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Greg Brothers is an Adventist pastor in Oregon.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme” – Mark Twain.

Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour – I John 3:18, NIV.

Prophecy is like the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor: every generation has to learn anew just what it meant – and what it means.

Take the 70-week prophecy of Daniel 9 – the prophecy that ends with “an abomination that causes desolation.” (And yes, this phrase also shows up in Daniel 11:31 and Daniel 12:11.)

Now read I Maccabees 1:54-61, and it’s clear the Jews applied this prophecy to Antiochus IV – the Hellenistic king known to his friends as “Epiphanes” (i.e. “God manifest’), and to his enemies as “Epimanes” (i.e. “the crazy man”).
On the fifteenth day of Chislev in the year 145 [i.e. December 8, 167 BC], the king erected the abomination of desolation above the altar [i.e. an altar of Zeus was place in the Jerusalem temple]. . . . Whenever anyone was discovered possessing a copy of the covenant or practicing the Law, the king’s decrees sentenced him to death. . . . Women who had their children circumcised were put to death according to the edict with their babies hung around their necks, and the members of their household and those who had performed the circumcision were executed with them.
In short, Antiochus IV did his best to wipe out the Jewish religion – and it’s no wonder the Jewish people saw this in apocalyptic terms.

But read Mark 13:14, and it’s clear that Jesus took this prophecy – a prophecy most Jews in his time would have said had been already fulfilled almost 200 years before – and applied it to the future.

“When you see ‘the abomination that causes desolation standing where it does not belong – let the reader understand – then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountain.”

Matthew’s gospel echoes this warning, but sharpens its ties to the original prophecy.
“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” (Matthew 23:15-16, NIV).

But in his account, Luke states this prophecy was fulfilled by the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70:

“When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written” (Luke 21:20-22, NIV, emphasis supplied).

In short, Daniel’s “abomination that causes desolation” is a powerful image – a powerful image that keeps getting used and re-used because it explains and gives meaning to tragedy.

Just like Pearl Harbor, in other words, it meant something once.

But it still means something today.

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