Exposition of Daniel 11:29-35 Daniel’s final vision — Part 2

Daniel 11: 29-35

29 At the appointed time he will invade the South again, but this time the outcome will be different from what it was before. 30 Ships of the western coastlands will oppose him, and he will lose heart. Then he will turn back and vent his fury against the holy covenant. He will return and show favor to those who forsake the holy covenant.

31 His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice. Then they will set up the abomination that causes desolation. 32 With flattery he will corrupt those who have violated the covenant, but the people who know their God will firmly resist him.

33 Those who are wise will instruct many, though for a time they will fall by the sword or be burned or captured or plundered. 34 When they fall, they will receive a little help, and many who are not sincere will join them. 35 Some of the wise will stumble, so that they may be refined, purified and made spotless until the time of the end, for it will still come at the appointed time.

We have been studying the amazingly accurate prophecy that the angel is sharing with Daniel regarding the future of Israel. Although by this time the Jews were being allowed to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple, the vision Daniel is receiving indicates that there will not be an end to conflict for some time. In fact, things will eventually get much worse.

Once again, the Bible passage will be divided into sections so that it will be easier to understand the commentary that follows. Recall that we left off with the introduction of a mighty, but contemptible king who persecutes the Jews.

The further desolation caused by Antiochus IV Epiphanes

Though Antiochus brought back great plunder from his first invasion of Egypt (verse 28) in 169 B.C., things did not go so well in his return invasion in 168 B.C. (verse 29). This time a Roman fleet came to support the Ptolemies at Alexandria and sent him into a frightened retreat (verse 30a). Upon returning from the invasion attempt, the deeply humiliated Antiochus took out his anger (verse 30b) on the holy covenant (the Law of Moses).

Antiochus soon banned all forms of Jewish religious observance including circumcision, possessing the Scriptures, sacrifices and feast days; the penalty for violation was death.[1] Miller adds, Desecration of the Jewish religion reached its climax on 15 Chislev (December) 167 B.C. when an altar or idol-statue devoted to Olympian Zeus (Jupiter) was erected in the temple.[2] It is probable that swine were also sacrificed there, an abomination to the Jews.

While some Jews (those who violated the covenant) participated in the Greek religion of their oppressor, others (the people who know their God) joined the armed rebellion led by the sons of a priest named Mattathias, a force called the Maccabees (verse 32). The Maccabees fought using guerrilla warfare tactics, won many encounters, and eventually rededicated the temple in December, 164 B.C. Verses 33-35 describe the sorting of loyalties, for or against God, that took place during this terrible time. But God brought down Antiochus IV at the time of his choosing. Chapter 9 of 2 Maccabees describes a horrible death for Antiochus in 163 B.C.

Aside from showing Gods power to dictate events centuries beforehand, verses 29-35 likely show how Jews suffering under the terrible Antichrist-to-come will react. They also reveal an idea of how the Antichrist will again desolate Jerusalem, desecrating it near the end. But he, too, will not prevail.

Copyright 2015 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

[1] Stephen R. Miller, Daniel, The New American Commentary (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 1994)301, citing 1 Maccabees 1:50, 63.

[2] Miller, Daniel, 301, citing 1 Maccabees 1:54, 59.

Exposition of Daniel 2:36–49 The God of Heaven

Daniel 2:36–49

36 “This was the dream, and now we will interpret it to the king. 37 Your Majesty, you are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; 38 in your hands he has placed all mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds in the sky. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold.

39 “After you, another kingdom will arise, inferior to yours. Next, a third kingdom, one of bronze, will rule over the whole earth. 40 Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron — for iron breaks and smashes everything — and as iron breaks things to pieces, so it will crush and break all the others. 41 Just as you saw that the feet and toes were partly of baked clay and partly of iron, so this will be a divided kingdom; yet it will have some of the strength of iron in it, even as you saw iron mixed with clay. 42 As the toes were partly iron and partly clay, so this kingdom will be partly strong and partly brittle. 43 And just as you saw the iron mixed with baked clay, so the people will be a mixture and will not remain united, any more than iron mixes with clay.

44 “In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. 45 This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands — a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces.

