Opening Prayer: Father, we stand in awe of your detailed prophecies, and pray that you give us wisdom and discernment as we study. Help us to understand You and Your love for the nation Israel we pray.
Revelation Study: Prophecies of Daniel"What will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?" Matthew 24:3
By now, you should have read the first three lessons in this series:
- Revelation 1: The Revelation of Jesus the Messiah
- Revelation 2-3: I Know You!
- Revelation 4-5: Preview of Heaven
Today's lesson is on the Old Testament prophet Daniel.
Daniel? I thought this was a series on the book of Revelation.
It is. But remember that we must always use Scripture to interpret Scripture. When God feels that something is important, He says it more than once. God must believe that end-time events are very important because He describes them in so many ways in so many places. And the prophecies in Daniel are so important that God tells the same story several different ways, so we can understand them.
Remember, too, that last-days' prophecies all concern God's dealings with the nation Israel. Even when other nations are described in great detail, it is only because of their dealings with Israel. If you are a Gentile believer in Jesus, the Messiah of Israel, congratulations: God will bless you. But His first love is the nation Israel and the Jewish remnant that He has miraculously preserved to this day.
Another note: This lesson will be a SHORTENED study, ignoring many important sections of the book so we can focus on the issue of last-days prophecy. For your homework, I suggest reading the complete book of Daniel (it's short!) and concentrate on the man and his relationship with his God. Daniel didn't have the luxury of Bible-teaching churches in every community, like we have in this country. His activities were certainly politically incorrect. But he was faithful to his God in the worst of circumstances, and God blessed him for it.
Because the prophecies are so detailed and name nations that had not yet risen to prominence, critics of the Bible say this book is a forgery written after 170 BC. After all, if the book is authentic, it's proof that an all-knowing God exists and communicates with mere mortals. That concept really pains "modern" theologians, who can accept any type of god except the Real One. Unfortunately for their theories, Daniel MUST have been written before 170 BC because it was included in the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek. Even more significantly, Jesus Himself regarded the book as authentic, because He quoted from it. The critics can go pound sand, as the surfers would say.
How about giving us some background on the prophecies?
OK. Daniel and several other young Jewish men were taken captive by the Babylonians under King Nebuchadnezzar when the Babylonians conquered Israel. Daniel and his friends were groomed for leadership positions and were considered spiritual advisors in the same general class as the court astrologers and soothsayers.
In the first key prophecy, God gave King Nebuchadnezzar a frightening dream, but the king said he couldn't remember it the next day. The king asked his big-name astrologers and soothsayers to tell him the dream and the interpretation, and of course they couldn't. So the king decreed that all the astrologers and soothsayers (euphemistically called "wise men" in some Bible translations) should be executed.
Daniel told the king's servants not to be so hasty and said that God would show him both the dream and interpretation -- and God did so. So Daniel came before the king and told him what the Lord had revealed.
Daniel chapter 2, verses 31-35 tell of the king's dream:31“You, O king, were watching; and behold, a great image! This great image, whose splendor was excellent, stood before you; and its form was awesome. 32This image’s head was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, 33its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. 34You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. 35Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth." (NKJV)
After reading this passage, you can see why the king was impressed by the dream. Before we look at the interpretation, let's see what we can learn from the description of the dream itself:
- In verse 31, the image is described as huge, exceedingly bright, and fearful looking. At this point, we don't know what to call this image but it surely represents somebody or something powerful.
- The image apparently is in the shape of a human being. The image does not depict some other type of animal or reptile.
- The image consists of many different elements: head of gold, chest and arms of silver, gut and thighs of brass or bronze and its legs of iron. The feet, oddly enough, are a mixture of iron and clay.
- Once the image is described, we see a stone (verse 34) miraculously cut without any type of human intervention. So whatever the stone might be, its origin is from God.
- This miraculous stone strikes the composite image on its feet, which are a mixture of iron and clay. The feet are immediately pulverized.
- As soon as the feet are pulverized, all the other portions of the image are also "crushed together" (literally "crushed as one") and blown away like chaff in the wind.
- Note that all portions of the image are described as existing together, and all are destroyed together. This is an important clue for later.
- The stone is unharmed by its collision with the image. In fact, it grows to fill the whole earth.
