Father, since you know everything, the end from the beginning, you know what we think, you know what we feel, you know what's in our hearts; moreover, you know what we should think and what we should feel. And that's why you have deposited to us on this earth a revelation of truth in Holy Scripture, so that we don't have to be ambiguous, or hesitant, or wondering what you're all about, and what we're all about.
But, Father, we have decided that we need to pause, as you have commanded to meet together frequently, we pause this day to listen to you as part of our worship. We're going to be here for the next several minutes listening to what you have to say and considering what Daniel saw. I pray that you'd help us to not only understand it, but be challenged by it, and be motivated by it, in Jesus' name, amen.
"People aren't shocked anymore." Those are the words of a law enforcement officer, a federal law enforcement officer. After thirty years of law enforcement experience he made that bold statement: "People aren't shocked anymore." How we respond to what we see, what's around us, tells a lot about us. What causes you to cringe? What moves you or motivates you or shocks you?
When I was in junior high school, just finishing junior high school, there was a book that was very popular called Future Shock by Alvin Toffler. And he coined a phrase that everybody knows these days, but he coined the phrase "information overload." He also called it "infobesity." Isn't that a great term? Infobesity—too much information. According to Toffler, too much information hinders our ability to make clear, cogent decisions that the input exceeds our capacity—information overload. Boy, we have that these days in spades, don't we—information overload?
But there's something far worse than information overload, and that is emotion overload: exposure to pain and sorrow—all the visuals that we have today, that we can see the suffering of humanity in one day. You mean, you can only see so many starving babies, so many wounded people, so many violent games, where after a while the emotional response that should be there, it's like, ehh. Information overload—emotion overload.
Many studies have been done; one brain study studying teenagers who are exposed to violent streaming videos, over time they lose their capability to have an appropriate emotion. Now, we're dealing with the book of Daniel, and Daniel, he had no television. He couldn't go down to the Babylonian theater and watch the latest movie. He didn't have the Internet. He didn't have Instagram @daniel_the_prophet; he didn't have that. Didn't have Twitter. Didn't have any of that stuff.
But what he had was real life, and in the midst of his real life a vision from God. God revealed the future to him in a vision, and what we saw absolutely shocked him to the core. So we're going to consider in Daniel, chapter 8, what he saw, what it means or what it meant, and what he felt: the vision, the interpretation, and the reaction.
Now, I want to refresh your memory so we don't lose you here in the book of Daniel. The book of Daniel has been about primarily four kingdoms that were from Daniel's time up until the coming of Jesus Christ in the future, four world-governing empires: Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome, and then a reconstituted Roman Empire at the end of days.
So, in chapter 2 Nebuchadnezzar saw this vision that you see now on your screen. This is the polymetallic image: the head of gold; chest and arms of silver; stomach and thighs of bronze, brass; legs of iron; feet of iron and clay. That's what Nebuchadnezzar saw, and that represented those empires: Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome.
In chapter 7 Daniel saw the same revelation but with different motif. He didn't see a polymetallic image; he saw four ravenous beasts come up out of the sea: a winged lion, a lopsided bear with three ribs in its mouth, a leopard with four wings, and then this nondescript, terrible, horrible beast that was worse than all the others. That's what Daniel saw, but it's the same truth—Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome.
Now, we get to chapter 8. Chapter 8 takes the two middle kingdoms, Medo-Persia and Greece, and highlights them. And what Daniel sees is different motif altogether about those two coming empires: one is of a ram, and one is of a goat with a notable horn that takes over the ram.
Here's the question: Why? Why is God giving to Daniel this revelation about these two kingdoms? Primarily because there is coming out of the Grecian Empire a couple of rulers, especially the second ruler who's going to be so bad in the way he treats the Jewish people and desecrates the temple and defies God, that he's going to be a lot like the one coming in the very end of days that we've already discussed—the Antichrist. He's a prototype of the Antichrist.
