When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains: let him that is on the housetop not come down to take anything out of his house: neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes.
Jesus spoke of various signs of His second coming, such as false Christs and false prophets; wars and rumors of war, with nation arising against nation; wickedness, hatred, and betrayals, even abounding lawlessness; and along with all that, famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places. Actually, according to Revelation 4, all these judgments are the result of the preaching of the gospel among all nations. The white horse goes forth conquering and to conquer.
From that, Jesus concludes that the final and the most outstanding sign of His coming will be the appearance of the abomination of desolation, that is, the abomination (that which is evil, abhorrent) which brings desolation, or complete devastation, upon the earth.
Before we say more about this abomination we should notice that Jesus associates its appearance with the prophecy of Daniel concerning the destruction of Jerusalem. The temple was defiled particularly when Antiochus Epiphanes set up an image in the temple, where it had no right to be, and offered a pig on the altar of burnt offering, demanding that the people eat that flesh and worship the image, thereby making the daily sacrifice impossible. Soon the Roman troops would surround the city to destroy it (Luke 21:20). This would serve as the ultimate sign to the disciples that the dispensation of shadows had come to an end, including the temple worship. No attempt should be made to defend the city, but rather they should flee to the mountains as fast as possible in order to seek their refuge wherever they could. For the judgment of God had come upon Israel as a nation for their heinous sin of rejecting and crucifying the Christ, the Lord of glory. They of all men had made themselves the most guilty, for they had God’s testimonies and the prophets. Israel as a nation would cease to exist, wiped out by the judgment of God. The true seed of Abraham among the Jews would be included with the Gentiles in the church of the new dispensation. This serves as a prefiguration of the final judgment.
You will recall, as was mentioned before, that the prophets of the old dispensation saw the entire coming of Christ as one great event taking place in these last days. Therefore Jesus also associates the desecration of the temple and the coming of that great Roman world power with the appearance of the man of sin, the Antichrist, who will reign for a short time before the end of the ages.
Scripture uses other names to refer to this abomination of desolation. It is also referred to as the man of sin (literally, the man of lawlessness), the son of perdition (II Thess. 2:3), the Antichrist (I John 2:18), and the two beasts of Revelation 13, whose number is the number of man, the number 666.
Paul says of this man of lawlessness that he “sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God” (II Thess. 2:4).
We recall that the temptation and sin of Paradise was that Adam and Eve desired to be as God, independently deciding for themselves what is good and what is evil. Ever since the fall of our first parents mankind has had but one sinful ambition. As the Dutch poet expressed it: “I am God in my deepest thoughts.”
This became evident already in wicked Lamech before the flood, and in Nimrod after the flood in the building of the tower of Babel. And again in Nebuchadnezzar, who made an image that bore the measurements of 60 by 6 cubits, and demanded that all his princes and rulers should bow down before it. Also king Darius demanded that for one month none of his subjects should pray to anyone but to the king. There were more kings, like Herod and the Caesars, who claimed to be god. This sin of our depraved nature manifests itself in wicked pride, greed, and a striving for independence.
In the meantime, everything is preparing for the full appearance of this Beast. Scripture informs us that there have been antichrists until now, but the man of sin will outdo them all. While sin develops to its full capacity of wickedness, the world is striving toward unification. The orient, which at one time was referred to as “the sleeping nations,” is now wide awake, active, and involving itself in the affairs of other nations.
The man of sin will boast that he possesses all the attributes of God. Thus he will declare that he is omnipotent. He will show that he has replenished and subdued the earth and has dominion over every creature upon the earth. Everything is dependent upon him; everything proves the power and ingenuity of man. He builds beautiful mansions, towering buildings, costly sports arenas, and the like.
He claims to be omniscient, that he knows all there is to know. He has made great strides in the field of mathematics and the various sciences. He has brought about miracles in the realm of medicine by mastery over many sicknesses and diseases, and he hopes to conquer death. Already he fights such horrible diseases as AIDS and cancer. He performs delicate surgeries on any part of the human anatomy. He staggers our imagination with his modern means of travel, his computers, and his technology. The age of automation reaches its ultimate in the man of sin. He maintains that anything he can imagine he can also do.
The man of sin claims to be omnipresent. He soon will span the earth with his combination of the computer, the telephone, and the television. Then he can transmit messages in seconds, talk to anyone anywhere, and at the same time see the person to whom he is talking. His airplanes carry hundreds of passengers and tons of freight to any part of the world. He sends his satellites into space and he builds space stations in the sky. He sends men to the moon, and even reaches out to planets in outer space. With his telescopes he can penetrate deep into the heavens, searching out the secrets of the universe.
