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Daniel 11:2-12:4: A Vision of Shame and A Vision of Life Print E-mail
Sunday, 18 November 2012
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The point of debate concerning the vision recorded for us in Daniel 11 is whether this is history or prophecy. Many believe that there is no way for a person writing in the sixth century to be able to write with such accuracy about the future. Thus, they view this passage as being composed in the second century, seeing it only as a retelling of history. Yet, such an approach does not seem to fit well with our beliefs about the Bible. The passage is written as prophecy and should be taken as such. God knows the future, even in detail, and revealed it to Daniel in this vision. Thus, I take this chapter as prophecy.

Such belief is amazing since the vision is so specific.  As we said last week, Daniel has been praying during the days of Cyrus, king of Persia, and an angel is sent to give him a vision about the future.  The actual vision is recorded in 11:2-12:4.  What is amazing is that the vision covers almost 400 years (530-160 BC) and is accurate and detailed.  Let me demonstrate.

The vision can be broken into five sections (v. 2-4, 5-20, 21-35, 36-45, and 12:1-4).  The first few verses (v. 2-4) covers around 200 years and tells of the end of the Persians and the coming of Alexander the Great.  It notes again that Alexanderís kingdom will be divided into four kingdoms. 

Then, beginning in verse 5, the vision tells us about the battles that take place between two of those kingdoms, the north and the south.  The north kingdom is that of Syria (Seleucid kings) and the south kingdom is Egypt (Ptolemaic kings).  These kings battled against each other for years and Daniel records some specifics.  For example in verse 6 he speaks of a daughter of the king of Egypt being wed to a king of the north.  History identifies this as the marriage between Berenice and Antiochus II, which as the vision describes, does not in fact unite the two kingdoms.  Finally, after years of battle that repeatedly involved the people of the glorious land (Israel), one of the kings of the North (Antiochus III, or Antiochus the Great) will gain power for a season.  He too tries to bring the kingdoms together through marriage by giving his daughter, Cleopatra, to Ptolemy V, which again fails (v. 17).  Yet, as we have seen repeatedly, his power will only last for a time.  His immediate replacement (Seleucus IV) will be choked by debt and will not hold power long (v. 20).

The third section begins in verse 21 and once again (see ch. 8) tells us about the reign of Antiochus IV (175-63 BC), who is called a contemptible person.  His history is recorded in verses 21-35.  We are told of his two attempts to once again claim power over the kingdom of the south and the failure of both attempts.  After the second attempt is foiled by the Romans, he returns and begins his severe persecution of the Jews (v. 30-35), who rebelled against his rule when they thought he was killed in Egypt.  He prevents them from sacrificing and actually sets up an altar to Zeus in the Temple in Jerusalem, which is what Daniel calls the abomination that makes desolate.  Some of the Jews remain faithful to the Lord under his rule.  They are the people who know their God and who shall stand firm and take action, which is probably a reference to the Hasidim party or possibly the Maccabean resistance.

The fourth section deals further with Antiochus IV, but also seems to be talking about an even greater enemy of God.  Thus, some commentators see this as a reference to the antichrist.  It is another example of where a prophecy has an immediate fulfillment (Antiochus IV) that points to a greater fulfillment (antichrist).  Yet, even this greater enemy will ultimately be defeated by God, which is how this section of the vision concludes in verse 45.

The final section is found in 12:1-4.  It speaks of Michaelís appearance at the end of time to continue to fight for Godís people during a final season of difficulty.  Yet, the vision concludes with the most obvious teaching in the Old Testament concerning the resurrection of the dead.  Some will be raised to shame, following the rulers and princes of this evil age, while others, Godís people, will be raised to eternal life.  Daniel is then told to seal this vision to preserve its truth until the time of the end.

So we see in this vision the incredible amount of specific detail (and we did not even comment on all of it).  What can we learn from such a vision?

First, we learn that God is sovereign over the details

When we looked at chapters 7-8 of Daniel, we noted the fact that God is sovereign over the big and the small.  He does not just have an overarching plan for history that He lets work itself out.  No, He has control over every king and every kingdom and every individual.  He is sovereign over Alexander the Great and Antiochus the Great.  He is sovereign over battles and wars and peace and marriage.  Again, the details of this vision are amazing.  It is clear that everything is working according to its time appointed.  Look at verses 27, 29, and 35.  All of this might seem like random historical events, but that is not the case.  God is orchestrating history for His intended goal: the redemption of a people for their good and His glory. 