“The great God has shown the king what will take place in the future. The dream is true and its interpretation is trustworthy.”

46 Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell prostrate before Daniel and paid him honor and ordered that an offering and incense be presented to him. 47 The king said to Daniel, “Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery.”

48 Then the king placed Daniel in a high position and lavished many gifts on him. He made him ruler over the entire province of Babylon and placed him in charge of all its wise men. 49 Moreover, at Daniel’s request the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego administrators over the province of Babylon, while Daniel himself remained at the royal court.

You have to wonder whether Nebuchadnezzar feels a chill go down his spine when he realizes that, unlike others, Daniel knows exactly what he had seen in his dream — the terrifying image smashed to dust by the world-engulfing stone. Hearing the interpretation may reveal threats against his kingdom or even his life. Courage is required to hear such things.

Daniel’s first statement defies Babylonian pride: “You, O king, are the king of kings. The God of heaven has granted you sovereignty, power, strength, and honor” (verse 37, NET). This one sentence dominates the entire interpretation by declaring that the God of heaven appoints rulers over the kingdoms of men, including mighty Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar thinks himself king of kings by military conquest, but, no, says Daniel; it was a gift. And his voice rings true because he is revealing things that no one else could possibly know. Nebuchadnezzar realizes this knowledge is unique because he has sentenced all seers without this knowledge to death.

In case anyone thinks that the authority God gives to Nebuchadnezzar is limited, God also grants him sovereignty over all people and animals within his empire (verse 38), a decision that reminds us of the authority given to Adam and Eve to be God’s vice-regents over the earth (Gen. 1:27–28). Times have changed, and mankind has grown more numerous, but God’s reign endures. And it is God who has declared that Nebuchadnezzar is the head of gold.

Wood describes what is said about the second and third kingdoms: “Very little is said of either the second kingdom or the third, perhaps for the reason that each is described at greater length in Daniel’s later visions [in chapters 7–8].”[1] On the other hand, the description may be terse because the identification of these kingdoms is not the primary concern of God in giving the vision. Of far greater import is the fact that God granted power to Nebuchadnezzar and will eventually establish a kingdom that will never be destroyed (verse 44).

The portrayal of God as the Lord of history is more vital to understanding the vision than the resolution of curiosity about which materials represent which kingdoms. That statement is meant as a warning to those who indulge in prophetic curiosity in place of living in obedience to the living God. We will reserve a more detailed discussion of the kingdoms following the Babylonian kingdom, until we have the more detailed visions of Daniel 7.

Image element Materials Empire Duration (approx.)
Head Gold Babylonian 605–539 B.C.
Chest + arms Silver Medo-Persian 539–331 B.C.
Belly + thighs Bronze Alexandrian (Greek) 331–146? B.C.
Legs + feet Iron/iron+clay mix Roman/ Roman II 146? B.C. – 1453 A.D. /Still future
Stone Stone/Mountain Millennial (Messiah) ?? – forever

 

Daniel draws attention to the fact that the second kingdom is inferior to Nebuchadnezzar’s (verse 39). When you consider the entire image, it plainly deteriorates in quality of material as you move from head to foot. Commentators differ over how the second kingdom is inferior to the first and also on what the reason is for the decreasing value of the materials as attention moves from top to bottom. We can be certain that size is not the answer since the Medo-Persian empire that replaced the Babylonian empire was even larger. While some suggest that the quality of government deteriorated from one to the next, we prefer Miller’s idea: “Daniel seems to have been suggesting that the sinfulness of the world would continue to increase until the culmination of history.”[2] But, this conclusion is uncertain.

While the identifications shown in the table are a consensus of traditional Christian scholars — also using the visions of Daniel 7 — those scholars who reject the existence or validity of predictive prophecy would say otherwise. Goldingay, for example, tries to say that the stone represents Cyrus the Great[3], but that makes little sense in light of the stone becoming a mountain, representing a kingdom that “will itself endure forever” (verse 44). His kingdom fell like all the others.

The fourth kingdom, symbolized by iron, receives a lot more attention than the second and third. Rome’s successful application of military technology and power enabled it to defeat some very tough opponents (e.g. Carthage) — “so it will crush and break all the others” (verse 40). Yet the Roman Empire frequently suffered from internal divisions, just as verses 41–43 predict.

