In 1991 a new kind of ?how-to book? appeared on the shelves of local bookstores. I?m referring to the DUMMIES series. How many of you have read one? I don?t know if you realize it or not but when these books first came out, many book retailers refused to carry them because they thought the title was insulting to their customers. They quickly changed their minds however, when sales of these books skyrocketed. Since 1991 the Dummies books have sold over 100 million copies in over 40 countries. I wish I was dumb enough to write one!
New editions of these books come out all the time and they continue to sell like hot cakes because most of us are willing to admit we are dummies once we get outside our field of specialized training. One satisfied customer explained it this way,
I buy them because they take the intimidation out of the learning process. Whatever the subject matter, they spell it out to me in simple terms. They make the complex understandable, so that even a regular guy like me can “get it.”
Initially the dummy books were computer-oriented. After DOS for Dummies there was Windows for Dummies and The Internet for Dummies. But these days they deal with almost any topic. To show you how broad a spectrum they cover, here are some current Dummy books you may not know about:
- Congress for Dummies – I wonder how many congressmen have read this one?
- Law for Dummies – If you have to see an attorney scan his book shelves to see if he has a copy?and if he does?well, you might want to get another attorney.
- Potty Training for Dummies – I wish that book had been published when my kids were little.
- NASCAR for Dummies – I imagine this is one of the shorter dummies books. I mean, what else could it say but, ?Keep turning left and go faster than the other cars.?
- Gambling for Dummies – I don?t know about you but I think this is a very appropriate title because what other kind of gamblers are there?
I mention these popular how-to books?books that deal with complex topics because over half of the book of Daniel deals with what can be a very complex, confusing topic: prophecy.
You may remember my telling you when we began this study that chapters 1-6 are primarily the record of events in the life of Daniel. We?ve spent a couple months studying those events and learning to apply the principles and precepts found there to our daily life. And?I don?t mean to sound overly impressed with my own intellect but in my mind, the FIRST half of Daniel is fairly easy to understand. The truth God wants us to see is pretty obvious.
I?ve found the content of other half of Daniel to be much harder to get your head around?because this section?chapters 7-12?is almost exclusively made up of prophetic visions given to Daniel by God….and Biblical prophecy like that can be very confusing. If you doubt me on this, I challenge you to read through the second half of this book and see how fast questions pile up in your mind. In fact, let me read a few of these verses to show you what I mean. These come from the vision that is recorded in chapter 7. Daniel had it about 15 years prior to the hand-writing on the wall incident in chapter 5. This is Daniel 7:2-8.
2 – Daniel said, ?In my vision at night I looked, and there before me were the four winds of heaven churning up the great sea.
3 – Four great beasts, each different from the others, came up out of the sea.
4 – The first was like a lion, and it had the wings of an eagle. I watched until its wings were torn off and it was lifted from the ground so that it stood on two feet like a man, and the heart of a man was given to it.
5 – And there before me was a second beast, which looked like a bear. It was raised up on one of its sides, and it had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. It was told, ?Get up and eat your fill of flesh!?
6 – After that, I looked, and there before me was another beast, one that looked like a leopard.
And on its back it had four wings like those of a bird. This beast had four heads, and it was given authority to rule.
7 -After that, in my vision at night I looked, and there before me was a fourth beast?terrifying and frightening and very powerful. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. It was different from all the former beasts, and it had ten horns.
8 – While I was thinking about the horns, there before me was another horn, a little one, which came up among them; and three of the first horns were uprooted before it. This horn had eyes like the eyes of a man and a mouth that spoke boastfully.?
Okay?did everyone understand these verses? Ready to go out and apply the truth of these words to your life? I kind of doubt it because these verses raise all sorts of questions. For example: ?What is the meaning of a winged lion whose wings were ripped off?and then it was given a man?s heart? What is that all about?? ?Why is a bear eating spare ribs in the Scripture?? ?And this leopard with wings and four heads?well that sounds like a monster Godzilla might deal with in a Japanese B movie.? ?And speaking of monsters?what is this thing with iron teeth and ten horns including a little horn that has its own set of eyes and a proud mouth to boot??
