Daniel's History Lesson
Introduction: In our study of Daniel this week, we go back in time to examine a dream that was given directly to Daniel, and not the ruler of the kingdom in which Daniel lived. Recall that Daniel seemed to have fallen out of power and authority during the reign of Belshazzar? Perhaps he had some extra time on his hands. Whatever the reason, that is the time period to which we return in our study of Daniel 7. Let's jump into our study!
- The Dream
- Read Daniel 7:1. Why would Daniel write down his dream? (He did not want to be like Nebuchadnezzar, and forget his dream! Seriously, this tells us two things. First, Daniel thought his dream was important. Second, we can have confidence that we have a correct and accurate statement of his dream.)
- Read Daniel 7:2-3. Imagine yourself standing in this picture. Are you in a storm? What do you think is meant by "the four winds of heaven" which "churn up the great sea?" (If you were in a boat, you should head for shore! It seems like a big storm. The four winds of heaven sound like the four directions of the compass.)
- Read Revelation 17:15. What insight do we get about the meaning of the sea? (The picture I get from Daniel 7:2-3 is that the people of the world are in turmoil, upheaval, and out of these "stormy waters" come four great beasts.)
- Read Daniel 7:4-7. Have we studied anything in the book of Daniel so far that seems even remotely similar? (Yes. In Daniel 2 we saw the sweep of history prophesied in the dream of the image. It had four great kingdoms: Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome which arose and fell in succession.)
- Let's read through the end of this dream. Read Daniel 7:8-14. If this is a statement of the history of the world, as I think it is, how do you feel about it? (Just like in the dream of Daniel 2, God wins. He triumphs in the history of man.)
- What two activities of God does this dream reveal? (Verses 9-10 show that God sets up a judgment in heaven and verses 11-14 show the destruction of earthly powers and the coronation of Jesus ("son of man"-Matthew 17:22).)
- When does the judgment appear to begin? (It appears to take place before the end of time when the "little horn" is still around.)
- The Meaning of the Dream
- Let's stop for just a minute. I think the first six chapters of Daniel have prepared us for the chapters to come. Tell me, in general terms, what you have learned from the first six chapters of Daniel? (There is a universal struggle between good and evil. God partners with faithful humans to defeat evil. Daniel has been used by God to reveal important future matters. Daniel's interpretations of dreams go to large, historical events - including the sweep of world history.)
- How does this dream fit into the pattern that we have seen? (It seems to be another revelation of the sweep of history.)
- Read Daniel 7:15-16. How does Daniel's reaction to the dream compare to yours? (Daniel is troubled by the dream for some reason.)
- Why do you think Daniel is troubled?
- Who is this person whom Daniel approaches in verse 16? (The last part of Daniel's vision has him observing what is going on in heaven. The reasonable conclusion is that Daniel steps over to a heavenly being and asks for help in interpreting the dream.)
- Read Daniel 7:17-18. We have this interpretation directly from heaven. What is the interpretation of the four beasts? (These are world powers that arise in succession. Thus, we can clearly see that this is the same series of world powers that were revealed in Daniel 2: Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome.)
- Do you think that Daniel had the same general idea about the meaning of the dream?
- If so, I ask again why would Daniel be troubled? The saints win! (Daniel would have no reason to be troubled by what he had known since he was a young man. Instead, what troubles Daniel, and what we will spend most of the rest of our time considering, is the new information about the fourth beast.)
- Read Daniel 7:19-20. What is different about this fourth beast? (For one thing it is terrifying. However, all of the beasts seem pretty scary to me. The main difference is the horns. Daniel 7:7 makes the point about being different and specifically notes the horns.)
- What is special about this one horn? (It seems to be identified with a person. Notice that with the first three beasts, Babylon ( Daniel 7:4) is described with "man-like" characteristics. Since we have been studying that Nebuchadnezzar was its most prominent ruler, this seems to be a reference to him. The other beasts, however, come across as world powers without the identity of a prominent person. The horn, like Babylon, but unlike the other beasts, is described with "man-like" traits.)
- Read Daniel 7:21-22. What else do we learn about this little horn? (That it persecutes Christians and is "defeating" them. Its series of victories over the saints comes to an end with the judgment of God. Compare Daniel 7:8-11.)
