There is an old legend that describes Satan in a meeting with all his demons. He wanted to send one of them to earth to aid men and women in the ruination of their souls, and he asked for volunteers.
One creature came forward and said, “I will go.” Satan said, “If I send you, what will you tell the children of men?” He said, “I will tell the children of men that there is no heaven.” Satan said, “They will not believe you, for there is a bit of heaven in every human heart. In the end everyone knows that right and good must have the victory. You may not go.”
Then another came forward, darker and fouler than the first. Satan said, “If I send you, what will you tell the children of men?” He said, “I will tell them there is no hell.” Satan looked at him and said, “Oh, no; they will not believe you, for in every human heart there's a thing called conscience, an inner voice which testifies to the truth that not only will good be triumphant, but that evil will be defeated. You may not go.”
Then one last creature came forward, this one from the darkest place of all. Satan said to him, “And if I send you, what will you say to men and women to aid them in the destruction of their souls?” He said, “I will tell them there is no hurry.” Satan said, “Go!” (Bruce Thielemann, "Tide Riding," Preaching Today No. 30; www.PreachingToday.com)
You see, that’s the most insidious lie – there is no hurry – because it lulls us all into a sense of complacency. If we believe the lie that “There is plenty of time to commit your life to Christ”, or “There is plenty of time to tell your friends about Jesus,” then we will never get to it until it is eternally too late.
Well, I am here to tell you this morning, “There is NOT plenty of time!” “The stage is set for the end-time events exactly as described in biblical prophecy, and time is short!”
If you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Daniel 7, Daniel 7, where Daniel has an amazing vision about the future all the way down to the day Jesus comes, and the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord. Let me tell you, as we look at this prophecy, you are going to see that that day is very close.
Daniel 7:1-15 In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream, and visions passed through his mind as he was lying on his bed. He wrote down the substance of his dream. Daniel said: “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me were the four winds of heaven churning up the great sea. Four great beasts, each different from the others, came up out of the sea. “The first was like a lion, and it had the wings of an eagle. I watched until its wings were torn off and it was lifted from the ground so that it stood on two feet like a man, and the heart of a man was given to it. “And there before me was a second beast, which looked like a bear. It was raised up on one of its sides, and it had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. It was told, ‘Get up and eat your fill of flesh!’ “After that, I looked, and there before me was another beast, one that looked like a leopard. And on its back it had four wings like those of a bird. This beast had four heads, and it was given authority to rule. “After that, in my vision at night I looked, and there before me was a fourth beast—terrifying and frightening and very powerful. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. It was different from all the former beasts, and it had ten horns. “While I was thinking about the horns, there before me was another horn, a little one, which came up among them; and three of the first horns were uprooted before it. This horn had eyes like the eyes of a man and a mouth that spoke boastfully. “As I looked, “thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze. A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him. Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was seated, and the books were opened. “Then I continued to watch because of the boastful words the horn was speaking. I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire. (The other beasts had been stripped of their authority, but were allowed to live for a period of time.) “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. “I, Daniel, was troubled in spirit, and the visions that passed through my mind disturbed me. (NIV)
Well, no wonder Daniel was disturbed.
HE HAS A DISTURBING VISION.
He has a terrifying dream, a nightmare. Daniel sees four beasts on earth, an old man in heaven, and a young man coming to that old man to receive a kingdom. It’s a frightening vision, and Daniel doesn’t have a clue as to what it means. So, Daniel says…
Daniel 7:16-18 I approached one of those standing there and asked him the true meaning of all this. “So he told me and gave me the interpretation of these things: ‘The four great beasts are four kingdoms that will rise from the earth. But the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever—yes, for ever and ever.’ (NIV)
AN ANGEL FROM THE THRONE ROOM OF HEAVEN INTERPRETS THE DREAM FOR DANIEL.
And he says, “There is coming a day when God’s people will be in charge; but until then, four world-powers will dominate the scene.” Four kingdoms will arise before God’s people find themselves in control.
Now, you have to remember that God’s people were in exile at this time. They were under the domination of the Babylonian Empire and King Belshazzar who despised God and His people. Since Belshazzar’s grandfather, king Nebuchadnezzar, had died, Daniel has fallen out of favor with the Babylonian elites, and God’s people are worried about their future.
So God lays it out for them in Daniel’s vision. At this point, Daniel is looking ahead at the future, but from our vantage point, 2500 years later, we can look back and see how accurate Daniel’s vision was. He saw four beasts which represent four kingdoms, according to the angel.
