Reading through the Bible together
Daniel had received visions of successive powers rising and falling through many periods of history from his own time until the Resurrection. The year after the fall of Babylon, he did all he could to encourage Darius the Mede in his rule (v.1). However, the Greeks under Alexander the Great would come (v. 3) and after him others (v. 4).
The reader must understand that when Daniel lists historical events in prophecy like this, the task is to look in history and find reliable data that supports each event. If your commentary applies many things to Antiochus Epiphanes, you have the wrong commentary. Daniel speaks of the king of the north and the king of the south (v. 5 ff.). Before we begin, let us understand that the term king of the north and king of the south will not have geographical consistency in all periods of history. The thrust of imperial power will shift from empire to empire.
Daniel is on the bank of the Tigris River, east of Babylon, and that is where the wind-directions are felt from north and south. The pax-hellenica or peace of Greece continued until the pax-romana or peace of Rome took over (vv. 13-14). The Romans and their deeds as an empire are dealt with until verse 20. It appears that in verse 21 and on, Daniel had in mind the Emperor Justinian who in 538 A.D. changed his coin from a soldier to a theologian. He was the one who made alliances with the pax-vaticana or the peace of the Vatican, which was the new-world order. Justinian and his wife Theodora started politics with the popes and theologians (v. 23). They distributed wealth and built churches for political reasons (v. 24). And Justinian’s African campaign is described by Procopius, his historian, and by Daniel (vv. 27-30).
Also religious powers would arise to “desecrate the sanctuary fortress and do away with the regular sacrifice." This means that they will set up the "abomination of desolation" which substitutes the atonement of Christ by human actions (v. 31). Daniel knew where he was in history since he used these terms before. The institution of the Church of Rome will "act wickedly toward the covenant" (v. 32). But there will be such people as the Waldenses and Albigenses, the Hugenots and Anabaptists "who know their God and will display strength" (v. 33).
Daniel covers the same spiritual ground that John does in Revelation 13 when he speaks about the first beast. The only difference is that whereas John is describing the religious signals of the end-time, Daniel is describing the secular historical signals of the Empire and what the remnant seed would do. Just like John who said in Revelation 12:6,14 that the persecution will be for 1260 years; so Daniel saw that the falling by sword and flame would be "for many days" (v. 33).
A "Little help" would come for the faithful from the Reformation (v. 34), and then the "time-of-the-end" would begin. In 1798 the pope was arrested and died in exile. This “deadly wound” was appointed and decreed by heaven (v. 35). Some have suggested that this prophecy is still future. They substitute what happened in history with metaphors, symbolism, or figurative speech.
The ascendancy of the USA at this time as the Second Beast described by John in Revelation 13, Daniel described as "magnifying himself above every god," honoring the god of forces or military strength, and making many friends or allies (vv. 36-39). The USA would have many ships, enter the land of Israel with friendliness, and reach out to shake hands with Egypt (vv. 40- 43).
We are now at that point in history and prophecy and we will have to wait and see what the future holds and what will happen. Will the nations today follow the USA as verse 43 expects? Will the USA as verse 45 seems to indicate move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem? That is, "pitch the tents of his country’s seat" between the Dead Sea and the Temple Mound? This may mean a new World-order with much Tribulation as mentioned in Daniel 12:1 before Jesus comes.
A note of caution. Our denomination does not have an official interpretation of verses 36-45, but what we have is the best that can be done with present research. We need to remember that these prophecies are still to be fulfilled.
Are these the great times we were waiting for? Give us understanding just like You gave Daniel for him to understand Jeremiah's prophecy of the 70 years. We humbly pray. Amen.
Koot van Wyk, DLitt et Phil, ThD.
Kyungpook National University
Sangju, South Korea.