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  • Steve Schmutzer

LEADERSHIP BY FARCE

No rational mind regarded the new leadership as legitimate.

All clear-eyed assessments knew the incoming man-in-charge was undeserving of his position. The means by which he’d come to power were marinated in corruption and fraud.

Conversely, the case of the rightful leader was legally sound - but law and order had been systematically undermined. The true top dog was spurned. Chaos abounded as his adversaries refused to grant him what he’d justly earned.

The fraudulent new leader was widely regarded as a bungling fool. He’d have stood no chance of gaining power if his unstable mental state had been properly disclosed. He assumed titles he wasn’t qualified to receive, even as he gained infamy for his bizarre antics. Nicknames which drew attention to his lack of self-control, his brittle ego, and his inept behaviors were well-known.

It came to light that the new leader’s ascent to power had been assisted by unethical people in key places. One might argue it was all “politics as usual,” but this was over-the-top “deep state” stuff: cold, covert, conniving, and corrupt. There was nothing remotely proper about any of it.

And it wasn’t far into the new leader’s rule that it was learned this cronyism was much bigger than it had initially appeared. Other countries were part of the collusion too – including their top leadership. These roots of corruption had run wide and deep.

The fake leader’s subjects paid grievously for his ill-gotten gain. The gravity and number of his authoritarian decisions were unparalleled. New taxation plans were heavy-handed, and decisions that eroded national welfare were made. Redistribution tactics were implemented which benefitted his shady supporters most.

Though relative peace and security had preceded the fraudulent leader’s rule, that all changed when he came to power. The new leader schemed with his advisors to undermine various places and pillars of vitality. Long-standing stalwarts of socioeconomic influence were attacked.

Foreign relations eroded quickly under the new leader’s administration. Diplomatic campaigns with other powers were insincere. Shoddy and meaningless agreements were struck, and the likelihood of wars grew.

Tensions and mistrusts swelled in the wake of the sham leader’s myopic postures, most notably in the Middle East. The new ruler made it clear from the get-go that his regard for Israel and the Jews was very poor. It was plain to see his crosshairs were on the back of the Jewish state.

Moreover, the new leader was personally compromised. Behind the scenes, he was indebted to other empires whose influence was clearly surging. His decisions could not cross the wishes and demands of these outside powers, and so they controlled him. These foreign nations cared little for the interests of the bogus leader’s own people.

Many innocent lives suffered due to the new leader’s disastrous decisions. Tens of thousands died as he failed to display even basic common sense. His zeal to enforce conformity placed him at odds with many who would not embrace his ideals. These dissenters posed threats to the new leader’s agenda, and he chafed as their liberties were expressed.

Rumors of a civil war simmered. His subjects writhed under his foolish antics, his desire for control, and his senseless schemes. This fiasco should not have happened in the first place.

The fraudulent new leader was Antiochus Epiphanes. Did you have somebody else in mind?

Antiochus Epiphanes reigned from 175 BC to his death in 164 BC. He ruled the Seleucid Kingdom which was headquartered in the area we know today as northern Syria. He is prophetically introduced in the Bible, roughly 350 years before his reign, in Daniel 11:21-35.

This portion of Daniel, and many historical records, provide a detailed account of a despicable king. Antiochus Epiphanes was not the rightful heir to the Seleucid throne; that claim belonged to another, Demetrius I Soter. With the help of King Eumenes II of Pergamum (Turkey), Antiochus Epiphanes seized the throne for himself and murdered remaining lineage threats.

The Bible records that the entire reign of Antiochus Epiphanes was marked by dishonesty and perversion. From beginning to end, his rule had a broader pagan agenda. His decisions pleased his godless supporters and other pagan cultures, but they displeased God.

Antiochus Epiphanes came to power during a time of relative calm. While his kingdom was still paying tributes to Rome for conflicts from years before, an acceptable status quo had entered. The century-long wars between the Seleucids up north and the Ptolemies down south in Egypt had yielded to a do-able peace. Folks had moved on with their lives and routines were established.

