Daniel 021: God’s Control of History

Dr. Andy Woods | May 7, 2017 | Daniel 7:1-7a | Daniel

Andy Woods

God Is In Control Of History

5-7-17     Daniel 7:1-7a        Lesson 21

Good morning everybody.  If we could take our Bibles and open them to the book of Daniel, the book of Daniel, chapter 7, verse 1. The title of our message this morning is God Is In Control Of History.  A lot of panicky people out there looking at the world, wondering what’s happening and what’s going on, it’s such a refreshment to come to the pages of God’s Word and to understand, particularly in our chapter, which we’re going to begin today, that history is fitting into a divine pattern that God told us about long in advance.

And as you’re turning there, you know life is filled with changes, isn’t it?  Jim Hartzog, a longtime member of Sugar Land Bible Church is now in the presence of the Lord, “absent from the body, present with the Lord,” 2 Corinthians 5:8.  [2 Corinthians 5:8, “we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.”]  Charlie Howard, a longtime representative of this district in the Texas House, also a very committed Christian and someone who loved and loves Jesus and was also involved in missionary work and all kinds of things, he is now in the presence of the Lord.  It was exciting to attend his memorial service yesterday at Sugar Creek Baptist and learn how much this man loved the Lord.

And there’s changes going on amongst our youth; we’ve got three high school seniors that are now moving off into college; we commemorated that last night here at this church: Tess, Savanah and Lindsay, so congratulations to all three of you and your families.  [clapping]

And my family and I, my wife and I are back from two weeks in Europe.  One of the places we went to was Lichtenberg, if I’m pronouncing that right, Germany, which is the cradle of the Protestant Reformation.   You know, it’s one thing to learn about the Protestant Reformation and photographs and Google Earth and scrapbooks, but it’s quite another thing to actually stand in the place where these men stood, where Martin Luther stood and made his great stand for the centrality of Christ and the Scripture.  A trip like that sort of kindled in my heart anew to help us understand a little better about the Protestant Reformation.  And so we, in my Sunday School class this morning finished the doctrine of salvation and so I’m going to be doing some teaching in that particular class on the Protestant Reformation, what it was, why it was needed, what did it accomplish, what did it leave unaccomplished.  And so we have that class going on beginning next Sunday; if you can’t make it we have it archived and live streamed along with another very good class by Bob Draper on the Matthew 13 parables.

But what we’re doing this morning is we are returning to our study on the book of Daniel and as my brain is still on European time I can’t guarantee the quality of the sermon today, and lo and behold the Lord sends us into the most complicated chapter in the whole book, maybe the most complicate chapter in the whole Bible.  So I trust you’ll pray for me as I’m trying to teach this this morning.

The book of Daniel as you’ll recall is written during a time when the nation of Israel is outside of the land of Israel in captivity and consequently God has raised up this man, Daniel, to act as a prophet during this time period to explain this time period prophetically that the nation was going through.  And as we have to studied to sort of function as a role model.  How do you live for God outside of the land?  How do you live for God on pagan territory?  How do you work for a boss that doesn’t agree with your Christian worldview?  How do you sit under professors at college, as our three seniors are going to soon discover, that don’t share your biblical belief system?  How do you interact with dorm mates and classmates and colleagues when you’re representing a minority view and you’re living on their territory?  How do you do that exactly?  How do you live for God in the United States of America that at one time was a Christian nation and largely has become a pagan nation.  How do you live for God in Europe that has long forgotten the Protestant Reformation.  So Daniel then becomes very instructive for us because he’s our role model in terms of how to do just that.  You put God first always, and you trust the circumstances of your life to God.

Chapters 1-7 is historical, that’s the section we’ve been working through.  Chapters 8-12 are prophetic, but we’re coming near to the very end of section one of the book of Daniel.  Chapter 1 you’ll recall laid out the setting of the book; it described the captivity, it described what had happened and how the scenery for the nation of Israel had suddenly changed.  No longer were they living in their comfort zone, which they had been in for 800 years, but now they’re living in pagan territory 350 miles to the east of the nation of Israel in a place of captivity.

You know, your life may have just gone from a comfort zone to a scenery change, a job change, a loss of a loved one, a financial reversal; whatever the circumstances may be is God still on the throne during those times?  We discover in this book that He very much is alive and well.  Chapters 2-7 is basically organized like a chiasm; it’s a literary device, it’s going to become very important today as we look at chapter 7 but the information in chapter 2 is largely repeated in chapter 7.  Just like the theme of chapter 3 is repeated in chapter 6.  Just like the theme of chapter 4 is repeated in chapter 5.  So we’ve moved through chapter 2, chapter 3, chapter 4, chapter 5, chapter 6 which we finished on resurrection Sunday, and now we find ourselves at the outer edge of this chiastic structure, Daniel chapter 7.

