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Series: Courage - Part Eight
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
June 18, 2006
Yesterday the Modesto Bee published several articles about Father’s Day. On the front page were some statistics about fathers. Did any of you see this? Two statistics caught my eye. There are 66.3 million fathers in the United States. Of those - only 26.4 million fathers are part of married-couple families with their own children under the age of 18. (1) Close to 40 million fathers are not in marriages raising their own children.
William Bennett - in his “Index of Leading Cultural Indicators” writes “In the past thirty years violent crime has increased 560 percent; illegitimate births 400 percent. There has been a tripling of the percentage of children living in single-parent homes. Teenage suicide increased more than 200 percent.” (2)
Do you think the world is getting better or is the world getting worse? Evil triumphs. Sometimes it seems like evil is always triumphant. That’s something we wrestle with. Even in our own lives. Times when we feel overwhelmed by what comes against us - anxious about the society we live in - wondering where God is. Ever feel that way? Oh yes.
Please join me at Daniel chapter 8. Today we want to look at our response to the triumph of evil. Having courage when evil triumphs.
Daniel 8 verse 1: In the third year of the reign of Belshazzar the king a vision appeared to me, Daniel, subsequent to the one which appeared to me previously.
Last week - when we looked at chapter 7 - Daniel shared a vision he had in the first year of Belshazzar’s reign. This second vision comes two years later - 447 BC.
Verse 2: I looked in the vision, and while I was looking I was in the citadel of Susa, which is in the province of Elam; and I looked in the vision and I myself was beside the Ulai Canal.
Susa was about 225 miles due east of Babylon. It was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Elam - which is where southwest Iran is today. The Ulai Canal was probably a river just east of Susa - which flows south to the Persian Gulf.
Verse 3: Then I lifted my eyes and looked, and behold, a ram which had two horns was standing in front of the canal. Now the two horns were long, but one was longer than the other, with the longer one coming up last. I saw the ram butting westward, northward, and southward, and no other beasts could stand before him nor was there anyone to rescue from his power but he did as he pleased and magnified himself. While I was observing, behold, a male goat was coming from the west over the surface of the whole earth without touching the ground; and the goat had a conspicuous horn between his eyes. He came up to the ram that had the two horns, which I had seen standing in front of the canal, and rushed at him in his mighty wrath. I saw him come beside the ram, and he was enraged at him; and he struck the ram and shattered his two horns, and the ram had no strength to withstand him. So he hurled him to the ground and trampled on him, and there was none to rescue the ram from his power. Then the male goat magnified himself exceedingly. But as soon as he was mighty, the large horn was broken; and in its place there came up four conspicuous horns toward the four winds of heaven.
Hang onto this: A ram with two horns which is trampled by a male goat. The male goat has one large horn which is broken and replaced with four horns: One ram - two horns. One goat - one horn then four.
Verse 9: Out of one of them - these four horns on the goat - out of them came forth a rather small horn which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the Beautiful land - meaning Palestine - It grew up to the host of heaven and caused some of the host and some of the stars to fall to the earth, and it trampled them down. It even magnified itself to be equal with the Commander of the hosts; and it removed the regular sacrifice from Him, and the place of His sanctuary was thrown down. And on account of transgression the host will be given over to the horn along with the regular sacrifice; and it will fling truth to the ground and perform its will and prosper. Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to that particular one who was speaking, “How long will the vision about the regular sacrifice apply, while the transgression causes horror, so as to allow both the holy place and the host to be trampled?” He said to me, “For 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the holy place will be properly restored.”
Let’s pause and take a breath. Everyone breath. All this is perfectly clear. Right? Good. Let’s go on.
Verse 15: When I, Daniel, had seen the vision, I sought to understand it; -See, Daniel didn’t get this either. Tell this to the person next to you, “Its okay to be confused.”
Verse 15: When I, Daniel, had seen the vision, I sought to understand it; and behold, standing before me was one who looked like a man. And I heard the voice of a man between the banks of Ulai, and he called out and said, “Gabriel, give this man an understanding of the vision.” So he - Gabriel - came near to where I was standing, and when he came I was frightened and fell on my face; but he said to me, “Son of man, understand that the vision pertains to the time of the end.” Now while he was talking with me, I sank into a deep sleep with my face to the ground; but he touched me and made me stand upright. He said, “Behold, I am going to let you know what will occur at the final period of the indignation, for it pertains to the appointed time of the end.”
