great obscurity in the original, and perhaps exclude the hope of being able entirely to free the passage from all difficulties (emphasis mine) 

Adam Clarke writes:

Dan 9:27 - And for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate - This clause is remarkably obscure. כנף שקוצים משמם  kenaph shikkutsim meshomem, “And upon the wing of abominations causing amazement.” This is a literal translation of the place; but still there is no determinate sense. A Hebrews MS., written in the thirteenth century, has preserved a very remarkable reading here, which frees the place from all embarrassment. Instead of the above reading, this valuable MS. has ובהיכל יהיה שיקוץ  ubeheychal yihyey shikkuts; that is, “And in the temple (of the Lord) there shall be abomination.” This makes the passage plain, and is strictly conformable to the facts themselves, for the temple was profaned; and it agrees with the prediction of our Lord, who said that the abomination that maketh desolate should stand in the holy place, Mat_24:15, and quotes the words as spoken δια Δανιηλ του φροφητου, by Daniel the prophet. That the above reading gives the true sense, there can be little doubt, because it is countenanced by the most eminent ancient versions.  (emphasis mine) 

While both of these men agreed that these words of Daniel 9:26-27 were referenced by our Lord in Matthew 24, and both agree that these words apply to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, they also admit of the obscurity and difficulty in translating this passage. Fortunately, when we come to Daniel 11:31 we will find no such obscurity or difficulty.

THE 'ABOMINATION THAT MAKETH DESOLATE' DANIEL 11:31

We do not disagree with the above conclusions of commentators that Daniel 9:26-27 is a reference to the same 'abomination of desolation' spoken of by our Lord in Matthew 24:15. However we do find such unanimity strange in light of these same expositors comments when we come to Daniel 11:31.  For in that passage we find, without the slightest obscurity or difficulty (as all admit exists in Daniel 9:26-27), the exact phrase as used by our Lord in Matthew 24: 

Dan 11:31  And arms shall stand on his part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate. 

Jesus had given his disciples a very clear sign about when the desolation of their city and temple would occur.  He said to them ‘when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet stand in the holy place, them let them who be in Judea flee to the mountains’, etc.  Then it should seem obvious that when we come to this very phrase (such as does NOT exist in Daniel 9:26-27) within the prophet Daniel we should connect the two thoughts together.  Again, while we do not at all deny that Daniel 9:26-27 is a reference to the ‘abomination of desolation’, we also believe that this reference in Daniel 11:31 should command even more attention since its words are exactly those of our Lords’ without any obscurity or difficulty in translation. 

But brothers and sisters in Christ, herein is the problem:  VERY FEW COMMENTATORS ARE WILLING TO ALLOW THAT JESUS IN MATTHEW 24:15 WAS PRIMARILY REFERRING TO DANIEL 11:31!!!  Might I also suggest here that it seems very profound to me that at the very place we find the words ‘whoso readeth, let him understand’ we find commentators of every prophetic school denying the connection between these words and so obvious a reference to them in Daniel 11:31! 

I should point out here that futurist expositors ARE in fact very consistent on this point.  To them, the ‘abomination of desolation’ in Matthew 24:15, Daniel 9:26-27, and Daniel 11:31 all refer to the same event and that the fulfillment of them all still lies in the future.  But as noted, this can only be allowed by divorcing the prophetic material in Matthew 24 from the disciples’ question that it was given to answer, and by inserting a 2000+ year gap of time into Daniels prophecies.  Consistency in interpretation is good, but not when such other gymnastics as these are required to maintain it. 

Can it be proven that in Matthew 24:15 Jesus had in mind the 'abomination of desolation' spoken of in Daniel 11:31?  I believe that this can be proven as much as any other Biblical ‘cross-reference’ can be established.
 

Can it be proven that in Matthew 24:15 Jesus had in mind the 'abomination of desolation' spoken of in Daniel 11:31?  I believe that this can be proven as much as any other Biblical ‘cross-reference’ can be established.  As we have attempted to show, Matthew 24:15 finds a parallel in Luke 21:20.  When we compare the material in Luke 21 with the portion of Daniel 11 under consideration, we should immediately see that this is in fact the portion of Daniel to which our Lord is referring: 

 

Matthew 24 Daniel 11   Luke 21

Mat 24:15-16  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:)  (16)  Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains:
 

Dan 11:31-33  And arms shall stand on his part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate.  (32)  And such as do wickedly against the covenant shall he corrupt by flatteries: but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.  (33)  And they that understand among the people shall instruct many:

Abomination of Desolation

 


Luk 21:20-24  And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. .. (21)  Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; ... (22)  For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled...
  yet they shall fall by the sword, and by flame, by captivity, and by spoil, many days.

Sword, Captivity, Etc...

 

And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.

