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Chapter Eleven A Warning To God's People
Part One: The Wars Of The Ptolemies And The Seleucids
In taking up the first part of Daniel 11:0 (verses 1-35), I want to emphasize again the words of the apostle Paul that “all scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable” (2 Timothy 3:16, italics added). For in seeking to expand this particular portion I will need to deal almost entirely with a period in history covering about 200 years in connection with the wars that desolated the land of Palestine after the death of Alexander the Great. This may seem very dry and unspiritual to some, but the subject demands this kind of treatment to be made clear. I feel sure if this history is carefully noted it will help many see as never before the absolute unerring precision of God’s holy Word.
We have been given a record that was first made in Heaven; God intended us to study it and to understand it, or He would not have included it in the volume of Scripture. In order to understand it we must take some pains, for it is a portion of the Word that we cannot clearly comprehend unless we take the trouble to investigate and see how it has been fulfilled. For those who decry the study of historical and other subjects in connection with the Word of God, I would mention again the pregnant sentence that “All history is His story.” Surely the man of God can gain much by observing how remarkably history confirms prophecy and sets its seal on the divine inspiration of the Bible. The Holy Spirit never condemns our acquiring the knowledge of this world. It is the wisdom of this world that is set aside as untrustworthy and causing strife and speculation. We are warned against human philosophy, against the reasoning of the human mind uninstructed by divine illumination. But we are not warned against the acquisition of true knowledge if we couple it with the fear of God and the love of the Spirit.
God does not put a premium on ignorance. Some Christians are most short-sighted, narrow-minded, and bigoted; they are intolerant of the opinions of others or of anything outside their own range of vision. Undoubtedly the best cure for this very unchristlike spirit is to spend more time with the blessed Lord Himself. But to this may well be added a helpful, broadening knowledge of facts and events, especially in connection with Scripture.
The angel who had appeared to Daniel told him that in the first year of Darius the Mede, after Babylon’s overthrow, he had stood to strengthen him. In the second verse of Daniel 11:0, he began, as it were, to unroll the scroll of the Scripture of truth: “Behold, there shall stand up yet three kings in Persia; and the fourth shall be far richer than they all: and by his strength through his riches he shall stir up all against the realm of Grecia.” We saw in chapter ten that this vision was given to Daniel in the third year of Cyrus. The first of the three kings who were to follow was his son Cambyses; he was succeeded, not by his own son Smerdis, but by a wretched impostor generally called Pseudo-Smerdis. He looked very much like the son of Cambyses, and by trickery he had himself proclaimed emperor and reigned in the name of Smerdis. Darius Hystaspes succeeded him, and he in turn was succeeded by Xerxes the Great.
This Xerxes was not the last king of Persia, nor is that stated here, though at first sight it might seem to be implied. But he was the fourth and as prophesied, “far richer than they all.” He stirred up Asia against the realm of Greece, and with an immense army of over two and a half million (if we can trust the computation of the historians of those days), he crossed the Hellespont and invaded Greece. But the very size of his army defeated his own purpose, and his soldiers were driven back into Asia. The Grecians never forgave this insult to their race. They nursed the desire for vengeance until the days of Alexander the Great, who is the “mighty king” referred to in verse 3.
There is quite an interval between verses 4 and 5; it is passed over in silence in order to connect the invasion of Alexander with the effort of Xerxes to conquer Greece. After Alexander had established his authority over all Greece, he determined to continue into Asia with the special object of wiping out the former disgrace. He met the forces of Darius Codomanus, utterly defeated them, and laid hold of all the Persian dominion. But he passed away very shortly afterwards in a drunken revel. He died in the very prime of his life, a wretched victim of ill living. This fulfilled the word, “And when he shall stand up, his kingdom shall be broken.”
Verse 4 goes on to tell us that it “shall be divided toward the four winds of heaven; and not to his posterity, nor according to his dominion which he ruled: for his kingdom shall be plucked up, even for others beside those.” Now all this was fulfilled to the letter. Alexander had two sons, Hercules and Alexander, but one was killed before and the other after their father’s death. His kingdom was then divided, as God had said it would be. Thus the great world empire that Alexander had established at such a tremendous cost was broken into warring fragments; none of them ever attained the splendor or power of his kingdom. After the battle of Ipsus in 301 B.C., his dominions were parceled out among four of his generals, as we saw in chapters 7-8. From this point on, our chapter only deals with two of them and their successors: namely Ptolemy Lagus, ruler of Egypt and Seleucas, Satrap of Syria. The angel had told Daniel he was going to show him what would happen to his people (10:14). The other two kingdoms had no place in connection with Israel or their land.
