Biblical prophecy is not easy to grasp, but the Bible assures us that as we continue to study it, we will gain understanding. As a result, we also will grow more confident in and faithful to the God who has revealed His eternal plan to us.
Human History in the Hand of Divine Authority
As we conclude our study of the book of Daniel, we are going to see even more amazing prophecies. In fact, these prophecies are so detailed and precise that critics of the Bible often argue that this must have been written hundreds of years later by somebody else. The truth is, God knows the future—and He is in control of the future. Human history is in God’s hands.
Here in chapters 11 and 12, Daniel is given another description of events both in the near future and in the far distant future. It fills in some of the details of what we have already been given.
The angel is still speaking to Daniel in chapter 11, and he says in verse 2, “Now I will show you the truth.” Beginning with Darius the Mede, the angel says three more kings over Persia will arise and then a fourth who is richer and stronger than his predecessors. We know from history that this fourth king was Xerxes, or Ahasuerus, the Persian king in the book of Esther.
Verse 3 then prophesies the rise of a “mighty king . . . with great dominion.” This is Alexander the Great, who nearly conquers the entire known world. But his life is cut short, and at his death, his kingdom is divided among four generals, who become kings in their own right.
Verses 5 through 35 spell out the conflicts that are going to take place between two of these kings. The “king of the south” refers to Ptolemy and his dynasty in Egypt; the “king of the north” is Seleucus, who along with his successors rule over Syria. These two kingdoms are the focus here because Israel is situated between these two kingdoms and cannot get out of the way of their tug of war.
Now the angel reintroduces us to the “little horn,” the king of the north we learned about back in chapter 8. Much more detail is given about him here in chapter 11.
We know from history that his name was Antiochus Epiphanes, the great persecutor of the Jews who comes to power in 175 BC. He is described here in verses 21-22:
“[He is] a contemptible person to whom royal majesty has not been given. He shall come in without warning . . . armies shall be swept away before him and broken.”
In other words, Antiochus is going to become very powerful and wage a successful military campaign against Egypt, which is described in the next few verses.
A little later on, when he returns to invade Egypt again, he will not succeed. Verse 30 says, “He . . . shall turn back and be enraged.” He is defeated, and as he returns home, he takes out his anger on Israel. We read here in verse 31:
“Forces from him shall appear and profane the temple and fortress, and shall take away the regular burnt offering. And they shall set up the abomination that makes desolate.”
This “abomination” is probably a statue of Zeus; this is Antiochus’s attempt to force Greek religion down the throat of the Jewish people. The Jewish people revolt, and we know from historical sources that this leads to Israel’s independence.
So, there is a near-term fulfillment of these prophecies of Daniel—they have already taken place. But at this point in chapter 11, there is a clear shift into the distant future. Antiochus becomes a foreshadowing of the evil ruler of the end times—the Antichrist, the Beast of the book of Revelation.
And Daniel’s prophecy now focuses on this future world leader. The angels says here in verse 36:
“He shall exalt himself and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak astonishing things against the God of gods. He shall prosper till the indignation is accomplished.”
This looks ahead to the tribulation period, when the Antichrist will rise in power; but let me tell you, he is going to succeed only until his role in God’s plan of judgment is complete.
Verse 45 tells us, “He shall come to his end, with none to help him.” This occurs when Christ returns at the end of the seven years of tribulation (Revelation 19:11-21) and defeats the Antichrist.
Now the last chapter of Daniel, chapter 12, takes us all the way to the end of the tribulation period. The angel speaks to Daniel in verse 1:
“At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book.”
The Lord is not going to allow the believing remnant of Israel to be destroyed during these troubling days of the great tribulation. A remnant will be preserved and brought to faith in Christ. Verse 2 says, they shall be raised “to everlasting life.”
With that, Daniel is told here in verse 4 to “shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end.” Why? Well, it must be preserved because people are going to continue needing information about the future.
Now you might still have some questions about these prophecies—I certainly do. In fact, so does Daniel!
First, in verse 6, the prophet hears a voice asking the angel, “How long shall it be till the end of these wonders?” The angel answers in verse 7 that till “the shattering of the power of the holy people comes to an end,” it will be “a time, times, and half a time.” That is, three and a half years will transpire during the days of great persecution of Israel by the Antichrist.
Then Daniel himself asks in verse 8, “O my lord, what shall be the outcome of these things?” He wants to know how human history turns out in the end? The answer is interesting:
“Go your way, Daniel, for the words are shut up and sealed until the time of the end. . . . none of the wicked shall understand, but those who are wise shall understand.” (verses 9-10)
In other words, the answer will arrive later, and those who are wise will understand it. Let me tell you, the outcome is finally revealed 600 years after Daniel’s death. John the apostle gives us the answer in the book of Revelation: the final outcome will be the return of Jesus Christ the Messiah, when He descends to rescue Israel at the end of the tribulation and set up His glorious kingdom on earth.
Now the prophecy of Daniel ends by telling us that something special will take place 1290 days and then 1335 days after the midpoint of the tribulation. Since both of these periods extend beyond the end of the tribulation and into the millennium, we are not sure what these extra days are for. It could be that some time will be needed to prepare for the coming reign of Christ; or perhaps the final regathering of the Jewish people to Israel will take place during this interval of time.
What we do know is that the Antichrist is defeated, Christ returns, Israel is regathered to celebrate her Messiah, and we, the redeemed will begin to serve our Lord in His millennial kingdom on earth.
Let me close by reminding you of what the angel said earlier about all these amazing prophecies: This is “the truth” (Daniel 11:2). Where will you be on that day? If you have placed your faith in Christ as your Messiah, your future is one of unimaginable joy and peace. Do you believe His Word today? Jesus Himself said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32).
And with that we come to the conclusion of these words of truth, delivered through the prophet Daniel.