WHEN DOES CHRIST RETURN? PART SEVEN
THE PROPHECY OF DANIEL 11:
While the 70 weeks prophecy brings us to the completion of the covenantal change that Christ facilitated, Daniel also shows a continuum of historical events that lead to this same covenantal change. This continuum of historical events parallels the seventy weeks prophecy and brings us to the time of resurrection and the establishment of the Kingdom. In the 11th and 12th chapters of Daniel we find a prophetic overview of events that leads right up to the destruction of Jerusalem and the return of Christ in the Great Judgment of A.D. 66 to 73.
I have taken the events described in Daniel 11 and compared them to actual historical occurrences. This overview of history, as it compares to Daniel’s prophecy, is a powerful witness to Daniel being led by God in foretelling the dynamics that would lead to the time of resurrection and the establishment of the Kingdom. I include the presentation of this history as strong evidence for the consummation that took place in the first century. While this Chapter may get a little tedious, I encourage the reader to stick with it, as it will provide significant insight into the prophetic dynamics associated with the age ending events, which occurred in the first century.
The chain of historical events prophesied by Daniel begins with the issuing of a decree by Cyrus to rebuild the temple that Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed. In Daniel 10:14, Daniel is told what will befall his people in the years to come. Therefore, it is evident that what follows is about the people of Israel. Daniel 11 begins a long prophecy of events that can be clearly shown from secular history to have taken place in the order given and culminating with the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in A.D. 70. We will now compare the prophecy with history.
Daniel 11:2: Three more kings will appear in Persia, then a forth, who will be far richer than all the others. When he has gained power by his wealth, he will stir up everyone against the kingdom of Greece.
Following the reign of Cyrus, the kings referred to here were Ahasuerus (aka: Cambyses), 529 to 533 B.C., pseudo-Smerdis (aka: Artaxerxes ), 522 to 521 B.C., and Darius Hystaspes, 521 to 485 B.C. It was this Darius, (aka: Ahasuerus) who married Esther, as recorded in the Book of Esther. Xerxes is the fourth king, 485 to 465 B.C. Xerxes was the richest of the four and stirred up war with Greece.
Daniel 11:3-4: Then a mighty king will appear, who will rule with great power and do as he pleases. After he has appeared, his empire will be broken up and parceled out toward the four winds of heaven. It will not go to his descendants, nor will it have the power he exercised, because his empire will be uprooted and given to others.
Alexander the Great of Greece was this mighty king, 336 B.C. to 323 B.C. He defeated the Persian Empire in 331 B.C. and the Greco-Macedonia Empire was born. Alexander died at a young age, and his several wives; two sons and brother were all killed within fifteen years of Alexander’s death. The empire was divided between four of his generals. Ptolemy Soter got Egypt and part of Syria and Judea. Seleucus Nicator was given part of Syria, Babylonia and territory east to India. Lysimachus acquired Trace and part of Asia Minor and Cassander ruled Greece and Macedonia.
Daniel 11:5-6: The king of the South will become strong, but one of his commanders will become even stronger than he and will rule his own kingdom with great power. After some years they will become allies. The daughter of the king of the South will go to the king of the North to make an alliance, but she will not retain her power, and he and his power will not last. In those days she will be handed over, together with her royal escort and her father and the one who supported her.
Ptolemy Soter became a strong ruler in Egypt, but Seleucus Nicator became an even stronger ruler in Syria. After about 50 years, Antiochus II, known also as Theos, became ruler of Syria and Ptolemy Philadelphus became king of Egypt. In 260 B.C. a war broke out between Syria and Egypt, which was terminated in 252 B.C. by a marriage between Antiochus and Bernice, the daughter of Ptolemy. On the death of Ptolemy Philadelphus, Antiochus took back his former wife, Laodice, who had Bernice put to death and then had Antiochus murdered. Laodice then placed her son Callinicus (aka: Seleucus Nicator ) upon the Syrian Throne. Seeing how these events match Daniel 11:5-6, it can be safely determined that Egypt is the king of the South and Syria is the king of the North because of their geographical relationship to Judea which is located between the two. This prophecy of Daniel is focused on Israel. Other nations are discussed only as they in some way relate to Israel. This is true in much of Scripture.
Daniel 11:7-8: One from her own family line will arise to take her place. He will attack the forces of the king of the North and enter his fortress; he will fight against them and be victorious. He will also seize their gods, their metal images and their valuable articles of sliver and gold and carry them off to Egypt. For some years he will leave the king of the North alone.
From the ruling family of Egypt, Ptolemy Euergetes, Bernice’s brother, invaded Syria in 245 B.C. to avenge the death of Bernice. He carried back to Egypt 2,000 molten images. He then left the king of the North, Seleucus II, alone for the next 15 years.
Daniel 11:9-10: Then the king of the North will invade the realm of the king of the South but will retreat to his own country. His sons will prepare for war and assemble a great army, which will sweep on like an irresistible flood and carry the battle as far as his fortress.
