The prophecy of the abomination of desolation is one of the most enigmatic recurring themes of the Bible. The abomination of desolation described by Jesus in the Gospels was based on a prophecy found in the Book of Daniel which warned that a sacriligious structure would be erected on the site of the Temple of Jerusalem. The original (preterist) meaning of this prophecy found in the Book of Daniel undoubtedly referred to the defilement of the Temple precinct by Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who erected an altar to Zeus in the Temple, and compelled Jews to offer sarcifices of pigs (the most unclean of creatures according to Jewish tradition). But for Jesus, this prophecy would also have other future applications that would be relevant for both the Early Christians, and also for Christians living at the time of the end.
When asked by his disciples how they would know that the end-time was drawing near, Jesus curiously directed their attention towards the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and Daniel's prophecy of the abomination of desolation.
Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”
In the Book of Daniel, a precise date was given for when the abomination of desolation would be set up:
...from the time that the regular burnt offering is taken away and the abomination that makes desolate is set up, there shall be 1,290 days. (Dan 12:11)
The Book of Revelation gives the duration of the abomination of desolation as also lasting a "time, times, and half a time". But curiously deviates from Daniel's reckoning of 1,290 days and instead gives a figure of 1,260 days (or 42 months).
Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, “Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months. And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” (Rev 11:1-3)
Most scholars would agree that the main reason for this differential was John's use of a solar calendar, while Daniel was using a luni-solar calendar. But there may also be an alternative explaination. The Gospel of Luke states that this time period of the abomination of desolation, when the Temple and Jerusalem would be trampled underfoot by gentiles, would be finite in duration. This would imply that after this time period, there would be a restoration when the Holy Land would be restored to its rightful state.
But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people. They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. (Luke 21:20-24)
The destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem is intimately linked to a future Jewish restoration in the teachings of Jesus (as I go into more detail in the book). But this future Jewish restoration could not take place until "the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled", which according to the Book of Revelation would be 1,260 "days".
According to the rules of the interpretation of prophecy first outlaid by Tyconius in the 4th century AD, a day could also be interpreted as a year in prophetic thought. So the time period when the times of the Gentiles would be completed could also be 1,260 years, and then the Holy Land would be restored to its rightful state. But when do we caculate this time period from?
In the book, I argue that as the only permanent structure standing for a sufficent time period on the site of the Temple of Jerusalem, the Dome of the Rock (the third holiest shrine in Islam) would be a perfect candidate for the "abomination of desolation".
The Book of Daniel gives the first clue that the Dome of the Rock is indeed the abomination of desolation by stating that the time period between when the daily sacrifices are taken away until the abomination of desolation would be set up would be 1,290 "days" (see Dan 12:11, cited above). If we calculate this time period as starting from the period of the Babylonian exile (when Babylon first invaded Judah and effectively interupted the daily sacrifices), then caculating 1,290 years on from the date of the first deportation of Jewish exiles to Babylon in 598BC, we arrive at the year 691AD - the year of the completion of the Dome of the Rock! (Remember to subtract 1, since there is no year "0" in the Anno Domini system). Also if we calculate 1,260 years on from when construction first began on the Dome of the Rock in 688 (when the Gentiles first began to trample the Temple underfoot?), we arrive at the year 1948 - the year of the creation of the modern state of Israel! So it seems that the period of the Gentiles was indeed finite in nature, as 1,260 years after construction first began on the Dome of the Rock, the "times of the Gentiles" were fulfilled at the time Israel was restored to the Jews. Therefore the grounds of the Temple complex in Jerusalem appears to symbolises by wider extension the nation of Israel itself. Here, the Book of Revelation seems to foretell that the nation of Israel would be restored 1,260 years after the gentiles would first begin to erect a religious structure on the site of the Holy of Holies.