You say well outlines, shmoutlines, I’m not an outline person, can you give us some pictures.  And yes I can. If you were to associate every chapter of the book of Daniel with a picture you would know what’s going on in the book of Daniel.  Even in Europe it was amazing going to Wittenberg how much of Christian life was given to pictures.  The Protestant Reformers communicated through pictures; the reason they had to communicate through pictures is the population was illiterate and didn’t understand language and texts.

So the Ten Commandments were portrayed for us in pictorial form there in Wittenberg, Germany.  Our minds like pictures.  Chapter 2, just think of a giant statue.  Chapter 3, think of fire, that’s Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego in the fiery furnace.  Chapter 4 think of a tree being chopped down, that’s the humiliation and discipline of Nebuchadnezzar.  Chapter 5 think about handwriting on the wall, the handwriting on the wall chapter.  Chapter 6 think of Daniel being protected by an angel in the lion’s den, that’s what chapter 6 is about.  And then chapter 7, what we’re moving into today, think about four animals or beasts, that’s what chapter 7 is about, these four beasts.

We have the historical setting, chapter 7 verse 1, a vision that Daniel had, verses 2-14.  I love how the Bible doesn’t leave us to our sanctified imaginations in these visions, it actually interprets the visions for us.  This vision is interpreted in verses 15-27.  And finally the chapter concludes with a personal impact on Daniel.  This vision that he saw here in chapter 7 touched him at a very personal level which is what God wants to do with all of His truth; He doesn’t want it to just be data in the mind; He wants it to have some sort of personal impact on us and we see the impact this had on Daniel there in verse 28.

Let’s start, if we could, in verse 1, the historical setting.  Notice if you will Daniel chapter 7 and verse 1.  It says, “In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon” now the first  year of Belshazzar, the king of Babylon allows us to date this chapter.  There are several dates given in the book of Daniel but knowing what we know about Babylonian chronology we can date this chapter in 553 B.C.  You say well who cares?  It’s a big deal because Daniel is going to start to see things in this vision that transpired long after 553 B.C.  The date is very important because God is revealing to Daniel history in advance.

And frankly this is one of the things that makes the Bible stand out against every alleged holy book and all of its competitors.  I don’t know a single book in the world that gives you history before it happens the way the Bible does.  You kind of get the impression as you read this that an all-knowing God who knows the end from the beginning, inspired this book.  And if God has given us history in advance He is obviously in control of history.  So we need not be gripped with fear and panic the way the world is when various events of turmoil, whether it’s terrorism, stock market dips or crashes, wars occur, the world without the knowledge of the Bible is just terrified by these things.  Not so the Christian; not so the child of God who understands that God has revealed history.  History is allowed under God’s sovereignty to progress a certain way.

Isn’t it great to know that God is in control of the world that looks like it’s out of control?  And yet the only way to understand this and have the peace of God is to understand prophecy.  Daniel, when he had this particular vision, is in his mid-sixties and you say well pastor, I’m very confused and the reason I’m confused is the last time you left, as you taught the Babylonians weren’t in control, chapter 6 ended with the Persians in control and I thought Persia replaced Babylon as the next empire during the times of the Gentiles and so I’m chronologically confused.  And my answer is you should be chronologically confused because this book is not written in a chronological manner.  Fourteen years transpire, Daniel 7 and 8 in other words take place 14 years before Daniel 5.  Daniel 5 is how the Persians came to power over the Babylonians and yet chapters 7 and 8 are taking place during the time when the Babylonians are in control.  That means chapter 7 and 8 occur before Daniel 5.  Daniel 7 and 8 takes place before Daniel 5 and 6.

What am I trying to say?  I’m trying to say that Daniel 7 and 8 are out of order chronologically.  The book of Daniel generally flows in a chronological direction until you get to chapters 7 and 8 and those chapters are out of order; now it’s a rehash of something that took place when the Babylonians were in control.

You say well why is it organized that way?   Because the book is structured not chronologically   the way a western mind likes it structured; it’s structured what?  Chiastically, it’s structured thematically.  The book is designed so that the information in chapter 7 reminds you of the information in chapter 2.  So Daniel, as he puts this together is not trying to necessarily develop a chronological timeline for us but he’s trying to develop a thematic timeline.  I call this my sanity chart because that chart will tell you what king is in power in any different chapter in the book of Daniel, which we need because this book doesn’t flow chronologically, at least when you get to chapters 7 and 8. Chapters 1 -4, Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon is in charge.  Chapter 5, which follows chronologically, Belshazzar of Babylon is in charge. Chapter 6, which follows chronologically, Darius of Medio-Persia is in charge.  And then you get to chapters 7 and 8 and we’re right back to Babylon, Belshazzar, the last reigning king of Neo -Babylonia is in charge in chapters 7 and 8.

You’ll notice what it says here in Daniel chapter 7 and verse 1, continuing along, it says, “In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel saw a dream and visions in his mind as he lay on his bed;” now some of your versions say he had a dream in his head as he lay on his bed.  So that’s a neat little rhyme, isn’t it?  So Daniel is minding his own business as a 60 year old, he is working under the administration of Babylon, which is about to be overthrown by Persia 14 years later, and God begins to give this man, Daniel, a vision.

