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TEXT: Daniel 11:2-12:4

SUBJECT: Patience and Deliverance

Daniel 11 is one of the longest, most complicated, and disputed chapters in the Bible. That not everyone reads it in the same way shouldn't surprise us because the whole thing is shot through with mystery.

It starts with the chief speaker, an angel--and we're not used to listening to angels. Then there's the first recipient, a prophet--and we're not prophets. The language is what scholars call 'apocalyptic'--and that was far more familiar to the Jewish people of 2,500 years ago than it is to American Christians today. Then there's the sheer number of characters involved, more than a dozen unnamed 'kings', most of whom are known only to scholars of ancient history.

If the chapter leaves your head spinning, don't be ashamed: It had the same effect on Daniel, who passed out when he first heard it, and, at the end had to confess--

Although I heard, I did not understand.

This brings up an obvious question: If a man of Daniel's intelligence, godliness, and sincerity had no idea what the angel was getting at, how can we expect to make any sense of it?

Let's be sure of one thing: It has nothing to do with our scholarship or wisdom. The key is found in the book itself, just a few verses past our text, 12:9--

The words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.

Daniel, in other words, was not meant to fully grasp the meaning of the prophecies. Only those at 'the end' will understand. But what does this mean? The end of what? Well, seizing on the words, the end, many Christians take them to mean, 'the end of the world'. This was one of the mistakes the President of Family Radio made, in making his now falsified predictions. This, however, is emphatically not what I mean, and I don't think it is what the verse means either. We may or may not be living at 'the end of the world' but one thing is sure: We are living on the other side of these prophecies, and, as the saying goes--

Hindsight is 20/20.

This brings up another question: If Daniel and his first readers were not meant to 'get the whole thing', why did God give it to them? If He wanted a later people to understand the prophecy, He could have inspired a later prophet or Apostle to preach it, instead of burdening a decrepit old man who might have enjoyed a well earned retirement and a long and useful career.

But, instead of revealing it to John the Baptist or the Apostle Paul, He gave it to Daniel. Why?

Because he and his first readers needed it. The details would be murky for many years to come, but the message was crystal clear and urgently needed then, and always. What is it? I can think of no better way of summarizing it than by quoting Psalm 34:19--

Many are the afflictions of the righteous,

but the Lord delivers them out of them all.

Daniel's long life had been a dark one: as a boy he was carried into captivity, and now for more than seventy years, he and his people had lived in exile. A couple of years ago, some of them went home with high hopes, but their hopes were already being dashed. The next few centuries would not be the Golden Age they looked for, but times of hardship and persecution, ending with...

Victory!

The righteous would be afflicted--for a very long time they would be. But in the end--and not before--the Lord would deliver them. That's the message of Daniel 11 and the first part of chapter 12, and whatever else you make of these kings of the north and kings of the south and especially that vile person, keep the central message central!

PERSIAN KINGS

The chapter begins with four Persian kings, excluding the present king, Darius. The first three men don't matter to the story, but the next one does. He'll be a man of enormous wealth--and his money will go to his head. Thinking himself invincible, he'll make the fatal mistake of stirring up the king of Greece.

The Persian king is usually called, Xerxes, but we know him in the Bible as Ahaseurus, the husband of good queen Esther. Read Esther and you'll see his incredible riches and get a hint of his extreme stupidity!

The problem with Xerxes plan is he underestimated the power and ambition of Greece's young king. He was then known as Alexander, and we call him--

Alexander the Great.

Who, of course, broke the Persian Empire and took over the world from Italy to India to Egypt and beyond. For seven years, Alexander was lord of all he surveyed. But then he died, without a son, at the tender age of 33, in the year 323 AD.

SELEUCIDS AND PTOLEMIES

What happened to the Empire when he died? It sent to pieces. Four generals took over, two of them are left out of the prophecy, and two of them included. They and their heirs are called--

The kings of the north and the kings of the south.

North and South of Israel, of course. The ones in the south were called the Ptolemies and ruled from Egypt. The ones in the north were called Selucids and sat on the throne in Syria.

For decades the kings of the north and south would feud with each other, and most of the fighting did not involve the Holy Land, and so it is mostly skipped over.

But then, in v.20, we find a northern king turning his attention to the glorious kingdom, imposing a heavy tax on the already poverty-stricken Jews. Most scholars identify this king as Selucus IV who is better known as Philopheter.

Like other leaders who raise taxes, Philopheter was not a popular man in Judah, and was assassinated. Little did they know how good they had it! Because succeeding him was one of the great war criminals in history, Antiochus IV. He named himself Ephiphanes, which means 'god with us', but behind his back he was called, Epimames, or 'madman'.

ANTIOCHUS IV

For what he did in other parts of his Empire, you have to consult historians, but what he was and did in Judah is described in vv.21-35.

What he was was a vile person (v.21); some translations have it, a contemptible person. None of the pagan kings were good men, but even by their low standards, this man was a scoundrel.

He called himself a king, but nobody thought he was worthy of the honor. He was a tyrant, who--

Seized the kingdom by intrigue.

Like other tyrants, he had to justify himself, and he did it by promptly going to war with the king of the south or Egypt. He won the first battle, and filled with pride, he decided to flex his muscles in Judah--

His heart was moved against the holy covenant.

You notice, it doesn't say, the 'people of the covenant' (though they're included). He also wanted to humble the Lord their God.

But before he gets to that, he's got another war to wage in Egypt. But this time, supported by the Roman Navy, throws back the wicked king. And now, humiliated himself, he takes it out on Israel and their God.

