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What does ‘the abomination of desolation’ in Mark 13 mean?

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What does ‘the abomination of desolation’ in Mark 13 mean?
Posted on September 28, 2021  - By Rufus Simon Varghese

In Mark 13, Jesus tells His disciples that when they see the abomination of desolation standing where it should not, then those who are in Judea should flee. What is the abomination of desolation?

Defining the term

To start, let us note a few things that will help us define the term ‘the abomination of desolation’.

First, we see that this term comes up in what we call ‘the Olivet discourse’ of Jesus to His disciples. Jesus uses this term in the background of His revelation about the coming destruction of the temple.

Second, in Matthew 24:15 (the parallel passage for Mark 13), Jesus refers to Daniel 9:27, where the same term comes up. He then puts the onus on the reader of the Gospel According to Matthew to understand its implications.

Third, in Daniel 9:20-27, we see the angel Gabriel explaining the prophecy of the 70 weeks to Daniel. The angel adds that the Anointed One will be cut off at the end of 69 weeks — a reference to the killing of Jesus. 

After this, the city of Jerusalem and its sanctuary will be destroyed by the coming prince. As we look back in history, we understand that this was a prophecy regarding the Roman Empire. The nearness of the city and the temple being destroyed is seen and confirmed in the appearance of someone who will make a peace treaty with Judea that will last for a limited time (one week). And in the middle of that time, he will disrupt the sacrifices and offerings through abominable actions.

The Antichrist will bring about all sorts of perversions that direct people away from everything that defines the gospel and Christianity

Based on Daniel 9:27, we see that ‘the abomination of desolation’ refers to the one who destroys the temple and makes it desolate by corrupting its sanctity through abominable means that bring disgust and shame to God’s people.

Two-fold fulfillment of the prophecy

  1. In BC 167, Antiochus IV Epiphanes defiled the altar by sacrificing a pig on it. However, this was not the final fulfilment of the abomination of desolation. It was just a preview of the desecration by the Romans. And that would culminate in the destruction of the temple in AD 70. 
  2. As Jesus speaks about the destruction of the temple, He warns His disciples about the helplessness that the people of Judea will face at that time.

We must understand that Jesus also talked about the end of the age and His second coming.— that is the immediate context of Mark 13 and Matthew 24. Hence, ‘the abomination of desolation’ is also a future reference to the Antichrist who will come and attempt to rival God by taking His seat in the temple, displaying himself as God (2 Thessalonians 2:4). The Antichrist will bring about all sorts of perversions that direct people away from everything that defines the gospel and Christianity.

The world is moving towards the day where the Antichrist will come in ways that challenge God and His followers. As Christians, let us ask God to help us stay steadfast amid the deceptions that the Antichrist and his followers will bring to entice the elect.

Rufus Simon Varghese

About Rufus Simon Varghese

Born and raised in Dubai, UAE, Rufus completed his Masters in Theology at Asian Christian Academy in Hosur, India. He has since been involved in personal outreach ministries and teaching youngsters Scripture. Currently based in Ernakulam, India, he is teaching at a Bible school as well as ministering to the Hindi-speaking immigrant working population in Kerala.



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