June 17, 2018
The Unfriendly Beasts
Pastor Bryan Watson
Good morning. Our scripture passage for this morning is Daniel Chapter 7, the whole chapter! Because there is no way for me to pick out a verse, or a handful of verses, that capture the essence of Daniel chapter 7, without taking the whole chapter into account. Daniel Chapter 7 is the pinnacle of Biblical prophecy about world history, and I have been both looking forward to this chapter, and dreading it, since I started preaching through Daniel last fall.
Daniel Has A Dream
Daniel 7 gives us a new twist to a familiar plot line. Up until now, it has always been King Nebuchadnezzar who had a dream, and Daniel would have to interpret it for him. This time, however, it is Daniel himself who has the dream while he is sleeping. Verse 1 says, “In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream and visions of his head while on his bed. Then he wrote down the dream, telling the main facts.”
I’m glad that Daniel wrote the dream down, because it was still fresh in his mind at the time. That adds to the confidence that we can have in Daniel’s vision.
But what else do we notice here? The timing of the dream. Daniel has this dream in the first year of Belshazzar. So we are going back in time a bit, before the Persians under Cyrus and Darius conquered Babylon, and before Belshazzar’s vision of the handwriting on the wall. When Daniel has this dream, he is no longer serving in an official role in the kingdom of Babylon. Instead, he is living in relative obscurity.
In verse 2, Daniel speaks and says, “I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the Great Sea.” This would be the Mediterranean Sea that Daniel sees in his dream. It is the largest body of water that Daniel would have seen or experienced at that time, and to him would represent the great sea of humanity and human history. The four winds would represent the whole world, North, South, East, and West, and the fact that the winds are “winds of heaven” indicate the sovereign power of God to direct the flow of human history, as we see by these heavenly winds “stirring up the Great Sea.”
Verse 3: And four great beasts came up from the sea, each different from the other. These beasts rose from the sea of human history at the bidding of the four winds of heaven. Let’s sea what we can make of this. I’ll give you a spoiler alert: we will find the Daniel’s vision lines up directly with Nebuchadnezzar’s dream from Chapter 2.
The First Beast: The Lion with Eagle’s Wings
Verse 4: The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings. I watched till its wings were plucked off; and it was lifted up from the earth and made to stand on two feet like a man, and a man’s heart was given to it.
This beast represents the stately kingdom of Babylon. Like the golden head showed Babylon’s superiority over the other parts of the statue in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, so the symbolism here of the lion, the “king of the beasts”, and the eagle, the “king of the birds” represents the superiority of this beast over the others. But its wings were plucked off. This represents the way in which Nebuchadnezzar was humbled in chapter 4, when his dignity was taken from him, and he spent 7 years crawling around like a beast of the field. But eventually, his humanity was restored, and that is represented by this beast being made to stand on two feet like a man, and a man’s heart being given to it.
So this first beast is Babylon, and this is the only part of Daniel’s vision that could be said to be about a past event, because these things would have already taken place in Daniel’s life.
The Second Beast: The Bear
But now a second beast appears, as we read in verse 5: “And suddenly another beast, a second, like a bear. It was raised up on one side, and had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. And they said thus to it: ‘Arise, devour much flesh!’”
This beast represents what, at the time of Daniel’s dream, would be the future kingdom of the Medes and Persians. Being a bear, it is very powerful, and yet does not have the stateliness of the Lion. The bear is raised up on one side, ready to strike with ferocity. This represents that within the alliance of the Medes and the Persians, the Persians were the stronger of the two. And what about those three ribs in its mouth? Many scholars believe that this represents the major kingdoms that the Medo-Persians conquered: the Lyddians in 546 BC, the Babylonians at Belshazzar’s famous banquet it 539 BC, and the Egyptians at the Battle of Pelusium in 525 BC.
The Third Beast: The Leopard with 4 Heads
Verse 6: “After this I looked, and there was another, like a leopard, which had on its back four wings of a bird. The beast also had four heads, and dominion was given to it.”
Now we have a third beast, a leopard with 4 wings. This beast represents Greece. The speed of the leopard, combined with the acceleration added by 4 wings, represents the speed with which Alexander the Great conquered the world.
But what about the 4 heads? Folks, this is an amazing prophecy because it shows beyond the shadow of a doubt the divine inspiration of Daniel’s dream. Alexander the Great was only 32 years old when he died in Babylon in 323 BC, ironically in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar. After his death, because Alexander had no sons, the Greek Empire was divided between his 4 generals:
Lysimachus, who ruled Thrace and Bithynia
Cassander, who ruled Macedonia
Seleucus, who ruled Syria, Babylonia, and much of the Near East. This is where the Seleucid Kingdom comes from.
