History Illustration: A classic American headline reminds us that human beings can never predict the future. “Dewey Wins!” was a banner announcement right after election day in 1948. But Dewey did not win; Harry Truman survived to serve four more years in the White House. In the weeks before Election Day here in the U.S., even a party that is down by 15 points will boldly predict an upset, declaring over and over that “polls don’t vote; people do.” And sometimes the prognosticators are wrong.
In late 2002, a few days before America went to the polls in those midterm elections, the Democratic Party’s always buoyant chairman, Terence McAuliffe, was predicting a big win for his side. “We’re for sure going to hang onto the Senate,” he asserted. “I think we’re going to get the House back. And down in Florida, our candidate’s going to knock off Jeb Bush.” That would be sweet revenge for the “chad fiasco” from two years earlier. But the DNC poster boy’s cheerful smile dimmed as he faced the press after the votes were counted. His side had gone down in the House. They lost the Senate. And President Bush’s little brother coasted to a smooth victory over novice candidate Bill McBride in the Sunshine State.
Perfect Predictions: What would we think if a pundit could actually tell us about the rise and fall of upcoming kingdoms? And then be right on the Wednesday morning after we went to the polls? What if someone could read the tea leaves and then tell us who will sit in the White House sixteen years from now? What nations will be in NATO and out of it?
Tough Spiritual Challenge: Many Christians feel threatened as they explore the mysterious prophecies in Daniel and Revelation. First, because we find here, written centuries before the fact, detailed chronologies about the major players that would dominate earth’s history. More importantly, we find revealed in these 34 chapters, 12 in the Old Testament and 22 more at the very end of the New, a God who has His hand over everything. Kings rise up and kings come crashing down because He permits it to be.
Timeline of Daniel 7: A faithful servant named Daniel is given a scoop that even CNN’s political prognosticator, Bill Schneider, can’t match. “The first year of Belshazzar” (Dan. 7:1), is the year 553 B.C. In God Cares: The Message of Daniel For You and Your Family, author C. Mervyn Maxwell tells us that famous King Nebuchadnezzar has been dead for nine years. Daniel is an old man by now, maybe 70. Many decades earlier, he had helped Nebuchadnezzar understand a parallel dream about a great image made of various kinds of metals. The image was a future depiction of four major global empires, followed by the coming of God’s kingdom. Now, in the sunset of his life, God visits him again with a panoramic vision that fills in some incredible details.
“God Cares”: Maybe we don’t think these beasts and symbols reveal a God of love, but that’s precisely the message we find if we look behind the curtain. God is fully in charge. He not only knows the future, but He governs in its unfolding. And all of these prophetic stories, the ending is the same each time: God rescues His children and sets up a kingdom of peace and safety.
SDA Bible Commentary: “The prophecy of chapter 7 covers essentially the same span of history as the dream of chapter 2, both reaching from the prophet’s day to the time of the establishment of the kingdom of God. Chapter 2 deals largely with political matters. . . . The prophecy of chapter 7, like those of the remainder of the book, was given especially for the people of God in order that they might understand their place in the divine plan for the ages.”
Application For US: In this great sea saga of the four beasts, we can especially expect to find developments that affect our own walk with the Lord, our own salvation. Does it really matter a whole lot to us if an ancient kingdom named Babylon existed 2,500 years ago, and got wiped out by the Medo-Persian political party in the election of 539 B.C.? Instead of GOD Cares, we might say, WHO cares? But somehow, in the pounding surf of Daniel 7, we’re going to find something that matters to each of us today.
Daniel 7:3: “Daniel said: ‘In my vision at night I looked, and there before me were the four winds of heaven churning up the great sea. Four great beasts, each different from the others, came up out of the sea.” This is the same great timeline as in chapter 2, with important symbolic details representing aspects of each kingdom. “The first was like a lion, and it had the wings of an eagle. I watched until its wings were torn off and it was lifted from the ground so that it stood on two feet like a man, and the heart of a man was given to it.”
A “Sea of People”: Many prophecy students conclude that the sea itself has meaning; it generally refers to people and multitudes. We can get that link directly from Revelation 17:15: “Then the angel said to me [John the Revelator], ‘The waters you saw where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages.”
So these four global empires come surging to power from the then-known world, from populated places. And this lion with wings like an eagle is the first great beast to emerge from the brine and foam. Bible charts for Daniel 7 run a parallel line across from the “head of gold” in chapter 2 and this lion right here; both represent the kingdom Daniel was already living in: Babylon. Decades earlier, a much younger Daniel had Belshazzar’s grandfather—actually, probably a shirt-tail “step-grandfather”—“King Nebuchadnezzar, YOU are this head of gold.”
Lions With Wings: This was a common art theme in the Babylonian empire. Sometimes a lion had eagle’s wings, Dr. Maxwell points out; other times, it was an eagle with a lion’s head! “The winged lion is one of the forms of the beast often pictured in combat with Marduk, the patron god of the city of Babylon.” The Adventist commentary observes: “The lion as the king of beasts and the eagle as the king of birds fittingly represented the empire of Babylon at the height of its glory.”
So What? Bible prophecies are interesting, but there’s nothing hugely impressive about a news anchor who can tell us who’s President now. The lion represented Babylon, but Daniel lived in Babylon. He already knew that one. Would he be right in Round Two, then Three, and Four?
Conclusion: We will find, as we explore, that Daniel’s prophetic accuracy extends clear into the A.D. era . . . and right into our 21st century. And we can be thankful that “God Cares,” that His plans for earth include our salvation and our eternal happiness.
Submitted by David B. Smith. Better Sermons © 2005-2008. Click here for usage guidelines.