Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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When Life Doesn’t Make Sense (Daniel 11)

Dannah Gresh: When you scroll the news, does it seem like conflict will never end? Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth explains why.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: There’s nothing new about the rise and fall of evil kings and kingdoms throughout history. This is always going to be the case until King Jesus comes to establish his kingdom here on earth.

Dannah: This is the Revive Our Hearts podcast with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of The First Songs of Christmas, for October 13, 2021. I’m Dannah Gresh.

Nancy has been leading us through a study of the book of Daniel. And this hasn’t just been an academic exercise! At some point, life may not make sense . . . and you may need to cling to these truths. Nancy is about to explain, continuing in the series "Heaven Rules." 

Nancy: A couple of weeks ago I received an email from a dear friend whose name is Colleen Chao. Colleen has been battling cancer for the past few years, and recently she learned that the cancer is back in full force with a vengeance. It’s stage 4—in her lymph nodes, her spine, her ribs, her hip, and she and her husband and their pre-teen child are reeling from the news.

She sent an email out so that we would know how we could pray for her. She said, “I think maybe I can make some sense of our processing and what is unfolding for us, if I begin with an account from the book of Daniel chapters 8–10.”

That’s the passage we’ve been looking at over the past few days. Before we move on to Daniel chapter 11 today, I want to share with you some excerpts of what Colleen wrote. She said, 

Daniel was without equal in his faith, knowledge, and wisdom. He was a man of unparalleled courage, integrity, and prayer. In a vision, God revealed to Daniel that seventy years of horrific desolation were in store for his people. In response, Daniel prayed, "Ah, Lord—the great and awe-inspiring God who keeps his gracious covenant with those who love him and keep his commands— . . . God, hear the prayer and the petitions of your servant. . . . Listen closely, my God, and hear. . . . For we are not presenting our petitions before you based on our righteous acts, but based on your abundant compassion." That comes from Daniel chapter 9:4, 17–18.

Colleen went on to say that, 

Daniel knew God so intimately, trusted Him so implicitly, that when confronted with a devastating reality, which he knew came from God’s hand, he immediately banked his prayers on God’s compassion and grace and faithfulness. 

But he also suffered deeply from the knowledge of what was to come. Look at how his heart and body reacted to the news. 

Then she has several phrases taken from several chapters in Daniel. Phrases like these:

  • “I was overcome and lay sick for days.” (8:27)
  • “I was greatly disturbed.” (7:15)
  • “No strength was left in me.” (10:8)
  • “My face grew deathly pale, and I was powerless.” (10:8)
  • “Anguish overwhelms me, and I am powerless.” (10:16)
  • “I have no strength, and there is no breath in me.” (10:17)

Daniel said all of those things. And Colleen said, 

I’m so grateful that a mighty man of God like Daniel was wholly human, wrecked by bad news, even while fully convinced of God’s abundant compassion. A friend encouraged me early on to be okay with the consuming pain and grief, to be gentle with myself in the sleepless nights and the constant tears and the physical stress of it all. This was the word I most needed at that point, and it’s what I see Daniel modeling for me: it’s okay to be wrecked. 

Not in an ultimate sense, but in an immediate human sense. It’s okay to be wrecked by news of ensuing death and destruction. She said, 

So our family has taken a walk in Daniel’s shoes this past month. We’ve cried out in grief. We’ve banked on God’s compassion and faithfulness. We’ve felt overcome, physically sick, and emotionally weary beyond anything we’ve ever known. We’ve also keenly sensed that we are treasured by God even in the midst of the grief.

At the end of Daniel chapter 10, Daniel says, 

Then the one with a human appearance touched me and strengthened me. He said, ‘Don’t be afraid, you who are treasured by God. Peace to you; be very strong!” (10:18–19)

She closed by saying, 

God may entrust me and you with devastating news, but when we are treasured by God, we have all of His infinite resources at our fingertips. Peace is ours even as we quake. Strength is ours even in great weakness.

Now, as I read that I thought, I’ve got to share that with our friends who have been listening to Daniel, because this is a real-life illustration of why all this matters and what it means to us. There’s somebody listening to this today who just got their cancer diagnosis or some other piece of horrendous wrecking news. Your life is going to be changed forever because of something that’s just happened . . . or something that’s about to happen or something you’ve been dealing with chronically for years. 

