Daniel 8, 9:24-27

Daniel 8, 9:24-27

SERIES: Integrity is No Accident: The Book of Daniel

The Final World Dictator                                                                       

Introduction:  The visions of Daniel 7-12 offer an incredible collage of Biblical prophecy.  Last Lord’s Day we learned from chapter 7 that there would be four great world empires—the Babylonian, the Medo-Persian, the Greek, and the Roman.  We also noted that the Roman Empire would not be followed by another world empire, but would be revived in the end times, probably in the form of a confederation of ten western nations, out of which would come a ruler known as Antichrist.  We obtained just a glimpse of Antichrist last week, noting his boastfulness, his persecution and oppression of the people of God, his attempts to change the set times and the laws, and his ultimate destruction at the Second Coming of Christ.

In chapter 8 Daniel has another vision, this one two years after the previous one, which gives us far more insight into this final world dictator, but it does so in a very strange way.  It focuses upon a very wicked king who lived about a century and a half before Christ (therefore about three centuries after Daniel) and presents him as a prototype or pattern of the final world dictator, Antichrist.  With that in mind, let’s read the interpretation beginning in Daniel 8:15:

While I, Daniel, was watching the vision and trying to understand it, there before me stood one who looked like a man. 16 And I heard a man’s voice from the Ulai calling, “Gabriel, tell this man the meaning of the vision.”

17 As he came near the place where I was standing, I was terrified and fell prostrate. “Son of man,” he said to me, “understand that the vision concerns the time of the end.”

18 While he was speaking to me, I was in a deep sleep, with my face to the ground. Then he touched me and raised me to my feet.

19 He said: “I am going to tell you what will happen later in the time of wrath, because the vision concerns the appointed time of the end. 20 The two-horned ram that you saw represents the kings of Media and Persia. 21 The shaggy goat is the king of Greece, and the large horn between its eyes is the first king. 22 The four horns that replaced the one that was broken off represent four kingdoms that will emerge from his nation but will not have the same power.

23 “In the latter part of their reign, when rebels have become completely wicked, a fierce-looking king, a master of intrigue, will arise. 24 He will become very strong, but not by his own power. He will cause astounding devastation and will succeed in whatever he does. He will destroy those who are mighty, the holy people. 25 He will cause deceit to prosper, and he will consider himself superior. When they feel secure, he will destroy many and take his stand against the Prince of princes. Yet he will be destroyed, but not by human power.

26 “The vision of the evenings and mornings that has been given you is true, but seal up the vision, for it concerns the distant future.”

27 I, Daniel, was worn out. I lay exhausted for several days. Then I got up and went about the king’s business. I was appalled by the vision; it was beyond understanding.

The most obvious truth from our text is that …

The vision of a ram and goat predicts the Medo-Persian and Greek empires. 

If we couldn’t be sure of that from the description itself, the angel Gabriel tells us so in verses 20 and 21.  Thus, while the previous vision spoke of all four world empires, this one addresses only the middle two.  I have included a chart at the end which shows the relation between this vision and the earlier visions of Daniel 2 and Daniel 7.[i]

The two-horned ram, then, represents the kings of Media and Persia.  The fact that one grew later, but longer, than the other fits well with the fact that Media was a power before Persia, but under Cyrus, Persia overtook it and succeeded in absorbing the Median culture into its own.  The shaggy goat prefigures the Greek Empire which defeated the Persians, and the prominent horn between his eyes is its first king, Alexander. 

The prominent horn on the goat represents Alexander the Great.  Allow me to share a little more about Alexander than I did when we were in chapter 7.  Born in 346 B.C., Alexander was the son of a great conqueror, Philip of Macedon.  His father had already united Greece with Macedonia and was making plans to fight Persia when he was murdered.  Alexander was only twenty years old when he succeeded his father as king in 336 B.C., having been educated under the instruction of the great philosopher, Aristotle.  He moved against the Persians in 334 B.C.  With about 35,000 troops he crossed the Hellespont, engaged a much larger force of Persians, and roundly defeated them.  

Twice more he defeated the Persians and eventually occupied all their land.  He captured and sacked Shushan, Ecbatana, and Persepolis in turn, and then marched all the way to the Indus River before turning south to the Indian Ocean and finally back to Babylon.  The description of the goat in verse 5, as coming out of the west and crossing the whole earth without touching the ground, seems to fit Alexander well.

Alexander died of a fever in Babylon in June, 323 B.C. at the age of 32.  He had left his home country eleven years before and apparently never returned.  A young military genius, he was cut off at the height of achievement and power, fitting perfectly the statement about Greece in verse 8 that “the goat became very great, but at the height of his power his large horn was broken off.”  

