Antichrist On The Way In

by George F Spall

It would now be very little more than 2,000 years since ancient Greece lost its political and military leadership of the world to the growing power of Rome. Yet only 300 years or so earlier, in 341 to be exact, Demosthenes the great Athenian orator expressed the feeling of the Assembly in Athens concerning the brawling threat to their safety in the north, Philip of Macedon: "He is not only no Greek or related to the Greeks (Hellenes), and not even a barbarian from any place that can be named with honour, but a pestilential slave from Macedonia, whence it is not possible to buy a decent slave." The man he was denouncing was the king who eventually gave birth to European history!

But all the oratory did nothing to turn back the thirteen-foot spears of the Macedonian infantry. In twenty years Philip brought all but one of the City States into his Hellenic League, and dared to start pushing at what was then the world's big power, Persia (Iran). By the time Persia "averted that threat", so it is said, by having Philip assassinated, his twenty-year old son Alexander had already become a military genius and was well on his way to earning the title Alexander the Great.

Alexander had quizzed Persia's ambassador to his country about its system of government when he was ten years old. He was discussing such things with his tutor Aristotle through his teens. A general at twenty, he had fought scores of battles without losing one. By the time he was thirty-two, he had become Pharaoh to Egypt, King to Afghanistan, Lord to every country south of the Caspian and Black Seas, and looked like being Nabob to India.

His conquests took him ten years and 22,000 miles of marching. Had his soldiers not wearied of the miles, he might have gone further than boarding a ship in the Indus and sailing to the Indian Ocean. His vast dominions had come to be known as the Greek World when his wounds, constant fevers, hard living and harder drinking toppled him into his grave. Greek culture has influenced civilization ever since; Judaism and Christianity can never repay the debt they both owe to it, especially its language and literature.

But we need not plan to present potted history for its own sake. Rather we are interested in it as far as events today are concerned, because those heroic days of poetry and romance are prophetic. The prophet Daniel has much to say about them. Joel makes a cryptic but very remarkable reference to them. The New Testament regards them as history pre-written.

Anyone who is dedicated to Israel's well-being is bound to consider her future in the light of her past, and especially as there is so much prophetic material available. This period is one of the most momentous in modern history in relation to these ancient prophecies, especially now when Jerusalem's sacred mountains of Moriah and Zion are in Israel's hands once again.


Because of its antiquity, we ought to look at the prophecy of Joel first. He lived in the days of Elisha, which dates him back in the middle of the eighth century before this era began, two hundred years before Daniel. It was a time when both Israel and Judah paid but scant attention to the commandments of Moses and were as happy to worship idols as were their neighbours.

Through the prophets, the Eternal warned them that He would use both natural disasters and enemy invasion to chastise them. In the first few verses of his writing, Joel speaks of such judgements. It has such an important bearing on world powers, that we ought to quote them.

"Hear you this, you old men, and give ear you inhabitants of the land. Has this been in your days, or even in the days of your fathers? Tell your children about it, and let them tell their children, and their children another generation. That which the palmerworm has left has the locust eaten; and that which the locust has left has the cankerworm eaten; and that which the cankerworm has left has the caterpillar eaten" (1:2-4).

If this is a natural disaster, it is a grim picture of great devastation – Divine judgement indeed. Let us examine the prediction, remembering that Joel insists it was "the word of the LORD" and that more than four generations were to be told. That is a very important instruction. It means that four or five generations could well reach into the future for two hundred years.

The last of those generations would see the fulfilment of the prophecy, which in fact they did. Assyria was by then a very strong power, and had brought the ten tribes of Israel from the northern part of the land into captivity for forced labour, and the remaining two, known as Judah, were being warned by the prophets that if they continued their false worship, they would be treated in the same way by Babylon, which by then had reached supremacy over Assyria.

We need to take a good look at Joel's prophecy about the locust in its four stages.

The PALMERWORM is the stage when the locust has emerged from its egg. It is called the Gnawing Locust. The Hebrew word used by Joel is gazam . As in Roman notation, so well known to us, each Hebrew letter has numerical value. Treat gazam as a sum and it totals 50.

We read that the people of Judah were taken into captivity by Babylon in Daniel's day and were still there when the Medo-Persian conqueror Cyrus defeated Babylon, putting Belshazzar to death in the middle of an orgy as related in Daniel 5. That was 50 years later, 538 BC! The rise of Cyrus had been the subject of other prophecies and he fulfilled those too when he ordered the return of Jews to Israel and the rebuilding of the Temple (Ezra 1:3).

The LOCUST is the palmerworm grown up. By late spring it is producing eggs, so is called Swarming Locust. Joel's word for it is erbeh . Used as a sum, it totals 208. Now Philip of Macedonia had determined to stop Persian expansion, but was assassinated, so his brilliant son Alexander, not forgetting his father's ambition, and though his forces were small by comparison with the might of Persia, earned his nick-name The Great by routing the armies of Darius III at the battle of Issus, though Darius himself escaped.

Alexander had to chase Darius and finally caught him, taking over the capital Susa and the treasure city Persepolis in 330 BC from 538 to 330 is 208 years!

