Conflict and Conquest
April 30th, 1972 @ 8:15 AM
CONFLICT AND CONQUEST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-30-72 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled Conflict and Conquest, or Tribulation and Triumph. In our preaching through the Book of Daniel, we have come to the last vision. The sermon today is on the eleventh chapter of the prophecy [Daniel 11]; and then next Sunday we begin with the last chapter, which concludes the book, chapter 12 [Daniel 12]. This vision which is delineated in the eleventh chapter, is the longest one by far in the book; and it is presented in great detail.
There are three parts in the prophecy. The first part, verses 1 through 20, concern the kingdom of Persia and of Hellas, and the warring years, almost two hundred years in length, between the Greek kings in Egypt and in Syria [Daniel 11:1-20]. The second part of the prophecy is found in verses 21 through 35, and it concerns one of those Greek kings, Antiochus Epiphanes, who was the ruler of Syria, who is a type of the Antichrist [Daniel 11:21-35]. Then the last part of the prophecy, verses 36 to the end of the chapter, verse 45, is a delineation of the final Antichrist, the last supreme world dictator [Daniel 11:36-45]. As the prophecy continues, the person of Antiochus Epiphanes gradually fades into the background, and the portrait of the ultimate Antichrist becomes more vividly seen and portrayed.
Now before we begin with the prophecy itself, there are two comments that I would like to make about it. The traditional interpretation is what I have just said. I wish I could read the eleventh chapter, but it would take most of our time; and it is far too long. The traditional interpretation of the chapter is what I have just mentioned. Most of it, the traditional interpretation says, is a prophecy of the wars between the Ptolemies of Egypt and the Seleucids, the Seleucidi of Syria, and little Israel caught in between. But if you will read Ellicott’s commentary, you will find there a man who questions that interpretation. And in the commentary that he writes on the eleventh chapter of the Book of Daniel, he points out many, many difficulties in that interpretation. Ellicott believes that the whole chapter is eschatological; that is, it deals with last things. It is a prophecy of the two great powers that will concern Israel at the consummation of the age. Now I want you to know why that interpretation impressed me, this thing of Ellicott.
Charles John Ellicott was born in 1819; and he writes that he thinks this prophecy is eschatological, that it concerns the time of the end, and is not a prophecy of the wars between Egypt and Syria. But rather he says that the prophecy brings to view the two great powers that shall concern Israel, the chosen people of God, at the consummation of the age. Now the reason that impressed me is very obvious: for in the development of history, I see, concerning the Middle East, two great confronting powers, world powers, supreme powers. One is America, who supports Israel; and the other is Russia, who supports the enemies of Israel. That’s why, as I look at that chapter, I cannot but be at least deeply impressed with the commentary of Ellicott, who sees in it a prophecy of the end time. And in my own conclusion as I study it, I think if the traditional interpretation is correct, that Daniel was prophesying the wars between the Ptolemies and the Seleucids, that it is a type of the ultimate conflict that shall usher in the consummation of the age.
All right, a second comment on the chapter before we follow it through: my second comment concerns Antiochus Epiphanes. Here in this prophecy—and he is presented elsewhere in the Book of Daniel—Antiochus Epiphanes occupies a very large part of this prophecy. Well, who was he? He was certainly not a tremendous, notable character in human history. Antiochus Epiphanes was a diminutive ant, as far as the sweep of history is concerned. He was a bubble in the boiling cauldron of human events. Yet he occupies so large a part here in the prophecy. Now why? The answer lies in something that we must remember about the Bible—and without remembering it, the Bible will be largely enigmatic to us who seek to understand it. Now the reason Antiochus Epiphanes occupies so large a part in this prophecy is found in the fact that he had a disastrous and oppressive and tragic relationship with Israel, the people of God. He is the one that, in his persecutions, precipitated the war of the Maccabees, which resulted in the independence of the country, the nation, and the Feast of Lights, the Feast of Hanukkah, that is observed to this day among Jewish people in the earth, called in the New Testament the Feast of Dedication [John 10:22], the feast of the cleansing of the temple. All right, the thing to remember about the Bible: the prophecies of the Bible do not as such concern Gentile history; but the prophecies of the Bible concern Gentile history only as it touches the Holy Land and the chosen people, the family of God, the Jew.