Now according to this chiasm Daniel, rather than Nebuchadnezzar, has this dream.  Go back to the chiasm just for a minute; the information in chapter 2 is repeated in chapter 7.  Daniel chapter 2 and verse 1, which is an outline of Gentile history, was received initially by Nebuchadnezzar himself, the then reigning king of Babylon.  Daniel 2:1 says, “Now in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; and his spirit was troubled and his sleep left him.”

Chapter 2 is a description of this time of history from Nebuchadnezzar’s point of view.

Nebuchadnezzar receives the dream.  Chapter 7 is a description of the exact same time period; the exact same empires are involved.  But this time the description is not given to Nebuchadnezzar, the oppressor; the description is given to Daniel, the one who is being oppressed along with his people.

That is very important because chapter 2 and chapter 7 are describing the same period of time but from different vantage points.  More on that a little later.

Chapter 7 and verse 1 continues and it says “then he” that’s Daniel, “wrote the dream down and related the following summary of it.”  Notice that Daniel had the dream and wrote it down.  In other words, Daniel is the author of this book that we call the book of Daniel.  He’s the author of chapter 7.  You say well who cares?  That’s a big deal because on A & E, Mysteries of the Bible, The History Channel, etc. they will bring on some PhD from Harvard who will essentially tell you that we all know that Daniel didn’t write the book of Daniel. Well why do you think that?  Because Daniel couldn’t have seen all of these empires ahead of time, in the 6th century B.C., he must have, or a forger must have written about these things someone other than Daniel, after the events transpired.  That’s called higher criticism or just quite frankly rank liberalism. Liberals have been teaching this for the last century and so they believe that maybe part of the book of Daniel was written by Daniel but we know the rest of the book could not have been written by Daniel.

And so you ask them well what do you do with chapter 7 and verse 1 which says, “he” that’s Daniel, “wrote the dream down” and “a summary of it.”  And they say well, it doesn’t mean what it says.  Well, I hate to tell you folks, at the end of the day I agree with Daniel.  More importantly I agree with Jesus.  Do you think Jesus is a pretty good interpreter of the Bible?  Jesus, in Matthew 24;15 quotes Daniel 9:27 and He says, “Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, [standing in the holy place (let the reader understand),]”  Jesus attributed authorship of the book of Daniel, all of it, even the later chapters which the liberals deny Daniel wrote, Jesus attributes all of these things to Daniel himself.

To buy into the history channel, A&E, Mysteries of the Bile, is to deny what Daniel himself says here in chapter 7 and verse 1.  And beyond that it’s an attack on the words of Christ.  If Christ is wrong on the authorship of the book of Daniel what else is Christ wrong on?  See?  What does an attorney in a court of law do?  He tries to find discrepancies in someone’s testimony with the hopes that the jury will say well that person isn’t reliable on this point, therefore they’re not reliable on anything else.  And consequently higher criticism causes people to doubt the words of Jesus Christ.  If Jesus can’t be right on the things we can see,  how can I trust Him on heaven and hell, the plan of salvation, faith alone?  And that’s why your position on the authorship of the book of Daniel becomes a big BIG deal because your theology will start to collapse like a house of cards if Jesus, in fact was wrong on this point.  That’s why I spend time bringing these issues to your attention.

But notice, if you will, verses 2-14 where we have the vision itself.  Now this vision, which probably we won’t even get through this morning, is divided into four parts; we have four beasts coming out of the sea, verses 2 and 3; a description of the four beasts, verse 4-8. Some character called “the ancient of days”, verses 9-12, and finally we have the vision concludes with the son of man and his presentation and the establishment of his kingdom, verses 13-14.

But notice, if you will, verses 2 and 3 as we start to look at the actual vision itself.  What does it say here?  [2] “Daniel said, ‘I was looking in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. [4] And four great beasts were coming up from the sea, different from one another.”  What does Daniel see here in this vision?  What he is going to begin to see is the various empires that will trample down the nation of Israel during this time of captivity.

It’s a time period that we call the times of the Gentiles.  It’s a time period when the nation of Israel has no king reigning on David’s throne. Zedekiah, the last king of Judah was deposed by Nebuchadnezzar back in 586 B.C. and that inaugurated a time of history that we would know virtually nothing about had God not raised up this man Daniel.  It’s a time of mystery in the sense that it’s a brand new time period, there is no prior revelation about this.  Daniel was raised up specifically by God to give the details, prophetically, of this time period.  Israel is going to be trampled down by various powers; that will continue until the establishment of God’s kingdom upon the earth.  That’s what Daniel 2 is about and this is also what Daniel 7 is about, the outer edges of this chiastic structure.

You’ll notice that these beasts, or these animals, which represent various Gentile powers, are coming up out of the sea in Daniel’s vision.  What is the sea?  The sea, many times in the Bible represents the great mass of humanity, the great mass of the human race.  Isaiah 57:21 says “But the wicked are like the tossing sea, for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up refuse and mud.”  That’s how God looks at human history with the Gentiles in control.  It’s a bunch of “refuse and mud.”  It’s just constant churning.  And these four beasts are coming up out of the sea.