Seleucus II died in 226 B.C. After his death, his two sons, Seleucus III, 226-223 B.C., and Antiochus III, 223-187 B.C., assembled large forces to war against Egypt to avenge the Syrian invasion of 245 B.C. Seleucus was killed and Antiochus continued the war to the frontiers of Egypt. The Syrians recovered a certain amount of territory that had been appropriated by Egypt.
Daniel 11:11-13: Then the king of the South will march out in a rage and fight against the king of the North, who will raise a large army, but it will be defeated. When the army is carried off, the king of the South will be filled with pride and will slaughter many thousands, yet he will not remain triumphant. For the king of the North will muster another army, larger than the first; and after several years, he will advance with a huge army fully equipped.
In response to the attack by Syria, the Egyptian king Ptolemy lV (Philopater) came out with an army of 20,000 and inflicted a severe defeat on Antiochus the great, killing many thousands in the process. Twelve years later Philopator died. After his death, Antiochus assembled a great army. He allied himself with Phillip of Macedonia, and along with a number of Jews from Judea, they fought against Egypt and recovered certain territory.
Daniel 11:14-19: In those times many will raise against the king of the South. The violent men among your people will rebel in fulfillment of the invasion, but without success. Then the king of the North will come and build siege ramps and will capture a fortified city. The forces of the South will be powerless to resist; even their best troops will not have the strength to stand. The invader will do as he pleases; no one will be able to stand against him. He will establish himself in the beautiful land and will have the power to destroy it. He will determine to come with the might of his entire kingdom and will make an alliance with the king of the South. And he will give him a daughter in marriage in order to overthrow the kingdom, but his plans will not succeed or help him. Then he will turn his attention to the coastlands and will take many of them, but a commander will put an end to his insolence and will turn his insolence back to him. After this, he will turn back toward the fortresses of his own country but will stumble and fall, to be seen no more.
Antiochus took Sidon from Egypt, and in the battle of Mount Panium in 198 B.C., took away Judea. Phillip of Macedonia joined with Antiochus, as did many Jews. It is these rebel Jews that Daniel refers to as “violent men among your people.” The Egyptian General Scopas, initially subdued the Jews, but was eventually defeated by Antiochus. Antiochus occupied Jerusalem and Judea. He initially showed great favor to the Jews. Antiochus then arranged a marriage between his daughter Cleopatra and Ptolemy Epiphanes, king of Egypt. Through this maneuver Antiochus hoped to get complete control of Egypt, but the plan failed. Antiochus then tried to conquer the islands and coasts of Asia Minor, but was defeated by the Roman commander Cornelius Scipio. He then turned his attention toward the east and attempted to plunder the wealth of Oriental temples in Elymais. Antiochus returned to his own country and was killed by his own people.
Daniel 11:20: His successor will send out a tax collector to maintain the royal splendor. In a few years, however, he will be destroyed, yet not in anger or in battle.
Seleucus lV Philopator succeeded Antiochus and in an effort to maintain the royal splendor, sent a tax collector, Heliodorus, through Judea. Seleucus reigned eleven years when Heliodorus poisoned him.
Daniel 11:21-24: He will be succeeded by a contemptible person who has not been given the honor of royalty. He will invade the kingdom when its people feel secure, and he will seize it through intrigue. Then an overwhelming army will be swept away before him; both it and a prince of the covenant will be destroyed. After coming to an agreement with him, he will act deceitfully, and with only a few people he will rise to power. When the richest provinces feel secure, he will invade them and will achieve what neither his fathers nor his forefathers did. He will distribute plunder, loot and wealth among his followers. He will plot the overthrow of fortresses-but only for a time.
Seleucus IV, only son Demetrius, was in Rome when Heliodorus killed his father. A brother of Seleucus, a younger son of Antiochus the Great, named Antiochus Epiphanes, (Antiochus IV) was able to get rid of Heliodorus and took the throne without a battle in 176 B.C. Antiochus Epiphanes slowly increased in power and replaced the Jewish high priest (prince of the covenant) with someone who would be subservient to him. History records that Antiochus gave away much wealth in order to gain followers.
Daniel 11:25-28: 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.
Antiochus marched against Egypt and was met by his nephew, Ptolemy Philometor, king of the South, who came with an immense army. Antiochus had great success and conquered much of Egypt. Antiochus then pretended to ally himself with Ptolemy against his brother Euergetes II who controlled Alexandria. Antiochus did this in an effort to take control of all of Egypt. The plot, however did not work. Antiochus returned from Egypt with great plunder. Passing through Judea and facing rebellion from some of the Jews, he vented his anger against them, and killed many of the inhabitants of Jerusalem. He sold many as slaves, boiled swine’s flesh and sprinkled the broth on areas of the temple. He removed golden vessels taken from the temple in Jerusalem and took them back to Syria.
Daniel 11:29-35: 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 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. 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 will stumble, so that they may be refined, purified and made spotless until the time of the end, for it will come at the appointed time.
