In Part 2 of ‘The Daniel Comparison’ we noted that a large number of highly specific clues plugged in to the account when a ‘contemptible person’ came in to the kingdom of Syria and usurped the throne. At that time, an “overwhelming army” will also be “swept away” from before him, and if you’re like everyone else you want to know whose army that will be. So let’s begin this post by examining the conditions in Syria today, and see if we can find something that would line up with this "Kings of the South and the North" prophecy.
SUNNI vs. SHIITE
If you attended our summer session on the Islamic Antichrist a few years ago, no doubt you’re aware that Islam has two distinct groups of adherents, the Sunnis and the Shiites. Both factions believe in a restoration of the Islamic Caliphate that had ruled the Middle East, North Africa, and part of Europe in Medieval times, and both believe in a coming messiah figure called the Mahdi. But that’s where the similarities end, because while they share the same Koran, they have developed vastly different traditions and religious doctrine. It’s similar to Christianity’s division between Catholics and Protestants, but with far more rancor and occasionally deadly results. The truth is, these factions have been separated by the two following issues that cannot be repaired;
1) Sunnis believe that the leader of Islam (the ‘Caliph’) should be whoever is the strongest and most able to rule. But their Shiite counterparts believe that the Caliph should descend only through the blood-line of Ali, the son-in-law of Muhammad.
2) Muhammad predicted that two branches of Islam would emerge once he was gone, and that only ONE of these groups would survive and become Allah’s people. The fallout from this statement is obvious, because it means that all observant Sunnis know they must eliminate all Shiites to become that sole surviving group. Conversely, all Shiites know that they must eliminate all Sunnis to be that group. You can see how this creates an irreparable division, and it could very well be the reason for the renewal of the ancient battles between the Kings of the South and the North. This would most likely present itself as a Sunni block that is led by Egypt, and a Shiite bloc that is led by Iran. The distribution of these respective factions can be noted in the illustration to the left, with the Shiite population shown in blue, and Sunni in green. Obviously the Shiite bloc is concentrated in Iran, where it has 89% of the population.
WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH SYRIA?
Okay, so the question you’re probably asking yourself is, “What does that have to do with Syria?” The answer is, “Everything.” Even through Iran is the leader of the Shiite community, they use Syria and the terrorist group Hizbollah to accomplish their objectives in the Middle East. So here are just a few facts that emphasize the religious dynamics in this country;
1) Syria is dominated by Sunni Muslims, who account for about 75% of the population. Only 15% are Shiite Muslim, and most of that population is located in the northwest along the Mediterranean, as shown in the adjacent illustration.
2) Syrian president Basshar al Assad and most of his government are Allawite Shiites who rule despite their vast minority status in the country.
3) Most of the Syrian military is Sunni Muslim, with only one division that is entirely Allawite Shiite.
4) Basshar al Assad has enlisted the military presence of Iran, who is majority Shiite, to help stabilize his Shiite rule in this Sunni dominated country.
5) During recent protests, Assad’s Shiite division opened fire on protestors that belonged mostly to the Sunni Baath party, killing many of them in order to suppress the rebellion.
6) Iranian warships recently docked in Syria with the intent of building a naval base to support a Shiite naval presence in this Sunni dominated region.
7) Rockets offloaded from that Iranian ship were eventually confiscated by Israel while on their way to Egyptian rebels.
8) The Shiite controlled nations in the Fertile Crescent are currently led by Iran, but also include Iraq, Syria, and now Lebanon. These are all nations that would be part of the ancient empire of ‘The Kings of the North” led by Syria.
9) The Sunni controlled nations in the Fertile Crescent would include Egypt, Libya, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan. Each of these nations would be part of the ancient empire of ‘The Kings of the South” led by Egypt.
From all this, you can see how the battles lines are being drawn today. While we don’t read about this in western news services, eastern officials suspect what is about to happen. They fully expect a time of revolution within the Islamic countries that surround Israel, and that this battle will quickly become a bid for power between the Shiite nations of the North and the Sunni nations of the South. It will be the battles between the “Kings of the South and North” all over again. And after all, that’s precisely what the visions of Daniel predict.
