The Desolator of Christendom Historically Prefigured
“Therefore, when you catch sight of the disgusting thing that causes desolation, as spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in a holy place, (let the reader use discernment,) then let those in Judea begin fleeing to the mountains.”—Matt. 24:15, 16.
1. (a) At what will the world be amazed shortly just as it was amazed back in 70 C.E.? (b) What will informed persons recognize this as being, according to Isaiah 28:21?
NINETEEN hundred years ago the world was startled when the Middle Eastern city of Jerusalem was desolated by the Roman legions in the year 70 C.E. Even the conqueror of the city, General Titus the son of Emperor Vespasian, marveled at how such a strongly fortified city had fallen to him, saying: “God has been on our side; it is God who brought the Jews down from these strongholds, for what could human hands or instruments do against such towers.”a But soon now the world must again be startled. In the near future, when the strongly entrenched Christendom now sixteen centuries old is desolated, it will amaze even the modern world. Informed persons will recognize it to be the ‘strange deed’ and the ‘unusual work’ of God as foretold by his prophet Isaiah.b Who, then, will be the desolator of Christendom? God’s own prophetic Word indicated who will fulfill the role of desolator. He even had it prefigured.
2. (a) What do we mean by the term Christendom? (b) Because of what she is, what will happen to Christendom, but what about the true Christianity?
2 What, though, do we mean by the term Christendom? Among the definitions given in Webster’s Third New International Dictionary is this one: “The portion of the world in which Christianity prevails or which is governed principally under Christian institutions.” But the religion that Christendom practices in her hundreds of religious sects is far from the Christianity of the Bible. Therefore her religion is a professed Christianity; and so Christendom must be the portion of the world of mankind which is governed under professed Christian institutions. Hence Christendom misrepresents true Christianity. That is why she will duly be desolated and disappear forever. Such a statement may be shocking to many persons in the religious realm, but the coming true of this statement will be even more shocking. But what about the genuine Christianity? Despite any attempts to destroy it along with the sham Christianity, the true Christianity will never disappear. It will thrive and prosper on a transformed peaceful earth and will be a glorious credit to its Founder, Jesus Christ.
3. (a) Does the Bible refer to Christendom by name or by some other kind of reference? (b) What scriptures illustrate the use of the word “type”?
3 It is true that the name Christendom is not to be found in the Sacred Scriptures, the Holy Bible. Also, in the days when the Bible was written there was no such thing as Christendom, for it came into existence first in the fourth century of our Common Era, in the days of Emperor Constantine of the Roman Empire and as a result of his religious action. However, Christendom does have her type in the ancient Biblical world, and she is pictured typically in the Holy Bible. So in her general history and course of conduct Christendom corresponds to her ancient type, just as the impression that is made on paper corresponds with the inked piece of type that is used by the printer. In the Holy Bible, in 1 Corinthians 10:11, we note the use of the word “type”: “Now these things went on befalling them [that is, befalling the Jews] as examples [literally, as types or typically], and they were written for a warning to us upon whom the ends of the systems of things have arrived.” And, according to Hebrews 8:5, Jehovah God said to his prophet Moses at Mount Sinai: “See that you make all things after their pattern [or type] that was shown to you in the mountain.”
4. (a) What apostolic writer uses the word “antitype”? (b)What is the antitype here, and what relation does she bear to the type?
4 Thus modern Christendom had an ancient pattern in an ancient organization to which she corresponds and which she resembles. Christendom follows the example of that ancient pattern and thus she has similar things befall her. That ancient pattern is called the “type.” Because of resembling that ancient pattern, Christendom is called the “antitype.” For that reason Bible prophecies that were fulfilled upon the ancient type have already been fulfilled or will yet be fulfilled upon the modern antitype, namely, upon Christendom. The Christian apostle Peter, when writing his inspired letters in first-century Greek, used the word “antitype.” So, in 1 Peter 3:21 we read: “That which corresponds to this [or, literally, which thing is an antitype] is also now saving you, namely, baptism.” Consequently, the ancient type shows us what its modern antitype will be like; and what befell the ancient type indicates prophetically what must befall its modern antitype, namely, Christendom, in this case.
5. (a) what outstanding features characterize the antitype, Christendom? (b) What was her ancient type, because of what correspondencies?
