God will use Daniel again to interpret a vision that Nebuchadnezzar’s son, Belshazzar, has. As next in line to the throne, the interpretation recorded in Daniel 5 ultimately spells Belshazzar’s downfall and the end of the kingdom of Babylon. It is overtaken by the Medes-Persians, the next stage in the succession of oppressive kingdoms in the Middle East according to the Neb’s statue image of the oppressors.
But during the first year of Belshazzar’s reign, Daniel receives his own dream, recorded in Daniel 7. He sees four great beasts coming from the sea. The sea symbolizes the people on earth. Each beast is different from the other. The four beasts come and go in succession, much like the statue of the Times of the Gentiles. The vision reveals a lion-like creature with eagle’s wings, a bear raised up on one side with three ribs in its mouth, a leopard with four wings of a bird and four heads, and then a fourth beast.
The only description given of the last beast is that it is “dreadful, terrible, and exceedingly strong, with huge iron teeth, devouring and breaking in pieces, and trampling the residue with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns.” As Daniel is looking at the ten horns, “there was another horn, a little one, coming up among them, before whom three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots. And there, in this horn, were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words.”
The Chronos Lesson: God the Creator put certain spiritual laws into motion in this earth. Much like the physical laws, they govern how things work on earth. One of these principles is the inherent power in God’s spoken word. He speaks, and the earth comes into being. He speaks, and the earth brings forth life. Jesus affirmed this principle when He taught His disciples how to pray, declaring that God’s will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Of course, it is our responsibility to ensure that we have God’s Word, as confirmed in the Scriptures, for what we are declaring.
As we’ve said before, God’s complete mystery-plan is contained in the Bible. The purpose of these Old Covenant prophetic records is to plant the seeds of His will in hidden form in the early Days, in order to bring forth the prophesied Seed under the New Covenant (the latter Days). Since we are living in the time when many of these prophetic shadows are being fulfilled or revealed, it is our responsibility as wise servants to search the Scriptures to find these pivotal prophetic pieces. Hopefully, by now, you know that we do this by following the Spirit-inspired connections already in the Word. That’s why we’re taking the time to go through His Word from start to finish in this series. It is time to see and understand God’s times and seasons.
In this case, we’re meant to connect the four beastly creatures to the similar description recorded in Revelation 13. We are not supposed to guess as to what John was seeing in the vision given by Jesus Christ. We’re supposed to know the Word and follow the connections by the leading of the Spirit, just as the foundational apostles did in the first century of the Church.
We’re meant to place the rise of the final Beast in the proper sequence, just before the last Day, the Day of the Lord. We’re meant to see that the Bride is already in Heaven with Christ to rule over the earth for that Day before the mark of the beast and the command to worship his image is imposed. We’re safely seated before the throne of God to execute His justice, for we’re not appointed to the wrath of that Day. We’re appointed to execute it.
Throughout the centuries believers have always had a part to play in God’s unfolding plan. For example, Hebrews 6 lists the elementary doctrines of our faith that were lost for a season and have had to be restored to the Church. The last doctrine to be restored is for our age—the surety of resurrection and judgment.
We are the generations that shall see the heavens being rolled back to reveal our Lord coming in the clouds. Our earthly assignment remains the same until that Day: to preach the Gospel, make disciples, and continue doing the works that Jesus did on the earth. This series is designed to spur you on to finish the race (Acts 20:24).
Perhaps emboldened by his first dream, Nebuchadnezzar erects a statute of himself in Babylon. It is roughly 80 feet high and 8 feet wide. Nothing small about this king’s ego! In fact, it is going to cast a long shadow all the way to the last book of the Bible.
As for now, it gives us a peek into the heart and spirit of the future Antichrist (as portrayed in the ten toes). The king orders all the leaders under him to come to the dedication of the impressive statue to his pride. Eerily, a heralding voice cries out to the distinguished guests: “To you it is commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, you shall fall down and worship the gold image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up; and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace” (Dan. 3:4-6).