The first beast, according to verse 4, was a lion with eagle’s wings. That was the symbol of the Babylonian Empire in Daniel’s day. Winged lions guarded the gates of royal palaces all over Babylon. So this beast represents Babylon, whose wings were plucked. You remember, Nebuchadnezzar, one of the great kings of Babylon, became a madman for seven years. And Belshazzar, the last king, lost his kingdom in the middle of a drunken party.
The second beast, according to verse 5, was a bear, raised up on one side with three ribs in its mouth. That’s an exact description of the Medo-Persian Empire, which overran the Babylonian Empire in 539 B.C. It was big and strong like a bear, but not as swift nor as majestic as the lion. It was raised up on one side. That is, one side dominated the other as the Persians did over the Medes. And it had three ribs in its mouth. The Medo-Persian Empire devoured three great nations in its conquest: Lydia (which is current day Turkey), Babylon and Egypt.
The third beast, according to verse 6, was a 4-headed leopard with wings. More than 200 years before it happened, Daniel saw Alexander the Great’s conquests perfectly here. Alexander and his four generals conquered the world in four short years (from 334 to 330 B.C.) with the swiftness of a winged leopard, and Greece became the next dominant world power. When it was all said and done, Alexander controlled all the land from Greece in the west to India in the east and also parts of Africa in the south. Then, after Alexander’s death, his kingdom was divided among his four generals (represented by the four heads of the leopard).
Now remember, Daniel saw all of this ahead of time. He predicted the future with amazing accuracy unlike any other ancient or modern prophecy. That tells me one thing: God wrote this book, because only God knows the future in detail.
Daniel saw four empires arising on the world-scene. 1st Babylon as a lion with eagle’s wings, 2nd Medo-Persia as a bear lying on its side, 3rd Greece as a winged leopard, and the fourth beast he saw, according to verse 7, was terrifying. It had large, iron teeth, and it crushed and devoured its victims, trampling everything that got in its way. From the vantage point of history, we see that this perfectly describes the Roman Empire, which dominated the world shortly before the time of Christ and then for several hundred years after Christ. Rome was ruthless in its destruction of civilizations and peoples. The Empire killed captives by the thousands and sold people into slavery by the hundreds of thousands. This is what Daniel saw 500 years before anybody ever heard of Rome. Eventually, this beast sprouts 10 horns, and then a little horn, which uproots three of the horns, according to verse 8.
This describes a later form of the Roman Empire, a form yet future, and the last form of Gentile power before Christ comes again to set up His Kingdom. That’s what the thrones are all about in verses 9 and 10. If you compare these verses with Revelation 4 and 5, you will see that it’s a description of heaven’s throne room. God is on the throne. He is the “Ancient of Days”, and He is surrounded by an innumerable company of angels.
Then into this throne room comes the “Son of Man” (vs.13). That’s Jesus Christ himself. He comes into the throne room of heaven to take the title deed to the earth. In Revelation 5, that title deed is described as a 7-sealed scroll. Here, in Daniel 7:14, it simply says, “He was given authority, glory and sovereign power.”
This is when the “saints of the Most High receive the kingdom and possess it forever” (vs.18). Finally, after being dominated, disgraced and destroyed all these years by ruthless, world powers, God’s people get to rule and reign forever with the Son of Man, Jesus Christ Himself.
This was a great comfort to God’s people in Daniel’s day. They were captives in a strange land, dominated by a ruthless, foolish, pagan king. But here they learn that that is not the end of the story. One day, they will reign with the Son of Man forever!
It was good news for God’s people then, and it is good news for God’s people today. Because of what Christ has done for us on the cross, because of the victory He won on that cross over evil, all who put their trust in Him will one day reign with Him. Hallelujah! So don’t lose hope in the midst of your trial. Don’t give up. Keep trusting the Lord and…
BE CONFIDENT IN THE VICTORY TO COME!
Be assured that one day God will turn everything around, and His people will come out on top. His people will prevail even though for a time it seems like they have failed.
Back in the height of the cold war, Nikita Khrushchev once boasted that he would exhibit the last Soviet Christian on television by 1965. Today Khrushchev and the whole Soviet Empire is gone, while the church is thriving behind what was once the Iron Curtain!
Evil cannot prevail, but those who do the will of the Lord live forever! So rejoice even in the midst of pain. Be confident in the victory to come!
In his talk entitled “The Sense of an Ending,” Jeremy Begbie tells a story about attending a worship service in a poor South African township.