Do you see what I mean? Are those words confusing or what!? Unfortunately?many churches and even entire denominations have experienced conflict over disputes about the possible meanings of these visions?and other prophetic parts of the Bible. In fact, since these visions are so complex and potentially divisive?in my opinion the best way to study this part of Daniel is not with sermons…but rather in Bible study format where discussion is possible…and we?ll do that on Wednesdays after the first of the year so stay tuned. But I didn?t want to end this series on the book of Daniel without at least scanning these texts because they are an important part of Daniel?s life and ministry. Plus?even a scan shows that they underscore vital truth?these prophecies remind us of principles and precepts we need to embrace in our walk with God. So this morning, hold onto your seats because we are going to do an OVERVIEW study of the entire 2nd half of Daniel?s book. And, please note: we are setting a record together today in that this is the LONGEST SERMON TEXT I?ve ever preached from. My message is based on Daniel chapters 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12! We are going to be here for hours! I hope you brought a sack lunch. I?m kidding of course…but let?s get started.
Okay?the first thing we must understand in our overview of these visions is that they are basically an expansion of Nebuchadnezzar?s first dream?the one that Daniel recorded for us in chapter 2. Remember the statue made of various kinds of metals?metals that symbolized nations who would come after the Babylonians? Well, in Daniel?s versions of this dream there is much more detail as to what would happen in these coming kingdoms. In fact, there is so much prophetic detail that I think it?s easiest to break down into two basic categories: things that have happened since he had his visions?and things yet to come.
A. Let?s begin by listing or reviewing the prophecies in Daniel that have already been fulfilled.
And as we do, I want you to note that the accuracy of Daniel?s prophecies is staggering. I mean, he hasn?t missed yet. He?s batting 1000! For example:
- In chapter 9 verse 25, he foretold the rebuilding of Jerusalem ?in a time of trouble??which happened during the days of Nehemiah a little over 100 years later. And?you may remember learning in Sunday School that the children of Israel who returned from captivity were threatened on every side by their enemies but, in spite of that ?…time of trouble,? they rebuilt the wall in a record 52 days.
- In chapter 7 verse 6 Daniel prophesied that Alexander the Great would die and that his vast kingdom would be divided into four main parts. This happened over two hundred years later.
- In chapters 8 and 11 Daniel foretold the coming of one of Alexander?s successors?an evil ruler called Antiochus IV who referred to himself as ?Epiphanes? which means ?God manifest.? Antiochus went so far as to order that daily sacrifices be offered up to him. I guess he was one of the first people to have what we refer to as a ?Messiah complex.?He wanted no rivals for worship so he made it his goal to wipe out the Jewish faith and in Daniel?s vision he saw some of the evil Antiochus would do.
- In chapter 8 verses 9-12 Daniel said Antiochus would desecrate the temple?and he did, setting up an altar to Zeus there and sacrificing a pig.
- In verse 14 Daniel even gave the exact length of time between Antiochus? desecration of the temple and it?s re-consecration?2300 days?and that?s exactly how many days it took for the Jewish hero Judas Maccabeaus to defeat the enemy forces and do that.
- In verse 25 Daniel said that Antiochus would die ?but not at the hands of man? and he did. Historians tell us that in 164 B.C. Antiochus died by illness or an accident.
- In chapter 9 verse 25 Daniel prophesied exactly how long it would be between the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the coming of the Messiah…and once again he got it right. It was 483 years from the rebuilding until Jesus entered Jerusalem on the back of a donkey on the first Palm Sunday?just as Daniel?s vision had said.
- In chapter 9 verse 24 Daniel said the Messiah would be rejected?which He was. As John 1:1 says, ?He came unto His own and His own did not receive Him.?
- In verse 26 Daniel prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem?which happened in 70AD
So, through the power of God, Daniel accurately foretold hundreds of years of history. In fact, as I?ve told you before, his perfect accuracy is the reason many liberal scholars doubt the authenticity of this book. They say, ?No one could have been that good at predicting the future. It must have been written by someone claiming to be Daniel who lived after all this happened.? And in our study I?ve showed how empty this argument is so I won?t repeat what I?ve already said?but I will say that Jesus referred to Daniel and his prophecy and in my mind that?s all the proof you need. Jesus warned people of the coming destruction of Jerusalem and of an image of the Anti-Christ that would be set up in the temple in years to come. In Matthew 24:15-16 Jesus said, ?So when you see standing in the holy place ?the abomination that causes desolation,? spoken of through the prophet Daniel?let the reader understand?then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.?
Okay?that?s some of the things Daniel prophesied that was in HIS future and OUR past.
B. But as I said, he also foretold things YET to come?things that are in OUR future.
- In chapter 11 verse 36 he said that in the last days an Anti-Christ would come and in verse 45 he said the Anti-Christ would meet his end on the temple mount. Most scholars agree this will be at the last battle?the battle of Armageddon.
- In chapter 12 verse 2 Daniel talked about the resurrection of the dead at the end of time.
- He also prophesied that Jesus would return to take us all home to Heaven.