You may have heard the news account of three of Daniel’s friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego (their Babylonian names) who refused to bow down. They were indeed thrown into the fiery furnace, only they were not burned. When they were released, they didn’t even smell like smoke! As for the men who threw them into the hot spot, they saw a fourth man in there as well—one like the Son of God—the One who delivers His faithful ones from the enemy’s plans. And then the flames engulfed the men who had the unfortunate task of doing the king’s bidding.
Apparently, the king was reminded once again of God’s place as the Most High. At least for the time being. That is, until his next dream (see Daniel 4). And once again, Daniel is called in to interpret the strange scenario. This time the king is likened to a great tree spreading out in many directions. But then, just as the tree is thriving, a “watcher” orders it to be chopped down, leaving a stump that is left abandoned in the wilderness for seven times (seasons).
Daniel explains that the tree is Nebuchadnezzar. The king’s own leadership shall cut him off, but will restore him as the king after seven years. Twelve months after this second dream, the king is walking about the royal palace of Babylon and is heard to say, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?” Even as the words are coming out of his mouth, the king hears a voice from Heaven: “King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: the kingdom has departed from you!” Apparently, so did his senses.
He is promptly banished to the wilderness. After languishing there for seven years, feeding on the grasses like a mere ox, Nebuchadnezzar comes to his senses and is restored to the throne, just as the prophetic dream revealed. His word to the wise who would follow in his footsteps: “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of Heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down.”
The Chronos Lesson: Clearly, Nebuchadnezzar had not heeded God’s wisdom recorded in Proverbs 16:18. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” It’s the essence of the fallen nature. The apostle John stated it this way: “For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world” (1 John 2:16). It is the way of the world.
Even though we still exist in this world, the New Testament writers remind us often to deliberately walk according to our identity in Christ, and to make no provisions for the pride-filled lusts of the flesh (see Romans 13:14 for one example). It’s easy to get sucked in, which is why we must consciously guard our heart and mind.
You may be wondering why we’re spending so much time with Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel. The king, who heads up the statue marking the Times of the Gentiles, foreshadows the final manifestation of this prideful spirit that thinks it can change the times and seasons in God’s plan. He gives us a glimpse into the nature of the future Antichrist.
The final “king” won’t fare any better than Nebuchadnezzar, however. He, too, shall be allowed to rise up as a weapon of God’s indignation against the apostate Jewish nation. It is part of the plan that will not only restore the Davidic kingdom in Israel, it will also ultimately bring an end to evil and Satan’s counterfeit mountain kingdom. Thankfully, we now know that this imposter shall be crushed to dust by the Stone not forged by human hands.
As for Daniel, God will continue to use His faithful servant to prophetically release God’s will on the earth. Stay tuned.
Before the interpretation of King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream is revealed, it’s worth noting that the king didn’t even tell any of the would-be interpreters what he dreamed. In his mind, if they are so wise, then they should be able to discern what he dreamed without him having to tell them! No wonder they all cowered into the shadows. Only the all-knowing Most High God can accomplish that feat, and He uses a mere teenager to drive home His point (see Daniel 2).
In summary, the dream takes the form of a statue of a man. The form is comprised of different materials starting at the top with a golden head, the upper torso and arms of silver, the lower torso of brass, the two legs as iron, and the feet and ten toes as clay and iron.
Daniel explains that the form reveals a series of empires that shall rule the Middle Eastern region, starting with the then current reigning king of Babylon. He shall be overtaken by the Medes-Persians, who shall be conquered by the Greeks, who shall be overtaken by the Romans. That empire shall break apart into the Holy Roman Empire (to the west) and into a series of Islamic empires (to the east). Finally, at the end, there shall be one final manifestation of this Antichrist spirit ruling the earthly nations as a coalition of ten horns.
Daniel explains that it is God who has established Nebuchadnezzar as the head, the king of these kings, for now. Each successive empire shall be inferior to the previous one, despite their apparent success. “As you saw iron mixed with ceramic clay, they will mingle with the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay. And in the days of these kings the God of Heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever” (verses 43-44). Perhaps because of the affirmation as to his own rule, the king is pleased with this peek into the future, and promotes Daniel and his Jewish buddies.
