Be Brave: When the Future Seems Dark

Dr. Jon Morrissette - 11/3/2019

There are quite a few passages in the Bible that are hard to understand. The final chapters of Daniel definitely qualify as difficult texts! Through the years there are a lot of things I’ve picked up that have helped me understand the Bible.

For example, did you know the Bible is actually a collection of 66 books? More than that, each book is written in a certain “genre/type” of literature. Some books of the Bible are LAW, some are HISTORY, and some are WISDOM/POETRY. There are books of PROPHECY, books of GOSPEL/ANNOUNCMENT, there are LETTERS. Daniel is a mixture of HISTORY and PROPHECY.

This morning we are in Daniel 8. And Daniel 8:1-2 says, “In the third year of King Belshazzar’s reign, a vision appeared to me, Daniel, after the one that had appeared to me earlier. I saw the vision, and as I watched, I was in the fortress city of Susa, in the province of Elam. I saw in the vision that I was beside the Ulai Canal.” If you are a historian, you can pinpoint the exact places, the exact times and timelines, of everything mentioned in Daniel. The events in Scripture happened in real time, space, and history. This isn’t true of most belief systems, or most religious myths/legends. The Bible is as reliable a guide to true history as any book. Only those with a hostile, godless agenda would disagree.

But Daniel is also PROPHECY. The first part contains Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams. The last part (Daniel 7-12) contains Daniel’s visions and dreams. God is showing these men visions of the future, he is showing them how history is going to unfold, including their own kings/kingdoms.

This will really help you: When God shows things to Nebuchadnezzar (who is a secular king), he reveals truth using physical/material elements. Remember the statue from Nebuchardnezzars dream in Daniel 2:32-33? “The head of the statue was pure gold, its chest and arms were silver, its stomach and thighs were bronze, its legs were iron, and its feet were partly iron and partly fired clay.” Each physical/material part of the statue represents a different successive kingdom. Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon Kingdom was pure gold. Then would come the Medo-Persian, then Grecian, then Roman Empire, and finally the Kingdom of God would fall like a rock and overcome and prevail over all the world’s kingdoms. Jesus taught irreligious people using similar physical/ material elements as object lessons: Soil. Seeds. Rocks. Weeds. Thorns. Bread. Water.

Now when God shows things to Daniel (who is a spiritual man), he reveals truth using spiritually loaded imagery. Remember the Beasts from last week, Daniel 7? There is the Lion with Eagle-like features, the Bear, the Leopard, the Iron-toothed Mechwarrior beast,… and then comes the Little Horn making arrogant boasts. The imagery between Nebuchadnezzars/Daniels visions shift, but the content is exactly parallel, God is talking about the same kings/kingdoms, and how/why they’ll fade.

In Daniel 7 and 8, Daniel recounts two different dreams. But the content of Daniel 2, Daniel 7, and Daniel 8 is parallel. There is no historical/ theological contradiction between all these dreams. You can kind of think of these visions like a telescope. God starts broadly in Daniel 2 showing the Physical/Material elements of these might kings/kingdoms. But then in Daniel 7, we zoom into the beastly spiritual makeup/nature of these kingdoms. Daniel is terrified by what he sees. But then in Daniel 8, we zoom deeper still, and look specifically at the Grecian Empire, and how it’s transpires. In Daniel 9-10-11-12 we zoom in still more!

Again notice: There isn’t any contradiction between visions, in fact what we have is progressive, ever-deepening revelation. God doesn’t just dump the whole enchilada on Daniel at one time… he progressively reveals truth with every deepening detail.

When I go on a trip, I can trust my GPS in two different ways. I can plug a specific address into my GPS, put the car in drive, and it will give turn by turn instructions. Some of you like to read your Bible and live your Christian life that way. Your attitude is “just tell me what to do next… what’s my next choice… my next decision… tell me how to live best life now!”

But another way you can use your GPS is yes, plug in your destination. But then before you put your card in drive, you zoom out—to county level, state level, national level. Having that grander perspective is just as important, if not more important. A month ago, I drove down to South Carolina for a conference. I was lazy. I plugged my destination into google maps without looking at the big picture. When I got down to Tennessee, google maps froze and stopped working. When I got down to Atlanta, the same thing happened. Needless to say, I added a ton of unnecessary miles to my trip because I didn’t first stop and understand that grander picture. When it comes to spiritual matters, we need both that sweeping panoramic view, but then detail turn by turn view. That is how not just Daniel, but the Old Testament then New Testament then even book of Revelation unfolds. Its progressive revelation. God’s ultimate purpose/plan comes into ever clearer focus/view.

