A Preview of the Future

May 15, 2022 Preacher: Luis A. Cardenas Series: Daniel (English 2021)

Topic: English Passage: Daniel 8:9-27

The Bible makes clear to us that there are only two kinds of people in this world, spiritually speaking. There are the children of God and the children of Satan. That may sound like a harsh way to put it, but consider what Jesus said to the unbelieving Jews in John 8.

He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” So, you’re either in the light or in the darkness.

Then He said, “You know neither Me, nor My Faither… You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.” You either know the true and living God, or you don’t. You are either of this world, or you are born from above.

According to Jesus in that same chapter, you are either a slave to sin, or you have been set free by the Son.

And in a shocking statement, Jesus says to the unbelieving crowd, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him.

So, you’ve got the people who walk in darkness, and those who walk in the light. You’ve got the people who don’t know God, and those who do. You’ve got those who are of this world, and those who are not of this world. You’ve got those who are enslaved to their sin, and those who have been set free. You’ve got those who serve Satan, and those who serve God. You’ve got those who pursue death, and those who pursue life. You’ve got those who pursue a lie, and those who have the truth.

The Apostle Paul pointed out that difference in Ephesians 2 when he said that apart from the mercy of Christ, people are dead in [their] trespasses and sin, … following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.

This world has those who follow Jesus, and those who follow Satan, whether they know it or acknowledge it or not.

In addition to recording the words of Jesus, the Apostle John tells us this in 1 John chapter 3, verses 10-13: By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. 11For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 12We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother's righteous. 13Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.

Satan’s hatred of God and of Christ is seen in the hatred this world has for Christ’s truth and Christ’s people. And, as John said, that hatred has been visible from the very beginning when Cain killed Abel.

Throughout human history, there have been people in this world seeking to eradicate the people of God. In the Old Testament, we have numerous examples of nations seeking to exterminate the Jews.

You might remember that the enemy from Esther’s story was a man named Haman, who was an Agagite or an Amalekite, and his goal was the complete extermination of the Jews in Persia. He wanted to wipe them out. That’s the kind of hatred the Jews had to face, and I would add, they continue to face today.

One the one hand, that hatred was a result of the wickedness of Israel’s enemies. But on the other hand, it was also part of God’s judgment on an unbelieving people. According to the covenant God made with Israel, the nation would experience blessing, prosperity, peace, and protection, as long as they walked with God. If they rebelled against God’s law, they would face famine, drought, sickness, and slavery.

Over the course of generations, as First and Second Kings reminds us, the people were led further and further from the Lord and God’s judgment came in the form of Assyria, and then Babylon.

When Babylon was taken over by the Persians, King Cyrus allowed the Jews to return and rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple. Many Jews might have been led to believe that their troubles were over. Israel was going to reach its full glory. But that’s not what was going to happen.

The vision God gave Daniel in chapter 8 makes that clear. It prepared God’s people for an even greater suffering that was going to come.

We began to study this vision a couple week’s ago, and you can find a chart in your bulletin that reviews the visions we’ve covered in chapters 2, 7, and 8. As you can see, the visions of chapters 2 and 7 covered major world empires that would have control over Israel and major portions of the earth. Those dates you see on the left under each kingdom are the dates they had control over Israel. The end of those earthly kingdoms is when the kingdom of God comes with the Son of Man to rule over all the earth.

The vision of Daniel 8, as the chart shows, only covers the two kingdoms that would come immediately after the Babylonians. This vision, according to verse 1, was given around 550 or 551 BC, about 10 years before the Babylonian Empire would fall.

The first thing Daniel saw in the vision was a ram with two horns, representing the Medo-Persian Empire which was going to come from the east of Babylon and conquer into the west and the north and the south.

The mighty powerful ram would be destroyed by a male goat charging from the west. That goat represents the Greek Empire, which took over the known world at an amazing speed. That’s represented by the goat not even touching the floor. The initial power of the goat comes from a single great horn, which we now know is a reference to Alexander the Great.

In his strength, however, as the vision predicted, the horn was broken. Alexander died unexpectedly and suddenly at age 32 in 356 BC., about 200 years after this prophecy was made. After he died, and after some initial turmoil, the Greek Empire was split among 4 of Alexander’s generals. That was represented in the vision by the goat then growing four horns.

This morning, we come to final portion of this vision, which is a little horn which comes out of one of those four horns.

