Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Prophecies Specific to Israel's Future: Daniel's Awareness of the Times

"In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, which was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans; In the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem." (Daniel 9:1-2)

This passage should eliminate any confusion concerning the simultaneous reigns of Darius and Cyrus. Cyrus the Persian was over the entire kingdom of the Medes and Persians while Darius reigned below him over the realm of Babylon which was the realm of the Chaldeans.

By this time in history Daniel was an old man and he had set his heart on understanding the prophecies of Jeremiah concerning the duration of Judah's punishment. Jeremiah (650-582 BC) was contemporary with Daniel (620-537 BC); therefore, Daniel was a student of his prophecies. Intensely interested in seeing the restoration of a Godfearing people, Daniel set out to understand the commencement and duration of this seventy year desolation. Concerning these things Jeremiah wrote:

And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. And it shall come to pass, when seventy years are accomplished, that I will punish the king of Babylon, and that nation, saith the LORD, for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans, and will make it perpetual desolations ... For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place (Jeremiah 25:11-12, 29:10).

The passage states that Daniel understood these things by utilizing books. These books probably comprised the prophecies of Jeremiah and the historical records of Babylon and Persia. Daniel was taken captive in 605 BC; therefore, he was likely calculating the seventy years from this date. If this was the case, the seventy years would have been accomplished in 535 BC. 539 BC was the first year of Darius, so one may easily understand how Daniel's soul was burdened for the restoration of his people.

There is considerable disagreement as to when the seventy year period began and when it ended. Some hold the view that it began in 605 BC when Daniel was taken and that it ended in 535 BC when the first wave of Israelites returned under the leadership of Jeshua and Zerubbabel; however, this author holds to the view that it began in 586 BC when Jerusalem was smitten by Nebuchadnezzar and that it ended in 516 BC when the second temple was completed under the leadership of Jeshua and Zerubbabel. Since the temple was such a significant symbol of Israel's relationship with God, its destruction and reconstruction seem to be more probable landmarks for calculating such a significant time frame. Regardless of which view is correct, Daniel was perfectly justified in being concerned for the return of his people. He correctly understood that their time was at hand and he wanted them to be spiritually prepared.

Daniel was a man of great awareness. He did not live in a self-righteous bubble of seclusion. He was not self-centered or strictly preoccupied with his needs. Much like the apostle Paul he was continuously focused on the broader will of God. Believers would do well to follow Daniel's example. It is good to be concerned with God's Church as a whole and not to live in a state of self-absorption. In the eyes of men Daniel had many reasons to look out for no one but himself but not one of those reasons kept him from having a heart that was bent on the ultimate glorification and vindication of God's righteous name.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Prophecies Specific to Israel's Future: Gabriel's Explanation (Part III)

"And the vision of the evening and the morning which was told is true: wherefore shut thou up the vision; for it shall be for many days. And I Daniel fainted, and was sick certain days; afterward I rose up, and did the king's business; and I was astonished at the vision, but none understood it." (Daniel 8:26-27)

The phrase the evening and the morning is a Hebrew idiom which is representative of a day. It would be almost four hundred years before these events would come to pass; therefore, Daniel was to write them down and preserve them for later use. God's people would need to draw upon them in the future.

The knowledge of such things utterly overwhelmed Daniel. Likely he was overcome by the knowledge of what his people were yet to face. Although Antiochus has come and gone his spiritual twin is yet to appear. The beastly antichrist of the last days will carry the persecutions of God's people even further. He will hate the Jews with unquenchable hatred, and he will kill many. The knowledge of such things should motivate each and every believer to seek the souls of the Jews now while time remains. It should inspire the God-fearing man to "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6)."

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Prophecies Specific to Israel's Future: Gabriel's Explanation (Part II)

"And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power: and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practise, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people. And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes..." (Daniel 8:24-25a)

Antiochus' power was not permitted to extend beyond that which God allowed. He did destroy many of God's people through savage persecution; he did desecrate God's holy place, but all this was performed while God looked on in absolute control of the entire situation.

The word for craft means deceit or treachery. Evil thrived under the reign of this villain just as it will thrive under the reign of the antichrist. The text says that Antiochus would destroy many through peace. Winning many of the Jews over to Greek and Roman philosophy he brought spiritual destruction upon them as they cast aside the living God of Israel for lifeless idols and man-made ideologies.

The believer is in constant danger of being destroyed through the peace of the world. Satan has often attempted to destroy God's people through subtlety just as he beguiled Eve. Often times it is not the obvious things of evil that pose the greatest threat to the believer's sanctification; it is the things that are not quite so obvious, those things that appear so attractive and harmless on the outside. If the devil can get God's child to make more and more concessions in the small areas it will not be long until his life is a spiritual disaster.

Antiochus was not content to simply persecute the Jews and anyone who chose the path of godly fear; he went the last mile and claimed the title of God. In fact the name Epiphanes means God manifest. This was his ultimate mistake just as it will be the fatal and final mistake of the antichrist.

"...But he shall be broken without hand." (Daniel 8:25b)

Antiochus departed from the stage of world history just as quickly as he appeared. His service for Satan was short lived while his damnation is eternal. Hebrews 11:25 declares that the pleasures of sin are but for a season. Anyone who has ever served sin and rejected God has ultimately found this to be true.

Although the believer cannot occupy the same position as Antiochus he is not above toying with sin just as Antiochus did. Such an attitude is incredibly dangerous regardless of the degree to which it is practiced.   

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Prophecies Specific to Israel's Future: Gabriel's Explanation

"The ram which thou sawest having two horns are the kings of Media and Persia. And the rough goat is the king of Grecia: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king. Now that being broken, whereas four stood up for it, four kingdoms shall stand up out of the nation, but not in his power." (Daniel 8:20-22)

After Alexander's death in 323 BC his four generals (Cassander, Lysimachus, Seleucus and Ptolemy) divided the conquered territory. Eager to remove all rivalry from his portion of the kingdom Cassander had Alexander's son poisoned along with his mother Roxanne. This event left Alexander void of any offspring to inherit his kingdom, thus the text says that four kingdoms arose but not in his power.

"And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up." (Daniel 8:23)

Gabriel's exposition does not include the many events which led up to the appearance of Antiochus Epiphanes which is this king of a fierce countenance. Those matters will be described in great detail in chapter eleven. Instead he is more concerned with providing a brief summary of that which would befall God's people in the dark years of the intertestamental period.

The text says that a wicked king would arise when the transgressors are fully ripe. Just as the antichrist will appear at a time when spiritual degradation is at an all-time high Antiochus IV came into power when apostasy was running rampant among the Jews. Overcome by the fatal attractions of Hellenism many Jews had cast off their faith and turned to the world of Greek paganism.

Antiochus was indeed a warped individual. The description of him in this passage perfectly harmonizes with the comments of history. He was utterly mad. Void of any normal human emotion and vested with the powers of hell he treated human life as though it were of no value at all, yet he was not a man without worldly wisdom. On the contrary, the text presents him as one who understood dark sentences. The word translated dark sentences means a riddle, parable or difficult question. Just like the antichrist of the last days Antiochus had understanding of the times and he knew how to manipulate and overcome people. He was also likely involved in all the superstitions and worship practices which commonly accompany the messengers of Satan.   