Now, let's just push the pause button for a second. I want to give to you tools, three things to put in your tool box. Whenever you study prophesy, remember these things. Number one, verb tense; don't worry, this is not going to be an English lesson; those days for you are over. But verb tense is important. Here's what I mean: sometimes God uses the past tense to describe a future event.
Classic example is Isaiah 53 which talks about the coming of the Messiah and his suffering. "He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquity; the chastisement for our peace was upon him." That's all past tense, but it hadn't happened yet when he wrote it. You go, "Why does God do that?" Because God is so sure it's going to happen that to him it's done; verb tense.
Number two, perspective; remember perspective whenever we study prophesy. The perspective of the prophets is what we called a couple of weeks ago, if you remember in our Isaiah 61 study, something called "prophetic foreshortening." That is, the prophets talked about coming events, but they couldn't delineate between the sequence of the events, nor the time that elapsed between those events.
And the illustration we gave you—it's like looking at a mountain range from a distance; it all looks like one solid unit. The closer you get to it; however, you see there are various peaks with valleys in between. So remember verb tense when you study prophecy, remember perspective, and a third is types, types.
There are types in the Bible; that is, one event or one person becomes a type, or a shadow, or a picture, or a model of something that will be like it, but in a different, greater way later on. Classic example: the Passover where they took a lamb and put the blood on the lintels and the doorposts of the house would become a type of what would happen years later when God's Lamb, Jesus Christ, was slain on Calvary's cross. And here we have a type; actually we have all of these three incorporated in this study on prophecy. We have a Grecian king who will come and be a prototype of the Antichrist. When Daniel understands and sees this, he is shocked.
Now, unpush the pause button, and let's look at the Scripture, the vision, the interpretation, and the reaction. This is what he saw, verse 8; let's just jump right in there. "Therefore"—I know it's bad to jump right in the middle, but I'm supposing you were here on our last study. "Therefore the male goat grew very great; but when he became strong, the large horn was broken, and in its place four notable ones came up toward the four winds of heaven. And out of one of them came a little horn which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the Glorious Land."
Some translations say, "The Glorious Land of Israel," that's what he's talking about. "And it grew up to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and some of the stars to the ground, and trampled them. He even exalted himself as high as the Prince of the host; and by him the daily sacrifices were taken away, and the place of his sanctuary was cast down. Because of transgression, an army was given over to the horn to oppose the daily sacrifices; and he cast truth down to the ground.
"He did all this and prospered. Then I heard a holy one speaking; and another holy one said to that certain one who was speaking, 'How long will the vision be, concerning the daily sacrifices and the transgression of desolation, the giving of both the sanctuary and the host to be trampled underfoot?' And he said to me, 'For two thousand three hundred days; then the sanctuary shall be cleansed.' "
Boy, one thing's for sure, there are more horns in the book of Daniel than in on orchestra pit, right? But we know what it means, it means authority and strength. It typically refers to a king that is coming. So here's the vision Daniel sees: he sees a ram come, strong, and he conquers the known world, the Medo-Persian Empire. But then he sees coming from the west this goat. I called it last time "turbo goat." He moves so swiftly from west to the east, his feet didn't even touch the ground, and with the notable horn, which we see is the first king of the Grecian Empire as told in this vision, he defeats the ram.
But the horn, the king is broken, and in its place, as we read, four horns come in its place. One has a little horn that grows up from it. Now, the little horn in chapter 8 is a type of the little horn that will come at the end of time already discussed in chapter 7—the Antichrist. One is a type of the other.
When I was a kid, my dad used to be a home builder and real estate guy. And he had a good idea, whenever he would build homes; he would build a model home. And I mean a little model home, about that big. And it had a roof that you could, like, retract; you'd just, like, lift off. And he'd love to—we'd love to go into his study and take the roof off.
