Adventists know a lot about certain chapters of the book of Daniel: earlier chapters such as the first, where we celebrate vegetarianism (though such an idea may have been quite foreign to Daniel and friends); or the second, where the presidential advisors all get to keep their jobs (and their heads) thanks to Daniel and his small team of genius captive foreigners; and the third, where the nuisance genius captive foreigners go for a cool walk with Jesus (inside a raging furnace fire).
Adventists are particularly inspired by the parallel prophecies of Daniel 2, 7, 8, and 9. Chapter 3, with its “burning fiery furnace” (verses 6, 11, 15, 17, 20, 21, 23, 26)1, bears its own different emphasis, demonstrating that God is Lord of life. But the parallel prophecies of chapters 2-9 show beyond any reasonable argument that God Most High is not only life’s awesome author, but is ruler over every ruler in every human realm (Dan. 4:17), Lord and judge of history, empires, and kings (Dan. 7:9-14); that whatever the glitter and fanfare of earth’s fiefdoms and empires, their passing power will finally crumble into the dust of time, while God’s kingdom “shall not pass away” and “shall not be destroyed” (verse 14), or “be left to other people” (Dan. 2:44). Instead it will “break in pieces and consume all [other] kingdoms” and “shall stand forever” (verse 44).
The parallel prophecies also show that God cares. Indeed, He, the righteous judge of all the earth (2 Tim. 4:8; Gen. 18:25), has, in His righteousness, taken to Himself a people He identifies as “His own special people” (1 Peter 2:9). His plan is to hand His kingdom over to these people at the appropriate time (Dan. 7:22): “the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High” (verse 27), and they will “possess [it] forever, even forever and ever” (verse 18; see also Dan. 2:44).
The saints who possess the kingdom forever and ever are the saints who must first survive great persecution.
That’s good news; and as children of God, lovers of prophecy, and participants in a movement of prophecy, we love going over those details: tramping through old and familiar stomping grounds.
But Adventists also know that there is a dark side to the book of Daniel: the God who triumphs in the end is at first the object of mockery and challenge, His sacred house violated and its sacred contents deposited, as supposed proof of His inferiority, in the house of a heathen god (Dan. 1:1, 2). The saints who possess the kingdom forever and ever are the saints who must first survive great persecution; their cross before the crown continues through time, and times, and more time still (Dan. 7:25). They must endure seasons of religio-political tyranny under a power so astonishingly devious that its successes include dislodging and trampling “some of the stars” of heaven (Dan. 8:10); a power that even dares, in the spirit of the Babel tower builders (Gen. 11:1-4), to raise itself “above the heights of the clouds” (Isa. 14:14), “as high as the Prince of the host,” and seek to usurp his authority and control (Dan. 8:11). Such is the absorbing drama of these chapters.
And Daniel’s later chapters are just as charged with wonderful news and intriguing prophecy. Daniel 11 engages us in an absorbing report on two kings, the kings of the north and south, locked in a competition that involves war, invasion, even the slaying of the Son of God. Daniel 11:43 gives us an insight into the thinking of the king of the north when it reports that “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.”
This power, aggression, and plundering had once been the province of the king of the south (Dan. 11:5, 8). But later the King of the North regains what originally belonged to him, namely, the gods “with their princes and their precious articles of silver and gold” (verse 8). Mention of these precious materials evokes the spiritual tragedy of Daniel’s own day to which we have already referred, when heathen King Nebuchadnezzar ravaged God’s temple and transferred its sacred objects to “the house of his god” (Dan. 1:2).
In Daniel 11 the prophecy points to a time thousands of years later than his own day when the king of the north does much more than carry Israel’s sacred treasures to Egypt, a name that here stands for secular and philosophical powers that deny God (see Rev. 11:8). For he now wields power over rulers in the secular, atheist domain at the same time that he practices his grand spiritual pretense.
In the cosmic orientation of the book, Daniel 11:43 refers prophetically to an imposture involving an earthly religious institution, the Roman Church, both politically respected and spiritually authoritative, affirming itself as God’s true Israel, owner of a sanctuary that replaces God’s heavenly sanctuary, and superseding heaven’s program of salvation in a manner decidedly more sinister and ominous than Nebuchadnezzar’s actions of the book’s first chapter. This power’s effort to take control over all the spiritual forces is a clear indication that what is at stake in this ultimate conflict is the claim for worship (Rev. 13:4, 7, 15; 14:9).
Why does the text refer to Libya and Ethiopia? What do they have to do with deception? The two countries named are the geographical limits of ancient Egypt, suggesting that success has reached its height: the king of the north has succeeded in controlling the totality of the world.
As Carol Newsom puts it, this passage “invokes the paradigm of the eschatological battle against Judah and Jerusalem as described in the postexilic prophets, especially the invasion by Gog in Ezekiel 38:8–13 and the gathering of the nations against Jerusalem in Zechariah. 14:2.”2 It is the scene of all earth’s powers massed in unity against God’s people.
