Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Passover as Prophecy

One of the greatest evidences that Jesus is the promised Messiah, God Himself in the flesh, is the prophecies of the Old Testament.  These prophecies declare in unmistakable language exactly who Jesus is and what His mission would be. 

One of the largest, most comprehensive and detailed prophecies in the Bible compose much of the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.  It is the Sanctuary service itself, a vast prophecy of Christ presented in types and symbols that was acted out by the priests of Israel.

Now let me illustrate this for you using the Passover and its associated feasts and ceremonial Sabbaths as an example. The entire Passover festival was in effect a Passion Play - a prophetic foreshadowing of Christ’s death, as it is written; “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.” (1 Corinthians 5:7).

Let’s start with a general overview of the Passover itself. 

The observance of the Passover began with the birth of the Hebrew nation.  On that last night of their Egyptian bondage, God commanded them to prepare for an immediate release.  He had warned Pharaoh of the final judgment, and he directed the Hebrews to gather within their homes. Having sprinkled the doorposts of their homes with the blood of the lamb, symbolic of the blood of Christ, ”the Lamb of God” (John 1:29, 36), they ate the lamb, roasted, with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.

Exodus 12:11 And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the LORD'S passover.

That midnight all the firstborn of Egypt died.  Then, as it is written in Exodus 13:31, the king sent to Israel the message; “Rise up, and get you forth from among my people, both ye and the children of Israel; and go, serve the LORD, as ye have said.” (Exodus 12:31).

The Passover was the opening feast of the yearly round of religious services.  It was both commemorative and symbolic; not only pointing back to the deliverance from Egypt, but also forward to the far greater deliverance which Christ was to accomplish for us, freeing us not merely from the bondage of Egypt, but from the far more terrible bondage of sin.

The sacrificial lamb represented none other than Christ Jesus our Lord.  Thus the apostle Paul was moved to write; “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.” (1 Corinthians 5:7).

It was not enough that the Passover lamb was slain, but its blood had to be applied to the door posts of the home.  Likewise, it is not enough that Christ died for our sins, but his cleansing blood must be applied to our own hearts.  We must be cleansed by the blood of the Lamb of God, by the blood of Christ.

The Passover lamb was to be prepared whole.  Not a bone of it was to be broken.  Prophetic of the fact that as Christ was sacrificed for us, as he died on the cross, not one of his bones would be broken.  This wholeness was also representative of the completeness of Christ’s sacrifice for us.

The flesh was to be eaten, nothing being left for morning; signifying the fact that it a mere profession of belief is insufficient; (many will say Lord, Lord in the last days), we must also be constantly receiving spiritual strength and nourishment from him through his word.  Jesus said: “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.  Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life.” (John 6:53-4). And to explain his meaning he said; “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63).

The Passover lamb was to be eaten with bitter herbs, commemorating the bitterness of their bondage in Egypt, and also symbolic of the bitter fruits of sin - the sins that Jesus bore for us on the cross.

It was expressly commanded in the Passover law that no leaven was to be found in the houses during the feast, symbolic of the fact that we must all remove the leaven of sin from our lives.  And so we find the apostle Paul writing to the Corinthian church; “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:  Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” (1 Corinthians 5:7-8).

And just as the Passover lamb has for centuries been taken from the flock a few days before it was to be slain, and set apart from the other lambs, a lamb marked for death; even so a few days before Jesus was to be crucified, the Sanhedrin marked him for death.

John 11:53-54 Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death.  Jesus therefore walked no more openly among the Jews; but went thence unto a country near to the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim, and there continued with his disciples.

Jesus was seized at night by the cruel mob and condemned by false witnesses.  The following morning they took him to Pilate, and Jesus was brought into the Roman judgment hall.  But the Jews, the Bible says; “went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover.” (John 18:28).

Jesus had already celebrated the Passover with his disciples a day early, because, according to the Passover law, the Passover lamb was to be slain the evening of the 14 day of the month of Abib. And in the year that our Lord was crucified, in the year that Jesus our Passover was sacrificed for us, that day, the 14th of Abib fell upon a Friday, for the Scriptures are very clear that the following day was the Sabbath day according to the Commandment. The 7th day of the week.  (Luke 23:52-56).

It was not by chance that Jesus was crucified on a Friday, the 6th day of the week.  For 1500 years God had ordained in Leviticus 23:6-7 that the day following the Passover was to be kept as a ceremonial Sabbath, thus signifying the fact that Jesus, the real Passover, would be offered the day before the Sabbath.

There was also an appointed time when the Passover lamb was to be slain.  It was to be killed in the evening. (Exodus 12:6).  Jesus our Passover, as he hung on the cross, an offering for sinful man, about the ninth hour the Bible says, cried “It is finished,” and died, an offering for our sins. At this very hour the Bible tells, when the priests would have been preparing to slay the Passover lamb, suddenly there was an earthquake, thundering, and lightning, and most notably of all, “the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom.” (Matthew 27:51).

The shadow had met it substance. Christ our Passover, the true Lamb of God was slain.  The symbol had met with reality.  Do you see?  Do you understand?  The entire Passover service, far more than being a simple memorial of their deliverance from Egypt, was an acted prophecy.  The Passover service was nothing less than a passion play. Every year for 1500 years the Jews acted out in this service the events of the crucifixion.  The whole service was a prophecy.  The whole Passover service was in effect a Passion Play.

While the Passover lamb they slew each year was a shadow of Christ our Passover, the very fact that the Passover lamb could only be slain on the 14th day of the month of Abid was a prophecy that Jesus, the true Passover Lamb would give up his life for us on that very day, and not only on that very day, but also (as we have seen) at the very time of day prophesied in the service.

The one unanswerable argument that Jesus is the Messiah is that he died on the cross the very day, the very time of day, that God had said the Passover lamb was to be slain.

It is God himself who fixed the dates for the celebration of each of the 7 annual feasts.  The entire system of sacrifices, offerings, and rituals, are a series of acted prophecies of the gospel.

And there is more.  The day following the 14the day of Abib, whatever day of the week that happened to fall on, was a ceremonial Sabbath day. Thus it was not by chance that in the year that Jesus died, the Passover came on a Friday, the day before the7th day Sabbath.  Neither was it by chance that the ceremonial Sabbath, the 15th day of the month of Abib, came that year on the 7th day Sabbath of the Lord. It was symbol meeting reality.  Shadow meeting substance. 

The apostle John says; “That Sabbath was a high day.” (John 19:31). A high day?  This is what they called it when a ceremonial Sabbath chanced to fall on the 7th day Sabbath.

Four thousand years earlier, when God had finished the work of creation, he pronounced the finished work very good.  And Jesus is none other than our Creator.  On that day when Jesus had finished the work of creation and pronounced it very good, the Bible says; “he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.” (Genesis 2:2).

It was a mighty work to speak the world into existence, and it is no lesser work to take a people sunken in sin and recreated in them the image of God. When Jesus died on Calvary, crying out “It is finished,” the work of redemption was completed on that Friday, the 6th day of the week, and just as he rested after the work of creation, Jesus rested in the grave all through the sacred hours of that holy Sabbath day.

