A remarkable prophecy in the book of Daniel is now, due to recent events, closer to fulfillment.
Daniel was a young Jewish noble who was exiled to Babylon during one of his country's invasions by the forces of King Nebuchadnezzar. Taken captive from his home around 605 B.C., Daniel remained in Babylon until its fall in 539 B.C., living on into the conquering Medo-Persian Empire.
God revealed a great deal to Daniel about forthcoming events, right down through the ages to the second coming of Jesus Christ and the establishment of the Kingdom of God.
In chapters 2 and 7 of his book we read prophecies about four great successive empires of the ancient world beginning with his time—Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome.
In chapter 9 we see the "70 weeks" prophecy that foretold exactly when Jesus Christ would begin His ministry in A.D. 27.
In chapter 11 we read a detailed prophecy that begins with Persian rulers and then moves on to Alexander the Great, one of the most significant figures in ancient history. Daniel died about 200 years before Alexander appeared on the world scene, and when Alexander arrived in Jerusalem, the priests showed him the book of Daniel and its statements about a Greek ruler who would conquer the Persians, and he saw himself as the person intended (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book 11, chap. 8).
When Alexander died, his empire, as foretold, was in time divided into four parts, each ruled by one of his generals. Two are of great biblical significance—the Ptolemaic Empire, ruled from Alexandria in Egypt to the south of Jerusalem, and the Seleucid Empire, ruled from Antioch to the north.
The leaders of these two dynasties are called the king of the North and the king of the South, respectively, in Daniel's prophecy. The conflicts and intrigues that took place between them in the 150 years following the death of Alexander were fulfilled exactly as prophesied in Daniel 11 (which you can read about in our Bible study aid The Middle East in Bible Prophecy).
Then suddenly the prophecy shifts in relating details of the middle of the second century B.C.—then giving statements of dual application, bringing events forward to the time of the New Testament Church and the Roman Empire. After a few verses, the prophecy jumps forward to the modern era. Verse 40 begins with the words, "At the time of the end . . ."
Why this jump of 2,000 years? And how are recent developments bringing us closer to what was foretold?
Prophecy revolves around the people of Israel
Remember the prophecy was about the kings of the North and of the South—that is, north and south of Jerusalem, the center of Bible prophecy. The future God revealed to Daniel was essentially about his own people, the Jews—and of how these two powers would affect them, culminating in the "abomination of desolation," the desecration of the temple committed by Antiochus Epiphanes (the king of the North) in about 167 B.C.
A century later the territory of the king of the North was conquered by the Roman Empire. Later, both the Jews and the lands of the Ptolemies were also subjugated by Rome.
The Jews revolted against the Romans and were crushed in A.D. 70, with Jerusalem razed and the temple destroyed. They revolted again in 132-135 and were again defeated. This time, the Romans banned the Jews from setting foot in Jerusalem anymore. The Jews, cut off from their holy city and destroyed temple, were then dispersed throughout the known world.
It wasn't until the 20th century that the prophecy at the end of Daniel 11 could be fulfilled.
The reshaping of the Middle East
Toward the end of the 19th century, Jewish zealots known as Zionists envisioned the restoration of the Jewish nation in their ancestral homeland. In 1917, during World War I, Great Britain, then the world's most powerful nation, promised the Jews a homeland. Following World War I and the collapse of the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire, the British were given a mandate to rule Palestine under authority of the League of Nations, predecessor of the United Nations.
At the end of World War II, faced with a number of conflicts, the British informed the UN that they were pulling out of Palestine. A UN vote resulted in the establishment of the Jewish state of Israel in May 1948.
This monumental event meant that many biblical prophecies relating to the time of the end and the coming of the Messiah could now be fulfilled. Bible prophecy is clear—there had to be a Jewish nation in the years leading up to Christ's return.
The birth of the Jewish state was not the only significant development in the Middle East that followed the two world wars.
The collapse of the Ottoman Empire resulted in profound change to the political map of the region, with the establishment of 22 independent Arab nations.
The establishment of the nation of Israel resulted immediately in attempts by neighboring countries to destroy it. Frustrated at the failure of five Arab armies to throttle the nation of Israel at its birth, Egyptian army officers blamed their king, Farouk, and overthrew him in a coup in 1952.