It all proved to be a false security. Antiochus Epiphanes’ ascent to the throne caught people unawares. His illegitimate power grab was a dramatic and disruptive event. The unexpected circumstances traumatized many both inside and outside his kingdom.

His insatiable lust for power dictated his bizarre conduct. Historical records are rife with the claim that Antiochus Epiphanes was “not right in the head.” He gave himself divine titles like Theos Epiphanes (“God Manifest”), and triumphant names like Nikephoros (“Bearer of Victory”). Such pretenses failed to disguise his eccentric tendencies, and some of his contemporaries called him Antiochus Epimanes instead. It was a wordplay off of his name, and it meant “The Mad One.”

In the immediate aftermath of his rise to power, Antiochus Epiphanes set out to crush all opposition to his reign. He reignited tensions and initiated a series of conflicts with his perceived enemies. Notably, he murdered the high priest, Onias III. This signaled to the Jews under his rule that Antiochus Epiphanes was not going to tolerate any religious dissension to his policies.

A sobering fact on the ascent of Antiochus Epiphanes is found in verse 23. Here, we find his rise to power was aided by “a few people” (NIV). The New Living Translation puts it more bluntly, “He will become strong despite having only a handful of followers.”

The bottom line is Antiochus Epiphanes was not a leader who had gained majority support. He did not represent the mainstream, and instead, his base was quite small. It is why his rise to power was a corrupt and deceitful process. He would not have acquired power any other way.

Once in power, Antiochus Epiphanes and his cronies pushed the envelope of frank corruption. The Bible records these activities as unprecedented – and strongly socialist in nature. He schemed to tear down the strength of others, and he plundered their wealth. Historical records note that he distributed these resources to influence and benefit his most ardent followers - in the form of blackmail, bribes, and other unethical transactions.

A veritable list of Antiochus Epiphanes’ character flaws rounds out the balance of this passage in Daniel. To start, Antiochus Epiphanes was markedly disingenuous in his dealings with other nations. He ignored common sense and he broke terms of the agreement to act out of self-interest. He met with foreign leaders with his own heart ‘bent on evil.” He engaged in lies instead of truth.

To top it all off, Rome made the final calls. Rome was the new emerging world power, and what Rome wanted, Rome got. While Antiochus Epiphanes was focused on acquiring greater plunder and influence for himself, he could not overlook his own compromised position with Rome.

The entire state of affairs inflamed Antiochus Epiphanes. He blamed the Jews for problems they were no part of, he actively meddled in other nation’s political affairs, he sought ways to limit his subjects’ rights and liberties, he persecuted those who disagreed with him, he elevated those who supported him, he silenced others who spoke out against him, and he escalated conflicts where he perceived he had something to gain.

His irrational and tyrannical behaviors were so corrupt, so violent, so murderous, and so comprehensive, that they incited the famous Maccabean revolt.

I already know what many of you are thinking, “So much THEN sounds like so much TODAY!”

You’re right. Many details in the story of Antiochus Epiphanes feel as though they were lifted straight out of America’s present challenges. An entire book could be written to make that case.

I recently finished teaching Daniel 11:21-35 to my Sunday School class. It took a few weeks to get through this passage, but as I worked my way through it verse by verse, I was also struck by the similarities between past and present leaders.

I received several questions several times as I taught this portion of Scripture. I share some of them here as I offer a few concluding points:

Why does the Bible give us so much information about Antiochus Epiphanes?

We are given extraordinary detail about Antiochus Epiphanes because he is a “type” – or picture - of the final antichrist. Nimrod, in Genesis Ch. 10, is too. Both came from the same region of what eventually became the eastern leg of the Roman Empire. That is probably significant.

