Summary: When we see things predicted in the Bible that have already come true, it gives us great assurance that those things yet to happen will also come true.
Just as Daniel 7 gave us much more information about the fourth kingdom, the prophecy in chapter 8 gives us much more information about the second and third kingdoms. For Daniel, this was one of his most troubling visions, even after the angel Gabriel explained it to him. Notice Daniel¡¦s reaction in verse 27, ¡§I, Daniel was exhausted and lay ill for several days. Then I got up and went about the king¡¦s business (hang onto that phrase). I was appalled by the vision; it was beyond understanding.¡¨
However, for us, standing on the other side of this prophecy, it¡¦s one of the easiest for us to comprehend. What Daniel prophesied in chapter 8 was future for him, but much of it is history for us and we have ample historical evidence of the exact fulfillment of this vision. One reason I enjoy this section of Daniel is because I love to study history, and this is one of the best places in the Bible to compare history and prophecy.
This message should demonstrate to you the absolute reliability and infallibility of the Word of God. When we see things predicted in the Bible that have already come true, it gives us great assurance that those things yet to happen will also come true.
I. THE PROPHETIC MEANING OF THE VISION
Chapter 8 indicates a change. There is a change of language. Once again, the book is written in Hebrew rather than Aramaic. There is also an explanation of the time (Belshazzar and Nabonidus are the Babylonian rulers) and the place. He was in Elam at the fortress of Susa. This is near modern Kuwait, about 150 miles north of the mouth of the Persian Gulf. Later, this became the capitol of the Persian Empire and it would have been where Queen Esther and Nehemiah lived. We aren¡¦t sure if Daniel is actually there or if he was simply transported there in his vision, which seems to be more likely.
Rather than reading the content of this dream, let me just tell you the basics of what Daniel dreamed and we will go straight to the interpretation the angel Gabriel gave Daniel. Daniel dreamed of a mighty ram with two massive horns, but one horn was bigger than the other. This Ram was powerful and it charged around beating every other animal. But then Daniel saw a strange looking goat approaching the Ram. It had one horn growing out from its forehead (almost like a unicorn, but probably more like a rhinoceros). Well, this one-horned goat whipped the ram and trampled it down in the dirt. But suddenly its horn was snapped off, and growing in its place were four other horns and growing out of one of those four horns was another little horn and then this little horn did some really mean things to God¡¦s people and God¡¦s temple.
Daniel 8:13-14. ¡§Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to him, ¡¥How long will it take for the vision to be fulfilled¡Xthe vision concerning the daily sacrifice, the rebellion that causes desolation, and the surrender of the sanctuary and of the host that will be trampled underfoot?¡¦ He said to me, ¡¥It will take 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary will be re-consecrated.¡¦¡¨
Daniel himself was troubled and confused, so verse 16 tells us Gabriel comes to give him a clear interpretation. By the way, of all the angels in the bible, only three are named. Obviously, one of them is Gabriel. This is the same angel who spoke to the Virgin Mary and Joseph. Another is the archangel, Michael. We¡¦ll read about him in chapter 10. In his great epic allegory, Paradise Lost, John Milton incorrectly identified Gabriel as an archangel but only Michael is given that title, which just means ¡§leader angel.¡¨ So who is the third angel identified by name in the Bible? Lucifer, the fallen angel.
Gabriel explains the dream to Daniel, v 20-24. ¡§The two-horned ram that you saw represents the kings of Media and Persia. The shaggy goat is the king of Greece, and the large between his eyes is the first king. The four horns that replaced the one that was broken off represent four kingdoms that will emerge from his nation but will not have the same power. In the later part of their reign, when rebels have become completely wicked, a stern-faced king, a master of intrigue, will arise [that¡¦s the little horn]. He will become very strong, but not by his own power. He will cause astounding devastation and will succeed in whatever he does. He will destroy the mighty men and the holy people.¡¨
1. A RAMPAGING RAM: Medo-Persian Empire
When Daniel received this dream, the Babylonian Empire was still in place, but God showed him there was a new empire on the horizon, one God would use to fulfill the prophecy to all the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple that Neb destroyed. This ram had one horn was larger than the other. This symbolizes the Persians were always the more powerful of the two nations in this coalition.