Farouk wasn't the only pro-Western king overthrown. Iraq and Libya saw the overthrow of their own kings. Radical Arab nationalist dictators took over in all three countries and elsewhere in the region. But the Arab nationalist dictators failed to deliver. After decades of misrule they left their people backward, behind the rest of the world, and in many cases even worse off than before—all while hated Israel thrived in comparison. The long-entrenched Arab dictators lost all credibility.
Enter the "Arab Spring" of 2011. Violent revolutions overthrew dictators across the region. Western media gushed about the rise of democracy in the Middle East.
But Western-style democracy was not to be. Democratic elections in country after country have resulted in Islamic fundamentalists gaining power. These religious zealots are anti-Western and anti-Israel. They also want to see the restoration of the Islamic caliphate, which continued from the death of Muhammad in A.D. 632 until the end of the Ottoman Empire in 1924.
Dreams of a restored caliphate
The word caliph means "successor"—that is, a successor of Muhammad, who founded the Islamic religion in the A.D. 620s. The word caliphate means "dominion of a caliph" and refers to the first system of government established in Islam after the death of Muhammad. The caliphate encompassed much of the Middle East and was united by its common Islamic beliefs within the Muslim ummah (community of Muslim believers).
In other words, it was a theocratic state that united all Muslims under one leader.
Four great dynasties were to rule the caliphate—the Umayyad, Abbasid and Fatimid dynasties followed by the Ottoman dynasty, which ended less than a century ago. The collapse of the Ottoman Empire has led to a sorely divided Islamic world.
Nostalgia for unity helps drive those who want to restore the caliphate. The city of Cairo, Egypt's capital, was founded by the Fatimid dynasty in the 10th century, when most of North Africa and parts of the Middle East were under one caliphate (A.D. 909-1171).
There has been no caliphate since the declaration of a secular Turkish Republic in 1924.
This has not deterred Islamic fundamentalists who want a revived caliphate that would unite Sunni Muslims from Spain, right across North Africa through the Middle East to Indonesia, the world's most populous Islamic country. Al-Qaeda is just one of many Islamic groups that want to see the caliphate restored.
Again, although Western media and governments have been enthusiastic about the collapse of the great Arab dictators in recent months, the fact is that democratic elections invariably result in victories for the Islamists.
At present, the media is again enthusiastic about the potential fall of a dictator, Syria's Bashar al-Assad—overlooking the fact that his fall will likely mean an Islamic government will take over. While Assad belongs to the minority Alawites, an offshoot of Shia Islam, the majority Sunnis would gain control, helping bring the revived caliphate even closer.
We should remember that, in February 1958, under Arab nationalist leaders, Egypt and Syria united to form the United Arab Republic. It ended in September 1961 following a military coup in Syria.
Bible prophecy shows there will be another king of the South at the time of the end. An Islamic caliphate, uniting hundreds of millions of Sunni Muslims, would certainly fulfill this prophecy. This has become more likely with the victory of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
Many Muslims also believe in the imminent arrival of a figure they call al-Mahdi, an Islamic messiah who will help establish Islam as the supreme and dominant religion of the world. The followers of al-Mahdi believe it's their duty to initiate a period of chaos leading to conflict between Islam and the West, out of which Islam will rise to dominate the world.
Either figure—al-Mahdi or the leader of an Islamic caliphate (or perhaps they could be one and the same)—seems to be a likely candidate to be the end-time king of the South foretold by the prophet Daniel so many centuries ago.
"At the time of the end"
Daniel 11:40 begins the last phase of Daniel's prophecy and is set "at the time of the end." This refers to the time immediately prior to Jesus Christ's second coming.
"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 . . ."
Who is the king of the North mentioned here?
To understand, we need to go back in history and see what happened to the Seleucid dynasty and its successors that were the ancient kings of the North.
In 63 B.C. the territories of the Seleucids were taken over by the Roman Empire, conquered by the Roman military leader Pompey. It thus became part of the Roman Empire for many centuries. The revived king of the North, soon to be upon us, will be from a successor to the Roman Empire. Lest you think that odd, read on.
In Daniel 2 and 7 we read of a succession of major powers prophesied to succeed the Babylonian Empire in which Daniel served in exile.
In Daniel 7:5 we read of the Persian Empire symbolized by a bear, and in verse 6 we read of the Greek empire of Alexander the Great pictured by a leopard, symbolic of the speed with which Alexander's army conquered much of the ancient world. Finally, in verses 7-8, we read of the Roman Empire, which would not conquer the Jews until five centuries after God's revelations to Daniel.
Verse 8 says this empire would have "ten horns," revivals of the empire down through history. At the end of the verse we see a religious element introduced: "Another horn, a little one, coming up among them . . . And there, in this horn, were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words." A horn in Bible prophecy is symbolic of rule and dominion.
History shows us that out of the Roman Empire came the ruling power of the Roman Catholic Church. Whereas the empire itself was described as a "beast" (verse 7; Revelation 13:1-4), the church is described as "the image of the beast" (Revelation 13:15). History shows that the church simply took over the former administrative governance structure and regions of the empire after the fall of Rome in A.D. 476.
Since the fall of the Roman Empire more than 15 centuries ago, there have been a number of attempts to resurrect it. Justinian, Charlemagne, Otto the Great, Charles V, Napoleon, and Hitler along with Mussolini all tried to unite Europe as a revived Roman Empire. All succeeded to varying degrees for a time.
Bible prophecy shows we will see yet another attempt, which will also be short-lived.
"The ten horns which you saw are ten kings, who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour [a short time] as kings with the beast. These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast. They will make war with the Lamb [Jesus Christ] . . ." (Revelation 17:12-14).
The last few words clearly show that this joining together of 10 "kings"—leaders of nations or groups of nations who give their sovereignty to a single individual also called "the Beast"—is yet future, lasting from the time immediately prior to Christ's return to just after.
Big changes afoot in Europe
Considering today's headlines, most people assume Europe is falling apart. Is that so?
Well, yes and no.
The European currency, the euro, has been in serious trouble for some time, though it has maintained a value of approximately $1.25 at the time of writing. That the currency sustains a value in excess of the American dollar shows there is considerable demand for it.
Europe's currency crisis has highlighted the need for closer European integration, the realization being that only a single central government can solve the problems confronting the European Union.
To this end, "Ten EU foreign ministers participating in a 'study group for the future of Europe' aim to exert pressure to transform the EU into a federation along the lines of the US. Together they have prepared what the front-page headline in Die Presse describes as a 'Plan for transformation into a European state'" (Presseurop, "Ten Countries for a United States of Europe," June 20, 2012).
The ten countries are Germany, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Spain.
Another European news source hinted at pressure being applied from Berlin. German-Foreign-Policy.com reported in a June 25, 2012, article titled "All or Nothing":"Just days before the opening of the EU crisis summit at the end of the week, the German government is increasing its pressure on the crisis ridden Euro countries to surrender their national sovereignty. The German finance minister rudely rejected Italy's demands to receive the badly needed help, without having to concede its sovereignty. Germany recently turned down similar Spanish efforts.
"The measures are part of a comprehensive program to consolidate German hegemony over the continent, under the motto of converting the 'European integration' into a state-like Euro zone structure, based on the right of interference in national budgets of the economically weaker countries.
"Around the globe, the protest against Berlin's austerity dictate is growing, because the German government's power ploys are driving not only European crisis countries into impoverishment but are also threatening to critically damage the global economy."
When this union comes together under one central authority, the world will see the fulfillment of biblical prophecy—a revived Roman Empire and end-time king of the North.
And coming together at approximately the same time we will see the revived king of the South, a united Muslim power, possibly dominated by Egypt.
Then, as Daniel 11:40 states, "the king of the south will attack him" (or "push at him"—translations vary). The "him" is the king of the North. And the reaction of the king of the North is swift and decisive: "And the King of the North shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, horsemen and with many ships"—a major military force, in other words.
There is also a religious dimension. The caliphate, if restored, will be Islamic. And the king of the North will be allied with a revived and rejuvenated Roman Church.
It's worthy of note that most of the 10 nations mentioned above whose foreign ministers are pushing to form a single federal state have large Catholic majorities. We should also remember that the Church of Rome has been instrumental in past centuries in uniting Europe to confront a strong Islamic foe.
The events we are seeing now, in Europe as well as the Middle East and Africa, are leading up to the fulfillment of biblical prophecies recorded for us up to 2,600 years ago. Will we—will you—pay heed?