What is the meaning of the abomination of desolation? from Compelling Truth
After the Sermon on the Mount (cf. Matthew 5-7), the longest recorded address by Jesus is His Olivet discourse, which is found in Matthew 24–25 (see also Mark 8 and Luke 21). In these chapters, Jesus briefly describes the coming destruction of Jerusalem that occurred in 70 AD, and then goes on to describe at length what will happen just before His second coming. Christ goes into vivid detail of the signs and events that will comprise what is often called in Scripture the tribulation, a period of time in which God pours out His wrath on the unbelieving world and upon the Antichrist and his kingdom.
A defining moment in the general tribulation period is described by Jesus in Matthew 24:15, where He describes an incident that immediately brings about a terrible series of events: “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand)” (Matthew 24:15). Once this “abomination of desolation” occurs, “then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be” (Matthew 24:21).
Jesus does not say what the abomination of desolation is in this passage or the parallel passage in Mark. However, Matthew and Mark both add the parenthetical note “let the reader understand,” which underlines the criticality of those reading Matthew and Mark’s gospels being able to comprehend what Jesus was talking about. Although the abomination of desolation is not defined by Matthew, there are enough clues contained in Scripture to arrive at a reasonable conclusion as to what it will be.
The word “abomination” in the Greek means something that is disgusting and is oftentimes associated with that which is defiling and/or idolatrous. In the Hebrew, the meaning is the same and is associated with pagan idols. The word “desolation” means to be in a condition that is uninhabitable and devastated. In all biblical uses, the term can be understood as the “abomination causing the desolation.”