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Prophecies Specific to Israel's Future: Gabriel's Appearance

"And it came to pass, when I, even I Daniel, had seen the vision, and sought for the meaning, then, behold, there stood before me as the appearance of a man. And I heard a man's voice between the banks of Ulai, which called, and said, Gabriel, make this man to understand the vision. So he came near where I stood: and when he came, I was afraid, and fell upon my face: but he said unto me, Understand, O son of man: for at the time of the end shall be the vision." (Daniel 8:15-17)

This is the first place in Scripture where Gabriel is mentioned. He is seen again in chapter nine and then he is not mentioned again until the gospel of Luke where he is seen announcing the births of John the Baptist and Jesus Christ. His name means warrior of God and his main ministry seems to be that of God's messenger.

The Lord made it possible for Daniel to understand much of what was given. God is gracious in that He desires for men to understand what He is going to do so that they might repent and turn to Him. God's word does contain things which are difficult to understand; however, it also contains much which may be understood and applied if one is willing to exercise faith and seek God for the application.

As Gabriel approached Daniel for the purposes of interpretation Daniel became utterly terrified. If Daniel was absolutely horrified at the holy presence of God's messenger how much more should God's people fear Him from whom that holiness is derived?

"Now as he was speaking with me, I was in a deep sleep on my face toward the ground: but he touched me, and set me upright. And he said, Behold, I will make thee know what shall be in the last end of the indignation: for at the time appointed the end shall be." 
(Daniel 8:18-19)

God's grace enabled Daniel to receive the strength needed for the reception of the dream's interpretation. God's goodness may be seen in the fact that He overcomes the weaknesses of the flesh. Overwhelmed by human inability and inadequacy the believer often finds himself in a place where he is completely unable to function, yet God always gives the needed graces to those who simply want to serve Him.

Gabriel made it clear that Daniel's people were headed for rough seas under the reigns of Antiochus Epiphanes and the antichrist, yet all these things have an end, and God's appointed time for the salvation of Israel may not be nullified by any.

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Prophecies Specific to Israel's Future: The Goat's Descendants (Part II)

"Then I heard one saint speaking, and another saint said unto that certain saint which spake, How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot? And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed." (Daniel 8:13-14)

Not only did Antiochus Epiphanes outlaw and remove the daily sacrifices from God's temple, but he also desecrated it by erecting an image of the Greek god Zeus in the temple courts. He furthered this profanation by burning a pig on the altar of burnt offering. These horrible acts of blasphemy pictured those which will be performed by the antichrist in the Jewish temple of the last days, a temple which is yet to be erected.

The text says that the sanctuary would be cleansed after two thousand and three hundred days. It is very difficult to pinpoint exactly when this countdown began; however, history does bear witness to some very certain facts which may be utilized in shedding light on the matter. Antiochus' despicable acts of blasphemy instigated a revolt among the pious Jews. This revolt known as the Maccabean revolt began in 166 BC. To the surprise of many it was very successful in casting off the oppressive forces of the Seleucid Empire, and in 165 BC God allowed the Jews to reclaim, cleanse, and reconsecrate the temple in Jerusalem. The Jewish Feast of Lights or Hanukkah celebrates this event.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Prophecies Specific to Israel's Future: The Goat's Descendents

"And out of one of them came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land. And it waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground, and stamped upon them. Yea, he magnified himself even to the prince of the host, and by him the daily sacrifice was taken away, and the place of his sanctuary was cast down. And an host was given him against the daily sacrifice by reason of transgression, and it cast down the truth to the ground; and it practised, and prospered." (Daniel 8:9-12)

History clearly bears witness to the fact that this little horn is Antiochus IV who was a descendant of Seleucus. Antiochus was a type of the antichrist; therefore, much of what is presented in his actions and character mirrors that which will be seen in the antichrist. For this reason it is often difficult to limit what is presented in the text to just one of the two. With that said, the facts presented in this chapter and in the first part of chapter eleven do seem to speak mostly of Antiochus.

Antiochus came to the Seleucid throne in 175 BC. He ruled over the area which had been taken by Seleucus. The pleasant land is in reference to Israel. This Hebrew word is often translated roebuck or beauty. It represents something graceful and honorable. The Lord looks upon His land and people with great favor. The land of Israel ultimately belongs to God and He will not permit it to pass permanently into the hands of strangers. Its Mount Zion has been reserved for the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Antiochus exercised great persecution against the Jews. The particulars of these persecutions will be elaborated upon in chapter eleven. The Holy Spirit gradually introduced Daniel to these coming events, preparing him for particulars in the future. Antiochus outlawed the Jewish religion and forced heathen worship upon the people. This involved the cessation of the daily sacrifices offered in the temple thus the text declares that the daily sacrifice was taken away. Many who were God-fearing chose death or fleeing. Just as the antichrist will exalt himself against God in every way Antiochus Epiphanes magnified himself against the Prince of the host and did many things to purposefully profane the sanctuary of the God of Israel.

The text makes it clear that God allowed these things by reason of transgression. Even though there were many God-fearing Jews in the land much of the Jewish way of life was very corrupt. Greek philosophy and pagan influences had infected the very city of Jerusalem. The office of high priest had become little more than a position of power sought out by men of the most despicable character. The deep roots of apostasy found a solid resting place in the unregenerate hearts of those who bore the physical lineage of Abraham but who had no part in his spiritual heritage.

This passage makes it clear that God will allow great persecution to arise for the purposes of purification. He allowed it during the reign of Antiochus and He will allow it in the last days under the rule of the antichrist.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Prophecies Specific to Israel's Future: The Goat's Division

"Therefore the he goat waxed very great: and when he was strong, the great horn was broken; and for it came up four notable ones toward the four winds of heaven." (Daniel 8:8)

Alexander set out to conquer the Persians in 334 BC. His conquests led him south into Egypt and east into the regions of India; however, in the height of his youth he died of a fever in Babylon. He died a drunkard and morally corrupted. The victories had gone to his head. As so many before him he failed to see that his successes were permitted by his Creator whom he had completely shunned. At the age of 32 the notable horn was broken. Political intrigue and rivalry soon followed. His sole heir to the throne was murdered and his kingdom was eventually divided between his four generals. As previously mentioned Cassander took over Macedonia and Greece; Lysimachus received Asia Minor and Thrace; Seleucus took Syria, Upper Asia, Babylon and the Eastern parts, and Ptolemy took hold of Egypt, Palestine and all of Arabia.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Prophecies Specific to Israel's Future: The Ram's Defeat

"And as I was considering, behold, an he goat came from the west on the face of the whole earth, and touched not the ground: and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes. And he came to the ram that had two horns, which I had seen standing before the river, and ran unto him in the fury of his power. And I saw him come close unto the ram, and he was moved with choler against him, and smote the ram, and brake his two horns: and there was no power in the ram to stand before him, but he cast him down to the ground, and stamped upon him: and there was none that could deliver the ram out of his hand." (Daniel 8:5-7)

Later in the text the he goat is declared to be the kingdom of Greece. The notable horn represents Alexander the Great who was the first king to lead the Greeks eastward in conquest of the Persian empire. This conquest was accomplished with amazing speed. In 333 BC at the Battle of Issus Alexander wrought a major defeat on the Persian army. He then moved quickly down the Mediterranean coast, meeting resistance only from the cities of Tyre and Gaza. After being welcomed into Egypt and crowned as Pharaoh he moved on to finish off what remained of Persian resistance. This he did in 331 BC at the Battle of Gaugamela. In just a few short years the control of the entire Middle East passed into the hands of the Greek Empire. The goat moved so fast that in appearance he touched not the ground as he moved along in his conquests.

