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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:Kings and the King of Kings
Text:Daniel 11:2-35 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Christ's Kingship
 
Preached:2017
Added:2022-05-24
Updated:2022-07-13
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

      

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


01/22/2017          
“Kings, and the King of Kings”
Daniel 11:2-35
 
This chapter foretells historical events with stunning accuracy. John Calvin was so impressed by the fulfillment of these verses that in his commentary on Daniel he devoted forty pages on just the first 19 verses. 
 
While Calvin was amazed at the fulfillment of the historical events recorded by Daniel, many liberal scholars have shaken their heads in disbelief. Many of them believe this was written, not by the Daniel who lived some 605 years before the birth of Christ, but rather, they say it must have been written by someone assuming Daniel’s name who wrote around the year 170, after these events had all transpired.
 
They fail to recognize the accuracy of Isaiah 46:9-10 where the Lord himself declares: Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’”
 
The prophecy, foretelling with stunning accuracy historical events, begins in verse 2 by describing three kings of Persia. Those three kings were followed by a fourth who was far wealthier than his predecessors. It is a clear reference to King Xerxes (also known as Ahasuerus, ESV), one of the wealthiest kings on record, who reigned in Persia from 485 to 464 BC.
   
While Xerxes is in the history books as one very wealthy king, he is not as universally known as the next king, described in verse 3, “Then a mighty king will appear, who will rule with great power and do as he pleases.” Instead, verse 3 is a clear reference to Alexander the Great. In the previous chapter we saw (last week) how this final vision of Daniel’s builds on the preceding visions. Already in chapter 2 there was a reference to Alexander the Great, and he was referred to with more clarity in chapter 8. Now, once again, we see this reference to Alexander the Great.
 
After he conquered the known world of his day Alexander came to an early death, and there were no survivors to his kingdom. All of his descendants were murdered; his wives, children and even distant relatives were murdered. Consequently, the kingdom was divided into four parts, each ruled by a general, which is exactly what verse 4 refers to when it says, 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.”
 
From verse 5, on through verse 35, Daniel records the events in the histories of two of those kingdoms, “The kingdom of the north and the kingdom of the south,” which were the Seleucid kingdom (present day Syria – north) and the kingdom of Ptolemy (present day Egypt – south).  The vision focuses on those two kingdoms because of their close proximity to Jerusalem and Israel, the Old Testament people of God.
 
There was ongoing conflict between the Seleucid kings (Syrians) and the Ptolemies (Egyptians).  The conflict involved its share of political intrigue, such as recorded in verse 6: 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.”
 
That is a reference to Berenice, who was the daughter of Ptolemy II.  She married Antiochus Theos of Syria, but it was just for political gain, no love was involved. Antiochus Theos divorced his first wife to marry Berenice. She was, after all, the daughter of Ptolemy II so he married her just for political power. Because the motive for marriage was politically motivated, and there was no love involved in the marriage, Antiochus Theos poisoned Berenice; and after she died, he remarried his first wife. Needless to say, the Ptolemies were furious. Berenice’s brother, another Ptolemy ruler, Ptolemy III, attacked Syria and looted its temples.
 
Josephus, the well-known Jewish historian, records that Berenice’s brother, Ptolemy III, returned to Egypt with 4,000 talents of gold – that’s over 100 tons of gold! He also returned with 40,000 talents of silver – over 1000 tons – and some 2,500 other valuable items from the temples of Syria. And that is exactly what verse 8 is referring to: He will also seize their gods, their metal images and their valuable articles of silver and gold and carry them off to Egypt. For some years he will leave the king of the North alone.”
   
Do you see why John Calvin got excited enough to write forty pages on just the first 19 verses? These prophecies were fulfilled, right down to the smallest detail. And the prophecies are filled with intrigue, even including another marriage done in the name of politics there in verse 17 as Cleopatra – a different Cleopatra than the famous Cleopatra associated with Julius Caesar – was given in marriage to Ptolemy V. 
 
Verse 21 introduces us to an exceptionally contemptible king: “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.”
 
Those of you who are familiar with Daniel’s prophecies will recognize that Daniel is once again referring to the most cruel and savage of kings, so deceitful and evil that he is the clearest forerunner of the antichrist to be found in Scripture. That king is Antiochus IV, better known as Antiochus Epiphanes. He had been successful in his war against the southern kingdom of the Ptolemies. Verses 22-28 summarize the ease with which Antiochus Epiphanes was able to gain military victories against the kings of the south, and against virtually every nation he faced.
 
That is, until he faced the Roman general, Popilius Laenas. Verse 29 and 30 are a clear reference to that meeting: The king of the North will return to his own country with great wealth, but his heart will be set against the holy covenant. He will take action against it and then return to his own country.
       “At the appointed time he will invade the South again, but this time the outcome will be different from what it was before. Ships of the western coastlands will oppose him, and he will lose heart. Then he will turn back and vent his fury against the holy covenant. He will return and show favor to those who forsake the holy covenant.”
 
