Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Living Lives Of Purpose: Lessons From The Book Of Daniel. Day 25, The Interpretation Of Daniel's Dream

Living Lives Of Purpose:
Lessons From The Book Of Daniel
Day 25
The Interpretation Of Daniel's Dream

Daniel's dream has troubled him. He saw four beasts in it, with the fourth being terrible in appearance, and he saw God seated on the throne and giving the kingdom of the world to the Son of Man. Tens of thousands stood before the throne, attending the Lord. Daniel tells us, "I, Daniel, was troubled in spirit, and the visions that passed through my mind disturbed me. I approached one of those standing there and asked him the meaning of all this." (Daniel 7:15-16a) He now becomes an active participant in the dream, approaching one of those who attends the Lord to ask for an explanation.

"So he told me and gave me the interpretation of these things. 'The four great beasts are four kings that will rise from the earth. But the holy people of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever---yes, forever and ever.'" (Daniel 7:16b-18) Daniel has seen some scary things in his dream and this figure (probably an angel) hastens to assure him everything turns out alright in the end. The Lord Jesus warned us, "in this world you will have trouble", but He also tells us "Take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33) The holy people of the Most High will receive the kingdom because it belongs to Christ and we belong to Him. What's His is ours. Because we are His forever, the kingdom is ours forever. Daniel is not to let his heart be troubled because, though wars may rise and kingdoms may fall, there is a kingdom that has no end.

"Then I wanted to know the meaning of the fourth beast, which was different from all the others and most terrifying, with its iron teeth and bronze claws---the beast that crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. I also wanted to know about the ten horns on its head and about the other horn that came up, before which three of them fell---the horn that looked more imposing than the others and that had eyes and a mouth that spoke boastfully. As I watched, this horn was waging war against the holy people and defeating them, until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the holy people of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom." (Daniel 7:19-22) Bible scholar David Guzik compares Daniel's vision of the four kingdoms with Nebuchadnezzar's vision of the four kingdoms, and he finds a difference in them because Daniel "sees the kingdoms from God's perspective, not man's. Nebuchadnezzar saw the present and future world empires in the form of a stately and noble statue of a man. Here God shows how He sees them: as ferocious and wild animals who devour and conquer without conscience". 

Daniel hears the angel's assurance that God's people will inherit the kingdom, but in the meantime he sees them being persecuted in his dream. The little horn, so blasphemous and boastful, wages war against them. For a time during the Great Tribulation, it may appear to human eyes that God's people are losing the fight. Those of you who studied Revelation with me some time back know I ascribe to the theory of a pre-Tribulation rapture of the church. Though I believe Christ will come for His bride before the worst darkness this world has ever seen falls on it, the Bible tells us that there will be many who come to Christ during the Tribulation and they will have a deadly enemy. The Antichrist will "wage war against God's holy people" and there will be a time of religious persecution worse than any in history. (Revelation 13:7) He will even dare to fight against the Lord Jesus Christ and the armies of heaven. (Revelation 19:19) But all is not lost. The One who conquered the grave has also conquered the enemy of our souls. The kingdom of this world belongs to Christ and He will share it with those who are His.

The angel answers Daniel. "He gave me this explanation: 'The fourth beast is a fourth kingdom that will appear on earth. It will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing it." (Daniel 7:23) The ancient Roman Empire certainly tried to devour the earth but instead ended up broken in pieces, with Western Rome being divided into ten parts from 351 AD to 476 AD. We can see how this might relate to the ten horns of this kingdom, but a portion of the prophecy remains to be fulfilled. Another kingdom will arise from this one in the last days and ten kings will give their authority to the Antichrist. (Revelation 17:13) He will control them. He will devour the earth, trampling it down and crushing it, in a manner that ancient Rome was never able to achieve. We know the remainder of the prophecy is for the last days because the kingdom of Christ follows immediately after. The kingdom of Christ did not follow the fall of Rome.

