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The Most Detailed Prediction in Scripture
(Chapter 11 verses 2-45)
Daniel chapter 11 verses 25-28
“With a large army he will stir up his strength and courage against the king of the South. The king of the South will wage war with a large and very powerful army, but he will not be able to stand because of the plots devised against him. Those who eat from the king’s provisions will try to destroy him; his army will be swept away, and many will fall in battle. The two kings, with their hearts bent on evil, will sit at the same table and lie to each other, but to no avail, because an end will still come at the appointed time. The king of the North will return to his own country with great wealth, but his heart will be set against the holy covenant. He will take action against it and then return to his own country.
During his dozen years of reign, Antiochus invaded Egypt four times, with varying degrees of success. Although Antiochus’ Egyptian rival, “the king of the South,” had large armies, he was unable to defeat the Syrians “because of the plots devised against him.” Daniel’s heavenly messenger predicted that Ptolemy’s trusted friends, who would be expected to support him and who “eat from the king’s provisions,” would prove disloyal. As a result, Antiochus’s first campaign against Egypt resulted in defeat for the armies of Egypt.
When the Egyptian people learned of this defeat, they dethroned their king Ptolemy Philometor and replaced him with his brother. Antiochus saw an opportunity here and sought the help of the ex-king in his struggle against the new king, Ptolemy Euergetes. “The two . . . will sit at the same table and lie to each other.” To gain the cooperation of the dethroned king, Antiochus would profess friendship for him, as well as the desire to help him regain his throne. And Philometor would pretend to believe these promises, even though he knew the man was lying. Antiochus’s evil plans would not succeed.
When he tried to march on the city of Alexandria, Antiochus was defeated and had to return to his home base in Syria. He did so with some spoils of war but also with great frustration at not having achieved what he wanted in Egypt. On his way home, therefore, his heart was “set against the holy covenant,” the Holy Land and its inhabitants. Antiochus took time out to unleash an attack on the city and the people of Jerusalem. Some historians report that Antiochus killed 80,000 men, women, and children, besides taking 40,000 prisoners and selling as many into slavery. To show his spite for the religion of the Jews, he entered the temple, stole the gold and silver vessels, and sacrificed a pig on the altar. This was the first attack Antiochus led against Jerusalem. The following verses inform us there would be another.
Daniel chapter 11 verses 29-32
“At the appointed time he will invade the South again, but this time the outcome will be different from what it was before. Ships of the western coastlands will oppose him, and he will lose heart. Then he will turn back and vent his fury against the holy covenant. He will return and show favor to those who forsake the holy covenant.
“His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice. Then they will set up the abomination that causes desolation. With flattery he will corrupt those who have violated the covenant, but the people who know their God will firmly resist him.
In 168 B.C. Antiochus undertook another expedition against Egypt. The Angel informed Daniel that this would take place “at the appointed time,” that is, the time determined not so much by Antiochus but by God. This time the wicked king would not enjoy the success he had earlier.
The reason for this is that the Romans entered the picture, at the invitation of Egypt. While the troops of Antiochus were besieging the city of Alexandria, “ships of the western coastlands,” the Roman fleet, came to help the Egyptians. It brought Antiochus some bad news: the Roman Senate was demanding that he withdraw from Egypt or risk war with Rome.
Since Antiochus knew the power of Rome, he reluctantly ordered his forces to withdraw and to return to Syria. This forced withdrawal offered him another opportunity to show his special hostility for the people of God. And so began a second vicious round of persecution of the Jewish people. Antiochus paid special attention to “those who have violated the covenant,” Jews who had abandoned the sacred contract God had made with the descendants of Abraham. Antiochus wanted to use these apostate Jews to wipe out every trace of the God-given faith and to replace it with Greek customs and culture.
And so the detachment of troops Antiochus had sent to destroy and defile Jerusalem went to work. The Angel predicted they would abolish the daily sacrifice, and they did. To bring defilement on the sanctuary, “they will set up the abomination that causes desolation,” apparently a substitute altar and statue of Zeus, father of all the Greek gods.
By doing this to the temple, Antiochus desecrated it, so that no Israelite could worship the Lord there. Perhaps you remember that Jesus used the same expression in a conversation with his disciples a few days before he died. He mentioned terrible things that would happen when the Roman army destroyed Jerusalem and described them as a sort of preview of the end of the world. He assured his disciples they would “see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel” (Matthew chapter 24 verse 15). Forty years later, when Jerusalem fell to the invading Romans, soldiers planted their pagan standards in the sacred soil of Jerusalem, signifying that its desolation was near (Luke chapter 21 verse 20).
By using flattery Antiochus managed to persuade many apostate Jews to help stamp out the worship of the Lord, the God of Israel. The Angel predicted, however, that God would see to it that another group of people would react differently to this awful persecution. Those who knew the God of Israel and understood his gracious plan would not bend to Antiochus’s flattery or buckle under his threats.
Daniel chapter 11 verse 33-35
“Those who are wise will instruct many, though for a time they will fall by the sword or be burned or captured or plundered. When they fall, they will receive a little help, and many who are not sincere will join them. Some of the wise will stumble, so that they may be refined, purified and made spotless until the time of the end, for it will still come at the appointed time.
