God declared something an “abomination” when it was a serious violation of His law, such as idolatry (Deut. 27:15) or immoral sexual practices (Lev. 18:22). Hence, this “abomination of desolation” involved some sort of religious apostasy.
These two texts make it clear that Jesus’ prediction includes, in a more immediate sense, the terrible destruction that would come upon Jerusalem in A.D. 70, when pagan Rome would destroy not only the city but the sacred temple, as well.
However, there is a second fulfillment of this prophecy in which the more immediate events, such as the destruction of Jerusalem, stood as a type of future, end-time events. “Christ saw in Jerusalem a symbol of the world hardened in unbelief and rebellion, and hastening on to meet the retributive judgments of God.” — Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 22.
In Daniel 12:11 and Daniel 11:31, the “abomination of desolation” appears in connection with the latter phase of Rome, the papal phase, in which an alternative system of mediation and salvation has been set up, one which seeks to usurp what Christ had done for us and is doing for us now in the heavenly sanctuary.
Daniel chapter 8, particularly verses 9-12, helps place these events in their historical context, with a two-phased Roman power. The first phase, seen in the little horn’s rapid horizontal expansion (Dan. 8:9), shows the vast empire of pagan Rome. In the second phase (Dan. 8:10-12) the little horn grows vertically, casting down some of the stars (persecuting God’s people) and magnifying itself to the “prince of the host” (Dan. 8: 11), Jesus. This represents the papal phase, which arose out of the collapse of the pagan Roman Empire, but still remains Rome. (That’s why one symbol, the little horn, represents both phases of the same power.) The judgment in Daniel 7:9-10, the cleansing of the sanctuary in Daniel 8:14, and the signs in the heavens of Matthew 24:29 all signal God’s intervention for His people in the last days.