Summary of the book of Daniel. The Bible is a story. Not a collection of stories, not an anthology of religious experiences, not a random assortment of things people did for God in the past. The Bible is one story, the story of God’s redemptive purposes for humanity from Genesis to Revelation. God is the central character. God created man in His image. Man sinned and fell and broke that image in his rebellion against God. The rest of the Bible is about how God set out to rescue and redeem fallen mankind and defeat sin and Satan and restore His image and His creation. The Bible is God’s tool to transform us and conform us to the image and likeness of Jesus. The part of God’s story told by Daniel began with a story of a great defeat, the defeat of the people of God and by implication, the defeat of their God. Nebuchadnezzar was able to carry off the holy items from the temple of God without interference, showing the gods of Babylon were superior to the God of Israel. Is this true? The rest of the book of Daniel is the answer. At every step and turn God demonstrates His superior power and wisdom. Nebuchadnezzar is impotent before the God of Israel and would soon be destroyed, and every kingdom after that until the kingdom of one like a Son of Man comes to establish His eternal kingdom. Revelation 11:15 The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever. Daniel is an amazing and remarkable and unique book. It reveals in ways unlike any other God’s plans for the world and for His people. The first six chapters are written about Daniel in the third person. They are historical events the happen in the lives of Daniel and his friends. They give numerous accounts of how God’s sovereignty and providence are personal, they reach down to individuals. In these stories we see their fierce loyalty to God and God’s faithfulness to them. The last six chapters are written in the first persons as Daniel describes a series of visions he receives concerning Israel and the surrounding nations. The details of the prophecies are so accurate that liberal scholars cannot bring themselves to believe Daniel wrote the book in 500 BC, that it was written by someone else around 150 BC, after all the events prophesied. In this last half of the book we see God’s sovereignty and providence extends not just to individuals, but to rulers and nations and armies. Who is the hero in Daniel? Who answers prayers and delivers from evil? Who saves from fire and rescues from lions? Who interprets dreams and handwriting on the wall? God is the hero, the savior and deliverer.
As we come to the last chapter of Daniel, let me remind you as I have before, Daniel is a kind of survival manual for the suffering church, for God’s people living in an alien land, in a godless culture. It is a survival guide for when there are no immediate solutions, no approaching rescues. In the NT Revelation is that book, a survival manual for Christians and churches in times of suffering and persecution. Over and over we have seen the emphasis on how hard life will become in the future, but it will be limited, God is in control and in the end, God will triumph over evil. God’s people are encouraged to life with an eye to the future, on the promised joy set before us.
Our text is one of those that have divided the scholarly community for centuries. Who is it talking about? Is this an extension of the previous section about Antiochus IV or is this someone new? The previous text ended with: Daniel 11:35 and some of the wise shall stumble, so that they may be refined, purified, and made white, until the time of the end, for it still awaits the appointed time. This appears to mark the end of a period of persecution, and end of this phase of history. Clearly by the time we get to Daniel 12:1 we know we are talking about the end of time and a resurrection. So the question becomes when in this text did the leap take place from Antiochus IV to the anti-Christ? The answer to this question in the minds of many Bible scholars lies in verse 11:36.
The first twenty verses of Chapter eleven cover 355 years of history from the end of Daniel’s life in Persia up to 175 BC. Last week we looked at verses 5-20 which included the reigns of five Ptolemy kings and seven Seleucid kings over 150 years. Remember the south is Egypt ruled by the Ptolemy’s and the north is Syria ruled by the Seleucid’s. So now we come to the central part of this great vision of history given to Daniel by the angel Gabriel. Verses 21-35 focus on the reign of only one Seleucid king, Antiochus IV. We were first introduced to him back in Chapter 8, in Daniel’s vision of the goat with the big horn that was broken and out came four horns and then out of one of them a little horn that grew exceedingly great, a king of great cunning and deceit. So we have fifteen more verses that cover only twelve years of history, 175 to 163 BC. Why does Antiochus IV get as much space in Scripture as the previous dozen or more rulers over 355 years? How does he rate, what is so important about him? Let’s walk through the details and see if we find the answer at the end.
School kids are notorious for asking their teachers why do we have to know this stuff? How is this going to help my life? What difference will it make? Sure, we need to know how to read and do basic math, and I suppose a little grammar might be handy, but history? Really? Who cares what happened hundreds or thousands of years ago? Daniel 11 certainly falls into that danger, just news of wars and more wars, people fighting and dying, nations rising and falling. How can this possibly be relevant and meaningful to our lives here and now? You might be amused but not surprised to hear one commentator on chapter 11 urges pastors to leave this for Sunday school or Bible class, but don’t try to preach on it. To quote him, “We do not see how it could be used for a sermon or for sermons” (Leupold).