And there is more.  Very early in the morning on the day following the ceremonial Sabbath the priest brought a very special offering and a special service took place.  Do you know what it was called?  The 14th day of the month of Abib was the day the Passover lamb was killed.  The 15th day was a ceremonial Sabbath.  And the day after the ceremonial Sabbath, the 16th day of Abib, the first fruits were waved before the Lord. Here is the resurrection in types and symbols and shadows.

1 Corinthians 15:20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.

And there is more.  After fifty days there was to be another ceremonial Sabbath (see Leviticus 23: 15-21) after which the harvest was to begin. (Leviticus 23:22).  This was the day of Pentecost, the beginning of the harvest of souls into the Church, the disciples being the reapers.

Elden Miller

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Few Thoughts on the Methods of Prophetic Interpretation

A Few Thoughts on the Methods of Prophetic Interpretation

In my last posting on the prophecies of Daniel, the post on Daniel 9 to be specific, many of you may have noticed that the interpretation presented differed somewhat, especially in regard to the 70th week, from what you are accustomed to seeing.  That is because what I presented was the classic Historicist interpretation of the prophecy. As I have noted before, I use the classic Historicist approach to interpreting the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation.

Historicism is the most ancient of all the schools of prophetic interpretation.  It was used by the Jews long before the Christian era to interpret the book of Daniel. It was used by the early Christian churches to interpret both Daniel and Revelation. Once the dominate method of prophetic interpretation, it has in recent decades been overshadowed by two other (newer) systems of prophetic interpretation.  But of the various schools of prophetic interpretation out there Historicism alone has truly stood the test of time. 

Historicism, as its name implies, looks at the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation as tracing the entire course of world history in an unbroken line from the prophets own day to and in some cases beyond the second coming. For example, there are four major prophetic sequences in Daniel, each succeeding prophecy repeating, expanding and elaborating on the previous one.  Each prophetic sequence is rooted in history, (tracing the whole course of world history) and yet focused on the time of the end.  The first of these is in Daniel 2 - which is the simplest of them all - and it serves as the foundation/template upon which all the other prophecies of Daniel are built.  The prophetic sequences of Revelation follow this same pattern of repeat and enlarge.

However you should know that there are two other primary schools of interpretation out there in competition with the historicist approach.

The first of these is the Preterits approach.  It is essentially a denial of predictive prophecy, and was initially developed by pagans early in the Christian era in an effort of undermine Christianity. Christians were using the prophecies, especially that of Daniel 9, with such effect that the pagan world felt that it had to come up with an answer, and that answer was a preterits interpretation of the prophecies of Daniel.  However at the time it had little impact on the Christian world, but has in recent decades had a revival in popularity, especially in liberal Christian circles. Those who use this approach believe that most of the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation have already been fulfilled in the past and more than that, that the prophecies were actually written after the fact.  To them the prophecies are merely history written as if it was yet to happen.  Preterits generally don’t believe that Daniel was written by Daniel but by some unknown second century author some 400 years after Daniel’s day; and also that all the prophecies of Revelation were written after the fact and met their fulfillment in the 1st century, either in the destruction of Jerusalem or in the persecutions under Nero.

The second competing approach to prophetic interpretation is called the Futurist method.  This method takes the opposite approach from the Preterits.  Instead of placing all the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation safely in the distant past, they shove large chunks of it to a nice conveniently distant future.  Those who advocate this view usually interpret prophecy on the basis of the latest headline. -It is a very speculative approach to prophetic interpretation, yet this is without question the most popular approach to prophetic interpretation today. 

The Protestant Reformers all used the historicist method of interpreting prophecy. And they used the historicist method because that is the method that had been used since before the beginning of Christianity.  And using this method of interpretation they clearly identified the Roman church as being Babylon, the beast of Revelation 13, and the little horn of Daniel 7 - in short, to the Protestant Reformers, the Papacy was the antichrist of Scripture.

Rome, in its defense convened a special council in 1545 beginning what has become known as the Counter Reformation. This council took place in northern Italy in the city of Trent, and is now known as the Council of Trent.

One of the Counter Reformation tactics they adapted was a decision to reinterpret the prophecies about the little horn and the beast, etc. In the course of time two Spanish Jesuits rose to the challenge, Louis de Alcasar (1554-1613) of Seville and Franciso Rivera (1537-1591) of Salamanca. Their strategy was, (in a nutshell), one of reapplication and diversion, yet they went in opposite directions. Alcasar decided to apply the Bible's antichrist prophecies to the ancient past; essentially resurrecting the old pagan Preterits approach, while Ribera applied them to the distant future. By reapplying these prophecies to the past and to the future instead of to the present, these two Jesuit scholars sought to divert the prophetic finger away from the Vatican.

Initially both of these approaches to prophecy went over like lead balloons in the Protestant world.  However modified versions of these schools of prophetic interpretation reemerged in the late 19th century and for many years were held mainly among the more extreme fringe groups of Protestantism before exploding across the Protestant world in the 1970’s, and now there is a whole generation that for the most part has known nothing but the futurist version of prophecy.  Many have no idea what a historicist interpretation is or that there even ever was such a thing.  .

But Historicism is what Protestants used to teach, and that is what I present in these postings on the book of Daniel, and is what I will also use when I get around to posting on the prophecies of Revelaton. In essence, historicism teaches straight forward, chronological progression by saying that the major prophecies of Daniel and Revelation find fulfillment throughout Christian history while pointing toward the climatic, visible second coming of Jesus. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Daniel 9, Part 2, An Angel, An Anointing and 70 Weeks

Daniel 9, Part 2, An Angel, An Anointing and 70 Weeks


Daniel 9:20 Now while I was speaking, praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the LORD my God for the holy mountain of my God, 21 yes, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, reached me about the time of the evening offering. 22 And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, "O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you skill to understand. 23 "At the beginning of your supplications the command went out, and I have come to tell you, for you are greatly beloved; therefore consider the matter, and understand the vision:

Daniel prayed and God answered.  Even as Daniel was still in prayer Gabriel appears.  “Understand the matter,” he says to Daniel. “Consider the vision.”  What matter? What vision?  Evidently the portion of the vision in chapter 8 that Daniel said he did not understand. 

With this greeting, Gabriel immediately, without any further introduction, launches into the explanation.

Seventy Weeks

Daniel 9:24 Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.

“Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people.”  A prophetic period of 70 week were measured off or set aside for the Jews.  The word here translated “determined” has the meaning of being measured off from a larger whole.  And the obvious larger whole from which the 70 weeks are being measured off is the 2300 days of Daniel 8 - the very part of the prophecy that Gabriel had left unexplained.

During these 70 weeks, or by its conclusion, a number of things were to be accomplished - all of which center around the ministry and sacrificial death of Jesus. Very briefly:

(1) The transgression was to be finished, or as it may also be translated, filled to the full.  This the Jews did when they rejected and crucified Jesus.  This statement recalls God’s remark concerning the Amorites in the days of Abraham.  To Abram God had said:

Genesis 15:13 Then He said to Abram: "Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. 14 "And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions. 15 "Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age. 16 "But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete."