5 Well, then, what ancient religious organization does Christendom resemble? Christendom professes to be in relationship with God the Creator, whom the inspired Hebrew Scriptures call Jehovah or Yahweh. (Ps. 83:18) She claims to be in a covenant with Jehovah God, namely, in the “new covenant,” and this through the one mediator between God and men, namely, Jesus Christ. As the inspired Hebrew Scriptures foretold the Messiah or Christ, she accepts those Hebrew Scriptures as part of the Bible that she uses in her churches. She claims to be looking for the coming of this Messiah or Christ, his second coming. She claims to be traveling through this world to the “city of the living God, heavenly Jerusalem.” (Heb. 12:22) What ancient religious organization, therefore, does Christendom resemble? Plainly the answer is, Jerusalem and the province of Judea of which Jerusalem was the capital nineteen hundred years ago. Jerusalem and Judea had the inspired Hebrew Scriptures, and they claimed to be in a covenant with Jehovah God through the prophet Moses as mediator. They claimed to be looking for the coming of the Messiah or Christ.
6. What attitude did most first-century Jews adopt toward Jesus Christ, and what was their course due to bring upon them?
6 In the first century of our Common Era only a minority or remnant of the Jews in Judea and other Roman provinces accepted Jesus the descendant of King David and of the patriarch Abraham as the promised Messiah of God. Except for that remnant, Jerusalem and Judea and the rest of the Jews dispersed throughout the earth rejected him. Their rejection of him was symbolized in the impaling of him on an execution stake outside the walls of Jerusalem on Passover day of the year 33 C.E. But the events that followed his impalement added to the many proofs already given that he was indeed the foretold Messiah or Christ, the Son of God. So their rejecting of him was due to bring disastrous consequences upon the unbelieving Jews, just as ancient prophecies by Daniel and others had foretold.—Dan. 9:24-27.
7. When did Jesus give his prophecy on the desolating of Judea and Jerusalem, and what question of the apostles induced this prophecy?
7 Three days before that critical Passover day, or on Nisan 11 of 33 C.E., Jesus Christ himself prophesied of the coming destruction of Jerusalem and its temple and the desolating of Judea within the generation then living. (Matt. 23:37 to 24:2; Mark 13:1, 2; Luke 21:5, 6; 19:41-44) Later that same day four of Jesus’ apostles asked him directly about this, and doubtless the other eight apostles drew near to listen in on Jesus’ reply. According to the apostle Matthew’s account (Mt chapter 24, verse 3) they asked: “Tell us, When will these things be, and what will be the sign of your presence [parousiʹa, Greek] and of the conclusion of the system of things?” They asked him as God’s prophet.
8. In answer, what did Jesus first foretell, and how then did he clarify “all these things”?
8 In answer to this three-point question, Jesus foretold the appearing of false Messiahs or Christs, the breaking out of wars between nations and kingdoms, famines or food shortages, pestilences, and earthquakes. These were to occur between the time of his giving of the prophecy and the coming desolating of Jerusalem and Judea. As to the significance of these events Jesus said: “All these things are a beginning of pangs of distress.” (Matt. 24:3-8) “Do not be terrified. For these things must occur first, but the end does not occur immediately.”—Luke 21:9.
9. (a) While those things were taking place, what work were Christ’s disciples to do? (b) What shows whether Jesus allowed them too little time before the end to do this work?
9 While such world events were taking place, what were Christ’s apostles to do? They were to carry out the work that he laid before them, saying: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.” Such preaching work they were to carry on in spite of religious persecution and the increasing of lawlessness and the consequent cooling off of love on the part of the majority of religious people. (Matt. 24:9-14; Mark 13:9-13) “In all the nations the good news has to be preached first.” (Mark 13:10) In this regard Jesus was not allowing his apostles and disciples too little time in which to accomplish such a widespread witness to God’s kingdom. Already in the year 60 or 61 C.E., when the apostle Paul was in a Roman prison for preaching the Kingdom of God, he could write to the Christians in Colossae, Asia Minor, and say: “The hope of that good news which you heard, and which was preached in all creation that is under heaven. Of this good news I Paul became a minister.”—Col. 1:23.
