“Then it happened, when I, Daniel, had seen the vision and was seeking the meaning, that suddenly there stood before me one having the appearance of a man. And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of the Ulai, who called, and said, ‘Gabriel, make this man understand the vision.’ So he came near where I stood, and when he came I was afraid and fell on my face; but he said to me, ‘Understand, son of man, that the vision refers to the time of the end.’ Now, as he was speaking with me, I was in a deep sleep with my face to the ground; but he touched me, and stood me upright. And he said, ‘Look, I am making known to you what shall happen in the latter time of the indignation; for at the appointed time the end shall be.'” Daniel 8:15-19
In this passage, Daniel has been granted a vision of the (more immediate) future: the fall of Persia and the rise of the Grecian kingdoms (Alexander the Great and his generals). He was puzzled by the vision, but as always God made a way for Daniel to understand it; this time, God sent His chief messenger angel, Gabriel, to Daniel.
The events Gabriel explains to Daniel have great significance; out of the four kingdoms born of Alexander’s empire, a king would rise and cause great trouble for God’s people. History identifies him as Antiochus IV, the Grecian ruler who desecrated the rebuilt Jewish Temple and tried to force worship of himself and Greek deities. The account of the fight against him is recorded in the four books of the Maccabees, found in the Apocrypha. Eventually, his armies are defeated and godly worship restored; this is evidenced and remembered by the celebration of Hanukkah.
Three things to take from this: 1. While Antiochus IV was certainly the foretold king of this prophecy, other historical figures bear similarities to him, the greatest still to come – the Antichrist. 2. While God may know what is to come, including all the atrocities evil people will commit, His holiness and goodness are not diminished by it – He used Antiochus as a test to increase the faith of His people, and through the Maccabees He preserved the nation Jesus would be born into. 3. God knows our hearts, and when we seek to understand His ways more deeply, He will provide us with exactly what we need. It may be a little scary at times (angels have that effect), and what we learn may be troubling (Daniel’s health was affected by what he learned), but God never gives us anything that He knows we cannot handle.