Such truth is meant to encourage us greatly.  Daniel was facing difficult times even at the end of his life.  He wondered how the history of Godís people would play out.  God does not tell him everything, but He does make it clear that He is in complete control over all.  Daniel can rest in the fact that God has a plan and the power and knowledge to carry out that plan.  No matter how grim things might appear, God is always bringing His plans to fruition. 

One of my commentators writes: ďGod is in control in spite of present circumstances.  In sixth-century Babylon it looked to the godly as if Babylon and then Persian were in control.  But they werenít.  In second-century Palestine it looked as if Antiochus Epiphanes (IV) was in control, but he wasnít.  In the first century of Jesus and Paul, it looked as if Rome was in control, but it wasnít.  To Christians living two thousand years after Jesus, it may look as if Satan is in control, but he isnít.  God is in control, and because of that we can have boundless joy and optimism in the midst of our struggles.Ē 1  God is in control and we can trust Him to bring His plans to pass.  This does not mean that we are not responsible to believe and obey Him.  Rather, the truth of His sovereignty over all things should encourage our faith and obedience.

Second, we learn that God will preserve His people

The people of Israel had faced a dark time during the life of Daniel.  They had spent seventy years in Exile.  Yet, Daniel is repeatedly shown in his visions that things will only get worse.  Terrible rulers will have power over Godís people.  They will persecute them and punish them.  Some shall stumble by sword and flame, by captivity and plunder (v. 33).  Yet, His people will remain faithful during these dark days and God will see them through.  They will stand firm and take action precisely because they are people who know their God.  And in the end, God will defeat all of their enemies.  He will defeat the kings and the rulers, the proud and the arrogant.  His people may suffer, but they will have victory in the end, which leads us to our last lesson.

Third, we learn that God will deliver His people to everlasting life

After the final battle is fought, after the final blood is spilled, God will deliver His people.  Look at 12:1b.  Deliverance will come.  What will this look like?  We are told in verses 2-3.  Look at those with me.  Such deliverance will be found in the life to come.  This passage teaches and the New Testament repeats the truth that there is coming a Day when God will raise all the dead.  We will all stand before His judgment seat.  To those who have turned from their sins and believed in Him, who have trusted Him and obeyed Him, to those will be given everlasting life.  All the others will be given everlasting shame and everlasting contempt.  This is what will happen when Godís Kingdom comes in all of its fullness.  All of the kingdoms mentioned in Daniel (Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome) will meet their end.  But Godís Kingdom will last forever.  His Kingdom is everlasting.

How will all of this work out?  I mean, how will Godís Kingdom come?  How will He deliver His people even from death?  The ultimate answer is found in the pages of the New Testament.  God promised a King who would reign forever, a King born in the line of Abraham and David.  He promised atonement for sin and victory over death.  All of these promises are fulfilled by the coming of Jesus Christ, our Savior.  He was born in the line of David.  He lived a perfect life and died on the cross for our sins.  He was raised from the dead, demonstrating that He has power even over death itself.  He ushered in the Kingdom of God.  And He told us that all who turn from their sins and trust in Him could be a part of that Kingdom.

Thus, even now, we are living in Godís plan.  Just as He planned out the sixth-century through the second-century, He has planned out today.  He gave Daniel glimpses of what He was going to do for His people.  Yet, for us, those glimpses have turned into reality in the person and work of Christ.  So then, let me ask you frankly: will you be raised to eternal life or eternal shame?  Are you a part of the kingdoms of this earth or are you a part of the Kingdom of God.  Only one will last.  If you are here this morning and you have never trusted in Christ as your Savior and King, then I plead with you to do that today.  The only major event remaining in Godís plan for history is the return of Christ and that could happen before I finish this sentence. 

Are you ready for the coming King?  If you are, if you have turned from your sins and trusted in Christ, then I challenge you to consider this vision and be encouraged.  God is in control of everything that is happening.  He is preserving and will continue to preserve His people, all of those who have trusted in Christ.  And He will give us victory over the grave.  Not because we deserve it, but because He is the Sovereign Lord of history and has chosen to lavish His love upon His people.  Remember that you belong to the people who know their God.  So then, like Daniel, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, like all the saints who have gone before us, may we be a people who stand firm and take action.  May we confidently spend our lives on the glory of the One who knew our days even before we drew a breath because He has planned, no matter what we face on this earth, to deliver us to everlasting life.  Amen.

1 Tremper Longman III, Daniel NIVAC (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing, 1999), p. 299.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Monday, 26 November 2012 )

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