What’s the big deal about Donald Trump declaring Jerusalem as the capital of Israel? Well, for Christians who take a Futurist view of Prophecy, it supports their notion that certain conditions need to apply in order for the Anti-Christ to rise up so that Jesus can return and Rapture the Church.
It’s no surprise that Mike Pence – a very strong Christian Zionist – was standing behind Trump when he announced this unprecedented shift in policy. Pence no doubt had more to do with this decision than Trump, since the Vice President has long voiced an affinity for Dispensational Theology which is where all of this nonsense originates.
What is Dispensationalism? It’s a fairly recent theology that started in 1830 when John Nelson Darby decided that there were still promises made to Israel that were not yet fulfilled. Up to that point, Christianity taught that Christ was the fulfillment of those promises. Darby ignored that and created a new theology that took root in America thanks to the Scofield Bible and several seminaries.
Here’s a quick overview of what Dispensationalism teaches regarding the “End Times” and how Jerusalem (supposedly) plays a part in all of it.
If you’ve ever studied any of the End Times scriptures (Daniel, Ezekiel, Revelation, etc.), or even heard someone talk about prophetic scriptures regarding the end of the world or the second coming of Christ, you’ve no doubt heard the phrase, “The Abomination of Desolation”. But what is it? What does that mean?
The phrase appears more than once in the scriptures. Three times in the OT book of Daniel, and three times in the NT during the “Olivet Discourse” by Jesus which is recorded in Matthew 24:15-16, Mark 13:14 and Luke 21:20.
In the three Daniel references it appears to be about three different things (not about one single thing, and therefore not necessarily about the same event that Jesus is talking about in his Olivet Discourse).
First, let’s examine what Jesus calls “The Abomination of Desolation” in his Olivet Discourse which is recorded in three of the four Gospels, (Matthew, Mark and Luke). Each of these are nearly identical, with a few changes here and there – and this is for our benefit as it turns out.
For example, if we could lay these three passages side-by-side we would notice that all of them follow the exact same flow, except for a few sections in Matthew where he consolidates a few references from other encounters where Jesus spoke on the same topic. (This is something Matthew does often and it’s also why you shouldn’t look to that Gospel for chronological info about what Jesus did and when, but more on that in another blog).
Laying these three passages side-by-side we notice a similar flow of thought. They are, after all, the same Olivet Discourse that Jesus’ gave to His disciples regarding a prophecy about the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem (which would occur roughly forty years later in AD 70).
The part in the Olivet Discourse that deals with the “Abomination that causes desolation” look like this in Matthew and Mark:
“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 24:15-16)
“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 mountains.” (Mark 13:14)
Notice that both use the similar phrases, but Matthew adds “spoken of through the prophet Daniel” and Mark adds “where it does not belong”. Otherwise, they are identical.
Now, look at what Luke reports in his Gospel:
“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…” (Luke 21:20-21)
Hmm…that’s fascinating, isn’t it? Whereas Matthew and Mark used the phrase from Daniel – “The abomination that causes desolation”, Luke instead simply explains exactly what it means – “When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies…”
Mystery solved. Matthew and Mark quote the phrase from Daniel about the “Abomination that causes desolation”, but Luke plainly describes what that looks like for the reader who might not understand (as both Matthew and Mark suggest in their more cryptic phraseology).
Let’s look at the three Daniel references now. These are found in Daniel 9:27; 11:31; and 12:11.First, Daniel 9:27:
“And he shall make a firm covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease; and upon the wing of abominations shall come one that maketh desolate; and even unto the full end, and that determined, shall wrath be poured out upon the desolate.” (Daniel 9:27)
This prophecy appears to be about Jesus Himself. Notice that it says that “he shall make a firm covenant with many for one week”. Who is “he”? Let’s back up to verse 25 where the angel Gabriel tells Daniel: “Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince…”
Who is the “Anointed one”? Well, keep in mind that “Messiah” means, “The Anointed One” and it will be clear that this is a prophecy about the coming of the Messiah.
