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Saturday, February 23, 2013

A Message in a Dream - a prophecy from Daniel

A Message in a Dream

A Prophecy from Daniel


Daniel hid his head under the covers as he lay on his bed trembling in the darkness.  He had just awakened from another one of his wild dreams and it was more than he could handle.  This is how he describes it:  “I, Daniel was deeply troubled by my thoughts and my face turned pale, and I decided not to tell anyone.”  (Daniel 7:28)


Daniel, a Jewish boy, had lost so much already.  He, along with his people- the Jews- had been taken away from their homeland and brought to Babylon to become the slaves of the Babylonians.  Even though Daniel had lost his home and his freedom, he refused to lose his faith in God.  And he would die first before he would worship the Babylonian idols.


Scripture says that God rewarded Daniels’ faithfulness to Him by giving him the gifts of “knowledge and understanding,” and God gave him another gift too- “Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.”  (Daniel 1; 17)  God began giving messages to Daniel in the form of dreams and visions- messages to be passed on to the world – and to us. 


These dreams were prophecies from God given to Daniel to record for all the world’s peoples. Dreams encoded with hidden meanings from God telling ahead of time what the future holds for the human race!  The book of Daniel, one of the major books of prophecy in the Bible, records these dreams and their meanings. This book was written in about 530 B.C. and foretells how the history of mankind will finally turn out.


Daniel describes his new dream from God in the seventh chapter of Daniel.  His dream begins when he sees four winds churning up the sea, and as he watches four beasts come up out of the sea.  The first beast is like a lion with wings on its’ back.  And as he watches the wings are torn off and the lion is given the heart of a man. 


The second beast comes up and looks like a bear chewing on three ribs in its mouth.  Daniel watches as the bear roams about stalking it’s prey and hungrily eats flesh.  Then a third beast appears that looks like a leopard with four wings on its’ back and four heads.  This winged leopard is given the authority to rule.


And then the fourth beast arrives – terrifying and frightening with large iron teeth!  It rampages and crushes and eats its victims. This beast is different from the others, and it has ten horns.  Around this time as Daniel is watching, the saints of God are given the kingdom.  And then as Daniel continues watching, a little horn grows up among the other horns of the beast and uproots three of its’ ten horns. This scary little horn has eyes and a mouth and speaks loud blasphemies against God. And this little horn persecutes the saints who, for a short time, are given into his hands. 


And then Daniel sees thrones being set in place and the Ancient of Days taking His seat.  He is dressed in white and His throne is fiery with a river of fire flowing out from it.  Millions of people are standing before the Ancient of Days attending Him.  And the books are opened.  At the same time, on earth the little horn continues to speak pompous words and the fourth beast is put to death. 


And then Daniel’s dream ends with Jesus coming back to the earth in glory!  The Ancient of Days makes Jesus the ruler of the whole earth with His kingdom lasting forever and ever!  Daniel tells it this way:  “I was watching in the night vision and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with clouds of heaven!  He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him.  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 shall never be destroyed.”  (Daniel 7: 13-14)


This bigger than life dream finally ends, but it has left Daniel stunned and overwhelmed.  Trembling and still half asleep he sees someone standing nearby and asked this one to tell him the meaning of the dream.  (Bible scholars believe that this one standing nearby was an angel)  This angel or being nearby is there to help Daniel and gladly explains the meaning of the dream for him.  


The helper (angel) in his dream tells Daniel that the four beasts, each different from the other, are four kings which will come to power (rise out of the sea) and rule in the future. The sea often represents nations and peoples when it is mentioned prophetically in the Bible.  So possibly four rulers or powers over the course of time would rise to power and control much of the known world.   


Some Biblical scholars believe that the lion symbolized Babylon (626-539 B.C.) and the bear the Medo-Persian kingdom. (539-330B.C.)  Strength and ferocity figure in almost every Biblical use of the symbol of the bear and the massive Persian armies would fit that label. The four-winged leopard speaks of Alexander the Greats’ Grecian (Macedonian) kingdom. (330–63 B.C.) And the four heads correspond to the four main divisions into which Alexanders’ empire fell after his untimely death in 323 B.C.


