Daniel 11:21-35 is the longest prophecy in the Bible that describes a specific sequence of the events the antichrist will be responsible for. While the passage may seem daunting at first glance, once we understand that Daniel is plainly describing the actions of the antichrist, the passage is more easily understood. God gave Daniel this prophecy because He thought it was important for us to understand this sequence of events, so it is important for us to understand the general storyline.
The Rise of the Antichrist in the First Half of the Week
Daniel 11:21-35 Overview – Verse 21 begins to describe the rise of a “vile person” that persecutes Israel also known as the Antichrist. The verse tells us the Antichrist will not be given the honor of royalty, will come in peaceably, and will seize the kingdom by intrigue. Antiochus Ephinanes was a prototype of this person and therefore there are similarities between what he did and what the Antichrist will do. However, Antiochus did not fulfill all that Daniel prophesied in these verses. For example, Antiochus was always given the honor of royalty, in contrast to the Antichrist, and also seized the kingdom with force rather than peaceably as the Antichrist will do. Daniel 11:21-35 is one storyline that primarily describes the actions of the Antichrist against Jerusalem. This begins the longest, most detailed description of what the Antichrist will do.
Daniel 11:21 – This vile person is the antichrist. He does not have the honor of royalty and is not initially notable and recognizable as the beast he will become. He begins to take control of a 10-king kingdom peaceably and through intrigue as he rises from his beginning as a “little horn” (Daniel 2:41; 7:7, 20, 24; Revelation 17:12-13).
Daniel 11:22 – Verse 22 is a preview and summary of verse 31. It is summarizing what the Antichrist is about to do and what will be described in the verses following. This is the “flood” of Daniel 9:26. Daniel warns us he will break or destroy the “prince of the covenant” who is mostly likely the leader in Israel at this time that presides over the temple and possibly the government.
Daniel 11:23-24 – A league will be made with the Antichrist. This is a formal peace treaty which has a spiritual side because it forces the Antichrist to agree to Israel’s covenant with God by allowing Israel to operate the temple and the daily sacrifice. This is why Daniel 9:27 refers to this agreement as the Antichrist “confirming the covenant.” The Antichrist continues however to grow in strength through a small people by appearing to share wealth with them. This appears to be a time of peace and safety for Israel and the surrounding nations, but he is already devising plans to conquer. This is the time he is rising as a “little horn” among the 10 kings. Verse 23-31 is an unbroken succession of events.
Daniel 11:25-26 – The antichrist will be at war with an individual known as the King of the South. This individual is likely one of the 10 kings who form the kingdom the Antichrist ultimately controls because we are told the Antichrist will depose 3 of the original 10 kings (Daniel 7:8). Though Antiochus was at war with Egypt, this is probably not the king of Egypt because Daniel 11:40 and 42 show a difference between Egypt and the King of the South.
Daniel 11:27 – Both the Antichrist and the King of the South are deceptive, but their schemes are not successful because God is in control of the end-time events and there is an appointed time. Verse 28 gives us more insight into what these kings who are bent on evil have set their hearts against.
Daniel 11:28 – As the Antichrist returns to his land we see that his heart is moved in rage against the holy covenant. This is God’s covenant made with Israel and includes both Israel’s possession of the land and God’s unique purpose for the Jewish people.
Daniel 11:29-30 – Because his heart is in a rage against the covenant, the Antichrist makes an advance south towards Israel hoping for the kind of success he had against the King of the South in verse 25-26. The ships of Chittim come against him and help turn him back making his attack unsuccessful. Chittim was a term used to refer to a general area west of Israel in the Mediterranean. This is most likely European or western powers coming to Israel’s aid and helping turn the Antichrist back from his initial invasion of Israel. Because of the failure of this invasion, the Antichrist will increase in his rage against the holy covenant and begin looking for others who share his animosity towards Israel.
Daniel 11:31 – The Antichrist will continue to build strength for a second invasion of Israel. This is just before the beginning of the final 3 ½ years. This is the time Satan is cast from heaven in Revelation 12:7-12 and Revelation 13:2-4 reveals that this event causes a dramatic change in the person of the Antichrist. He is now fully controlled by Satan and has become the human manifestation of the beast (Daniel 7:7; Revelation 13:1; 17:10-12). As this person, he comes down against Israel again and the strength of Israel and her allies (i.e. the “ships of Chittim”) are unable to hold him back. He enters the temple, stops the sacrifices, and places the abomination there. This abomination will lead to his “desolation” both of the temple and of Jerusalem.
Daniel 11:32 – The Antichrist will corrupt and deceive those who hate God’s covenant with Israel, but Daniel also tells us there will be a people who know God. This is the victorious church and these individuals will have understanding of the end-time story, will be strong in the power of the Holy Spirit, and will carry out great exploits during this time. This is the time of the ultimate fulfillment of Jesus’ promise of greater works in the church. The fall of satan in Revelation 12 that empowered the Antichrist also brings the power of God on the church in an increased measure and Daniel is describing that here (Revelation 12:10-11).
Daniel 11:33-34 – Daniel again emphasizes that there will be a people who have understanding and will be able to lead and instruct others. These are believers who have understanding of the end-times from the study of Scripture and are prepared to serve others. Daniel also warns that this will be a difficult period of time – many believers will be imprisoned and killed because they remain faithful to Jesus as they instruct others, calling them to resist the Antichrist and turn to Jesus. Though many of these believers suffer under the Antichrist’s reign, they will receive help, but we are also warned that some will try to join them with negative motives.
Daniel 11:35 – Daniel again tells us that some of the believers who have understanding will end up being killed by the Antichrist kingdom. This pressure on the church will serve to refine and purify believers in this season of time, preparing them to have pure garments for the return of Jesus. We are given assurance that, though this will happen until the end of the Antichrist’s reign, it is for the appointed time. The Antichrist cannot go beyond what God has decreed.