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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:God Knows - and Holds - the Future
Text:Daniel 8:1-27 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's Amazing Purpose
 
Preached:2016
Added:2022-04-26
Updated:2022-04-26
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Safely Through Another Week 

I Love the Lord, the Fount of Life and Grace

God Moves in a Mysterious Way

God Sent His Son, They Called Him Jesus

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


11/20/2016
God Knows – and Holds – the Future
Daniel 8:1-27
 
Daniel was a teenager at the time of the Babylonian invasion of Judah, which began 605 years before the birth of Jesus. Yet the visions and dreams he had revealed astonishing details about the history of the world powers that would come into play after Babylon lost her power.
 
Because of that, many liberal scholars believe Daniel was written in the second century before Christ by someone using Daniel's name. They reason, “How else could his vision so accurately describe what happened in history?” Yet, for those of us who believe that God knows – and holds – the future, it is no surprise that Daniel, through these dreams and visions given to him by God, would foretell how history would unfold in future centuries.
 
The chapter before us is yet another passage that foretells the future with amazing accuracy. Daniel’s vision is similar to a drama with three main characters: a ram with two horns, a goat with a small horn, and a small horn that grew large.
 
The first principal character is a ram with two horns. What makes the ram unusual is that the horns are of a different length and one grows up rapidly after the other one had already been formed. Daniel writes: “I looked up, and there before me was a ram with two horns, standing beside the canal, and the horns were long. One of the horns was longer than the other but grew up later. I watched the ram as it charged toward the west and the north and the south. No animal could stand against it, and none could rescue from its power. It did as it pleased and became great.” (3, 4)
 
What would Daniel make of such a vision? Perhaps he would have shaken it off, as we have done after dreaming strange things, had not Gabriel, one of the mightiest of angels, appeared to Daniel and interpreted the vision for him. Verse 19 and 20 describe how the angel, Gabriel, appeared to Daniel and said, “I am going to tell you what will happen later in the time of wrath, because the vision concerns the appointed time of the end. The two-horned ram that you saw represents the kings of Media and Persia.”
 
In retrospect, we see how gracious God was to give this vision to Daniel in the third year of King Belshazzar’s reign (v. 1). As you may have noticed, Daniel’s prophecy is not put before us in strict chronological order. For instance, we read in Chapter 5 how Belshazzar had thrown a great banquet during which he brought out the silver and gold goblets that had been used in the temple in Jerusalem. We read how suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lampstand in the royal palace. The king watched the hand as it wrote. His face turned pale and he was so frightened that his legs became weak and his knees were knocking.” (Dan. 5:5-6).
 
None of the wise men of Babylon could interpret the writing on the wall. But when Daniel was called upon, he immediately gave the interpretation. He explained how the writing on the wall was telling King Belshazzar that his kingdom would be conquered by the Medes and Persians. That fifth chapter concludes with these words: “That very night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians, was slain, and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom, at the age of sixty-two.”
 
In retrospect, what gave Daniel such assurance in interpreting the writing on the wall? In addition to whatever other knowledge God may have given Daniel at that time, he also had this vision of the ram with the two horns representing the Medes and the Persians. And it undoubtedly verified in his mind that the writing on the wall was telling of Belshazzar’s impending doom. He may have remembered what is described in verse 4 of this passage: “I watched the ram as it charged toward the west and the north and the south. No animal could stand against it, and none could rescue from its power. It did as it pleased and became great.”
 
The second main character in this unusual vision is described in verses 5 to 8: “As I was thinking about this, suddenly a goat with a prominent horn between its eyes came from the west, crossing the whole earth without touching the ground. It came toward the two-horned ram I had seen standing beside the canal and charged at it in great rage. I saw it attack the ram furiously, striking the ram and shattering its two horns. The ram was powerless to stand against it; the goat knocked it to the ground and trampled on it, and none could rescue the ram from its power. The goat became very great, but at the height of its power the large horn was broken off, and in its place four prominent horns grew up toward the four winds of heaven.”
 
Once again, Gabriel, the mighty angel, gives the interpretation for Daniel. He explained to Daniel, in verse 21 and 22: “The shaggy goat is the king of Greece, and the large horn between its 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.” The shaggy goat, representing the first king, had great power and great speed. His power is represented by the horn. As we have seen before, a horn in Scripture designates strength or power.
 
The second part of verse 5 shows us that not only was this first king powerful but also very quick: “He crossed the whole earth without touching the ground.”  In other words, he was like some of these track stars who can run so fast that it almost seems as though their feet don’t touch the ground.
 