10. This preaching back there enabled whom to hear and to adopt what course of safety?
10 The apostle Paul could say this five or six years before the Jews in Judea and Jerusalem revolted against the Roman Empire, which they did in the year 66 C.E., three and a half years before the desolating of Jerusalem and its temple. This gave an opportunity to bear the good news of God’s Messianic kingdom not only to the Gentile nations but also to the circumcised Jews scattered throughout the earth, before their religious capital, Jerusalem, was destroyed by the Romans in the year 70 C.E. In this way they were enabled to avoid destruction with Jerusalem by avoiding it, not going up to its religious festivals each year. They would not be shocked when “the end” did come upon Jewish Jerusalem.
THE TYPICAL “DISGUSTING THING” IDENTIFIED BY JESUS
11, 12. (a) After the preaching was accomplished, what could come upon Jerusalem? (b) What words of Jesus, in Mark 13:14-20, show whether the “beginning of pangs of distress” was to serve as final notice that Jerusalem’s end was dangerously near?
11 After the foretold preaching of God’s kingdom was accomplished world wide, the “end” could be expected to come upon Jerusalem and its temple. Well, then, after this preaching work and after the occurrence of the things that were to be a “beginning of pangs of distress,” would there be some special indication that “the end” was at last near at hand for Jerusalem and its temple? Yes, and Jesus foretold what that indication would be and what Christians who were in the endangered territory were to do without delay. According to Mark 13:14-20, Jesus went on to say:
12 “However when you catch sight of the disgusting thing that causes desolation standing where it ought not (let the reader use discernment), then let those in Judea begin fleeing to the mountains. Let the man on the housetop not come down, nor go inside to take anything out of his house; and let the man in the field not return to the things behind to pick up his outer garment. Woe to the pregnant women and those suckling a baby in those days! Keep praying that it may not occur in wintertime; for those days will be days of a tribulation such as has not occurred from the beginning of the creation which God created until that time, and will not occur again. In fact, unless Jehovah had cut short the days, no flesh would be saved. But on account of the chosen ones whom he has chosen he has cut short the days.”
13. (a) According to the accounts of Mark and Matthew, what was then to come upon Judea and Jerusalem? (b) According to Luke’s account, whose vengeance was then to be expressed, and whose wrath to be vented?
13 In view of that prophecy, the province of Judea, including its religious capital Jerusalem, was to have a tribulation such as it had not had before and would not have again. In the account of Jesus’ prophecy in Matthew 24:21, 22 it is called a “great tribulation.” According to the account as given in Luke 21:22, 23, Jesus said: “These are days for meting out justice, that all the things written may be fulfilled. . . . For there will be great necessity upon the land and wrath on this people.” Those “days” would be ones of “great tribulation” that is justly due. They would be “days for meting out justice,” or, literally, “days of vengeance,” this being the “vengeance” upon the part of God. It would be God’s “wrath” that would be expressed upon the inhabitants of Judea and Jerusalem. Jesus Christ was here fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 61:1, 2 by proclaiming the “day of vengeance on the part of our God.”—See Kingdom Interlinear at Luke 21:22.
14. To avoid destruction with Jerusalem, what were Jewish Christians in Judea and Jerusalem to do, and when?
14 From possibly being destroyed in this “great tribulation” the Jewish Christians in Judea and Jerusalem were to flee with the utmost speed. When? As soon as they saw the situation arise around Jerusalem by which they would understand “that the desolating of her has drawn near.” (Luke 21:20) But who would do this “desolating” of Jerusalem? Evidently those “encamped armies” with which the city would be “surrounded.” Such means of causing desolation Jesus called a “disgusting thing,” according to Mark 13:14, where Jesus is reported as saying: “However, when you catch sight of the disgusting thing that causes desolation standing where it ought not (let the reader use discernment), then let those in Judea begin fleeing to the mountains.”
15, 16. (a) What is the place where the “disgusting thing” ought not to stand? (b) As what kind of a city was Jerusalem then regarded, and did this status save her from destruction?
15 What, though, is the place where the “disgusting thing” ought not to be standing? A disgusting thing has no right to be in a place that is considered holy; and that is what Matthew 24:15, 16 calls the place, saying: “Therefore, when you catch sight of the disgusting thing that causes desolation, as spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in a holy place, (let the reader use discernment,) then let those in Judea begin fleeing to the mountains.” That holy place was Jerusalem and its immediate environs.
