The Antichrist as a Ruler of Former Seleucid Territory

In the previous lesson, we carefully examined the prophetic vision in Daniel 8, giving special attention to the history of the goat.

5 And as I was considering, behold, an he goat came from the west on the face of the whole earth, and touched not the ground: and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes.

6 And he came to the ram that had two horns, which I had seen standing before the river, and ran unto him in the fury of his power.

7 And I saw him come close unto the ram, and he was moved with choler against him, and smote the ram, and brake his two horns: and there was no power in the ram to stand before him, but he cast him down to the ground, and stamped upon him: and there was none that could deliver the ram out of his hand.

8 Therefore the he goat waxed very great: and when he was strong, the great horn was broken; and for it came up four notable ones toward the four winds of heaven.

9 And out of one of them came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land.

10 And it waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground, and stamped upon them.

11 Yea, he magnified himself even to the prince of the host, and by him the daily sacrifice was taken away, and the place of his sanctuary was cast down.

12 And an host was given him against the daily sacrifice by reason of transgression, and it cast down the truth to the ground; and it practised, and prospered.

Daniel 8:5-12

We showed that the goat represents the ancient Greek Empire forged from the conquests of Alexander the Great, that the four horns represent the four rulers who succeeded him and divided his empire into four parts, and that the last horn represents the future ruler of the whole world, the Antichrist. Daniel states that the last horn came forth "out of one of them" (v. 9). This startling prophecy is meant to help us recognize the last horn—the Antichrist—when he appears on the world scene. Scripture forewarns us that he will arise from one of the four divisions of Alexander's empire.

After Alexander's death, the map of his empire was torn apart by ambitious men seeking to make kingdoms for themselves. The outlines of a new geopolitical map did not begin to stabilize until 301, when a league of four generals triumphed at the decisive Battle of Ipsus. They subsequently agreed upon a fourfold partitioning of the empire. Cassander would be recognized as ruler of Greece and Macedonia. Lysimachus would continue to hold Thrace. Ptolemy Lagi would control Egypt. And Seleucus Nicator would be master of the vast remaining territory, from Asia Minor in the west to Persia in the east. Both Ptolemy and Seleucus claimed Palestine.

For our sake, Scripture tells us which division of Alexander's empire the Antichrist will come from. He will, in fact, come from the Seleucid division. We reach this conclusion by following four different tracks of reasoning.

Antiochus as a Type of the Antichrist

The Book of Daniel ignores the Syrian ruler Antiochus Epiphanes (discussed in our previous lesson) except in the final vision. There, he has a prominent place. He is the subject of Daniel 11:21-35.

21 And in his estate shall stand up a vile person, to whom they shall not give the honour of the kingdom: but he shall come in peaceably, and obtain the kingdom by flatteries.

22 And with the arms of a flood shall they be overflown from before him, and shall be broken; yea, also the prince of the covenant.

23 And after the league made with him he shall work deceitfully: for he shall come up, and shall become strong with a small people.

24 He shall enter peaceably even upon the fattest places of the province; and he shall do that which his fathers have not done, nor his fathers' fathers; he shall scatter among them the prey, and spoil, and riches: yea, and he shall forecast his devices against the strong holds, even for a time.

25 And he shall stir up his power and his courage against the king of the south with a great army; and the king of the south shall be stirred up to battle with a very great and mighty army; but he shall not stand: for they shall forecast devices against him.

26 Yea, they that feed of the portion of his meat shall destroy him, and his army shall overflow: and many shall fall down slain.

27 And both these kings' hearts shall be to do mischief, and they shall speak lies at one table; but it shall not prosper: for yet the end shall be at the time appointed.

28 Then shall he return into his land with great riches; and his heart shall be against the holy covenant; and he shall do exploits, and return to his own land.

29 At the time appointed he shall return, and come toward the south; but it shall not be as the former, or as the latter.

