By Gary Stearman
A new look at an old riddle …
–Who is he?
–Where does he come from?
–What is his nationality?
Among various groups of scoffers, it has become fashionable to make sport of prophetic expositors who attempt to – in their words – “pin the tail on the antichrist.” Yet the Bible, itself, gives tantalizing clues to his identity. As we shall see, it even suggests that his genealogical line may, in time, be fully traceable. As of now, we can only get close. But perhaps the full story of his lineage will become available in the near future.
Along with other passages, Daniel Chapter 7 associates him with the concluding world empire, pictured as the “fourth beast.” His close tie with this final power structure gives him a Gentile background, yet we know that latter-day citizens of the House of David will accept him as messiah. As Jesus said, “I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.” (Jn. 5:43) Is he Jew, Gentile or (as seems the case) both? Someone, sometime, somewhere will finally put the clues together and identify this man’s dual identity.
Second Thessalonians 2:3 calls him the “man of sin,” and suggests that he will hold sway over the world, with great power, both of oratory and dark force. He will enthrone himself in the rebuilt Temple. Finally, he will even pose as deity, apparently with enough false power to pull off the charade – at least for a while. It seems likely that he will have to convince the leaders of Israel that he is an Israelite.
But it is in Revelation 13 that his power over the people is seen in some detail. His persona features the ability to perform miracles as he makes fire fall from heaven and gives life to an image of the beast. He even has the power to control world economics, which he accomplishes by mandating universal identity markers for every man, woman and child on earth. He, himself, has a number – the infamous 666 – usually viewed as a clue to his name. From the days of Nero to the present, many believers have attempted to link that number with a contemporary name. Usually, such names are Gentile. So far, all have failed. But that doesn’t mean we should quit trying, particularly in view of the fact that the Bible says, “Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast.” (Rev. 13:17).
Daniel 11 and the Seleucid Dynasty
Perhaps the most telling evidence of the antichrist’s identity is to be found in the complex history given in Daniel 11. A full exegesis of this chapter would fill a large book, since it covers the legacy of Alexander the Great – king of Macedon [Greece] from 336 B.C. to 323 B.C. – and his successors. During his brief 13-year rule, he conquered the peoples of the north, going as far as the Danube River. He also cut though Asia Minor, Phoenicia, Egypt, Syria and the great Persian empire of Darius to the east. Upon his untimely death at age 33, his conquered territories were divided among four of his generals. The original idea was that each of them would establish a ruling dynasty.
Two of them – Seleucus and Ptolemy – are of particular interest, since it is their dynasties that are detailed in Daniel 11. Since it gives such an expanded view of these fourth and third-century dynasties, many skeptics have reasoned that Daniel must have written later, in the second or third-centuries B.C. But it is virtually indisputable that Daniel wrote in the sixth century B.C. The Holy Spirit gave him a documentary foreview of the rise to power of the man who is considered as the model of the antichrist. This fact alone gives it extreme importance.
In this chapter, verses 3 through 20 give a compact but detailed account of the critical interactions between the houses of the Ptolemaic [Egyptian] and Seleucid [Syrian] rule. Most important to this study is the Seleucid dynasty, which begins in Daniel 11:5, with a reference to Seleucus I Nicator. Called “conqueror,” he gained control of Syria and Cilicia. Although he was an eastern potentate, his philosophy was basically western. He tried to reunify Greece, but was killed by Ptolemy II before he could complete his plan.
Seleucus II Callinus was called, “glorious victor”. In 247 B.C., he came to power, as foretold in Daniel 11:6-9. Seleucus III Soter [savior] reigned for only two years. He is mentioned in Daniel 11:10. Finally, Seleucus IV Philopater came to rule as described in Daniel 11:20. He was the son of Antiochus the Great and brother of the infamous Antiochus IV Epiphanes. In the latter years of his rule, he attempted to loot the Temple treasury.
It is important to remember that both the Ptolemies and the Seleucids were Greeks, who had descended through the royal houses of the Grecian empire.
From the Seleucids Came Antiochus
The son of Seleucus I was Antiochus I Soter. The title “Antiochus” means “opposer” or “withstander,” and was a favorite name of the Seleucid kings of Syria from 280 B.C. onward. With the death of Seleucus I in 281 B.C., Antiochus I became sole ruler of Coele-Syria. Antiochus II was his son, and he reigned from 261 B.C. to 246 B.C.
Antiochus III was called “The Great.” He was the second son of Seleucus II. His exploits are predicted by Daniel in chapter 11, verses 15 through 18.
His third son, Antiochus IV, succeeded his brother Seleucus IV Philopater [See Daniel 11:20,21] as king in 175 B.C. As a worshipper of Zeus, he imagined himself to be a manifestation of this “father of the gods.” He took to himself the title, “theos epiphanes,” meaning “the manifest god.” Daniel 11:21-35 characterizes him as “a vile person,” and one who held complete contempt for the nation of Israel.
Since he considered himself to be Zeus incarnate, he ordered that all people should worship him as such. He sent 22,000 soldiers into Jerusalem on a Sabbath, plundering and burning the city. He sacked the Holy Temple and there, set up altars for Zeus commanding Jews to offer unclean sacrifices and to eat swine’s flesh. Disobedience brought death. He set himself up as a deity, and ordered that his birthday be honored as a high holy day. His infamous order was given on the 24th of Kislev, 167 B.C. Three years later, to the day, on the 24th of Kislev 164 B.C., the Jews cleansed and rededicated their Temple. They restored worship, giving birth to the festival of dedication, called Chanukkah.
Antiochus IV Epiphanes was truly an evil man, driven by dark forces. He became the greatest historical archetype of the antichrist, a man who stood up in the Temple and declared that he was a god. The final antichrist will simply repeat what he did, except on a much grander scale.