The next major development we find concerns the disposition of Alexander’s empire after his death.  In verse 8 and in verse 22 we are informed that …

The four later horns represent the division of Greece into four kingdoms.  We mentioned last week that when Alexander died, his kingdom was divided into four parts headed up by four of his generals—Cassander, Lysimachus, Ptolemy, and Seleucus.  But the focus of Daniel’s vision moves almost immediately from these four kingdoms (called “horns”) to another horn, one that started out small but grew significantly.  This occurs in the latter part of these four kingdoms, according to verse 23, apparently just before Greece fell to Rome.  Many evangelical Bible scholars agree that …

The little horn of verse 9 (called also “the stern-faced king” and “the master of intrigue,” in verse 23) represents Antiochus Epiphanes, who ruled in Syria and Palestine from 175-164 B.C.  But why would a king who is of relatively little significance in world affairs, receive such prominence in Biblical prophecy?  I believe it is because he serves well as a microcosm of the Antichrist, and thus as a prophetic prototype of that final world dictator.  In fact, Antiochus is sometimes called “the Antichrist of the Old Testament.”

Antiochus was the eighth king in the Seleucian dynasty, Seleucus being Alexander’s general who gained authority over Syria, Palestine, and large regions to the east.  Antiochus ascended the throne by murdering his own brother and by bribing his way into power.  Thus, his beginning was small, as verse 9 suggests, since he was not even the rightful heir to the throne.  Once crowned, however, he assumed the name Epiphanes, meaning “illustrious one,” or “God manifest.”  Being extremely proud, his own self-estimate always outweighed his accomplishments; but still, he did make significant conquests, which were of sufficient importance to warrant the description that he “grew in power” (verse 9).

The conquests of Antiochus were in the areas indicated in verse 9.  Of particular significance is the fact that he came to exercise full domination over the land of the Jews, called “the Beautiful Land.”  The reference to the “host of the heavens” and “the starry host” may simply be a hyperbolic way of speaking of God’s chosen people, and his trampling on them a reference to the intense persecution he instigated.  That seems to fit the interpretation offered in verse 24, where it says, “he will destroy the mighty men and the holy people.”

The rest of the description of the little horn focuses upon the religious persecution Antiochus perpetrated.  He set himself up as one who was as great as God; he took away the daily sacrifices; he desecrated the place of God’s sanctuary; he threw truth to the ground.  All of this fits well what we know of Antiochus from secular history and 1 & 2 Maccabees, historical books of the Apocrypha.  

One of the most vicious anti-Semites in history, Antiochus sacked the city of Jerusalem, killing 80,000 men, women, and children and selling 40,000 into slavery.  He decided to destroy the Jewish religion forever and to substitute Greek worship and Greek culture.  He had his soldiers carry a statue of Jupiter Olympus into the Holy of Holies and demanded that the Jewish people bow down and worship it.  He also took a pig, offered it on the great brazen altar, forced the Jews to eat swine’s flesh, and then spread the juice of the pig all over the temple, thus defiling everything in the eyes of the Jews.  

Further he forbade the Jews to practice their festivals, feasts, Sabbaths, and ceremonies.  Instead, he forced them to worship Bacchus, the god of pleasure and wine, and Saturn, employing harlots in the temple itself.  He also forbade the practice of circumcision.  There were two mothers who circumcised their babies in defiance of his law.  He took those two babies, killed them, hung each one around its mother’s neck, marched the women through the streets of Jerusalem up to the highest wall and then flung the mothers headlong to their deaths.  This is just a part of the legacy of Antiochus and of the agony of Israel under his rule.  But believe it or not, this is just a small taste of the suffering and persecution which will come to the people of God under the world’s final dictator.

Now in his vision Daniel hears one angel ask another how long it will take before this horrible scene is over.  The answer is 2,300 evenings and mornings.  That is between six and seven years and corresponds roughly to the length of time that Antiochus oppressed the Jewish people.  

Let me share with you how the persecution ended.  There was a priest at Modin, a small town 15 miles northwest of Jerusalem, whose name was Mattathias.  He grieved over the persecution of his people, and along with his five sons—John, Simon, Judas, Eleazar, and Jonathan—started a rebellion against Antiochus.  Mattathias died soon after, but he gave the torch of liberty to his third son, Judas Maccabeus, or “Judas the Hammer,” who launched a guerilla-style war to force the Syrians out of Israel and restore the worship of Jehovah.  