The goat's anger against the ram is representative of Alexander's extreme hatred of the Persians. In 480 BC Xerxes I marched westward toward Macedonia, forcing a war on the Greeks. Being terribly outnumbered the Spartan forces were eventually defeated at Thermopylae. Various Greek cities, including Athens, were pillaged and occupied; however, God saw fit to turn the tide of war and give the Greeks the final victory in a naval battle at Plataea (479 BC). In revenge of Persia's invasion, Alexander carried out his father's desires through a hot pursuit of the ram. The verb break in verse seven is intensive in form. It may well be translated shatter. Filled with unquenchable anger and being used of God for the purposes of working out His sovereign will the notable horn of the Grecian goat shattered all that remained of the Persian ram's power.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Prophecies Specific to Israel's Future: The Ram's Dominance (Part II)

"Then I lifted up mine eyes, and saw, and, behold, there stood before the river a ram which had two horns: and the two horns were high; but one was higher than the other, and the higher came up last. I saw the ram pushing westward, and northward, and southward; so that no beasts might stand before him, neither was there any that could deliver out of his hand; but he did according to his will, and became great." (Daniel 8:3-4)

The ram was a primary symbol of Persia. Its presence has been witnessed in Persian artifacts and it can be found on ancient Persian architecture. The kingdom of Media was initially the stronger of the two. Nabopolassar solicited the assistance of Cyaxares the Mede in casting off the yoke of the Assyrians. This illustrates the power of the Median forces; however, as time progressed, God saw fit to bring Cyrus the Persian to the throne. After his defeat of Astyages the Median forces were annexed into the Persian kingdom. The horn which came up last turned out to be the taller of the two.

Daniel saw the ram pushing westward, northward, and southward. When Persia set out on its conquests it initially moved west toward Lydia (Asia Minor). Having subdued Lydia it then turned south and made its way down the Mediterranean coast into Egypt. Its focus was then turned towards Babylon which it conquered in 539 BC. These three initial conquests are represented by the three ribs shown in chapter seven.

In Isaiah 44:28 God said of Cyrus the Persian, "He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure... ." As long as God saw fit to allow it, no nation was able to stand before the crushing force of the Persian onslaught. He truly "did according to his will, and became great."

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Prophecies Specific to Israel's Future: The Ram's Dominance

"In the third year of the reign of king Belshazzar a vision appeared unto me, even unto me Daniel, after that which appeared unto me at the first. And I saw in a vision; and it came to pass, when I saw, that I was at Shushan in the palace, which is in the province of Elam; and I saw in a vision, and I was by the river of Ulai." (Daniel 8:1-2)

From this point and onward the text is written in Hebrew. The remaining prophecies are specific to Israel's future. They deal with Antiochus IV Epiphanes of the intertestamental period and with the antichrist of the last days. Chapter seven is very broad in its scope. It begins with the kingdom of Babylon, briefly touches on the kingdom of the antichrist and ends with the kingdom of the Lord Jesus. The remaining chapters elaborate on the specifics of things presented in the earlier chapters. They serve as a guiding light through the dark years of the intertestamental period, and they give a glimpse into the ferocious struggles of the last days. Although the events contained in these remaining passages affect the whole world they are primarily focused on the Jewish people.

Just like chapter seven the events of this chapter belong between chapters four and five. Daniel was in the province of Elam when he saw these things. This area was directly east of Babylon. The palace of Shushan was in Persian territory. This same palace is mentioned in the books of Esther and Nehemiah. The river of Ulai is believed to have been a man-made canal which connected two rivers south of the palace. The Persian setting of Shushan in the province of Elam made this spot a fitting place for the reception of prophecies which deal with the rise and fall of this Eastern empire, an empire which was yet future to Daniel.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Destiny of the Gentile Kingdoms: The Future Events Explained (Part V)

As for me Daniel, my cogitations much troubled me, and my countenance changed in me: but I kept the matter in my heart." (Daniel 7:28b)

As glorious as the end will be, it does not nullify the reality of the present struggles. Daniel's heart was grieved for the souls of people as he considered the great beast's abuse of the entire earth. Undoubtedly his heart was sorely vexed for the dark days which lay ahead for Israel. Prior to this, Daniel had not been exposed to all the destruction which would be inflicted on his people by the antichrist.

The believer cannot help but share Daniel's grief. As one considers the death and destruction of the last days, it should encourage him to seek the Jew's soul now. It should encourage him to seek the souls of Gentiles now, because "the night cometh, when no man can work (John 9:4)."  

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Destiny of the Gentile Kingdoms: The Future Events Explained (Part IV)

"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. Hitherto is the end of the matter." (Daniel 7:26-28a)

Concerning the Lord's glorious return and the demise of the antichrist, John wrote:

And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS. And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God; that ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great. And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh (Revelation 19:11-21).

Christ's vesture is red with the blood of God's enemies. The little horn's blasphemies will be many; the power of the revived Roman Empire will be great; the armies of the dragon will seem to have no end, and the saints of the Great Tribulation period will not be permitted to overcome them, but victory is not lost; it is simply delayed for a short time. When the rightful owner of the Kingdom returns, not one rival will be able to stand.

Focused on the final victory of the saints, the heavenly interpreter closes by simply saying, "Hitherto is the end of the matter."

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Destiny of the Gentile Kingdoms: The Future Events Explained (Part III)

"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." (Daniel 7:23-25)

The crushing power of the Roman Empire paralleled and pictured that which is to come through the antichrist's kingdom. The last part of this passage says that God's saints will be given into the beast's hand for a time and times and the dividing of time. If one understands a time to be a year this period would be three and one half years which is exactly the time period described in Revelation 13. In the middle of the seven year tribulation period, God will ban Satan from his place in heaven. "And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him (Revelation 12:9)."

This event will anger Satan greatly as he realizes that his time is drawing nigh. As a result, he will begin to vehemently persecute (by means of the antichrist) saved Jews and Gentiles

Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time ... And the dragon was wroth with the woman (Israel), and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ (Revelation 12:12, 17).

This terrible oppression of God's people will be allowed to continue for three and one half years. This time period is described in Revelation as forty-two months which would follow a Jewish prophetic year of 360 days versus the more commonly known year of 365 days.

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. And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:5-8).

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Destiny of the Gentile Kingdoms: The Future Events Explained (Part II)

"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." (Daniel 7:19-20)

Daniel was primarily interested in the fourth beast. The destruction which this beast inflicted greatly disturbed Daniel's tender heart; therefore, he had to know more. The iron teeth may be linked to the iron legs and iron-clay feet of Nebuchadnezzar's dream. Both images speak of Rome and the kingdom of the antichrist. The brass nails remind the reader of the brass kingdom which Nebuchadnezzar saw. As previously mentioned, that kingdom was Greece. Greek language and culture heavily influenced the Roman Empire. Perhaps this is why the beast had brass nails.