We need to pause there. That’s a lot to digest. Two things we need to keep in mind.
By the way, if you look on your sermon notes you’ll see that I’ve added to our chart, from last week, the ram and goat. I’ve identified them with what we’ve been looking at in previous chapters. Which I hope will be helpful in understanding what we’re looking at here.
Two things to keep in mind. First: While this is confusing - the stuff of God often is - while this may be confusing - God wants us to get it. Say that to the person next to you. “God wants us to get this.”
When Daniel - like us - when Daniel says, “Uh, I don’t get it.” God sends Gabriel - the “You will bring forth a Son” Gabriel. In Scripture Gabriel is a messenger - an angel who takes messages from God to God’s people - explaining what God is doing. God wants Daniel - and us - His people - to understand the point He’s making with this vision.
Second - the vision is a double exposure of future history.
We have a picture of my Dad’s mother - the Greek side of the family - Yaya - Greek for grandmother. This picture of Yaya was taken probably back in the 20’s - probably on Uncle Mihran’s vineyard up in Ceres. The picture is of Yaya sitting holding a box of grapes in front of her. Also in the picture - because someone was being clever with their camera - also in the picture is Yaya standing looking at herself sitting holding a box of grapes in front of her. It’s a double exposure - two events - one picture.
Daniel is given a vision of something that will happen. But, because of where we are in history - we’re looking back on it as something that has already happened. And yet - here’s the double exposure part - the part where the pictures overlap - what has happened is yet to happen.
Jesus gave a prophecy like this. Jesus was talking with His disciples and He predicted the fall of Jerusalem and circumstances related to its fall. Which actually took place in 70 AD. And yet, all of what Jesus predicted hasn’t happened yet. Jesus said, that the nations of the world will gather for battle around Jerusalem and then Jesus will return to earth. (Matthew 24:1-14).
So the historic fulfillment - 70 AD - gives us - who come later in history - gives us an illustration - of what the future fulfillment will be like. Its like God giving each of us - depending on where we are in the time line - giving each of us what we need to understand what we need to know about what will take place.
We’re told three times in these verses. Verse 17: “the vision pertains to the time of the end.” Verse 19: “what will occur at the final period of the indignation… the appointed time of the end.”
Repetition why? So we understand what’s going on here. Daniel’s vision pertains to the time of the end. We haven’t come to that final end yet. So, whatever was fulfilled only gives us an idea of what will be fulfilled.
Bottom line: God wants us to get this. What He’s showing us has present and future significance for us.
Let’s go on. Verse 20: The ram which you saw with the two horns represents the kings of Media and Persia.
That’s easy to understand isn’t it? God wants us to understand this.
Remember Certs. “It’s two - two - two mints in one.” That’ll date some of us. The Medio-Persian Empire was really two separate empires in one.
The ram - one empire - with two horns - represents two kings - a king of the Medes - and a king of the Persians. The Medes came first. Then slightly later the Persians arrived on the scene. While power was shared - it really was the Persians who were the dominate of the two. Which may be why verse 3 says that one horn was longer than the other and that the longer horn came last. The Persians - the greater of the two - came later.
We saw the immediate fulfillment of this in chapter 6 - verse 31. Eight years after Daniel is given this vision - here in chapter eight - eight years later Cyrus - the Persian - who is the overall king of the Medio-Persian Empire - Cyrus the Persian conquered Babylon and killed Belshazzar. Then Cyrus leaves Darius - the Mede - the lesser king - in charge of that part of the Empire.
Which brings us to verse 21 - which is the main emphasis of this vision.
Verse 21: The shaggy goat represents the kingdom of Greece, and the large horn that is between his eyes is the first king. The broken horn and the four horns that arose in its place represent four kingdoms which will arise from his nation, although not with his power.
The shaggy goat represents what empire? Greece. That was easy.
Looking at history - the large horn probably represents Alexander the Great - who sweeps through the area conquering people - overcoming Persia - around 333 BC - some 100 plus years after Daniel had this vision.
Alexander conquers Persia and heads to Egypt. Josephus - the Jewish historian - records that when Alexander approached Jerusalem - threatening to take the city - the high priests took copies of the Book of Daniel - this very prophecy - took copies of it out and showed it to Alexander. When Alexander saw that it had been predicted that he was to conquer Persia and rule the world he spared Jerusalem.
