David Jeremiah - The Madman
We never get anywhere, men and women, by not acknowledging the truth. Burying our heads in the sand about the things that go on around us will never help us deal with those things in any kind of positive way. And when you come especially to the last half of the book of Daniel, Almighty God gives to his prophet a picture of some of the evil that is to come. The stories are riveting and the fulfillment of the prophecies are mind-boggling.
In fact, today, in the eighth chapter of the book of Daniel, we're going to meet two people who are the objects of the prophecies of Daniel given to him by Almighty God. One man has the distinction of being called Antiochus Epiphanes. If you remember when we were together last time, I told you the story of Alexander and how, after he died, his kingdom was divided into four sections among his generals. And one of the sections ruled over the Seleucids, and out of the Seleucid Empire came this wicked man called Antiochus Epiphanes. He lived 350 years after Daniel prophesied his existence, think of that.
God gave to Daniel a distinct prophecy concerning him. But the interesting thing about the Bible and how it fits together is that often, God gives a prophecy for the near future that is also a prophecy for the far future. And so, Antiochus Epiphanes is the first character we will learn about, but he is just a picture of the ultimate character who will one day dominate this earth in the period of tribulation, and we all know he is the Antichrist.
Oh, I know many Christians love to play the game pin the name on the Antichrist. Well, we're not going to do that today. I don't know who he is, nor does anybody else. In fact, the Bible says that he's not going to be revealed until after the Rapture. So, if you think you know who he is, you've been left behind, and I want you to know that. But the prophecy of Antiochus, which we will study and which was in detail fulfilled as Daniel said it would be, occupies the first section that we're going to study. And then we'll see how he illustrates the ultimate Antichrist. In fact, these two people are so linked together that some scholars have said that Antiochus Epiphanes is the Antichrist of the Old Testament, and of course, the Antichrist in the new is the Antichrist of the New Testament.
We begin our study in the ninth verse of the eighth chapter as we begin to learn of the cruelty of this man we call Antiochus, and how he pictures the Antichrist. Verse 9 says, as God has given this prophecy to Daniel, "Out of one of them came a little horn which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the glorious land".
Now remember, a little horn pictures a person. And this person, according to the Bible, came out of Alexander's empire. His name, as we know now from history, is Antiochus Epiphanes. That means God manifest. Antiochus Epiphanes thought he was God. And the Bible says, "He grew exceedingly great toward the south, and toward the east," and then it says, "toward the Glorious Land". And what could that mean? The Glorious Land is capitalized in my Bible, and it's a reference to Israel. So this wicked tyrant, Antiochus Epiphanes, went out to conquer the south, which was Egypt, and the east, which was Persia, and he set his sights on Israel.
Now, the next three verses tell us what kind of person this was and what he set in motion, the description of his depravity. When Antiochus Epiphanes, the Seleucid king, came into power, he started what continues even to this day, the persecution of God's people, the Jews. Three hundred and fifty years before Antiochus was born, Daniel had a vision that he would come into power, and that he would defeat the saints, that he would defile the temple, and that he would destroy the Scriptures.
Look with me at verse 10, his prophecy that this man coming would defeat the saints. "The little horn grew up to the host of heaven, and it cast down some of the host and some of the stars to the ground, and trampled them". Almost every expositor that I have read on this subject tells us that the host of heaven, the stars, refer to the people of God. And the symbolism is that Antiochus would oppress God's people, he would do this in their own land. And historians tell us that during the time he reigned and during his attack on Jerusalem, Antiochus Epiphanes killed 40.000 Jews and took 40.000 more captive. He defeated the saints.
Next, God told Daniel that when this man appeared on the scene, he would defile the sanctuary. Verse 11, "He even exalted himself as high as the prince of hosts, and by him the daily sacrifices were taken away, and the place of his sanctuary was cast down". Not only would Antiochus destroy the saints, but he would defile their place of worship. When Scripture speaks of the sanctuary being cast down in verse 11, it doesn't mean the temple was destroyed, but rather that it was defiled. And history records how this happens.
In Antiochus' arrogance, he entered the temple and took away all the golden altar, and the lamp stand, and all of its equipment, and the table for the bread offered to the Lord. He took away the cups, and the bowls, and the fire pans, and the curtain, and the crowns. He stripped all the gold from the front of the temple, carried off the silver and the gold, and everything else of value, including all the treasures that he could find stored there. He stripped the Jewish temple of all of its wealth and took it back to his own country, murdering many of the people, and boasting arrogantly about it. You will see this described in 1 Maccabees chapter 1, verses 21 to 24.