He was told, immediately before the service, that a house around the corner had just been burned to the ground, because the man who lived there was a suspected thief. A week before that, a tornado had cut through the township, ripping apart fifty homes; five people had been killed. And the very night before, a gang hounded down a fourteen-year-old, a member of the church's Sunday school, and stabbed him to death.
The pastor began his opening prayer: “Lord, you are the Creator and the Sovereign, but why did the wind come like a snake and tear our roofs off? Why did a mob cut short the life of one of our own children, when he had everything to live for? Over and over again, Lord, we are in the midst of death.”
As he spoke, the congregation responded with a dreadful sighing and groaning. And then, once he finished his prayer, very slowly, the whole congregation began to sing, at first very quietly, then louder. They sang and they sang, song after song of praise—praise to a God who in Jesus had plunged into the very worst to give us a promise of an ending beyond all imagining. The singing gave the congregation a foretaste of the end. (Dallas Willard, editor, A Place for Truth, InterVarsity Press, 2010; www.PreachingToday.com)
My dear believing friends, when the world turns against you, don’t wallow in self-pity forever. Instead, begin to praise the one who entered into our pain to deliver you from it. In the midst of death, breathe the fresh air of our victorious ending; taste the spices and sip the wine of the feast to come through your worship. Don’t let the current state of affairs in our world get you down. Instead, be confident in the victory to come! And then…
BE READY WHEN IT COMES.
Be prepared for Christ’s soon coming! Get set, for your redemption is very near. Here, in Daniel 7, Daniel saw the world in the last few years before the Son of Man comes. And let me tell you: the stage is set for those final years right now! Take a look at verse 19.
Daniel 7:19-24 Then I wanted to know the true meaning of the fourth beast, which was different from all the others and most terrifying, with its iron teeth and bronze claws—the beast that crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. I also wanted to know about the ten horns on its head and about the other horn that came up, before which three of them fell—the horn that looked more imposing than the others and that had eyes and a mouth that spoke boastfully. As I watched, this horn was waging war against the saints and defeating them, until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom. “He gave me this explanation: ‘The fourth beast is a fourth kingdom that will appear on earth. It will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing it. The ten horns are ten kings who will come from this kingdom. After them another king will arise, different from the earlier ones; he will subdue three kings. (NIV)
The 10 horns are 10 rulers who come out of a revived form of the Old Roman Empire. Then another ruler arises, one whom the New Testament identifies as the antichrist. He too comes out of a revived form of the Old Roman Empire and subdues three of the other rulers. Then he turns against God’s people, the Jews.
Daniel 7:25 He will speak against the Most High and oppress his saints and try to change the set times and the laws. The saints will be handed over to him for a time, times and half a time. (NIV)
I.e., three and a half years. For three and a half years (the last half of the 7-year tribulation), the antichrist will oppress those who have been set apart for God (“the holy people”). In the context of Daniel, those people are the Jews, God’s chosen people. He will invade their land, desecrate their temple, and cause many to flee.
Daniel 7:26 But the court will sit, and his power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever. (NIV)
Heaven’s court will rule, and the antichrist will come to an end. Hallelujah!
Daniel 7:27 Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him. (NIV)
God’s people will rule and reign with the Son of Man forever!
Daniel 7:28 This is the end of the matter. I, Daniel, was deeply troubled by my thoughts, and my face turned pale, but I kept the matter to myself. (NIV)
I think Daniel is disturbed by what must happen before God’s people are victorious. He sees ten rulers arising out of this terrifying beast, a revived form of the old Roman Empire. Then he sees another ruler more ruthless than all the rest, oppressing God’s people for three and a half years.
Now, for 1,500 years, this scenario was absolutely impossible. The Roman Empire consisted of what is much of Europe today, and those European nations fought each other tooth and nail for centuries.
Then, in the middle of the last century (the 20th Century), those European nations put their differences aside began to unite as one economic and political entity. In 1958, six nations (Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and West Germany) formed the European Economic Community (the EEC). In 1986, the EEC officially adopted the goal of a politically unified Europe. In 1992, they unified product standards and eliminated tariffs and trade quotas. Around that same time, the collapse of the iron curtain brought historic enemies together, and more European nations were added to the European Community (or as it is now called, “the European Union”). (Charlie Dyer, World News & Bible Prophecy, pp.186-188).
In 2005, The European Union began building its own spy satellite system to ensure that member nations and private individuals are obeying its policies. This spy satellite system also supported the European Union's first steps towards creating a standing army, which they deployed to the Congo in 2006.
