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Doubtless, the Church is living today in a very late hour of world history. That's why the study of biblical prophecy has become so fascinating and so relevant to so many. The book of Daniel is a gold mine of end-time prophecies. So much so, that it truly needs to be a mandatory prerequisite to the study of the "granddaddy" of all biblical prophecy ... the book of Revelation.
From our study in Daniel, thus far, we have acquired a basic knowledge in two areas. One, we know something of ancient world history. And, two, we have picked up a bit of a working knowledge of eschatology (the study of end-time events). The historical part of chapter 8, deals with the interactions of the Medo-Persian and the Grecian empires. The eschatology portion highlights the role that Antichrist will play during the closing days of Earth's history.
The Bible teaches that, during the last days, a world dictator will arise who will conquer, and then rule supreme, over the whole Earth. This one-world dictatorship will take place just before the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. As we have it in I John 2:18a,
Little children, it is the last time, and as you have heard that Antichrist shall come...
And again, in II Thessalonians 2:8,
...then shall that Wicked (one) be revealed whom the Lord will consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming...
Now, there is often a bit of confusion about these biblical terms: the last days and the last time. Actually, they are synonymous. They are technical, theological, biblical terms designating the period of time that began at the cross and has continued on down to our day. For nearly 2000 years, then, the Church of Jesus Christ has been living in the last days. That being the case, truly, the hour must now be very late indeed. Here are a few passages from the Bible that speak about this time period, in which you and I are currently living.
God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds... Hebrews 1:1-2
And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God,
That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your young men shall see visions,
Your old men shall dream dreams. Joel 2:28 (fulfilled at Pentecost ... Acts 2)
But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy... II Timothy 3:1-2
...knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation." II Peter 3:3
In the third year of King Belshazzar's reign, I, Daniel, had a vision, after the one that had already appeared to me. In my vision I saw myself in the citadel of Susa in the province of Elam; in the vision I was beside the Ulai Canal.
Again, Daniel tells us that his second vision occurred during the reign of Belshazzar. The events in his vision, of which we are about to read, were fulfilled within two hundred years of the time that Daniel wrote them down. They are so historically accurate, and explicit, that liberal theologians believe it proves their case that the book of Daniel had to have been written after the events that are recorded here. On the contrary, however, the book of Daniel existed as a very early part of the Jewish canon. For example, secular history records that when Alexander the Great and his armies came to Jerusalem, Jadua the High Priest went out to meet him and actually read Daniel, chapter 8, to him ... pointing out that he, Alexander the Great, was the He-Goat prophesied here in Daniel's prophecy ... and, which had been foretold before Alexander was born! Alexander was so impressed that he withdrew his forces and spared the city!
The setting of Daniel's dream ... Susa ... was the capital of Medo-Persia and the Karkheh River (Hebrew: Ulai) flowed by its outskirts.
I looked up, and there before me was a ram with two horns, standing beside the canal, and the horns were long. One of the horns was longer than the other but grew up later. I watched the ram as he charged toward the west and the north and the south. No animal could stand against him, and none could rescue from his power. He did as he pleased and became great.
As I was thinking about this, suddenly a goat with a prominent horn between his eyes came from the west, crossing the whole earth without touching the ground. He came toward the two-horned ram I had seen standing beside the canal and charged at him in great rage. I saw him attack the ram furiously, striking the ram and shattering his two horns. The ram was powerless to stand against him; the goat knocked him to the ground and trampled on him, and none could rescue the ram from his power.
The events dramatized here in Daniel's vision relate to the second and third world kingdoms that were previously predicted in Daniel 2 and 7. The ram and the he-goat with one horn here ... correspond to the bear-like beast and the leopard-like beast in chapter 7 ... as well as the silver breast and arms and the bronze belly and thighs of the statue in Nebuchadnezzar's dream back in chapter 2. Verse 21, specifically identifies the he-goat as Greece ... and its single horn as representing its first king ... which was Alexander the Great. The ram is identified in verse 20, as the Medo-Persian empire and its two horns depict its two co-ruling kings. One of its horns being shorter than the other ... pictures the king of Persia's dominance over the king of Media. Young, in his commentary, mentions that the ram was viewed as the guardian spirit of the Persian Empire. In fact, the king of Persia actually bore the head of a ram into battle! My, what amazingly accurate pictures and predictions we find in prophetic Scripture!
