By Mark Ellis
Do you believe he is a real person? Could he be alive today? Some may doubt his existence, but the prophet Daniel, the Apostles Paul and John — and Jesus Himself — all taught about the coming of this dynamic, powerful, evil personality who will rule the world at the time of the end.
The Book of Daniel covers a giant sweep of history, from Daniel’s era, about 500 years before Jesus, all the way up to and beyond our present time, prophesying about things that will be coming to planet earth in the future, perhaps sooner than we expect.
Most of the events prophesied in Daniel were fulfilled within 300 years after Daniel wrote them. And the prophesies are so dead-on accurate that skeptics can’t believe it was really written by Daniel.
They insist somebody else must have written it, years later. But Jesus Himself believed Daniel wrote it, He quoted from Daniel, so the critics will have to take up their case with our Lord.
To set the scene for Daniel, chapter eight, the Jewish people were still being held captive in Babylon. This book is not chronological, so chapter eight takes place before the events in chapter five, when the mysterious handwriting appeared on the wall in Nebuchadnezzar’s palace.
Chapter eight has two parts, Daniel’s vision in verses 1-14, and then the interpretation of his vision given by the angel Gabriel. This marked Gabriel’s first appearance in the Bible, who is considered the guardian angel of Israel.
I will go back and forth between the vision and Gabriel’s interpretation as we go through this.
Let’s look at verse one:
“In the third year of King Belshazzar’s reign, I, Daniel, had a vision, after the one that had already appeared to me. In my vision I saw myself in the citadel of Susa in the province of Elam; in the vision I was beside the Ulai Canal. I looked up, and there before me was a ram with two horns, standing beside the canal, and the horns were long. One of the horns was longer than the other but grew up later. I watched the ram as it charged toward the west and the north and the south. No animal could stand against it, and none could rescue from its power. It did as it pleased and became great.”
In verse 20, the angel Gabriel tells Daniel that this two-horned ram represents the kings of Media and Persia. Horns in the Bible represent power, authority, might, or strength.
“As I was thinking about this, suddenly a goat with a prominent horn between its eyes came from the west, crossing the whole earth without touching the ground. It came toward the two-horned ram I had seen standing beside the canal and charged at it in great rage. I saw it attack the ram furiously, striking the ram and shattering its two horns. The ram was powerless to stand against it; the goat knocked it to the ground and trampled on it, and none could rescue the ram from its power. The goat became very great, but at the height of its power the large horn was broken off, and in its place four prominent horns grew up toward the four winds of heaven.”
Alexander the Great: a type of antichrist
The angel Gabriel told Daniel in verse 21 the goat represents the first great king of Greece, and clearly, this can be no one other than Alexander the Great.
Alexander was born 150 years after Daniel’s vision. He was the son of a powerful conqueror, Philip of Macedon. Philip made sure his son Alexander had the best teachers as he grew up, so he hired Aristotle to personally tutor his son until he was 16.
But Philip, the father, was assassinated, just as he planned to attack Medo-Persia. Alexander became king when he was only 21, and caught his father’s vision to enlarge the empire. Alexander left with his army two years later and never came home.
He was bent on worldwide conquest, and he proved to be a military genius. Alexander was never defeated in battle, and his military tactics are still studied today.
Some cities he wiped out entirely, killing every single person. He slaughtered the city of Tyre because they wouldn’t give him the supplies he asked for. Often he reduced cities to rubble. Sometimes he captured slaves for his growing empire.
But an unusual thing happened when he got near the city of Jerusalem. The night before he was to attack, he had a vivid dream that he was to meet Israel’s High Priest the next day and bow down before him. So the next day, following his dream, he made arrangements to meet the Jewish leaders outside the city walls.
When he approached the high priest he fell to the ground, prostrated himself. The priest stepped forward, carrying the scroll of the Book of Daniel. He showed Alexander the prophecy from chapter eight, which said that Alexander would conquer the Medes and Persians.
