As we approach the end of Daniel the author is not making our understanding any easier is he? But this should remind us all of encounters we have with art sometimes. I am sure many of us have seen an artistic movie or painting, listened to an artistic song, or read an artistic poem or literature and wrestled with its meaning. The author wrote Daniel 11 in such a way that would cause us to wrestle with the pictures he is painting. In the end I think he wants us to understand…
Theme: As kingdoms are rising and falling we need to remind each other where our True Help comes from.
1. Kingdoms Rising and Falling—Daniel 11.2-20.
Daniel 11.1 gives us the setting of this discourse. Mentioning Darius the Mede should remind the reader we are now back during the same time as Daniel 9.1. This means the discourse is more than likely more details the angel Gabriel gave Daniel. And what we see is Gabriel’s goal is show Daniel the truth (11.2a), which means that is the same reason it has come to us. The truth God is revealing is what will happen in earthly history over the next 355 years. Daniel 11.2 tells us four more kings shall arise in the Persian Empire. One of those is Xerxes who was more powerful and wealthier than many of predecessors. The Greeks defeated Xerxes vast superior force. Daniel 11.3 tells us the final decisive blow by the Greeks comes from a “mighty king,” which is probably Alexander the Great.
While Alexander the Great had a swift rise to prominence he also had a swift fall. After Alexander’s passing his kingdom was broken up into four parts like Daniel 11.4 tells us. His four generals established those four kingdoms. The names of those generals are: Seleucus (SEE-LU-KUS), Ptolemy (TALL-A-ME), Lysimachus (LY-SIM-A-KUS), and Cassander (CAS-SANDER). Eventually the Seleucids and Ptolemies became the only two left. The Seleucids became the kingdom of the North (Syria) and the Ptolemies became the kingdom of the South (Egypt). Most of what is described in Daniel 11.2-20 is the power struggle between the Seleucid and Ptolemy kingdoms. And as I stated before that takes place over 355 years.
We must not forget Daniel’s concern was about his family returning to the “glorious land” (Dan 11.16, 41). What God is telling Daniel and his family, although you will return to your homeland you will be regularly caught in the middle of two kingdoms opposing each other. Their return will not usher in a time of peace and prosperity. What this means for us today just as God had some instructions for Israel during a time when geopolitical parties are warring with each other He also has similar instructions for us. Let’s face it, for many of us we feel this at least every four years in our country. Am I the only one who has felt a rising tension between our two political parties over the past 20 years? God reminds us we cannot put our hope in earthly rulers because they constantly rise and fall.
2. Insane King’s Rise and Fall—Daniel 11.21-35.
As we move into Daniel 11.21-35 we come into the section that would have been extremely important to the original reader. This section would have been important to them because the king who arises in this section gets his sight set on Israel. No longer will Israel be just caught between warring factions, but one of those powers will directly attack Israel, her religion, and way of life.
The king who is described here is the same “little horn” mentioned in Daniel 7.8 & 8.9-14, Antiochus the IV (ANTI-O-KUS). He was a king of the North or Seleucid kingdom. He made several attempts to overtake the kingdom of the South (Ptolemy kingdom). In 168 BC Antiochus made his second attempt to take down Egypt, but the Romans stepped in and drew a line in the sand. They essentially said, “If you try this, then you will have to deal with us.” Antiochus knew he couldn’t defeat Rome. He now needed to replenish his funds for war, so he did that through robbing temples in his region of the world. He got so personally wounded by his defeat in Egypt, that he decided to take it out on someone. Israel became his new target. All of this is described in Daniel 11.29-35.
We can see in Daniel 11.30b that Antiochus sets his sights on Israel. He profanes the temple, takes away the regular burnt offerings, and sets up an “abomination that makes desolate.” Antiochus decided he was going to force his religion on Israel. Antiochus worshiped the god Zeus, so he stopped the temple sacrificial system and placed an altar to Zeus right where the holy of holies was supposed to be. This is what the author calls “the abomination that makes desolate.”
If anyone opposed Antiochus’ religious revolt they would be slaughtered. This is why Daniel 11.32 says, “He shall seduce with flattery those who violate the covenant.” All people had to do to survive Antiochus’ wrath was renounce their faith. Many of the Jews took this approach to their survival. But Daniel 11.33-35 tells us some of God’s people attempted to keep the faith, but even some of them stumbled.