You know, the antichrist, the beast in Revelation 13:1 is also portrayed as coming up out of the sea.  [Revelation 13:1, “…Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names.”]  Revelation 17:1 talks about a great harlot, this is the end times system of the antichrist and his city and his system and it says, “Come here, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters,” the sea.  What is the sea?  Revelation 17:15 says, “…The waters which you saw where the harlot sits, are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues.”

So typically in the Bible, not every time but many times the sea or the ocean is this great mass of humanity in its fallen condition churning.  And  yet from this sea are going to come forth four specific empires.  They will be named by name in the book of Daniel, and these are the empires which will trample down the nation of Israel during the times of the Gentiles.

Nebuchadnezzar, when he saw this time period saw it from man’s perspective.  Daniel, on the other hand, saw it (the same time period) but from God’s perspective.  See, when Nebuchadnezzar was given information about the times of the Gentiles he saw it as a beautiful statue, dazzling in appearance, beautiful, head of gold, chest and arms of silver, belly and thighs of bronze, legs of iron, feet made of iron and clay.  It was a spectacle to behold, it was dazzling, it was beautiful in appearance.

And here in the year 553 B.C. Daniel sees the same exact period of time.  He doesn’t see it though as a beautiful statue, the statue that’s there in the far left column; as you move to the right just one end to the right you’ll see that Daniel did not see a dazzling statue, he saw four disgusting grotesque ferocious beasts.  He saw a lion and a bear and a leopard (sounds like the Wizard of Oz doesn’t it).  And then at the end he saw this terrifying beast.

Why the difference in perspective?  Well because from Nebuchadnezzar’s point of view chapter 2 is a great time period.  Nebuchadnezzar was in charge.   It was beautiful, but the perspective changes when the same information is given to Daniel, a Hebrew, a Jew, it’s not a beautiful time period, it’s a terrible time period because Daniel is not the oppressor but the oppressee.  It’s interesting that when you look at history  you can look at it through different lenses.  How do you look at history?  Do you see God’s point of view in history or do you see man’s point of view in history.  This is why my hope and prayer is that God will continue to raise up godly historians, people like David Barton for example, who can go into history and extract from it the divine viewpoint, the divine viewpoint of America because without the divine viewpoint the only thing you’re stuck with is the Gentile perspective.

Here’s a little chart I put together showing you the different perspectives of history.  Daniel 2, the receiver of the vision is Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel 7, the receiver of the vision is Daniel himself.  Daniel 2, Nebuchadnezzar is the oppressor; Daniel 7, Daniel is the oppressee. Daniel 2 the division is given to a Babylonian.  Daniel 7 the same period of time is given to a Hebrew.  Daniel 2 is the Jewish point of view, I think I have that backwards actually, Daniel 2 should be the Gentile point   of view, Daniel 7 should be the Jewish point of view.  Daniel 2 we have an anthropocentric perspective, a man-centered view; Daniel 7 is a theocentric perspective, God’s point of view.  That’s why history is narrated in Daniel 2 as a beautiful statue but in Daniel 7 the same period of time is described through four beasts.  Daniel 2 the time period is beautiful; Daniel 7 the time period is grotesque.  It’s a matter of where you sit isn’t it?   It’s a matter of what side of the ledger you’re one that you can look at a historical event as something good or as something negative.

It’s even interesting as I was in Germany learning about the Protestant Reformation, learning about the Protestant perspective of the Protestant Reformation.  It’s a wonderful time, it’s a time of recapturing truths that have been lost.  Now have you ever listened to a Roman Catholic talk about Martin Luther?  He’s the arch heretic.  It sort of depends on who’s giving you the historical point of view.  But at any rate Daniel is receiving the Jewish perspective, the oppressed perspective and he sees these beasts coming out of the sea, he sees them as all different from each other and as we move into verses 4-8 we actually get a description of these various beasts.

Notice if you will verse 4, “The first,” that’s beast number 1, “was like a lion and had the wings of an eagle. I kept looking until its wings were plucked, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man; a human mind also was given to it.”  The first beast that Daniel saw that would trample Israel down during this difficult time was a lion.  Now we know exactly who this lion is because the lion is identical with the head of gold in the information that Nebuchad­nezzar received back in Daniel chapter 2.  In fact in Daniel 2:38 we know exactly who the head of gold is because Daniel 2:38 to Nebuchadnezzar says “You are the head of gold.”   The head of gold, or the lion, (head of gold chapter 2, lion chapter 7) would represent the empire that was in place when Daniel had this vision.  Babylon trampled down the nation of Israel from about 605 B.C. to about 539 B.C. So within his own lifetime Daniel would see his prophecies begin to be fulfilled because fourteen years later, in chapter 5, the days of Babylon would come to an end and be replaced by Persia.

