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Antiochus Epiphanes and the End Times
Part 2: The Transition from the Past to the Present
Antiochus invaded Egypt twice. In describing the second invasion, Daniel 11:29 cryptically prophesies about the End Times:
At the appointed time he shall return and go into the South; but it shall not be like the former [time, when he plundered Egypt], or like the latter/last.
After his second, failed invasion, Antiochus never again entered Egypt, nor ever returned to Judah. He died in Persia during a fruitless campaign to replenish his empty treasury, having spent it on the failed second Egyptian campaign, and then failed campaigns to quash the Maccabean revolt. Therefore, this prophecy about the last time that a King of the North invades the South can only refer to –
11:40 At the time of the end, [when]…the King of the North… 42 …shall stretch out his hand against lands, and the land of Egypt shall not escape. 43 And he shall have dominion…over all the precious things of Egypt…
– which was not the case with Antiochusʼs second campaign, when he was driven out of Egypt in humiliation by the Romans.
When Antiochus was driven out, he
Dan. 11:30 …return[ed to Jerusalem] and [was] enrage[d] against the holy covenant, and so acted…and show[ed] regard for those who fors[oo]k the holy covenant. … 31 And forces [were] mustered by him, and they defile[d] the sanctuary fortress, and they [took] away the daily/continual service, and place[d] the abomination of desolation.
This is the last act prophesied by Daniel 11 for a Seleucid King of the North, even though the Seleucid Kingdom continued until 64 B.C., when it was extinguished by the Romans. However, Daniel 11:40 tells us that the spiritual King of the North, “the sar/prince/chief one” that reigned over this human kingdom from generation to generation (cf. Dan. 10:13, 20-21), remains to this day.
Syrian Kings Antiochus IV and Demetrius I Soter (asc. 162 B.C.) both spent many years of their youth in Rome, learning Roman culture. In a very real sense, Roman and Greek cultures were merged in these two kings. Of Daniel 7ʼs four beast-kingdoms – Chaldeo-Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome – only Rome substantially merged with and promoted, rather than extinguished, the language and culture of its predecessor, Greece. Likewise, the spiritual King of the North also became conjoined with the Roman Empire.
The first and greatest ruler of the Greek beast-empire of Daniel 7 was Alexander the Great. Just before he died, he was officially proclaimed to be an incarnated god by the Greeks. Antiochus IV took the titular name Epiphanes, literally meaning “Over-Shining One,” but by innuendo “A Manifestation of God(hood).” Daniel 11:36-37 prophesied this about him, and thus implicitly about the spiritual sar that possessed his soul:
…he shall exalt and magnify himself above every god, [and] shall speak blasphemies against the God of gods…he shall magnify himself above them all.
According to pagan Greek and Roman theology, Zeus/Jupiter, the head of the gods, occasionally incarnated in human or animal form. We see this belief current in the mid-first century A.D., right after Paul performed a miracle in Lystra:
Acts 14:11 …when the people saw what Paul had done, they raised their voices, saying… “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men.” 12 And Barnabus they called Zeus, and Paul Hermes…
Many scholars believe that the “abomination of desolation” (see Deut. 7:25-26), the idol which Antiochus ordered to be set up in the Jerusalem Temple, had his own face on it.
This practice by the Greek culture of worshiping human rulers as gods was soon adopted by the Romans. The first great Roman emperor, Julius Caesar, claimed that his family descended from one of the gods impregnating one of their human female ancestors. In 42 B.C., two years after his assassination, the Roman Senate decreed that Caesar was a god. His adopted son Octavian, who not long afterward became sole emperor under the titular name Augustus, began calling himself “son of a god.” He and succeeding emperors of the Julian line were proclaimed to be gods by the Senate after their deaths; the practice ending with Nero. He had become so demented and depraved in his final years that the custom ended – for a while.
The Transition Era
Daniel 11:38 But in his place/estate/station he shall give glory to a god of fortresses; and to a god which his fathers knew not he shall give glory with gold, and with silver, and with precious stones, and with desirable things. 39 And/so he shall act for defenders of fortresses with a foreign god, which he shall cause to revere, cause to multiply glory; and he shall cause them to rule among the multitudes. And he shall divide/allot land at a profit.
The much-debated passage of Daniel 11:38-39 speaks only in general terms about the transition period between the time of the god-man Antiochus and “the time of the end.” This passage begins with the phrase, “in his [Antiochusʼs] place/estate/station,” a phrase used previously in verses 7, 20, and 21 to describe the transition of the Seleucid kingdom from a king to his descendant.
The Hebrew noun for “place/estate/station” literally means “something set up.” That is, each king inherited the cumulative “set-ups” of the kingly line, and then added his own acts upon them. These set-ups included, most importantly, the establishment of a belief system.
As noted above, the belief system culminating with Antiochus, which was then passed along to the Romans, was that great human rulers can become known as, and then should be worshiped as, gods.
Upon that “estate,” descendent rulers began to “give glory to a god of fortresses.” Dan. 11:38 Uniquely among the four beast-kingdoms of Daniel 7, the Romans were fort-builders. Previously, cities and temples were what had been fortified, and armies were garrisoned within them at need. But the Roman Empire became the greatest of the four through the practice of their legions building forts for themselves. By this means, their armies were able to concentrate their forces on the ever-expanding boundaries of the empire. There they were readily available to deal with incipient threats, without requiring the time and expense of moving soldiers, equipment, and supplies long distances. (Whereas, for example, the practice of Antiochus was to plunder and leave. This allowed the conquered peoples time to regroup and resist, as the Maccabees did.)
The practice of building military bases, not fortified cities, became the standard for the Anglo-European posterity of the Roman Empire. (That is, those Western governments principally deriving their laws, traditions, and governments from Roman ones.) In our day, such military bases are found throughout the world.
In Revelation 2:12-14, Jesus said the city of Pergamos was “where Satanʼs throne is…where Satan dwells.” According to Strongʼs (G4010), Pergamos means Fortified (Place); it was the capital of Roman Asia. In the Apostle Johnʼs day, the ancient Babylonian religion was practiced in its temple. Many tenets of that religion became infused within pagan Rome, and later within the Roman Church. Therefore, Pergamos may have been the source of the “foreign god” “which [Antiochusʼ] fathers knew not.” In the 1890s, a substantial part of Pergamosʼs ancient temple was disassembled, moved to, and reconstructed in Berlin, where it stands today.
This brings us up to “the time of the end” events of Daniel 11:40 – 12:13, to be examined in Part 3.