Daniel 8 and the Antichrist

Category: The End Times 59 7

The topic of the Antichrist is one of great interest. Exactly who he will be and where he will come from are some of the most asked questions among Christians. One chapter in Scripture that sometimes comes up concerning this topic is Daniel 8. It has been thought that it only refers to the ancient king Antiochus IV Epiphanes (thus it has nothing to do with the End Times). Another view is that it teaches about the Antichrist, or perhaps has both the Antichrist and Antiochus in mind. In this article, we will study Daniel 8 and see what it has to say, if anything, about the Antichrist.

Daniel 8

In Daniel 8, the prophet once again has a vision as he did before. In chapter 8, Daniel sees a ram with two horns. The ram is very powerful, and no other animal can stand against it (one of the two horns is longer than the other). Then, out of nowhere, comes a goat from the west, so fast that its feet are not even touching the ground, and the goat has one prominent horn between its eyes. The goat attacks the ram and overpowers it.

The horn on the goat is broken off at the height of its power, and four other horns come up in its place. Then another horn comes up and persecutes the people of God. This last horn, “a little horn,” becomes so powerful and arrogant that it fights against God and his people. However, the little horn is eventually destroyed by God.

This chapter, in some details, parallels chapters 2 and 7 in Daniel. The ram represents the Medo-Persian Empire, which is represented by a lopsided bear in Daniel 7, and by the chest and arms of silver in Daniel 2. The two horns represent the Medes and the Persians (8:20). This is similar to the lopsided bear. One horn is bigger because the Persians were stronger than the Medes just as one side of the bear was stronger than the other (hence the lopsidedness).

The goat is the equivalent to the belly and thighs of bronze and the leopard in Daniel 2 and 7 respectively. The goat is the Greek Empire (8:21 specifically says this). The fact that its feet are not touching the ground means that it will come from the west very quickly. Remember that the Greeks were represented as a leopard in Daniel 7 (leopards are fast). The prominent horn is Alexander the Great, and the fact that is broken off during the height of its power foreshadows the early death of Alexander (323 BC).

The four horns that come up represent the four divisions of Alexander’s empire after his death. They are equivalent to the four heads of the leopard in Daniel 7. However, it would be only two divisions of the Greek Empire that would dominate most of the known world: the Ptolemaic Dynasty of Egypt (305-30 BC) and the Seleucid Dynasty of Syria (312-63 BC) (the two thighs represented these two kingdoms in Daniel 2). The Seleucid’s kingdom consisted of the present-day nations of Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and parts of Central Asia.

The Kingdoms of the Book of Daniel
Daniel 2 Daniel 7 Daniel 8 Kingdoms
Head of Gold Lion   Babylon
Chest and Arms of Silver Bear Ram Medo-Persia
Belly and Thighs of Bronze Leopard Goat Greece
Legs of Iron Fourth Beast   Roman or Islamic Empires
Feet and Toes Ten Horns   Revived Roman or Islamic Empires

The Little Horn

The little horn that rises to power has been interpreted in different ways. Among Christian scholars there have been three major interpretations: 1) the little horn was Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who ruled the Seleucid Empire from 175-164 BC. Antiochus was a cruel ruler who went to war against the Jewish people and desecrated the temple in Jerusalem. This means that all of chapter eight is historical and has nothing to do with the future. 2) The entire prophecy is about the Antichrist just before the second coming of Christ. 3) The chapter has a dual fulfillment in that Antiochus and the Antichrist are spoken about. Antiochus is thus interpreted by many to be foreshadowing the Antichrist.[1]

The third option is one of the most popular interpretations. Let’s discuss the arguments in favor of this. First, verses 17 and 19 specifically say that the vision concerns the “time of wrath” and the “appointed time of the end.” Because of these phrases, it is believed by many that the chapter is referring to the Second Coming of Christ.

Antiochus lived more than 150 years before the first coming of Christ. How could he have anything to do with the second coming? This passage is, in some way, referring to the Antichrist. Concerning the phrase “time of the end” (Hebrew et-qetz) Tim Lahaye and Ed Hindson note:

“The term ‘time of the end’ (Hebrew, et-qetz) in Daniel (8:17, 19; 11:35; 12:4, 6, 9, 13), as in the rest of the Old Testament, is distinct from the term ‘latter days’ (Hebrew acharit hayamim) (2:28; 10:14). Both are eschatological expressions, but only et-qetz refers exclusively to the final eschatological period or event…The focus on the ‘end-time’ and the ‘final period of the indignation’ reveals that the events pertaining to Antiochus’ persecution of the Jewish people and desecration of the Temple – and therefore against God, ‘the Prince of prince’ – would have their ultimate fulfillment with the antitype, the Antichrist during the Tribulation…Antiochus did many of the things the future Antichrist would do, and in this way established a prophetic pattern for what is to come.”[2]

If this model is correct, then it leads to a potential problem for many readers. Why did Daniel speak about the Antichrist using an ancient king? A common phenomenon of biblical prophecy is referred to as the near view – far view problem. The near view – far view can be confusing to even those who study the Bible for a living.

