Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Prophecy of the Abomination of Desolation

I have been discussing prophetic time periods in the Bible, especially the time period of 1260 years mentioned in Daniel and the book of Revelation. Whereas the time period of Daniel concerns the domination of the Catholic Church over Christianity after the fall of the Roman Empire, in the book of Revelation the same time period concerns the slow development of the church of the New Jerusalem: which is a new church which will succeed the Catholic and Protestant faiths. One distinguishing doctrine of the New Jerusalem is that it will recognize God in one person, Jesus Christ, opposed to a tritheism or trinity of three persons. See the previous two blog entries on this topic, where I also associate the time period of 1260 years with a Saros solar eclipse cycle, which can last about the same amount of time.

The book of Daniel speaks of how the church will be trampled and blasphemies uttered for a period of 1260 years, this is the time period of "desolation" - when there is an absence of truth, and an interest in self-rule by means of religion. Although historically applied to the Papacy, in an abstract spiritual sense it can be applied to any religious leader who seeks to rule over others, or honor himself, by means of religion. It refers to those who wish to teach or convert others, but who do not wish to reform or self-examine their own lives. Any form of religion that is used to exalt the self-rule of a person to rule over others, or where ordinary men claim Divinity for themselves, is spiritually known in scripture as "Babylon". The ultimate end point of this period of desolation in the Christian church is known as the "abomination of desolation", as prophesied by Jesus who mentions who the Christian church would degenerate over time:
Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (whoever reads, let him understand),then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house.And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. (Matt. 24:15-18)
Swedenborg explains that the "abomination of desolation" refers to a state in the church when the Lord is no longer acknowledged and worshipped, when there is no longer any love or charity towards others, and when no one acknowledges the truth but instead blindly follow others. In a spiritual sense, those who are Judea fleeing to the mountains are those who are in love to the Lord, those who are on the housetop who are in charity towards their neighbor, and those who are in the field those who are in affection for the truth. The warning here is that do not confirm a false doctrine of religion, and do not start to seek after knowledges if you already know the truth and are applying it in your life. For everyone must first learn the truth, and after that, one then starts applying it putting it to good use. One should not backtrack and stop the life of good for the sake of just learning. Those who are in a false religion will make an effort to convert and teach others, instead of focusing on how to apply scripture to one's own life.

Those who are stuck in the literal sense often apply the "abomination of desolation" to the time when Antiochus Epiphanes IV, a tyrant of the Seleucid Empire, attacked the Jews and setup an idol in the temple of Jerusalem (ca 167-164 B.C.). Others apply it to the destruction of the temple by the Romans in 70 A.D. But these are symbolic historical events, which represent how the Christian church would in itself become corrupt: for instead of honoring one Lord in Jesus Christ, most churches honor and worship a trinity of three beings; and most churches are focused on belief only, and not on love. The warning here is when you see that what is being worshipped in the Christian churches as false, do not turn away from Jesus as Lord, and do not turn away from a life of living according to the commandments.

Jesus mentions the prophet Daniel. If we look at the book of Daniel, the "abomination of desolation" is first mentioned as occurring some time after the crucifixion of Jesus, as it occurs at the end of a 490 year prophecy which lasted from 457 B.C. to 34 A.D.:
And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, Even until the consummation, which is determined, Is poured out on the desolate. (Dan. 9:27)
This can refer to either the desolation of the Jewish church, after Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. - completely desolate as to the truth that Jesus is the Messiah which was prophesied by all of scripture. In a more spiritual sense it refers to the desolation of the Christian church under the Papacy. It is next mentioned in the following prophecy of Daniel:
For ships from Chittim shall come against him; therefore he shall be grieved, and return in rage against the holy covenant, and do damage. So he shall return and show regard for those who forsake the holy covenant. And forces shall be mustered by him, and they shall defile the sanctuary fortress; then they shall take away the daily sacrifices, and place there the abomination of desolation. (Dan. 11:30-31)
This is part of a very extensive prophecy, and traditionally it is applied to the events of Antiochus Epiphanes IV in the 2nd century B.C. The word "Chittim" is the Hebrew name for the Romans. There is another interpretation of this prophecy, which I view to be more correct, which applies this to the sack of Rome by the Vandals in 455 A.D. The Vandals had a strong navy, and were followers of Arianism, which was strongly opposed by the Catholic Church. Here is a map showing the invasions of the Roman Empire by Visigoths, Ostrogoths, and the Vandals:

