In light of the fact that the abomination that causes desolation is said to have been present in the holy place which signifies the Temple everywhere in the Bible, it is also possible that the abomination that causes desolation are the Zealots whose vile murders in the Temple grounds desecrated the Temple. In Revelation 17:4 the killing of the saints is called an “abomination.” And in Ezekiel 22:1-6 one of the many abominations Jerusalem is charged with is bloodshed. Could the murder of the wicked Zealot rebels in the Temple be the abomination that causes the desolation of Israel?
Many Preterists assume that the term “abomination that causes desolation” refers to the Jewish sin that caused the desolation of Israel. If this definition is correct, then the abomination that causes desolation cannot be the murder of the Zealot rebels in the Temple as this was not the crime that caused the plagues of the eschaton or the fall of Babylon. It is well-known among Preterists that the crux of Revelation is martyr vindication. In other words, Jerusalem fell in A.D. 70 because she killed Jesus, the prophets and the saints, not the Zealots.
In Revelation 6:10-11 we see that the saints plead to God for vengeance for their deaths:
How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been. (Revelation 6:11-12.)
Then in Revelation 8:4-6 the prayers of the saints for vengeance mentioned in the verses cited above ascended to God and in response the seven angels blew their trumpets:
The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God’s people, went up before God from the angel’s hand. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake. Then the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to sound them.
Here we see that the prayers of the saints for vengeance is why the plagues of Revelation were induced on Israel. In confirmation of this fact we see the Whore of Babylon, Jerusalem, drunk with the blood of the saints in Revelation 17:6. Revelation 18:20 and 24 then go on to say that Babylon fell because she killed the saints, “Rejoice, apostles and prophets! For God has judged her with the judgment she imposed on you.” (Revelation 18:20.) “In her was found the blood of prophets and of God’s holy people, of all who have been slaughtered on the earth.” (Revelation 18:24.)
One thing I think all preterists can agree on is that the Zealots were wicked. In other words, the Zealots were not the saints. Thus per Revelation 6:10-11; 8:4-6; 17:6; 18:20, 24 the slaughter of the Zealots in the Temple could not have been the abomination that caused Israel’s desolation. In fact, Ezekeil 8-9 implies that the slaughter of the Jews in the Temple was the punishment for their abominations, not the sin itself. In Ezekiel 8-9 Ezekiel is given a vision of Israel’s idol worship. For this crime God says to his angels, “Defile the Temple and fill the courts with the slain.” (Ezekiel 9:7.) Here we see that the slaughter of the wicked in the Temple is the punishment for the abominations of Israel who were worshiping idols, not the crime for which Israel was punished. History repeats itself and the same thing appears to be true in the first century war with Rome. As is the case in Ezekiel 8-9, the murder of the wicked Zealots in the Temple courts was God’s punishment for Israel’s abominations, not the abomination itself. (For an explanation of how the Abomination that causes desolation was a symbol of Israel’s ultimate sin as defined in 1 Timothy 6:10 which caused her to kill the saints see Revelation 13: A Preterist Commentary.)
Another problem with the idea that the murder of the Zealots in the Temple was the abomination that causes desolation is that it conflicts with Daniel 9:26-27 which links the abomination that causes desolation with Caesar Titus, the prince who “destroy[s] the city and the sanctuary” in v. 26. And it is this “prince” who causes the abomination that causes desolation: “And at the temple he [the prince] will set up an abomination that causes desolation[.]” (Daniel 9:27) (See How the Greek (2nd Century B.C.) and Roman Armies (1st Century A.D.) with Their Idols of Zeus Literally fulfill All Bible Prophecies Concerning the Abomination that Causes Desolation.)
Furthermore, a previous abomination that causes desolation is mentioned in Daniel 11:31-32. In these verses the abomination of desolation denotes the Greek armies who placed an idol of Zeus in the Temple and offered pagan sacrifices on the Temple altar in the second century B.C. (1 Macc 1:59). 1 Macc 6:1-2 refers to these acts as “a desolating sacrilege.” The abomination that causes desolation at the end of the age is given the same name since essentially the exact same thing occurred in A.D. 70. After capturing the Temple, the Romans worshiped the ensigns, the main one being Aquila who was Zeus’ messenger, while offering sacrifices to these idols in the Temple. One animal sacrificed by Titus was believed to be a pig which is exactly what Antiochus Epiphanies had done in the Temple 200 years earlier (1 Macc 1:59; Wars 1.1.2). In other words, both the Greeks and the Romans set up some type of idol of Zeus or his messenger in the Temple and both offered pagan sacrifices inside the Temple. Here we can see why the same name is given to both events.
