Series on Daniel.

Manuscript of this sermon is available for reading services.

Reading: Daniel 11

Text: Daniel 12:1-4

Rise and fall of the wicked, distress and deliverance for the righteous

Text: Daniel 11

This very detailed prophecy about the future of the Jews has led some bible scholars to think say that it was actually written after 150BC and after the events described rather than in Daniel’s day because of the amount of detail in this prophecy. But why make an assertion like that?  One of the attributes of God is that He is omniscient or all knowing. That means his knowledge is comprehensive. He knows everything including the future. We with our finite minds are inclined to not believe things we can’t understand. But we need to be careful not to project our limitations as creatures on the Creator. Furthermore what is written here in Daniel is consistent with other prophecies in the Bible which accurately predict the future. For example Jeremiah preached as a prophet in about 626 B.C., and God declared through him that, because of Israel’s sins, God would bring King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon against the Jews to defeat and destroy their land, and to carry them off to captivity in Babylon (and in other nations) for 70 years; But when the 70 years were over, Babylon would be defeated (Jeremiah 25:8-14), and then the Lord would bring the people of Israel out of Babylon and other nations and back to their land (Jeremiah 29:10-11; 30:3,11). —–Scripture, archaeology and ancient history confirm the precise fulfilment of this prophecy, because in the year 606 B.C.  Nebuchadnezzar’s armies subdued Judah and began taking thousands of Jews captive into Babylon. In 595 B.C, Jeremiah also foretold the fall of Babylon to the Medes (Jeremiah 51:11,28). The Jewish captivity lasted until Babylon in fact did fall to Medo-Persia, and then Cyrus the Persian King decreed in 536 B.C. that the Jews could return to their land, and many of them did. The captivity had lasted 70 years, just as foretold

There are many other prophecies like that in the Bible.

Why were they revealed by God?  For the sake of the church, that God’s people in every age are warned and not left in the dark about what is in store for us in the future. Knowing the future helps us to live in the present as well see in the text.

So he theme of this passage is that the wicked rise and cause great distress to God’s people but God always brings the wicked to a just end and delivers the righteous, his covenant cannot be broken.

  1. Explanation of the passage

This chapter is actually a continuation of and elaboration of chapter 10. After the Persian king would come a mighty king according to verse three. This king is the he goat of chapter 8, namely Alexander the Great. Following his death at an early age in Babylon his empire was divided into four. Part of it fell to the King of the North thought to be the Syrian empire of the Seleucids and another to the King of the South i.e. the Egyptian empire of the Ptolemy’s.  According to Daniel’s prophecy they fight each other and as the battle intensifies Israel, described in verse 16 as the beautiful land which lies between the two kingdoms becomes a battle ground and eventually fell under the control of the Seleucids. Their capital city was Antioch and that is why some of their kings took on the name Antiochus.

The events of verse 16 & 17 involved a campaign to the South against Egypt which according to historians ended in the marriage of his daughter Cleopatra to the reigning Ptolemy. The date of this marriage was 194BC.  Antiochus the Great made an expedition to the coastlands according to verse 18 but it was his last one. He was killed when he tried to rob a heathen temple.  Verse 20 describes Antiochus the Great’s successor Seleucid the 4th, His career according to that verse was very short lived and the king who followed him to power was the one described in Daniel 11:21 as the despicable person the contemptible Antiochus Epiphanes the little horn of chapter 8.

Like his predecessors Antiochus fights against the Egyptians and again Israel is caught up in the cross fire as it were until Antiochus Epiphanes sets his sights on Jerusalem and the temple. As we saw in chapter 8  and again here in chapter 11: 28 Antiochus Epiphanes has his heart set against the holy covenant of God  and desecrates the temple with the help of some soldiers and apostate Jews.  The result is that there was a crisis among the people.  Using flattery (vs 32) more Jews become apostates and joined in the false worship of God set up by Antiochus Epiphanes. They went along with Antiochus new way of doing things. Basically what he did was try to Hellenise the Hebrew faith by banning the sacrifices and replacing the altar with a pagan shrine.

This is how the devil operates in every age in his attempts to destroy the church. Just as Antiochus got rid of the very thing which assured the Israelites of God’s forgiveness and reconciliation with him, the altar of God and Hebrew temple sacrificial system. Antichrists in the church today would say there is no need of atonement for sin. The apostle John warned his readers of this in 1 John 2: 22. Saying “Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ. This is the antichrist the one who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father.”

They deny that Jesus is divine, say he was just a man whose example we can follow. They deny the justice of God and say that Christ came into the world not to atone for sin but to show how God identifies with us in our suffering which is an expression of his love. They turn the gospel into a social gospel and persecute the faithful.

Not everyone succumbed to Antiochus smooth talk. There were those who resisted and were even prepared to die for their faith as we see in verse 33 and in verse 34 where it says “they will be granted a little help”.  That is a prophecy concerning Mattathias the Son of Asamoneus who according to Josephus staged a revolt in the temple killing several idol worshippers and throwing down the idols. He retreated in the desert with about 1,000 of the faithful and lived in caves.

The revolt was short lived however. Antiochus army attacked Mattathias and his followers on a Sabbath and wiped them out, from there on we find his arrogance continues unabated he has no regard for the desire of women! Commentators differ on the meaning of that phrase E J Young’s explanation seems plausible,  he has no time for human love  nor does he have any reverence towards God or any other so-called god for that matter. That is because Antiochus loves himself and  magnifies himself above them all and continues  his self serving ways until we reach  the very last verse of Daniel 11 which finishes with the words “Yet he will come to his end and no one will help him”

Whatever great successes Antiochus had, his kingdom was not an everlasting kingdom. There is only one of those and that is Christ’s.

