The prophecies of Daniel chapter 11 cover events that span more than 2,000 years—all the way from Alexander the Great to a coming world dictator known as the Antichrist. Much of this chapter is very clear, such as its descriptions of certain characteristics of the Antichrist and his government, but other parts, such as the descriptions of the wars the Antichrist will wage to try to seize and hold power, are still mysteries.
As with some other passages of Bible prophecy concerning the Endtime, we may not fully understand these until the events happen or are about to happen. We can speculate now, but we need to be careful to not get dogmatic. We need to leave ourselves open to other interpretations, as the Lord reveals them.
Daniel chapter 10 sets the stage for chapter 11. In about 538 BC, during the reign of Cyrus the Great, king of Persia, Daniel had been fasting for three weeks when an angelic messenger appeared to him (Daniel 10:1-6)and said, “I have come to make you understand what will happen to your people in the latter days”—the Endtime—“for the vision refers to many days yet to come” (Daniel 10:14).
The part of the vision that has to do with the Endtime begins at Daniel 11:21: “[There] shall arise a vile person, to whom they [the predecessors of the coming world government] will not give the honor of royalty; but he shall come in peaceably, and seize the kingdom by intrigue.”
The Antichrist is described here as a “vile person”. At this point, however, he will have the people of the world duped into believing that he is their savior. What “they will not give [him] the honor of royalty” means is unclear, but it could be that he will exercise absolute rule in the style of ancient kings, but without the title. He rises to power peaceably, by means of intrigue—clever plotting and politics. The King James Version of the Bible uses the term “flatteries” in the place of “intrigue.” This would seem to indicate that he will use diplomacy and charm to weasel his way to power.
Daniel 11:22—The first Antichrist war?
Verse 22: “With the force of a flood they [the Antichrist’s adversaries] shall be swept away from before him and be broken, and also the prince of the covenant.” The Antichrist rises to power peaceably, but then uses force to crush his opposition and strengthen his position. This could be war, the threat of war, or the preponderance of arms.
Verse 23: “After the league [covenant, pact, or treaty] is made with him [the Antichrist, the prince of the covenant] he shall act deceitfully, for he shall come up and become strong with a small number of people.”
The Antichrist is also referred to as the prince of the covenant earlier in Daniel 9:26-27: “The prince who is to come … shall confirm a covenant with many for one week [one seven-year period].” The signing of this covenant signals the start of the last seven years before Jesus’ Second Coming and the Rapture.
This league or covenant appears to be a peace accord, as well as some sort of religious pact—possibly one that tackles the thorny issue of coexistence between Jews, Muslims, and Christians in the Mideast, and by which Jerusalem could be declared an international city with free and equal access guaranteed to people of all faiths. This covenant could also clear the way for the Jews to finally be able to rebuild their temple on Jerusalem’s Mount Moriah and resume animal sacrifices on its altar—something that hasn’t happened since the last temple was destroyed in 70 AD. (In Daniel 11:31, the Antichrist puts a stop to the daily sacrifices, so they must be resumed between now and then, and the signing of the covenant seems a likely time for that.)
Although the first war of the Antichrist appears to take place before the seven-year covenant is signed (verses 22-23), it does not specify who the Antichrist is warring against. If this war is centered in the Mideast, as some speculate, it is likely to involve Israel and the large U.S. military presence in the region.
“He [the Antichrist] shall act deceitfully.” He will be very clever and deceptive, “for he shall come up and become strong with a small number of people”—or “a small people,” as the Hebrew ma`at is translated in the King James Version. This could mean that the Antichrist rises to power through his popularity with the “small” or poor people of the world, the masses, due to his political and economic policies, or that he does it with the help of a “small” elite group of insiders?
Verse 24: “He shall enter peaceably, even into the richest places of the province; and he shall do what his fathers have not done, nor his forefathers: he shall disperse among them the plunder, spoil, and riches; and he shall devise his plans against the strongholds, but only for a time.”
“He shall disperse among them the plunder, spoil, and riches” sounds like he will distribute the wealth to win the support of the poor in the countries he conquers; likewise the phrase found in verse 39, where it says he will “divide the land for gain”—possibly meaning political gain. “He shall do what his fathers have not done, nor his forefathers.” Throughout history, very few conquerors have distributed the wealth or divided the land among the poor. The notable exception is communism.
