Today’s Bible Reading: Daniel 8:1-27; 1 John 2:1-17; Psalm 120:1-7; Proverbs 28:25-26
While Daniel was traveling on business for the king of Babylon (Daniel 8:2, 27) he received another vision from God about the end times. This one reveals the rise of the Greek Empire and is told through an analogy of two animals.
The first was a ram with two horns, one of which was longer than the other. The ram was so strong that it could go and do as it pleased (Daniel 8:4) and represented the Medo-Persian Empire that would rise up and conquer Babylon (Daniel 8:20).
The second animal is a goat with one horn and which moves so quickly it does not appear to even touch the ground (Daniel 8:5). The goat represents Greece which, under Alexander the Great, conquered the known world from southeastern Europe to India in just 12 years. Eventually This kingdom was split into four kingdoms as represented by the four horns that replace the single original one (Daniel 8:8, 22).
History confirms that Alexander’s Empire was divided upon his death at age 32 and was given to four rulers: Cassander, Lysimachus, Seleucus, and Ptolemy. Interestingly, Alexander’s conquest resulted in Greek culture being spread for thousands of miles, including the Greek language. Eventually Greek became the official language of the known world and is the reason the New Testament is written in Greek.
Selucus and Ptolemy fought over the land that is now Israel, as their territories abutted at this geographic location. Selucus won and a man named Antiochus Epiphanes was chosen to govern this land. Many believe that the remaining passages about an arrogant, deceitful ruler rising up refer to Antiochus Epiphanes who is known to have ended the Temple sacrifices (Daniel 8:11) and persecuted the Jews for a period of years in roughly 165 BC.
Certainly these passages were seemingly fulfilled by the evil Antiochus Epiphanes, but since the angel Gabriel tells Daniel that the events Daniel saw pertain to the very end of time (Daniel 8:19) we have to conclude that they also refer to the coming antichrist. Other passages in Scripture tell us that the antichrist will be a master of deceit and intrigue who will kill world leaders and who will persecute followers of Christ, all the while being empowered by Satan (Daniel 8:23-25).
No matter how we look at it, these prophecies in Daniel have come true precisely. The Medo-Perisan Empire was easily conquered by Greece, led by Alexander the Great. Alexander’s kingdom was split into four sub-Empires upon Alexander’s death. And Antiochus Epiphanes was a ruthless Jew-hating leader described perfectly by these passages (which were written 350 years before his birth).
Critics of the Bible claim that these passage had to be written after the events described in them happened because they came true so perfectly. But archaeology does not support this theory. The real answer is that the Bible was authored by a living God who knows the future.
We read yesterday in 1 John 1:8 that sin is going to happen; no one is perfect. But even so, God warns us not to because it is so detrimental to us. When (not if) we do sin, Jesus pleads our defense before God in heaven (1 John 1). We are guilty. God knows this. Jesus does not try to convince God that we are innocent. Jesus testifies that a believer belongs to Him and the penalty for the sin has already been paid. Therefore God can declare “Case Closed!” and set us free.
However, this does not give anyone a license to sin. Paul addressed this concern in his letter to the Galatians. Instead, someone who truly belongs to Jesus does not want to go against God’s commandments (1 John 2:3-4). Our goal should be to live as Jesus lived (1 John 2:6). We are not capable of living this way, as we’ve seen. But when we try to, we show that we love God.
One way we will try to live like Jesus is by loving our brothers and sisters (1 John 2:9-11). Jesus told us the second greatest commandment was to love our neighbor as ourself (Matthew 22:36-40).
The way to become more like Jesus is to not love the world (1 John 2:15). John is not referring to the physical earth, but to the way the world works and the things that most people value. Christians are not to be addicted to pleasure, power, or fame. We are not to pursue elegant homes, promotions, or money. These things fade away (1 John 2:17). But a relationship with God, through Jesus, lasts for all eternity.
It is impossible to love the world and love God at the same time because the world is at odds with God (1 John 2:16). We can see the choices that are being made everyday in America that go against God. This Christmas some major retailers are leaving the word “Christmas” out of their advertising campaigns. I’m sure more will do the same next year. Jesus is being removed from society more and more every day.
The people who are demanding these actions and the ones taking these actions are proud of themselves – thinking they are making the world a better place. But we’ve been doing this for decades and the evidence overwhelmingly disproves this notion.
We can fight for what we want at the expense of someone else. Or we can relax and let God bless us. These are mutually exclusive choices. If we choose the former, God won’t do the latter and we’ll end up with much less than He intended for us to have (Proverbs 28:25).
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