Let’s read that portion of the prophesy in Daniel 8:9-14. This is what Daniel saw: Out of one of them came a little horn, which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the glorious land. 10It grew great, even to the host of heaven. And some of the host and some of the stars it threw down to the ground and trampled on them. 11It became great, even as great as the Prince of the host. And the regular burnt offering was taken away from him, and the place of his sanctuary was overthrown. 12And a host will be given over to it together with the regular burnt offering because of transgression, and it will throw truth to the ground, and it will act and prosper. 13Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to the one who spoke, “For how long is the vision concerning the regular burnt offering, the transgression that makes desolate, and the giving over of the sanctuary and host to be trampled underfoot?” 14And he said to me, “For 2,300 evenings and mornings. Then the sanctuary shall be restored to its rightful state.”

This prophecy sounds mysterious, but through the angel Gabriel, God revealed to Daniel its meaning, and that’s going to be our focus today.

No name is given here, but theologians and historians are pretty much in total agreement that this is a reference to a man named Antiochus IV, or Antiochus Epiphanes.

One of the four generals who took control after Alexander died was a man named Seleucus. Through military victories, this man, in 312 BC, founded what we call the Seleucid Empire, or the Seleucid Kingdom which covered modern-day Iran and Syria.

After Alexander’s death, the land of Israel traded hands between the Ptolemaic Kingdom in Egypt, and the Selucids. The prophecy of Daniel 8 will be fulfilled while Israel is under the control of the Selucids. In the Seleucid Empire, you had kings either named Seleucus or Antiochus, and that kingdom had tremendous political and cultural power in the Middle East. Part of what it tried to do was have Greek culture dominate the indigenous cultures of the people.

Antiochus IV Epiphanes came to power in 175 BC, and like I said, he is the man this little horn of Daniel 8 is pointing to. As we work through this text, we’re going to find out about what kind of king he was, and we’ll organize it under three descriptions.

Keep in mind, though, that today isn’t intended to simply be a history lesson. And it wasn’t a history lesson for Daniel. God was predicting this about 375 years before it all came to pass. What kind of king, or what kind of dictator, was coming to rule over Israel? Let me give you three descriptions.

Number 1, God tells Daniel, this man will be dominant. He will be dominant. In other words, he will be powerful. He will have an amazing authority.

Verse 9 says that the little horn grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the glorious land, which is most likely a reference to the land of Israel. Verse 10 continues, saying, “It grew great, even to the host of heaven.” In the vision, this little horn shoots up into the sky.

If you jump over to verse 23, you get Gabriel’s explanation of this vision, and here’s what it says: And at the latter end of their kingdom, when the transgressors have reached their limit (possibly a reference to the sins of Persia and Greece), a king of bold face, one who understands riddles, shall arise. That’s a reference to his intelligence and his cunning. He has an ability to solve problems.

This king will be great. That speaks of his power and his authority, but also of his arrogance. Antiochus title Epiphanes means “god manifest” or “god revealed.” He saw himself as god in human flesh. And as a Greek, that god was Zeus.

Antiochus had another nickname. Some called him Antiochus Epimanes, which means “the mad one” or “the crazy one.” Antiochus was ruthless and cruel, and that was fueled by his intelligence and boldness, as verse 23 says.

Now, this king’s greatness, God wants us to understand isn’t simply in himself. Look at the beginning of verse 24: His power shall be great—but not by his own power. I don’t think that’s talking about the people who helped Antiochus come to power, like Alexander before him. I think that’s talking about demonic empowerment. And we’ll see more of that later in Daniel.

Like I said at the beginning of the message, behind this worldly system is Satan. He is the prince of the power of the air. God is still sovereign over Satan, but God, in His ordained plan, has given Satan a temporary authority over the earth. That’s why 1 John 5:19 says: the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.

In understanding this demonic empowerment, we won’t be surprised by the second characteristic of this king. In addition to his political and military dominance, number 2, this king will be deadly.

You can have a tremendous amount of power, and not have to kill a lot of people. But history has shown us that men of great power often achieve and maintain that dominance through death. You need to exterminate the opposition to stay in power.

Once there is no military opposition, who do you go after? What’s left? You go after people’s worship. You go after religion.

You can’t set yourself up as an almighty god and then allow there to be the worship of another in your place. If you want people to worship you, you have to stamp out every other kind of worship.