Fortunately, God also told Daniel the interpretation of the dream, which Daniel explains to the king in verses 37-44:37You, O king, are a king of kings. For the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, strength, and glory; 38and wherever the children of men dwell, or the beasts of the field and the birds of the heaven, He has given them into your hand, and has made you ruler over them all—you are this head of gold. 39But after you shall arise another kingdom inferior to yours; then another, a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. 40And the fourth kingdom shall be as strong as iron, inasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and shatters everything; and like iron that crushes, that kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others. 41Whereas you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; yet the strength of the iron shall be in it, just as you saw the iron mixed with ceramic clay. 42And as the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile. 43As you saw iron mixed with ceramic clay, they will mingle with the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay. 44And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. (NKJV)
In this vision, God shows us a sequence of kingdoms. The first three are easy to determine: the Babylonian kingdom (head of gold), the Medo-Persian empire (chest and arms of silver) and the Grecian empire (belly and thighs of brass or bronze). The fourth kingdom (legs of iron) is usually explained as the Roman empire, but that explanation has a few problems. A brief history lesson will help us understand the issues here:
- The first three kingdoms succeeded each other as described. The Babylonian empire encompassed most of the Middle East and Egypt. The Medo-Persian empire extended farther West and East. The Grecian empire conquered the entire Medo-Persian empire and extended eastward to the border of India.
- The Roman empire extended farther West, to include virtually all of Europe. However the Romans never conquered the Eastern portion of the former Grecian empire. Their territory included what is now Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Egypt. But Rome could not defeat the Parthian empire and never established permanent control of the territory East of the Euphrates River.
- In verse 40 above, the angel declares that the fourth kingdom would "break in pieces and crush all the others." However Rome never could succeed in breaking and crushing the other kingdoms. As you recall from Matthew 2, "wise men from the East" (magoi in the Greek text) came to the Roman governor of Judea to find the King of the Jews. These were not just rich sultans with advanced degrees from Harvard and Yale. These magoi were the religious elites -- the kingmakers -- of the Parthian Empire, a group that was probably established by the prophet Daniel. They surely arrived with a company of soldiers and servants, which would explain Herod's unease at their arrival.
- Although Rome conquered the Western portion of the other kingdoms, the Grecian language and culture remained the common denominator throughout the Middle East and Egypt. That's why the oldest New Testament manuscripts were written in Greek.
- The people of Rome had a common ancestor (Javan) with the Greeks.
For these reasons, a few commentators (especially Walid Shoebat) say that the Roman Empire can be considered an extension of the Grecian Empire, and that the real fourth kingdom was the Islamic Empire, which was eventually headquartered in Turkey. Islam exploded on the world scene in the sixth century A.D., and behaved very much like iron legs -- crushing and breaking everything in its path. Islam conquered all of the Middle East, conquered the Western portion of India (now called Pakistan), conquered all of North Africa, conquered Spain and part of France, and very nearly conquered all of Europe before being turned back. Although most English-speaking readers are ignorant of the Ottoman Empire, the Turkish Caliphate continued until 1924.
Notice that there's an oddball fifth kingdom at the end, part iron and part clay. This last kingdom is struck by the "stone cut out without hands" and is shattered into pieces. Then the stone, representing Jesus the Jewish Messiah, becomes a great mountain. The God of heaven then sets up an everlasting kingdom under the Lordship of Jesus.
Another key detail is that all five kingdoms appear to be existing together at the time of the end, because all are destroyed together when Jesus strikes the fifth kingdom. In other words, the first four kingdoms will appear to be resurrected and active at the time of the end. This is consistent with the multi-headed beast imagery that we'll study when we get to the Book of Revelation. This is also consistent with the imagery that we'll see in Daniel chapter 7.
What about the clay that will be mixed with the iron?
This fifth kingdom would appear to be a resurgence of the Islamic empire, which we can see taking shape today. If you have studied Islam, you understand that the Islamic countries and sects are only unified when attacking a common enemy -- usually Israel or the United States. The rest of the time, they quarrel and war with each other. For a modern-day proof, look at the border conflict between Iran and Iraq during Saddam Hussein's rein: more than a million people died in what was essentially a dispute between Sunni and Shiite Muslim sects. The point is that the feet (last-days Islamic empire) will have the strength of iron, but will be internally divided and unmixed.