The severe destruction brought about by this kingdom clearly speaks of that which will be inflicted by the antichrist in the last days. Much of this destruction will be spiritual. The antichrist (the little horn) will exalt himself as God and force every unregenerate soul to worship him. This truth is taught in Revelation 13:5 and 7. "And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies ... and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations."

"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." (Daniel 7:21-22)

In the last days the antichrist will vehemently persecute God's people, particularly the Jews. This fact is described in Revelation 13:7 where it says, "And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them... ." A Christian is not guaranteed that he will always be delivered in a physical sense, but he is guaranteed that his soul will be safe with Christ. A believer must be careful not to become bitter against God should he not be delivered physically. God has a reason for allowing all that He allows, and in the last days it will seem as though evil is conquering; however, the Ancient of days will most surely come. Commenting on the magnificent events of God's judgment, Jude wrote:

Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him (Jude 14-15).

The defeat and the death of the saints is simply the means of ushering them into the victorious kingdom of God. Regardless of how bad the earthly situation becomes, God loves His own with an everlasting love, and He will make them victorious at last.

For the LORD taketh pleasure in his people: he will beautify the meek with salvation. Let the saints be joyful in glory: let them sing aloud upon their beds. Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a twoedged sword in their hand; to execute vengeance upon the heathen, and punishments upon the people; to bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron; to execute upon them the judgment written: this honour have all his saints. Praise ye the LORD (Psalm 149:4-9).

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Destiny of the Gentile Kingdoms: The Future Events Explained

"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." (Daniel 7:15-16)

Having witnessed the terrible destruction which would be inflicted by the fourth beast, Daniel's spiritual disturbance was so great that it affected his body. Undoubtedly he sensed that the destruction of the fourth beast would affect his people as well as the people of all nations.

The one who stood by is not identified. He was most likely an angelic being who was stationed to provide assistance with the interpretation of the vision. As the text will declare, he was relatively unconcerned with anything but the dream's conclusions.

"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." (Daniel 7:17-18)

This verse makes it clear that the four beasts are four kings which arose from the sea of humanity. The interpreter bypasses all of the havoc wrought by the four beasts and immediately jumps ahead to the final victory of Christ's kingdom. The Lord consistently sees the end from the beginning. He is not intimidated by the wickedness of man. His saints should never forget that they serve the King who has already won the victory.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Destiny of the Gentile Kingdoms: The Final Kingdom Prophesied (Part IV)

"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." (Daniel 7:13-14)

Having seen the certain demise of man's kingdoms, Daniel's attention was then turned upon the Lord Jesus Christ. He is this Son of man. This title is that which is most used to describe Him in the gospel of Luke. When the high priest questioned Jesus concerning His deity, he said, "I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God (Matthew 26:63)." In reference to this very passage here in Daniel, Jesus answered and said to him, "Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven (Matthew 26:64)."

The time has come for the King of kings to receive the title deed to earth; therefore, He is seen approaching unto the Father. The very thought of His ability to approach the Father deserves comment. The text has already described the fearful holiness of God's throne. All about Him are seen the consuming fires of His holiness, and yet the Lamb of God is able to approach. What a comforting aspect! Christ is completely holy; therefore, He is able to stand where no one else can. Outside of belief in Christ, sinful man is destined to be removed from the presence of such a holy God, but clothed with the righteousness of Jesus through simple faith, he is able to approach his holy Creator. In Christ there is no fear of rejection or condemnation because the believer has been made a king and a priest (Revelation 5:10) through the pure blood of the Holy One of Israel.

After the Son is brought near He is given the title deed to this tired old earth. Misappropriated and abused by the wickedness of mankind, the earth will rejoice to see the righteous reign of its Creator and "all the trees of the field shall clap their hands (Isaiah 55:12)." Revelation 11:15 pictures this glorious event when it declares, "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever."

The totality of His kingdom is first seen. All people shall serve Christ. Though rejected, blasphemed and scorned by most of humanity, Christ will someday be Ruler over all, and His kingdom will not tolerate wickedness.

Lastly, the eternality of His kingdom is seen. It is that which shall never be destroyed. The lion, the bear, the leopard and the beast all met their end. The coming antichrist will meet his end, but the kingdom of Christ will never end.

As the believer ponders these things, he should be reminded of the vanity of this life. Apart from the pursuit of God, all is vanity. The book of Ecclesiastes declares such to be the case. Every Christian should guard his soul against fleshly pursuits. He should separate from the world and its ways. He should shun foolishness and the misuse of time, and he should pursue the things which have eternal value. These passages are more focused on God's kingdom than they are on man's temporal reign; the Christian's life should bear this same quality.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Destiny of the Gentile Kingdoms: The Final Kingdom Prophesied (Part III)

"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." (Daniel 7:11-12)

Daniel looked on with great anticipation. He already had heard the blasphemous words of this little horn (the antichrist), and now he wanted to see what would be his end. The text boldly declares the end of the antichrist and his kingdom. He is slain, destroyed along with his kingdom, and his body permanently consigned to the everlasting flames of damnation. Concerning this event, Revelation 19:20 says,

And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.

The last part of this verse is difficult to expound. Certain elements of the Babylonian, Persian and Greek Empires did continue on even after their demise. Perhaps this is what is meant by their lives being prolonged. Regardless, God guides the affairs of the nations, and they may not continue a moment beyond what His righteous decree allows.

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Destiny of the Gentile Kingdoms: The Final Kingdom Prophesied (Part II)

"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." (Daniel 7:10)

This verse speaks of judgment day. Before the throne of God are found not only those who minister to Him but also those who shall be judged by their works. By God's grace, this is not the place where God's redeemed will find themselves. Those who have trusted Christ as their savior are clothed with His spotless character and delivered from this fearful time of judgment. Paul spoke of this blessed truth when he wrote, "For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him (I Thessalonians 5:9-10)."

Whether Daniel was seeing the judgment which will immediately follow the return of Christ or the judgment which will immediately precede the eternal state it is difficult to determine; however, the principle is the same. Every thought, motive and work of every individual has been recorded. God keeps perfect records. These books are not kept for the purpose of aiding God's memory; they are kept as a witness to men and angels. Every injustice which has ever been committed, every foul thought and sinful deed is recorded with frightening accuracy. Jesus said, "Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops (Luke 12:3)." Outside of Christ's blood no one will be able to stand. The books will declare it to be so, and the Book of books has given ample warning.   

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Destiny of the Gentile Kingdoms: The Final Kingdom Prophesied

"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." (Daniel 7:9)

Daniel's description of the four kingdoms combined takes up five verses, and his description of Christ's singular kingdom takes up five verses. This portion of the text focuses more on God's final victory than it does on the temporal terror of man's kingdoms. A believer must be careful not to lose sight of what is most important. It is easy to become distracted and weighed down with all the troubles of one's wicked environment; however, God's final victory is a sure thing and an encouraging truth. Just as this portion of the passage is weighted more heavily towards Christ's victory, the believer's conduct and conversation should always be heavily seasoned with the supremacy of his Savior.

