ON DANIEL - LESSON 4
to the Future
Two college kids,
John and Ron, faced a big assignment deep in the jungle of New Guinea.
They were supposed to get local villagers to help them build a mission
airstrip. But because of a mix-up they'd been dropped off at the location
without a translator. Suddenly they were very much alone, facing a group
of primitive people, some of whom still practiced cannibalism.
They couldn't communicate.
They didn't know where they would stay or what they would eat. There was
supposed to be a Christian villager in the area, but Ron and John had
no idea how to contact him. So they prayed that God would protect them
and help them. Soon they spotted a tall, white man walking out of the
jungle straight toward them. He was accompanied by an Indonesian. The
white man and his colleague were working for a Bible translation ministry.
Before Ron and John
knew it, these two men had arranged a place for them to stay near the
site of the airfield and provided food for them to eat. They helped Ron
and John write down all the phrases they would need to direct the locals
in building the airfield. After spending hours on this make-shift dictionary,
the two men said, "See you later!" And they walked back into the jungle.
As Ron and John watched
them disappear, the mystery of this providential rendezvous began to sink
in. The two men had no backpacks, no supplies. It would take them several
days of trekking through the jungle to get to any town. Ron and John had
no idea where they'd come from or where they were going. It seemed like
these two men had just been dropped from heaven, exactly when they were
needed. Ron and John were able to build that mission airstrip, using the
phrases they'd been given. And all that time, they had the sense that
angels were at their shoulders.
God can act on our
behalf in a supernatural way. He cares about you and me and longs to use
His power for our good. Satan is always trying to interfere with God's
blessings. And sometimes we wonder why he is allowed to do so. But in
the end God is going to win big time, and Satan is going to lose big time.
In Daniel 7, God gives us a glimpse of future events that lead toward
the divine climax of history. A loving heavenly Father wants to assure
us about where we're ultimately headed.
Yes, sometimes it's
hard to see God's guiding hand. It's hard when your child dies of leukemia;
it's hard when a spouse refuses to acknowledge the problems in your marriage;
it's hard when some disturbed individual mows down school kids with an
assault rifle. But God is much more pained by these tragedies than we
are. He is even more deeply wounded by the suffering that sin causes in
our world than you or I could ever be. And God is working out His plan
to bring a permanent solution to the horror of sinso that it will
never happen again.
Let's see what information
God has given to us in Daniel chapter 7 to help us understand how the
pieces of life's puzzle fit together.
the end of Daniel 5, Belshazzar had been defeated by Darius the Mede.
Daniel 7 flashes back to earlier incidents in this king's life. It takes
us back to the first year of his reign, around 553 B.C. At that time
Nebuchadnezzar had been dead about nine years. Daniel was an elderly
man in his seventies. He'd interpreted that dream of the statue made
of various metals some fifty years before!
That prophetic dream
of one empire swallowing up another might seem a bit cold and hard at
first glance. Many people were slaughtered in that process of conquest.
But remember that God was giving people a glimpse of the future in order
to prepare them for where the world was heading. He wasn't the cause of
all those conflicts. He was simply working to make them come out to something
good in the end. He was being honest with people about what would happen
in this world.
That's how God is.
That's the kind of relationship He wants to have with each of us. Genuine
intimacy happens only when a relationship is open and honest. God shoots
straight with us, and He wants us to shoot straight with Him. But He is
also shooting from the heart. Even in the darkest prophecy, God manages
to sprinkle gentle reminders of His love for us and of His desire to remove
forever sin and suffering from our lives. Let's look at a few of these
- "His [Jesus'] dominion
is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom
the one that shall not be destroyed" (Daniel 7:14).
- "The saints of
the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever,
even forever and ever" (vs. 18).
- "They shall take
away his [Satan's] dominion," and "the kingdom and dominion . . . shall
be given to the people, the saints of the Most High" (vss. 26, 27).
God's promises add
up to one forceful point: He is going to win. His people are going to
win. Satan and sin are going to lose; they're going to disappear. It may
be rough at times while this ultimate plan unfolds, but the ending is
worth the wait!
Imagine Daniel curled
up in bed, head on a pillow, the covers pulled up to his chin. He has
gone to bed thinking this night would be just like any other. But into
his sleep comes an extraordinary dream, one he would never forget. Daniel
is on a beach. A strong wind has made the ocean restless. Waves batter
the shoreline. They explode into spray as they crash against the rocks.
the middle of this fury, what should appear but the head of a lion,
emerging from the murky depths and moving through violent waves toward
the shore. Soon Daniel sees the body of the lion striding above the
surf. As if that weren't enough, three more remarkable animals appear
out of the sea in succession. What could such a dream mean? Daniel soon
finds out. The mystery of the beasts is solved in Daniel 7:17: "Those
great beasts, which are four, are four kings which arise out of the
earth." Verses 18–22 tell us that after these four kingdoms had
ruled the world, God's heavenly kingdom would be established.
