In the book of Daniel, there are a series of prophecies through Daniel (and one king) that are supposed to clearly explain to people who the forces will be against God and His kingdom at the end of time leading up to the Second Coming of Christ.
Among different symbols and imaginary in the various dreams and visions is a strange little horn on two different animals in chapter seven and eight. This ends up being the key feature against God and is comparable to the anti-Christ force against Him mentioned by Paul in the New Testament.
As I have gone through this myself, I now understand how this is already in existence that we, therefore, need to be aware of; this was the belief of all the former great protestant faith Reformers like Luther, Calvin, Wesley and Spurgeon.
This is technically called a Historicist way of interpreting biblical prophecy; however, a popular mainstream alternative is the Futurist one that believes all the action is still to happen in the future and probably based around the literal country of Israel.
The Preterist stance assumes this has already happened in the past around the New Testament era.
A popular assumption by both the Preterist and Futurist of what this little horn refers to in Daniel is a king in the latter part of the Old Testament called Antiochus Epiphanes.
In short, he was an evil king against God’s people in Jerusalem, with some similarities to what’s mentioned in the book of Daniel.
He attacked Jerusalem and attempted to terminate the Jews and their faith. This caused families to go into slavery and caused many deaths. In the end, the Maccabean revolt eventually brought an end to this.
And understandably, with him causing such cruel harm, Jewish Rabbis and people have identified a link with him.
However, when you dig deeper, he doesn’t fit all; the criteria provided in the prophecies in the book of Daniel and the ones they do fit, not fully.
In particular, there are ten key features of this little horn seen in the study’s section of chapter seven you can see here.
Therefore, here are all these ten features, in turn, to see how Antiochus doesn’t fit the bill (there's a helpful Youtube video here as well).
1. It comes from the Roman kingdom, the generic fourth iron metal in chapter two, and an awful beast in chapter seven
This is actually the main point that rules Antiochus from being this little horn symbol – he was from the previous Greece kingdom, not the following Roman one.
Admittedly the year when he invaded Jerusalem in 168 BC was the transition to Roman world control from Greece, but he is clearly known as being a Greek king.
Some theologians try and get around this by saying that the little horn in chapter eight of Daniel is different to the one in chapter seven – or even the metal in the statue of chapter two.
But in the study of Daniel in these chapters, it’s clear (and logical) that this is the same little-horn and linking to the Roman empire in particular.
Plus, referring back to the chapter two picture of metals, these became progressively stronger and lasting for longer to the very end of time – not a one-off king who then disappears.
Also, delving deeper into the meaning of such a kingdom, this is a wider system being referred to and not just an individual king as with Antiochus. Although it has a leading little-horn figure, it is still a wider beast-kingdom and system, not a one-person show.
2. It comes after the ten horns, which must be sometime after 476 AD when the kingdom split into ten nations after
There were actually ten kings in the Seluvian part of the Greece kingdom; however, these were minor as Rome took over as the new kingdom.
But this does not match the detail of the ten horns in this prophecy, as these ten kings are in the following Roman kingdom.
3. It emerges from and eliminates three of the ten horns and kingdoms and then subdues, plucks up, and eliminates them
From the last part, three of these horns are highlighted as being affected by this new little (and eleventh) horn and king.
There isn’t a clear link between Antiochus and any such kings which, as above, are too early in time anyway under the overall Greece kingdom).
4. It starts off a small horn but then grows into a powerful world influence through the whole beast
Although this Antiochus had a devastating effect in Jerusalem, God’s special place, he didn’t and hasn’t taken over world control and influence.
The biblical little horn starts small and increases to this height of fame far above any others, which as per the earlier point, is part and parcel of the wider Roman and fourth kingdom.
5. It lasts until the end of time when judgement comes, and Christ returns with His Kingdom
Antiochus did prosper and succeeded in causing disaster to Jerusalem and God’s people.
However, he, of course, eventually died and therefore won’t last until Christ’s Second Coming (and didn’t even make it to His first one on earth).
6. It involves a person, regarding a man’s eyes and mouth in the little horn
This does fit of course in the sense that we are referring to an individual taking the lead. But this is just the front-face of a connecting little-horn and bigger beats and kingdom, rather than one individual reacting to circumstances.
7. The little horn speaks great words against God, which causes the downfall of the whole beast
Interestingly, this king did claim to be a god, and he did clear actions against God, therefore upon first impressions, it seems to fit this aspect.
He stopped sacrifices being made in the temple in Jerusalem and holding feast days; he also made alters for the god of Zeus, which involved sacrificing pigs (particularly offensive meat for Jews) on the alter to try and rename and purpose the temple to this god.
He destroyed copies of scripture and spoiled the temple and the daily sacrifice ritual. He also tortured believers until they renounced their faith or died.
However, in reality, others such as Alexander also made this claim of god status.
Also, there is a difference between claiming to be a form of God and even God-like features, and then a full-on belief to forgive people’s sins and bring reconciliation to people. This is claiming to be and actually being above the true God.
Also, this little horn figure is described in the New Testament as being after Christ and the early church, and not before as with this king. Paul refers to the anti-Christ figure in Thessalonians and Jesus as the abomination of desolation in Daniel (Rome was also the controlling force when Jesus was on earth).
Another interesting religious angle sometimes referred to is that there are 2300 days between when Antiochus became king and finally died. People, therefore, link this to the reference of 2300 days in Daniel chapter eight and the cleansing of the sanctuary, and the fact that the Jews had to literally clean up the temple after such a king.
Although this is the same number, its interpretation in Daniel is to do with Jerusalem being rebuilt and Christ’s period on earth. It has to mean 2300 years as per all other timelines in the book, not suddenly keeping this one literal days and out of context.
Also, the judgement in chapter nine, when the little horn’s influence comes to an end, is timed for the late sixteenth century AD, which is evidently many centuries past when Antiochus ended BC.
The daily sacrifice referred to is salvation and the gospel through the blood of the lamb, not just desecrating an alter.
8. It is a new horn that is different, diverse, and was more stout than the other ten
This little horn is very different to the kings and kingdoms that have been before. Even though Antiochus had an anger issue with the Jewish people, he was still just a king as per all previous ones.
There must be something different, probably with a religious aspect considering the other God influences here and the symbol of clay being mixed with the iron in Daniel chapter two’s prophecy.
9. It tries to change timings and laws
Antiochus tried to change how the Israelites worshipped God – for example, trying to stop circumcision and the sabbath, and of course, stopping regular temple worship and sacrifices.
However, this was not trying to change the law itself; it just stops them from doing what they believed God’s law was.
He was under the pretence of religion and claiming this was true faith rather than trying to form a whole new religion and law of God.
10. It makes war against God’s people, and the beast tramples them under its feet for a set time
As mentioned earlier, he certainly did trample and harm God’s people, whether that was torture or tens of thousands being killed.
However, the time frame of 1260 days/years in the prophecy does not match here, although there is mention of approximately three and a half years of him causing harm to the city and God’s people.
However, this is interrupted in years not literal days as per all other timelines which currently line up to Christ’s life on earth and the fall of this little horn many centuries after Christ, not before.
Who’s the Little Horn?
People seem to easily bypass what this little horn means in this chapter and the anti-Christ figure later in the New Testament.
This is what will be against God and His true believers at the end of time, therefore, we need to know who we’re correctly looking out for.
Therefore, the ten key features of this little horn as prophesied in the book of Daniel is essential. Any alleged interpretation must match all ten, as God divinely inspires all scripture.
Although there are some similarities which Jews at the time would understandably link together, with hindsight you can see that he can’t actually be, and that it must be something else as revealed in chapter seven of the study of Daniel.