One of the clearest doctrines of the Antichrist is that he is a man of war. He seems to come on the scene by conquering a number of countries that surround Israel (Daniel 11:40–45). One of the things the people who worship the Antichrist in Revelation 13 are so impressed with about him is his ability to defeat his enemies in war: “They worshiped the beast, saying, ‘Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?’” (Revelation 13:4b).
We’re told in Daniel 11:38–39 that the Antichrist’s war-making capability is empowered by his worship of a “god of fortresses,” which I believe is a reference to Satan, because Revelation 13:2 and 4 state directly that it is the “dragon” (a clear reference to Satan) who gives the Antichrist his power to subdue the nations with war. Regardless of who, exactly, this “god of fortresses” is that the Antichrist uses to help with his military victories, the fact that he has such supernatural military victories is evident.
The Lord also tells us in Matthew 24 that, just preceding the abomination of desolation event, which occurs at the midpoint of the seventieth week, there will be “wars and rumors of wars.” In addition, the first seal (Revelation 6:1–2) describes the Antichrist going out “conquering and to conquer.”
The last few verses of Daniel chapter 11 name the very kings the Antichrist will defeat, as well provide a great many other details that I believe lead us to the undeniable conclusion that the Antichrist is attempting to fulfill one of the most, if not the most, important prophecies of the Jewish Messiah: that he must conquer the enemies of Israel.
Daniel 11:40 is the first verse in this section about the wars of Antichrist:
At the time of the end the king of the South shall attack him; and the king of the North shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter the countries, overwhelm them, and pass through.
The “king of the south” is a reference to Israel’s historic enemy, Egypt, and has been used to refer to Egypt throughout the first part of this chapter. This point is not contested by many; in fact, the word “Egypt” even appears explicitly twice, a few verses later, in a passage that speaks of the subjection of Egypt to the Antichrist:
He shall stretch out his hand against the countries, and the land of Egypt shall not escape. He shall have power over the treasures of gold and silver, and over all the precious things of Egypt; also the Libyans and Ethiopians shall follow at his heels. (Daniel 11:42–43)
It is interesting to see that Egypt attacks the Antichrist first (verse 40). And, even though Antichrist completely subdues Egypt, that nation’s aggression toward him is worthy of noting, and will be important when we study Islamic eschatology in later chapters.
Conservative expositors and scholars debate the identity of the “king of the north,” another conquest of the Antichrist (verse 40). During the Cold War, it was proposed that the king of the north was Russia. However, that view seems to have been based more on the geopolitics of the day rather than on any clue from the text itself. These days, it is generally accepted that the king of the north represents the same thing it has throughout the earlier portion of the chapter, which includes parts of modern-day Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Syria, Afghanistan, and a few others. For more on this, I recommend the excellent paper by Dr. J. Paul Tanner, “Daniel’s ‘King of the North’: Do We Owe Russia an Apology?” 1 Dr. Tanner concludes his paper this way:
To be hermeneutically consistent, the “king of the North” ought to be interpreted in light of the meaning the phrase has had throughout the chapter…. I would like to submit that the “King of the North” is a confederation of northern Arab nations that will attack the Antichrist and his forces in this military conflict centered in the Middle East. 2
So, to sum up the first part of this passage, the Antichrist is attacked by Egypt and a northern coalition of Arab states. But, even though he is attacked first, he completely crushes these historic enemies of Israel, subdues them, and takes their resources.
A quick word on the idea that these are the “historic” enemies of Israel: Not only are these two groups (Egypt and this cluster of Arab countries) consistently “bad guys” in the Bible, they also are specifically said to be destroyed and subdued by the Messiah during the Messianic Age (Isaiah 11:16, 19:23–25, and 27:12–13; Micah 7:12; Zechariah 14:18–19). This suggests that the Antichrist is attempting to fulfill these prophecies. At the very least, it would be very tempting for a Jewish person to believe that the person who finally destroys their incredibly antagonistic neighbors and forces them to capitulate to Israel is at least a strong candidate for the Messiah.