The most important part of these verses is the reminder that God will not abandon His people—READ Daniel 11.34-35. These verses remind us God will help those who stumble. God’s people are not carried through hard times by their own strength or willing themselves into success. No, even a “little help” from God is more than all we have. Paul reminds of this in I Corinthians 1.25, “For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” The most glorious “little help” God has given to the world was Jesus Christ on the Cross. Once again Paul tells us about this in I Corinthians 1.18, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”—I Corinthians 1.18
What we learn from this is God will allow rulers of this world to rise against His people. He allowed earthly rulers to violently murder His Son, yet the means of their destruction becomes the means of our salvation, refinement and purification. For those who truly believe this, God takes their pain and suffering as a means of transformation.
3. The Final Rise and Fall—Daniel 11.36-45.
As move into the section today we come into another controversial section. Some believe Daniel 11.36-45 continues the narrative on Antiochus the IV, and describes the rest of his downfall. Personally I believe this is a description of the Antichrist. I think there are several textual clues that help us see this.
First, this king views himself as a deity—READ Daniel 11.36-37. Second, this king seems to have great military success. In fact, this king accomplishes things Antiochus never did—READ Daniel 11.42-44. This king takes Egypt and the kingdoms of the South. And, third, if we remember Daniel 10-12 is one literary unit, then we can see in Daniel 12.1-3 there are some descriptions that sound more like the final end of all suffering. The author use chiastic structure shows us how we can compare Antiochus and this mysterious king.
Dan 11.21-35: Antiochus IV
Dan 11.36-45: Mysterious King
A Rise and Success [21-24]
A’ Rise and Success [36-39]
B Conflict and Oppression [25-31]
B’ Conflict and Oppression [40-45]
C Suffering and Steadfastness [32-35]
C’ Suffering and Steadfastness [12.1-3]
I think what the author is doing here at the end of this section is showing us how to interpret the rise and fall of all evil earthly rulers throughout human history. What we are meant to do is go back and look for common patterns in the various evil rulers in Daniel. I believe there will be a literal Antichrist, but I also believe the Bible describes earthly rulers who have antichrist attributes. Look with me at these texts:
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.—II Thessalonians 2.3-4
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.—I John 2.18
What should be our take away from all of this? It is my belief that since the coming of Christ, death of Christ, and resurrection of Christ we have entered the “last days.” The resurrection of Jesus was the beginning of the end. But since sin entered the world we must remember there are only two nations. There is God’s people and everyone else. In the words of Augustine there is “City of God” and “city of man.” No one is neutral. You either serve God or those who oppose God. As we saw in Daniel 10 there are real demonic evil spiritual forces working behind the scenes of earthly rulers. What God showed us today is God will allow this evil leaders to have time to rise into power, but eventually He will cut them off at His appointed time, especially in verses 24, 27, 29, 35 & 45. God is warning and encouraging us through this truth. He is warning us to not follow the path of the people in verse 32. We need to know the tactics of these people who work with these demonic forces. Once again Paul clues into some of this in the NT:
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.—II Timothy 4.1-5
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.—I John 2.18-19
We always want to think of those who oppose God as immoral rebellious people. But we forget who opposed our Savior the most were religious people. It was people who twisted the God of Word toward their own evil purposes. We need to come with grips with not everyone who comes into the church is really for Christ. Some of them will have the appearance of Christ-lovers, but they are not. They will go out from us because they are not of us.
While our author is warning us, he is also encouraging us to do what our family did in verses 34-35. Those who are God’s covenant people are will strive to keep the faith even in the midst of persecution, they will stand for God’s truth when others are turning away. God will be our help, even when we stumble, just like He was for Israel. God promises He will use these sufferings to mold us into the likeness of His Son. The antichrist’s try to make themselves equal with God, but those who are truly godly recognize this will never be true. Some of us may not believe we think that way, but the way we function says something to the contrary. In the words of my friend Matt McBee, there is your stated faith and your functional faith. Your functional faith clues us in to what is really in your heart. You see our holiness is the result of God’s goodness and not our self-determination. Friends find a community of people who will help treasure this truth, and let’s guard it together, until we reach the end.