Take a moment to pray. Ask God to speak to you through his word—for his Spirit to convict you of sin, teach you the truth, and lead you in walking by faith.
Setting the Scene
There are people in the world who read the end of a book before they they read the beginning. Heretics! Blasphemers!
There’s a scientific name for it: it’s called the “second read hermeneutic.” The idea is simple, if you know the end, what happens along the way makes more sense.
There’s something to this. You know what it’s like to watch your favorite movie for the x-teenth time. (Spoiler alert) Star Wars episode IV is very interesting when you know that Darth Vader is Luke’s father.
We need a “second read hermeneutic” for our lives—we need to view what’s happening now in light of what will happen in the end. This is exactly where Daniel’s fourth vision concludes—God gives us a glimpse of the end, and why it matters to us today.
We need to remember that his vision is meant to prepare Israel for future trials. Knowing tough times are coming, they need to cultivate strong faith in God. This vision concludes by affirming faith in God in such times is well founded, because of the hope of the resurrection. Ultimately, our best days will be resurrection days.
Dan. 11:36 “Then the king will do whatever he wants. He will exalt and magnify himself above every god, and he will say outrageous things against the God of gods. He will be successful until the time of wrath is completed, because what has been decreed will be accomplished. 37 He will not show regard for the gods of his fathers, the god desired by women, or for any other god, because he will magnify himself above all. 38 Instead, he will honor a god of fortresses—a god his fathers did not know—with gold, silver, precious stones, and riches. 39 He will deal with the strongest fortresses with the help of a foreign god. He will greatly honor those who acknowledge him, making them rulers over many and distributing land as a reward.
The king in reference here is still Antiochus IV from the previous section of the vision. His pride, arrogance, and downright blasphemy seem unparalleled. After all, this is the guy who minted coins with his nickname “god manifest” on them. Note especially that his time of blasphemy is temporary: God is still sovereign over it.
The vision seems to take this further than just Antiochus IV. The later reference to resurrection and the phrase “the time of the end” in 11:40 point towards a greater significance. It seems like what Daniel describes about Antiochus IV finds its ultimate fulfillment in the antichrist, a figure who in the end times will set himself up as a god.
He is no respecter of true or man-made religion. He will reject the gods and/or goddesses of his people. He will be successful via false worship and bribery. He lives for everything God hates.
Dan. 11:40 “At the time of the end, the king of the South will engage him in battle, but the king of the North will storm against him with chariots, horsemen, and many ships. He will invade countries and sweep through them like a flood. 41 He will also invade the beautiful land, and many will fall. But these will escape from his power: Edom, Moab, and the prominent people of the Ammonites. 42 He will extend his power against the countries, and not even the land of Egypt will escape. 43 He will get control over the hidden treasures of gold and silver and over all the riches of Egypt. The Libyans and Cushites will also be in submission. 44 But reports from the east and the north will terrify him, and he will go out with great fury to annihilate and completely destroy many. 45 He will pitch his royal tents between the sea and the beautiful holy mountain, but he will meet his end with no one to help him.
The details of this last battle of the blasphemous king aren’t clear. One way or another, the vision pictures a huge battle between the “north” and “south.” The king of the north will have vast military resources and will overwhelm his enemies. Yet even his seemingly endless power is temporary.
He will die, with apparently none to help him (including those who were allied to him). Thus this boastful king finds his end in the land of Israel. Many are tempted to identify the specific referents of this battle, but the details are intentionally left vague. The point is even the most arrogant, anti-god ruler in history will be humbled by death and answer to God.
Dan. 12:1 At that time Michael, the great prince who stands watch over your people, will rise up. There will be a time of distress such as never has occurred since nations came into being until that time.
But at that time all your people who are found written in the book will escape.
The angel Michael resurfaces, and once again engages on behalf of Israel (cf. 10:21). As commander of the angelic host he also was responsible for protecting Israel (or perhaps believers). At that time, everyone whose name is written in “the book” will be rescued. This book is the book of life (Ex. 32:33, Ps. 69:28, Mal. 3:16, Phil. 4:3, Rev. 3:5, 20:12). Note that Michael does not stop the suffering, but rescues those whose names are in the book of life out of it.
2 Many who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake, some to eternal life, and some to disgrace and eternal contempt. 3 Those who have insight will shine like the bright expanse of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.
The phrase “many” here refers to all humanity. This is a rare but clear Old Testament reference to bodily resurrection of the dead. The wise here are the righteous, and those who lead others to righteousness via teaching (the gospel). Their shining like stars is probably a reference to the resurrected state, not turning into angels. Don’t miss the hope here: even if Israelites died under the reign of Antiochus IV (or any other wicked ruler), their hope was eternal because of the resurrection.
Dan. 12:4 “But you, Daniel, keep these words secret and seal the book until the time of the end. Many will roam about, and knowledge will increase.”
Closing and sealing the message is for safekeeping, not secrecy. Who are the many running to and from? What knowledge shall increase? This either refers to time after the message is once again opened or while it is shut. It might be a reference to progressive revelation, that over time God has revealed more to his people than at the time of Daniel.
The Big Picture
In the grand story of the Bible there are many references to a climactic time of tribulation and the suffering of people (Matt. 24, 25; Rev. 13, 2 Thess. 2:1-10). But that is not the end of the story. The Bible makes clear that there will be a literal, physical resurrection of the dead (2 These. 4:16-17, Rev. 20:5-6, 12-15). This resurrection grants hope to believers, and guarantees judgment for the wicked.
How can we know this will happen? How do we know those who have put their faith in Jesus will be resurrected to life and peace forever? Because Jesus himself rose from the dead. In 1 Corinthians 15:20 the Apostle Paul writes, “But as it is, Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” Jesus is the firstfruits of resurrection life for all who put their faith in him.
Taking It Home
In the meantime, we deal with the antichrist. The antichrist is described in the New Testament as the “man of sin” in 2 Thess. 2:1-10. He will perform miracles, set himself up in the temple as a god, and will be killed by Jesus himself. He is the last in a series of “antichrists” referenced by John in 1 John 2:18 (also 4:3), “Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.”
So we deal with the spirit of antichrist in little antichrists. An antichrist is simply someone who reject the deity of Jesus Christ and refuses to put their faith in him. Antichrist attitudes are marked by blasphemy, self-worship, power-worship, money-worship. These attitudes are already have central place in our culture.
There’s probably an antichrist in your extended family. There’s probably several at your workplace. There are many in the world’s governments. We face the spirit of the antichrist every day. Most importantly: the Antichrist loses. What seems like the overwhelming majority will ultimately be defeated by Jesus Christ.
So what? Resist the spirit of the antichrist. Be skeptical of the world. Most of all, remain openly, unashamedly committed to Jesus Christ. There will be trouble. Will you persevere? There will be mocking. Will you cave in? There will be jail sentences, beatings, church bombings… will you endure?
We can because of the resurrection… the sure hope that we have of everlasting life versus everlasting judgment. The wicked will be judged, believers will be redeemed. All that remains for us is to endure.
We’ve got to think resurrection when our boss belittles our God. When our teacher mocks Jesus. When our friends laugh at youth group. When our family members scoff at our faith. We can endure by faith, because we know resurrection days are our best days.
- Pray for strong faith in the midst of suffering and especially potential persecution. Pray that God will give you wisdom to know how to respond when you encounter the spirit of the antichrist.
- Pray for the persecuted church across the world. Consider their blight, and plead for God’s mercy for them. Ask God to grant them strong faith.
- Praise Jesus for conquering death in resurrection. Thank him that because of his resurrection, you know your future is secure.