As we come to chapter 11 we are beginning in the middle of a scene with Daniel and an angel sent by God. Recall in chapter 10 we read that Daniel has been troubled, seeking an answer through prayer. An angel was sent to answer his prayer, but the angel was delayed for three weeks because the prince of the kingdom of Persia was hindering him. The angel finally arrives to Daniel and is now going to give the answer to Daniel concerning the vision he saw. Time will not allow me to go through detail by detail through the explanation of the vision. What I will do is give you the pictures that we are seeing in Daniel 11 so that you can have the information you need to go back in history and put all the pieces together. Then we will consider the great message of the vision and its meaning for us today.
Vision of World Events (11:1-45)
The angel begins with the kings of Persia in Daniel 11:2. So the angel sets the historical context for our vision so that we can understand what the Lord is prophesying. Three more Persian kings will arise (remember that Daniel 10:1 told us that Cyrus is the king). Those three kings are Cambyses, Gaumata, and Darius. The fourth king is Xerxes and he goes to war against Greece. By way of context, Xerxes is the king in the days of the book of Esther who is called Ahasuerus. The mighty king of Greece who arises in verse 3 is Alexander the Great. But once he comes to power and conquers most of the world, his kingdom is broken and divided in four (11:4). Those four rulers were Lysimachus who ruled over Thrace and Asia Minor, Antipater and Cassandra who ruled over Macedonia and Greece, Seleucus ruled over Asia, and Ptolemy ruled over Egypt and Palestine. Two of these kings are in view going forward in chapter 11. You will notice in Daniel 11:5-6 that the focus is on the king of the south and the king of the north. The king of the south is the Ptolemy dynasty that ruled Egypt and Palestine and the king of the north is the Seleucid dynasty that ruled Asia. What follows are the details about their warfare with one another. You can see why this would be important to the Jews because these battles directly affected Palestine. Verses 7-20 describe the warfare that occurred between these two powers. This warfare covers the period from 281-175 BC.
Daniel 11:21 picks up with a new king in particular and his description is the same as what we read in Daniel 9. This is Antiochus IV of the Seleucid Empire who rules over Palestine and extends the borders of his kingdom through warfare. His reign begins in 175 BC and he will continue until 164 BC. Prior rulers respected the Jewish culture and protected the Jewish customs. But this was no longer the case with Antiochus IV. He began harsh persecutions of the Jewish people. Daniel 11:21-35 describe the activities of Antiochus IV. He will go to war against Egypt (11:25-29). Antiochus IV begins successful campaigns and has victory in Egypt. But before he can reach Alexandria, the Romans get involved. The Roman envoy drew a line in the sand around Antiochus and said, “Before you cross this circle, I want you to give me a reply for the Roman Senate.” The point was that Rome would declare war on Antiochus if he did not commit to leaving Egypt immediately. This is in 168 BC. Weighing his options, Antiochus decided to withdraw. Notice Daniel 11:30 pictures this very event. The “Kittim” was an inclusive term to refer to the part of the world west of the Middle East. The Septuagint renders this as the Romans and the Dead Sea Scrolls also understand the Kittim as the Romans.
In 167 BC Antiochus IV returns to Jerusalem in a rage because of his need to withdraw from Egypt and now attacks the Jews in Jerusalem. This is pictured in Daniel 11:30. In three days more than 40,000 were violently killed. He outlawed the Jewish religious activities, demanded the worship of Zeus in the temple, and destroyed the city of Jerusalem during this time of resistance.
Verse 36 is the point of debate. “And the king shall do as he wills.” This king is not Antiochus IV because the details that follow in verses 36-45 do not fit Antiochus IV in history. So many take this king to the Antichrist who will arrive during the end times before the return of Christ. But this is the most unnatural explanation for this text. Why would we leave the historical context we have been given throughout this chapter and jump to the end of the world? The logical understanding of the text would be to understand this king to be the next power to come on the scene after the Seleucids that affect the Jews which is the Roman Empire. Verse 36-39 sound very familiar to the description given to the Roman Empire in Revelation 13:1-7. Finally, it was the Roman armies that surrounded Jerusalem and destroyed it, just as this vision depicts. Therefore, Rome fits this king the best.
In verse 39 we read a very clear depiction of the nature of the Roman Empire. When Rome conquered a place or a nation, the king who would submit readily, keep down nationalism, and pay taxes on time were given places of leadership. This is the same description found in Revelation 17:12. In verse 40 we read of the king of the South (the Ptolemies) going against the Romans. Cleopatra, the last of the Ptolemy line, aided by Mark Antony begins to push against Rome. This leads to Rome declaring war against Egypt under the leadership of Octavian. Octavian would later become Augustus Caesar. The Ptolemies were put to end as Rome conquered and won in the battle of Actium. As the Romans began their conquests, Edom, Moab, and Ammon were able to escape (vs. 41). The Romans also took control of Egypt and the surrounding nations as they continued their conquests (vs. 42). Therefore, the Romans controlled much of the known world and the nations were in subjection to them (vs. 43). The Romans placed many taxes on the nations to increase its wealth. Some would try to rise up against Rome, but it was useless. The Romans had great power and swept away any nation that tried to conquer it (vs. 44). Rome would exercise its power of the Jewish nation, but we are told that an end was appointed for the Roman Empire, which was yet to be seen (vs. 45).
