Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Daniel, Chapter 8: 2012 is NOT the End!

Now that we’re living in the supposed last year on earth, the suspense is mounting – and Hollywood is having a heyday, making money hand over fist, playing on the fears of tons of people. But the Bible has good news – they’re all wrong!

Bible prophecy has plodded along for several thousand years, giving the same basic message with increasingly new insights and details – God wants to have a loving relationship with each person on the planet and will go to extraordinary lengths to make that happen, at least from His end. The problem is that most of us reject Him in one way or another – and that has been true since the beginning. But He still keeps trying – and one way is through His prophets.

The prophet Daniel gave us perhaps the most detailed accounts of future world history until the end. Yes, an end is coming, but not the way we expect it, and not in 2012. Jesus added even more details in Matthew 24-25 and Luke 21, all of which culminate in the Book of Revelation. Great news! – The end is fantastic! – But only after the world is judged.

Even as we watch, we are seeing some of these prophecies coming true today – but many more are to come, including a 7-year-long judgment of the evil on earth. During this time, a terrible leader, powered by Satan himself, will rule the earth. Then Jesus will come back to earth in power and glory, and will restore the earth to a new beauty. He will reign in His kingdom for 1,000 years. The earth will NOT be destroyed as some predict, but it will be completely changed.

Most of this has not happened yet, so we can rest assured that our world will not blow up in 2012.

However… it’s possible that it could change, as we know it, in 2012. As we see prophecy being fulfilled in our daily headlines, things are changing rapidly – and not for the better. If we want to get through this without losing our minds, this would be a good time to grab your Bible, dust it off, and watch the words in it – and yourself – come alive as you read it.

In Chapter 8, Daniel gives us a precursor of the Antichrist who is expected to burst on the scene to save the world from the mess we’ve created. I’d say we’re getting pretty close, wouldn’t you? He’ll show up as a brilliant peacemaker, and the world will love him – just like Germany during the rise of Aldolf Hitler – but then his true Satanic character will show itself, and he will bring us hell on earth. He could show up in 2012, but we will still have 7 years before Jesus returns.

The precursor, or prototype, of Antichrist was Antiochus IV (catch the similarity in their names?), a Greek king who took over Jerusalem, desecrated the Jewish temple, and killed Jews by the thousands until a successful rebellion defeated him. We celebrate the rededication of the temple at Hanukkah every year.

The coming Antichrist will do basically the same thing as Antiochus – he will establish a phony peace treaty with Israel but will break it after 3-1/2 years and set himself up as God in the new Jewish temple (which is ready to be built any time now). That will mark the second half of the 7 years of his reign, called the Great Tribulation, before Jesus returns to utterly destroy the Antichrist and his cronies.

It’s during this second 3-1/2 years that he will force all human beings to worship him, and those who do will be given the infamous number 666 that will allow them to perform all financial transactions, like buying food and everything else we need to live.

Those who don’t will not be able to perform any financial transactions and will be killed. However, there’s a bigger price for those who take the number – they will be barred from heaven forever. I think I’d opt for heaven. After all, we will all die anyway, so why not get it over with, get out of the hell on earth, and live where your heart yearns to live – in heaven? We’ve spent millennia trying to create heaven on earth, but that hasn’t worked so well, has it.

How and why do we come out victorious for not taking the number? Those who refuse the number are people who have chosen to believe the Bible and believe in Jesus – who He said He was in the Bible. The Bible actually says that they go directly to heaven while the people on earth continue to suffer under the terrible things that happen during the Great Tribulation. And they still have a bleak future to look forward to after it’s all over.

There were over 300 prophecies that Jesus fulfilled at His first coming. These, along with many other amazing prophecies fulfilled throughout the Bible, convinced me. What about you? Do you want to find out for yourself, or do you want to be led by someone else’s opinion, including mine? They just might be wrong.

One of the great benefits of knowing Jesus now is knowing where you’ll end up, rather than hoping or wondering. He assures us of that through His Word, the Bible. This will get you through everything. And there’s nothing in this world like knowing Him.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Daniel, Chapter 7: Biblical Prophecy Unveiled – not so hard after all

In a world that is spinning out of control, we have a God Who gave us His Word – the Bible – in which Biblical prophecy, written thousands of years ago, explains what is going on in today’s chaotic world. We are watching Biblical prophecies being fulfilled before our eyes every day – with many people unaware. Daniel 7 is the first of six chapters of prophecy that reveal a lot more than you think.