30 For the ships of Chittim shall come against him: therefore he shall be grieved, and return, and have indignation against the holy covenant: so shall he do; he shall even return, and have intelligence with them that forsake the holy covenant.

31 And arms shall stand on his part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate.

32 And such as do wickedly against the covenant shall he corrupt by flatteries: but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.

33 And they that understand among the people shall instruct many: yet they shall fall by the sword, and by flame, by captivity, and by spoil, many days.

34 Now when they shall fall, they shall be holpen with a little help: but many shall cleave to them with flatteries.

35 And some of them of understanding shall fall, to try them, and to purge, and to make them white, even to the time of the end: because it is yet for a time appointed.

Daniel 11:21-35

Why does the final vision put Antiochus in the spotlight? Because it wants us to see him as a forerunner and type of the Antichrist, who is the subject of the succeeding passage, verses 36-45.

36 And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done.

37 Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god: for he shall magnify himself above all.

38 But in his estate shall he honour the God of forces: and a god whom his fathers knew not shall he honour with gold, and silver, and with precious stones, and pleasant things.

39 Thus shall he do in the most strong holds with a strange god, whom he shall acknowledge and increase with glory: and he shall cause them to rule over many, and shall divide the land for gain.

40 And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him: and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over.

41 He shall enter also into the glorious land, and many countries shall be overthrown: but these shall escape out of his hand, even Edom, and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon.

42 He shall stretch forth his hand also upon the countries: and the land of Egypt shall not escape.

43 But he shall have power over the treasures of gold and of silver, and over all the precious things of Egypt: and the Libyans and the Ethiopians shall be at his steps.

44 But tidings out of the east and out of the north shall trouble him: therefore he shall go forth with great fury to destroy, and utterly to make away many.

45 And he shall plant the tabernacles of his palace between the seas in the glorious holy mountain; yet he shall come to his end, and none shall help him.

Daniel 11:36-45

Three correspondences between these two figures, Antiochus and the Antichrist, are especially striking.

  1. They are alike in character.
    1. Antiochus is repeatedly portrayed as a speaker of falsehood. He would "obtain the kingdom by flatteries" (v. 21), "work deceitfully" (v. 23), "speak lies" (v. 27), and "corrupt by flatteries" (v. 32). The Antichrist will also be a liar, even like his ally Satan, who is the father of lies (John 8:44). He will promote the outrageous lie that he is the supreme god (vs. 36-37).
    2. Antiochus is represented as a man who deeply hated true religion, as well as God's people. "His heart shall be against the holy covenant" (v. 28). Also, the Antichrist will hold God (v. 36; Dan. 7:25; 8:11) and God's people (Dan. 7:21; 8:24) in contempt.
    3. Like Alexander the Great and some Seleucid forerunners, Antiochus claimed to be divine. In about 169 he took the title Theos Epiphanes. Theos means "god" and Epiphanes means "become visible" or "manifest." The Antichrist will not only represent himself as divine, but "magnify himself above every god" (v. 36).
  2. They are alike in their careers.
    1. Both would have the king of the south as an enemy and would invade Egypt (concerning Antiochus, vs. 25, 29; concerning the Antichrist, vs. 40, 42-43).
    2. Both would enjoy dominion over Palestine (concerning Antiochus, vs. 22-24, 30-34; concerning the Antichrist, vs. 41, 45).
    3. Both would desecrate the sanctuary by removing the daily sacrifice and introducing an abomination that would cause desolation (concerning Antiochus, v. 31; concerning the Antichrist, Dan. 8:11, 9:27).
    4. Both would unleash a fierce persecution of the Jews (concerning Antiochus, vs. 33-35; concerning the Antichrist, Dan. 7:21, 8:24).
  3. They are alike in their names. The similarity of their names is evident enough in English, but striking in Greek. In Greek, "Antiochus" is Antiokos and "Antichrist" is Antikristos. Dropping but one letter from Antiokos and four letters from Antikristos changes both names to the same seven letters in the same sequence. Thus, "Antiochus" is essentially a truncated form of "Antichrist." Furthermore, from the title Theos Epiphanes, Antiochus retained "Epiphanes" as his usual epithet, giving the name Antiochus Epiphanes, which can be interpreted "Antichrist manifest," or, "Antichrist revealed."