Now let's look at a dream that God gave to Daniel, as recorded in chapter 7:3And four great beasts came up from the sea, each different from the other. 4The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings. I watched till its wings were plucked off; and it was lifted up from the earth and made to stand on two feet like a man, and a man’s heart was given to it. 5“And suddenly another beast, a second, like a bear. It was raised up on one side, and had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. And they said thus to it: ‘Arise, devour much flesh!’ 6“After this I looked, and there was another, like a leopard, which had on its back four wings of a bird. The beast also had four heads, and dominion was given to it. 7“After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong. It had huge iron teeth; it was devouring, breaking in pieces, and trampling the residue with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. 8I was considering the horns, and there was another horn, a little one, coming up among them, before whom three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots. And there, in this horn, were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words. (NKJV)
God shows Daniel a picture of four kingdoms represented by four beasts. These four beasts come up from the sea, which is a symbol for the all the Gentile people and nations.
So what kingdoms do these beasts represent? In some respects, they parallel the image of chapter 2, but give greater detail, as we shall see.
For now, let's read verses 9-14:9I watched till thrones were put in place,
And the Ancient of Days was seated;
His garment was white as snow,
And the hair of His head was like pure wool.
His throne was a fiery flame,
Its wheels a burning fire;
10A fiery stream issued
And came forth from before Him.
A thousand thousands ministered to Him;
Ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him.
The court was seated,
And the books were opened.
11I watched then because of the sound of the pompous words which the horn was speaking; I watched till the beast was slain, and its body destroyed and given to the burning flame. 12As for the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.
13I was watching in the night visions,
And behold, One like the Son of Man,
Coming with the clouds of heaven!
He came to the Ancient of Days,
And they brought Him near before Him.
14Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom,
That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
Which shall not pass away,
And His kingdom the one
Which shall not be destroyed. (NKJV)
This account (verses 9-14) sounds very much like the Preview of Heaven lesson, with our Lord Jesus and God the Father pictured as being completely in charge and sitting on thrones.
Daniel was perplexed by these visions and asked for an interpretation, which the angel gives in verses 17 and 18:17Those great beasts, which are four, are four kings which arise out of the earth. 18But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever.
THAT is one brief commentary. Fortunately for us, Daniel makes a very detailed request for more information:19Then I wished to know the truth about the fourth beast, which was different from all the others, exceedingly dreadful, with its teeth of iron and its nails of bronze, which devoured, broke in pieces, and trampled the residue with its feet; 20and the ten horns that were on its head, and the other horn which came up, before which three fell, namely, that horn which had eyes and a mouth which spoke pompous words, whose appearance was greater than his fellows. 21I was watching; and the same horn was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them, 22until the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom.
Daniel is perplexed about the very last kingdom, which begins with 10 member kingdoms (horns) and is hijacked by a very odd little horn. The angel helps us with an explanation:23Thus he said: ‘The fourth beast shall be
A fourth kingdom on earth,
Which shall be different from all other kingdoms,
And shall devour the whole earth,
Trample it and break it in pieces.
24The ten horns are ten kings
Who shall arise from this kingdom.
And another shall rise after them;
He shall be different from the first ones,
And shall subdue three kings.
25He shall speak pompous words against the Most High,
Shall persecute the saints of the Most High,
And shall intend to change times and law.
Then the saints shall be given into his hand
For a time and times and half a time.
26But the court shall be seated,
And they shall take away his dominion,
To consume and destroy it forever.
27Then the kingdom and dominion,
And the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven,
Shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High.
His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
And all dominions shall serve and obey Him.’
We can obtain quite a bit of information from a plain reading of this passage:
- The fourth kingdom will be more powerful than the previous three.
- The fourth kingdom will be different from the previous three. This is an important clue that we'll explore in a few minutes.
- The fourth kingdom will eventually give rise to a confederation of ten smaller kingdoms.
- After the 10-kingdom confederacy is established, another king will arise, uproot three of the ten, and set himself up as king over all ten. Most commentators believe this other king will be the Last-Days' Dictator, but the imagery could also apply to the False Prophet identified in Revelation 13. For convenience sake, let's refer to the resulting composite beast as the Last-Days' Empire, since God chooses not to differentiate the two at this stage of Scripture
- This last-days' composite beast will NOT be very nice or very smart. He blasphemes God and persecutes God's people Israel.
- "He shall think to change the times and law." This is an important clue as to the Islamic flavor of the last-days' beast.
- The period of his dominion will be "a time and times and half a time." Using "time" as one year, we compute this time as "one year and two years and half a year" -- 3 1/2 years total. This period corresponds to the 3 1/2 years known as the Great Tribulation.
- The bad guy loses, and the Good Guy wins. You and I will also be winners if we follow the Good Guy now, in this life. It can be really difficult to follow Him these days, but we'll be VERY glad, very soon, if we do.
So who are these four beasts?