In Old Testament prophecy, the prophets would commonly speak of the destruction of Israel by the Assyrians and Babylonians (which occurred in 722 and 586 BC respectively). However, within the same prophecies, they would speak of the judgment on all nations at the end of the world. The near view was the destruction by the Assyrians and Babylonians, but the far view was the time of the end.[3]

The prophets would even give details of the first and second comings of Christ in the same passages. In fact, the prophets would sometimes give near and far views in the same verse. J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays speak of this problem in their book Grasping God’s Word, when they say:

“This near–far view is similar to the visual image we encounter when we look at a mountain range from a distance. Suppose, for example, you are standing on a flat prairie and looking at a mountain range in the distance…When we peer at the landscape from a distance, the mountains seem two-dimensional; that is, they all appear to be the same distance away from us. The mountains in front do not look any closer than the mountains in back. In reality, however, there are large valleys that separate the mountains from each other. The mountains in the back of our landscape view may be miles and miles away from the mountains in the front. Yet from our vantage point, they all look to be equally distant.”[4]

This is one of the ways the prophets paint the future. Isaiah, Daniel, and the others sometimes would not differentiate between the near and far views in their visions.

The Seleucid Empire in 301 BC. This is the region from which the Antichrist will emerge. Source: wikipedia.org.

Daniel 8 and the Antichrist

In the view that Daniel 8 is fulfilled by the Antichrist (even if foreshadowed), the chapter provides for us some of the best details and characteristics of the future tyrant. Below is a list, along with the similarities between Antiochus and the Antichrist. Let us look at verses 9-14, 23-25.

1) The Antichrist is called a “little horn” in Daniel 7. He (and Antiochus) begin their reigns with little authority, but both grow in power and eventually take a stand against God (v. 10, 25; 7:21).

2) The Antichrist will exalt himself to be as great as God (v. 11) and will consider himself to be superior (v. 25). Revelation 13:6 states that the Antichrist will blaspheme God, and 2 Thessalonians 2:4 says that he will consider himself God.

3) He will put a stop to the daily sacrifice in the Temple (v. 11). Antiochus did this, and the Antichrist will fulfill this even further, even placing an idol in the Temple (Matthew 24:15; Revelation 13:11-18).

4) He will persecute the people of God (v. 12, 24). Antiochus persecuted God’s people, and the Antichrist will do this as well (Daniel 7:21; Revelation 13:7).

5) He will prosper in everything that he does (v. 12, 24). Antiochus succeeded in many things, but the Antichrist will be more successful than Antiochus could ever be.

6) He will throw truth to the ground (v.12). Antiochus desecrated the temple in Jerusalem, and the Antichrist will openly blaspheme God and set up the abomination that causes desolation (Matthew 24:15).

7) He will be a stern-faced king (v. 23). Stern means “hard or severe in manner or character,” “firm or unyielding; uncompromising,” “inexorable; relentless.”[5] The Antichrist will have an ‘imposing look” according to Daniel 7:20. Both Antiochus and the Antichrist fulfill this prophecy very well.

8) He will be a master of intrigue (v. 23), will cause deceit to prosper (v. 25), and will attack people when they feel secure (v. 25). Intrigue means “a secret or underhand scheme; plot,” “to engage in or effect by secret scheming or plotting.”[6] Deceit means “misrepresentation; deception,” “a stratagem; trick.”[7] There are many verses in the Bible that speak about peace in the end times (Daniel 9:26; Ezekiel 38:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:3). Scripture also says that he will be accompanied by miracles, signs, and wonders (2 Thessalonians 2:9; Revelation 13:4). The Antichrist will bring peace even though he will have the intention of breaking it from the very beginning. He will break his own peace treaty so that his enemies will not see him coming to destroy them.

9) He will gain power by someone else (v. 24). The Antichrist will gain his power through Satan (2 Thessalonians 2:9; Revelation 13:4).

10) He will cause astounding devastation (v. 24).

11) He will destroy the mighty (v. 24). The Antichrist will kill those who do not acknowledge him (Revelation 13:15).

12) God will overthrow him (v 25). Daniel 7: 11, 26; 2 Thessalonians 2:8; and Revelation 19 speak of the downfall of the Antichrist at the Second Coming of Christ.

Antiochus’ political career and life can be interpreted to fulfill the details of Daniel 8. However, all of these details are fully fulfilled by the Antichrist.

Bust of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Source: Wikipedia.org.

The Antichrist and his connection to Alexander’s Empire

However, there is an important aspect of this chapter that many readers miss. It is interesting that 8:9 says that the little horn will emerge out of one of the four kingdoms that Alexander’s empire breaks into. The two major kingdoms (the two thighs of Daniel 2) were both Middle Eastern empires (Seleucid Syria and Ptolemaic Egypt). Is this passage only referring to the origins of Antiochus or is it telling us something about the origin of Antiochus and the Antichrist?