And interestingly the time represented by the 70 weeks is relatively close to the 400 years God had given to the Amorites.  The 70 years of Babylonian captivity was nearing its end and God was about to give them a second chance.  They would be allowed to return to Israel and rebuild their nation.  But it was a time limited offer.  If they were to follow in the footsteps of the Amorites who had been expelled from the land because of their sins, then they too would ultimately suffer the same fate.  As the Bible says: “God is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34).

(2) An end of sins (or sin offerings as it may also be translated) was to be made.  This was brought about by the crucifixion. Jesus was the true sacrifice of which all the animal sacrifices of the sanctuary service was but type and shadow.  The death of Jesus on the cross effectively ended the need for animal sacrifices - as signified by the tearing of the veil in the temple.

(3) Reconciliation for iniquity was to be provided.  This Jesus did by his sacrificial death.  In dying for us, he reconciled the world to God.

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

(4) Everlasting righteousness was to be brought in.  This is the Righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He is our righteousness, and His Righteousness is everlasting.

1 Corinthians 1:30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:

Psalm 119:142 Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and thy law is the truth.

(5) The vision and the prophecy were to be sealed, or made sure.  This prophecy is essentially the seal or sign of authenticity that Jesus is the Christ.  In this prophecy God gives exact dates for key events in Christ’s life centuries in advance.  This is a prophecy that literally makes or breaks Christianity.

(6) Anoint the most Holy.  The word here translated “most Holy” is a word that is only used in reference to persons.  And in this context it can only refer to Jesus.  Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ.  And these two words, Messiah and Christ, one Hebrew, the other Greek, simply mean “The Anointed One.”  We will be taking a closer look at this anointing a little later in this study.

Rebuilding Jerusalem

Daniel 9:25 Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.

Here we are given a definite starting date for the 70 weeks, “the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem.” The Jews were at this time still in captivity, and Jerusalem and its temple lay in ruins. So just when did this command to restore and build Jerusalem go forth? We have four possible dates to choose from, but of the four, only one really meets the specifications of the prophecy as being a decree to restore and build Jerusalem.

The first is the 536 BC decree of Cyrus for the rebuilding of the temple. This decree referred only to the temple itself and did not give the Jews general permission to restore the city or for the restoration of the Jewish state. The rebuilding of the temple was stopped for a time by enemies of the Jews. The second was in 519 BC when Darius sent out another decree to allow the work of rebuilding the temple to continue.

In 444 BC Nehemiah sought and obtained permission to go to Jerusalem. When he arrived at Jerusalem, he found the work of rebuilding Jerusalem, specifically the work of rebuilding the walls, far enough along that he was able to finish them in only 52 days. This work of finishing the walls of Jerusalem is briefly mentioned in the last sentence of Daniel 9:25 where it says, “the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.” A reading of Nehemiah will give a good idea of what was meant by “troublous times.”

This leaves one last date to consider. One that comes after the first two decrees given for the rebuilding of the temple but before Nehemiah’s wall building trip to Jerusalem. This is the 457 BC decree given by Artaxerxes to Ezra. By the providence of God you have in your Bible, in the 7th chapter of Ezra, a complete copy of this decree. That is how important it was.

In 457 BC a decree was granted to Ezra by the Persian emperor Artaxerxes to go up to Jerusalem with as many people as were minded to go with him. The commission granted him an unlimited amount of money from the treasuries of the empire to beautify the house of God, to procure offerings for its service, and to do whatever else might seem good to him. It empowered him to ordain laws, set magistrates and judges, and execute punishment even unto death -- in other words, to restore the Jewish state, civil and ecclesiastical. It was 13 years after this that Nehemiah obtained his permission to go to Jerusalem, and once there was able to finish the wall in 52 days.

This gives us a starting date of 457 BC for the 70 weeks of Daniel 9. And if we really wanted to get picky, we would find that the decree was delivered to the people of Jerusalem, and finally put into effect in the autumn of that year.

From this date, we are told, there would be a period of “seven weeks and threescore and two weeks” (483 days) “unto the Messiah the Prince.” Obviously, we are not talking actual days here. In the Bible, as we have already seen earlier in this study, we find the general principal that one prophetic day equals one literal year. These 70 weeks of Daniel 9 are of this prophetic nature, and both Jewish and Christian commentators have understood the weeks of Daniel 9 as being weeks of years. The day-year principle of interpretation is most ancient.

And so a simple calculation (keeping in mind that there is no zero year, you go straight from 1 BC to 1 AD, no zero.) should show us the date of the Messiah’s appearance. And that date is 27 AD. So, according to this prophecy - the Messiah should have made his appearance in 27 AD. And that is just exactly what we find to be the case.

And you may be asking yourself, "27 AD? Why 27 AD? What's so important about 27 AD?" Well you will just have to keep reading to find out.

The Anointing

Now you may be asking, why 27 AD?  What was so important about that date, and why if the prophecy points to the appearance of the Messiah does it not point to the date of His birth?  The answer is simple.  The prophecy said, “unto the Messiah the Prince.”  Messiah is a Hebrew word meaning “the anointed one.”  Thus the prophecy must point to the time of Jesus’ anointing, at which time He would have become the “Messiah.”  Consider the following text:

Luke 3:1 Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene,  2 Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.

Now would you like to hazard a guess as to what date the “fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar” falls upon?  If you guessed 27 AD go to the head of the class - you are right. And it is no coincidence that this date exactly coincides with the termination of the “7 weeks and three score and two weeks” of Daniel 9. 

It was God who inspired Luke to so carefully date this particular chapter, and as far as I know it is the only chapter in the whole of the New Testament that is so carefully dated.  And why did God see to it that this particular chapter was so carefully dated?  Because of the prophecy in Daniel 9. 

And so when we count off the prophetic period of “seven weeks and threescore and two weeks” beginning with the date of “the decree to restore and build Jerusalem” -- (which decree was providentially preserved in the Bible for our reference) -- we come to the year 27 AD, the very year given by Luke for the events of chapter 3 of his book.

And just exactly what happens in Luke chapter 3?

Luke 3:21 When all the people were baptized, it came to pass that Jesus also was baptized; and while He prayed, the heaven was opened. 22 And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, "You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased."

Note back in Daniel 9:24 that one of the things that would be accomplished before the 70 weeks were over was the anointing of the most Holy.  The particular word used for “most Holy” here in Daniel, as we have already noted, is a word that always refers to a person, and in this case refers to the anointing of Jesus as the Messiah.  The very meaning of the Hebrew “Messiah” and also of the Greek “Christ” is “the anointed one.”  And Jesus is that anointed One.

But just exactly how was Jesus anointed?

Remember how at Jesus’ baptism “the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him.”  This was his anointing.  How do I come to that conclusion? Read Acts 10:37-38.

Acts 10:37 "that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: 38 "how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.

When, after His baptism, Jesus came up out of the water and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in the form of a dove, and the voice of the Father said, “You are my beloved son,” that was the anointing.  And it was that anointing that made Jesus the Messiah.