When the clash between Greece and Persia actually came about, Medo-Persia didn't have a chance. Alexander the Great, that awesome, biblical he-goat horn of history ... attacked so swiftly that, just as predicted, he barely touched the ground! Alexander could move land forces with more cunning and speed than anyone had ever seen before. He was a tremendous general and a military genius. History records that he did, in fact, knock the ram (Medo-Persia) to the ground and trample him and no one could rescue the ram from his power.
These two powers first met at the river Granicus, then at Issus and, finally, the Persians were defeated, once and for all, at Gaugamela in 331 BC. This is history ... but it was foretold in Daniel in the Word of God nearly 200 years before it actually occurred!
May we step aside here for a moment? The Bible prophesies that there is yet another conqueror who shall come one day. His name will be the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 19). When he arrives, he will make the speed of Alexander's conquest seem like a slug on a cold day ... and Alexander's vaunted power ... as utterly puny indeed. As you have it in Matthew 24:27,
For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.
Now, that's speed, brother. Furthermore, his power will be amazing. Revelation 19:15, says,
From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty.
Now, that's raw power! His strength will not be his army ... it will be his Word. As the song says, one little word shall fell him (Satan). This is the one who's name is called, Jesus ... and who this very moment is holding the entire universe together by the word of his power (Hebrews 1:3). At his Second Coming to earth, he will simply speak a word and his enemies will be immediately and utterly destroyed.
The goat became very great, but at the height of his power his large horn was broken off, and in its place four prominent horns grew up toward the four winds of heaven.
Out of one of them came another horn, which started small but grew in power to the south and to the east and toward the Beautiful Land. It grew until it reached the host of the heavens, and it threw some of the starry host down to the earth and trampled on them. It set itself up to be as great as the Prince of the host; it took away the daily sacrifice from him, and the place of his sanctuary was brought low. Because of rebellion, the host of the saints and the daily sacrifice were given over to it. It prospered in everything it did, and truth was thrown to the ground.
Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to him, 'How long will it take for the vision to be fulfilled -- the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, the rebellion that causes desolation, and the surrender of the sanctuary and of the host that will be trampled underfoot?' He said to me, 'It will take 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary will be re-consecrated.'
This part of Daniel's vision predicted the death of Alexander the Great, as seen by the he-goat's large horn being broken off. Alexander was an alcoholic and after a long night of drinking and a fever, he died in Babylon in 323 BC. He was only 32 years old. It was a sad thing. He had conquered the known world, but he couldn't conquer Alexander. Sound familiar? That incorrigible fallen nature within each and every one of we, sons of Adam, is our greatest and most intransigent adversary. Is it not? It is unrepentant, unruly, unchangeable and doesn't have a shred of real goodness in it. As you have it in Romans 3:12,
All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.
That being the case, the only hope is to obtain a completely new nature. But, how? Through a supernatural re-birth (John 3). The good news is that God stands ready to make that happen for any and all who will believe in his Son (John 1:12-13). Mysterious? Yes. But, oh so true ... oh so real ... and oh so absolutely freeing! As Jesus said to Nicodemus, the top religious ruler of Israel in his day,
Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." John 1:3
And, again, as you have it in II Corinthians 5:17,
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
Although Alexander the Great was exposed to the Word of God ... apparently, he just heard it and then walked away. Then, he came to a tragic end. How sad.
Coming back to our text, you will notice that this prophecy also predicted that the horn, Alexander the Great, would be replaced by four other prominent horns. And, as already cited, that is exactly what happened. He was indeed replaced by four of his generals ... Seleucus, Ptolemy, Lysimachus and Cassander.