Traditional Christian scholars differ on the exact nature of the fourth kingdom. Miller explains:

Some scholars … contend that verses 44–45 refer to Christ’s spiritual kingdom in the hearts of believers that commenced at his first coming. … Other commentators … maintain that the kingdom in view is Christ’s physical reign on earth inaugurated immediately following his second advent. It follows that if the dominion described in verse 44 refers to Christ’s personal, earthly kingdom set up at his second coming, then the last part of the statue must represent an earthly empire existing immediately prior to Christ’s return.[4]

To further understand this difference of interpretation among traditional interpreters, note carefully that the great image has “legs of iron” (verse 33a) as well as “feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay” (verse 33b). No other zone of the image has two sub-zones like this one. The existence of this distinction allows us to say (along with Miller[5] and Wood[6]) that the iron legs represent ancient Rome and the mixed-iron-and-clay feet and toes represent a ten-nation empire — some strong and some weak — arising from ancient Rome and existing just before Christ returns. In reaching this conclusion we are partially relying on information from Daniel’s visions in Daniel 7–8, and we will say more when those more detailed visions are explained.

Verse 44 introduces some mysteries that require information from Daniel 7 to resolve. First, the phrase “those kings” has no obvious referent. The previous verses have described kingdoms, not kings. However, parts of the visions in chapter 7 relate to ten kings, a fact that correlates well with the (ten) toes of the image in verse 42. If we assume that interpretation, then it is during the time of those ten future kings that “the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed” (verse 44a).

What becomes clear in verse 44 is that the kingdoms of men (represented by the terrifying image) will suddenly be destroyed and replaced by a kingdom established by the God of heaven (represented by the stone that becomes a mountain filling the whole world). There was no great battle at Christ’s first coming, but his second coming will trigger the dramatic and sudden destruction of all those word powers arrayed against his return (Revelation 19:19–21). These facts fit well with the image of the stone shattering the image whose fragments are blown away.

In verse 45b, the segment saying, “A great God has made known to the king what shall be after this,” should be understood to mean after the events just described: the shattering of human kingdoms by the stone (verse 45a). That translation is much more exact than the indistinct timing expressed by “The great God has shown the king what will take place in the future” (verse 45b, NIV). What is it, then, that God has shown will happen “after this”? The full and final replacement of human kingdoms by the kingdom of God, right after those human kingdoms are suddenly shattered and swept away.

Following this dramatic revelation, Nebuchadnezzar’s reacts decisively and yet paradoxically: he humbles himself before Daniel (verse 46). However, the fact that Daniel does not object, along with Nebuchadnezzar’s immediate praise for God as “the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries” (verse 47), indicates that the praise is meant for God. This high praise for God from Nebuchadnezzar is the climax of the chapter.[7] That is an accurate conclusion about the story in its own time and place. We live much later and tend to be interested in the current implications of Daniel’s prophecies, and yet the same conclusion remains valid for us today. We too need to recognize the majesty of God who alone is the God of gods and King of all kings.

Miller summarizes, “Nebuchadnezzar still had not come to exclusive faith in Yahweh as his continued worship of other gods proves.”[8] Perhaps so, but he is on the track toward such faith, as future chapters will demonstrate.

True to his word, the king gives Daniel administrative control of the capital and the surrounding province as well as the supervision of the Babylonian sages (verse 48). Daniel wisely requested, and got, his three friends appointed as administrators under him in the province of Babylon.

In chapter 1, God’s power to change events came to the attention of Ashpenaz, the overseer of the palace officials. In chapter 2, Nebuchadnezzar himself sees that God is the king of the ages. The knowledge of God’s supremacy spreads ever wider. When it pleases him to bring human history to an end, the kingdom of God will destroy forever the kingdoms of men and replace them. Those who belong to God will prosper in his kingdom; those who do not will blow away like dust in the wind.

Copyright © 2014 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 

[1] Wood, Daniel, 68.

[2] Miller, Daniel, 94.

[3] Goldingay, Daniel, 51.

[4] Miller, Daniel, 97.

[5] Miller, Daniel, 96–99.