And to see from Daniel’s life, it’s okay to feel it deeply in our humanness, but also in the midst of the pain and the perplexities, we are treasured by God. To know that He offers peace and gives us strength. 

So oh Lord, even before we move into chapter 11, I just want to pray for a sister, perhaps a brother, who’s listening right now and who just needed that word from Colleen. It wasn’t just for her; it’s for others. It’s Your Word. So Lord, would You give grace and peace and strength and assure us of Your compassion and Your faithfulness and Your kindness and mercy, even in the midst of those very hard places. 

Now, as we look into one of the most difficult chapters in the whole Bible, it must be, I pray, that You’d give us understanding. Ears to hear and hearts to receive what this means for the Church and for us today. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen. 

Okay, let me reset just a minute. Chapters 10–12 form a unit in the book of Daniel. I hope you’ve been reading through the book of Daniel, but when you get to chapter 11, read it in the context of chapters 10–12. The year is about 539 B.C. Daniel is now in his late 80s, and this is the last of four prophetic visions given to Daniel in the second half of the book. 

There’s a lengthy segment, beginning in chapter 10, verse 20 all the way through chapter 11, which is a long chapter, and then through the first four verses of chapter 12. That whole segment is an angel, we think it may be Gabriel, who is speaking to Daniel. So everything we’re going to look at today, it’s the angel speaking to Daniel.

Now, at the very end of Daniel chapter 10, where we left off last time, verse 21, this angel said, “I will tell you what is recorded in the book of truth.” And then we get to chapter 11. In verse 2 this same angel says, “Now I will tell you the truth.”

So, he has set this up: “What I’m about to tell you is something that God has recorded in His book of truth.” He has recorded it for us. It is true. So chapter 11 today and chapter 12 tomorrow, this is the explanation, the message that God gave to the angel to give to Daniel. This is the truth.

Now, chapter 11 of Daniel is a long complex narrative. If you took time to read it before this session, and I hope you did, you probably wondered, What in the world is this all about and does it really matter? This chapter describes centuries of conflicts between world powers that seem irrelevant to us. We’ve never even heard of a lot of the people that are going to be talked about in this chapter.

I’m not going to attempt to unpack all of the details in the time we have today, but I do want us to get a sense of the big picture. This chapter includes scores of amazingly specific prophecies so much so that there are commentators over the years who have felt that there’s no way Daniel could have written this, that somebody must have written it after all these things happened. 

But we do know that Daniel did write it. God gave him these amazingly specific prophecies that are predictions of actual historical events, hundreds of years before they took place. Now, I could prophesize things that are going to take place in a hundred years, but not with 100% accuracy. But Daniel did under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit with 100% accuracy.

This chapter details the rise and fall of evil powerful kings and kingdoms. It feels repetitive, because it is. There’s a pattern in this chapter. You’ll see describing these hundreds of years of history, a part that has continued throughout all of human history. So what was taking place in those years is still taking place in various ways in our world today. 

We also see in this chapter that these nations and kingdoms we’re going to be reading about, they oppose and persecute God’s people. This chapter describes a time of great tribulation for the nation of Israel. It’s important to remember as we dive into this that all these details regarding the rise and the fall of Gentile world powers were known and decreed by the God of Heaven . . . before they ever happened.

These kings, these nations were carrying out God’s decreed will. And so it is today in our world. The future is fully known to God as if it had already happened. Here’s what I love, it’s all under His control. I want you to remember that when you feel uncertain about the future. Your future, your family’s future, your kids’ future, your husband’s future, his health, the future of our world, the future of nations, remember that when you watch the news and you’re tempted to stress over the outcome of various world events. Remember, Heaven rules.

Now, there are four sections in chapter 11. The first section is verses 2–4, which are some prophecies about the Persian and Greek empires, leading to Alexander the Great. He became king in 336 B.C., 200 years after this prophecy. 

Verse 3 says, 

Then a warrior king will arise; he will rule a vast realm and do whatever he wants. [This is Alexander.] But as soon as he is established, his kingdom will be broken up and divided to the four winds of heaven, but not to his descendants . . . his kingdom will be uprooted and will go to others besides them.

