The End is Near-ish (Part 1)

The End is Near-ish (Part 1)

Daniel 11:2-45

People do weird things during pandemics or other national crises; one thing that we do is stockpile.  The top items that people cleared off the shelves were fruit and vegetable seeds, dumbbells, treadmills, yeast, gaming consoles, facemasks, and booze.  Some other items that people confessed to purchasing because of the pandemic that I found to be a bit strange, include:

  1. Canned Quail Eggs in Water
  2. Anti-aging face masks
  3. Roller Skates
  4. Scented Candles
  5. Toilet Paper
  6. A Bidet for the bathroom

Regarding the stockpiling of toilet paper, PLOS ONE found from their study: “Given that stockpiling is objectively unrelated to saving lives or jobs during a health crisis, this finding supports the notion that toilet paper functions as a purely subjective symbol of safety…”[1] Perhaps the purchasing of bidets during the pandemic was in response to the shortage of toilet paper. 

Of the many reasons people may stockpile or make weird purchases during a pandemic, I suspect that the biggest reason is the desire to be prepared for the unknown.  To be honest with you, one of my motivations in choosing to preach through the book of Daniel is that I needed to be reminded that regardless of the craziness of the day and age we live in, that it is not without purpose or design.  Daniel reminds me that God is working and moving to dispel the darkness of our world, but before he does, two things will remain true until that day comes: Kings and kingdoms will come and go, and that darker days are still to come. 

Daniel chapter 11 is the most precise prophetic chapters in the Bible regarding its detail to human history that was still the future for Daniel.  This is the reason why any person who does not believe the Bible to be a supernatural book ordained by God cannot accept that the book of Daniel was written any time before Antiochus IV.   Because Daniel already addressed the rise of Persia, Greece, and Rome in previous chapters, I will spend most of our time on verses 20-35.  However, I do want highlight for you how precise this chapter is concerning what was coming that was yet in the future of Daniel’s day. 

Kings and Kingdoms Will Come and Go (vv. 2-20)

In verses 3-5, we are given a detailed description of the rise of Alexander the Great and the later division of his empire among four generals after his untimely death in 323 BC.  Notice the detail in these verses:

Then a mighty king shall arise, who shall rule with great dominion and do as he wills. And as soon as he has arisen, his kingdom shall be broken and divided toward the four winds of heaven, but not to his posterity, nor according to the authority with which he ruled, for his kingdom shall be plucked up and go to others besides these. “Then the king of the south shall be strong, but one of his princes shall be stronger than he and shall rule, and his authority shall be a great authority.” (Daniel 11:3–5)

One of the most striking sections of chapter 11 in terms of their prophetic and pinpoint accuracy is found in verses 6-9, which serve to describe the events that led to the eventual rise of Antiochus IV who would set up an idol of Zeus and sacrifice a pig in the Temple where Hebrews worshiped God.  Consider the detail of these verses:

After some years they shall make an alliance, and the daughter of the king of the south shall come to the king of the north to make an agreement. But she shall not retain the strength of her arm, and he and his arm shall not endure, but she shall be given up, and her attendants, he who fathered her, and he who supported her in those times.

And from a branch from her roots one shall arise in his place. He shall come against the army and enter the fortress of the king of the north, and he shall deal with them and shall prevail. He shall also carry off to Egypt their gods with their metal images and their precious vessels of silver and gold, and for some years he shall refrain from attacking the king of the north. Then the latter shall come into the realm of the king of the south but shall return to his own land. (Daniel 11:6–9)

What these verses describe would happen, did happen even in the smallest detail!  Sometime around 250 B.C. a king from Egypt (the South) by the name of Ptolemy II tried to make peace with a king from Syria (the North) by the name of Antiochus II by sending his daughter Berenice to marry him; this was a political marriage.  Berenice is the daughter of the king of the south that Daniel 11 spoke of.  However, for Antiochus to enter this political arrangement by marrying the daughter of the Southern king, he would have to divorce his first wife, Laodice, and disinherit her sons.  Well, this did not sit well with Laodice, so she had Bernice murdered and Antiochus poisoned.  Bernice’s brother, also known as Ptolemy, attacked Syria and looted its temples and returned to Egypt with a lot of gold, silver, and other valuables.  The reason why Egypt and Syria are mentioned in Daniel 11 is because of the role they would play in Israel’s history for the 175 years leading up to Antiochus IV and the horrible violence and suffering he would bring upon the Hebrew people. 

