The End is Near-ish (Part 2)

The End is Near-ish (Part 2)

Daniel 11:36-45

How will the world end?  Who is the antichrist?  When will Jesus come back again?  These are three questions that Christians have been asking for centuries. 

There have also been all kinds of predictions for the way the world will end.  Who can forget Y2K and the fear that all computers would shut down once we crossed the threshold of a new century known as the year 2000.  Harold Camping, the president of the Family Radio Network, predicted that on May 21, 2011 the world would come to an end.  Hundreds of his followers sold everything so that they could hit the road to proselytize as many as possible into doing likewise.  When May 21st proved once again that the radio personality was wrong, Camping pushed the apocalypse back to October 21, 2011.  He apologized, retried, and then later died.  Jehovah Witnesses and the Watch Tower society have made at least seven end time predictions that never panned out.  

Some of the top contenders for the antichrist have been an emperor of Rome known as Nero who was suspected for being as such for obvious reasons (he was one of the most ruthless persecutors of the Church).  Napoleon was thought by many to be the possible antichrist due to his remarkable rise to power and lack of interest in religion.  An all-time popular contender for being the antichrist, in the view of protestants, was and continues to be the Pope.  Another group of contenders for the title of antichrist are the American Presidents such as FDR, JFK, Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama.  Some of you may remember the man who shot up the white house in 2011.  The man who shot at the White House was Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez, he shot at the White House because he believed himself to be Jesus and President Barack Obama the antichrist.  I think the latest candidate is Bill Gates.

One of the weirdest doomsday stories I read about was that of Prophet Hen of Leeds who appeared in England in 1806.  What was her claim to fame that made her so popular and swayed countless hundreds of Christians?  It was the eggs she supposedly laid that were inscribed with the message: “Christ is coming.”  It was later discovered that the eggs were not prophetic but the work of the hen’s owner who wrote the messages on the eggs in corrosive ink before reinserting them into the hen’s body.   

So what about Daniel 11:36-45?  Who are these verses describing?  I believe the answer is twofold; I believe that in part, these verses describe the life of Antiochus IV and the life of a future ruler more horrible and violent than Antiochus IV.  I am not going to lie, these verses are understood by most commentators as difficult, but those same commentators agree that it seems that these verses are describing the antichrist who is to come.

The Antichrist will Exalt Himself as a God (vv. 36-39)

Permit me to explain why I, along with other conservative Bible scholars believe that these verses shift from describing Antiochus IV to a future evil king.  Verses 36-38 easily describe the life of Antiochus who, as I have mentioned last week, serves as a prototype of the Antichrist who is to come.  Antiochus IV also identified with the name Epiphanes, which means “God Manifest” in Greek.  He, like the future antichrist, identified himself as a god.  The difference between these two men is that the one who is coming will identify as a god above every god.  Regarding the gods of his fathers (v. 37), Antiochus worshiped Zeus and even believed himself to be the incarnation of Zeus, which was a departure from the gods that his forefathers worshiped.  However, the evil king who is coming will worship his own power and military might.  This is what I believe is meant by verse 37-38, “He shall not pay attention to any other god, for he shall magnify himself above all.  He shall honor the god of fortresses instead of these.  A god whom his fathers did not know he shall honor.

The departure from describing Antiochus IV to describing a more ominous and viler king comes in verse 39, “He shall deal with the strongest fortresses with the help of a foreign god. Those who acknowledge him he shall load with honor. He shall make them rulers over many and shall divide the land for a price.”  One commentator observed from these verses:

The antichrist has no desire for God or humanity because he serves a different god in addition to himself, “a God of fortresses” or the god of war (v. 38).  On this “might makes right” deity, one that even his evil forefathers did not know or worship, he will shower “gold, silver, precious stones, and riches.”  He will honor the might and power that war can give him.  And “with the help of [this] foreign god (v. 39), the god even his fathers did not know (v. 38), “he will deal with the strongest fortresses.”  With power he will crush power, and in the process he will reward those who join his expanding coalition.  He will “greatly honor [them], making them rulers over many and distributing land as a reward” (v. 39).  This is a Nietzschean world come to full fruition. The vision of a Hitler-like leader and his Nietzschean Nazism will arrive in all of its infamy, and the world will not be able to stop it.[1]

