Monday, January 19, 2009
DANIEL CHAPTER 7:1-28
Note to the reader: As we prepare our hearts to hear the message of God in chapters seven through twelve, it's important to remember that Daniel often spoke of visions and dreams that he encountered later in his life. Some he received prior to the events of chapters five and six; at least one was received later.
In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel had a dream and visions of his head upon his bed: then he wrote the dream, and told the sum of the matters.
Daniel spake and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea.And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another.The first was like a lion, and had eagle's wings: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man, and a man's heart was given to it.And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear, and it raised up itself on one side, and it had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it: and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh.After this I beheld, and lo another, like a leopard, which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl; the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it.After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns.I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things.I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire.A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened.I beheld then because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake: I beheld even till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame.As concerning the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away: yet their lives were prolonged for a season and time.I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.
We are now going to move away from the historical material that we encountered in chapters one through six and plunge into the exciting depths of Daniel's prophetic material, starting in chapter seven. Daniel's end-time dream in this chapter consisted of symbols of real events to come-mysteries we are now able to unravel. In many ways, chapters two and seven of the Book of Daniel are similar in that they portray the most comprehensive pictures of history to its conclusion.
Chapter two depicted Nebuchadnezzar's dream concerning the great statue with a head of gold down to its feet and toes of iron mixed with clay-a prediction of how the Babylonian empire would be destroyed by Medo-Persia, followed by the conquering superpowers of Greece and Rome. Chapter seven refers to these identical empires in the form of beasts, indicating that within the final revived Roman Empire there will be many problems during the course of its restoration. In fact, one major challenge after another can already be observed within the framework of the European Union presently taking shape.
To the extent we saw unity in chapter two, we see diversity in chapter seven. But regardless of the message, the single most exciting thing that you are now reading is the fulfillment of Daniel 12:4, which says,But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.
The Book of Daniel was designed to be a mysterious, closed, sealed book until the time of the end, but at the time of the end the Holy Spirit would enlighten people to expound this great portion of God's Word. This is now our assignment, and you are privileged to have a ringside seat as we begin to unravel the mysteries so long alien to anyone's understanding.
The Times of the Gentiles
The Jewish people controlled Jerusalem until 586 B.C. Then, according to Daniel 1:1, Nebuchadnezzar and his troops marched into the Holy City and took its inhabitants back as captives to Babylon. It is important to remember that this single historical event marked the beginning of what is known as the times of the Gentiles. An important caveat was spoken by Jesus in Luke 21:24 when He said,And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.
Jesus was saying that Jerusalem would remain under Gentile control until the time of the end. Isn't it fascinating that from June 5 through June 10, 1967-as a result of the Six-Day War-the Jews took back Jerusalem and have been in control of the Holy City ever since? Even though we are still in the era called the times of the Gentiles, this remarkable historical reality reminds us how close we are to the time of the end. How can we say this with such certainty? In Zechariah 14:2-4 God states:
For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.
This entire scenario began with Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C. and ends when Jesus Christ returns to take Jerusalem back from the Gentiles. We are extremely close to that time when such an event takes place. Here's why. The Gentiles could not take Jerusalem from the Jews until the Jews controlled the city-which happened in 1967 after 2,553 years of Gentile dominion. According to Jesus, the generation who lives to see this event will be alive for the battle to recapture Jerusalem by the Gentiles plus observe Christ's return.
The Four Beasts
Daniel dreams about four winds and four beasts-all which represent the same four powers we read about in Nebuchadnezzar's dream in chapter two: Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome, along with the ten toes of iron mixed with clay-a description of the revived Roman Empire, a regrouping of nations I believe to be the European Union. The fourth beast has ten horns, similar to the ten toes on Nebuchadnezzar's image: again, symbolic of the restored Roman Empire.
The four winds blowing upon the sea indicate trouble-and all these nations near the Sea of Galilee, the Dead Sea, and the Mediterranean have indeed experienced troublesome times throughout history. However, only when the European Union ultimately produces the Antichrist will the world truly know what real trouble is. It will be nothing like the nuisance these nations have been prior to this time in history. Isaiah 57:20 states,But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.
