Kings and Kingdoms
During the last week of Jesus’ life on earth, Jesus taught His disciples many things. A few days before the Passover, Jesus instructed His disciples on the very topic (possibly the very text) we’re going to study this morning.
In Matthew, Jesus’ disciples came to Him privately and said, “Tell us, Jesus, when will this [the destruction of the temple] happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
Jesus shows them grace for the run-on sentence and answers them saying:
You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.
What Jesus alerted His disciples to—wars and rumors of wars—is precisely what Daniel’s vision (ch. 11) revealed to him.
Remember: Daniel 10-12 is one, long, extended vision of the future. For our purposes and for the sake of time, we’ve broken it up into three pieces.
Daniel 10 is a behind-the-scenes look at things: Daniel glimpses a bit of the glory of God as revealed by one of the Lord’s angels. And this angelic messenger lets Daniel (and us) in on a little-known reality: there is an ongoing battle taking place in the heavenly realm, the Kingdom of God versus the kingdoms of this world.
Daniel 11 is a glimpse of the earthly, the physical, flesh and bone. Daniel 11 is earthly king versus earthly king, worldly kingdom against worldly kingdom.
Daniel 11 is the truth. The heavenly messenger speaking with Daniel says in verse 2: “Now then, I tell you the truth...”
This is true for Daniel and it’s true for us. This truth, from Daniel’s point of view, concerns the future. The truth is largely a history lesson for us, though some of it has yet to happen. Nevertheless, it’s true.
>Out of curiosity, what is (what was) your favorite subject in school?
My favorite subject was English or composition. Meghann’s favorite was Math (weirdo).
Most people aren’t altogether interested in history.
“History is more or less bunk. It's tradition. We don't want tradition. We want to live in the present and the only history that is worth [anything] is the history we made today.”
Henry Ford, Interview in Chicago Tribune, May 25th, 1916
Some, like Henry Ford, believe history to be mostly irrelevant, unimportant.
Others argue that history is meaningless:
“[History is] a trash bag of random coincidences torn open in a wind,” so says Joseph Heller, the famous author.
Some think history is just boring, like one of Jane Austen’s characters:
“History, real solemn history, I cannot be interested in…I read it a little as a duty; but it tells me nothing that does not either vex or weary me. The quarrels of popes and kings, with wars and pestilences in every page; the men all so good for nothing, and hardly any women at all—it is very tiresome.”
There are some, still, who are skeptical of history altogether, like Napoléon Bonaparte, who said:
“History is a set of lies agreed upon.”
>Daniel 11 is history, and, honestly, as far as words on a page go, it’s not very interesting. It’s a little dull. It is as the fictional character in the pages of that Jane Austen novel believes: “very tiresome…quarrels of popes and kings, with wars and pestilence on every page.”
One highly respected commentator, Herbert Carl Leupold, says this about Daniel 11:
“This chapter might be treated (used) in Bible classes. [But] We do not see how it could be used for a sermon or for sermons.”
Well, get ready, Herbert! Here’s a sermon on Daniel 11. It’s not the most inspiring passage in the Bible, but it is inspired. I believe there’s at least a couple of lessons in Daniel 11.
There are lessons here for us because this isn’t just history. This isn’t a boring retelling of historical events. This is prophecy.
Some believe Daniel 11 to be “prophecy after the fact”—something written later than the events because of the detail and accuracy of what it predicts. They believe that because it’s all too perfect (the prediction and the actual events) that this wasn’t written prior to the events, but after they occured.
The Bible makes it clear that God is able to declare well ahead of time what would happen in the future—and this to show His power, His good purpose, and His sovereignty.
“This is what the Lord says— Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God. Who then is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and lay out before me what has happened since I established my ancient people, and what is yet to come— yes, let them foretell what will come.
Daniel 11 is an expression of the kindness of the Sovereign God—the One who knows all, the One who sees all, the One who is aware of all things lets His people know what is to come in order to steady them and uphold them.
The people in Daniel’s day needed assurance. They needed to know for sure that God is Sovereign and in control of history.