[6] Wood, Daniel, 69–71.

[7] Miller, Daniel, 103.

[8] Miller, Daniel, 103.

Exposition of Revelation: Revelation 5:1–5

Revelation 5:1–5
Then I saw in the right hand of the one who was seated on the throne a scroll written on the front and back and sealed with seven seals. 2 And I saw a powerful angel proclaiming in a loud voice: “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to break its seals?” 3 But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or look into it. 4 So I began weeping bitterly because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. 5 Then one of the elders said to me, “Stop weeping! Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, has conquered; thus he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”
(NET Bible)

Who is worthy?

If you really want to know something about the future, you should talk to the only person who remembers it. Yes, remembers it. After all, Jesus is the one whose death for us set future events into motion, and he is the one who is appointed to unseal and initiate their details.

If you want to deal with the future, Jesus is the only one who can help you.

John gradually shifts our focus from the door into heaven (4:1) to the awesome figure on the throne (4:2–3), to other features of the throne room (4:4–10) and then dramatically back to the One on the throne (4:11). As we begin chapter 5, he uses the same technique starting with the scroll “in the right hand of the one who was seated on the throne” (5:1). It is sealed seven times. Roman emperors Augustus and Vespasian also left wills with seven seals, but nothing so awesome as this!

The word translated scroll is the Greek noun biblion, which can also mean book. With 23 uses overall, this Greek word occurs frequently in chapter 5 (7 times). In chapters 5–9 the scrolls speak about what God will assuredly do in the future.

Greg Beale explains the particular form of the sealed book (or scroll):

The book of 5:1–2 is to be understood in part against the legal background of Roman wills, since the two bear striking similarity: (1) the contents of such a will was sometimes summarized on the back; (2) a will had to be witnessed and sealed by seven witnesses; (3) only on the death of a testator could a will be unsealed and the legal promise of the inheritance to be executed; (4) a trustworthy executor would then put the will into legal effect.[1]

As we will see, the testator who has died is Jesus Christ, and his resurrection allows him also to act as the trustworthy executor.

The presence of the scroll presents us with the mystery of its contents, and the suspense is further strengthened when it becomes apparent that the powerful angel (5:2) is looking for someone else to open the scroll and loose the seals which bind it closed. When it is not immediately apparent that anyone has the authority and power to open the seals (5:3), John grieves deeply (5:4).

One of the elders sets John straight (5:5), and in the process assigns remarkable names to Jesus. “The Lion of the tribe of Judah” (5:5) finds its background in Gen. 49:8–10, and “the root of David” looks back to Isa. 11:10–11. Both titles have military overtones. Of the latter passage Craig Keener says, “Early Judaism recycled the imagery of this passage to represent a mighty warrior prince.”[2]

Notice carefully that the basis for Jesus’ worthiness to open the scroll and its seals is based on having conquered (5:5). This conquest occurred chiefly at the cross (5:9), though the long struggle against sin must not be discounted. Jesus is the archetype of the one who conquers (2:7, 11, 26; 3:5, 12, 21), and believers are to imitate his faithfulness.

Lord of all to come

By conquering sin, death and Satan through his death on the cross, Jesus proved his worthiness to be Lord of all history, even that part which has not yet unfolded. He is Lord of all!

By contrast, some Christians do not give Jesus two thoughts in a day; their lives seem to be on a trajectory that reflects a commitment to the world and its self-focused, materialistic values.

A day is coming — perhaps even this day — when the apparent gap between nominal Christians and Jesus Christ will vanish, and these believers will be confronted with explaining how they have lived for the earth while claiming to follow heaven. Prepare now for that conversation!

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.



[1] G.K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, The New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999) 344.

[2] Craig S. Keener, Revelation, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000) 186.

Exposition of Revelation: Revelation 4:1–5

Revelation 4:1–5
After these things I looked, and there was a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet said: “Come up here so that I can show you what must happen after these things.” 2 Immediately I was in the Spirit, and a throne was standing in heaven with someone seated on it! 3 And the one seated on it was like jasper and carnelian in appearance, and a rainbow looking like it was made of emerald encircled the throne. 4 In a circle around the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on those thrones were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white clothing and had golden crowns on their heads. 5 From the throne came out flashes of lightning and roaring and crashes of thunder. Seven flaming torches, which are the seven spirits of God, were burning in front of the throne.
 (NET Bible)

The One on the throne

Many people want to believe they are in control of their own affairs. To follow that idea to its logical conclusion, they must assume either that there is no God in heaven or that they will somehow resist whatever god may exist.