You’ll notice that this particular beast is described here as having eagle’s wings, most likely a reference to the very rapid, swift conquest of Babylon as she came to power and subjugated the nation of Israel.  You’ll notice also this reference in verse 5 to the fact that it looked like a man who had been plucked; it’s almost as if his life had been interrupted, then he had been made to stand on his feet and a man’s mind or a human mind was given to that individual.  I believe this is the description of what happened to Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4.

Nebuchadnezzar, the first reigning king of Neo-Babylonia during the times of the Gentiles had a bad case of the  “I’s.”   You remember in Daniel 4:30 he said is this not the great Babylonian empire which I myself have created for my own majesty.  Notice how “I” and “my” keeps recurring there in that verse.   [Daniel 4:30 “The king reflected and said, ‘Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?”’ NASB]

And the moment those words, in fact, before those words came out of his mouth God turned Nebuchadnezzar into an insane man for seven years; he thought he was an animal, he lived like an animal.  Medically this is an actual disease  that the medical experts call lycanthrope, or boanthropy or zoanthrope, people that actually think and act like animals.  I know some Jr. high school students that are kind of like that….  But the fact of the matter is they think and act like animals and then there is suddenly cured and they’re restored to their place of sanity.  That’s what happened to Nebuchad­nezzar back in chapter 4.  I believe Daniel is seeing that; he’s seeing how God humbled a man and restored him which is a tremendous testimony of the grace of God.

And Daniel kept looking in this particular vision, and by the way, that’s the territory, some of these I got from The Bible Knowledge Commentary, that darker area is the territory that Neo-Babylonia controlled, it was the empire of that time period, it was the conquest of the known world.  Nobody ever thought in their wildest dreams that Neo-Babylonia would have its day in the sun and then disappear.  It’s like today, it’s kind of interesting looking at  America; we think that this American system, as wonderful as it is and I agree that it is wonderful, we just sort of think that we have this license where it’s just going to go on and on and on and on and on forever.  And we can just live however we want and act however we want and discard God and peace and prosperity and good times are just going to keep on rolling on through and how we need to look back at history and see that God brings all great empires to an end.  This is what God did with Neo-Babylonia; she was replaced by the empire of Medo-Persia which conquered Babylon in a single night (as we have studied, Daniel 5) without even a battle.  That’s how vulnerable the Babylonians were.

And this moves us into verse 5, the second part of the vision.  Verse 5 says, “And behold, another beast, a second one, resembling a bear. And it was raised up on one side, and three ribs were in its mouth between its teeth; and thus they said to it, ‘Arise, devour much meat!’”  The lion is followed by the bear.  We know that the bear is Persia because the book of Daniel itself identifies Persia, Medo-Persia as the empire that would follow Babylon.  You might want to jot these down: Daniel 5:28, you’ll see the name Persia.  Daniel 8:28, you’ll see the name Persia.  Daniel 10:13, the name Persia.  Daniel 10:20, the name Persia.  [Daniel 5:28, “’PERES’’– your kingdom has been divided and given over to the Medes and Persians.’”  Daniel 10:13, “But the prince of the kingdom of Persia was withstanding me for twenty-one days; then behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left there with the kings of Persia.” Daniel  10:20, “Then he said, ‘Do you understand why I came to you? But I shall now return to fight against the prince of Persia; so I am going forth, and behold, the prince of Greece is about to come.’”]

See in context the Holy Spirit is so specific that He says I’m going to give you the name of the empire that is going to follow Babylon.  This bear would parallel the chest and the arms of silver that Nebuchadnezzar saw back in chapter 2.  This is an empire that would come to power in Daniel’s day, beginning around 539 B.C. the big [can’t understand word]  change between Babylon and Persia is Daniel 5, and would last all the way to 331 B.C.  This is an empire that Daniel saw would replace Babylon and that exchange happened in Daniel’s own lifetime.  And Daniel keeps seeing the Persian Empire in this vision lasting long after Daniel died, lasting all the way to 331 B.C.  Keep in mind Daniel saw these things roughly 200 years before Persia went out of power; Daniel saw these things in 553 B.C.

You’ll notice that this bear has three ribs in its mouth.  What are these three ribs?  Well, I don’t know if I know for sure but I can give you an educated guess.  These are the provinces Persia conquered as she was rising to power over Babylon.  She conquered Lydia, number 1; Babylon, number 2, and Egypt, number 3.  And you’ll notice that God told in this vision the Persian Empire to arise like a bear and devour, and that’s exactly what the Persian Empire did.  It had a geographical area that expanded even beyond what Nebuchadnezzar had brought in under Neo-Babylonia.