So let’s take a moment to see what these successive empires had in common. First, we can assume that like the current king, they all are given power because God Almighty is the One who raises them up and takes them done. They are allowed to rule for the sole reason of accomplishing God’s purposes and plan. Second, they all occupied the greater Middle Eastern region, what is often called the Fertile Crescent. Third, they all opposed and oppressed the Jewish nation.
Despite how great each empire thinks it is, there is a greater one to come. “Inasmuch as you saw that the Stone was cut out of the Mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold—the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure.”
The Chronos Lesson: Nebuchadnezzar’s dreamy statue portrays what has become known as the Time of the Gentiles. When Israel rejected their calling as the godly role model on the earth, God gave them over to their own pride. Paul summarized this in Romans 1:16-19. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek [Gentiles]. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’ For the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.”
In short, the prideful rebellious ones have no excuses, just as Adam and Eve had none, and the ungodly rulers of our time have none. When God uses the ungodly nations—as weapons of His indignation—to give the people what they chose, they have no basis to complain. Later in the same chapter, that principle holds true for our own time. “Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever” (Rom. 1:24).
In case you’re wondering, the Times of the Gentiles are not over yet. We’re down to the feet. Within this decade, we shall see the final ten-toed coalition rise up under the leadership of what Revelation 13:1 reveals as “the Beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name.” Stay tuned, because Daniel is going to give us more insight on this matter.
So far we’ve covered the back-story from Genesis to the Judges. We’ve breezed over the ignoble and tedious details of Israel’s history under the kings. As always, choices have consequences. In this case, those choices have brought about a divided kingdom now vulnerable to the ungodly nations-turned-empires in the region.
It is at this point that His-story shifts gears to present God’s plan as spoken forth by His prophets—both “major” and “minor.” Here we find the mystery-plan buried within the present details of the Israelites’ troubles. The prophetic puzzle pieces lay scattered within, offering hope in the midst of their hopelessness. It is not unusual for a prophecy to have an immediate application in their time as well as a future application. It is like looking at a mountain peak, climbing to the top, only to find another peak behind it off in the distance.
One such prophetic book opens with a captivating scene—literally. In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the articles of the house of God, which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the articles into the treasure house of his god” (Daniel 1:1-2). Yes, you read that correctly, God gave the king of Judah into the Babylonian king’s hand. This is what Isaiah 13:5 calls the weapons of the Lord’s indignation (righteous anger). God removes His hand of protection and justly allows the consequences of the people’s decision to live their own rebellious way, for they have rejected His ways. Such a situation is not God’s perfect will, yet it is His permissive will.
The king instructs one of his underlings to “bring some of the children of Israel and some of the king’s descendants and some of the nobles” to Babylon to serve in the king’s palace. Talk about a slap in the face to the conquered Jewish leaders! The Babylonian king wants only the best of them, those who are “good-looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand.” He intends to enlighten Israel’s best and brightest. Instead, they will turn the tables on the king, but not in a way you might expect. They will do so by serving with excellence while staying true to the truths of the Most High God.
First up, a young lad called Daniel. He has “purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself” within the king’s palace. We soon learn in Daniel 2 that the king is prone to dreams. Sadly for the king, he doesn’t have the wisdom to know how to interpret them. Nor do his personal wise men. We get a glimpse of the king’s stupidity when in his outrage he gives the command to destroy all the wise men of Babylon because of their failure. His servants decide to include Daniel and his Jewish companions, too.
Daniel immediately goes to God for wisdom and the interpretation of the dream. Before rushing off to stop the rampage, Daniel gives thanks to God. “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, for wisdom and might are His. And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. He reveals deep and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with Him.” (Dan. 2:20-22).
The Chronos Lesson: Tucked in this prayer of thanksgiving, we see the hubris of those who have bowed down to the spirit of the Antichrist. Only God the Creator can determine the chronos times and the kairos seasons. Only God removes leaders and raises up leaders, despite what royalty and politicians may think. In times of uncertainty, in the face of lawlessness, He alone gives wisdom. He alone brings revelation and understanding to those who trust in His Word. For everything we need to operate as His ambassadors on this earth is already in His specific revelation that we call the Bible.
