The Daniel 11 Prophecy: Antiochus to Antichrist

Note: This article has been updated and expanded.

Among the many prominent end-time passages of the Bible, one of the clearest passages that proves the Antichrist and his coming armies will arise from the Middle East, is Daniel 11. In this chapter, a prophecy is given that begins with the historical Medo-Persian empire and concludes with the death of the Antichrist.

A large portion of Daniel’s prophecy (vv. 20-34) is focused upon the historical conflict between the infamous Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the king of the Seleucid Kingdom, who is called “the King of the North” and King Ptolemy VI, the king of the Ptolemaic Kingdom who is called “the King of the South.”

The Seleucid Kingdom in the north included the region of modern-day Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Iran and even Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Ptolemaic Kingdom in the south ruled Egypt and portions of modern-day Libya and Sudan. (See Map Above)

All scholars agree that Antiochus IV Epiphanes, in the north, is perhaps the most significant type of the Antichrist in the whole Bible.

In the later portion of Daniel’s prophecy, the historical events and wars that took place between Antiochus IV in the north and Ptolemy VI in the south, bleed into a powerful end-time prophecy concerning the Antichrist (the King of the North) and Egypt (the King of the South). In essence, that which took place between Antiochus and Ptolemy will be repeated again in the last days. In fact, this chapter is among one of the clearest “slam dunks” for the view that the Antichrist will come forward out of the Middle East and not a revived Roman or European kingdom. As we will see, this interpretation of Daniel 11 was the view of all of the earliest Christian interpreters and has also been held by a majority of other highly respected commentators and scholars.

Recognizing the highly problematic nature of this passage for the European-centered view, however, some teachers, have developed a new view. This alternative interpretation argues that the King of the North is not a reference to the Antichrist, but instead is his enemy. According to this view, the Antichrist represents a third king who is in conflict with both the King of the North as well as the King of the South.

Careful consideration of the text, however, reveals that this view violates the clear and consistent flow of the entire prophecy. It also violates the consistent typology found throughout the prophecy, turning the types completely on their heads. The new view, casts Antiochus IV as a type of the Antichrist in verses 20-34, and then suddenly as a type of the Antichrist’s greatest enemy in verses 35-45. This view also takes the flow of the entire chapter, wherein the King of the North and the King of the South are historical enemies, in verses 20-34, and suddenly casts them as allies in verses 35-45. A careful consideration of this modern “three king” view reveals that it simply doesn’t make any sense and the problematic nature of its violation of the rest of the chapter makes it an untenable position for responsible interpreters.

But despite the popularity of this modern interpretation, a survey of views on this passage, from the very earliest days of the church until modern times, shows that the vast majority of responsible interpreters throughout church history have always understood the last-days King of the North to be a reference to the Antichrist. Consider the following brief summary of Christian leaders and theologians, from the earliest centuries of Christianity to modern times, who have affirmed the notion that Daniel’s “King of the North” is none other than the Middle Eastern Antichrist:

Hippolytus of Rome (170–235), one of the most important theologians of the second and third centuries. According to tradition, Hippolytus was a disciple of Irenaeus, a disciple of Polycarp, a disciple of John the Apostle who wrote extensively about the end times.

Victorinus (d. 333), an early Christian bishop and martyr. His commentary on the book of Revelation is the oldest complete commentary on Revelation in our possession.

Lactantius (240–320), a well-known early Christian apologist in the third and fourth centuries.

Jerome (347–420), the renowned Latin theologian and historian of the fourth and fifth centuries.

Theodoret of Cyrrhus (393–457), the highly influential author, theologian and bishop of Cyrrhus, Syria, in the fifth century.

John Gill (1697 – 1771), an English Baptist pastor, biblical scholar well known for his John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible (1748).

John Wesley (1703 – 1791), the well known Anglican cleric, theologian and preacher who founded along with his brother Charles Wesley, the Methodist movement.

Jamieson, Fausset and Brown (19th Century), the co-authors of the Bible Commentary by the same name. (1871).

S.P. Tregelles (1813–1875), an English biblical scholar, textual critic and theologian. Tregelles is most well-known for translating Wilhelm Gesenius’ famous Hebrew Chaldee lexicon into English.

C.F. Keil (1813–1890), the celebrated German Hebraist and commentator who co-authored a commentary on the Old Testament with Frederick Delitzsch.

John Nelson Darby (1800 – 1882), an Anglo-Irish evangelist, and an influential figure among the original Plymouth Brethren. The father of modern Dispensationalism.

Clarence Larkin (1850–1924), an American Baptist pastor, Bible teacher and author of the classic work on dispensational eschatology, “Dispensational Truth.”

William L. Pettingill, (1886-1950), a leading Bible teacher of his day and Dean of the Philadelphia School of the Bible, which he co-founded with C.I. Scofield.

Arthur W. Pink (1886–1952), an English evangelist and biblical scholar well-known for his book “The Antichrist.”

G.H. Lang (1874–1958), one of the foremost dispensational premillennialist biblical scholars of his day.

F.F. Bruce (1910–1990), another biblical scholar of the highest calibre who needs no introduction.

Arthur Petrie, Th.D., (1960), Director of Studies, Seattle Bible College, minister and author of several books including the Message of Daniel (1947).

Edward J. Young, (1907–1968), former professor of Old Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary.

Philip R. Newell, Bible scholar, author, Moody Bible Institute, author of Daniel, The Man Greatly Beloved and His Prophecies (1962)

Gleason L. Archer Jr. (1916–2004), another well-known and deeply respected biblical scholar and theologian, known as one of the chief proponents of the doctrine of biblical inerrancy.

Steven R. Miller Ph.D., professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, author of the New American Commentary on the Book of Daniel.

John Goldingay, Ph.D., professor of Old Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary, author of the Word Biblical Commentary on the Book of Daniel.

David Guzik, Pastor of Calvary Chapel Santa Barbara, director of Enduring Word Ministries, author of Guzik’s Commentary on the Bible (who takes a “could be” position).

Of course, this is only a partial list. Many other pastors, teachers, commentators, scholars and prophecy students alike could certainly be cited.

Some may be surprised to learn that so many highly respected Christian luminaries from across the centuries have supported this Middle Eastern view of the Antichrist. But while numerous Christian theologians and teachers have understood and recognized various elements of the Islamic Antichrist theory, never before in history has this view of prophecy ever been so thoroughly and systematically developed as it is today. In my new book, “Mideast Beast: The Scriptural Case for an Islamic Antichrist,” I make every effort to present to the reader a careful and balanced articulation of this deeply relevant prophetic view in a scholarly yet very readable fashion. It is essential that all true Bereans and students of prophecy take the time to consider what so many other great Christian leaders and theologians of both ancient and modern times have recognized from Scripture.

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