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Someone Cares Series
Getting Started With Prophecy
"Blessed is he who reads ... this prophecy" (Revelation 1:3). This lesson begins our study of prophecy.
1. Who alone truly knows the future?
"Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:" (Isaiah 46:9, 10).
Only the one true and living God can declare the end from the beginning, telling of things not yet done. The God who rules in the heavens is the One before whom the mysteries of the past and the future are alike outspread and who, beyond the woe and darkness and ruin that sin has brought, sees the fulfillment of His purposes of love and blessing.
"And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe" (John 14:29).
The fulfillment of the prophecies that Jesus made were to be an encouragement to His followers when they saw that His Words were indeed true. They had the assurance that He was the Missiah and that as a result they might be drawn to Him and come to know Him as their indwelling Lord and trust Him in all situations.
2. Has God revealed the future?
"Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets" (Amos 3:7).
God in His love and His mercy has through the prophecies warned us of what the future will bring. He will do nothing without first sending us a warning through His prophets. An understanding of these prophecies brings comfort and hope to the student of God's Word. God in His mercy has seen fit to reveal these things to us, and we need to understand them.
3. Which prophecies did Jesus mention by name, saying we should understand them?
"When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)" (Matthew 24:15).
Jesus mentioned by name the prophecy of Daniel as one that should be understood. A study of Revelation points the mind to the prophecies of Daniel, and both present important instruction, by God, concerning events to take place at the close of this world's history. Many refuse to heed the warnings in prophecy and as a result cannot claim the promised blessing. All who ridicule the prophecies and mock at the symbols will likewise suffer loss.
4. For what time period was the book of Daniel especially written?
"But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased" (Daniel 12:4).
Daniel and Revelation are both about the last days, but Daniel was written first and Revelation builds on its prophecies. In order to understand both books we need to begin with Daniel and his first prophecy. Each succeeding prophecy builds upon the one before, giving greater detail. In Daniel 8:17 and Daniel 12:9 we are told that these prophecies are for the time of the end. This involves you and me.
5. What circumstances led up to Daniel's first prophecy?
"And in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams, wherewith his spirit was troubled, and his sleep brake from him. Then the king commanded to call the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans, for to show the king his dreams. So they came and stood before the king. And the king said unto them, I have dreamed a dream, and my spirit was troubled to know the dream" (Daniel 2:1-3).
Daniel and his three friends were youthful Hebrew princes who were taken captive when Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem. They were then taken to Babylon where the king saw fit for them to be trained in the ways of his kingdom. The king had many magicians and astrologers whom he believed could explain all things to him. As Daniel and his friends had proved themselves faithful in all things, the king was anxious that they should be prepared for positions of trust. However in the second year of his reign Nebuchadnezzar had a dream which he could not remember, but expected his wise men to remember. This they could not do, and death was the promised result for failing. Daniel was included among these men, but he appealed to the king for time and sought the God of Heaven who not only revealed the dream to Daniel, but also gave him the interpretation of it.
6. Who explained the dream, and what period of earth's history did it picture?
"Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, The secret which the king hath demanded cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, show unto the king; But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days. Thy dream, and the visions of thy head upon thy bed, are these;" (Daniel 2:27, 28).
In a vision God revealed the dream to Daniel, and Daniel gave God the glory for having done so by telling the king that there was a God in heaven who could reveal secrets. It is noticeable that these secrets deal with the latter days. God in His mercy was appealing to the king to rule as a just and God-fearing monarch.
7. What was the dream?
"Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible. This image's head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay. Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth" (Daniel 2:31-35).
"And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;" (Acts 17:26).
It is clear from God's Word, that God determines who shall rule and for how long that rule shall be. Daniel begins to tell the king that he saw an image made of different metals, each symbolizing a different kingdom. The head was of find gold, the breast and arms of silver, the belly and thighs of brass, the legs of iron, the feet part iron and part clay. Then a stone, cut out without hands, struck the image on the feet and broke them to pieces.
8. There are two vital principles we must understand to interpret correctly Daniel and Revelation:
(1) These prophecies are given in symbols; and
In this first prophecy, God makes it easy by giving the interpretation immediately. What did the head of gold represent?
