Sunday, August 30, 2015

DANIEL'S FINAL VISION - PART 2



Today's lesson will look at God'w word to Daniel of what would transpire between the time of Cyrus the Great and Antiochus IV Epiphanies.

Daniel 11:2-20

In response to Daniel’s prayer, God sent an angel to give Daniel a message. This message was prophetic: God gave Daniel an overview of history from Daniel’s time (late 6th century B.C.) until God’s final victory. God ordains and knows the future. Isaiah 46:9-11 says “I am God, and there is one like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying ‘My counsel shall stand and I will accomplish all my purpose…I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass. I have purposed and I will do it.

From verse 2 through verse 20, god reveals what will happen in middle eastern history from Daniel’s time up to the time of the reign of Antiochus IV Ephipanes. First, he tells Daniel that three kings will arise, then a 4th who will be far richer.

The first three kings were Cambyses, Guamata and Darious 1. Cambyses reigned from 529 B.C. until 523 B.C. Gauamata reigned only from 523 to 522 and was murdered. Then, Darius I reigned from 522 through 486.

The 4th king was Xerxes I. He reigned from 486 to 465. He is believed to be the husband of Esther. He was a great king and brought Persia to the pinnacle of its power. But he also invaded Greece and was defeated at Salamis. He “shall sit up all against the kingdom of Greece”. (2)This started a conflict that eventually led to the downfall of Persia. This fact is the transition to the next king mentioned, the king of Greece. (11:2-3)

Verse 3 says “a might king shall rise”. This refers to Alexander the Great. He quickly conquered the whole Mediterranean basin, including Egypt. He is the leopard of Daniel 7:6. Josephus wrote that Alexander came to Jerusalem, but the high priest showed him the book of Daniel, so he granted the Jews religious freedom. But Alexander died young. He was only 33. He had no children except a son born posthumously. He and Alexander’s half brother were murdered. This is what verse 4 means by his kingdom shall be broken and divided, but not to his posterity. It was divided among his generals.

His kingdom was divided into 4 parts (4 winds of heaven):
Macedonia to Cassander.
Thrace & Asia Minor to Lysimachus,
Egypt to Ptolemy and
Syria\Babylonia to Seleucus.

Of course, the Jews were mostly concerned with Egypt and Syria, both close to home. The prophecy, therefore, focuses on them. They care called the king of the South and the king of the North.

The kings of the South are the Ptolemies of Egypt. The kings of the north are the Seleucids in Syria. Verse 5 says the king of the south shall be strong, but one of his princes even stronger, and he will have great authority. This was fulfilled in Ptolemy 1 of Egypt. He took control over Israel and the region around it.

The Ptolemies and Seleucids fought for 130 years. Whoever prevailed ruled the region, including Israel. Verse 6 speaks of a marriage treaty that ultimately failed. This was fulfilled when Ptolemy II gave his daughter, Berenice, to Antiochus II as a wife in a marriage treaty around 250 B.C. . That produced peace until Ptolemy II died. When he died, Antiochus II put Berenice away and brought back his first wife, Laodice. However, she had him poisoned. Then he had Berenice, her baby son and her attendants murdered.

Berenice’s brother assumed the throne as Ptolemy III. He avenged her murder by invading Syria and defeating Selects II. He is the “branch from her roots” in verse 7-8.

The wars between these two kingdoms are detailed through verse 20. Verse 14 says that many of the Jews would take part in the battles, but would fail. The kings of the south, Egypt, prevail for a time This is described in verses 9-13. Ptolemy Iv defeated Antiochus II at Rapha and regained control over Israel.

Beginning, in verse 13, though, we see the king of the north prevail over the king of the south. He obtained control over Israel as well. Verse 16 says he shall stand in the glorious land, with destruction in his hand. This was fulfilled when Antiochus III invaded Egypt and defeated Ptolemy V. The Jews initially supported Antiochus because they wanted out from under the dominion of Egypt. But that turned out to be a mistake.