We often hear complaints that Biblical prophecy is too hard to interpret. Not so in the Daniel, Chapter 7. Quite often, after many symbolic dreams and visions, the Bible gives the interpretation right after them. So why the dreams and visions? – We are visual beings, and a good picture “sticks.”

Daniel 7 opens with a dream that God gave him, which He soon explained to Daniel as four world kingdoms – from Babylon (where Daniel was) to the final kingdom on earth. Remember King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2 (see my October 19, 2009 blog post) that also described the same four kingdoms as a huge statue? That dream gave us the world’s point of view about majestic kingdoms made of various metals. However, Daniel’s dream was that of terrifying beasts representing kingdoms that take over and destroy mankind – probably God’s point of view. In both dreams, a final kingdom from God eliminates the fourth (and most vicious) kingdom. This benign kingdom reigns over the entire earth and is known as the Millennium – 1000 years of peace ruled by the Messiah, the Prince of Peace, and His people – all who have believed in Him.

This Messiah came to us the first time as a suffering servant Who gave His life as a ransom – the perfect sacrifice – to pay for our redemption from sin, as required in the Law of Moses. This Mosaic Covenant is a part of what is known as the Old Testament, implying that the New Testament replaced it. However, Jesus said emphatically that He did not come to replace it, but to fulfill it – by offering Himself as the final sacrifice to end the need for daily sacrifices.

When Jesus comes back, as He prophesied He would, He will rule the nations with strength and authority as described in both Nebuchadnezzar’s and Daniel’s dreams.

The fourth kingdom is described as a dreadful and terrible beast that has iron teeth that devours and breaks the whole earth into pieces, then stamps out the residue with his feet. It has 10 horns, representing the final 10 kings that will be in charge during this terrible reign when one king will rise to the top and begin his reign of terror, called the Tribulation. He is described in the Bible as the Antichrist, the Man of Sin, the Beast, etc. He will kill everyone who does not worship him, especially those who worship Christ, his nemesis, Who will return to earth and swiftly defeat him, then establish His Millennial Kingdom. There is already a global movement today in Brussels to set up a one-world government with the world divided into 10 sections. We could be getting close…

Sandwiched between Daniel’s dream and its interpretation is a peek into heaven, where God, the Ancient of Days, gives “one like the Son of Man” everlasting dominion over the earth. This glimpse could be God assuring us of Who’s in charge of the universe now, and Who’s going to be ultimately in charge of the earth. Jesus’ favorite name for Himself was “the Son of Man.” He probably knew the Book of Daniel intimately, since He was the “Word that became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1, 14). He also quoted from the Book of Daniel.

We can take comfort in knowing that no matter how bad things get in our world – and it’s prophesied that they will – we have been given the end of the story – and it’s a good one! And the world isn’t going to blow up and be annihilated. The Millennium will go into God’s eternal kingdom, which will never end, for those who receive Jesus’ perfect sacrifice for their sins. He took them all, so none of us can boast that we’ve been good enough to earn His favor. We just can’t make it without Him.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Daniel, Chapter 6 – Daniel’s Courage Against Political Correctness

Many of us heard the cutsie version of Daniel in the Lions’ Den as children, but now we’ve relegated it to a quaint story in antiquity and probably not even true. We were not told WHY he landed in the den and what happened with the King of Medo-Persia as a result.

This story will have its full impact on us NOW when we look at the impending force of Sharia law if we don’t take a courageous stand as Daniel did. Sharia law has already made inroads into our financial laws, and it’s creeping into many areas of American life without most of us even noticing.

So…what happened with Daniel?

Remember King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon? He was feared throughout the known world for his cruelty and murderous whims. Daniel was a Jewish captive in Babylon and became the most influential person in King Nebuchadnezzar’s court. Through his consistent loyalty to his God of Israel, and courageously standing up to the king with uncompromising integrity, Daniel drew King Nebuchadnezzar’s respect and trust. He became the king’s confidante and protector, especially during the seven years when the king was banished by God to live in the woods like an animal until he came to his senses and acknowledged who God really was. (See my blog post for Chapter 4 for all the details.)