Well?because of this perfect accuracy in predicting things that have happened many people are drawn to Daniel and other prophetic books in the Bible and I think it?s easy to understand why?because deciphering all this prophecy can be a very fascinating thing?but?it?s at this point that we need to heed a word of CAUTION. You see, in order to study Biblical prophecy in a way that both helps us mature in our faith and edifies the church?there is one very important principle we must embrace and here it is:
WE MUST STUDY PROPHECY WITH THE RIGHT ATTITUDE.
Now?that may sound trite?but many of us don?t do this?in that we study it with our focus limited to the future. We look at Daniel and other prophetic books as sort of a crystal ball?and try to determine who is the anti-Christ and whether or not this 10-nation confederation that he talks about has been set up yet. We even try to use these prophecies to nail down exactly when Jesus will return.
I think one reason we do this because at heart we are INCURABLE PREDICTORS.
There?s something inside all of us that can?t resist the attempt to forecast what?s going to happen tomorrow or the next day. Think of it:
- We predict the weather based on everything from extremely sophisticated radar and satellite surveillance systems?to whether or not a groundhog sees his shadow.
- At the beginning of the season sports writers predict who?s going to end up in the World Series or the Super-bowl.
- Every morning experts on CNBC attempt to predict what will happen to the stock market tomorrow.
- When I was a kid I remember a girl on the playground telling me that the way to predict the initial of the person you were going to marry was to twist the stem off an apple while reciting the alphabet and whatever initial it fell off on, that would be the initial of your future bride or groom.
- The entire economy of the city of Las Vegas is based on predicting. There are people there who will make odds and take bets on anything. This week I read that one odds maker has actually given odds on which catholic cardinals are most likely to become the next pope.
- And then, think about all the movies that have come out that focus on the future: Deep Impact, The Day after Tomorrow, Knowing?not to mention a new film called 2012 that came out this week. It?s creators make no apology for saying it?s plot is built on knowing how and when the world will end.
- Our fascination with predicting the future is why the Left Behind books were so popular?and not just with Christians. Non-believers bought these books by the millions for one reason there?s an incurable, unstoppable hunger in all of us when it comes to knowing what is going to happen when.
Well, the problem is many times this hunger causes us to study the prophetic parts of the Bible ONLY to try to figure out the future. This is sad because Biblical prophecy is about so much more than dates. Think of it this way. Millions of people have lived and died since Daniel wrote his book. They never saw many of his prophecies fulfilled. So?was his book not for them? I mean, why read a book about something that?s not going to happen in your life time? Do you get my drift? There?s more to these last six chapters than dates to plot on your day timer. These visions are full of truth we need to understand and embrace and apply to our lives RIGHT NOW?even if we don?t live to see Jesus return.
My point is this. To properly study Daniel and other prophetic books we must understand they are about the HERE AND NOW just as much as they are about the THERE AND THEN.
But as I said, so many believers have ignored this?they?ve focused entirely on using prophecy as a tool to predict the future. They have ignored Jesus? warnings in Matthew 24 and Acts 1 where He PLAINLY said: ?No one knows about the day or hour [of My return], not even the angels in Heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.? (Matthew 24:36) and, ?It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority.? (Acts 1:8)
There is a long list of people who have been so enthralled by predicting the future have disobeyed the spirit of these clear teachings and in so doing have made themselves look very foolish. This week at the state convention Dr. Charles Roesel talked about a book that was written in the early ?80’s entitled, 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Must Take Place in 1988. The author said that even though Jesus said we couldn?t know the hour or the day, that didn?t mean we can?t know the week, month, and year. And he was serious. He said Jesus would return during the second week of September, 1988. Roesel said that book became very popular even in his church?FBC, Leesburg, Florida. He said that at first he spoke out against the book when church members would talk about it but then he noticed people started catching up on their tithes and walking the aisles to make their profession of faith in Jesus…so he just let it go and graciously pointed out the flaws of the book in OCTOBER of 1988. The truly sad fact about all this is that in spite of the fact this author got it wrong?the next year he published another book entitled, 89 Reasons Why the Rapture Must Take Place in 1989. And?people bought this book almost as fast as they bought the prequel!
As I said a moment a go, many people who have read about Daniel?s prophecy of a TEN-KING CONFEDERACY during the end times have watched Europe very closely. In March of 1957 six nations formed a union: France, Belgium, West Germany, Luxembourg, Italy, and the Netherlands. Several years later this union increased to nine members by adding Great Britain, Denmark, and Ireland. Then in 1981 Greece joined, bringing the number of countries to ten. This development created a great deal of excitement. Pastors and church leaders declared that this was the ten-king confederacy that had been prophesied! But, their balloon popped when Spain and Portugal became members bringing the number to twelve. I share all this to say we need to very careful in our predictions. Biblical prophecy has so much more to it than that.