You don’t find in the Bible a book of science. It just isn’t a book of science as such, though I think it is scientifically correct. Nor is it a book of history as such, though I think every historical event mentioned in it is historically accurate. But the Bible is a presentation first, in the Old Testament, of God’s dealings with His chosen people the Jew, and in the New Testament it is, of course, a delineation of the gospel of the grace of the Son of God. So when I read the prophecies in the Old Testament, I am reading about God’s dealings with the Jew.
One time, I mean not very long ago, a very few weeks ago, after I had delivered a sermon here, I was standing down here at the front, and a Mohammedan came down. He was from the Middle East. A Muslim came down, and he talked to me. And the first thing he wanted to know was if I were a Jew. Well, I said, “I wish I were. I’d like to belong to the chosen people of God. But, “I said, “I am not a Jew.” Well, I asked him, “What makes you think I am a Jew?”
Well, he said, “I came to hear you preach this morning, and from the way you preached, I thought you were a Jew.” Well, what I was doing is, I was preaching the Bible; I was preaching the prophecies here in Daniel. And the prophecies concern the Jewish people, the chosen family of God. And that’s why you will find in the eleventh chapter [Daniel 11] such a large delineation of Antiochus Epiphanes: he vitally affected the Jewish nation; and anything that affects the Jewish nation is a subject of prophecy, and is a part of the ultimate, great, moving, sovereign hand of Almighty God.
As I have said a thousand times: if you want to know what time it is on God’s clock, look at the Jew. The Lord used him, called him, chose him in the days past; the Lord is not done with him. And at the consummation of the age, as you find here in this prophecy, you will find the Jew occupying so very large a part.
Now let us begin with the prophecy. In the eleventh chapter [Daniel 11], the angel is explaining to Daniel the years that lie ahead. And he says, “Now I show thee the truth. Behold, there shall stand up yet three kings in Persia; and the fourth shall be far richer than they all: and by his strength through his riches he will stir up all the realm of Hellas against him, all the realm of” [Daniel 11:2]—I’d rather use the ancient word “Hellas” because when I say “Greece,” that’s that little country that is over there today; Hellas, the ancient people who occupied that land—now that is a prophecy of the four kings of Persia who immediately would follow Cyrus. When the angel was speaking here to Daniel, Cyrus was then the ruler of Persia, the founder of the Medo-Persian empire. So those four kings are, first, Cambyses the son of Cyrus. And then Pseudo-Smerdis: and that was a strange thing in history. He was an imposter; but he looked so like the son of Cambyses that he seized, and kept, and secured the throne, if only for a year. The third king mentioned here is Darius Hystaspis. He is the one that sought to invade Greece, Hellas, and to subjugate the country, and was defeated—and this is one of the great wars of all time, and one that turned and colored all history—was defeated at the Battle of Marathon. Miltiades, with ten thousand Hellenes, defeated Darius at Marathon, with an army of about a hundred ten to fifty thousand men.
Then the fourth king is Ahasuerus, the king we know in Esther [Esther 1:1], and the king in history whom we know as Xerxes, one of the richest kings in all the earth. And because of the defeat at Marathon, he sought to amass the greatest army the world had ever seen, and he did; and the greatest navy the world had ever seen, and he did. And he invaded Hellas, he invaded Greece, this Xerxes, this fourth king who was “richer than they all,” and who “stirred up all Hellas against him” [Daniel 11:2] Here is the Battle of Thermopylae, and here is the Battle of Salamis that broke the power of Persia; and Xerxes returned a defeated and a frustrated king.