Then, in 2007, the European Union's (EU) top diplomat, Javier Solana, declared that after the EU’s military success in the Congo, the EU is ready for more military action under the EU flag. In fact, just a few years ago, they put together a permanently standing EU force, which is already replacing NATO forces in some areas of our world. A primary focus of the EU forces is now Lebanon, providing a majority of the troops for the peacekeeping force that is a buffer between Hezbollah and Israel.
Recently, all 28 member states of the European Union ratified the Treaty for European Union, which was signed in Lisbon, Portugal, on December 13, 2007, by the prime ministers and foreign ministers of all the EU Member States. This treaty calls for a “Supra-State”, a United States of Europe, and also provides for a “powerful, permanent president” of the EU, who has since been selected and put in power. (Jimmy DeYoung, www.ProphecyToday.com)
Let me tell you: if this is not the ultimate fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy, it sure sets the stage for it to happen! All of the players are in place for the “little horn” of Daniel 7 to dominate the world scene and oppress the Jews. After all, he has a standing army in Lebanon, just north of Israel.
Now, I believe the rapture of the church will take place before this “little horn” is revealed for who he is in all his ugliness. If that’s the case, then Jesus could come for His followers today!
Tell me, are you ready? Have you put your trust in Christ as Savior and Lord? Have you told your friends and family about Him as He has given you opportunity? There’s not a whole lot of time left! The stage is set for the last few years of Gentile rule as seen by Daniel right here in Daniel 7. Soon, Jesus will come for His church, and then He will return with His church to rule and reign on this earth forever! Are you ready?
Dear believing friend, in these days when it seems God’s people are losing, don’t despair. Instead, be confident in the victory that’s soon coming, and be ready when Jesus comes to give us that victory.
And dear unbelieving friend, please make sure you’re on the winning side when Jesus comes. It may seem like Jesus’ followers are losing some battles these days; but one day, very soon, “the sovereignty, power and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over” to them forever! Make sure you’re on the winning side when that happens. Trust Christ with your life today before it is eternally too late.
Author Doug Mendenhall shares a brief parable that should cause all of us to stop and think:
Jesus called the other day to say he was passing through and [wondered if] he could spend a day or two with us.
I said, “Sure. Love to see you. When will you hit town?”
I mean, it's Jesus, you know, and it's not every day you get the chance to visit with him. It's not like it's your in-laws and you have to stop and decide whether the advantages outweigh your having to move to the sleeper sofa.
That's when Jesus told me he was actually at a convenience store out by the interstate.
I must have gotten that Bambi-in-headlights look, because my wife hissed, “What is it? What's wrong? Who is that?”
So I covered the receiver and told her Jesus was going to arrive in eight minutes, and she ran out of the room and started giving guidance to the kids – in that effective way that Marine drill instructors give guidance to recruits…
My mind was already racing with what needed to be done in the next eight – no seven – minutes so Jesus wouldn't think we were reprobate loser slobs.
I turned off the TV in the den, which was blaring some weird scary movie I'd been half watching. But I could still hear screams from our bedroom, so I turned off the reality show it was tuned to. Plus, I turned off the kids' set out on the sun porch, because I didn't want to have to explain Jon & Kate Plus Eight to Jesus, either, six minutes from now.
My wife had already thinned out the magazines that had been accumulating on the coffee table. She put Christianity Today on top for a good first impression. Five minutes to go.
I looked out the front window, but the yard actually looked great thanks to my long, hard work, so I let it go. What could I improve in four minutes anyway?
I did notice the mail had come, so I ran out to grab it. Mostly it was Netflix envelopes and a bunch of catalogs tied into recent purchases, so I stuffed it back in the box. Jesus doesn't need to get the wrong idea – three minutes from now – about how much on-line shopping we do.
I ran back in and picked up a bunch of shoes left by the door. Tried to stuff them in the front closet, but it was overflowing with heavy coats and work coats and snow coats and pretty coats and raincoats and extra coats. We live in the South; why'd we buy so many coats? I squeezed the shoes in with two minutes to go.
I plumped up sofa pillows, my wife tossed dishes into the sink, I scolded the kids, and she shooed the dog. With one minute left I realized something important: Getting ready for a visit from Jesus is not an eight-minute job.
Then the doorbell rang. (Doug Mendenhall, “Getting Prepared for the Arrival of Jesus,” www.reporternews.com, 9-24-09; www.PreachingToday.com)
My dear friends, start getting ready for that visit from Jesus today!