That means that in verse 27 the “He shall make a firm covenant with many for one week…” is Jesus, who made a New Covenant in the upper room with His disciples the week that he was crucified.
Notice also that the verse goes on to say that “he” would “cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease”, and that’s exactly what Jesus did since during His crucifixion there was an earthquake and the veil in the Temple was split from top to bottom. That most certainly stopped the sacrifice in the Temple as the prophecy says. What’s more, since Jesus’ sacrifice upon the cross was as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”, there is now no need for any other sacrifice within the earthly Temple.
The following note about one who “upon the wing of abominations shall come..(and) maketh desolate…” is most likely about the Roman armies that came in AD 70 and destroyed Jerusalem and finally put a decisive end to the daily Temple sacrifices. (And these remain so more than 2,000 years later).
The second passage, Daniel 11:31, says:
“And forces shall stand on his part, and they shall profane the sanctuary, even the fortress, and shall take away the continual burnt-offering, and they shall set up the abomination that maketh desolate.”
Many scholars feel that this was fulfilled during the reign of Antiocus Epiphanes, a Greek king who, many years before the coming of the Messiah, erected an idol to Zeus and offered a pig on the altar in the Temple.
Finally, in Daniel 12:11 we read:
“And from the time that the continual burnt-offering shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand and two hundred and ninety days.”
This passage appears to be a reference to something that happens after the abomination of desolation is over, but never tells us what happens, only that the time span between the abomination and the end of the daily sacrifice will be 1,290 days…and then? We don’t know exactly.
The prophecies about the Anointed One – that’s Jesus – and the eventual Abomination of Desolation which would culminate in “the shattering of the power of the holy people (the Jews)” (12:7) and the “end of the (Jewish) age” (12:13), have already been fulfilled.
So, the references in the Bible to the “Abomination of Desolation” refer either to:
A) The destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD, as Jesus predicted, or
B) to the event where Antiocus Epiphanes profaned the temple in 167 BC.
Now, in the minds of the Dispensationalist Christians (which make up a very large portion of Christians in America), this “Abomination of Desolation” is something still needs to happen in the future. To them, Jesus can’t return until the Anti-Christ appears and the “Abomination of Desolation” occurs, (something that has already happened but that they think still needs to happen). They believe this will happen when a new Jewish Temple is rebuilt in Jerusalem, but that won’t happen if Israel doesn’t control Jerusalem.
The decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel simply plays into this Zionist theology and lays another plank in the bridge towards Armageddon, which Dispensationalists want to encourage so that Jesus can return.
In the meantime, this theology is toxic for the rest of us. It fuels political decision-making that provokes outrage and violence in the Middle East and quickly becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It creates the very violence that it expects to occur. Almost to say, “See? Look how violent those Muslims get when we take away their land and thumb our noses at their religion.”
The violence has already started due to this misguided step towards Armageddon. It will not end well for anyone, not even those American Christians who believe they are helping God out by stoking a Holy War in the Middle East.
If Dispensationalism wins, we all lose.
Because what American Dispensationalists don’t understand is that there are thousands of Christians in Palestine who suffer the most when they provoke conflict between Jews and Muslims in Israel. These brothers and sisters in Christ are the ones who will become the targets of violence from both sides. Their children will be killed in the bombings. Their homes will be torn apart in the riots. Their community will become toxic in the aftermath.
This is another reason why Christianity and Politics do not mix well. It’s like mixing manure and ice cream: It doesn’t hurt the manure, but it really ruins the ice cream.
Today, I am praying for the peace of Palestine. I hope you’ll join me.
Keith Giles, a former pastor left the pulpit to follow Jesus in Orange County, California and started a house church where 100% of the offerings go to help the poor in their community.
Read more at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/keithgiles/author/kgiles/#zdVuM3LMFBThvc6g.99is the author of “Jesus Untangled: Crucifying Our Politics To Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb” and co-hosts the “Heretic Happy Hour” podcast.