Sapphire Sky

January 28, 2017

The Coming King

Filed under: encouragement, theology, Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Steve Knaus @ 9:48 pm

img_1350

“And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe.”

Jesus spoke these words to his closest friends shortly before leaving earth (John 14:29).

Within hours, Jesus Christ would be arrested by the Jewish authorities, tried by an illegal court, and crucified like a lowly criminal.

He was the one sent by God to save His people. He was the chosen one, the “anointed one”, or as is said in Hebrew, he was the Messiah.

To the religious Jews of Jesus’ day, this was preposterous. This man could not be their Messiah. They were looking for a commanding king who would validate the true children of Abraham and lead them in victory over their Roman oppressors.

Instead, they found a country preacher. He didn’t revere their nationality. He didn’t obey their Sabbath traditions. He didn’t respect their temple hierarchy. He told them that they were wrong!

So they killed Him.

But these men knew their scriptures. They studied the law and the prophets as they looked for their Messiah king. How could they know that it was Jesus?

Almost 600 years earlier, one of their greatest prophets wrote about the Messiah. Daniel was one of the wisest men of his day. He was revered by counselors, wise men, kings, and emperors.

But Daniel was also a man of prayer. He prayed every day, even if it was against the law (see here). He prayed earnestly for his people, taking responsibility for their failures, and imploring God for forgiveness (see here).

God answered Daniel’s prayer in ways that no one else had ever seen. His answer was immediate and very specific. Daniel asked God about the seventy years when his people had been captive in Babylon. God’s answer was that there was yet another seventy times seven years for His people. God had reserved this time for the Jews to end their wickedness, pay for their sins, commission the perfect sanctuary, and to bring in the perfect kingdom.

During this seventy times seven years:

  • His people, the Jews, would return back to their native land. They would rebuild their city and the temple.

    There were (at least) four edicts by the Persian emperors, allowing the Jews to return to their homeland. The first edict would have happened shortly after Daniel’s prayer in 536 B.C., and the final culmination would have been the command to restore both the city and the temple in 444 B.C.

  • They would live in their city for 69 weeks (483 years), through times of trouble.

    The Jews returned to their homeland, but they were persecuted under both the Greek and the Roman rulers during the final four centuries B.C.

  • The Messiah, the anointed one, would come to his people at the end of the 483 years.

    Jesus came into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday in 33 A.D., exactly 483 years after the edict of 444 B.C. (see below).

  • After the 483 years, the Messiah would be executed like a criminal (see here and here).

    Jesus Christ was crucified by the Romans within a week after His entry into Jerusalem, in 33 A.D.

  • Also after the 483 years, people would destroy the city and the temple.

    The Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the temple in 70 A.D.

  • A future prince will make a treaty with the Jews for seven years, and then break his promises after three and a half years. This is still in the future.

Daniel was shown 70 “weeks” (groups of seven years). 69 of these weeks have already passed, and the 70th week is still to come.

We can fall in the same trap as the religious Jews of Jesus’ day. They knew their Bible, but they only looked for what they wanted to see. God came to earth, as He promised, and they completely missed Him!

John 5:39-40
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

The prophecy of the “seventy weeks” in Daniel 9 is very popular among theologians and religious speculators. There are countless predictions, interpretations, and speculations about what everything can possibly mean. False teachers have used Daniel 9 as a means to authenticate their own beliefs, leading to such sects and cults as the Seventh Day Adventist Church, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Branch Davidian.

So how are we supposed to read this prophecy and not be caught up in some twisted teaching? Can we really understand it?

The answer is actually very simple. Like all of God’s word (scripture), we need to simply read it. Set aside our own preconceptions on how a prophecy should all fit together, and trust that the words mean what they say.

Above all, have the humility to admit that you won’t have it all figured out. Even the prophets themselves did not fully understand what they were writing:

1 Peter 1:10-11
Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.

See the section below for more detail about basic rules for understanding Scripture.

What is the main point of prophecy? Going back to Jesus’ words to His disciples, one of the most important points about future prophecy is to remind us that God is in control. He shows us what is happening before it takes place so that we can know that He is not surprised by these events.

 

Previous post: Do We Pray?

(more…)

December 9, 2016

The Ram and The Goat

Filed under: encouragement, theology — Tags: , , — Steve Knaus @ 10:18 pm

billy-goat-1698303_1920

 

We used to raise goats, and this passage reminded me of how difficult, stubborn, and hostile a male goat can be!

But to Daniel, the vision in chapter 8 was a terrifying preview of what was to come.

Daniel was working for the king during the declining times of the Babylonian empire when God gave him a vision of a great ram. The ram had two horns and stood on the banks of a canal, defeating anyone and anything that came against him.

Then, a large goat with a single horn between his eyes came out of the west after the ram. The goat attacked the ram, broke his horns, and trampled him.

Then the goat’s horn broke and was replaced by four smaller horns.