Verses 5-35 describe the wars of the Seleucids and the Ptolemies for about two centuries. These rulers are called respectively the king of the North and the king of the South-the directions are relative to the land of Palestine, which in God’s eye is the center of the earth. “When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel. For the Lord’s portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance” (Deuteronomy 32:8-9).
It will almost be necessary to take up Daniel 11:5-35 verse by verse. I pray that it may impress every heart with the absolute perfection of the Holy Scriptures and their correctness down to the smallest detail. The king of the South mentioned in verse 5 was Ptolemy Lagus. The expression “one of his princes” may refer to the fact that Ptolemy was one of Alexander’s princes; or, as others judge more likely, it means that Seleucas Nicator, governor of Syria, at first was subject to Ptolemy, who was stronger and had the greatest dominion of the four into which the empire had been divided. But on the death of Lagus, when Ptolemy Soter succeeded him, conditions were reversed.
The dominion of Seleucas was enlarged by the annexation of Babylon, Media, and the surrounding nations. He threw off his allegiance to Egypt and ruled independently. Naturally, this brought about a state of warfare and enmity between the two kingdoms but as we read in verse 6, “in the end of years they shall join themselves together.” This was in the reign of Nicator’s grandson Antiochus Theos who arranged a treaty of peace with Ptolemy Philadelphus. The treaty was confirmed by the king of the South’s daughter, Berenice being given in marriage to Antiochus, who divorced his own wife Laodice for this purpose. But God had declared that “she shall not retain the power of the arm; neither shall he stand, nor his arm: but she shall be given up, and they that brought her, and he that begat her, and he that strengthened her in these times” (6). All this was fulfilled as predicted. Laodice managed to stir up her friends against the king; as a result Berenice and all her attendants were put to death. Antiochus then reinstated his divorced queen, who shortly afterwards poisoned him and had her son Seleucas Callinicus crowned in his place.
“Out of a branch of her roots”-that is, from Berenice’s family, one was to stand up in his place for office; he would come with an army into the fortress of the king of the North and prevail against him (verse 7). This refers to her brother Ptolemy Euergetes, who forced his way across the land of Palestine with a mighty army, spreading desolation everywhere. He was actuated by the desire to avenge the murder of his sister and to wipe out the dishonor inflicted on Egypt. He was completely successful, utterly defeating Callinicus and reaping an immense spoil. But news of a sedition in Egypt caused him to hurry back, carrying with him an immense number of captives with “their gods, with their princes, and with their precious vessels of silver and of gold” (8). He did not return to Syria, and Callinicus himself died shortly afterwards by a fall from his horse. Ptolemy reigned four years longer, thus continuing “more years than the king of the north” (8).
In the tenth verse the sons of Callinicus are contemplated. These are known in history as Seleucus Ceraunus and Antiochus the Great. They assembled a great force to inflict retribution on the Egyptians. But Ceraunus died in less than two years, leaving his brother sole ruler. He was one of the most notable kings of those days and lost no time in pressing an Egyptian invasion. He led an army of seventy-five thousand against the hereditary foes of his house. But he proved no match for the indolent and despised king of the South, Ptolemy Philopator, who could barely be dragged away from his pleasures and follies to lead an army against the invaders. At the battle of Raphia, he defeated Antiochus with great slaughter and reconquered all the land that had previously been wrested from him. He put Antiochus under tribute and returned to Egypt crowned with military glory. But like another Alexander, he then gave himself up to wickedness and licentiousness. Upon a revolt occurring soon after in Syria, Ptolemy Philopator concluded an ignoble peace with Antiochus, because he was too depraved and indolent to follow up his victories. After his death, Egypt sank lower than it had been for years. All this is briefly sketched in verses 11-12.
With the succession to the throne of Philopator’s son Ptolemy Epiphanes, a mere child, Antiochus the Great formed an alliance with Philip the Third of Macedon. He also sought to rally the Jews to his standard. The faithful among them refused to serve in his army; but the apostates, “the robbers of thy people,” (14) readily entered into covenant with him and proved a very great help on a number of occasions. With his united armies he besieged the Egyptian garrison left in Jerusalem and put it to the sword. He defeated Scopias the Egyptian general at Paneas, who fled to the fenced city of Sidon but was there destroyed. The Egyptian armies, sent to deliver Paneas, were likewise routed, and Antiochus found himself completely supreme. On his return from the Egyptian wars, he entered into “the glorious land”-that is Palestine. There, because of the help rendered by his Jewish troops, he bestowed on the people many evidences of his favor. The last clause of verse 16 should read, “which by his hand shall be perfected.” It refers undoubtedly to the fact that in his time Palestine became a more peaceful and fruitful country than it had been for half a century.