We can't learn their identities from a plain reading of the text. But we can infer their identities by analyzing this passage and related Scriptures. Let's analyze Daniel 7 first:
- The first three kingdoms are primarily political and geographic entities. Daniel doesn't even question who they are. We can begin with an assumption that they represent the first three kingdoms described in Daniel 2: Babylon, Medo-Persia and Greece.
- The fourth beast might be a political entity, but it has a distinctly religious flavor: speaking "pompous words against God" (blasphemy) and persecuting God's people Israel. This makes it very likely that the fourth beast represents the Islamic Empire, like the legs of Nebuchadnezzar's image. As you might have noticed, Islam has its own times and law (Sharia) that it seeks to impose on the whole world. Over the past 30 years, Islam has supplanted Marxism as the most-aggressive political movement on earth.
- Note that the fourth kingdom changes into a composite of ten member nations in the latter days. That corresponds to the present landscape of power among the Islamic nations, especially those who were originally part of the Ottoman Empire.
- After the ten horns have coalesced into a new Last-Days' Empire, a little horn (the Last-Days' Dictator) arises and seizes control for the last 3.5 years of human history.
The Last-Days' Empire and Revelation 13
We can learn more about the four beasts of Daniel 7 by reading the parallel passage in Revelation 13. Let's start with verses 1-5, which describe the Last-Days' Dictator:1Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name. 2Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority. 3And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast. 4So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?” 5And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months.
Here we see a beast that combines characteristics of the first three creatures in Daniel chapter 7: it looked like a leopard, had the feet of a bear and the mouth of a lion. Furthermore, it has the ten horns (earthly, geographic kingdoms) of the fourth beast, with the additional detail that just seven heads (demonic rulers) empower the ten horns. The devil himself empowers this composite beast, which is staffed by seven of his nastiest field generals.
Now let's read verses 11-17, which describe the False Prophet:11Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. 12And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. 13He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. 14And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived. 15He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed. 16He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, 17and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.
This vile person is not separately described in Daniel. Note that he has "two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon." He will appear to act like Jesus (the Lamb), but will speak the devil's own words.
We will learn more about the Last-Days' Dictator and the False Prophet in a later lesson. For now, we can wrap up by observing how the four beasts of Daniel 7 flow into the two beasts of Revelation 13. The two passages illuminate each other.
Daniel's next vision is described in chapter 8, verses 3-8:3Then I lifted my eyes and saw, and there, standing beside the river, was a ram which had two horns, and the two horns were high; but one was higher than the other, and the higher one came up last. 4I saw the ram pushing westward, northward, and southward, so that no animal could withstand him; nor was there any that could deliver from his hand, but he did according to his will and became great. 5And as I was considering, suddenly a male goat came from the west, across the surface of the whole earth, without touching the ground; and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes. 6Then he came to the ram that had two horns, which I had seen standing beside the river, and ran at him with furious power. 7And I saw him confronting the ram; he was moved with rage against him, attacked the ram, and broke his two horns. There was no power in the ram to withstand him, but he cast him down to the ground and trampled him; and there was no one that could deliver the ram from his hand. 8Therefore the male goat grew very great; but when he became strong, the large horn was broken, and in place of it four notable ones came up toward the four winds of heaven.
This vision gives us another picture of the power struggles between worldly kingdoms. This vision begins with the ram, representing the Medes and Persians. Then the he-goat zooms in from the west (representing Greece, under Alexander the Great), which conquered the world so swiftly that his feet "touched not the ground." Strangely, the great horn of the ram was broken at the height of its power (Alexander died young), and four lesser horns (his generals) divided up the kingdom among themselves.
In verses 9-14, note that one of the successors to the Grecian kingdom gives rise to the obnoxious little horn seen in the previous vision:9And out of one of them came a little horn which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the Glorious Land. 10And it grew up to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and some of the stars to the ground, and trampled them. 11He even exalted himself as high as the Prince of the host; and by him the daily sacrifices were taken away, and the place of His sanctuary was cast down. 12Because of transgression, an army was given over to the horn to oppose the daily sacrifices; and he cast truth down to the ground. He did all this and prospered.
13Then I heard a holy one speaking; and another holy one said to that certain one who was speaking, “How long will the vision be, concerning the daily sacrifices and the transgression of desolation, the giving of both the sanctuary and the host to be trampled underfoot?” 14And he said to me, “For two thousand three hundred days; then the sanctuary shall be cleansed.”
