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Sermon on the Mount
9. Antichrist, Resurrection, and the Last Days (Daniel 11:36-12:13)by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
Detail from Luca Signorelli, 'Sermon and Deeds of the Antichrist' (1499-1502), fresco, Chapel of San Brizio, Duomo, Orvieto, Italy.
Thus far, there is general agreement that in Daniel 11, the Greek kings through Antiochus Epiphanes IV have been the focus of Daniel's prophecy. But there is disagreement about the individual described in 11:36-45. Yes, Antiochus declared himself the "manifest god," but he himself worshipped the pantheon of Greek gods, "the gods of his fathers." In fact, he seems to have been recognized for his "piety" by building temples and shrines to the Greek gods throughout his lands. Antiochus doesn't fit this description:
"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." (11:37)
The figure described in these verses goes substantially beyond Antiochus Epiphanes. Rather, he seems to be the Antichrist described in the New Testament who will come in the Last Days. Antiochus Epiphanes is certainly a type of the Antichrist who does God's people great harm, but the true Antichrist (the antitype) is much worse.
I must acknowledge that there is no break in the flow of the text between verses 35 and 36 that would suggest that a different king is now in view. Thus, it's important not to be dogmatic and intolerant of those who might see this passage differently than I do. Nevertheless, I'll be interpreting verses 36-39 as some future Antichrist figure, not Antiochus Epiphanes, who was the focus of the immediately preceding verses.
Let's see what Daniel says about this king.
"36 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. 37 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. 38 Instead of them, he will honor a god of fortresses; a god unknown to his fathers he will honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and costly gifts. 39 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." (11:36-39)
As mentioned above, though Antiochus was arrogant and blasphemed the "God of gods," the God of the Jewish people (11:36), we know from history that Antiochus did worship the "gods of his fathers," the Greek gods. The phrase "the one desired by women" is difficult to interpret with any certainty. The Antichrist figure indicated in verses 36-45 will both blaspheme the true God and exalt himself above every so-called god.
Rather than worship the "gods of his fathers," the Antichrist seems to make a god out of war ("fortresses") and wealth. He has military successes, and shows favor in terms of power and wealth to those who support him. Of course, making a god of war and wealth could describe many dictators over the centuries.
Several Scripture passages come to mind, the first one we saw previously in Daniel:
"He shall speak words against the Most High,
shall wear out the holy ones of the Most High,
and shall attempt to change the sacred seasons and the law;
and they shall be given into his power for a time, two times, and half a time." (7:25)
Then from Isaiah, referring at least initially to the king of Babylon:
"You said in your heart, 'I will ascend to
I will raise my throne above the stars of God;
I will sit on the mount of assembly on the heights of Zaphon;
I will ascend to the tops of the clouds,
I will make myself like the Most High.'" (Isaiah 14:13-14)
The Apostle Paul associates this exaltation over God to the "man of lawlessness," or the Antichrist.
"Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one destined for destruction. He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, declaring himself to be God." (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4)
Revelation also seems to refer to this Antichrist figure, who, in Revelation, goes under the name of "the beast that comes out of the sea."
"The beast [rising out of the sea] was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven." (Revelation 13:5-6)
This Antichrist seems to exercise complete authority for a short period of time, doing what he pleases and oppressing God's people. Then his end shall come.
The battles referred to in verses 40-45 don't describe anything that we can identify from the history of Antiochus Epiphanes or his successors. We see the phrase, "at the time of the end" (11:40a). This seems to be a clear pointer to the End Times, the Last Days, just before God delivers his people. Here is Daniel's vision of the battles of these Last Days:
"40 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. 41 He will also invade the Beautiful Land. Many countries will fall, but Edom, Moab and the leaders of Ammon will be delivered from his hand. 42 He will extend his power over many countries; Egypt will not escape. 43 He will gain control of the treasures of gold and silver and all the riches of Egypt, with the Libyans and Nubians in submission. 44 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. 45 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." (11:40-45)
In the previous parts of the vision (verses 11-35) "the kings of the North" refer to the Seleucid kings, culminating in Antiochus Epiphanes, the persecutor of God's people (11:28). In verses 40-45, I believe the pronouns "him" and "he" refer to "the king of the North," now this Antichrist figure, the antitype, of whom Antiochus Epiphanes is the type.