Verse 17 was fulfilled in Antiochus’ effort to undermine the remaining influence and power of Ptolemy Epiphanes by giving him his daughter Cleopatra in marriage. He had previously charged her that she should, after her marriage, act for her father’s interests in everything. But it was written, “she shall not stand on his side, neither be for him” (17). Cleopatra proved a faithful wife to Epiphanes, supporting him against her father, who was naturally disappointed that his well-laid plans had completely miscarried.
Antiochus determined now to extend the glory of his dominions by conquering Greece. First the isles of the Aegean sea were subjugated to his sway, and then he crossed over with his armies into Greece. At that point a most unexpected event took place. The iron kingdom (the Roman empire) was at this time just beginning to make its presence felt. It was destined to be the fourth and last on earth, before the establishment of the kingdom of the Son of man. The Grecians had entered into an alliance with the Romans, so they at once notified their powerful allies of the danger to which they were exposed. The Roman senate commissioned Lucius Scipio Asiaticus to go to their relief with an army of tried warriors. He met Antiochus in battle and utterly defeated him, and on the most ignominious terms sent him back to his home. Scipio is undoubtedly “the prince” or as some versions render it, “commander,” referred to in verse 18. Thus Antiochus, humbled and in deep distress, turned his face toward “the fort of his own land,” but according to the Scripture of truth, he was “to stumble and fall and not be found” (19). This was fulfilled when, in his need and desperation, he attempted with a band of soldiers to plunder the temple of Jupiter at Elymais. He and his warriors were slain by the infuriated populace, incensed at what they considered a grave act of sacrilege.
In verse 20 we read, “Then shall stand up in his estate a raiser of taxes, in the glory of the kingdom: but within few days he shall be destroyed, neither in anger, nor in battle.” This was the son of Antiochus, Seleucus Philopator. In desperate need of money owing to the wretched condition in which his father had left the kingdom, he sent Heliodorus to plunder the temple of Jehovah at Jerusalem. Upon his return with the booty, Heliodorus treacherously assassinated his master after he had reigned twelve years; this was only a “few days” as compared with the long reign of Antiochus which extended to nearly forty years.
In verses 21-35, we read a profile of the fearful monster who has well been called the “antichrist of the Old Testament,” because of his unfailing hatred of the people and worship of Jehovah. He is the one described in chapter 8 as the infamous and blasphemous “little horn” that sprang out of one of the four horns on the head of the Grecian goat. His name is cursed to this day by all Jews in every land. He was called by his fawning courtiers Antiochus Epiphanes- that is, “the splendid or magnificent.” But someone of his day changed one letter of his name and called him Antiochus Epimanes, meaning “the mad man,” because of his wild pranks and almost insane follies and brutalities. He was stirred with such hatred against the Jews and their religion that there was no atrocity too great for this wretched king to perpetrate. He is well described as a vile person who came in peaceably and obtained the kingdom by flatteries. At the beginning he made a league both with the Jews and with Ptolemy Philometer, but he proved false to each as God had declared he would (22-24). I assume that “the prince of the covenant” in Israel was a title given here to the high priest. It is a notorious fact that Epiphanes degraded the office by selling the high priesthood to the vilest man to be found among the apostate part of the Jewish people.
In accordance with verse 25, he “stirred up his power and his courage against the king of the south with a great army.” The king of the South, Philometer, came against him to battle “with a very great and mighty army,” but was unable to stand because of the treachery of his own sons and household servants who betrayed him to Antiochus. This fulfilled verse 26: “Yea, they that feed of the portion of his meat shall destroy him, and his army shall overflow: and many shall fall down slain.” Professing great magnanimity, Antiochus proposed a truce, and the two kings met “at one table.” There they made promises which they never intended to keep, thus “speaking lies” (27).
Angered by the exultation of the Jews who had heard that he had been slain in Egypt, Antiochus marched his armies against Jerusalem. He inflicted on them all the horrors of a siege and sack, sparing neither age, sex, nor condition. In their desperation the Jews appealed to the Romans, who had intervened before on behalf of the Grecians; they requested their assistance in what was to them a life and death struggle for their religion and their liberty. Marching against the Maccabees, Antiochus was met by Popilius Loenus and the other Roman envoys at the head of an army. Popilius demanded that Antiochus at once cease his interference with the Jews, bind himself to accept the decree of the Roman senate, keep the peace, and acknowledge Rome’s authority. Epiphanes asked for time to consider the terms proposed for his acceptance. But Popilius drew a circle around Antiochus with his sword or staff and demanded that he decide before he stepped out of the ring. Having no alternative, he submitted, evidently with no intention of keeping the pledges he made. The “ships of Chittim” (30), refer to the Roman galleys sent in response to the pitiful plea of the Jews.
