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Daniel

Antichrist

Daniel  11:36-45

(Dan 11:36-45 NIV) "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. {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.

In last week’s lesson we saw a detailed prophecy. We were able to make detailed assignments of names and dates to individuals in that prophecy. This week, Daniel abruptly shifts gears into the distant future and begins to talk about the Antichrist (though not by that name, of course). Why is it that scholars believe this transition is here?

·        The interpretation is traditional, from the early days of the church. Jerome (about AD 300) states it; he also states that it’s the traditional interpretation, dating from the Apostolic times.

·        Dates and times through verse 35 are easily matched. The match breaks off at verse 36. Some scholars have tried to “force fit” these events to Antiochus Epiphanes but -- for example -- he never conquered Egypt.

·        The phrase “time of wrath” is usually taken in the Old Testament to mean the Day of Judgment.

·        The description given of this king matches very closely the description of the Antichrist given in II Thessalonians 2:1-14.

·        As can be seen in most English translations, the Hebrew implies a literary change (i.e., a new paragraph) at this point.

·        The “willful king” shown here is clearly different from the “king of the North” and the “king of the South.”

·        Finally, in Chapter 12 we shall see a connection with the resurrection of the dead, which is an end time event (more on this next week).

The Identity of the Antichrist

So who, then, is this “willful king?” A number of possible interpretations have been suggested over the millennia:

·        A frequent suggestion is that this person is the ruler of Rome, both emperor and Pope. A number of reasons are suggested for this:

·        The city on seven hills, found so frequently under the name of “Babylon” in Revelation, is Rome. Much of the story of that book can be understood quite well as applying to Rome, particularly under the Pope.

·        Rome conquered Egypt.

·        It may be argued (rather poorly, I think) that the reference in verse 38 to honoring a strange god with wealth and jewels refers to the worship of saints, particularly with reliquaries.

·        Some correspondence with the 1290 or 1335 days in Chapter 12 can be made for the rise and fall of the papacy.

·        A second suggestion is that this is the rise of Islam. The arguments for this include

·        The conquest of Egypt.

·        Again, a certain correspondence of dates.

·        The blasphemy of this religion which denies the deity of Christ while honoring Him as a prophet.

·        Various others - Adolf Hitler, Mussolini (he tried to conquer Egypt), etc. have been suggested from time to time.

The issue turns on the phrase “the king.” Does it mean, like “the King of England,” no particular king but a line of kings (or emperors, or popes, or sultans)? Or does it mean one specific individual? If the latter, we come to the common view of the twentieth century, that this is the king known as The antichrist, one person, coming at the time of the end. Much support for this view is found in the New Testament.

The Character of the antichrist

One may “recognize” a person in a variety of ways. Suppose you are a detective, searching for a suspect. How would you “recognize” your suspect to arrest him?

·        We usually count on a person’s outward appearance. If we had a witness to the crime, we’d ask for a description (the “John Doe #2” in the Oklahoma bombing).

·        We might obtain physical evidence relating him to someone else (for example, the DNA evidence to be produced in O.J. Simpson’s trial).

·        The great detectives of fiction, however, start with character. The clues prove the case but “the psychology, it is all wrong” (Hercule Poirot) is the clincher.

What then, do we know of the character of the antichrist? How might he look to us today?

·        He is a “willful” man - he does as he pleases. To see this in today’s terms, he would be someone who believes in the “new” definition of freedom. The point is worth some discussion:

·        In the old definition, a man was free to do what a man was free to do. A tautology, to be sure, but a useful one. I am not free to shoot my wife just because it seems good to me -- right and wrong are not mine to decide, but to find.

·        In the new definition, freedom means (in the words of the Supreme Court), “the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” This is the justification of abortion on demand -- and much more.

·        He is a blasphemous man, in these senses:

·        He puts himself above any and all gods. Is the state supreme? Is public opinion supreme? Do our politicians religiously read the polls for the “right” answer?

·        He shows no respect for any god. Do we see the idea that “all religions are equally false?”

·        He honors a “god of fortresses.” In our terms today, this could be the man who says that technology (particularly war making technology) is the supreme power in the universe. Science is god, in effect, and I will call upon science the way the ancients called upon God -- and reward and honor science with sacrifices like God used to receive. Do we see this?

·        Science is presumed to be the cure. AIDS can be wiped out with chastity, but we turn to condoms and research.

·        Research is heavily funded, even with no purpose (“basic research.”)

·        Those who are scientists are held in high honor.

·        He establishes a system of payoff and bribery for honors (see verse 39). Do we see high office for sale in a subtle way?

·        Some translations of verse 37 can be read as making him homosexual; some commentators also infer from that verse that he is Jewish.

We have further indications -- and instructions on what to do about it -- from the New Testament.

(2 Th 2 NIV) Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, {2} not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. {3} Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. {4} He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God. {5} Don't you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? {6} And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. {7} For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. {8} And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. {9} The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, {10} and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. 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 {12} and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness. {13} But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. {14} He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. {15} So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. {16} May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, {17} encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.

You can see many events here:

·        Counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders

·        Setting up in God’s Temple (hence the view that the “abomination of desolation” will occur in the rebuilt Temple).

·        The “rebellion occurs” - an obscure reference, at present.

·        This does not happen until the power holding him back (generally believed to be the Holy Spirit) is removed -- hence the view of some that the rapture of the saints precedes the tribulation, or precedes the Great Tribulation.

There are other specific indications:

·        There will be many antichrists (I John 2:18) before the end, exemplifying the same spirit.

·        The antichrist will deny both God the Father and God the Son (1 John 2:22).

·        The antichrist will deny that Jesus came in the flesh (2 John 1:7)

All of this is just part of the general message that Daniel is delivering to us:

·        There is an evil power, Satan, at work in this world.

·        God, however, controls.

·        At the end, His rule will be enforced. (“I know who wins.”)

So what is the Christian to do about all this? Why do I care, unless the antichrist is stalking the planet (and even then some say I’m raptured before then)? Second Thessalonians gives us these points in verses 15-17:

·        We are to stand firm in the faith.

·        We are to hold to the teaching of the Apostles (see, there is a reason for Adult Bible Classes).

·        We are to witness with both good deeds and good words.

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