The OT people of God were about to be restored from exile; they were about to return to the land that was promised to them, but they weren’t really free.
As the prophecy in Daniel 11, the vision of the future that’s given to Daniel, reveals, the people would be subject to the Persians and then to Alexander’s Greeks; after that, it would be caught in the middle (literally) between powerful heirs of Alexander’s empire (the Seleucids and the Ptolemies).
>I hesitate to read this entire chapter aloud this morning because, on paper, it’s a little dull and kind of confusing (and it would take somewhere between 10-15 minutes to read it). I encourage you to read this at some point today or this week. But this morning, I’m going to do my best to sketch the broad details for us.
You will be well-served by having a copy of the text of Daniel 11 open in front of you this morning and we walk through it together.
>The angelic messenger who is speaking to Daniel begins with a declaration of the truthfulness of what he’s about to relay to Daniel.
“Now then, I tell you the truth: Three more kings will arise in Persia, and then a fourth, who will be far richer than all the others. When he has gained power by his wealth, he will stir up everyone against the kingdom of Greece.
This section of Daniel’s vision spends one verse on Persia (v. 2), two verses on Greece (vv. 3-4), and then an extended segment on the kings of the south and the kings of the north (vv. 5-20)
In Persia, Cyrus gave way to Xerxes, the fourth king. And then Xerxes and his forces were mauled by the Greek Navy in 480 B.C.
The mighty king who arises is almost certainly Alexander the Great who ruled from 334-323 B.C. who then passes his kingdom to those outside his family (because he had no descendants).
After he has arisen, his empire will be broken up and parceled out toward the four winds of heaven. It will not go to his descendants, nor will it have the power he exercised, because his empire will be uprooted and given to others.
No sooner does Alexander come to power and amass his empire than it splinters.
After Alexander’s kingdom is parceled out, the king of the south, Ptolemy II, forms an alliance by giving his daughter in marriage to his ally, Antiochus II.
The alliance forged through this marriage (Antiochus + Berenice) doesn’t last. Antiochus dies, his first wife, Laodice, takes over, leaving Berenice to fend for herself.
After some years, they will become allies. The daughter of the king of the South will go to the king of the North to make an alliance, but she will not retain her power, and he and his power will not last. In those days she will be betrayed, together with her royal escort and her father and the one who supported her.
Some time later, about 242-240 B.C. the king of the north, Seleucus II invades Egypt but, being defeated, has to return to Syria.
Then the king of the North will invade the realm of the king of the South but will retreat to his own country.
Then comes Antiochus III who raises a large army—62,000 infantry, 6,000 cavalry, 102 elephants—but this is given over to Ptolemy IV.
“Then the king of the South will march out in a rage and fight against the king of the North, who will raise a large army, but it will be defeated.
After Ptolemy IV smashes Antiochus’ huge army, Ptolemy’s power evaporates into nothing.
When the army is carried off, the king of the South will be filled with pride and will slaughter many thousands, yet he will not remain triumphant.
Apparently some Israelite thugs tie their fortunes to some other king and kingdom and find that their misplaced allegiance comes to nothing.
“In those times many will rise against the king of the South. Those who are violent among your own people will rebel in fulfillment of the vision, but without success.
Antiochus III gives his daughter Cleopatra to Ptolemy V in order to undercut him, but Cleopatra loves Ptolemy and all things Egyptian, so Antiochus’ scheme falls to nothing.
He will determine to come with the might of his entire kingdom and will make an alliance with the king of the South. And he will give him a daughter in marriage in order to overthrow the kingdom, but his plans will not succeed or help him.
Antiochus III conquers the Mediterranean islands and coastlands. But the Roman Scipio crushes Antiochus’ force and makes him pay tribute to Rome.
Then he will turn his attention to the coastlands and will take many of them, but a commander will put an end to his insolence and will turn his insolence back on him.
Antiochus III, reeling from his defeat is now only able to head east; this is short-lived; he’s killed when he’s found robbing a temple in order to pay off Rome.
After this, he will turn back toward the fortresses of his own country but will stumble and fall, to be seen no more.