And not to be satisfied with what we have described, Antiochus decided on another occasion to totally defile the temple. He brought a pig into the sanctuary and he slit its throat, and he sprayed the blood all over the temple, totally defiling it so that no Jew would ever, ever allow himself to walk into that space again.
The unholy sacrifice of an unclean animal on the sacred altar is referred to in Scripture as the abomination of desolation. It's prophesied by Daniel in the Old Testament, and Jesus prophesies it again in the New Testament concerning the Antichrist, who will do the very same thing one day during the tribulation period. And the Bible tells us that when all of this happened, not only did he defeat the saints and defile the sanctuary, he destroyed the Scripture. Once again, look at verse 12. "Because of transgression, an army was given over to the horn to oppose the daily sacrifices, and he cast truth down to the ground. He did all of this and he prospered". Antiochus cast the truth down to the ground by outlawing the reading of the Scriptures, burning every copy of the Torah he could find.
These are just a few examples from the long history of agony that the Jews endured under Antiochus Epiphanes. Is it any wonder that the Jews hated this Greek ruler? And they, behind his back, changed his name from Antiochus Epiphanes, God manifest, to Antiochus Epimanes, the madman. He was the madman, worse than any tyrant we have ever had in history, worse than Stalin, worse than Hitler, worse than all of them put together. This wicked man is the personification of evil. He was evil. That's the description of his depravity, and here's the duration of it. Notice verses 13 and 14, suddenly as Daniel's receiving this prophecy, 2 angels appear, one asking the other the question, "How long will the vision be concerning the daily sacrifices and the transgression of desolation, the giving of both the sanctuary and the host to be trampled underfoot"?
In other words, if you had been Daniel, you would have asked the same question when you were given this prophecy. You would have said, "Lord, how long will this go on? How long will this be allowed? How long will this evil man be allowed to push his evil on the Jewish people? How long"? In verse 14, one of the holy ones answered that the question should be explicitly understood, the sanctuary would be cleansed after 2.300 days. So, for 2.300 days, the Jewish temple would be defiled. That's an exact period of time. If you go back and look at history, the established date for the restoration and cleansing of the temple was December 14th, 164 BC. If you count back 2.300 days, you arrive at the fall of 170 BC, the date of the beginning of Antiochus' oppression of the Jews, and you see that the period between the beginning of the oppression and the cleansing of the temple was almost exactly 2.300 days.
Antiochus, 350 years after Daniel wrote all of this, fulfilled it in the minutest detail. But remember, Antiochus is not the end of the prophecy. He is the historic fulfillment of the prophecy and the platform upon which the final prophecy is raised. Here's what you need to remember, people of God. If God prophesied the Antiochus Epiphanes rebellion 350 years before it happened, and now we can take our history books and look back and see what he said would happen happened exactly as he said it would, then we should also realize that when he prophesies another tyrant who's going to walk on this earth during the tribulation period, we'd better take it seriously. Because if it was true from here to here, it's true from here to here. That's what Old Testament prophecy teaches us. That's why it constantly gives me the greatest confidence in the Word of God that I can stand here before you every week and preach it with authority, because it is an authoritative book that has been demonstrated beyond any possibility to be accurate and inerrant.
So, what do we learn about this one who is to come at the end of the tribulation period? Verse 23 through 27 tells us he will be a king of fierce countenance. And in these last verses of Daniel 8, God gives us an introduction to the Antichrist, describing eight characteristics that define him, this one who will appear during the tribulation period. Let me just go through them quickly with you.
First of all, he will be dynamic in his personality. Verse 23 says, "In the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors have reached their fullness, a king shall arise, having fierce features". "And he will become the idol of all mankind". Everybody who is left on this earth after the Rapture, during the tribulation period, will believe that this man is the answer to all of the world's problems. And they will put their trust in him. But he will be demonic in his program. Notice verse 23, "Who understands sinister schemes". And Scripture says this man of fierce countenance will present himself as a leader with superhuman ability to solve the problems of the day. But notice, number three, he will be devilish in power. Verse 24, "His power will be mighty," notice what it says, "but not by his own power". He will be a mighty, powerful man, but the power won't come from within him.