Daniel 11:25-26—The second Antichrist war?
The Antichrist’s military adversary comes into the picture in verse 25: “He [the Antichrist] 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 [the Antichrist and his forces] shall devise plans against him.” It sounds like the king of the South has an even greater force than the Antichrist at this point.
Verse 26: “Yes, those who eat of the portion of his delicacies shall destroy him; his army shall be swept away, and many shall fall down slain.” The tide of battle turns when the king of the South is betrayed by some of his own people, perhaps as a result of the Antichrist’s plans mentioned in the previous verse.
This war probably takes place after the signing of the covenant (verses 22-23), but before it is broken and the Great Tribulation begins (three and a half years after the covenant is signed), since those events don’t happen in this account until verse 31.
Verse 27: “Both these kings’ hearts shall be bent on evil, and they shall speak lies at the same table; but it shall not prosper, for the end will still be at the appointed time.”
Apparently the Antichrist fights one war to get into power and makes the covenant (verses 22-23), fights another war with the king of the South (verses 25-26), and then the two sides go through the motions of making peace—possibly reaffirming allegiance to the covenant.
Verse 28: “While returning to his land with great riches, his heart shall be moved against the holy covenant; so he shall do damage [“exploits” in KJV] and return to his own land.” The Antichrist doesn’t break the seven-year covenant at this point, but he is about to, ostensibly because others aren’t keeping it.
Daniel 11:29-31—The third Antichrist war?
Verse 29: “At the appointed time he [the Antichrist] shall return and go toward the south; but it shall not be like the former or the latter.” It’s somehow going to be different this time, but again it sounds like war because it says in the next verse…
Verse 30: “Ships from Cyprus shall come against him; therefore he shall be grieved, and return in rage against the holy covenant, and do damage. So he shall return and show regard for those who forsake the holy covenant.” “From Cyprus” could mean “from the direction of Cyprus”—from the west, in other words.
Verse 31: “Forces shall be mustered by him, and they shall defile the sanctuary fortress; then they shall take away the daily sacrifices, and place there the abomination of desolation.”
This is a key verse because, together with Daniel 9:27, it tells us that three and a half years after confirming the seven-year covenant, the Antichrist will break it when he forcibly enters the Jewish Temple (soon to be rebuilt on Mount Moriah, Jerusalem), “takes away the daily sacrifice,” and the false prophet places there something called the “abomination of desolation” (also referred to in Revelation chapter 13 as the “image of the Beast”).
Five hundred years after Daniel gave this prophecy, when Jesus’ disciples asked Him what would be the signs of His return and of the end of the world (age), He cited this development. “When you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place … 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 24:3,15,21).
It seems that three wars precede the breaking of the seven-year covenant—one before it is made, one at some point during the first three and a half years, and one that ends with the breaking of the covenant.
Tribulation, tyranny and triumphs
Verses 32 through 35 deal with the next three and a half years—after the covenant is broken.
Those who do wickedly against the covenant he shall corrupt with flattery; but the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits. And those of the people who understand shall instruct many; yet for many days they shall fall by sword and flame, by captivity and plundering. Now when they fall, they shall be aided with a little help; but many shall join with them by intrigue. And some of those of understanding shall fall, to refine them, purify them, and make them white, until the time of the end; because it is still for the appointed time.
Although much of the world will continue to follow the Antichrist, some people are going to be desperate for the truth, and those who know God’s Word and are faithful witnesses for the Lord are going to teach and encourage millions. “The people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits.” In spite of all that the Antichrist’s forces will do to try to stop them, millions of God’s children will keep going for Him till the very end.
Verses 36-37: “Then the king [Antichrist] shall do according to his own will: he shall exalt and magnify himself above every god, shall speak blasphemies against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the wrath has been accomplished; for what has been determined shall be done. He shall regard neither the God of his fathers nor the desire of women, nor regard any god; for he shall exalt himself above them all.”
The Antichrist is going to be so full of pride that he will try to exalt himself above everyone and every “god”—even the one true God. 2 Thessalonians 2:4 says the Antichrist will oppose and exalt himself “above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.”
