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In the Hands of Tyrants

Posted 07-12-2009 at 06:40 AM MST by PrayerPosts
"The king will do as he pleases. He will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard-of things against the God of gods." Daniel 11:36

Josef Stalin, head of the USSR from 1924 to 1953, murdered millions. His supporters knew that the slightest slip would lead them to the executioner. Of 1,966 delegates to one Party Congress, Stalin had 1,108 -- all Stalin supporters -- arrested and killed. Of the 139 Central Committee members, 98 were shot.

In spite of this, the nation virtually worshiped Stalin. He had made himself a god. Every public park displayed his statue. Every newspaper published lavish tributes daily. For one of his birthdays, an entire museum in Moscow was stripped so it could be filled with his birthday presents. He was called Father of the Peoples, the Greatest Genius in History, the Shining Sun of Humanity, the Life-giving Force of Socialism.

He was not the first, nor the last, of his kind. Increasingly, it seems, totalitarian leaders promise everything -- and demand everything. They brutally dispose of anyone who opposes them. Hitler, Stalin, Amin, Mao, Khomeini... the list grows longer.

A Single, Cruel King

Daniel's visions predicted such tyrants. History, in these visions, is one terrible empire after another. Each is stronger but more bestial than the last.

The focus narrows in Daniel 8:23-25 and 11:21-45 to a single, cruel king. Most scholars agree the description matches Antiochus IV of Syria. An obscure tyrant who ruled a century and a half before Jesus, he was the Jews' worst enemy in history, until Hitler.

Antiochus, never totally victorious against archenemy Egypt, took out his frustrations on little Jerusalem. He determined to make that city Greek rather than Jewish by rooting out its religion. He sold the high priest's position to an opportunist and transformed the temple into an altar for the Greek god Zeus. This desecration sparked one of history's earliest guerrilla wars, the Maccabean rebellion. Antiochus conquered Jerusalem twice, slaughtering thousands. He outlawed Judaism and proclaimed himself as God incarnate.

The End of the Tyrant

And yet, for all his power and terror, Antiochus died raving from insanity, and his mark on history has virtually disappeared. Ironically, the religion he sought to destroy has endured and touched the whole world. This is just what you could expect from reading the Book of Daniel. Terrible rulers rise up one after another, but they disappear just as quickly. We can expect political terror. But we can count on God.

The New Testament suggests that Antiochus's brutal pattern will culminate someday in the antichrist, an arrogant leader who will dominate the world and persecute God's people as never before. Many scholars believe that the last part of Daniel's final vision refers to this character. Yet despite the antichrist's power, he too will fall in the end. God's justice will rule the earth. Those who believe in such an outcome have reason to be as brave as Daniel.
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