The Upper Room and End-Times Nuttiness

I just dug up something that I posted in early June 2014, and took down again when part of it became old news. My original post was in response to an article that was being circulated claiming that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was planning to hand control of the traditional “Upper Room” site of Jesus’ Last Supper, on Mt. Zion, to Pope Francis, presumably so that it could be developed into yet another Catholic shrine. The author of the article was enraged because he viewed the Pope to be the False Prophet of Revelation and “giving him an official seat in this most sacred of places … is the Abomination of Desolation spoken of by Daniel.” The question was posed, “Should [the False Prophet] be glorified before the nations on Mount Zion, God’s holy mountain?”

Unfortunately, in my life I have seen no shortage of end-times weirdness, and this certainly qualifies. I would call it “poorly informed pop theology.”

What made me think of this now (April 2023) is that the current Southern Baptist Sunday School quarterly includes several lessons from John’s Gospel covering parts of the Last Supper, and also a back-page map showing the commentator’s interpretation of Jesus’ movements from the Upper Room to the Cross. He shows Jesus’ trek beginning at the traditional site on Mt. Zion. I usually tend to place a lot of stock in early Christian tradition, but I’m very dubious of this one, which I discussed in more detail in my own interpretation (see Jesus’ Last Steps).

The traditional “Upper Room” This is a 12th Century Crusader structure, image downloaded from Vintage Grace,

Honestly, I can’t really recall much detail from the article I was responding to, and the link to it is now broken, no doubt because the particular “abomination” it warned of never happened. I am now reposting an updated version of my response, simply because there are still points to be made about the Upper Room, and Eschatology in general. For perspective, I am Premillennial, and my views presuppose a pre-Tribulation Rapture of the Church.

The Abomination of Desolation will be a desecration of the Holy of Holies in the Tribulation Temple; not of the Upper Room, as stated in the article. The majority of today’s Christians belong to denominations that are either Catholic, Orthodox, or Reformed, and most of those teach that God has permanently turned His back on the Hebrew people. This is a characteristic of Covenant Theology in general, which I suspect is the reason the article elevates the Upper Room in significance, at the expense of the Jewish Temple.

Any suggestion that the prophesied Abomination would pertain to any strictly Christian holy site, like the Upper Room, is bogus. The end-time prophesies, and the Tribulation itself, are related wholly to Israel and to Gentile nations, not to the Church and New Testament Christianity. By the time of the Abomination, the Church will have been Raptured. Any believers present on earth as the Tribulation period advances will be worshiping in a totally Jewish context.

The Abomination of Desolation spoken of by Daniel, Jesus, Paul—and of course John in Revelation—referred to end-time events. It was prefigured during Intertestamental times by a similar Abomination perpetrated by the Syrian king Antiochus IV. It is not uncommon in history to see prophesied events prefigured by earlier events. Prefiguration is illustration. Because Antiochus defiled the Most Holy Place in the Jerusalem Temple, we are strengthened in our understanding that it will be the Most Holy Place in the Jerusalem Temple that Antichrist will defile.

To state it again, the Abomination will be perpetrated by Antichristnot the False Prophet. Messiah ritually cleansed the Temple when He drove out the moneychangers. Antimessiah will defile it.

The Upper Room shrine is one of the most poorly attested of the ancient holy sites. The room shown in the photo above is Byzantine, and the most that can be said about it is that it may be built on or near the original site of the actual Upper Room. Even more dubiously, the ground floor of the same building is also said to sit on the tomb of King David. This is way, way down the scale of likelihood!

Mt Zion, where the shrine is located, is not even “God’s holy mountain” at all! In Bible times, “Mt. Zion” referred to Mt. Moriah, where the First and Second Temples stood and where previously God directed Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. All Biblical references to Zion refer to Mt. Moriah. In Byzantine times, probably due to confusion, the name “Zion” became connected instead to the “Western Hill” area (the Upper City) between the Tyropoeon Valley and the Hinnom Valley. This area, as well as the Bezetha Hills to the north, were first built up by King Hezekiah, in order to accommodate a huge immigrant population from the region of Samaria.

Before I leave that subject, the so-called “Ten Lost Tribes” were never totally lost. After the conquest of the Northern tribes by Assyria, hordes of upper- and middle-class Jews were exiled to other Assyrian conquests. Many peasants were left behind to share the land with conquered peoples from elsewhere that were resettled there. Many of those intermarried to produce the mamser (“bastard”) Samaritan population later despised in Judea. But shortly before the Assyrian conquest, many well-to-do northerners fled to Judea. The size of Jerusalem doubled as a result of that influx. In the First Century, this region was populated largely by aristocratic Sadducees and Roman officials—hardly a holy mountain!

Contrary to the famous, controversial claim by the late Jerry Falwell, Antichrist will not be Jewish, in my understanding—but the False Prophet will be. I base this on my strong belief that in prophecy, “the sea” usually, if not always, refers to the masses of non-Jewish people surrounding the Holy lands, and “the Land” refers to the lands given by God to His people. Antichrist is “the beast from the sea”, and the False Prophet is “the beast from the land.” To my knowledge, no Pope has ever been Jewish!

Reading in the Pope as the False Prophet, I’m sure, comes easily because Premillennialists have long assumed that the “Great Whore” of Revelation is the Catholic Church, or some form of apostate Christianity. Catholicism seems to fit the metaphor because to Protestants it incorporates many syncretistic rituals and beliefs. On the other hand, history now suggests another possible identity of the Harlot of Revelation: Islam. Militant Islam is a whorish religion in that it insists on an illicit union between false religion and the state, and I believe it to now be a far more powerful entity than Catholicism or the apostate Church.

That is not to suggest that the False Prophet will be a Muslim. Early in his regime, Antichrist will cozy up to all religions, but his own religion, and later the only one allowed, will be worship of him. The False Prophet will ultimately be a prophet of only that one religion, which will probably have little or no liturgy or theology. He will be more of a chief of staff or press secretary by then.

Finally, I am puzzled by the outrage in the article. Surely God’s plan is the best plan! Why not say, with the Apostle John,

[20] He which testifieth these things saith, “Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”
—Revelation 22:20 (KJV)

Author: Ron Thompson

Retired President of R. L Thompson Engineering, Inc.

One thought on “The Upper Room and End-Times Nuttiness”

  1. I have wondered if we didn’t need to change our views from Catholic to Islam for the end times–now I feel validated since you mentioned it.

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