Summary: The best way to keep the present in perspective is to focus on the future.
Title: Seeing Then, Now!
Thesis: The best way to clarify the present is to focus on the future.
The Messiah of Morris Avenue End-Time Countdown as told by humorist, Tony Hendra, attempts to imaginatively (and satirically) capture world events that transpire between now and the second coming of Christ. In one episode, he reports that Don King and HBO have entered into an agreement to telecast judgment day.
On the darker side, we are all aware of the spate of “rapture” films generated by the Christian film industry over the last several decades as well as the more recent Left Behind series. End time prophecy continues to be a big seller at Christian bookstores and Hollywood regularly cranks out versions and visions of Armageddon and apocalyptic films. The subject of the end times is immensely popular and a matter of ongoing interest and curiosity among both religious and secular audiences.
I cannot remember a time when someone was not stating that we are living in the last days… when someone was not saying that the Day of the Lord is near. We cite the words of Jesus, who spoke of the signs of the times and of his imminent return in the gospels of Matthew 24; Mark 13 and Luke 21.
The language opens the door to speculation every time there is a war or the rumor of a war, an earthquake or famine, or the rise of a world power or a world leader of influence, talk of a one-world economic system and government, or catastrophic nuclear warfare.
However, it is imperative that while there is plenty about which to speculate, Jesus was explicitly clear is stating, “No one knows the day or the hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son, himself. Only the Father knows.” Matthew 24:36
However, there is no question that our time, like every other time in history is chaotic. Archeological digs around the world uncover the ruins of dynasties and empires that rose and fell. Hannibal and his army of elephants have come and gone. Genghis Khan is buried in some secret chamber in Mongolia. The lands that he conquered, a wide swath of global territory stretching from northern China to the southern tip of Kuwait – including Afghanistan and Iraq, are now ruled by others and the peoples who live there continue to live in chaos. Hitler is long dead. The USSR has been pieced out. Castro is dying. In these days we have new forms of chaos… genocide continues in Congo, Sudan and Somalia. Sectarian violence blows up people shopping in their neighborhood markets in Iraq or burns them when they come out of their places of worship. What should we make of the chaos in the world?
What is clear in this passage?
I. God will make order out of earthly chaos.) Daniel 7:1-12
“In my vision I saw a great churning of the surface of a great storm churning the surface of a great sea, with strong winds blowing from every direction. Then four huge beasts came up out of the water, each different from the others.” Daniel 7:1-12
I am reminded of something I learned a long time ago regarding how I handle the Word of God. I believe that when the Bible speaks clearly and definitively, I can speak with equal clarity. However, when the Bible does not speak clearly and definitively, I cannot speak with clarity. This is particularly true when it comes to prophetic passages and interpreting apocalyptic images and language.
In the course of my life and ministry I have been exposed to preachers and teachers who have it all figured out… some of them have rubbed their hands together with glee as they have interpreted the “aligning of the planets” and the unfolding of biblical prophecy in our time. These folks have studied the Books of Ezekiel, Daniel and Revelation, have poured over charts and maps, and are quite willing to tell you what it all means.
I can’t do that, but this is what I am willing to do. I am willing point to what the biblical text states and draw conclusions that seem to be obvious in nature. The text states that Daniel’s dream was about the rise of four world empires or powers that will be in existence at the time when Christ returns to establish his Kingdom. Here are the images from the text:
A. The Images of World Powers, Daniel 7:4-8
1. The first beast – a lion with eagle’s wings, standing on its hind legs and possessing the mind of a human.
2. The second beast – a bear with three ribs clutched between its teeth.
3. The third beast – a four-winged, four-headed leopard.