Summary: 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 and is undoubtedly one of the greatest prototypes of the Antichrist in all of God’s Word.
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