With such a description we should not be surprised that most commentators agree that this king, represented by a goat, is a clear reference to Alexander the Great. At age 21 he became king of Greece. By the age of 26 he had conquered the known world of his day. He did it with astonishing speed; and there was no army that could compete with him. And when he was 33, he died.
 
When he died, his kingdom was divided into four quarters. Four other kings would rule over the four quarters of Greece. That is what verse 8 describes when it says, “The goat became very great, but at the height of its power the large horn was broken off, and in its place four prominent horns grew up toward the four winds of heaven.”
 
The third main character of this part of the vision is a small horn that grew large. It is a reference to one of the kings who came from one of the four kingdoms that emerged after the Greek empire of Alexander the Great’s was divided four ways. Verse 9 to 14 describe this king and conclude with the ominous statement that this evil king “prospered in everything he did, and truth was thrown to the ground.”
 
Once again, Gabriel gives Daniel – and us – the interpretation of this part of the vision. Verse 23 to 27: “In the latter part of their reign, when rebels have become completely wicked, a fierce-looking king, a master of intrigue, will arise. 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 those who are mighty, the holy people. He will cause deceit to prosper, and he will consider himself superior. When they feel secure, he will destroy many and take his stand against the Prince of princes. Yet he will be destroyed, but not by human power.”
 
Many commentators see this as a clear reference to Antiochus Epiphanes, an incredibly evil king who desecrated the temple and slaughtered tens of thousands of Jews from the years 175-164 BC. On one occasion, he slaughtered 40,000 Jewish people in three days. As verse 11 points out this king, “became great, even as great as the Prince of the host” (a reference to his effort to be equal with God). “And the regular burnt offering was taken away from him, and the place of his sanctuary was overthrown.”
 
Antiochus gave himself the name “Theos Antiochus Epiphanes”, which means “The illustrious God, Antiochus.”  He also minted coins with his image and the words “Theos Epiphanes”, meaning “God made manifest.”
 
His reign brought unparalleled suffering to the Jewish people. He desecrated the temple; he entered the holy of holies in the temple and sacrificed swine and other unclean animals on the altar of the burnt offering. He then erected an alter to the false god, Zeus, and human sacrifices were offered on that horrific altar.
 
He burned the Scriptures and forbade what was commanded in them, including circumcision. People were not allowed to worship on the Sabbath Day. On one occasion, 20,000 Jews were killed for worshipping on the Sabbath. The temple became deserted. In all these ways and many others, truth was thrown to the ground,” just as verse 12 declares. In all these ways Antiochus Epiphanes foreshadowed the final antichrist, the man of lawlessness who at the end of history will take a stand against the Lord and his people, and then will be destroyed and judged.
 
The 2,300 evenings and mornings described in verse 14 is open to different interpretations. Some see it as a six-year span. Others see it as a period of about three years. The Hebrew literally says that the period of time will be 2,300 mornings-evenings”, which is a period of about 3 years. Notably, the length of time that the daily sacrifices were abolished from the temple by Antiochus Epiphanes was about three years.
 
Judas Maccabeus, who succeeded Antiochus Epiphanes, permitted the sacrifices to be offered again after a period of three years. While commentators differ on the actual time frame, they almost universally point out that the 2,300 days – or mornings and evenings – give us comfort. The specific number of days, no matter how they are interpreted, point us to the reassuring truth that although evil may prevail for a time, God has it measured in his book, and will bring an end to all evil in his own way and time.
 
Some have wondered why Daniel concludes the chapter by saying that the vision was beyond understanding.  “How could he say that?” they ask, “when Gabriel clearly interpreted the vision for Daniel?”
 
Many commentators believe Daniel understood the meaning of the vision as Gabriel explained it, yet he could not understand why such great turmoil needed to come on the earth. They point out that certainly Daniel understood who the characters of the vision were, even though he did not know them by name. Their identities were clearly described by Gabriel. But many commentators think Daniel is saying, “I don’t understand why history has to be played out this way. Why all the bloodshed? Why the constant rise and fall of world powers? Why the animosity against God’s people?  Why will the Antichrist be given power to persecute God’s people, just as the fierce looking king (Antiochus Epiphanes) will do?”
 
Doing the King’s Business
 
Although Daniel lay ill thinking about these things, he also got up, verse 27 tells us, and “went about the king’s business.” which leads us to our first application. Despite the uncertainties, tragedies, and hostilities that we face in life, we can confidently go about the day-to-day business of Christ, our King. We do so by focusing on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God (Col. 3:1). Yet one of our biggest obstacles in doing the business of our King – that is, living out a life of grateful obedience and service to Jesus Christ – is our preoccupation with the worries of this life.
 