Antiochus III sought to completely dominate Egypt. He gave his daughter, Cleopatra, to Ptolemy V as a wife, hoping to eventually take control over Egypt. She is the daughter of verse 17. But, as the verse says, it was not successful, for Cleopatra was to faithful to her husband and did not gain influence. This is not the Cleopatra of movie fame, who was involved with the Romans.

When his venture in Egypt failed, Antiochus III turned to the coastlands as described in verses 18-19. He tried t conquer Greece. He even made an alliance with Hannibal of Carthage. But the Romans defeated him. He retreated to Syria. He looted a Babylonian temple to recover some of his losses, but enraged local citizens killed him.

Antiochus III was succeeded by his oldest son, Seleucus III. His reign is described in verse 20. He sought to extract tribute, but was broken in a few days, but not in battle. He was assassinated, likely by his brother, Antiochus IV, the “contemptible person” of verse 21.

This concludes the first phase of the prophecy of Daniel 11. It ran from the successors of Cyrus the Great up to the time of Antiochus IV. These two superpowers battled from 322 B.C. to 175 B.C. when Seleucus IV was killed. The conflict was never resolved. Power went from one to the other, but with no real conclusion. Many lives were lost. Much money was spent. They could not keep their treaties. It all accomplished nothing of eternal significance. Ecclesiastes 4:4 says “Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man’s envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.”

Even thought the Jews had little influence on these conflicts, they suffered from them. They were attacked and people were killed. Valuables were taken away. Tribute was imposed. They were subject to foreign powers. God’s people, then and now, will often suffer from the ambitions of kings and rulers. Some of those powers seem overwhelming to us. Some believers want to adopt the methods of these worldly rulers to preserve the church.

But the prophecy of this chapter will show us that worldly powers cannot destroy God’s work (or establish it). God may use earthly powers to accomplish his work and will, but it is hard for those on the ground at the time because they cannot see what God is about. The Jews, for example, thought support of Antiochus would make things better than they were under Egypt. They ended up much worse.

Believing in God’s sovereignty allows us to see the affairs of the world as under his control and accomplishing his purpose. We may suffer in the conflicts. But we know that God, our God, prevails.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Biblical history is the history of God's work in the world



History is philosophy teaching by examples. Thucydides.

We study Biblical history to learn from Israel's history how God works in the world. If we know how he works in the world, we may better understand how he works in our lives.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Focus On What Is Revealed


There are things God wants us to know. He as revealed them in this word. We are responsible to study his word to know those things, including the things he has revealed about himself. You cannot know God well without knowing his word well.

There are other things God has chosen not to reveal to us. People like to spend their time speculating about those things. That is not what God wants us to do.

The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of the law. Deuteronomy 29:29

One of those secret things is when Jesus will return. When times are difficult on earth, Christians begin to speculate about the date of his return. Many try to find a date from the Bible or from the newspaper. Jesus said "It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority."

Focus on the Lord and his word. There is enough to learn to keep you busy for eternity.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

DANIEL'S FINAL VISION - Part 1\Daniel 10




DANIEL 10

Daniel 10 begins a message and vision that continues through the end of the book(12:12) The first verse sets the stage for us.

10:1
Introduction

The first verse gives us several facts about this revelation given to Daniel. First, it gives us the date. It was during the 3rd year of the reign of Cyrus as King of Persia. History dates this as 537 B.C. A group of exiled Jews had returned to Israel and begun work on the Temple.

We are told that the vision was true and that Daniel understood the word and the vision. Lastly, we are told the word was about great conflict.

10:2-9
The Setting

Daniel had been mourning for 3 weeks. He did not eat fancy food, drink wine, or anoint himself during that time. We are not told why he was mourning, but the assumption is he was mourning because of the condition of Jerusalem. We know from the book of Ezra that construction of the temple was opposed by the locals and, at one point, stopped altogether for 15 years.

