Daniel 11 and the Antichrist

Category: The End Times 25 1

The book of Daniel contains a lot of information about the End Times. One of the chapters that is debated concerning the Antichrist is the eleventh chapter. Some believe Daniel 11 presents evidence for a Middle Eastern origin of the Antichrist while others think the same about a Roman Antichrist. Still, others believe that the chapter says nothing about the Antichrist and the time of the end. In this article, we will examine Daniel 11 to understanding what it says, if anything, about the Antichrist.

Daniel 11

Daniel 11 is a prophecy about the Greek Empire after the death of Alexander the Great (d. 323 BC) and ends with the reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-164 BC). Daniel 11:1-35 gives a detailed look at the history between the Seleucid rulers of Syria (312-63 BC) and the Ptolemaic kings of Egypt (305-30 BC). These events were still in the future in Daniel’s view since he wrote about the year 530 BC (about two hundred years before Alexander the Great created his empire). (To give the reader something to relate to concerning these dynasties, one of the most famous queens in history was the last ruler of Ptolemaic Egypt and is considered to be the last pharaoh of Ancient Egypt: Cleopatra VII. She became famous because she was the lover of both Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. The events around her life helped set the stage for the rise of the Roman Empire.)

In Daniel 11, the Seleucids are called the “kings of the North,” and the Ptolemaic rulers are called the “kings of the South.” This is logical since the Seleucids ruled from Syria and Iraq, which is north of Israel, and the Ptolemaic Dynasty ruled from Egypt, which is south of Israel. Daniel 11:1-35 ends with a look at Antiochus (11:21-35). It is interesting that this section uses some of the same descriptions that chapter 8 uses for both Antiochus and possibly the Antichrist. These are: 1) through intrigue he will invade people when they feel secure (v. 21), and that he will act deceitfully (v. 23).

The Antichrist

When it comes to verses 36-45, we have different interpretations. First, advocates for an Islamic Antichrist believe the passage refers to the Antichrist. In another article, I examined the near view – far view problem that we encounter in the prophetic books. The prophets will sometimes speak about their own time period, or something in the near future, in one verse, and then immediately fast forward to the end-times in the very next verse. According to this model, this is what happens between verses 35 and 36. Verse 35 ends with Antiochus and verse 36 moves onto the Antichrist.

There are numerous reasons given for why these verses speak about the Antichrist and Antiochus: 1) 12:1 uses the phrase “at that time” to connect 11:36-45 to the resurrection and judgment of the dead. 2) 11:35-36 gives us the transition verse between Antiochus and the Antichrist by noting “until the time of the end.” 3) Verse 36 says that the king will be successful until the “time of wrath” is completed. Antiochus did not live during the “time of wrath.” The Antichrist, however, will live during that period. 4) Verse 40 puts the passage “at the time of the end.” 5) The life and career of Antiochus do not fit with the details of 11:36-45. 6) The descriptions of the king in verses 36-45 fit very well with what we know of the Antichrist (see below). 7) 12:1 notes that a great time of distress will occur in connection with the events in 11:36-45. Jesus brings this up in Matthew 24:21 and adds that this great distress will never be equaled again. This time of distress had yet not happened by the time of Christ, and he connects it with his second coming.[1]

If this interpretation is correct, then this section gives us some good information concerning the Antichrist:

1) “He will exalt and magnify himself above every god” (v. 36). (See Daniel 8:11; 2 Thessalonians 2:4).

2) He will say horrible things about the one true God (v. 36). (See Revelation 13:5-6)

3) He will succeed in everything he does until the “time of wrath” is complete (v. 36).

4) He will honor those who acknowledge him by making them rulers over his conquests (v. 39).

One will notice that the details here go right along with what we know about the Antichrist from other passages in Daniel and Revelation.

The Ptolemaic Empire is in green. The Seleucid Empire is in yellow. c. 300 BC.

Is the Antichrist the same or different from the “king of the North?”