Even before the angel interprets, we can see several key points:
- The little horn (representing the Last-Days' Dictator) does not appear with its own symbolic animal. It appears to originate from the remnants of the Grecian empire. God will further clarify this in Daniel chapters 11-12.
- The dictator will magnify himself, and might even have a best-selling book on the power of positive self-image. Don't bother buying it; read Genesis chapter 3 instead.
- Like the devil who empowers him, the dictator will attempt to make himself equal to God.
- The dictator will desecrate the temple of the Lord in Israel. This means that a temple will be rebuilt on or near the Temple Mount area of Jerusalem, sometime between now and then. In fact, the dictator may even help the people of Israel build the temple, perhaps by helping clear away the political roadblocks that now prevent the rebuilding. Evidence is now emerging that the "Temple Mount" area is actually the remains of the Roman fortress, and that the temple of Jesus' day was just south of the fortress, across the street in what is now an area of apartment slums.
- There will be a duration of 2,300 days (just over 6 years) involved in this rebuilding and desecration process before the sanctuary shall be properly cleansed.
Fortunately, Gabriel is called in to interpret the vision:19And he said, “Look, I am making known to you what shall happen in the latter time of the indignation; for at the appointed time the end shall be. 20The ram which you saw, having the two horns—they are the kings of Media and Persia. 21And the male goat is the kingdom of Greece. The large horn that is between its eyes is the first king. 22As for the broken horn and the four that stood up in its place, four kingdoms shall arise out of that nation, but not with its power. 23“And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors have reached their fullness, a king shall arise, having fierce features, who understands sinister schemes. 24His power shall be mighty, but not by his own power; he shall destroy fearfully, and shall prosper and thrive; he shall destroy the mighty, and also the holy people. 25“Through his cunning he shall cause deceit to prosper under his rule; and he shall exalt himself in his heart. He shall destroy many in their prosperity. He shall even rise against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without human means. 26“And the vision of the evenings and mornings which was told is true; therefore seal up the vision, for it refers to many days in the future.”
As usual, the angel weighs in with a lot of information in these 8 verses:
- The point of this vision is to highlight events of "the appointed time of the end." The symbolic imagery gives us geographic and sociological insight into the origins of the Last-Days' Dictator.
- This dictator is described as: "a king of fierce countenance" who will arise "not by his own power" -- meaning he will be empowered by one or more demonic creatures (as were Hitler, Mussolini, Napoleon, etc.) to wield extraordinary political power.
- This person will be the very last king who will EVER be permitted to oppress God's people Israel.
- He will "stand up against the Prince of princes, but he shall be broken without hand." Flesh and blood won't bring down this evil person. Jesus will personally see to his destruction.
- The imagery of this beast is consistent with the previous visions, which hinted of a latter-days Islamic empire. As we shall see in a few minutes, the main center of power of the Grecian empire was the "king of the North" -- the Selucid kingdom headquartered in the Middle East.
The 70 Weeks of Daniel
The next prophetic passage is one of the most awe-inspiring in all of Scripture. In it, God reveals a concise, detailed timetable for His dealings with the nation Israel, from Daniel's day through Jesus' entry into Jerusalem to the present.
The context is significant: Daniel had read Jeremiah's prophecy of a 70-year exile for the Israelites, and knew that the 70-year period was nearly completed. Since Daniel believed God's Word, he began praying and fasting for insight into God's future dealings with His people.
Instead of a vision, God sent the angel Gabriel to reveal God's answer to Daniel.
We will jump right into the angel's message in Daniel 9, starting with verse 24:24 Seventy weeks are decreed upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy.
Let's stop here and sort out this first sentence:
- "Seventy weeks" is a translation of "seventy sevens" in the original language. This could also be translated "seventy weeks of years" or 70 x 7 = 490 years. Jewish and Christian teachers virtually all agree that the angel is describing a 490-year span of time.
- This period of 490 years is often called "the 70 weeks of Daniel" by pastors and Bible teachers.
- This period of 490 years is a highly focused time of God's dealings with His people Israel and their capital city, Jerusalem.
- This 490 years is the most significant period in human history, since God will "make an end of sins, make reconciliation for iniquity, and bring in everlasting righteousness." In short, at the conclusion of these 490 years, God will have reversed humanity's sinful downward slide and set up His eternal Kingdom of righteousness.
Now let's read the next three verses:25“Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublesome times. 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. 27Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; but in the middle of the week he shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, even until the consummation, which is determined, is poured out on the desolate.”