Does this sound familiar?
Remember Nebuchadnezzar's dream in Daniel 2, about that statue made of
four metals? God is now saying the same thing in a different way. He wants
to give us more information about these kingdoms and the flow of history.
He wants to "fill in the blanks." Let's find out what new information
God is revealing.
What was the first animal that Daniel saw coming out of the sea in his
vision? (Daniel 7:4.)
A bear with ten eyes.
A camel with wings on its hump.
A lion with eagle's wings.
This lion is different
from those you see in the zoo. He has the wings of an eagle. This represents
speedy conquest. But this lion loses its wings and becomes like a man.
The fierce and fearless king of beasts becomes vulnerable. This represents
the loss of power, the loss of conquests. And that's what happened to
Babylon. It lost its empire to Medo-Persia. Interestingly, archaeologists
have discovered that ancient Babylon (605-539 B.C.) was often represented
as a winged lion on coins and on sculpted walls.
A bear is the second
animal which lumbers out of the sea. This bear is humped on one side.
What did the second animal that Daniel saw in his vision have in its mouth?
Teeth made of bronze.
The bear represents
the kingdom of Medo-Persia (539-331 B.C.). The hump on one side symbolizes
the fact that the Persians were more powerful than the Medes. The three
ribs represent the countries of Babylon, Lydia, and Egypt which Medo-Persia
conquered as it built its great empire.
The next animal to
rise out of the murky sea with seaweed and brine dripping from its body
is a leopard (vs. 6).
leopard represents Alexander the Great's kingdom of Greece (331-168
B.C.) which supplanted the Medo-Persians. This was a leopard that appears
to have had its DNA altered because it sports four heads and four wings!
The wings symbolize the great speed with which Alexander conquered much
of the known world. After Alexander's death, his empire was split into
four kingdoms symbolized by the four heads of the leopard.
What was the fourth animal that Daniel saw in vision-following the leopard?
A dreadful, terrible beast with iron teeth.
A two-headed wolf.
This ferocious beast
has iron teeth that can rip apart all adversaries, which it tramples under
its feet. What great power followed Greece in 168 B.C.? Rome. Rome ruled
the world with an iron hand. But Rome would eventually fall, just like
the other empires. In Daniel chapter 2, this breakup of the Roman Empire
was pictured by the feet of the statue, fragmented into clay and iron.
But in this chapter, the breakup is represented by a group of horns. These
ten horns (like the statue's ten toes) symbolize the European nations
that emerged after the collapse of the Roman Empire. Rome didn't fall
to another world power. It was overrun by barbaric tribes from the north
as it decayed
But we also see another
detail in Daniel 7a new piece of the prophetic picture that wasn't
there before. Verse 8 tells us that a little horn comes up among the ten
horns. As it rises, this little horn rips three of the other ten horns
out of the head of the beast. History demonstrates that the three fallen
horns represent three tribesthe Heruli, Ostrogoths, and Vandalswhich
were defeated by a power which rose out of Rome. Daniel describes this
power, this little horn, as having the eyes of a man and a mouth speaking
pompous words (vs. 25).
Daniel was extremely
curious about the identity of this "little horn." In verse 19 he states
that he wanted to know the truth about the fourth beast and the little
horn. Let's look at a summary of the characteristics of the little horn.
- Displayed human
eyes (vs. 8).
- Had a mouth speaking
pompous words (vs. 8).
- Removed three
of the ten horns, or kings (vs. 8).
- Appeared more
imposing than the other horns (vs. 20).
- Made war against
God's people and prevailed for a period of time (vs. 21).
- Persecuted God's
people (vs. 25).
- Attempted to change
times and laws (vs. 25).
- Prevailed against
God's people for a time, times, and a half time (vs. 25).
- Its dominion and
power will be removed (vs. 26).
- Its kingdom and
dominion eventually given to God's people (vss. 26, 27).
The fact that the
"little horn" was basically a horn like all the others suggests that it
was a political power. But its unique characteristics suggest that it
was more than just a political entity. This power has a great deal to
do with religion. It attemps to change God's law and persecutes His people.
People change governmental laws all the time. But this power is doing
something more. The fact that this "little horn" attacks God's people
suggests that the law it seeks to change is God's law.
Is there evidence
in history that pinpoints the identity of the "little horn"? We need to
find a religious-political power that rose with the decline of the Roman
Empire. We need to find a power that defeated three of the ten European
tribes (three of the ten horns uprooted). It must be a power that uses
the force of the state as well as the authority of the church. It must
persecute those who challenge its decrees.
