Summary: Daniel’s vision of the future is amazing. But it is a solemn reminder Jesus is going to return and one day all of those who don’t know Him will be sentenced at the Great White Throne Judgement.
English writer George Orwell is perhaps best known for his work 1984 (written in 1949), in which he introduced the idea that “Big Brother is watching.” It is almost scary to read it today because it seems strangely prophetic of the ability of big government to monitor your phone and email. However, I think his best work was Animal Farm, written in 1945. It was a story about how farm animals took over an English farm and established “equality” only to discover the pigs became “more equal” and used the new structure to become fat and wealthy. It was a blatant political satire about the failure of Russian Communism. When I was in the Crimea and saw the lavish summer mansions of the Soviet communist leaders, I couldn’t help but think of Orwell’s book. You might say it was prophetic. That’s what we have in Daniel 7, a dream of four animals, and much of it is about political and military power. I call it “God’s Animal Farm.”
The first half of Daniel is the personal section. Chapters 1-6 deal with personal stories about Daniel, the three Hebrew amigos, Nebuchadnezzar, and the writing on the wall. The second half of Daniel (chapters 6-12) contains the prophetic section. There are four visions contained in these last six chapters: The vision of the four animals in chapter 7; the vision of the Ram and the Goat in chapter 8; the vision of the seventy weeks in chapter 9; and a long vision of the end times contained in chapters 10-12. It is important to understand during the next few weeks that some of the prophecy in this section has already been fulfilled, making it history for us. Much of it, however, has yet to be fulfilled; it is still in the future.
Daniel 12:9 says, “Go your way, Daniel, because the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end.” In other words, some of the prophecy of Daniel won’t be fully understood until what the Bible calls “the time of the end.” The study of end times or the end of the world is called eschatology; it comes from the Greek word eschaton and means “end.”
There are two warnings here. First, don’t become obsessed with Bible prophecy. I’ve known some Christians who “go to seed” over prophecy. It becomes their only biblical pursuit. That’s because it really is interesting to hold the newspaper in one hand and Bible prophecy in the other and say, “Yep, that’s what God said would happen.” But some have become so obsessed with prophecy they become repulsive. They sweat and strain to figure out the meaning of some horn growing from the foot of some symbolic animal and never use their feet to take the gospel to people who need Jesus. They become so preoccupied with the tiny details, they miss the larger picture.
Warning number two: Don’t be afraid of Bible prophecy. Some people read these prophecies and consider them a Gordian knot: Beyond their ability to unravel. The best tool to unravel prophecy is the Bible itself. One of the main interpretational principles I have followed for years is “Let the Bible interpret the Bible.” For many years I studied and preached from a Thompson Chain Reference Bible. I preached from it until I switched to the NIV and I still use it in my personal study. This is a Bible that links Bible passages together into a beautiful topical chain. If you want to know the truth about any topic, just read every verse in the Bible on that topic.
It’s a lot what the internet search engines do. They provide links to other sites. That’s what I’m going to be doing in this message. I’ll be providing links to passages that clarify and support the prophecy we read in Daniel.
God’s definition of prophecy: (Isaiah 46:10)
“I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: my purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.”
Over the next few weeks I’ll be serving up some heavy meals of Bible prophecy. Folks, this is biblical meat; it’s not milk. I’m going to try to cut it up into bite-sized pieces and feed it to you, but I can’t chew it for you and swallow it. You’d better listen hard, take notes and chew on it for a long time or you’ll have a good case of spiritual indigestion! But if you will consume it, it will make you stronger.
One of the things I’ll do today is to put these events in chronological or sequential order. A characteristic of apocalyptic literature (Daniel and Revelation) is it usually doesn’t flow in neat, sequential order. In fact, in chapter seven, Daniel has several episodes of this vision followed by one interpretation. We will skip around the text to put it in order for you by looking at both the content of the prophecy and the interpretation together. Buckle your seat belt and return all tray tables to their full upright position, because here we go!