After a bloody three-year struggle, much like Israel’s War of Independence in the late 1940’s, the Maccabees were finally successful.  In fact, three years to the day from when the pig was sacrificed on the altar, on the 25th day of 12th month, Judas and his men cleansed the altar and the temple, as predicted in Daniel 8:14.  Tradition says that when Judas sought for flasks of oil, he could find just one small flask, enough to light the menorah for only one day.  But he took the oil, lit the little lamp, and it burned literally for eight days, during which time the Jewish people celebrated.  They call the celebration today the Feast of Hanukkah.

Interestingly, all of these details about Medo-Persia, Greece, Alexander, the four kingdoms, and Antiochus are so clearly identifiable in history that the very accuracy of Daniel’s prophecy is used by liberal Bible scholars to argue that Daniel could never have written this material.  Since these scholars are basically anti-supernaturalists, they cannot accept the notion that such details could possibly be reported before they occurred.  Therefore, they conclude, the book of Daniel must have been written after the Maccabean period and is only purporting to be prophetic.  But if one does not come to the Scriptures with an anti-supernatural bias, the evidence all points to the fact that the book was written by the sixth century prophet whose name it bears.  This information is incredible prophecy, not history.  

Now I would like to return to my question, “Why would a king like Antiochus, who lived during the Intertestamental period, receive so much prophetic attention (he is discussed in more detail in chapter 11), when he really had nothing to do with either the first or second coming of Christ?”  I think the answer is found in the principle of double fulfillment.  

There are times when prophecy is fulfilled partially by an event or person in the near future but only fulfilled fully by an event or person in the far future.  The purpose of this seems to be that it gives to those living before the end times an historical illustration of what the end times will be like.  In other words, the example of Antiochus gives us an historical picture of how terrible things will be when the final world dictator arrives on the scene.  That, in turn, should cause us to pay more attention.  

So, I suggest to you that …

The ultimate fulfillment of the prophecy of the little horn awaits the end time.  

There are several factors in the text that suggest this.  

Three times Daniel is told that the vision concerns “the time of the end.”  (17,19,26)   In fact, verse 26 says “it concerns the distant future.”  Why such an emphasis?  Is this simply referring to the end of Antiochus’ persecution?  I don’t think so.  The Jews who were living during the Maccabean time may have thought they were living in the time of the end, but obviously they were not.  

Some of the details were only partially fulfilled by Antiochus.  I think, for example, of the statement in verse 24 that “he will become very strong, but not by his own power.”  Revelation 13:2 tells us that the Antichrist will be empowered by Satan himself.  That may have been true also of Antiochus, but not to the same degree that is true of the final world dictator.  

Then it says that “he will cause astounding devastation and will succeed in whatever he does.”  This language seems far more suited to Antichrist than to Antiochus.  In verse 25 it says, “he will take his stand against the Prince of princes.”  Some suggest this refers to God, but nowhere else is such language used of God.  This seems to be a prophetic reference to Jesus Christ, which would make it impossible for Antiochus to fulfill it, since he lived 165 years before Jesus was born.  However, Antichrist will clearly oppose the risen Christ.  

And finally, the next phrase observes that “he will be destroyed, but not by human power.”  In a sense that is true of Antiochus, for he died of natural causes, not assassination.  However, it is even more true of Antichrist, for he will be destroyed by Christ Himself.  

A third and even more important factor arguing for a later fulfillment is that …

The next vision (9:24-27) makes it clear that the timetable for these events goes far beyond Antiochus.  If you will turn to the next chapter, chapter 9, you will notice that most of it consists of a prayer Daniel prayed in the first year of Darius, which means it takes place about 13 years after the previous vision of chapter 8.  We’re going to examine this prayer in some detail next week, but for now I would just have you notice from verse 20 that while Daniel was praying this prayer, Gabriel, God’s special messenger angel, comes to him and offers insight and understanding.  I believe we need to connect the last sentence of chapter 8, where Daniel says, “I was appalled by the vision; it was beyond understanding,” with the last sentence of 9:23:  “Therefore, consider the message and understand the vision.”  Since there is no intervening vision, apparently Gabriel is speaking of the vision of chapter 8 (mentioned in 9:21), which he himself had revealed to Daniel.  

Apparently, Daniel has been contemplating that vision of the Little Horn for 13 years, but it’s not until he reads Jeremiah’s prophecy of the 70-year captivity (9:2) and pours his heart out to God in confession and repentance for the people (9:4-19), that God sends Gabriel back to him with insight and understanding.  I see the prophecy beginning in 9:24 as a continuation of the vision of chapter 8, but 9:24ff can hardly find its fulfillment in Antiochus.  It is surely prophetic of the end time and the final world dictator.  

