It was June of 323 BC. As Alexander the Great lay dying on his bed in Babylon, having conquered the known world, he was asked who would inherit his kingdom. “Give it to the strong” he reportedly said, even though he had a son who should have been his heir. The four generals who were his principal commanders assumed it was a reference to them, and after Alexander’s death they divided the kingdom among them.
Two of the four generals, Cassander and Lysimachus, are not mentioned in Daniel 11, but the other two, Seleucus and Ptolemy, became the first kings of the north and the south. As his part of the Empire, Seleucus gained control of what we now know as Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and parts of Turkey.
Reigning for a time from Babylon in modern Iraq, he built a new capital city 20 miles to the south east on the Tigris river and named it Seleucia. Eventually he moved his capital to Antioch in Turkey, where it remained.
Ptolemy took Libya, Egypt, the Sudan, Israel and Jordan, and chose Alexandria in Egypt as his capital.
The descendants of these two kings fought each other for control of the known world for the next several hundred years and their history is summarized in Daniel 11:2-35, although it was prophecy when Daniel received it from an angel. This period is capped off in Daniel 11:31-35 with the Maccabean revolt, when the last important king of the north, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, was defeated (165 BC).
The angel didn’t tell Daniel anything about the king of the south’s demise, since it didn’t directly involve Israel. But history shows that over time the Ptolemys became weaker and weaker. The last King of the South was actually a queen named Cleopatra, famous for her romantic involvements with Julius Caesar and then Mark Antony, both Romans. Upon her death in 30BC what was left of the Ptolemaic Kingdom was absorbed into the Roman Empire, and the kings of the north and south were no more.
The Two Kings in Current Events
Now let’s take a look at how current events may be hinting at a return of these two kings before concluding with what the angel told Daniel would happen concerning them at the end of the age.
About four years ago, Saudi Arabia, having been one of our most important allies in the Middle East, began rebelling against US policy. This was done partly as an expression of anger over the way the US helped oust Egypt’s Pres. Mubarak, a close friend of the Saudi King, and partly over their frustration with America’s lack of action against Iran.
The Saudis are fearful of Iran’s efforts to establish themselves as the dominant regional force and have embarked upon a more independent course of action, promising to defend the Gulf States against Iranian meddling themselves instead of relying on the US. Saudi Arabia does not want Iran to emerge as the leader of the Islamic Middle East and is determined to make sure that doesn’t happen, even if it comes to war.
For example, they have offered to help Israel attack Iran’s nuclear facilities when the time comes. They also provided the funding for the Egyptian military’s overthrow of the US supported Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt, and replaced the foreign aid the US withheld from Egypt afterward.
For its part, Iran has all but taken control of Syria and Lebanon, the former with elite troops and the latter through their client Hezbollah. Iran is heavily involved in supporting the Syrian government although by many accounts Syria’s existence as a nation is now largely theoretical.
If it wasn’t for the fact that a good part of Damascus is still standing and is still the seat of the Assad government, Isaiah 17 would already have been fulfilled. That this prophecy against Damascus hasn’t been fulfilled is due solely to Iran’s support, not Syria’s strength.
Iran is also the true driving force behind Iraq’s efforts to dislodge the Islamic State from their midst. Iran now has so much influence in Iraq that it too could soon become a client state. These commitments are costing Iran $6-8 billion per year in addition to the manpower they’ve allocated. I believe the growing Shiite coalition will evolve into the modern day king of the north.
Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Kuwait, who have formed a Sunni alliance to counteract Iran’s growing influence, are moving toward becoming the king of the south. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that these two alliances occupy real estate once under control of the historical kings of the north and the south.
This animosity between Shiites and Sunnis is displayed in the crisis currently unfolding in Yemen, where Iran has taken the side of the Houthi rebels in their effort to overthrow the Yemeni government, and Saudi Arabia and Egypt have come to the government’s defense. They have been joined by Morocco, Jordan, Sudan, Pakistan, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, and United Arab Emirates, all Sunni states.
A confrontation seemed be inevitable as a nine ship Iranian convoy, suspected of bringing loads of arms to the rebels, made its way toward Yemen. Saudi Arabia has said the Iranian ships would be prevented from entering Yemen’s territorial waters. The Saudis have already closed Yemeni air space to any foreign carriers, military or civilian, and are determined to deny Iran access to Yemen by sea as well.
As of this posting, the Iranian convoy has reversed course and appears to be heading back to Iran. It’s still being tracked by the US, Saudi, Egyptian, and UAE fleets, and some US officials are warning that “This isn’t over yet.”