More specifically, the book of Daniel isn’t just historical/prophetic in genre. It’s also apocalyptic. What’s really difficult about Apocalyptic literature is that (#1) it employs the most esoteric, spiritual language of all, (#2) it expresses a rather negative/pessimistic view of present things. As human beings, we don’t like negative, depressive, pessimistic truths. We like to sugar coat the truth. (3#) Apocalyptic literature treats final (end-time) events as imminent. Apocalyptic literature blurs the line between the NOW and NOT YET. **So when you read parts of Daniel | Jesus teaching on the signs of the times in Mt. 24| man lawlessness in 2 Thess 2 | Peter’s writing in 2 Peter | Johns’ writing about anti-christ in 1 John/Revelation… you’re going to be scratching your head. The exact timeline is obscure, and its heavily debated by good Christian people.

I want to tell you about my philosophy of preaching Apocalyptic literature. There is a reason God obscures the “now” and “not yet.” If God wanted us to figure out the exact date/time of something he would have given us the exact date/time. But even Jesus says, “It’s not for the Son of Man to know the exact day/time.” As a preacher I am not going to throw away my credibility by going beyond Scripture. God uses Apocalyptic literature because he wants us to live lives of readiness at all times. He does it because he wants us to live in the present as if his future judgement were imminent and the Son of Man could come on the clouds at any second. In every age Christian’s have interpreted the signs of the times as fitting their own generation… but generations have come/gone. We have to have humility to not over-interpret, and go further than Scripture, or go further than even Christ himself went, in talking about final matters.

Daniel 8:3-4, “I looked up, and there was a ram standing beside the canal. He had two horns. The two horns were long, but one was longer than the other, and the longer one came up last. I saw the ram charging to the west, the north, and the south. No animal could stand against him, and there was no rescue from his power. He did whatever he wanted and became great.” This Ram is the Medo-Persian Empire. The Ram in the Daniel 8 vision is the Beastly-Bear in the Daniel 7 vision… and it’s the Breast of Silver in Nebuchadnezzar Daniel 2 vision!

Daniel 8:5-8, “As I was observing, a male goat appeared, coming from the west across the surface of the entire earth without touching the ground. The goat had a conspicuous horn between his eyes. 6 He came toward the two-horned ram I had seen standing beside the canal and rushed at him with savage fury. 7 I saw him approaching the ram, and infuriated with him, he struck the ram, breaking his two horns, and the ram was not strong enough to stand against him. The goat threw him to the ground and trampled him, and there was no one to rescue the ram from his power. 8 Then the male goat acted even more arrogantly, but when he became powerful, the large horn was broken. Four conspicuous horns came up in its place, pointing toward the four winds of heaven.” The Goat is the Grecian Empire under Alexander the Great. The Goat in this Daniel 8 vision is the Beastly Panther in the Daniel 7 Vision… and it’s the thigh of Brass in Nebuchadnezzar Daniel 2 Vision!

Did you know that Alexander the Great become greatly depressed and grieved and he wept when he realized there were no more kingdoms to conquer? Legend has it that when Alexander the Great died, he called his generals to his side and said, “I will depart from this world soon, I have three wishes, please carry them out without fail. 1) "My first desire is that My physicians alone must carry my coffin."

2) "Secondly, I desire that the path leading to my grave be strewn with gold, silver and precious stones which I have collected in my treasury".

3) "My third and last wish is that both my hands be kept dangling out my coffin.”

The generals inquired about Alexander’s strange wishes and pressed him. At this Alexander took a deep breath and said: "I would like the world to know of the three lessons I have just learnt... (1) I want my physicians to carry my coffin because people should realize that no doctor on this earth can really cure anybody. They are powerless and cannot save a person from the clutches of death. So, let not people take life for granted.

(2) The second wish of strewing gold, silver and other riches on the path to the graveyard is to tell people that not even a fraction of gold will come with me. I spent all my life earning riches but cannot take anything with me. Let people realize that it is a sheer waste of time to chase wealth.

(3) About my third wish of having my hands dangling out of the coffin, I wish people to know that I came empty handed into this world and empty handed I go out of this world". With these words, the king closed his eyes. Soon he let death conquer him and breathed his last.

In Daniel 8, God first tells Daniel (and later history confirmed) that Alexander’s Kingdom would be broken into four kingdoms. This is the meaning Daniel 8:8, “The large horn (once arrogant/powerful) was broken… Four conspicuous horns came up in its place, pointing toward the four winds of heaven.”

