Doing Business With God
Messiah Yeshua said something very peculiar when His disciples asked for the sign of His return at the end of the age. He mentioned one unambiguous event that would signal the beginning of what is generally called the Tribulation:
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), then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains. (Matthew 24:15-16 NASB)
What makes Yeshua’s statement peculiar is not that this Abomination of Desolation first occurred nearly two centuries before He spoke these words, nor that something like it happened again a generation later. The peculiarity is that this unambiguous sign of Messiah’s return concerns the Temple in Jerusalem and the sacrificial system of worship codified by God through Moses in the Torah. A consistent theme in Christian doctrine is that the death and resurrection of Yeshua made the sacrificial system obsolete. Why, then, does Yeshua ratify Daniel’s description of this interruption of the sacrifices as the “Abomination of Desolation”? Why is it an abomination if the sacrifices no longer matter to God? Why is it a desolation? Who or what is made desolate, and why? These questions direct us to look closer at the sacrificial system of worship so we can understand more clearly how our God does business with humanity.
As Yeshua said, Daniel the prophet spoke of this event:
Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place. So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. 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.” (Daniel 9:24-27 NASB, emphasis added; see also Daniel 11:29-35, Daniel 12:9-13, and Mark 13:14)
Daniel is describing is the supreme act of defiance by the despicable person commonly called the Antichrist, or Antimessiah. His defiance takes the form of putting an end to the daily sacrifices of the Temple of God in Jerusalem and setting himself up as a god. The Apostle Paul also describes this event:
Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. (II Thessalonians 2:1-4 NASB, emphasis added)
The interruption of the daily sacrifices reveals this man to be the Antimessiah. What he stops is the continuous act of worship that YHVH commanded His people to do each day as the protocol for conducting business with Him. As He explained to Moses:
Now this is what you shall offer on the altar: two one year old lambs each day, continuously. The one lamb you shall offer in the morning and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight, and there shall be one-tenth of an ephah of fine flour mixed with one-fourth of a hin of beaten oil, and one-fourth of a hin of wine for a drink offering with one lamb. The other lamb you shall offer at twilight, and shall offer with it the same grain offering and the same drink offering as in the morning, for a soothing aroma, an offering by fire to the Lord. It shall be a continual burnt offering throughout your generations at the doorway of the tent of meeting before the Lord, where I will meet with you, to speak to you there. I will meet there with the sons of Israel, and it shall be consecrated by My glory. I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar; I will also consecrate Aaron and his sons to minister as priests to Me. I will dwell among the sons of Israel and will be their God. They shall know that I am the Lord their God who brought them out of the land of Egypt, that I might dwell among them; I am the Lord their God. (Exodus 29:38-46 NASB, emphasis added; see also Numbers 28:1-8)
The offerings in question are the olat tamid, the daily burnt offerings (עֹלַת תָּמִיד, from Strongs H5930, olah (whole burnt offering), and H8548, tamid (continuity, perpetuity, continually, continuously). Even if there were no other business going on at the Temple, the olat tamid would still happen. To use a modern illustration, if the Altar in the Temple were an automobile, the olat tamid would be the gasoline that keeps the motor running. Just as the automobile stops running when there is no gasoline, the Altar stops functioning when there is no olah. If the automobile runs out of fuel it does not cease being an automobile. All it requires is more fuel to start again. Without an olah, however, the Altar ceases being an altar acceptable to God. The commandment is for a continual burnt offering on the Altar, as the Lord explained:
Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Command Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the law for the burnt offering: the burnt offering itself shall remain on the hearth on the altar all night until the morning, and the fire on the altar is to be kept burning on it. The priest is to put on his linen robe, and he shall put on undergarments next to his flesh; and he shall take up the ashes to which the fire reduces the burnt offering on the altar and place them beside the altar. Then he shall take off his garments and put on other garments, and carry the ashes outside the camp to a clean place. The fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it. It shall not go out, but the priest shall burn wood on it every morning; and he shall lay out the burnt offering on it, and offer up in smoke the fat portions of the peace offerings on it. Fire shall be kept burning continually on the altar; it is not to go out.” (Leviticus 6:8-13 NASB, emphasis added)
If the fire goes out, the commandment is broken and the Altar ceases to function as a sanctified Altar. Perhaps the Altar could be sanctified again, although it would take eight days for that process (Exodus 29:35-37). During that time there would be no olat, meaning there is no business transacted with the Lord according to Temple protocol, and no sign of God’s Presence with the people. No wonder, then, that the cessation of the olat tamid brings desolation.
