In the past I've been hostile to viewing the 7 Kings as 7 Kingdoms or Empires rather then a specific succession of individual Kings. Chris White argues they are 7 Kings of 7 Kingdoms.
I'll never be convinced of a model that adds two empires or even one before Nebuchadnezzar. But my perspective on this changed when I noticed something about how Daniel 7 and the Beast from the Sea in Revelation are compared.
This thesis here could damage a lot of my earlier theories. But not my over all view of Bible Prophecy.
Seven is also the total number of heads in Daniel 7, 1 Lion, 1 Bear, 4 of the Leopard and the Ten horns are defined as on a head in Daniel 7. The Beast of Revelation 13 is all four of Daniel 7's beasts merged together.
So we have 7 Kingdoms, each also with one specific of their Kings to single out. That is how I now look at it.
The 7 kings do NOT each have to be a type of The Antichrist, that is just a made up rule some people have for studying this. Cyrus is indisputably the Second King in question here, he is never portrayed negatively in Scripture. In fact he is the only Gentile The Hebrew Bible ever declares a Messiah, and it's God himself saying it to Cyrus in Isaiah 44/45. Some of them may be types, but they don't all need to be.
In fact even though I've done and may still do a lot of talking about potential types of The Anitchrist on this Blog. The Biblical endorsement for the concept of types are entirely about Jesus, Paul in Colossians saying everything in the law was a foreshadowing of Jesus that had already been fulfilled, Jesus saying the Volume of The Book is of Him. There is no Biblical basis for calling ANYONE a type of The Antichrist.
This model has to make Rome the 7th rather then 6th Empire. How can Rome possibly be yet Future in John's time? Or be said to have not lasted very long?
The 7 Kings we're are looking for are not rulers or occupiers of Israel/Jerusalem. Revelation 17 is specifically about Babylon, it's about 7 Kings of 7 Kingdoms who ruled Babylon, starting with it's native kingdom. Daniel 7 is in the Aramaic part of Daniel, the language of the Assyrians and Babylonians of Daniel's time. And he was in Babylon when he had this vision. The four beasts are described as World Empires and all four are, but to the point of view of the Babylonians Daniel first made this Prophecy for, no one truly became a world empire till they conquered their world.
Rome did NOT rule Babylon at any point during the New Testament era or before it. John wrote Revelation at the latest during the reign of Domitian. The second Emperor after that, Trajan, was the first Roman to take Mesopotamia and Assyria. and it was at the very end of his reign that he did. Then Hadrian succeeded him, and he pretty much immediately gave them back to Parthia. So Rome only ever ruled Babylon for a very short time, just a few years.
The ruler of Parthia when John wrote was Pacorus II. (Who's mother was a Greek concubine, further showing he can count as a Greek King, and his father's maternal grandmother had Seleucid ancestry). When hePacorus died Trajan was already Emperor of Rome. Later in the 160s AD there was another Roman military incursion into Mesopotamia, but it never reached Babylon, it's focus was on Seleucica.
While it's not a coincidence that the 4 heads of the Leopard are the same number of horns the Notable horn of the Ram breaks into. I think what they represent specifically here could be sort of different. We are dealing with four Hellenistic era Kingdoms that ruled Babylon. The first is Alexander himself, then comes the successors.
I believe Parthia while often thought of as a quasi Persian empire can be looked at as coming out of Alexander's Empire. He had conquered that region, and by the New Testament period the Arascid Royal Family had Seleucid blood intermingled into them.
Babylon was taken from the Seleucid Empire by Parthia in 150 BC. It was still firmly Seleucid during the time of Antiochus Epiphanes and the Hasomonean revolt.
Antigonus and Seleucus Nicator fought over Babylon early on after it was clear Alexander's own Dynasty would not survive. Eventually Seleucus secured it.
I'm going to consider Ptolemy the true successor to Alexander in this context. He had Alexander's body buried in the city named after him, and act that secured succession in Macedonian custom, and was possibly a half brother or cousin of Alexander.
The 4 Heads of the Leopard could be viewed as Antigonos in Macedon =The West, Antioch=The North, Alexandria=The South and Parthia=The East. Thus fitting the Four Winds of Heaven reference in Daniel 11. Though for that context we could also say the West was the Macedon-Greece homeland which was originally ruled by the Antipards but which the Antigonids took as they lost what was originally allotted to them to Seleucus.
So the 7 King(dom)s of Babylon from Daniel are Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, Alexander The Great, Antigonus, Seleucid Dynasty, Pacorus of Parthia, and Trajan of Rome.
In the past I firmly argued that I believe The Antichrist's Death and Resurrection must both be in the future. And I was not comfortable with the theories making him some past King being brought back.
But in light of this, I must be consistent with my clear understanding of Revelation 17's terminology. "Was, and is not" means the Eight King is one of the first 5, since it defines the present of this message as the 6th.
I still believe the Beast Empire is largely a Revived Roman Empire, but the Little Horn shows up among the ten horns in Daniel 7, distinct from Daniel 8 where he comes out of one of the 4 horns. He's ruling Rome but not as a Roman himself.
I don't believe it has to be someone who died from a head wound. The doctrine of The Antichrist's Resurrection to me is proven not by the mortal head wound being healed but by his ascending out of the Bottomless Pit, and how that theme ties into Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28-32, (though fatal sword wound references are there too).
It could be he's already an early example of the second resurrection when he receives the mortal wound, and what amazes people is him surviving something that should have killed him, because he now has a body like a fallen angel.
