The most important passage concerning the wars of the end occurs in the book of Daniel. In chapter 11 and continuing in chapter 12, Daniel discusses in detail the major prophetic events as they will occur during the reigns of the last three world powers: Persia, Greece, and Rome. The development of these prophecies within the text generally follows a chronological path. Chapter 11 begins by tracing the future through the empires of Persia and Greece, and then concentrates on two of the four kingdoms which came after Alexander’s death. These two Greek powers are looked at in fine detail, because their predicted affects were significant on the Jewish people still living in the land of Israel.
Why is it so important to understand these historical prophecies when studying the conflicts and wars of the end? Because the terminology that Daniel uses to describe these last two powers is the same as he uses to describe the two future nations involved in the start of the final battles. The powers in question are Egypt (controlled in Daniel’s day by the Ptolemies) and Syria (controlled at that time by the Seleucids).
In the wording used throughout Daniel’s prophecy, Egypt is described as the “king of the south” and Syria as the “king of the north”. These phrases are used repeatedly as Daniel refers to each kingdom and predicts important milestones that would occur in the future. For the first 35 verses of chapter 11, the king of the north and the king of the south are seen vying for power in the battlefield of the Middle East. At each major turning point, Daniel is careful to inform his readers that the events, although serious for the people in and around Israel, nevertheless are not those associated with the end of the age. He didn’t want to confuse his people by having them think that these prophecies only concerned events that would occur in the last days. In truth, many of the prophecies he wrote about would happen long before, and in most cases, thousands of years before the end.
In one such instance, the prophet simply says,
“…for yet the end shall be at the time appointed”.
In other words, even though these things may seem like they’re associated with the last days, the end is yet far into the future—but still at a definite time appointed by God. Clearly, Daniel thought it was very important to distinguish the wars of history (or in his time, the wars of the relatively near future) from the wars of the end, which would not occur for many years.
The Beginning of World War III
However, in verse 40 of chapter 11, Daniel completely changes his perspective and his tone. Instead of treating the end of the age as something in the still distant prophetic future as he did in the previous verses, at this point he openly says that these events will occur “at the time of the end”. In another section (The Final World Order) that discusses the rise of the Antichrist, verses 36 through 39 of this chapter are quoted as being descriptive of his reign. Those verses revealed some of the activities that the Antichrist will do before the Abomination of Desolation occurs. In verse 36, Daniel even predicts that the Antichrist “shall prosper till the indignation (e.g., the abomination) be accomplished”. Verse 40 then goes on to describe what will happen immediately after the abomination of desolation. This is what Daniel says will happen to spark the wars of the last days:
“And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him; and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass through.
“He shall enter also into the glorious land, and many countries shall be overthrown, but these shall escape out of his hand, even Edom, and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon.
“He shall stretch forth his hand also upon the countries, and the land of Egypt shall not escape.
“But he shall have power over the treasures of gold and of silver, and over all the precious things of Egypt; and the Libyans and the Ethiopians shall be at his steps.
“But tidings out of the east and out of the north shall trouble him; therefore, he shall go forth with great fury to destroy, and utterly to sweep away many.
“And he shall plant the tabernacles of his palace between the seas in the glorious holy mountain; yet he shall come to his end, and none shall help him.”
As we learned in the previous section, exactly 30 days after the Abomination of Desolation occurs, the Antichrist’s kingdom will begin to fall as war breaks out in the Middle East. In this amazing prophecy, Daniel describes how these wars will begin. He says that the king of the south will “push” at the Antichrist and the king of the north will attack him like a whirlwind in its fury. It is likely that when the Antichrist declares himself to be God in the rebuilt Jewish Temple in Jerusalem that the world will vehemently oppose this claim. Immediately, the countries of Syria and Egypt will rise up with widespread demonstrations and strong calls for a “holy war”.
Since the king of the south Daniel always referred to in chapter 11 was Egypt and the king of the north was always Syria, it appears that World War III will have its start in a Middle East revolt against the Antichrist. This is not surprising to anyone living in our generation. The powder-keg brewing around the Arab-Israeli conflict (not to mention the many Arab-Arab wars and the constant threat of Islamic terrorism) certainly has the potential of developing into a world war at any time. When the Antichrist declares himself God, the Muslim nations will be among the first to react. Daniel describes the final scenario as involving an initial attack from the nation of Egypt that will be quickly followed by a massive assault from Syria. And where will this attack be directed?—toward the nation of Israel, of course!
The prophecies of the Bible clearly state that all nations eventually will attack Israel at the end of the age. The beginning of this assault will come from the same old confrontation states that have attacked them in every Middle East war since their rebirth as a nation in 1948. The political alignment of the nations in our day correlates perfectly to what Biblical prophecy says will come true just before Christ returns. Even impartial analysts who study the world situation have admitted that World War III could very well have its start in the next full-scale Arab-Israeli war.