So, this king is going to be particularly deadly for those who worship God. This king will be opposed to God, and he will be opposed to God’s people.

Notice what happens next in Daniel’s vision, middle of verse 10. After this horn grows toward the heavens, the word of God says: And some of the host and some of the stars it threw down to the ground and trampled on them. 11It became great, even as great as the Prince of the host. And the regular burnt offering was taken away from him, and the place of his sanctuary was overthrown. 12And a host will be given over to it together with the regular burnt offering because of transgression, and it will throw truth to the ground, and it will act and prosper.

In that vision, the stars, or the host, of heaven represent God’s people. This king will throw them down and trample them. The Prince, or Ruler, of the host, is God. This king is going to oppose God and His people. That opposition will include putting people to death and putting an end to the worship of the one, true God.

That’s what it means when it says that the burnt offering is taken away and the sanctuary is overthrown, which is a reference to the Temple.

It’s not completely clear what the vision means when it says that this is all happening “because of transgression.” That could be a reference to the sin of this wicked king, or the sin of the kingdom, or even the sin of Israel at that time. Whatever the earthly causes, we still recognize that it’s all under the sovereignty of God. This man will appear to succeed in casting aside the truth of God.

Jump over to verse 24, which is part of the interpretation, and we get a little more information. Verse 24: His power shall be great—but not by his own power; and he shall cause fearful destruction and shall succeed in what he does, and destroy mighty men and the people who are the saints. 25By his cunning he shall make deceit prosper under his hand, and in his own mind he shall become great. Without warning he shall destroy many. And he shall even rise up against the Prince of princes

Again, you have a reference there to his intelligence, his authority, his arrogance, and his deception. It will appear as if evil has won.

Historically, let me tell you what Antiochus’ rule was like. Remember, the goal was to impose Greek language and culture over their region. Do you remember how Daniel was taken for Israel and educated in all the Babylonian literature? This is something similar, but at a much larger scale. The historical term for it is Hellenization.

God had set up Jewish life so that they maintained a separation from the rest of the world. They had different clothing, different diets, and different regulations. And that didn’t go well with the Greek system.

One of the things Antiochus did was set up a Greek man, or a man sympathetic to the Greek cause, as high priest.

He also began to set up Greek events near the Temple in Jerusalem, within sight of it. And it wasn’t just a Greek café; it was a Greek gymnasium, which meant offerings to Greek gods and nudity. So, any priest who worked in the Temple could look down the hill and see a bunch of naked people. And that was such an offense against God’s design, who had given Adam and Eve clothing right after the Fall. It was outrageous.

But it didn’t take long for that kind of thing to allure the priests, and the Greek culture was seeping into the priesthood, and that including stopping the practice of circumcision, which was a mark of the Abrahamic Covenant. Well, that led to an increasing tension with the Jews who desired to be faithful to God, and eventually to a war.

Antiochus Epiphanes, in all his power and rage, repurposed the Temple in Jerusalem as a temple to Zeus. The Holy of Holiest was no longer dedicated to God. It was dedicated to an idol in the image of Antiochus.

Antiochus also banned the practice of the Sabbath and circumcision and the Jewish sacrifices. That was now punishable by death. He did all he could to stamp out the true worship of God. If anyone claimed to follow the true God, they were risking their lives.

Historical documents tell us that the city of Jerusalem was burned. The Temple treasury was sacked. Any copies of the Scriptures were burned, and if you were found with a copy, you were put to death. People were forced into hiding. People were forced to sacrifice and eat pigs, which were an unclean animal. This was all an attempt to wash away worship.

If a child was circumcised, the child was killed, then the dead baby was tied around the mother’s neck, and she had to march through the city, and they’d put her to death as well, along with anyone else that was involved in the circumcision. Just horrible, abominable stuff because the king was completely set against God and His people. Like Daniel saw in the vision, this man was trampling on the truth. And just so you know, that might help you understand why, when you get to the New Testament, you have such an animosity between the Greeks and the Jews.

As powerful and vile and despicable as this man was, notice the final phrase of verse 25. He rises up against the Prince of princes, against Almighty God, and then: he shall be broken—but by no human hand. He shall be broken.

This is our final description of this dictator. He will be dominant. He will be deadly. And lastly, he will be destroyed. His rule will not last forever. He will be destroyed by God. He shall be broken.

What that means is that this man’s rule is only going to be temporary. His days are numbered. In fact, God had given Daniel the exact number of days. Jump back to verse 13. This is the end of Daniel’s original vision.

