1. I noticed that this year the Jewish Passover was on a different day than the Passover we celebrated. What is the difference in the dates, and is it significant?
The Church of God International (CGI) and many other Church of God groups celebrate the Lord’s Passover or Lord’s Supper the night before the Jewish Passover begins. The reason we do this is because Jesus had to keep the Passover meal the night before due to the fact He was the Passover Lamb that would be slain the next day. There is debate over whether or not the meal He kept with His disciples was the Passover meal that included a lamb or a meal that pertained to the Passover season but did not include the lamb. But we believe He set up a new tradition for us to follow. He used new symbols (bread and wine) for this meal that symbolized His body and blood. Since He did this the night before Passover, we continue to follow that example. Many members of the CGI continue to have a fellowship meal the evening that the Jewish Passover begins also, but this is not a requirement.
2. Concerning the end-time prophecies of the “kings of the north and the south,” and taking the vast changes in the European Union and the Middle East into consideration, what is your take on the identities of who these end-time powers might be?
When Alexander III (“Alexander the Great”) of Macedon died (323 BC), four of his generals—Seleucus, Ptolemy, Cassander, and Lysimachus—divided Alexander’s kingdom into four parts. The kings of the north and the south were the rulers Seleucid and Ptolemaic kingdoms, respectively. The first king of the north, Seleucus, eventually controlled the territories we know as Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and parts of Turkey. The first king of the south, Ptolemy, controlled Egypt, Sudan, Libya, Jordan, and Israel. For a long time to come, the descendents of Seleucus (king of the north) and Ptolemy (king of the south) would fight for control of the known world of the time.
Daniel 11 provides a remarkably detailed account of the Seleucid kings and their struggles, including the exploits of the infamous Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who was defeated in the Maccabean revolt (167–160 BC).
All of these events occurred from the fourth to the second century, BC. Your question, however, concerns the time of the end—the period just proceeding and leading up to the Second Coming of Christ—and presupposes that “the time of the end” mentioned in verses 35 and 40 of Daniel 11 is the end of this present age. If that is true, then it is obvious that there will be a final, last-days manifestation of the kings of the north and the south.
Many commentators, both within and outside the Sabbath-keeping Church of God groups, have tied this prophecy to the prophecy about the seven-headed, ten-horned “beast” (Revelation 13) and identified the final “king of the north” as a leader who will unite the peoples of Europe. This European confederacy will emerge as a revived Roman Empire, the final stage of the fourth kingdom of Daniel 2 and 7. The “king of the south” is often identified as the leader of a confederacy of Arab nations.
For me—and I speak only for myself, admitting the limitations of my present understanding of prophetic mysteries—all this is speculation. I would not dismiss the possibility of a future manifestation of the kings of the north and the south, but neither would I affirm it. The reference
to the “time of the end” (Daniel 11:40) leaves me with the question, “End of what?” Is the text speaking of the end of the present age or the end of the northern king’s reign, or is something else in view? Commentators are divided on this question, and I remain uncertain.
Supposing that the traditional interpretation is correct—that the end-time kings of the north and the south will be the leaders of European and Arab confederacies—the next question that comes to my mind concerns whether or not we’re actually seeing events, trends, and conditions that will lead directly to the manifestations of these prophesied entities. Sure, we can see how current events could lead to the rise of these powers, but we have no guarantee that tomorrow’s headlines won’t tell of new and very different events, trends, and conditions. If that happens, we might begin forming theories on how the new and different events, trends, and conditions may lead to the fulfillment of these prophecies. And there’s a chance we would again miss the prophetic bull’s-eye. It seems to me, therefore, that any linkage of current events with prophesied entities such as the kings of the north and the south would be speculative, at best, and would carry a high likelihood of being inaccurate.