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An A-to-Z Guide to Biblical Prophecy and the End Times
By J. Daniel Hays J. Scott Duvall C. Marvin Pate
ZondervanCopyright © 2007 J. Daniel Hays, J. Scott Duvall, and C. Marvin Pate
All right reserved.
Chapter OneAbomination of Desolation
The "abomination of desolation," "abomination that causes desolation," or "desolating sacrifice" is a phrase that refers to the desecration of the Jerusalem Temple (see temple). The description occurs or is alluded to in the following texts: Daniel 8:11; 9:27; 11:31; 12:11; Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:14; Luke 21:20; and 2 Thessalonians 2:4, as well as in the noncanonical (apocryphal) book 1 Maccabees 1:54 –64. These passages seem to attest to two or three stages of fulfillment of the prophecy.
(1) Daniel 8:11; 9:27; 11:31; 12:11; and 1 Maccabees 1:54–64 clearly speak of the actions of the Syrian ruler Antiochus IV (Epiphanes) against the Jerusalem Temple in 167 B.C., who decreed that Temple sacrifices and offerings should cease (see antiochus epiphanes). To add insult to injury, he profaned the Most Holy Place by placing in it a statue to Zeus (the chief Greek god) and then sacrificing a pig to Zeus on the altar (described in Dan 9:27 as the winged or horned altar). This terrible action is referred to as the abomination of desolation (lit, "and upon the wings of abominations shall come one who makes desolate"). Daniel 9:27, however, promises that the desolater (Antiochus) will be defeated, an event that occurred in 164 B.C. when Judas Maccabeus led the Jewish revolt that expelled Antiochus from Jerusalem Judas then rededicated the Temple to God in December 164 B.C., celebrated today as Hanukkah (cf 1 Macc 4:36–61).
(2) Daniel's prophecy apparently was not completely fulfilled with Antiochus, for Luke 21:20 labels the Roman assault on Jerusalem in A.D. 70 as the "desolation" In fact, the Roman destruction of the Holy City and its Temple was an intensification of the reality of the Old Testament Prediction.
(3) Some interpreters extend the application of the prophecy of the abomination of desolation into the distant future. These scholars contend that the ultimate fulfillment of Daniel's prediction will occur in connection with the end-time Temple to be built by Israel, which the Antichrist will desecrate (see ANTICHRIST; ISRAEL, MODERN STATE OF). This viewpoint appeals to Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:14; and 2 Thessalonians 2:4 in support of its perspective (cf Rev 11).
But those who identify only two stages of fulfillment for Daniel's prophecy understand Matthew 24:15 and Mark 13:14 to pertain not to a future end-time Temple, but to the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, as Luke 21:20 does. Furthermore, they see in 2 Thessalonians 2:4 an allusion to Emperor Caligula's (Gaius) failed plan to place a statue of himself in the Jerusalem Temple in A.D. 40, which, because of that ruler's assassination, did not occur (see Caligula; Daniel, Book of; temple).
The Abrahamic Covenant, also called "The Promise to Abraham," plays a central role in biblical prophecy, providing one of the main prophetic themes that connect the Old Testament to the New This covenant is presented in three central passages: Genesis 12:1–7; 15:1–20; and 17:1–8.
In Genesis 12:1–7 God promises to bless Abraham (the word "bless" occurs five times in 12:2–3). As part of this blessing, God promises to make Abraham into a great nation and to make his name great (12:2). He also promises to "bless those that bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse" (12:3). God also stresses that Abraham will be a blessing (12:2); indeed, in Abraham "all peoples on earth will be blessed" (12:3). God restates this aspect of the promise in 18:18, declaring that all nations will be blessed in Abraham Finally, God promises to give the land of Canaan to Abraham's descendants (12:1, 7).
In Genesis 15:1–20 God formalizes his promise to Abraham into a "covenant" In the ancient Near Eastern world, a covenant was a legal agreement between two parties. There were numerous ceremonies that could be used to ratify or solemnize the covenant. One of the most serious ceremonies involved cutting an animal in half and then separating the two halves on the ground. The two parties then walked together between the two halves, apparently implying a vow of sorts, as if the participants were each saying, "May this happen to me if I break this covenant." In Genesis 15 God tells Abraham to bring five animals and to cut each of them in half However, unlike in normal human covenant ceremonies, in this one God passes through the cut animals by himself, implying that he is instituting a one-sided or unilateral covenant that binds only one party—himself.
In Genesis 15 God also promises Abraham that his descendants will be as numerous as the stars (15:5). God then predicts four hundred years of bondage for Abraham's descendants, followed by their return and possession of the land of Canaan. Additionally, imbedded within this covenant dialogue and ceremony is the important statement in 15:6, "Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness."
God appears to the aging Abraham again in Genesis 17 and promises to "confirm/establish" this covenant. God then repeats several aspects of the Abrahamic Covenant, expanding on the promise. He repeats the promise of numerous descendants, but expands on this by saying that Abraham will be the "father of many nations" (17:4–6) and that Sarah, his wife, will be "the mother of nations" (17:16). In addition, a "royal" aspect of the promise is added, for God promises that kings will come from Abraham and Sarah (17:6, 16). Once again God promises the land of Canaan to Abraham (17:8) and states that this covenant is to be an "everlasting covenant" (17:7). God then states that circumcision will be the sign of the covenant between himself and Abraham (17:9–14). Several of the promises that comprise the Abrahamic Covenant are also restated later in Genesis, both to Isaac (26:3–5) and to Jacob (28:13–15).