Ending the Vision (12:1-4)
As we move to chapter 12, the message comes to its conclusion by describing its impact on God’s people. In verse 1 we are told that it would be a time of trouble during the Roman Empire that has never been before. This is the same language of Matthew 24:21.
For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. (Matthew 24:21–22 ESV)
Matthew 24 is Jesus’ description about the coming destruction of Jerusalem that occurred in 70 AD (cf. Matthew 24:1-3). But those who names are written in the book (cf. Revelation 20:12-15; 21:26-27; Philippians 4:3) which would be the book of life, those who are God’s people will be delivered. This is what Matthew 24 also said above. Please notice that what Jesus is talking about are things he says are in the book of Daniel.
So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. (Matthew 24:15–16 ESV)
So the vision in Daniel 11 has its culmination with the Roman Empire destroying Jerusalem and the temple. But those who are God’s people will be delivered. Notice the continuing picture in verses 2-3. Those who are God’s who have died will not miss anything. They are raised from the dead and exalted into the kingdom of God. They do not need to be alive to enjoy the kingdom. Death does not cause his people to miss any part of God’s ruling kingdom (1 Thessalonians 4; Revelation 20:4-5). God delivers his people through death into his kingdom, which is a comfort to his persecuted people. Jesus taught the same message in the Gospel of John. “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live” (John 5:25 ESV).
Jesus would come and bring people to life by the very words he was proclaiming. Life was coming in Jesus and no one who belong to God would miss out being raised and joined to his glorious kingdom. But the message ends in verse 4 telling Daniel to seal up the book until the time of the end. These events are outside of Daniel’s lifetime so seal them up until the time of the end which, as we saw in prior lessons from Daniel, refers to the coming of the Messiah and the end of the Jewish age as the scriptures predicted.
How Long? When? (12:5-13)
The question is asked in verse 6, “How long shall it be till the end of these wonders?” When are all of these things going to happen? A man clothed in linen who is above the waters raised his right and and his left hand toward heaven and swore that it would be for a time, times, and half a time (12:7). Notice we are told what is happening during the time, times, and half a time: “when the shattering of the power of the holy people comes to an end all these things would be finished” (12:7). The destruction of Jerusalem and judgment on the Jewish people has been decreed. We saw this in the vision of 70 weeks in Daniel 9. Daniel 9:26 said that the city and sanctuary of the Jews would be destroyed. This appears to have been what was disturbing to Daniel. Now Daniel wants to know more (12:8) but these things were sealed up until the time of the end.
Please understand that the book of Revelation is the revealing of this sealed up scroll. Revelation 5 opens with a sealed scroll being opened by the Lamb because he is worthy to open it. We know that we have the same scroll with the same contents when we look at Revelation 10. Revelation 10:5-7 is the same angel we just read in Daniel 12:7.
And the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven and swore by him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and what is in it, the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it, that there would be no more delay, but that in the days of the trumpet call to be sounded by the seventh angel, the mystery of God would be fulfilled, just as he announced to his servants the prophets. (Revelation 10:5–7 ESV)
In Daniel, this angel said that it would be a time, times, and a half a time when these things would happen. They were sealed up till the time of the end (the Messianic age). In Revelation, the same angel says that “there would be no more delay” and when the seventh trumpet sounds, this mystery of God announced by the prophets would be fulfilled. Revelation 11 records the time, times, and half a time (42 months) as the city of Jerusalem is trampled by the Gentiles (Revelation 11:1-3). The seventh angel blows its trumpet in Revelation 11:15 indicating the completion of the judgment of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple, just as Daniel 9:26 prophesied. Revelation is the further explanation of Daniel’s prophecy, which is not about the end of the world, but about the end of the Jewish city and temple, as we have repeatedly seen in our study of Daniel. This is why the decree is made in Revelation 22:10 to not seal up this book. The prophecy of Daniel was to be sealed because its fulfillment was hundreds of years to come. But the book of Revelation is not to be sealed because it was not to be fulfilled in hundreds of years or thousands of years, as so many interpret these books. Rather, the book of Revelation had no more delay and was unfolding in their very generation (Matthew 24:34).
Notice the final message of Daniel in Daniel 12:10-13. This final message is the same message for hope in hopeless times for us. Many are going to purify themselves and the wicked will continue to act wickedly. Revelation 22:11 says the same thing. Things are not going to get better or worse. The righteous will continue to do right and the evildoer will continue to do evil. Do not be disturbed by these things. The wise will understand this (Daniel 12:10). The abomination of desolation is going to come (12:11) and will cause his havoc for a time, times, and half a time (1290 days), just as the angel said in Daniel 12 and Revelation 11. Blessed are those who are faithful and endure past this time of trouble (Daniel 12:12). Go your way and you will be raised to your allotted place at the end of days.
This is our hope for our time as well. The righteous will be righteous. Continue to purify yourselves. Continue to teach the world about Jesus. Be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Do not be dismayed by the fact that the wicked will continue to be wicked. Evildoers will continue to do evil. The world is not going to get better and better. But hope is not lost if it gets worse and worse. Be faithful through the tribulation. God brings judgment on his enemies and we must be faithful through the difficulties and judgments that may come. Whatever happens, we will enjoy our place in God’s glorious kingdom in the resurrection. God raises the righteous and they will stand in their allotted place in God’s kingdom.