Friday, November 6, 2009
The Importance of Daniel's Prophecies
His End Time Prophecies
by Dr. David R. Reagan
[ read bio ]
When I think of the book of Daniel, I am always reminded of a remarkable experience I had in 1983, during the third year of Lamb & Lion Ministries.
It started with a telephone call from a person in the mid-cities area between Ft. Worth and Dallas. He said he was a regular listener to the radio program I had at the time. He wanted to know if I would come to his church on a Sunday evening and speak on Bible prophecy. I told him I would be happy to do so if his pastor would invite me.
"That's the problem," he responded. "You see, my pastor doesn't like Bible studies, and He prefers entertainment on Sunday evenings — like pop singers and dancers. It's not going to be easy to talk him into inviting you, so please give me a jazzy title."
A "jazzy title" instantly popped into my mind. "Let's call it 'The Future of the Late Great Planet Earth.'"
"Hey! That's really jazzy," he replied. "Please pray I will be successful in persuading him."
The next afternoon the man called me back, and he was so excited you could have heard him without a phone. "Praise the Lord!" he shouted. "My pastor agreed to invite you without us even having to argue about it. All I did was tell him your topic, and he said, 'Invite him!'"
What the man did not know, and what both of us were to discover later, after my appearance, is that when the request was made, the pastor was sitting at his desk reading a book entitled, "The Future of the Late Great Planet Earth." It was a vehement attack on Hal Lindsey, and it was a denial of Bible prophecy. The pastor thought that because I had selected the book's title as the title of my presentation, I was going to agree with the viewpoint of the book's author! (God has a great sense of humor!)
When the time came for me to speak, it didn't take long for me to discover that I was in trouble. The pastor introduced me as "an expert on Bible prophecy who will explain to you that there is no such thing as prophecy in the Bible and will illustrate to you why Hal Lindsey is a fool." Needless to say, I was stunned by the introduction.
I stepped up to the podium, tapped the pastor on the shoulder, and whispered, "I'm afraid there has been a terrible mistake. You see, I believe in Bible prophecy, and I believe Hal Lindsey is right on target. Should I forget about speaking and go home?"
The pastor thought a moment and then said, "No, you go ahead and speak, but keep it short."
With sweaty palms and a dry mouth, I stepped up to the microphone and said, "Please open your Bibles and turn to Acts chapter 2." I wanted to show them how the first Gospel sermon ever preached — the sermon by the Apostle Peter on Pentecost — was a survey of Bible prophecy from start to finish, showing how Jesus had fulfilled a variety of Messianic prophecies.
Before I started reading Acts 2, I looked out at the audience and noticed that no one had a Bible! I asked them to open the pew Bibles. A person blurted out, "We don't have pew Bibles in this church." I then requested some men to go through the education wing of the building and collect Bibles from the classrooms. I led three songs while we waited for them to gather the Bibles. When they returned, one of them reported, "We can't find any Bibles in this church!"
At that point the pastor announced that he would get some Bibles out of his office. He came back with about six, and he distributed them among the 200 people who were present.
Once again, I asked them to turn to Acts 2. The pages started rustling — and they continued to do so, because no one could find the book of Acts! So, I took the opportunity to introduce them to the Bible. I explained the division between the Old and New Testaments. I pointed out the types of books in both testaments, and then I led them to the discovery of the book of Acts.
After I made my point with Peter's sermon in Acts 2, I asked them to turn to the book of Daniel in the Old Testament. Suddenly, the pastor stood up and said, "I'm sorry, but I do not allow the book of Daniel to be read in this church."
When I asked why, he responded, "You obviously are not a seminary graduate, because if you were, you would be aware of the fact that Daniel is a fraudulent book. It was written like prophecy, but in fact it was written long after the events it claims to prophesy."
I was stunned. And I decided I was not going to allow the rebuke to pass without a response. I began to present one argument after another in behalf of the validity of Daniel, and each time the pastor just scoffed at me in disdain. Finally, I asked, "Do you want me to go home?"
"No," he replied, "just don't quote the book of Daniel."
I stood there for a moment, still in a state of shock. Then, I resumed by asking the congregation to turn to Genesis 3:15. "I want to show you the very first Messianic prophecy in the Bible." But before I could read it, the pastor interrupted me again.