Interestingly, Daniel mourned and fasted during Passover. (Leviticus 23:4-8) Passover celebrated God’s deliverance of Israel from captivity in Egypt. Daniel mourns because Israel is still in a sort of captivity. They were released from Babylon, but still oppressed in their homeland. Even though Daniel lived in power and luxury in Persia, he identified with the suffering of God’s people in Israel. Those of us blessed to live prosperous lives in countries with freedom to worship God should even now identify with our brothers and sisters in lands where they are persecuted. And there are many such lands today. We should pray for them, encourage them and stand with them. Hebrews 13:3 tells us to suffer with those who are mistreated as if we ourselves were suffering.

Daniel was out walking on the banks of the Tigris River when he saw a very special man. This is similar to Ezekiel’s first vision, where Ezekiel was on the banks of the Chebar canal and saw a vision of God’s glory. (Ezekiel 1) Daniel, in fact, calls this a vision in verse 8.

This man has a dramatic appearance:
clothed in linen;
belt of fine gold from Uphaz around his waist;
body like beryl;
face like the appearance of lightning (6)
eyes like flaming torches;
arms & legs gleaming like burnished bronze; and
the sound of his voice like the sound of a multitude.

Daniel did not tell us who this being was or what he was. But the description is similar to the description of cherubim in Ezekiel 1. Clearly he reflects God’s glory, as seen by Daniel’s reaction to him.

Daniel was the only one to see the vision (7), as when Ezekiel had his visions and when Jesus appeared to Paul in Acts 9. The word and the vision were meant for Daniel alone. God’s messengers are able to appear to some and remain invisible to others. The men who were with Daniel were scared by the presence and fled.

As for Daniel, his strength left him and when the man spoke, in this voice like a multitude, Daniel was so over come he fainted face first onto the ground and into a deep sleep. The appearance of angels, reflecting the glory of God, is so powerful that human beings are scared, speechless and completely overwhelmed.

Daniel was overwhelmed because the heavenly being reflected God’s holiness and glory. The linen clothing is a symbol of holiness. It was used for the tabernacle and the clothing of Old Testament priests. (Exodus 36:8; Leviticus 16:4) To be in the presence of pure holiness is overwhelming to sinful people. And God’s glory is blazingly bright and overwhelming to mere humans. This is the one we serve. His presence is so powerful that even the reflection of it is unbearably strong to us.

10:10-12
Heavenly Comfort

Yet, this powerful and majestic heavenly being tenderly raised Daniel first to his hands and knees, then to fully stand. Even then, Daniel trembled in his presence. But the person told Daniel he was greatly loved, that his words had been heard from the first day he prayed, and this being was sent to answer that prayer. Our all powerful God is tender toward those whom he loves. And he answers our prayers.

10:13
Spiritual Warfare

Even though this angel was sent on the first day of Daniel’s mourning, he did not arrive for 21 days. This is the 3 weeks of mourning Daniel described in verse 2. What was the cause of the delay? The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood him. Who is the prince? He is a spiritual being since he fought this being from heaven. And he was powerful. From this we deduce this is a demon, an evil angel, to whom Satan had given authority to oppress and deceive the kingdom of Persia. There may have been more than one demon, as he also referred to the kings of Persia. (13) These demons did not want a messenger from God to pierce their realm of influence.

Another heavenly being, Michael, came to help and the messenger got through to Daniel. The messenger described Michael as one of the chief princes. That title, plus his power, shows him to be high the hierarchy of angelic beings. Jude 9 refers to Michael as an archangel who contended with the devil himself for the body of Moses. Revelation 12:7 shows Michael and his angels fighting Satan, referred to as the dragon, and defeating him. They threw him down from heaven to earth. In Daniel 10:21, Michael is referred to as “your prince”. This means he is assigned to protect God’s people. This is also stated in 12:1, that Michael has charge of “your people”.

Here we have a glimpse of spiritual warfare. These evil spiritual beings fought against God’s messenger. A powerful archangel of God defeated them. Paul described this conflict for us in Ephesians. He said “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12) That is why you cannot live the Christian life in your own power. You must be strong in the Lord. (Ephesians 6:1) The powers arrayed against you are more powerful than you are on your own. If this magnificent messenger from heaven, so glorious that Daniel fainted, could not resist this prince of Persia, what hope do you have in your flesh? But in the power of the Lord you are able to be victorious. Jesus is stronger than Satan. In Luke 11:21, Jesus alluded to Satan as a strong man, but himself as the “one stronger”.