Again, we find an astounding amount of detail in this short passage:
- This period will begin with the commandment to go forth and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. As you may recall, this commandment happened several years after the Jewish people were allowed to return to rebuild the temple at Jerusalem.
- The first 483 of the 490 years are divided into two groups -- 7 weeks of years (49 years), and 62 weeks (434 years). The 49 years were involved in rebuilding the city "even in troublesome times." The 434 years spanned the period (beginning in Nehemiah's day) from the commencement of rebuilding the wall until "Messiah the Prince." After the end of the 434 years, the Messiah (the "Anointed One") "shall be cut off."
- Brighter people than me have calculated that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey exactly 483 years after the decree to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. (Hint: If you want to attempt this mathematical feat at home, remember that the Jewish year was 360 days.)
- Draw an invisible vertical line right through the middle of verse 26, after the word "Himself." The first 483 year period stops right there. The last 7-year period has not yet begun as of this writing (late 2008).
- After the Anointed One (the Messiah) is cut off, the "people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary." Don't be too hasty to interpret this verse. Most commentators say that this "proves" the Last-Days' Dictator ("the prince that shall come") will arise from the former Roman empire. However, the Roman troops who sacked Jerusalem in 70AD were not blue-eyed Europeans; they were actually drawn from regions of Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt plus various nomadic Arabs. All these areas are presently under Islamic rule, and so this passage is consistent with the previous hints of a last-days' Islamic confederacy.
- The 70th week begins when the Last-Days' Dictator "shall confirm a covenant with many for one week" -- ratify a treaty for a seven-year period.
- Notice that he makes the covenant "with many" -- meaning it's not just a two-way treaty between the dictator and Israel. All the major players will be involved in making this happen.
- When this lesson was first written in 1999, there was an elaborate fiction called "The Middle East peace process." The Muslim nations around Israel were busy sponsoring terror groups operating within Israel (Hamas, Hezbullah, PLO, etc.) while the United States and the European nations were pretending there was a way to negotiate a peaceful settlement between Israel and the Muslims. As this lesson is being updated in 2008, the so-called Palestinians have elected a "government" with Hamas as the ruling faction. Since the Hamas charter calls for the complete destruction of Israel, there will be no truly peaceful settlement until Jesus comes. However the Last-Days' Dictator will be the poster boy for a negotiated truce with a term of seven years.
- In the middle of the seven-year period, he will reveal his true intentions, usurp power in Jerusalem, and bring a halt to the Levitical ritual sacrifices in the rebuilt Jewish temple.
- Not content just to stop the Levitical rituals, the dictator desecrates the temple by means of something called the abomination of desolation -- an abomination (a blasphemous activity or person) that brings desolation to people. The nature of this abomination is revealed in other Scriptural passages.
- Then comes The End -- at least for Mister Abominable.
Hey, teacher! Why all the detail? Why not just say that bad stuff happens until Jesus returns?
To be honest with you, sometimes I wonder that myself. But there are several possible explanations, any one of which might work for you:
- God wants us to know that He lives in a dimension/world/universe outside of time and that He knows all things. He declares this in Isaiah chapter 46:9 Remember the former things of old: for I [am] God, and [there is] none else; [I am] God, and [there is] none like me, 10 Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times [ the things] that are not [yet] done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: 11 Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken [it], I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed [it], I will also do it. 12 Hearken unto me, ye stouthearted, that [are] far from righteousness: 13 I bring near my righteousness; it shall not be far off, and my salvation shall not tarry: and I will place salvation in Zion for Israel my glory.
- He knows that evil APPEARS to be in control in this world, and wants us to be sure that " ...I bring near My righteousness; it shall not be far off, and my salvation shall not tarry," as He promises in the passage above. We must stand firm in our faith to the end.
- God knew that His people would suffer wave after wave of oppression at the hands of evil kingdoms. He made THESE prophecies very specific so His people would NOT make the mistake of thinking that other demon-possessed leaders (like Hitler) were the Last-Days' Dictator.
- With all this detail, there is no excuse for anybody to NOT recognize the dictator when he makes his move in the middle of the 70th week.
- By the time these final events happen, the Church will already be gone from the earth (see the next lesson for details), together with all the Bible teachers and pastors who correctly understand and are presently teaching these subjects. The extravagant detail of these Bible prophecies will help new believers or sincere seekers during the Tribulation period to figure things out for themselves.
The Final Prophetic Episode: Daniel 11-12
Amazingly enough, God chose to give Daniel more prophetic insight. This takes place during the reign of King Cyrus of Persia, after the Persians have gained dominance in the Medo-Persian alliance, and long after the Babylonian empire had fallen to the Medo-Persians.