You’ll notice that Persia doesn’t come to power until God gives it permission to come to power.  You get this idea that God is pulling the strings here; God is in control of history.  The Persian Empire is a very interesting empire because that was the empire that God put into place for a purpose, to bring the nation of Israel out of captivity and back into their land.  That is the story that is recorded in the book of Ezra and Nehemiah.  In fact, God in Isaiah 44:28, the very last verse in chapter 44 of Isaiah, and into the very first verse of Isaiah 45:1 God says let me give you even more information.   [Isaiah 44:28, “’It is I who says of Cyrus, ‘He is My shepherd! And he will perform all My desire.’ And he declares of Jerusalem, ‘She will be built,’ And of the temple, ‘Your foundation will be laid.’”

Isaiah 45:1, “Thus says the LORD to Cyrus His anointed, whom I have taken by the right hand, to subdue nations before him and to loose the loins of kings; to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut:”]

I will give you the name of the Persian leader who will allow Israel to come back into their land.  God gave that information 200 years before it happened.  Liberals are so upset with this that they don’t think Isaiah wrote that either.  I mean, these guys don’t think Daniel wrote Daniel; they don’t think Isaiah wrote Isaiah because how could Isaiah have known that?  Well, it’s easy if you under­­­stand that God is omniscient, who breathed the book into existence and records human history in advance.  And God put the Persians in power for the very specific purpose of allowing the nation to go back into their promised land, which they did in three waves, as recorded in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.

And how far the Persian government has gotten away from their history, because the modern nation of Persia is what?  Iran, very easy to document.  In fact the name Persia was changed to Iran in 1935 and it became the Islamic Republic of Iran in my own lifetime, in your own lifetime, with the toppling of the Shah and the replacing of the Shah with the Ayatollah.  And isn’t it interesting how Iran (or Persia) began to turn against Israel at that point in time, turn against the United States.  Ezekiel in his prophecy saw Persia turning against Israel and he probably thought these prophecies were crazy because Persia was a good guy, Persia was a friend, Persia was an ally.  And yet Ezekiel in the end times sees the turning of Persia.

Prior to 1979 Ezekiel’s prophecies about the turning of Persia seemed crazy to most people because Persia was an ally of the United States  and Israel.  And how everything changed with the Islamic revolution in1979.  I remember, even as an unsaved Jr. High School student watching that on TV.  I didn’t know all the particulars of it but I knew that this was big.  I knew it from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet that something was happening.  And God was moving  His hand in history, He was allowing the stage to be set up for the end time drama when Persia herself, according to Ezekiel’s prophecies would not be an ally of Israel but would in fact launch a last days attack from the north, along with Rosh and others, against the nation of Israel.

And today the leadership of Persia is not a blessing to the nation of Israel.  In fact, Ahmadinejad, a former leader of Iran, said we are going to wipe Israel off the map.  How easy it is to lose sight of your culture and your heritage and not understand that God raised up Cyrus and Persia to be a blessing to the nation of Israel.  I worry about this in our country.  I worry about the fact that have we gone so far in our rebellion and rejection of God that we don’t even understand any more why America exists.

It is not difficult to understand why America exists if you just go back to America’s founding documents, go back to the Mayflower Compact, where those that came to these shores from Europe set up a structure and they said this country exists for the propagation of the Christian faith.  Why has God blessed America?  Because God has raised up America to be a blessing to other nations in terms of missions and Christianity being exported.  How many millennials today understand that?  How many high school students understand it?  How many Jr. high school students understand it?  How many churches have pastors that tell you about it?  I think we’re losing sight of who we are and why we exist much as the Persians did.

But Daniel kept looking at this vision and he saw yet another animal, this was the form of the leopard.  Notice, if you will, Daniel chapter 7 and verse 6, it says, “After this I kept looking, and behold, another one, like a leopard, which had on its back four wings of a bird; the beast also had four heads, and dominion was given to it.”  See how it keeps saying “dominion” is given.  These empires don’t come into existence until God moves His hand and allows them to come forth.

So this third empire would be the empire of Greece represented by a leopard.  You say well where are you getting Greece from?  Well here are the verses that give you Greece by name as the empire that would follow Persia in the book of Daniel itself.  Daniel 8:21, you’ll see the word Greece.  Daniel 10:20 you’ll also see the word Greece as the empire that would follow the Persian Empire.

[Daniel 8:21, “The shaggy goat represents the kingdom of Greece, and the large horn that is between his eyes is the first king.” Daniel 10:20, “He replied, ‘Do you know why I have come? Soon I must return to fight against the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia, and after that the spirit prince of the kingdom of Greece will come.’”]

When Nebuchadnezzar saw this same time period back in Daniel 2, to him it appeared as belly and thighs of bronze.  Greece, beginning with Alexander the Great around 331 B.C. would arise to power and conquer the known world.  This is the empire of Greece.  This is what is happening in the intertestamental time period, the time period between the testaments.  The time period between Malachi and Matthew.  Why is it that when you close the pages of the Old Testament the Persians are in power and everyone is speaking Hebrew or Aramaic?  You open up the pages of the New Testament and Rome is in power and everybody is speaking Greek.  Well, there’s history there.  God revealed in advance what He would do to set the table, to set the stage if you will, for the advent of His Son, Jesus Christ.