This brings us to the second view of Daniel 11:36-45, and it centers around the “king of the North” in verses 40-45:

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 Cushites 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.”

These verses have caused considerable debate about the events of the Tribulation. This is centered on the identification of the “king of the North” and his relationship with the Antichrist, and it has resulted in two major interpretations. The first is that the Antichrist is the king of the North in verse 40. This means that there are two different kings fighting in this passage: the ruler of Egypt (the king of the South) and the Antichrist (the king of the North). The second view identifies three kings: the Antichrist, the king of the South, and the king of the North.

Joel Richardson, in his examination of Daniel 11, calls the first interpretation the historical view. Ancient Christians such as Hippolytus (2nd century), Lactantius (3rd century), and Theodoret of Cyr (4th century) believed that the king of the North was the Antichrist.[2] This interpretation is argued for the following reasons:

1) The Antichrist is foreshadowed by Antiochus IV Epiphanes in this chapter and in Daniel 8, who is a king of the North.

2) The passage concerning the Antichrist is part of the section about the king of the North and the King of the South.

3) The verses about the Antichrist naturally continue from Antiochus, who is spoken about in verses 21-35.

Those who argue for this view believe that the king of the North being the Antichrist fits the flow and context of the entire 11th chapter of Daniel better than the second view (see below). Since Antiochus and the Antichrist are connected in Daniel 8, it only natural that they are connected in chapter 11 as well. It is also consistent with our findings in Daniel 2 and Ezekiel 38-39 which point to a Middle Eastern Antichrist.[3]

The Second View

This leads us to the second view, which teaches that verse 40 is referring to three different individuals: 1) the Antichrist; 2) the king of the South (Egypt), and 3) the king of the North.[4] Many advocates of this position believe that the king of the North in verse 40 is Russia, not Syria.[5]

The two major arguments in favor of this are 1) the pronouns “him” in verse 40 seem to point to both kings fighting against the Antichrist (who is referred to with the pronoun “he” in verses 36-39). 2) Identifying the Antichrist with the king of the North means that the Antichrist will come from the Seleucid Empire. However, many commentators believe that the Antichrist will come from the Roman Empire, so identifying him as a Middle Eastern ruler would invalidate their position.

There are some difficulties with this second view. The idea of three kings goes against the natural flow and context of the passage. Antiochus is consistently viewed as a type of Antichrist, foreshadowing the future enemy of God’s people. The section on the Antichrist also flows very nicely from the narrative concerning the king of the North. The context would thus identify the Antichrist as a king of the North.

What is strange about the popular view is that even though the Antichrist is constantly related to Antiochus, a king of the North (Syria), the Antichrist is suddenly divorced from the Seleucid Dynasty and the king of the North suddenly becomes the ruler of Russia. How does this happen? One cannot get this conclusion from the context of the passage.

The Antichrist is also turned into an enemy of Antiochus. How can Antiochus foreshadow the Antichrist yet also be his enemy? Along with this, chapter 11 constantly speaks of the kings of the North and South fighting against each other. Yet, for some reason, in verse 40, they ally with each other to fight the Antichrist. This goes against the natural flow of the entire chapter.[6]

But what about the pronouns in verse 40? Those who hold that the Antichrist is the king of the North interpret verse 40 as saying: “At the time of the end the king of the South will engage him [the Antichrist] in battle, and the king of the North will storm out against him [the king of the South] with chariots and cavalry and a great fleet of ships. He [the Antichrist] will invade many countries and sweep through them like a flood.” This reading is possible and makes sense when interpreted against the context of the entire chapter. Although a reading of three kings is also possible, the rest of the chapter (and other chapters in Daniel) favor only two kings.

Another major problem is the identification of the king of the North with Russia. These same scholars note that the kings of the North and South are Syria and Egypt respectively throughout Daniel 11. In verse 40, they continue to believe that the King of the South is Egypt, but for some reason, they now conclude that the King of the North is not Syria, but Russia.