First, by bribing some of the leaders, and then by desecrating the Temple, abolishing the daily sacrifices and committing--

The abomination of desolation.

There's a term that appears more than once in the Bible, and I believe occurred twice in Israel's history. Once in 70 AD when the Romans set up an image of the Sanctuary, but Antiochus did it first, almost 250 years before.

What did he do? Two things: He set up an image of Zeus and he offered a pig on the Lord's altar, thus making the Temple 'unclean' and no longer fit to host the morning and evening sacrifices, no less the Passover and the Day of Atonement. In other words, he abolished the religion of Israel and tried to replace it with the Greek gods who are no gods at all.

THE RESISTANCE

Some Jews went along with his evil program, but most didn't. Following the Maccabee family, they revolted against the king and his pagan policies, and won. This is what the Jewish holiday, Chanukah, commemorates.

Though the Jews won it, the war didn't come cheaply; thousands--

Fell by sword and flame , by captivity and plundering.

But at the appointed time, the God of Israel showed Himself mighty in the cause of His people; Antiochus was killed, his armies were driven out of the land, and a Jewish republic was formed, one that lasted about 100 years.

THE RECAPITULATION

This is the end of the narrative, but we've only gotten to v.35. What do we do with the verses that follow?

On this point, I have to say, I'm in the minority. Most conservative scholars and preachers say vv.36ff., are still future to us, that the king of v.36 is not Antiochus IV, a man who died in 164 BC, but another king, an end-of-the-world king whom they call the Beast, the Man of Sin, and, more often than not, the Antichrist.

I have the highest respect for John MacArthur, Sinclair B. Ferguson, Iain Duguid, Herman Bavinck, and others who hold this view, including my hero, Sidney Greidanus, but I just can't see it.

It's hard for me to believe the king of v.36 is someone other than the king he's been speaking of for twenty-five verses; if they were different men, especially men separated by thousands of years, you'd think the angel would indicate that. But I can't see that he does.

What's more, the character of this supposedly new king is identical to Antiochs and so are his enemies. Could it be an evil dictator still future to us? I suppose it could be, but to my way of thinking, that reading creates ten problems for every one it solves.

I am fully convinced that this new king is old King Antiochus IV, who won some battles against the Egyptians, but was finally brought to justice by the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Just as Pharoah was before him, King Herod was later, and everyone who dares to contest His Rule.

You want a prayer that is sure to be answered? Here's one, Psalm 68:1--

Let God arise,

Let His enemies be scattered.

Antiochus blasphemed the Lord, he persecuted his people, he called himself a god, but here's what happened to him, v.45--

He came to his end,

and no one helped him.

THEN DELIVERANCE--PARTIAL AND COMPLETE

How will a small nation of starving people without a trained army stand up to a mighty king? They will stand, but they won't stand alone. God will send His top general to join the war on their side, and with Michael the archangel wielding a power we cannot imagine, the Greeks are thrown back once and for all.

The victory is glorious, but it comes at a great cost. Tens of thousands of faithful men, women, and children died resisting the pagans, and were not--

Delivered.

Has God failed them? He hasn't. Even though they were killed confessing the Lordship of God, they were not lost and they won't be forgotten. They, and all the faithful, will some day--

Awake to everlasting life, and shine like the brightness of the stars.

This is the Resurrection and the way God--

Delivers us from all our afflictions.

Not some of our problems--like persecuting Greeks or disloyal friends--but all of them up to and including the last enemy that shall be destroyed: Death.

We all wish this were true: If only our problems and the problems of the world would go away. But that's wishful thinking and does not square with the world as it really is.

But the key words are, 'as it really is'. We live in a present evil age, and not just we, our grandparents did too, and so will our grandchildren. But someday, this Evil Epoch will end; John says--

The world and the lusts thereof are passing away, but he who does the will of God abides forever.

That's a beautiful thought and how we wish it were true. But we know people who did the will of God and they died like everyone else. Pharaoh died and so did Moses. King Ahab died and so did King David. Adolf Hitler and so did my father. Death has been called 'the great leveler'--good or bad, however men differ in life, they come together in death.

And if the Story ends in death, we're fools for being at church on a day better spent in at work, in bed , or at the beach!

But there's the thing: the Story doesn't end in death; it ends...in Life! We have God's word on it, and more than that, we have His Son, Jesus Christ, who made good on His Word.

The only truly righteous and wise man is Jesus. Like the faithful Jews, He suffered terribly at the hands of the Pagans and His own people. They went so far as to kill Him in the cruelest way wicked hearts could come up with: Hanging Him on a cross.

But God raised Him from the Dead, and made Him a kind of 'first fruit' to those who sleep in Jesus. If Jesus does not return in our lifetimes, every one of us will die, but those who die in Christ are not lost in soul or body.

On the Last Day, Jesus will come again, raise the body immortal and incorruptible and reunite it with the spirit made perfect. Then we'll be with the Lord--in body and soul--forever.

If you had to sum up the message of the Bible in one word, you couldn't do better than to choose the word, Resurrection.

This is the hope of everyone who believes in Christ, and this hope in death has a way of working backwards into life.

If you're a Christian, you're a son or daughter of the Resurrection. This means you're alive to God right now. This means you can grow in grace; it means you can break bad habits and replace them with good ones. It means sin has lost its control over you.

It also means you don't have to fear sickness or death. And it means you have what others need: not good advice on how to be a better husband or mother; you have the Word of Life. Now get out there and announce it.

Till Jesus comes.

Amen. Praise the Lord.

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