The Coming Kingdoms
Topic: English Passage: Daniel 8:1-9, 15-23
Michel de Notredame was born in France in 1503. He is better known today as Nostradamus. Due to his education and intelligence, Nostradamus began a medical practice which gained attention for the new ways he was treating those affected with plague.
Nostradamus’ legacy, however, isn’t tied to his work as a doctor; it’s connected to his work as an astrologer or a seer. An astronomer is a scientist who studies the stars and the planets. An astrologer is someone who uses those things to try and predict what the future holds. In 1555, Nostradamus published a book containing his prophecies.
The predictions were mysterious and vague, but many began to believe his predictions were coming true. That led him to rise in popularity to the point that he was called to give horoscopes for the queen’s children. Today, there are still groups of people who are convinced Nostradamus had a glimpse into the future.
Some believe Nostradamus predicted the death of King Henry II of France because he prophesied that a young lion would overcome the older one, piercing his eyes, and a cruel death would come. King Henry died four years after Nostradamus’ book was published. During a ceremonial jousting match, King Henry was struck in the eye with the splinter of a lance, and it pierced his brain as well. The king died ten days later.
Some also believe Nostradamus predicted the French Revolution of 1789. This is because he spoke of an enslaved populace singing, while princes and lords are held captive in prisons. Then he referenced headless idiots, which some took to be a reference to the guillotines that followed.
There are also those who claim that Nostradamus predicted the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte as well as Adolf Hitler. In Napoleon’s case, they found some words that could be rearranged to say King Napoleon, and with regard to Hitler, Nostradamus wrote, “From the depths of Western Europe, a young child will be born to poor people, he who by his tongue will seduce a great troop; His fame will increase towards the realms of the East.”
Another of Nostradamus’ prophecies says this: “Earthshaking fire from the center of the earth will cause tremors around the New City. Two high rocks will war for a long time, and then Arethusa will redden a new river.” Some claim this is a reference to the collapse of the World Trade Center in New York City.
What do we do with these kinds of claims? Well, one simple response is to point out how vague and generic Nostradamus’ prophecies were. Given enough time, there is going to be some event that will appear to match one of his prophecies, but even then, you have to really stretch the prophecy to make it match.
Back in 1948, there was a psychologist named Bertram Forer who gave his students a personality test which, he claimed would be used to give every student a personal assessment.
Once the tests were turned in, every student received a paragraph that was supposed to personally describe him. The student was then asked to rank the paragraph on a scale from 0 to 5, indicating how accurate they thought it was. The average score given was a 4.26.
What he didn’t tell the class was that every student got the exact same paragraph. And the point the professor was making is that we have a tendency to accept generalities, make connections to things that are more specific, and ignore things that aren’t exactly accurate. Here’s a few sentences from the descriptions the students were given:
“You have a great need for other people to like and admire you, yet you have a tendency to be critical of yourself. You have a great deal of unused capacity which you have not turned to your advantage. While you have some personality weaknesses, you are generally able to compensate for them… At times you have serious doubts as to whether you have made the right decision or done the right thing… Security is one of your major goals in life.”
Just like those kinds of statements could apply to almost anybody, Nostradamus’ prophecies were vague generalities. And in some cases, when he gave a specific date, he was flat out wrong.
The only authority we have on the future is God, and everything He intends for us to know, he has already told us. And as we saw last week, and we’ll see again today, God is never wrong.
In the Old Testament, visiting a fortune-teller was punishable by death, because it was such an assault on the sovereignty of God. That doesn’t mean a demon can’t know something about the future, especially if it’s something Satan is going to cause, but it means that God has declared Himself to be the only reliable channel of truth.
If you wanted to be considered a prophet in the Old Testament, your accuracy rating needed to be 100%. One hundred percent. Anything less than that, you were a false prophet. You could not say, “Thus sayeth the Lord,” without an expectation of complete accuracy.
Well, this morning, we are looking at Daniel chapter 8, and we come to another prophecy given by God to Daniel, and, by extension, to the people of Israel.
Before we get to this study, I want to show you a review of what we’ve covered so far regarding the prophecies on Daniel 2 and Daniel 7. And this will help us set the prophecy of Daniel 8 in context. Let’s put that first slide up, with the three columns filled out.
The visions of Daniel 2 and Daniel 7 describe kingdoms that will have authority over Israel and over the world. And this leads up to the final Kingdom of Heaven.
The layers in Nebuchadnezzar’s statue from Daniel 2 correlate to the beasts in Daniel’s vision of chapter 7. They represent Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, a revived Roman Empire, and finally, the Kingdom of God upon the earth.
And as we know historically, this is exactly what happened. Let’s go those maps now. This is a picture of the land surrounding Israel. Let’s put the names up. Right in the middle, we have the land of Israel up against the Mediterranean Sea. And in the north, we have modern-day Europe. Southeast of Israel, we have the Arabian Peninsula. If you keep going east, you get to present-day India. Southwest of Israel we have Africa. And Egypt is the most adjacent country there.