Don?t get me wrong?God wants us to know about the future?28% of the Bible is prophecy?but I believe the PRIMARY reason He has given us all this prophecy is to help us understand things we need to know in order to live NOW. There is a special blessing to be found for the believer who studies prophecy with this ?right now attitude…? an attitude that says, ?Father use these prophetic verses to teach me things that will help me grow and mature as Your child.? As Revelation 1:3 says: Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it…?
I?d like to take the time that is left?and point out two vital facts that these six chapters of Daniel can teach us….to proofs of the fact that prophecy is much more than plotting dates on a calendar.
(1) First, the unparalleled accuracy of these visions can teach us to trust the BIBLE.
We?ve already talked about the accuracy of Daniel?s prophecies. Here are a couple other Scriptural examples. I told you about this first one years ago but it involves several of the people we?ve talked about lately so I?ll share it again. In Ezekiel 26 the Bible prophesied that the city of Tyre will be destroyed. Listen to the words.?They will destroy the walls of Tyre and pull down her towers; I will scrape away her rubble and make her a bare rock. Out in the sea she will become a place to spread fishnets, for I have spoken, declares the Sovereign Lord. She will become plunder for the nations, and her settlements on the mainland will be ravaged by the sword. Then they will know that I am the Lord.?
Now?Tyre was a powerful kingdom. They had a navy. You may remember that it was King Hiram of Tyre who sent the cedars of Lebanon to King David to build the temple. No one would have thought that so powerful of a nation would ever fall. But the Bible predicted it in stark detail and this is exactly what happened! King Nebucanezzer destroyed the mainland city. And so people moved off to an island off shore from the original city. Then years later Alexander the Great came along and sent a boat out and asked for supplies for his army but he people of Tyre said ?no.? I guess they thought they were safe out on the island. So Alexander took all the rubble of the original city threw it in the sea and built a causeway. Then he marched out there and destroyed the place. To this day fishermen dry their nets there on that island. It has never been rebuilt. Here?s a picture of some of the ruins. Is that prophecy accurate or what!
The prophet Nahum, Jonah?s successor, said that Nineveh would be destroyed by a flood. This was a huge city with a 100 foot high inner wall that was fifty feet thick. Half mile out there was another wall. Today, archeologists have studied this site and found that Nineveh fell in the month of AV and there is a strand of pebbles that show it was destroyed by a massive flood.
There were 333 prophecies in the Old Testament about the coming Messiah?and Jesus Christ fulfilled each and every one of them!
I could go on and on with examples of fulfilled prophecies?things God?s Biblical prophets have said would happen?and did?because they haven?t been wrong yet! And that says something about the validity of this Book.
In 1968 a televison comedy/variety show made its debut and I?m referring to ?Rowan and Martin?s Laugh-in.? How many of you remember that show? Well, in 1993 they presented a 25 year anniversary of the show, including clips from some of the early episodes. One of the regular features was called ?News from the Future? and in it two futuristically dressed news anchor men acted as though they were reporting news from decades to come. It was meant to be a spoof and they tried to be as funny and as outlandish as possible but there were two things they ?predicted? with humor that actually came true!
- They forecast that actor Ronald Reagan had been elected president of the U. S. Remember, this was telecast in 1968!
- And in another segment they reported the Berlin Wall had fallen?which it did 21 years later.
So, even in their attempt at humor these two predictions have come true. I?m reminded of the old saying, ?Even a broken clock is right twice a day.?
Well, God?s prophets have never been accidentally right. They have been 100% correct?and that fact convinces me that the other prophecies they have made will come true as well.
When I was in High School I didn?t do very well in math. I just squeaked by when it came to my grades in Algebra and Trigonometry. But there was one ray of hope in my math studies. I did GREAT in Geometry. I got straight ?A?s.? I loved that class. I thoroughly enjoyed proving all the theorems and postulates. In fact, I?ve been able to use the wisdom I gleaned from that class in real life. For example, when I?m backing out of Sandy Wehunt?s long driveway I don?t worry because I remember by geometry. I know that since the sides of her driveway are perfectly parallel?I only have to look at one side in my rear view mirror. Geometry taught me that a parallel line always remains parallel…so I don?t have to keep looking out of both mirrors. I just line the car up with one and back down the drive way.