Then when the prophet says, “He shall stir up all [against Greece]” [Daniel 11:2], then the next verse, “And a mighty king shall stand up, that shall rule with great dominion, and do according to his will” [Daniel 11:3]; now that is the prophecy of Alexander, who is still called “the Great.” Xerxes stirred up all Hellas against Persia; but the blow was not struck, the retaliatory blow was not struck until about a century and a half later. Alexander, the son of Philip of Macedon, when he was about twenty years of age, swept the whole civilized world before him. And in about twelve years, he had the entire civilized world at his feet. He was at the confines of India, and only stopped there because his army refused to go any further. And Alexander the Great was the means under God of pouring into history the tremendous change, culture life, civilization of the Greek nation: the Greek language, Greek culture, Greek architecture, Greek thought, Greek poetry, Greek drama, Greek philosophy, Greek everything. Alexander the Great colored the world more than any national leader has ever done; and, outside of Christ, has had a greater influence upon the world than any other man. And it is astonishing to me, as I read and as I have looked at history, it is astonishing to me how so little a country as Hellas could have produced the mighty men that have affected all civilization!
Let me read to you about three paragraphs out of a book that I read. This is from a professor in Princeton University, in a book called The Direction of Human Evolution. Now he is going to take just Athens. Now Philip and Alexander were up there in Macedonia, so he’s not going to take the Hellenes, the Greeks as such; he’s going to take one little piece of it. Now you listen to this quotation:
It is the opinion of those who have studied the subject most, that no modern race of men is the equal intellectually of the ancient Greek race. In the two centuries between 500 and 300 BC, the small and relatively barren country of Attica, with Athens the capital, with an area and total population about equal to that of the present state of Rhode Island, but with less than one-fifth as many free persons, produced a galaxy of illustrious men. Among statesmen and commanders were Miltiades, Themistocles, who won the battle at Salamis; Aristides and Pericles, possibly the greatest statesman who ever lived; among poets, Aeschylus, Euripides, Sophocles, and Aristophanes; among philosophers and scientists, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Demetrius and Theophrastus; among architects and artists, Phidias and Praxiteles; among historians, Thucydides and Xenophon; among orators, Aeschines, Demosthenes, Isocrates, and Lysias. In this small country, in the space of two centuries, there appeared such a galaxy of illustrious men as has never been found on the whole earth in any two centuries since that time.
Now this is the rising of Alexander the Great and the mighty influence that he had upon civilization and history thereafter [Daniel 11:3].
Now you may be wondering, “Why am I mentioning that?” Well, first of all, because it’s interesting, and it’s truth, and it’s prophesied here in the Bible; but mostly because what I read here in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Daniel is that! [Daniel 11]. For the Ptolemies were Greeks, and the Seleucids were Greeks, Antiochus Epiphanes was a Greek; and the type of this conflict, and the type of the Antichrist, all of it is Greek, every bit of it, every part of it is Greek. And what I read here is a picture of the end time as these Greeks controlled it. Even today, you go down to the picture show, and you see Cleopatra, who was a Greek. The influence of these men and these people is beyond compare in the civilization and history of the world.
We now turn to the second part of that prophecy, Antiochus Epiphanes [Daniel 11:21-35]. Antiochus Epiphanes is a prototype. A prototype is a person who lived at a certain time, but whose character and whose life foretell, portray, another person who will live at a later age and at a later time. Now Antiochus Epiphanes is a prototype of the ultimate and final Antichrist. If you’d like to know what the ultimate and final world dictator will be like, look at Antiochus Epiphanes: in the prophecy, he is the prototype of that ultimate world ruler.
One of the things that he does here, he persecutes God’s people; and he does it viciously. Here in this prophecy, “They that understand among the people… shall fall by the sword, by flame, by captivity, by spoil… and they shall be tried and purged… even to the time of the end” [Daniel 11:33-35]. This is a picture of what shall happen to God’s people in the earth. Even Paul said in 2 Timothy, that, “All that shall live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” [2 Timothy 3:12]. Now that is a general and blanket statement.
O blessed Christ, if I were more like Thee,
I would no doubt more persecuted be.
The world and formal church would see far less
To tolerate in me, and not to bless.
The toleration that is shown to me
Is proof that I, my Lord, am less like Thee
Than Peter, John, and Paul, and all who died
For likeness to the Christ the crucified.