Go over to the slide with the Babylonian Empire. Here is a picture showing how much the Babylonian Empire controlled. They had what is known as “The Fertile Crescent.” Nebuchadnezzar was the King of Babylon when Israel was conquered.
If you notice, to the east of Babylon you have the Median Empire and the Persians. Those were two separate kingdoms at one point, but Persia conquered the Medes and merged with it, while still retaining power. This led to the creation of the Medo-Persian Empire which eventually took over Babylon. Let’s jump to the next picture.
The capital of Medo-Persia was Susa, that’s where Esther stayed as queen. And as you can see from the map, the Medo-Persian Empire had a much larger area than the Babylonians. Eventually, however, that Empire fell to the Macedonian, or the Greek, Empire under Alexander the Great. Let’s jump to the next slide.
Alexander the Great came to power at the age of 19 in 336 BC after his father died. Despite his youth, he was skilled both in diplomacy and in military conquest. One of the things Alexander helped do was spread Greek culture and language.
Alexander died in 323 BC at the age of 32. And since there was not a designated heir, turmoil came. Let’s go to the next slide.
Without a clear heir to the empire, Alexander’s generals were allotted pieces of the kingdom, but they continued to fight for more control. Antigonus was a general who wanted to see the Empire stay united. But the other generals caught on, and they united against him and killed him. That’s why he’s greyed out there on the map. In the end, what you got was four main leaders, which you can see on the map there in white.
Cassander had Greece and Maceodnia. Lysimachus had Bithynia and Asia Minor. Seleucus had Syria and the eastern lands of Babylon. And Ptolemy had Egypt. From Seleucus we have what’s called the Selucid Empire, and from Ptolemy, we have the Ptolemaic dynasty.
Right in the middle of all that was Israel, which made it a land that was going to be repeatedly contested. These kingdoms fought with one another over and over again until a greater power came and took over them. And that brings us to our next slide: The Roman Empire.
As you can see, the Romans extended their power over what is now Europe. They reigned in that region from 63 BC until AD 476.
In all this time, Israel only had its independence for a brief time before the Romans came. It was living in a time which Jesus referred to as “the times of the Gentiles.” That comes from Luke 21:24, when Jesus is talking about the end times. He says to his disciples: “Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”
Let’s go back to our original slide with the kingdoms and the dreams lined up. There at the bottom, you can see what Israel is waiting for. They are waiting for the Kingdom of God to come to earth. They are waiting for the Messiah to restore Israel’s glory and rule over the earth.
Now, I know that’s a longer introduction than usual, and for the most of us, history wasn’t our favorite subject in school. But I think this is important to set the context for the prophecy we are going to look at today. So, let’s open our Bibles and look at Daniel chapter 8.
In the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar a vision appeared to me, Daniel, after that which appeared to me at the first. 2 And I saw in the vision; and when I saw, I was in Susa the citadel, which is in the province of Elam. And I saw in the vision, and I was at the Ulai canal. 3 I raised my eyes and saw, and behold, a ram standing on the bank of the canal. It had two horns, and both horns were high, but one was higher than the other, and the higher one came up last. 4 I saw the ram charging westward and northward and southward. No beast could stand before him, and there was no one who could rescue from his power. He did as he pleased and became great.
The vision of chapter 7 came in the fist year of Belshazzar. This vision comes in the third year of that reign, so it’s two years later around 551 BC. It’s about a year before the Persians conquered the Medes and absorbed them, an it’s about 10 years before the Medes and the Persians take control of Babylon. God is telling Daniel what’s coming next.
In this vision, Daniel sees the city of Susa, which wasn’t very important at that time, but it would be eventually. And in this vision, Daniel sees a ram.
This conquering ram is not a Super Bowl prophecy. This Ram represents the Medo-Persian Empire, which was going to come, and the two uneven horns represent the uneven distribution of power between the Medes and the Persians. It’s pointing to the same thing as the bear of Daniel which was raised up on one side and the arms of silver in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. This ram is going to conquer. And, if you remember the map I showed you, the Medo-Persian Empire covered far more land than the Babylonians.
Let’s go ahead and add this vision to the chart. Again, the ram of chapter 8, lines up with the bear of chapter 7 and the silver layer of chapter 2.
Now, how can we be sure that’s the correct interpretation of this vision? We know because that’s what God tells Daniel. Jump down to verse 15.
When I, Daniel, had seen the vision, I sought to understand it. And behold, there stood before me one having the appearance of a man. 16 And I heard a man's voice between the banks of the Ulai, and it called, “Gabriel, make this man understand the vision.” 17 So he came near where I stood. And when he came, I was frightened and fell on my face. But he said to me, “Understand, O son of man, that the vision is for the time of the end.”
It's very possible that the voice Daniel hears is the voice of the preincarnate Christ. He is the One who commands the angels. This voice commands the angel Gabriel to reveal the meaning of the vision. Like others in the Bible, Daniel is terrified at the sight of an angel, but this angel isn’t there to hurt him. He’s there to give him a revelation. This seems to be something special for Gabriel.