The prophet Ezekiel also refers to the armies of Ethiopia and Libya in the extreme south gathered together with the forces of the North identified as Persia (Eze. 38:5) and the troops of Gomer and Togarmah (verse 6), who will come under the leadership of Gog of the land of Magog (verse 2) from the far north (verse 15) against God’s people: “You will come from your place out of the far north, you and many peoples with you, . . . It will be in the latter days that I will bring you against My land, so that the nations may know Me, when I am hallowed in you, O Gog, before their eyes” (verses 15, 16).
The book of Revelation refers to the same eschatological conflict initiated “on the great river Euphrates” (Rev. 16:12), which represents the north (Jer. 46:2, 6, 10). It is a gathering of all the evil forces led by “unclean spirits like frogs. . . . For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty” (Rev. 16:13, 14). Later in the book of Revelation this gathering of evil forces is identified with the name of Gog (Rev. 20:8), which is also located in the north (Eze. 39:1, 2).
These powers now follow the king’s steps, because they no longer accept the Lord’s leading (Prov. 20:24; cf. Ps. 37:23; Jer. 10:23; Prov. 16:9). The worship of the king of the north, Daniel’s little horn (Dan. 7:8; 8:9), has replaced the worship of God, as predicted in Revelation: “All the world . . . followed the beast” (Rev. 13:3). This description of the forces of the south now ruled by the king of the north, refers prophetically to the s
yndrome that will characterize the last events of human history: after long seasons of bellicosity, after generations of wars of conquest and confrontation, the south and the north find a way to walk at the same pace, on the same path, united in the same project. State and church, politics and religion, along with many who consider themselves secular and open-minded, will align under the spiritual ideals of an earthly ruler they hail as their god in the building of the kingdom of earth.
The remarkable alignment of once-rival bodies and contending forces does not depend on any nation’s election cycle. It is not propelled by leaders of human institutions seeking for peace in unity by parliamentary vote, or action in the United States’ houses of congress, or the United Nations General Assembly or its Security Council. Any or many or all of these political means may be seen to act in the human realm. But the ultimate alignment of powers in the final confrontation between good and evil is no secular, temporal matter. Rather, it is the work of miracle-working demons marshalling forces against the Almighty (Rev. 16:14).
People across the globe follow common trends in fashion, music, food and entertainment.
It is the world climax of deception, as misguided and presumptuous, believer and cynic, religious and secular, Communist and Catholic find common ground and response to supernatural impulses: to the dragon who gives power to the beast (Rev. 13:4); the dragon who still craves the attention he longed for at the beginning of the controversy between transparency and deception that shows him nurturing new notions of greatness (Isa. 14:13); who fell victim to his own invention of sin—specifically, pride (Eze. 28:17)—that occurred at the beginning of, and became the controversy; who knows his time is limited (Rev. 12:12); and who, in his rage of personal failure, inspires his last terror campaign against the people God identifies as His remnant (verse 17).
This final battle between truth and dissembling does not allow for neutral ground or nonaligned personnel. What Daniel sees is an eager commitment for unity based on human terms and strategies as it was in the days of Babel’s builders (Gen. 11:1, 4, 6), a choice for worshipping the Creator or trusting in creaturely self. Daniel says, “they will mingle . . . ; but they will not adhere . . . . And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up” His own indestructible kingdom; “and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever” (Dan. 2:43,44).
But before that end comes, a creature the demons exalt will come to receive the worship of all the earth: “authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation” (Rev. 13:7), the very event described as the gathering of “the kings of the earth and of the whole world” (Rev. 16:14).
No one can say precisely how these movements of unity will come about. But God’s Word makes clear the power of supernatural deception to produce a paradox of unity among prideful entities all longing for preeminence, and finding in demonic alignment the best hope of their own ascendancy as Satan’s lying wonders fill them with awe3 and bring secular-minded materialists into line with misguided theists “through the power of spiritualism.”4
The Bible’s predicted scenario of blaspheming unification has already begun. Multiple human powers today strive to unite on every level: cultural, religious, economic, political, military. Alliances that once seemed impossible between fiercely hostile nations are now materializing before our astonished eyes.
At the level of popular culture people across the globe follow common trends in fashion, music, food, and entertainment. Even ideologies such as modernism, postmodernism, and post-Christianity now exist and grow as global trends, a phenomenon dramatically amplified by the development of mass communications. People from disparate corners of earth now seem to know everything about each other as the world becomes more and more the one “global village” that Marshall McLuhan predicted some 50 years ago.5 Traditionally staunch enemies, the Roman Catholic Church, king of the north, and the secular state power, king of the south, are coming into closer and closer alignment.
At the same time, in this science-driven, ultra-technological age, there is the paradoxical intensification of interest in paranormal phenomena and manifestations of spiritism. Near-death experiences become the stuff of national television reportage and popular magazines, advancing the deception that there is life after death.
Our guard and protection in this hour of lies must be the same as Jesus employed when the devil’s challenge was boldest: to every taunt, charge, and suggestion Jesus’ answer was the same: “It is written.” It worked for Him. It will work just as well for us.
Jacques Doukhan is general editor of the Seventh-day Adventist International Bible Commentary.