The CANKERWORM is the third stage when the locust develops small wings. It can hop but not fly. It is called the Licking Locust at this stage. Again, we curiously check its Hebrew name and note that it is yalek , which has a numerical value of 140.

From the time that Alexander the Great took over from the Persians in 330 and his people gained world supremacy, until the Roman Scorpio defeated the Greek Antiochus III in the year 190 BC was 140 years! From that time onwards, the Romans were dominant in Asia Minor and the Mediterranean region. When Antiochus Epiphanes (the IV) interfered with Rome's interests in Egypt, he was promptly sent about his business.

However, as ruler over the province of Syria, Antiochus IV was a terror to Israel, and Rome did not interfere. The prophet Daniel, writing many years before the rise of the last Gregian oppressor of Israel, gave him much attention, more space even than he gave to any of the other predicted tyrants over his people. We will look at this fact again.

The CATERPILLAR is the matured insect, called the Consuming Locust. The Hebrew word for it is chasil . Israel enjoyed a period of glorious independence after the brave priest Mattathias and his sons rallied the Jews to throw the Greeks out of Israel. It was the days of the Maccabees.

So it was not until 38 BC that Rome physically occupied the oppressed Israel. They continued there until Jerusalem was finally destroyed by them in that ill-fated year of 70 AD, more than 1900 years ago. Joel foresaw this period quite accurately for chasil totals 108! It would be a great coincidence indeed if all four of these 'sums' were only accidental.

We should note that while the first three nations were in authority over Israel in quick succession, as we have seen from the dates given, there was a gap in the chronology after Greece was defeated by Lucius. The gap stretches from 190 BC to 38 BC.

Lucius had defeated Antiochus III in 190 BC and it was during his time that Israel achieved the independence mentioned under the Maccabees, until Rome had to intervene in 38 BC because of Jewish civil war. Was not Joel so very accurate when he left out that period and so created the gap? He did not mention the Maccabean independence in so many words, but he did recognize it.


In Daniel's second chapter is recorded Nebuchadnezzar's dream and Daniel's explanation of it. Then Daniel himself had a vision which was explained in detail by the angel Gabriel (chapter 7).

Nebuchadnezzar saw five empires succeeding each other, the fifth being the Millennial kingdom when "the stone that smote the image" had become "a great mountain and filled the whole earth" (Daniel 2:35). Daniel also saw four great powers that identify easily enough with Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome, just as those in chapter two did. Daniel saw them as wild beasts, three of them confronting the fourth, or rather the fourth facing up to the three in due time for it is the last.

The first was like a LION which was an emblem of Babylon. The second was like a BEAR, an animal whose ponderous but deadly all-embracing ways were so like Persia. The third was like a LEOPARD, again so descriptive of Greece under Alexander, who had raced across the Old World as conqueror in twelve years.

At the time Antiochus Epiphanes oppressed Israel, Greece had fragmented into four divisions upon Alexander's death. It was the Syrian quarter, a tetrarchy under Rome, that was under this Antiochus the Madman. Daniel's third leopard-like beast was seen to have four heads. There was a fourth beast that confronted the three in due time. It appeared to be a monstrosity of a monster and matched Rome and may still represent a serious event in Modern history.

It is not surprising that prophets in Bible times used animal figures as representing nations. Modern countries do that. England has its lion, Australian has its kangaroo, America has its eagle and Russia has often been depicted as a bear by cartoonists.


A less well-known prophecy by Hosea confirms what has been written so far. Hosea's prophetic ministry covered more than sixty years, right back to Joel and on into a succeeding generation. He was the mouthpiece of the Almighty when he announced dire punishment unless there was repentance (13:7-8).

"I will be to them as a fierce lion; as a leopard, I will lurk for them by the way; and I will meet them as a bear bereaved of her whelps, and there will I devour them" (13:7-8). Coincidence? Let us return to Greece, and in particular, Antiochus, whom many Bible scholars look upon as a prophetic picture of another Personage who is to arise in the course of Israel's history -- the Beast, spoken of as such in Revelation 11:7; 13:1-8, 11-18; 14:9,11.

The name Antiochus means 'Withstander'. Not only did he bleed Israel of money by taxation and of her blood by cruelty, but he desecrated her altars in foul ways. It was this that roused the Maccabees. Both in the Old Testament and in the New, this Wicked One to come is to withstand every thing that is good and godly, and cruelly persecute 'the saints' as the Bible calls them.

There is much prophetic information in the Scriptures about him as a person, and of the role that this modern Antiochus will play in the future of a vast European power. Will he be a Greek or a Roman, a Jew or an Assyrian? (See THE SECOND SYRIAN, THE VINEYARD November 1986).

Scriptures such as Daniel 9:26,27; 11:16ff, 36ff; 12:11; Isaiah 10:24-27; 14:24-27; Micah 5:3-5 need our close attention as we seek a way to avoid successfully the personal and national pitfalls ahead. We recall the statement made by that One who proved himself to be a greater prophet even than Moses. "Watch you therefore, and pray always, that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass and to stand before the Son of man" (Luke 21:36).