Antiochus IV Epiphanes:
The Antichrist of the Old Testament
By Larry Cockerham
Antiochus IV Epiphanes was the eighth in a succession of twenty-six kings who ruled from 175—164 BC over the Syrian section of Alexander’s empire. He is referred to as the “little horn” in Daniel 8:9. The name Epiphanes means the “Illustrious One,” although his contemporaries nicknamed him Epimanes, meaning “madman.”1 He differs in many respects with the “little horn” of Daniel Chapter seven seeing that “the little horn of 7:8 appears in the context of the fourth kingdom (Rome), while the little horn of 8:9 appears in the context of the third kingdom (Greece).”2 Yet taken as a whole Antiochus IV Epiphanes is undoubtedly one of the greatest prototypes of the Antichrist in all of God’s Word.
The prophecies of Antiochus Epiphanes in Daniel (Dan. 8:9-14; 23-25; 11:21-35) have both a historical as well as future fulfillment. Because these prophecies point both to Antiochus Epiphanes as well as the future Antichrist of the New Testament Bible students call them a double reference prophecy. However, liberal commentators, such as D.S. Russell, see in these verses only a historical fulfillment due to their late dating of the Book of Daniel (165 B.C.).3 Conservative scholars, on the other hand, realize both a historical completion (they were still future when Daniel wrote them) in Antiochus as well as future prophecies that prefigure the Antichrist. There are also differences of opinion among fundamental Bible scholars as to where the prophecies regarding Antiochus end and those pertaining to the Antichrist begin. We will at this time focus on the comparisons or parallels between the wicked Syrian king Antiochus IV who viciously and cruelly persecuted the Old Testament saints of God and the coming “man of sin” commonly referred to in the New Testament as the Antichrist.
(1) Both involve two end-time periods. When it comes to the larger picture, these two periods of persecution leading up to the first and second coming of Christ are portrayed in both the exploits of Antiochus IV as well as those of the coming Antichrist. Lehman Strauss explains thusly:
Both of these periods witness the wrath of God being extended to His chosen people. The first of these periods of wrath commenced with the Babylonian captivity and concluded with the atrocities of Antiochus, after which there was deliverance. The second of these periods is yet future. It will commence with the beginning of the seventieth week (Daniel 9:24-27) and conclude with the atrocities of Antichrist, after which there will be deliverance.4
Therefore not only is there a typical relationship between the two persons of Antiochus IV Epiphanes and the upcoming Man Of Sin, but there is also an association between the two time periods leading up to the end of each era.
(2) Both begin as a “little horn”. (cf. Daniel 7:8; 8:9). Both Antiochus and the Antichrist grow to become a great power from a small beginning. Notice that the “little horn” of Daniel 8:9 “waxed exceedingly great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land. And it waxed great even to the host of heaven” (Dan. 8:9-10a). This is true of the Antichrist as well (cf. Dan. 11:41-42). He will begin as an insignificant political figure in the beginning. However he will gain worldwide power by the midst of the tribulation hour and exert control over “all kindreds, and tongues, and nations” (Rev. 13:7).
(3) Both persecute the saints of God. The cruel and violent persecutions of Antiochus Epiphanes are recorded in histories annals for all to observe. In the spring of 168 B.C., the armies of the Syrian king had arrived within four miles of the great city of Alexandria to compel the pharaohs to surrender. But the Egyptians had appealed to Rome for assistance. A Roman fleet was anchored in the bay and their representative Popilius Laenas, soon met with the king. After drawing a circle with his staff around the Syrian king, and forcing him to give an immediate response, the king reluctantly accepted the ultimatum to depart.
After being humiliated and forced to leave Egypt, Antiochus’s vengeance was quickly turned upon Jerusalem. He killed over eighty thousand men, women, and children and sold forty thousand into slavery (2 Macc. v. 5-14). The holy place was robbed of its treasures and the temple was dedicated to Jupiter Olympus. The temple was defiled by offering a sow upon the altar and scattering its juice over all the sanctuary and vessels. He substituted the Jewish feasts with the drunken revelry of Bacchanalia, forcing the Jews to worship Bacchus, the god of pleasure and wine. The licentious festival of Saturnalia, the worship of Saturn, was also enforced upon the inhabitants. He forbade the reading of the Holy Scriptures and the tradition of circumcision. Throwing them headlong with their infants off of the highest wall in Jerusalem, Antiochus killed two mothers who had circumcised their children in defiance of the law. He also cut out the tongues of a mother’s seven sons and after that had each of them roasted alive on a flat iron (2 Macc. vii. 3-5). Then the mother herself was murdered. John Walvoord notes that “a detailed description of the violent atrocities and murder of thousands of Jews by Antiochus while marching through Judea is found in 1 Maccabees 1:20-28 and 2 Maccabees 5:11-17.”5
But the carnage committed by the impious Syrian king is only a foretaste of what lies ahead for those who will be swept away during the Great Tribulation. The persecution of God’s saints under the “beast” will be much more intense and far-reaching during Daniel’s Seventieth Week. The Apostle John “saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands: and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years” (Rev. 20:4).
