Today we pick back up with our friend, Daniel, who is still in exile in Babylon. Daniel has risen to prominence as a wise man after interpreting Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (Daniel 2). Daniel was taken captive around 604 BC; it’s now 52 years later and Belshazzar is on the throne. If Daniel was a young teenager when he was captured, he’s approaching his late 60’s.
In Daniel 7-8, we read about two visions that God gave our prophet, visions which have been partially fulfilled. Both tell the story of what we know now as history, as well as give us a glimpse of our future. Daniel first sees four beasts: a lion with wings like an eagle, a bear with 3 ribs in its mouth, a leopard with four wings and four heads, and an unnamed “terrifying and frightening” beast with ten horns. These represent kingdoms: Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. Out of the last kingdom a small horn arises which uproots three of the first horns and grows to conquer for 3 ½ years (a time, times, and ½ a time). This last kingdom is prophetic and tells us about the Antichrist who will come to power in the last days. He will be subdued by Christ Himself at the second coming of our Savior.
The second vision gives more details about the kingdoms of Medo-Persian and Greece. We also get more clues about the Antichrist (particularly that he will come out of the European/Grecian/Roman background); at least that’s how I read it.
What’s our takeaway from these visions? First, they speak about God’s sovereignty over kings and kingdoms and His perfect knowledge of time, past, present and future. If you are a God who is transcendent, operating outside of human time as we know it, it is a small thing to have insight and knowledge about what will happen in the future. God is mysterious and He doesn’t reveal everything at once. He takes His time, and He is creative in how He unfolds the layers. He gives different prophets clues and insights at different times in history because when it is all revealed in the end, we will know without a shadow of a doubt that He is truly the Most High God. Only the Most High God could do this!
Second, it gives us confidence and hope in the promises of God and warns us to be ready. Jesus has told us that He will return for us. Scripture is full of details about the last days, the rise of an Antichrist, a 7-year tribulation which will be unlike anything the earth has ever known, and a great and final battle that will usher us into the Millennium and eternity itself. If God can give an old Jewish man such details years before they occur, details which we know from history came to be in startling and precise accuracy, then ought we not to believe the rest of scripture and be prepared for what is still to come?
Daniel’s dreams remind us that God is alive. He is sovereign. For a time, He has allowed earthly kings to sit on thrones, but those reigns will end, I believe, sooner than later. Who will you be serving?