Well that same geometric principle is seen in prophecy like we find in the last half of Daniel. Since God?s prophets have been 100% accurate so far?we can know they will be 100% accurate when it comes to the rest of their prophecies?and to carry that geometric principle a step further?that means you and I can trust the rest of the Bible?s teachings as well. The prophecy of Daniel shows us that God?s Word is infallible and absolutely trustworthy.
Referring to the accuracy of prophecy Norman Geisler says,?The Bible is the only book that is supernaturally confirmed in this way.? So, one thing Biblical prophecy like we find in Daniel?s book can teach us is that we can trust this book! The guidance that is found on its pages is precious because it is completely trustworthy!
And I will testify that since I became a Christian 48 years ago, I have tried to live according to the principles of this book.
There have been times when I have failed to live up to this commitment. But I have learned?many times the hard way?that when I DO live according to the teachings of the Bible, my life works. The Bible?s teaches help me experience the presence and the power of God in my life. I have found that just as God says in Philippians 4:6-7, when I am anxious or worried, if I talk to Him about it, if I pray, ?…the peace of God which transcends all human understanding…fills my heart and mind.? I have discovered that if I ?trust in the Lord with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding…? well then just as Proverbs 3 promises, ?God makes my paths straight.? He tells me what to do and what to say. My marriage is best when I obey the teaching of Ephesians 5 and ?…love my wife as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her…? In my conversations with people who are angry with me I have found that ?…a gentle answer DOES turn away wrath…? just as Proverbs 15:1 says it will.
I could go on and on reciting verse after verse but suffice it to say that I have not come across a single promise or precept or principle in the Bible that does not do what it says it will do. God?s word WORKS. I have found it to be completely trustworthy…one hundred percent reliable…just as His prophets have been. And I am not alone in this conviction. Over the centuries millions and millions of people have discovered the same thing. In fact, thousands of faithful Christians have given their lives rather than reject the teachings of this Book. Why? Because they know it works.
Like me they have found that when we read it, and believe it, and apply it to our lives, we are never the same.
(2) This leads me to mention one other lesson that we can learn when we study Biblical prophecy with the right attitude. We can learn to trust GOD.
Fulfilled prophecy like we see in Daniel helps us to know that God sees more than we see. He sees the beginning and the end so we can trust His guidance. Like many of you we have a GPS that we use when driving to places where we don?t know the roads?and it is basically trustworthy. It?s constantly accessing information from satellites in orbit to plot our position?but we?ve found several occasions when we couldn?t rely on its guidance. One time it said we had arrived at a mall in Salisbury and we were in the middle of a neighborhood miles from the mall we were seeking. This is because a GPS is based on the input of human knowledge and that can be a problem because human?s are imperfect?they make mistakes all the time. Plus?our knowledge is very limited. But this is not true of God. He literally sees all and knows all.
Here?s an illustration of this fact. On the night of February 23, 1987 an astronomer in Chile observed the explosion of a distant supernova, a blast so powerful that it released as much energy in a single second than our sun will in ten billion years. But that event occurred on February 23, 1987 ONLY from the perspective of someone living on our planet. Actually, the supernova had exploded 170,000 years earlier, but the light generated by that event, traveling almost 6 trillion miles a year, took 170,000 years to reach our galaxy. Now….imagine a very large Being….larger than the entire universe?so large that the Being exists simultaneously on earth and in the space occupied by the supernova discovered in 1987. When that supernova was discovered, what ?time? was it for this Being? Well, as Philip Yancey reminds us in his book, Disappointment with God, that would depend on the perspective. From the perspective of earth, the Being would have ?observed? 1987 history…but from the perspective of the supernova, the Being would have experienced what the earth would not know about for another 170,000 years. This Being thus observed both PAST….when He saw the supernova explode, the present….as the astronomer discovered the supernova, and the FUTURE…what is happening NOW in the galaxy where the supernova was…events that will not be seen for 170,000 years on earth. The analogy is not perfect but it gives us at least a small window of understanding through which we can see truth that…God sees our lives from an infinitely better perspective that we do and prophets like Daniel remind us of this fact.
Their perfectly fulfilled God-given prophecies show us that God has a plan and is working it out?that history is really HIS STORY. We can cling to this comforting truth when life is hard and we don?t know why bad comes our way. This fact is an anchor for us when it seems (from our perspective) that no one is at the wheel and that there is no purpose…and that life makes no sense. Charles Swindoll writes,?Prophecy shows that the jumbled pieces in society and even in our lives will one day come together in a beautiful portrait that reflects and exalts the One Who truly has dominion, Jesus Christ.?
In Isaiah 46:9-11 God sums this point up well when He says,?Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ?My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure. Truly I have spoke; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it.?
LET US PRAY