For your homework, I strongly encourage you to read chapters 10, 11 and 12 of Daniel. In a later lesson, we will study the passage for its implications concerning our day-to-day walk and the significance of spiritual warfare. For now, we will just read the portions concerning last-days' events.
We start reading in the middle of the angel's interpretation, chapter 11, verses 36-40:36“Then the king shall do according to his own will: he shall exalt and magnify himself above every god, shall speak blasphemies against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the wrath has been accomplished; for what has been determined shall be done. 37He shall regard neither the God of his fathers nor the desire of women, nor regard any god; for he shall exalt himself above them all. 38But in their place he shall honor a god of fortresses; and a god which his fathers did not know he shall honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and pleasant things. 39Thus he shall act against the strongest fortresses with a foreign god, which he shall acknowledge, and advance its glory; and he shall cause them to rule over many, and divide the land for gain. 40“At the time of the end the king of the South shall attack him; and the king of the North shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter the countries, overwhelm them, and pass through."
Wait a minute! Who are these kings of the north and south?
In the earlier passages we mentioned how the Grecian empire was divided among Alexander's four generals. The two strongest were based in Egypt (king of the south) and in the Middle East (the king of the north, whose territory included Syria, Israel, Babylon, Assyria, Media and Persia). In the portion of chapter 11 that we skipped, the angel gives Daniel a long narrative showing the two kingdoms warring and pushing against each other. Then in verse 36, while he is still talking about the king of the north and the king of the south, the angel begins describing events associated with the end times.
The wicked king described in verse 36 and following is the king of the north, based in the Middle East. According to the plain reading of this passage, this king -- that is, a political leader whose power base is in the Middle East -- will become the Last-Days' Dictator. The present-day nations in the former king-of-the-north area are all Islamic (with the exception of Israel). This leader could come from any one of those areas. Only God knows for sure.
Whoa! Does that mean that the antichrist might be the president of Syria or that new nutcase in Iran?
I doubt it. None of those persons would be able to seriously deceive the Jewish people. In order to REALLY fool the Jewish people, this last-days deceiver might claim to have a Jewish mother and might be instrumental in enabling the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. Wherever he comes from, he will pretend to be a big friend and benefactor of the Jewish people.
We will study this Last-Days' Dictator in a later lesson. Now let's get back to the narrative.
We resume the angel's message in verse 41 of chapter 11:41He shall also enter the Glorious Land, and many countries shall be overthrown; but these shall escape from his hand: Edom, Moab, and the prominent people of Ammon. 42He shall stretch out his hand against the countries, and the land of Egypt shall not escape. 43He shall have power over the treasures of gold and silver, and over all the precious things of Egypt; also the Libyans and Ethiopians shall follow at his heels. 44But news from the east and the north shall trouble him; therefore he shall go out with great fury to destroy and annihilate many. 45And he shall plant the tents of his palace between the seas and the glorious holy mountain; yet he shall come to his end, and no one will help him."
This angel has quite a gift for stating a lot in a few sentences. In this group of verses we discover:
- After conquering Egypt, he will "also enter the Glorious Land." The Jewish people will deeply regret ever trusting this person.
- A few small areas will not be conquered by the beast -- areas that are now part of the nation of Jordan. The probable reason is that Jordan will not pose any type of military or political threat to the dictator.
- The people of Libya, Sudan and Somalia will follow right along after him or else be easily conquered by him. Considering the despots currently running those countries, the Last-Days' Dictator will look pretty good to those people.
- This leader will hear "news out of the east and out of the north" that will trouble him. It's very likely that China and Russia will view him as a threat and will mobilize troups to their respective borders.
- This leader will set up a temporary headquarters in Jerusalem somewhere -- "between the seas and the glorious holy mountain" -- perhaps thinking to use the trophy city (holy to Christians, Jews and some Islamic people) as a shield against being bombed by a hostile militia group.
Our next passage comes from chapter 12:1“At that time Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; and there shall be a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, every one who is found written in the book. 2And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt. 3Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever." 4“But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.” 5Then I, Daniel, looked; and there stood two others, one on this riverbank and the other on that riverbank. 6And one said to the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, “How long shall the fulfillment of these wonders be?” 7Then I heard the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand to heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever, that it shall be for a time, times, and half a time; and when the power of the holy people has been completely shattered, all these things shall be finished.