Antiochus Epiphanes was on his way to Egypt with his troops, expecting another easy victory, when he was met by Popilius, the commander of a fleet of Roman ships. Popilius had more military strength than Antiochus Epiphanes. He told Epiphanes to go back to Syria or face the wrath of his Roman troops. Antiochus Epiphanes, trying to stall for time, said he needed to meet with his advisors. Popilius drew a circle in the sand and said, “Bring your advisors here. Decide here and now if you will fight me or if you will return to Syria.” 
 
Antiochus realized he didn’t have the means to overcome the Romans.  He retreated, and he did what most every bully does. If a school yard bully has his bluff called and has to back down, what does he do? Usually, he finds someone who is much weaker than he is and he beats up on that person as he vents his rage.
 
That is what Antiochus did to the Jewish people. That is what is meant in verse 30, “He will vent his fury against the holy covenant.”  He is the one described in previous chapters, for this vision builds on the previous visions of Daniel. Previous chapters tell of how he was a stern faced king, a master of intrigue who would cause deceit to prosper. He would slaughter thousands of God’s people. He is the one who desecrated the temple, offering a swine – an unclean animal – in the holy of holies. That is part of what “the abomination that causes desolation” is referring to. 
 
Daniel refers to “the abomination that causes desolation” three times, using it in Daniel 9:27; 11:31; 12:11.  When we conclude our study of Daniel, we will look more closely at the meaning as it used again in the final verses of Daniel’s prophecy.
 
But next week, the Lord willing, we will see that Jesus quoted verse 31 in reference to the antichrist.  Next week, as we close out our study of this 11th chapter, we will look specifically at how Antiochus Epiphanes was a type, or shadow, of the antichrist who will rise up within the church to oppose God and all those who remain true to God’s covenant.
 
But for this week, as we look at this vision with its amazing description of history long before those historical events took place, we look for applications to our lives. Is this chapter just an interesting slice of history? Or are there more practical applications to us today?
 
God’s Word: Authoritative and Trustworthy
 
One application: This passage reminds us that God’s Word is authoritative and trustworthy. As 2 Timothy 3:16 declares: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…”
 
God himself breathed out the pages of the Bible as the Holy Spirit inspired the human writers to write what they wrote. That is why it should not be at all surprising that the division of Alexander the Great’s kingdom would be foretold long before it happened. The same with the political marriage of Berenice to Antiochus Theos. The same is true for both the conquests and defeats of Antiochus Epiphanes.
 
Some would teach that God’s Word is true in presenting Jesus as a unique individual, even the Son of God, but that it cannot be relied on its account of history or in its description of the creation of the world. But this passage reminds us that all of Scripture is true and accurate, including the historical portions. This passage reminds us of the truth Isaiah 40:15 records: “Surely the nations are like a drop in the bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales; He weighs the islands as though they were fine dust.”
 
When Donald Trump was inaugurated as the President of the United Sates, in 2016, we witnessed many in the political world working themselves – and inciting others – into a frenzy.  As Christians we can be thankful for Christian advisors to the new President. And we pray that he heeds their counsel. But this passage reminds us that earthly kings – all politicians and world leaders – are directed by God’s sovereign hand for his purposes (Prov. 21:5), “for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Rom. 13:1).
 
The nations of the world flaunt their strength today, just as the nations of Daniel’s day flaunted their strength. Yet there is only one kingdom that is truly strong; only one kingdom that will prevail eternally, and that is the kingdom of our Lord. There is only one true King. He does have, and shall have, dominion – eternally!
 
Since the Scripture is accurate with amazing detail to these historical events of nations and earthly kings, we can take great confidence and joy in knowing that Scripture is also accurate in all that it records, including the promises of your salvation and mine. We recognize that the problem that infested all these earthly rulers and their kingdom – the Ptolemies, the Seleucids, the Judeans – the people of Israel – all their problems are a direct result of sin.
 
And that presents to us a great dilemma. For each one of us has that same root problem. But that dilemma is solved in Christ. He took our guilt upon himself, on the cross, so that we can stand blameless before the throne of God’s justice.  I’m so thankful that by grace, through saving faith in Christ, we have the full assurance of pardon. The same book that foretold with amazing accuracy minute historical events long before they happened, assures me that my Lord and Savior has taken both the blame and the shame of my sins upon himself. And in their place, he has credited – imputed – his righteousness to my unrighteous account so that I, along with every other repentant believer, is truly blameless in God’s sight!
 
The Holy Covenant Forsaken
 
A second application: Worldliness, represented by Antiochus Epiphanes who is a type of the antichrist, cannot come into the church unless there is either a willingness to allow it, or a blindness that prevents it from being seen, by those within the church.
 
Did you notice verse 30? Speaking of Antiochus Epiphanes it says, Ships of the western coastlands will oppose him, and he will lose heart. Then he will turn back and vent his fury against the holy covenant. He will return and show favor to those who forsake the holy covenant.”
 
Daniel is pointing out that there were some Jews who forsook their allegiance to the Lord and His Word – the holy covenant – and these Jews made it easy for Antiochus Epiphanes to come in and desecrate the temple. Verse 32 also speaks of that: With flattery he will corrupt those who have violated the covenant, but the people who know their God will firmly resist him.”
 