Now Alexander understood why he had this prophetic dream! When he saw he would overcome the Persian armies and rule an empire, he was so moved, he decided to spare Jerusalem. Instead of slaughtering the city, he offered money and resources to build up the city.
With 35,000 troops, Alexander defeated the Persians at the Battle of the Granicus River. He swept down and took Egypt, then he defeated the Persians again near Ninevah, and the whole empire fell into his lap, an empire that stretched from the Adriatic to the Himalayas.
Conquering the largest empire of the ancient world before age 30 is pretty heady stuff. Puffed up with pride, he began to think he was god-like. After all, he was even mentioned in the Jew’s holy book. He took for himself the title of King of Kings, and had other commanders kiss his hand or prostrate themselves when he entered a room.
But pride and excess overcame him. He died just before his 33rd birthday. Accounts of his death vary, but the historian Plutarch, considered the most reliable, said he had an all-night and all-day drinking binge in the Palace of Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon. After the drinking binge, he developed a fever and died 12 days later.
Alexander conquered the world, but he could not conquer Alexander. Drunkenness and moral decline played a role in the fall of three ancient empires: Babylon, Greece, and Rome.
Of course, the Bible does not forbid drinking; Jesus Himself drank wine. But it does speak out against drunkenness and other excesses of the flesh.
Isn’t it true, our biggest adversary is often ourselves. My own lack of self-control with my tongue or my appetites or my lusts can be my biggest weakness. Ultimately, I don’t need self-control first and foremost as much as I need Holy Spirit-control first and foremost.
Scripture says if I walk in the Spirit, then I will not gratify the lusts of the flesh. One follows the other. It’s never the other way around. It doesn’t work to say, “If I just try hard not to gratify my sin nature, then I can walk in the Spirit.”
I’ve found it doesn’t work to put together a list of don’ts and use will power to overcome my weaknesses. That’s legalism and it always fails. I hate to say it, but my will power seems to be getting weaker as I get older.
But if I’m filled with the Spirit, walking closely with Jesus throughout the day, it’s a lot less likely I’m going to stumble and fall. Ask for the filling of the Holy Spirit every day…and throughout the day.
The life of Jesus vs. the life of Alexander
A man named Charles Weede compared the life of Jesus with Alexander the Great. The following is an adaptation of what he wrote:
Jesus and Alexander both died at 33. One lived and died for self. One lived and died for you and me. The Greek conqueror died holding on to an ornate throne. Jesus died on a rough-hewn cross.
One led large armies in battle, the other often walked alone. Alexander made slaves of men he conquered; Jesus set men free from their bondage to sin and death. One shed a whole world’s blood, the other shed His blood for the sins of the world. One gained the world in life but lost it in death; Jesus died to win life for all who believe.
One gained all for self; one gave all of Himself. One built a throne on blood, the other built on love. The Greek conqueror forever died; the Jewish Savior forever lives. Jesus and Alexander, both died at 33.
Let’s look at verse eight:
“The goat became very great, but at the height of its power the large horn (Alexander) was broken off, and in its place four prominent horns grew up toward the four winds of heaven.”
After Alexander’s untimely death, a bitter war for control of the empire started between his four generals that lasted 22 years.
In verse nine it says, “Out of one of them came another horn, which started small but grew in power to the south and to the east and toward the Beautiful Land (Israel). It grew until it reached the host of the heavens, and it threw some of the starry host down to the earth and trampled on them. It set itself up to be as great as the commander of the army of the Lord; it took away the daily sacrifice from the Lord, and his sanctuary was thrown down. Because of rebellion, the Lord’s people[a] and the daily sacrifice were given over to it. It prospered in everything it did, and truth was thrown to the ground.
“Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to him, “How long will it take for the vision to be fulfilled—the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, the rebellion that causes desolation, the surrender of the sanctuary and the trampling underfoot of the Lord’s people?”
“He said to me, “It will take 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary will be reconsecrated.”
In verse 22 Gabriel gave us the interpretation: “The four horns that replaced the one that was broken off represent four kingdoms that will emerge from his nation but will not have the same power.