[author and work unknown]
When you get along real good, and when you fit in the pattern of the world, it is rather a good sign that you are somewhat less like our Lord and less like the great saints of God. The enmity of the world, the Bible says, is the inheritance of the true child of Christ [John 15:19]. And the Scriptures as they unfold that prophecy delineate a time when that will be more and more true [Matthew 10:22, 24:9;John 16:33].
Am I seeing that today? All you have to remember is that about one-third of the world’s population already is under a government where if a man is a Christian he is either persecuted, or he is imprisoned, or he is exiled, or he has no privileges of citizenship. And that influence is growing in the world; it is not decreasing. And that is exactly what this prophecy portrays; and it is exactly what Paul the apostle said. This world is no friend to grace to carry us on to God; but increasingly, as the vistas of the future are unfolded in this eleventh chapter of the Book of Daniel, increasingly the world is at enmity against Christ and against the chosen people and family of God, both the Jew and the Christian.
Finally, the prophecy comes to a delineation of the ultimate-Antichrist and the consummation of the age [Daniel 11:36-45]. How will it be at the end time, when God rolls back the curtain and we look with the eyes of the prophet into the future, and we come to the denouement of all history? What is it like? Reading this, it brings terror to the heart. For example, he says, “And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that time: and it will be at that time that thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book” [Daniel 12:1]. Well, for lack of time, let me summarize what the prophecy says about that end time.
There shall come on the scene of the world at the consummation of history, there shall come what the Bible calls the ultimate and final Antichrist. I intended to read the delineation of him in the second chapter of 2 Thessalonians [2 Thessalonians 2:1-12], but I don’t have time. I intended to read the delineation of him, the portrayal of him, in the thirteenth chapter of the Book of the Revelation [Revelation 13:1-10], but I don’t have time. If you have opportunity, remember those two chapters: the second chapter of 2 Thessalonians, and the thirteenth chapter of the Book of the Revelation. What is depicted here in the Book of Daniel, in the eleventh chapter [Daniel 11:36-45], is there more specifically delineated in 2 Thessalonians 2 and in Revelation 13. There shall come at the end time a man who is the incarnation of Satan. And Satan will give to him the power and the authority of the whole world; and he will come as an imitator of the Christ. He is the Antichrist. As the sorcerer threw down his rod before Pharaoh, as Moses had done and it turned into a serpent, so the sorcerer’s rod turned into a serpent [Exodus 7:10-12]. It will be like that at the end time. There will arise a great, mighty world dictator [Revelation 13].
Now several things about him, like Christ and in contrast to Christ. One: he shall appear suddenly on the world scene [2 Thessalonians 2:3, Revelation 13:1]. For thousands of years the world waited for the Messiah: then He appeared in obscurity for thirty years, but there He was [Luke 3:23]. So it will be with this ultimate dictator. He will appear suddenly on the world scene [2 Thessalonians 2:3; Revelation 13:1]. A second thing about him: he will come with the baptism of hell and presenting his credentials of miracles and lying wonders [2 Thessalonians 2:9]. He will deceive the whole world [Revelation 12:9]. Another thing about him: he will be willful; he will do according to his own will [Daniel 11:36], as it is described here in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Daniel—when the Savior came not to do His will, but the Father’s will [Luke 22:42]; and not to be ministered unto, but to minister [Matthew 20:28].
He will come presenting himself as God. In the second chapter of the 2 Thessalonian letter, “He will sit in the holy temple at Jerusalem as God” [2 Thessalonians 2:4]. He’ll have a throne; and he will convince the world that he has supernatural power, and many will worship him as God! And his terrible reign will be the exact time of the ministry of our Lord. Our Lord’s ministry was three and a half years: the terrible reign of the Antichrist will be for “a time, times, and half a time” [Daniel 12:7]. It will be for forty-two months; it will be for 1,260 days; it will be for three and a half years. That is called the great tribulation [Matthew 24:21].