Now, we know that after Alexander’s death in 323 B.C., the Greek Empire was divided between four of his generals. And the rest of Daniel’s prophecy, chapters 11 and 12, tracks two of those four dynasties. They are the kings of the North, you’ll read this over and over again in chapter 11. The kings of the North were the rulers of Syria, the were known as the Seleucids. There are the kings of the South. These were the rulers of Egypt, and they’re known as the Ptolemies.

So verses 2–4 are predictions about the Persian and Greek empires. Then verses 5–20 predict nearly 200 years of chronic wars between the kings of the North and the kings of the South. Now north and south in relation to what? In relation to Israel. The kings of the North and the kings of the South. Throughout this chapter here’s what you see over and over again, one would gain the upper hand, and then the defeated power would rise up and become victorious. It goes back and forth between the kings of North and the kings of the South throughout this whole chapter. 

Occasionally, the two powers would make a treaty. Sometimes they would forge an alliance by arranging a royal marriage, but the alliances never lasted. There were occasional times of peace, but they were few and far between, and they never lasted long. 

Now remember, Israel was situated between these two warring powers. So, Israel often got caught in the crossfire. Basically, whoever was in control, whoever was in power controlled the Holy Land. So that’s verses 5–20, 200 years of wars between the kings of the North and the kings of the South. 

Now, verses 21–35, there’s the rise of a new Seleucid king in the North, fasten your seatbelt, Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Now, if you’ve been following this series, you’ve heard his name before. In chapter 8 he is the little horn in Daniel’s dream. We talked about him at some length when we were in chapter 8. 

Antiochus ruled from 175 B.C. until his death in 164 B.C. Let me read just some excerpts, some phrases from this section that’s about this man. It says in verse 21, “In his place a despised person will arise.” Now my translation, the Christian Standard Bible says “despised.” The ESV says “contemptible person,” another translation says a “despicable person,” and another translation says “a vile person.” Here’s what I take from that. I’m no Hebrew scholar, but I can tell you, he was not a nice person. 

[This despised person] will arise . . . [he will] seize the kingdom . . . A flood of forces will be swept away before him . . . he will act deceitfully . . . he will make plans against fortified cities . . . With a large army he will stir up his power . . . against the king of the South. The king of the South will prepare for battle with an extremely large and powerful army, but he will not succeed. . . . his army will be swept away, and many will fall slain.” (vv. 21–26) 

Now, in verses 28 and following, this vile, despicable, contemptible man, Antiochus Epiphanes, will set himself against the people of God. He will do great damage to their Holy City, Jerusalem. And we know from history in 167 B.C. that Antiochus Epiphanes ransacked the Temple in Jerusalem. 

  • He stole approximately 1 billion dollars’ worth of goods and articles in today’s value. 
  • 80,000 Jews were killed. 
  • 40,000 Jews were taken as prisoners.
  • 40,000 were sold as slaves when he went in and ransacked Jerusalem. 

Verse 28 says, “His heart will be set against the holy covenant; he will take action.” Now remember those two words he will “take action.” Then verse 30, 

He will rage against the holy covenant and take action. . . . he will favor those who abandon the holy covenant. His forces will rise up and desecrate the temple fortress. They will abolish the regular sacrifice and set up the abomination of desolation. With flattery he will corrupt those who act wickedly toward the covenant, but the people who know their God will be strong [Your translation may say they will "stand firm" or they will "display strength." And what will they do? They will] take action. (vv. 30–32) 

Okay, just a few observations about this passage. First of all, this is the first of just two references to God in this very long, complex chapter. The other one comes in verse 36. So as far as we can see, as far as humanity and earth are concerned, God has been unseen, unrecognized, and unnoticed. But this passage makes it clear that God is not absent. He is behind all that is going on. We’ve got to remember that when it doesn’t seem like God is there or doing anything. 

And then we see in this passage I just read that God’s people fell into two categories. First, there were those Jews who were persuaded by Antiochus to compromise their faith. They abandoned their covenant. They broke their covenant with God, and they assimilated into the Greek culture, which is exactly what he wanted them to do.

