Introduction: He’s known in medieval literature as Coeur de Lion, but most of us peasants and commoners remember instead the romantic title “Richard the Lion-Hearted.” As a young prince, he once conspired with his brothers against his own father, King Henry II, and built a reputation for himself as a brilliant battlefield tactician who held causes together by sheer force of personality. He ruled the British Empire for ten years (1189-1199) but was such a competitive warrior that he only spent six months of that decade in England. The rest of the time he was leading the troops in military campaigns in France, Sicily, and the Holy Lands, where he tried to drive the Muslim sultan Saladin out of Jerusalem. Richard could move an army of 50,000 men swiftly into attack position, and with iron discipline kept his legions focused on their main enemy and not the minor potential skirmishes that so often drained away manpower from a large and sustained campaign.
On the way home from one military excursion to the Holy Land, Richard was shipwrecked and subsequently captured by Duke Leopold of Austria; he essentially “sold” him to Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI, who locked him up in the castles of Trifels. Legend has it that the great singer Blondel dedicated his life to finding the lost king, and wandered like a troubadour along the banks of the Danube River until he saw the face of Richard the Lion-Hearted at the barred tower window. England paid an enormous ransom, 150,000 marks, to the German emperor, and King Richard returned to England where he had himself crowned a second time just to make sure everybody knew he was still king. According to history web sites, he stayed in town for just about a month—May of 1194—then sailed off with his armies again, this time for Normandy, where he spent the next five years being lion-hearted some more.
Another Lion-Hearted Ruler: As long as we’re going back ten centuries, let’s journey to the past another 1,800 years or so, into the B.C. era and the days of King Nebuchadnezzar. In Daniel 7, the aging prophet and servant of God has a nighttime vision, and the first beast to come out of the boiling sea is not just a lion, but a lion with wings like an eagle. In God Cares, Mervyn Maxwell comments: “Visitors to Babylon can still see the lion-shaped bas-reliefs on Babylon’s baked-brick walls and the large stone lion that after 2400 years still crouches over a fallen stone woman.”
The Lion Defanged: “The first [beast] 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” (v. 4).
Demotion: If a dog stood up on two legs and had the heart of a man, that would be a promotion! But here a courageous lion goes from having a lion’s heart to only having a man’s heart. When King Richard I was “Lion-Hearted,” it was clearly an expression of praise: a man with a lion’s heart. So a lion having just a man’s heart is plainly a DE-motion. Having your wings of speed ripped off is certainly another one.
Validity of Bible prophecy: is there anything in the colorful history of Babylon that would affirm the accuracy of these apocalyptic metaphors? Yes! The royal line, as the dominoes tumbled down from great King Nebuchadnezzar, to Nabonidus, then to weak-kneed Belshazzar—the infamous and inebriated “handwriting-on-the-wall” king or viceroy of Daniel chapter 5—had definitely disintegrated. Babylon was essentially a shell of its former self; the so-called “golden era” was tragically dimming.
“The Madness of King George”: Going back a bit further, to chapter 4, we find the startling story where Nebuchadnezzar actually goes berserk and adopts an extremely vegetarian diet of grass, shrubs, and small trees for the space of seven years. The ruler of all Babylon was literally rolling around out in the fields, his body wet with dew and his personal manicurist waiting on the sidelines for him to come to his senses.
Upset Victory: Most Bible historians agree that if Babylon had stayed in peak condition—if the gold had stayed golden—there was no way a second kingdom, especially an inferior one, could have taken over. But somehow, someway, the Cubs beat the Yankees, and on October 12, 539 B.C., Cyrus the Great led his Medo-Persian armies through the aqueduct, found Belshazzar and his intoxicated Babylonian cronies mystified by the handwriting on the wall, and took the city without a shot being fired. In one of the Bible’s most amazing and uncanny predictions, Isaiah 45:1 says this some 150 years before it happens: “This is what the Lord says to His anointed, to CYRUS, whose right hand I take hold of, to subdue nations before him and to strip kings of their armor, to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut.” Back in chapter 41, the prophet adds: “Who has stirred up one from the east”—Cyrus the conqueror came from the east—“calling him in righteousness to his service? He hands nations over to him and subdues kings before him.”
God’s Word Reigns Supreme: When God sent word in the time of Daniel that the kingdom of Babylon would fall . . . it fell! Nothing could stop the powerful flow of God’s historical designs. In the same way, when God says in the book of Revelation that spiritual Babylon will fall in the last days—a fallen, counterfeit system of worship that opposes God’s rule and His reign—it’s going to fall too. Not only in terms of being a false system, which Revelation 14 warns us about, but also that it will meet its end. God’s eternal throne will stand forever, and Lucifer’s confused and coercive attacks will be just an obliterated memory. That’s wonderful news for God’s people, and why Maxwell entitled his book, so appropriately, God Cares.
Kingdom #2: Back in chapter 2, when Nebuchadnezzar had original dream about the great image, Daniel frankly told him: “After you, another kingdom will rise, inferior to yours.” Silver is less than gold. And here in Daniel 7, a bear isn’t the King of the Jungle nearly to the extent that a lion is. But when it comes right down to it, a bear beats a lion when the God of Heaven says it’s going to.“And there before me was a second beast, which looked like a bear. It was raised up on one of its sides, and it had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. It was told, ‘Get up and eat your fill of flesh!’” (v. 5).
NIV Text Notes: “The bear, raised up on one of its sides, refers to the superior status of the Persians in the Medo-Persian federation.” Cyrus was really the ruler over a “coalition” empire, with Persia being stronger than its sister kingdom of Media. In Daniel 8, he has another vision where Medo-Persia is this time represented by a ram with two horns, one longer than the other. It’s the same imagery: Persia stronger than Media.
Three Ribs: NIV Bible students suggest that Medo-Persia celebrated three major conquests: Lydia in 546 B.C., then Babylon in 539, followed fourteen years after that by their victories over Egypt in the year 525.
Conclusion: What does this have to do with us? Everything! In Daniel 2, God’s message was plain: four world empires and then no more. After that, God comes to the rescue. Here in Daniel 7, it’s the same again. Four empires, four global titans, and then just a waiting time before Jesus returns. Mervyn Maxwell, who was a young boy living in bombed-out London during World War II, would sit in his flat along with Mom and Dad and listen to the BBC on the radio. Hitler was on the march. Poland had just collapsed. But even though the Maxwell family was concerned, it wasn’t fearful. Why? Because Bible prophecy expressly said that no world tyrant could ever dominate the world again. Only the Second Coming of Jesus could lead to a final one-world government. That was good news during the blacked-out nights of the second World War. And it’s equally good news today.
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