The Abomination of Desolation…
Referring to portions of the book of Daniel, Jesus tells the disciples:
“When you see the desolating abomination standing where he should not (let the reader understand), then those in Judea must flee to the mountains, (and) a person on a housetop must not go down or enter to get anything out of his house, and a person in a field must not return to get his cloak. Woe to pregnant women and nursing mothers in those days. Pray that this does not happen in winter. For those times will have tribulation such as has not been since the beginning of God’s creation until now, nor ever will be. -Mark 13:14-19, NAB
Understanding prophecy, with all of its metaphors for real events, can be one of our greatest challenges when reading the Bible. Many modern Christian writers have seen these as events yet to come. Others say that it has already happened. You and I are left trying to sort through it all. Luckily, the Catholic Church is there to guide us.
First, what is meant by the desolating abomination? Essentially, scholars suggest that it meant bringing false idols into the temple. The prophecy was first fulfilled in 167 B.C., when a Syrian king set up a statue of Zeus in the temple. Next, scholars believe, Jesus repeated the prophecy to foretell the future desecration of the temple by the Romans. But is that the end of the story?
Let’s remember that Jesus is describing to the disciples when the temple will be destroyed – which happened in 70 A.D. For the most part, then, Mark 13 relates to that event. Some of the language, however, is more apocalyptic in nature, and scholars have been debating what it means for our future. End times prophecy is highly debated among Christians and has been since the early Church. So will there be another abomination of desolation in the Jewish temple?
To be honest, I don’t know, and scholars don’t seem to agree either. But if we read mainstream Christian prophecy books, both fiction and nonfiction, they teach their interpretation of the end times, including another desolating abomination, as fact. Should we believe them? Well, many of these same authors are the ones who claim the Antichrist will be the pope. That alone should call into question their interpretation. In my opinion, their false accusations against the pope and the Church are the real abomination.
I’ve personally read many books on end times prophecy, primarily during my Protestant years, and I can see how easy it could be to become misguided (I was myself). For that reason, I won’t try to decipher and predict what will happen in the end times, when some of the greatest saints and scholars have struggled with it.
As we continue with Mark 13, we will discuss more Biblical prophecy as Jesus shifts His focus from the destruction of the temple to His Second Coming. I will do my best to follow the Magisterium in this most difficult topic, but if I error, please let me know (part of me considered skipping ahead to Mark 14 for this very reason).