When we read of the atrocities that were committed by Antiochus Epiphanes, we have to agree that he had to be Satan-controlled. Nobody could have done what that evil man did if Satan wasn't involved in his heart. The evil was from Satan. But here we are looking at this man of the future, and the Scripture says he will be a powerful man, but the power will not come from within. The power will be from Satan himself. He will be demonic in his program, he will be devilish in his power. But notice, number four, he'll be destructive in his persecution. Verse 24 says, "He shall destroy fearfully, he shall destroy the mighty, and also the holy people". Antiochus' anger toward the holy people is a picture of the persecution the Antichrist will carry out against believers in the future. Revelation 13:7 says about the Antichrist that, "It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them".
And number five, he will be deceitful in his practices. Verse 25, "Through his cunning, he will cause deceit to prosper under his rule". All of a sudden, one day, they'll come to worship and the temple will be locked and closed. And the guards will be out in front, saying, "You can't worship here anymore. It's been decreed that Jewish worship has been discontinued in this land". And they will be forced to worship the Antichrist, who ultimately will set himself up as god in the temple, as though he were God, and demand that everyone worship him. And if you don't do this, if you don't take the mark to be a worshiper of the Antichrist, you will either be starved out or you will be immediately annihilated.
And not only is he deceitful, but he's also defiant in his profession. Verse 25 says, "He will exalt himself in his heart. He shall destroy many in their prosperity. He shall rise against the Prince of princes," which means he will take the place of God. He will remove any reference to God or Jesus, and he himself will take that position as God, the ultimate expression of idolatry. 2 Thessalonians says it this way, "Son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God".
Remember how we started this message, what is evil? This is evil. This is the epitome of evil. But the good news is it's only for a short time because he will be defeated in his purpose. Verse 25 says, "He shall be broken without human means". Ultimately, evil will be destroyed. Ultimately, the evil one will be put down. And the Bible says he just goes away, destined to punishment. Daniel 7 and 8 says, "I watched until the beast," the Antichrist, "was slain, and his body destroyed and given to the burning flame. He shall be broken without human means". And just as Antiochus was brought down by non-human means, the Antichrist will meet his end as well.
The story ends right. And the story reminds us that evil does not triumph. And even in our own experience as believers, in our culture today, oftentimes evil seems to be in the driver's seat. And inevitably, God will intervene, and evil will be defeated, and he will rise up, and we'll see victory. But I know a lot of Christians who think that if we're Christians and we're following God, there should never be any encounter with evil. Listen to me, ladies and gentlemen, we live in an evil world. Righteousness is the exception. Evil is the norm. But the Bible gives us this incredible picture of what happens, that God is victorious, that Jesus Christ reigns, and no one can fight against him and win. And if you're with God, you're on the winning side. If you're with Jesus, you're going to triumph one day in victory. And you're going to have a lot of triumphs before that day, but those triumphs are only sweeter when you realize they're a picture of the ultimate triumph, when the King of kings and the Lord of lords reigns over this earth and evil is forever destroyed.
You say, "Dr. Jeremiah, what does this all mean for me"? Let me just once again, real quickly, give you the plan. The plan is the Bible says that one of these days, there's going to be a sound from heaven, and the trumpet will sound, and the Lord Jesus Christ is going to come back. This could happen while we're having church today. Wouldn't that be something? It could happen at any time. If you know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, you'll be included in that group and you will go to heaven. And you'll never see the tribulation, you'll never have an encounter with the Antichrist. But if you don't know Jesus Christ, you have to go through hell twice. The tribulation, which is a 7-year period of destruction, especially the last 3 and a half years, when the Antichrist reigns. And you will spend this agonizing time on this earth. And then when that's over, you end up spending the rest of your life apart from Christ.
So, what this tells me when I see it, and it burdens my heart every time I study it, these days of evil are yet ahead, but they are not for those who know Jesus. And if you know Jesus, you can look at them and you can keep it in perspective. But if you don't know Jesus, it ought to strike a bit of fear in your heart. When you hear that Jesus Christ is coming back someday, one of two things crosses over your heart: either the joy and excitement and anticipation of seeing your Lord, or a foreboding sense of fear that you're not ready to meet him, and that if he were to come, you would not be among those he takes with him to heaven. So, you need to be ready. You need to prepare. You need to accept Christ. So, if you're not ready to meet the Lord, I promise you on the authority of the Word of God what happened in the past has been documented. What is prophesied for the future will surely happen. You don't have to be a part of it if you put your trust in Christ.