Anyone who tells you they have received further revelation or who declares that the fullness of God’s mystery-plan has already been fulfilled needs to read the warning recorded in Revelation 22:18-19. “For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”
We get déjà vu all over again when Solomon’s reign also experiences unrest. When one of his servants, Jeroboam, is running an errand for the king, the prophet Ahijah informs the servant that God told the prophet that He was going to give the servant authority over ten of the twelve tribes of Israel. Mind you, the various half-siblings have quarreled and even fought one another over the years. Not surprisingly, when Solomon learns of the prophecy, he decides to get rid of Jeroboam, who flees to Egypt.
Solomon dies and his son, Rehoboam, takes over the throne. Jeroboam returns from Egypt, leading an envoy set on requesting a lighter tax burden. King Rehoboam consults the elders who had served his father as to how to respond. They advise him to be reasonable, for his father had taxed the people heavily to pay for the expansion of the kingdom. Then the king turns to asks “the young men who had grown up with him.” They advised him to reject the request and punish the people further instead. In essence, don’t serve the people, make yourself even greater than your father.
Not surprisingly, the king goes along with his young buddies, and their counsel backfires. The ten northern tribes reject Rehoboam and David’s dynasty, thereby fulfilling Ahijah’s prophecy. Only Judah and Benjamin, the two southern tribes, remained loyal. The kingdom divided in 931 BC. It was now vulnerable. Of course, the decisions of mere humans does not change God’s promise to David. More on that later.
With Egypt’s power declining, the Assyrians of northern Mesopotamia take advantage of the leadership vacuum. Assyria, located in what is now northern Iraq and southeastern Turkey, becomes the next empire in the line of Gentile oppressors of Israel. They conquer the northern kingdom in 722 BC. As for the southern kingdom of Judah, they are conquered by the Babylonians in 605 BC. In both cases, God’s people are taken into captivity.
Why did God allow this? The sad refrain is repeated throughout the books of the prophets: “because they have forsaken Me.” The prophet Jeremiah delivers one such rebuke (Jer. 1:16). “I will utter My judgments against them concerning all their wickedness, because they have forsaken Me, burned incense to other gods, and worshiped the works of their own hands.”
It’s worth noting here that Assyria decided to resettle some of their people in the newly- conquered land, just north of Jerusalem. The center of this new populace is Samaria. Not surprisingly, the Assyrians bring their own gods with them. More on this later, too.
The Chronos Lesson: Despite this righteous judgment, Isaiah 54:7 records God’s merciful promise: “For a mere moment I have forsaken you, but with great mercies I will gather you.” Over and over the prophets echo that theme. Jeremiah 29:11 adds: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” In Lamentations 3:22-23, Jeremiah adds, “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”
The groundwork for God’s unfolding plan is given in Isaiah 9:6-7. “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase [greatness] of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.”
The prophet Ezekiel describes what the coming of the Prince of Peace will bring. “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone [hardened, rebellious heart] and give you a heart of flesh [softened heart]” (Ezek. 36:26). As always, God’s people always have a choice. Will they receive the Son given to bring salvation to the world?
Solomon, David’s son by way of Bathsheba (not his first wife), came to the throne under less than ideal circumstances. As David lay dying, his fourth-born son Adonijah, decided to establish himself as the new king. The number 4 in Scripture symbolizes the earth. Coincidence? While Adonijah is celebrating—without the consent of Nathan the prophet and the priests, let alone his father—a counter plot is hatched to ensure that Solomon is anointed king as David had promised his mother. As you might expect, there was a lot of palace intrigue and deceit, which ended up with Adonijah losing his head—literally.
As we read about Solomon in 1 Kings and 1 Chronicles, we get a mixed picture. A highpoint is recorded in I Kings 3:4-14, when God appears to the new king in a dream and asks him what He should give him. Solomon asks for wisdom, which pleases God because it comes from the humble heart of a servant king. God gives Solomon much wisdom as requested, with a healthy heaping of wealth and blessings.