Proof that Jesus is Referring to Daniel 11:31-33 Within His Discourse of Matthew 24

Notice the link between the ‘abomination of desolation’ in Matthew 24 with the desolation of Jerusalem in Luke 21.  Then further notice Luke’s reference to the Jews falling by ‘sword and captivity’.  In Daniel 11 we find this very sequence in almost the same words – first the ‘abomination that maketh desolate’ in Daniel 11:31 followed shortly by the description of the people falling by ‘sword, flame, and captivity' in Daniel 11:33. In light of the close similarity in language, it seems obvious that Jesus' words concerning the 'abomination of desolation' and 'Jerusalem compassed with armies' are in fact a direct reference to the material in Daniel 11:31-33.

Some might suggest however that Daniel 11:33 informs us that it is ‘those who instruct many’ who are the ones who ‘fall by the sword, etc’ whereas Jesus' words in Luke suggest that the unbelieving Jews are the subject of such persecutions, and that for this reason these passages are not parallel. 

It is however a fact that the proper interpretation of Daniel 11:33 and the identity of the ones who would ‘fall by sword, flame and captivity’ is a matter of much debate.  But might I suggest that the obvious parallel in language between Daniel 11:31-11 and Luke 21:20-24 virtually settles this question for us?  E.B. Elliot, commenting on Daniel 11:33-34 says:

And it is supposed by Sir Isaac and Bishop Newton, and other interpreters who, in common with them and myself, understand the abomination meant of that placed by the Romans, that they whose character and history are here given, are simply the Christian body… Thus the passage is explained by them in brief as follows: - “He (the Roman Emperor and his officers) shall by flattering offers induce unfaithful Christians, the transgressors of the new covenant, to apostatize from the faith; but the faithful Christians shall be strong and instruct many. Yet they shall fall many days by sword, flame, captivity, and spoil, - viz. in the ten Pagan persecutions; till holpen by the little help of Constantine and his descendants’ adoption and establishment of Christianity in the Roman Empire. Then many shall cleave to them with flatteries, or hypocritically join themselves to the Church; and divers of the true and sincere Christians fall afterwards by new persecutions, to try them, and purify them, till the time of the end.”

But I cannot think that there may be here indicated two divisions of the people spoken of: viz. first, a division of the whole Jewish people into Jews rejecting Christianity, and Jews embracing it and becoming Christians: (this in the two former verses:) then, a further division of the latter, together with the Gentiles incorporated in their body, into the false and the true members of the professing Christian Church. For besides that we might expect, as I think, some notice of the desolated Jewish people at this sad crisis of their history, as well as of their desolate city, - just as in our Lord’s prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem,[1] and other earlier prophecies also,[2]- besides this, I say, there are various expressions in the two first verses of the passage under consideration which seem to me scarcely applicable, except to that unhappy people. Is the phrase “they that do wickedly against the covenant,” a fit designation of the insincerity and worldliness in heart of such members of the Christian body as were ultimately induced in the time of Pagan Rome’s persecutions to apostatize? Or, if previously open transgressors of the covenant, did they need at all to be corrupted? Again, was it the fact that the Roman emperors and chief magistrates did then seek by flatteries to draw Christians into apostasy from their faith; and this on a scale as to be marked in history, and to answer to a notice like this in prophecy? Surely cruelty and violence, not flattery, were the characteristic weapons by which Pagan powers sought to destroy Christianity. Further, did the Christians, as a body or people, fall during these times of Pagan persecution, so as the expression in verse 33 seems to indicate; or only a certain few from among them? And, once more, could it be said of such as suffered in these persecutions, that they fell by captivity, as well as otherwise: - a word used in Hebrew, just like the words that represent it in the Greek, Latin, English, and other versions, not of imprisonment by order of the civil magistrate, but of the taking of prisoners in war, and holding them, so taken, in captivity and exile?

Thus my impression is that the Jews must be here meant, not Christians. (From Horae Apocalypticae by E.B Elliot fifth edition 1862 pgs 86-88 emphasis mine) 

To my mind this evidence leaves little doubt that Jesus’ reference to the ‘abomination of desolation’ in Matthew 24:15 is primarily a reference to Daniel 11:31. I am also equally convinced that this fact – allowing that Matthew 24:15 and Jesus’ description of the ‘abomination of desolation’ is a direct reference to Daniel 11:31 – is crucial in coming to a proper understanding of prophecy. 

As we proceed with this study I am convinced that the reader will begin to understand just how crucial this close relationship between Jesus' word in Matthew 24 and the prophetic material in Daniel 11 really is.  It will also become more clear why this clear link must be denied by many others in order for their own prophetic speculations to stand.

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[1]  Luke xxi. 20, 24: “When ye see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh . . . And great wrath shall be on this people; and they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations; and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.”

[2] Deut. xxviii. 32, 52, 64, &c., &c.
 

 


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