Besides giving these three correspondences between Antiochus and the Antichrist, the oracle encourages us in its very structure to see the latter as a virtual replica of the former. At the dispensational gap, between verses 35 and 36, the narrative passes from one figure to the other in such a way that the shift is barely noticeable. A casual reader might assume that he was still reading about the same person.

It is obvious that in the divinely ordered scheme of history, the significance of Antiochus is that he was a forerunner and type of the Antichrist, revealing important information about him. It is reasonable to suppose that their correspondence extends even to their place of dominion. Since Antiochus was a Seleucid king, we infer that the Antichrist will rule in the same region—over a portion or the entirety of ancient Seleucid territory. This was an immense domain encompassing modern Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Iran, Jordan, portions of Turkey and lands to the east, and, at times, Palestine.

The King of the North

One of the most important texts for establishing the Antichrist's place of origin is the following, quoted earlier.

And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him: and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over.

Daniel 11:40

We have said that the immediately preceding verses (vs. 36-39), describing a coming ruler who will pretend to be the supreme god, speak of the Antichrist. We infer that the Antichrist is the antecedent of the first "him" in verse 40.

We read here about a series of conflicts. The grammatical construction permits three equally possible answers to the question, who is the king of the north? He might be the Antichrist retaliating against the king of the south, he might be a third king who mounts a second attack against the Antichrist, or he might be a third king who helps the Antichrist by attacking the king of the south. Each of the last two interpretations has had its champions among popular writers on the book of Daniel. But each turns the subsequent passage into a story hard to reconcile with other prophecies.

41 He shall enter also into the glorious land, and many countries shall be overthrown: but these shall escape out of his hand, even Edom, and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon.

42 He shall stretch forth his hand also upon the countries: and the land of Egypt shall not escape.

43 But he shall have power over the treasures of gold and of silver, and over all the precious things of Egypt: and the Libyans and the Ethiopians shall be at his steps.

44 But tidings out of the east and out of the north shall trouble him: therefore he shall go forth with great fury to destroy, and utterly to make away many.

45 And he shall plant the tabernacles of his palace between the seas in the glorious holy mountain. Yet he shall come to his end, and none shall help him.

Daniel 11:41-45

The first "he" in verse 41 is the same person as the last "he" (in "he shall enter into the countries") in verse 40, and the antecedent of both can only be the king of the north. There are no grounds for supposing that the identity of the conqueror changes anywhere in the succeeding verses. Therefore, the king of the north must be the subject of the whole passage, from the end of verse 41 through verse 45. A common view today, endorsed by many teachers of prophecy, is that the king of the north is the ruler of Russia. But for three reasons we may be sure that he is none other than the Antichrist.

  1. The king of the north invades Egypt, thus treating the king of the south as an enemy (vs. 42-43). It therefore makes more sense to suppose that he is retaliating on his own behalf—that he is responding to an attack upon himself by counterattacking—than to create any other scenario. It makes more sense than to suppose that he is merely intervening to help the Antichrist, or that he is capriciously turning against the king of the south after supporting him against the Antichrist. So, the king of the north and the Antichrist must be the same person.
  2. The king of the north not only overruns Israel ("the glorious land" in v. 41), but also eventually builds his palace "between the seas [that is, the Mediterranean and Dead Seas] in the glorious holy mountain [that is, Mount Zion, site of the ancient Temple]" (v. 45). The clear implication that he will become the ruler of Israel shows him in the same role that prophecy elsewhere assigns to the Antichrist.
  3. If the king of the north is the king of Russia, why should prophecy devote so much attention to a figure who is otherwise ignored in the Book of Daniel? But if he is the Antichrist, the passage merely adds detail to the prophecies earlier in the book that the Antichrist would greatly increase his domain by expanding it in three directions: toward the south, the east, and the pleasant land (Dan. 8:9). In Daniel 11, the push southward is foretold in verses 40, 42, and 43, the push eastward in verse 44 ("east" precedes "north," suggesting that the main opposition to be overcome will arise in the east), and the overthrow of Israel in verse 41.