16 For instance, Matthew 4:5 and Mt 27:53 speak of Jerusalem as being “the holy city.” After the Jews revolted in 66 C.E. and the Roman legions under General Cestius Gallus were routed, the Jews at Jerusalem minted some new silver shekels on which, on one side, were inscribed the words “Jerusalem the Holy.” But the holy status that Jerusalem had enjoyed up until the martyrdom of Jesus Christ just outside her walls did not save her from being desolated in the year 70 C.E. nor even her temple that was specifically considered holy. (Acts 21:28) The agency by which God was going to execute “vengeance” was the “disgusting thing.”
17, 18. (a) This “disgusting thing” was foretold by which prophet, and where in the Hebrew text of the prophecy? (b) Where is that expression also used in the Greek Septuagint Version text?
17 It is important to note that the “disgusting thing that causes desolation” is the one that was spoken of “through Daniel the prophet.” (Matt. 24:15) Doubtless the apostles of Jesus Christ knew what was foretold about “the disgusting thing that is causing desolation” in the Hebrew text of the Bible in Daniel 11:31 and Da 12:11. And since the life accounts of Jesus Christ as given by Matthew and Mark were written in Greek, their reference to “the disgusting thing that is causing desolation” would also include the Greek Septuagint Version’s reading of Daniel 9:27, where the similar Greek expression occurs and where we read:
18 “Now one week shall confirm a covenant for many and in the half of that week My sacrifice and libation shall be taken away. And upon the temple shall be an abomination of the desolations, and at the end of a time, an end shall be put to that desolation.”—The Septuagint Bible, by Charles Thomson; see also Bagster’s.
19. (a) Thus the “disgusting thing” had a connection with what, and so why was it fitting for Jesus to mention it? (b) How, though, did the Hebrew text of Daniel 9:27 read?
19 Daniel’s prophecy here, which was given near the end of the seventy years of desolation of Jerusalem, had to do specifically with the city of Jerusalem and the coming of the Messiah. So it was very fitting that Jesus Christ should refer to this particular prophecy, in Matthew 24:15. Hence Daniel’s prophecy here had something to do with the temple rebuilt at Jerusalem, as is set out in the Greek Septuagint rendering of Daniel’s prophecy. It indicates that the “abomination of the desolations,” or “the disgusting thing that causes desolation,” has something to do with the temple of Jerusalem, at which the Messiah was to present himself. The Hebrew text of Daniel’s prophecy, as given in the Masoretic text, reads somewhat differently. The latter part of Daniel 9:27 reads: “And upon the wing of disgusting things [the wing of abominations, Young] there will be the one causing desolation; and until an extermination, the very thing decided upon will go pouring out also upon the one lying desolate.”
20. Whom, therefore, does this prophecy of Daniel 9:26 indicate the “disgusting thing that is causing desolation” to be?
20 The “one causing desolation” was thus to come “upon the wing of disgusting things [or, abominations].” Such a desolator would accordingly be a “disgusting thing that is causing desolation,” or an “abomination of the desolations.” (LXX) What this “thing” caused was desolation to Jerusalem and its temple. This was prophesied in the latter part of the preceding verse (26) of Daniel’s prophecy, which said: “And the city and the holy place the people of a leader that is coming will bring to their ruin. And the end of it will be by the flood. And until the end there will be war; what is decided upon is desolations.” (Dan. 9:26) This prophecy identifies the “abomination of the desolations,” or “the disgusting thing that causes desolation,” as being the “leader that is coming,” together with the “people” whom he leads.
21. Whom does history show to be the “people” and the “leader” that brought desolation, in agreement with Luke 21:20, 21?
21 Whom does history show to be the “people of a leader that is coming,” the people that did come after Jesus was anointed as “Messiah the leader” in 29 C.E. and that did bring the city of Jerusalem and the holy place of its temple to ruin and desolation? It was the military “people” under the “leader,” General Titus the son of the Roman Emperor Vespasian. This fact harmonizes with Jesus’ words to his inquiring apostles: “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by encamped armies, then know that the desolating of her has drawn near. Then let those in Judea begin fleeing to the mountains.”—Luke 21:20, 21.