And he did that so that he could lift the roof off and let perspective buyers see how that home in three dimensions works, and the layout of it, and how one room communicates with another room. Chapter 8 is the model historically to the prophetic "house" of the Antichrist that is coming in the future.
And the primary reason, there are several, but the primary reason God is giving this information through Daniel to the Jewish people in particular is so that they will not be deceived when false prophets come their way in the future; and by the way, Jewish history is littered with false messiahs; but especially so that they won't be deceived at the very end of days by the Antichrist.
This last year I was on a tour of the Holy Land with some of you, and we took a trip in the Journeys of Paul to the port city of Ephesus where Paul spent several years. And I was with my tour guide from Israel, and he said, "Skip, I want to take you to my favorite store," in this port city Kusadasi, which is part of Ephesus. And so I said, "Okay, David. Well, what is that?" And he goes, "It's a shop where they sell fake watches. And I mean you can't tell the difference between the real ones, these famous ones, and these fake ones." So I thought, "Boy, I don't know if that's cool or not. I mean, that's sort of, like, a bad industry.
But sure enough, we're walking down the street and we see a huge sign in the middle—broad daylight—that says, "Fake Watches Sold Here." So I go inside and I'm looking at these watches, and I happen to be with a guy who has a real one of these watches I'm looking at. He couldn't tell the difference. It was an exact replica, front and back, movement and all.
But you know how you could tell if it was fake? You look inside. Give that to a jeweler and he'll go, "This is a fake watch." But you will never know it by looking at it. Jesus said, "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves." And he said many are going to come. And so to prohibit that and to help them spot the ultimate "fake watch" that is coming at the end of days this chapter is given.
Now, before we read any further and into the interpretation of this, there's a principle I want you to be aware of here that's just sort of highlighted by this chapter. Here's the principle: God likes to reveal stuff. I'm not getting any oohs and ahhs out of it because you're thinking, "That's not all that profound."
God likes to reveal stuff, but follow me here—God reveals himself, he reveals truth to humanity. He wants us to have information. He does it in two ways. He does it in creation; we call that general revelation. "The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament shows his handiwork."
The second is called creation—special revelation. The same Psalm says, "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul." So, in the world and by the Word—those two places God reveals himself to humanity he reveals the truth. You say, "Okay, I know that. So what?" Here's the "so what": no one can plead ignorance any longer, even the world, even an unbeliever.
God says in Romans, chapter 1, God has revealed himself in creation "so that they are without"—what?—"excuse." They have no excuse. God has given enough information just in the world he created for people to wake up, look around, smell the flowers, and go, "Something, Someone, must have made this." They're without excuse.
God reveals himself in the world and by the Word. Take it a step further. We live in a day and age where anybody who's interested at all in spiritual truth can find it. Virtually every biblical resource you can get for free, just about, on the Internet: any historical data, any information, any Bible commentary. So the problem is not lack of information. If people are unaware, one of three things a going on: number one, laziness; number two, indifference. "Ehh, whatever." Number three, they just flat don't want to hear it.
Now, what I've always been concerned with is this incredible spiritual illiteracy among Christians. Listen to this: only 19 percent of Protestants know that salvation comes through faith alone, not by works. That's shocking! Forty-five percent of Protestants—45 percent—can't name the four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Now people of my generation still think it's John, Paul, George, and Ringo [laughter], a different fab four. Only 55 percent of Protestants know that the Golden Rule is not one of the Ten Commandments.
A married couple came in to see an Episcopal pastor—true story. They had a teenage son, and they had a list of questions their son wanted answered, so they made an appointment with the pastor. First question on the list that their son wanted to know, here's the question: "What's that guy doing up there on that plus sign?" And these are "church" people; these are church people.
God wants to reveal himself, the question is: How eager are we to get the revelation? I'll ask a fundamental question; boil it down to its irreducible minimum: Do you expose yourself to what God reveals as much as you expose yourself to what the world dishes out? That's the question. God's all about revealing himself—are we eager to receive it?
