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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at Life BPC 8am & 11am service, 2017-06-11

Text: Daniel 11:2-35

 

We have been studying the four visions that Daniel received during the later years of his life. In the first vision Daniel saw four great beasts which represents four great kingdoms of the world. From the fourth beast there emerged a little horn which represents the Antichrist. He will be defeated only when our Lord Jesus comes to establish His eternal dominion over the world.

 

In the second vision Daniel saw a ram being attacked and defeated by a goat. This portrays the conquests of Alexander the Great. After he died, his empire was divided into four parts. A little horn emerged from one of these parts, and history reveals that this represents Antiochus IV Epiphanes who persecuted the Jews severely. 

 

The third vision of Daniel came in response to a prayer that he made towards the end of the Jewish exile in Babylon. He prayed that God’s fury would be turned away from Jerusalem and that God’s face would shine upon His sanctuary which is the Temple. The answer was that it would take another 70 times seven years of time before these petitions will be granted. And this means that there will be more persecution and tribulation in store for the Jews.

 

This becomes the theme of the final vision which Daniel received two years later, in 536 BC. By this time, Cyrus the Persian emperor had already released the Jews from their Exile (Ezra 1:1-3). The first to return was a group of 42,000 Jews. Daniel did not go with them but remained in Babylon. As he was about 85 years old by now, the long journey of 1,400 km back to Israel would probably have been much too difficult for him to handle.

Through this vision, Daniel learned what would happen to his people who had gone back to re-establish the nation of Israel. He would realise that though the captivity of the Jews had ended, it was not the end of their sorrows yet. This vision is the longest and most detailed of all the four vision. It takes up the last two chapters of the book. Just before receiving this vision, Daniel had been mourning and fasting, as he tells us in 10:2,3 – In those days I Daniel was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.” Why was he mourning when the Jews had been released from captivity and had returned to their homeland? Well, he had probably received some distressing news about them.

Ezra 4:4,5,24 tells us what happened then– “Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building, And hired counsellors against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia… Then ceased the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem.” The Jews who returned to Jerusalem had started to rebuild the Temple, but the work was stalled by intense persecution and opposition. This news grieved Daniel so much that he spent three weeks to mourn and fast to pray that this opposition would cease.

 

Well, the answer that came from God was that Israel would have to face even more intense persecution and opposition in the future. But despite all that, God is still in full control and He will deliver them. This answer was given to Daniel through an angel. It begins in verse 2– “And now will I shew thee the truth. Behold, there shall stand up yet three kings in Persia; and the fourth shall be far richer than they all…”

 

When this vision was given, the king of Persia was Cyrus the Great (10:1). God was now revealing what would happen after his death. With the help of historical records we can identify the four Persian kings who ruled within the next 70 years. They were Cambyses, Pseudo-Smerdis, Darius I Hystaspes and Xerxes I. History also confirms what is stated about the fourth king at the end of this verse: “…and by his strength through his riches he shall stir up all against the realm of Grecia.” After months of planning Xerxes launched a massive invasion of Greece in 480 BC with over 100,000 men from 46 nations, 1,207 fighting ships and 2,000 logistic ships. King Xerxes was able to capture the city of Athens, but he lost his entire navy in a decisive sea battle at Salamis. And so he returned to Persia a defeated man. As we had seen in chapter 8, Alexander the Great then united all the rival city states of Greece and led them to conquer the entire Persian Empire.  

 

Look at verses 3-4– “And a mighty king shall stand up, that shall rule with great dominion, and do according to his will. And when he shall stand up, his kingdom shall be broken, and shall be divided toward the four winds of heaven…” This prophecy was fulfilled after Alexander died in 323 BC, and his empire was split into four kingdoms ruled by his four generals. Ptolemy ruled over Egypt. Seleucus ruled over Syria. Cassander ruled over Greece while Lysimachus ruled over Turkey.