But there were other Jews who are called “the people who knew their God.” Now, down later in this passage they will be called “those who have insight.” These Jews were faithful to God’s covenant. They stood firm. They would be persecuted. They would suffer greatly, but they were willing to die for their faith in God.

We have the same two categories today. As we see how people, even professing believers, respond to pressures in our culture, pressures in their lives. There are those who fall apart, and they compromise. They assimilate into the culture, which is exactly what the enemy wants us to do. And there are those who know their God, and who stand firm. They display strength. 

I mentioned that little phrase “take action” three times in these verses. We see in those verses that the anti-God forces of evil take action. They’re always at work; they’re always taking action. But the people of God are not paralyzed; they are not helpless. The people who know their God also take action. They’re not helpless. 

Look at verse 33, “Those who have insight . . .” these are the ones who stay true to God’s covenant. 

Those who have insight among the people [true believers] will give understanding to many, yet they will fall [they will die] by the sword and flame, [These godly people, these true believers,] will be captured and plundered for a time.

The angel is talking to Daniel about the fact that the Jewish people, Daniel’s Jewish people, are going to suffer greatly under Antiochus. And we will see that foreshadows suffering at the end of time. 

This suffering of the Jewish people anticipates the suffering of believers in the New Testament Church. We’re reminded that godly people, those who know their God, those who have insight, they are not immune or exempt from suffering. 

The apostle Peter said, “Don’t be surprised when you’re persecuted” when you suffer. We’re reminded in Daniel and Peter and other apostles remind us, New Testament writers remind us, “it's only for a time.” The suffering is not forever. 

Some of those who have insight will fall [they will die] so that they may be refined, purified, and cleansed until the time of the end, for it will still come at the appointed time. (v. 35)

That verse says to me a couple of things: first of all, our trials are purposeful. Some will fall, some will die. They will be persecuted, so that . . . That’s a purpose word, why? There’s a reason. God uses these trials to purify and refine His people. 

Haven’t you experienced that when you look back on the hard things in your life? God uses the trials to refine you, to purify you, to cleanse your heart. And then we see that God controls the duration of the trial. It will come to an end. There will be those who are true believers who will fall, they will die. They will be refined and purified until the time of the end. Persecution will not last forever. Suffering will not last forever.

The persecution being described here under Antiochus Epiphanes ended in 164 B.C. when he died. That was something when Daniel was prophesying nobody could have imagined, but it did. Persecution is limited in its extent and in its duration by God’s decree. 

I love that quote of Warren Wiersbe. I've said it many times over the years. “When God permits His children to go through the furnace,” we’ve seen God’s children going through a furnace in the book of Daniel, right? “When God permits His children to go through the furnace, He keeps His eye on the clock and His hand on the thermostat.” God controls it. 

First Peter 5:10 says it this way, 

The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, strengthen, and support you after you have suffered a little while. 

Now, that “little while” can be years. You say, “It doesn’t seem like a little while to me. It doesn’t seem like a little while from earth's perspective, does it? But in the context of eternity, if it’s our whole earthly life, it’s still a little while. 

Now in verses 36 and following, there’s a shift in the passage. The prophecies to this point in chapter 11 were fulfilled more than 2,000 years ago, by the Ptolemies and Seleucids. The focus in that passage was Antiochus Epiphanes. Now, as we’ve looked at chapter 8 and chapter 11, you might wonder why there is so much emphasis in Daniel on this vile, violent ruler that most of us have never heard of before. 

Well, he’s an important character in the plot of the story that God is writing in human history. Because Antiochus Epiphanes, this vile, despicable man, foreshadows another even more vile ruler who is yet to come. Antichrist is a final powerful dictator who will seek to control and dominate the world during the Great Tribulation. So, the rest of this chapter looks ahead to the last days and these prophecies are yet to fulfilled. 

In verses 36–45 we read about this Antichrist: 

The king [Antichrist] will do whatever he wants. He will exalt and magnify himself above every god, and he will say outrageous things against the God of gods. . . . he will honor a god of fortresses—a god his ancestors did not know—with gold, silver, precious stones, and riches.