Daniel was a prime target for death in Babylon, and now he’s back in that position under King Darius of Medo-Persia after they overthrew Babylon. He is again in high office as the Prime Minister. However, the officials under him are jealous – after all, he is Jewish, not Medo-Persian. So they set him up to fail by getting the king to sign an irrevocable law against praying to any other God. So Daniel, true to his style, continues to pray to God openly, ready to take the consequences of being thrown to the lions rather than protecting himself by praying in secret. Aha, now they’ve got him! – Or so they think.

King Darius is so distressed when they report Daniel’s disobedience that he does everything he can to save Daniel, but he can’t because of Medo-Persian law. However, he does believe that Daniel’s God will deliver him – and says that to Daniel as his executioners throw him into the den. The king spends a sleepless night and runs out early in the morning to find Daniel, who tells him that God sent an angel to stop the lions’ mouths.

How many of us have had experiences where we just knew that God sent angels to help or protect us? I’ve had several.

Like Nebuchadnezzar, Darius became a true believer in the God of Israel and proclaimed the worship of only Him throughout his kingdom. – All because Daniel was willing to sacrifice his life rather than play the safe PC game. Are we willing to do the same – not only now, in the Babylonian culture in which we live, but also when the resultant and imminent assault of Sharia law is thrust upon us?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Daniel, Chapter 5 – the Handwriting on the Wall

God kicked out – again???

30 years after King Nebuchadnezzar died, two kings shared the throne
of Babylon – Belshazzar, who was Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson, and the “absent” king Nabonidus, who was Belshazzar’s father, Nebuchadnezzar’s son-in-law. He was focused on archeological digs, reviving the worship of the moon god, the predominant deity of the Middle East today according to modern archeological digs. Could these digs be the same ones? The moon god’s name was Allah back then – a subject that is hotly debated today.

Daniel was in retirement, but he was soon going to be called back to service. Remember how King Nebuchadnezzar took the sacred items from the Jewish temple back to Babylon to be placed in his own temple when he deported Daniel et al and then destroyed their temple? This was the ultimate insult to God – a symbol of putting God in submission to his gods – a complete victory and overthrow of God.

But wait – it gets worse! Belshazzar threw a huge party and sent for the gold cups from the Jewish temple. As they drank from these sacred cups, they praised their gods of gold, silver, other metals, stone, etc. This was God’s absolute limit, and He decided to show them once and for all who He was.

A hand appeared on the wall and wrote words that nobody knew. Belshazzar was terrified and called for the wise men to interpret the writing. This was the same group of Babylonian Magi over whom King Nebuchadnezzar had placed Daniel when they couldn’t interpret the king’s dream, but he could. Of course, they couldn’t do it again now. When God speaks, usually it is only His own people who know what He’s saying – you know, “My sheep hear my voice.”

Then the queen remembered Daniel, so he was brought in to interpret the writing, with the promise of becoming the third ruler in Babylon. Having been through this whole scene before with King Nebuchadnezzar, he told Belshazzar to keep his gifts and reminded him of what happened to Nebuchadnezzar when he got too proud. (Remember in Chapter 4 how Nebuchadnezzar lived like an animal for seven years before he was restored and finally acknowledged God as the God of the universe?)

So Daniel read Belshazzar’s judgment from God written on the wall – that the Medes and Persians would take the kingdom of Babylon from him.

At that same moment, as the Babylonian nobles were partying, the Medes and Persians had infiltrated the city and took it over without a battle. They killed Belshazzar and promoted Daniel to the highest position in Medo-Persia. He just couldn’t get away from ruling under kings, since he had “an excellent spirit in him.” God gave him favor because he remained loyal to his God and spent his life showing people who God really was, no matter what it cost.

As we watch our nation pushing God out, are we being called to be Daniels – risking everything, even our lives, to call our nation back to God – or else???

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Daniel, Chapter 4 – Written by King Nebuchadnezzar himself!

Fierce, Cruel, Proud King Nebuchadnezzar – a Believer???