The fourth beast, very different from the other beasts, with iron teeth and ten horns is believed by many Biblical scholars to represent the Roman Empire. (63B.C. -  ?)  The ten horns symbolize an unspecified and yet complete number of kings (the number ten symbolizes “completeness” in the Bible) In other words there might be many kingdoms over time that grew or were influenced from this beast (kingdom). The ten horns in this dream of Daniel’s may correspond to the ten toes in another of Daniel’s dreams (Dan.2:41-42).  


 After the fourth beast (Rome?) rises out of the sea, Daniel watches as the saints (God’s people) receive the kingdom of heaven.  “But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever…”  (Daniel 7:18)  We may stop and ask the question, if it’s true that we have already received the kingdom of God then why are we up one day and down the next?  Why aren’t we living victoriously as children of the kingdom all the time?    


Perhaps because we do battle with sinister enemies here on earth we sometimes experience a mix of spiritual victories and then apparent defeats.  We are fighting a terrible enemy – the devil.  In Daniel 7:25 we read: “… The little horn shall speak pompous words against the Most High, He 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.”


Who is this “little horn” in Daniel’s dream with eyes and a mouth that speaks heresies?  The little horn who will have the saints in his hand for a short time?  The little horn that replaced three of the ten horns on the fourth beast?  Some Bible scholars believe Daniel’s “little horn” embodies the antichrist spirit and becomes an archetype of the Antichrist in the Book of Revelation.  (Rev. 21-27)  We are getting in over our heads.  Whoever this “little horn” is, we know that he is evil.


First we read in Daniels’ dream that the saints receive the kingdom.  And then we read that for a short while the saints will be given into the hands of this evil power – the little horn.  Even though the saints (God’s people) have been given the kingdom, an intense battle continues with evil forces here on earth.  We win victories and we experience set-backs.


And then in Daniel’s dream, right after the saints are given into the hands of the evil little horn, God – the Ancient of Days- sets up court and kills the beast (man’s government on earth).  The dramatic action whereby the beasts’ kingdom is violently taken away fits the many Biblical end time predictions.  And in Daniel’s dream (Daniel 7) God also takes away the power of the “little horn” (the anti-christ) and gives the saints – His people- the kingdom to “possess” forever and ever. 


Even though the saints - or God’s people- are told here in Daniel and also in the gospels that they have already received the kingdom, an extended struggle continues for awhile on earth. And Daniel’s vision spans this spiritual struggle across the ages.  Perhaps we Christians live in an in between time here on earth.  We have already “received” the kingdom but don’t yet “possess” it completely? It almost sounds like we don’t come into our full inheritance until Jesus comes again and becomes the ruler of the earth forever.  And then Scripture says that we will rule with Him.


I am sure that we are missing some of the meaning of this dream of Daniel’s.  But I sense that God gave this dream – this vision- to Daniel and to us for a reason.  This dream makes it possible for us to see what no person can see with the natural eye.  In this dream the curtain of time is pulled back and we are allowed a breathtaking glimpse of the human race as it moves down through the ages.  We are invited to watch as one kingdom after another rises and reigns and then falls.  And then God calls us to observe the end of the ages when He is on His fiery throne to judge and the Son of Man (Jesus) comes triumphantly to the earth to put an end to sin and suffering.  And to rule the earth forever!


When we become discouraged and disillusioned. When things don’t look like they will ever turn out right. When pain and heartbreak seem to dog our every step.  We can remember this dream and be encouraged. We can remember that in the end everything will turn out all right.  In the end Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Savior will come again to our earth and put an end to all the wrongs and hate and  sorrow.  He will be victorious and we will be victorious with Him.  It doesn’t get any better than that!  














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