In “Josephus: The Complete Works” Bible prophecy is fulfilled, and the Antichrist and Great Tribulation are previewed.
One of the great historians of antiquity, Josephus was himself Jewish, and was present during the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish Temple in 70 A.D. Josephus’ account of that siege is a wealth of fulfilled Bible prophecy. But it is Josephus’ account of another assault on Jerusalem and the Jewish Temple that is the focus of my post this week. This was the assault in 167 B.C. by Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the leader of the Seleucid Empire. Like the Roman siege, fulfilled Bible prophecy leaps off the history pages of the Seleucid siege.
Of Antiochus IV Epiphanes’ siege of 167 B.C., Josephus writes:
He also spoiled the temple, and put a stop to the constant practice of offering a daily sacrifice of expiation for three years and six months. ~ “Josephus: The Complete Works,” Page 655
Wow! I was stunned because in those words I immediately heard echoes of what is in the Bible, written by Daniel wrote 400 years prior to that siege:
His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice. ~ Daniel 11:31-32
The saints will be handed over to him for a time, times, and half a time. ~ Daniel 7:25 [“time”= 1 year, “times” = 2 years, “half a time” = 6 months. 3 years and six months, the exact amount of time mentioned by Josephus]
There’s more, a lot more.
The four horns that replaced the one that was broken off represent four kingdoms that will emerge from his nation but will not have the same power. ~ Daniel 8:21-24
Alexander the Great is the horn “that was broken off.” He died at age 33 after conquering the entire known world. After his death, his empire was divided up among four of his generals: Seleucid, Ptolemy, Cassander, & Lysimachus– “the four horns”. (By the way, Daniel wrote all that 300 years before it happened, and he got it 100% right. No other religious book on earth even attempts prophecy like this, much less gets it right 100% of the time.) Antiochus IV Epiphanes came from the Seleucid Empire.
Daniel goes on:
“In the latter part of their reign, when rebels have become completely wicked, a stern-faced king, a master of intrigue, will arise. He will become very strong, but not by his own power.” ~ Daniel 8:23-24
So, in the latter part of the reign of these four empires that splintered from Alexander’s empire, rebels would be completely wicked, and a stern-faced king would arise. I have read this verse so many times, and I always figured the “rebels” to be people within the political machines of the four empires, gentile peoples striving for control of the empires. However, not until I read Josephus did it occur to me that these “rebels” are not gentiles in lands foreign to Israel. These rebels are Jewish, and they are in Jerusalem! Josephus writes:
…a great sedition fell among the men of power in Judea…Onias, one of the high priests, got the better, and cast the sons of Tobias out of the city; who fled to Antiochus, and besought him to make use of them for his leaders, and to make an expedition into Judea. The king being thereto disposed beforehand, complied with them…and came upon the Jews with a great army, and took their city by force…and sent out his soldiers to plunder them, without mercy. ~ “Josephus: The Complete Works,” Page 655
This was astounding to me because it animates and clarifies Daniel’s words. What made these rebels “completely wicked” was the fact that they took their fight outside of the Jewish nation and actually solicited the help of a maniacal gentile ruler to come against their own Jewish brethren. And that is how the “stern-faced king” named Antiochus IV Epiphanes was handed the key to Jerusalem.
It is crucial to realize that among the chapters in which Daniel writes prophecies about Antiochus IV Epiphanes, we see repeated references to “the end” and “the time of the end.” This introduces a topic that trips up many Western Bible commentators. There is a saying among rabbis who actually believe the Bible (who, by the way, are as rare as pastors who actually believe the Bible). This saying goes, “pattern is prophecy.” What this means is that a prophecy may have more than one fulfillment.
For example, as I read Josephus’ account of the Roman siege of Jerusalem, many verses from throughout the entire Bible were ringing in my head. I could clearly see the fulfillment of verses from Lamentations, 2 Kings, Matthew and others. That’s not to say that some of those prophecies were not fulfilled when other world powers assaulted Jerusalem– they very well may have been, and may be in the future as well. But those prophecies were undoubtedly fulfilled during the Roman assault. There is clearly a pattern of fulfillment, a plurality of fulfillment.
It’s like a template God makes against which you can compare the events of history. Many of these templates match multiple events in history. When God wants us to drill down to a particular single event, he lets us know by applying multiple prophetic filters. For example, there was only one first coming of the Messiah, and God put so many prophetic filters in the Bible, that no one could make an honest case that anyone but Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah. However, even for that, God put types and shadows in the Bible. Abraham offering his son Isaac as a sacrifice on Mt. Moriah was a shadow of God the Father offering his son Jesus on that very same mountain hundreds of years later– and going through with it! Thankfully, God spared Isaac, but he wrote the shadow of the Gospel narrative into the Abraham and Isaac account for us to see and learn from. The Bible is full of types, shadows, hints, echoes, and multiple fulfillments.
Thus, we must realize that Daniel was writing prophecies not only about Antiochus IV Epiphanes, but also about the antichrist who will arise at “the time of the end.”
With that in mind, there are some more words that leaped off the pages of Josephus at me. Bachides, a military commander reporting to Antiochus, is ordered to stand against the people of Jerusalem and keep the city. Of him, Josephus writes:
…having these wicked commands, joined to his own natural barbarity, indulged all sorts of the extremest wickedness… ~ “Josephus: The Complete Works,” Page 655
If Daniel is writing as much about the antichrist as he is about Antiochus IV Epiphanes, than those words, “extremest wickedness,” apply to the Great Tribulation of the last days. This is a time Jesus himself describes:
For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. ~ Jesus Christ, Matthew 24:21-22 (NKJV)
There is a fascinating fact here that, like the plurality of prophetic fulfillment, has escaped the grasp of Western Bible teachers. That fact is that Antiochus’ reign of terror, and his commander’s “extremest wickedness” were perpetrated against Israel and the Jewish people, not the entire world. This would indicate that the Great Tribulation will also have as its primary targets Israel and the Jewish people, not the entire world. I believe that the Christians who suffer and are beheaded during the Great Tribulation will be those who hold steadfastly to the identity of Jesus Christ as the Messiah of the human race, by way of the Jewish people. I do not believe that “Christians” who profess that Jesus Christ was a Palestinian revolutionary will be beheaded. Accepting the true identity of the Messiah is key, and the fakers will be easy to spot because they will still have heads atop their necks.
We need to consider that we gentiles in the West have drifted so far from the Jewishness of the Bible, and so far from the fact that Jerusalem is the center of the world, that we can no longer see accurately what God has made so clear right before our eyes. We need to pray for, care for, and defend the Jewish people and their eternal capital, Jerusalem. They are in for a very hard time from the forces of evil in this world. The Bible is always proven true.