Why isn’t the fact that the Antichrist will destroy and subdue the enemies of Israel talked about more in modern prophecy teaching? The answer is that it doesn’t fit with most of the modern views of the Antichrist. Why would the Antichrist—who, they think, is either a man of peace or a Muslim—destroy the Muslim world? It doesn’t fit with many of the mainstream views, so almost no one dwells on this passage.
The next part of this prophecy gives even further proof that the Antichrist is knowingly attempting to root out all the enemies of Israel and fulfill specific prophecies about the Messiah (though many people view the next few verses in exactly the opposite way): “He shall also enter the Glorious Land, and many countries shall be overthrown; but these shall escape from his hand: Edom, Moab, and the prominent people of Ammon” (Daniel 11:41).
Most commentaries I have read interpret this to mean that after the Antichrist conquers Egypt and the other Arab countries, he enters Israel to attack the Jews as well. However, not only does nothing in this text suggest that he is attacking Jewish countries, but I believe the verse explicitly says the exact opposite is happening. This verse indicates that the Antichrist is entering Israel not to conquer the Jews, but the parts of Israel that are held by Israel’s enemies. In other words, after the Antichrist’s macro conquests of the main enemies of Israel (Egypt, Iran, etc.), he then enters Israel to mop up the micro enemies of Israel that are their immediate neighbors, like the Palestinians.
This is most evident by the fact that the three places mentioned in verse 41, Edom, Moab, and Ammon (all of which are Arab nations today), “escape” from the Antichrist’s hands. The only reason to describe these enemies as “escaping” is to show that they were being pursued by the Antichrist in the first place. These groups, too, are consistently mentioned as being conquered in the Messianic Age. Also note that the passage says that Antichrist enters the Glorious Land and overthrows “many countries”—a phrase that certainly makes sense if he is attacking other non-Jewish countries in and around Israel like Edom, Moab and Ammon.
Modern Israel holds a very small portion of the land as defined in Genesis 15:18–21, or the land conquered by King David (see map). It is of the utmost importance to realize that several prophecies in Scripture say when the Messiah comes, He will conquer the whole land of Israel—including, for example, the coastlands that are currently Palestinian-controlled (such as Gaza).
Zephaniah 2 describes how the real Messiah will take back lands from the micro enemies of Israel (in addition to the macro enemies mentioned in other places) during the Kingdom Age:
For Gaza shall be forsaken, And Ashkelon desolate; They shall drive out Ashdod at noonday, And Ekron shall be uprooted. Woe to the inhabitants of the seacoast, The nation of the Cherethites! The word of the L ord is against you, O Canaan, land of the Philistines: “I will destroy you; So there shall be no inhabitant.” The seacoast shall be pastures, with shelters for shepherds and folds for flocks. The coast shall be for the remnant of the house of Judah; They shall feed their flocks there; In the houses of Ashkelon they shall lie down at evening. For the L ord their God will intervene for them, And return their captives.
“I have heard the reproach of Moab, And the insults of the people of Ammon, With which they have reproached My people, And made arrogant threats against their borders. Therefore, as I live,” Says the L ord of hosts, the God of Israel, “Surely Moab shall be like Sodom, And the people of Ammon like Gomorrah—Overrun with weeds and saltpits, And a perpetual desolation. The residue of My people shall plunder them, And the remnant of My people shall possess them.” (Zephaniah 2:4–9)
I am proposing that the Antichrist will succeed in trying to fulfill much of this prophecy according to Daniel 11:41. He will indeed conquer Gaza, Ashdod, Ekron, and the coastlands, etc., and expand the borders of Israel; however, he fails in securing the others specifically named in Zephaniah 2 (Edom, Moab, and Ammon). These are in modern-day Jordan though they were a part of Israel during the reign of David.
This passage then functions as a help to those who will try to prove that the man everyone thinks is the Messiah (the Antichrist) isn’t really the Messiah, because even though he almost fulfilled the Zephaniah 2 prophecy, he isn’t able to totally do it; he lets some very important countries “escape from his hands.” Nevertheless, what he does next is so astonishing that I doubt people will dwell on this failure for very long.