- Read Daniel 7:23-25. The heavenly interpreter says that the horns are ten kings. How does this compare with Nebuchadnezzar's dream of the image? (It fits perfectly. No world kingdom dominates after Rome. Instead, the Roman Empire changes into feet and toes (you probably have ten of them - like the ten horns) that are mixed iron and clay. Thus, we see that after the Roman Empire we have nations that are weak (clay) and strong (iron), but none rule the world. Compare Daniel 2:40-43.)
- Examination of the "Little Horn"
- When does the "little horn" that looks like a man arise? (It arises after the break-up of the Roman Empire into the ten kingdoms. Daniel 7:24 says it arises "after" "the ten kings who will come from this [Roman] kingdom.")
- How long is this "little horn" in power? (We have two statements about time. It is in power until the time of the heavenly judgment ( Daniel 7:8-9, 26) and it is in power "a time, times and half a time." Daniel 7:25.)
- A popular teaching is that the "little horn" is a minor Seleucide King named Antiochus Ephiphanes who ruled eleven years from 175-164 B.C.. Antiochus came to power after the death of Alexander the Great at the end of the Empire of Greece. (See, Goldstein, Graffiti in the Holy of Holies, p.39-42)
- Does Antiochus Ephiphanes fit the description of the little horn? (No. The timing is all wrong. Antiochus came to power before, not after, the Roman Empire. The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge recites that the ten kingdoms into which the western Roman Empire was divided were set up between 356 A.D and 526 A.D. Thus, Antiochus is more than 500 years too soon to fit this prophecy. In addition, his eleven-year rule hardly seems to stretch to the time of the final judgment.)
- According to Daniel 7:25 this little horn tries to change the "set times and laws." What do you think that means? (Compare Daniel 2:19-21. Changing times and seasons is the prerogative of God. Thus, this horn, with its persecution of the saints, and its claim to God's prerogatives, seems to be a quasi- religious power that claims the authority of God.)
- When you think of a time that God has set as a law, what comes to mind? (What comes to my mind is Exodus 20:8-11 - the command for Sabbath worship.)
- Based on the clues we have so far, what do you think the "little horn" represents? (There is disagreement among commentators on this, but I believe the evidence points very clearly to Papal Rome. It arose after Pagan Rome was breaking up, it was different than the other kings in that its claim to religious power was greater than its claim to secular authority. It is identified with a man - Papal Rome is identified with the Pope. Papal Rome had a very sad period during the Middle Ages when it persecuted those who disagreed with it. Two commentaries that I read conclude that the "little horn" is at least Papal Rome. (The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge; A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments.) The New Bible Commentary seems to point to Papal Rome, without specifically identifying it. I want my readers to know that as I write this I am defending in court the religious freedom of Catholic teachers and a Catholic institution. Some of my most prominent cases were in the defense of Catholics. I love and admire how the Catholic Church stands strong against abortion and other evil. But, I must conclude that these texts point to Papal Rome.)
- Let's see if we can get a fix on the timing of this "little horn." Daniel 7:25 refers to "times" in connection with the rule of the "little horn." What are "times?" (To better understand this, look back at Daniel 4:16 and 25. When Nebuchadnezzar was told that "seven times" would pass over him, this meant seven years. Thus, "time, times and half a time" reasonably refers to three and one half years.)
- Are these 3.5 years literal or symbolic? (The other time reference we are given - the "little horn" being in power until the time of the judgment - certainly seems to require more than a literal 3.5 years. The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge points us to the "year-day" principle of prophecy. It translates 3.5 years to 1,260 days and concludes that this represents 1,260 years.)
- Read Daniel 7:26. What activity comes at the end of this 1,260 year period? (The "court will sit." A judicial session begins. This is the court session that is more completely described in Daniel 7:9-10. We are going to take a closer look at this judicial session in our study next week.)
- Read Daniel 7:27. What happens at the end of this judicial session? (All the powers of the world are handed over to the saints. God brings in His "everlasting kingdom." This points to the Second Coming of Jesus!)
- Friend, we have a "map of time" that brings us to the end of the world as we know it. Are you encouraged that God is in control? Will you determine to be a part of His Kingdom?
- Next week: The Pre-Advent Judgment.