Daniel 8:9-10, “From one of them (the four horns) a little horn emerged and grew extensively toward the south and the east and toward the beautiful land [the Beautiful land is ISRAEL/PROMISED LAND]. 10 It grew as high as the heavenly army, made some of the army and some of the stars[d] fall to the earth, and trampled them.”

Guess what? The Little Horn of Daniel 8 is the same Little Horn of Daniel 7. God didn’t reveal anything about the Little Horn to Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 2 because Nebuchadnezzar was a secular king and had no connection to Israel. But now God is showing Daniel what is to happen to his beautiful homeland, his beloved nation Israel, his beloved city Jerusalem, his beloved sanctuary the Temple, his beloved Holy Ones… One of the successors of Alexander the Great (a small horn) would rise up and terrorize God’s people!

Daniel 8:11-12, “[The Little Horn] acted arrogantly even against the Prince of the heavenly army; it revoked his regular sacrifice and overthrew the place of his sanctuary. 12 In the rebellion, the army was given up, together with the regular sacrifice. The horn threw truth to the ground and was successful in what it did.” For contemporaries of Daniel, the Little Horn was Antiochus Epiphanes, he is the four ruler (horn) who emerged after Alexander the Great. I gave a snapshot of his terror last week. You can google him and read about the horrors he afflicted on God’s people, and how the Maccabeans revolted, and rose up to drive him from Jerusalem.

God identifies three waves of “Satanic” attack the Little Horn would engage in. Whether you are talking about an Antiochus Epiphanes, or some later anti-Christ, or man of Lawlessness, of Abomination that causes Desolation… these three things are always true of Satanic leaders, Satanic influence, Satanic power…

First, He would “revoke regular sacrifices”. He outlawed the Jews from offering any sacrifices for their sin. He repurposed their altar to worship secular idols. Second, he overthrew their place of worship. He destroyed their place of gathering. Third, he threw truth to the ground. We can look in history and identify these satanic influencers—but this Apocryphal literature—and what Daniels really inviting us to do (as Jesus, Apostles Peter, Paul, John) is be alert/watchful for the very same in present age.

It’s an amazing time that we live in. But in every age, there are evil leaders (there are evil ideologies) whose very mission is to suppress the name of Jesus, destroy places of worship, and destroy the words of God. One of the most recent, and tangible embodiments of satanic activity was ISIS and the Leader of ISIS. They dressed up in orange and beheaded anyone who professed Christ. They destroyed every church structure they encountered. They burned Scriptures and deemed only their radical brand of interpretation of the Koran to be God’s Word.

If you lived in North Korea, if you lived in China, you’d see the personification of the little horn in your emperor. In China, they just dismantled one of the largest Christian churches and arrested its pastors. Russia has closed itself to missionaries.

Hostility against Christianity manifests itself in the United States. (1) A new totalitarianism has emerged on university campuses that in the name of tolerance violently resists/bars any mention of Christ, or expression of a rival belief/ideology.

(2) Pastors report in many places how various laws, city ordinances, building codes, parking codes are weaponized by hostile leaders to prevent Christian people from gathering. You can’t have a small group of 15 people it violates our neighborhood association. You can build that building unless you spend 1 million on infrastructural or road improvements.

(3) And what about the war on truth? James Dobson over there at Focus on the Family is freaking out. He’s watching school districts draft curriculum that targets children for indoctrination at their most vulnerable time of sexual awaking, adolescence. Curriculums are eliminating language like “father” and “mother.” Students as young as fifth grade are being taught about sexual orientation and HIV. Sixth graders are being taught gender is a “spectrum.” Junior Highers are being taught to use condoms. Whether you agree or disagree, its State Law, you are a felon if you disagree (etc.).

You have to use your imagination a bit. The opposition we face in America is so relativevly minor to believer’s past, presently around the world, and those in the future experience. Here is the message of Daniel 8. What is God going to do about it these spiritual totalitarian tyrants in this and every age? On the one hand Daniel is greatly grieved and troubled by what they will do. But on the other hand, God was showing Daniel their days are numbered, and then they will be summarily destroyed.

Daniel 8:13-27 “13 Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to the speaker, “How long will the events of this vision last—the regular sacrifice, the rebellion that makes desolate, and the giving over of the sanctuary and of the army to be trampled? 14 He said to me, “For 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary will be restored.”

While I, Daniel, was watching the vision and trying to understand it, there stood before me someone who appeared to be a man. 16 I heard a human voice calling from the middle of the Ulai: “Gabriel, explain the vision to this man.”

