Some argue that there will not be a physical temple during the Tribulation and that one is not necessary for the fulfillment of the Abomination that Causes Desolation.
While I agree that our bodies are the Temple of God, the Abomination that Causes Desolation appears to be a one-time event which is set to occur at a specific time in history and at a specific location and involving specific individuals.
I am concerned that some may be ignoring the plain meaning of Scripture in order to make things fit into their eschatology. We should not "spiritualize" things, however, that may conflict with the prophetic timelines we advocate.
The Bible provides detailed descriptions of the Abomination that Causes Desolation by type and by prophecy. I believe that if you consider these passages in concert, you will see that the Abomination must occur in a literal temple in Jerusalem.
The Abomination in Scripture
Here are the passages that focus on the Abomination that Causes Desolation. It is a lot of Scripture to sift through, but it will give you a fuller sense of what this event will encompass. Please note the roles of the Antichrist and the False Prophet, and the consequences that the Abomination will have on Israel, and those who are written in the Book of Life and those who are not.
"Out of one of them came another horn, which started small but grew in power to the south and to the east and toward the Beautiful Land. It grew until it reached the host of the heavens, and it threw some of the starry host down to the earth and trampled on them. It set itself up to be as great as the Prince of the host; it took away the daily sacrifice from him, and the place of his sanctuary was brought low. Because of rebellion, the host of the saints and the daily sacrifice were given over to it. It prospered in everything it did, and truth was thrown to the ground." Daniel 8:9-12.
"After the sixty-two sevens, the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. He will confirm a covenant with many for one seven. In the middle of the seven he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him." Daniel 9:26-27.
"Then he will turn back and vent his fury against the holy covenant. He will return and show favor to those who forsake the holy covenant. His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice. Then they will set up the abomination that causes desolation. With flattery he will corrupt those who have violated the covenant, but the people who know their God will firmly resist him. Those who are wise will instruct many, though for a time they will fall by the sword or be burned or captured or plundered. When they fall, they will receive a little help, and many who are not sincere will join them. Some of the wise will stumble, so that they may be refined, purified and made spotless until the time of the end, for it will still come at the appointed time." Daniel 11:30-35.
"From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that caused desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days. Blessed is the one who waits for and reaches the end of the 1,335 days." Daniel 12:11-12.
"So when you see standing in the holy place the abomination that causes desolation, spoken of through the prophet Daniel – let the reader understand – then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house. Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now -- and never to be equaled again." Matthew 24:15-21.
"Because of the signs he was given power to do on behalf of the first beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth. He ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. He was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name." Revelation 13:14-17.
"When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the desert, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent's reach. Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent. But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring – those who obey God's commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus." Revelation 12:13-17.
"At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people – everyone whose name is found written in the book – will be delivered." Daniel 12:1.
"At that time if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or, 'There he is!' do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect – if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time." Matthew 24:23-25.
"Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon. He exercised all the authority of the first beast on his behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed. And he performed great and miraculous signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in full view of men." Revelation 13:11-13.
"The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness." 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12.
"The king will do as he pleases. He will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard-of things against the God of gods. He will be successful until the time of wrath is completed, for what has been determined must take place. He will show no regard for the gods of his fathers or for the one desired by women, nor will he regard any god, but will exalt himself above them all." Daniel 11: 36-37.
"Don't let anyone deceive you in anyway, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God." 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4.
"The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months. He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people language and nation. All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast – all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world." Revelation 13:5-8.
Revelation 11:1-2 tells us that there will be a Temple of God during the time of the Tribulation:
"And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months." Revelation 11:1-2 (KJV).
The context of this passage suggests that this Temple will be physical because it is something that can be measured.
I have come across an argument, however, which states that this temple will be a spiritual temple of believers because it is not possible to measure people. I must disagree. Physical bodies can be measured. I am a short five feet and two inches. I know this because my body is capable of being measured.
We are told that Goliath was over nine feet tall. (1 Samuel 17:4.) How could this be determined unless he was able to be measured?
More convincing is the fact that the word for "reed" is used as a unit of measurement again in the book of Revelation, and actual measurements are given:
"And he that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof. And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal. And he measured the wall thereof, an hundred and forty and four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel." Revelation 21:15-17 (KJV).
Clearly, both the Tribulation Temple and the New Jerusalem must be literal (i.e. physical) in order for them to be capable of being measured. The plain meaning of the text is clear – there will be a Temple of God existing at the time of the Tribulation.
Sacrifices at the Temple in Jerusalem
The sacrificial system will also be reinstituted prior to the time of the Abomination that Causes Desolation. The following prophecy makes no sense, otherwise:
“From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days. Blessed is the one who waits for and reaches the end of the 1,335 days.” Daniel 12:11-12.
Note that the starting point of this prophetic calculation is evidenced by both the end of the daily sacrifice and the Abomination. They must occur at the same time.
The abolishment of sacrifices and the Abomination are consistently paired together in other verses, as well. (See the already cited Daniel 9:26-27 and Daniel 11:30-35.)
Furthermore, sacrifices MUST take place at the location designated by God.
