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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
Title:A Foreshadow of the Antichrist
Text:Daniel 11:36-12:4 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Living in a sinful world

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Onward Christian Soldiers
In the Hour of Trial      
All Who with Heart Confiding    
Soldiers of Christ Arise

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

“A Foreshadow of the Antichrist”
Daniel 11:36-12:4
Daniel had a unique life in many ways, including that God gave Daniel a foretaste of history long before the historical events unfolded. For instance, when we looked at the first 35 verses of chapter 11, we saw how remarkably those verses were fulfilled in history. Those verses foretold the reign of Alexander the Great, the arranged marriages of Berenice and Cleopatra, the wars between the Ptolemies and the Seleucid kings, and the tyranny of Antiochus Epiphanes, who was the ruler who foreshadows the ultimate antichrist.
But now, in verse 36 there is a change. It is marked in the NIV by a paragraph heading entitled, “The King Who Exalts Himself”.  And the identity of that king has been a subject of much debate and inquiry throughout the history of the church. There are some scholars who believe the king of verse 36 is still a reference to Antiochus Epiphanes, but they admit that they cannot harmonize the description of this great battle described in verses 40 to 45 with any historical battle. The question becomes, then, Since all the previous prophecies of chapter 11 were fulfilled down to the minutest detail, how can this last unfulfilled prophecy relate to Antiochus Epiphanes?”
Many interesting possibilities have been suggested in an effort to answer that question. John Calvin believed that it was a reference to the Roman Empire, but he seems to admit that he cannot prove that as conclusively as he would like. During the time of the Reformation, many of the Reformers saw this king as a reference to the pope, whom they deemed to be the antichrist. Others have believed this king who exalts himself was Herod, or even a reference to Mohammed, who, as he ushered in Islam, blasphemed the God of Scripture. Yet, interesting as all those theories are, the most common interpretation today is that this king who exalts himself is a reference to the final antichrist. 
One reason why most Biblical scholars today take this view is because this king seeks total control, trying to be like God. Verse 36: “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...” This description fits with the New Testament descriptions of the antichrist. 
For instance, in the second letter to the Thessalonians, Paul describes one whom he calls “the man of lawlessness” who will come to power just before Jesus returns. The designation, “man of lawlessness” is understood as another description for the antichrist. Paul writes, in 2 Thessalonians 2:4, He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.”
Commentators are divided on how the reign of this final antichrist will play out. Some see him as a domineering figure who rules all people with great force. As such, they expect that the time when the final antichrist rules will be a time of great turmoil and hardship for all people living just before the return of Jesus.
Other commentators see the power of the antichrist unleashed against Christians, resulting in a terrible time for the true church, as Jesus himself foretold. But these commentators see a time of peace and prosperity for those who are not God’s elect. That second view is summarized by the late Protestant Reformed theologian, Herman Hoeksema, who wrote that the kingdom of the antichrist will not be a heavy yoke on groaning subjects, “but a most beautiful kingdom with peace and splendor, riches and plenty, harmony and great developments. …All the inhabitants of the earth will admire the state of things and say, ‘Who is like unto this great government? And who is now able to war with us?’ And in pure gratitude they will worship him and worship the devil.”  (Behold, He Cometh; A Commentary on Revelation, pg. 459)
That view harmonizes with what Jesus said in Matthew 24 when he described how the last days will bring unprecedented hardship for believers, as false Christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.” (Matt. 24:24)
Yet Jesus also described how “In those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” (Matt. 24:38, 39)
Blasphemy Against the God of Gods
Verse 36 teaches that the antichrist will combine his quest for power with blasphemy. It says, “He will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard-of things against the God of gods...”
Although the final antichrist – this person who will wield such great power just before Jesus returns – is yet to be revealed, the spirit of antichrist is certainly at work in the world and in the church.  We have seen from Daniel 11:36 and 2 Thessalonians 2:4 that the antichrist will say unheard of things against the God of gods, and we see that spirit already at work today.
You cannot say anything negative about any group of people, except for Christians. Blasphemous things are said about the “God of gods” and people in the world allow it and encourage it. There is no great outrage when evil is done against God and his people. That is part of the spirit of the antichrist that is already at work within the world and the church today.
This passage also teaches that this king will take control by sheer power, yet in an unconventional way. Verse 37: “He shall pay no attention to the gods of his fathers, or to the one loved by women. He shall not pay attention to any other god, for he shall magnify himself above all.”
We don’t know exactly how the antichrist will come into power, but when he does, it will be unprecedented. It will be totally unconventional. At various times in history people have thought that certain political or church leaders were the antichrist, much as Calvin attributed the king of verse 36 to the Roman emperor, and many of the early Reformers attributed the antichrist to the pope.
We simply don’t know who he will be, or just how he will come on the world scene.  But we do know from Scripture that it will happen, and it will be a time of great suffering and persecution for believers.  
As we will see (next week), in chapter 12:8, Daniel acknowledges that he did not fully know what this vision portrayed either. God gives us a glimpse into these future events so that we may be on guard and continue to place our faith in him alone. But the details are not revealed, nor do they need to be.
The Battle of Armageddon
A third reason why many commentators see verse 36 as referring to the antichrist is that the setting, in verses 40 to 45, is similar to Biblical descriptions of the Battle of Armageddon. Scripture teaches that there will be one final battle, the Battle of Armageddon, which will lead into the second coming of Christ. That battle, which most commentators believe verses 40 to 45 are describing, will come to a sudden end, as chapter 11:45 teaches in its concluding sentence: Yet he will come to his end, and no one will help him.”
This final battle will be directed against God’s people. The statement in Daniel 11:41 that “He will also invade the Beautiful Land,” is a clear reference to God’s people, whether it is to Israel, or the “Beautiful Land” as the true church, the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16). We do know from 2 Thessalonians 2:4 that he will "set himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God."
