The phrase “abomination of desolation” refers to Matthew 24, “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” Matthew 24:15
This is referring to Daniel 9, “And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.” Daniel 9:27
In 167 B.C. a Greek ruler by the name of Antiochus Epiphanies set up an altar to Zeus over the altar of burnt offerings in the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. He also sacrificed a pig on the altar in the Temple in Jerusalem. This event is known as the abomination of desolation.
Antiochus Epiphanes was a Greek king of the Seleucid Empire who reigned over Syria from 175 BC until 164 BC. He is famous for almost conquering Egypt and for his brutal persecution of the Jews, which precipitated the Maccabean revolt. Antiochus Epiphanes was a ruthless and often capricious ruler. He is properly Antiochus IV, but he took upon himself the title “Epiphanes,” which means “illustrious one” or “god manifest.” However, his bizarre and blasphemous behavior earned him another nickname among the Jews: “Epimanes,” which means “mad one.”
An altercation between Antiochus Epiphanes and a Roman ambassador by the name of Gaius Popillius Laenas is the origin of the saying “to draw a line in the sand.” When Antiochus brought his army against Egypt in 168 BC, Popillius stood in his way and gave him a message from the Roman Senate ordering him to stop the attack. Antiochus responded that he would think it over and discuss it with his council, at which point Popillius drew a circle in the sand around Antiochus and told him that, if he did not give the Roman Senate an answer before crossing over the line in the sand, Rome would declare war. Antiochus decided to withdraw as Rome had requested.
But the most famous conflict connected to Antiochus Epiphanes is the Maccabean revolt. During that time of history, there were two factions within Judaism: the Hellenists, who had accepted pagan practices and the Greek culture; and the Traditionalists, who were faithful to the Mosaic Law and the old ways. To avoid a civil war between these two factions, Antiochus made a decree outlawing Jewish rites and worship, ordering the Jews to worship Zeus rather than Yahweh. He wasn’t just trying to Hellenize the Jews but to totally eliminate all traces of Jewish culture. The Jews rebelled against his decrees.
In an act of brazen disrespect, Antiochus raided the temple in Jerusalem, stealing its treasures, setting up an altar to Zeus, and sacrificing swine on the altar. When the Jews expressed their outrage over the profaning of the temple, Antiochus responded by slaughtering a great number of the Jews and selling others into slavery. He issued even more draconian decrees: performing the rite of circumcision was punishable by death, and Jews everywhere were ordered to sacrifice to pagan gods and eat pig flesh.
The Jewish response was to take up arms and fight. In 167—166 BC, Judas Maccabeus led the Jews in a series of victories over the military forces of the Syrian-Greeks. After vanquishing Antiochus and the Seleucids, the Jews cleaned and restored the temple in 165.
Antiochus Epiphanes is a tyrannical figure in Jewish history, and he is also a foreshadowing of the coming Antichrist. The prophet Daniel predicts an atrocity in the temple in the end times (Daniel 9:27; 11:31; 12:11). Daniel’s prophecy concerns a coming ruler who will cause the offerings to cease in the temple and set up “an abomination that causes desolation.” While what Antiochus did qualifies as an abomination, Jesus speaks of Daniel’s prophecy as having a still-future fulfillment (Matthew 24:15–16; Mark 13:14; Luke 21:20–21). The Antichrist will model Antiochus Ephiphanes in his great pride, blasphemous actions, and hatred of the Jews.
In Matthew 24:15, Jesus was speaking some 200 years after the abomination of desolation described above had already occurred. Jesus was prophesying that some time in the future another abomination of desolation would occur in a Jewish temple in Jerusalem. This is confirmed by the fact that some of what Daniel prophesied in Daniel 9:27 did not occur in 167 B.C. with Antiochus Epiphanies. Antiochus did not confirm a covenant with Israel for seven years. It is the Antichrist who, in the end times, will establish a covenant with Israel for seven years and then break it by doing something similar to the abomination of desolation in the Jewish temple in Jerusalem.
Whatever the future abomination of desolation is, it will leave no doubt in anyone’s mind that the one perpetrating it is the person known as the Antichrist. Revelation 13:14 describes him making some kind of image which all are forced to worship. Turning the temple of the living God into a place of worship for the Antichrist is truly an “abomination.” Those who are alive and remain during the tribulation should be watchful and recognize that this event is the beginning of 3 1/2 years of the worst of the tribulation period and that the return of the Lord Jesus is imminent.
“Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.” Luke 21:36