The doctrine of the trinity of three persons was made to counteract Arianism: for Arius brought forth the heresy which states that Jesus was a created being or angel. The Visigoths, Ostrogoths and Vandals who invaded the Roman Empire were followers of the Arian heresy. Arianism, or Socianism, was seen in the visions of Swedenborg as the worst kind of heresy that arose against the Christian Church, as it denies the Divinity of the Lord, and those who follow this sort of belief are denied entry into heaven where the Lord is acknowledged as the God of the universe (it is different for Islam, who are unaware of the revelation of the Word).  Swedenborg also made another interesting statement: the domination of the Catholic Church and the Papacy was "permitted" by Divine providence in order to counteract Arianism. I may discuss this prophecy in more detail in another blog to show why it probably refers to the events of 455 A.D., as it would require an exposition of Daniel chapters 11 and 12. But at this point I want to discuss the third and final time when the "abomination of desolation" is mentioned in the book of Daniel. After an angel mentions the "time, times and half a time" (three and a half years, or 1260 days, thus 1260 years), Daniel does not understand, and an angel explains further:

Many shall be purified, made white, and refined, but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand.And from the time that the daily sacrifice is taken away, and the abomination of desolation is set up, there shall be one thousand two hundred and ninety days.Blessed is he who waits, and comes to the one thousand three hundred and thirty-five days.But you, go your way till the end; for you shall rest, and will arise to your inheritance at the end of the days. (Dan. 12:10-13)
This has got to be one of the most confusing verses in scripture. In Biblical prophecies, a "day" is used to represent a year, which I had discussed in previous blogs. But now, in addition to a 1260 year period, we have 1290 years, and 1335 years. When I first encountered this prophecy, it drove me nuts, as there was really no explanation offered as to what each time period meant. There are many explanations and theories of these time periods, which I will not get into, because another complicating factor is that many do not have an accurate chronology of events in the Bible, or they brush over exact dates in history, or they do not possess correct doctrines concerning scripture. But the first point that is clear: with such long time periods mentioned, the true spiritual meaning of the "abomination of desolation" does not concern the desecration of the Jewish temple by Antiochus Epiphanes, but it has to do with the spiritual desolation of the Christian church. Some would insist on a literal interpretation as the prophecy mentions the daily sacrifices, but even those temple sacrifices have a symbolic spiritual meaning.

One thing that Swedenborg does to help clarify matters is that even the very numbers themselves have a spiritual meaning. Another principle is that a multiple of a number has the same meaning of the number that it multiplies. And another commentator on this verse made a very interesting observation concerning the number 1290:

1290 = 3 x 430 

Why is this an important observation?  Because the meaning of the number 430 is well known, as it is mentioned in this scripture:

Now the sojourn of the children of Israel who lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years.  And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years --- on that very same day --- it came to pass that all the armies of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt. (Ex. 12:40-41)
As this time period is mentioned in Exodus, we have a very detailed discussion of the meaning of the number of 430 in Swedenborg's huge work Heavenly Arcana (or Arcana Coelestia):
In the internal sense, by the sojourning of the children of Jacob in Egypt is represented and signified the vastation of the church; the state and duration of which is described by the number four hundred and thirty years; by thirty the state of vastation of Jacob's sons, that it was none, because they were such that they could not be reformed by any state of vastation — concerning the signification of the number thirty, see n. 2276 — and by four hundred years the general state of vastation of those who were of the church.Those therefore who go forth from that vastation are they who are called the redeemed... (Heavenly Arcana, n. 2959.3, 2959.4)

Ok, what does the term "vastation" mean?  It means that this is a time period when one who goes through a period of suffering living under a falsehood, believing something which is false is true, but who have not lived an evil life. These periods of vastation occur in the spiritual world, before one can enter into heaven:
There are many who during their life in the world from simplicity and ignorance have imbibed falsities as to faith, and have had a kind of conscience according to the principles of their faith, and have not lived like others in hatred, revenge, and adultery. These in the other life as long as they are in falsity cannot be introduced into heavenly societies, for so they would contaminate them, but are kept for a time in the lower earth, in order that they may throw off their false principles. The time that they remain there is longer or shorter according to the nature of the falsity and the life contracted thereby, and according to the principles they have confirmed in themselves. Some suffer there severely, others not severely. These sufferings are what are called vastations, of which there is frequent mention in the Word. When the period of vastation is completed they are taken up into heaven and as new comers are instructed in the truths of faith, and this by angels, by whom they are received. (Heavenly Arcana, n. 1106)
This principle is not just concerning the history of the Christian Church, or what takes place in the spiritual world: it is a spiritual principle that applies to periods of time in our own lives. How many times have we suffered by living under a false principle? By excusing someone's nature, by excusing someone in our family, our spouse, and not confronting the truth?  By excusing a sin as not a sin? When we choose not to face the truth, and take action, we suffer - we go through a period of vastation, until the falsity is recognized and removed. We reach a new level, and our spiritual state changes.