Those ideas might sound plausible except for one thing: someone has already ascended to heaven and looked!

Revelation chapters 4–5 form a single unit. Grant Osborne has the right idea when he says: “The unifying theme of these chapters is certainly the ‘throne.’. . . The throne room scene [chapter 4] is a kaleidoscope of OT images, with no single one dominant.”[1] Of course, it is logical that there would be common elements to these visions of God on his throne.

In relation to the frequent use of throne, Greg Beale explains: “Although God’s realm is separated from the earthly, he is nevertheless in control over earth’s affairs. Regardless of how rampant evil seems to run and to cause God’s people to suffer, they can know that his hand superintends everything for their good and his glory.”[2]

In a book such as Revelation, time markers are very important to the literary structure. We immediately encounter two such markers in 4:1. The first such signaling device is the clause “after these things I looked” (4:1; 7:1, 9; 15:5; 18:1). In a book filled with visions, the act of looking introduces new visions.

The second marker in 4:1 is the phrase “after these things,” which serves to place blocks of material in a relative chronological sequence. (See 1:19; 4:1 [twice]; 7:9; 9:12; 15:5; 18:1; 19:1; 20.3.). “After these things” occurs at the beginning and end of 4:1. The final use of the phrase at the end of 4:1 strongly implies that the further visions in chapters 4–22 cover events which occur after what has already been revealed in chapters 1–3.

The first thing John sees is an open door in heaven (4:1). A voice summons him to ascend and be shown “what must happen after these things” (4:1b, emphasis added). The word must translates the Greek dei, a verb expressing necessity. Prophecy is not about maybe but about certainty!

John’s first impression of heaven is a throne and “someone sitting on it” (4:2, NLT). The Greek form expressing “someone sitting” normally means continuous action in present time; Someone is sitting on this the heavenly throne — by design not happenstance — because he rules!

Note carefully that the great throne stands at the center of the assembled company, who form a circle about it (4:4). Beale rightly says: “All heavenly beings find significance only in their various placements around the central throne. And all earth’s inhabitants are appraised on the basis of their attitude to God’s claim to rule over them from this heavenly throne (cf. 6:16–17; 20:11–12).”[3] It is heaven that defines our measure; we are not the center of things!

Who are the 24 elders (4:4)? Some say angels and others say men; still others suggest that the elders are angels who represent both OT and NT believers. The last option appears the most likely, but the answer really does not matter in this context. What does matter is that the elders have seats of honor, service and worship in relation to the One on the throne. We should not get distracted interpreting details of the vision.

In support of the lesser importance of the elders, 4:5 immediately returns attention to the central throne. The “flashes of lightning and roaring and crashes of thunder” also occur in 8:5, 11:19, and 16:18; all are contexts of judgment. The appearance of these intense elements in 4:5 informs us that God’s throne is their source; when judgment later falls, it comes from the One on the throne! Osborne concludes: “The awesome God is the basis of both worship and judgment.”[4] That we are expressly told about the presence of the Spirit of God before the throne (4:5) lets us know the Spirit has a central role in the judgment to come.

Heaven’s occupied throne

The central throne in heaven is not vacant! No one needs to put themselves forward as a candidate for it. And the One who sits on that throne has declared his firm intention to reward and to judge.

The prophet Isaiah said: “In the year of King Uzziah’s death, I saw the sovereign master seated on a high, elevated throne. The hem of his robe filled the temple. 2 Seraphs stood over him; each one had six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and they used the remaining two to fly. 3 They called out to one another, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord who commands armies! His majestic splendor fills the entire earth!’” (Isa. 6:1–3). Sovereign! Master! Holy!

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.



[1] Grant R. Osborne, Revelation, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002) 220.

[2] G.K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, The New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999) 320.

[3] Beale, Revelation, 320.

[4] Osborne, Revelation, 230.