It is difficult to even think of the last days before Christ’s second coming without thinking of an end time strong man, called the beast. Some scholars believe the Bible claims this leader will befriend the nation of Israel and later betray them. He is then supposed to sacrifice some unclean thing or erect an idol in their newly built Temple. Such a sacrifice or idol is referred to as the abomination of desolation. This theology, however, has no Biblical foundation! Unfortunately, much of what is understood as legitimate Christianity has bought into this destructive doctrine. It is a doctrine that has evoked a great deal of fear from the people of God, but the greater tragedy is it takes the emphasis off Christ.
If this theology, concerning the end time desecration of the Temple of God, is not what the Bible teaches, what did Jesus mean when he warned his followers about the abomination of desolation in his Mt. Olivet Prophecy? Was it something Jesus intended for all generations to look for, or was it only for the first century believers? Obviously, he meant his followers to watch for something, and, when it occurred, they were to flee Judea. Whatever that ‘something’ was, it represented grave danger to his people in that day, but would it mean anything for us today? In order to answer this question it would help know what the abomination of desolation is. Can we expect the Scriptures to reveal what the abomination of desolation is? Yes, I think we can.
Defining the Terms
The phrase abomination of desolation in Matthew 24:15 is the same as the abomination of desolation in Daniel 12:11. This phrase concerns the destruction brought upon a person or nation due to idolatry. In view of this we need to take a second look at Jewish history during the time of Antiochus Epiphanes to find out what actually occurred at that time, and who was really responsible for the desecration of the Temple. What if this infamous, gentile king was not responsible for the abomination of desolation occurring in Jewish history, and typifying what many believe will occur in the end times (our day)? If he were not the responsible one for desecrating the Temple, should we be looking for a future ‘strong man’ or something else to fulfill Daniel’s and Jesus’ prophecies? If these prophecies call for something other than a ‘strong man,’ could we have missed its occurrence in history and therefore misunderstand what to expect in our own day, which we believe are “the end times?”
The Hellenization of the Jews
Israel had been ruled by a foreign power ever since she was carried away into captivity by Nebuchadnezzar. Even after being released by Cyrus the Great, Israel had to answer to a foreign king. She was not independent. Daniel 11 records for us the foreign rulers under the titles the ‘king of the north’ (Syria) and the ‘king of the south’ (Egypt). These kings were warring dynasties who came to power after the Grecian Empire was divided upon the death of Alexander the Great.
The inner activity of Israel was very tumultuous at the time of Antiochus Epiphanies. During this period the high priest, though one of Aaron’s descendants, did not come to the office necessarily by inheritance but was often appointed by the ruling king, in this case, Antiochus Epiphanies. A man by the name of Joshua, who changed his name to Jason, was appointed high priest by Antiochus. We are told in 2Maccabees 4:7-17 that he obtained the office by corruption, i.e. by promising the king a great amount of money and that he would bring God’s people into the Greek way of life.
“Jason… brought his own nation to Greekish fashion… putting down the governments which were according to the law, he brought up new customs against the law… For he built gladly a place of exercise under the tower (Temple) itself, and brought the chief young men under his subjection, and made them wear a hat. Now such was the height of Greek fashions, and increase of heathenish manners, through the exceeding profaneness of Jason, that ungodly wretch, and no high priest. That the priests had no courage to serve any more at the altar, but despising the temple, and neglecting the sacrifices, hastened to be partakers of the unlawful allowance in the place of exercise, after the game of Discus called them forth. Not setting by the honours of their fathers, but liking the glory of the Grecians best of all.” [2Macabees 4:7-17 – parenthesis mine].
Jason’s reign as high priest didn’t last long, however, because the king was persuaded by Menelaus, a relative of Jason to make him the high priest and remove Jason:
“Three years afterward Jason sent Menelaus, the aforesaid Simon’s brother, to bear the money unto the king, and to put him in mind of certain necessary matters. But he being brought to the presence of the king, when he had magnified him for the glorious appearance of his power, got the priesthood to himself, offering more than Jason by three hundred talents of silver. So he came with the king’s mandate, bringing nothing worthy the high priesthood, but having the fury of a cruel tyrant, and the rage of a savage beast. Then Jason, who had undermined his own brother, being undermined by another, was compelled to flee into the country of the Ammonites.” (2 Maccabees 4:23-26)
After his appointment as high priest, Menelaus continued to Hellenize the Jews:
“Now as the former high priest, Jesus (Jason), raised a sedition against Menelaus, who was ordained after him, the multitude were divided between them both. And the sons of Tobias took the part of Menelaus, but the greater part of the people assisted Jason; and by that means Menelaus and the sons of Tobias were distressed, and retired to Antiochus, and informed him that they were desirous to leave the laws of their country, and the Jewish way of living according to them, and to follow the king’s laws, and the Grecian way of living. Wherefore they desired his permission to build them a Gymnasium at Jerusalem. And when he had given them leave, they also hid the circumcision of their genitals, that even when they were naked they might appear to be Greeks. Accordingly, they left off all the customs that belonged to their own country, and imitated the practices of the other nations.” [Josephus: “Antiquities of the Jews” – Book XII; chapter 5, paragraph 1 (emphasis mine)]
Regardless of who was responsible for the Hellenization of the Jews, Jason or Menelaus, neither of the two was ever motivated by righteousness in anything they did. The very thing that brought about the desecration of the Temple by Antiochus, an act which he later regretted (1Maccabees 6:8-13), was not the sacrifice of swine’s flesh, but was this act of Hellenizing God’s people. The act performed by the king was the role played by man expressing the sentiment of God over what had happened to his chosen people. Notice:
And so haughty was Antiochus in mind, that he considered not that the Lord was angry for a while for the sins of them that dwelt in the city, and therefore his eye was not upon the place. For had they not been formerly wrapped in many sins, this man, as soon as he had come, had forthwith been scourged, and put back from his presumption, as Heliodorus was, whom Seleucus the king sent to view the treasury. Nevertheless God did not choose the people for the place’s sake, but the place far the people’s sake. And therefore the place itself, that was partaker with them of the adversity that happened to the nation, did afterward communicate in the benefits sent from the Lord: and as it was forsaken in the wrath of the Almighty, so again, the great Lord being reconciled, it was set up with all glory. [2 Maccabees 5:17-20 (emphasis mine)]
It was a matter of divine judgment. God brought Antiochus against the Jews, because they wholeheartedly deserted him, just as they had done in the matter of Nebuchadnezzar’s destroying the Temple. Therefore, this matter of abomination of desolation seems to be a national sin led and encouraged by the high priests of the days of Antiochus Epiphanes. What then did Jesus mean when he warned the apostles of the abomination that makes desolate about which Daniel wrote? I conclude this study HERE.
 According to Strong’s Concordance abomination (G946) – bdelugma – means a detestation, that is, (specifically) idolatry: – abomination.
 According to Strong’s Concordance desolation (G2050) – erēmōsis – means despoliation: – desolation.
 Josephus: “Antiquities” – Book XII; chapter 5, verse-1
 This word” Gymnasium” properly denotes a place where the exercises were performed naked, which because it would naturally distinguish circumcised Jews from uncircumcised Gentiles, these Jewish apostates endeavored to appear uncircumcised, by means of a surgical operation, hinted at by Paul (1Corinthians 7:18).