The first thing Daniel noticed about God's kingdom was that the thrones of the previous four kingdoms were cast down and God's throne firmly established. Regardless of how powerful and frightening man's governments may be they all come to the same end, yet God's throne has an enduring quality which is unparallelled.

God the Father is the first Person of the Godhead to be introduced. He is referred to as the Ancient of days. This reverent title declares His eternality, His wisdom, His omniscience and His stability. Time, with all of its accompanying troubles and limitations, does not affect Him. He is not the least bit intimidated by the hatred and rebellion of men. He is sovereign enough to use their hard hearts for the purposes of accomplishing His divine will. Let the lion, the bear, the leopard and the terrible beast of the antichrist exalt themselves, yet "He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision (Psalm 2:4)."

This verse pictures the great King seated upon His throne. He is ready for judgment.

The LORD'S garments and hair are pictured as gleaming white. Such an illustration bespeaks of His holiness. Before anything else, God is first and foremost holy (Isaiah 57:15). This is why He demands the holiness and separation of His children (I Peter 1:15-16). A Christian is saved unto a holy lifestyle, and he will never be truly at peace until he is reflecting the character of the One whose garments are white as the snow. In the whiteness of His hair, one is also reminded of His unparalleled wisdom. People expect the elderly to be wise. A man is supposed to increase in wisdom and discretion as the years go by, but such is not always the case. Proverbs 16:31 says, "The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness." The hairs of an old man have value of an eternal quality if they reflect the righteous wisdom of God, but if they do not, they are of little worth. God's hairs reflect this wisdom in its purest and most exalted sense. Every believer should strive to reflect God's wisdom. This reflection should only grow stronger as the believer grows older, and this growth is accomplished only through submission to biblical truth as one seeks the righteousness of God through the fear of the Lord.

As the fires of God's holiness were seen on Mount Sinai, they are also seen before His holy throne. Apart from the blood of Christ, none may approach unto such a holy God because "the LORD [our] God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God (Deuteronomy 4:24)." The wheels parallel the throne-chariot of God seen in Ezekiel's vision.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Destiny of the Gentile Kingdoms: The Four Kingdoms Presented (Part V)

"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." (Daniel 7:7-8)

The text now focuses on the fourth kingdom. This fearful beast represents two things. First of all, it represents the ancient Roman Empire which was then future to Daniel; however, the representation does not stop here. As the text progresses, the second coming of Jesus Christ makes up the context of the passage, and the destruction of this kingdom is described within the context of those last days; therefore, this beast is also picturing the future kingdom of the antichrist, a kingdom which is often referred to as the revived Roman Empire due to the similarities between the two.

The beast is described as dreadful and terrible and strong exceedingly. Lasting some 500 years, the Roman Empire continued longer than the kingdoms of Babylon, Persia and Greece combined. The caesars took over the entire known world and added to the Roman Empire territories which had not been previously conquered. The great iron teeth bespeak of Rome's strength and endurance. They also identify this fourth kingdom with the iron legs of Nebuchadnezzar's dream in chapter two. The iron not only speaks of the strength of a kingdom gone by, but it also speaks of the strength which will be vested in the future kingdom of the antichrist.

Future to Daniel but past to the present reader, the ten horns may be representative of the fact that the Roman Empire was divided into ten nations upon its fall; however, in a future sense, these ten horns most certainly speak of the ten kingdoms which shall arise in the latter days and serve the beast of the antichrist (Revelation 17:12-13). The antichrist is next described as the little horn. Although horns represent power, it should also be noted that the text calls this horn little. In comparison to the strength of God, His enemies are nothing more than little. It is true that this future foe will be invested with all the powers of hell, yet it must be remembered that he is still nothing more than a little horn in the eyes of an infinite God.

As Daniel considered this little horn, he noticed that it had human features, particularly a mouth which spoke great things. The word for great means much or many. This future foe will exalt himself against God and pour out unimaginable blasphemies which will seem to have no end.

Although the true antichrist is yet to come, his spirit may be seen in many of the Roman rulers who encouraged their subjects to worship them as deity. As all of humanity moves toward the second coming of Jesus Christ, this same spirit of antichrist may be seen throughout the world just as John said, "...and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world (I John 4:3)."

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Destiny of the Gentile Kingdoms: The Four Kingdoms Presented (Part IV)

"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." (Daniel 7:6)

The Greek Empire is represented by a leopard. Sleek and quick, this animal adequately represents the speed at which Alexander the Great conquered the hated Persians. This speed is further brought to light by the wings which adorned the beast. In just ten short years Alexander rose to power. His empire extended from Macedonia to India and from Egypt to the Caspian Sea; however, he died in the height of his youth and was succeeded by his four generals. These men are represented by the four heads.

After Alexander's death his kingdom was divided among these four men. Cassander took over Macedonia and Greece; Lysimachus received Asia Minor and Thrace; Seleucus took Syria, Upper Asia, Babylon and the Eastern parts, and Ptolemy took hold of Egypt, Palestine and all of Arabia.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Destiny of the Gentile Kingdoms: The Four Kingdoms Presented (Part III)

"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." (Daniel 7:5)

The second beast pictures the Persian Empire. The bear was higher on one side than the other. Originally, Media controlled the Persians, but the tide turned when Cyrus defeated Astyages and seized the throne. Media was swallowed up by the stronger Persian power thus the picture of the lopsided bear.

The three ribs seem to represent the three kingdoms which fell to Persia in its initial conquest. These three kingdoms were Egypt, Lydia and Babylon. Amasis of Egypt was overcome in 568 BC. Croesus of Lydia was captured in 547 BC, and Nabonidus was suppressed in 539 BC along with his son Belshazzar.

A bear is larger and more clumsy than a lion. By means of great strength it overcomes its prey. The Persian Empire reached farther than that of Babylonia. It employed almost unimaginable amounts of people in its armies. Persian war tactics were centered around outnumbering and crushing the enemy through shear strength. Darius employed over 700,000 troops in his war against Scythia. In his march against the Greeks, Xerxes I took approximately one million men. Understanding the Persian's tactics of waging war aids one in understanding the heart behind the words "Arise, devour much flesh."

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Destiny of the Gentile Kingdoms: The Four Kingdoms Presented (Part II)

"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." (Daniel 7:4)

This first kingdom is that of Babylon. It is identified as a lion, the primary Chaldean symbol. The Babylonian Empire is compared to a lion in Jeremiah 4:7. It is also given the characteristics of an eagle in Ezekiel 17:3. During the reigns of Nabopolassar and Nebuchadnezzar, Babylon devoured the surrounding nations as a ravenous lion carries off its prey. It accomplished this with surprising speed. This may be what is pictured in the wings; however, in the latter years of Nebuchadnezzar's reign, Babylon ceased to be the aggressive force which it once was. Its power and ferocity steadily waned until its fall to the Persian Empire in 539 BC.

Nebuchadnezzar had once stood upon the porch of his magnificent palace and proudly exclaimed "Is not this great Babylon, that I have built?" Yet, its days were numbered. The lion's power was reduced to that of a man and its rule brought to a close.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Destiny of the Gentile Kingdoms: The Four Kingdoms Presented

"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." 
(Daniel 7:1-3)

Chronologically, chapters seven and eight find there events cradled between chapters four and five. By the time Daniel interpreted Belshazzar's dream he already had knowledge of Babylon's future. Surely this would have heavily influenced Daniel's answer to the king. Belshazzar's promise of gifts would have been doubly contemptible to Daniel in light of the knowledge which God had given him concerning future events.