If the first instance of the abomination that causes desolation was setting up an idol and offering a pig and other pagan sacrifices in the Temple, the second is likely to be something similar. If the murderous acts of the Zealots are the abomination that causes desolation in Matthew 24:15 then this interpretation conflicts with the precedent set in Daniel 11:31-32 and unjustifiably and irrationally ignores the similarities in what the Romans and Greeks both did in the Temple. How on earth could the abomination that causes desolation be murder in the Temple if an event nearly identical to the original abomination that causes desolation of Daniel 11:31-32 occurred again in A.D. 70?
Another argument against this view is the fact that the Zealots continuously defiled the Temple from the beginning of the Jewish War in A.D. 66 until the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Given the fact that the Zealots desecrated the Temple with murder and various diverse lawless acts over the course of roughly four years, at which point amidst all these abominable acts were the people supposed to drop everything and flee as Jesus warned in vs. 17 and 18? Similarly, if the zealot’s lawless deeds are the abomination that causes desolation, this interpretation of the abomination of desolation in Matthew 24:15 conflicts with its synoptic equivalent in Luke 21:20. In Luke 21:20-21 Jesus says to drop everything and flee when they “see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies” If someone is told to drop everything and flee it does not make sense to have two temporally disparate signs–zealots in the Temple vs. armies outside.
Some might argue, “But is it not true that murder is much worse than worshiping foreign gods and sacrificing a pig in the Temple?” Perhaps, but the murder in the Temple was not the abomination or sin that caused the desolation of Jerusalem. The sin that caused the Jews’ desolation is defined in Matt 23:29-38, Revelation 6:9-11 and 17:4-6. These verses define this sin as the murder of the prophets and Christian saints (not the death of wicked men in the Temple). The Jews had been killing the prophets and saints for centuries prior to the birth of Christ? At which point amidst these continuous abominable acts that spanned hundreds of years were the saints supposed to drop everything and flee (Mt 24:15-18)? Furthermore, remember that Christians fled Jerusalem to Pella prior to the revolt so it is hard to see how those people murdered in the Temple by the Zealots could not have been the saints and thus their murder could not have been the sin that caused the vengeance of God according to Revelation 6:9-11; 17:4-6; and Matthew 23:29-38. The fact that impious Jewish rebels were killed in the Temple is God’s vengeance for the murder of the saints and prophets. God did not kill the Jews in the Jerusalem because they murdered other wicked men in the Temple. Like the slaughter of the Jews in Jerusalem by the Romans, the murder of impious Jews by equally wicked Jews in the Temple was all part of God’s vengeance on His people at the end of the age as is explicitly stated in Ezekiel 8-9.
Having addressed the fact that the abomination that causes desolation was not the Zealot murders in the Temple, it is actually true that the abomination that causes desolation is (in a way) the sin that caused the desolation of Jerusalem. When the Romans worshiped the ensigns in the Temple these soldiers unwittingly enacted the sin for which the Jews had been punished at the end of the age in a theatrical manner. Hung on the Roman ensigns were large images of the emperor in the shape of a large circular medallion which looked just like a large Roman coin held aloft on a pole. 1 Timothy 6:10 says it is “the love of money that is the root of all [Israel’s] evil.” And that is true as it was the rich Jews of Jerusalem who killed Jesus, the saints and the prophets to avoid a financially disastrous war of independence from Rome which threatened to destroy Jerusalem and leave them penniless from pillaging and destruction of property (1 Ti 6:10; Jn 11:47-50; 19:12; Mt 2:1-3, Lk 19:27; Jm 2:1-7; 5:1-6; Lk 11:39, 16:13-15). (See Revelation 13: A Preterist Commentary.) The fact that the wealthy Jewish elite killed Jesus and the saints in order to remain rich means that money (the mark of the beast) is their true God. The fact that the Jews killed the saints (the abomination that caused Israel’s desolation) for money is another point that bolsters the notion that the AOD is the worship of the coin-shaped images in the Temple. As the Romans unwittingly enacted Israel’s ultimate sin defined in 1 Timothy 6:10 when they worshiped these large money-shaped idols in the Jewish Temple. Thus when the Romans worshiped the ensigns, this abomination was a theatrical symbol of the ultimate ABOMINATION THAT CAUSED THE DESOLATION of Jerusalem.