“You must not worship the Lord your God in their way. But you are to seek the place the Lord your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go; there bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. There in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you put your hand to, because the Lord your God has blessed you.” Deuteronomy 12:4-7. (See also Deuteronomy 14:23-26 and 16:1-2.)
The place chosen by God is in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah (a.k.a. the Temple Mount). It is the place where Abraham offered Isaac to be sacrificed. At that time, Abraham prophesized that another substitutionary sacrifice would be made there – looking forward to the sacrifice of the Lamb of God.
“Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, ‘On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.’” Genesis 22:13-14.
It is the place where David purchased the threshing floor of Araunah and built an altar to God. (See 2 Samuel 24:18-25.) It is the place where David declared that the House of the Lord was to be built.
“Then David said, ‘The house of the Lord God is to be here, and also the altar of burnt offering for Israel.’” 1 Chronicles 22:1.
It is the place where the First Temple was built:
"Then Solomon began to build the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to his father David. It was on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, the place provided by David." 2 Chronicles 3:1.
It is the place where the Second Temple was built. And if there is going to be a Jewish temple built during the time of the Tribulation, it will be built in the same place. Why? Because that is where God has designated His House to be built.
Furthermore, this is the only place where the sacrificial system can be reinstituted. There is no Biblical wiggle room for this. The sacrificial system that will be stopped by the Antichrist must first be implemented in a temple located at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
Jesus and the End of the Sacrificial System?
I realize that some believe that Jesus Christ fulfilled the first 3 ½ years of Daniel’s Seventieth Week through His ministry, death and resurrection. It is argued that through His sacrifice on the Cross, He put an end to the need for a sacrificial system. And, in doing so, He confirmed the New Covenant.
It should be noted, however, that during the Millennium Kingdom, the sacrificial system is not only reinstituted at a new Temple in Jerusalem, but it is overseen by the Messiah – Jesus Christ. See Ezekiel 39-40. For some reason, even though His onetime sacrifice is sufficient for all sin, God still wants this sacrificial system to continue. Perhaps it is only meant to be a daily reminder to the people of their sins. But the fact of the matter is that animal sacrifices will still continue at least until the end of the Millennium.
Even after the Cross, the sacrificial system still continued – for close to another 40 years.
The Antichrist is a copycat. If you take a look at the Messiah’s reign during the Millennium Kingdom, as prophesized by Ezekiel, you will see the existence of a temple in Jerusalem, the reinstitution of the sacrificial system, and a prince.
It is no coincidence that these are the same elements we will find in Daniel’s Seventieth Week, which encompasses the reign of the Antichrist. He is a counterfeit messiah. He will mimic what the Jews will expect from their true Messiah.
Abomination in the Temple
The Abomination that Causes Desolation refers to the desolation of the First Temple by Antiochus Epiphanes when he erected an idol in the Temple and sacrificed a sow upon the Altar. This historic event serves as a type or model for the future Abomination that Causes Desolation.
A Biblical type will provide an outline of the reality that it represents. Like a shadow, it shares the shape of the object that casts it.
Thus, we see the outline of a leader who will desecrate a Jewish Temple by erecting an idol in it and defiling its altar. We can expect some future leader to do the same.
Prophecy confirms this expectation. Jesus tells the Jews to flee Judea "when you see standing in the holy place the abomination that causes desolation." He makes this prophecy right after he tells his disciples that not one stone of the Second Temple will be left on another. (See Matthew 24:1-2.) He knows that those listening to Him will remember the stories about Antiochus Epiphanes when He uses the phrase "abomination that causes desolation." And He wants them to make this connection.
According to Jesus, the Abomination will be something that can be seen and something that can be stood up in the holy place. And note that the “holy place” is a specific location in the Temple (and also the Tabernacle).
The Abomination will also serve as a warning for the Jews to flee. It is a trigger event.
Scripture identifies the future leader to be the Antichrist – the man of lawlessness. And in Revelation 12 we see a prophecy about Israel fleeing during the Tribulation.
(*Note: the woman who flees from the Dragon in Revelation 12 is described as being "clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head." In Genesis 37:9-11, Joseph dreams about the sun, moon and eleven stars bowing down to him. His father Jacob – also known as Israel – interprets this to mean him, his mother and eleven brothers. Essentially, Israel the nation.)
2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 tells us that the Antichrist will set “himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God."
Honestly, how much clearer can Scripture get? The Antichrist will be in God's temple – not a pagan temple. And it will be a temple – not a tabernacle or any other place of worship.
Someday, the Antichrist will declare himself to be God. This will be "the lie," the delusion that those who are not written in the Book of Life will believe.
I believe that God wants people to be able to recognize the Antichrist. That is why He has provided detailed prophesies about the Abomination that Causes Desolation. It is also how the Jews, as a nation, will know that they have been duped. Remember that Daniel's prophecy of the Seventy Weeks is directed to the Jews. So they, of all people, must be able to understand its fulfillment when it occurs.
A plain reading of Scripture tells us that there will be a literal temple and a reinstituted sacrificial system. When the plain meaning makes sense, there is no reason to look for another interpretation.
– Lisa Taylor