Now let's look at the four beasts and indicate what each represents. Beast number one-a lion with the wings of eagles-is the same power that was described in Nebuchadnezzar's dream as the head of gold-the Babylonian empire. The wings of the lion suggest that it is a swift beast, with the ability to conquer great nations with its mighty armies. But as its wings are plucked, the kingdom begins to deteriorate, even though there remains a hint of Nebuchadnezzar's humanitarianism. Since verse 4 makes reference to this first beast being given a man's heart, you'll recall that this is the manner in which Nebuchadnezzar closed out his days after his conversion experience-compassionate, docile, and caring for his subjects.
Beast number two is a bear that raises itself up on one side, holding three ribs in its teeth-conceivably representing Lydia, Babylon, and Egypt-a hungry beast, and capable of gorging itself. Following the pattern of Nebuchadnezzar's image, this second beast is a symbol of the Medes and the Persians, with Darius ruler of the Medes and Cyrus the Persians. Ultimately, however, the Persians demonstrated greater strength because of their massive armies, and, as a result, the bear lifted itself up on one side, indicating Persian political and military superiority, all borne out by historical fact.
Beast number three is Greece, a leopard with four wings and four heads. The wings picture the speed of Alexander the Great and his enormous armies, reckoned to be the swiftest in the known world. Alexander conquered one and one-half million square miles of the globe, stretching for more than eleven thousand miles from Greece in the west to India in the east, a man who, even after his many conquests, is said to have wept because he felt he had no more worlds to conquer.
Beast number four is Rome-a terrible beast with enormous power to maim, crush, and kill. So violent is this beast that no animal on earth can represent it. Its iron teeth are similar to the toes on the image composed of iron mixed with clay as observed in Daniel chapter two. Its ten horns are a graphic description of the final revived Roman Empire-fulfilled in 1981 when Greece became the tenth nation to join the European Union.
Some people ask me, How can these things be? How can you be so certain that your interpretation of Daniel's dream is correct?
First of all, the nations are mentioned by name in Daniel 1:1, 8:20, 8:21, and Romans 1:7. These empires cover a period of 676 years. Adding scholarship to the truth of God's Word, a prophet by the name of Esdras wrote in 90 A.D. that there was little doubt that the fourth beast was Rome. Add to these the research insights of Drs. Gabelein, Scofield, Bultima, Ironside, Barnhouse, DeHaan and other evangelical scholars, and the evidence mounts that the only possible meaning of the symbolic fourth beast is Rome itself. Specifically, Dr. Harry Ironside, pastor of Moody Memorial Church, said there will arise a great confederacy of nations springing forth from an old Roman Empire that will become the devil's last trump card.
The Plot Thickens - and Will Get Thicker
It is only within the last century that God has been unsealing the mysteries of this book and Daniel's dream. While the significance of the first three beasts is relatively easy to interpret because of its solid basis in historical fact, the ten toes (Daniel 2:41-42, 44) and the ten horns (Daniel 7:7, 20, 24 and Revelation 12:3; 13:1; 17:3, 7, 12, 16) must now be addressed in some detail.
To do this, we need to go back to the year 1947 when Benelux came into power: Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg-the first three horns on the terrible fourth beast, and the first three nations of what presently comprises the European Union. In 1957, France, Italy, and Germany joined the confederation, making it six, with the Treaty of Rome ratifying this amalgamation. In 1973, Britain, Ireland, and Denmark joined for a total of nine. Then, on January 1, 1981, Greece joined the group to make it ten in number.
At this point many evangelicals were elated, making the assumption that all the members of the group had finally been assembled. However in Daniel 7:8, 20, and 24 we read that the confederation will grow to thirteen. This has already taken place: Numbers eleven and twelve who joined the EU were Spain and Portugal, coming into the confederation in 1986. Then with the arrival of Austria into the movement in 1996, the EU grew to thirteen.
But this is only the beginning. Eventually the fourth beast becomes a world empire-the New World Order, something we are already beginning to witness. Daniel 7:23 states that he shall devour (or engulf) the whole world. Revelation 13:7 adds:Power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.
No longer is this fulfillment of prophecy something you and I read about in the Book of Daniel alone, but it is also the subject matter for the correspondents and editors of the pages of your daily newspaper: Prophecy is being fulfilled in black and white each day for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.