(4) Both blaspheme the God of Heaven. Antiochus “magnified himself even to the prince of the host” (Dan. 8:11). His pride and arrogance was lifted up in opposition to the very God of heaven. His blasphemy will typify that of the future Man of Sin: “And, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things” (Dan. 7:8). The Apostle John witnessed the approaching Beast rising from the sea “and upon his heads the name of blasphemy” (Rev. 13:1). Again the Apostle John echoes his future irreverence: “And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven” (Rev. 13:6).
(5) Both will use peace to achieve their aims. Of the Syrian king Antiochus it is said that he will destroy many by peace (Dan. 8:25). Pretending to be on a peaceful mission he would then plunder and steal, giving out liberally the treasures he had acquired to his cronies. The “man of sin” or “lawless one” will also use deceit in the upcoming conflagration to obtain his desires. He is depicted as the “white horse” rider (Rev. 6:1-2) who has a “bow” but no arrows, indicating that he shall “come in peaceably, and obtain the kingdom by flatteries” (Dan. 11:21, 24). He will ascend to power through the voluntary alliance of ten Western European nations uniting under a one-world government (Rev. 17:12, 13). As the “prince that shall come” (Dan. (9:26), he will lead Israel into signing a covenant (Dan. 9:27), which Isaiah describes as a “covenant with death, and with hell” (Isa. 28:15, 18). This covenant will begin Daniel’s seventieth “week” (Dan. 9:27), which is a seven-year period guaranteeing Israel not only a time of peace and security, but also an opportunity to rebuild their temple.
The white horse of conquest is quickly followed by the red horse of war (Rev.6:4), the black horse of famine (Rev. 6:5), and finally the pale horse of death (Rev. 6:8). The world will suddenly be plunged into utter devastation that ultimately leads to the battle of Armageddon and the Second Coming of Christ (Rev. 19:11-21).
(6) Both desecrate the sanctuary of the temple. It is a matter of historical record as to the desire of Antiochus to destroy the Jewish nation and their religion. When Antiochus set up the image of Jupiter in the Holy Place in Jerusalem and desecrated the sanctuary and its holy vessels, he was unwittingly portraying a future defilement. Daniel referred to this incident as the “abomination that maketh desolate” (Dan. 11:31; 12:11). Jesus linked this event to Matthew 24:15 when he declared: “When ye therefore shall see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand).” The Jews who live during this period will understand the meaning of this Scripture and flee to the mountains for safety. Paul referred to this event in 1 Thessalonians 2:4: “Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called god, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.” The Apostle John in the Book of Revelation gives a vivid description of the “image of the beast” that the false prophet will set up in the future rebuilt temple in Jerusalem. Those living in that frightful time will be forced to worship the image of the beast or be killed (Rev. 13:14-15).
(7) Both will be Satan incarnate. Concerning the Syrian king Antiochus, Daniel 8:23 states that “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.” J. Vernon McGee believed that “the only adequate explanation of this verse and of the facts of history is that this man was demon possessed.”6
W.A. Criswell, speaking of the demon-possessed Antiochus and his foreshadowing of the Antichrist, explains:
First, he is inordinately proud, lifted up, and ambitious. He is Satan through copy. He is Satan through incarnation. He is Satan’s willing instrument. For example, when Antiochus came to reign, he imprinted on his coins, Theos Antiochus, Theos Epiphanes, “Antiochus, God manifest.” One need not doubt that such a thing could be, for according to the second chapter of II Thessalonians, this final dictator presents himself as “God manifest,” Theos Epiphanes. That same spirit is universal in human story. Ambitious, dictatorial men are like that. That is the spirit of Hitler. It is the spirit of any striving dictator who lifts himself above the mountain heap of prostrate humanity.7
Seeing that Christ was the “Seed of the woman”, therefore Antichrist will be the “seed of the serpent” (Gen. 3:15).8 Arthur Pink goes on to explain that “the Antichrist, then, will be more than a man, he will be the actual and literal Seed of that Old Serpent, the Devil; as Christ was, according to the flesh, the actual and literal Seed of the woman.”9 Consequently, as Christ was God incarnate, Antichrist will be Satan incarnate. John Phillips notes that “in his human form he is the beast ‘out of the sea,’ a brilliant and dynamic world leader with charisma and vision, demon-possessed as Hitler was. He will be killed, will have a ‘second coming,’ and from then on will be the beast ‘out of the bottomless pit.’ As such he will be superhuman, awesome, and in a position to command and receive the worship of mankind (13:4).”10
(8) Both shall be broken without hand (Dan. 8:25). This can be interpreted that his power will be broken apart from the intervention of man, or as A.R. Fausset notes, “by God’s special visitation.”11 He was afflicted by a horrible death “by worms and ulcers, when on his way to Judea, intending to take vengeance for the defeat of his armies by the Maccabees.”12 The smiting Stone shall suddenly strike the feet of the image and ultimately destroy the Gentile nations and its last Roman ruler bringing to an end the counterfeit kingdom of the Antichrist. Christ will then cast the beast and false prophet alive into the lake of fire (Rev. 19:11-21). Thus, both the Syrian king Antiochus and the final Antichrist shall “stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand” (Dan. 8:25).