Chapter seven contains the final portions of the Aramaic text. As previously shown, the Aramaic text began in chapter two. In that chapter God opened with the direction of the world's kingdoms and now He ends with the same theme. At both ends of God's revelation to the Gentile world one finds the destructive course of man's governments compared to the glorious triumph of Christ's righteous kingdom.

The dream begins with the four winds of heaven striving upon the great sea. In Ephesians 2:2 Satan is called "the prince of the power of the air." In the turmoil of these four winds one cannot help but see the powers of darkness at work as they struggle to raise up the kingdoms of Satan's minions. The governments of this world are owned and swayed by satanic influence (Luke 4:5-6), and the powers of darkness are consistently attempting to thwart the righteous kingdom of Jesus Christ through the opposition of man's kingdoms.

In the books of Numbers, Joshua and Ezekiel the term the great sea is consistently in reference to the Mediterranean Sea. This terminology identifies the Middle East as the location of the events which are soon to follow. The Garden of Eden was found there. The Bible's events are centered there. History's major empires all claimed territory in this location, and it is within this district where the final events of biblical prophecy will unfold. This great sea also pictures the sea of humanity from which the kingdoms of Daniel's dream would arise (Daniel 7:17).

These four kingdoms are immediately presented as four beasts. Regardless of how moral a country's government may or may not be, at its heart it is nothing more than a beast. If for a time this true nature is suppressed, the grace of God should be given the credit. Man's governments are by nature violent and oppressive. They are easily corrupted and incredibly vulnerable to the forces of evil. Man is basically wicked (Romans 3:10-18); therefore, all of his governments are eventually corrupted and turned into a beast. For this reason, God's people should never find themselves looking to man's government for peace and security. Believers are commanded to be exemplary citizens as was Daniel, but they are never commanded to take their focus off of God and place it upon man. In fact, Psalm 146:3-5 commands the direct opposite.

Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish. Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Witness to Darius: The King's Praise

"Then king Darius wrote unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you. I make a decree, That in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for he is the living God, and stedfast for ever, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end. He delivereth and rescueth, and he worketh signs and wonders in heaven and in earth, who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions. So this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius, and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian." (Daniel 6:25-28)

Darius' praise of God mirrors that of Nebuchadnezzar found in chapter four. In stark contrast to the lifeless idols of mankind, the king declares God to be living and steadfast forever. His kingdom is indestructible, and it will still be firm long after man's rule is over. Psalm 8:2 says, "Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger." With the humility of a little child, Darius declared the splendor and wonder of God. Only the Lord knows the final spiritual condition of this Median ruler. Through Daniel, God shined a bright light into the dark recesses of the Babylonian and Persian kingdoms in search of lost souls. By permitting Darius to witness such events, the Lord showed the king that those who resist God's authority will be destroyed, but those who place their trust in Jehovah shall be well.   

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Witness to Darius: The King's Penitence (Part III)

"And the king commanded, and they brought those men which had accused Daniel, and they cast them into the den of lions, them, their children, and their wives; and the lions had the mastery of them, and brake all their bones in pieces or ever they came at the bottom of the den." (Daniel 6:24)

"But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me (Luke 19:27)." Jesus Christ declared such to be the end of all those who resist the righteousness of God. Daniel's authority was found in God; therefore, when his adversaries resisted him they ultimately resisted God. Their terrible end will forever be the expectation of all who reject the fear of the Lord. God delivers the man who casts himself upon the mercy and sufficiency of God, but He destroys the man who walks in his own ways. This truth is clearly taught in Isaiah 50:10-11.

"Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God. Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow."

Although the believer cannot be condemned to hell because he has been delivered by the blood of Christ, his flesh is still capable of resisting the righteous authority of God. A Christian may resist the godly admonitions of a pastor or parent. He may buck against the rebuke and help of a righteous friend. Whatever the case, it is a dangerous thing to resist the authority of God especially when that authority is walking in holiness and seeking to lead its subordinates into the fear of the Lord.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Witness to Darius: The King's Penitence (Part II)

"Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live for ever. My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt. Then was the king exceeding glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God." (Daniel 6:21-23)

Live forever! This was not simply a statement of respect or formality. Coming from a man of Daniel's spiritual caliber, this was a heartfelt wish for the king's welfare. Daniel did not view Nebuchadnezzar as the enemy and neither did he view Darius as the enemy. The conversion of souls was important to Daniel as it should be to all of God's people. Had Darius come to saving faith in the God of the Hebrews, Daniel would gladly have endured a thousand lion's dens.

Daniel was quick to give God all the glory. He took this event as a unique occasion to expose Darius to the power of Israel's God. Daniel pointed out the fact that he was innocent before God. Such security is known only to those who are trusting in the righteousness of Christ and consequently walking in obedience. Darius needed this same relationship with God. Daniel's confidence in his relationship with his Creator would have been a catalyst for some thoughtful reflection on the king's part.

No manner of hurt could be found on Daniel. God had fully delivered him from the lion's mouths. The truth is, had God permitted Daniel to perish in the den, God would still be good; however, for purposes of witness to this heathen king and for purposes know only to Himself, the Lord chose to completely deliver Daniel. In this physical deliverance is a beautiful illustration of how God fully delivers the souls of all those who put their faith in Jesus Christ. Although the body may perish by a martyrs death, the soul of God's redeemed may never be molested.

Daniel accessed the riches of God's deliverance through the channel of simple faith. The text says that Daniel "believed in his God." The boundless riches of God's redemption will never be realized apart from turning to God in faith. The exercising of faith does not stop after the choice to believe in Christ. The believer must live in the principles of faith everyday. The agency of faith by which salvation is appropriated is the same agency by which salvation is lived out. This principle is taught in Colossians 2:6, "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him." Christ is not received apart from faith and neither is He pleased apart from faith. Daniel simply believed in his God; therefore, he simply obeyed Him and lived out His holy commandments.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Witness to Darius: The King's Penitence

"Then the king went to his palace, and passed the night fasting: neither were instruments of musick brought before him: and his sleep went from him. Then the king arose very early in the morning, and went in haste unto the den of lions. And when he came to the den, he cried with a lamentable voice unto Daniel: and the king spake and said to Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions?" (Daniel 6:18-20)

The king demonstrated a heart of repentance. The Hebrew word behind the English word repentance means to turn around. Repentance is a change of mind and heart which results in some change in behavior. No one would have believed that Darius was truly brokenhearted had he passed the evening in genuine glee. His actions may have been different from those of another person but they contained an undeniable quality of humility. Darius' behavior is a fine example of what characterizes true sorrow over sin.

With a sad (lamentable) voice the king cried out to Daniel, "O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions?" Unlike the lifeless idols of his kingdom, Darius knew that Daniel's God lives. He recognized that Daniel served his God in a continual fashion. Unmoved by man's whims and political maneuvers, Daniel served God with righteous consistency. This should be said of every Christian. God's people are not required to go astray. No one has to have periods of rebellion. Righteous consistency is the Spirit's desire for His people, but it will not come as long as the believer holds the things of the flesh in higher regard than the things of the Spirit.  