After the Romans had gone, Antiochus perjured his allegiance and turned once more on the devoted sons of Israel, “having indignation against the holy covenant.” Certain traitorous Jews, described as “them that forsake the holy covenant,” (30) formed a league with him and betrayed their own compatriots to the tyrant who hated them. He set up a statue of Jupiter Olympus, whom he identified with himself, in the temple at Jerusalem. He sacrificed a sow on the altar and put a stop to the oblations to Jehovah, declaring that he alone should be an object of worship. The faithful of Judah, horrified beyond measure at his unspeakable sacrilege, took up arms against him, led by the heroic family of the Maccabees and were slaughtered by thousands.
This was the placing of “the abomination that maketh desolate,” predicted in verse 31, in connection with the pollution of the sanctuary and the taking away of the daily sacrifice. The 2300 days of Daniel 8:0 commenced with this act of desecration by Antiochus. At the end of that period, the sanctuary was cleansed and sacrifices to Jehovah reinstituted.
Verses 32-35 describe the conditions prevailing among the Jews in that awful time of suffering, never to be paralleled until the great tribulation of the last days. In fact they picture the whole history of the people of Judah from the time when they were joined to the Roman empire right on to the time of the end, or the seventieth week of which we have already spoken.
The last chapter of Daniel reveals another abomination of desolation. This was also spoken of by our Lord Jesus Christ, when He was on earth, as still to come in the future (Matthew 24:0). We will read of that abomination in the last chapter.
In concluding this historical outline of the wars of the kings of the North and the South, I would emphasize that prophecy is only history prewritten. In this instance, even in the most minute details, history is seen to be prophecy fulfilled. It is terrible presumption to refuse to heed the solemn lessons of such a record and deliberately reject the testimony of the inspired Word of God. Even the natural mind, if at all unbiased and unwilling to learn, must be impressed by this remarkable correspondence between history and prophecy; it should lead any truly honest soul to exclaim, “God spake all these words!”
Remember that He who spoke these words is the God who has inspired all Scripture. He will hold all men responsible to accept the testimony He gives them, or be eternally banished from His holy presence if they persist in rebelling against His authority and refusing His Word. That Word is given to you now to warn you of your danger and point the way to salvation. That Word will be opened on the day of judgment; if you appear there unsaved, you must be judged according to what is written there. In the ages to come, when the redeemed look back over their pathway here on earth, they will exclaim like Israel in the land of Canaan, “There hath not failed one word of all his good promise” (1 Kings 8:56); so each lost soul will cry out in bitter anguish, “Not one word has failed of all that God declared in regard to the doom of the impenitent and the Christ rejecter!”
It is important to deal with God on the basis of the atoning work of His blessed Son, in order to know Him as your own personal Savior. May those of you who have no hope and are without God in the world, be aroused by the study of the book of Daniel to see the danger in which you stand. You need to turn to Him, who once in infinite grace gave Himself for our sins on Calvary’s cross of shame.
The Maccabees, in the days of Antiochus, were called the hammers of God, and God has asked, “Is not my word like as a fire? saith the Lord; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?” (Jeremiah 23:29) Preaching the gospel is just like hammering away at hard hearts. Sadly there is little response! I heard of a traveling man who used to go to a town where there were many factories and foundries. In that town scores of immense steel hammers were pounding away continuously. The noise was deafening and this gentleman found it impossible to sleep in that town, for the noise sounded day and night. The people of the town were so thoroughly used to it that they could sleep through it all. But one night something went wrong with the power plant, and all the hammers stopped. At once the whole town woke up. What awakened them? It was the unusual quiet and stillness after years of deafening sound.
Beloved friends, the day is drawing near when God’s hammers will all cease their pounding. Soon gospel days will have ended and the message of love and grace, which you have refused so long, will have ceased. Then there will indeed be a great awakening-an awakening when it is too late to be saved.
The kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man [will] hide themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And [say] to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand? (Revelation 6:16-17)
But no hiding place will avail in that day. God will no longer be dealing in grace, but in stern intrinsic justice with those who have not received the love of the truth that they might be saved. Their heart-rending cry will be, “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved” (Jeremiah 8:20).
0 dear unsaved one, weigh these things well and trifle no longer with the question of the eternal destiny of your precious soul still unsettled. If you continue to reject the Spirit of grace, “what wilt thou say when he shall punish thee?” (Jeremiah 13:21)
Part Two: The Antichrist
Between Daniel 11:35 and 36 there is an interval of many centuries. The history of the kings of the North and South is now closed. Another dreadful character, of whom Antiochus Epiphanes was merely a forerunner, or type, is at once introduced-the willful king, the great personal antichrist of the last days.
