« PreviousContinue »
IV. THE MEANING OF THE ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION is the next main point which needs to be determined. There are few doctrines which the Futurists press more earnestly than the application of these words to a future desolation of Jerusalem, when the infidel antichrist shall take his seat in the restored temple. That such events will take place in the holy city, from various other passages of Scripture, I fully believe. But I think it quite demonstrable that such is not the direct or proper reference of the present words of our Lord. It may be well first to assign the reasons which fix it to the wars of Titus, and then to remove the arguments which have been alleged for an opposite view.
1. And, first, the parallel passage in St. Luke is decisive. The Spirit of God, as we have proved, there expounds the words of the Saviour. Instead of the literal expression, "When ye see the abomination of desolation standing in a holy place," we have this equivalent phrase, "When ye see Jerusalem compassed with armies, know that the desolation thereof is nigh at hand." Besides the general reasons given for considering these words a paraphrase of the former, there are others which appear on a close examination. The expression of St. Matthew, at first sight very definite (EσTWS EV TOTTų aɣy), has previously been exchanged in St. Mark for the more general phrase "standing where it ought not." The substitution in St. Luke is of the same kind, but bears still clearer marks of being a divine paraphrase: "When ye see Jerusalem compassed with armies." Again, the Roman armies, with their heathen standards, would at all times be an abomination in the Holy Land; but they would only become an abomination "of desolation" when the actual commission to desolate should be given to them. And this truth has its counterpart in those words, "The desola
tion thereof is at hand." In like manner, the charge of our Lord to his disciples, "Let him that readeth understand," is replaced by the command-" Know ye that the desolation is at hand." There is thus a key to the precise meaning of that remarkable injunction, which otherwise would be rather obscure. The parallel direction in St. Luke, viewed as an exposition of the parenthesis in the other Gospels, fixes upon it the following sense: "Let him that readeth understand,” when he sees the "abomination" standing where it ought not, how truly it is styled by the prophet, "an abomination of desolation," and that a season of actual desolation to Jerusalem will presently follow. Every feature is thus explained by the supposition that the narrative of St. Luke is, in part, a sacred comment, to explain the obscurer clauses of our Lord's prediction.
Now, if this truth be once allowed, the conclusion is irresistible. The abomination of desolation must then relate to the armies of Titus, and refer to that long season of Jewish desolation which has now lasted almost eighteen hundred years. In short, it must date from the first commencement of that treading down of Jerusalem, which continues till the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
2. A second proof, almost equally forcible, may be drawn from the former Gospels alone. Our Lord had just before departed from the temple, with that impressive warning, “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate." He had renewed the warning still more plainly to his disciples: "Not one stone of it shall be left upon another." It was this which led them to the inquiry which is answered in this prophecy, "Tell us when shall these things be?" Yet, on the Futurist hypothesis, not one word in the whole passage relates to that destruction of the temple, which would seem
naturally to form its main burden: the whole would relate to events separated by nearly two thousand years from those which he had just denounced, and which had awakened the earnest inquiry of his disciples. Such an interpretation must be utterly unsound; for it violates the clearest marks of internal connexion which the word of God can supply to determine its own meaning.
Again, the phrase itself, "the abomination of desolation," corresponds immediately with our Saviour's own words, uttered a little before," Behold, your house is left unto you desolate." The disciples, who had heard in that warning the death-knell of their fondest hopes, would not fail to see in this fresh prediction an allusion to the same event. And this forms a strong presumption, that our Lord himself must have used this latter phrase, as well as the former, with reference to the fall of the ancient temple at Jerusalem.
3. Thirdly, the facts of history, on this view, exactly accord with the prediction. And where a prophecy finds a complete counterpart in events, and has served for a practical warning at the very time when those events occurred, what further evidence can we need to prove them a true and proper fulfilment ?
Let us next examine the objections which are advanced to disprove this interpretation, and to prove a future reference in the abomination of desolation. There is a vagueness in most of the arguments adduced for this purpose, which makes it difficult to give a brief and distinct reply. I will endeavour to retain the substance of the remarks in the "Latter Days" without material omission, and to combine any further difficulties alleged by other writers.
1. The first argument is of the following kind (p. 104). There were two destructions of Jerusalem then future, the one under Titus, and the other described in
Zechariah (xiv. 1-3). The disciples associated the destruction of the temple with the second of these, and our Lord answers them accordingly on that supposition.
This argument is clearly made up of assumptions without any warrant. We have no proof that the disciples expected two destructions of Jerusalem. We have no proof, supposing this were true, that they connected the fall of the temple with the second of these; there is strong reason to believe the exact reverse. We have no reason to think that our Lord, when a definite inquiry was proposed, would not answer the question itself, but describe other events which the disciples falsely supposed to be equivalent. This would be the most certain way of confirming them in error, instead of leading them to the truth. The simple fact remains, which no special pleading can obscure. The disciples ask the time when the very temple then standing shall be destroyed; and our Lord's prophecy is professedly an answer to that specific inquiry.
2. Next it is urged that the confined sense, which applies the words of our Saviour to the events of the Jewish war and the apostolic age, is inconsistent with the enlarged ideas which ought to be entertained of the Saviour and his care for his followers, which "embrace them beyond the expanse of many an intervening century."
This objection is singularly inconsistent and self-destructive. First, the view, which refers the whole prophecy to the next ensuing generation, is not in the least more confined than the hypothesis in the " Latter Days," which limits the word just as strictly to the last generation before the advent. And next, the argument may be reversed when the question lies between Mr. Mac Causland's exposition and the one which is here maintained for, in truth, the former limits the prophecy
to one generation only, and it is the contrary interpretation which really enlarges ts extent so as to embrace the whole course of the dispensation.
3. The meaning of the phrase in the prophecies of Daniel is the next proof alleged. This is composed of several particulars. The author contends, first, that in Dan. viii. the abomination of desolation is not mentioned, and that the Mahometan power is designed. Secondly, that in Dan. ix. 27, it is the Messiah who is to confirm the covenant at a time still future. Thirdly, that in Dan. xi. 31, there is a sudden transition from Antiochus, mentioned in the previous verse, to the future antichrist, who shall set up the abomination of desolation in Jerusalem, and who is referred to again in xi. 11. From these premises our author confidently infers, that the interpretation, which refers the abomination to Titus and the first fall of Jerusalem, is disproved by the direct evidence of Daniel's visions, to which our Lord himself refers us. This argument, on a close analysis, will appear one of the most venturous which was ever framed.
(1). First, if the reference in our Lord's prophecy be taken with the utmost strictness of verbal allusion, it must relate to Dan. xi. 31, xii. 11, where alone the abomination of desolation is mentioned in that exact form. Now the nearest preceding verse (xi. 30), by the writer's own admission, relates to Antiochus Epiphanes. What an inversion it is of all sound reasoning to adduce these words, so connected, in disproof of the reference to the days of Titus, and as evidence for a future application. Every maxim of common sense leads to an opposite inference. Nothing but strong direct proof, that the abomination there mentioned is still future, can overcome the presumption to the contrary, drawn from its connexion with the previous verses.
(2). But the words of our Lord by no means require