He claims to be the source, the fountain, of every good and perfect gift. In his realm men, women, and children live in extreme luxury. He is ready to relieve the poor, to help the aged, to care for infants. Kindness and generosity abound under his supervision. Affluence, good will, peace, and harmony characterize his domain.
Antichrist succeeds in bringing the whole world under his authority. We see this unification already in what was at one time referred to as a League of Nations, but now as the UN. The affairs of any one country have become the affairs of the whole world. A common market is sought, a common currency, a common language. There is even a united space program.
This striving for unification is also evident in the church world. Denominational walls are breaking down. Efforts are made to make the church a community center for all to share. Their strength is in numbers. They have so much in common that their differences should be ignored. Brotherly love that includes all mankind is strongly advocated. Efforts are already put forth by the Protestant churches to confer and unite with the Roman Catholic Church. When that goal is attained, the church will include all humanity, except the true people of God. The pope may be the supreme ruler.
Excluded and hated are those who maintain the infallibility of the Scriptures, the truth of the Word of God, the antithesis between the church and the world, the sanctity of the Sabbath, of the Lord’s Supper, and the need of Christian discipline. Those individuals are considered to be bigoted, narrow-minded, out of date, and out of step with the modern trend. They must be wiped out, persecuted unto death. Since he can no longer openly worship nor assemble together, and he can be robbed of all his possessions, each believer must seek survival as best he can.
The Antichrist will be anti-God and His Christ. That is, he will be opposed to God and the Christ. As the psalmist declared: “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us” (Ps. 2:2, 3). He will ban all preaching of the gospel. The white horse and its rider (Rev. 6) will have finished their course. Revelation 11:7, 8 tells us concerning the two witnesses: “And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them and overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where our Lord was crucified.”
But the name Antichrist also means that he will set himself up in the stead of God and His Christ. Paradoxical as it may seem, the man of sin will be extremely religious. He will demand that all men bow down to him and worship him alone, for he boasts that he is God, the Savior, Sustainer, the Benefactor of all mankind. The churches will be dedicated to him and to his worship; none other will be allowed. And the whole world will eagerly bow down to him and his image in worship, saying, “Who is like unto the beast? Who can make war against him?” He is sovereign. He is invincible!” The dragon will seem to have captured all under his power and will do his utmost to hold his dominion.
But all this luxury, prosperity, peace, and harmony is purely superficial. The man of sin is busily engaged in “spending his way to prosperity.” He claims all God’s earthly creation as his own and wantonly wastes and ruins it as if the supply is boundless. He is polluting the air, the soil, the rivers, the lakes, and the oceans with his refuse. He destroys the earth. He shows that he is very really the man of lawlessness. He eats, laughs, sings, dances, revels in sin to drown his inner misery. He finds delight in deliberately trampling God’s law underfoot. He hates God and His Christ and seeks to banish from the earth the very name of God, His cause, and His people. Mankind will deliberately fill the cup of iniquity. “Knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, [they] not only do the same, but have pleasure in those who do them” (Rom. 1:32).
This man of lawlessness is the abomination that brings desolation. “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision” (Ps. 2:4). Divine judgment rests upon him. The world that lives in an artificial happiness and a sham prosperity ultimately ends up on a dead-end road. Already today various nations are in a financial crisis. Many nations are bankrupt, leaning one upon another for survival.
Even our own country has a national debt that runs into the trillions of dollars. But who cares? There was a time not that long ago when a warning was raised that if our national debt would exceed a million dollars we would be in deep trouble. But the Roosevelt administration taught us one of the principles of the Antichrist, namely, “spend your way to prosperity.”
Someone once compared the end of time to a tavern at five o’clock in the morning. The stench of smoke, liquor, and drugs hangs heavy in the air, tables and chairs are strewn around in abandon, the guests lie in a drunken stupor. The idea is that the world will have steeped itself in iniquity to the degree that she lives in a stupor of lawlessness, perishing in her corruption. There is no escape from the righteous judgment of the living God, no escape from the bondage of sin and death.
Jesus describes those last days before the coming of the Son of man saying: “As the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For in the days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matt. 24:37-39).
It may even be that the final battle of Armageddon will have no end as far as man is concerned, for if the modern weapons of war equipment were unleashed, the human race could be wiped off the earth.
The cup of iniquity will then be full. The sin of Paradise will have reached its ultimate. It is then that the church will have been gathered, the white horse and its rider will have completed their course, and the sign of the Son of man will appear on the clouds of heaven. Well may we shout with the psalmist: Why do the nations rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? God has set His Son upon the holy hill of Zion! Therefore we can pray with ever increasing fervor: “Come, Lord Jesus, yea, come as the righteous Judge, the Victor, and the Savior of Thy church. Come quickly!” The Judge stands at the door!