10:14
The Subject of the Vision

The messenger told the subject plainly: to make Daniel understand whit is to happen to his people in the latter days, in days yet to come from Daniel’s perspective.

10:15-20
Daniel Weakens Again

These words from the heavenly messenger made Daniel weak again.Daniel’s eyes were opened to spiritual conflict and powerful forces. The Israelites struggled not just against human neighbors, but powerful evil beings who opposed the work of God’s people. Again the messenger strengthened him. He was determined to give the word and vision to Daniel as God instructed him to do.

The messenger also gave a glimpse of what was to come. He said he would return to the fight against the prince of Persia. Then a prince of the Greeks would come.

What does the evil prince of Persia do today? Does he support the Islamic State that is rampaging in the middle east, killing Christians and putting them in prison? Does he work to empower nations in the middle east who persecute Christians? Iran, the descendant of Persian, presently holds Christians in prison and tortures them. One is Pastor Saeed. He has been detained in Iran since 2012 because of meetings he held in Christian homes in Iran. There are others and we should pray for God to help them.

Satan and his forces are at work in the United States, using different methods. Here he seduces and encourages the pursuit of pleasure at the cost of holiness. He empowers those who demand that the people of God accommodate the people of the devil accepting their evil behavior and ideals as equal to God’s standards.

Paul told us what our job is in the face of Satan’s work. It is to stand. Recognize the reality of the devil and his power. But do not give him more credit than he deserves. We are to be strong in the Lord, equipped with the weapons he gave us: truth, righteousness, readiness to share the gospel, faith, salvation, the word of God, prayer and perseverance. (Ephesians 6:10-18)

We know that Jesus has already won the battle over Satan. And, through him, we are also conquerors. Romans 8:37-38 says “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through hm who loves us. for I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers nor things present nor things to come nor powers nor height more depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Glorify God In Daily Activity


So, dear friends, you see that you can glorify Jesus Christ in cleaning plate, or digging in a garden, or selling potatoes, or anything else that is right, so long as you do it unto him and to his praise; doing the best you can because you feel that a Christian man ought never to do anything badly. C. H. Spurgeon

Outward Man v. Inward Man


Many are troubled at small defects in the outward man: Few are troubled at the greatest deformities of their inner man; they call for no repairs, for no fresh colours to be laid on there; many buy artificiall beauty to supply the defects of naturall, who never had a thought of buying (without money) spirituall beauty to supply the defects of supernaturall. The crookednesse and distortions, the blacknesse and uncomelinesse of the soul are most deplorable, yet are they little deplored; we are called every day to mend and cure them, we are told where and how we may have all set right, and made fair again, and yet the most stirre not, or not to purpose. God will not know any body at the last day, unlesse his souls be mended by grace, and some do so mend their bodies by art, that God will not know their souls at that day. Depart from me, I know you not (will be all their entertainment) ye have mended your bodies till ye have mar’d your souls. Joseph Carl, commentary on Job, vol. 3, p. 445.

The language is out of style, but the thought is relevant.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

SEVENTY 7s - Daniel 9




9:24-27
The Seventy Weeks

There are two things to remember as we study this word about Israel’s future. First, the word is from God and is for Daniel’s insight and understanding. God gave this instruction and vision to Daniel so that he might understand the future of God’s people. Second, the context of this prophecy are the approaching end of the 70 year exile and Daniel’s prayer for God to restore Jerusalem and the Temple.

Daniel, in fact, was not looking for just physical restoration, of stone and wood buildings. He looked for spiritual restoration. He wanted Israel to repent and be restored to the covenant with the Lord. He wanted them to be God’s people again. And he likely looked forward to the coming of the Messiah with a new covenant, who was prophesied by Jeremiah just as he prophesied exile and return.