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Witness to Darius: The King's Predicament (Part III)

"Then these men assembled unto the king, and said unto the king, Know, O king, that the law of the Medes and Persians is, That no decree nor statute which the king establisheth may be changed. Then the king commanded, and they brought Daniel, and cast him into the den of lions. Now the king spake and said unto Daniel, Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee. And a stone was brought, and laid upon the mouth of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet, and with the signet of his lords; that the purpose might not be changed concerning Daniel." (Daniel 6:15-17)

Seeing that the king was obviously reluctant to carry out the sentence against Daniel, his wicked counselors remind him that the laws of the land must be carried out without exception.

Snared by Persian law and the consequences of his own pride, the king commands the execution of Daniel's punishment. This was done in great sorrow as is evidenced by the king's words, "Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee." God was not only doing a work in Daniel's life; He was also doing a work in Darius' soul. The souls of men have always been of the utmost importance to God, and it is the pursuit of souls which characterizes the true believer.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Witness to Darius: The King's Predicament (Part II)

"Then these men assembled, and found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God. Then they came near, and spake before the king concerning the king's decree; Hast thou not signed a decree, that every man that shall ask a petition of any God or man within thirty days, save of thee, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions? The king answered and said, The thing is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not. Then answered they and said before the king, That Daniel, which is of the children of the captivity of Judah, regardeth not thee, O king, nor the decree that thou hast signed, but maketh his petition three times a day. Then the king, when he heard these words, was sore displeased with himself, and set his heart on Daniel to deliver him: and he laboured till the going down of the sun to deliver him." (Daniel 6:11-14)

O the sting of pride! The king had been completely blinded by its deceptive nature. His own wicked heart had once again proven to be his own worst enemy. A wise Christian will take heed to this. Following one's own wisdom is dangerous. Each and every decision must have a biblical foundation; otherwise, the end may be very bitter.

The king's pride not only exposed him as a fool before his adversaries, it also proved to be harmful to the man he most respected. A man's sin never affects just himself. In the end, others suffer. When a mother turns from God, her husband and children suffer. When a pastor turns from following the fear of God, everyone under his ministry will feel the effects. Christ's believers are His body. Not one member of that body is permitted to be ill without the rest of the body being made aware.

Realizing that he had allowed himself to be deceived by these men, the king labored with all his might in an effort to find some judicial loophole. He had great love and respect for Daniel, and he showed it by his actions.

Daniel's adversaries were playing with fire. Not only had they harmed the king's most trusted president, but they had also made a fool out of Darius. They had become so comfortable in their sin that they were blind to its potential consequences. Even if their scheme could be carried out, the king would forever be their enemy. They were apparently unmoved by such realities. They were so desperate to be out from under the righteous rule of Daniel that they were willing to gamble with the king's power.

Man's wicked heart will stop at nothing to break itself free of God's law. Such actions are vain, yet men continually attempt to throw off God's authority. The believer is not above demonstrating this same heart attitude. Discussing God's word is one thing, but it is quite another to actually apply it to everyday life. Talk is cheap, but application will quickly reveal whether or not the believer is submitted to God's righteous rule over his life.

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Witness to Darius: The King's Predicament

"Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime." (Daniel 6:10)

The Lord Jesus Christ is "...the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever (Hebrews 13:8)." During His earthly ministry, the Lord walked in righteous consistency whether He was seated at supper or weathering the storms of Galilee. Empowered by the Spirit of Christ, Daniel exhibited this same righteous consistency. He was a man who was at peace in the sufficiency of God. His peace was not dependent upon the cultural, political or religious climate. Daniel believed that God is in control and his life fully reflected it.

Because Daniel was accustomed to seeking God when life was calm, his first reaction was to seek God when life was disturbed. He simply resorted to that which he always did. A Christian will not first turn to God in life's big trials if he is not accustomed to putting God first in everyday life.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Witness to Darius: The King's Pride

"Then these presidents and princes assembled together to the king, and said thus unto him, King Darius, live for ever. All the presidents of the kingdom, the governors, and the princes, the counsellors, and the captains, have consulted together to establish a royal statute, and to make a firm decree, that whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions. Now, O king, establish the decree, and sign the writing, that it be not changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not. Wherefore king Darius signed the writing and the decree." (Daniel 6:6-9)

The Medo-Persian government was not an absolute monarchy. The king himself was subject to the various laws which were put into place. Unlike the Babylonian kingdom, Darius would be a slave to whatever writing he signed. When one considers the nature of this decree, he cannot help but notice how foolish it was. In the most extreme case, it would prohibit a man from asking his wife for a cup of water. If carried to its logical conclusions, this law would require the desires of every living thing to pass through the king. The decree attempted to make Darius God, but he was not God. No one can usurp God's position. Only God has the ability to open His hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing (Psalm 145:16).

In their deception to gain their desires, these ungodly men took advantage of the king's pride. They knew that he would be so flattered over such a position that he could not help but sign the decree. Man's pride is at the root of every sin, and these men knew just how to use it. Had Darius stopped and considered their proposition he would have noticed that Daniel's signature was missing. These men lied to the king by telling him that all the presidents had signed the decree, but Darius' self-centered heart was far too full of itself to notice that his most trusted president had not signed.

Darius' folly has the potential to fall upon anyone. The believer needs the constant guidance of the Holy Spirit to protect him from falling prey to such deceptions. This is especially true when others attempt to play upon his pride. Destruction is always preceded by pride (Proverbs 16:18). Pride fogs the judgment and prevents biblical thinking. If a Christian will consistently keep in view his dependency upon God, he will be less likely to fall prey to such lies.

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Witness to Darius: The King's Presidents

"It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom an hundred and twenty princes, which should be over the whole kingdom; And over these three presidents; of whom Daniel was first: that the princes might give accounts unto them, and the king should have no damage. Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm. Then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him. Then said these men, We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God." (Daniel 6:1-5)

Although Cyrus the Persian was on the throne at this time, he had placed Darius the Median on the throne in Babylon. One of Darius' first acts was to put in place a system of accountability by which his royal revenues could be collected. Man's government has always been corrupt. Darius knew that if he did not have some means of closely monitoring the royal taxes much would be lost to embezzlement and bribery.

Daniel quickly proved himself to be a man of integrity. Even though he knew full well that man's government is vain, he also knew that he should be diligent with all that God entrusted to him (Colossians 3:23). His honesty and godly wisdom made him preferred above the other two presidents. The king, a lost man, was able to see something different in Daniel. Rather than being consumed with selfish desires, he was completely preoccupied with righteous conduct. Rather than engaging in political schemes to build himself a temporal empire, he busied himself with bringing glory to God by means of a holy lifestyle. His actions were so pure that Darius pondered the possibility of making him vice-regent.

Daniel's co-laborers hated him. He stood in the way of their covetousness. Thievery and bribery would not be tolerated under his rule. He was well acquainted with the value of a clear conscience toward God and men; therefore, he kept a close eye on all for which he was responsible. Furthermore, Daniel was a captive, a Jew; therefore, his subordinates refused to submit themselves to his godly conduct and quickly set about to bring him down to the grave. There was only one problem. He was blameless. This does not mean that Daniel never experienced sin or failure, but it does mean that he quickly repented of such things. He lived an open and honest life. Daniel would not have been afraid should any portion of his life have been put on display. He lived in the fear of the Lord. He daily practiced biblical wisdom, and most important of all, he walked in genuine humility. He was not too proud to say, "I am wrong." He was not afraid of what people thought. He was completely preoccupied with pleasing God. Simply put, he was blameless.

