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The actions of Antiochus Epiphanes receive the most attention from the angel in his prophetic message in Daniel 11.
Daniel 11:36 continues,
36 Then the king will do as he pleases, and he will exalt and magnify himself above every god, and will speak monstrous things against the God of gods; and he will prosper until the indignation is finished, for that which is decreed will be done.
The self-styled name “Epiphanes” itself showed that the king exalted himself above every god. He prospered, or succeeded in his work “until the indignation is finished.” The Hebrew word for “indignation” is za’am, which means “foam, anger, indignation.” This is not referring to the indignation of Antiochus, but rather the indignation of God. Gesenius Lexicon says, “until the punishment sent from God be completed.”
Furthermore, “that which is decreed [by God] will be done.” The angel was telling Daniel that Judea was to be judged for their sin. This is consistent with the angelic statement earlier in Daniel 8:12, “on account of transgression the host will be given over to the horn along with the regular sacrifice.” It was the transgressions of Judea, or more specifically, the high priests of the temple, which brought about this divine judgment.
It was essentially the same sin that brought about the destruction of the temple earlier in the days of Jeremiah, when the priests had turned the temple into “a den of robbers” (Jeremiah 7:11). In Jesus’ day the priests did the same (Matthew 21:13). Many high priests obtained their position by flattery or by outright purchase of the high priesthood.
Nonetheless, as we have seen, God brought judgment upon Antiochus himself when the time of divine judgment ended.
Daniel and Paul
Daniel 11:37 continues,
37 And he will show no regard for the gods of his fathers or for the desire of women, nor will he show regard for any other god; for he will magnify himself above them all.
The KJV renders the latter part of this verse, “he shall exalt himself and magnify himself above every god.” The translators understood that Paul referred to this in 2 Thessalonians 2:4, “who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped.”
Paul did indeed connect his prophecy with that of Daniel 11:37. He applied it to the corrupt temple priests in his time, who were like Onias and other corrupt priests who obtained the high priesthood by political flattery or by bribery. In Jesus’ time, Annas (or Annanus) was considered to be the real high priest, but his son-in-law, Caiaphas was the high priest appointed by King Herod.
From the divine perspective, neither Annas nor Caiaphas were legitimate high priests, for they both rejected the Messiah. They played the role of Absalom, who usurped the throne of his father, David, and thereby were “anti-Davids,” or “antichrists.” Thus, on a prophetic level, the high priests in Jesus’ time usurped His throne and set themselves up as gods in the temple. They would have strongly disagreed with Paul’s assessment, of course, but Paul understood the prophetic story of David and Absalom.
Hence, Paul viewed the high priest in Jerusalem to be like Antiochus Epiphanes (“God Manifest”). For this reason he strongly opposed Judaism and fought against the Judaizers in the Church, particularly in the book of Galatians. Paul’s disdain came out in Acts 23:3 when he called the high priest a “white-washed wall.” (This was Ananias ben Nebedeus, who was high priest from 46-58 A.D.)
The angel also said that he would “show no regard … for the desire of women.” Some have thought this to be a reference to homosexuality or even to some super-human “antichrist” yet to come, since Antiochus himself was not known to be homosexual. However, this is actually a reference to “that which women desire,” that is, certain temples that were set up especially for women. Antiochus attacked the temple of Nanea (Venus), worshipped by women in 2 Maccabees 1:13-16.
The God of Fortresses
Daniel 11:38, 39 continues,
38 But instead he will honor a god of fortresses, a god whom his fathers did not know; he will honor him with gold, silver, costly stones, and treasures. 39 And he will take action against the strongest of fortresses with the help of a foreign god; he will give great honor to those who acknowledge him, and he will cause them to rule over the many, and will parcel out land for a price.
Antiochus honored the god of force, or war. In other words, he worshiped military power. His forefathers had openly worshiped the Greek gods, but Antiochus paid them no respect, even plundering their temples.
Rome had demanded that Syria pay war reparations, and this was one of the reasons he plundered a number of temples, including the one in Jerusalem. But in Jerusalem, he set up a statue of Jupiter Capitolinus, the Roman Zeus. It appears that Antiochus was trying to appeal to the god of Rome for assistance against Rome itself. He figured that if Jupiter was the source of Roman power, then he might be able to acquire power by the same god and perhaps neutralize Rome’s power. Hence, he sought “the help of a foreign god” (vs. 39).
