Antiochus Epiphanes

A Type of The Coming Antichrist

Daniel E. Woodhead Ph.D.

Introduction

The Bible gives a prophecy about the development of a world empire out of which a man called Antiochus Epiphanes would emerge. In this clear example of Bible typology God is giving us an example of the coming Antichrist and what he will do in the middle of the Great Tribulation. He along with the False Prophet who will be the leader of all the heretical pagan world’s religions will place an image of the Antichrist in the rebuild Jewish Temple. Because of the Antiochus typology we assume it will be placed in the Holy of Holies where it will come alive. The Abomination of Desolation was prophesied by The Lord Jesus (Matthew 24:15) and will be carried out by the Antichrist and the False Prophet (Revelation 13:14-15). Jesus wants His children to realize what is coming. We have the example of The Lord Jesus telling His inner circle; Peter, James John and Andrew of future end time world events in His Olivet Discourse. He said to them, “Take heed that no man deceive you” (Matthew 24:4). Jesus also wants to strengthen our belief by telling us events long before they occur.

John 14:29

And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe (KJV).

Alexander’s Generals

We see the prophecy of the vision of the coming Hellenistic empire (also called the Greek Empire) from Daniel 7:6 where this empire is described as one beast that is leopard-like with four wings and four heads. With leopard-like swiftness, Alexander the Great conquered the Medo-Persian Empire and greatly extended the Hellenistic Empire. In 323 B.C. Alexander dies, and when asked who should succeed him, he says to leave his empire to “the strong.” The empire is split into four kingdoms. The four wings represent the four kingdoms rising out of Alexander’s Empire and the four heads represent the four generals who took control of the four kingdoms, and who would fight with each other continually over these territories. The generals and their areas were:

  • Ptolemy, who ruled over Egypt, Israel and Arabia Petrea
  • Seleucus, who ruled over Syria, Babylonia, and as Far East as India
  • Cassander, who ruled over Macedonia and Greece
  • Lysimachus, who ruled over Thrace and Bithinia

Here is a map showing the divisions in 301 B.C.:

Untitled

Retrieved March 28, 2013 from http://etc.usf.edu/maps/pages/6800/6811/6811.htm

Notice the position of Israel is in between the areas claimed by Ptolemy and Selucis, and would be a an area of constant turmoil as these two powers fought with each other. The successors of Seleucus and Ptolemy are all prophesied in Daniel 10 and 11. Out of the Seleucid line came the leader, Antiochus Epiphanes, who eventually exerted control over the Holy Land and imposed extreme persecutions to the Jews as described in Daniel chapter 8. Here is the line of succession that preceded Antiochus Epiphanes:

323 B.C.                                Alexander dies. He says to leave his empire to “the strong.”

312-280 B.C.                        Seleucus I Nicator succeeds as ruler over the Israel region.

280-261 B.C.                        Antiochus II Soter assumes leadership over Israel.

261-246 B.C.                        Antiochus II Theos replaces Soter.

246-226 B.C.                        Seleucis II Callinicus assumes control.

226-223 B.C.                        Seleucis III Keroneos rises.

222-187 B.C.                        Antiochus III The Great took control.

187-175 B.C.              Seleucis IV Philopator plundered the Temple and raised taxes to the Jews.

175-164 B.C.              Antiochus IV Epiphanes is the brother of Philopator and he begins a very severe persecution of the Jews, which causes a revolt led by the Maccabeans, and creates a turning back to God by the Jews for a short while.

Antiochus Epiphanes

Epiphanes’ name means “God made manifest.” Epiphanes sought to force Greek culture and manners on the Jews. In imposing Hellenism, Epiphanies was following the intentions of Alexander whose dream was to create an empire, not by the sword but by culture. Because of this Hellenization, the region was speaking Greek by the time of Christ and the New Testament, which was written in Koine Greek and spread quickly because so many people throughout the empire knew Greek.