Antiochus Epiphanes: forerunner of the man of sin
One of the descendants of the four generals was Antiochus Epiphanes, sometimes called the madman. He ruled over Israel during the time period between the Old and New Testaments. Basically, he hated everything about the Jews, and wanted to impose Greek culture on them any way he could.
He outlawed the practice of circumcision. He ordered all copies of the Old Testament burned. He named his own High Priests, loyal to him. He built a sports arena next to the Jewish Temple. There was only one thing – the Greeks trained and competed naked – somewhat of a distraction to worshippers.
He changed the Feast of Tabernacles to the Feast of Bacchus or Dionysus, the god of wine, ritual madness, and ecstasy.
To further desecrate the Jewish Temple, he sacrificed a pig and force-fed it to the priests, then he sprinkled the juices of the pig in the Temple. He carried off all the golden vessels in the temple and he placed a large image of Jupiter in the Holy of Holies.
The Jewish people were horrified, and this desecration of their Temple they referred to as the “abomination of desolation,” which served as a type of a future “abomination of desolation” that will be set up in the Jerusalem Temple in the last days.
Jesus talks about this in Matthew 24 when he refers to the signs of the end of the age. Jesus even refers to this section of Daniel.
In the previous chapter, we saw a little horn introduced to us as the antichrist. He rises to power in a revival of the Roman Empire led by 10 European nations. In my life I’ve seen a growing financial and political integration aimed at producing a United States of Europe – essentially a revived Roman Empire.
This chapter reveals qualities of the coming antichrist as revealed by two men: Alexander and Antiochus.
Alexander shows us the power of the coming antichrist, with his feverish quest for world domination. Antiochus shows us the character of antichrist. Both men are forerunners of the man of sin coming in the future.
The teaching of Jesus
Let’s see what Jesus has to say in Matt. 24 about the time of the end:
He said, “Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars… There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.
“You will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death…hated because of me… many will turn away from the faith. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”
Now here is the part that is relevant to Daniel chapters seven and eight:
“So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the housetop go down to take anything out of the house…. For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again.
Remember Antiochus preceded Jesus, so Jesus can’t be talking about him here. There is no hint that Jesus is speaking symbolically or allegorically here. He’s talking about a specific person coming in the future. Let’s look at verse 23:
“In the latter part of their reign, when rebels have become completely wicked, a fierce-looking king, a master of intrigue, will arise. He will become very strong, but not by his own power. He will cause astounding devastation and will succeed in whatever he does. He will destroy those who are mighty, the holy people. He will cause deceit to prosper, and he will consider himself superior. When they feel secure, he will destroy many and take his stand against the Prince of princes. Yet he will be destroyed, but not by human power.
“The vision of the evenings and mornings that has been given you is true, but seal up the vision, for it concerns the distant future.”
Is it Antiochus or antichrist?
Is this section about Antiochus? Is it about antichrist? Or is it about both? The commentators debate over this, but consider these points:
This little section stands out because it’s a completely different genre or style, it’s poetry. Gabriel delivers this portion poetically. This person seems to have strength that is beyond human, a supernatural power at his disposal. Antiochus was never associated with any miraculous supernatural power. Yet no human beings can break his power, and we know Antiochus was destroyed by the Maccabbees.
Verse 25 says he takes his stand against the Prince of princes. Who could that be? It sounds a lot like Jesus.
How could anybody fall for a crazed madman like antichrist? He won’t be an unkempt lunatic from a horror movie. He won’t be foaming at the mouth or have horns coming out of his head. He will probably be well-educated, attractive, witty, and stylish.
He will be bold, with an almost other-worldly strength appealing to men and women. He will have a magnetic, charismatic personality. He will be a deceiver and a propagandist, and people will respond to his message offering peace to the world. People will flock to him. They will say, “This is the leader we’ve been looking for.”
Depending on your perspective, he will have the best or worst qualities of great political leaders like Lincoln, Roosevelt, Churchill, and JFK, along with the military genius of Douglas MacArthur and the brilliance of Einstein. All these attributes will be wrapped into one irresistible human package.