He jumped to his feet and said, "I'm sorry, but I can't allow you to read that verse because I know you are going to claim that it is a prophecy about the virgin birth, and we don't believe in the virgin birth at this church!"
All this happened at a mainline Protestant denomination.
A Hated Book
The pastor's attitude I experienced that evening is commonplace in Christendom today. Daniel is the most controversial book in the Bible. Liberals hate it because they do not believe in the divine inspiration of the Scriptures, and Daniel's book is a great testimony to divine inspiration. That's because it contains some of the most remarkable prophecies in the Bible, prophecies that are detailed in content and broad in scope, stretching from Daniel's time to the day of the Messiah's Second Coming. As one person has put it, "Daniel wrote history more accurately before it happened than anyone has ever done after it happened."
To discredit the book, liberals have tried to argue that it was written long after the time of Daniel by someone who assumed his identity. They usually place the time of its authorship around 100 years before Christ. They are determined to date it after the time of the Greek tyrant, Antiochus Epiphanes, who reigned from 175 to 164 BC. The reason they are so determined to do this is because the book of Daniel prophesies the reign of Antiochus in detail, including the atrocities that he would commit against the Jews.
But the efforts of the liberals to trash the book have all been in vain. One of the strongest rebuttals is the fact that Daniel was included in the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Scriptures. This is the translation of what we call the Old Testament from Hebrew into Greek. It was done by a group of 70 Hebrew scholars in Alexandria, Egypt, in about 280 BC — long before the time of Antiochus Epiphanes.
Also, Josephus, the First Century Jewish historian, reports that when Alexander the Great came to Jerusalem in 333 BC, the High Priest showed him where he and his empire were prophesied in the book of Daniel, and he was so impressed that he spared the city from destruction (Jewish Antiquities, vol. 11, p. 311).
But the most important evidence of the book's authenticity is to be found in the New Testament in Matthew 24:15 where Jesus Himself quoted the prophecies of Daniel and thus personally attested to the validity of the book.
The Remarkable Prophet
Let's briefly consider who this man Daniel was. In 605 BC Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, conquered the city of Jerusalem, the capital of the nation of Judah. He removed the Judean king, Jehoiakim, and replaced him with his 18 year old son, Jehoichin.
Eight years later, when Jehoichin also rebelled, Nebuchadnezzar invaded Judah again, conquered Jerusalem a second time, and replaced Jehoichin with his uncle, Zedekiah. Ten years later when Zedekiah revived the rebellion, Nebuchadnezzar invaded a third time and decided he was fed up with Jewish rebellion. And so, in 587 BC the Babylonians totally destroyed the city of Jerusalem, including Solomon's Temple, and ended the Davidic line of kings.
Each of the three times Nebuchadnezzar invaded Judah and conquered Jerusalem, he took captives back to Babylon. After the first invasion in 605 BC he took only a handful of Jewish captives. These consisted of the sons of the elite Jewish ruling class, and one of these was Daniel (Daniel 1:3-4, 6-7).
Daniel was only about 15 years old at this time, but he distinguished himself immediately as a person of spiritual maturity by refusing to pollute himself with the non-kosher food supplied to him by the king. In similar manner, many years later at age 82, Daniel imperiled his life by refusing to obey an order of King Darius of the Medo-Persian Empire that no one could pray for 30 days to any god except to the king himself. Daniel's refusal to abide by this command prompted the king to throw him into a lion's den, but his life was spared by a miracle of God.
Daniel, throughout his life, was a man of faith and prayer and impeccable virtue. He is referred to by one of his contemporaries, the prophet Ezekiel, as one of the three most righteous men who ever lived, together with Job and Noah (Ezekiel 14:14). In a visitation made to him by the Angel Gabriel, recorded in Daniel 9:23, he was told, "You are highly esteemed" by God.
We are dealing here with one of the most remarkable men revealed in Scripture.
Now that we have looked at the historical setting and we have considered the man through whom God spoke, let's take a look at the prophecies God gave him about the end times. I'm going to divide them into four categories:
The Times of the Gentiles
The Terror of the Antichrist
The Triumph of Jesus Christ
The Timing of the Lord's Return
I. The Times of the Gentiles
Two years after Daniel's arrival in Babylon, when he was about 17 years old, God gave Nebuchadnezzar a dream that greatly disturbed him. The king demanded that his wise men tell him two things — first, what he had dreamed and second, the meaning of the dream. Needless to say, the wise men were confounded.
