A Messenger Reveals The End

Daniel 10-12

We’re now in the 3rd year of the Persian king Cyrus’s reign, after he has allowed the exiled in Babylon to go home. But it’s not clear if Daniel is hanging around to work in the Persian court somewhere or if he has gone home too. Maybe, he figures, what’s the use of going home if the restoration of his people is going to take 7 times longer than anyone thought. If I were him, I’d also be struggling to find some hope if angels keep dropping by in my dreams and giving me mostly horrible news about the future.

This is likely weighing heavily on Daniel’s tired heart as he is mourning and doing extended fasting. You don’t normally hear about people today fasting to hear a word from God, but it’s one of those ancient tried and true methods to use when you really mean business and something has to give. 

It works well for Daniel here because he receives another vision. He’s by the river and sees an angel that is described with language stolen right from Ezekiel. And the Bible is weird, because it sounds like this angel (Gabriel?) has been in an ongoing battle with a prince (angelic representative?) of Persia. And the angel Michael is there fighting in Gabriel’s place so he could come tell Daniel something very important. If I am understanding this correctly, this means angels engage in extended tag team octagon fighting on behalf of the kingdoms they represent, as if the balance of history depends on it in some way.

What follows in chapter 11 is an insanely detailed prophecy given to Daniel about the Persians and Greeks, leading up to our old friend, Antiochus IV, and his typical shenanigans. It is basically a much more detailed version of chapter 8 (remember the ram, goat, and the horns?), and we have the theme from chapters 2 and 7 about the sequence of kingdoms knitted into it. Not being an expert in history, and not wanting to overload too badly, I’ll keep this very high-level. 

I mentioned Alexander yesterday, who is our “warrior king” in 11:3, or the Greeks taking over the Persians. Alexander dies and his kingdom is split up among four generals. We eventually end up with the Ptolemies of the south (Egypt) and Seleucids of the north (Syria/Mesopotamia), who plague each other with failed alliances, invasions, deception, betrayal, assassinations, and the like. By verse 21, Antiochus (of the north) is on the scene, and by verse 30 we see him start his persecution of Jerusalem and desecration of the temple. By the end of chapter 11, we see his end.

Again, we are interested in patterns more than precise timelines. The north and south had been going back and forth with their conflicts but keeping each other in check. Antiochus comes on the scene and breaks the mold, crosses the line, and does what nobody before him does. And once he upsets the balance and asserts himself as a god, the true God brings an end to him. It’s the arrogant made humble again, like we’ve seen several times before in the book of Daniel.

But what of hope? What’s the point of this endless political drama and transfer of power? The messenger explains that at that point of deep anguish brought in by the king of the north, the people of God will be delivered. “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” And the wise are said to have some kind of special reward. If we believe in a God of justice and restoration, the end game has to be that God, being the faithful God that he is, will make all things right, even by raising his “sleeping” faithful to life.

Surely the original audience of Daniel would be familiar with the dry bones of Ezekiel coming alive and how it symbolized the return from exile, since the ideas of exile and death in the Jewish mind are interlocked. But technically, when this new revelation is being given to Daniel, the people have already gone home, although their full restoration has yet to be seen. So is Daniel 12 metaphorically about the coming restoration of God’s people, or about an actual bodily resurrection? I think both are in play. This isn’t the New Testament yet, so nobody is really talking about resurrection as we know it. The Old Testament hints at something like resurrection maybe a few times before Daniel. This passage goes further than others in the Old Testament; it’s hard to deny or explain away the element of bodily resurrection. Still, by the time of Jesus, not all the Jews are sold on it. The Pharisees believe in a resurrection, but the Sadducees do not.

A quick word about verses 5-12, which seem to break the flow a little. It prompts us to remember 8:13 when one angel asks the other how long the “transgression that makes desolate” will be. In scope is the last of the 70 weeks described in chapter 9, but now we have another “How long” question: “How long shall it be until the end of these wonders?” To summarize, it cryptically lays out two periods of 3½ years, before and after the people are essentially banned from worshiping. Interpreters struggle with making much sense of the differing numbers in verses 11-12, and I am happy to join them.