A great cosmic conflict. We think of history as being long and linear, one thing happening after another, but history is also high and deep, much more than we can imagine. What you were taught in history class was not all there was to history, and may not even be what was most important about history. Human history is intertwined with spiritual history. I dare say the fiercest and most intense battles ever waged on earth are nothing compared to cosmic battles waged on the other side of the curtain that hides from view the unseen spiritual realm. In chapter 11 a great conflict on earth is going to be revealed and outlined in some detail. But before we get to that conflict it is revealed to Daniel that there is another conflict, a greater conflict, an unseen war of Satan’s resistance and rebellion. For the past 21 days an unseen battle has been wage against Satan’s war with Persia and God’s people. Daniel knew God’s people were under attack from human enemies, but he couldn’t see the spiritual enemies. Daniel was praying for three weeks with no knowledge that His prayers were even being heard, let alone answered. As Daniel was praying, God was fighting. I am reminded of another great man of prayer. During the time of the sixteenth-century Scottish Reformation, John Knox’s ministry of preaching and prayer were so well known that the Roman Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots, is reputed to have said, “I fear the prayers of John Knox more than all the assembled armies of Europe.” What an encouragement to pray. Satan is a great enemy. He is called a roaring lion looking to devour (I Peter 5). He is called a thief who comes to steal and kill and destroy (John 10:10). He is the prince of the power of the air. Yet he is vulnerable to the prayers of the saints. We hear the news every day and the world seems unsettled to us, things are stirring. Nations are rising up against nations. North Korea is rattling the sabre, China is posturing, Turkey is shifting policy, Russia is being unpredictable. But there are other forces, greater forces more menacing thatare also moving and stirring. But we are not to fear. The prayers of one 70 something old man in a foreign land make a difference. Notice how much is made of his weakness and frailty and powerlessness. He is completely dependent on God. Let everyone here who things they are too old or too weak or not gifted enough to be of any use in the church or in God’s great worldwide plans pay attention. If you can pray, you are of great strategic importance to the advancing of God’s kingdom against the opposition of Satan. I believe that God’s best work is done through a great army of 60, 70, 80 and 90 year olds. He takes away our physical strength so we will stop doing and start praying. We have direct access into the command center of the universe, and to the commander and chief Himself. Don’t underestimate your power and authority. Unknown to Daniel his prayers were having cosmic influence. Angels were on the move, armies of angels were being mobilized, assignments are given, orders are drawn up, God was moving and acting. Prayer sets in motion forces in heaven against the forces of hell. God has placed in earthen vessels power and strength so that none may boast, except to give the credit and glory to God.
Introduction and Summary of Daniel 10:1-3. After a month break we return to chapter 10, the last major section of the book of Daniel. Chapters 10-12 are the final vision of Daniel. Chapter 10 is one long introduction to the vision that comes in chapter 11 and concludes in chapter 12. The setting for Daniel’s last vision, vss. 1-3 Verse one gives the context for all that follows to the end of Daniel. This final vision takes place in the third year of Cyrus king of Persia who defeated and overthrew Babylon around 539 BC. In my last sermon I focused on the power of prayer and fasting and that our God is a prayer hearing and prayer answering God. As soon as Daniel started praying God started answering. “I have come because of your words” (Daniel 10:12). What motivated Daniel to pray and fast? First, he sought understanding. Scripture says if any lacks wisdom, let him ask of God. Daniel earnestly wants to know what is coming for him and his people. Second, in the third year of Cyrus’ rule, word has been coming back to Daniel by this time of the great trials and suffering his people are experiencing back in Jerusalem. So Daniel was praying and fasting for himself and for his people. That’s a good start on a prayer list. The church desperately needs Daniels, now more than ever. People doing the hidden, little noticed, work of strategic praying, praying for the laborers, for the church and her leaders and the proclaiming of God’s Word.