The Antiochus episode closes here with the reassuring statement that God had a good purpose in the frightful experience that would come upon the people of Jerusalem.
Those Jews who saw through Antiochus’ evil plan resisted him and helped others remain true to the faith of their fathers. For this they paid a price. Many were taken captive; others fell by the sword; still others perished in flames when their homes were burned or when they were tortured in heated brass cauldrons. All this, the Angel predicted, would be “for a time.” The phrase cuts both ways. When God would conclude that his purpose had been served, the suffering would end. But until it came to an end, the time described here would be one of awful persecution for the people of God.
Those who remained loyal to the Lord would “receive a little help.” This is usually understood to refer to Judas Maccabeus and his followers, who about 165 B.C. led an uprising against the Syrian officials who were attempting to force Greek customs and culture on the Jews. As the protest movement gained strength, it became popular to join it. Many did so from motives that were insincere.
Antiochus meant to hurt and, if possible, to crush the people of God. He wanted to force them to abandon the true religion God had revealed to them and instead to adopt Greek customs and religion. He meant to stamp out the worship of the true God. This Antiochus was not able to do. Under the Lord’s overruling providence, God’s faithful remnant was refined, purified, and made spotless. The fire of the smelting furnace cannot harm the gold; it can only make it more pure.
Daniel chapter 11 verse 36
“The king will do as he pleases. He will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard-of things against the God of gods. He will be successful until the time of wrath is completed, for what has been determined must take place.
The closing ten verses of this chapter present a problem for the reader. Just who is the king referred to here? Complicating the problem of identifying this king is the fact that nothing in the passage seems to indicate a transition in thought from the previous verses, which described the devilish work of Antiochus Epiphanes.
A natural question for the reader to ask, therefore, is, “Do the closing verses of chapter 11 give us additional information about King Antiochus?” At first it might seem as if they do. The description begins with “The king will do as he pleases,” and Antiochus certainly did that.
This identification breaks down, though, in the next statement: “He will exalt and magnify himself above every god.” It was common for ancient kings to consider themselves sons of the gods; Antiochus was no exception. But the description here goes beyond that. The king described here would exalt himself above every god. This Antiochus did not do. In the following verse, the king being described here is said to “show no regard for the gods of his fathers.” Antiochus was loyal to the gods of Greece—so loyal, as a matter of fact, that he tried to force them on the consciences of the Jews.
The conclusion is inescapable: Antiochus is not the one being spoken of here. But then who is?
Chapter 11 does not stand alone on the pages of the Scriptures. It follows the first ten chapters of Daniel’s prophecy. Think back to chapter 7, where Daniel described his dream of the four beasts. As he looked at the fearful fourth beast, he noted ten horns and then another horn, symbolizing a king who “will speak against the Most High and oppress his saints” (chapter 7 verse 25). Our identification pointed to the Antichrist, the archenemy of God. “Just as God gave definite signs and characteristics throughout the Old Testament whereby the Messiah could be recognized, so, too, the Word of God has made clear the identity of Antichrist” (Feinberg, Daniel, page 173). The closing ten verses of chapter 11 no longer point to Antiochus Epiphanes but are an Old Testament prediction of God’s archenemy, of whom Antiochus was a foreshadow. Saint Paul gives us the key to the correct interpretation of this passage in 2nd Thessalonians chapter 2 verse 4, where he gives us a description of the Antichrist that is remarkably similar to Daniel’s: “He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped.”
“He will say unheard-of things,” literally, “things which cause astonishment” because they are so blasphemous. The Roman Catholic papacy robs God of his supreme glory by attacking the very heart of the gospel, the teaching that the sinner is saved only by faith in God’s offer of mercy in Christ Jesus. There is no greater blasphemy than to attack this central teaching of Scripture. The appearance of the Antichrist and his blasphemous work is part of the preordained plan of God. This is the judgment on the sins of people who “refused to love the truth and so be saved” (2nd Thessalonians chapter 2 verse 10).
Daniel chapter 11 verses 37-39
“He will show no regard for the gods of his fathers or for the one desired by women, nor will he regard any god, but will exalt himself above them all. Instead of them, he will honor a god of fortresses; a god unknown to his fathers he will honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and costly gifts. He will attack the mightiest fortresses with the help of a foreign god and will greatly honor those who acknowledge him. He will make them rulers over many people and distribute the land at a price.
The Antichrist will exalt himself above God not only by attacking what God has said but also by claiming to be the only divinely authorized spokesman for God. A further mark of identification is that he will “show no regard . . . for the one desired by women.” The papacy’s low opinion of marital love is illustrated by the statement of Pope John Paul the Second: “Those who choose matrimony do well, and those who choose virginity or voluntary abstinence do better.” By forbidding its clergy to marry and by teaching its laity that remaining unmarried is a holier state than being married, the Antichrist shows a low opinion of the mutual love of man and woman. By contrast, God shows how highly he esteems marital love when in his Word he compares it to the love Christ has for his bride, the church.