I’ve been suggesting how some of these prophecies have had a fulfillment in historical events moving up into the second century B.C. because I think it fits well, but hopefully I have also left the door open for you to envision other ways these patterns have been fulfilled, and even how they are yet to be fulfilled. Part of the joy of the book of Daniel is that it keeps inviting you to interpret. Sometimes it will hand you the interpretation, and sometimes you’ll have to chew on it. Making sense of the book of Daniel (and the rest of scripture) became an important pastime for God’s people, and it is no wonder why. It can provide us wisdom, encouragement, and hope while surviving in our Babylons, or enduring very tough times that never seem to end.

We are in a strange time in our world where I think all of us are asking every day, “How long is this mess going to keep going? When can things be back to normal?” It will probably take much longer than we had wanted or expected. And whether it is good or bad, we’ll probably never go back to what we thought of as normal. But the wise and faithful can enjoy the hope of a time of restoration and resurrection, in a kingdom that has no end, under the rulership of the true God who has finally set everything right.

Thank you so much for studying Daniel with me. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

-Jay Laurent

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Daniel 10-12

Tomorrow we will begin the book of Ezra (chapters 1-3) as we continue on our journey through God’s Word using the

Dragon at War

Revelation 12

Revelation 12 17 NIV fixed.png

If the story through Revelation wasn’t strange enough, it gets even stranger in chapter twelve. Here we see a cosmic woman giving birth to a child, who are then attacked by a great, fiery dragon, but then is ultimately defeated by an angel army… What in the world is going on now? Once again, it is important to read the Scriptures for yourself and to discuss with other Christian teachers around you in order to gain deeper insights into the text. Never assume that I know what I’m talking about, or anyone else for that matter; always question and look up the answers for yourself to see if what is being said is true.

 

I assume that these descriptions are further insights into the contents of the Scroll that was eaten in chapter ten; however, I am not 100% sure on that, but will be going ahead with that interpretation for this discussion. We do gain information about the cosmic battle that is happening around the person of Jesus at his death and resurrection, as Satan (depicted as a dragon) is at war with the angels of heaven during this time. Satan is unable to conquer the cosmic woman that produces Jesus (whoever/whatever that is), Jesus himself, or the angels; Satan doesn’t have as much power as we think he does.

 

Through frustration, Satan begins to attack the rest of the woman’s children, which are those who “hold to the testimony of Jesus”. In other words, since Satan can’t beat anyone else, he is going to attack the Christians next. We definitely experience this today still, as Satan hasn’t been fully destroyed, although he has already been defeated through the cross. We are weaker than Jesus and the angels, and are susceptible to sin; is there any hope of beating Satan, or are we as doomed as he is?

 

Perhaps the most practical verse for us in the whole letter of Revelation is found in this chapter. In 12:11, we are given a description about how Christians can conquer Satan. The description is three-fold; we are able to conquer Satan through the blood of Jesus, the preaching of the gospel, and not loving our lives. This should give us great hope and encouragement! We have the power to conquer Satan when he rears his ugly head, if we would only trust in these three things; the blood/sacrifice of Jesus for our sins, the power of our gospel preaching, and the power of looking beyond this life to the eternal life that God has promised us.

 

I encourage you today to spend some time meditating on these three questions: Do I trust that Jesus’ sacrifice was enough to pay for my sins? Am I faithfully spreading the good news to others around me? Am I truly looking forward to the life that God is bringing me in the future more than this life?

 

Talon Paul

At the Majesty’s Right Hand

Hebrews 1 3

Hebrews Chapter One

Hello all! Today we will be covering the first chapter of Hebrews.  For those of you who suffer from short-term memory loss or haven’t read the post yesterday, one of the main purposes of Hebrews was to reassure the Jewish Christians that Jesus is necessary.  We see this purpose played out in chapter one, as the author describes the importance and glory of Jesus in chapter one.

To start off the book and chapter, the author compares Jesus to the prophets of the Old Testament.  The Jews loved and adored the prophets of the Old Testament, and they viewed their words very sacredly.  Therefore, it makes total sense that the author would begin by comparing Jesus to the same prophets that the Jews love.  Not only does he compare Jesus to the prophets, but he raises Jesus above the prophets by saying he was “appointed the heir of all things.”  The prophets are crucial to both us and the Jews, but Jesus is even more important.  Jesus is described as being the “radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.”  That’s some pretty high praise.  This should begin to reassure the Jewish Christians of the importance and necessity of Jesus Christ.