"This is the dream; and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king. Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory. And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath he given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all. Thou art this head of gold" (Daniel 2:36-38). (See also Isaiah 14:4.)
In this first prophecy, God makes it easy by giving the interpretation immediately. Nebuchadnezzar the king represented Babylon. King and kingdom often mean the same in prophecy. Daniel is now beginning to interpret the meaning of the image seen in the king's dream.
God had prospered Babylon until it reached a height of wealth and power that has never since been equaled. This is fitly represented in Scripture by the inspired symbol, "head of gold." Everything in Babylon was overlaid with gold. Each kingdom had a period of test. Each failed, its power departed, and it was followed by another.
9. What did the silver, bronze and iron represent?
"And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee, and another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth. And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron: forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things: and as iron that breaketh all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise" (Daniel 2:39, 40).
Each metal represents a separate kingdom and here we find that Babylon was conquered by a lesser power. The silver represents Medo Persia. Then Medo Persia was conquered by Greece under Alexander the Great. Greece was conquered by pagan Rome.
As nations forgot God, in like proportion they became weak morally. Babylon passed away, because in her prosperity she forgot God and ascribed her prosperity to human achievement. Medo Persia was visited by God's wrath because God's Law was trampled under foot. The fear of God had no place in the hearts of people and blasphemy, corruption and sickness prevailed. The kingdoms that followed were even more base and corrupt. They deteriorated because they cast off their allegiance to God. As they forgot God, they sank lower and lower in the scale of moral value.
10. To see how prophecy builds on itself, note how these same four kingdoms are described again, in greater detail, in the next major prophecy of Daniel. What symbols did God use this time?
"Daniel spake and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea. And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another. The first was like a lion, and had eagle's wings: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man, and a man's heart was given to it. And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear, and it raised up itself on one side, and it had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it: and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh. After this I beheld, and lo another, like a leopard, which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl; the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it. After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns. ... These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth" (Daniel 7:2-7, 17).
In order for prophecy to build on itself and to reveal in greater detail the characteristics of these kingdoms, God uses different symbols.
All these animals represented fierce creatures of prey, but the symbol of Christ's kingdom is a lamb. Earthly kingdoms rule by the ascendancy of physical power and force. There is no force in Christ's kingdom for its goal is to uplift and ennoble fallen mankind.
11. What would happen to Rome, the fourth kingdom?
"Thus he said, The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces. And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings" (Daniel 7:23-24).
As predicted, only three world kingdoms followed Babylon. Rome was never succeeded, but from 351 A.D. to 476 A.D. it was divided up into ten lesser kingdoms because of warring factions within. Some of these lesser kingdoms are represented by the nations of Europe today.
12 How is this breakup of Rome into modern Europe described in Daniel 2? Will Europe ever be reunited?
"And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes, part of potters' clay, and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron, forasmuch as thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay. And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken. And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay" (Daniel 2:41-43).
In the description of the image, the break up of Rome is represented by the feet and toes of iron and clay. Parts would be strong and other parts would be weak, but in it would be seen the union of church and state. As iron and clay cannot be mixed, so these smaller kingdoms would not be united as one. Through marriage mankind has tried to unite them, yet without success. God has declared that they shall not cleave together (become united). It is God who removes kings and sets them up. His Word will not fail.
13. What will happen in the days of divided Europe?
"And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever" (Daniel 2:44).
It is during the time of these divided kingdoms that the God of heaven will set up His kingdom. He will come to claim His own, and the wicked of these nations will be destroyed. The kingdom of God will last forever.
14. How does Revelation describe this event?
"And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever. And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God, Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned. And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth" (Revelation 11:15-18).
The setting up of God's kingdom comes when Christ returns to smite all the kingdoms of the world, and they become His to rule forever and ever. The long continued rule of evil shall be broken. It is then that the peaceful and long-desired kingdom of the Messiah will be established under the whole heaven. The coming of the Lord has been in all ages the hope of His true followers.
Babylon, Persia, Greece, and pagan Rome have all passed away—we are now living in the tiptoes of the image, just before the new kingdom is set up! When God's kingdom comes, with what group of people, as described in our last text, do you want to be found?
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Page created: 7/26/98 Updated: 11/15/2006
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