In Isaiah 61 we read of Jesus:

Isaiah 61:1  "The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;

And after His baptism, after His anointing by the Holy Spirit, Jesus takes up these very words written by Isaiah and declares them fulfilled.

Luke 4:18 "The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to  the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed;19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. 20 And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.

And thus Jesus is “The Anointed One,” the Messiah, the Christ.  Now take a look at this next text.

Mark 1:14 Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15 and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel."

“The time is fulfilled.”  What time is fulfilled?  None other than the “seven weeks and threescore and two weeks” leading up to “the Messiah the Prince” of Daniel 9. Here Jesus was announcing that He was the promised Messiah, and that the 7 weeks and threescore and two weeks of Daniel 9 had reached their conclusion.

After the 69 Weeks

Going now to Daniel 9:26 we read:

Daniel 9:26 "And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; And the people of the prince who is to come Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, And till the end of the war desolations are determined.

Note what this text says. It says that sometime after the threescore and two weeks, that is, sometime after the autumn of 27 AD, the Messiah was to be cut off. The word translated “cut off” here is a word used to describe a violent death, usually by execution.  And so we can take this text to say that sometime after AD 27 the Messiah would be executed.  The very next phrase is very interesting.  The Messiah was to be executed, but it adds, “but not for himself.”  Jesus did not die for Himself.  He died for us.  He died that we may have life.  The point is, He did not die for Himself, but for others.  His was an unselfish sacrifice on our behalf.

Isaiah 53:7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. 8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.

In the last half of verse 26, another prince is introduced, a destroyer prince. While this may not be overtly obvious in the English, it is in the Hebrew. The entirety of the 70 weeks prophecy is presented in a Hebrew literary form known as a chiasm.  When you diagram the chiasm this particular portion looks like this.

Messiah Prince cut off/executed (verse 26)
          Destroyer Prince destroys the Sanctuary (and city) (verse 26)
          Messiah Prince terminates the sacrifices (verse 27)
Destroyer Prince cut-off/executed (verse 27)

The word “prince” is often used in the Bible in symbolic portrayal of a prominent and powerful leader. 

This destroyer prince comes sometime after AD 27 to destroy the city and the sanctuary.  Regarding the destruction of Jerusalem and of the Temple the last part of Daniel 9:26 reads: “The end of it shall be with a flood, And till the end of the war desolations are determined.”

In prophetic symbolism waters represent “peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.” (Revelation 17:15).  And consequently invading armies are often represented in symbol by floods. 

And this is just exactly what Rome did.  In the year 70 AD the Roman armies overflowed Judea like a flood.  They besieged Jerusalem, and before it was all over they had burned the temple and the city to the ground - and so thoroughly was the temple destroyed, that history records that they plowed the ground on which it once stood. 

Hosea 10:13 Ye have plowed wickedness, ye have reaped iniquity; ye have eaten the fruit of lies: because thou didst trust in thy way, in the multitude of thy mighty men. 14 Therefore shall a tumult arise among thy people, and all thy fortresses shall be spoiled.

Micah 3:10 They build up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity.  11 The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money: yet will they lean upon the LORD, and say, Is not the LORD among us? none evil can come upon us.  12 Therefore shall Zion for your sake be plowed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of the forest.

As Jesus said to His disciples: “See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” (Matthew 24:2)

The prophecy said “and till the end of the war desolations are determined.”  And indeed so it was.  The Roman’s war against the Jews was an especially brutal one.

The 70th Week

Daniel 9:27 And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, [and on the winds of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate. NASB.]

Who is the “he” in the first part of this verse?  Is it the Messiah Prince or the destroyer prince?  The chiastic structure of this prophecy tells us that the “he” in the first half of this verse must refer to the Messiah Prince.

Messiah Prince cut off/executed (verse 26)
          Destroyer Prince destroys the Sanctuary (and city) (verse 26)
          Messiah Prince terminates the sacrifices (verse 27)
Destroyer Prince cut-off/executed (verse 27)

Verse 27 brings us into the last, 70th week of the 70 weeks determined upon the Jews.  Here we find that “he,” the Messiah Prince, will confirm the covenant with many for one week -- BUT, also that in the middle of that 70th week he will cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease.

The 7 weeks and 62 weeks took us up to the autumn of AD 27.  If you add half a week, 3 ½ years to that -- it takes you to the spring of AD 31. Now tell me, what event do Christians everywhere celebrate in the spring of each year?  What happened in the spring of AD 31?  Jesus was crucified, and with the death of Jesus all sacrifices effectively came to an end -- that is -- There was no longer any reason for them, they no longer had any meaning because Jesus was the One true Sacrifice - the reality of which all the others were mere shadows. 

He was to cause the sacrifices and oblations to cease.  These Jewish ordinances, pointing to the death of Jesus, could cease only at the cross.  And they virtually did come to an end when the veil of the temple was torn in half from top to bottom when Christ died.

Matthew 27: 51 And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;

From that moment onward, forever, any other sacrifice would be but a mockery of Christ’s death.  The sacrifices had served their purposes, but now Christ had come and He Himself has become our sacrifice. From this time onward forever, the rites and ceremonies of the sacrificial system would, and could never be anything but an empty shell, a hollow form.

This is the spring of AD 31.  Three and a half years still remained of the 70 week period.  Adding another three and a half years to the spring of AD 31 brings us to the autumn of 34 AD.

Now remember, the 70 weeks were determined upon the Jewish people.  While Jesus yet lived, whenever He sent his disciples on missionary journeys, He sent only to the house of Israel, not to the Gentiles.

Matthew 10:5 These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not:

After the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus it was to the house of Israel that the apostles preached.  But all this was soon to change. As 34 AD approached amazing things began to happen. A man named Saul, a bitter and vicious persecutor of the Church had an encounter with God and became the apostle Paul.  As he was later to tell the story:

Acts 22:21 And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.

Peter was on a house top in Joppa when a Centurion, a Roman soldier, was directed by an angel to send for him -- that the gospel might be preached to them.  Peter was hesitant, for such a thing had never been done before - he, a Jew, preaching to a Gentile congregation in a Gentile house.  But God had sent Peter a vision beforehand to prepare him for this.

Acts 11:1 And the apostles and brethren that were in Judaea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. 2 And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him, 3 Saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them. 4 But Peter rehearsed the matter from the beginning, and expounded it by order unto them. … 18 When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life. 19 Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only.

Exactly on schedule, just as it was told to Daniel so many centuries before, the 70 weeks expired and the Gospel went out with great power to the Gentiles.  But sadly for the Jews, as their 70 weeks expired, they still remained unrepentant, and never recognized their Savior.

So powerful and so compelling is this prophecy of Daniel 9 -- So exactly does it point to Jesus as the Messiah that long ago Jewish religious leaders forbid any Jew from ever making any attempt to calculate the date of this prophecy.  Here in this prophecy is absolute proof positive that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Daniel 9, Part 1, Unfinished Business, An Angel and A Prayer

Daniel 9, Part 1, Unfinished Business, An Angel and A Prayer

An Unfinished Assignment

Daniel 9:1 In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, which was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans; 2 In the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.