Verse 13. This is Daniel speaking: Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to the one who spoke, “For how long is the vision concerning the regular burnt offering, the transgression that makes desolate, and the giving over of the sanctuary and host to be trampled underfoot?” 14And he said to me, “For 2,300 evenings and mornings. Then the sanctuary shall be restored to its rightful state.”

God told Daniel this was only going to last for 2,300 evenings and mornings. There’s a little debate here as to how to best understand that. The Jews had a morning sacrifice and an evening sacrifice. So some people think this means it’s referring to 2,300 sacrifices total, which would be 1,150 days. And others think the best way to understand this is to take “evenings and mornings” as a reference to a complete day.

We don’t have enough historical data to know which one is best, but we do know historically how this all ended.

As the evil reign of Antiochus Epiphanes continued, you had Jewish rebels particularly connected to a priestly line from a man we call Judas Maccabeus.

If that sounds familiar, it might be because the Catholic Bible has extra books between the Old and New Testaments, and some of them are called Maccabees. These Apocryphal books were not inspired by God; that’s why they were never recognized by the Jewish community or by Jesus and the Apostles. But they do have some good historical information, even if there are some exaggerations.

Anyway, Judas Maccabeus, similar to the Judges of the Old Testament, decided he would fight for Israel’s independence. In December of 164 BC, the army of Judas Maccabeus won back control of Jerusalem. The Holy Place was cleansed, and a new altar was built. The newly cleansed Temple was consecrated on December 24, 164 BC, which the Jews then commemorated every year by instituting the festival of Hannukah.

The Jewish armies went on to gain a measure of independence until, as the chart shows, the Romans came to power.

As for Antiochus Epiphanes, 2 Maccabees says he was retreating from Persia having lost another battle, and he became sick in his bowels. He also reportedly fell from his chariot which had a disastrous effect on his body. According to Maccabees, his death was a clear indication of God’s judgment upon him.

Here was a man who exalted himself as god in human flesh, and in the end, he died in agony, utterly powerless. His kingdom had come to nothing. His kingdom was destroyed.

Let’s just read the final two verses of the chapter. Daniel 8:26 and 27. Here’s what the angel says to Daniel—The vision of the evenings and the mornings that has been told is true, but seal up the vision, for it refers to many days from now.” 27And I, Daniel, was overcome and lay sick for some days. Then I rose and went about the king's business, but I was appalled by the vision and did not understand it.

Sealing up the vision doesn’t mean don’t tell anyone. It means keep it safe. Don’t change it. Guard the message. The rule of Antiochus IV Epiphanes was going to come over 350 years after Daniel got this vision, but God told Daniel everything the people needed to know to be ready. Things were going to get real bad; that’s why Daniel was sickened by the message. But it would only be temporary.

We don’t have much time left here, but just like last time I want to end by having us consider what we should take away from all this.

Again, this is not just some history lesson. Like I said last week, we can look back on this vision and see its fulfilment in history, just like many other prophecies. But this vision was also intended to give us a glimpse into the end of the final human kingdom.

Remember, verse 17 says the vision is “for the time of the end.” And verse 19 says it again. Antiochus Epiphanes was a preview of the final Antichrist to come. He will be dominant. He will be destructive. And yet, he too will be destroyed. And if you want to read all about that, look at Revelation 13-20. He is known as the Beast.

He will be dominant. He will be empowered by Satan with wisdom and authority, and he is going to rule over the world. He will be deadly. He will be hostile toward God’s people, putting them to death and mandating that the world worship him. But, after 3½ years of terror, he will be swiftly destroyed when our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ comes in all His glory.

So, what do we take away from all this? Let me give you two truths, and then we’ll close. Number 1, God knows and controls the future. God knows and controls the future. Secondly, God prepares and sustains His people. God prepares and sustains His people.

And what does that mean for us? It means we can have confidence. We can have confidence in His word. We can have confidence in His plan. We can have confidence that no matter how bad things get in this world, God has equipped us to be faithful to Him. And we can be confident that no matter how scary and how powerful this world might be against God and against God’s people, God is directing all things for the final victory of Jesus Christ.

Like Paul reminds us: We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

More in Daniel (English 2021)

July 10, 2022

The Promised End

June 26, 2022

A Troubling Vision

June 19, 2022

Wars in Heaven and Earth