Leon Wood comments, “[T]he designation ‘king of the North’ is not an appropriate indication of the Antichrist, because his country, Rome, is not north of Palestine. A Russian ruler fits well, however, since Russia is directly north, with Moscow being almost on a direct north-south line with Jerusalem.”[7] It is interesting to note that Wood, along with many other commentators, came to this conclusion during the Cold War, when the Soviet Union was the big bad guy for the United States. It should also be noted that Wood says on the same page that identification of the king of the North should be the same as the rest of the chapter (Syria), but then changes the king of the North to Russia in the very next paragraph![8] Why, because the Antichrist is a Roman/European in his mind.

John Whitcomb argues that the king of the North must be Russia because the king of the North travels through other countries on his way to Palestine (11:40-41).[9] “At the time of the end the king of the South will engage him [the Antichrist] in battle, and the king of the North will storm out against him [the king of the South] with chariots and cavalry and a great fleet of ships. He will invade many countries and sweep through them like a flood. He will also invade the Beautiful Land.”

Since a Syrian king would not go through many countries before reaching Palestine, then the king of the North must be a Russian since a Russian king would go through many countries on his way to Palestine. However, verse 40 may be referring to the three nations mentioned in verses 42-43: Egypt, Libya, and Nubia (modern-day Sudan). The point is that the king of the North will invade and conquer many countries. (As a side note, it is interesting to note that verses 42-43 mention three kingdoms that fall to the Antichrist. Could these three nations be the three kings that the Antichrist will uproot in Daniel 7: 8, 20?)

Some scholars think that Russia is the king of the North. (source: https://heavenawaits.wordpress.com/how-does-gog-and-magog-relate-to-armageddon/)

Only Antiochus?

This brings us to a third interpretation for Daniel 11:36-45. Advocates of this view believe that the verses refer only to Antiochus IV and that the Antichrist is not in question at all. One of the major arguments used against this third view is that none of the details in verses 40-45 fit the known history of Antiochus. However, scholar Sam Storms argues that this is an argument from silence and that we do not have all the details from the reign of Antiochus. Exhaustive records from his time as king do not exist so Daniel 11:40-45 may be giving us information that we simply have not discovered in other sources.[10]

Storms also argues that there is no indication of a break or change between verses 35 and 36. He says, “Verses 36-45 flow in unbroken continuity with the preceding paragraph.”[11] Thus, verses 36-45 continue with Antiochus instead of changing to a figure thousands of years later.

In response to Storms, I agree with his argument about the silence of the historical records. It is always possible that verses 40-45 could be referring to events in Antiochus’s reign that we simply have no record of outside the Bible. However, it must also be admitted that the opposite may be true as well. The data can be interpreted either way.

When it comes to a break between verses 35 and 36, it must be admitted that this is possible. However, this leads to a big problem for the “Antiochus only” view. Daniel 11:36-45 leads into 12:1-4 which teaches the general resurrection of humanity at the end of the age. 11:45 naturally leads into and continues into 12:1. There is no indication of a break. In fact, 12:1 connects the two sections with “at that time…” The resurrection comes immediately after the events of 11:36-45.

This causes a major problem for the “Antiochus only” interpretation. Storms attempts to solve this in a couple of ways. First, he notes that it is possible that the resurrection of believers in 12:1-4 indicate not a bodily resurrection but “the spiritual vindication and triumph of God’s people over their enemies.” Second, if the general resurrection is in view here, then he asks whether or not this resurrection occurs immediately after the events of Daniel 11.[12]

I have already mentioned that 12:1 says, “at that time…” which indicates that this resurrection occurs with the preceding section. We then have to conclude one of two things. First, there is a break between 11:35 and 36. Second, the resurrection in 12:1-4 is symbolic since the general resurrection did not occur a couple of hundred years before Jesus.

