Teddy L. Desta
The Abomination of Desolation: A different meaning
A word study of the two words which make up the abomination of desolation will help us to discern the meaning of Jesus when He put the fulfillment of this sign in the last days. Importantly a word study is helpful to see the application of the term to the mystical temple of God, namely the body of the believer. Word study help us the connection between acting prophecy and the sign of the abomination of desolation. The word study delves into the figurative, symbolic, and typology language of the Bible.
Word study: Sanctuary/ temple
Up-to-now, the temple/ sanctuary (mentioned in association with the abomination of desolation) has always been understood in terms of a physical structure, either a Jewish temple or a Christian sanctuary (church building). But when the Prophet Daniel speaks of the abomination of desolation, he does so in association with the sanctuary (temple) of the Prince (Dan 8: 11). But the sanctuary of the prince (Messiah’s) can be taken as His body. It this body, as the temple of God, which gets desecrated by an act of Satan.
This form of understanding of the term sanctuary/ temple has ample biblical basis. In the New Testament, the believer’s physical body is called the temple/sanctuary of God or a tent/ tabernacle (Jn. 2:21; 1 Cor. 6: 19 –20; 2 Cor. 5:1; 2 Pet. 1:14; Acts 8: 47 –50; Is 66: 1-3). It is this kind of mystical understanding of sanctuary/ temple which holds the key to unlock the true meaning of the vision of Daniel and Jesus’ reference to it in association with the last days.
If the prophet spoke of the sanctuary of the Prince (v. 13) in case of the Prince’s (Messiah’s) body as the temple of God, then we will no longer be referring to a literal temple/ sanctuary where the abomination of desolation manifests.
Word study: Abomination
Abomination in its Biblical usage can be one of two things. It can mean sin, idolatry, uncleanness, and disobedience, something repugnant and objectionable to God (Deuteronomy 7:25, 26, Isaiah 44:19; Deuteronomy 32:16 2 Kings 23:13; Exodus 8:22; Deuteronomy 22:5; Deuteronomy 23:18; Deuteronomy 24:4, Leviticus 18:27).
The dictionary definition reflects the biblical sense:
“Anything hateful, wicked, or shamefully vile; a detestable behavior; an object or state that excites disgust and hatred; a hateful or shameful vice; pollution.” (Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary)
In the second sense, it refers to a condition where a person becomes a reject of his community. It can refer to rejection related to some type of taboo, sickness, calamity, or ignominious act, etc. ((Genesis 46:34; Exodus 8:26; Psalm 88:8).
“You have taken my friends from me. You have made me an abomination to them. I am confined, and I can't escape.” (Psalm 88:8)
See also Psalm 38 and Job 17:6.
So, in which of these two senses of the word should we understand the abomination of desolation in the context of Daniel 8:12-13? In which way is the body (person) of the Prince become an abomination? Is the prince committing some dreadful sin the eyes of God to become an abomination? Or, is it that the Prince is afflicted by Satan to become an abomination in the eyes of all around him?
“When Daniel undertook to specify an abomination so disgusting to the sense of morality and decency, and so aggressive against everything that was godly as to drive all from its presence and leave its abode desolate, he chose this as the strongest among the several synonyms, adding the qualification "that maketh desolate…" (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Frank E. Hirsch)
Word study: Desolation
What about the word “desolation”? In which sense should we understand it?
If this is the meaning “abomination of desolation” gives under proper word analysis, then which interpretation makes more sense:
- An impious king, the Anti-Christ, will sit in a physical temple of God receiving worship as god. This causes the spiritual pollution of the temple, making the faithful to abandon it? Or, the Holy Spirit departs from the temple; making the sanctuary an “empty” or desolate place.
- The Anti-Christ physically bulldozes the Temple in Jerusalem or churches, razing the sanctuary of God to earth.
- The Prince’s body is the ultimate temple of God. Its body is desecrated by an affliction unleashed by Satan. His personhood is brought low, humiliated. The desolation is his social and psychological devastation.
But is Jesus referring to a physical temple, either a Jewish temple to be built in Jerusalem or to the physical structures of the church of Christ in general? But the New Testament gives us clue on this. In the New Testament the overwhelming application of the temple of God in the new dispensation is the body of the believer:
"However, the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands. As the prophet says: 'Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me? says the Lord. Or where will my resting place be? Has not my hand made all these things?' (Acts 7: 48-50).
“Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God?” (1 Cor. 6:19).