The Antichrist will be an arrogant man. People will trust in his great wealth and his military force. You can read more about him in 2 Thessalonians chapter 2, where he’s called the “man of lawlessness” the “man doomed to destruction.” He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he sits in God’s temple, proclaiming that he himself is God.

Now, we read in Daniel 11 that the kings of the earth, North and South, will join forces to fight against this powerful leader. Look at verse 40 of Daniel 11:

At the time of the end, the king of the South will engage him in battle, but the king of the North will storm against him with chariots, horsemen, and many ships. He will invade countries and sweep through them like a flood. He will also invade the beautiful land [that’s Israel] and many will fall . . . but he will meet his end with no one to help him. (vv 40–41, 45) 

You see, there’s nothing new about the rise and fall of evil kings and kingdoms throughout history. This is always going to be the case until King Jesus comes to establish His kingdom here on earth. And in the meantime, there’s going to be unrest and conflict and distress. We’ll see that described in Daniel chapter 12. But those who know their God will not give way to fear. They will be strong and take action. They will have insight. There are times when they’ll be overcome by their enemies, with God’s permission. But God will use even that suffering to purify and refine His people. 

So these prophecies in chapter 11 were intended to give encouragement to the Jews—God’s covenant people who would be overrun by Gentile powers for a time. This passage also gives hope to the people of God in every era who are oppressed and persecuted by God’s enemies. God says to us what He said to Daniel, “Don’t be afraid, you who are treasured by God. Peace to you; be very strong!”

As believers, a lot of times we don’t feel strong. We feel weak, small, and helpless. We see the tidal wave of evil rushing in this world and against God and against His people. We need to remember that no earthly king, no matter how powerful, will endure forever.

At the appointed time, that’s what Daniel keeps saying, “at the appointed time.” Who appointed it? God appointed it. He’s got His eye on the clock; He’s got His hand on the thermostat. At the appointed time when Christ returns, all of the adversaries will meet their end and no one will be able to help them . . . and Jesus will reign and rule forever.

God is the sovereign ruler over all of human history. He cares for His people, and He intends to bring blessing to the world through us. Sometimes it’s really hard to see how that could possibly happen, but God has given us this vision to reassure our hearts and to encourage us to be faithful to trust His heart, to trust His plan, no matter how grim or hopeless the outcome may seem. And this vision reminds us that heaven really does rule. 

Dannah: If you get caught up in all the news, what everyone is posting and saying, the worry could drive you crazy. But Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has given you perspective from the book of Daniel you can count on.

The way we keep the right perspective, like Daniel, is by keeping our eyes fixed on the Lord. Our new daily Advent card set is designed to help you do just that. This set is made up of 31 cards—each with a beautiful design, Scripture verse, and encouraging quote from Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. It comes from her devotional, The First Songs of Christmas.

Every day in December you’ll find an inspiring thought and a truth to focus on as you display these cards in your home. I want to tell you about this before the holidays get here so you have time to start thinking about Advent season. We hope this card set is a useful tool as you prepare your heart to dwell on the peace of Christ this Christmas. You’ll receive this daily Advent card set as our way to thank you for supporting Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any amount. When you give a gift, we’ll send you these cards along with a discount code to Nancy’s devotional, The First Songs of Christmas.

Just go to ReviveOurHearts.com, or call us at 1–800–569–5959 and be sure to request your Advent card set.

Today Nancy started to identify the Antichrist. Tomorrow she’ll show us what we can learn about this character from the book of Daniel. Join us for a description of war in the heavens, tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is calling you to freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ.

All Scripture is taken from the CSB.

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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.

About the Host

Dannah Gresh

Dannah Gresh

When Dannah Gresh was eight years old, she began praying that God would use her as a Bible teacher for “the nations.” When she sees the flags of many countries waving at a Revive Our Hearts event, it feels like an answer to her prayer.

Dannah is the founder of True Girl which provides tools for moms and grandmothers to disciple their 7–12 year-old girls. On Monday nights, you’ll find Dannah hosting them in her online Bible study. She has authored over twenty-eight books, including Ruth: Becoming a Girl of Loyalty, Lies Girls Believe, and a Bible study for adult women based on the book of Habakkuk. She and her husband, Bob, live on a hobby farm in central Pennsylvania.