We’re going to see Gabriel again in chapter 9, and then, of course, he’s the angel who comes to Zechariah in the New Testament announcing the birth of John the Baptist. Then he comes to Mary and announces the birth of Jesus the Christ. So, Gabriel appears to be responsible for major announcements connected to God’s plans. When Gabriel speaks, it’s a big announcement.
Well, what does Gabriel tell Daniel? Verse 18.
And when he had spoken to me, I fell into a deep sleep with my face to the ground. But he touched me and made me stand up. 19 He said, “Behold, I will make known to you what shall be at the latter end of the indignation, for it refers to the appointed time of the end. 20 As for the ram that you saw with the two horns, these are the kings of Media and Persia.
So, there you have it. The ram represents the Medo-Persian Empire. But this vision isn’t just about that. Back in verse 17, it said the vision is for the time of the end. And here in verse 19 it says it’s to make known what will happen at the latter end of the indignation, the appointed time of the end. What that means is that there is a historical significance to this vision, but there is also an eschatological significance. This is also going to connect to the end times.
This is a very significant prophecy. For us, here in 2022, we don’t just look back on the fulfilment of these prophecies, we can see their fulfilment as a preview of what it will be like during that final, great tribulation, when Antichrist takes power.
What happens after the ram? Let’s go back to verse 5.
As I was considering, behold, a male goat came from the west across the face of the whole earth, without touching the ground. And the goat had a conspicuous horn between his eyes. 6 He came to the ram with the two horns, which I had seen standing on the bank of the canal, and he ran at him in his powerful wrath. 7 I saw him come close to the ram, and he was enraged against him and struck the ram and broke his two horns. And the ram had no power to stand before him, but he cast him down to the ground and trampled on him. And there was no one who could rescue the ram from his power. 8 Then the goat became exceedingly great, but when he was strong, the great horn was broken, and instead of it there came up four conspicuous horns toward the four winds of heaven.
Despite the power of the next empire, however, it would not last forever. A male goat comes from the west. He is so fast, that he never even touches the ground. And he has one great horn. After destroying the ram and gaining power, the great horn is broken, and four horns come up instead. Then, from one of those horns, another little horn comes out.
There’s a lot there we need to cover, but God didn’t intend this to be too mysterious. We can look forward again to the interpretation of the angel. Go down to verse 21.
And the goat is the king of Greece. And the great horn between his eyes is the first king. 22 As for the horn that was broken, in place of which four others arose, four kingdoms shall arise from his nation, but not with his power.
Who was the first king of Greece? After our little historical overview, you should know the answer. That was Alexander the Great. The breaking of that horn, then, points to Alexander’s death. Those four horns are a reference to the four kingdoms that popped up afterward. They had authority but not to the same degree as Alexander.
So, this vision started with a ram with two horns. That was the Medo-Persian Empire. Then we had a goat. That was the Greek Empire. That goat had a horn. That was Alexander the Great. Then we had four horns. Those are the four generals who became kings after Greece was split up.
And now finally, we’re left with one more symbol in this vision—a little horn. Who is that supposed to represent?
We want to be careful here because there was a little horn mentioned in chapter 7. Do you remember that? That was the final global leader, the Antichrist who rules over the world. That leader will come out what God indicates is a revived Roman Empire. This little horn of chapter 8, however, comes from the Greek Empire, which means we’re not talking about the same person. That’s very important to understand. The little horn of chapter 7 is not the same person as the little horn of chapter 8.
But, like we said already, there is a connection between them. Whoever the little horn of chapter 8 is, this ruler from the Greek Empire, he is a preview of the final little horn who will rule over the world. And this chapter gives us amazing insight into what these ungodly rulers will be like.
God wants you to know about the Antichrist, folks. So, that means I am going to teach you about him. But there’s so much here, that we’re going to leave that for next week. We’ll pick up right here in the prophecy and learn more about the little horn of the Greek Empire, and what he can teach us about the coming Antichrist.
As we close, I want to thank you, first of all, for hanging in there with me today. I don’t usually use slides when I preach because I think leaving them out forces me to be clear, and it helps you exercise your mind. You should be listening actively, not passively. But today, I put a slide up because I know that this kind of stuff isn’t easy listening. So, thanks for hanging in there with me.
And lastly, I want to end with a meditation. We come to church to hear God’s word, and to be transformed by it. So, what can a prophecy like this do for us? What can we take away from this? Let me give you one simple reminder.
A prophecy like this reminds us that God has ordained all of human history. Like it says in Isaiah 46:10, God is the One who declares the end from the beginning. There is no one like Him. His plan will come to pass. That means that as we think about human history, we should be led to praise God for His sovereignty and His providence.
Once the Greeks came to power in Israel, God was no longer giving the Israelites new revelation. There were 400 years of silence. But God’s silence in new revelation didn’t mean that God wasn’t working, right?
And the same is true today. God has already given us His word. This is His message to us, and we’re not adding to it. But that doesn’t mean that God isn’t working. When you see the news, and you see all that’s happening in the culture and in the world, remember that God is still in control. He is guiding it all according to His perfect plan, and He is sustaining His people in that plan, and in the end, He will triumph in victory.