For all these reasons we conclude that the king of the north is the Antichrist. Throughout the entire preceding passage, the king of the north is a Seleucid king. We conclude that the future king of the north in verse 40—the one who is the Antichrist—will be a ruler of former Seleucid territory.

The Seat of the Beast

The Book of Revelation foresees that before the Battle of Armageddon, angels will pour seven vials of wrath onto the earth, each punishing it with a grievous plague. The seventh plague strikes the great city Babylon.

And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath.

Revelation 16:19

The sixth plague falls on the river Euphrates.

And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared.

Revelation 16:12

And the fifth plague is directed against the seat of the Beast.

And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain.

Revelation 16:10

It is reasonable to suppose that the Beast is the main target of the last two plagues as well as the fifth—that the region of Babylon and the Euphrates feels the full brunt of the last two plagues because his seat is there. Thus, the seat of the Beast, his capital city, is probably Babylon.

The association of the Antichrist with Babylon suggests that his country of origin will be Iraq. By following this suggestion we gain support for the hypothesis that he will come from the Seleucid realm. Also, we narrow the search for his homeland to a single country.

The Assyrian

Isaiah 14 is an important source of information about the Antichrist.

4 That thou shalt take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say, How hath the oppressor ceased! the golden city ceased!

5 The LORD hath broken the staff of the wicked, and the sceptre of the rulers.

6 He who smote the people in wrath with a continual stroke, he that ruled the nations in anger, is persecuted, and none hindereth.

7 The whole earth is at rest, and is quiet: they break forth into singing,

8 Yea, the fir trees rejoice at thee, and the cedars of Lebanon, saying, Since thou art laid down, no feller is come up against us.

9 Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming: it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth; it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations,

10 All they shall speak and say unto thee, Art thou also become weak as we? art thou become like unto us?

11 Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee.

12 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!

13 For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:

14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.

15 Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.

16 They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms;

17 That made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof; that opened not the house of his prisoners?

18 All the kings of the nations, even all of them, lie in glory, every one in his own house,

19 But thou art cast out of thy grave like an abominable branch, and as the raiment of those that are slain, thrust through with a sword, that go down to the stones of the pit; as a carcase trodden under feet.

20 Thou shalt not be joined with them in burial, because thou hast destroyed thy land, and slain thy people: the seed of evildoers shall never be renowned.

21 Prepare slaughter for his children for the iniquity of their fathers; that they do not rise, nor possess the land, nor fill the face of the world with cities.

22 For I will rise up against them, saith the LORD of hosts, and cut off from Babylon the name, and remnant, and son, and nephew, saith the LORD.

23 I will also make it a possession for the bittern, and pools of water: and I will sweep it with the besom of destruction, saith the LORD of hosts.

Isaiah 14:4-23

It is obvious that the core verses in this passage are a litany upon the tragic history of Satan, here called Lucifer, whose future eternal abode will be hell (vs. 12-15). But the main subject of the passage is not Satan himself. Rather, it is a man whom Satan will empower and control. Satan's human ally is called the king of Babylon (v. 4) and the ruler of the nations (v. 6). That he is none other than the future world ruler known as the Beast and the Antichrist is confirmed by his destiny. The passage leaves the strong impression that he and Satan will go down into hell at the same time. The ruler who will be cast alive into the lake of fire (Rev. 19:20) when Satan is incarcerated in the bottomless pit (Rev. 20:1-3) is the Antichrist. Another proof that the king of Babylon is the Antichrist is his unbounded malignancy (vs. 6, 16-17). He will destroy trees (v. 8). He will lay waste so many cities and wreak such damage upon the environment that vast regions will become a virtual wilderness (v. 17). He will not scruple to destroy his own land and massacre his own countrymen (vs. 20-21).

