************ Sermon on Daniel 11 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on April 23, 2006
"The Antichrist Attacks the Church"
As I read and studied this confusing chapter, only one thing was evidently clear to me: Daniel 11 is about the Antichrist.
The Antichrist – he is an important figure in the end times. In one of his letters, Paul makes it clear that the Day of the Lord will not come until the Man of Sin, the Son of Perdition, has appeared (2 Thess 2). Before Jesus comes again to rule the new earth in righteousness, the nations and especially the church will have to endure the terror of the Antichrist.
The Antichrist – who is he? The Antichrist is every thing Jesus is not; He is the Lord's exact opposite. Christ is the Son of God, whereas the Antichrist is the Son of Perdition. Christ came to save, whereas the Antichrist comes to destroy. Christ came to serve, whereas the Antichrist comes to rule. Christ rules with the Word and the Spirit, whereas the Antichrist rules with the sword and the spear. Christ brings love and peace, whereas the Antichrist brings hate and war. Christ frees from sin, whereas the Antichrist enslaves in sin.
Just as Christ was foreshadowed in the Old Testament by various persons, so the Antichrist was also prefigured. Christ was prefigured by Melchizedek, Joseph, Moses, Samson, David, Solomon, Elijah, Elisha, and various others. The Antichrist, by contrast, was foreshadowed by only one figure. That forerunner was the Syrian king, Antiochus Epiphanes IV, the great enemy and persecutor of the Jews who lived about 160 years before Christ. This king was guilty of the most awful desecrations.
So Daniel 11 is about the Antichrist. But other than that what is this confusing chapter telling us? I read the chapter 4 times and still couldn't make heads or tails of it. It was only when I took a piece of paper and began to diagram all the kings and battles that I began to see and understand the message. Daniel 11 is in the Bible to tell us three things:
1. The church, the covenant people of God, is central to world history.
2. The Antichrist hates and attacks the church.
3. The Antichrist's opposition to the church will lead to his downfall.
I The Centrality of the Church (vs 1-20)
A The centrality of the church is seen in the first 20 verses. As I said before, these verses are confusing. What they describe can only be summarized as a story of rise and fall, of blood and tears, of wars and battles. All the great powers of that time – Persia, Greece, Egypt, Syria – are referred to in one form or another. We read of kings who send powerful armies into the field; and of other, more powerful kings who then destroy them. The one king attacks the other, sacrificing the lives of tens of thousands of soldiers (vs 12), but the king who is attacked soon gets his revenge (vs 13). We read of walls and fortifications and well-defended cities (vs 15). We read of revolutions and uprisings and revolts that fail (vs 14). We read of kings using tricks and cunning and political marriages in order to gain what they want (vs 17).
Things go on and on this way. The sea of the nations is extremely turbulent, as the waves break against each other. Armies and navies, power and cunning, might and honor and esteem, are all involved in the struggle between the nations.
That's what things looked like in the world just before the appearance of Antiochus Epiphanes. The prophecy of Daniel 11, then, concerns history; it concerns history that is fulfilled in the struggle between Persia, Greece, Egypt, and Syria for the domination of the ancient world.
Yet there is more in front of us than mere history! Just as there were wars and battles before Antiochus appeared on the scene, Daniel wants to teach us that the period before the reign of the Antichrist will also be a sorry time of blood and tears. The Antichrist will wade into history through a river of blood. Before he appears the air will be filled with sounds of warfare, the cries of the wounded, and the wails of the mourners.
B At first glance Daniel 11 appears to be nothing but a lesson on world history. And, what it says about the appearance of the Antichrist is nothing new, things that Daniel has already told us in chapters 7 & 8. So we might wonder why Daniel 11 is recorded in the Bible. Isn't the Bible supposed to describe the history of God's Kingdom? Isn't it supposed to be concerned with the church and Christ and salvation? No matter how we look, we don't see a word about the church and the people of God in Daniel 11.
All the same, this passage is about the church and the Kingdom and not just about military history. After all, if the wars and battles had nothing to do with the Kingdom of God, they would never have been included in the Bible.