The Antichrist “shall speak blasphemies against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the wrath has been accomplished; for what has been determined shall be done.” Revelation 13:5 parallels this statement, and also tells us how long this will go on: “And he [the beast, or Antichrist] was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months [three and a half years].”
Verse 38: “But in their place he shall honor a god of fortresses [or “god of forces,” as the Hebrew ma` owz is translated in the King James Version]; and a god which his fathers did not know he shall honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and pleasant things.”
This “god of forces” could be armaments, and the fact that the Antichrist will honor this god with “gold and silver” could refer to his military spending. That’s nothing new, because even the empires of Daniel’s day made a “god” of power and spent much of their empires’ revenue on armaments and maintaining their armies. What is new in the last couple of generations is nuclear arms—“a god which his fathers did not know.”
Verse 39: “Thus he [the Antichrist] shall act against the strongest fortresses with a foreign god, which he shall acknowledge, and advance its glory; and he shall cause them to rule over many, and divide the land for gain.”
This “foreign god” could possibly turn out to be the image of the beast, which is described in Revelation 13:14-15: “He [the Antichrist’s false prophet] deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived. He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed.”
Could this image be an incredibly high-tech android with artificial intelligence accessing massive unified databases containing detailed personal information on most of the world’s population and linked to the Antichrist’s telecommunications network? Through the image of the beast, a universal economic and financial system will be instituted. The number 666 will somehow be central to this system.
Revelation 13:16-18: “He [the Antichrist’s false prophet] causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.”
Daniel 11:40-42—The fourth Antichrist war?
Verse 40: “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.”
This war takes place during the three-and-a-half-year Great Tribulation—possibly at the breaking of the seven-year covenant or near the end of it, because the Antichrist meets his end just a few verses later—and is once again fought between the king of the North (the Antichrist) and the enigmatic king of the South. Daniel could only use terms he was familiar with to describe the modern warfare he saw in this vision—tanks and personnel carriers as chariots, massive air strikes as a whirlwind, and so on.
Verse 41: “He [the Antichrist] shall also enter the glorious land [Israel], and many countries shall be overthrown; but these shall escape from his hand: Edom, Moab, and the prominent people of Ammon.” Edom, Moab, and Ammon are contained in modern-day Jordan.
Verse 42-43: “He shall stretch out his hand against the countries [that sided with the king of the South], 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.
“He shall have power over the treasures of gold and silver” indicates that the Antichrist will hold economic control, which we also know to be the case from Revelation 13:16-18 and other passages. “The Libyans and Ethiopians shall follow at his heels” indicates that these countries will be subservient to the Antichrist.
Daniel 11:44—The fifth Antichrist war?
Verse 44: “But news from the east and the north shall trouble him; therefore he shall go out with great fury to destroy and annihilate many.” That sounds like either another war, or a continuation of the war described in verses 40 through 42, and probably happens near the end of the Tribulation. If this is another war—the fifth war of the Antichrist—it seems it is against eastern nations.
“News from the north” could mean a threatened coup or other problems of dissent in his own country, or possibly troubling developments in North America.
“He shall go out with great fury to destroy and annihilate many.” This could be the war—possibly nuclear—in which the Antichrist and his allies obliterate “Babylon”, as described in Revelation 14:8; 17:16; and chapter 18. This war probably takes place not long before Jesus’ return and the Rapture.
Verse 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.”
The “glorious holy mountain” is Jerusalem’s Mount Moriah. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the Antichrist waits until this point to set up his headquarters on Mount Moriah; it’s just an acknowledgment of what he most likely did three and a half years earlier when he broke the covenant, and the image of the beast was set up in the temple area (Daniel 11:30-31), and the Antichrist sits in the temple claiming to be God, and abolished all religions other than worship of himself (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4), triggering the Great Tribulation.
“Yet he shall come to his end, and no one will help him.” At Megiddo, overlooking the plains of Armageddon in northern Israel, the Antichrist musters his armies for his greatest campaign against the nations that still oppose him, but Jesus and His heavenly army, including the resurrected believers from throughout the ages, intercede by returning to earth and utterly destroying the Antichrist and his forces at the battle of the great day of God Almighty (Revelation 16:12-16; 19:11-21). He then ushers in 1,000 years of peace on earth—a period known as the Millennium. The happy beginning!