So that's the vision, God reveals. Let's look at what it means—the interpretation. Verse 15, "Then it happened, when I, Daniel, had seen the vision and was seeking the meaning, that suddenly there stood before me one having the appearance of a man. And I heard a man's voice between the banks of the Ulai," that's the river in the vision, "who called and said, 'Gabriel, make this man understand the vision.' "So how cool is this? The angel Gabriel comes and gives him the meaning of it.
"So he came near where I stood, and when he came I was afraid and fell on my face,"—ouch!—"but he said to me, 'Understand, son of man, that the vision refers to the time of the end.' Now as he was speaking with me, I was in a deep sleep with my face to the ground; but he touched me, and stood me upright. And he said, 'Look, I am making known to you what shall happen in the latter time of the indignation; for at the appointed time, the end shall be.
"'The ram which you saw, having two horns—they are the kings of Media and Persia. And the male goat is the kingdom of Greece. The large horn that is between its eyes is the first king,' "that's Alexander the Great." 'As for the broken horn and the four that stood in its place, four kingdoms shall arise out of that nation, but not with its power. And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors have reached their fullness, a king shall arise having fierce features, who understands sinister schemes.
"'His power shall be mighty, but not by his own power; he shall destroy fearfully and prosper and thrive; he shall destroy the mighty, and also the holy people. Through his cunning he shall cause deceit to prosper under his rule; and he shall exalt himself in his heart. He shall destroy many in their prosperity. He shall even rise against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without human means. And the vision of the evenings and mornings,' " those two thousand three hundred days, " 'which was told is true; therefore seal up the vision, for it refers to many days in the future.' "
So Daniel gets help by heavenly interpreters; they tell him what this is all about. That large horn, that's the first king of Greece, the horn is broken, that's Alexander the Great. We discussed that last time. The horn was broken on June the tenth, 323 BC, when Alexander the Great died in Babylon at age thirty-three. When he was on his deathbed, people around him said, "What are we going to do with your kingdom?" He said, "Give it to the strong." Didn't give them any information; didn't say who the strong, how many the strong, how the strong. Just said, "Give it to the strong," and then—poop—he's dead.
So there was an argument until finally they settled it, and it was divided into four sections, four sections, four horns. His four generals took his kingdom: Cassander, Lysimachus, Ptolemy, and Seleucus. Those are the—I'm not speaking in tongues, those are the names of his four generals, and they divided up the kingdom.
So Cassander takes Greece and Macedonia, the kingdom of Alexander and his father originally. Lysimachus takes Asia Minor, modern-day Turkey, and the ancient Thracian Empire. Ptolemy takes Egypt down south, North Africa, and Arabia. And Seleucus takes Syria and Babylonia, what is north and east of Israel. So they're divided up.
Four horns, four generals, now, four kingdoms, four dynasties for years to come that rule; but in verse 9 we're told about a small horn that grows up out of one of these horns; and verses 23 through 26 we're told about his personality, his persecution of the Jews, etcetera.
Almost universal agreement, scholars agree that this little horn refers to somebody called Antiochus IV. Antiochus IV, he was eighth in line of the Seleucid kings who reign from 175 BC to 164 BC. That little horn Antiochus becomes a model of the nitwit Antichrist who will come at the end of time.
Now, let me give you just a little brief history perspective. Alexander the Great had a dream to unify the world. Isn't that a wonderful dream? "We are the world"—he's the first guy that thought that up. He wanted to bring all the world together in unity by making everybody just like him. Sort of like every one of us: "There'll be unity in this house, if you think just like I think," except he did that worldwide. He wanted to make everybody Greek speaking and Greek-cultured, Hellenize them. He failed; he died at age thirty-three.