Given these examples, it becomes plausible to reason that what becomes desolate because of the abomination is the body of a believer-person as the ultimate temple of God. In the case of Daniel 8:13, the person of the Prince is made desolate, is reduced to misery. The Prince, in the eyes of society has now become an abomination and his soul is devastation (desolation). The laments in Psalms 38, 88. And 102 describe such desolation of a person. The misery Job has experienced serves as a type for the Prince’s desolation. Jeremiah’s dirges are other good examples (see Lamentation 3).
The Psalms of David speak about Christ prophetically. Many Psalms describe Christ’s suffering and resurrection (Luke 24:44). The Psalms represent the suffering of Christ mostly in terms of sickness and deep humiliation. (see for example the Psalms 13, 22, 38, 69, 88, 109).
The prophet Jeremiah had a life of humiliation. Jeremiah had a humiliating sickness (15: 18, 20: 18, 30: 12-14). His suffering – humiliation and rejection – was so deep that some Jewish commentators identify Isaiah’s the Suffering Servant with Jeremiah. For that reason, we can think that Jeremiah partook in the Messiah’s suffering.
In the New Testament we find the Apostle Paul with a humiliating affliction which is like the Messiah’s and Jeremiah’s. Paul describes it as “a thorn in his flesh” or a “messenger of Satan” (2 Cor 12: 6). His affliction Paul calls the “death of Christ” and “the stigmata of Christ” he carried around in his body (2 Cor. 4:10; Gal 6:17).
Isaiah (49:7) also notes how God uses the deep humiliation of His Servant as the occasion to make the high and mighty of this world to bow down to His Servant. The Prophet Amos (9: 11) writes that God will restore David's tabernacle from the rubble it is reduced to. The Prophet Zechariah (12:8)remarks how God will use the deeply humiliated one to be God-like, David-like. Humiliation changing into glory is repeated through the imagery of a branch arising from a stump of a tree.
The Prophet Zechariah in a vision about the high-priest (Zech. 3) sees a deeply humiliated prince-high priest. That is if we take the soiled garments of the high priest as figurative speech about his bodily contamination. God -- in a form of vindication/ resurrection -- orders the casting away of the filthy dress in exchange for a glorious raiment. God actualizes a radical transformation in the life of the prince-high priest. It is a journey from the pit of degradation to the bliss of glory. It is the same idea then that the Apostle Paul expresses in Philippians 3: 19 and 21.
"For he will transform the body of our humiliation into the image of his glorious body, according to his great power by which everything has been made subject to him." (Phil. 3:21)
So, it is more appropriate to understand the image in Zechariah Chapter 3 about the High Priest in the context of a bodily humiliation (i.e., an affliction that typifies the stinking nature of sin to God) instead of simply saying the High Priest, in behalf of the people's sin is feeling ashamed, standing accused by Satan. It is better to interpret the imagery as another depiction of the suffering/ humiliation and restoration/ resurrection of the Prince as depicted in Isaiah 52: 13 - 53:12.
Also the Apostle Paul repeats the same theme of cross-to-glory principle using a different approach. Paul writes in 1 Cor 1: 26-29, showing how God uses what the secular world considers moronic, despised, and feeble to shame the world's power and wisdom. The Apostle may have Isaiah’s 53 humiliation when he writes these words. If a Christian is chosen in partaking of (fellowship in) the Christ's sufferings, then that person must rejoice, because the humiliation will be followed by eternal glory (Phil 3: 10-11; 1 Pet. 4: 13-14; 2 Tim 2: 11).
This identification with Christ’s’ suffering will enter a new phase in the last days, where evil will break forth with all its power. This is because the ultimate abomination of desolation takes place only during the Great tribulation in the End-times. Interestingly, End-times events have also associations with Israel's second-set of feasts which appear in autumn every year. The holidays of Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, and Suckoth will be fulfilled in their prophetic meaning only in the last days. For example, Rosh Hashanah (i.e., Feast of Trumpets) prophetically represents the Day of Warfare of the last days. Rosh Hashana, in its anti-type or end-time prophetic fulfillment, is the start of the time of the Tribulation which Jesus taught in His Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24; Mk. 13; Lk. 21). Part of the Great tribulation is the setting up of the abomination of desolation in the temple of God. However, the abomination of desolation may not be a material idol to be set up in the future man-made temple by the anti-Christ. At least in the context of its applied meaning, it means a humiliating sickness manifesting in the Prince's body. It is the same affliction as typified in the acting prophecy of the Apostle Paul.]
[Note: I see the abomination of desolation of the end-times from two approaches. I have dealt with the political dimensions of the term in my interpretation of Daniel Chapter 8 which is available on this web site. Here, I have discussed the term, in its equally important application, as a form of bodily affliction, as exemplified in the acting prophecy of the Apostle Paul.]
Glory be to God
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