When we focus on the troubles and instability of the world in which we live, we can grow ill, just as Daniel initially did. But when we focus on things above, we are kept from worry and equipped for service – equipped to do the business of the King of kings. Jesus pointed that out in Matthew 6:25-34 when he said:
 
  “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
 
   “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
 
Every Prophecy Fulfilled
 
Another reason we have confidence in living for our King springs from the fulfillment of prophecy throughout Scripture. The vision of future events in this chapter came true immediately as Darius the Mede overtook King Belshazzar of Babylon. And then, other parts of the vision came true, with biblical pin-point accuracy, centuries later.
 
Daniel was taken to Babylon as a young man in the prime of life, in the fall of Jerusalem back in 605 BC. He wrote this prophecy as an elderly man, probably around 539 BC. Alexander the Great wasn’t born until 356 BC. By the time he conquered the Medes and Persians more than 205 years had passed since Daniel wrote down the words of this prophecy.
 
As for Antiochus Epiphanes, he came to power around 175 BC, more than 350 years after the vision. Consequently, liberal scholars have said that there must have either been two different men named Daniel who wrote at different times in history. Or, some of them say there was one writer who just used the pseudonym – the pen name – “Daniel”. They teach that this writer must have lived much later than the Daniel described in Scripture, otherwise he couldn’t have predicted all these things with such pin-point accuracy.
   
Yet they err because they do not believe in the accuracy of God’s Word. Jesus told the Sadducees that their error was that they did not know the Scriptures. Mark 12:24 records our Savior’s words: “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?” The same is true for the liberal scholars. In Deuteronomy 18, the Lord told the people through Moses that when a prophet predicts something which comes true, that prophet is a true prophet of God. If the prophecy doesn't come true, then you know that the prophet is false.
 
These predictions, given to Daniel long before they came true, remind us of the awesomeness of God’s Word. Those predictions remind us that God’s Word does foretell the future, not only in relation to Alexander the Great and Antiochus Epiphanes, but to One much greater than any human king. Consider how many Old Testament prophesies point to Christ. We have the portrayal of Christ in many ways in the Old Testament. For instance, Abraham was commanded to offer his one and only son, whom he loved, on Mount Moriah which is in the vicinity of Mount Calvary. Isaac was a shadow or “type” of Christ – the heavenly Father’s one and only eternally begotten Son whom the Father sacrificed for our salvation.
 
Or consider Moses lifting up a snake in the desert after the people were struck with a deadly plague. Whoever looked to the snake lived, but those who didn’t, died. It is a clear foreshadowing, or “type”, of Christ who said, Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.” (John 3:14, 15)
 
And then, too, consider how Jesus was portrayed through the Passover. Every home that had the blood of a lamb on the door post – a lamb without spot or defect – was spared from the death of their first born. But all who failed to have the blood of the Passover lamb were struck with death.  And the same is true for you and for me. Unless we have the blood of the spotless Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, on the doorposts of our lives (that is, having true saving faith in Him alone for salvation), we too will die a spiritual death. We too will be separated from the love of God eternally in the reality of hell. But by grace through saving faith in Christ our sins are cleansed by His shed blood and His perfect life of obedience is credited to us, for “Christ, our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed.” (1 Cor. 5:7)
 
Every prophecy concerning the first coming of Christ has come true. And every prophecy concerning His second coming will come true. For God has revealed those truths in His inerrant and infallible word. This chapter is just one more reminder of how accurate and reliable the Bible truly is. This passage is one more chapter of assurance, assuring us that the Lord our God knows and holds the future, and that “no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ.” (2 Cor. 1:20)
 
The Most Powerful Are Weak
 
Another application – another reason we can go about our day-to-day business confident that God is in control of the future – is because this chapter reminds us of how weak the most powerful people are without God.
 
Consider how Alexander the Great wept because he had no further kingdoms to conquer. He had conquered the known world of his day by the time he was 26. But apart from the Lord, he had no power. He could not contain his own passions. He killed his best friend in a drunken rage; he died a mysterious death at the young age of 33.
 
Likewise, Antiochus Epiphanes wielded great power. He is described in verses 23 and 24 as “a fierce-looking king, a master of intrigue, will arise. 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 those who are mighty, the holy people.” But look at the last part of verse 25: “He will be destroyed, but not by human hands.”  Antiochus died a sudden death, startling all who knew him. He fulfilled the prophecy that a mighty man, apart from God, has no real power.
 