Can we find such a
power in history? Historians tell us, "Out of the ruins of political Rome,
arose the great moral Empire in the 'giant form' of the Roman Church."
A.C. Flick, The Rise of the Medieval Church, (1900), p.150. Yes,
the evidence shows that the medieval Roman Church fits this description
very well. It wielded the power of the state. It persecuted those it regarded
as heretics. It compromised truth. The church in its political/religious
role fits the picture. Human tradition, church councils, and man-made
decrees would take the place of the authority of God's Word.
How long does the prophecy say that the "little horn" would
rule? (Daniel 7:25.)
"For twelve and half years."
"For a time and times and half a time."
"For two hundred and threescore days."
This same period is
referred to as the 1,260 prophetic days in Revelation 12:6, 14. When we
put together all the texts that mention this time period, we can calculate
its duration this way:
360 prophetic days
time (half year)
In Bible prophecy,
one prophetic day equals one literal year (Numbers 14:34; Ezekiel 4:6).
In Daniel 4:23 we learned that the "seven times" prophesied for Nebuchadnezzar's
derangement equaled seven years. A "time," then, equals one year. There
are 360 days in one year in the Jewish calendar. Taking all this information
into account, we can decipher the prophecy. The "little horn" power, or
church/state power, would reign for 1,260 years. During this time period,
the medieval Roman Church would substitute human tradition for God's Word
and substitute man's law for God's law. One example was that a system
of "works" was introduced that obscured God's plan of forgiveness and
salvation through grace alone.
When the pagan Roman
Empire ruled the world, there was only one Christian church. This was
true for centuries after the death of Jesus. When the Emperor Constantine
accepted Christianity, he declared the Christian faith to be the official
state religion. Rome ruled the world. And so Christianity became a kind
of "universal religion."
But, as we've seen,
that church became corrupted. Daniel 7 points outand history verifiesthat
the church's authority and power took on a life of its own. Because of
this, many earnest believers cried out for reform. Church leaders were
abusing their privileges and exploiting the masses. Monks and priests
like Martin Luther and John Huss called for a return to the pure gospel.
They based their protests on the authority of God's Word. Because of the
abuses, Martin Luther nailed his list of ninety-five points (describing
how the "official church" teachings erred biblically) to the church door
in the town of Wittenberg, Germany. The followers of Luther, Huss, and
other reformers eventually came to be called Protestants (protestors),
and Christendom divided into two main campsRoman Catholic and Protestant.
Of course there were
many sincere believers who remained in the Roman Church and who carried
on Christ-like ministries. But this prophecy of the "little horn" focuses
on the corruption in high places and the distortion of God's truth that
turned the church into an oppressive power. Scripture is zeroing in on
that part of God's church which betrayed His principles. (Further details
regarding the "Little Horn" and Daniel 7 will be found in Lesson 15.)
According to the explanation given to Daniel, what was to happen at
the end of the 1,260 day/year period? (Daniel 7:26.)
The court would be seated and the little horn's dominion would be destroyed.
The little horn would become great and rule the world.
The little horn would persecute God's people and try to destroy them from
the face of the earth.
the midst of the career of the little horn, Daniel saw the heavenly
court convene (vss. 9-14, 22, 26-28). This new feature refers to the
final judgment in heaven. After the close of the 1,260-year period referred
to in verse 25, the great court would sit, and an investigation would
be made of the lives of the people of Earth. What is the issue? Before
Jesus returns to Earth for His people it must be revealed who has accepted
Jesus into his or her life and who hasn't. That is the big questionwhat
have you done with Jesus?
This has been called
the investigative judgment, because the record books of heaven are examined
so all can see that those who are saved, or not saved, have made the choice
on their own. God is fair, just, merciful, and loving, and this special
act before His return to Earth establishes that fact for all the universe.
Verse 22 states that the oppression against God's people will end at the
conclusion of the investigative judgmentand that Christians will
be given the kingdom of heaven. God and His character are forever vindicated.
(Lessons 5 and 6 will give further insight concerning the investigative
- Verse 27 tells
us that when the court sits then the dominion of this persecuting power
is about to end. And the next kingdom to arise will be God's kingdom.
How long does the vision say that God's kingdom will last? (Daniel 7:14,
For a thousand years after the little horn power is destroyed.
Until the little horn power unites with Satan to oppose God.
The key word in chapter
7 is "dominion" (vss. 6, 12, 14, 26, 27). Who will rule? Who will have
dominion of this world? Political and religious forces struggle to exercise
authority, often trampling upon the rights of Earth's inhabitants and
forcing the consciences of Christians. But God has not given up His authority.