You’ll notice that this leopard has four wings; it’s most likely speaking of the rapid conquest of Alexander the Great as he brought the Grecian Empire to power and toppled Persia in the process.   You know, Alexander the Great is the guy who conquered the known world and then started to weep because he had nothing else to conquer.  This is a man who died, I believe around age 30-33, very young, of sexually transmitted diseases and things of that nature.  This is a man who could conquer the world but he couldn’t conquer his own passions and his own lusts and was prematurely snuffed out.  He, Alexander the Great, becomes the focus of Daniel’s prophecies in Daniel 8 and Daniel 11; the dates for the Grecian Empire would be 331 B.C. to 63 B.C.  Daniel saw all of this in 553 B.C., nearly 200 years before it happened.  The power of the Bible, to reveal the end from the beginning and the beginning from the end!

Daniel, in Daniel 7:6 also makes reference to four heads.  [Daniel  7:6, “After this I kept looking, and behold, another one, like a leopard, which had on its back four wings of a bird; the beast also had four heads, and dominion was given to it.”]  It’s interesting when Alexander the Great died he had no heirs, probably due to the early age in which he died, so his empire could not be divided to his heirs.  So where did it go to?  It went to his four generals; the four generals are Cassander who got control of Macedonia, one part of Alexander the Great’s empire.  The second general is Lysimachus who got control of Thrace and Asia Minor, another part of Alexander the Great’s empire.  The Third empire becomes Seleucus, who got control of Syria, to the north of Israel, the northern part to Israel of Alexander the Great’s Empire.  And the fourth general was Ptolemy who got control of Egypt, south to the nation of Israel.

And in Daniel’s prophecies as we move into chapter 8 and chapter 11, Cassander and Lysimachus dropped off the radar screen and Daniel begins to focus on Seleucus and Ptolemy because from Seleucus is going to come the Seleucid Dynasty and from Ptolemy is going to come the Ptolemy Dynasty.  And these two empires do battle traipsing back and forth across the Promised Land.  You can see that just based on their location, fighting it out.  And Daniel in chapter 11 gives uncanny information about that time period with specific detail long before it happened.  In fact, the information is so detailed that the liberals just can’t handle it, they don’t think Daniel could have written it.  How could he have known such information in such detail.  Well, it makes sense if you understand that an omniscient God breathed this book into existence.

From the Seleucus dynasty is going to come Antiochus IV or Antiochus, depending on which syllable gets the emphasis.  Anti-o-chus, Anti-ochus, take your pick; Antiochus Epiphanes whose name means God manifest.  No ego problem there, right?  And he is going to come into the land of Israel and he’s going to desecrate the temple and God is going to perform a great liberation of the temple  during that time period that the Jews still celebrate today, called what?  Hanukah, the Feast of Lights, Feast of Dedication.  You say well, is that a holiday in Judaism that’s found in the Bible.  It’s not found in Leviticus but it was added to the Jewish calendar because of what God did to rescue His people during that time period.  In fact, Jesus Himself goes to Jerusalem in John 10:22 to celebrate that feast, Hanukah.  [John 10:22, “At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem.”]

And Daniel 7 and Daniel 8 and Daniel 11, these prophecies that we’re getting into become the prophetic basis for that great holiday.

And then we move into the last empire, the empire of Rome.  Notice, if you will, Daniel 7:7, it says, “After this I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrifying and extremely strong; and it had large iron teeth. It devoured and crushed and trampled down the remainder with its feet;” stop right there in the middle of verse 7, this fourth beast Daniel sees is a terrible beast, it’s the empire of Rome.  You say well how do you know it’s Rome that he saw?  It’s Rome because we know from secular history that Rome followed Greece, it’s just a matter of historical fact.  Rome is not mentioned by name the way Persia is mentioned or Greece is mentioned but it’s just a matter of history that Rome followed Greece.

This was the legs of iron that Nebuchadnezzar saw in Daniel 2, two legs of iron.  Why two legs?  Because there was an eastern division of the Roman Empire and a western division of the Roman Empire.  This is an empire that would come to power in 63 B.C. as General Pompeii would come into the land of Israel and subjugate the nation of Israel and this is an empire that would continue to trample down the nation of Israel until A.D. 70 when this empire pushed the nation of Israel out of their land yet again.  And historically speaking this is an empire that would continue on up until the 5th century A.D.

I want you to understand that Daniel is seeing all of these things 500 years before they happened.  Daniel is seeing these things in 553 B.C.  Rome wouldn’t even come to power until 63 B.C. up until A.D. 70.  The interesting thing is the description that Daniel gives to Rome, which was yet on the horizon when he spoke these things.  He says it would be terrible, dreadful, terrifying, strong, devouring, crushing.