When we left off on chapter 8 we found the angel Gabriel unable to continue his commission to make Daniel understand the prophecy. Although God had commanded Gabriel to make Daniel understand the vision, the chapter concludes with Daniel saying “I was astonished at the vision, but none understood it.” Looking back we find that there was one key portion of the prophecy that Gabriel was unable to explain to Daniel at the time, that being the prophetic period of 2300 days.

And now as chapter 9 opens we find Daniel studying another time prophecy, specifically Jeremiah’s prophetic declaration that the Jews would at the end of seventy years of Babylonian captivity return to their home land. We can only speculate that Daniel may also have been searching the scriptures for some insight into the 2300 days of the vision he had in chapter 8. This is a strong possibility, since immediately following Daniel’s prayer here in chapter 9 none other than Gabriel himself (who had not yet completed his commission to make Daniel understand the vision) appears to Daniel declaring that he had come to give Daniel understanding, and having said that immediately launches into a discourse on prophetic time.

Daniel 9:3 And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes. … 21 Yea, whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation. 22 And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, "O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you skill to understand.

However, before we get ahead of ourselves and jump to what Gabriel had to say, we first need to pause for a moment to take a look at Daniel’s prayer.

The Prayer

Daniel 9:3 And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes:

“Fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes.” This was no casual prayer on the part of Daniel. He was in earnest. There was nothing frivolous about this prayer.

Daniel 9:4 And I prayed unto the LORD my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments; 5 We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments: 6 Neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets, which spake in thy name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.

Daniel begins his prayer by first acknowledging the faithfulness of God. It was not from any lack on God’s part in defending and upholding them that the Jews were then in captivity, but only on account of their sins.

One point that really stands out in this prayer is that Daniel freely identified himself with the really sinful of his nation. He does not pray, “they have sinned” but says instead “we have sinned.” Daniel does not self-righteously standoff at a distance and point an accusing finger at others. He acknowledges as the apostle Paul did that “there is none righteous, no, not one” and that in and of himself there is nothing good. (Romans 3:10, 7:18).

These days we are all about blaming others for the troubles of a nation. Whatever the problem, it's always somebody else's fault. Yet God says to each of us, “You have no excuse, O man, whoever you are, when you judge another, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things.” (Romans 2:1).

“No self-righteousness appears in his prayer. Although he had suffered long for other’s sins, enduring seventy years of captivity for the wrongs of his people, he lived a godly life, and received signal honors and blessings from the Lord. He brings no accusations against anyone, pleads no sympathy for himself as a victim of other’s wrongs, but classes himself with the rest, saying, ‘We have sinned, and unto us belongs confusion of face.’ ” Daniel and the Revelation by Uriah Smith.

Daniel 9:7 O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto thee, but unto us confusion of faces, as at this day; to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and unto all Israel, that are near, and that are far off, through all the countries whither thou hast driven them, because of their trespass that they have trespassed against thee. 8 O Lord, to us belongeth confusion of face, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against thee. 9 To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him; 10 Neither have we obeyed the voice of the LORD our God, to walk in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. 11 Yea, all Israel have transgressed thy law, even by departing, that they might not obey thy voice; therefore the curse is poured upon us, and the oath that is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, because we have sinned against him. 12 And he hath confirmed his words, which he spake against us, and against our judges that judged us, by bringing upon us a great evil: for under the whole heaven hath not been done as hath been done upon Jerusalem. 13 As it is written in the law of Moses, all this evil is come upon us: yet made we not our prayer before the LORD our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and understand thy truth. 14 Therefore hath the LORD watched upon the evil, and brought it upon us: for the LORD our God is righteous in all his works which he doeth: for we obeyed not his voice.

Daniel fully vindicates the course of the Lord. He freely acknowledges that it is the sin of the people that has kept his people in captivity the past 70 years.

This prayer is recorded, not for Israel’s sake only, but also for the Christian church today. Everywhere you look today abominations for which God in times past destroyed whole peoples are being taught as virtues in the churches of God. That which Scripture declares evil is being proclaimed from the pulpit as right and good. And consequently, just as it happened to Israel of old, so it is happening to the church of today -- the church is feeling the effect of God’s curse as everywhere it is in retreat. Just as Israel of old was overrun by the Babylonians so the church today is being overrun by a plethora of isms. Atheism, paganism, spiritualism, etc, etc.

Where today are those who are willing to, figuratively speaking, come before God in sackcloth and ashes and confess the sins of the nation, the sins of the church, not excusing even themselves? To us, as to Israel of old, belongs confusion of face.

Galatians 6:7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.

Isaiah 5:20 Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

It is written in Scripture that “the curse causeless does not come.” (Proverbs 26:2).  In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus gave a warning that is far more prophetic than people realize. “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.” (Matthew 5:13).  Why is Christianity in retreat all over the world?  Could it be that it has lost its flavor, and is thus in the words of Jesus “good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men”? Could it be that Christianity in its quest to be ever more relevant to the world has ceased to be of any relevance to the Gospel?

“Good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.”  Is this not the church of the Laodicea of whom God says “I will spew thee out of my mouth?” (Revelation 3:16). Perhaps we need to earnestly, and from the heart, pray as Daniel did.

Daniel 9:15 And now, O Lord our God, that hast brought thy people forth out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and hast gotten thee renown, as at this day; we have sinned, we have done wickedly. 16 O Lord, according to all thy righteousness, I beseech thee, let thine anger and thy fury be turned away from thy city Jerusalem, thy holy mountain: because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and thy people are become a reproach to all that are about us. 17 Now therefore, O our God, hear the prayer of thy servant, and his supplications, and cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord's sake. 18 O my God, incline thine ear, and hear; open thine eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by thy name: for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses, but for thy great mercies. 19 O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God: for thy city and thy people are called by thy name.

Revelation 3:19 "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.

Proverbs 3:11 My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor detest His correction; 12 For whom the LORD loves He corrects, Just as a father the son in whom he delights.

Hebrews 12:7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?

Hebrews 12:11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

Having made a full confession, acknowledging the goodness and rightness of God, Daniel now pleads the mercy of God on behalf of his people.

Daniel prays.
God hears and send an angel.

In the next posting we will take a look at what the angel had to say to Daniel.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Daniel 8, Part 2, A Horn, a Prince and 2300 Days

Daniel 8, Part 2, A Horn, a Prince and 2300 Days

The Little Horn

Daniel 8:9 And out of one of them came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land. 10 And it waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground, and stamped upon them. 11 Yea, he magnified himself even to the prince of the host, and by him the daily sacrifice was taken away, and the place of his sanctuary was cast down.

In verses 23 thru 25 an angel interprets these verses for Daniel.

Daniel 8:23 And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up. 24 And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power: and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practise, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people. 25 And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand.

Sounds familiar? It should. You have already seen it before. This is Rome in both its pagan and papal phases. 

Antiochus Epiphanes?

But before I get any further into that, there is another interpretation of this little horn power that you need to know about. 