The Little Horn
Now let's look at the little horn of Daniel 7:8. Who and what is it? What is its influence? Martin Luther said that this little horn is the New Testament Antichrist of the future, and I agree. This little horn's appearance was not for an earlier period in history, but for the end time of Daniel 12:4. Why? Because this little horn-the Antichrist-arises at the last day out of this grouping of ten nations. Since the European Union is now in place, there is little question that the Antichrist can-and will-arise soon.
The Beast Speaks
Verse 11 says the little horn, or beast, speaks, and his words are great. This event takes place during the Tribulation hour when the little horn, the infamous Antichrist, finally arises and comes to power. Revelation 13:5 and 6 add,And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months. And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven.
The Antichrist blasphemes God almighty and eventually calls himself God, but at a great cost to this beast because Jesus Christ will destroy him with the brightness of His coming (2 Thessalonians 2:8). However, there is even more devastation ahead as the beast and the false prophet are cast into the lake of fire burning with fire and brimstone (Revelation 19:20). Furthermore, when Satan is cast into the lake of fire one thousand years later, the beast and the false prophet are still in existence-proving that the fires of hell do not annihilate anyone, as some cults teach (Revelation 20:10).
And what about the other beasts in Daniel's dream? When do they have their dominion taken from them? This is a fascinating question, and an important one. The Medes and the Persians destroyed Babylon; Greece destroyed the Medes and the Persians, and Rome destroyed Greece. Their kingdoms and powers were taken away. Yet, the passage tells us that they still exist because all their customs and cultures were passed on to each nation that conquered them, meaning they are all still with us in some way. Remember that the old Persian Empire is today's Iran and Iraq. Would you not agree these two nations are still with us, continuing to create havoc in the area and around the world with their commitment to regional conflict and international terrorism?
The Son of Man and the Ancient of Days
In his dream, Daniel had a vision of one like the Son of Man coming with the clouds of heaven. This is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. This prophecy is about to happen because the term Son of Man is definitely the Messiah and the Savior. Let's investigate further. The term Son of Man is the precise one Jesus used repeatedly to describe Himself. Matthew 8:20 says,And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.
Matthew 24:30 tells us,And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
Now the Ancient of Days-Yahweh-presents the kingdom to His Son, Jesus Christ. This is the moment when the stone cut out without hands smashes the feet of the image in Daniel 2:45. This announces the return of Christ because He is the stone or rock (1 Corinthians 10:4). Then comes the tremendous battle we read about in Revelation 19 when Christ comes on a white horse (v. 11) and the armies of heaven follow Him (v. 14). Verse 19 says,And I saw the beast [the Antichrist, the little horn], and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him [Jesus] that sat on the horse, and against his army.
But they do not prevail. This is the time when the prophecy of the stone smashing the feet of the image is fulfilled. It's all over for the world powers at this point because Jesus Christ has arrived to set up His Kingdom. However, as the Lord appears, the armies of the revived Roman Empire attempt to stop the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:19-21). Psalm 2:1-6 pictures this final battle:Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the LORD shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.
This will be the great climax, that moment in history when Gentile dominion ends, and when Jesus Christ is seated on the throne of David. Luke 1:32-33 says, He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. After the thousand-year reign of Christ, the earth is purged and Christ is recommissioned and rules eternally upon earth (1 Corinthians 15:24-28). That's why Ephesians 3:21 adds, Unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
I Daniel was grieved in my spirit in the midst of my body, and the visions of my head troubled me. I came near unto one of them that stood by, and asked him the truth of all this. So he told me, and made me know the interpretation of the things.
These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth. But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever. Then I would know the truth of the fourth beast, which was diverse from all the others, exceeding dreadful, whose teeth were of iron, and his nails of brass; which devoured, brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with his feet; And of the ten horns that were in his head, and of the other which came up, and before whom three fell; even of that horn that had eyes, and a mouth that spake very great things, whose look was more stout than his fellows.
I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them;
Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom. Thus he said, The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces. And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings. And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time. But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end. And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.