Ptolemy, who ruled Egypt, Palestine, and Arabia. This is where the Ptolemaic Kingdom comes from.
Remember Seleucus and Ptolemy, as they will factor greatly into other sermons in this series on Daniel.
The Fourth Beast: Dreadful and Terrible
But now we come to the fourth beast in Daniel’s dream.
Verse 7: “After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong. It had huge iron teeth; it was devouring, breaking in pieces, and trampling the residue with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns.”
Daniel never says exactly what this beast was. Perhaps it is because he had never seen anything like it before. He uses the terms “dreadful” and “terrible” to describe it. It had iron teeth and trampled the broken pieces of whatever it devoured under its feet. And it was different. And it had 10 horns.
I’m just speculating here, but it makes me wonder if Daniel saw some form of dragon or dinosaur. John F. Walvoord writes, “The fourth kingdom was not named but was historically fulfilled by the Roman Empire. As described in 7:7, it crushed and devoured the countries it conquered. The ten horns represented a future Roman Empire that will reappear in the end time.” (Walvoord, Every Prophecy of the Bible, pp. 223)
Dr. David Jeremiah makes an enlightening point when he says, “These beasts represented the same gentile kingdoms as those depicted in the kings dream of the image of the man, but this time the character of those kingdoms was revealed. The first vision characterized the kingdoms of the world as man assessed them – majestic, massive, impressive, gigantic, and overwhelming. Man is impressed with his accomplishments. In the second vision, the kingdoms were shown as savage beasts of the jungle, slashing and attacking one another and fighting to the death. The second vision gives us God’s appraisal of these gentile kingdoms – destructive, divisive, angry, and cruel.” (Dr. David Jeremiah, What In The World Is Going On? P. 56)
The Little Horn
Daniel’s vision of the fourth beast continues on in verse 8: “I was considering the horns, and there was another horn, a little one, coming up among them, before whom three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots. And there, in this horn, were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words.”
This little horn represents a final ruler who will come up in the final kingdom. This ruler will be a world conqueror. We’ll find out more about him later on in this chapter.
The Ancient of Days
Suddenly, Daniel’s vision changes into something else altogether. Verses 9 and 10:
“I watched till thrones were put in place, And the Ancient of Days was seated; His garment was white as snow, And the hair of His head was like pure wool. His throne was a fiery flame, Its wheels a burning fire;
A fiery stream issued And came forth from before Him. A thousand thousands ministered to Him; Ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. The court was seated, And the books were opened.”
What a magnificent vision! In the middle of the little horn coming up and speaking pompous words, a courtroom is suddenly set up, the Judge, and Ancient of Days, is seated, and the books are opened.
The Ancient of Days is a reference to Almighty God, the One who is so ancient He has no beginning. The white garment represents absolute purity, and the hair like pure wool represents His ancient wisdom. His throne is holy and purifying with fiery wheels that take Him wherever He wants to go, and a fiery stream, like lava comes out from it, consuming everything in its path.
In Ezekiel Chapter 1, we see a similar vision given to the prophet Ezekiel, and the Apostle John had a similar glimpse of the Great Throne Room in Revelation Chapter 4.
Daniel’s vision continues in Verses 11 and 12: “I watched then because of the sound of the pompous words which the horn was speaking; I watched till the beast was slain, and its body destroyed and given to the burning flame. As for the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.”
And so, the pompous little horn is judged and thrown into the fire, and the other kingdoms whose influence carries on right down to our present day with our forms of government and finance and other influences, no longer have an influence because the judgment has come. Just as the stone cut without hands has shattered the feet of the image in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, so has judgment come upon man’s kingdoms.
The Son of Man
Now we are getting to the good part! Verse 13: “I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him.”
Who is this Son of Man that comes with the clouds of Heaven and is brought to the Ancient of Days? In Matthew alone, Jesus refers to Himself as the Son of Man at least 7 times. In Matthew 26:64, Jesus tells Caiaphas the High Priest that He will come on the clouds of Heaven. In Mark 13:26, Jesus says that they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. Revelation 1:7 says “He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him.” Who is the One who was pierced? Who is this Son of Man? Jesus!
So Jesus is going to come and be presented to the Almighty God, and what will happen next?
Verse 14: “Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed.”
In the pinnacle of history, the Coronation of Christ takes place and Jesus is given the authority to rule, as King Jesus, forever and ever. In Nebuchadnezzar’s vision, this was represented by the stone that became a mountain and filled the whole earth.