Seleucus IV takes the throne after his father (Antiochus III), but ends up in the royal cemetery next to his father because his head tax collector poisons him.
“His successor will send out a tax collector to maintain the royal splendor. In a few years, however, he will be destroyed, yet not in anger or in battle.
The person who follows Seleucus IV is one bad mamma-jamma:
“He will be succeeded by a contemptible person who has not been given the honor of royalty. He will invade the kingdom when its people feel secure, and he will seize it through intrigue.
This is Antiochus Epiphanes—a despicable, contemptible person. All of verses 21-35 focus on him; his reign (vv. 22-24), the people who took the brunt of his hostility (vv. 25-32), and the cost of his savage behavior (vv. 33-35).
Antiochus Epiphanes gets a lot of attention in this chapter. Verses 2-20 cover a time period of 355 years. Antiochus Epiphanes (the subject of 15 verses) only reigned for 12 years: 175-163 B.C.
Antiochus Epiphanes gets a great deal of space in this vision, namely because he instituted a religious rampage unlike the world had ever seen; he was set on destroying Biblical faith and was determined to see every Jew turn from the Lord:
He forbade religious sacrament (circumcision), sacrifices were illegal (unless you sacrificed to Zeus), observing the Sabbath brought a death sentence, reading Scripture or having Scripture in your possession would cost you your life.
These 12 years of Antiochus Epiphanes’ reign was a terribly lethal time of tribulation for God’s people; God’s people clearly needed to know about this time in advance. Hence the 15 verses of this prophecy dealing with the ruler who would be Antiochus Epiphanes.
Is that not the grace of God to let His people know what was coming down the conveyor-belt of history?
All of this vision up to point 35 is, for us, history. It’s long, long ago. It’s a couple thousand years past. We don’t have to worry about Alexander the Great or the Seleucids or Ptolemies.
But Daniel 11 doesn’t end with verse 35, and there’s still chapter 12.
>Daniel 11:36-45 speaks of another king—a king who looks like and behaves like and treats others like Antiochus Epiphanes did.
You see, the historical account of Antiochus Ephiphanes will serve us well; Antiochus is a foreshadowing, a scale-model of the final opponent of God’s people.
The final scourge will be like Antiochus Epiphanes, only worse.
“The king will do as he pleases. He will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard-of things against the God of gods. He will be successful until the time of wrath is completed, for what has been determined must take place.
This one will deify himself. He will set himself up to be a god, exalting himself above all others. His religion will be focused on himself.
He will attack the mightiest fortresses with the help of a foreign god and will greatly honor those who acknowledge him. He will make them rulers over many people and will distribute the land at a price.
This one will seduce many by honoring those who acknowledge him.
Verses 40-44 highlight his dominance in international conquests.
He is a falsely-religious, seductive, dominating figure that will prance onto the stage of human history at some point in the future. Call him the antichrist or the man of lawlessness (anything but Nicolae Carpathia), but expect him to come.
Trust that this will come to pass, and thank the Lord for the heads-up. Our God is gracious and kind and good; we neglect to think that there’s any good news here, but that we know about this well in advance is certainly not bad news.
And here’s the thing about this king who will do as he pleases:
He will pitch his royal tents between the seas at the beautiful holy mountain. Yet he will come to his end, and no one will help him.
Do you see that? The last sentence of chapter 11? Yet he will come to his end, and no one will help him.
>This, friends, is the great truth of this chapter. In what appears to be a brief history of the ancient world, one truth stands out as we survey this chapter:
Kings and kingdoms will all pass away
Kings and kingdoms will all pass away
Kings and kingdoms will all pass away. Our tiny, temporary, man-made kingdoms will crumble like sand castles. All the kingdoms of this world—even our beloved U.S. of A—all human kingdoms will come crashing down, often times hoisted on their own petard/hanged on the gallows they built for someone else.
Neither Babylon or Persia or Greece (or any other country) offered anything stable or secure. To prove a point, Daniel 11 spends only 27 words on Alexander the Great, arguably the greatest military conqueror of all time—not even Alexander offered any permanent victory; neither Babylon or Persia or Greece offered anything stable or secure. For that matter, neither did Jerusalem. Nor does the United States.