When Daniel heard of the king's unusual request, he turned to God in prayer seeking a revelation of both the king's dream and its meaning. God responded by revealing these mysteries to Daniel. And Daniel, in turn, responded to the Lord with a psalm of praise (Daniel 2:20-23a):
Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever,
For wisdom and power belong to Him.
And it is He who changes the times and the epochs;
He removes kings and establishes kings;
He gives wisdom to wise men,
And knowledge to men of understanding.
It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things...
This psalm is very important for it summarizes the theme of the whole book of Daniel — namely, that God is sovereign, that He has a purpose in history, and that He has the wisdom and the power to orchestrate the affairs of men and nations to the triumph of His divine will.
Later in the book, Nebuchadnezzar makes a similar proclamation about the sovereignty of God after he has experienced the chastisement of God's discipline (Daniel 4:34b-35):
[God's] dominion is an everlasting dominion,
And His kingdom endures from generation to generation.
And all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
But He does according to His will in the host of heaven
And among the inhabitants of earth...
In chapter 2, beginning with verse 31, Daniel begins to reveal to Nebuchadnezzar both his dream and its meaning. He tells the king that in his dream he saw a magnificent and awesome statue with a head of gold, a chest of silver, thighs of bronze, and legs of iron. The feet of the statue were made of a mixture of iron and clay. He reminded the king that as he was admiring the statue, a large stone suddenly appeared — a stone that had not been cut by human hands. This supernatural stone suddenly struck the feet of the statue and the entire statue was destroyed. The stone then quickly grew into a great mountain that "filled the whole earth."
In verse 36 Daniel begins to explain the meaning of this mysterious dream, and what ensues is a breathtaking overview of Gentile empires from the time of Nebuchadnezzar to what we now call the Second Coming of the Messiah. Daniel reveals that the parts of the statue represent a succession of empires:
Head of Gold — Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian Empire.
Chest of Silver — The kingdom that will supplant Babylon, which Daniel later identifies in chapter 8 as the Medo-Persian Empire.
Thighs of Bronze — The next kingdom in the series which, again, Daniel identifies in chapter 8 as Greece.
Legs of Iron — The fourth kingdom in the series which we know from history was the Roman Empire which ultimately split into two parts.
Feet of Clay and Iron — The last Gentile empire of history. The unstable combination of clay with iron suggests a loose confederation of nations that will exist in the area of the old Roman Empire.
The Supernatural Stone — Symbolic of the return of the Messiah who will destroy the last Gentile kingdom and will put an end to Gentile rule by establishing the kingdom of God on earth.
The Age of Gentile Rule
As you can see, this prophecy is amazing in its scope, stretching thousands of years from the time of the Babylonian Empire to the establishment of the Millennial reign of Jesus upon this earth.
It is a period of time that the Bible refers to as "the times of the Gentiles" (Luke 21:24). It begins with the fall of the last king of Judah, Zedekiah (586 BC), and will continue until Jesus returns and re-establishes the throne of David in Jerusalem.
I think it is very interesting to note that this period of Gentile domination of the world is emphasized in the very language of the book of Daniel. In chapter 2, verse 4, the language shifts from Hebrew to Aramaic, the language of the Gentile nations at that time. And the text continues in Aramaic until the end of chapter 7. It switches back to Hebrew at chapter 8 because the focus shifts at that point from the times of the Gentiles to the ultimate fate of the Jews.
A Time Gap
Another interesting thing to note is that from our historical perspective, we can clearly see that the prophecy has a major time gap in it, something that is often characteristic of Bible prophecy. The gap comes between the fourth and fifth empires — between the legs of iron and the feet of clay mixed with iron.
The gap is obvious because there is no Gentile empire in history that corresponds to the empire of iron and clay, which Daniel tells us in chapter 7 will be a confederation of ten nations that will come together as a revived Roman Empire.
The Roman Empire ceased to exist in 476 AD. The eastern branch of it continued as the Byzantine Empire until 1453. Over the centuries there have been many attempts to restore the Roman Empire, the two most notable efforts being those of Napoleon and Hitler. But all efforts failed until the aftermath of World War II when it became obvious to European leaders that their only hope for rebuilding Europe was to reach across national boundaries and begin cooperating to build a European superpower.
That effort has produced the European Union, a revival of the old Roman Empire currently consisting of 27 member states which I believe will ultimately be divided into ten administrative regions.