This detail has caused some scholars to come up with some interesting theories. John Whitcomb, for example, believes that since this little horn comes from Alexander’s kingdom, he must be another end time ruler alongside the Antichrist. He comes to this conclusion because the Antichrist comes from the fourth kingdom of Daniel 2 and 7, while Alexander’s empire is the third kingdom. Since the fourth kingdom is Rome (in his view) then the Antichrist cannot come from the Greek empire, which is Middle Eastern.[8]

Whitcomb comes to this conclusion because of his belief that the Antichrist will come from Rome. However, there is a detail in Daniel 7 that many scholars tend to overlook. In another article, I noted that the fourth beast had claws of bronze (7:19). This is a clear reference to Alexander’s empire and shows us that there is a connection between Alexander’s empire and the Antichrist. Daniel 8:9, 23 note that the little horn comes from one of the four kingdoms of Alexander’s empire. If all the other details of the chapter ultimately point to the Antichrist why wouldn’t this detail?

This would mean that the Antichrist will come from the region that the Seleucid’s ruled (see map above). This is consistent with the conclusions of the model that the Antichrist will come from the Middle East (see my Daniel 2 and Gog of Magog articles for more).

Some Concluding Thoughts

Throughout this article, I have presented the interpretation that Daniel 8 refers to both Antiochus and the Antichrist. This is the view that I accept. The details that the chapter present fit the reign of Antiochus and other passages in Scripture that teach about the End Times.

However, I want to mention a few things here before I end the article. First, it needs to be pointed out that just because the chapter uses the phrases “in the time of wrath,” “the appointed time of the end,” “in the latter part of their reign,” and “the time of the end” does not prove that the chapter is about the period before the return of Christ. Words and phrases can have different meanings depending on the contexts in which they are used. A word or phrase can have one meaning in some places but have a completely different meaning in another. Context determines meaning.

Many of the details in the chapter (particularly 8:3-8; 20-22) fit the Persian and Greek empires perfectly. In fact, verse 20 specifically mentions “the kings of the Medes and Persians.”[9] It is clear then that the chapter has the period of Antiochus in mind. However, as mentioned throughout the article many of the details also fit very well with what we know about the Antichrist in other passages in the Bible.

This brings up a couple of important points. First, if Daniel 8 is referring to the Antichrist, then it is more consistent with a Middle Eastern origin of the Antichrist rather than a Roman/European one (see the previous section).

Secondly, the details that Daniel 8 uses to describe the little horn can also be found in many other passages in Scripture where the context gives us a picture of the world just before the return of Christ. This is important to understand because if this interpretation of Daniel 8 is wrong, it will not prove the Middle Eastern model of the Antichrist wrong since other passages in Scripture do strongly point to a Middle Eastern origin (again see the previous section).

What do you think? Do you agree with this article?

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[This is a revised and updated edition of an article originally published on April 22, 2013.]

[1] John Walvoord. Daniel: The Key to Prophetic Revelation (Chicago: Moody Press, 1971). 199. John C. Whitcomb. Daniel. Everyman’s Bible Commentary (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1985). 116-117. Leon Wood. A Commentary on Daniel (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1973). 212, 223, 227. John MacArthur. The MacArthur Bible Commentary (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2005). 960-961. Sam Storms. Kingdom Come (Ross-Shire: Christian Focus Publications, 2013). 113-115. Walid Shoebat, with Joel Richardson. God’s War on Terror (Top Executive Media, 2008). 338. Joel Richardson. Mideast Beast (Washington: WND Books, 2012). 103-112. Much of the information for the Islamic Antichrist view in this chapter comes Richardson. Sam Storms (Kingdom Come [Ross-Shire: Christian Focus Publications, 2013]) believes that Daniel 8 has nothing to do with a final Antichrist just prior to the second coming of Christ. He believes that the little horn is referring only to Antiochus. Concerning the references to the “time of the end” he thinks that it refers only to the end of the events being prophesied about (the persecution of the Jews by Antiochus (p. 113, 115, 120)).

[2] Tim Lahaye and Ed Hindson, The Popular Bible Prophecy Commentary (Eugene, OR; Harvest House, 2007), 239.

[3] J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays. Grasping God’s Word (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), 381-382.

[4] Ibid. 382.

[5] The American Heritage Dictionary. 4th Edition (New York: Dell Publishing, 2001), 808.

[6] Ibid., 448.

[7] Ibid., 225.

[8] Whitcomb, 118. Walvoord also has difficulty making the little horn of Daniel 8 the same as the Antichrist because of his belief that Rome is the fourth kingdom of Daniel 7 (pg. 194).

[9] Some readers may want to interpret the “Medes and Persians” here as meaning modern-day Iran only. This is what someone has to believe if they think that Daniel 8 is referring only to the End Times. This is based on a couple main assumptions: 1) that phrases like “the time of the end” and others can only carry the meaning of the period around the return of Christ. But as I mentioned in the last section of the article these words and phrases can carry different meanings depending on the context. For me, the context of Daniel 8 teaches that Antiochus IV and the Persian-Greco periods are in mind 2) The Bible must use ancient names (like the “Medes and Persians”) since names like “Iran” were not in use in those days. I understand this argument, but I believe we must be very careful with it. If not, we can make any words or names carry any meaning that we want them to have just to fit our theories.

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