The Battle of Armageddon is also written about in Revelation 16 and in Revelation 20:7-9, among other passages. Revelation 16 gives this description: They assembled at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon. The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple, from the throne, saying, ‘It is done!’”
     And there were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, and a great earthquake such as there had never been since man was on the earth, so great was that earthquake. The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell, and God remembered Babylon the great, to make her drain the cup of the wine of the fury of his wrath. And every island fled away, and no mountains were to be found. And great hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, fell from heaven on people; and they cursed God for the plague of the hail, because the plague was so severe.” (Rev. 16:16-21)
Many professing Christians view that final battle as a literal military battle. They look at prophecies concerning Russia, the Palestinians, the nation of Israel and other world powers, and they anticipate an all-out military battle. Other commentators point out that the Battle of Armageddon could be more spiritual in nature than militaristic. For instance, Sinclair Ferguson writes: “It is a mistake to assume that the conflict involved is to be understood exclusively in military terms. To do so draws our attention away from the fact that the real war for our souls is never fought on the battlefields of history, but elsewhere.” 1 Or, in the words of Ephesians 6:12, “…Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
But no matter how the events play out, the battle will certainly be directed against believers.  They will be the focus of the attack.  It will seem as though the antichrist will be victorious, but then, when all seems lost, the Lord will return. In the words of 2 Thessalonians 2:8, “And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow by the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming.”
And we are to take great comfort in that. Did you notice in verse 45 how the angel assured Daniel, “Yet he will come to his end, and no one will help him”? The truth that God will humble the proud will be seen in the total destruction of the king who exalts himself; it will be seen in the total and eternal defeat of the antichrist and his forces of evil.
God also promises to strengthen his people, no matter what may come. Chapter 12 begins with this assurance: At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered.”
But even as we take comfort in those truths, we must also remain on guard against the spirit of antichrist that is so prevalent in the world and the church. As Christians, it is so easy to become complacent. Yet we are warned repeatedly about the spirit of the antichrist so that we will always be on guard. In Revelation 16, just before describing the Battle of Armageddon, the Lord gives this warning: “Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed.” (Rev. 16:15)
Part of guarding ourselves – “staying awake” – includes prayer. Daniel did not fully understand the passage, as he admits in Daniel 12:8. But it gave him, and gives us, great incentives to watch and pray. In Mark 13:32-33 Jesus described the importance of being ready for the day of his return. He said, “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come.”
And as we watch, as we stay on guard, we are always to pray. We don’t know all the details of how the antichrist will persecute God’s people in the very last days, but we do know there will be a time of great apostasy that leads to the rule of the antichrist. And then, when it seems as though Christians are doomed, Jesus will return with power and glory to receive his people to himself.
After describing the spiritual armor that we are to wear, the Apostle Paul concludes that section of Ephesians 6 by writing, And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”
Trust in Christ Alone
Although we don’t know all the details of the last days, we do know that it is crucial to trust in Christ alone, for there will be an eternal resurrection for both the righteous and unrighteous. Daniel 12:2, Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.”
Those words point to the truths that Jesus spoke about in John 5, when he said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
“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. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.
Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.”
Jesus was not teaching salvation by works, but rather that those who do good do so because of their faith. The ultimate good work that God requires of us is to believe in his Son. The people asked Jesus, in John 6:28, What is the work that God requires…?” And he replied, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he sent.” And as James teaches, faith without works is dead. True faith always shows its genuine character by works, by doing what is good in God’s sight (James 2:17, 26).
Is Jesus the focus of your faith and mine this morning? Do you trust in him alone for salvation from sin? Do you have, by God’s grace and Spirit’s power, true saving faith in Christ?  If so, you and I can look forward with confidence to the final day of history when the antichrist and all who have followed after him will be totally defeated and sentenced with a just, righteous and eternal punishment.
May we look forward to the day of Christ’s return, even as we guard ourselves from all the anti-Christian thinking with which we are bombarded. And may our lives, like that of Daniel’s, be lives of faithful and fervent prayer to our Redeemer and Lord! Amen.
1  Sinclair Ferguson, The Communicator’s Commentary, Daniel, pg. 239
Sermon outline:
“The king will do as he pleases. He will exalt and magnify himself
  above every god and say unheard-of things against the God of gods...”
                                                                                              Daniel 11:36
                        “A Foreshadow of the Antichrist”
                                       Daniel 11:36-12:4
I.  The identity of the king described in verse 36 has been widely disputed
     throughout history, though most commentators today believe he is a
     reference to the final Antichrist because:
     1) He seeks total control in an effort to usurp God’s rule (36-37)
     2) He combines his quest for power with blasphemy (36; 2 Thess.
          2:4, 9-10) and gains power unconventionally (37-39)
     3) The setting (40-45) is similar to Biblical descriptions of the Battle
          of Armageddon (Revelation 16:12-16; 20:7-10)
II. Applications:
     1) We are to take comfort that the Antichrist will be defeated (11:45)
          and God will protect His people (12:1), yet we are reminded to be
          on guard against the spirit of Antichrist that is so prevalent in the
          world and within the church (1 John 2:18)
     2) Daniel did not fully understand the passage (12:8), but it gave
          him, and gives us, great incentives to watch and pray (Mark
     3) It is crucial to trust in Christ alone for salvation; there will be an
          eternal resurrection for both the righteous and unrighteous (12:2;
          John 5:24-29)


* 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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