“So, when YOU see the Abomination of Desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.” (Matthew24:15)
In this text, it is clear that Jesus was telling his followers that THEY would witness the Abomination of Desolation―not some far distant generation.
Jesus added that his followers could escape the Abomination of Desolation by fleeing to the mountains: “. . . then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.” (Matthew 24:16) So the Abomination of Desolation was not to be a world-wide event. So, what was the Abomination of Desolation?
The Abomination of Desolation refers to times in history in which the temple was desecrated. This, in fact, happened twice. Many commentators—futurists and preterists—agree that both of these occurrences are referenced in Daniel. Daniel 8:11-14 and 11:31 probably refer to the first time it happened—in the mid-second century BC. Daniel 9:27 and 12:11 refer to the second time it happened—during the Jewish-Roman War from AD 66-70. This is the abomination of desolation to which Jesus specifically refers as he describes the soon coming events surrounding his Parousia (his divine presence in judgment)―which He promised would happen in his own first-century generation―at the close of the age (Matthew 10:23; 16:27-28; 23:36-39; 24:1-3; 15-34; Mark 13:14-23, 30; Luke 21:20-24; 32).
In the first occurrence, Antiochus IV Epiphanes (ruler of the Greek Seleucid kingdom from 175-164 BC) forbade ceremonies and the worship of God in the Jerusalem temple and in the cities of Judah. In around 168 (or perhaps 167) BC, Antiochus entered the Most Holy Place and plundered the silver and gold vessels. He erected an altar to the Olympian Zeus on the altar of God in the temple court and sacrificed pigs there. The books of 1 and 2 Maccabees (books in the Roman Catholic Bible but not in the Protestant Bible) mention the abomination of desolation in reference to these actions of Antiochus.
There are some confirming indications within Daniel that the 8:11-14 mention of the abomination of desolation refers to the Antiochus abomination. In particular, verse 8:14 indicates that the temple would be restored to its rightful state. The temple was indeed cleansed and rededicated under the leadership of the Jewish priest Judas Maccabeus in 164 BC.
The other instances of the abomination of desolation (Daniel 9:27 and 12:11) are portrayed differently by Daniel than the Antiochus situation. Instead of being cleansed or restored, Jerusalem and the temple would be “destroyed” (Daniel 9:26), the “power of the holy people would come to an end” (Daniel 12:4, 6, 7, 9, 13), and “the regular burnt offering would cease” (Daniel 12:11). This was unquestionably fulfilled at the fall of Jerusalem and destruction of the temple in AD 70. This was the END of biblical Judaism―the END of the Old Covenant order. The priesthood ended. Temple sacrifices for sin would never be reinstated.
There are minor disagreements over what precise event marked the final abomination of desolation. It could be the destruction of the temple itself in AD 70. Or it could be other events earlier in the AD 66-70 Jewish-Roman War tribulation period when various radical groups—the Zealots and the Idumeans—stormed the temple and committed acts of mass murder. (Or all these events together.) But in any case, it is clear that Daniel 9:27 and 12:11 were fulfilled consistent with the prophecies of Daniel and Jesus—in the first century.
“So, when YOU see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel. . . .” (Matthew 24:15) “They will deliver YOU up to tribulation.” (Matthew 24:9) “But when YOU see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near.”(Luke 21:20) In these words, our Lord was speaking to his disciples—not to us thousands of years later. THEY were to witness the abomination of desolation and tribulation. Daniel’s vision would be fulfilled in finality with the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. Jesus is not the author of confusion or deceit. There is no indication that there would be still another fulfillment after AD 70. To place these events thousands of years later is to question the veracity of Jesus.
There are other convincing evidences for the final fulfillment in AD 70. For example, Josephus, who was a first-century Jewish eyewitness to the events of AD 66-70, specifically wrote that the “Abomination of Desolation” was fulfilled both under Antiochus and finally with the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 (Antiquities of the Jews X.11.7). Also of interest, Eusebius (considered the Father of Church History), writing in the fourth century, said that Christians heeded Jesus’ warning (Matthew 24:15; Luke 21:21) to flee Jerusalem when they saw it being surrounded by armies. Christians avoided the holocaust slaughter of over a million Jews by the Romans as they followed Jesus’ instructions and fled to the mountains of Pella.
Jesus solidified the timing of the Abomination of Desolation a few verses later in Matthew 24. He promised that it would happen in his generation: “Truly I say to you, THIS GENERATION will not pass away until all these things take place” (Matthew 24:34). To confirm that “this generation” refers to the first century contemporaries of Jesus we need only to look at the other times the phrase is used in the New Testament. Without doubt, it ALWAYS refers to those living in the first century. No other conclusion is possible without doing violence to the text. Here are all the times the phrase is used outside of the Olivet Discourse. Look up these passages for yourself: Matthew 11:16-24; 12:38-45; 16:4; 17:17; 23:35-36; Mark 8:12; 8:38-9:1; 9:19, and Luke 7:31; 9:41; 11:29-32, 49-51; 17:25; Acts 2:40.
Jesus promised that his generation was the one which would fulfill God’s wrath (Luke 3:7-23; 23:29-41; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 2:14-16; Revelation 6:16-17; 16:1). Speaking to his disciples, Jesus said “for THESE are the days of vengeance to fulfill all that is written” ― which would happen “when THEY saw Jerusalem surrounded by armies” (Luke 21:20-24). This vengeance fulfilled Deuteronomy 32:35, 41, 43; Leviticus 61:2, and Isaiah 61:2. So, the Abomination of Desolation of which Jesus spoke was clearly fulfilled by God’s wrath against Old Covenant Israel in the Jewish-Roman War culminating in the destruction of the temple in AD 70.
For more on the book of Daniel, see my article here:
And see my article, “When Was the Olivet Discourse Fulfilled”: