Friday, February 10, 2017

Living Lives Of Purpose: Lessons From The Book Of Daniel, Day 34. Daniel's Revelation, Part Five

Living Lives Of Purpose:
Lessons From The Book Of Daniel
Day 34
Daniel's Revelation
Part Five

Many details of kings and kingdoms are given to Daniel by the angel. He faithfully wrote these revelations down, although from his place on the timeline of this world he couldn't possibly have fully understood them. But he knew that future generations would understand them as they came to pass, and those future generations would know that God's word can be trusted. The study of these prophecies and their fulfillment is very important for us in our own times; we can look back and see that the revelations given to Daniel have come true exactly as God said they would. If the events of history have happened just as God said they would, then the parts that remain to be fulfilled will happen just as God said they would. His word can be trusted. 

When we concluded yesterday we found Antiochus III murdered while looting a temple of Baal. His son Seleucus IV Philopater succeeded him. The Seleucid kingdom had been defeated quite soundly by Rome and was forced to give up territories it had recently annexed in Europe and Asia Minor. Seleucus IV inherited a bankrupt nation. The cost of his father's many wars brought about a recession, plus now he owed a huge war indemnity to Rome. We find him fulfilling the prophecy given in Daniel 11:20a. Seleucus IV is the one known as "his successor", (the successor of Antiochus III), in this verse, "His successor will send out a tax collector to maintain the royal splendor." Seleucus tasked his minister Heliodorus with the job of collecting taxes throughout the nation and the territories it still held, such as Judah. He even instructed Heliodorus to seize the temple treasury at Jerusalem.

"In a few years, however, he will be destroyed, yet not in anger or in battle." (Daniel 11:20b) It is believed by many Bible scholars and historians that Heliodorus assassinated Seleucus IV. Suddenly, upon his return from collecting taxes, Heliodorus declares himself king and Seleucus IV is dead, so it stands to reason that either Heliodorus or persons in conspiracy with him assassinated the king. 

The true heir of Seleucus IV, his son Demetrius, is not in the country to claim the throne but is a hostage in Rome. Previously Antiochus III was forced to send hostages to Rome to ensure he would pay the war indemnity. One of the hostages was the son of Antiochus III, known at the time as Mithradates. However, after Seleucus IV became king he exchanged his son Demetrius for his brother Mithradates. I have not been able to find out why the switch was made. Rome may have insisted that the new king do this because they may have felt holding the king's son would have more impact on him than holding his brother. There was also the opinion that Seleucus IV displayed his antagonism against Rome by arranging for his daughter to marry a Macedonian king who was in opposition to Rome. The Roman government may have felt uneasy about the loyalty of Seleucus IV and demanded he send his son as hostage. So now we find Seleucus IV dead with his eldest son and heir not in a position to oppose Heliodorus. Seleucus had a very young son (named Antiochus) but he was not considered fit to rule due to his age. Being so young, there was nothing he could do about taking the throne from Heliodorus.

But someone is in the country who is able to do something about the usurper on the throne, and his name is Mithradates. This brother of the dead king, with the help of his supporters, has Heliodorus ousted and takes the throne for himself. Mithradates assumes both the throne and the name of his father, becoming Antiochus IV. He then adds "Ephiphanes" to his name, declaring himself to be "God manifest", in other words: "Zeus in the flesh". The angel told Daniel that Seleucus IV would be succeeded by a man not worthy to wear the crown, "He will be succeeded by a contemptible person who has not been given the honor of royalty." (Daniel 11:21a) Antiochus IV was not in line for the throne. The right thing for him to have done was either try to arrange the return of Demetrius from Rome or to name himself as co-regent with the young son of Seleucus until the child was old enough to rule on his own. He does neither. The crown is within his grasp. This man whom no one in Syria would have ever pictured as king becomes king, exactly as God's word said he would.

Antiochus IV did not gain the crown either through inheritance or battle but by flattering Rome and her allies. He sent ambassadors to them, seeking their favor and friendship, so that they would not threaten his rule. He immediately continued paying back the tribute Syria owed to Rome, assuring Rome he would keep his part of the bargain. "He will invade the kingdom when its people feel secure, and he will seize it through intrigue." (Daniel 11:21b) His "invasion" of the kingdom was accomplished smoothly and politically. One of his officials murdered the young son of Seleucus IV and Antiochus in turn had the official executed, although historians suspect Antiochus himself had ordered the death of the child to prevent him ever laying claim to the throne. I think it's highly likely that he orchestrated the death of the young child so he could reign unopposed. It would have been necessary that he then pass a death sentence on the assassin, both to shut him up and to give the appearance of having had nothing to do with the assassination.

Antiochus IV Epiphanes will become one of the most wicked kings of the ancient world, persecuting the Jews without mercy, defiling their temple and slaughtering tens of thousands. He is the "little Antichrist" of the Old Testament, the forerunner of the one who is to come in the last days. We study the fulfillment of the prophecies in Daniel and know that all have come true except those that remain for the end times. The test of a prophet was that he could predict events both in the near future and in the far future. If the predictions for the near future came true, then the predictions for the far future were considered trustworthy. The prophecies in the book of Daniel have been fulfilled except those that involve the last days and the time of the Great Tribulation. We can be certain that events will unfold exactly as God said they would.

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