Talk about an interruption of the space time continuum. That sparing Jerusalem is interesting. One reason is that if Alexander had sacked Jerusalem this whole prophecy would have been bogus. The time line of future history would have been thrown off. God is in control.
By 323 BC - Alexander - a young man - who quickly rose to power - magnified himself exceedingly - Alexander dies from a combination of malaria and alcoholism. As soon as he was mighty the horn is broken and four horns - four other kings - take over the empire. Which we know from history did happen. Four generals took over and ruled four separate sections of Alexander’s empire.
Verse 23: In the latter period of their rule - these four kings - when the transgressors have run their course, a king will arise, insolent and skilled in intrigue. His power will be mighty, but not by his own power, and he will destroy to an extraordinary degree and prosper and perform his will; He will destroy mighty men and the holy people. And through his shrewdness He will cause deceit to succeed by his influence; and he will magnify himself in his heart, and he will destroy many while they are at ease. He will even oppose the Prince of princes, but he will be broken without human agency. The vision of the evenings and mornings which has been told is true; but keep the vision secret, for it pertains to many days in the future.” Past fulfillment - future fulfillment.
Let’s pause and understand what we’re seeing here.
First - let’s talk about the past fulfillment of this prophecy.
All that we’ve been reading - the ram and the goat - all that sets up the timing and identity of this last king.
One of the four generals who ruled after Alexander was named Seleucus. Seleucus ruled basically what today is Turkey, Asia Minor, and Syria. The eighth king of Seleucus’ dynasty was Antiochus IV - known as Antiochus Epiphanes - came to power in 170 BC.
Antiochus fits the description here in chapter eight. Epiphanes means “great” - “Antiochus the Great.” His enemies called him Antiochus Epimanes - “Antiochus the Madman.” Historians describe Antiochus as a master of intrigue, crafty, double-dealing, ruthless, treacherous, arrogant, proud. Words that mirror the description in Daniel’s vision: “insolent...skilled in intrigue...he will destroy to an extraordinary degree...shrewd...he will magnify himself.” At one point Antiochus claimed the title Theos Epiphanes - “God Manifest.” This was one real evil man.
In 167 BC - 280 years after Daniel saw this vision - Antiochus entered Jerusalem with a hatred for God and a hatred for God’s people. He tried to destroy the scrolls of Scripture. He butchered God’s people and killed children - hung all the circumcised boys. At one point he crucified 100,000 people who refused to worship his false gods. Fried them alive in oil. Dismembered them. Laughing at their agony.
Antiochus defied the high priests - entered the Temple - built a pagan altar in the Temple and offered a pig as a sacrifice. He ripped down the curtain to the holy of holies in the Temple - took the blood from the pig and sprinkled it around the sanctuary - defiling the whole place. Then he erected a statue of Zeus in the Temple and proclaimed Zeus to be God and Yahweh to be foolish.
Evil is triumphant. Right?
In verse 13 an angel asks, “How long will this horrible transgression - allowing the holy place and the holy ones to be trampled - how long will this go on?”
The answer comes in verse 14: 2,300 evenings and mornings - “then the holy place will be properly restored.”
The continual burnt offerings - offered in the Temple - were offered once each evening and once each morning - so 2,300 evenings and mornings comes out to 1,150 days - just over 3 years. Hold onto that number: 1,150 days.
The Jewish historians of the time record that the offering was taken away for a period of just over three years. Finally, Judas Maccabaeus and his sons led a revolt - where God’s people retook Jerusalem - cleansed the Temple - and restored the offerings on December 14, 164 BC - 1,150 days from the time they were suspended.
Isn’t that amazing? Is God in control?
The second part of what we need to understand here is the future fulfillment of this prophecy. The other part of the exposure.
The past fulfillment of this prophecy is historically accurate. What all that points out is that we should expect the future fulfillment to be just as historically accurate. What was true will be true - double exposure.
165 years after Antiochus Epiphanes had desecrated the Temple - Jesus had come out of the Temple and was sitting on the Mount of Olives. His disciples asked Him, “Tell us...what will be sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3)
Jesus - in His answer - says this, “When you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place…” - Antiochus - or the future Antiochus - when you see him standing in the holy place - then this will come about... (Matthew 24:15ff.)
Jesus goes on to say - when you see that happen then you’ll know its time to get out of Jerusalem. If you’re out working in the field don’t take time to go home and grab your coat. Just go. Head for the hills. If you’re pregnant or nursing a child its going to be rough. Pray that it doesn’t happen in the winter. Because you gotta’ move fast.