Here is how it begins:  “Seventy sevens are decreed for your people and your holy city.”  I suggest to you this means that …

1.  A specific period of 490 years has been blocked out by God for events related to Israel.  While some translations speak of seventy weeks, the Hebrew actually reads “seventy sevens,” and most Bible scholars agree that it refers to seventy sevens of years, or 490 years.  The purpose of this time period is six-fold according to verse 24:

1.  To finish transgression

2.  To put an end to sin

3.  To atone for wickedness

4.  To bring in everlasting righteousness

5.  To seal up vision and prophecy

6.  To anoint the most holy

In some sense the first three of these purposes were fulfilled in the first coming of Christ and His death on the cross, though some application could yet be future.  The last three purposes are clearly still future, and I believe must refer to His Second Coming. 

Please note that the 490 years are divided into three parts.  Verse 25 says, “Know and understand this:  From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven sevens and 62 sevens, or a total of 483 years.  It (Jerusalem) will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble.  After the 62 sevens, the Anointed One (or the Messiah) will be cut off and will have nothing.”  

I believe this means that …

2.  There will be 483 years between the decree to restore Jerusalem and the death of Jesus, the Messiah.  To understand this time frame all we need to know is the starting point and the ending point.  There were two decrees related to the restoration and rebuilding of Jerusalem—one in 458 B.C. and another in 445 B.C.  

Jesus’ crucifixion, on the other hand, which is almost surely the point of the verb “cut off” in verse 26, occurred somewhere between A.D. 27 and A.D. 33, most probably in A.D. 33.  By the way, the following phrase—”the Anointed One will have nothing”—Is probably a reference to the fact that Jesus died without friends or honor.  He was rejected by men, treated as a criminal, and even forsaken by the Father. 

What we don’t know is whether Daniel’s years were lunar or solar, nor do we know how leap years were handled under his reckoning.  But no matter how the time is reckoned, it comes out very close to 483 years.  Some scholars have presented convincing arguments which show that this prophecy was fulfilled, not only to the exact year but even to the exact day, but since they make certain assumptions that cannot be proven, I think we are better off simply suggesting that the time frame is incredibly accurate. 

A more difficult question is why the first 69 weeks are divided into two parts—49 years and 434 years.  The best explanation is probably that the rebuilding of Jerusalem was essentially completed roughly 50 years after the decree to rebuild it (see Nehemiah 2).  In fact, the next sentence in verse 25 mentions the rebuilding of streets and a trench or moat.  Then it was 434 more years before Messiah arrived.

The death of Messiah, the Anointed One, is not the end of the story.  The passage goes on to say that “the people of the ruler who will come (another reference, I believe, to Antichrist) will destroy the city of Jerusalem and the sanctuary.  The end will come like a flood:  War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.”  

Now I believe this is probably a reference to the destruction of the city of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.  Please note that it is not the ruler who will come,” namely Antichrist, who destroys the city and temple here.  Rather it is the people of the ruler who will come,” namely the Romans.  

Only after the death of Messiah and the destruction of the city of Jerusalem and its temple is the final period of seven years discussed.  See verse 27:  “He (i.e., Antichrist) will confirm a covenant with many for one seven.  In the middle of the seven he will put an end to sacrifice and offering (much as did Antiochus).  And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.”  What I see here is that …

3.  A final period of 7 years will begin when the future dictator makes a covenant with Israel.  Now why would the last period of seven years be separated from the first 69 sevens, by 2000 years or more?  I believe that, prophetically speaking, something began with the death of Christ that was a mystery to the Old Testament prophets, namely the building of the Church.  When the nation of Israel rejected its Messiah, God did not reject Israel, but He did put the Jewish people on the shelf and began to work with a new people of God—a people that was not ethnic but rather made up of every tribe and tongue and people and nation on the earth. 

Will Israel remain on the shelf permanently?  No, Paul asks and answers that question in Romans 11:1.  However, for an indefinite period of time God has chosen to pour out His grace on the Church.  Eventually He will turn His attention back to Israel once more.  There will yet be a seven-year period of time when Israel will be the focus of world-wide attention.

You know, it’s obvious that over the past 60+ years, an inordinate amount of the world’s attention has been given to that tiny little country about the size of Rhode Island.  It has no oil (at least none that is commercially recoverable), it has few natural resources, and most of it is desert or mountains.  In fact, it was not even a country from A.D. 70 until 1948.  The Jews had been scattered all over the world for centuries until the holocaust in Europe drove many of them to seek their ancestral homeland, and after a vicious guerilla war, the nation of Israel was finally  granted recognition by the western powers.  Attaining recognition from its Arab neighbors, however, has been a much more difficult task, and it has not been fully accomplished yet.  