This prophecy about the succession of world empires was reconfirmed to Daniel 48 years later when the Lord gave him a dream. It is recorded in chapter 7.
Daniel saw a series of terrifying beasts that arose out of the sea, the sea being a prophetic symbol for the Gentile nations.
The first was a lion that had the wings of an eagle. The second was a bear that was raised up on one side and had three bones in its mouth. The third was a leopard with four heads and four wings. The fourth was a beast which Daniel described as "dreadful and terrifying and extremely strong." It had large iron teeth and ten horns.
What Daniel is seeing in this dream is the same succession of world empires that Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream. The difference is that Nebuchadnezzar saw them from Man's viewpoint, as something magnificent and glorious. God reveals them to Daniel as He sees them — a series of ravenous beasts.
As Daniel stares in horror at the last beast, he suddenly notices that another horn — "a little horn" — rises up among the ten horns and pulls three of them out by their roots. This little horn has the eyes of a man and a mouth that is uttering "great boasts." In verse 24 of chapter 7, Daniel is told that the ten horns represent ten kings and that the little horn will subdue three of them and will then begin to speak blasphemies against the Most High God. This is the first appearance in the book of Daniel of the Antichrist who will head up the last Gentile Empire that will encompass the whole world. The fact that the last empire of 10 horns grows out of the head of the fourth beast is a clear indication that the final Gentile empire will begin as a revival of the old Roman Empire.
II. The Terror of the Antichrist
These verses bring us to the second major theme in the end time prophecies of Daniel — the Antichrist and his demonic rule. Daniel could be called the prophet of the Antichrist because he supplies us with more information about this tyrant than any other prophet, including John in the book of Revelation.
Take Daniel 7, verses 8, 25 and 26 for example. The prophet describes the Antichrist as a prideful man full of boasting, as a blasphemer, as a persecutor of the Jews, and as one who will change the law and the times. (He will, of course, change Western law because it is based upon the Bible, and he will change the calendar because it is related to the birth of Jesus.)
We are further told that he will persecute the Jews for three and a half years, and then, suddenly, he and his empire will be destroyed.
Symbolic Types of the Antichrist
Further insights into the Antichrist's character and methods can be found in chapter 8 where Daniel begins to focus on him by presenting a series of symbolic types of the Antichrist.
These symbols were presented to Daniel in a vision that was given to him three years after his dream of the series of beasts, recorded in chapter 7. Once again Daniel saw a succession of animals.
The first was a ram with two horns, one longer than the other (verses 3-4). The angel Gabriel reveals to Daniel that this ram represents the Medo-Persian Empire (verse 20). The "longer horn" would thus represent the man who came to dominate this kingdom — namely, Darius the Great. The two qualities that Daniel emphasizes about this man are his strong will and his ego, as manifested in his doing as he pleases and magnifying himself in the process (verse 4).
Daniel next sees a male goat with "a conspicuous horn" between its eyes. This goat moves quickly and attacks the ram, destroying him immediately (verses 5-7). Again, Gabriel explains to Daniel that the male goat represents the Greek Empire which will overthrow the Medo-Persian Empire (verse 21). The "conspicuous horn" was, of course, symbolic of Alexander the Great.
Daniel's description of the Greek Empire puts the emphasis on the power of its army and the swiftness of its victories. This corresponds to the fact that we are told in Revelation that the Antichrist will conquer the whole world in three and a half years. Another thing emphasized by Daniel is the ego of the conspicuous horn. We are told that he "magnifies himself exceedingly" (verse 8).
Daniel wraps up his description of the male goat by telling us that his conspicuous horn will be broken and replaced by four other horns (verse 8). This prophecy was fulfilled in history when Alexander the Great died suddenly at the age of 33 and his Empire was divided into four kingdoms headed up by four of his generals.
Verse 9 of chapter 8 brings us to the third of the symbolic types of the Antichrist. Reverting to the terminology of chapter 7, Daniel calls this individual "the little horn." He says he will rise out of one of the four divisions of Alexander's kingdom and that he will move toward "the Beautiful Land," which is Israel.
This person proved to be a Greek tyrant who arose to dominate the Seleucid area of Alexander's empire, an area that included Syria and Israel. His name was Antiochus. He was a mad man who considered himself to be divine. He gave himself the title, "Antiochus Epiphanes," which meant "Antiochus the Manifested God." The Jews nick-named him "Antiochus Epimanes," meaning "Antiochus the Madman"! It was a title he well deserved.