The same mindset that led to Lucifer’s rebellion in heaven will fill the mind and heart of the future ruler Daniel 11:39-45 speaks of.  We are given a description of what filled the mind and heart of Lucifer in Isaiah 14:12-14, “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High’” (Isaiah 14:12–14).

I believe that the man Daniel 11:39-45 is referring to is the same man we are warned about in the New Testament.  This man is described as the “antichrist” (1 John 2:18), the “beast” (Rev. 11-20), and the “man of lawlessness” in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12, listen to how we are warned of this person by the apostle Paul:

Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God….  And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thessalonians 2:3–12)

The future antichrist will be more charismatic then Hitler, he will persuade nearly the entire world.  He will fall right in line with the spirit of antichrist that is now present in our world.  He will be seen to be wise, charitable, and he will posture himself as a messiah who has come to rescue the world.  I tell you dear brothers and sisters that the antichrist has not revealed himself in person yet, but when he does, many will welcome him as a person that the world desperately needs. 

The Antichrist will be Destroyed by the True God (vv. 40-45)

We are told in verses 40-41 that there will be a great battle involving armies from the north and south.  This battle appears to center around Israel, which is described as the “glorious land” in verse 41.  I believe that this battle is the same battle described in Revelation 16:13-16, and that battle is the Battle of Armageddon which will end with the death of the antichrist.  One of the big reasons I believe this is because of Daniel 12:1-2,

At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. (Daniel 12:1–2,)

In the context of the great battle described in verses 40-45, that concludes with the promise: “Yet he [antichrist] shall come to his end, with none to help him” (v. 45), is Daniel 12:1-2.  After the death of the antichrist, the archangel Michael will appear, the people of God whom the antichrist wanted to destroy will be delivered, and then a resurrection and judgment will be experienced.  I believe that Daniel 12:1-2 is a view of what is coming similar to the view one would have 20,000 feet in the air.  However, we are given a more detailed description of what is coming in Revelation 16-19.  Jesus described the events that would lead to his second coming, events that Daniel describes vaguely:

See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. (Matthew 24:4–8)

Listen, what Jesus described in Matthew 24:4-8 will precede the short but horrific reign of the antichrist.  As is true with the birth pains a woman experiences before the birth of her child, is also true with birth pains regarding wars, famines, and earthquakes… they will increase in number the closer we come to the revealing of the antichrist and then the second coming of the true Christ.  There have never been more famines in our world than there have been in the last 30 years.  There seems to be a never-ending development of deadly diseases and viruses with every passing year.  And when it comes to war, our world has never known a day without it; yet it seems that we are creeping ever closer to another global war.  Jesus said all these things must happen leading up to, “a time of trouble.”  After Jesus warned us of what is coming, he promised in detail what was only vaguely described in Daniel 12:1-2; here is what Jesus said:

Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Matthew 24:29–31)

We have Daniel 11 and the words of Jesus in Matthew 24 so that as we watch the unfolding of events around us, we can pray.  As we watch and pray, we must engage our communities with their greatest need, which is the gospel of Jesus Christ.  As we watch, pray, and engage our world, we must be developing new Christians to be able to do the same.   Why?  Because the end is near-ish, and Daniel 11:32 encourages us with these words: “…the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.”

Conclusion

Let me conclude by telling a story that helps me understand why Daniel 11 is for you and me today.  Protestants began to enter into the Korean Peninsula in the 1880s with the Gospel, sometime before that, Catholic missionaries were able to do some work in the country, but reaching the Koreans with the gospel of Jesus Christ was difficult, but the hard work of missionaries continued. 