So what’s the problem? We get the first hint in the first verse of 1 Kings. We learn that Solomon has made a treaty with Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, to marry his daughter. The Egyptians worship other gods. Marrying a heathen is forbidden by the Law. Plus, she is one of many wives, another habit picked up from the ungodly people groups in the region. He brings his new wife to the City of David (Jerusalem), where he is busy building the Temple according to David’s plans. Since the Temple isn’t ready yet, the people take it upon themselves to sacrifice “at the high places.” Verse 3 is telling: “And Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of his father David, except that he sacrificed and burned incense at the high places.”
The majority of these high places in the land were pagan altars that had not been destroyed as God had instructed. Even though the Temple was not yet built, we can assume that the tent that David had established to house the Ark of the Covenant was still available. Going to the high places was another example of “blending in” with the ungodly peoples around them.
Although Solomon was world-renowned for his wisdom and prosperity, we get a glimpse of his divided heart in the book of Ecclesiastes. It opens with a hopeless lament: “The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. ‘Vanity of vanities,’ says the Preacher; ‘vanity of vanities, all is vanity.’ What profit has a man from all his labor in which he toils under the sun?
One generation passes away, and another generation comes; but the earth abides forever.”
Later in the first chapter, Solomon hits the nail on the head. “That which has been is what will be, that which is done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which it may be said, ‘See, this is new’? It has already been in ancient times before us. There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of things that are to come by those who will come after.”
It is the age-old story of each new generation thinking that they are the enlightened ones who will finally get it right, only to find their “progress” falls short as well. We could call this the Lament of the Fallen Nature. But those who sing it would probably balk at that title, for they don’t see how they have fallen prey to the Deceiver. They have eyes that do not see.
The chapter finally closes with Solomon’s admission of his ambition. “I communed with my heart, saying, ‘Look, I have attained greatness, and have gained more wisdom than all who were before me in Jerusalem. My heart has understood great wisdom and knowledge.’ And I set my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is grasping for the wind.”
It’s a telling admission of what happens when we compromise with the world and have a divided heart.
That’s the sad part of Solomon’s journey. The good part is recorded in the following book known as the Song of Solomon. Just as the historical saga of Esther foreshadows the heavenly calling of the Church, this book foreshadows the love relationship of Jesus Christ the Groom and His Church, the Bride. We even get a sneak peak of the rapture when Solomon’s girl is whisked away in a chariot to meet her Beloved.
The Chronos Lesson: Much of the book of Proverbs is a collection of the godly wisdom Solomon gained along the way. The theme is found in Prov. 4:7. “Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding.” Later in verse 23 Solomon gives us the key to getting wisdom and understanding. “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Prov. 4:23, NIV).
He isn’t talking about your physical heart, but your inner being. It includes your spirit, which is your core being—the real you. And it includes your soul—your mind and thoughts, your emotions, and your will. If you are born again, your spirit has been made new. But not your soul—not yet, anyways. That happens when we are raptured and changed in a twinkling of an eye. For now, we are told to renew our minds (soul) with the truths of God’s Word.
That is what Solomon meant when He said to guard your heart. Other translations say to keep your heart. The reason this is so important is because what you store in your inner heart determines your outer life experiences. The word “keep” means to protect and maintain your heart in union with what is true in your spirit. The heart is designed to obey your spirit, but the heart can be subtly deceived and besieged because it is not yet made new.
The New Covenant equivalent is found in Phil. 4:4-9. Paul is speaking to believers surrounded by an ungodly society. Keeping your heart set on the Word staves off anxiety and panic attacks. It keeps us settled so that we are not rattled by what we see in the world. It releases joy because we know who wins in the end, and that we get to play a part in that victory. The key to this keeping and guarding is what occupies our thoughts and imagination. For as Solomon learned: what you focus on determines how your life goes.
In our tech-heavy culture, there are many, many ways to be distracted. So it is especially crucial that we guard our hearts. It’s the same wise advise that Jesus offered when He taught us to be watchful regarding the Day of His coming.
So let’s encourage one another as Paul encouraged the Church at Colossae: “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving” (Col. 26-7). We have one major advantage that Solomon did not have. We have the Holy Spirit within us to empower us to do this very thing! We don’t have to settle for the vanities of hopelessness.