As I pointed out earlier, the Apostle John sees the throne room of God in Revelation Chapter 4. In that same vision, in Revelation Chapter 5, we see this same coronation. God Almighty, the Ancient of Days, is sitting on His Throne holding a scroll in his right hand. This is essentially the title deed to the universe. And John weeps because there is no one in heaven, or on the earth, or under the earth, who is worthy to take the scroll and open it. But then the Lion of Judah, the Root of David, the Lamb Who Was Slain comes and takes the scroll from the right hand of God.
And a new song was sung in heaven in Revelation 5:9-10 “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth.”
Are you getting a new appreciation for the holiness of God?
Daniel is Troubled
In verses 15 and 16, we see that Daniel is troubled by the vision, and so he goes up to one of those who are standing by, and asks him about it. The response is a summary of world history in two sentences. Verses 17 and 18: “‘Those great beasts, which are four, are four kings which arise out of the earth. But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever.’”
In verses 19 and 20, Daniel asks for further detail about the fourth beast, as he calls it “exceedingly dreadful.” Speaking of the little horn which rose up and spoke pompous words, Daniel says in verses 21 and 22: “I was watching; and the same horn was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them, until the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom.”
Beginning in verse 23, Daniel is given the interpretation:
“‘The fourth beast shall be A fourth kingdom on earth, Which shall be different from all other kingdoms, And shall devour the whole earth, Trample it and break it in pieces.’”
This fourth kingdom will be the likes of which has never been seen before. It will truly consume the whole world.
Verse 24: “The ten horns are ten kings Who shall arise from this kingdom. And another shall rise after them; He shall be different from the first ones, And shall subdue three kings.”
This kingdom which takes over the whole world, made up of 10 kings, has not yet appeared even today, that we know of. And the little horn which rises up, will be different from the other kings in this fourth kingdom, which is different from other kingdoms of the earth up until that time.
Verse 25: “He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, Shall persecute the saints of the Most High, And shall intend to change times and law. Then the saints shall be given into his hand For a time and times and half a time.”
This little horn will become a world ruler, will speak against God and persecute Christians, and attempt to change laws and structure, and for a period of time, he is going to be successful. This is the one who is referred to as the Antichrist. The “time, times, and half a time” are generally accepted as being 3 and a half years, with 1 year being given the unit of measurement of “a time.” This is likely the last 3 and a half years before the second coming of Christ.
Verse 26: “But the court shall be seated, And they shall take away his dominion, To consume and destroy it forever.”
The judgment will come, and the judge will rule!
Verse 27: “Then the kingdom and dominion, And the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, Shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And all dominions shall serve and obey Him.’”
Game over. We win.
Verse 28: “This is the end of the account. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts greatly troubled me, and my countenance changed; but I kept the matter in my heart.”
Even with the interpretation, Daniel is greatly troubled by the vision.
So, what does this mean to us today?
First of all, we can have unreserved confidence that the Bible is the very Word of God. The accuracy of prophecies that have already been fulfilled give us confidence in prophecies that are yet to be fulfilled.
Second, as Christians, we know that when history ends, God will make everything right. And even though we have confidence in that, that doesn’t mean that we don’t feel anxiety when we see the chaos of the world around us. If anybody had reason to have confidence in God, Daniel did. And he felt anxiety over this vision. If anybody had reason to have confidence in God’s great purpose, Christ did, because He was God! And yet, in Gethsemane, we see Jesus suffering great anxiety knowing what lay ahead of him on the Cross.
Let’s not beat ourselves up when we are bothered by world events.
But at the same time, let’s make sure that we remind ourselves at every occasion… game over. We win.
And if you’re here today, and you want to make a decision to join the winning team and make Jesus Christ the Lord of your life, don’t wait. Come and talk with me. I would love nothing better than to help you make that decision this very day.
Amen. Let’s pray.
June 24, 2018
All in the Family
Pastor Bryan Watson
Welcome to the church picnic! There’s nothing quite like a burger cooked by my Brother Mike, and my Other Brother Mike.
You know, I have never seen a church that eats as much as this one. In fact, I heard the other day about a case of show-and-tell in town, where the kids were supposed to bring a memento of some kind that represents their faith. “What did you bring?” the teacher asked the little Catholic girl. “I brought a rosary,” she exclaimed as she pulled it from her bag to show the class. “And what did you bring?” the teacher asked the boy from the Jewish family. Wrestling with his backpack, he pulled out a Menorah.
“And what did you bring?” the teacher asked the child from LEF. Opening his cooler, he exclaimed, “I brought a casserole in a covered dish,” and handed out plastic forks to everyone.