“Ye have heard,” said the apostle John, “that antichrist shall come” (1 John 2:18). He at once goes on to say that already there are many antichrists. But he distinguishes clearly between these lesser forerunners of the final apostasy and the future impious personage. He is so frequently mentioned in prophecy as the very incarnation of lawlessness and blasphemy, but only in 1 John is he distinctly called by name.
I suppose there are very few prophetic teachers, of any Scriptural discernment, who question the application of the present passage to antichrist. The only question would be as to his identity; a great many different solutions of the problem have been proposed. According to many, Antiochus Epiphanes fulfilled in himself all that is here predicted of the willful king. Others, recognizing the interval between verses 35 and 36, consider this passage parallel to Revelation 13:0 and apply it to the emperor Nero, the first Roman persecutor of the Christians. To many, Simon Magus, the impostor of Acts 8:0, was the antichrist. Some Romanist doctors applied the passage to Mohammed, the false prophet of Arabia; while many Protestant interpreters from Luther’s day to the present, have found in these words a description of the papacy. There are others-and their judgment seems to me to be the correct one-who hold that none of these characters fully meet the requirements of the case; consequently the antichrist is still to arise in the future and will only come upon the scene in the time of the end.
In this section I hope to make clear my reasons for rejecting the hypothesis that the papacy, while evidently anti-christian in character, is the antichrist. For now I will simply endeavor to bring out what seems to me to be the clear teaching of the passage.
First, in order to understand the part to be played by antichrist in the world’s great crisis, I will attempt to point out the various leaders who are to occupy prominent positions in the coming day. We have already seen that in the latter times, when the transgressors are come to the height of their power, the Roman empire is to be revived in a ten-kingdomed condition (Daniel 7:0). Ten European powers are to be united in one federation. To bring this about there will be a union of socialistic and imperialistic policies. One of these ten kings will become arbiter of Europe. This chief ruler is the one in Revelation 13:1-8 and other portions, emphatically called “the beast.” In the seventh chapter of Daniel he is seen as the little horn of the West. In the time of the end this little horn, the beast, will have his seat in Rome. He will be utterly infidel, throwing off all pretension to the fear of God, and will set himself up as the only god worthy of adoration. Apostate Christendom will pay universal homage to him after the destruction of the great anti-church, “Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth” (Revelation 17:5). This worship will evidently not only be the acknowledgment that deity dwells in this man, it also will be the recognition of the blasphemous tenet that God and man are one (a tenet presently accepted by Christian Science, and the New Age). The beast will be the embodiment of intellectual force and brilliancy, the peerless coming man for whom the nations have been waiting so long. Like Napoleon Bonaparte, he will dazzle the nations by his almost superhuman abilities and unparalleled success. To him men will gladly grant the title Napoleon arrogated to himself, “The Man of Destiny.”
In the east, as we saw in chapter 8, another power will for a time dispute the preeminence of the beast. This will be the little horn of Asia. The last Gentile ruler of the lands now dominated by Turkey will be the one in whom this prophecy is fulfilled. He is in no sense to be confused with the little horn of the seventh chapter who arises out of the Roman empire. The little horn of the eighth chapter will arise from one of the divisions of the empire of Alexander the Great. He is identified, I believe, with the Assyrian of Isaiah 10:24-25 and will be the special enemy of the Jews in the time of the end. In Isaiah we read, after the prophecy of the return of the remnant to their land:
Therefore thus saith the Lord God of hosts, O my people that dwellest in Zion, be not afraid of the Assyrian: he shall smite thee with a rod, and shall lift up his staff against thee, after the manner of Egypt. For yet a very little while, and the indignation shall cease, and mine anger in their destruction.
We get the manner of this destruction in Isaiah 14:24-25:
The Lord of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand: That I will break the Assyrian in my land, and upon my mountains tread him under foot: then shall his yoke depart from off them, and his burden depart from off their shoulders.
It is not to any past destruction of Assyria that these words refer; for this defeat is to take place after the restoration of Israel to Palestine in the last days. It will be God’s settlement of the so-called Eastern question.
We learned that this little horn will stand up in great wrath against the Jews, “but not in his own power.” He is evidently to have the backing of some more powerful nation, who for selfish purposes will aid him in his nefarious effort to destroy the people of God in that day. In Ezekiel 38-39 we find, I have no doubt, a full account of the power referred to. There we read of “Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal.” Scholars generally are agreed that in place of “chief prince,” we should read, “prince of Rosh”; and there can hardly be any question that Rosh means Russia. “Gog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal,” will evidently be the last czar of all the Russias. Some suppose Meshech and Tubal to be identical with Moscow and Tobolsk, the ancient European and Asiatic capitals of the Slav empire. It would seem that this ruler will join with the Turkish sultan in opposing the pretensions of the beast. We can already see events in Europe tending to this. There will be a western and an eastern confederation, and Palestine will be the bone of contention between them.