 

Then two of these kings became very dominant: They were Ptolemy of Egypt who is called “the king of the south” and Seleucus of Syria who is referred to as “the king of the north”. Israel was caught right in between them. At first it was under the control of Egypt, but it was later taken over by Syria. The next 31 verses describe the political affairs between the kingdoms of Egypt and Syria from 323 BC and 176 BC. Every single prophecy in this section has been literally fulfilled in precise detail. Please take time to look through the table that is attached to the sermon outline to see how each prophecy has been fulfilled in actual history – you will be absolutely amazed!

 

In fact, these prophecies were so astoundingly precise and accurate that till today Bible critics doubt that Daniel could have written them 300 years ahead of time. They think that all these verses of chapter 11 were probably written after the events took place, and then made to look like prophecies. That would make this piece of writing a hoax or a pious fraud.

 

To us, there is no doubt at all that Daniel wrote about these events 300 years before they happened, because he wrote them all by inspiration of God who knows every detail of the future. These prophecies of Daniel therefore stand as a powerful testimony to the inspired nature of the Holy Scriptures. They confirm that the Bible we hold in our hands is truly God’s Word.

 

We will not go into all the minute details of this chapter that relate about 147 years of history. We will fast-forward instead to verse 21 that says, “And in his estate shall stand up a vile person, to whom they shall not give the honour of the kingdom: but he shall come in peaceably, and obtain the kingdom by flatteries.” This verse introduces the main person that we are concerned with –Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-164 BC) – A master of political intrigue who seized the throne from his nephew when his elder brother died. He became ambitiously mad for power. He even claimed to be God manifest in human form as shown by the words on this coin.

 

You may remember that in the second vision which Daniel received in chapter 8, Antiochus was symbolised as the “little horn.” (v.9) He was also described there as a “king of fierce countenance” (v.23). Antiochus launched a successful campaign against Egypt (v.25) as he was helped by traitors from Ptolemy’s ranks. He set up a puppet king in Egypt, imprisoned Ptolemy and returned to Syria. But he soon lost control over Egypt when the puppet king rebelled against him.

 

So Antiochus launched another campaign against Egypt. But this time he lost due to Roman intervention (The “ships of Chittim” mentioned in 11:29,30). He was so frustrated by this that on his way back to Syria he vented his fury on the people of Israel. Within three days he slaughtered over 40,000 men, women and children, and sold another 40,000 as slaves.

 

According to Daniel’s prophecy, “…arms shall stand on his part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate.” (v.31) All this was fulfilled in 167 BC when Antiochus stopped the Temple sacrifices and desecrated the altar by sacrificing pigs on it. He then replaced it with an idol of Zeus, which is a fore-picture of the end-time ‘abomination of desolation’ that the end-time Antichrist will set up one day, according to Daniel 9:27.

 

All the godly Jews who refused to worship the Greek gods were severely oppressed. One of them was a priest named Mattathias. He refused to offer the required sacrifices at a pagan altar but he and his five sons fled into the wilderness. They then began to lead the Jews in a revolt against Antiochus, and became known as the Maccabees (which comes from the Hebrew word for ‘hammer’). Although they were few in number, they were strong in the Lord. After winning battle after battle, the Maccabees finally ended the oppression, liberated Jerusalem from the Greeks, and purified the Temple in 165 BC to reinstate all the Old Testament sacrifices and offerings there. This event was so significant that the Jews commemorate it to this day in an annual festival called Chanukah which is usually around Christmas.

 

What was it that enabled this small band of Jews to defeat the Greek armies? The answer is found in the last part of v.32 – “…but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.” Here is the main lesson that we all must learn from this sermon. As the world changes with each passing day it will become increasingly difficult to live as Christians. And when the Antichrist arises and begins to exert his power, the world will turn against us. How will God’s people stand firm when this happens? How can we be strong enough to resist the tide of sin and ungodliness? The answer is found in these words – “…the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.”

 

So let us ask ourselves this question: How well do we know our God? Please note that this is not a question of how much we know about God. It is a question of how well we know Him personally. One way to tell whether a person really knows God is to see how closely he walks with Him. A healthy devotional life is most essential for spiritual strength and courage. One man who stands out as an example of this is the French theologian and Reformer, John Calvin (1509-1564). As we will commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation this year, I thought it would be good to use him as an example.

