Today’s reading has Daniel giving us a look into visions he received. Not only are these visions important in our identification of Jesus, God’s Son and Messiah, but also because they provide keys for understanding other revelations and visions from God. Let’s start with a brief list of some of these symbols:
- beasts — a conquering king and their empire
- horns — kings of an empire
- “times, a time, and half a time” — this equals 3 and a half (half of seven a number of perfection) which symbolizes a short but intense period of persecution or trouble for God’s people
When you find these in other apocalyptic biblical literature (e.g., Revelation), you now have clue as to what they mean.
The first vision contains a first look into the generic shapes of worldly empires that would be arise over the next 500 years. We find out later that they are the Babylonian empire, the Persian empire, the Greek (Alexander’s) empire, and the Roman empire. As fierce and vicious as some of these kingdoms would be, however, God wants His people to be assured that He and His Messiah (vv. 13-14) would vanquish them all in the appearance of his eternal kingdom. A couple of these empires would be especially hostile to God’s people, but we can rest secure in knowing that God wins, He always decisively and crushingly wins.
I love this (vv. 13, 14) picture of the Messiah, don’t you? “And behold with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man” — appearing to be a mere man, but clearly much more. And this King is one that is given an everlasting dominion which will not be destroyed — unlike the other kingdoms.
The second vision tells a similar thing with slightly different symbols. In this one (chapter 8) the kingdom of Greece and one swift and powerful king (we know as Alexander the Great) is revealed (v. 21) as one of the empires to look for in the signs of the times approaching the appearance of the Messiah. Even Antiochus Epiphanes (the terrible king during the time of the Maccabean struggle) is alluded to — though not specifically named.
The third vision is one in answer to Daniel’s reading of Jeremiah’s prophecy about 70 years in exile. This causes Daniel to offer a prayer to the Lord of deep contrition for the sins of Israel and petition for forgiveness and return to the land of Israel. In a direct answer to Daniel’s prayer, the angel Gabriel came to Daniel with an answer, sometimes called the 70 weeks or the 70 sevens. It has, regrettably, become a revelation of some controversy especially among premillennialists, who seek to specify the coming of Jesus and beginning of their predicted second coming. However, it becomes relatively clear with a bit of objective reading (that is, a reading without a premillennial agenda) and knowledge of ancient history that this is a “soft” time table for the original appearance of the Lord Jesus (the Messiah) and even the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. And Jesus was right on time — just like always.
Lesson for today: God is in control of this world. God is in control of this world centuries in advance. Evil will not win. Powerful nations and leaders will not win. Man can make all the plans he wants, but unless they are in alignment with God’s, they won’t stand. And when the time is right, by God’s calculations, not man’s, He will bring this old sinful world to an end — swiftly, deftly, and finally. Be on God’s side, on God’s terms; and you cannot — you CANNOT — lose.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.