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Rainbow Divider

Chapter 7

The Abomination of Desolation

In Matthew 24:15, Jesus referred to something called the “abomination of desolation,” also spoken of by Daniel. Most of the preaching and teaching I’ve ever encountered on the subject has treated the abomination of desolation as some singular event that could be clearly identified, the sort of event that would make for a news headline. Some teach that this refers to an individual known as the antichrist who, having made a treaty with the Jews, will suddenly break it and proclaim himself to be deity, ushering in a period of 3-1/2 years known as the great tribulation. Others see it as referring to the encirclement of Jerusalem by the Roman armies in the first century.

Another example often referred to as a type of what would happen later occurred in the period between Malachi and Matthew. An evil heathen king named Antiochus Epiphanes hated the Jews and their God and was determined to crush them. As a part of his effort he deliberately desecrated the temple, sacrificing a hog on the altar and turning the temple for a time into a place of heathen sacrifice.

I distinctly remember a time, many years ago now, when I was reading Matthew 24 and meditating on how to sort out the things Jesus said in relation to the questions he was asked. The disciples had asked him about the destruction of the temple, his coming, and the end of the world. Some things seem to refer to the destruction of Jerusalem and some to the end of the age — all mixed up together. Scholars have debated about these things ever since. One thing I am convinced of is that Jesus never intended for these things to be unraveled by scholars!

As I sat reading and pondering this, a very distinct feeling came to me that many of the things Jesus said were meant to apply to both, each in their own way. As the Jewish nation ended with only a remnant escaping its apostasy and judgment, so it was to be for the “Christian” world at the end of the age.

In particular my attention was drawn to the expression, “the abomination of desolation.” Jesus was speaking to his followers when he said, “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation ....” Only believers are able to see things that have spiritual and prophetic significance. This “seeing” is not with natural eyes, but with spiritual eyes opened by the revelation of God’s Word.

Religious teachers think they have these things all figured out with their complicated charts. The Jewish scribes believed in the coming Messiah and were diligent students of the scriptures, yet when Christ came their eyes were totally blind. I am convinced that history is repeating itself and that today’s religious generation is similarly blind regarding the second coming of Christ and events surrounding it.

The “abomination of desolation” involves principles that can be seen at work in virtually every judgment of God meted out against human rebellion. Those principles are no doubt expressed in particular events connected with judgment but something on the inside tells me to be more concerned with the conditions involved.

An example of this is the way people have focused over the years on who the antichrist might be. They speculate about this individual or that dictator, etc., yet all the while, the spirit of antichrist is taking over the world and overrunning even “Christian” religion. The way things are going, if some individual were to arise who merited the title “The Antichrist” they wouldn’t recognize him as such anyway! The irony is that while many theologians are looking for some evil dictator to commit a particular wicked deed, they themselves may actually be caught up in the abomination of desolation and be totally unaware of it!

What do we mean by the “abomination of desolation?” Let’s look at the words involved, one at a time, particularly as they are used in the scriptures.

The Meaning of “Abomination”

The first word is “abomination.” An abomination is something that is totally disgusting, utterly sickening and contemptible. Of course the scriptures are concerned about things that God finds abominable, that He hates and loathes. We must always remember that God’s values, and thus His evaluation of things, are totally different from those of sin-darkened man. That is why Jesus, in Luke 16:15, said, “... that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.”

If you do a study of the word “abomination” in the Old Testament you will discover that the primary use of the word concerns idolatry. The connection is often so close that “abomination” is actually used as a synonym for “idol.” For example, if you said that someone had an abomination in his house, everyone knew (at least among the Jews) that you meant he had an idol.

The ancient world was totally dominated by idolatry. Every tribe and nation had its gods, represented by statues or images of some kind. In every aspect of life from planting crops to fighting wars, men looked to their gods for help and bowed to their demands even when it meant human sacrifice.

In the process of God separating a people for Himself, idolatry was a major issue. Listen to the beginning of the ten commandments. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.”

Idolatry, in its essence, provided men with a religious substitute for the one true God. The same applies to the word “abomination.” An abomination is anything that people give themselves to that displaces God. Certainly that includes gross sins of every kind, but the thing God finds most abominable is that which is religious. Religion is sinful man pretending he is righteous. It is open rebellion against God, yet it often appears under the guise of goodness and truth.

Devil Power

One point that cannot be emphasized too much is that idolatry is not just ignorant but harmless superstition. It has devil power behind it. Listen to the words of Moses in Deuteronomy 32:16-17 concerning idolatry: “They provoked him to jealousy with strange gods, with abominations provoked they him to anger. They sacrificed unto devils, not to God; to gods whom they knew not, to new gods that came newly up, whom your fathers feared not.” See also Leviticus 17:7.

Psalm 106:34-40 says, “They did not destroy the nations, concerning whom the Lord commanded them: But were mingled among the heathen, and learned their works. And they served their idols: which were a snare unto them. Yea they sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto devils, And shed innocent blood, even the blood of their sons and of their daughters, whom they sacrificed unto the idols of Canaan: and the land was polluted with blood. Thus were they defiled with their own works, and went a whoring with their own inventions.”