His four generals tried; Seleucus the Syrian in particular, his fourth general; he failed. But, as I mentioned that eighth king in the Seleucus dynasty named Antiochus IV succeeded in unifying the world against the Romans that were trying to push in, who eventually would take over. He unified the world, except for one group of people that was really stubborn. Guess who they were? The Jews. They're not going to give up God. They're not going to give up their worship. They're not going to capitulate to the Greek modern philosophy; so he had a hard time with them.
Antiochus gave himself a name, get this, it's been found on coins from that era. He wrote: "Theos Antiochus, Theos Epiphanes." Theos is—what?—God. Theos Antiochus, Theos Epiphanes: "I am god manifest most glorious." He did not have a problem with self-esteem. He tried to completely eradicate the religion of the Jews. On one occasion he attacked Jerusalem and killed eighty thousand Jews in one battle; sold forty thousand of them as slaves.
He plundered the temple. He ended the sacrifices in the temple. He dedicated the temple to Zeus, and commanded everybody to worship Zeus. He took a pig, sacrificed it on the altar of sacrifice, spread the juices of that pig around the temple—that's a way to desecrate it. And that was known as the fulfillment of Daniel, this chapter. The Jews said this is what was predicted—the abomination that causes desolation.
Antiochus stopped the Sabbath from being celebrated. He burned Hebrew Scriptures; he cast truth down to the ground it says. And he forbade Jewish parents from circumcising their male babies. There are several stories about this, I'll give you one. One story says: Two Jewish women decided to defy the orders of Antiochus Epiphanes.
Oh, by the way, he called himself Antiochus Epiphanes; the Jews called him Antiochus Epimanes, which means "the madman," the nutcase. But on one occasion two Jewish women defied Antiochus' order and they circumcised their children on the eighth day, their male children. Antiochus found out, went into their homes, killed the babies in front of the mothers' eyes, tied the baby around the neck of each mother, marched them through the whole city to the city wall, and then threw them over to their death. That's the kind of a guy he was.
How long did this desecration last? Take a guess. Two thousand three hundred days; it's recorded in history from September 6, 171 BC, to December 25, 164 BC. How did it end? How did the desecration end? Actually, you already know the answer to that. Every year at around December 25, what do Jewish people celebrate? Hanukkah—Hanukkah is about this.
You see, what happened is there was a guy named Judas Maccabeus, part of the Maccabean family. Their father was named Mattathias, and there were five boys, and they started a revolt. And in 164—on December 25, 164 BC, they managed to overcome the Syrians, rededicate the temple back to God.
According to the Jewish legend, when they were lighting the lamps for the temple, the menorah, they found a cruse of oil that would only last one day in the burning of the lamps. According to the legend, miraculously that one cruse of oil lasted not one day, but eight days, and that's why today still Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days celebrating the dedication and the cleansing of the temple.
Now, let me throw in another principle before we finish this chapter and close our message. God reveals truth. Not only does God reveal truth, he wants us to know what to do with that truth, how to interpret that truth. You see, the images in the vision that Daniel saw only meant one thing: Medo-Persia, Greece, and kings. It didn't mean three things. It didn't mean five things.
It wasn't like Daniel got a vision and said, "Well, what this vision means to me is . . ." Nobody came—can you imagine somebody coming up to Daniel and hearing this vision and says, "Well, you know Daniel, that's your interpretation, but my interpretation is this and that." So! It's a wrong interpretation; am I right? It only means one thing?
Second Peter, chapter 1, "No prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation." So here's my challenge: be students of the word and seek to discover its true meaning. Every text in Scripture has only one true interpretation.
Now, there are some disputable texts, hard to understand this or that. For the most part it's straightforward what the original authors designed the original recipients to understand, that's what it means. It doesn't mean three things—"Well, that's your interpretation." There's only one true interpretation revealed by language and context and grammar and background and unity of Scripture. So be open and hunger for God's revelation, but to interpret it rightly.