Whether it happens in Yemen or somewhere else, a serious confrontation is looming between Shiites and Sunnis. The stakes are high because the privilege of reigning supreme over Islam, and perhaps the whole world, is seen as the victor’s reward. (Wild cards in this coming confrontation are Turkey, which is mostly Sunni, but is friendlier toward Iran than Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and the so-called Islamic State, which is also Sunni, but is not friendly toward anyone.)
The rivalry between these two sects of Islam goes back to the death of Mohammed, when there was a battle over the right to succeed him, and continues to this day. Most of their beliefs are identical but there are some differences. For example, they both believe in al Mahdi, but they don’t agree on who he will be or what he will do.
Many Shiites believe he’s the 12th Imam, who will appear at a time of great crisis in the world to establish the Islamic Caliphate, or Kingdom, and enforce worldwide conversion to Islam. Sunnis believe he will revive the faith, but will not necessarily be connected with the end of the world.
The Two Kings in Prophecy
Now let’s move into the future and see what the angel told Daniel about things still to come. If you read it carefully you’ll notice that three separate kings are in view in Daniel 11:36 and 40 and their identities must be discovered to fully understand what will happen in the days leading up to the end of the Age. They are the kings who exalt themselves; the king of the north, and the king of the south.
“The king who exalts himself”: The angel told Daniel this king would exalt and magnify himself above every god and would say unheard of things against the God of gods. (Daniel 11:36-37). In 2 Thess. 2:4 Paul said the Antichrist will exalt himself over everything that is called god or is worshiped. In Rev. 13:6 John said the Antichrist will blaspheme God and slander His name. So it looks like the king who exalts himself and the Antichrist is one and the same.
When the Antichrist first comes on the scene in the aftermath of the battle of Ezekiel 38-39, he’ll look to the world like a great peacemaker. Daniel 8:25says he’ll use the promise of peace to deceive people into feeling secure. He will distribute gifts of power and influence and will even confirm a treaty allowing Israel to build the third Temple and reinstate their worship of God there (Daniel 9:27).
As he gains public support he’ll use force to subdue countries that don’t fall into line. He’ll make his close followers into rulers, giving them conquered lands as a reward for their faithfulness (Daniel 11:39).
But when he moves to consolidate his control of planet Earth by going to Jerusalem to assert his divinity, the king of the north and the king of the south will both try to stop him (Daniel 11:40).
Satan has always used man’s need for a religion to help him achieve his goal of world dominance, but eventually he will have to make himself the only acceptable object of worship, unencumbered by any religious system. And just like the Jews were incited to murder when Jesus claimed to be God, so these Islamic kings will be outraged when the one they thought was the promised servant of Allah makes the claim that he actually is Allah.
In Islam there’s a saying, “Allah was not begotten nor does he beget.” When the Antichrist proclaims himself to be God he will be committing blasphemy against both Allah and God. When that happens, it’s easy to see how the kings of the north and south, with massive armies under their command, could forget their differences and team up against him. Nothing inflames the followers of Islam like an attack on their religion.
This tells us that even among Islamic countries there will be resistance to the Antichrist’s rule. It’s important to remember that there’s disagreement among the various branches of Islam over how and by whom world dominance will be achieved. But he’ll bring them all into submission. And after invading many other countries—he’ll arrive in Jerusalem and set up his headquarters there (Daniel 11:42-45), where he’ll walk into the New Temple and claim to be God (2 Thess. 2:4).
In Matt. 24:15 Jesus said this declaration will be the primary cause of the Great Tribulation and will trigger its beginning. This is because it will be the event that pits Satan and his man directly against God and His Anointed, as King David prophesied so long ago (Psalm 2:2-3).
The Antichrist’s defeat of the kings of the north and the south could be the reason for the entire world to unite behind him and declare, “Who is like the Beast? Who can make war against him?” (Rev. 13:4). And as Daniel was told, the Antichrist will be successful until the time of wrath is completed because this is the way God has determined it will happen (Daniel 11:36). No one on earth will be able to stand against him.
But when his time has come to an end, he’ll be defeated. Where the kings of the north and south will have failed, the King of Kings will be successful and at the end there will be no one to help this self exalted king (Daniel 11:45).
If, as I believe, the current unrest in the Islamic Middle East is leading to the re-appearance of the ancient kings of the north and south, then the appearance of the Antichrist cannot be far behind. And that’s another reason for us to believe that the days of the Church on earth are truly numbered.