Among Christians there is a very popular and very wrong interpretation of this prophecy. (You may have come across it before) It identifies this little horn in Daniel 8 not as Rome (pagan or papal) but as Antiochus Epiphanes.

Who was Antiochus Epiphanes?  From the time that Seleucus made himself king over the Syrian portion of Alexander’s empire, (thus creating one of the four horns) until that kingdom was conquered by the Romans, 26 kings ruled in succession over that territory. Antiochus Epiphanes was king # 8 of these 26.

Is there any Biblical evidence to back up the claim that the little horn represents Antiochus Epiphanes? Not really. It is more wishful thinking than anything else.

Note these important points - The ram representing Medo-Persia was to become “great.”  The goat representing Greece was to become “very great.”  But this new power symbolized by the little horn was to become “exceeding great.”  (There is a progression of ever increasing power). Surely neither Antiochus Epiphanes nor any of his line was greater than Cyrus or Alexander.  Actually Antiochus was anything but great. He was forced to pay tribute to Rome constantly.  Ask yourself this -- Who is the greater?  The one who pays tribute, or the one to whom the tribute is paid?  Anitochus Epiphanes was nothing more than a third rate king who spent most of his life being someone else’s puppet.

It would be hard to find in history a ruler that was more eccentric. Today we might call him paranoid.  Even his own people sometimes referred to him as the madman, as in crazy.

He did not enlarge his territory, even though the prophecy says that the power symbolized by this little horn would wax exceeding great toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land.

Anitochus Epiphanes was simply king #8 of 26 kings that ruled over the Syrian horn of the goat. Thus, Antiochus, then, was simply one of these 26 kings, and was therefore a part of the Syrian horn of the goat. Hence he could not at the same time be another separate, independent, and even greater fifth kingdom as was the little horn.

His one claim to fame is nothing more than a temper tantrum that he threw at the expense of the Jews because he could not have his own way with Egypt.

Anitochus Epiphanes did not prosper as the prophecy says or grow exceeding great.  Nor was he ever a power apart from the Syrian horn of the goat. Nor did he appear at the “later time of their kingdom,” but ruled approximately in its middle.

Consider who was the greater, Antiochus or Rome? After a short lived triumph in Egypt, he was totally defeated when an aged Roman ambassador merely informed him that the Roman Senate wanted him to leave. The old Roman drew a circle around Antiochus with his cane and demanded a decision before he stepped out of it.  And Antiochus totally caved in to the Roman demands.  The little horn was “a king of fierce countenance, and destroyed wonderfully,” but Antiochus was frightened out of Egypt by a mere message from the Romans, and afterwards was also routed and baffled by the Jews.

So now -- Who was the greater? Antiochus who cowered before the Romans, or the Romans whose mere words were enough to send Antiochus running?

The little horn was to cast the sanctuary to the ground.  But Antiochus Epiphanes left it standing.  It was the Romans who leveled the sanctuary to the ground.

Antiochus Epiphanes died in Syria under obscure and sorry circumstances. Even in Palestine where at first he seemed successful, all his ambitions came to nothing within his own lifetime.

No matter how you look at it, Antiochus Epiphanes just does not fit the prophecy.  So then - why do so many commentators insist that he is the one the little horn refers to? There are at least three reasons that come to mind.

FIRST of all, the Roman Church has pushed this Antiochus Epiphanes interpretation to prevent it from being applied to Rome and consequently to them.  This little horn of Daniel 8 is closely related to the little horn of Daniel 7.

SECOND - The popular mainstream Protestant churches, having accepted this interpretation of the prophecy, has over the years built up an elaborate prophetic end time scenario that is largely founded on this false interpretation.  But this carefully crafted scenario is really a house of cards. If you remove this Antiochus card, the whole thing comes crashing down. I mean, if you do not accept Antiochus Epiphanes as the little horn of Daniel 8, the whole of the modern mainstream Protestant prophetic system is totally trashed. And a lot of egos have gone into building that house of cards.

THIRD - To accept that this little horn really represents Rome in both its pagan and papal phases, and then follow through on the consequences of that interpretation with the remainder of the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation, - it paints a very unflattering picture of the Christian (both Protestant and Catholic) church in these last days. Unflattering because God does not give prophecy in order to pat people on the back and to lull them into a sense of false security.  God presents prophecy to warn His people of their dangers. But by many the straight testimony of prophecy is not welcome, and they find it much more pleasant to make the word of prophecy refer to someone else instead.

People want their preacher to preach smooth things to them - people want to hear that they are ok, that there is nothing that they need to be concerned about. But to interpret this prophecy right and follow through on the consequences (for both Protestants and Catholics) of that interpretation is to preach anything but a smooth comforting message to this last day church. The truths of God’s word are sharp and cutting, and very uncomfortable, and this is a generation that by large will not tolerate such cutting truths - but who, by far, prefer the smooth lie that soothes their consciences.

2 Timothy 4:3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

Isaiah 30:10 Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits:

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Now we have seen that the little horn of Daniel 8 cannot be Antiochus Epiphanies -- But, the question remains -- Does the prophetic description fit Rome any better?

Well let’s find out.

Is it Rome?

In the previous section we saw that the little horn of Daniel 8 cannot be Antiochus Epiphanies -- But, the question remains -- Does the prophetic description fit Rome any better?

The little horn is the power that succeeds the Greeks. In the previous visions that power was Rome in both its united and divided phases. On the principle that each succeeding vision in Daniel parallels and amplifies earlier ones, we notice that in many ways the little horn of Daniel 8 parallels and increase our knowledge about the 4th beast in Daniel 7 and also the little horn that grew out of it. A crucial point to remember is that in Daniel not a lot of distinction is made between the pagan and papal phases of Rome. Both are viewed as one power. This is clearly seen in Daniel 7, for instance, where the little horn that arises out of the fourth beast is still very much a part of the fourth beast. The horn is never severed from the 4th beast. The little horn here in Daniel 8 arises after Greece and continues to exist until the end-time - when it is cut off without hand. That “without hand” phrase takes us back to the stone in Daniel 2 which was not cut “off” but rather cut “out” without hand and destroyed all earthly kingdoms. In other words Rome will not be destroyed by human hand - but by the second coming of Christ -- who is the Rock.

Daniel 8:8 Therefore the he goat waxed very great: and when he was strong, the great horn was broken; and for it came up four notable ones toward the four winds of heaven. 9 And out of one of them came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land.

The little horn is said to come “out of one of them.” “One of them” being one of the “four winds” (Daniel 8:9).  Now for a quick grammar lesson.  Readers of the English versions sometimes assume that when the Bible says that the little horn arose out of “one of them,” it means that it arose out of one of the four horns on the goat. Nouns in Hebrew have grammatical gender. They are considered to be either masculine, feminine, or neuter. Many other languages also employ grammatical gender, and it is a rule in all of them that the gender of the pronouns must agree with the gender of their antecedent noun

In Daniel 8:8-9, the pronoun “them” is masculine. “Horns” on the other hand is feminine. This means that the antecedent noun for “them” cannot be “horns” -- And that leaves us with “winds” which are masculine and thus matches the gender of the pronoun “them.”