(As we will see next week), when the antichrist is revealed, he will come from within the church.  He will desecrate the spiritual temple just as Antiochus desecrated the physical temple in Jerusalem.  That is why Jesus quotes this passage when he speaks of the end times.
 
But in order for the antichrist to get into the church, the church has to let him in. In the days of Antiochus Epiphanes, some of the Jewish people who were enamored with Greek culture opened the way for Antiochus Epiphanes to come into Jerusalem, and then to destroy the temple. The same scenario is being played out today by many people in the "visible" church.
 
Dr. Sinclair Ferguson writes:
 
“…(An) important lesson surfaces in verse 30-32. Here Antiochus, the symbol of earthly kingdoms, gains a foothold among the people of God. Historians believe that this double-dealing within Jerusalem was the reason for his success in Jerusalem...
 
“This illustrates another general, biblical principle: evil cannot gain a foothold in the city of God unless it finds a spirit of cooperation among the visible people of God. It is not inevitable that the church should be corrupted by the world; there must be a willingness or blindness in the church before that happens.
 
“This is true at three levels in our lives: doctrinal, moral, and spiritual. Where there is compromise in any one of these three areas, weakness and failure follow. All three must be guarded with care. Antiochus, (who we will see, bears some of the marks of the final antichrist) succeeded only because he found those in Jerusalem enamored with Hellenization, which involved a weakening of their doctrinal, moral, and spiritual vigor.  That is no less of a danger for the church today.”  (The Communicator’s Commentary, Daniel; pg. 233)
 
Many churches have become enamored by worldly wisdom, just as many of the people in Jerusalem had become enamored with Greek culture. The Jews in the days of Antiochus never expected this Greek ruler, Antiochus Epiphanes, to turn on them, destroy their city and desecrate their temple.
 
And many in the church today who embrace the wisdom of the world, whether on gay marriage, women ministers, or any other area, are simply opening the door for the entrance of the final antichrist. As Dr. Ferguson points out, “There must be a willingness or blindness in the church before that happens.” 
 
But there is also great encouragement in this passage. In verse 33 to 35 we read how God will keep His people secure to the very end, even though we all stumble at many times and in many ways.
 
Verse 35 speaks of how even the wise will stumble at times. As James 3:2 says, “We all stumble in many ways.” Yet what does God do with our stumbling? How does he work through all the confusion, chaos and corruption in the world and increasingly in the church? Verse 35: Some of the wise will stumble, so that they may be refined, purified and made spotless until the time of the end, for it will still come at the appointed time.”
  
As we see the instability of the world around us, as we see so many in the church today compromising their doctrine, morals, and spirituality, may we take comfort in knowing that the King of kings is yet watching over his people. We also need to confess our sin, and our constant need to focus in faith on him who is the eternal King over all kings as he sanctifies us by his Spirit through the Word, the Holy Bible.
 
Christ Jesus holds history in his hands and works all events in history to culminate in his glorious return. Earthly kings and rulers, in all their pomp and pride, are insignificant compared to the eternal King. Even now, and throughout all eternity, Jesus Christ shall indeed have dominion. As the familiar hymn, based on Psalm 72, expresses it:
 
Ever and forever
   Shall his Name endure,
Long as suns continue
    It shall stand secure;
And in him forever
    All men shall be blest,
And all nations hail him
     King of kings confessed.1  
 
May your faith and mine, always be focused on him as we eagerly look forward to his return. On that glorious day, the devil and his demons, along with the antichrist, will be defeated, cast into the burning lake of fire – into hell – unable to ever cause sin to enter the paradise yet to be revealed – the new heavens and the new earth!
 
1 Christ Shall Have Dominion, Arthur S Sullivan, 1871
 
 
Sermon Outline:
 
“Now then, I tell you the truth: Three more kings will appear in Persia,
 and then a fourth who will be richer than all the others...” - Daniel 11:2a
 
                              “Kings, and the King of Kings”
                                            Daniel 11:2-35
 
I.  This chapter proves Isaiah 46:10 as it foretells historical events with
     stunning accuracy, including:
     1) Alexander the Great’s power and division of his kingdom (3-4)
 
 
 
     2) The giving in marriage of Bernice to Antiochus Theos (6-10) and
          Cleopatra to Ptolemy V (17-19) 
 
 
 
     3) The battles and conquests of Antiochus Epiphanes (21-32)
 
 
 
II. Applications:
     1) God’s Word is authoritative and trustworthy in every area (2 Tim.
          3:16), including this portion which reaffirms that earthly kings are
          are directed by God for His purposes (Prov. 21:5; Rom. 13:1)
 
 
 
     2) Worldliness (represented by Antiochus Epiphanes, who is a type
         of the Antichrist) cannot come into the church, unless there is a
         willingness to allow it, or a blindness that prevents it from being
         seen by those within the church, represented by Jerusalem (30-32)
 
 
 
     3) God will keep His people secure to the very end, even though we
          all stumble at many times (33-35)
   
 

 

 

 

 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2017, Rev. Ted Gray

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