The Initial Battles of the End
Unlike the previous wars, however, the Egyptian and Syrian offensive will be directed primarily against the Antichrist and only secondarily against Israel. Remember, the Antichrist is predicted to arise on the heels of a worldwide peace treaty that probably will involve a long-sought settlement to the Palestinian problem. Since the Antichrist’s influence in the holy land will grow to the point of actually being able to present himself as God in the temple, an attack against Israel will be the same as an attack against him. In fact, the Antichrist’s predicted presence in the holy land just 30 days prior to the start of the Arab offensive is itself significant. Could it be that in his warped mind he actually believes himself to be the Jewish Messiah and therefore is attracted to that region and eventually sets up his home base right in Israel?
You might be wondering at this point how we can know for certain that the battles will begin precisely at the midpoint of Daniel’s 70th Week. We can thank an angel for giving us this part of the chronology. After Daniel received the vision concerning these final battles, he then observed one angel ask another…
“How long shall it be to the end of these wonders?” The second angel answered that “it shall be for a time, times, and an half; and when he shall have accomplished the breaking up of the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished”.
Daniel first began this part of the vision with the words “at the time of the end”. Therefore, from verse 40 (which describes the start of the final wars) to the point of the end must correspond to exactly 3-1/2 years (remember from previous sections that the symbolism of a “time, times, and an half” is representative of one year plus two years plus a half a year, or 3-1/2 years). Thus, the description that Daniel provides in chapter 11 must represent the overall picture of what will occur in the last 3-1/2 years before the return of Christ. That picture is not a pleasant one. It is a prophecy of over three years of world war and global destruction.
After the initial attack by the Arab nations, the Antichrist is said to strike back hard at the Middle Eastern aggressors. Daniel says that the Antichrist will “enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass through”. The treaty the Antichrist makes with the nations to establish his world government will certainly provide him with the authority for maintaining the peace—even if that means using force to do it. The new world order being formed today is just beginning to exercise such military muscle. When the Antichrist arises, world unity will create the political atmosphere that is willing and able to crush any opposition or trouble with force if necessary. The threat of war from the Arab nations thus will not be ignored. The united front of the seven-headed, ten-horned Beast will forcibly strike back with every weapon at its disposal.
Just like in the recent U.S. Middle East wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it won’t even be a contest. Against the combined might of the entire Empire of the Beast, the military of Egypt and Syria will quickly crumble. The entire Middle East region will suddenly find itself occupied by the armies of the final world empire. Their forces will push south to the boarders of Libya and Ethiopia and all the treasures of Egypt will belong to the Antichrist and his empire. If one could imagine a war in which the Antichrist intervened on the side of Israel against their Arab neighbors, it wouldn’t take too much speculation to guess what would happen next. Even in a world that will have had 3-1/2 years of relative “peace and safety” by establishing a one-world government, the old global factions will quickly become divided and enter the battle on the opposing sides. It’s not surprising, then, that Daniel predicts in verse 44 that the Antichrist will hear “tidings out of the east and out of the north” which will “trouble him”.
If the 1973 Arab-Israeli war almost resulted in Russian intervention as Israel overwhelmed Egypt and Syria, what would happen if the Antichrist’s armies suddenly moved to militarily control most of the Middle East? Daniel predicts that he will decide to set up his main military base right within the borders of Holy Land (v. 45).
Even with the fall of communism in Eastern Europe and the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the Eastern bloc countries will not remain passive. Remember, whoever controls the Middle East also controls most of the world’s oil supply. In the wake of the Antichrist’s apparent victory, he will suddenly have to contend with the terrifying prospect of fighting the most devastating war of all time. Verse 44 indicates that the opposition will come from two different directions—from the north and from the east. As we shall soon see, this description refers to the mobilization of the Soviet bloc countries as well as to those forces from the Far East which is best represented by China and India. Thus, the Bible clearly predicts that the greatest armies in the history of the world will converge upon the battlefield of the Middle East to fight the final war of this age.
Jesus told us that these battles would usher in a time of unparalleled trouble. Daniel too echoes these predictions as he continues on to say the very same thing…
“And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince who standeth for the children of thy people, and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time;”
The Great Tribulation is predicted to envelope the entire world with a violent holocaust of such unimaginable magnitude that nothing in history can be compared to it. War and desolation will encircle and consume the entire planet. As the latter half of Daniel’s 70th Week progresses, the evil of mankind will begin to devour even the very earth that sustains us. No place will provide a safe haven from the ravages of the impending military conflict.
The only alternative to this picture of death will be the ever-present hope of the return of Christ. His coming will become the only bright spot on the horizon for those who turn to faith in those days. Unfortunately, 3-1/2 years of agony are destined to precede that glorious day.