Gabriel told Daniel that 70 weeks (literally “sevens”) were decreed for his people and the holy city. (24) In other words, God decreed there would be 70 periods of 7 that concerned the nation of Israel, the temple and the city of Jerusalem. Most commentators assume that the sevens\weeks are periods of 7 years. Therefore, the period is 490 years.

So, the underlying message is that yes, the original period of 70 years decreed by Jeremiah will end and the Jews will return to Jerusalem. But the problem with their sinful and rebellious hearts is not solved. A longer period of time will be used to fix that problem.

Some people believe that means a literal period of exactly 490 years. Others believe the time period is symbolic. This is based on the idea that Leviticus 26:18-28 says God will punish Israel sevenfold for their sins. Therefore God multiplied the 70 years of exile by 7. Since the number 7 is the number is the number of God and 70 a number for completeness in God’s work, multiplying the 70 years of exile by 7 years might be a symbol of a long period of time in which God acts to make his people holy. In Matthew 18:22, for example, when Peter asked Jesus if he should forgive 7 times, Jesus said forgive 70 x 7 times, a long unlimited number of times representing the patience and forgiveness of God. Interestingly, no ones seem to take that number literally.

God’s time for making his people holy was longer than Daniel imagined, and is likely longer than we imagine also.

For those who see this as a literal 490 years, there are 3 different approaches. First are those who believe the whole prophecy concerns the persecution of the Jews by Antiochus Epiphanies. Second are those who see the prophecy focused on the first coming of Christ (the First Advent View). Third are those who believe the prophecy deals with both the first and second coming of Christ (Second Advent View). it is this one that requires the insertion of a long time period between the 69th and 70th weeks.

When does the 70 sevens\weeks start? It makes sense that the 70 weeks begins at, or near, the end of the 70 year exile, since that is the context of Daniel’s prayer. Gabriel said the first period of time in the 70 weeks began “from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem”. (25)

There are debates about which “word” or “command” that is. People point to the different decrees of different rulers.

The first thing to think about that word is that it is the word of the Lord. Gabriel told Daniel “as soon as you began to pray, an answer was given”. (9:23) That would appear to mean once Daniel began his prayer asking for God to restore Israel, God answered.

That word or command of God is then reflected in the decree of Cyrus to rebuild the temple. 2 Chronicles 36:21-22 (repeated in Ezra 1:1) tells us this specifically. It says the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus to make a proclamation to rebuild the temple that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled.

That Cyrus’s decree is the word to which Gabriel referred is further shown by Isaiah’s prophecies.
In Isaiah 44:28, the Lord said: (I am the LORD from verse 24) who says of Cyrus, He is my shepherd and he shall fulfill all my purpose, saying of Jerusalem, She shall be built, and of the temple, our foundation shall be laid.

Also, in Isaiah 45:13, the Lord said:

I have stirred him up in righteousness and I will make all his ways level; he shall build my city and set my exiles free, not for price or reward, says the Lord of hosts.

During this time period of 490 years, several things are to happen:
to finish the transgression;
to put an end to sin ;
atone for iniquity;
to bring in everlasting righteousness;
to seal both vision and prophet;
and to anoint the most holy (the word place is not in the Hebrew text).(24)


The 6 things that would be achieved during the 70 weeks\sevens can be combined into 3 groups:
dealing with the sin of Israel (1 & 2);
inauguration of the time of the Messiah (3 & 4); and
The fulfillment of everything (5 & 6).

Although there are 6 things written, it is likely written in parallelism. This is a common idiom for Jewish writing. They says things twice for emphasis. So, here, there are likely 3 things to be accomplished, each said 2 different ways.

The 70 weeks are also divided into 2 periods:
49 years (7 weeks) plus 434 years (62 weeks), so 69 sevens or 483 years; and
7 years (1 week\seven).

The First 69 Weeks

We see in verse 25 that Gabriel said there are 69 sevens: 7 sevens\49 years and 62 sevens from the going out the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of the coming of the anointed one, a prince. This is 483 years if taken literally. During this time, the temple is built again, but in troubled times. The construction used by the ESV is a little hard to understand, since it inserts the word “then”. The NIV is easier, saying “from the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes there will be seven sevens and sixty-two sevens.”