No country, no government, no human institution offers any lasting comfort or security or refuge. Only God’s enduring, eternal kingdom is worth placing our hope in; only one Kingdom is worthy of our allegiance, worthy of our worship, worthy of our devotion.
We do not have an enduring kingdom here. Kings and kingdoms, they will all pass away.
In light of this, this passage gives us two responsibilities:
We are called to resist faithfully, even unto death. In the days of Antiochus Epiphanes, many were seduced, enticed, flattered into abandoning the covenant and going over to the dark side.
With flattery he will corrupt those who have violated the covenant, but the people who know their God will firmly resist him.
But the people who know their God will firmly resist him.
Laying down one’s life for what you believe, for the truth of the Gospel, will look like foolishness to the world. But God calls it wisdom.
As Jim Elliot—the missionary who was killed by the Auca Indians with whom he was going to share the gospel—said, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
When the Evil One tries to entice us, when powerful men and women try to flatter us and seduce us into abandoning our faith—we must resist, even if it means losing our very lives. Resist.
We are called to teach those around us. Others need to know that history has a goal and a purpose that has been set by God.
We are called to instruct them:
“Those who are wise will instruct many, though for a time they will fall by the sword or be burned or captured or plundered.
We are surrounded every day by friends, family, co-workers, community members whose thoughts are shaped entirely by present realities and not by ultimate realities.
That is, more people are concerned about what’s going on in the world today and they aren’t at all concerned with the thought of eternity and where they’re going after this life.
Who else—if not us—is going to share the Good News, the Gospel of Jesus Christ with them? Who else—if not us—is going to let them know that our Lord is mighty to save, that in Jesus (and only in Jesus) there is life after life, hope beyond the here and now, and joy unhindered by circumstances?
Kids, you might be the most important teacher your friends ever have! You get to share Jesus with them, you get to tell them how much Jesus loves them, you get to tell them about the eternal life Jesus gives to those who believe in Him!
The same is true for us old folk. We are placed where we are to instruct, to teach, to share with everyone the news of our Sovereign God and Wonderful Savior.
>Resist and Instruct, and take heart because:
There is an appointed time
There is an appointed time
Antiochus will plot and scheme, but for a time. A limit has been imposed upon him. The Lord God has set a time for removing him from the playing field of history. Antiochus will only operate within appointed time.
So it is with the final enemy of God’s people: he will come to his end.
For everything, there is an appointed time. Fret not, friends.
Take heart, because:
There is an All-Knowing God
There is an All-Knowing God
The same God who knows the future exhaustively, the same God who gave this vision to Daniel, the same God who is in control and who sets the times and seasons of all kings and kingdoms—that same God…He’s Sovereign over you and me. He’s taking care of us, looking after us. He is for us. We don’t need to know everything. We just need to trust Him.
Take heart, because:
There is an enduring Kingdom
There is an enduring Kingdom
All the kings and kingdoms in Daniel’s vision here come to nothing or will come to nothing. The kingdoms of this world are but a flash in the pan of history—here for a moment, and then *poof*, they’re gone.
But there is another Kingdom, a Kingdom unlike any other.
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe,
For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.
Those who belong to God by faith in Jesus Christ are citizens of an eternal kingdom, and enduring kingdom, a kingdom that cannot be shaken.
>Do you think Daniel is trying to teach us a lesson?
Over and over again, repeated throughout the chapters of this book, the call is for us to look away from the things of this earth, to keep ourselves from worshipping lesser things, to fix our eyes on that which is above.
Over and over, again and again, whether it be in the fiery furnace or in the lions’ den or in whatever uncertain times that are to come, the Sovereign God shows Himself to be all-powerful, all-knowing, and ever-present.
Over and over, again and again, we are instructed through Daniel not to put our hope in the kingdoms of this world, but to put 100% of our hope in God and in His Kingdom.
There is only One King worth serving and only one Kingdom worth being a part of.
Do you know Him? Are you part of His Kingdom?