Daniel Is Confused
Daniel had no one to help him understand what he had been dreaming, so God provided a messenger to interpret the dream on His behalf-the angel Gabriel. The message of chapter two, Nebuchadnezzar's dream, had been so clear and unified, whereas now his own dream was filled with diversity, the edges of his understanding ragged, all because he was dealing with four terrible, vile beasts-not an immense one-piece image of gold, silver, and bronze-but a diversity of four beasts acting out their beastly nature in fits of anger, violence, and conquest.
Then, suddenly, something exciting happens in verse 18 where the saints of the most High take the Kingdom. This is when Jesus Christ returns, and, as we have already stated, the stone smites the feet of the image, placing Christ and His saints in control. They are the ones who return with Jesus-individuals who missed the terrible seven-year period of Tribulation because they were called up in Revelation 4:1.
In Revelation 19:11-14, when Christ returns on that white horse, we discover that the armies in heaven follow Him-a picture of the Church returning to earth. Jude verse 14b says, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints. They had no way of saying millions, billions, or trillions in the first century, so they used the term tens of thousands. But there is also the group of saints-the 144,000 Jewish messengers (Revelation 7:4-8)-who preached the gospel of the Kingdom (Matthew 24:14). You see, not only will many Jews be converted through mass, worldwide efforts of evangelism, but multitudes-yes, millions-of Gentiles will also be saved, many of whom are put to death for loving the Word of God. Revelation 20:4-5 speak of this treachery:
And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.
The saints are coming from heaven. Those who have died during the tribulation are then raised from the dead (Revelation 20:4). The Jews in Daniel 12:2 who slept in the dust of the earth also awaken, while Gentiles who died for their testimony also arise. Now we have saints from heaven, tribulation saints who were brought back from the dead, Jewish saints who also were resurrected, and saints who are still alive on earth at Christ's return who somehow escaped the death penalty for rejecting the mark of the beast (Matthew 25:31-46; Revelation 13:15-18). They will all rule and reign with Jesus Christ, giving further credence to the passage, If we suffer, we shall also reign with him (2 Timothy 2:12a).
The European Community-Antichrist-and 666
While general concern may have reigned in Daniel's mind regarding much of the dream, there seemed to be a special confusion regarding the fourth beast. Daniel had a reasonably adequate understanding of Babylon, the Medes and the Persians, and Greece, largely since they already existed within his own time frame. But this next beast-Rome-and the revived Roman Empire-would come centuries later, and he could not, in his day, know anything about this mystery without the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit concerning end-time events. This was the empire with the two legs and ten toes, and the animal with ten horns that was a composite of all the others.
Ten toes and ten horns. Try though he might, Daniel could not grasp their meaning. Yet now, twenty-five hundred years later, you and I are on the edge of watching such mysteries unfold as the European Union flexes its international muscles, preparing the world community for the advent of the Antichrist. During the terrible Tribulation hour, the Jewish people are primarily the saints against whom the Antichrist prevails. Jeremiah 30:7 says, Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble.
Jacob is another name for Israel (2 Kings 17:34). We find that when Satan is cast to earth he becomes extremely angry when he realizes his time is exceedingly short (Revelation 12:12). For this reason, he makes every attempt to obliterate the Jewish race (Revelation 12:13). He persecutes the woman who brought forth the man-child-that woman is the Jewish virgin, Mary. The Son that came from her is that man-child, and this Antichrist is trying to get rid of all those who came forth from her, as well as millions of Gentiles. Both groups find salvation during the Tribulation hour (Revelation 7:14). These are the ones who have come out of the Great Tribulation and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the lamb.
At this point of time the Antichrist will call himself God, and the false prophet sets up an image of him to worship. The Bible says in Revelation 13:15,And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.
He says, Bow down and worship this image of me and take my mark 666 or you will lose your head (see Revelation 13:15-18; 20:4). This is that period of time when the Antichrist will prevail over the saints. But to reiterate the good news, the Lord Jesus Christ ultimately returns as King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:16) and defeats the Antichrist and his hoards (Revelation 19:19-21; Psalm 2:1-6).
Good news indeed! At that crucial moment in history, almighty God says, How dare you think you can stand against me and my Son as I present Him to the world as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. You lose.., because I now set up my King upon the holy hill of Jerusalem!