A fourth figure, destined to attract considerable attention in the crisis will be the king of the South, a future ruler of an apparently independent Egypt. Though he will oppose the antichrist, he will act in conjunction with the beast in opposition to his hereditary enemies the Turks.
In the book of the Revelation the apostle speaks of the drying up of the Euphrates, “that the way of the kings of the east [or, from the sunrising] might be prepared” (Revelation 16:12). The drying up of the Euphrates would seem to imply the breaking up of the Turkish power; for as the Nile stands for Egypt, so does the Euphrates for the Ottoman empire. “The kings of the sunrising” may very well be a descriptive term referring to the nations of the Far East.
If we are thus far correct in our effort to forecast from Scripture the principals in the last great drama of Gentile dominion, we have located an emperor-king of the West, a king of the North, a king of the South, and an alliance of kings of the East, all of whose armies will be marching down upon Palestine at about the same time. Jehovah’s land will be the battle-ground for the fearful Armageddon conflict. Thus Palestine will be exposed to all the horrors and ravages incident to the last premillennial war. It is for this time of horror, little as they realize it, that the Jews from eastern and southern Europe are now returning in large numbers to their ancient home. They are going back that their forefathers’ awful prayer may be fully answered, “His blood be on us, and on our children” (Matthew 27:25). Poor misguided people-the nation of the wandering foot-they fancy that at last a refuge is being provided for them where they will be safe from persecution and secure from danger; but they are really preparing unwittingly for the wine-press of the wrath of God, from which blood shall flow to the horses’ bridles for one thousand six hundred furlongs-the whole actual length of Palestine (Revelation 14:18-20).
After the church has been called away to Heaven, there will arise in the city of Jerusalem a man who will present himself to the Jews as the messiah long promised through the prophets. The apostate part of the nation will at once acknowledge his claims; they will say of him, “This is indeed the messiah for whom we have waited so long; this is the one of whom our Scriptures speak.” I judge he will be largely instrumental, in the beginning, in securing them concessions from the Turkish government, that they may be established in their land. Afterwards he will form a league with the Roman beast, establishing a covenant between him and the nation for seven years, guaranteeing his protection and the integrity of the new Jewish state. Such was the program outlined by the great Zionist leader Zangwill. The Jewish agitator, Max Nordau, said some time ago, “We are ready to own any man as our messiah who will establish us again in the land of our fathers.”
This will be, I doubt not, exactly what will take place in the coming day. Some great Jew-perhaps he is living now-is going to come to the front who will have much to do in bringing about this restoration. He will be acknowledged by the western powers as political head of Palestine. He is “the king” of Daniel 11:36-39:
The king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done. Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god: for he shall magnify himself above all. But in his estate shall he honour the God of forces: and a god whom his fathers knew not shall he honour with gold, and silver, and with precious stones, and pleasant things. Thus shall he do in the most strong holds with a strange god, whom he shall acknowledge and increase with glory: and he shall cause them to rule over many, and shall divide the land for gain.
I now desire to show why the antichrist will be a Jew living in the land of Palestine; his seat will be in Jerusalem, and he will be acknowledged by the nation of Israel as their messiah. In doing so I wish to show why the Roman Catholic pope cannot be the one prophesied of here; no pope has ever fulfilled these necessary qualifications, nor is it likely that one ever will. In the first place, it is important to notice that the name antichrist means simply the false messiah; he is the one to whom our Lord Jesus Christ referred when He said, “I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive” (John 5:43). The antichrist then is to be received by the Jews. Has this ever been the case with the popes? Is there any apparent possibility that the Jewish people will ever acknowledge the papacy (which has existed for long centuries) as their messiah, the hope of their nation? Messiah was promised to the Jews. To them He came in grace, only to be rejected. When the false messiah comes they will accept his claims and hail his advent with joy.
You should not imply from this that only Israel will be deceived by him. From the second chapter of 2 Thessalonians (a passage we shall be considering later on), it is plain that apostate Christendom will also fall into his snare. The Roman beast will be the civil ruler of the West, while antichrist will be the religious ruler. The power behind both will be “that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan” (Revelation 20:2). This will be the anti-trinity-Satan, the beast, and the false prophet (20:10). All the nations of the earth will be deceived by them.
The Jews have never owned the pope as messiah. No pope has made a seven-years’ covenant with them. Nor has any pope had his throne in Jerusalem or dwelt in the land of Palestine. So it seems clear that there is practically nothing in Scripture to identify the papacy with the antichrist. Do not misunderstand and think that I am defending the papacy. I believe it to be an evil thing, but it is not the antichrist.