Because the Bible makes the case that the antichrist will emerge from a “revived” Roman Empire, many people believe the antichrist will come from Europe. Such views fail to recognize the Roman Empire also had a powerful eastern leg, and that eastern leg outlasted the western one politically and militarily by hundreds of years.

Keep in mind, the Roman Empire never really disappeared. It merely changed form and function over time. It became the Holy Roman Empire and was once headquartered in Turkey. It then became the Holy Roman Catholic Empire, and today it’s simply called The Catholic Church.

Presently, The Catholic Church is headquartered in The Vatican, and its increasingly godless influence is obvious and worldwide. It traces its roots all the way back to its rise as a Gentile military and political kingdom around Antiochus Epiphanes’ time.

But the greater point is, we are given many specifics about Antiochus Epiphanes because much about him will also be true about the future antichrist. The Bible doesn’t waste words. We need to pay close attention.

What kind of administration will the antichrist have?

It’ll be a lot like the administration of Antiochus Epiphanes, but far worse. It’ll also be global. If you’re connecting all the dots here – it’ll be a much baser expression of the type of leadership we’re seeing right now in America: corrupt, deceitful, conniving, unethical, hostile to personal freedoms, anti-God, power-hungry, agenda-driven, suppressive, senseless, - - - and yes, socialist.

Jesus warned us we would see certain events exacerbating as the time of His Second Coming draws closer (Matt. 24:7-8). Typically, we think in terms of earthquakes, wars, famines, and such. But we are also seeing other trends in our time which portend the proximity of Christ’s Second Coming too. Like earthquakes and wars, these elements are increasing too.

These trends are “setting the stage” for one-world governance, and they include erosion of national boundaries, and embracing of socialism, a systemic rejection of Godly values, an obsession with “mother earth,” and various attempts to force the masses into conformity.

America was the world’s last holdout under its previous administration. The “America First” policies of President Trump thrust a hard stick into the spokes of a globalist agenda. This nation’s current administration is now working overtime to reverse those prior policies and to make America an active participant on the one-world stage.

Why would God allow America’s current administration into office?

Many believers suffer from looking at the Bible through the wrong lens. They try to interpret the Scriptures through a western-centric view.

The Bible is not only eastern-centric instead, but - in the prophetic sense – it is focused on the nation of Israel. Dr. John MacArthur said it best, “If you get Israel right, you get your eschatology right.” For us to properly understand the times in which we live, we need to properly understand that Israel is the hub of end-times events.

From my vantage point, President Trump did a lot of things right when it came to Israel. He formally recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. He endorsed the Golan Heights as Israel’s land. He negotiated breakthrough peace deals with nations that historically were adversarial to the Jewish state. In nearly every way he supported Israel, and the Middle East had a rare calm.

Not so with the current leadership. America’s policies now are to advocate for Israel’s enemies and to undermine Israel’s national welfare. The effects of such shortsightedness are obvious.

Tensions have inflamed in the Middle East since Biden “took” office. His policies have invited this. The IDF and Israel’s neighbors are all projecting an imminent war against Israel from multiple fronts. The prophecies of Psalms 83, Jeremiah 49:34-39, and Isaiah 17:1-3 could occur any day.

My own opinion is God is using America’s current corrupt administration to bring about the next chapter of prophetic events concerning Israel. God has used depraved leaders and nations before to fulfill His plans with Israel – King Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon are a great case in point (Jer. 25:9; 27:6; and 43:10). Like past leaders, current leaders remain subject to God’s sovereignty.

The story of Antiochus Epiphanes is not only a story about the past, it’s a window into the present. As we ponder the things which once took place, we are better equipped to understand the things which are now occurring.

The grand takeaway here is we live in the most exciting of times. The signs are so clear. We are likely the generation that will experience the Rapture. Every morning I wake up wondering if this will be the day of our “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13). Nearly every night, I pray for that.

May God strengthen our hearts with new resolve and encouragement as we glean from His Word, and as we faithfully endure in one righteous direction.

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