(9) Both periods conclude with deliverance. Antiochus sent Appolonius who halted the sacrifices in June 167 B.C. and in December 25 of the same year set up the heathen altar and the heathen sacrifices began. On December 25, 164 B.C., Judas Maccabeus restored the sanctuary and sacrificial system. According to William E. Biederwolf, “these three and one-half years had their typical fulfillment in Antiochus Epiphanes, but it is generally conceded that its final realization is reserved for the last times, according to the New Testament writings, in the eschatological Antichrist.”13
Through the exploits of Mattathias and his five sons, the Jewish nation was finally liberated from Syrian occupation and gained political independence in the spring of 142 B.C. It had been twenty-five years since Mattathias Hasmoneas had prompted the Maccabean uprising in the tiny village of Modein.14
Just as the ancient nation of Israel was freed by the Maccabees from the brutal regime of the Old Testament Antichrist, so the modern nation of Israel will be saved from the atrocious world system of the New Testament Antichrist by their soon coming Savior and “Deliverer” (Rom. 11:26).
There are many other parallels in the conquests and atrocities of the Old Testament Antichrist Antiochus IV Epiphanes and the final Antichrist presented in the New Testament. Some view the leader of the Jewish Hellenistic party, Jesus, or Josue, better known by his Greek name Jason, the unworthy brother of the worthy high priest, Onias III, as a type of the false prophet, the second beast of Revelation 13 (Rev. 13:11-18).15 Scholars have long realized that a trinity of evil will exist during the upcoming Tribulation that will mimic the Godhead. Sir Robert Anderson explains that “the mystery of the Godhead will thus be parodied by the mystery of iniquity, and the Father, the Son, and the Spirit will have their counterpart in the Dragon, the Beast, and the False Prophet.”16
There are many other comparisons that could be brought out concerning these two vile personages, but the numerous associations that have been covered so far should suffice for the reader to recognize the amazing details that the light of God’s Word has cast upon the coming time of darkness that will envelop the world in that future day. Let us then watch and pray that we will be found busy about the Father’s business as we see the signs of the final indignation rapidly approaching.
1 H.A. Ironside, Lectures on Daniel the Prophet (New Jersey: Loizeaux Brothers, 1911), 202. Ironside explains that the reason for his nickname was “because of his wild pranks and almost insane follies and brutalities. He was stirred with such hatred against the Jews and their religion, that there was no atrocity too great for this wretched king to perpetrate.”
2 Nelson’s Complete Book of Bible Maps & Charts (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1993), 238.
3 D.S. Russell, Daniel (Edinburgh: The Saint Andrew Press, 1981), 3.
4 Lehman Strauss, The Prophecies of Daniel (Neptune, N.J.: Loizeaux Brothers, 1969), 244-45.
5 John Walvoord, Daniel: The Key To Prophetic Revelation (Chicago: Moody Press, 1971), 267.
6 J. Vernon McGee, “The Book of Daniel” in Thru The Bible With J. Vernon McGee (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1982), III, 581.
7 W.A. Criswell, Expository Sermons On the Book of Daniel (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1968), 4:78.
8 Arthur W. Pink, The Antichrist (1923; repr., Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1988), 47.
9 Ibid., 48.
10 John Phillips, Exploring The Future (Neptune, N.J.: Loizeaux Brothers, 1992), 88.
11 A.R. Fausett, “The Book of Daniel” in A Commentary, Critical, Experimental, and Practical, On the Old and New Testaments (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982), II, 430.
13 William E. Biederwolf, The Prophecy Handbook (World Bible Publishers, 1991), 215.
14 Joseph L. Gardner, ed., Reader’s Digest Atlas of the Bible: An Illustrated Guide to the Holy Land (Pleasantville, N.Y.: Reader’s Digest Association, 1981), 159.
15 Jerome, “The Antichrist in Maccabees, in Daniel, in Revelation 13” in The Jerome Bible Commentary (accessed 16 November 2005), available from http://biblia.com/jesusbible/maccabees25.htm, St. Jerome also sees Apollonius as another type of the second beast of Revelation 13.
16 Robert Anderson, The Coming Prince (1957; reprint, Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1984), 208.