The 69 weeks may be divided into 2 parts: first for the seven years it took Ezra and Nehemiah to restore Jerusalem, and second, 62 more sevens to the coming of the Anointed One. The Hebrew word for “anointed” is “masiyah”. It is a reference to Jesus. In John 1:41, John recorded Andrew telling Simon “We have found the Messiah” and translates for the Greeks “the Christ”
Christos in Greek meant anointed also, so it is a translation of messiah. We transliterate Masiyah into Messiah and Christos into Christ. The New American Standard Bible translates it as “”until Messiah the Prince”.

So we know Jerusalem would be rebuilt in troubles times. It was certainly troubled when it began, as the books of Ezra and Nehemiah tell us. But tyrants and persecutors continued to come up to the time of Christ and beyond. When Jesus began his ministry, the Romans governed Jerusalem, even appointed high priests, and often interfered with Jewish life.

So the restoration of Israel after exile was partial and incomplete. And we see that they continued to break the covenant. The last book of our Old Testament, Malachi, is full of God’s complaints against Israel for this. God’s very last words were, when John the Baptist comes, you will either repent or I will strike the land with a curse. (Malachi 4:5-6) Only would the coming of Jesus bring in complete restoration.

The 70th Week

Verse 26 tells us that after this period of time, the Anointed One (Messiah) will be cut off. This refers to the crucifixion of Jesus. Since this is after the 69 weeks (7 + 62), it seems logical that this happen in the 70th week. But there are those who want add an indefinite period of time between the 69th and 70th week. It is a bit confusing since the words “70th week” are never used. But, after the 69th implies the 70th.

Lastly, we are told in verse 26 that a people of a ruler to come will come and destroy the city and the temple (sanctuary). The end will come like a flood: war will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.

Jesus is the ruler, as told in verse 25. He is the prince. The Hebrew word for ruler and prince are the same. He told the Jews that their rejection of him would lead to destruction.

We know that the Romans came in 70 A.D. and destroyed the city and the sanctuary. You can read about that in detail in the writings of Josephus. The Romans desolated the temple, defiling it with their images and sacrifices, then destroying it. The general who led the Roman forces later became the ruler of Rome as Emperor.

Jesus also foretold this event in Matthew 24:1, Jesus foretold the complete destruction of the temple. In 24:15 he spoke of the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet. He urged believers to flee from Judea into the mountains. Christians did in fact flee to Pella, in the Transjordan mountains, before the destruction of the city.

Verse 27 then tells us “he” will confirm a covenant with many for one seven and in the middle of the seven he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. I believe the “he” here is Christ. He brought in the New Covenant. The book of Hebrews tells us the New Covenant makes the Old Covenant obsolete. It further tells us the sacrifice of Jesus ended the lesser sacrifice of animals.

This interpretation fits with the context of the prayer and Gabriel’s answer. Daniel’s prayer is based on covenant. The Israelites broke the covenant, Daniel repents for them and asks for restoration. The 70 years of exile is a complete period (10) of sabbath years. The sabbath year, the 7th year, was to be one of rest and release. Israel did not observe it, so God imposed it via the exile. 7 cycles of 7 sabbath years brought about the year of Jubilee. We never see it observed in the Old Testament either. 490 years is 10 of those cycles, just as 70 was ten cycles of the sabbath year.

When the exile ended, after 10 cycles of Sabbath years, God sent an anointed one to deliver Israel. That one was Cyrus, who issued his decree at the bidding of the Lord. At the end of 490 years, 10 cycles of Jubilee years, God sent an anointed one, Jesus, to delver his people from sin into righteousness. As verse 24 says, Jesus put an end to sin, atoned for wickedness and brought in everlasting righteousness.

Finally, a desolator will come with abominations and make the temple desolate. (27) This will happen until complete destruction comes. One explanation of this is that the abomination is the crucifixion of Jesus that resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem. So, the end of the Jewish age comes after their Messiah is rejected. Their temple is destroyed because it is obsolete to the worship of God. The church age began and the temple is the body of Christ, the church.