He will be so smooth he will be able to make you think black is white, good is bad, and up is down. People will be willing to die for him. Some will even swoon at his feet like the groupies who swarmed Elvis, the Beatles, and the Bieb.
Could he be around today? I believe it’s possible, but these verses seem to indicate he will profane or desecrate the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. For that to happen, the Temple will have to be rebuilt. When might that happen? Heaven only knows. But think how improbable it may have seemed for the nation Israel to be reborn.
In 2 Thessalonians, Paul refers to him as “the man of sin” and “the son of perdition.” The only other person called the son of perdition was Judas. Judas was the only man in the bible to have Satan enter into him. Some are influenced or controlled by demons. Some are even possessed by demons. But to be possessed by Satan himself – that makes my skin crawl.
In the Book of Revelation, John refers to him as “the beast.” In Revelation, chapter 19, John says the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies will make war against him who sits upon the horse, Jesus Christ, and His army.”
Daniel and John, writing 600 years apart, describe the same thing, this powerful figure who will deceive and dominate the world. What does antichrist want? The same thing Satan has always wanted: worship from the whole world — mastery, power and control over everyone.
The spirit of antichrist has been around a long time. We saw it in men like Hamon, who wanted to destroy the Jews. We saw it in men who wanted to rule the world like Alexander, Napoleon, and Hitler. Hitler was a very close facsimile in his quest for world power and his hatred of the Jews and Bible-believing Christians.
During the rule of antichrist, the restrainer of evil, the Holy Spirit, stands aside and all hell breaks loose. That will lead to an avalanche of sin and violence unprecedented in history.
The good news is we know who wins this titanic battle between good and evil. Daniel 8:25 tells us the little horn or final horn will be destroyed, but not by human power. There is no human power who can stop him, but there is Someone infinitely more powerful who can stop him.
History is moving in a direction already charted by God Himself. World history began with the sin of man. It ends with the man of sin.
Why does God give such a dramatic vision to Daniel? Daniel 8:27 tells us Daniel was appalled, exhausted, sickened by what he saw.
What is the big picture?
The bigger picture God wants Daniel and the Jewish people to see is that even though they are in captivity, even though they will endure suffering many years into the future, God has not forgotten them. He will send a glorious rescuer and redeemer to save them.
He wants you to know, there is no panic in heaven when the devil stirs up all this trouble, because God has a plan. He is still in control. No matter what the devil does or how bad it gets, God is on the throne. God says to the devil, you can go so far, and no farther.
Antichrist will be destroyed by the One who is called Faithful and True. Jesus will throw the beast, antichrist, Satan himself, into the depths of hell.
Antichrist may be the man of 666, but Jesus trumps him with three sevens. Our Savior, the Jewish Messiah, destroys him with the brightness of his coming and the spirit of his mouth.
What do we do…what is our role? In Luke 19, when Jesus talked about the time of the end, he told his disciples to use their gifts and talents until He returns. That means we love and serve others, we offer them hope in the midst of dark times, we go about the King’s business until the King returns.
Are you available for service Him? Are you responding to His call, to be useful in his service? This is what gives life real meaning. Your mission field, your ministry could be right in your own home, raising your children in the fear and admonition of the Lord.
In the twilight days ahead, let’s not get disturbed or shaken by world events. God is telling us what’s going to happen. He’s telling us to get ready. It will be one happy wonderful day when Jesus returns…if you are following Him. If you have made Him your Savior and Lord.
Did you know the battle between Christ and antichrist is fought to the finish in every human heart. That battle might be going on inside your heart as you decide, do I really want to follow Him wholeheartedly, or not?
If you’ve never decided to follow Jesus, now is the time to make him your Lord and Savior.
Do you want to know God personally? Here are four steps…
The preceding was adapted from a sermon on Daniel chapter eight delivered at Church by the Sea in Laguna Beach April 28, 2013.