From Antiochus to the
Royal House of Rome
The eleventh chapter of Daniel closes with the prophecy of the willful king, in verses 36 through 45. Clearly, he portrays the antichrist of the latter days, still future to us. But if one simply reads this chapter to its end, its clear intention is that there is hardly a break between Antiochus IV Epiphanes and the latter-day “king who shall do according to his will” (v. 36).
In other words, Daniel seems to be telling us that the Seleucid dynasty will continue on into the latter days! If this is true then the bloodline of the antichrist can possibly be traced. A bit later, we’ll speculate on where the full record of his genetic heritage might be found.
After the horrific reign of Antiochus IV, the Seleucid line continued under the same title, with Antiochus V, VI, VII, and VIII, IX, X and XIII, all continuing the reign of their fathers. In 69 B.C, following his defeat of Tigranes of Armenia, Lucullus of Rome awarded Antiochus XIII the rule over Syria. In 63 B.C., Pompey came to Syria and commanded that from that time forward, it would be a Roman province. This date effectively marks the end of the Seleucid dynasty and the beginning of Roman rule.
But descendants of the Seleucids continued in positions of importance long after Syria became a Roman province. For example, following the death of Nero in A.D. 68, Rome entered into a time of chaos. The year 69 A.D. was known as “the year of four emperors,” as various contenders fought for control. Two of the contenders, each of whom spent a few months as emperor, were Otho and Vitellius.
In “The Histories” of Tacitus, there is an interesting note during the description of a battle: This delay gave the Vitellians a chance to retreat to a vineyard where a complex network of trellised vines impeded movement. There was a small wood close by, too. From this they ventured to stage a counter-attack, and in so doing managed to kill the most eager of the pretorian troopers. Among the wounded was Prince Epiphanes, who was eagerly leading his men into battle on Otho’s side.”
Here, we find a “Prince Epiphanes” in the first battle of Cremona in northern Italy. He was none other that the son of Antiochus IV, King of Commagene, located on the West Bank of the Upper Euphrates. His official title was Antiochus Epiphanes, in honor of the originator of that name—the man who had desecrated the Temple in 167 B.C., about 237 years before! And he was a loyalist in the army of Otho! Young Epiphanes had, for a time, been engaged to marry Drusilla, the youngest daughter of Herod Agrippa I. But because he refused to embrace Judaism, it was never consummated.
This tells us that by the time of Christ, the Seleucids had become intertwined with both the Herodians and the royal houses of Rome. Elsewhere, Tacitus describes the accession to power of Vespasian, following the death of Vitellius:
“By 15 July [A.D. 69], the whole of Syria had taken the oath of allegiance to Vespasian. He had also gained the adhesion of Sohaemus and his kingdom, whose resources were not to be despised and that of Antiochus, who had great inherited wealth and was the richest client-king of all. Then Agrippa [Herod Agrippa II] arrived after a swift voyage from Rome, where secret emissaries from his people had brought him news which recalled him home while Vitellius was still in the dark. Equal enthusiasm marked the support given to the cause by Queen Berenice. She was in her best years and at the height of her beauty, while even the elderly Vespasian appreciated her generosity.”
It is a historical fact that the sons and daughters of the Seleucids merged into the royal families of Rome, as did the Herodians. Josephus, [in Antiquities xiii, 5.8,] mentions a letter from the Roman senate, which reads in part, “As to ourselves, although we have had wars that have compassed us around, by reason of the covetousness of our neighbors, yet did not we determine to be troublesome either to you or to others that were related to us; but since we have now overcome our enemies, and have occasion to send Numenius, the son of Antiochus, and Antipater, the son of Jason, who are both honourable men belonging to our senate, to the Romans, we gave them this epistle to you also, that they might renew that friendship which is between us.”
This “Numenius” is of the Seleucid dynasty, who preceded Antiochus IV, king of Commagene. But he is also a member of the Roman Senate, once again demonstrating the closeness between the offspring of Antiochus IV Epiphanes and Roman royalty.
This should not come as a surprise. Daniel 9:26 mentions the antichrist as coming from the royal Roman bloodline. We should recall that the Romans destroyed both city and sanctuary.
“And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.”
In this passage, the “coming prince” is the antichrist. His “people” could well be the emperor Vespasian and his son Titus – in other words, what we think of as the royalty of Rome. They ordered the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. It is made quite clear that “the prince that shall come,” is of Roman descent, by way of the Seleucid dynasty.
This appears to be the intention of the verse, and it is augmented by the Seleucid history in Daniel 11.
The Pages of History
This begs the question: What became of the Seleucid offspring? Very simply, the sons and daughters of Rome’s Seleucid client kings disappeared into the family trees of the Romans. As mentioned at the beginning of this discussion, some of their genealogies may be lying in dusty libraries to this day. The Vatican records are both voluminous and very ancient.
It has been pointed out that the so-called Merovingian dynasty – which occupied the years from A.D. 447 to A.D. 458 – was an early (and evil) European bloodline that claimed descent from the days of Jesus. Many members of this evil dynasty even claimed descent from Christ, Himself! Of course, this cannot be true, but it is interesting that the belief is held at all!
This ruling dynasty comes down to us in the present day in certain European ruling dynasties. What is missing, is the genealogical connection between Antiochus IV, King of Commagene, and the dynasty of king Merovee. This time period runs roughly from the reign of Vespasian, beginning in A.D. 69 to the reign of Merovee, beginning in A.D. 447.
Within this 378-year period, it is quite possible that documents exist somewhere that will validate on a secular level, that which is implied in Daniel 11. Will the antichrist one day be able to produce credentials – perhaps even a genealogy – that give him unquestioned credibility? It appears so. But at present, that information lies just beyond our reach.