The next two verses in Daniel 11 that we have been studying are extremely important. Their significance has often been overlooked due to an unnecessary chapter break between Daniel 11:45, the last verse in the chapter, and Daniel 12:1:
Daniel 11:45:And he shall plant the tents of his palace between the seas and the glorious holy mountain; yet he shall come to his end, and no one will help him.
Daniel 12:1: At that time Michael shall stand up, The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; And there shall be a time of trouble, Such as never was since there was a nation, Even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, Every one who is found written in the book. (emphasis added)
In chapter 2, I alluded to my belief that these two verses show that the Antichrist “coming to his end” must refer to his dying as a result of the “mortal head wound” mentioned in several places (see Revelation 13:3, 12, and 14) from which he eventually recovers in what seems to be a miraculous resurrection. In other words, I don’t believe that the mention of the Antichrist coming to his end in Daniel 11:45 is speaking of his final end at all. I stated that one of the reasons for believing this is that the next verse, Daniel 12:1, starts with the words, “At that time,” which chronologically connects the following events to the previous verse. Daniel 12:1 continues by saying: “At that time Michael shall stand up, The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; And there shall be a time of trouble, Such as never was since there was a nation, Even to that time…”
This means the Antichrist coming to his end just after his conquest of the enemies of Israel is directly followed by Michael “standing up” and the beginning of “a time of trouble, Such as never was since there was a nation, Even to that time.”
I will include a footnote 3 explaining my belief about the significance of Michael “standing up” here and how it relates to the abomination of desolation and the so-called “time of trouble.” But I believe a much more obvious connection to this event can be seen by the use of the phrase “a time of trouble, Such as never was since there was a nation, Even to that time.” The Lord referenced this exact phrase in the Olivet Discourse, when He warned of the persecution that would follow the abomination of desolation (when the Antichrist declares himself to be God in the temple). He said the following in Matthew 24:
Therefore when you see the “A bomination of D esolation” spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (whoever reads, let him understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.… For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. (Matthew 24:15, 16, and 21, emphasis added)
Since we know that the abomination of desolation occurs at the midpoint of the seventieth week of Daniel, then we can piece together that the Antichrist, after defeating the enemies of Israel, is killed in Israel just before the midpoint. We can then infer that this killing of the Antichrist is not the end of the Antichrist, because he still has three and a half more years of destruction to complete. So, it must be that this is a reference to his being killed and yet seemingly coming back from the dead (Revelation 13:3, 12, and 14), and that this resurrection precedes his declaring himself to be God in the temple and the persecution or time of trouble that follows.
This theory about the timing of the Antichrist’s wars, resurrection, and abomination of desolation has a very interesting connection to a Jewish eschatological belief that is almost completely unknown to evangelicals but might prove to be the most important false prophecy ever spoken, as it could be the main reason the Jews will embrace the Antichrist as their Messiah in the last days.
You might be surprised to know that many Jewish people are waiting for a man to do exactly the things I just said the Antichrist will do. Namely, they are waiting for a man called Messiah ben Joseph to destroy the enemies of Israel and after these wars march victoriously to Israel, where he will be killed by his enemies, but then miraculously resurrected. His resurrection will be the beginning of the Messianic Age, but not before a rooting out and killing of those who will not submit to the new Messianic authority. If you are following me so far, you can see how scary this idea about Messiah ben Joseph is, because it essentially means the Jews are waiting on someone Christians know of as the Antichrist.
Let me first explain the concept of Messiah ben Joseph. The Talmud, one of the most important Jewish texts, when trying to reconcile the various natures of the Messiah in the Bible (suffering servant, king, and conqueror), came up with the idea that there will actually be two Messiahs in the end times. The first, Messiah ben Joseph, will precede Messiah ben David. Messiah ben David is considered to be the superior Messiah. Messiah ben Joseph will do all the things I just mentioned, and then Messiah ben David will be the one who actually rules over the Messianic Age as king.
