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“The King of the North” in the Time of the End

“The King of the North” in the Time of the End

“In the time of the end the king of the south will engage with him [the king of the north] in a pushing.”​—DAN. 11:40.

SONG 150 Seek God for Your Deliverance


1. What does Bible prophecy reveal to us?

WHAT does the near future hold for Jehovah’s people? We do not have to guess. Bible prophecy gives us a window through which we can see major events that will affect all of us. One prophecy in particular allows us to see what some of the most powerful governments on earth will do. That account, recorded in Daniel chapter 11, traces the history of two opposing forces, the king of the north and the king of the south. A large portion of that prophecy has already been fulfilled, so we can be confident that the rest of it will also come true.

2. As indicated at Genesis 3:15 and Revelation 11:7 and 12:17, what facts must we keep in mind when studying Daniel’s prophecy?

2 To understand the prophecy recorded in Daniel chapter 11, we need to keep in mind that it identifies only rulers and governments that have had a direct influence on God’s people. And even though God’s servants make up only a small portion of the world’s population, they are often at the center of major world events. Why? Because Satan and his entire system have one prime objective​—conquering those who serve Jehovah and Jesus. (Read Genesis 3:15 and Revelation 11:7; 12:17.) In addition, the prophecy recorded by Daniel must harmonize with other prophecies in God’s Word. In fact, we can come to the right understanding of Daniel’s prophecy only if we compare it with other portions of the Scriptures.

3. What will we discuss in this article and the one that follows?

3 With those points in mind, we will now examine Daniel 11:25-39. We will see who the king of the north and the king of the south were from 1870 to 1991, and we will see why it is reasonable for us to clarify our understanding of a portion of this prophecy. In the following article, we will discuss Daniel 11:40–12:1, and we will clarify our understanding of what that part of the prophecy reveals about the period from the 1990’s to the war of Armageddon. As you study these two articles, it will be helpful to consult the chart “Rival Kings in the Time of the End.” First, though, we need to identify the two kings in this prophecy.


4. What three factors should we look for when identifying the king of the north and the king of the south?

4 The titles “king of the north” and “king of the south” were initially given to political powers located north and south of the literal land of Israel. Why do we say that? Notice what the angel who delivered the message to Daniel said: “I have come to make you understand what will befall your people in the final part of the days.” (Dan. 10:14) Until Pentecost 33 C.E., the literal nation of Israel was God’s people. From then on, however, Jehovah made it obvious that he viewed Jesus’ faithful disciples as his people. Therefore, much of the prophecy recorded in Daniel chapter 11 involves, not the literal nation of Israel, but Christ’s followers. (Acts 2:1-4; Rom. 9:6-8; Gal. 6:15, 16) And the identity of the king of the north and the king of the south changed over time. Even so, several factors remained constant. First, the kings interacted with God’s people in a significant way. Second, they showed by their treatment of God’s people that they hated the true God, Jehovah. And third, the two kings engaged in a power struggle with each other.

5. Can we identify the king of the north and the king of the south from the 2nd century C.E. to the late 19th century? Explain.

5 At some time during the second century C.E., the true Christian congregation began to be overrun by false Christians, who had adopted pagan teachings and who were hiding the truths found in God’s Word. From that time until the late 19th century, there was no organized group of God’s servants on earth. The weeds of false Christianity flourished and hid the identity of true Christians. (Matt. 13:36-43) Why is that fact significant? It indicates that what we read about the king of the north and the king of the south could not apply to rulers or kingdoms that held power from sometime in the 2nd century to the second half of the 19th century. There was no organized group of God’s people for them to attack. * However, we can expect that the king of the north and the king of the south would reappear in the late 19th century. Why is that the case?

6. When could God’s people again be identified? Explain.

6 From 1870 onward, God’s people began to get organized as a group. It was in that year that Charles T. Russell and his associates formed a Bible study class. Brother Russell and his close associates acted as the foretold messenger who ‘cleared up a way’ before the Messianic Kingdom was established. (Mal. 3:1) God’s people could once again be identified! Were there any world powers on the scene that would have a significant impact on God’s servants? Consider the following facts.


7. Who was the king of the south well into World War I?

7 By 1870, Britain had become the largest empire on earth, and it had the most powerful military force. That empire was pictured as a small horn that vanquished three other horns​—France, Spain, and the Netherlands. (Dan. 7:7, 8) And it filled the role of the king of the south well into World War I. During this same time, the United States of America had become the dominant economic power and was forming a close partnership with Britain.

8. Who has been the king of the south throughout the last days?

8 During World War I, the United States and Britain were welded into a powerful military alliance. At that time, Britain and its former colony became the Anglo-American World Power. As Daniel foretold, this king had amassed “an exceedingly large and mighty army.” (Dan. 11:25) Throughout the last days, the Anglo-American alliance has been the king of the south. * Who, though, has filled the role of the king of the north?


9. When did the king of the north reappear, and how was Daniel 11:25 fulfilled?

9 In 1871, the year after Russell and his associates formed their Bible study group, the king of the north reappeared. That year Otto von Bismarck was instrumental in establishing the German Empire. Prussian King Wilhelm I became its first emperor, and he appointed Bismarck as the first chancellor. * Over the next few decades, Germany became a colonial power, controlling countries in Africa and the Pacific Ocean, and began challenging the power of Britain. (Read Daniel 11:25.) The German Empire built a powerful army and the second-largest navy in the world. Germany unleashed them against its enemies in the first world war.