Let me tell you something about Rome.  It was one of the most wicked empires the human race has ever seen.  In fact, as you know, it was the empire that would be responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.  God allowed this empire to come into existence to crucify His Son so that the sin debt of the world might be paid for and we might have life in His name.  The instrument of execution known as crucifixion is one of the grizzliest methods of death the human mind in its depravity has ever come up with.  This was not an instrument of death that was started by the Romans; it was started by the Assyrians.  The Assyrians… remember Nineveh?  Remember Jonah who didn’t want to preach the love of God to the Assyrians?  Why didn’t Jonah want to preach the grace of God and the love of God to the Assyrians?  Because of the diabolical nature of the Assyrians.  So God said go to Nineveh and Jonah went where?  Tarshish, the opposite way.

There’s a reason he went the opposite way; there’s a reason he didn’t want the love of God to come to the Assyrians, because of how they executed people.  The Romans just reached back into history and said you know this method of death called the crucifixion, that’s a great way to keep people in submission and subjection; let’s take it out of history, not invent it but popularize it.  This is all the hand of God putting the table in place for the crucifixion of His own Son.  And even after Christ Himself was crucified the cruelty of Rome against the Jewish people didn’t stop there because they came against the nation of Israel in A.D. 70 and pushed the nation of Israel out of their land.

I want you to understand something: in A.D. 70 over a million Jews lost their lives because of what the Romans did to them.  In fact, Josephus, the historian, tells us that the Romans tore open the wombs of pregnant Jewish women to snuff out the life that was in the those Hebrew wombs, to wipe this race and this nation off the face of the earth forever.  That was Rome.  That’s why Daniel describes it as crushing, devouring, trampling.

And then what comes on the scene is a prophetic skip of over 2,000 years.  Beginning in Daniel 7 and verse 7 there is a gap there of 2600 years where Daniel, in this prophecy, leaps into the distant future and he sees on the horizon, coming out of the cultural inheritance of ancient Rome something even worse, something even more ferocious, something even more grotesque, something that is yet to come, that is the empire of the antichrist.

You see, you talk like this to a Jewish person who doesn’t know Christ they don’t want to hear anything about what I’m saying here because in their mind their holocaust has already happened.  If I’m interpreting my Bible correctly what Titus of Rome did in A.D. 70, even what Adolf  Hitler did in Nazi Germany is small potatoes to what is on the horizon.  And yet God, who doesn’t say all things are good, He says He works all things together for good, to accomplish His purpose, which ultimately will be the conversion of the nation of Israel in the tribulation period, leading to the manifestation of the kingdom of God on the earth.

You say I’m dying for more explanation, I mean, you’re stopping right there in the middle of verse 7?  You’re not going to tell us about the rest of verse 7 and verse 8?  Well, I will tell you about it but you have to come back next week to hear it.

But something like this is so encouraging to me in a certain sense because it shows me, it’s a reminder that God is in control of human history.  He’s in control of human events.  The world looks like it’s out of control but it’s not.  Everything is happening according to God’s divine timetable.  He doesn’t say all things are good but He’s working all things together for good to accomplish His purposes.  Do you look at your problems that way as you’re going through difficulties?  You might say to yourself, I don’t think what is happening to me is good but I know God is going to work it together for good.  You know that because Romans 8:28 says that to you.  [Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”]

The only question I have is do you know this God who is orchestrating these events?   The fact of the matter is God wants to know you personally in a relationship and that happens through what we celebrated this morning through communion, a representation of what God did.  It’s called the gospel; we call it the gospel because it means good news.  It’s good news because Jesus did all the hard work.  He doesn’t just predict suffering, but the story of the Bible is God’s entrance into suffering to die on a cruel Roman wooden cross 2,000 years ago to bear the penalty of a holy God in our place so that by simply believing or trusting in what He has done for us, NOT what we do for ourselves, but what HE HAS done for us we might have our sins forgiven, a relationship with Him, and the immediate hope of heaven.

And my question is have you received that.  You can receive it right now even as I’m talking, it’s not a twelve-step program, it’s a one-step program where you trust, rely upon, have confidence in, which is another way of saying believing what Jesus did for you.  As the Spirit places some of you under conviction you can respond right now in the privacy of your own mind, in the privacy of your own heart, as a matter of privacy between you and the Lord where you trust, where you rest solely, exclusively on what Jesus did for you.  You trust Him for your eternity, you trust Him for the safekeeping of your soul.

If that’s something you’re interested in doing you can do it right now as I’m speaking.  You don’t have to raise a hand, walk an aisle, join a church, give money to do it.  You don’t even have to pray a prayer to do it.  You can pray if you want but it’s not the prayer that saved  you, it’s Christ that saves you.  And what’s important is the faith, which is what God is looking for, expressed in the prayer.  Why would you leave today without being assured of your salvation.  Trust Christ right now, where you’re seated.  If it’s something that you need more information on I’m available after the service to talk. Shall we pray.

Father, we’re grateful for Daniel 7 and how it speaks from the 6th century into our time period; it reminds us of history that You have given in advance and yet the reminder can be difficult for us to absorb yet it’s a reminder that You are very much in control and we praise You for that.  We lift these things up in Jesus name, and God’s people said… Amen.