Daniel's conduct was nothing different from what every believer's conduct should be. One of the first qualifications of a New Testament pastor is that he be blameless (I Timothy 3:2). His example is to set forth that which God desires for all of His people. God wants every Christian to be blameless. God knows that His children will sin this side of eternity, but when such things happen, He desires their speedy repentance and restoration. God wants His people to walk in obedience. He wants separation from the world. He wants the lost to see a difference in attitude, motive, dress, desire, enjoyment and focus. He wants the lost to see that the believer does not serve the same master. Darius saw in Daniel what God wants every lost man to see in every Christian - the Holy Spirit.

Daniel's consistency in worship enabled these men to find false grounds for their accusations. They knew that the current cultural and political climate would have no effect on Daniel's love for God.

Could such things be said of God's people today? Would the adversary have to look as far as worship in order to find fault, or would the inappropriate conduct in the home or at the workplace be sufficient grounds for an accusation? In Daniel may be seen the faultless Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ. The New Testament believer enjoys the ever-present help of the Spirit. Are God's people allowing Him to fill and control them, or are they pushing Him back and quenching His conviction? Concerning Jesus' character, Hebrews 7:26 says that He is, "...holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners...." Daniel exhibited Christ-like character. He did not have near the same amount of Scripture and privileges that modern day Christians enjoy, yet among a whole army of political adversaries could not be found one legitimate accusation against the man. The sad truth is it would take much less to condemn most of the professing Church.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Wickedness of Belshazzar: The King's Doom (Part V)

"Then commanded Belshazzar, and they clothed Daniel with scarlet, and put a chain of gold about his neck, and made a proclamation concerning him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom. In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain. And Darius the Median took the kingdom, being about threescore and two years old." (Daniel 5:29-31)

Surprisingly, Belshazzar followed through with his promise, but the glory was short-lived. Concerning the fall of Babylon, Jeremiah wrote, "...the passages are stopped, and the reeds they have burned with fire, and the men of war are affrighted (Jeremiah 51:32)." While the king had been leading his orgy, the Persians had been busy diverting the Euphrates River (stopping the passages) to a nearby lake by means of a man-made canal. The Persian army was then able to march under the water gate and enter the city. Years prior, Jeremiah had prophesied of Babylon's fall. He commanded Seraiah to pronounce God's judgment against Babylon and then cast the prophecy into the portion of the Euphrates which ran through the middle of the city (Jeremiah 51:59-64). Perhaps the Persian army marched directly past the scroll of Jeremiah on their way to victory.

The text declares that Darius the Median took the throne of Babylon while history and other portions of Scripture make it clear that Cyrus the Persian became the next world ruler. A probable explanation would be that Darius was coregent under Cyrus. Originally, the Medes were the stronger of the two people groups; in light of this, their influence continued into the reign of Persia.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Wickedness of Belshazzar: The King's Doom (Part IV)

"And this is the writing that was written, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN." 
(Daniel 5:25)

MENE means a maneh or a mina which is a unit of measurement. Ezekiel 45:12 equates it to sixty shekels. TEKEL means a shekel. UPHARSIN is a plural word and it means a half shekel.

"This is the interpretation of the thing: MENE; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. TEKEL; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting. PERES; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians." (Daniel 5:26-28)

Although MENE, TEKEL and UPHARSIN are nouns, Daniel interpreted them as verbs; therefore, when combined, the basic message read numbered numbered weighed divided! The verb hath numbered is the Aramaic verb manah (to number) which is from the same root as MENE. The verb art weighed is from the Aramaic word tekal (to weigh) which shares the same root as TEKEL; and finally, the verb is divided is from the Aramaic word paras which means to divide. Its root is the same as that used for PERES. In interpreting the last phrase, Daniel did not use the plural form PHARSIN (the U being a conjunction) but instead he used the singular form PERES. Perhaps this was a play on words because the Aramaic word for Persia is Paras.

In bringing Belshazzar to judgment, the divine scales had been set up. The maneh which consisted of sixty shekels had been placed on one side, and the tekel which consisted of only one shekel had been placed on the other. Obviously, the maneh greatly outweighed the insignificant shekel; therefore, Babylon (the shekel) would be conquered, divided and given to the Medes and Persians.

Had Belshazzar humbled himself before his Creator the fearful scales of judgment would have been unnecessary. His position was one to be avoided at all costs. Hebrews 10:31 says, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." Concerning the scales of God's judgment, David said, "And enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified (Psalm 143:2)." Belshazzar was not the only man who has ever been found wanting when placed on the righteous scale of God. Apart from the imparted righteousness of God, every individual would be found wanting.

Friday, October 31, 2014

The Wickedness of Belshazzar: The King's Doom (Part III)

"And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this; But hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and thou, and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them; and thou hast praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified: Then was the part of the hand sent from him; and this writing was written." (Daniel 5:22-24)

Daniel's boldness and zeal are enough to put any believer to shame. The Christian is often intimidated by the slightest confrontation when he should be ready at all times "...to give an answer to every man...(I Peter 3:15)." In spite of God's warning through Nebuchadnezzar, you have rebelliously exalted yourself against God was Daniel's pointed rebuke to the king. Should Belshazzar have killed Daniel for his words what would it have mattered? Daniel's soul abode "...under the shadow of the Almighty (Psalm 91:1)." When a believer lifts his eyes from the temporal pain to the eternal glory, he too may enjoy such liberty to speak as he ought in the midst of impossible circumstances.

Nabonidus had collected the various false deities from the surrounding villages and deposited them in Babylon in hopes that they would bring about deliverance from the Persians. Daniel boldly points out the useless nature of these false gods. His speech was anything but politically correct; however, it was entirely biblical and that is all that matters.

Daniel ends his sermon by drawing the king's attention to the fact that his very breath and movements are in the hands of God. When dealing with people, the believer must never forget that every person must be brought face to face with this reality. Unless there is a willingness to acknowledge God's supreme authority, there can be no conversion. Many false professions have been a result of failing to deal appropriately with God's authority.

Belshazzar's time was past. More than likely, he had reached the point of no return in his blasphemy; however, for the sake of principle, his root sin needed to be dealt with and perhaps there was a soul in the midst of it all who had been adequately moved by the evening's events so that such words would take effect. Only eternity can tell.

Romans 1:21 says, "...when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened." Belshazzar is a supreme illustration of this truth. He came to some understanding of who God is through the records of Nebuchadnezzar as well as through the testimony of Daniel, yet he chose to reject God. When a person comes face to face with who God is but then proceeds to reject Him, the end is always fearful and dark. In principle, a believer can practice this very same concept. How terrifying it is to trifle with the principles of such a horrible sin! Let every child of God consistently give Him glory. May the believer never attempt to rob God of His glory in even the slightest way. Such actions are not only dangerous, but ultimately they are doomed to failure (Isaiah 42:8).