There have been many attempts to cast this prophecy in terms of present-day geo-politics. For example, some in our era see Russia as "the king of the North," while Christians in previous eras have cast the evil kingdom in terms of their most-feared world power.
Notice the nations named. "The Beautiful Land" (11:41a) refers to the Promised Land, while "the beautiful holy mountain" refers to Jerusalem. Edom, Moab, and Ammon are Judah's neighbors to the east and south (present-day Jordan). Egypt and Libya still exist today on the southern Mediterranean, while Nubia would refer to the territory of southern Egypt and northern Sudan.
Exactly what events are foretold by verses 40-45 are as yet unclear to us. The Book of Revelation describes these final battles of the forces of Satan, the Antichrist, and the False Prophet:
"... They go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty.... Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon." (Revelation 16:14, 16)
Armageddon refers to the battlefield near Har ("mountain") Megiddo, where many battles have been fought over the years (Judges 5:19; 2 Kings 23:29-30). Ezekiel, too, prophesies final battles on the mountains of Israel (Ezekiel 38:8, 21; 39:2, 4, 17).
Revelation 19 has a vision of a conflict between the King of kings riding a white horse, leading the armies of God:
"Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army. But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet...." (Revelation 19:19-20a)
Revelation 20 describes a final battle following the Millennium, or Thousand Year Reign of Christ.
"When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth -- Gog and Magog -- to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God's people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them." (Revelation 20:7-9)
There are some prophetic teachers who can tell you with "certainty" what these events refer to. I can't. But we do know that history, which Daniel saw glimpses of, and as seen by other prophets, is moving towards a final battle between the forces of God and the forces of Satan, and it will take place in Israel, at or near the holy city of Jerusalem.
Q1. (Daniel 11:36-45) What do we learn about the
character of this Antichrist figure? What seems to be his prime motivations?
What does he have to do with the land of Israel?
Jacob Epstein, 'St. Michael Defeats the Devil' (1959), statue, east wall, Coventry Cathedral, England.
Daniel's vision shows us the spiritual roots of this war. Just as an angel with the archangel Michael's help engaged in combat with the "prince of Persia" (10:13), so now there is war in heavenly places as well as on earth.
"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." (12:1)
The Book of Revelation gives us a symbolic vision of the spiritual battle raging in heavenly places that features the archangel Michael.
"7 And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. 8 But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. 9 The great dragon was hurled down -- that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. 10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: 'Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.'" (Revelation 12:7-10)
The "time of distress" in 12:1 probably corresponds to the "Great Tribulation" that Jesus spoke of:
"For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now -- and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened." (Matthew 24:21-22; Mark 13:19-20)
There is a reference to the "Great Tribulation" in Revelation as well.
"These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." (Revelation 7:14)
I won't explain with precision just how the Great Tribulation corresponds to the 3-1/2 years referred to in verse 7. I can't. But there is no lack of Bible teachers who claim to be able to.
"It will be for a time, times and half a time. When the power of the holy people has been finally broken, all these things will be completed." (12:7)
That there will be a great persecution of God's people is quite clear, but the exact times and duration are not clear -- though we know that this persecution will be limited and will end with Christ's deliverance.
Q2. (Daniel 12:1) What will happen during the great
distress of God's people? In what ways does this time seem to conform to the
"great tribulation" spoken of in the New Testament?
Now we come to one of the clearest references in the Old Testament to the resurrection that will take place in the Last Days.
"2 Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever." (12:2-3)
Daniel sees a double resurrection -- not only of the righteous, but also of the wicked, just as Jesus does (John 5:28-29).
The righteous are referred to as "those who are wise" as in 11:33, 35. They will shine with God's glory eternally ("for ever and ever"). And they will be a powerful influence on others who will turn to God.