The Quintessential Type of the Antichrist
Let's look first at the prophecy and then the historical record. In Daniel 8:9-12 we are told that the "little horn" will trample down the Jews, blaspheme God, violate the Jewish Temple, and stop the sacrifices. Daniel even tells us how long the desecration of the Temple will last: "For 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the holy place will be properly restored" (verse 14). This most likely meant that the sacrificial system would be suspended for a total of 1,150 days since there were two sacrifices per day, one in the morning and the other in the evening (Exodus 29:38-43).
The Jewish historian, Josephus, has provided us with a detailed historical record of the fulfillment of these prophecies in the brutal reign of Antiochus. The details can also be found in the non-canonical books of 1 & 2 Maccabees.
According to these sources, while Antiochus was involved in leading an invasion of Egypt, a rumor swept Jerusalem that he had been killed. This news prompted a former high priest named Jason to revolt. Jason had been deposed by Antiochus, and he now saw an opportunity to get his position back. So, he attacked Jerusalem with an army of 1,000 men. The quick and brutal response of Antiochus is recorded in 2 Maccabees 11-16:
"When [Antiochus] came to hear of what had happened, he concluded that Judea was in revolt. He therefore marched from Egypt, raging like a wild beast, and began by storming the city. He then ordered his soldiers to cut down without mercy everyone they encountered, and to butcher all who took refuge in their houses. It was a massacre of young and old, a slaughter of women and children, a butchery of virgins and infants. There were eighty thousand victims in the course of those three days, forty thousand dying by violence and as many again being sold into slavery. Not satisfied with this, he had the audacity to enter the holiest Temple in the entire world... With his unclean hands he seized the sacred vessels; and his impious hands swept away what other kings had presented for the advancement, the glory and the honor of the place."
The atrocities of this mad man are spelled out in even greater detail in 1 Maccabees 1:23-67. There we are told that he stripped the Temple of everything — all its silver, gold and precious vessels — "leaving the place a shambles."
Two years later he attacked Jerusalem again. He pillaged the city, set it on fire, tore down its houses, and took the women and children captive. He then issued a proclamation ordering the cessation of all Jewish customs. He banned sacrifices and feasts and observance of the Sabbath. He ordered that all new-born sons were to be left uncircumcised. And he made it a capital offense to own a copy of the Torah.
He then once again proceeded to defile the Temple. He "erected the abomination of desolation" above the altar. This was a statue of the Greek god, Zeus.
The passage in 1 Maccabees gives the exact date when Antiochus desecrated the Temple by erecting the statue of Zeus: "On the fifteenth day of Chislev in the year one hundred and forty five." This converts to December 8, 168 BC. We are told later in Maccabees that the Temple was cleansed and the altar restored by Judas Maccabees on Chislev 25 in 165 BC, representing a period of 1,150 days, exactly as prophesied in Daniel 8:14 (1 Maccabees 4:52).
Daniel Seeks Understanding
At this point in chapter 8 Daniel has been given a vision of three kings — Darius, Alexander the Great, and Antiochus Epiphanes. All of these are symbolic types of the Antichrist, but Daniel does not understand this.
So, Daniel asks the Lord for an explanation of the vision (verse 15). In response, the Lord sends the angel Gabriel who tells him that the vision "pertains to the time of the end" (verse 17).
He emphasizes this again in verse 19 where he tells Daniel that the vision relates to "the final period of the indignation" (the Great Tribulation) and that it "pertains to the appointed time of the end."
These words of explanation make it clear that Antiochus and the other kings were only symbolic types of the Antichrist. The true Antichrist would not come until the end times.
The True Antichrist
This brings us to Daniel's revelation of the real Antichrist who will combine the features of Darius, Alexander, and Antiochus. A frightening description of him is presented in Daniel 8:23-26, so frightening, in fact, that Daniel was "astounded" and "exhausted" and fell ill for several days (verse 27). He is described as being:
Insolent (verse 23)
Skillful in intrigue (verse 23)
Supernatural in power (verse 24)
Destructive (verse 24)
Willful (verse 24)
Shrewd (verse 25)
Deceitful (verse 25)
Egotistical (verse 25)
Blasphemous (verse 25)
The only good news in this passage is the assurance that is given to Daniel that the Antichrist will ultimately be destroyed supernaturally by God (verse 25).