In 168 B.C. Antiochus again invaded Egypt. This time Ptolemy got help from the Roman fleet and Antiochus was forced to surrender to the terms put forth by Popillius, commander of the Roman fleet. Having to leave Egypt, Antiochus returned through Judea in great anger over his defeat in Egypt. He sent troops to Jerusalem who plundered and set fire to the city and killed many Jews. Antiochus published a decree that the Jewish worship was abrogated and that the temple be consecrated to Jupiter Olympius, a Greek god. At the same time he extended special favors to those Jews who would turn from their religion. Antiochus abolished the daily sacrifice, and placed a pagan statue in the temple. A number of Jews abandoned their religion and allied with Antiochus. Another group, led by the priest Mattathias, along with his five sons, remained faithful to the covenant. They led a successful revolt against Antiochus, and restored the temple worship. This group became known as the Maccabees. They held rule in Judea as the Hasmoneans, from around 164 B.C. to 37 B.C. The Maccabees suffered greatly in their battle against oppression but were successful in restoring reasonable stability to the land of Israel.
Daniel 11:36-39: 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. 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 and 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 will distribute the land at a price.
With the death of Antiochus, and the stabilization of Jewish territory and worship under the Maccabees, Daniel’s prophecy appears to take us to the time of Herod the Great, 37 to 4 B.C. Herod was an Edomite who rose to power as a result of his family having a close relationship with the Roman governing authorities. Being a descendant of Esau, brother of Jacob, Herod shared a common ancestry with the Jews and was virtually considered part Jewish. Herod bribed his friend Marc Anthony of Egypt to get rid of Antigonus, the last of the ruling Hasmoneons. Anthony then made Herod king over Judea. Herod honored the Roman Caesars with great building projects including rebuilding the temple to be the magnificent structure it was during the time of Christ. He built many statues of Caesar and even went so far as to place a huge golden eagle at the gate of the temple. The eagle was the emblem of imperial Rome.
The king would have no regard for “the one desired by women.” This appears to be a reference to Herod attempting to kill Christ. History shows Herod to be a very powerful but evil man who killed family members and anyone else that he perceived as a threat to his reign. Daniel said, “he will be successful until the time of wrath is completed.” The time of wrath is often referred to in Scripture as that time of the end of the Old Covenant age. The dynasty of the Herodian family lasted to the time of the destruction of Jerusalem. History shows that Herod continually did things to honor the Roman government and would parcel out land to those who would support his projects.
Daniel 11:40-45: 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 and 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.
Cleopatra, queen of Egypt, hoped to oust Herod and gain the land of Palestine. She also looked to bring Arabia under her domain. She prevailed with Anthony to commit the war against the Arabians to Herod, thinking that if Herod lost and got killed, she would have Palestine, and if he were successful, she would gain Arabia. About this same time a great war broke out between Anthony of Egypt (king of the South) and Augustus of Rome (king of the North). In history this is referred to as the battle of Actium and it resulted in a Roman victory and the death of Anthony and Cleopatra. The Roman armies invaded many lands, including Egypt. Herod accommodated the Romans’ march through Judea on their way to conquering Egypt. History shows that Rome sent an expedition against Edom, Moab and Ammon but it failed to bring these areas under Roman control.
The section of Daniel’s prophecy about reports from the east and north alarming him is somewhat problematical. Some historians feel this could very easily refer to Herod and his being troubled by the report of the wise men that came from the east looking for the Christ child. It was also at this time that Herod’s oldest son Antipater was in Rome (Rome being to the north of Israel), plotting to remove Herod. From the Scriptures we know that Herod had the children killed at Bethlehem. History records that at this same time Herod initiated recriminations against his own family and the Jewish people. Herod had two palaces in Jerusalem, which is located between the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea. Herod died in disgrace shortly after these events.
I have provided this brief overview of historical events to show their alignment with Daniel’s prophecy. These prophesied events take us to the time of Christ and the period of time referred to as the time of the end. As has already been seen, this time of the end related to the ending of the Old Covenant era. Daniel continues his prophecy by saying that at that time a great prince will appear.
Daniel 12:1-3: At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people-everyone whose name is found written in the book-will be delivered. Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.
“At that time” shows a continuation of this prophecy. There is no reason to believe that a gap of thousands of years separates the historical events of Daniel 11 from what Daniel sees happening next. “At that time” is the time of the first century. Chapter 12 is a continuation of chapter 11. It is felt by biblical scholars that “Michael” represents Christ. The context shows this to be the same time of the end outlined by Christ in the Olivet Discourse.
Matthew 24:21: For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now-and never to be equaled again.
Daniel 12:1: There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then.
Later in chapter 12 Daniel shows that these events take place when the power of the holy people is broken. The power of the holy people was broken when the temple and the city of Jerusalem were destroyed. It was at this time that the temple worship and sacrificial system were ended forever. We are looking at a first-century event and not something to occur thousands of years subsequent to this time. It was at this time that the eternal Kingdom was established. This prophecy of Daniel complements the seventy weeks prophecy in Daniel nine. Both these prophecies are in harmony with Christ’s prophecy in the Olivet Discourse. All these prophecies speak of the time of the end and the establishment of the Kingdom of God.