Can you believe it? Who would think that this king – the one who destroyed the Jewish temple and took God’s people into captivity in Babylon – would write a chapter in the Hebrew Bible?

Anyone who has God in a religious box – surprise! He won’t be reduced to our small images of Him.

So how did this all happen? Remember how many times God revealed Himself to King Nebuchadnezzar? First the dream that only Daniel could reveal and interpret, then the rescue of Daniel’s three friends from the fiery furnace – revealing God’s awesome benevolent power. Each time, God revealed Himself to Nebuchadnezzar, who acknowledged Him each time – but only as Daniel’s God, or Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego’s God – not his.

God didn’t want an arm’s-length relationship with Nebuchadnezzar any more than He wants that with any of us. God wasn’t the God of only the Israelites or the Jews. In His mercy, He was reaching out to save even an enemy of His and His people’s – and was using Daniel as His instrument.

So now we have a third dream of Nebuchadnezzar’s, and again Daniel’s interpretation, but this one was the final blow – strike three, so to speak. God won’t play games with us for very long, and Nebuchadnezzar’s game was over.

In this dream Nebuchadnezzar saw a huge tree that filled the earth and fed all people. But a command came from heaven to cut it down and leave a stump with his roots. Notice – “his” roots. Now the tree represented a man who would become like a beast for seven years.

Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar that he was that tree, whose dominion covered the earth, but that he would be driven from his kingdom to eat grass like an ox for seven years until he absolutely knew that God rules in the kingdom and gives it to whomever He will.

And so it happened exactly as Daniel prophesied – one year later, during which Daniel urged him to repent, but he would not. As he stood surveying HIS Babylon, boasting that HE had built it through HIS own power, and for HIS own majesty, the gavel fell, and he was driven out into the fields where he lived like a beast for seven years.

At the end of this time, he came to his senses and, as a humble man, blessed and praised God who he acknowledged had dominion over an everlasting kingdom. Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom was restored, but now his tune was changed. He proclaimed with praise and honor that God was the Most High – and finally recognized Him as not only other people’s God – but the God of all.

I expect to see Nebuchadnezzar when I get there – what do you think?

Monday, December 28, 2009

Shadrach, Meshach, & Abednego, Daniel 3

Nearly everyone has heard a version or remake of a popular song back in the 1970s about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – three Hebrew friends of Daniel – who were thrown into a furnace for not falling down to worship a golden statue, as ordered by King Nebuchadnezzar. For some reason, Daniel wasn’t there. He may have been traveling on official business, being the prime minister.

It all started with jealousy. The king had appointed a body of administrators to oversee various regions of Babylonia. As with Daniel and the Magi, these three were the only Jews in this group. The rest were Babylonians who worshipped many gods.

Everyone gathered for the dedication of the statue. Upon the signal of music, everyone fell down and worshipped – all except our three friends. Certain Chaldeans immediately reported their misconduct to the King, who furiously ordered that the three be brought to him.

So the king gave them the option to try it again and this time get it right, but then he taunted them and maligned their God by saying sarcastically, “What god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?” (v.15.)

You would think that after recently seeing how powerful the God of Israel was, when God gave the interpretation of the king’s dream to Daniel (in Chapter 2), he would have remembered that’s why he made Daniel prime minister and head of the Magi, after acknowledging that Daniel’s God was a God of gods and a Lord of kings. But pride can give us short memories when all we’re thinking about is exalting ourselves.

Without even blinking, the three answered the king, “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (v.17-18.) They believed that God could deliver them, but did not assume that God would deliver them, and were willing to die if He didn’t. Either way, they trusted God’s decision.

Wow! What unwavering resolve! What courage! Would we be that strong? Well, their answer enraged the king so much that he ordered the fire seven times hotter. What was he thinking? His own henchmen were killed by the heat of the furnace as they threw the three, bound with ropes, into the furnace. But God had a surprise for everyone.

Suddenly there were four men walking in the fire, and the king described the fourth as one “like the Son of God.” (v.25.) How prophetic! In the Hebrew Scriptures (in this case written in Aramaic, addressing the gentiles) Jesus often appeared in various forms, which is called a “theophany.” So the king called to them to come out of the furnace, and the three did, with no singed hair, no smell of fire, no burned clothing – only their ropes had burned off.

