Thanks to the Bible project for this image. https://jointhebibleproject.com/
Daniel is a book about leadership and how men become beasts when they overstep their mandate.
Let’s do two things today, firstly let’s look at history and fulfilment. Daniel uses colourful metaphorical language about beasts and Kingdoms to describe the present and the future, it’s called apocalyptic literature, and as we’ll see you can make some linkages between the Metaphors and historic characters. Apocalyptic is the Greek word for revealed.
Secondly, we’ll look at the underlying message in Daniel, about how rulers can become beasts, but God always humbles the beasts. It is an encouragement for us to oppose men who become beast like knowing God will win the final victory.
Let’s start with when Daniel was written? The traditional approach Daniel 9.2 is to say it was written by Daniel himself probably in about the year 530BC, shortly after the destruction of the first Jewish Temple. This view sees the book as descriptive in the first chapters and predictive in the later chapters; revealed by God who stands outside of time and space. A more liberal view sees at least some of the book as having been written later, nearer the time of the Maccabean revolt, and viewing Prophesy as a style to interpret events that were taking place at the time.
I’d like to suggest we consider these prophesies as having a triple fulfilment. Firstly, there are strong connections to make between Daniel’s prophesies and events at the time of the Maccabees and Antiochus Epiphanes; secondly they seem to bear a remarkable connection to the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and Thirdly they may relate to the future yet?
Two hundred years before Jesus was the time of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, a Greek King who ruled an empire based in Syria. He ruled one of the four Kingdoms that emerged after the death of Alexander the Great. Epiphanes means God made manifest, so he thought pretty highly of himself. At first he was overlord over Judea and Jerusalem and appointed a puppet high priest, generally allowing the Jews get on with things. After a rebellion in 168 BC Antiochus attacked Jerusalem, killed a lot of people, banned Circumcision, outlawed Torah and stopped the Daily Sacrifice (8.10), this is recorded the books of the Maccabees. Maccabee means Hammer, they were Jews who fought Antiochus and later won. Jewish Zealots in Jesus’ time were looking for a Military Messiah like the Maccabees. At his height Antiochus set up the worship of Zeus in the Jewish temple, and sacrificed a pig on the altar. The Maccabees were inspired by the Prophesies in Daniel. Many Jewish Rabbis see Daniel’s predictions being fulfilled at this time, making Antiochus the 11th Horn of the beast in Daniel 7, and the great horn in Daniel 8.
If you follow my approach, then this is the first fulfilment of Daniel’s Prophesies.
Next come the Roman’s. Perhaps the fourth Empire in Nebuchadnezzar’s great dream from Daniel 2 refereed to Rome; feet of iron and clay. Jesus quoted Daniel in Mk 13.14 saying when you see the Abomination of Desolation flee to the hills. So here is a second possible fulfilment of Daniel’s prophesy. Jesus may have been referring to was the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD by the Roman general Titus. The City was besieged then the temple destroyed. Now the peculiar thing is Jesus’ words, this is an example of a kind of mistake proving the historical nature of the Bible. Jesus says – flee to the hills, basically means get out of there, but technically he’s wrong. The Romans actually came from the hills, so many scholars believe these words were actually a genuine prediction from the lips of Jesus. If you were going to ‘put words into Jesus mouth’, you would have said it differently. So Daniel’s predictions can be connected with the destruction of the temple in 70AD, Jesus made that connection.
In fact there’s another partial fulfilment in Roman times; in the year 132 AD the Emperor Hadrian built a roman city where Jerusalem had been and built a temple for Jupiter on the temple mount. The abomination of desolation, refers to a wrong sacrifice that destroys things.
So there are strong reasons to see Daniel’s predictions as referring to Roman times.
Then thirdly we have the future, Daniel’s prophesy could be about a time yet to come. A time when a false leader arises and leads many people into deception before the second coming of the Messiah. Daniel talks about 7 weeks, 70 weeks then 2300 days after the restoration of the temple; well it looks like we are beyond a simple application of those timelines, but Daniel’s message can be applied to any ruler who usurps authority and oppresses the faithful. Someone like Stalin, Hitler, Mao, or perhaps an historic figure yet to come. I’m not going to get into details, because there have been such a succession of predictions that have got it wrong all throughout Christian history. But I do want to leave this section open, Daniel’s visions may refer to a time yet to come. A time that we can’t yet recognise, and his predictions can give us strength to fight our own Antiochus, Titus or Hadrian.
I want to finish with a question and a quest! How does God know the future? My understanding is like this. To God time is a dimension that he is not bound by, he exists outside of time. He can participate in time but is not limited by time. So when the Bible says that God knows the end from the beginning It’s like he can look at different points along the time line. I believe that God gives us a certain amount of freedom, so we make real and effective decisions; it’s just that God can see what decisions we have made when he looks back from the future. I think God is incredible because he doesn’t allow his foreknowledge to prejudice his behaviour towards us. He created and Loved Adam and Eve knowing that they would sin.
And a quest. Eschatology matters. It tells us that things may get worse before they get better, but in the end OUR God WINS! It’s not a hope, it’s a fact. In the end the kingdom of God will be established and God will rule over all the earth. For wealthy westerners on a good day, that doesn’t seem that important; but in the trenches of modern warfare – a theology that says in the end God’s justice will prevail is vital. If you work every day in a mission hospital in the midst of an African Famine, a theology that says in the end God’s justice will prevail is vital. If you are an ISIS sex slave, being beaten and abused by men that have become beasts, a theology that says in the end God’s justice will prevail is vital. Daniel’s words are words of hope not fear, and they can inspire us on our quest to oppose oppression where ever we see it. Not being discouraged when we see men turn into beasts, but knowing our God wins. Not being disheartened when we see slavery in all its forms, but steeling ourselves to set people free, in body, in mind, in spirit. Knowing that our God wins. Not being dismayed by the apathy of culture, but breathing to establish justice and peace and mercy in every corner of the world, and knowing it doesn’t depend on our effort – because our prophets have seen the future. And our God wins!