22. (a) The “encamped armies” around Jerusalem were those of whom? (b) Thus what things mentioned in Daniel’s prophecy and in Jesus’ prophecy are shown to be the same thing?
22 The “encamped armies” that surrounded Jerusalem in the year 66 C.E. and the “encamped armies” that surrounded her in 70 C.E. were, in both cases, armies of the Sixth World Power, namely, of Rome. Those surrounding her in 66 C.E. were the troops brought down from Syria by General Cestius Gallus. After the surprising retreat of these military “people” under General Gallus, the Christian Jews in Jerusalem and Judea acted on Jesus’ advice and began “fleeing to the mountains,” such converted Jews being among God’s anointed “chosen ones.” The “encamped armies” surrounding Jerusalem in the year 70 C.E. were the four Roman legions under General Titus, the twelfth legion on the west, the fifth and fifteenth on the north and the tenth on the east. These legions were finally supplemented by a fortified wall built by the Romans all around the city to starve out the resistant Jews. Thus the Roman “encamped armies” as mentioned in Luke 21:20 and the “abomination of the desolations” as mentioned in Daniel 9:27 (LXX) and the “disgusting thing that causes desolation” as mentioned in Matthew 24:15 and Mark 13:14 are the same thing.
23. How can it be shown whether the Roman Empire itself was the “disgusting thing” or not?
23 So it can be seen that the Roman Empire as the Sixth World Power was not the “disgusting thing that causes desolation.” The Roman Empire had occupied Judea since the time of General Pompey in 63 B.C.E. (except from 40 to 37 B.C.E.) and it had Roman troops stationed in Jerusalem, down to the time that the Christian apostle Paul was mobbed in Jerusalem about 56 C.E. and till the Jewish revolt in 66 C.E. (Acts 21:31 to 23:31) During the few years that the Jews in Judea enjoyed independence following their revolt there were no Roman soldiers in and around Jerusalem.
24. (a) Thus the role of “disgusting thing” was fulfilled by whom specifically? (b) Did this win God’s favor for the desolator?
24 Of course, in 70 C.E. the “encamped armies” under General Titus were the agents of the Roman Empire and did represent that empire, the Sixth World Power. But those “encamped armies,” because of directly doing the desolating work upon the city that was considered “holy” and with which God’s name and worship had been connected, were the “disgusting thing that causes desolation.” Although they were fulfilling the prophecies of Jehovah’s prophets, this did not gain them any favor with him. They were still pagan armies, carrying the Roman military standards that the soldiers worshiped as gods.
25. What can be said as to whether the armies of Rome today are the modern-day “disgusting thing that causes desolation” or not?
25 Today, in this twentieth century of our Common Era, Rome still stands as a city, but the armies of Rome do not, in whole or in part, constitute the modern-day “abomination of the desolations” or “the disgusting thing that causes desolation.” This is not because Rome has claimed to be “Christian” since the days of Emperor Constantine in the fourth century. The Roman Empire has long ceased to exist. It has been superseded by the Seventh World Power, the Anglo-American dual world power.
26. What question arises in connection with the Seventh World Power, especially in view of the prophecies of Daniel 11:31 and 12:1?
26 Will the armies of this Seventh World Power prove to be the modern-day “disgusting thing that causes desolation,” even though this Seventh World Power professes to be Christian? According to divine prophecy (Daniel 11:31 and Da 12:11), a “disgusting thing that causes desolation” was to play a shocking role in this twentieth century. What is it, and will it prove to be the foretold desolator of religious Christendom? We must look farther to see.
a Quoted from Chapter 21, page 350, paragraph 2, of Josephus’ The Jewish War, translated by G. A. Williamson, as of 1959, published as The Penguin Classics. Compare this with Book 6, chapter 9, paragraph 1, of Josephus’ Wars of the Jews, as translated by William Whiston, M.A.
b Isaiah, chapter 28, verse 21, reads: “For Jehovah will rise up just as at Mount Perazim, he will be agitated just as in the low plain near Gibeon, that he may do his deed—his deed is strange—and that he may work his work—his work is unusual.”—New World Translation.
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“When you see Jerusalem surrounded by encamped armies . . . then let those in Judea begin fleeing.”—Luke 21:20, 21
Wilderness of Judah