This enemy of God is described further: “He will honor a god of fortresses.” The human heart is an idol factory. When a person refuses to acknowledge the true God as he has revealed himself on the pages of the Scriptures, that person will soon give his love to someone or something else. “Whatever I make the supreme object of my love is my God,” Luther once said.
Down through the centuries, the Antichrist has frequently shown a powerful fascination with warlike conquest, with influencing and controlling governments, with using military force to carry out his will. One thinks of how Luther’s life and his work of reformation were threatened by the combined authority of church and state. To gain the ability to bring military pressure to bear, the Antichrist has been willing to invest gold and silver, precious stones and costly gifts. He will greatly honor those who acknowledge him, sometimes by making them rulers over many or by dividing land among them as a means of gaining their allegiance.
Daniel chapter 11 verses 40-45
“At the time of the end the king of the South will engage him in battle, and the king of the North will storm out against him with chariots and cavalry and a great fleet of ships. He will invade many countries and sweep through them like a flood. He will also invade the Beautiful Land. Many countries will fall, but Edom, Moab and the leaders of Ammon will be delivered from his hand. He will extend his power over many countries; Egypt will not escape. He will gain control of the treasures of gold and silver and all the riches of Egypt, with the Libyans and Nubians in submission. But reports from the east and the north will alarm him, and he will set out in a great rage to destroy and annihilate many. He will pitch his royal tents between the seas at the beautiful holy mountain. Yet he will come to his end, and no one will help him.”
The closing six verses of this chapter are difficult to understand. The language of prophecy and especially of vision often is not easy, and that certainly is the case with these verses.
The Angel explaining the vision to Daniel describes a final attack on God’s people. Adding to our difficulty is the fact that he describes it as a continuation of the battles for the control of the Holy Land that raged in the centuries immediately before Christ—the battles between the Ptolemies of Egypt and the Seleucids of Syria.
Since, however, the time indicated is not the time of Antiochus Epiphanes (at Daniel’s time Moab no longer existed as a nation) but “the time of the end,” we recognize in this description a battle between the Antichrist and those who oppose him. The activity of the Antichrist will arouse opposition; he will have enemies. These enemies are identified only as kings “of the North” and “of the South.” Because the Angel who revealed this to Daniel was talking about the far distant future, it is clear that the king of the South cannot be Egypt; the king of the North here cannot be Syria. There is much in this prophecy that will be mysterious until the Lord supplies the details that unlock the mystery. It is best for us, therefore, to be content with large general truths instead of trying to make positive historical identification for each specific reference. “We have here in a few bold strokes, and in terms taken from the campaigns of the anti-christian forces in the third and second centuries before Christ, a picture of Antichrist in the development of his power” (Kretzmann, Popular Commentary of the Bible, Volume 2, page 632).
Daniel’s vision showed that the archenemy of God would suffer reverses. We think, for example, of what a setback it was for him when in A.D. 1054 the eastern half of the church broke away from the western church to form what is known as the Orthodox Church. Despite such opposition, the Antichrist would still manage to subjugate one country after another and establish his spiritual dominance throughout the world.
“He will also invade the Beautiful Land.” In the days of the Old Testament, God actually took up residence in Palestine, in the cloud above the ark in the temple at Jerusalem. In New Testament terms, the Holy Christian church is the “Beautiful Land” where the triune God resides with all his grace and his favor. The Antichrist’s fiercest attacks would be directed at this church, causing innumerable casualties among faithful confessors of the truth.
Daniel learned that Edom, Moab, and Ammon, ancient enemies of God’s people, would not be defeated by the Antichrist. As enemies of God and his people, they already stood for what the Antichrist represents. Consequently, the Antichrist would have no need to defeat them.
“Egypt will not escape.” Egypt, we know, was a leading world power in ancient times. If in expanding his power the Antichrist would be able to bring even Egypt and Libya and Nubia under his control, then his power must indeed be awesome.
“He will extend his power over many countries; Egypt will not escape.” The Antichrist would overpower any countries that happen to block his path. At Daniel’s time, when Babylon had just fallen and Persia had not as yet consolidated its power, Egypt symbolized a steady world power. If in his program of conquest the Antichrist would subdue even the leading world power of his day, then his power must be great indeed.
“Reports from the east and the north will alarm him.” This possibly refers to news about the spread of Islam in the east and to the success of the Reformation in Germany (the north). There the pure gospel was restored and consciences were liberated from slavery to papal decrees and threats.
The story of this rival of Christ comes to a sudden end. He will establish his headquarters in the heart of the land of God’s people, where God has established his dwelling place. From his base of operations in the church, he will continue to attack God’s people, seeking to bind consciences to his teachings. But just when it seems the church of God must fall before him, he will be overthrown. This archenemy of God is, after all, on God’s leash, and he will perish suddenly.
The picture of the end time which the Angel painted and which Daniel saw is not a pretty one. The fabric of history includes war, treachery, domination, tyranny, and persecution. But when Jesus Christ returns visibly to judge his enemies and to rule over his saints, this will be the closing sentence to the history of each of his enemies:
“He will come to his end, and no one will help him.”
The End of Part 11.2