With all that said, let’s continue our analysis of Daniel 11 and see where our additional clues are fulfilled. Once again, we'll insert the clues in bold blue text right next to each fulfillment;
WARS AND RUMORS OF WARS
“With a large army he will stir up his strength and courage against the king of the South ("it grew in power to the south.."). The king of the South will wage war with a large and very powerful army, but he will not be able to stand because of the plots devised against him. Those who eat from the king’s provisions will try to destroy him; his army will be swept away, and many will fall in battle ("..will destroy many"). The two kings, with their hearts bent on evil, will sit at the same table and lie to each other, but to no avail, because an end will still come at the appointed time. ("he will try to change the set times and the laws"). The king of the North will return to his own country with great wealth ("it prospered in everything it did"), but his heart will be set against the holy covenant. He will take action against it and then return to his own country.” (Daniel 11:25-28)
Once again we have a number of clues that fit right into this particular spot. When the beast stirs up his courage against Egypt (“the king of the South”), we have to note that one of the clues said he would grow in power “to the South”. Also, it’s obvious that the “two kings” will try to change the “set times” because God goes out of his way to announce that the end “will still come at the appointed time” despite their efforts. In other words, the beast is trying to change God’s set times in order to break this prophecy. But there is another ramification to that statement. When this prophecy states “an end will still come at the appointed time”, we should immediately remember what Jesus alluded to in the Olivet Discourse;
“When you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.” (Luke 21:9)
It seems that those statements are speaking of the same point in history future, and God will obviously preserve his appointed times despite the workings of the antichrist. So let’s move on to the next paragraph, where one of Daniel’s long awaited appointed times is finally at hand;
AN APPOINTED TIME:
“At the appointed time ("desolations have been decreed") he will invade the South again, but this time the outcome will be different from what it was before. Ships of the western coastlands will oppose him, and he will lose heart. Then he will turn back and vent his fury against the holy covenant ("He will confirm a covenant…"). He will return and show favor to those who forsake the holy covenant ("it grew in power….toward the Beautiful Land").” (Daniel 11:29-30)
In the prior paragraph we read that the end would “still come at the appointed time.” In other words, God has appointed certain times and dates for all of these things to be fulfilled, and while the beast would try to change those times, he will not succeed. But in this paragraph, Daniel is told that an appointed time has arrived, and it’s now time for the beast to turn his attention to Jerusalem. So God sends ships to turn him back from Egypt and send him to Israel instead. Enter the “Ships from the western coastlands.”
SHIPS FROM KITTIM:
While the NIV calls these the “ships from the western coastlands”, the original Hebrew in Daniel 11:30 actually reads “ships from Kittim”. This is a very important matter to address in our progressive revelation, because it defines WHERE these ships will come from, and WHOSE ships they will be. Ancient Kittim is known today as Cyprus, so in the most literal sense, the prophecy is saying that Ships from Cyprus will come to the aid of Egypt and turn the beast away.