And so, this text is saying that the little horn arises out of one of the four winds, that is, it arose out of one of the four directions of the compass somewhere beyond the reach of any of the four horns.

It is of interest to note that Rome, small at first, arose from a point westward of the four Hellenistic Greek kingdoms, and was never part of those kingdoms

The Roman Empire, unlike Antiochus Epiphanes, grew exceedingly great toward the south” (Egypt). --Egypt was made a province of Rome in 30 BC, and continued as such for some centuries.

And “toward the east.” -- Rome conquered Macedonia in 168 BC and Syria in 65 BC.

And “toward the pleasant land” (Palestine.) -- The Romans made it a providence of their empire in 63 BC, and eventually destroyed Jerusalem and the temple.

The Prince

Daniel 8:11 Yea, he magnified himself even to the prince of the host, and by him the daily sacrifice was taken away, and the place of his sanctuary was cast down.

“Host” is a word often used to describe the multitude of God’s people. “The Prince of the host” then would be the Prince of God’s people. In verse 25 we read, “he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes.”

“The Prince of princes.” That is just another way of saying King of kings, and Lord of lords. This is none other than Christ. Now of all the empires brought into view in these visions (Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome) which one of them ruled in Christ‘s day? Who stood up against “the Prince of princes”? The answer is quite simply Rome. It was Rome that ruled when Jesus lived. Jesus was tried by a Roman tribunal. He was scourged by Roman soldiers. And it was on a Roman cross that Jesus died. The vision here, however, is not just speaking of pagan Rome but also (and indeed, primarily) of papal Rome as indicated by the symbol used (a little horn). -- and as we have already fully covered that aspect of this prophecy in Daniel 7, I will not be spending much time on it here in Daniel 8.

In the west the Roman Church took over the defense of Rome civilization. The Roman emperor had given up his title “Pontifex Maximus” and had given it to the pope. That is why the pope is sometimes referred to as the Pontiff. When the Huns led by Attila swept into Italy and threatened to take and destroy the city of Rome -- it was the leader of the Roman Church, Pope Leo, not the emperor, who met the barbarian. It was the Pope and not the emperor who stood at the gates of Rome. The Popes in essence became the “new emperors” of Rome. The Pope holds the very titles and offices once held by the emperors of Rome. They sits on the throne of the Roman empire in the ancient seat of the Roman empire. 

2300 Days

Daniel 8:11 Yea, he magnified himself even to the prince of the host, and by him the daily sacrifice was taken away, and the place of his sanctuary was cast down. 12 And an host was given him against the daily sacrifice by reason of transgression, and it cast down the truth to the ground; and it practised, and prospered. 13 Then I heard one saint speaking, and another saint said unto that certain saint which spake, How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot? 14 And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.

Daniel 8:14 is the end of the vision itself. Beginning with verse 15 we have the explanation of the vision as given by Gabriel. 

Daniel 8:15 And it came to pass, when I, even I Daniel, had seen the vision, and sought for the meaning, then, behold, there stood before me as the appearance of a man.16 And I heard a man's voice between the banks of Ulai, which called, and said, Gabriel, make this man to understand the vision.

And this Gabriel proceeds to do. Just one quick note here. Did you notice who this angel is? The angel entrusted to explain to Daniel this prophecy is the same angel who announced to Mary that she was to be the mother of the Christ.

As you read through the explanation in verses 15 thru 27 you see that Gabriel takes up each of the symbols in the vision tells their meaning - In verse 20 Gabriel explains the symbol of the ram. In verse 21 and 22 he tells about the goat and its broken horn. And beginning with verse 23 he explains the little horn to Daniel.

Nevertheless, by the end of this chapter, in the last verse, Daniel says that “he was astonished at the vision,” but that “none [implying even himself] understood it.” 

Daniel 8:27 And I Daniel fainted, and was sick certain days; afterward I rose up, and did the king's business; and I was astonished at the vision, but none understood it.

OK, just what didn’t Daniel understand? The ram, the goat with its horns, and the little horn were explained to him. Also, he had seen all this twice before -- once with Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, and the second time in the Daniel 7 vision.  The one thing that was really new to this vision and that was not explained by Gabriel was the 2300 days.

Why didn’t Gabriel go on to explain the 2300 days to Daniel at that time? Verse 27 tells us that Daniel “fainted and was sick certain days.” Apparently the vision was too much for him, and Gabriel could not continue his explanations. Yet Gabriel was commanded to make Daniel understand the vision. And so, as we come to the end of chapter 8, we find that Gabriel’s commission was still unfulfilled. 

In Daniel 9, Daniel is again studying prophecy -- and the first 19 verses of chapter 9 find him studying and praying. In verses 21 and 22 none other than Gabriel himself returns. And the very first words to come from Gabriel’s mouth are, “I am now come to give you insight and understanding.”

And that is where we will take up the study next time. The key to the 2300 day vision of Daniel 8 is to be found in Daniel 9.

Daniel 9:20 And whiles I was speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the LORD my God for the holy mountain of my God; 21 Yea, whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation. 22 And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding.

This is an announcement that Gabriel had come to complete the commission that he had been given in chapter 8 to “make this man to understand the vision.”

Daniel 9:23 At the beginning of thy supplications the commandment came forth, and I am come to shew thee; for thou art greatly beloved: therefore understand the matter, and consider the vision.

Consider what vision? There is no new vision given in chapter 9, only continued explanation. The vision to be considered is the vision of chapter 8 - the vision that Gabriel has not yet completely explained to Daniel.

As has been shown - all of the various elements of the vision of chapter 8 had been explained to Daniel except the time element of 2300 days. After telling Daniel to “understand the matter, and consider the vision,” Gabriel immediately launches into a discussion of time -- the very element that was left unexplained in chapter 8. Gabriel begins in chapter 9 exactly where he left off in chapter 8. And so before we can discuss the 2300 days and its meaning we must first examine what Gabriel has to say to Daniel in chapter 9, and so that is what we will do.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Daniel 8, Part 1, a Ram, a Goat and a Horn

Daniel 8, Part 1, a Ram, a Goat and a Horn


Daniel 8 is the start of a whole new prophetic sequence.  As you may recall, we have already seen two prophetic sequences in Daniel so far.  One in Daniel 2, and the other in Daniel 7 which we have just finished studying.  And like the previous two prophetic sequences, Daniel 8 also traces the history of the world through the same four empires, (namely Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome) that are presented in chapters 2 and 7.  And also as in Daniel 2 and 7, the greatest emphasis is once again given to the fourth empire.  However in Daniel 8 only the last three of these empires are presented in prophetic symbolism.  Babylon was already nearing its end, the Medo-Persians were already on the march, and now the prophetic focus shifts to those kingdoms yet to come.  And so Babylon, the first of the four empires, is given only incidental mention in the opening remarks as Daniel presents the reader with the time, place and circumstance of the vision.

And so now we begin our examination of Daniel’s third prophetic sequence.