Paul, in I Corinthians 10:19-20 said, “What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing? But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils.”

Fellowship with devils! That is the real issue in religion. That is what God desires to deliver His children from in this present darkness.

Religion is Satan’s greatest tool for ruling over lost mankind. In the case of idolatry, the real power behind their religion was the demon spirits who hid behind the facade of the actual images. Make no mistake: there is real supernatural power behind false religion. And I’m not just talking about what we consider to be “heathen” religion: I’m including most of what is called Christianity yet is actually infested with devils.

When Moses first went before Pharaoh and turned his staff into a serpent to demonstrate God’s power, the heathen magicians were able to duplicate his feat. However, Moses’ “serpent” swallowed those of the magicians, demonstrating that God’s power is greater than that of devils! We must never forget that!

Satan always tries his best to corrupt and hinder anything God does in the earth. By the time Moses came along with a commission from God to deliver the Israelites from Egypt, approximately 400 years had passed since the days of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Israel’s True Bondage

The greatest bondage into which they had fallen was not slavery but the idolatrous beliefs and practices that they had absorbed from their heathen surroundings. It did not take long for their idolatry to surface during the wilderness journey.

Their exodus from Egypt was attended by great signs and wonders including the crossing of the Red Sea on dry land. They experienced the miracle of manna for food (Exodus 16). They saw and heard the awesome display of God’s power at Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19). Yet when Moses delayed coming down from the mount (Exodus 32) their unbelief of heart took over.

The mentality of people was such in those days that they needed gods they could see and touch in order to have something to believe in and be motivated by. Therefore the instinct of those who felt they had to do something since it appeared that Moses had abandoned them was to pressure Aaron into making a golden calf and to proclaim, “These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.” Exodus 32:4.

That spirit of impatient unbelief and unwillingness to wait on God and do things His way persists in our day as well and is the hallmark of apostate Christianity.

The results of their rebellion were disastrous. After offering the people the opportunity to choose sides, Moses ordered those who remained true to the Lord to execute judgment against the rebels with the sword. Three thousand Israelites died. Additionally, Exodus 32:35 tells us, “And the Lord plagued the people, because they made the calf, which Aaron made.”

Idolatry was a very persistent problem among the Israelites for many centuries to come and the Lord treated it with deadly seriousness, judging them repeatedly, yet with no lasting effect.

The nation reached its zenith in the time of David and Solomon, however Solomon’s reign ended badly. Solomon had a problem with women and married 700 of them besides keeping 300 concubines. Many of these were heathen women and Solomon accommodated their religions in his old age.

In I Kings 11:7-8 we read, “Then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon. And likewise did he for all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods.”

Part of the resulting judgment was the revolt of ten tribes which never again served God. The remaining kingdom, known as Judah, consisted of Judah and Benjamin together with the Levites who were thrown out of their priestly duties by the revolting tribes. II Chronicles 11:13-14. Besides the Levites, all who still wanted to serve God left the new kingdom and went to Judah.

Even in Judah, where God preserved the remnant, the spiritual trend was downhill with revivals few and far between. One positive example was Josiah of whom it was said, “And Josiah took away all the abominations out of all the countries that pertained to the children of Israel, and made all that were present in Israel to serve, even to serve the Lord their God. And all his days they departed not from following the Lord, the God of their fathers.”

However the overall trend continued until God used Babylon to destroy Jerusalem and the temple and to carry the people away captive. The cause of this judgment is summarized in II Chronicles 36:14-16: “Moreover all the chief of the priests, and the people, transgressed very much after all the abominations of the heathen; and polluted the house of the Lord which he had hallowed in Jerusalem. And the Lord God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes, and sending because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling place: But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against his people, till there was no remedy.”

Do you see the abomination of desolation involved here? The abominations of the nation reached a point of no return, where judgment was the only answer. God had prophets who saw what was happening and warned against it, but the people plunged ahead in their blindness. Still there was a remnant that God preserved even in Babylon, Daniel being the most famous among them.

Desolation

The word “desolation” is well illustrated by what happened to Jerusalem both under Babylon and later under Rome. While it refers to great defeat and destruction we must never forget the spiritual dimension: although forces ruled over by the devil carried out the desolations, in each case they represented the deliberate judgment of God.

Even in “desolation” we can see a process at work. Long before the actual destruction of Jerusalem, Jesus said, “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.” Matthew 23:38.

Here the idea conveyed is more one of abandonment. We are reminded of Genesis 6:3 where God said, “My spirit shall not always strive with man ....” One of the marks of coming judgment is the withdrawal of God’s restraint against man’s headlong rush towards destruction — exactly what we are seeing in our day.

However, there is another side to “abomination” that must be understood. If abominations were only connected with overt idolatry, they would be easy to spot.