Point being: what’s coming is the greatest tribulation the world has ever seen. Makes what Daniel’s Antiochus did look like a Sunday School picnic. Nothing we’ve seen so far will compare to the depth of evil unleashed - and we’ve see a lot of horrible stuff. But, as evil a dude as Antiochus was - the coming abomination is far, far, worse.
Jesus - like Daniel - is pointing to a future historical event yet to come. “The final period - the time of the end - days in the future.” When this king will arise to destroy mighty men and the holy people - to claim equality with the Commander of the host and challenge the Prince of princes - Jesus Himself - God.
As bad as we think things are today. One day evil will be unrestrained - horrible - ugly - things will take place. Depravity will run its full course. All of which will be led by one coming king - an anti-Christ king.
Hang on to three courage inspiring truths.
First: The timing of all this is not a surprise to God. The accuracy of Daniel’s vision - past fulfillment - foreshadowing future history - tells us that God is aware - in control - and sovereign over the timing of what will happen.
Second: The coming abomination - the anti-Christ - will be totally evil - making war with God’s people. Things in life are often really really bad. But, God knows that.
Third: All this will be brought to an end by God Himself. Verse 25 says that “he - this abominable anti-Christ - will be broken without human agency.” His days are numbered. God has numbered them. God has fixed the extent and boundary of his evil. God will bring judgment and his end is without question.
Our point of application comes in verse 27 - Daniel’s response to this vision - verse 27: Then I, Daniel, was exhausted and sick for days. Then I got up again and carried on the king’s business; but I was astounded at the vision, and there was none to explain it.
There are different ways to react to all this.
Some people spend their whole lives consumed by prophecy - running around telling everyone that the world is going to end. Some kind of apocalyptic evangelism.
Some people do the opposite. They just try to avoid the whole thing altogether. They say, “What difference does it make. Jesus is coming back. Why should I care about all this other stuff?” Well, for one thing, God cares. Preserved it for us to read and study. Wants us to understand it.
Some people look at all this an excuse to just head for the hills a little early. Sell stuff and live in Christian communities - doing Christian stuff - just waiting for Jesus to come back. Some people are trying to stall the future - through politics and legislation and philanthropy. But what God says will happen will happen. Like it or not - the future of life on this planet has one certain end.
Daniel sees this vision - and like we saw in chapter 7 - he’s overwhelmed by it - exhausted - sick. That’s an emotional reaction with physical results. Let’s be honest - this is hard stuff to deal with. Would you agree with that? How are we suppose to process the apocalypse - the end of the world?
But what did Daniel do? Verse 27. He gets up and carries on the kings business. He goes back to work. Back to the daily routine.
In John 15 - Jesus is talking with His disciples. Remember these words, “I am the vine, you are the - what? branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit.” That whole teaching about remaining in Jesus - going through life tight with Him.
Then Jesus goes on - talks about the future - how the world is going to hate His disciples - us - and all that implies - the persecution - the torture - the ridicule - martyrdom. The evil of the world leveled against the followers of Jesus Christ.
Then Jesus says, “These things I have spoken to you so that you may be kept from stumbling...so that when their hour comes - so that when they are released to do these things to you - you will remember that I told you of them.” (John 16:1-4)
Jesus prepared His disciples. He wanted them to get it. So they wouldn't think that God had lost control. So they could face it all with courage - take it all in stride.
Just as God prepares us - even with Daniel’s vision given over 1,400 years ago - pointing with certainty and accuracy to our future. Evil will run rampant - and we ain’t seen nothing yet. But God is in control. Boundaries have been set. We are not to be surprised by all this.
When evil seems to triumph what should we do? Run in terror? Or go about the King’s business - living in faithful obedience and service to the sovereign God?
When evil rises up it should remind us of God’s sovereignty. We need to live our lives aware of God’s love and control and sovereignty over all that takes place in His creation. We need to live - not focused on evil and the coming anti-Christ king - but on Jesus Christ - His presence and power - through Whom we know that we have victory over all of what comes against us - and a secure eternal victory and life with God.
_______________________1. The Modesto Bee, 06.17.06 / Census Bureau News, June 2006
2. William Bennett, “The Index Of Leading Cultural Indicators” - quoted by Steve Farrar, Standing Tall <>