Alexander The Great is distinct as being in a sense the main King of the Leopard as a whole as well as one of the heads. I see Daniel 7:12 saying both that the Assyrian, Persian and Greek nations will exist during the Millennium. And that their main three Kings, Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus and Alexander The Great, are saved individuals and will exist in The Millennium too.
That only leaves Antigonus and the Seleucids.
Daniel 11:40-45 seems to have The Antichrist as separate from the King of The North. However, I've explained why I'm no longer certain that even is The Antichrist, and that it might be Augustus. But if that is the End Times and is The 8th King, it's while he's not a ruler of his original kingdom anymore but of the 10 horns to emerge from Rome.
There is nothing to link Antigonus to the Antichrist, but a lot of reasons to link the Seleucids. Daniel 8 as well as Epiphanes doing the first Abomination of Desolation, which Jesus clarifies there will be one yet future.
I argued in the past when discussing Daniel 8 that there The Little Horn is the Seleucid dynasty as a whole, not just 1 or 2 individuals. So unlike others who've argued a thesis similar to what I'm arguing here, I don't necessarily think it's Antiochus Epiphanes himself who is the Seleucid ruler that will ascend out of the Bottomless Pit, but certainly could be.
There are reasons to believe The Antichrist will be someone The Jews accept at first until the Abomination of Desolation happens. If he's Epiphanes and is known to be Epiphanes, that would be unlikely. Epiphanes is up there with Hitler and Haman on the most hated by Jews list.
I do think it must be a Seleucid mentioned in Daniel 11, making him a Biblical figure. Seleucus I might be the candidate to start with, but while important to Seleucid history obviously, what's said of him in Daniel 11 is brief and pales in comparison to some of the others. But it is interesting that a legend existed in the ancient world that his mother Laodice claimed he was fathered by Apollo.
Three times in Daniel 11 a king is described as "doing according to his will". One of these is verse 36 which is clearly past the immediate history of Epiphanes already, after the Hasmonean Kingdom has fallen to Rome. And may or may not be about The Antichrist. It's first used of Alexander The Great at the start of the chapter. Between them it's in verse 16.
Verse 16 is during the time of Antiochus III The Great's wars. And usually he is identified by scholars as the one "doing according to his will" there. But Hippolytus of Rome in his Daniel commentary confusingly says this was an Alexander not known from any other surviving historical sources we have on the period. He might have gotten confused by how that phrase was earlier affiliated with Alexander The Great, or maybe it's a scribal/copyist error.
It was under Antiochus The Great that Israel was taken from the Ptolemies and became part of the Seleucid Empire. He is overall remembered fondly by The Jews as recorded by Josephus. His relationship with them in Daniel 11 seems positive. He continued Alexander and the Ptolemies general policy of not interfering with their Faith or The Temple.
But Josephus seems to be familiar with only 1 Maccabees and not 2 Maccabees. 2 Maccabees chapter 1 seems to refer to the death of Antiochus III and deems him ungodly. Some see the benefits Antiochus gave The Temple as having been good for the Priestly class but not really for the common people.
Epiphanes is still the key link this dynasty has to The Antichrist. It's highly possible he will lie about who he is, even when he first reveals himself to be a resurrected past individual he may lie about exactly who he is. Maybe he'll try to claim he's Elijah or David or Solomon or someone like that. Or maybe just a simple matter of lying about which Macedonian or Seleucid ruler he is.
Some have agreed that Daniel 11:36-45 can't refer to anything Epiphanes did, yet still feel that the tone of the text wants us to think of him. This could agree with a notion that he was recorded earlier as the 5th King and 36-45 is about him as the 8th King.
On the notion that we're dealing with a ruler of one of the earlier Kingdoms now ruling/reviving Rome. Epiphanes had been a hostage in Rome, and Polybus said he liked to rule as if he were a Roman. Maybe he is the ideal person to revive the Roman Empire.
Which would create more options for someone he could claim to be, like Augustus.
But one interesting option is for him to claim to be Constantine XI, the last Byzantine Emperor. Like all later Byzantine Emperors he was firmly Greek, so Antiochus could remain the same ethnicity and native language. Constantine XI supposedly died in battle when Constantinople fell to the Turks, but his death was never solidly confirmed. So a rumor spread that an Angel had saved him and turned him into a statue and hid him beneath the Gate of Constantinople and would one be awoken to drive to the Turks. His legacy has remained important among the Greeks, drawing on it during their War of Independence in the 19th Century.
And the legend of his return no doubt became interwoven with the Last Roman Emperor tradition. The original seed of which, the late 4th century prophecy attributed to the Tiburtine Sibyl called him a King of The Greeks named Constans.
One argument against the idea that 36-39 could be about Epiphanes is that he was consistent with the religion of his fathers. However there is also a sense in which Epiphanes did change the religion of the Seleucid Empire, ironically the opposite of the change Augustus later made in Rome. Apollo had been the favored deity of earlier Seleucids, but Epiphanes downplayed him and was more fond of Zeus. But it still would be absurd to label Zeus a god "whom his fathers knew not" for any Greek people.
But if Epiphanes returns in the End Days his religion may be different, especially if he comes back after being resurrected and thinking Satan was responsible for it.
He did deify himself, technically the full name he used was Antíochos D' ho Epiphanḗs (Antiochus God Manifest, or Antiochus Zeus Manifest). I've noticed that while none of the known forms of Epiphanes/Epiphany I've found used in ancient Greek texts have a Greek gemetria value of 666, it isn't difficult to construct a form that does have that value, it seems 1 or 2 letters could make the difference.
Update August 2016: I just argued that the Eight King could be a Ptolemy.