When antichrist comes he is to do according to his will and to exalt himself and magnify himself above every god. These gods are undoubtedly the idols of the heathen. But he is also to “speak marvellous things against the God of gods.. .neither shall he regard the God of his fathers” (Daniel 11:36-37). Now I submit that only in the wildest hyperbole can such words be applied to the worst of the popes. It is true that some have permitted themselves to be addressed most blasphemously. It is true that a Jesuit writer even dared to speak of “our Lord God the pope.” It is likewise true that the pope has been said to have an intimacy with the Father in which even the Lord Jesus Christ does not share. This is based on the Lord’s words to Peter concerning his confession: “Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 16:17). From this, the Jesuits argue that the “first pope” (Peter) had special illuminations and secrets with the Father in which the Son did not share. They have declared that the same privilege belongs to his successors; so they believe it is safer in some cases to go to the pope than to Christ!
All these things are blasphemous and must make every truly devout soul shrink from such teaching. But when the last great antichrist arises it will be even worse than this. The pope, at least, has never claimed to be above every god. His very title disproves this. He is called the vicegerent of Christ; he takes the place of being, in a very special sense, God’s representative on the earth. It will be otherwise with the antichrist. He refuses to own any God. He comes in his own name and utterly denies “the God of his fathers.” What are we to understand by this last expression? It must mean that he is a Jew and that his fathers after the flesh were Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Such is the invariable use of the expression in the Old Testament. I take it as evidence that the antichrist is by birth a Jew, but a Jew who has apostatized from the God of his fathers. How could any but a Jew impose on his nation as being the messiah? It is clearly predicted in their Scriptures that the hope of Israel is to spring from the favored nation.
We are also told, in verse 37, that he will not regard the desire of women, nor any god; he will magnify himself above all. Now it seems evident that “the desire of women” refers to the fact that every Jewish woman hoped that it might be the will of God that through her the Messiah would be born into the world. He was emphatically the desire of women. Antichrist utterly disregards Him, pretending to be himself the predicted one.
But there is a god whom he acknowledges, though evidently a merely natural and human personage. He will “honour the god of forces: and a god whom his fathers knew not shall he honour with gold, and silver, and with precious stones, and pleasant things” (38). This god can be none other than the little horn, the Roman beast. As we have seen, antichrist will turn to him for assistance and support. On his part, the beast will acknowledge and increase the glory of this civil head of the empire, causing him “to rule over many” who might not otherwise have accepted his authority. He and the antichrist will divide the land of Palestine for gain. I maintain that it is utterly incongruous to attempt to apply all this to the pope; but taken in its natural meaning, all is plain and simple.
From verse 40 to the end of the chapter we have a graphic account of the beginning of the conflict of the last days. The king of the South marches against Jerusalem, and the king of the North comes down like a whirlwind with a vast army and navy. He will enter the glorious land and adjacent countries, except the lands anciently occupied by Edom, Moab, and Ammon. He is triumphant everywhere at first. Egypt is unable to stand against his victorious armies, and he asserts his sway over the land of the Pharaohs, and Libya, and Ethiopia. But alarmed by news from the East and the North, he turns back with great fury to meet the powers-doubtless of the beast and the kings from the sunrising. But on the mountains of Israel between the seas he comes to his end, and none can help him. Thus the last king of the North, the eastern little horn, is finally destroyed. We do not read here of antichrist’s destruction. That is given to us in Revelation 19:20.
Before closing, I wish to note several other Scriptures that add to our knowledge of the false messiah. In Zechariah 11:0, after the prophet, personifying the Lord Jesus as the Good Shepherd, is priced at thirty pieces of silver, Zechariah is told to take the instruments of a foolish shepherd.
For, lo, [says God] I will raise up a shepherd in the land, which shall not visit those that be cut off, neither shall seek the young one, nor heal that that is broken, nor feed that that standeth still: but he shall eat the flesh of the fat, and tear their claws in pieces. Woe to the idol shepherd that leaveth the flock! the sword shall be upon his arm, and upon his right eye: his arm shall be clean dried up, and his right eye shall be utterly darkened (16-17, italics added).
This idol shepherd is clearly the same as the willful king of Daniel 11:0. He is to be raised up in the land-an expression that can refer only to the land of Palestine. He is, beyond a doubt, the one to whom the Lord Jesus was referring in John 5:43. The true Shepherd, who came in the name of the Father, had been rejected, but the Jews would receive the false shepherd who comes in his own name.