Thus began series of revivals where scores of Koreans converted to Christianity by placing their faith and trust in Jesus as their savior.  In 1903 two revivals were experienced in a Presbyterian church near Seoul and a Methodist church in Wonsan.  Other small revivals were experienced over the following three years.  Presbyterian missionaries built a seminary in Pyongyang in 1901, with is the current capital of North Korea; in 1907 this seminary became the focal point of one of the greatest revivals to come in far east Asia.  A Presbyterian missionary by the name of William Blair preached to over a thousand Korean men gathered for a Bible conference about their need to turn away from their long-standing hatred of the Japanese due to the decades of conflict between the two nations.  On that evening of January 8, 1907, it is said that many started praying and confessing their sins.  One of the missionaries present described that night in the following way:

What happened was indescribable – not confusion, but a vast harmony of sound and spirit, a mingling together of souls moved by an irresistible impulse of prayer. The prayer sounded to me like the falling of many waters, an ocean of prayer beating against God’s throne. It was not many, but one, born of one Spirit, lifted to one Father above. Just as on the day of Pentecost . . . God is not always in the whirlwind, neither does He always speak in a still small voice. He came to us in Pyongyang that night with the sound of weeping. As the prayer continued, a spirit of heaviness and sorrow for sin came down upon the audience. Over on one side, someone began to weep, and in a moment the whole audience was weeping.

Man after man would rise, confess his sins, break down and weep, and then throw himself to the floor and beat the floor with his fists in perfect agony of conviction….  And so the meeting went on until two o’clock a.m., with confession and weeping and praying.[2]

It is said that at the end of the service, missionaries dismissed those who wanted to leave, but one-third stayed with many still “wailing in repentance as if in terrible pain.”[3] The service and time of prayer did not end until 2AM.  The next morning, Kiel Son Choo Moksa, who would become the first pastor of First Church of Pyongyang, was asked to preach.  It is said that families walked over 200 miles to experience what God was doing in Pyongyang.  Hundreds came to faith in Christ the days that followed September 8, 1907.  What is now the capital of North Korea had become the center of Christianity in the Korean Peninsula at the time, and remained that way until the Western Powers withdrew all western missionary leaders before World War II. 

After World War II officially ended and the Korean peninsula was liberated from Japanese occupation, the Peninsula was split in two: South Korea (Western influence) and North Korea (Soviet communist influence).  Today, North Korea is considered the most dangerous place to be a Christian.  It is estimated that there are at least 50,000 Christians in North Korea’s prison camps, with an estimated 200,000 Christians who have gone missing since 1953.  If caught, Christians face arrest, torture, or even public execution.  It has been reported that Christians who find themselves in one of the many prison camps in North Korea will undoubtably experience the following: “extra-judicial killing, extermination, enslavement/forced labor, forcible transfer of population, arbitrary imprisonment, torture, persecution, enforced disappearance, rape and sexual violence and other inhuman acts.”  Yet, the church in North Korea continues to grow with an estimated 200,000 – 500,000 Christians.  Daniel 11:2-12:2 is written also for our brothers and sisters suffering in North Korea. 

I don’t think that Korean Church anticipated the horror that would eventually come upon them after the end of World War II.  For the North, the horror of a Japanese occupation was traded for the horror of the Kim dynasty where they continue to be forced to bow to the images of their dictators and to sing hymns in their honor.  There has been a long history of antichrists in the history of the Church.  There is one who is coming.  When he or she does, how will you stand?  What will sustain you in that season of trouble?  One thing is certain, Jesus said, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18).


[1] Daniel L. Akin, Christ-Centered Exposition: Daniel (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group; 2017), p. 155.

[2] Thomas Kidd, “The Northern Korean Revival of 1907” TGC; May 2, 2017.

[3] Young-Hoon Lee, “Korean Pentecost: The Great Revival of 1907,” and Christianity Today‘s coverage of the 100th anniversary of the revival in 2007.