The dominion of the oppressors will be taken away. Judgment will be rendered
in favor of God's people. Jesus wins!
and the 1,260 Years of the Roman Church Rule
(March 29, 1999, pp. 62, 63) had this to say about the period in history
to which Daniel's prophecy refers:
"The legacy of medieval
'Christendom' had its darker side as well.
"Although the New
Testament contains no outline for a Christian society, medieval Christianity
was one long effort to establish one. The doctrine the church preached
became the doctrine the king enforced. Even Augustine had reluctantly
concluded that the secular arm of society could be used to crush heresy.
Acting on the premise that error has no rights, the church created the
Inquisition, dispatching traveling squads of Franciscans and Dominicans
to ferret out heretics. In 1252 Pope Innocent IV allowed suspects to be
tortured. The guilty were imprisoned and sometimes put to death. . . .
Altogether, the Inquisition remains a monument to religious intolerance
and a reminder of what can happen when church and state share total authority."
Thousands of years
ago, Bible prophecy made bold declarations regarding what would happen
to the church during a certain 1,260-year period. Newsweek's review
of history unintentionally verifies how accurately prophecy was fulfilled.
Let's look at a few more details that correspond to the details of the
Daniel 7 prophecy.
Starting and Ending Dates of This 1,260-Year Prophecy
The last of the three
tribes (three horns) to be uprooted was the Ostrogoths in A.D. 538. This
marked the rise of the "little horn" and marks the beginning date for
the 1,260-year prophecy. Adding 1,260 years to A.D. 538 brings us to A.D.
1798. This year marks the decline of the "little horn" power. (More details
about this are included in a future lesson.)
Persecution Against God's People
Even though Daniel's
prophecy highlights persecution by the medieval Roman Church, the "little
horn," it must be remembered that Protestants also have warred against
and persecuted others. In recent years around the world, there have been
conflicts, massacres, and atrocitiespeople being killed and maimed
in the name of religionall committed by people claiming to be Christian.
God, however, wants
us to understand that persecution by the "little horn" was something "dreadful
and terrible." It represented the ultimate union of church and state into
an oppressive power. Historians differ in their estimates of how many
people were killed by the persecution of the Dark Ages. All agree, however,
that the terror of the Inquisition, the Massacre of Saint Bartholomew,
the crusades against the Waldenses and Albigenses, and other official
acts of persecution form an especially dark chapter in church history.
As we think about
these statements of history, it's important to realize that Bible prophecies
about the "little horn" are aimed at a religious system, not at
individual believers and leaders who were faithful to Jesus and followed
Him to the best of their knowledge.
is a way for God to warn us about the activity of the "little horn." But
remember, God is still ultimately in control. Verses 26 and 27 emphasize
the fact that this power's dominion will come to a decisive end. What
great event follows the "little horn"? The establishment of God's "everlasting
Verse 27 tells us:
"All dominions shall serve and obey Him [God]."
If you find some
of the prophetic details in Daniel 7 troubling, you're not alone. In verse
28, Daniel himself says that he was so troubled by the details of his
dream that his face turned pale. No one likes to see suffering and persecution
come on the world. It's difficult to imagine Christians oppressing and
fighting against each other. But that's part of the disaster that sin
creates; it's the legacy of rebellion against God. Satan is the force
behind all human animosity. But it's God who works tirelessly for unity
§ § §
Jeremy had fallen
for the same old sin again. He'd been struggling with a certain addiction
for years, and now the old temptation had come back. He felt like such
easy prey. Sitting alone in his messy apartment, he stared out the window
at a gloomy sky and felt totally numb. Jeremy wanted to repent; he wanted
to move beyond this destructive habit and get on with his life. But
all his efforts seemed so futile. Jeremy almost wanted to give up. But
something made him reach for a Bible on the kitchen table.
Jeremy began reading
in the Gospel of Luke and came to the scene where Pilate is asking the
mob if he should release Jesus. The crowd thundered back, "Crucify him!
Crucify him!" And then Jeremy read a verse that gripped him. Luke stated,
"And their voices prevailed." Suddenly Jeremy was wide-awake. This was
what had just happened to him! Those ugly voices of the carnal nature
had prevailed over him.
That short sentence
in the Gospel of Luke gave Jeremy a handle; now he could fight back in
earnest. "Their voices prevailed" became a rallying cry, like "Remember
the Alamo!" And Jeremy was able to get the best of his habit. God had
given him just the message he needed at his moment of greatest discouragement.
God is like that.
He is eager to give us just what we need. There may be many ugly voices
around us. There may be a lot of animosity. But our heavenly Father can
break through with His voice of peace and comfort. He can make us strong
as His voice prevails in our lives.
Father, thank You for loving me. Help me to treat others with the same
acceptance, patience, and understanding with which You have treated me.
Help me be faithful to You and the Bible. Thank You. I ask this in the
name of Jesus. Amen.
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