The Patriarchs believed that they would be "gathered to their fathers" in death (Genesis 49:29; Judges 2:10), but there wasn't widespread understanding of eternal life beyond the grave. For example, David wrote:
"No one remembers you when he is dead.
Who praises you from the grave [Hebrew sheol]?" (Psalm 6:5)
However, God was revealing to his people an understanding of life beyond the grave, of eternal life, and of resurrection. We see hints of it here and there. In the Song of Hannah we read:
"The LORD brings death and makes alive;
he brings down to the grave and raises up." (1 Samuel 2:6)
Job had a remarkable understanding of physical life after death.
"I know that my Redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet in my flesh I will see God;
I myself will see him with my own eyes -- I, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me!" (Job 19:25-27)
Isaiah saw some kind of future resurrection.
"Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise.
You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy!
For your dew is a dew of light,
and the earth will give birth to the dead." (Isaiah 26:19)
David also saw glimpses of resurrection.
"You will not abandon me to the grave,
nor will you let your Holy One see decay." (Psalm 16:10)
Ezekiel had a vision of dry bones that come together in life (Ezekiel 37:1-14). Hosea, too, saw this from afar.
"Come, let us return to the LORD;
for he has torn us, that he may heal us;
he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.
After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will raise us up,
that we may live before him." (Hosea 6:1-2, ESV)
However, Daniel has by far the clearest vision of resurrection in the Old Testament.
"Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth
some to everlasting life,
others to shame and everlasting contempt." (Daniel 12:2)
In the Apocrypha and other intertestamental writings we see a growing belief in resurrection. By Jesus' day, many Jews believed in the resurrection of the dead on the Last Day. The Pharisees dogmatically affirmed resurrection in opposition to the Sadducees, who emphatically denied that there was a resurrection to come. Jesus publicly took the Pharisees' position on the truth of the resurrection (Matthew 22:23-34; Luke 14:14). Jesus said:
"A time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out -- those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. (John 5:28-29)
Indeed, Jesus affirmed that he personally would raise believers up on the Last Day (John 6:39-40). This expectation of the resurrection on the Last Day is the understanding of the early church as well (Acts 24:15; 1 Corinthians 15; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; etc.).
Q3. (Daniel 12:2) What do we learn about resurrection?
How does this compare with New Testament teaching? What is the future of the
righteous who are raised? Why do you think the unjust will be raised also?
Q4. (Daniel 12:3) What is the end of those who are wise
and influential for God? What is their reward? How does God use your influence
currently to advance his Kingdom? What would need to change so that you might
have greater influence for Christ?
"But you, Daniel, close up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge." (12:4)
Daniel has seen visions of the End Time, but the words are "sealed" until the time of the end, when God will reveal their meaning. I think one of the reasons there is so much confusion about Daniel's visions is that God hasn't seen fit to reveal fully what they mean. Some of the words remain sealed to this day.
"5 Then I, Daniel, looked, and there before me stood two others, one on this bank of the river and one on the opposite bank.
6 One of them said to the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, 'How long will it be before these astonishing things are fulfilled?' 7 The man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, lifted his right hand and his left hand toward heaven, and I heard him swear by him who lives forever, saying, 'It will be for a time, times and half a time. When the power of the holy people has been finally broken, all these things will be completed.'" (12:5-7)
Daniel asks "How long?" The "man clothed in linen" replies cryptically that the completion of these things will be "when the power of the holy people has been finally broken," and uses the indefinite "time, times, and half a time," which, when added together equals 3-1/2. We see this elsewhere in Daniel (7:25, and perhaps 8:14 and 12:11-12) as well as the Book of Revelation (Revelation 11:2-3, 9; 12:6, 14; 13:5). This period seems to indicate the time that the people of God are oppressed by great tribulation.
I think that "when the power of the holy people has been finally broken" (12:7b) may correspond to the fate of the two prophets in Revelation, which I believe symbolize God's people present on the earth at that time.