17 So he approached where I was standing; when he came near, I was terrified and fell facedown. “Son of man,” he said to me, “understand that the vision refers to the time of the end.” 18 While he was speaking to me, I fell into a deep sleep, with my face to the ground. Then he touched me, made me stand up, 19 and said, “I am here to tell you what will happen at the conclusion of the time of wrath, because it refers to the appointed time of the end. 20 The two-horned ram that you saw represents the kings of Media and Persia. 21 The shaggy goat represents the king of Greece, and the large horn between his eyes represents the first king.[f] 22 The four horns that took the place of the broken horn represent four kingdoms. They will rise from that nation, but without its power.

23 Near the end of their kingdoms, when the rebels have reached the full measure of their sin, a ruthless king, skilled in intrigue, will come to the throne. 24 His power will be great, but it will not be his own. He will cause outrageous destruction and succeed in whatever he does. He will destroy the powerful along with the holy people. 25 He will cause deceit to prosper through his cunning and by his influence, and in his own mind he will exalt himself. He will destroy many in a time of peace; he will even stand against the Prince of princes. Yet he will be broken—not by human hands. 26 The vision of the evenings and the mornings that has been told is true. Now you are to seal up the vision because it refers to many days in the future.”

Let’s end this morning on Daniel 8:27: “I, Daniel, was overcome and lay sick for days. Then I got up and went about the king’s business. I was greatly disturbed by the vision and could not understand it.” The consensus of Scripture (OT/NT) is that evil/wickedness will only increase in the last days. If we saw in vivid detail, we too would lay sick for days. We too would be greatly disturbed. But for today, there is only one productive path… and that’s for us (like Daniel) to be about the King’s business. Given the most apocalyptic scenario we could imagine… if it were all to come tomorrow… what would the prescription for today be? It would be just the same… let’s be about King Jesus business!

Scripture Verses

Daniel 2, 7, & 8

Worship Set

Worship Playlist

Blessed Be Your Name
by Beth Redman and Matt Redman
as recorded by Matt Redman

Future Past
by John Mark McMillan
as recorded by John Mark McMillan

Tremble
by Andres Figueroa, Hank Bentley, Mariah McManus, and Mia Fieldes
as recorded by Mosaic MSC

Living Hope
by Brian Johnson and Phil Wickham
as recorded by Bethel

Study Questions

Read Daniel 8

  1. Read Romans 8:28. How have you experienced the truth of this verse first hand?
  2. Read Daniel 4:35 and Isaiah 14:24. What do believe about history? Does it have meaning? purpose? direction? finality? Does God control history, guide history, or merely respond to history?
  3. In Daniel 8, the Ram is the Kings of Media and Persia. The Goat (Great Horn) is Alexander the Great (see verses 5-8). The Little Horn (verses 9-14) is likely Anticohus IV Epiphanes, who savaged Jerusalem. What is daunting about each of these figures?
  4. Daniel sought to "understand" the vision (verse 15). What are some passages of Scripture you struggles to grasp? How can we go about gaining deeper understanding?
  5. Read 2 Peter 3:15-16. What does Peter say about Paul's writings? What warning does he give?
  6. Scholars have long speculated about Daniel 8. Read 1 Timothy 1: 3-7. What human tendency does Paul warn Timothy about? When reading Scripture how do we sometimes miss the forest for the trees? What are some overarching truths Daniel teaches in these verses?
  7. To what time period does the later part of the vision pertain (see verses 17-19)? Why is it important for us to understand the future right now?
  8. What Biblical truths about the future do you believe Christians should hold?


KIDS:

  1. How would you feel if you were given an assignment at school that was 4 grades older than you? What would you do? Who would you ask for help?
  2. Daniel had a vision from God about things Daniel could not figure out with his own brain. Read Daniel 8:15-16. What did God tell the angel, Gabriel, to do?
  3. Read James 1: 5-6. What should we do when we do not understand something about life and our faith?

CHALLENGE: Read John 3:16. Do you believe that Jesus died and rose again to cover our sins? Have you told Jesus you are going to follow Him? Have you been baptized? Are you showing Jesus to everyone who sees you? Pray and ask God to give you wisdom to know what God is calling you to do today. Tell someone you trust what God wants you to do.



Apply It!

Resources

Lakeside Bookshelf

Below are some books to complement our Be Brave sermon series through the book of Daniel. Stop by the bookshelf in the lobby to browse or purchase.  

The Daniel Dilemma: How to Stand Firm & Love Well in a Culture of Compromise by Chris Hodges  

The Daniel Prayer: Prayer That Moves Heaven and Changes Nations by Anne Graham Lotz

A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today's World by John Stonestreet & Brett Kunkle

Downloads & Resources