A Taste of Things to Come.
“Then I heard two holy ones talking to each other. One of them asked, ‘How long will the events of this vision last? How long will the rebellion that causes desecration stop the daily sacrifices? How long will the Temple and heaven’s army be trampled on?’ The other replied, ‘It will take 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the Temple will be made right again.’” – Daniel 8:13-14 NLT
Daniel lived in a spiritually tumultuous time. The land of Israel had been raped and pillaged and its people taken captive to foreign lands. Daniel was one of thousands of individuals who found themselves living in exile in Babylon, and they had been there for decades at this point. Their homeland is miles away. Their Temple, the dwelling place of their God, is destroyed. It is a period of spiritual darkness filled with questions about the future. What is God going to do with His people? Is He going to restore them to the land once again, in keeping with His promises? In chapter seven, God gives Daniel a look into the distant future, at the end of the age. He lets Daniel know what is going to happen long after Daniel is gone. But that does not answer a lot of Daniel’s more immediate concerns. Then he has his vision of chapter eight.
In this vision, Daniel is given a little bit closer look at what is going to happen in the future. There are similarities and parallels. But the focus seems to be on the period of time between when Daniel lived and the second coming of Christ. Daniel is living within the Medo-Persian Empire. He is still in Babylon, but it has become part of the Medo-Persian Empire and Belshazzar is the king. His vision takes him to Susa, the capital of the Persian Empire, located about 200 miles east of Babylon. This is where Daniel’s vision takes place. In his vision he sees a goat and a ram. The ram was the guardian spirit of the Persian Empire. The goat represents Greece, and its single, prominent horn represented Alexander the Great, who would sweep into that area of the world and wipe of the Medo-Persian Empire. Alexander the Great would die in his thirties and his kingdom would divide into four parts led by four different generals. Out of one of these would come Antiochus IV (Epiphanes), who would wage a relentless attack on the people of Israel, overthrowing the High Priest, looting the Temple and replacing the worship of God with a form of Greek worship. The daily sacrifices would come to a halt after he desecrates the Temple. And Daniel is told that this would go on for seven years.
Each and every one of these things came about just as Daniel saw them in his vision. This speaks of God omniscience, His all-knowing nature. He doesn’t just watch the future unfold helplessly like the rest of us. He knows it before it even happens. God was able to show Daniel events that had yet taken place – in amazing detail. And these events are foreshadowings of what Daniel had seen in chapter eight. But they will come about with the same degree of accuracy. In the month of December, 168 B.C., Antiochus returned from a defeat at the hands of the Romans and, in frustration, sent 20,000 of his troops to seize Jerusalem on the Sabbath. He erected an idol of Zeus and desecrated the altar of the Temple by sacrificing swine on it. This idol became known to the Jews as “the abomination of desolation.” All of this is a precursor to events that will take place in the end times. At that time, the Antichrist will erect an image of himself and command that everyone, including Jews, worship it. As bad as that time will be, it will also be a kind of alarm clock, telling mankind that the second coming of Christ is eminent. “Now, dear brothers and sisters, let us clarify some things about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and how we will be gathered to meet him. Don’t be so easily shaken or alarmed by those who say that the day of the Lord has already begun. Don’t believe them, even if they claim to have had a spiritual vision, a revelation, or a letter supposedly from us. Don’t be fooled by what they say. For that day will not come until there is a great rebellion against God and the man of lawlessness is revealed—the one who brings destruction. He will exalt himself and defy everything that people call god and every object of worship. He will even sit in the temple of God, claiming that he himself is God” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4 NLT). But those events will be the preface for an even greater and more significant one – the coming of Christ. He is going to return just as He said. And as the events of Daniel’s vision took place with painstaking accuracy, so will the events associated with the end times. The tribulation will come. The Antichrist will come to power. But Jesus Christ will come again and bring about a great victory, setting up His kingdom once and for all.
Father, these dreams and visions are difficult to understand. But help me to grasp that You know the future and You will bring about everything You have said will happen. It is a certainty. Just as Alexander the Great came to power, so will Christ. But unlike Alexander, Christ’s kingdom will have no end. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men