Now his coming is very precisely delineated here in the prophecy. He shall come in peaceably, and obtain the kingdom by flatteries [Daniel 11:21]. And those that work with him, he will win them deceitfully. He’s going to come at a time when the world seeks somebody to lead them out of the morass and the miasma into which civilization and the nations of the world are plunged. He will come—and this is in the sixth chapter of the Revelation now—he will come on a white horse [Revelation 6:2] as the great answer to all the problems of the world. He will come as a phony and false and pseudo-prince of peace; because the Prince of Peace does not come until the nineteenth chapter of the Revelation [Revelation 19:11-16]. But in the sixth chapter he comes, this Antichrist, deceiving the whole world. He has the answers; he can lead the people and the nations into fullness [Daniel 9:27], and prosperity and affluence. And there will be no more war and no more conflict [1 Thessalonians 5:2-3].
Now that’s the way he comes: he comes in peaceably and in deceit. But after that half of the last week of the seventieth week of Daniel, after the first three and a half years, he suddenly turns [Daniel 9:27]. He’s made a covenant with the Jewish people; he takes their case against the king of the South, which is Egypt, and he has them returned to the land in peace and prosperity, and he scatters gifts among them. All this is delineated here in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Daniel [Daniel 11:36-45]. Then in the midst of his friendship for Israel, and in the midst of his great patronage of the Israeli nation, in the midst of it, he suddenly turns, and he becomes vile, and vicious, and violent [Daniel 11:40-45]. And then in the sixth chapter of the Book of the Revelation, you have what follows [Revelation 6:1-11], just a commentary on what is delineated here in the thirty-eighth verse of the eleventh [chapter] of Daniel: “And he shall honor the god of forces: and a god whom his fathers knew not he shall honor with gold, and silver, and precious stones, and pleasant things” [Daniel 11:38]. This Antichrist is going to be a worshipper of the god of war; and he will plunge the whole earth into that final and ultimate war, as it is described in the sixth chapter of the Revelation: there was first a white horse, there he comes, the Antichrist; and then he is followed by the red horse of war, and by the black horse of famine, and by the pale horse of death [Revelation 6:2-8]. And the whole world is thrust into that great, final battle, rather war of Armageddon! [Revelation 16:14, 16] And it is in that final conflict that the Lord Christ intervenes, and God comes down visibly, sovereignly, in human history! [Revelation 19:11, 19-21]
Now all of this is depicted in the Bible in great detail. In the eleventh chapter of this prophecy that I am preaching out of in Daniel, the end time is connected and coincides with the end of this king, the Antichrist [Daniel 11:35-36]. When he comes in that last great conflict, that is the end of the age. It ends in a fury, it ends in a bloodbath, it ends in a maelstrom of horror and of war [Daniel 11:44-45; Revelation 19:21]. “There shall be a time of trouble, such as there never was since the nations were on the face of the earth” [Daniel 12:1].
Now the place of that war is geographically and precisely named: it is in the Holy Land; it is in Palestine. It is, the mustering place is Armageddon, the hill of Megiddo, the great Plain of Esdraelon. And there will be fought this last great battle [Revelation 16:14, 16]. Now I have to conclude.
When you read these things your heart trembles. O God! the stockpiling of these atomic weapons, the multiplication of these hell bombs, these hydrogen bombs and these atomic bombs, and these nuclear submarines with their atomic-headed missiles, and the platforms they are going to build in space from which they can rain down lurid death and fire from the heavens itself! O God! What of the future? What of the future? Well, God’s prophecy is for that purpose: the prophecy is given to us that we might have confidence and assurance. The prophecy is given to us that God’s people might know and realize that whatever the tragedy, or whatever the turn of world history, or whatever the maelstrom of blood and war and conflict, that out of it God will save His people, and, whatever happens, the Lord is King and sovereign over the whole earth [Daniel 4:17,25].