The king was so awed by this that he said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent His angel and delivered His servants who put their trust in Him, violating the king's command, and yielded up their bodies so as not to serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation or tongue that speaks anything offensive against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb and their houses reduced to a rubbish heap, inasmuch as there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way.” (v.28-29.) Nice chap.

Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged the Hebrew God – again a second time – but didn’t quite step over the line to worship Him – he merely respected Him and ordered that nobody malign Him. We’re in for a treat in Chapter 4, because he … Well, I’m not going to give it away, but I’ll give you a hint – the king wrote Chapter 4 himself, and it is Scripture!

Our God is a redeemer who reads our hearts. No matter how cruel and proud Nebuchadnezzar was, an enemy of Israel and of God, he must have had a heart that only God knew was pliable. Next time we’ll take a look at the king’s amazing turnaround.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Daniel’s Connection with the Magi of Christmas

When I first discovered that the prophet Daniel became head of the Magi in King Nebuchadnezzar’s court (Dan. 2:48), I was blown away. I was in a seminary class around Christmastime, so the timing was remarkable. At a Christmas Eve service, the pastor asked the congregation if anyone knew the connection between the Magi of the Christmas story and an ancient prophet of Israel. I was the only one who knew.

Since the real story was so much more intriguing (and realistic) than our 3-Wise-Men tradition, I wanted to tell it in a coffee-table book. My son, a professional illustrator in NY, did all the artwork. We actually produced the whole book long distance, with lots of instant-messaging sessions while on our cell phones discussing details, then uploading finished pages onto our printer’s FTP website.

We named it Who Were the Magi? and produced it as a Biblically and historically accurate coffee-table book so people could learn the whole story and enjoy it at Christmas.

The story opens with the Magi and the cavalry in Parthia (Babylon) saying goodbye to their families and taking their places in the caravan. Yes, there were more than three Magi, and they traveled in a government-protected caravan. The Magi of the Christmas story were king-makers (not kings) – the highest government officials in the land. Just think, how long do you figure three guys dressed as kings, carrying the most expensive gifts, would last in the desert? Probably 5 minutes. They just didn’t travel that way in those days.

In the story, you will travel in the caravan with the Magi as they journey to find the promised Messiah, whose sign has appeared in the Eastern sky. How did they know to look for a sign at that time, and what it meant?

When Daniel became head of the Magi, he had a captive audience of all the Babylonian Magi who worshipped many gods, but, as we found out in Chapter 2, their gods couldn’t keep up with the God of Israel. Daniel then had the opportunity to teach them all about His God. He also wrote many prophecies during that time (which we’ll discuss in later blog posts) that told of end-time events.

One particular vision, which we call the Seventy-Weeks prophecy, gave us the exact timeline for when the Messiah would enter Jerusalem, being hailed as king, down to the exact day. That is how the Magi knew when and where to look for the Messiah. They had preserved Daniel’s prophecies (known as the Book of Daniel) over six centuries.

The story continues as the Magi enter Jerusalem (Matt. 2: 1-18) and cause somewhat of a panic. Israel was caught in the middle of the conflict between Rome and Parthia, and the Magi were feared because people thought they might depose King Herod. No, they were just searching for the newborn king of the Jews. They got information from the Hebrew scribes about where to look for Messiah and left for Bethlehem. However, Herod didn’t like the idea of being upstaged by a baby, so he ordered the massacre of all boys under the age of two in Bethlehem. By the time the Magi arrived in Jerusalem, it could have been a year or two after the birth of Jesus. They actually found Him in a house, over which a mysterious light shone.

The word “star” could have meant any light in the heavens, so it was probably not what we normally call a star. How many stars have you seen that shine on one particular house? This light was something else, and in the story, the Magi discuss where something like this was seen before in the Hebrew Scriptures.

The story tells of the Magi’s deep sorrow over deaths of the innocents and ends 30 years later when they hear the good news of a popular rabbi in Israel who was executed but then rose from the dead three days later. They were filled with joy, once they connected that rabbi with the child they visited three decades earlier. Finally, their journey made sense.

If you’d like to buy our book for yourself or as a Christmas present, you can find it on Amazon.com. It is not in bookstores. I hope your reading is blessed!