Our scripture passage for today is from Acts 2:41-47
41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe[d] came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
I chose that passage of scripture because I think it is a beautiful description of the success of the early church, and how their fellowship, unity, and love for each other played a huge role in the growth of the church. And I’m not talking about numbers, although I do believe that numbers are just one indicator of church strength. But the reality is, I see congregations on a regular basis that that are the size of small cities, and yet their spiritual health is either on life support, or going down a dark alley with gusto.
My desire for this church is that the growth is defined by how much God is glorified through our congregation.
Verse 41 says that “those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” The speaker they are referring to the Apostle Peter. This Peter, who previously suffered from “foot in mouth” disease, and who denied even knowing Jesus after Jesus was arrested, was so transformed by the working of the Holy Spirit that he preached probably the most profound Gospel message in history. After speaking of the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus, Peter proclaimed to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”
And the response of the people was to obey his instruction, and to repent and be baptized. So simple, and yet so profound.
Verse 42 says that they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
Their worship is so simple.
1. They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching. Folks, this is essentially the New Testament in development. They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching! A simple doctrine! The Word of God! They didn’t base their worship on strange gospels or complicated heresies. They didn’t need gobs of manuals like “27 different church potluck dishes for the Christmas season”, or “How to get God to do what you ask through prayer.” They had the Word. Because they spent TIME with the Word. In this case, literally, because Jesus IS the Word of God. They kept it simple, with a simple Gospel. “For God so loved the World that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” That’s it!
2. It says they devoted themselves to fellowship. What greater joy is there than spending time together with the family of God? Eating together. Praying together. Encouraging and being encouraged, and sometimes being challenged in love. Anybody who isn’t here today is really missing something.
3. They devoted themselves to the breaking of bread. Communion. Do this in remembrance of Me. They devoted themselves to keeping front of mind the One whom they worship. And in doing that, they kept First Things First, and didn’t get caught up in little offences. Grace was offered because Grace was remembered.
4. They devoted themselves to prayer. Folks, Jesus Christ, in His act of being seated at the right hand of The Father, became our intercessor. He made it so that we could approach the throne of God in confidence. If we aren’t taking advantage of that, we are really missing an opportunity.
Verse 43: And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.
I think that as we grow in our faith and witness the growth of the church, not just in numbers, but in holiness and effectiveness, we will gain a proper sense of awe of Who God is and what He does through His church. We will see wonders. We will see marriages thriving and children become men and women of God. We will see our church, as a beacon of shining light in our community, pointing the way to Jesus Christ, with as many coming as are willing to answer the call; and we will be storing up treasures in heaven that are way out of proportion to the sacrifices we make here on earth. People will see our love for Jesus, and for each other, and they will be drawn to it irresistibly. Like I said last week, if you set yourself on fire, people will come from miles around just to watch you burn! And awe came upon every soul.
Verse 44: And all who believed were together and had all things in common.
You know what? When it comes to being in the family of God, there is no difference between a ditch-digger and a PhD. There’s no difference between a multi-billionaire CEO and a person with special needs. When they were with Jesus, the Disciples argued about who was greatest among them, and Jesus used a child to show them who actually inherits the Kingdom of God.
Verse 45: And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.
They shared. They looked around and saw who had a need, and they filled that need. And if they had to sell something to do it, oh well. It was no big deal. Look around. Do you see somebody in this church family who has a need? Does somebody need an arm of encouragement around them? Then move out of your comfort zone and put your arm around someone. Does somebody need a meal? Does somebody need their grass cut because they are injured or sick? Jesus said that the greatest leader would be the greatest servant. Sometimes, the greatest gift is just knowing that somebody is thinking of you.
Verse 46: And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts.
They consistently attended worship together in the temple, and they consistently got together in their homes, not to gossip, but to worship. There is nothing like getting together in a small group for Bible study and prayer. And yet nothing takes the place of corporate worship in the “Temple”. They are both required and serve different purposes. The body disperses, and the body comes together in a beautiful rhythm of worship and fellowship.
Verse 47a: praising God and having favor with all the people.
They kept the main thing the main thing. They praised. Yes, they prayed and made requests, but they also praised God. They praised Him for His provision. They praised Him for His mercy. They praised Him for His creation. They praised Him for Who He Is.
And they had favor with all the people. Even those who weren’t part of them looked on them with favor. Are we valued members of our community… even in the eyes of those who aren’t part of LEF? Do we serve? Are we considerate? How well are we representing our Father? Matthew 5:16 says In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Verse 47b: And the Lord added to their number day by day those were being saved.
The early church set a blueprint for church growth. I believe that if we emulate that church, we will continue to bring new people into our fellowship.
Amen. Let’s pray.