Two things that will help you do that: daily devotional time. Do you have a daily devotional time where you carve out time to expose yourself to the truth of God's Word? Number two, a small group: men's ministry has small groups, women's ministry has small groups, we have Connect Groups around the community. Get together and discuss the Scripture; that will help you in not only hungering for the truth, but rightly interpreting the Word.
So we've looked at the vision, we've seen the interpretation, let's look at the last verse and close—the reaction. This is what Daniel felt; look at this, "And I, Daniel, fainted and was sick for days." Talk about being shocked. "Afterward I arose and went about the kings business. I was astonished by the vision, but no one understood it." Why was this his reaction? Why was he shocked? Because he could see what was coming down the pike for the Jewish nation in the future.
Shocked him to the core. He didn't go, "Eh, seen it before." Actually he had seen it before, and it shocked him as well. Remember, Daniel was a captive. He was a teenager when the Babylonians came in, put him in shackles, killed families, burned the temple, destroyed the city, and off to Babylon he went. And now he's being told in a vision that's going to happen again, and again, ultimately in the end of times. Daniel is shaken, shocked.
Question: Knowing what you know about the future, how should you feel? Knowing that every person around you will one day die and go into eternity, how should you feel? Knowing that the gate to heaven is narrow, Jesus said, and very few enter into it; how should that make you feel? The way I see it, we can't continue to be complacent and indifferent and yawn our way through life and just go about daily business.
Real quickly as I close, there are four things that the study of prophecy should produce in you, four things. I left little blanks in your worship folder outline for you to fill them in right now.
Number one, confidence in God. As you study prophecy and then you see it fulfilled, that should bring in you a confidence in God. You discover: "Man, God knows the details about Alexander the Great, and Seleucus, and Antiochus IV, and it's written about in detail—God knows the details of my life too." Jesus said, "The very hairs of your head are numbered." Be confident in God's promises.
Second thing, it should produce in you a cleanness of lifestyle, cleanness of lifestyle also known as holiness. There's always a relationship between studying prophecy and godliness. My mom had to just say one thing to me every day to get me in line. She'd say this, "Your dad will be home soon." Got the message. It produced in me a holy fear or a happy anticipation, depending on my relationship with mom at the time. "Your dad will be home soon." Jesus is coming soon. All of this should produce a cleanness in lifestyle.
Third thing, comfort and sorrow, comfort and sorrow. Bible doesn't just predict a coming leader, it predicts a coming Lord, a coming kingdom, a coming reunion with those who have died before us who are believers, a coming distribution of gifts and rewards. Jesus said, "Let not your heart be troubled, I am coming again." I know that it's sad to lose people by death, but it has often been said, "You don't lose something when you know where it is." Knowing prophecy brings a comfort in sorrow.
Fourth, and we close and to the point, a conviction for service. Studying prophecy should produce in all of us a conviction for service. We should be shocked enough by reading this to get busy about winning our friends, family, and neighbors to Jesus Christ. C. S. Lewis said, "We all reach the future at the same rate—sixty minutes per hour." Time stops for no man.
Imagine how shocked some people are going to be when they stand before the judgment bar of God and he says, "Depart from me; I never knew you." They'll be shocked. Imagine how shocked they'll be when the books are opened and the announcement is given, "Your name isn't in the Book of Life. It's too late; you're not coming in." Shocking! So my challenge is let us get shocked first by that. Let's get astonished by that potential future and win them out of darkness. I dare you—be shocked. People aren't shocked anymore, this should shock us.
Father, that is the truth as revealed in your Word, and Daniel was profoundly shocked by what he heard and what he saw in this revelation. And, yes, we celebrate and we give you thanks, and we honor you in this place, but we often also get just so bogged down with little, insignificant stuff when there is a world out there that is going to see a future that is going to be the worst period in human history. And I pray you'd shock us with that to motivate us, to pull out all the stops, to dig in deep, and to go for it, in Jesus' name, amen.
For more teachings from Calvary Albuquerque and Skip Heitzig visit calvaryabq.org.