"The ten horns are ten kings who will come from this kingdom. After them another king will arise, different from the earlier ones; he will subdue three kings. He will speak against the Most High and oppress His holy people and try to change the set times and the laws. The holy people will be delivered into his hands for a time, times and half a time." (Daniel 7:24-25) In Daniel 9 we will learn of one who orchestrates a peace covenant for seven years. It is believed by many modern Bible scholars that this will be a treaty the Antichrist brokers between Israel and the Palestinians, possibly the two-state solution. This will be a seven-year ceasefire agreement in which the states are to live peacefully side by side. Israel will at last be allowed to rebuild the temple, likely right beside the Dome of the Rock, and sacrifice and offering will be reinstated. But in the middle of those seven years, Antichrist himself will break the treaty and put a stop to sacrifice and offering, setting up an abomination in the temple that defiles it. (Daniel 9:27) This corresponds with what the Apostle Paul says about the Antichrist in 2 Thessalonians 2:4, "He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God." It would appear that Antichrist either literally takes over the temple and sits enthroned in it, insisting he be worshiped, or he places an image there that represents himself. 

Satan's motivation has always been to be worshiped in place of God. If he cannot inspire worship of himself, he will do everything possible to rob worship from God. Throughout the ages he has influenced rulers to force their people to worship either the king or the gods of the king, to worship anyone or anything but the living God. (Nebuchadnezzar and Darius in the book of Daniel are good examples of this.) At last the day will come when Satan, through his man the Antichrist, can reveal his true intentions and give the world's citizens the choice of worshiping him or going to their death. And a great number of them will choose death. They will be martyred for their faith, feeling as the Apostle Paul did, "To live is Christ, to die is gain". (Philippians 1:21) We find the souls of these martyrs in heaven in Revelation 6:9-11 and are told they had been slain "because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained". The persecution of believers will take place in the last half of Antichrist's seven-year reign, which is Daniel's "time, times and half a time" in verse 25 (three and a half years).

The interpretation of Daniel's dream is frightening. He sees fearsome things for the world and for God's people. He's troubled in spirit over these visions. The angel now concludes with a very important word: "but". Things look bad, but God will not allow Satan to prevail. God will not give His glory and authority to another. He will hand over the kingdom of the earth only to the Lord Jesus Christ and to those who have believed on Him. This pretender, the Antichrist who is inhabited by Satan, will not be able to hold onto it. "But the court will sit, and his power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever. Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the holy people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey Him." (Daniel 7:26-27) The angel wants Daniel to always remember that God and His people win in the end. The world may look dark now but a bright eternity is ahead of us.

"This is the end of the matter, I, Daniel, was deeply troubled by my thoughts, and my face turned pale, but I kept the matter to myself." (Daniel 7:28) Like Mary the mother of Jesus, Daniel quietly ponders these things in his heart. On the night of Christ's birth, Mary could not fully understand everything God the Father intended to do through Him, so she treasured and pondered and mulled over the wonderful things said about her Son. Daniel cannot yet fully understand God's plan or the exact identity of the One to whom God the Father will hand the kingdom, so he keeps these things in his heart, meditating upon them. He is resting on God's promises. He may not understand everything he's been told, but he believes. He won't see these things happen in his lifetime, but he knows God will bring them about. He is troubled by the scary visions he saw, but he has faith that God will destroy every enemy of His saints. Daniel won't be on the earth to see these things come to pass, but he believes anyway, and as the Lord Jesus said, "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." (John 20:20b) There is an extra special blessing upon the one who walks by faith and not by sight. Daniel was looking ahead to the advent of Christ the Messiah. He would not see Him in person but he believed on Him in faith. In our times we are looking back to the advent of Christ the Messiah and though we didn't see Him in person we believe on Him in faith. The Lord Jesus says blessed are we who believe what we have not seen. We believe and we treasure and ponder these things in our hearts and we rest on the promises of God, just like Daniel. And someday we will rejoice with Daniel in the kingdom of our Lord.

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