There are many different views about how the end times will play out in the Jewish world, but this view about the two Messiahs is widely accepted by any Jew taking a literal view of the end times, probably because the concept of Messiah ben Joseph appears in the all-important Talmud, it was adopted and expanded on by almost every Jewish commentator in the Middle Ages, and has become a very entrenched belief in Judaism.
The following is what the Jewish Encyclopedia says about Messiah ben Joseph (follow the footnotes if you are interested in finding some of the sources for the beliefs about this).
Messiah b. Joseph will appear prior to the coming of Messiah b. David; he will gather the children of Israel around him, march to Jerusalem, and there, after overcoming the hostile powers, reestablish the Temple-worship and set up his own dominion. Thereupon Armilus, according to one group of sources, or Gog and Magog, according to the other, will appear with their hosts before Jerusalem, wage war against Messiah b. Joseph, and slay him. His corpse, according to one group, will lie unburied in the streets of Jerusalem; according to the other, it will be hidden by the angels with the bodies of the Patriarchs, until Messiah b. David comes and resurrects him. 4
This is so clearly a description of the Antichrist in Daniel 11 that prominent rabbis such as Isaac Abrabanel (1437–1508) have claimed that the Christians invented the concept of the Antichrist based on their view of Messiah ben Joseph.>5 This is an absurd assertion, but it helps show that even they see the obvious connection between a man they view as their savior and the man Christians call the Antichrist.
I should mention here that some modern Jewish believers are unaware of the concept of the two Messiahs, despite it being taught by almost every major sage since the Talmud. This is because there are numerous divergent beliefs about the Messiah in Judaism today. I have often had Jewish believers that say something like, “We don’t believe that,” respond with shock when I point to the teachings about Messiah ben Joseph in their favorite rabbis, like Rashi, Nahmanides, or Saadia. The point I will make later is that it isn’t that important for modern Jewish people to have been taught these concepts in their modern synagogues; the important thing is that the teachings are there and they can be exploited by the Antichrist or the False Prophet when the time comes.
For obvious reasons, the following doctrine held by many Jewish theologians hasn’t been widely explained to non-Jews. But there is a belief that after the resurrection of Messiah ben Joseph, a time of cleansing of those who refuse to accept monotheism will be necessary in order to usher in the time of Messianic peace. Joseph Sarachek addresses this point in The Doctrine of the Messiah in Medieval Jewish Literature:
The general belief is that when Israel becomes supreme, the unrepentant Gentiles and the inveterate foes among them will be extirpated [“to root out and destroy completely” 6]. Others will accept monotheism. As a visible token of their acknowledgment they will practice some Jewish ordinances. 7 (emphasis added)
Sarachek is saying here that Jewish theologians generally believe that after Israel becomes supreme, those who won’t accept Jewish monotheism will need to be found and completely wiped out. This sheds new light on why the greatest persecution of all time happens after the Antichrist officially declares his supremacy. It also explains why the epicenter of that persecution is in Judea and helps us to better understand the nature of the persecution and why it will be willingly carried out by so many.
In later chapters, we will more deeply explore Jewish eschatology, as well as Islamic eschatology, and see that they are both linked—and are, I believe, false doctrines that will play right into the hands of the Antichrist.
In this chapter, I have shown that the Antichrist is a man of war and that those whom he wars against are exclusively the enemies of Israel. I’ve made the case that this suggests he is defeating these enemies in order to look as if he is fulfilling the messianic prophecies I referenced. I stated that his death in verse 45 of Daniel 11 must be a reference to the mortal head wound that he will recover from, based on the following verse that links that period to the midpoint and the abomination of desolation. Finally, I’ve discussed the undeniable links to the Antichrist’s actions in Daniel 11:40–45 and the Jewish belief in Messiah ben Joseph and how the persecution that Jesus and Daniel warned us about might be linked to the belief of the genocidal “cleansing” period after Messiah ben Joseph is resurrected.