Further Information About the Antichrist
The next reference to the Antichrist is found in chapter 9 in Daniel's prophecy of the 70 weeks of years (9:24-27). Daniel is told that a decree will be issued to rebuild Jerusalem and that 69 weeks of years later (483 years) the Messiah will be "cut off" and Jerusalem will be destroyed again.
In verse 26 we are given a clue as to the identity of the Antichrist. We are told that the Antichrist will come from the people who will destroy the Temple following the death of the Messiah. Those people were, of course, the Romans. So, the Antichrist will be of Roman descent.
Then, in verse 27, it is revealed to Daniel that the last week of years for the Jews — the 7 years of the Tribulation — will begin with the signing of a covenant between the Jews and the Antichrist, most likely a covenant guaranteeing the peace of Israel and allowing them to rebuild their Temple.
But it is also revealed that 3 1/2 years into that last 7 year period of time, the Antichrist will double-cross the Jews. Like Antiochus, the Antichrist will desecrate the Temple, stop the sacrifices and desolate the city.
However, once more we are assured that the Antichrist himself will be destroyed in the process. Daniel is told that destruction will be "poured out on the one who makes desolate" (verse 27).
The Fate of the Antichrist
The ultimate destruction of the Antichrist is affirmed once again in Daniel's final passage about him. It is found in Daniel 11. Once again Daniel presents a series of ruthless kings that are symbolic types of the Antichrist. Interestingly, the three most important all have names that begin with the letter A:
The fourth king of Persia after Darius: Ahasuerus (verse 2)
Alexander the Great (verse 3)
Antiochus III, the Great (verse 11)
Antiochus Epiphanes (verse 21)
Once more, Antiochus Epiphanes is presented as the classic type of the Antichrist (verses 21-35). He is characterized as despicable, deceptive, a man of intrigue, and a person whose heart is set against God. He is also presented as a warrior who will conquer and plunder and who will ultimately desecrate the Jewish Temple by stopping the sacrifices and erecting an "abomination of desolation."
At verse 36 a sudden transition occurs as Antiochus Epiphanes morphs into the end time Antichrist:
"Then [in the 'end time' (verse 35)] the king will do as he pleases, and he will exalt and magnify himself above every god, and will speak monstrous things against the God of gods; and he will prosper until the indignation [the Tribulation] is finished..."
In addition to being a willful egotist and blasphemer, as this passage states, the verses that follow indicate he will also be a militarist and a person obsessed with money.
Beginning in verse 40 we are given an overview of the end time military campaign of the Antichrist that will take place in the Middle East, possibly in response to a rebellion by the nations in that area (verses 40-45).
We are told that the Antichrist will invade the "Beautiful Land" (Israel) and that he will be attacked by the "king of the South" and the "king of the North" (most likely Egypt and Syria). He will conquer all the nations of the Middle East except Jordan, which he will be prevented from entering (most likely because the Jewish remnant will be hiding there).
He will proceed to Egypt in order to plunder its riches. But "rumors from the East and from the North" will disturb him (possibly armies from Russia and the Far East that are revolting against him). He will retreat to the area "between the seas" (the Valley of Armageddon) to await the arrival of these armies. It is in this valley that he will "come to his end" (Daniel 11:45, Joel 3:9-17, and Revelation 19:14-21).
This whole section of Scripture could be called the "Campaign of Armageddon" because it leads the Antichrist to that valley where he and his armies will suffer total defeat in an instant when Messiah Jesus returns and speaks a supernatural word of destruction (Zechariah 14:12 and 2 Thessalonians 2:8).
III. The Triumph of Jesus Christ
This brings us to the third end time theme of the book of Daniel. It is the absolute triumph in history that God will give to His Son. Jesus was vilified and crucified at His First Coming, but when He returns, He will be vindicated and glorified.
The first glimpse of this triumph is given to us in chapter 2. Remember Nebuchadnezzar's dream of the giant and beautiful statute of a man? The last Gentile kingdom, the one represented by the feet and toes made of clay and iron is supernaturally destroyed (Daniel 2:34-35).
Do you remember how it was destroyed? "By a stone cut out without hands" (verse 34). It struck the feet and crushed them, bringing down the entire statue, and then "the stone became a great mountain and filled the whole earth" (verse 35).