What is the connection between the church and the wars of Daniel 11? In Daniel 11 we read of clashes between the kings of the South – which can only be Egypt – and the kings of the North – which can only be Syria. Seven times the kings of the North and of the South attack each other. Seven times armies go back and forth from the one land to the other. Guess what lies between these two lands and their kings? In between, as a sort of buffer state, lies Palestine, the Land of Promise, the place of the Temple and the people of God. In other words, the armies and kings of the North and of the South march through and over Israel in order to attack each other. The covenant land and covenant people are the door mat to both Egypt and Syria. Both sides trample the covenant land and people underfoot without a thought. Therefore the history of Daniel 11 revolves around the holy land.
Daniel is reminding us this evening that the church is central to history. Everything hinges on the church. God ordains all the events of history as part of His plan for the church. He makes use of the powerful rulers and armies of this earth to attain His purposes. Whether we see it or not, even war's loud clashing and stirring drums advance God's Kingdom.
We can think of history, of wars and invasions and treaties, as the scaffolding God uses to build His temple. And we can think of kings and armies as the laborers who help with the building. That's how important the church is. This means that today we can say it is for the sake of the church that there are wars and rumors of wars, the collapse of Communism, and the rise of the Islamic faith. It is for the sake of the church that American troops are in Iraq and Afghanistan.
History, human history, is but the scaffolding God uses to build His temple, His church. But as soon as the temple is complete, God no longer has need of the scaffolding, just as He will no longer need those who labored on the building. In other words, someday all earthly nations and kingdoms will disappear without a trace because they are no longer needed and no longer have a role to play in building the Kingdom of God.
II The Antichrist Attacks and Hates the Church (vs 21-43)
A In the second part of Daniel 11 we are given an outline of the career of Antiochus Epiphanes. As I already said, he prefigures and foreshadows the Antichrist. This doesn't mean that the Antichrist will be like Antiochus in every last respect. Rather, once the Antichrist has actually appeared, the church will be able to say, "We recognize him. His appearance was foretold long ago. We are prepared for his tricks. He won't catch us off guard."
That's the reason why Daniel spends so much time on the Antichrist in the last half of his book. He wants to warn us because those who are forewarned are also forearmed. Daniel forewarns us so we will put on the full armor of God: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the gospel, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God, and prayer (Eph 6). Those who are so armed can take their stand against the evil one. Those who are so armed can "firmly resist him" (vs 32) when he comes.
In telling us about Antiochus Epiphanes and warning us about the Antichrist, Daniel first tells us about the tyrant's mode of operation: he will invade when people feel secure (vs 21), he will break treaties and covenants (vs 22,23), he will plot and scheme (vs 24), he will lead a large army and wage war (vs 25), he will use treachery and deceit (vs 26), he will pretend friendship (vs 27). Even though he will suffer some temporary setbacks, over all he will be very successful: he will conquer, he will gain in wealth and riches, his will be honor and glory.
B His main purpose, however, is to lash out "against the holy covenant" – in other words, against the people of God (vs 28,30). First of all, this dictator will favor those who have forsaken the Lord (vs 30). He will court the renegades, the traitors, those who have turned their back on the faith, those who are apostate, those who have denied and betrayed the Lord.
Second, he will send his forces to "desecrate the temple fortress" (vs 31). If he cannot get his way through treason and deceit, he will use brute force instead!
Third, he will "abolish the daily sacrifice." Public worship will be impossible; there will be no praise and thanks to God. Church buildings will be torn down.
And fourth, he will "set up the abomination that causes desolation" (vs 31). Instead of the worship of God, there will be idol worship. We know from history that Antiochus set up an altar to Zeus right over the altar of God and on it offered a sacrifice of pig flesh – a sacrifice that to the Jews is unclean and makes the entire Temple area unclean.
The Psalmist has the attacks of Antiochus Epiphanes in mind when he says,
(Ps 79:1-2) O God, the nations have invaded your inheritance; they have defiled your holy temple, they have reduced Jerusalem to rubble. (2) They have given the dead bodies of your servants as food to the birds of the air, the flesh of your saints to the beasts of the earth.
