Today’s Bible Reading: Daniel 7:1-28; 1 John 1:1-10; Psalm 119:153-176; Proverbs 28:23-24
In the first six chapters of Daniel we read about events in his life, notably his interactions with the kings of Babylon and Persia. The remaining chapters record visions that he saw of the future. These visions are some of the coolest, yet frightening passages in Scripture.
In the vision recorded in Daniel 7, the prophet saw four beasts rise out of the “great sea” (a reference to the Mediterranean) . Each of these beasts represent a kingdom that would arise on the earth (Daniel 7:17). The first beast was a lion with eagle’s wings (Daniel 7:4). This beast represented Babylon whose symbol was a winged lion. This symbol appears on much Babylonian art visible in museums all over the world.
But eventually the wings were pulled off and the Babylonian kingdom came to a halt, giving rise to the next kingdom, Persia, represented by a bear (Daniel 7:5). Eventually Persia would be replaced by a leopard-like kingdom – quick moving, overwhelming its opponents with surprise (Daniel 7:6). The Greek empire, begun by Alexander the Great fits this description perfectly. By the young age of 28 Alexander had rapidly conquered southeastern Europe and Asia all the way to India. To further fulfill this prophecy, Alexander’s kingdom was divided up into four pieces after his death which explains the four faces on the leopard.
But the fourth beast was the most ferocious of all. Notice that it is not even comparable to any animal. The beast is the Roman Empire. This beast will have ten horns. Horns represent strength and power. This kingdom will have ten rulers (perhaps districts). But suddenly another horn will appear who will replace three of the horns. This is the antichrist. Someday an arrogant man will arise in a reestablished Roman Empire and seize sole control over it (Daniel 7:8).
Meanwhile, Daniel’s vision temporarily switches to heaven (Daniel 7:9-10). Despite all the chaos going on on earth, God is calmly reigning from heaven doing what He needs to. This is one of my most favorite passages in all of Scripture. I think about it a lot when my life gets chaotic. No matter how bad things are on this earth (and they will be really bad by the time the antichrist comes on the scene) God is still in heaven. He knows exactly what is going on down here. And He knows that He is in complete control and will have the final say. Pretty cool and comforting.
During the reign of the antichrist, Jesus will return to earth. He will destroy the new Roman Empire and will replace it with an eternal kingdom that will last forever (Daniel 7:11-14). The first 1,000 years of this final kingdom will be on earth. The rest – for all eternity – will be in heaven.
God gives us some interesting information about this future version of the Roman Empire. It will be ruled by an arrogant, boastful man we know as the antichrist (Daniel 7:20). This man will persecute God’s people on earth until Jesus arrives to save the day (Daniel 7:21-22). It is interesting to note that any Christian living today will not experience this because God is going to remove us from the earth just before this happens in an event we know as The Rapture. We’ve read about The Rapture previously. But Jews will still be on earth. And some people will come to faith in Jesus during this time, known as the Tribulation. These are the people who will experience tremendous suffering at the hands of the antichrist.
This vision of the future terrified Daniel who would not live to see it. I can only imagine how terrifying it will be for those who live through it. In my opinion, based on current world events, this period in history is not too far off – perhaps within a generation or two (or less).
We begin the first of the three of John’s epistles (letters) today. John also wrote the Gospel of John which we read earlier this year and Revelation, which we will begin next week to finish up the New Testament.
John reminds his readers that he, and others, saw, heard, and touched the one who existed from the beginning – Jesus – who existed before the world began (1 John 1:1). John is not making things up. Many claim that Jesus never existed. John debunks that as he states that he is writing from his own real-life experiences.
The purpose of John’s letter is to invite others into a relationship with Jesus as well (1 John 1:3). This is an amazing concept. God wants to have a relationship with each of us. No other god desires that. Not Allah. Not Brahma. This is because these gods are human invention. They do not exist. No human would ever in a million years have invented a God who wanted to have a Father-Son/Daughter relationship with people.
This is even more amazing considering Jesus died on the cross. Yet He can still have a relationship with us. The God of the Bible is real and alive. Having a relationship with Him is a blast (1 John 1:4) and John wants his readers to know this.
Anyone who claims they are sinless is lying to themselves and calling God a liar (1 John 1:8,9). Many will admit “I’m only human” or “Everyone makes mistake” in an attempt to appear humble (that is not humility) or to defend their imperfectness. But few will admit that they are sinners – inherently inclined to be selfish and to hurt others. But that is the truth. And it is only by admitting this – to ourselves first then to God – that a person can be forgiven and cleansed (1 John 1:9). And only a forgiven and cleansed person can enter heaven.
So many people reject the Bible because they think that God’s commands for living suppress life. But this is not true. Living the way God wants us to live breathes new life into us (Psalm 119:156).
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