(Mt. 24:15-16) Does this refer to the destruction of the Temple in AD 70, as Preterist interpreters claim?

CLAIM: Jesus said, “Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand)” (Mt. 24:15). Preterists claim that this occurred in AD 70, when the Roman military destroyed the Temple. Preterist Gary DeMar writes, “The Roman abomination hypothesis is the most popular since it parallels the actions of Antiochus Epiphanes.”[1] Likewise, Preterist Kenneth Gentry argues that it could have either been murderous zealots or the burning of the Temple by the Romans.[2] Is this the case?

RESPONSE: Before we show how this passage is completely incompatible with Preterism, we first need to assess a few portions of this statement.

What is the abomination of desolation?

Jesus is quite clear that he is referring to the book of Daniel, when he speaks of the abomination of desolation. Therefore, this narrows down our possibilities of what he could be referring to. Fortunately, this event is only mentioned four times in Daniel:

(Dan. 8:13) Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to that particular one who was speaking, “How long will the vision about the regular sacrifice apply, while the transgression causes horror, so as to allow both the holy place and the host to be trampled?”

(Dan. 9:27) And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.

(Dan. 11:31) Forces from him will arise, desecrate the sanctuary fortress, and do away with the regular sacrifice. And they will set up the abomination of desolation.

(Dan. 12:11) From the time that the regular sacrifice is abolished and the abomination of desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days.

Notice, in each of these passages, the Temple sacrifices are in view. The original abomination of desolation occurred when Antiochus Epiphanes entered the Jewish Temple, and he offered a sacrifice to Zeus (Dan. 11:31; 1 Macc. 1:48, 54).[3] Notice also that Jesus says this will occur when an individual will be “standing in the holy place.” Ice makes a number of observations regarding the destruction of the Temple in AD 70 by the Romans: (1) No image was set up in the holy place. (2) No requirement to worship the image. (3) No three-and-one-half year period of time between that event and the coming of Christ. This is especially true since the destruction of Jerusalem occurred at the end of the siege by Rome. It was over in a matter of days. (4) No image came to life and summoned people to worship it.[4]

The problem for Preterists

Clearly Jesus had the Temple in mind when he was referring to the abomination of desolation. Historically, the Jewish War began in AD 66. The battle lasted until AD 70. The city was sieged. The people were slowly starved out and killed. At the end of the war, the Romans destroyed the Temple of Jerusalem (AD 70). Under the Preterist view, this was what Jesus was speaking about in Matthew 24:15.

However, what use is Jesus’ command to flee to the mountains in verse 16 (“then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains”)?? Think about this. If the disciples saw the abomination of desolation in AD 70, what use would it be to tell them to flee? This would be like telling the people of Hiroshima to flee the city when they see the mushroom cloud. It’s too late to flee at this point.

Similarities with the Temple being destroyed in AD 70

Preterists usually claim that the destruction of the Temple in AD 70 and the future Third Temple have many similarities. However, it shouldn’t surprise us to find that these two events are similar. Ice notes, “To note similarities between the Roman siege and a future siege does not prove that they are the same events any more than such similarities would mean that the Babylonian and Roman sieges were the same events.”[5]


[1] DeMar, Gary. Last Days Madness. Atlanta: American Vision, 1994. 91.

[2] Ice, Thomas, and Kenneth L. Gentry. The Great Tribulation, past or Future?: Two Evangelicals Debate the Question. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1999. 47-48.

[3] Carson notes, “Daniel 11:31 clearly refers to the desecration under Antiochus Epiphanes (168 B.C. ; cf. 1 Macc 1:54–61), who erected an altar to Zeus over the altar of burned offering, sacrificed a swine on it, and made the practice of Judaism a capital offense.” Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 500). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[4] Ice, Thomas, and Kenneth L. Gentry. The Great Tribulation, past or Future?: Two Evangelicals Debate the Question. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1999. 138.

[5] Ice, Thomas, and Kenneth L. Gentry. The Great Tribulation, past or Future?: Two Evangelicals Debate the Question. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1999. 96.