It would appear that the angel was not referring to a literal worship of the “god of fortresses,” but was reading the heart of Antiochus. In his heart he thought that the only real “god” was military might. For this reason, he had no trouble calling himself “God manifest,” for in his mind he himself was that god of war.
The Angelic Summary
Daniel 11:39 appears to be the end of the main prophecy. Daniel 11:40-45 is a final summary of the events surrounding Antiochus Epiphanes. In other words, the acts of Antiochus form the climax of the angelic revelation.
So Daniel 11:40 says,
40 And at the end time the king of the South will collide with him, and the king of the North will swarm against him with chariots, with horsemen, and with many ships; and he will enter countries, overflow them, and pass through.
Antiochus’ reign forms “the end” (or climax) of the time period described in the angelic prophecy. This describes Antiochus’ invasion and conquest of Egypt before Rome intervened and demanded the withdrawal.
41 He will also enter the Beautiful Land, and many countries will fall; but these will be rescued out of his hand: Edom, Moab and the foremost of the sons of Ammon. 42 Then he will stretch out his hand against other countries, and the land of Egypt will not escape. 43 But he will gain control over the hidden treasures of gold and silver, and over all the precious things of Egypt; and Libyans and Ethiopians will follow at his heels.
As I wrote earlier, Antiochus plundered Jerusalem on his way back from Egypt.
44 And he will pitch the tents of his royal pavilion between the seas [i.e., the Dead Sea and the Mediterranean] and [“in,” C.V.] the beautiful Holy Mountain; yet he will come to his end, and no one will help him.
I do not know if Antiochus literally pitched his royal tent on “the beautiful Holy Mountain” while plundering Jerusalem. It is more likely that this is a poetic way of saying that Antiochus took over the temple in Jerusalem and turned it into a temple to Jupiter. The angel concludes that these plans of Antiochus would not be permanent, for he would “come to his end, and no one will help him.”
It is hard to underestimate the importance of this climax of the angelic revelation given to Daniel. This ends the historical section of the prophecy dealing with the activities of the Prince of Greece as he cast truth to the ground. When Antiochus died in 163 B.C., the Judeans defeated the Syrians, cleansed the temple, and set up an independent government ruled by the Hasmonean King-Priests.
Of course, the prophecy does not end, for Vainglory, the Prince of Greece, was not destroyed. He continued to exert influence in Judea and later induced the high priests in Jerusalem to reject Jesus as the Christ, thus casting truth to the ground once again. That priesthood then acted as Absalom and usurped the throne of the Anointed One (Christ). Once again the temple was desecrated by usurpers, but instead of setting up a statue of Jupiter, they exalted themselves as gods in the temple.
This is why John says that antichrist had already come. 1 John 2:20-27 says,
20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know.
“Christ” means “anointed one.” As Christians, we “have an anointing from the Holy One.” In other words, even as Jesus is the legitimate Heir to the throne of David, so also are we called to rule in His Kingdom. 1 John 2:21 continues,
21 I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth.
Truth had been cast to the ground when the high priest usurped Christ’s throne and set up the second “abomination of desolation” in the temple. Yet the anointed ones knew the truth, for they were led by the Amen and Amet, the twin angels of Faith and Truth.
22 Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. 23 Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.
The temple priests claimed to have the Father, but John says that if they deny the Son, they have also denied the Father who sent Him. John concludes in 1 John 2:26, 27,
26 These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you. 27 And as for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.
The deception of the antichrists is in their claim to have the Father without the Son. But those who have the anointing of God are led by the Spirit of Truth, as John wrote in his gospel (John 16:13), saying, “But when He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth.”
John’s purpose in his first letter was to distinguish between the true believers and those who denied the Son while claiming to have the Father. In this way he warned believers not to be caught up in the lie of the antichrists. Unfortunately, in later years Christian teachers have redefined antichrist by hiding its connection to Absalom and assigning it to a single Antichrist trying to unite the kingdoms of the world.
There is certainly a present-day fulfillment of the Spirit of Antichrist, but it is not what most Bible teachers say it is. The Spirit of Antichrist is the same spirit that Paul and John spoke against in the first century. It is the resurrection of the lie that one can have the Father without acknowledging the Son, that one can be “chosen” apart from Christ, and that the old Jerusalem is the inheritor of the promises of God. Paul tells us clearly that the Old Jerusalem--the "den of robbers"--must be “cast out” (Galatians 4:30).
And so, as we come to the end of the final Greek century in prophecy, let us put on the Spirit of Truth and know that the anointed ones of Christ’s body are called to reign on the earth with Christ.