These past three days have been the most difficult passages upon which to write devotional thoughts of all that we have done in all our sermon series with associated writings. These Scriptures are very complex and would take chapters to explain the varied nuances of the verses, the historical backgrounds, the relevant passages from other prophetic books, and the variant views held by different biblical scholars. We don’t have time and space for that, but I hate to just come off with a flippant “trust me on this one” approach either. But thanks for hanging in there!
Reflecting both on yesterday’s writing about prophetic revelations that have now been fulfilled in the past, to beginning today with verses that speak of events yet to be fulfilled, let me illustrate it this way …
When I am at Antietam Battlefield and am lecturing to guests about that bloodiest of Civil War battles, as a part of the orientation and introduction I will point to the southern horizon where a line of mountains are visible. It all looks like one set of mountains in the same range. However, in one eyeshot, you are able to distinguish Maryland Heights in Maryland, Loudon Heights in Virginia, and the hills that descend into the valley where is the town of Harpers Ferry, WV. There, the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers join. We who study such things know that because we have been there, and then when backing away from it some dozen miles to the north in Sharpsburg, we are able to know what we are looking at. But for the first-time visitor, it all looks like the same ridgeline.
That is how the future looked to Daniel … all these events simply ran together. But the revelations from the angel about his vision brought some clarity to it. Having lived through the post-Greek Empire era of world history, we clearly see how those prophesies were fulfilled (11:5-36). But other prophecies in Daniel’s vision are yet future, and we are not as able to so clearly identify every last detail.
These final verses of chapter 11 are speaking of the coming Antichrist. Though some believe it is a continuation of material about Antiochus Epiphanes, it cannot be, for he did not have historical events that correspond to this communication.
The King Who Exalts Himself
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 will be successful until the time of wrath is completed, for what has been determined must take place. 37 He will show no regard for the gods of his ancestors or for the one desired by women, nor will he regard any god, but will exalt himself above them all. 38 Instead of them, he will honor a god of fortresses; a god unknown to his ancestors he will honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and costly gifts. 39 He will attack the mightiest fortresses with the help of a foreign god and will greatly honor those who acknowledge him. He will make them rulers over many people and will distribute the land at a price.
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.
Again, what I am telling you here is a compilation of best beliefs based upon putting these verses you just read together with other portions of Daniel, Ezekiel, and the book of Revelation. The Antichrist makes a peace treaty with Israel, and that marks the beginning of the seven-year Tribulation period. The first 3.5 years are peaceful, but it all falls apart into end-time battles in the second half (called time, times, and half a time). A coalition of kings from the north and south threaten Israel, and the European-based Antichrist moves to protect the nation. When those kings are miraculously defeated, he takes credit and sets himself up to be worshipped by all. In the end he will be attacked again by an army of 200 million from the east (China?) and others from the north … upon which Christ returns and defeats the combined forces of these remaining world powers. Then begins the period of time known as the Millennium – a 1,000-year rule and reign of Christ upon the earth as the Messiah, fulfilling God’s covenant promises to Israel. And that is what chapter 12 describes briefly, given Daniel a sense of peace …
The End Times
12:1 “At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered. 2 Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. 4 But you, Daniel, roll up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge.”
5 Then I, Daniel, looked, and there before me stood two others, one on this bank of the river and one on the opposite bank. 6 One of them said to the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, “How long will it be before these astonishing things are fulfilled?”
7 The man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, lifted his right hand and his left hand toward heaven, and I heard him swear by him who lives forever, saying, “It will be for a time, times and half a time. When the power of the holy people has been finally broken, all these things will be completed.”
8 I heard, but I did not understand. So I asked, “My lord, what will the outcome of all this be?”
9 He replied, “Go your way, Daniel, because the words are rolled up and sealed until the time of the end. 10 Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.
11 “From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days. 12 Blessed is the one who waits for and reaches the end of the 1,335 days.
13 “As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance.”
Exactly how these varied numbers work out and how all these revelations precisely go together is not completely certain, but we are able to get the broad outline. And from that we know for sure that God and truth prevails in the end. There have often been difficult times in the history of the world, and the worst of times is yet to come.
Here in this season of March Madness with the NCAA basketball tournament, I’ll close with a basketball illustration. Every good basketball game has times where each side goes on a “run” where they score a number of unanswered points. Usually there is a timeout called, and often the other team figures out what is going wrong and makes changes, whereupon they may reverse their fortunes by going on a “run” of their own.
That is how human history has been. Certain times are great times of prosperity, as in the industrial age or the post WW2 expansion of American power. But there have been terrible times like the Civil War era or the Great Depression.
When I played basketball, I sure would have enjoyed the games a lot more if I knew in the opening minutes of the second half when the other team was running us off the floor, that it was only a temporary setback, that in the end, we were certain to ultimately prevail, no matter what! I could have relaxed a bit, enjoyed the sport more, winked at the cheerleaders, and even looked around to see who was sitting in the stands!
But, in Christ, we have the great blessing of knowing that in the end our team wins. We not only may have times of difficulty, in fact, we will have them. But … not to worry. Christ is our Captain and he will bring us through to victory with Him in the end.