Then a fifth little horn grew out of the four horns. This little horn became great and dominated the Holy Land. It trampled some of the stars and considered itself to be as great as God himself. The little horn overthrew the sanctuary of God and stopped His offerings. This little horn would have power for just over three years.

The great and wise Daniel tried to understand this vision but it was beyond him. He saw the vision (8:2), he considered what he saw (8:5), and he sought to understand it (8:15). Finally, Daniel fainted when the angel Gabriel came to help him!

Gabriel woke Daniel and told him the explanation. The ram was the kings of Media and Persia. We know from history that Media and Persia form an alliance shortly after this time. In about ten years, the Median and Persian alliance would come and defeat Babylon (Daniel 5).

The goat was the king of Greece. We know from history that Alexander the Great came 200 years later, quickly conquering the Medio-Persian empire. Alexander would later die at the height of his power, leaving his great empire to four lesser leaders.

So far, this vision has been very close to what was shown in the previous vision (see here). Both visions predicted the rise of the Medio-Persian and the Greek empires, but this vision showed Daniel one of the greatest horrors that would befall his people.

A ruler would emerge from the Greek empire. He would grow his empire toward the Holy Land and dominate the Jewish people. He would kill many people and oppose God himself. He would stop the sacrifices and persecute God’s people for three years.

This prediction was fulfilled with the rule of Antiochus IV, who ruled the Seleucid empire from 175-163 B.C.3 Antiochus gave himself the title “Epiphanes”, meaning, “manifestation of God”. He was determined to force Greek culture (Hellenize) upon his Jewish subjects. This included Greek language and way of life, but also required the Jews to worship the Greek gods.

Antiochus returned from a humiliating defeat in Egypt in 168 B.C. and vented his frustration on the Jews, sending his troops to seize Jerusalem. The Jews were banned, under penalty of death, from offering sacrifices or performing Jewish rites. Antiochus went even further and desecrated the temple by placing an idol of Zeus in it and offering a pig on the altar. This became known to the Jews as the “Abomination of Desolation”.

But the vision also gave Daniel hope. The persecution of God’s people would only last for three years. After this period,the temple would be restored to its rightful state.

There was a faithful priest who lived during the persecution of Antiochus Epiphanes. This priest, Mattathias, fled to the wilderness with his five sons and fought back against the Greek rulers. His son Judas led an uprising against the Greek rulers and was given the title, “Maccabaus”, or “the hammer”. Under Judas’ leadership, the Jews retook Jerusalem and restored the temple. The Jewish festival of Hanukkah celebrates this occasion when, on December 25, 165 B.C., the faithful Jews rededicated the newly cleansed temple. This was exactly three years after Antiochus desecrated the temple.

God also promised that this ruler would be destroyed without human hand. Historians recorded that Antiochus died suddenly of a mysterious illness (probably cancer), shortly after his defeat in Jerusalem, and the temple was restored.

But there was more to what God was telling to Daniel. Antiochus Epiphanes would be a cruel, wicked tyrant. He would kill and persecute many of the Jews, but Antiochus was only a preview of what is still to come. In terms of history, Antiochus was a petty Greek ruler, but there will come a ruler with the same evil and intrigue as Antiochus, yet with much more power. This ruler, also known as the Antichrist, will declare himself to be God and will destroy many people.  He will rise up against God and will have power for a limited time. Yet in the end, he will be destroyed by God Himself.

Warren Wiersbe’s commentary on Daniel lists the characteristics that both Antiochus and the Antichrist will share:3

  • Both begin modestly but increase in power and influence.
  • Both blaspheme God with mouths that speak great things.
  • Both persecute the Jewish people.
  • Both claim to be gods and put images in the temple.
  • Both impose their own religion on the people.
  • Both are opposed by a believing remnant that knows God.
  • Both are energized by the devil and are great deceivers.
  • Both appear to succeed marvelously and seem to be invincible.
  • Both are finally defeated by the coming of a redeemer.

 

Remember!

What does this story have to do with a reader in the 21st century? We live thousands of years after Alexander and Antiochus. It is a compelling story of history, but God has a lot more to tell us!

First, remember that God may delay his judgement, but he does not forget. This final king will rise in the latter times when “transgressors have reached their limit” (Daniel 8:23). If you are running from God, He is waiting for you to come back. But don’t exhaust His limit! If you keep running from Him, judgement is coming!

Second, remember how little we are in God’s sight! Daniel was one of the greatest and wisest men of his day, but this vision left him completely undone! He could not understand the meaning of the vision, and he fainted in the presence of the angel. Gabriel gave Daniel the final explanation, and it left him sick for days!

Finally, remember that God is in control, even through the darkest times of history. It must have been a great comfort to the Jews under Antiochus, knowing that his time would be limited. We may not have a specific prophecy for our own struggles in life, but God has not forgotten about us! God knows the end of our struggles!