The picture I see painted here, and in the book of Revelation, is that Israel will face some of its most difficult days yet in the future, and in desperation it will sign a covenant with a western ruler who deceives them into thinking he is their friend but who in fact will become a worse enemy than Antiochus or even Hitler.  The signing of that covenant will inaugurate the last seven years of the 490 predicted by Daniel, better known as the Tribulation Period.  

For the first half of that seven years the Jews will experience peace and safety, but …

4.  In the middle of these 7 years the final world dictator will inaugurate “the abomination that causes desolation.  He will turn on the Jews and on all those that support them, and he will bring upon them persecution that will make Antiochus’ oppression pale in comparison.  Possibly the Jews will have rebuilt their temple by this time, and, if so, Antichrist will desecrate it in much the same way that Antiochus did.  This will go on “until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.” Chapter 8:25 puts it this way, “He will be destroyed, but not by human power.”  In other words,…

5.  God Himself will bring his power to an end.  Jesus will return and defeat the Antichrist at the Battle of Armageddon.  I have already presented my view that the Church will share in this awful period of persecution and tribulation.  The Church as a Body will be protected and will survive, though many individual believers will be martyred.  

There is much more we could say about the final world dictator.  He is also the theme of chapter 11, 2 Thes 2, Rev. 11 & 13, and of many other passages of Scripture.  But what we have learned here in Daniel 8 & 9 is sufficient to help us grasp the awful truth that this world is not getting better and better but rather worse and worse, and it will continue to get worse until God brings a terrible judgment upon it and Jesus Christ returns to establish his Kingdom

Points to Ponder

In conclusion, I would like to offer just two points for us to ponder this evening.  

When God predicts the future, He does not generally use vague or ambiguous language.  I don’t pay attention to horoscopes, but once or twice I have read them just out of curiosity.  What really amazes me is that people can be so gullible as to believe that a horoscope is anything more than a bad joke.  The predictions it offers are so vague and so ambiguous.  Here’s an example:  “You will have an unusual event occur in your life that is fraught with potential danger, but success will be yours if you approach life with enthusiasm.”  That could fit anyone’s life at any time!  How could anyone consider the person who offered it anything but a scam artist!

In contrast, when God predicts the future He does so in great detail, sometimes naming nations or kings, always describing them with great accuracy, and sometimes giving the very dates when things will occur.  All of this is designed to give us confidence that He is in control and that He is trustworthy.  

The prophetic calendar has godly purposes which cannot be short-circuited.  (9:24).  I return your attention to 9:24: “Seventy sevens are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy.”

One might be inclined to think, “Why would God allow His people to go through such an awful period of persecution and suffering as described in the Great Tribulation?”  Many have asked that same question of the Holocaust.  In fact, millions of Jewish people abandoned their faith in a personal God after the Holocaust, for they reasoned, “Any God who would allow such atrocities must either be evil or powerless, and either way He is not worth worshiping.”  

There is a hint of an answer to this question in verse 23 of chapter 8:  “In the latter part of their reign (that is, the reign of the four kingdoms that followed Alexander), when rebels have become completely wicked (ESV: “when transgressors have reached their limit”), a stern-faced king, a master of intrigue, will arise.”  I want you to think about that phrase, “when rebels have become completely wicked.”  I believe that refers to the Jewish people whom Antiochus attacked, and I believe it is saying that when sinful actions have reached a point where God cannot permit them to go any further, He delivers discipline.  He did that in Noah’s day.  He did it in frequently throughout the history of Israel.  Here Antiochus is His tool to deliver discipline.  At the time of the final world dictator, people will be even more wicked than in the days of Noah or of Antiochus, and God will chastise again.

God never wastes pain.  I can assure you that if there were any easier way to accomplish the prophetic purposes listed in verse 24, God would use it.  I have the same conviction regarding the pain and suffering any one of us goes through in our personal lives.  We can’t always see it at the time, but when it’s all over we often understand that there were good and powerful reasons why God allowed those things in our lives.  Some day we will see that it is true in every single instance.

I close with this exhortation from 1 John 4:  

“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.  This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God:  Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.  But every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God.  This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.”  (1 John 4:1-3)

Friend, have you recognized that Jesus Christ is God come in the flesh?  Have you acknowledged that He died for you on the cross to pay for your sins?  Won’t you turn to Him right now and be saved?

DATE: September 25, 1994



Antiochus Epiphanes




Daniel 9
Daniel 7