Bust of Antiochus Epiphanies IV from Altes Museum in Berlin

Bust of Antiochus Epiphanes IV from Altes Museum in Berlin

This Hellenization had a measure of success among the un-biblical, or Hellenized portion of the Jewish priesthood, but there was a core of devout priests and people who refused to abandon the faith of their forefathers. God always leaves remnant that are faithful to Him. Epiphanies tried to put an end to the Jewish religious community through the introduction of Hellenistic cults, and persecuted those who would not bend to his demands (170-164 B.C.). For example, he entered the Holy of Holies and desecrated the sanctuary by offering pigs upon the altar of burnt offerings. He polluted the whole building by sprinkling it with water in which pig flesh had been boiled. He dedicated the Temple itself to Jupiter Olympus. Finally, he erected the statue of that deity and plundered the temple treasures. Severe punitive measures merely brought the matter to a head. For example, “According to the decree, they put to death the women who had their children circumcised, and their families and those who circumcised them; and they hung the infants from their mothers’ necks”
(I Maccabees 1:60, 61, RSV). These events were the cause of the Maccabean struggle and a revolt followed. [1] As a result of the persecution many Jews hung on to God and His commandments, and many in Israel stood firm and did not bend to pagan rituals being forced upon them. Another example was staying resolved in their hearts not to eat unclean food. “But many in Israel stood firm and were resolved in their hearts not to eat unclean food. They chose to die rather than to be defiled by food or to profane the holy covenant; and they did die. And very great wrath came upon Israel” (I Maccabees 1:62-64). Epiphanes enacted a law requiring all citizens to present themselves four times a year to pay formal homage to Antiochus Epiphanies as the senior god of the Seleucids. The day chosen for these periodic submissions was Shabbat, the Jewish day of prayer when Jews preferred not to leave their homes. Epiphanes  was met by a revolt, called the Maccabean Revolt (167-160 B.C.), in which the Jews set up a small state in which the high priest was the central figure and this gained the Jews their independence for a short while. God let the Jews get themselves out of the trouble they brought upon themselves.

It is important to realize that even though God uses evil people to carry out His will, He punishes them for their wickedness.  Here are two accounts of Antiochus’ death, from I and II Maccabees.

Now, when the king heard these words [about the defeat of his armies by Judas Maccabeus] he was astonished and sore moved; whereupon he laid him down upon his bed, and fell sick for grief, because it had not befallen him as he looked for. And there he continued many days: for his grief was ever more and more, and he made account that he should die. Wherefore, he called for all his friends and said unto them: “The sleep is gone from mine eyes, and my heart faileth for very care. And I thought with myself into what tribulations am I come, and how great a flood of misery it is, wherein now I am! for I was bountiful and beloved in my power. But now I remember the evils that I did at Jerusalem, and that I took all the vessels of gold and silver that were therein, and sent to destroy the inhabitants of Judea without cause. I perceive, therefore, that these troubles have come upon me, and behold I perish through great grief in a strange land.” Then called he for Philip, one of his friends, whom he made ruler over all his realm, and gave him the crown, and his robe, and his signet, to the end he should bring up his son Antiochus, and nourish him up for the kingdom. (1 Maccabees 6:8-15)

But the Lord, the God of Israel, that seeth all things, struck him with an incurable and an invisible plague. For as soon as he had ended these words, a dreadful pain in his bowels came upon him, and bitter torments of the inner parts.  And indeed very justly, seeing he had tormented the bowels of others with many and new torments, albeit he by no means ceased from his malice.  Moreover, being filled with pride, breathing out fire in his rage against the Jews, and commanding the matter to be hastened, it happened as he was going with violence, that he fell from the chariot, so that his limbs were much pained by a grievous bruising of the body.  Thus he that seemed to himself to command even the waves of the sea, being proud above the condition of man, and to weigh the heights of the mountains in a balance, now being cast down to the ground, was carried in a litter, bearing witness to the manifest power of God in himself:  So that worms swarmed out of the body of this man, and whilst he lived in sorrow and pain, his flesh fell off, and the filthiness of his smell was noisome to the army.  And the man that thought a little before he could reach to the stars of heaven, no man could endure to carry, for the intolerable stench. And by this means, being brought from his great pride, he began to come to the knowledge of himself, being admonished by the scourge of God, his pains increasing every moment.  And when he himself could not now abide his own stench, he spoke thus: It is just to be subject to God, and that a mortal man should not equal himself to God.  Then this wicked man prayed to the Lord. (II Maccabees 5-13)

Antiochus Epiphanes died in 164 B.C.

Death of Antiochus Epiphanies IV by Ambrose Thomas 1834

Death of Antiochus Epiphanes IV by Ambrose Thomas 1834

 

This prophecy of Daniel 8:23-25 goes beyond what was historically fulfilled in Antiochus to foreshadow the Antichrist in the “Latter Days.” Antiochus is used as a type or model of the future coming world leader.

Daniel 8:23-25

23And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up. 24And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power; and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper and do his pleasure; and he shall destroy the mighty ones and the holy people. 25And through his policy he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and in their security shall he destroy many: he shall also stand up against the prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand (ASV).

 What he did was a type or model of what the future Antichrist will do in the rebuilt Jewish Temple. This is called the Abomination of Desolation.

Daniel E. Woodhead


[1] Josephus, Flavius. The Works of Josephus Translated by William Whiston. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1987, 323.