As we turn to chapter 10 we are coming to the last major section of the book of Daniel. Chapters 10-12 are the final vision of Daniel. Chapter 10 is one long introduction to the vision that comes in chapter 11 and concludes in chapter 12. Chapters 11 and 12 are a lengthy detailed prophecy of the future, filling in some of the blanks of the nature of the 62 weeks of years in chapter 9. The setting for Daniel’s last vision, vss. 1-3 Verse one gives the context for all that follows to the end of Daniel. This final vision takes place in the third year of Cyrus king of Persia, meaning the third year after Cyrus defeated and overthrew Babylon around 539 BC. The first question is what is Daniel doing still in Babylon which is now Persia? We know that in Cyrus’ first year he gave the Jews permission to return to Jerusalem and in Nehemiah we read of the return of 42,000 (Nehemiah 7:66). But in the third year of Cyrus Daniel is still in exile, still working for the government, still praying for his people. What is he doing standing by the Tigris River? [As an aside, it is interesting how our history intersects with Daniel’s history. The Tigris River flows through Mosul where there has been recent intense fighting with ISIS, and it flows through Baghdad. There are US soldiers standing by the Tigris today.] Was Daniel too old to travel that great distance? What do you think? We know Daniel to be a man of integrity, character and conviction, who does only what the Lord wants him to do. He is only in Persia because he is under conviction that is where God wants him. God had leaders for the work in Jerusalem, God needed him to be a leader for His work in Babylon. Strategic work, spiritual work, holy work. God’s will and God’s work for Daniel in exile were not finished. In his old age of over 80 God still has work for Daniel, still has a purpose as long as he draws breath. We should not coast in doing the Lord’s work for as long as He gives us life and breath. Do we not pray, “Thy will be done” and is that not good enough until the day we die. Don’t live for the day you can do nothing, live every day for His will, to do something for the kingdom. Daniel is in the king’s court to plead the cause of his people before the king. Daniel’s work of prayer in Persia was as useful as the people’s work of rebuilding the walls and the temple in Jerusalem. There was a lot of heavy lifting going on in Jerusalem that was being enabled by Daniel’s heavy praying back in Persia. Never assume that physical labor is the most important labor. God’s work is accomplished by our prayer work. Senior saints, don’t grow weary in your holy calling to pray for God’s work. SERVE is a work week that can’t be done without prayer work. 64 workers are coming and we need 64 prayer workers to join them and support them.
While Daniel was praying and confessing his sin and the sins of his people, and asking God how long until the end of the 70 years of exile and desolations of Jerusalem and the temple, God sent the archangel Gabriel to answer Daniel’s prayer and give him understanding concerning what was to come. Daniel had only been praying for himself and the people of Israel. Daniel had only been inquiring about the 70 years of Babylonian exile. Daniel had only been reminding God of His promises to Israel at this point in history. The answer he got far exceeded all he could ask or imagine, far exceeded his wildest dreams and visions. The answer he got pushed the very limits of his understanding and beyond. Daniel was thinking about himself and his people, God was thinking about all of humanity. Daniel was thinking about 70, God was thinking about 70 sevens, 70 years of sevens (490 years). Daniel was thinking about going back to Jerusalem, rebuilding the Temple with its sacrifices. God was thinking about destroying Jerusalem and the Temple again and abolishing sacrifices forever. Let’s return to verse 24 and focus our attention there tonight. The six-fold purpose of the Seventy Weeks of Seven.
Of the interpreting and reinterpreting of many prophecies there is no end and our text is no exception. Daniel is right up there with Revelation as holding the attention of those obsessed with prophecy these days. This text is especially important to people who call themselves Dispensationalist. They have particular views about the end times, the role of Israel, the seven years of tribulation, the rapture of the church and the person and work of the anti-Christ. I offered many counter views in our study of Revelation. Someone put this book in my book a few weeks ago which tries to interpret Daniel and Revelation from a Dispensational perspective in the light of current events especially in Israel. In his previous book he predicted that the seven years of tribulation would be from 2010 to 2017. In this new book (written in 2013) he explains he was wrong, that 2017 instead of being the end of the seven years, should be the beginning of the seven years, actually February 11, 2017. This passage of Scripture is acknowledged to be one of the most difficult to understand. It is obscure and does not give up its meaning easily. One commentator called it a dismay swamp. Five hundred years ago John Calvin wrote: “This passage has been variously treated, and so distracted, and almost torn to pieces by the various opinions of interpreters, that it might be considered nearly useless on account of its obscurity. But, in the assurance that no prediction is really in vain, we may hope to understand this prophecy, provided only we are attentive and teachable according to the angel's admonition, and the Prophet's example” (John Calvin, Daniel, p. 195). II Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. In the spirit of John Calvin and II Timothy 3 we will attempt to understand what God has revealed to Daniel and to us.