However, 12:1 also mentions that this resurrection is connected to “a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then.” This could refer to Antiochus’s great persecution of the Jews that he conducted, but Jesus teaches that this event had not yet taken place by the time of his ministry (Matthew 24:21). Jesus connects this event with his return at the end of the age. This strongly indicates that 11:36-12:4ff take place during the time of the return of Christ. This is more consistent with the view that a break exists between 11:35 and 36.

What does all this mean?

The argument that Daniel 11:36-45 is referring to the End Times is the stronger (in my opinion) of the options. Although the “Antiochus only” view is possible, it does have the difficulty concerning the resurrection and the “time of distress.” What which of the End Times options is the most likely to be correct?

As noted in articles over covering Daniel 2 and Ezekiel 38 and 39, a Middle Eastern Antichrist is very possible. Thus, the view that the Antichrist is the king of the North (thus a Syrian/Middle eastern ruler) is a good plausible interpretation. The connection between the Antichrist and Antiochus IV support this model.

The view that the king of the North and the Antichrist are separate individuals is not an impossible interpretation but does have its difficulties. The biggest weakness of this model is making Russia the king of the North which contradicts the context of the passage. Even so, one could argue that the Antichrist is still distinct from the king of the North, but hold, instead of a Russian ruler, the latter is another Middle Eastern king. Thus, in this model, the Antichrist would defeat two future Middle Eastern kings.

In conclusion, I believe that the two-king option best fits the available evidence (although I am not dogmatic about this). Thus, the Antichrist is the king of the North. He would then emerge from the area of the old Seleucid Empire. Joel Richardson summarizes the view that the Antichrist is the king of the North:

“[T]he Antichrist, as the last-days Antiochus IV Epiphanes, is also referred to as the king of the North who will rule over a last-days version of the Seleucid Empire. This position is reasonable, simple, and clear, resolving the difficulties, contradictions, and tensions that have plagued many interpreters for years.”[13]

What do you think? Is the Antichrist the same or different from the king of the North?

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[This is a revised and updated edition of an article originally published on April 23, 2013.]

[1] John F. Walvoord. Daniel: The Key to Prophetic Revelation (Chicago: Moody Press, 1971).270. John C. Whitcomb. Daniel. Everyman’s Bible Commentary. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1985). 152-153. Leon Wood. A Commentary on Daniel. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1973). 304-305. Walid Shoebat, with Joel Richardson. God’s War on Terror (Top Executive Media, 2008). 342. Sam Storms (Kingdom Come [Ross-Shire: Christian Focus Publications, 2013]) believes that Daniel 11 is teaching us only about Antiochus. The Antichrist is not in view here. An argument against the only Antiochus theory of verses 40-45 is that none of the details here fit the known history of Antiochus. Storms argues that this is an argument from silence and that we do not have all the details of his reign (p. 127). He believes that there is no indication of a break or change between verses 35 and 36 (p. 128). In response to Storms, it must be mentioned that the resurrection of believers and unbelievers is taught in 12:1-4. There is no indication of a break or change between 11:45 and 12:1. This indicates that the resurrection happens right after the events in 11:40-45. Naturally, the resurrection of the dead did not happen at the end of the reign of Antiochus.

[2] Joel Richardson, Mideast Beast (Washington D.C.: WND Books, 2012), 117-118.

[3] Ibid., 120.

[4] Walvoord, 277-279. Whitcomb, 155. Wood, 308-311. John MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Commentary (Nashville: Thomas Nelsn, 2005), 967.

[5] Walvoord, 277-279. Whitcomb, 155-156. Wood, 308-310.

[6] Richardson, 121.

[7] Wood, 308-309.

[8] Ibid., 308.

[9] Whitcomb, 155-156.

[10] Sam Storms, Kingdom Come (Ross-Shire: Christian Focus Publications, 2013), 127.

[11] Ibid., 128.

[12] Ibid., 130.

[13] Richardson, 122.

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