Daniel 8:1 In the third year of the reign of king Belshazzar a vision appeared unto me, even unto me Daniel, after that which appeared unto me at the first. 2 And I saw in a vision; and it came to pass, when I saw, that I was at Shushan in the palace, which is in the province of Elam; and I saw in a vision, and I was by the river of Ulai.

Belshazzar was made co-regent with his father Nabonidus in the year 553 BC.  That would make Daniel somewhere around 80 years old at the time of this vision.  Daniel’s reference to “that which appeared unto me at the first,” probably refers to the prophecy of Daniel 7, which he had in the first year of Belshazzar’s reign.

The Ram

Daniel 8:3 Then I lifted up mine eyes, and saw, and, behold, there stood before the river a ram which had two horns: and the two horns were high; but one was higher than the other, and the higher came up last.  4 I saw the ram pushing westward, and northward, and southward; so that no beasts might stand before him, neither was there any that could deliver out of his hand; but he did according to his will, and became great.

In verse 20 an interpretation of this symbol is given in plain language.

Daniel 8:20 The ram which thou sawest having two horns are the kings of Media and Persia.

And so the only thing left for us to do is to consider how well the power in question answers to the symbol presented. 

Note- first of all that this prophetic sequence begins not with Babylon as the first two did, but with the second world power, Medo-Persia.  Why?  Because by this time Babylon’s days were numbered and in very short supply.  Babylon (represented in the person of Belshazzar) is mentioned only by way of introduction because by this time, the third year of the reign of Belshazzar, Babylon was for all intents and purposes history.

The two horns of the ram represented the two nationalities that composed the Medo-Persian Empire - the Medes and the Persians.  The prophecy specifies that the higher horn came up last.  This represented the Persians faction of the empire.  Persia was at first a secondary power in alliance with the Medes, but later came to be the leading division of the empire; so much so, that the empire came in time to be known simply as Persia.

The directions in which the ram pushed are also significant.  The Medo-Persians came from the east.  Their conquests were to their west, north, and south.  In their strength, no earthly power could stand before them as they marched toward the position of world power that God had given them.  No power that is except one.  And that one was the very power next prophesied to hold world dominion.

The Goat

Daniel 8:5 And as I was considering, behold, an he goat came from the west on the face of the whole earth, and touched not the ground: and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes. 6 And he came to the ram that had two horns, which I had seen standing before the river, and ran unto him in the fury of his power. 7 And I saw him come close unto the ram, and he was moved with choler against him, and smote the ram, and brake his two horns: and there was no power in the ram to stand before him, but he cast him down to the ground, and stamped upon him: and there was none that could deliver the ram out of his hand.

Again we are left in no doubt as to the identity of the power represented by the goat.  From our earlier studies we know that the world power that followed Medo-Persia was Greece.  And in verse 21 we are told as much.

Daniel 8:21 And the rough goat is the king of Grecia: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king.

So, just how fitting is the goat as a symbol of the Greek empire?

According to legend, Caranus going with a great multitude of Greeks to seek new habitations in Macedonia, was commanded by the oracle to take the goats for his guides to empire; and afterwards seeing a herd of goats running before a storm, he followed them to the site of his new city which he called Aegea, and he called the people Aegeadae, or the goat’s people This city became the burial place of the Macedonian kings.  It is also remarkable that Alexander’s son by Roxana was named Alexander Aegus, or the son of the goat; and some of Alexander’s successors are represented in their coins with goat’s horns.

The “goat came from the west on the face of the whole earth.” Greece lay to the west of Medo-Persia and was the one earthly kingdom that Medo-Persia could never conquer, and surprisingly so. Greece was fragmented into innumerable squabbling city states. By all standards of measure, Medo-Persia was by far the more powerful state, and it came against the fragmented and squabbling Greeks time and again with overwhelming military might - and lost. Thus proving once again that the fate of empires is not in the hands of their kings or their armies, but in the hand of God.

The goat “touched not the ground.” Such was the swiftness of its movements that it appeared to fly from point to point. If you recall from Daniel 7, the leopard that there represented the Greek empire was given four wings to show how swiftly it moved in conquest.

This goat “had a notable horn between his eyes” which is explained in verse 21 to be the first king of the empire. That was Alexander the Great.

Alexander defeated Persia’s immensely greater armies three times in three great military matches. Alexander’s goat easily trounced Persia’s ram, just as Daniel had foreseen 200 years earlier.

Alexander always seemed to know what to do - when to attack or delay, whether to follow up a victory by chasing the enemy or to hold back and consolidate his position.

Alexander’s opponent, Darius, (a great grand descendant of Cyrus the Great who conquered Babylon) commanded a Persian army that vastly outnumbered the Greeks. At Argela the Persians are said to have pitted 1,000,000 men against Alexander’s 41,000. But at Granicus and again at Issus, and yet again at Arbela, Darius lost his nerve and fled for his life, and his great overwhelming army fled with him.

In an unusually intriguing passage the Bible says, “The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.” (Proverbs 21:1).

Historical accounts indicate that a single hour of courage on the part of Darius in any one of his three great battles might well have saved his army and enabled it to annihilate Alexander’s forces. Had God seen fit, He could easily have supplied Darius the needed courage. He gave Daniel courage to face lions. He gave Daniel’s companions courage to face fire. But the Persian Empire had chosen to find its own way without faith in the God of Israel, and in Persia’s hour of crisis, God allowed human weakness to run its course.

Daniel 7:6 says that dominion was “given” to the Greeks. Evidently the same God who “gave” unrepentant Judah into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, and who “gave” decadent Babylon into the hands of Cyrus, now “gave” the degenerate Persian Empire into the hands of Alexander the Great.  And so it is God who oversees the affairs of nations.

A Broken Horn

Daniel 8:8 Therefore the he goat waxed very great: and when he was strong, the great horn was broken; and for it came up four notable ones toward the four winds of heaven.

The conqueror is greater than the conquered. The ram (Medo-Persia) became “great.” The goat (Greece) became “very great.” 

“When he was strong,” the prophecy says, “the great horn was broken.” Human foresight and speculation would have said something like “When he becomes weak,” or “When his kingdom is torn by rebellion, or weakened by luxury,” then the horn will be broken and the kingdom shattered. But Daniel saw it broken in the prime of its strength - at the height of its power - when no one would have foreseen its downfall.

Alexander the Great conquered the world in record time, but he died suddenly at the age of 32. His empire did not long survive him. Leaving no successors to his throne, his generals began squabbling among themselves and after 22 years of internal strife and civil war the empire was divided into four parts - Just exactly as the prophecy specified. Four distinct kingdoms, and only four kingdoms, formed out of the ruins of Alexander’s empire. The four horns that came up our to the broken horn came up “toward the four winds of heaven” - a phrase that denotes the four points of the compass.

Lysimachus took the north with Thrance and part of Asia Minor.

Cassander took the west including Macedonia.

Seleucus took the east with most of Syria and Mesopotamia.

And Ptolemy took the south including Egypt and Palestine.

In the course of time the weaker of these were absorbed into the stronger kingdoms, but these four are the only kingdoms to be created from the shattered remains of Alexander‘s empire.