"Their bodies will lie in the street of the great city, which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. For three and a half days men from every people, tribe, language and nation will gaze on their bodies and refuse them burial." (Revelation 11:8-9)
But all of a sudden they are raised from the dead and ascend to heaven.
"But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and terror struck those who saw them. Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, 'Come up here.' And they went up to heaven in a cloud, while their enemies looked on." (Revelation 11:11-12)
When the time of the Antichrist ends, suddenly God's people, whose power seemed to have been broken, will be restored, accompanied by resurrection.
Q5. (Daniel 12:5-7). How long will intense persecution
last during the final tribulation? What will happen to God's people during this?
Why do you think this difficult time is revealed to us people who don't like bad
Daniel still can't make sense of what he has seen.
"8 I heard, but I did not
understand. So I asked, 'My lord, what will the outcome of all this be?'
9 He replied, 'Go your way, Daniel, because the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end. 10 Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.'" (12:8-10)
Daniel has prophesied this, yet he doesn't understand fully. We shouldn't be surprised if we don't yet fully understand either.
Notice the sentence:
"Many will be purified, made spotless and
but the wicked will continue to be wicked." (12:10a)
This is echoed in Revelation:
"Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong;
let him who is vile continue to be vile;
let him who does right continue to do right;
and let him who is holy continue to be holy." (Revelation 22:11)
It is amazing that at the same time believers grow and mature and begin to walk in paths of righteousness, that the unbelievers continue on in their sin as if nothing has changed:
"Evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived." (2 Timothy 3:12-13)
Why? Because when they reject God's mercy and revelation, he has "given them over" to their sins and the consequences of their sins (Romans 1:24-27).
"So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices." (Psalm 81:12)
"They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie." (2 Thessalonians 2:10-11)
As much as it hurts us to say it, not all will be saved. There is a terrible consequence for "suppressing the truth" (Romans 1:18), for rejecting the truth that will set you free (John 8:32). But for the believers, this time of persecution will be a refining experience.
Q6. (Daniel 12:10) In what way will intense persecution
in the End Times lead to many being "purified, made spotless, and refined"? In
what ways is the Church in our day in such need of this? How do you think we can
prepare ourselves for this time?
Now we come to a passage that isn't clear to us.
"11 From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days. 12 Blessed is the one who waits for and reaches the end of the 1,335 days." (12:11-12)
If you calculate using 30-day months, then 3-1/2 years is 1260 days or 42 months (Revelation 11:3). However, the period in verses 11 and 12 seems to be slightly longer.
If you calculate with 365-day years (which were used by the Jews, adding days to their lunar months to conform to the solar year), then the periods are 3.53 years and 3.66 years respectively. I don't know of anyone who has come up with a satisfactory explanation of the days here, though the reference seems to be to the 3-1/2 year period we've seen previously (9:27) when Antiochus Epiphanes -- and later, the Antichrist -- appear to be in full control, at least from an earthly perspective.
"As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance." (12:13)
Daniel is an old man when he receives this final vision that takes such a physical and mental toll on him (10:8-9, 16-17). Now the vision is at an end and Daniel is told to "seal up the vision" (12:4), for it is of future things.
God speaks of Daniel's immediate future -- rest -- probably the rest of death. But Daniel's rest comes with the promise of resurrection and a future inheritance that God has predetermined. To that reward, Daniel's body will "rise," along with us, on that final Day when Christ appears in victory and judgment to vindicate his people forever. This is "the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad" (2 Corinthians 5:10).
Come soon, Lord Jesus!
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This passage gives us several pieces of information about the future that can guide our values and decisions today.
- The Antichrist figure will blaspheme, exalt himself above God, and will give himself to war and the acquisition of wealth. He will invade many countries, including Israel, but will finally come to his end (11:36-45).
- In their time of great distress, God will finally deliver his people (12:1)
- There will be a final resurrection to eternal life and to eternal condemnation (12:2).