I want to spend the rest of our time looking at Antiochus IV who has yet to come, but before I do, I need to make the following observation.  My guess is that as the Hebrew people lived out their lives under the dominating reign of various kings, that they must have wondered about the purpose of the shifting of powers within empires and the hatred directed at them.  Daniel 11 serves as a reminder that God works his sovereign will even in the smallest of details to accomplish his purposes.  If this was true for Israel as a nation, do you not know that God is equally in the details of the kingdoms of our day?  The shifting of power we see happening today, the power posturing of China, Iran, Russia, and the United States is not without its purpose. 

All of human history is being governed by God and despite the wickedness and violence of the nations; it will all yield to the Prince of Peace to whom the nations must one day bow.  The closer we move to the day when the Messiah takes his seat as King of kings and Lord of lords, darker the days will become.

Dark Days are Still to Come (vv. 21-45)

I believe there are two individuals who are described in these verses.  The first is a man we were first introduced to as the “little horn” in Daniel 7:9 and 8:9-14 (vv. 20-35); the other is a future antichrist. Here we are given a more thorough description of this evil king.  He is described in verse 21 as a, “contemptible person to whom royal majesty has not been given.”  The way he rose to power was, “by flatteries” (v. 22). This man’s name was Antiochus IV (also known as Antiochus Epiphanes).  He grew in power through political alliances that he only honored so long as they benefited him (v. 23), and his reign as a king was marked by violence, a violence he would focus on the Hebrew people he absolutely hated. 

During his campaign in Egypt, he learned of an attempted uprising by the Jews in Jerusalem.  Antiochus put an end to the uprising by attacking Jerusalem and killed at least 40,000 Jews within a matter of days.  After banning Jewish practices such as the circumcision of children and the regular practice of offerings and worship, he entered the temple and sacrificed a pig on the alter.  Antiochus then set up a statue of Zeus in the Holies of Holies and dedicated the temple to the worship of Zeus.  This is what Daniel 11:31 foretold would come: “Forces from him shall appear and profane the temple and fortress, and shall take away the regular burnt offering.  And they shall set up the abomination that makes desolate.”   

Furthermore, Daniel was warned that Antiochus IV would, “seduce with flattery those who violate the covenant, but the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.  And the wise among the people shall make many understand, though for some days they shall stumble by sword and flame, but captivity and plunder” (vv. 32-33).  What was it that this king would do?  He would try to convince any Jew to turn from their God to worship the gods of Greece in exchange for their lives and freedom.  Only those who know their God will be able to resist the temporary temptation of safety because only those who know their God will understand that the offer of Antiochus to turn from God was an offer that would lead to something worse than anything the king could physically do to the Hebrew people.  Many of those who resisted the demands of the king, died as Daniel foretold would happen: “And the wise among the people shall make many understand, though for some days they shall stumble by sword and flame, but captivity and plunder… and some of the wise shall stumble, so that they may be refined, purified, and made white, until the time of the end, for it still awaits the appointed time” (11:33, 35).

Antiochus IV was an evil king who hated the Hebrew people and hated their God, which is the same traits of the coming antichrist that we are warned about in the same manor Daniel was warned concerning Antiochus.  Antiochus eventually died, and he died in such a disgraceful and humiliating way.  It is said that he contracted some form of bowl disease or worms that resulted in him emitting an odor that not even he could stand, which also resulted in his death.  Antiochus believed himself to be a god, but it was the God he hated that he stood before the moment he breathed his final breath. Now he is suffering the same fate the future anti-Christ Antiochus’ life foreshadowed.  Daniel 12:2 speaks of that day: “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.”  Revelation 20:11-15 sheds a little more light on a day many will experience along with Antiochus:

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11–15)

Conclusion

Next week we will look at Daniel 11:36-45, which I believe is a foreshadowing of someone even more ominous than Antiochus IV, namely the future antichrist.  Today, I want to end our time together by focusing on a verse that I believe is for you and me; that verses is Daniel 11:32.  I am absolutely convinced that this verse is not just about Antiochus IV, for I believe it is a warning about the allure of the spirit of antichrist.  What or who is the spirit of antichrist?  Listen to 1 John 2:18-19, “Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:18–19). 

What or who is the spirit of antichrist?  Anyone or anything who would try to seduce you away from the true Christ.  As Jerry Rankin so aptly put it, “The devil is against us, the world is around us, and the flesh is within us, collaborating to defeat us in our Christian walk.”[2]  The enemy around you wants to seduce you into believing that there is a life and joy that is greater than the one God offers that is only available through a relationship with Jesus Christ.  Jesus said: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).  Finding your satisfaction in Jesus is the key to becoming the kind of person Daniel 11:32 said would resist the seduction of this world and the antichrists it produces: “…the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.”  Amen.


[1] Ryan Flanagan, CTV News, “Why did we hoard toilet paper? New research says it wasn’t because of selfishness

[2] Jerry Rankin, Spiritual Warfare (Nashville, TN B&H Publishing; 2009), p. 20.