The author doesn’t only compare and raise Jesus above the prophets, but he does it to the angels as well.  In verse 5, the author rhetorically asks “For to which of the angels did God ever say, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you’?”  The answer to that question is none of them.  No angel is God’s son.  This verse is detrimental to the Jehovah’s Witnesses because they hold the belief that Jesus is the archangel Michael.  We know though that Jesus is the Son of God.  Therefore, sorry Jehovah’s Witnesses, but no angel, including the archangel Michael, is God’s son.

We continue along in the chapter, and verse eight reads, “But of the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.”  Hold up.  Wait a minute.  Put a little SAY WHAT?!  The Church of God is so strong on the doctrine that God is one, and Jesus is the Son of God, not God the Son.  Do we have it wrong though?  Upon first look, it appears Jesus is God.  Let’s take a deeper look at this then.

First off first, this is quoted from Psalm 45.  Psalm 45 is about a king, not God.  This isn’t trying to dictate any sign of deity, rather a sign of authority.  For surely the Psalm writer of Psalm 45 wasn’t trying to give the king any form of deity.  Furthermore, verse nine states, “therefore God, your God, has anointed you.”  First, God doesn’t need anointed.  If Jesus were God, then he wouldn’t need to be anointed.  Second, the king in Psalm 45 that has the word “God” ascribed to him has a God.  God can’t have a God.  There is no higher being than God.  Jesus can’t be God and have a God.  Therefore, we can read verses eight and nine, as attributing authority to Jesus, not Jesus actually being God.

Another tidbit to point out, the ESV uses the phrase, “But of the Son he says,” in verse eight.  However, a more accurate interpretation of the Greek reads, “with respect to the Son.”  This is important in verses 10-12, as those verses aren’t talking about Jesus.  It is in respect to the Son, Jesus.  Verses 10-12 talk about the magnificence of YHWH.  The author of Hebrews does this because in verse thirteen, he quotes Psalm 110:1 (the most quoted Old Testament scripture in the New Testament).  By glorifying God in verses 10-12, the author is also glorifying Jesus because Jesus has the sole privilege of sitting at God’s right hand.  Jesus is sitting at the right hand of the Creator of the heavens and the earth!  That’s a huge privilege to have, and that privilege is held by Jesus and Jesus alone.

The final verse of Hebrews chapter one is quite possibly my favorite.  It reads, “Are they (the angels) not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?”  The angels are sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation.  Uh, hello!  That’s us!  We are the ones who are to inherit salvation.  The angels are sent out to minister to you!  Isn’t that awesome?!

The author of Hebrews reassured the Jewish Christians of the importance of Jesus.  The author also encouraged them by stating the angels are sent to minister to them!  Again, I hope this passage can impact you in the same manner that it would have for the Jewish Christians, “for the word of God is living and active,” (Just a teaser for Thursday’s reading).

I hope you all had a grand Sunday and have a great Monday!

In Christian love,

Kyle McClain

Fun fact of the day: the first four verses of Hebrews is one long sentence in Greek.  Wow!

 

The Boy who Changed – and Is Still Changing – the World

Luke 2

Luke 2 final

“Do not be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: today a savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David. This will be the sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a feeding trough.” Luke 2:10-12

 

Today, we are reading through Luke chapter 2 which contains one of the most popular accounts written in the Bible—which is the birth of the only begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ. Regardless of our religious affiliation or background, we are familiar with the story line. Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem to be registered under Caesar Augustus’s decree. While there, it comes time for Mary to give birth. Because there is no room in any inn, she must give birth in a stable.

 

For us, this narrative is important because it is the beginning of the story of a man who turned (and is still turning) the world upside down. We can skip forward and see how much of an impact Jesus had on so many, and we can also see how he works in our lives today.

 

But imagine being in the shoes of Mary, Joseph, and even the shepherds. They weren’t able to skip ahead, they had to live it out. For Mary and Joseph, they had to trust in God that he would see them through. They had to have strong enough faith that God would do what he said he would do. For the shepherds, imagine going from a normal day to having an angel tell you that the Son of God has been born. The Messiah is here! It is even written that they were terrified (Luke 2:9).

 

Why does this matter? I just think it’s important for us to realize that these heroes we read about in the Bible were more than just characters. They were real people. They didn’t get the luxury of knowing what was written on the next page. They had fears, and they weren’t perfect. They had to trust in God and his purpose. They had to believe that God was going to hold their hand through everything. Imagine the trust! Imagine the faith!

 

So as you read today, place yourself in their shoes. Because if we can understand what Mary and Joseph went through, maybe we can learn to emulate their faith in our own lives.

 

-Leslie Jones