Daniel explains that the stone represents the kingdom of God coming to earth, destroying the kingdom of the Antichrist and putting an end to all Gentile kingdoms (verses 44-45). Zechariah and Revelation reveal this will take place at the Second Coming of Jesus.
The next vision of the Lord's triumph is presented in Daniel chapter 7. We are told in verses 13 and 14 that Daniel experienced a night vision in which he saw the "Son of Man" (Jesus) presented to the "Ancient of Days" (God the Father). Jesus was given "dominion, glory, and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and men of every language might serve Him" (verse 14). In verses 18 and 27 we are further told that the "saints of the Highest One" (the Redeemed) will reign with Jesus over all the world.
This vision of the future reign of Jesus with His saints is a persistent theme of Bible prophecy, found in both the Old and New Testaments. (See: Isaiah 2:2-4, Isaiah 9:6-7, Isaiah 11:4-9, Zechariah 14:1-9, 2 Timothy 2:12, Revelation 2:26-27, Revelation 3:21, Revelation 5:9-10, and Revelation 20:4.)
IV. The Timing of the Lord's Return
The fourth and final end time theme of the book of Daniel relates to the timing of the Lord's return. Daniel provides us with several clues. The first is found in Daniel 9:24-27 in the prophecy of the 70 Weeks of Years.
In this famous prophecy, Daniel tells us that all the prophecies concerning the Jewish people will be fulfilled at the end of a period of 490 years. His prophecy then makes it clear that there will be a gap between the first 483 years and the final 7 years. We know from the book of Revelation that the final 7 years of this prophecy will constitute the Great Tribulation when God will pour out His wrath upon the rebellious nations of the world and in the process will bring the Jewish people to the end of themselves, resulting in the salvation of a great remnant.
So, the first clue as to the timing of the Lord's return is that it will take place at the end of the Tribulation. This timing is confirmed in the New Testament book of Revelation (19:1-16).
Daniel establishes this timing again in chapter 12. There he refers to the Great Tribulation as "a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time" (Daniel 12:1). He says that some of the Jewish people will be "rescued" at the end of this terrible period at the time when the rest of the Jewish righteous will be resurrected. Again, this is at the end of the Tribulation and will occur when the Messiah returns. (This "rescue" is described in Zechariah 12:10.)
Chapter 12 of Daniel provides us with two more clues as to when the Messiah will return. These clues are what we call "signs of the times." The first is found in verse 4 where Daniel is told that the fulfillment of all the prophecies he has been given (including, of course, the return of the Messiah) will occur at "the end of time" when travel and knowledge will be greatly increased. That explosion occurred during the 20th Century and continues to accelerate to this very day.
Then, in verses 8 and 9 Daniel is told that his prophecies will not be understood until "the end time." We must be in that time today for we are now understanding end time prophecies that no one has ever understood before due to historical developments and technological inventions.
For example, most end time prophecies revolve around a reestablished nation of Israel. How could those prophecies be understood before the re-establishment of Israel in 1948, an event that most people denied could ever happen right up to the very day that it occurred?
And then there are many prophecies that could never be understood apart from modern technological inventions. How could the whole world look upon two bodies lying in the streets of Jerusalem (Revelation 11:9)? Satellite television has made that possible. How could one-third of the earth be burned up in warfare (Revelation 8:7)? The advent of nuclear weapons has made this possible. The list goes on and on.
Daniel's incredible prophecies make it clear that both wrath and glory lie before us. We are on the threshold of terrible days of Tribulation, but they will be followed by a glorious age when all the saints of God, both Old and New Testament, will reign with Jesus in their glorified bodies over all the nations of the earth.
Daniel's prophecies also make it clear that God is in control. He is on the throne, He is directing the course of human events, and He has the wisdom and power to orchestrate all the evil of Satan and Man to the triumph of His Son.
The overriding theme of Daniel is the absolute sovereignty of God. As we try to cope with the increasingly pagan and evil world we live in, let us be reminded of the words of Daniel recorded in chapter 2, verses 20-23a:
"Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever,
For wisdom and power belong to Him.
And it is He who changes the times and the epochs;
He removes kings and establishes kings;
He gives wisdom to wise men,
And knowledge to men of understanding.
It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things;
He knows what is in the darkness,
And the light dwells in Him.
To Thee, O God of my fathers,
I give thanks and praise..."