Empty Orthodoxy

Following the Babylonian captivity, there was a restoration of sorts under men like Ezra and Nehemiah. The city and temple were rebuilt and the worship of God restored. Overt idolatry didn’t seem to be the primary problem from that point on. For those who returned to Jerusalem, the primary problem became empty orthodoxy (see Malachi), an outward service toward God that hid a wicked and unchanged heart. This was what Jesus lashed out against.

Even in Isaiah’s day, before the Babylonian captivity we are afforded a picture of how God saw their religion. Isaiah 66:3-4 says, “He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog’s neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine’s blood; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol. Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations. I also will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them; because when I called, none did answer; when I spake, they did not hear: but they did evil before mine eyes, and chose that in which I delighted not.”

Killing an ox, sacrificing a lamb, offering an oblation, and burning incense were all part of the law. Yet their spiritual condition was such that they might as well have been practicing idolatry! The real spirit that was operating in them was exactly the same. The only differences were outward.

Take note of the word “abominations” being applied to things that were outwardly right! I wonder how many things in our day that religious men glory in are actually abominations in God’s eyes! Is the abomination of desolation an event or a general condition? When the Christians left Jerusalem there was no particular event that occurred: they left when God warned them to leave. Conditions had reached that point. The rest of the population remained blind.

What about our day? What is the true spirit behind religion? To what degree are we witnessing lost religious people who have “chosen their own ways” and whose soul “delighteth in their abominations”?

Did you know that devils can “praise God,” talk about the blood of Christ, give life-changing experiences, perform miracles, “cast out devils,” preach, pray, prophesy and speak in tongues, and love every minute of it? The outward form of those things doesn’t bother them in the least. It is only where God is present by the anointing and through truth that they are disturbed.

The devil is a great promoter of the idea that devils could not or would not do such things. It affords his evil operatives the perfect cover to deceive millions with false religion. People will say, “Why would the devil praise God?” or “How could demons say that Jesus is Lord and talk about the blood of Christ?” No demon could say those things from the heart when Christ is present, but giving lip-service to religious concepts people have come to believe in is no problem for them. The words have no magical power in themselves.

Really praising God is far more than mere words. Do you really believe that God is pleased with the “praise” of those whose hearts are far from Him, let alone the deceitful “praise” by devils? Matthew 15:7-9.

“Come Out of Her, My People”

There is a passage of scripture the Lord has emphasized in our midst many times over the years. It is found in Rev. 18:1-4. “And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory. And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies. And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.”

Verse 2 portrays what happens when religious man operates apart from the headship of Christ: devils find a spiritual home and take over. The expression “is fallen and is become” shows us that this is a process. That is why it is so deadly. The true condition develops undetected by most. It is like a country slowly undermined by foreign agents and collaborators until the citizens wake up one day and realize they are under enemy control. Unfortunately, with the exception of the sheep, the citizens of “religion” will find out the same way the Sodomites or those in Noah’s day did — when judgment is falling and it is eternally too late.

Whenever passages such as this are applied to contemporary Christianity, people are naturally inclined to resent it. They may agree that it applies to certain other groups but certainly not to theirs! Their minds go to people they believe to be good and sincere and you are accused of being negative and critical.

I agree that some of God’s people are in Babylon. That’s why the Lord says, “Come out of her, my people ....”! When Jesus condemned the religious system that operated among the Jews, He was not condemning or criticizing the sheep! He simply spoke the truth, motivated by God’s Spirit, to the end that the sheep might be delivered.

Most of God’s people are asleep. They do not know the danger they are in. As the darkness swallows up outwardly Christian religious systems, God warns of plagues that are the lot of religious Babylon.

It is the time of judgment, of harvest, of separation. I see only judgment ahead for the houses of religion that use Christ’s name but operate apart from His authority. If everyone that claims God told them to do what they are doing has actually heard from God, then He is mighty confused! And “... God is not the author of confusion ....” I Cor. 14:33.

Based both on the witness of God’s Spirit concerning contemporary Christianity and on the witness of God’s Word in Matthew 7, I believe that the vast majority of those supposedly acting in Christ’s name have no authority from Christ to do what they are doing. Will their work stand before the darkness? What of their followers? Do not the sheep need the great Shepherd? Has He not provided for such an hour as this? Is there no ark of safety from the judgment that looms over our world?

God will never forget His own, but it is not an hour for slumber or for staying where Christ does not rule. He is our only safety, our only light, our only knowledge, our only protection from the powers of darkness that have been turned loose on a doomed, sin-blinded world.

One by one, the sheep are waking up to the reality of what is taking place. Are you like those in Malachi? Do you fear the Lord? Does the darkness cause you to seek the light? to speak often with others of like spirit? Are you in a place of spiritual safety or a place of spiritual danger?

God has the answers we need. It is a time to pray and seek Him as never before, both for ourselves and for our brothers and sisters still in this world. We are a tiny minority here. Most of our family is on the other side. It will not be long! Praise God!

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