Daniel's vision continued to progress along down through history. Next, it took up the subject of yet another horn, which Daniel saw come out of the original four that replaced Alexander. Daniel says it started small but grew in power and he saw it move toward the south and then toward the east toward the Beautiful Land. This is not, by the way, the little horn that we saw back in chapter 7. That one was produced out of the 4th kingdom, Rome. This one comes out of the 3rd kingdom, Greece. That previous one is still unfulfilled and is yet entirely future. This one is historic and has already come and gone. This new horn came out of the Seleucid Dynasty (from Alexander's general, Seleucus), in Syria. As it turned out, it represented Antiochus IV (Epiphanes). When he came to power, he called himself Theos Epiphanes (God Magnificent). Behind his back, however, they called him Epimanes (Madman). He came to the throne in 175 BC. He made a move toward the south, toward the kingdom of Ptolemy, and then, to the east, toward the Beautiful Land, the land of Palestine ... just as Daniel's vision predicted he would do. From about 171 to 165 BC ... roughly equal to the 2300 days prophesied in verse 14 ... Antiochus Epiphanes subjugated Jerusalem, mocked the God of Israel, and murdered an estimated one hundred thousand Jews! He then desecrated the temple and caused the sacrifices to cease ... again, just as was predicted in Daniel's vision (verse 11). Antiochus considered himself an incarnation of the Greek god, Jupiter, and he placed an image of it inside the temple in the Holy of Holies. He also poured swine broth over all the holy vessels. This all came upon the Jews because of their rebellion, just as Daniel's vision predicted it would (verse 12). Finally, after the 2300 days had expired, God brought deliverance to his people through Judas Maccabeus and his brothers in 165 BC.
While I, Daniel, was watching the vision and trying to understand it, there before me stood one who looked like a man. And I heard a man's voice from the Ulai calling, 'Gabriel, tell this man the meaning of the vision.' As he came near the place where I was standing, I was terrified and fell prostrate. 'Son of man,' he said to me, 'understand that the vision concerns the time of the end.' While he was speaking to me, I was in a deep sleep, with my face to the ground. Then he touched me and raised me to my feet.
He said: 'I am going to tell you what will happen later in the time of wrath, because the vision concerns the appointed time of the end. The two-horned ram that you saw represents the kings of Media and Persia. The shaggy goat is the king of Greece, and the large horn between his eyes is the first king. The four horns that replaced the one that was broken off represent four kingdoms that will emerge from his nation but will not have the same power.
In the latter part of their reign, when rebels have become completely wicked, a stern-faced king, a master of intrigue, will arise. He will become very strong, but not by his own power. He will cause astounding devastation and will succeed in whatever he does. He will destroy the mighty men and the holy people. He will cause deceit to prosper, and he will consider himself superior. When they feel secure, he will destroy many and take his stand against the Prince of princes. Yet he will be destroyed, but not by human power.
The vision of the evenings and mornings that has been given you is true, but seal up the vision, for it concerns the distant future. I, Daniel, was exhausted and lay ill for several days. Then I got up and went about the king's business. I was appalled by the vision; it was beyond understanding.
At the conclusion of Daniel's vision, here in chapter 8, things got pretty difficult for Daniel...
First, he literally encountered the archangel, Gabriel.
That was so unsettling that he passed out. Angels are awesome spirits and their manifestation to humans can have devastating effects. Twice, in the book of Revelation, the Apostle John had similar reactions to them. The angel Gabriel is found in three places in the Bible ... here in Daniel 8, then in chapter 9, and finally, in Luke 1. In these three passages, we find that he appeared to three people ... Daniel, Zechariah and Mary, the mother of Jesus. Actually, in rank, I would call him an angel of the presence. In my opinion, this is the designation for an elite group of angels who stand continuously before the throne of God. As such, they are, no doubt, even more impressive than your "run of the mill" angel.
Second, Daniel heard a voice from the Ulai river call out to Gabriel telling him to instruct Daniel in the meaning of the vision.