- The wise and influential in God's work will shine brightly, that is, be rewarded. We must always be aware of how we are influencing others (12:3).
- Persecution in the great tribulation will be limited ("time, times, and half a time"). It will seem like the power of God's people will have been completely broken before Christ intervenes (12:5-7, 11-12).
- The persecution in the End Times will result in the saints being "purified, made spotless, and refined" (12:10). Persecution, instead of working evil only, may be what the Church needs, so that Christ may "present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless" (Ephesians 5:27).
Father, Daniel closes with the hope of the resurrection of the dead, but also prophecies of terrible suffering for God's people. If we're alive in that era, please help us to be faithful even unto death. Deliver us, O Savior. In Jesus' powerful name, we pray. Amen.
"He shall come into the beautiful land, and tens of thousands shall fall victim, but Edom and Moab and the main part of the Ammonites shall escape from his power. He shall stretch out his hand against the countries, and the land of Egypt shall not escape." (Daniel 11:41-42, NIV)
"At that time Michael, the great prince, the protector of your people, shall arise. There shall be a time of anguish, such as has never occurred since nations first came into existence. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book." (Daniel 12:1, NIV)
"Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever." (Daniel 12:2-3, NIV)
"It would be for a time, two times, and half a time, and that when the shattering of the power of the holy people comes to an end, all these things would be accomplished." (Daniel 12:7b, NIV)
"From the time that the regular burnt offering is taken away and the abomination that desolates is set up, there shall be one thousand two hundred ninety days. Happy are those who persevere and attain the thousand three hundred thirty-five days." (Daniel 12:11-12, NIV)
 Those who see Antiochus referred in these verses sometimes interpret the "one desired by women" as the god Tammuz-Adonis with his female devotees (cf. Ezekiel 8:14-15), though we have no record that Antiochus opposed this cult.
 Similar thoughts are found in Psalm 30:9; 88:10-12; 115:17; Isaiah 38:18.
 For example, 2 Maccabees 7:9, 11, 14; 12:43-45. N.T. Wright traces the history of belief in resurrection in The Resurrection of the Son of God (Fortress, 2003), pp. 108-128. However, his views are affected by his late date for the writing of Daniel, so I find part of his survey unconvincing.
 "Allotted inheritance" (NIV), "reward" (NRSV), "allotted place" (ESV), "allotted portion" (NASB), "lot" (KJV) is gôrāl, "lot, portion." It is the lot that is cast before the Lord to determine a decision or recompense. After the Exodus, the land to be assigned to each tribe was determined by casting lots (Joshua 8:6-28). "By metonymy the word is used for the portion of land assigned to a tribe or family and therefore becomes an equivalent for naḥăiâ 'inheritance,' ḥeleq 'portion,' yerūshshâ 'possession,' ʾăḥūzzâ, "possession," etc." (Earl S. Kalland, TWOT #381a).
 "Rise" (NIV, NRSV), "stand" (ESV, KJV) is the Qal imperfect of ʿāmad, used extensively in the Old Testament of the physical act of standing (Ronald B. Allen, TWOT #1637).
In-depth Bible study books
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- Disciple's Guide to the Holy Spirit
- 1, 2, and 3 John
- 1 Peter
- 2 Peter & Jude
- 1 & 2 Thessalonians
- 1 & 2 Timothy
- 1 Corinthians
- 2 Corinthians
- Abraham, Faith of
- Christ Powered Life (Romans 5-8)
- Christmas Incarnation
- Colossians and Philemon
- David, Life of
- Glorious Kingdom, The
- Great Prayers of the Bible
- Jacob, Life of
- Jesus and the Kingdom of God
- JesusWalk: Beginning the Journey
- John's Gospel
- Lamb of God
- Listening for God's Voice
- Lord's Supper
- Luke's Gospel
- Moses the Reluctant Leader
- Names and Titles of God
- Names and Titles of Jesus
- Rebuild & Renew: Post-Exilic Books
- Resurrection and Easter Faith
- Sermon on the Mount
- Seven Last Words of Christ