Let us now turn our attention to Revelation 13:0. In the first half of the chapter we have the description of the Roman beast. But, beginning with verse 11, we read of another beast coming up out of the earth, or land; he had two horns like a lamb, and he spoke as a dragon. That is, he looks like and presents himself as the Lamb of God, but his speech is that of the great deceiver of souls. He exercises all the power of the first beast before him, demanding that all worship the first beast. He even does great wonders in order that men may acknowledge the claims of the beast; he makes “fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men,” to deceive them. He sets up the abomination of desolation, causing men to make an image to the beast, which all must worship on pain of death. All this is in perfect harmony with what we have learned as to the mutual relationship of the beast and antichrist in the book of Daniel. The lamb-like beast comes up from the earth. He is in the land, and his placing the abomination that causes desolation is the signal given by the Lord Jesus for the faithful remnant to flee from Jerusalem.
The signs and wonders with which he deceives the world are also mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2:0. When laboring in Thessalonica, the apostle told the Thessalonian Christians that before the day of the Lord would come, Christ Himself would descend into the air, and all His saints would be caught up to meet Him (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). But it would seem that a report had been spread among them that the day of the Lord had already come, and Paul wrote a second letter to correct this error. He encouraged them not to be shaken in their minds, nor fearful in regard to this. He told them that day could not come until the apostasy had first taken place and the man of sin been revealed, “the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4).
He goes on to speak of a hinderer, who at the present time is holding back the floodtide of evil (2:6-7). That hinderer is the presence of the Holy Ghost in the church on earth. At the rapture of the saints, when all the redeemed are caught up to meet the Lord in the air, the Holy Spirit will have returned to Heaven.
Then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness (8-12).
How perfectly this fits in with the testimony we have been examining in other parts of the Word of God! While the church is on earth the mystery of lawlessness is already working, but the full revelation of evil cannot take place while Christians are in this world. When that time comes we will be above it all, having been caught up to meet the Lord in the air.
The mystery of lawlessness and the many antichrists of 1 John 2:18 are intimately connected. So here we have a point of agreement with persons who think that the papacy is the antichrist. We disagree with them only as to the use of the article. The papal system is an antichrist; this is true of every system that turns souls away from the truth concerning Christ and His work as the only ground of salvation. Christian Science is an antichrist; Mormonism is another; and so with Spiritism and a host of other ancient and modern cults and fads. The crowning evil of them all is perhaps what is now known as liberal theology, heralded from a thousand pulpits by men who glory in their freedom from subjection to the Word of God. They do not hesitate to brand the Scriptures as a collection of myths and fables, untrustworthy, and less to be relied on than their own vapid utterances. Every little while some one who has been supposed to be an orthodox Christian preacher comes out with the declaration that he has discovered the unreliability of this or that book of the Bible. His reckless assertions are received with delight by congregations of Christless, unconverted professors, who are glad to be absolved from allegiance to a book whose teachings prick their consciences while they live for themselves in this world.
If the day ever came that a man who had actually known the Lord Jesus as his own Savior and had enjoyed communion with Him was forced by irresistible evidence to believe that the Bible was not true and the precious gospel story an unreliable tradition of men, do you know what would happen to that man? His heart would be broken. He would never be found among the shallow, empty religionists of the day, who can complacently acquiesce to the teachings of the so-called higher critics and liberal preachers. He would be found weeping with Mary and exclaiming in deepest grief, “They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him” (John 20:13).
But it is very different for false professors who drink in so greedily the infidelity that Christless preachers proclaim. What has the rejection of the truth of Scripture done for these men? When they thought the Bible true, it served as a check on their lawless desires and appetites. They chafed under its restraints. But when they threw the doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture out the window, they were never so happy in all their lives!
I assure you beloved, people who really know Christ would feel very differently about having to give up the precious Word of God through which He was revealed to their souls. They are acquainted with the divine Person, the Son of the living God. The others had but a theory, which they are thankful enough to be rid of.
Those who preach these false gospels are the many antichrists of the present dispensation. When the lawless one himself is revealed, they will be the first to acknowledge his impious claims. They will be deceived by the strong delusion sent from God so that all who did not receive the love of the truth might be judged.
Already it would seem as though that strong delusion were beginning. I know nothing sadder than the awful power of these evil things that are spreading through Christendom, eating out the very life of the church like a moral or religious cancer. How seldom you see a soul brought back from the awful abyss of cults! The reason is plain: there is a Satanic power working in them all that gains absolute control over those who have heard the gospel of God only to refuse and reject it. But, thank God, there are those to whom the words of the apostle apply: “But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:13).
God grant that each one that reads these words may be found as a child of God, born of the Holy Spirit and of the Word, filled with joy in the knowledge of peace made and redemption accomplished through the glorious work of Christ on the cross.
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Daniel 11". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30