 

At a time of great spiritual darkness Calvin was strong and did exploits. God used him to expound the Reformed Faith systematically and to propagate it to the whole of Europe. Protestants from many countries came all the way to Geneva to study the Bible under him, and they brought the Reformed Faith back to their own countries. Although Calvin did not live long and died at the age of 55, the legacy he left behind has lasted for hundreds of years, and it still impacts generations of people today.

Many people know about Calvin’s doctrines but few have known about his devotional life. His great devotion to God is best summed up in his emblem – a burning heart that is offered up to God with the words, ‘Prompt and Sincere in the Work of the Lord.’ Calvin’s own heart was set on fire by what he himself described as ‘a sudden conversion that subdued and brought his mind to a teachable frame.’ This happened when he was a 23-year old Law student in Orleans. In less than a year he knew his Bible so well that people were coming to learn from him! Not long after that, he wrote his famous Institutes of the Christian Religion (over 500 pages long). This has been described as “the clearest, most logical and most readable exposition of Protestant doctrines that the Reformation age produced.”

One thing that stands out in Calvin’s Institutes is his profound understanding of God. He obviously knew his God. Benjamin Warfield said of him, “No man ever had a profounder sense of God than Calvin.” According to John Piper, “the essential meaning of John Calvin's life and preaching is that he recovered and embodied a passion for the absolute reality and majesty of God… It’s this relentless orientation on the glory of God that gives coherence to John Calvin’s life and to the Reformed tradition that followed.”

Calvin’s constant aim was the glory of God. He refused to claim any glory for himself – even his grave has nothing written on it except for his initials, “JC”. When he was 30 years old, he described an imaginary scene of himself giving an account to God at the end of his life, and saying, “The thing [O God] at which I chiefly aimed, and for which I most diligently laboured, was, that the glory of Thy goodness and justice … might shine forth conspicuous, that the virtue and blessings of Thy Christ … might be fully displayed.” Such a great passion for the glory of God can only come from a deep and intimate knowledge of God that grows out of a healthy devotional life.

And there is much evidence that Calvin had a close walk with God. His writings are so full of devotional warmth, that they can easily be recast into daily devotional format as some have done (e.g. Day by Day with John Calvin, by Hendrikson Publishers) One evidence of his walk with God is found in what he wrote about Prayer. I would like you to listen now to his four rules for effective prayer:

 (1) We must have our heart and mind framed as becomes those who are entering into conversation with God. (This rule is about the preparation we need for prayer) (2) We must always truly feel our wants, and seriously considering that we need all the things which we ask, accompany the prayer with an ardent desire to obtain them. (This speaks of the attitude of persistence we need in praying) (3) We must remove all self-confidence, humbly giving God the whole glory, lest by claiming anything for ourselves, our pride makes Him turn His face away. (This rule reveals the humility we need in prayer) (4) We should be moved to pray with the sure confidence of succeeding. (As Hebrews 11:6 says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.”) These four rules of prayer had, without any doubt, emerged from Calvin’s own devotional life.

 

If you want to have a close walk with God, seek to cultivate the burning heart that Calvin had, and offer it up to God: A heart that seeks to know God through the Scriptures, a heart that longs for God alone to be glorified, and a heart that draws all that you need from God through prayer. Remember: “The people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.”

Today there is a desperate need for men and women who know their God and who are strong to do exploits. We are living in momentous times where sin is abounding as never before. Immorality and homosexual marriages are widely accepted; Greed and materialism reign supreme. The name of Christ is being shamed publicly by those who claim that the end justifies the means. Our Lord Jesus had truly said of these end times that iniquity shall abound and the love of many shall wax cold (Matthew 24:12). Dearly beloved, will you be one of those whom God will use to accomplish His sovereign will for this present age? May we always remember that “The people that do know their God shall be strong and do exploits.”

 

 

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

December 3 & 10 - Holy Living

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 2 Peter 3:11