A Unilateral Covenant
In contrast to the later Mosaic Covenant, the Abrahamic Covenant appears to be a unilateral covenant to which God bound himself by his promise. Various scholars refer to it as a "one-sided" covenant, an "unconditional" covenant, a "divine commitment" covenant, or a "covenant of grace" God appears to have pledged himself to fulfilling this covenant without placing conditional stipulations on Abraham and his descendants This is in strong contrast to the Mosaic Covenant as presented in the book of Deuteronomy. Indeed, in Deuteronomy 28 God clearly presents strict stipulations of keeping the law that were required in order to receive the blessings of that covenant So the Mosaic Covenant was a "two-sided" or "bilateral" agreement; indeed, it was a covenant of law (although certainly God's grace can be seen in this covenant as well).
The Abrahamic Covenant was quite different. The unilateral aspect of that covenant is stressed by the fact that God passes through the halves of the animals by himself in Genesis 15. The one-sided binding or "grace" aspect of this covenant is illustrated in the story at the beginning, immediately after the promise to Abraham in 12:1–7. In 12:8–20 Abraham leaves the Promised Land (apparently in disobedience), goes to Egypt, and lies to Pharaoh about his wife, Sarah. God, however, in keeping with his unilateral promise, rescues Abraham and blesses him anyway (12:20; 13:2).
As with grace in the New Testament, even though the Abrahamic Covenant was a one-sided or unilateral covenant, God still calls on Abraham and his descendants to walk in obedience. In Genesis 12 God tells Abraham to go to the Promised Land, and in Genesis 17 God commands Abraham to circumcise the males in his family. But this obedience appears to be in response to the covenant, not as a means to covenant blessing As the Old Testament story unfolds, it reveals that disobedience by Israel can delay the Abrahamic Covenant blessings or hinder the blessings from coming to a particular generation, but not stop the eventual fulfillment of the covenant Thus, when the people of Israel disobediently refuse to enter the Promised Land (Num 14), God sends that generation into the desert to die, but then he brings the next generation into the Promised Land in order to fulfill the Abrahamic Covenant.
The Abrahamic Covenant in the Old Testament
The prophetic promises of the Abrahamic Covenant are critical to the rest of the Old Testament story In fact, it is the fulfillment of this covenant that drives that story along.
Genesis begins with the wonderful creation of God (Gen 1–2), but is followed immediately by repeated human sin and disobedience (chs 3–11). Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, Cain killed Abel, sin spread and brought the flood, and then people rebelled against God at the tower of Babel. The Abrahamic Covenant (ch. 12) is God's response to the universal sin of chapters 3–11. Although a hint of salvation can perhaps be seen prophetically in Genesis 3:15 (see seed of the woman), it is in the Abrahamic Covenant that the story of redemption really begins to unfold.
The book of Genesis ends with the patriarchal family residing in Egypt As Exodus opens, the Abrahamic Covenant is clearly driving the Story. The descendants of Abraham have indeed multiplied as God promised, and they find themselves in Egyptian bondage, as God predicted. Yet when Pharaoh defies God and tries to stop the Abrahamic Covenant fulfillment of proliferation by killing the babies of God's people, he finds himself on the punishment end of God's promise to Abraham, "I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse" (Gen. 12:3). Indeed, in response to Pharaoh, God sends ten plagues on Egypt (Ex 7–11), completely destroying that country.
Numerous other critical connections between the Exodus story and the Abrahamic Covenant exist. When Pharaoh oppresses the Israelites, they cry out to God Exodus 2:24–25 reads, "God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them" (italics added). In the next passage God responds to remembering the covenant by raising up Moses to deliver the Israelites from Egypt. It is important to recognize that the Exodus event (delivering Israel from the oppression of the Egyptians) is perhaps the central picture or paradigm of salvation in the Old Testament. It is likewise crucial to see that this great deliverance by God is tied integrally into the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant. God had promised Abraham that his descendants would be a great nation, that they would possess the land of Canaan, and that they would be blessed. The story from Exodus to Joshua traces the fulfillment of that promise.
Because the Abrahamic Covenant was a unilateral covenant or a covenant of grace, it plays a critical role in Israel's relationship to God, especially when the people are disobedient. For example, in Exodus 32, the people build and worship a golden calf while Moses is receiving the Ten Commandments God's anger burns against the people and he tells Moses he intends to destroy them (Ex 32:10). Moses, however, argues with God, using the Abrahamic Covenant as a basis for asking for grace: "Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: 'I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever" (32:13) God's response? "Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened" (32:14).
Excerpted from An A-to-Z Guide to Biblical Prophecy and the End Times by J. Daniel Hays J. Scott Duvall C. Marvin Pate Copyright © 2007 by J. Daniel Hays, J. Scott Duvall, and C. Marvin Pate. Excerpted by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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