Now I marked some of these passages here in the eleventh chapter of this prophecy that I don’t have time to read; but every one of them says that the thing that is to happen is determined, and that it has a final end. Or, as the Lord says, “For the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened” [Matthew 24:22]. There is not anything that’s going to happen that does not happen under the surveillance of Almighty God. And we’re not to despair as though God was dead, or that He had resigned from the universe, or as though human history was running without His directive purpose. The purpose of the prophecy is to assure us that whatever happens and whatever develops in human history, this is in the hands of Almighty God. And the Lord is bringing it to a great and glorious consummation, when, as the passage that you read in the nineteenth chapter of the Revelation in our Scripture reading, when He shall come, when He shall come:
Behold I saw the heavens opened, and a white horse; and He that sat upon him was Faithful and True.
And His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns…
He was dressed in a vesture dipped in blood: and His name is called The Word of God…
And out of His mouth proceeds a sharp two-edged sword, that with it He should rule the nations of the world like a rod of iron.
And He hath on His vesture and on His thigh a name written, The Word of God, the KING OF KINGS, AND THE LORD OF LORDS.
[Revelation 19:11-13, 15-16]
And then is ushered in for us the great millennial kingdom of our Savior [Revelation 20:3, 6]. The prophecy always is that we might be encouraged in the Lord. Let me illustrate that, and we’re going to sing our hymn of appeal.
I read from Robert Louis Stevenson a moving story. It concerned a ship, a ship that in a terrible storm at sea was about to be driven upon a rocky shore. And the passengers were huddled together in terror, expecting death at any moment, when the ship would be dashed against the rocks and broken to pieces. And in their terror and fright and fear, one of the men said, “I’m going up to see the pilot.” So he climbed up on the deck, and up to the pilot’s place; and there he saw the pilot lashed to his post, and his hands on the wheel, and little by little struggling to turn the ship away from the rocks and out into the open sea. And when the pilot saw the intruder come into his cabin, and when the pilot looked into the terror-stricken face of the passenger, he looked at the man, and with his hand on the wheel he smiled, he smiled! The man turned around, went back below to the deck, and as he went, he went shouting, “All is well! All is well! I saw the pilot’s face, and he smiled!”
That’s exactly how it shall be for God’s people in the end time. And there in that boat, fear and terror turned to assurance and confidence; and the passengers were quiet and saved. We’re to be that way. In the storms of life that rage over this earth, and when all civilization and history are plunged into the maelstrom of conflict and war, “Lift up your heads; your redemption draweth nigh” [Luke 21:28]. It is a sign of the soon intervention of God and the coming of Christ to take unto Himself and to glory His own [Luke 21:28].
Well, our time is gone. I just wonder, oh I try so hard in these studies; I just wonder does anybody know what I’m talking about, or what I mean, or what I’m trying to say? May the Lord bless to our souls the assurance that comes to us from God.
If I could apply the principle of the prophecy to all of life, it would be that wherever life touches you, when you face sickness, remember He is looking down. I speak of that because yesterday I visited some of our people who are so tragically ill. O dear God! There they lie, and here they die. Does the Lord care? Does He see? When you look at world history, and when you look at life, sometimes you’re inclined to think, “I don’t think there’s any God in it all. I don’t know whether He even knows that I exist or not. And is it anything to Him that we suffer?” Yes, it is; for that’s what the Revelation is about, that whatever the turn of life, or fortune, or history, or you, that God watches, and cares, and is guiding us toward an ultimate full entrance into His heavenly kingdom. “In the world,” the Lord said, “In the world ye shall have”—what? “tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” [John 16:33].
Now we must sing our hymn of appeal. And while we sing it, a family, a couple, or just you to give yourself to the Lord [Romans 10:8-13], to put your life with us in the fellowship of the church [Hebrews 10:24-25], as the Spirit of Christ and the wooing of Jesus shall press the invitation to your heart, come now. Make it now. If you’re in the balcony, there’s time and to spare; down a stairway and here to the front, on this lower floor, into the aisle and down here, “Pastor, this is my hand; I give my heart to the Lord.” Or, “I want to give my whole life to the service of Jesus”; or, “I want to put my life in the fellowship of this dear church”; we’ll pray together and work together till Jesus comes. On the first note of the first stanza, come. Do it now, while we stand and while we sing.