Desolation With Abomination
It is one thing for the olat tamid to be interrupted through an accidental oversight by the priest who is supposed to watch the fire through the night, but suppose something far worse happens. Suppose a wicked person intentionally puts an end to the olat as an act of defiance against the Most High God. Then suppose this person decides to forbid all worship of the Most High and demand that everyone worship him instead. That would be abomination, something of supreme offense to God. Specifically, it is idolatry, something set up in the minds of men that takes the place of God. The Abomination of Desolation is the ultimate idolatrous offense in that a human being not only stops the commanded sacrificial worship of the Lord God, but also in that very place claims to be the god all people must worship.
This has happened before, but not with the destructions of the Temple by the Babylonians in 586 BC and by the Romans in 70 AD. Those events ended the daily sacrifices, but did not bring about the Abomination of Desolation. The first Abomination of Desolation occurred not with the destruction of the Temple, but with its desecration. The history of Chanukkah is entwined with this story. In the year 168 BC, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, ruler of the Greco-Syrian empire of which Judea was part, banned the worship of YHVH and stopped the daily sacrifices. His desecrations included setting up an idol of Zeus in the Temple and requiring all Jews to worship it. Antiochus’ actions sparked the Maccabean Revolt that defeated him and regained control of the Temple three years later. However the Jews had to build a new Altar and go through the seven-day purification process before the olat tamid could begin again on the eighth day. This is the origin of the eight-day Feast of Dedication, or Chanukah, which commemorates the reestablishment of the sacrificial worship of God and the visible reminder of His Presence which that worship provided to the people.
There is an interesting footnote to this Chanukah story. As they began the task of cleansing the Temple, the Jews encountered a dilemma regarding the defiled Altar:
Then Judas detailed men to fight against those in the citadel until he had cleansed the sanctuary. He chose blameless priests devoted to the law, and they cleansed the sanctuary and removed the defiled stones to an unclean place. They deliberated what to do about the altar of burnt offering, which had been profaned. And they thought it best to tear it down, so that it would not be a lasting shame to them that the Gentiles had defiled it. So they tore down the altar, and stored the stones in a convenient place on the temple hill until a prophet should come to tell what to do with them. Then they took unhewn stones, as the law directs, and built a new altar like the former one. (I Maccabees 4:41-47 NRSV Catholic Edition, emphasis added
The stones of this desecrated Altar remained in the Temple until its destruction by the Romans, even though a Prophet did come Who was ready to explain what to do with them. That account appears in the only reference to Chanukah in the Apostolic Writings (New Testament):
At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem; it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon. The Jews then gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me. But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, “I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?” The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.” Jesus answered them, “Has it not been written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.” Therefore they were seeking again to seize Him, and He eluded their grasp. (John 10:22-39 NASB, emphasis added)
The irony is that the very stones defiled in the first Abomination of Desolation were taken up by God’s people to execute the One sent by God to fulfill the meaning of His sacrifices. He would indeed be executed, but not at that time, and not in that exact place. His execution did fulfill the intent of God’s holy sacrificial system, but contrary to common Christian understanding, it did not bring a permanent end to all the sacrifices.
Part II looks at the different types of sacrifices presented at the Altar to find out what the Scripture says about the sacrifices that will be offered in Messiah’s Millennial Kingdom.
Please click here to continue to Part II.
 For a thorough presentation on the importance of altars and offerings, as well as commentary on the Abomination of Desolation, see Monte Judah’s recent teaching, “Eyes on the Altar”, broadcast on November 14, 2014, at B’nai Shalom Messianic Internet Congregation.