Saturday, February 11, 2017

Living Lives Of Purpose: Lessons From The Book Of Daniel, Day 35. Daniel's Revelation, Part Six

Living Lives Of Purpose:
Lessons From The Book Of Daniel
Day 35
Daniel's Revelation
Part Six

Today we find Mithradates, now Antiochus IV Ephiphanes, reigning as king of Syria. He gained the crown not by right, but by intrigue. In today's study he begins to become one of the worst enemies the Jews have ever had.

"Then an overwhelming army will be swept away before him; both it and a prince of the covenant will be destroyed." (Daniel 11:22) Egypt had taken advantage of the situation that ensued in Syria after the assassination of Seleucus IV, during which time the murderer claimed the throne and then was ousted by Mithridates, who declared himself King Antiochus IV. While Syria was distracted by these national matters, Egypt laid claim to territories Antiochus III had conquered: Coele-Syria, Palestine, and Phoenicia. Egypt then prepared to invade these territories in person and perhaps even attack the Syrian capital and its king. Antiochus IV, a military man who had been a top general in his father's army, made a preemptive strike against Egypt by launching an invasion into that country. An infant king, Ptolemy VI Philomenter, was head of Egypt at the time, and his guardians amassed forces to meet the Syrian invasion. Antiochus IV defeated the army of Egypt between Pelusium and Mount Kasion. He took control of Pelusium and all of Egypt with the exception of Alexandria. This fulfills the prediction of the angel who said "an overwhelming army will be swept away before him". 

There is some disagreement among scholars about the identity of the "prince of the covenant" in verse 22. Some think it refers to the young Ptolemy VI, over whom Antiochus IV now reigned as his guardian. Antiochus IV left the boy-king on the throne as a figurehead but Antiochus himself was the power behind the throne. Other scholars feel the "prince of the covenant" is connected with Antiochus' dealings with the Jews. The only covenant we find in the Old Testament has to do with the one between the Lord and Israel, so I'm inclined to take the word of those who believe this refers to the assassination of the high priest Onias, which was carried out during the reign of Antiochus IV. It seems logical that the high priest who stood before God and ministered to the people would be considered a prince of the covenant. 

Seleucus IV, the brother of Antiochus IV, had enjoyed a good relationship with the Jews and allowed them their religious freedom. He even exempted the temple from certain types of taxation until near the end of his reign. But Seleucus inherited a nearly bankrupt nation because of his father's wars and the heavy tribute Syria owed to Rome. An enemy of Onias, a man named Simon who was the guardian of the temple, let it be known that the temple treasuries contained huge sums of money. It was at this time that Seleucus IV sent his minister Heliodorus (the one who would later assassinate him) to take the money. Little is known about this situation except through the apocryphal book of 2 Maccabees. But it would appear that Simon the Benjamite, the guardian of the temple, wanted the nation to assimilate into the Greek culture which had conquered them. He began to assassinate various officials of the land and Onias, who was a very devout and faithful high priest, opposed him. Onias intended to go speak to Seleucus IV in person and ask for help, but before he could carry out this plan Seleucus was murdered. 

Antiochus IV, who wanted to make all his territories as Greek as possible, sided with those at Jerusalem who opposed Onias and the Jewish culture. Antiochus IV offered the priesthood to Onias' brother Jason (who was an ally of the Greeks) for the price of 440 talents of silver. Jason did not go in person to agree to these terms but sent Menelaus, the brother of Simon the Benjamite, to take care of the matter for him. Menelaus betrayed him and asked the priesthood for himself by offering to pay the king 740 talents of silver. Menelaus apparently reneged on this bargain while Antiochus was occupied in quelling a revolt in the territories of Tarsus and Mallus. Called to account for this by a nobleman named Andronicus, Menelaus robbed the temple at Jerusalem of several gold vessels and presented them to Andronicus for payment to the king. Onias hotly condemned this action in public, causing him to have to flee for his life to Ptolemy VI in Egypt, where he resided in a sanctuary near Antioch. Learning of his location, Menelaus and Andronicus were able to lure him out into the garden with promises of peace, but they murdered him instead.

A substitute priest under Menelaus will end up robbing the temple of even more vessels, incurring the wrath of the people, and eventually a rebellion will arise with the Jewish people wanting their own man, Jason the brother of Onias, installed as high priest. Antiochus IV is not going to stand for any type of revolt. But before this happens, in tomorrow's study we find Antiochus IV keeping himself busy with what this "little Antichrist" of the Old Testament does best: engaging in deceit and betrayal. But today we don't want to miss the parallel between the intrigue with which he took the throne and the intrigue with which the Antichrist of Revelation will take the throne. The Antichrist is depicted in Revelation 6:2 as the rider on the white horse, "Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest." This rider holds a bow but no arrows, suggesting he gains the crown not by right or by battle but through intrigue, just as Antiochus IV did. We find the same prideful spirit at work in the little Antichrist and the true Antichrist, the spirit that seeks to exalt itself above God, that demands to be worshiped as God. The one whom Christ called "the father of lies" in John 8:44 used Antiochus IV. He will use the wicked man of the end times. This is what Satan does best: deceive and betray. After Satan entices a person to do his dark bidding, he betrays. He abandons. There is no reward or glory for following the father of lies into sin. Antiochus IV will die while facing certain defeat under the iron boot of Rome. The Antichrist will be thrown into the lake of fire where his master, Satan, will soon join him. The only reward promised in the Scriptures is to those who give our allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ, who loved us so much He died for us, who bestows upon us a crown that endures forever. This is the only reward worth living for. It's the only reward worth dying for, if we are called to do so. As the Apostle Paul stated, "To live is Christ and to die is gain." (Philippians 1:21) While we live, we who follow Christ are living lives of purpose because we live for the Lord. When we die, we who have trusted in Christ go to be with the Lord. No one else makes such an offer to us. No one else can deliver on such a promise as this. 

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