Now it's beginning to sound like the story has a happy ending:
- The archangel Michael will again come forth to do spiritual battle for the nation Israel.
- There will be a terrible time of trouble upon the earth during that final time of battle.
- Daniel is assured that "your people shall be delivered, every one who is found written in the book."
- In the midst of those terrible days, a faithful remnant will arise who suddenly understand the message of Jesus, the Messiah of Israel. This remnant will be enabled by God to preach and teach the good news of the gospel, and will "turn many to righteousness."
- Daniel refers to the resurrections, but we'll cover these in more detail in the next lesson.
- Once again, God tells us that the length of the dictator's reign of terror will be "a time, times, and a half" -- or the same 3.5 years we saw earlier.
Our last passage concludes the book of Daniel, with the rest of chapter 12:8Although I heard, I did not understand. Then I said, “My lord, what shall be the end of these things?” 9And he said, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end. 10Many shall be purified, made white, and refined, but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand. 11“And from the time that the daily sacrifice is taken away, and the abomination of desolation is set up, there shall be one thousand two hundred and ninety days. 12Blessed is he who waits, and comes to the one thousand three hundred and thirty-five days. 13“But you, go your way till the end; for you shall rest, and will arise to your inheritance at the end of the days.”
Has all this detail left you feeling a bit dazed? Don't feel alone; Daniel was a seasoned veteran of prophecy by this time, and he was completely baffled: "Although I heard, I did not understand." God has sealed up the words of the prophecy -- making them a mystery that we won't fully understand until those terrible days begin. When those days actually do begin, the smart folks will suddenly remember where they left their Bibles, find the tracts their now-Raptured Christian friends gave them, and realize the truth of the Gospel of Jesus, the Messiah of Israel.
What about the 1,290 days and the 1,335 days?
Both of these numbers are approximately equal to 3 1/2 years, the elapsed time between the desecration of the rebuilt temple and the demise of the Last-Days' Dictator. The extra 45 days might be a period of purification between the demise of the dictator and the date when the temple is cleansed and ready for Levitical sacrifices once again. We won't know for sure until the time comes.
Can you give us a quick summary of all this material?
Well, can you at least give us some highlights to take home with us?
That's a better question. Let's conclude with these points:
- Our God will never stop being the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God will never stop loving the people of Israel.
- Different kingdoms have oppressed Israel in the past and have paid dearly for this mistake. Daniel saw visions of the Babylonians, Medo-Persians, Greeks and the Islamic Empire. In addition to these fallen empires, another kingdom (a little horn) will arise in the last days in the area of the "king of the north." This kingdom will have a distinctly Islamic flavor.
- The Lord has a 490-year prophetic calendar concerning His dealings with the nation of Israel. The first 483 years were fulfilled with the sacrificial death of Jesus, the Messiah of Israel. The last 7 years, the 70th week of years, will begin shortly.
- The 70th week will be initiated by the signing of a seven-year covenant "with many" -- many nations pretending to respect the right of Israel to exist and to occupy the land given by God to the seed of Abraham.
- The Last-Days' Dictator will somehow be instrumental in the "peace process" and crafting the covenant, even though he won't officially declare himself to be the Islamic Mahdi at that time.
- In the middle of the 7-year period, this leader will declare himself to be both the Muslim Mahdi and the Caliph of all Islam, rise to absolute power, break the covenant with Israel, desecrate the temple, declare himself god and demand that his subjects worship him.
- A faithful remnant of the Israelites will be preserved by God through this period of tribulation.
- The Lord Himself will return and put an end to this leader and his short-lived kingdom.
- The Lord Himself will set up a Kingdom headquartered in Jerusalem.
- The world will finally come to know the peace and joy that God intended us to have -- the peace and joy that have been missing since Adam's fall.
Life on this earth will soon become very different from the world we knew growing up. My hope is that you have already discovered the joy of walking with Jesus, and will be part of the very first group of saints to be caught up to heaven before the tribulation period begins. This will be explained in the next lesson, Raptures and Resurrections.
If you're reading this AFTER that first rapture, by now you realize the seriousness of your situation. Just remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 24:13: "But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved." Stand tall for Jesus, and bring as many people with you as you can. Jesus will reward you very soon.
If you are not sure where you stand, please click the "mail-to" link below to send us an e-mail. Express your concerns and you'll receive a personal answer soon.
Closing Prayer: Lord, thank You for giving us such detailed, trustworthy warnings. Open our hearts to act in wisdom and obedience to you in these last, troubled days. Amen.