This has never happened before in history IF we use the word Kittim in it’s literal sense. But this is where a problem develops, since many scholars feel that this portion of the prophecy was already fulfilled by the Syrian king Antiochus Epiphanes in 168 B.C. In that instance, Epiphanes was attacking Egypt when ships from the Roman Isles (not Kittim) turned him away. He then fled to the east and attacked Israel on his way back to Syria, appearing to be the fulfillment of the ‘contemptible person’ in Daniel 11:21. At the time, the priesthood and people of Israel assumed that Epiphanes was the antichrist that had been prophesied by Daniel because of several apparent fulfillments;
1) because he was a Syrian as required in the prophecy
2) because “ships” had turned him away from Egypt and towards Israel
3) because he stopped the sacrifices at the Temple
4) because he desecrated the Temple
5) because he attempted to institute worship of a different god
But there are critical portions of Daniel’s prophecies that were NOT fulfilled by Epiphanes. For instance, Daniel’s visions of a Ram and a Goat, which most scholars believe was fulfilled by Epiphanes, states that the Temple would lie desolate for 2,300 days or "evenings and mornings" (Daniel 8:14). But in the case of Epiphanes, the Temple was only desecrated for 3 years. It is historical fact that the Temple was re-dedicated in 165 B.C. on the 3rd anniversary of it’s desecration in 168 B.C., an event that led to the Feast of Dedication (John 10:22), otherwise known as Hanukkah. Well, 3 years is less than 1100 days on any Jewish calendar, and simply cannot equal 2,300 days. Even if you half-count the days to reflect the evening and morning sacrifices (“2,300 evenings and mornings”), you still have 1150 days, which are more days than these 3 years could ever yield.
Still, if have footnotes in your Bible you’ll probably find an explanation of the days that historians have added to this count in order to press it's fulfillment with Epiphanes. But frankly, all of this is unnecessary if we just understand what the progressive revelation of Daniel is telling us; that the ‘contemptible person’ is still to come. So if the ‘beast’ in Daniel is still to come, and he will still be a Syrian like Epiphanes, then who would the “ships from Kittim” be today? Well, we have two choices;
1) the U.S. Navy
2) the Russian Navy
Both nations have naval bases in Cyprus. So let me ask you something; if an Islamic invasion was underway in Egypt, who would be more likely to respond to defend them? Before you answer that, please consider a few very important points;
1) Russia has a military alliance with Iran, and this treaty requires them to come to the assistance of Iran during any military action, regardless of who initiates the action.
2) Iran is a Shiite nation that uses Syria to implement it’s Middle East strategies, and if Syria invaded Egypt, it would be at the behest of Iran. So, would the Russians act against their treaty with Iran by turning away a Syrian attack on Egypt? Doubtful.
3) The United States has been an ally of Egypt for decades, but an adversary of both Syria and Iran. Would the United States have an interest in turning away a Syrian invasion of Egypt? Perhaps not with the current administration, but in the overall scheme of things, yes.
Based on all of this, it is my belief that THIS is where we finally see the United States in prophecy, because the United States has a naval base in Cyprus (ancient ‘Kittim’) today. And it’s my current belief that U.S. ships will be the fulfillment of the “ships from Kittim” that will turn the beast away from Egypt when he attacks it a second time. And when they do, the end times will begin in earnest, since the beast will flee to the east and attack Israel, setting up the notorious ‘abomination’ that will cause the desolation of Israel;
THE ABOMINATION THAT CAUSES DESOLATION:
“His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice ("In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering"). Then they will set up the abomination that causes desolation ("on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation"). With flattery he will corrupt those who have violated the covenant, but the people who know their God will firmly resist him.” (Daniel 11:31-32)
Two highly specific clues are fulfilled in this paragraph, the stopping of the daily sacrifice, and the setting up of the abomination. In scripture, this is the one moment that appears to most define the antichrist, and it was so critical to our understanding that even Jesus spoke directly to this event;
“So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains…………For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened." (Matthew 24:15-22)
Notice how Jesus mentions that the ‘abomination’ set up by the antichrist is the SAME abomination spoken of by Daniel. And he doesn’t say it's ONE of the abominations included in Daniel‘s visions (Daniel 9:27, 11:31, 12:11). He says it's THE abomination, inferring that they are all one and the same. This should settle the matter once and for all, but sadly it doesn’t. Many commentators ignore these words of Jesus and STILL attribute this portion of the prophecy to Epiphanes. But in contrast, I would again point to our list of clues form Daniel's earlier visions, and how they point to a future antichrist. From verse 21 forward, our list of clues have been filling in very rapidly, even though none of them could be applied BEFORE verse 21.
In Part 4 of the Daniel Comparison we’ll see what the antichrist will do during ‘the time of Jacob’s trouble’.