Psalm 73 provides a good commentary on this problem where the arrogant prosper. They appear to be successful. They oppress Gods people increase in wealth. They set their mouths against the heavens as the Psalmist puts it and they mock God. Meanwhile the righteous, like the faithful Jews in the Days of Antiochus Epiphanes, suffer and come close to stumbling and losing heart. Like the Psalmist they wonder if it’s all in vain?

But the end result of the wicked is inevitable as we see in verse 19 “Surely you set them in slippery places. You cast them down to destruction. How they are destroyed in a moment.”

Meanwhile the righteous even though they suffer at the hands if the wicked have a secure future. Listen to what the Psalmist says next. “Nevertheless I am continually with you, you have taken hold of my right hand and with your counsel you will guide me and afterward receive me to glory.”

This is what Daniel prophesied about in chapter 12:1 God’s people may suffer all kinds of distresses at certain times and places but for those whose names are written in the book who live, by faith in the Almighty God, they will be rescued!

The wicked may be mighty and rise and have their hour of power as Antiochus did and  as Satan did when Christ was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane and went to the cross.  But their doom is certain because God is almighty and perfectly just. Furthermore for those who trust in him and his word, though we have enough of our own sin to contend with, there is a Messiah  who has made an end to transgression, atonement for sin  and who is bringing in everlasting righteousness as Daniel 9:24-27 reveals.

  1. Implications for the church.
  2. a) This passage tells us about the important place of the church.

That may seem strange since the chapter is largely about the history of kings and conquests power struggles between mighty men and the church is somehow sandwiched in between and run roughshod over as Jerusalem was in the second century before Christ. We see that today too. The church in the West is becoming more and more irrelevant. For example if Christians take a stand for life, and morality the media and left wing politicians say were bigoted and intolerant. If we talk about the cross of Christ that is foolishness and the resurrection that is unscientific!

That’s how the world sees it but that is not how it is. Just as history in Daniels day revolved around the church so too is the church the focal point of world history today  Everything hinges on the church and God makes used of the rulers of this world to continue building his church. Sometimes that history involves refinement of the church through persecution. 1 Peter 1:6&7 says that for a little while if necessary you have been distressed by various trials  that the proof of your faith may be found  to result in praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

That refinement of the church is an ongoing thing. When Daniel and the apostle John describe so called antichrists, some of these infiltrate the church. But John says “they went out from us and were not really one of us” Sometimes trials and persecution of the church is a way that God cleans out the church of antichrists.

Think of world history as scaffolding around a building. Once the building is complete you don’t need scaffolding anymore and don’t need the labourers who helped build the building wittingly or unwittingly. That’s how important the church is in God’s eyes. He may use one king in one way and another king in another way but it all revolves around the apple of God’s eye the church. It was for the sake of the church that the Jews and Romans put Christ on the cross. It was for the sake of the church that there was such a thing as the peace of Rome and it was for the sake of the church that there was a renaissance and that huge upheaval which followed it in the 16th century, the reformation of the church.

Everything revolves around the church and furthers the building of the church. The church may barely get a mention in newspapers or in parliaments but the church is the building which will rise to eternity while all the other world powers kings and kingdoms will come to an end.

So to belong to the church is a privilege, a place of refuge. The church is the only place were everlasting righteousness is to be found and the only institution and organism on the face of the earth which will last forever.

  1. b) Human responsibility. God is the one who orders history, the book of Daniel is clear about that. The exile lasted for 70 years as decreed, the Jews were able to return home again. However, due to more apostasy and hypocrisy the church went through a further time of testing under Antiochus Epiphanes. . God controls history but he gives free reign to human decisions. We are not robots or puppets that the Lord controls like marionettes. He wants us no pray and study God’s word and make decision that line up with God’s word. Daniels own example of prayer and study and his being commended by God for that makes this clear. His will is that we should avoid the fearful tragedies that arise from sinful behaviour.

The period of time Daniel describes in chapter 11 was with few exceptions a period of darkness for the church. The voice of the prophets was no longer heard. The church was becoming worldly. Religion was turning into dead orthodoxy.  The people of God were largely silent and therefore contributed to their own demise.

The implication here is that God controls history and works all things out for the good of those who love him, but we have our responsibility as God’s covenant people. He calls us to put off sin and put on holiness; to put on the full armour of God to speak out against injustice; to act with compassion and mercy and continue preaching the good news of the gospel; in season and out of season without fear or wanting favour.

  1. c) God’s covenant cannot be broken.

Nations rise and fall, covenants or treaties between them are breached but anyone who tries to destroy God’s holy covenant as Daniel 11:28 puts it will ultimately destroy himself. It says in Hebrews 10 :29 that anyone who regards the blood of the covenant as an unclean thing has insulted the Spirit of Grace  and can expect to be on the receiving end of the vengeance of God as Antiochus was . He came to his end with no one to help him.

However for those who trust in God, “the waters may roar and foam. The mountains may quake kingdoms may totter but the covenant of God will remain unshaken. God will never renege on his covenant promises and that covenant is our security! The antichrist may even try to make his headquarters in the church just as Antiochus erected his statues and pagan shrine in the temple of God but in just a few years he was no more.

The final victory belongs to Christ and his church not because we are so strong but because we have a faithful and strong covenant God

So in conclusion the wicked may rise and have their hour of power and the faithful may suffer because of it, but God the wicked come and go, it is God’s church which endures forever, Amen