So, Gabriel proceeded to name the kingdoms that were depicted in the vision of the ram and the he-goat. Critics have real problems with scripture passages like these because they do not believe in prophecy. This prophecy, in particular, is a "hot potato" for them because it was given two hundred years before these two kingdoms came into existence.
Gabriel's explanation of the vision was straight forward and is easily grasped by any student of history. The fulfilled aspect of this passage is Antiochus IV (Epiphanes), as discussed above in verses 8-14. However, it becomes complicated at verses 23, 24, and 25, because we are dealing with a double fulfillment ... one, already fulfilled in Antiochus ... another, not yet fulfilled in a man who is yet to come. So, Gabriel's interpretation leaps forward in time to the last days ... to the late, late years of what remains of the Medo-Persian and Grecian kingdoms. At that time, far down in world history, Gabriel says, a stern-faced king, a master of intrigue will arise ... who will be highly unusual. He will be unstoppable in power, craft and wickedness. Undoubtedly, he is talking about Antichrist, who will arise during the Tribulation and dominate the world during those final days of Gentile rule as we know it. That Gabriel was referring to end times is clear from his words, I am going to tell you what will happen later in the time of wrath, because the vision concerns the appointed time of the end.
The key phrase there is the time of wrath. The last three and a half years of the coming Tribulation period is called the Great Tribulation. It will be the time when God's wrath will be poured out on the earth. It is the coming great and terrible day of the Lord prophesied by the prophet Joel. Revelation 8 through 18, covers this coming day of God's poured out wrath upon the earth. This is further supported, when Gabriel says that the time of which he is speaking will be a time when the rebels have become completely wicked or, as the King James version puts it, when the transgressors are come to the full. Clearly, he is referring to that time, far in the future from Daniel's day, when the entire world has become fully ripe for the judgment of God. Gabriel says, at that time a stern faced king ... a master of intrigue, will arise ... who will become very strong, but not by his own power. In a nutshell, he was saying that, in the far future end of time, Antichrist will arise. Consider the following Scriptures as they tie into Gabriel's description of this biblically predicted, and powerful, master of intrigue who will cause deceit to prosper.
II Thessalonians 2:9, says,
... even him (Antichrist) whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders and all deceivableness. (KJV)
Revelation 13:2b, says,
...and the dragon (Satan) gave him (Antichrist) his power. (KJV) ... (Gabriel had said, but not by his own power)
Furthermore, Gabriel says, this coming master of intrigue ... will destroy the mighty men and the holy people. I take this reference to destroying the mighty men to refer to his uprooting of the three kings in Daniel 7:24, when he first arises to power. Concerning the vision's prediction of Antichrist's decimation of the holy people, you will remember back in the 7th chapter we read:
He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. Revelation 13:7a
...and shall wear out the saints of the Most High... Daniel 7:25b (KJV)
Finally, Gabriel says this master of intrigue will also take his stand against the Prince of princes (the battle of Armageddon ... see Rev. 19), but he, himself, will be destroyed without human hands. The Prince of princes is an obvious reference to the Lord Jesus Christ. That Antichrist will oppose him, is well documented in Scripture. And, that Antichrist will be destroyed by the Word of Christ is also clear. Here are a few references.
And he shall speak great words against the most High... Daniel 7:25a (KJV)
Who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God... II Thessalonians 2:4a (KJV)
And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. II Thessalonians 2:8
Then I saw the beast (Antichrist) and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army. But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. Revelation 19:19-20
Daniel was not able to put these things together the way you and I can today. He didn't have the scripture necessary for it ... nor the advantage of the study of other men of God on whose shoulders he could stand ... nor the history that we see as already occurred. So, the things that he heard and saw ... just kept going around and around in his mind until they made him sick! Nevertheless, the visions that were given to Daniel were the purposeful and explicit Word of God. A large part of these things have been fulfilled to the letter. We can have utter confidence that the rest will likewise come to pass as well.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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