DANIEL 10, 11 and 12
Dull stuff today: regional demons, an archangel, perhaps an appearance by Christ himself to Daniel, some complicated earthly battles, the appearance of the Antichrist, and a sneak preview of the End of the Age!
We are in the third year of Cyrus King of Persia’s reign. Daniel was prompted to fast for three weeks – not from all food, but from luxury foods, alcohol, and any other ‘modern’ comforts of life. Fasting prepares the man or woman to hear the Holy Spirit; it tunes in our ears to his voice and refocuses our priorities in line with his. After 21 days of Daniel’s fast, he is confronted by a great vision that is very similar to other visions in Ezekiel 1 and Revelation 1, which are clearly identified as Christ, but in this case could be a powerful angel. Furthermore a ‘curtain’ is drawn back on heavenly procedures, since Daniel’s messenger informs him that he has been resisted and delayed for 21 days – ever since Daniel first began to “…set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God” (10:12). This reveals to us both the impact of a period of fasting, and the spiritual turmoil going on in the heavenly realms all around us! (See Ephesians 6:12.)
The ‘rules’ of heavenly battles are evidently quite surprising and, as an act of sovereignty, God has chosen not to impose absolute control over every angelic and demonic force, but to permit a degree of freedom and resistance. Even the messenger whom some might identify as Christ was resisted for 21 days by what is clearly a regional demonic power called the Prince of Persia or the King of Persia. These demonic powers are hierarchical and are outlined in the Ephesians 6 passage (above). Michael, who is the archangel with the specific role of protecting God’s people (the Jews then, and perhaps Christians now), then joined battle and forces of darkness were driven back.
The Messenger then declares that he is about the resume the battle against the Prince of Persia, but that soon the Prince of Greece will appear on the scene, facilitating a power change in the heavenly places and indeed causing regime change in the earthly empires and ushering in the military rule by Alexander the Great. God is behind all this, of course, permitting these actions to occur and sending angelic forces to moderate the excesses of the regional demonic rulers. Michael the archangel is clearly a key player in ensuring that global domination by the forces of darkness, resulting in extreme worldwide persecution of the saints, will not occur – at least not yet! I wonder whether he is the one referred to in 2 Thessalonians 2:7-8: “For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back [Michael?] will continue to do so until he is taken out of the way. And then the Lawless one will be revealed…”. See also Revelation 20:7-10.
We then have in chapter 11 a very intricate battle between the Kings of the North and of the South. This prophecy is extremely detailed, and historians have matched its descriptions to well-documented historical events (well into the future from Daniel’s perspective). The fourth king from Cyrus was Xerxes who became richer and more powerful than all his predecessors. He made the mistake of taking on Alexander the Great of Greece and was defeated and his two sons killed. When Alexander the Great died, his empire was divided into four regions, two of which were Egypt (Ptolemy I) and Syria (Seleucus I) – Kings of the South and North respectively. Then followed years of battles, intrigue, short-lived alliances, political intermarriages, and changes of ruler. Read a good commentary if you are interested in the fine detail.
Antiochus IV came to the Syrian throne in 175 BC and, during his wars with Egypt, Judah was caught in the ‘crossfire’. Antiochus plundered Jerusalem in 169 BC, massacred many Jews, defiled the temple, set up an altar to Zeus and offered pagan sacrifices on the Altar of Burnt Offering – “…The Abomination that causes desolation” (11:31).
The end of chapter 11 and the beginning of 12 goes beyond a description of the evil that Antiochus did; it plumbs even greater depths. Many commentators believe that these verses describe the days of the Antichrist, where no god is recognised except he himself. A final struggle seems to take place in which this despot is at last destroyed. Michael will arise to protect God’s people through a time of great distress for them; then all those written in the Book of Life will be delivered. Clearly this is now the end of the End of the Age, since “multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt” (12:2). Whoever you are, you clearly have an eternal destiny in either heaven or hell.
Daniel, overcome with curiosity, asks one of the angels how long it will be before these things are fulfilled. He again receives the answer “A time, times and half a time” – which means 3 ½ of some period. Not a great deal of help, really! We will look more at these cryptic numbers in the Book of Revelation!