Toward the end of the chapter, without any discernible shift in subject, the prophet pronounces doom on a figure called the Assyrian.

24 The LORD of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand:

25 That I will break the Assyrian in my land, and upon my mountains tread him under foot: then shall his yoke depart from off them, and his burden depart from off their shoulders.

26 This is the purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth: and this is the hand that is stretched out upon all the nations.

27 For the LORD of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? and his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?

Isaiah 14:24-27

The events described here have never occurred in history. No Assyrian in the past brought the whole land of Israel under his yoke, nor did God tread any Assyrian ruler underfoot on the mountains of Israel. As throughout the preceding passage, the reference is to the Antichrist. He will rule the whole land, and God will tread him underfoot at the Battle of Armageddon (Rev. 14:19-20; 19:15).

The prophet Micah also identifies the Antichrist as the Assyrian.

2 But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.

3 Therefore will he give them up, until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth: then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel.

4 And he shall stand and feed in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God; and they shall abide: for now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth.

5 And this man shall be the peace, when the Assyrian shall come into our land: and when he shall tread in our palaces, then shall we raise against him seven shepherds, and eight principal men.

6 And they shall waste the land of Assyria with the sword, and the land of Nimrod in the entrances thereof [this is one of several scattered prophecies that speak of warfare after Christ returns]: thus shall he deliver us from the Assyrian, when he cometh into our land, and when he treadeth within our borders.

7 And the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many people as a dew from the LORD, as the showers upon the grass, that tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men.

8 And the remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles in the midst of many people as a lion among the beasts of the forest, as a young lion among the flocks of sheep: who, if he go through, both treadeth down, and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver.

9 Thine hand shall be lifted up upon thine adversaries, and all thine enemies shall be cut off.

Micah 5:2-9

Who will deliver Israel from the Assyrian (v. 6)? The answer is, "he" (v. 6), the same man described as "ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting" (v. 2). The deliverer is obviously Christ. When will the deliverance take place? The answer is "now," after Christ is "great unto the ends of the earth" (verse 4). The prophecy looks forward to the climactic moment in history when Christ will descend in glory, before the eyes of the whole world, and take revenge on the Antichrist and his followers (Rev. 1:7; 19:11-21). Afterward, Christ will exalt Israel above the other nations (v. 8).

Evidently, then, "the Assyrian" is an appropriate name for the Antichrist. The name does not describe an ethnic Assyrian in the modern sense, but a native of territory within the boundaries of ancient Assyria. Assyrian civilization was centered in the city of Ashur, whose sphere of influence before the fall of Assyria embraced all of northern Iraq.

The Antichrist's connection with Assyria yields valuable information. It substantiates the hypothesis that he will come from the Seleucid division of Alexander's empire, for the Seleucid kingdom took in Assyria. Also, it narrows still more our search for his place of origin. Not only will he come from Seleucid lands, not only will he be an Iraqi, but also by birth he will be an Assyrian. Thus, it seems inescapable that Scripture points to northern Iraq as the homeland of the Antichrist.

Sometime before his attack upon the king of the south (Dan. 11:40), he will gain control over enough ancient Seleucid territory, including perhaps both Iraq and Syria, to earn the designation "king of the north." Eventually, he will make Babylon his capital city and call himself the king of Babylon.

The Dominant Historic Interpretation

The idea that the Antichrist will come from Iraq is not a fanciful concoction influenced by recent events in the Middle East, but a sound deduction from Scripture. The many modern expositors who have named Syro-Iraq as his place of origin include S. P. Tregelles, George W. Davis, Arthur W. Pink, William L. Pettingill, Arthur Petrie, and Philip R. Newell. Most expositors during the early centuries of the church held the same view.