The same will be true for the antichrist, prefigured by Antiochus and described in 2 Thessalonians 2 as the man of lawlessness. 2 Thessalonians 2:8b: “whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow by the breath of his mouth and the splendor of his coming.”
 
In the winter it may be cold enough that when you step outside, you see your breath. But if you see your breath, it is only for a moment; then it is gone, dissipated into the atmosphere. The same will be true for the power of the devil and all those aligned with him. The Lord Jesus will take the most powerful tool of the devil, the antichrist himself, and destroy him by the power of his breath.
 
And the devil himself will be defeated and judged. Revelation 20:10 assures us that “The devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”
 
God’s Victory Is Certain
 
Which leads to our third application: We see in this chapter the certainty of God’s ultimate victory. Daniel could not fully realize it at the time, but looking back in retrospect, through the lens of the cross and our resurrected Lord, we are reminded of the certainty of His victory. He brought Antiochus Epiphanes to a quick and surprising death. He will destroy the antichrist with the breath of His mouth. All the evil, all the wicked will be destroyed, and this earth will be purged with fire and gloriously renewed. And we who have saving faith in Christ will reign with Him forever over the new heavens and earth.
         
In Revelation 11:15 John describes another vision. Six different angels have blown their trumpets and each trumpet call signifies that great calamity has fallen on the earth. Then, in John’s vision, he sees the seventh angel and hears that trumpet call. He writes: “The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He will reign, forever and ever.’”
____
 
As mentioned, some commentators are perplexed as to why Daniel concludes the chapter by speaking of how he was appalled by the vision and it was beyond understanding, especially considering that the vision had been interpreted by Gabriel. Yet from Daniel’s vantage point in history, he certainly could not see the details. He could not see that an actual person named Alexander the Great would emerge. He could not envision, looking forward, someone like Antiochus Epiphanes, the way we can when we look back at history and see the remarkable fulfillment of this vision.
 
Yet Daniel got up and went about the king's business. You see, he didn't know all the details of the future, but he knew who holds the future and that enabled him to go forward. And in that way his situation in life was no different than your situation and mine. We don't know all the details of the future, but we do indeed know who holds the future. And because of that, even though we may be appalled at times by what we see in our nation and in our world – and in our own personal lives – we can yet go about our King's business with confidence, just as Daniel did.
 
If, by God’s grace and Spirit’s power, you have saving faith in Him who is the King of all kings, if you know that He came to this earth and suffered and died for your sins and rose again for your justification, then you can look to the future with the same confidence of the hymn writers who wrote, “Because He lives I can face tomorrow; Because He lives all fear is gone; Because I know He holds the future, And life is worth the living just because He lives.”1 Amen!
 
1 Refrain from God Sent His Son, They Called Him Jesus by Gloria and William Gaither, 1971
 
 
 
Sermon Outline:
 
“In the third year of King Belshazzar’s reign, I, Daniel, had a vision...”
                                                                                                Daniel 8:1a
 
                              “God Knows – and Holds – the Future”
                                                  Daniel 8:1-27
 
I.  Daniel’s vision is similar to a drama with three main characters:
     1) A ram with two horns (3-4) which Gabriel explains is the kingdom
         of the Medes and Persians (20)
 
 
 
     2) A goat with a horn between his eyes (5-8), which is a reference to
          Greek kings (21-22). Most commentators agree that the first king
          (21) portrays the conquests of Alexander the Great
 
 
     3) A small horn that grew large (9-14) describes a fierce and deceitful
          king who will reign in the future (23-27). This is a clear reference
          to Antiochus Epiphanes, who desecrated the temple and killed
          thousands of Jews (175-164 BC), and is a foreshadow of the final
          Antichrist
 
 
II. When by grace we have saving faith in Christ, we can confidently go
      about our day-to-day business (27) because we realize:
      1) God knows and holds the future (17). These events came true, one
           immediately, and the others long after Daniel prophesied them (19)
 
 
      2) Powerful people, including the Antichrist, are no threat to God
           (4-9, 25; 2 Thess. 2:8). The same is true for the devil (Rev. 20:10)
 
 
      3) Although evil is powerful, God’s victory is certain (25; Rev. 11:15)
           and His people are “more than conquerors” through faith in Jesus
           Christ (Romans 8:37)
 
 

 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2016, Rev. Ted Gray

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