Antiochus, however, will not be completely successful in his campaign against the "holy covenant." Daniel reminds and assures us that "the people who know their God will firmly resist him." Those, in other words, who live for the Lord, who walk with Him, who read His Word, who spend time in prayer, who faithfully attend worship, have the tools they need to fight off the attacks of the evil one. As I said before, those who put on the armor of God will be able to take their stand against him.
Daniel's message is that God will always preserve for Himself a church; no matter how hard the Antichrist tries, he will never succeed in total destroying the "holy covenant." Of course, he won't be the first to discover this. Pharaoh discovered the church can't be wiped out. Jezebel and Ahab and Herod found that out too.
The emperor Diocletian set up a stone pillar on which was inscribed these words: For Having Exterminated The Name Christian From the Earth. If he could see that monument today, how embarrassed he would be!
Another Roman leader made a coffin, symbolizing his intention "to bury the Galilean" by killing His followers. He soon learned that he could not "put the Master in it". He finally surrendered his heart to the Savior, realizing that the corporate body of Christ and its living Head, the Lord Jesus, cannot be destroyed.
C Like Antiochus Epiphanes, the Antichrist will attack the "holy covenant." Though his attacks are directed against the church, the real object of his attacks is God. Says Daniel,
(Dan 11:36) "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 would love to defeat God and sit on God's throne as King of heaven and earth. But since he cannot do that, he decides instead to establish his throne on earth and pretends that he is God. Daniel says he has no regard for any god, "but will exalt himself above them all" (vs 37).
The Antichrist strives to abolish the worship of God. However, as with Antiochus, not every form of worship is abolished. There will be room for one religion: the worship of the beast and its image.
The Antichrist not only has a burning hatred for God but He also hates anything that is godly. The institution of marriage, the marital faithfulness of husbands and wives, the purity of virgins, all of these he seeks to abolish.
D Like Antiochus, the Antichrist is bent on conquest. "He will invade the Beautiful Land," says Daniel (vs 41). He then continues with: "He will extend his power over many countries; Egypt will not escape" (vs 42). Even the Libyans and Nubians will be in submission (vs 43). However, some countries are left untouched: "Edom, Moab and the leaders of Ammon will be delivered from his hand" (vs 41). Why does he spare these nations? Anyone familiar with Scripture knows the answer: Edom, Moab, and Ammon were the traditional enemies of the people of God. The children of God and all who sympathize with them or in some way help them are the ones who will feel the brutal power of the Antichrist. But the sworn enemies of God's people will be allowed a measure of freedom. The Antichrist operates on the ancient saying that the enemy of my enemy must be my friend.
III The Antichrist's Fall (vs 44-45)
A Strangely enough, God permits the attacks and conquests of the Antichrist to go on. In fact, the blasphemer is even allowed to prosper. However, "He will be successful until the time of wrath is completed, for what has been determined must take place" (vs 36). The Antichrist succeeds, then, not because of his own strength and cunning and skill, but simply because God's plan must be fulfilled. God's wrath must first be full; the chastisement must reach its full extent. Then the end will come.
We see here, then, a word of hope for the people of God. The Antichrist for a while may appear to be so strong and prosperous. But there will come a time when his end will come.
B We know from history that Antiochus Epiphanes had a strange ending. He was on the battlefield and was suddenly afflicted with a strange disease. Within a very short time he was dead and gone. Just like that, though surrounded by all the power and might of his victorious armies, his life was ended.
The end of the Antichrist will be just as sudden and just as unexpected as that of Antiochus. Says Daniel, "He will come to his end and no one will help him" (vs 45).
C Finally, we can ask why it is that the life of the Antichrist will reach its end so quickly? Very simply, he can't win, he can't possibly win, because opposed to Him is not only the church but also and especially the God of the church. Against this God no one can prevail – not Antiochus, not the Antichrist, not anyone. Regardless of what the Antichrist does, regardless of much power he accumulates, regardless of how many people he leads astray, it is Jesus Who is going to win.
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