10. How was Daniel 11:25b, 26 fulfilled?

10 Daniel then points forward to what would happen to the German Empire and the military force that it had built. The prophecy states that the king of the north “will not stand.” Why not? “Because they will plot schemes against him. And those eating his delicacies will bring his downfall.” (Dan. 11:25b, 26a) Back in Daniel’s day, those eating “the king’s delicacies” included royal officials in “the king’s service.” (Dan. 1:5) To whom does the prophecy here refer? It refers to high-ranking officials of the German Empire​—including the emperor’s generals and military advisers—​who eventually helped bring down the monarchy. * The prophecy not only foretold the fall of the empire but also mentioned the outcome of the war with the king of the south. Speaking of the king of the north, it states: “As for his army, it will be swept away, and many will fall down slain.” (Dan. 11:26b) In the first world war, just as foretold, the German army was “swept away” and many did “fall down slain.” That war proved to be the deadliest in human history up until that time.

11. What did the king of the north and the king of the south do?

11 Describing the time leading up to World War I, Daniel 11:27, 28 says that the king of the north and the king of the south would “sit at one table speaking lies.” It also says that the king of the north would accumulate “a great amount of goods.” Again, this is what happened. Germany and Britain told each other that they wanted peace, but those statements proved to be lies when the war broke out in 1914. And in the decades before 1914, Germany grew rich, becoming the second-largest economy in the world. Then, in fulfillment of Daniel 11:29 and the first part of verse 30, Germany fought with the king of the south but was defeated.


12. In the first world war, what did the king of the north and the king of the south do?

12 From 1914 onward, the two kings have intensified their conflict with each other and with God’s people. For example, in the first world war, both the German government and the British government persecuted God’s servants who refused to take up arms. And the U.S. government threw into prison those who were taking the lead in the preaching work. This persecution fulfilled the prophecy recorded at Revelation 11:7-10.

13. In the 1930’s and during the second world war, what did the king of the north do?

13 Then, in the 1930’s and especially during the second world war, the king of the north attacked God’s people without mercy. When the Nazi party took control of Germany, Hitler and his followers banned the work of God’s people. The opposers killed hundreds of Jehovah’s people and sent thousands more to concentration camps. Those events were foretold by Daniel. The king of the north was able to “profane the sanctuary” and “remove the constant feature” by severely restricting the freedom of God’s servants to praise Jehovah’s name publicly. (Dan. 11:30b, 31a) Its leader, Hitler, even vowed that he would exterminate God’s people in Germany.


14. Who took on the role of the king of the north after the second world war? Explain.

14 After the second world war, the Communist government of the Soviet Union took control of the vast territories it had captured from Germany, and it became the king of the north. Like the totalitarian Nazi regime, the Soviet Union showed great hostility toward anyone who put the worship of the true God ahead of absolute obedience to the state.

15. What did the king of the north do after World War II ended?

15 Soon after World War II ended, the new king of the north, the Soviet Union and its allies, launched his own assault on God’s people. In harmony with the prophecy recorded at Revelation 12:15-17, this king banned our preaching work and sent thousands of Jehovah’s people into exile. In fact, throughout the last days, the king of the north has poured out “a river” of persecution in an unsuccessful attempt to stop the work of God’s people. *

16. How did the Soviet Union fulfill Daniel 11:37-39?

16 Read Daniel 11:37-39. In fulfillment of that prophecy, the king of the north did not show any “regard for the God of his fathers.” How so? The Soviet Union, with the goal of eliminating religion, tried to break the power of the traditional religious organizations. To achieve that goal, the Soviet government had already back in 1918 issued an order that laid the foundation for atheism to be taught in schools. How did this king of the north “give glory to the god of fortresses”? The Soviet Union spent an enormous amount of money building its army and producing thousands of nuclear weapons to fortify its realm. Both the king of the north and the king of the south eventually gathered enough firepower to kill billions of people!


17. What is “the disgusting thing that causes desolation”?

17 The king of the north has supported the king of the south in one key endeavor; they “put in place the disgusting thing that causes desolation.” (Dan. 11:31) That “disgusting thing” is the United Nations.

18. Why is the United Nations described as a “disgusting thing”?

18 The United Nations organization is described as a “disgusting thing” because it claims to be able to do something that only God’s Kingdom can do​—bring world peace. And the prophecy says that the disgusting thing “causes desolation” because the United Nations will play a key role in the destruction of all false religion.​—See the chart “Rival Kings in the Time of the End.”


19-20. (a) Why do we need to know this history? (b) What question will we answer in the next article?

19 We need to know this history because it proves that from the 1870’s to the early 1990’s, Daniel’s prophecy about the king of the north and the king of the south has been fulfilled. So we can have faith that the remaining portion of the prophecy will also come true.

20 In 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed. So who fills the role of the king of the north today? The next article answers that question.

SONG 128 Enduring to the End

^ par. 5 We are seeing evidence that Daniel’s prophecy about “the king of the north” and “the king of the south” continues to be fulfilled. How can we be so sure? And why do we need to understand the details of this prophecy?

^ par. 5 For the reason stated here, it no longer seems appropriate to list Roman Emperor Aurelian (270-275 C.E.) as a “king of the north” or Queen Zenobia (267-272 C.E.) as a “king of the south.” This updates what was published in chapters 13 and 14 of the book Pay Attention to Daniel’s Prophecy!

^ par. 9 In 1890, Kaiser Wilhelm II forced Bismarck out of power.

^ par. 10 They hastened the fall of the empire in a number of ways. For instance, they withdrew support for the kaiser, leaked sensitive information about losses in the war, and forced the kaiser to abdicate.

^ par. 15 As indicated at Daniel 11:34, Christians living under the king of the north experienced some relief from persecution. This happened, for example, when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.