So that is the symbolism of the number 430, and its multiple 1290. But in a more literal sense, what does the 1290 year period refer to? We can see that is a similar to the time period of 1260 in the book of Revelation, where the Gentiles trample the truths of the church under foot, where the woman must flee into the wilderness - a state of obscurity - for a period of 1260 years. If we return back to the observation that 1290 is a multiple of 430, we know that the first 430 year period lasts from the seventieth year of Abraham to the period of the Exodus.  The historical dates are:
1953 B.C. Birth of Abraham during a grand conjunction of the planets
1883 B.C. Abraham is commanded by God to leave his country in his seventieth year
1453 B.C. Exodus of the Jews under Moses.
The time of sojourning begins with the seventieth year of Abraham to the Exodus, or 1883 - 1453 B.C. This we know as I discussed the date of the birth of Abraham in a previous blog entry, making use of a rare astronomical conjunction. The main error many make is that they assume the sons of Jacob spent 430 or 400 years in Egypt, when it was actually half that: the 430 years begin with the sojourning of Abraham. However, the book of Genesis mentions the seventy-fifth year of Abraham, not the seventieth. For that, we need to make use of the book of Jasher (which I have also discussed previously - thought to be lost, it is still extant but not recognized by most):

And it was in the fifteenth year of Abram's dwelling in the land of Canaan, which is the seventieth year of the life of Abram, and the Lord appeared to Abram in that year and he said to him, I am the Lord who brought thee out from Ur Casdim to give thee this land for an inheritance.Now therefore walk before me and be perfect and keep my commands, for to thee and to thy seed I will give this land for an inheritance, from the river Mitzraim unto the great river Euphrates.And thou shalt come to thy fathers in peace and in good age, and the fourth generation shall return here in this land and shall inherit it forever; and Abram built an altar, and he called upon the name of the Lord who appeared to him, and he brought up sacrifices upon the altar to the Lord.At that time Abram returned and went to Haran to see his father and mother, and his father's household, and Abram and his wife and all belonging to him returned to Haran, and Abram dwelt in Haran five years. (Jasher 13:17-20)
After this Genesis picks up the story when Abraham reaches the age of 75, and leaves Haran. But his sojourning begins at the age of 70. So that is how the Bible calculates the 430 years, when the book of Jasher was more well known. I only mention this, in case someone should try to mention this "technicality" in these chronological calculations. It is for things like this that I included the book of Jasher in the collection of Swedenborg's works, The Divine Revelation of the New Jerusalem. Not to mention the fact that angels informed Swedenborg about the book of Jasher in his visions. But let's move on.

To give credit where credit is due, this observation of 1290 as 3 x 430 comes from a website called Bible Numbers. But a lot of the information there (including the chronology) is incorrect.  The author observes that historically, there were three 430 year periods, which I will correct as follows:
1883 -1453 B.C. Sojourning of the sons of Israel until the Exodus (430 years)
1453 - 1023 B.C. From the Exodus to death of the prophet Samuel (430 years - David becomes king shortly after, in 1018 B.C.)
1023 - 593 B.C. From the death of Samuel, to the commissioning of the prophet Ezekiel (430 years)
So there we have it: a period of 1290 years, divided into three 430 year periods: the first concerns the sojourning of the sons of Israel, the second is the period of the judges, and the third roughly corresponds to the monarchy of Judah until Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians. It was in the year 593 or 592 B.C., the end of the 1290 year period, in which Ezekiel began to have visions. And, at the very beginning of the visions he is commanded to lie down for a period of 390 days, followed by lying down on his other side for another 40 days, to represent a period of 430 years and to "bear the iniquities" of the people of Israel and Judah.

So the prophecy of Daniel is taking these three historical periods, and combining them into a 1290 year prophecy where history will repeat itself.  The prophecy states,

And from the time that the daily sacrifice is taken away, and the abomination of desolation is set up, there shall be one thousand two hundred and ninety days. (Dan. 12:11)
So if that's the case, what is the corresponding "abomination of desolation", beginning with Abraham's seventieth year, which begins the period of sojourning of the sons of Israel? It has to do with the desolation of an ancient church that preceded Abraham, which was corrupted by the priests of Babylonia. In the book of Jasher, one of the first kings to rule over Babylon was Nimrod, who had a son named Mardon (the god Marduk in Babylonian mythology). This corruption of the ancient church, where a priesthood started to make use of religion in over to rule others, and worship idols, is represented by the Tower of Babel and the ensuing "confusion of tongues".  This corresponds to the ensuing theological debates that began to confuse the early Christian Church, eventually leading to its division into multiple sects.

So, this is the background information needed.  In the next blog, I hope to discuss the actual historical periods of these prophecies, including the 1290 and 1335 year period, but its getting late...and I need to think of how to simplify and summarize this information.

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