 

Previous post: The History of the World

(more…)

August 28, 2016

His Kingdom is Forever!

Filed under: encouragement, theology — Tags: , — Steve Knaus @ 3:36 pm

sand-1439970_1920

“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
to whom belong wisdom and might.
He changes times and seasons;
he removes kings and sets up kings;
he gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to those who have understanding;
he reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what is in the darkness,
and the light dwells with him.
To you, O God of my fathers,
I give thanks and praise,
for you have given me wisdom and might,
and have now made known to me what we asked of you
for you have made known to us the king’s matter.

We look at the American political system today and it is easy to get discouraged. None of the major political candidates show any wisdom to lead a country. They all look like they are more consumed with self-serving interests than to care about the future of the country.

To be an American Christian today likely means that you will be labeled as a bigot, ignorant of science, or out of touch with reality.

The situation is much worse in other parts of the world. Russia has recently passed laws that prohibit worship in any other place but the state-sanctioned churches (see here). The World Watch List lists 41 countries in the world which have moderate to extreme persecution of Christians. Many Islamic nations have a death penalty for anyone who converts from Islam. North Korea is ranked again as the most dangerous country for a Christian, for 14 years in a row!

It is easy to become discouraged and to start to wonder. Is God really in control?

God gave a message to His people in the sixth century B.C. This was a time of the terrible crisis for the surviving Jews of that day. The northern nation, Israel, was completely destroyed a century earlier. The southern nation, Judah, had lost their independence, and were now slaves to whatever world powers would dominate them.

The king of Egypt had come in 609 B.C., killing the king and setting up his own vassal king over the country. The king of Babylon then came four years later, setting up his rule over Judah and taking captives back with him to Babylon.

The situation would only get worse. Babylon would return 17 years later to destroy Jerusalem, burn the temple, and carry away all of the inhabitants to exile. The Jewish nation would cease to exist for 70 years.

Where was God during this crisis? God gives His answer in the Book of Daniel.

God is all-wise. God is all-powerful. The great God who can change the seasons can raise and lower kingdoms.

The kingdoms of this world do not have any power over the God of the Universe!

The scene of Daniel 2 opened in the emperor’s bedroom. King Nebuchadnezzar had just awakened from a terrible dream. He was greatly disturbed by what he saw, yet he could not remember the dream!

The king urgently summoned all of his advisors and wise men, demanding that they tell him the dream and its interpretation. These wise men were very skilled in interpreting dreams, but this was new to them – never before were they asked to tell the dream itself!

They begged the king to tell them the dream but their entreaties only made the king more angry. When they failed to tell the dream, the furious king demanded that all of his wise men be executed!

The king ordered all of the wise men in Babylon to be killed. This included the Jewish slaves who had only recently graduated from their training (Daniel 1). When the executioner came for Daniel and his companions, Daniel requested time so that he could provide an answer for the king.

Daniel returned to his house and discussed the matter with his companions, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Together they asked God for mercy so that He might show them the mystery.

The prayer above was Daniel’s response when God showed him the dream and its interpretation. His praise to God declared that the God of heaven has the power over time, seasons, and over kingdoms. God had shown the deep mysteries and had given Daniel the wisdom to show the answer to the king.

Daniel requested to be brought to the king. He made it clear that no human could answer his request, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries and has shown the king what will happen in the latter days.

Daniel then told the king his dream. He dreamed of a massive image that was overwhelming in its appearance and brightness. The head of the image was made of gold, the chest and arms of silver, the middle and thighs of bronze, the legs of iron, and the feet of iron and clay mixed. A stone was then cut without any human hand and struck the image in the feet, destroying the entire image. The stone then became a great mountain and filled the earth.

Daniel then told the interpretation of the dream. The five elements of the image were five empires (kingdoms) that would rule the earth. Nebuchadnezzar himself represented Babylon, the head of gold. After him would be three other kingdoms, successfully representing the silver, the bronze and the iron. The final kingdom will be partly strong and partly brittle, like the iron mixed with clay. During the days of the final kingdom, the God of heaven will destroy the kingdoms of the world and set up a kingdom himself that will never end.

In our current point of history, the kingdoms of Gold, Silver, Bronze, and Iron have all come and gone, as the empires of Babylon, Medio-Persia, Greece, and Rome have come through history. We are still waiting on the final events of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, where the kingdom of iron and clay rules the world.

But more than that, we know that there will be a day when God’s kingdom will come and destroy all of the powers of this world. He will set up his own kingdom which will never end!

 

Remember!

  • He is the only wise God (Romans 16:27). God has not made a mistake in these troublesome times. None of these world events take Him by surprise!
  • He is the all-powerful God (Revelation 1:8). He removes kings and he sets up kings. No nation or its power is greater than God!
  • All of our world powers today are only temporary, but the kingdom of the Almighty God will last forever!

 

Previous post: The Test of Character

(more…)

Blog at WordPress.com.