PREPARING FOR END TIMES

by Clay Watts

"Major Old Testament References to End Times"


Introduction

In this study we survey the major Old Testament end times prophecies in Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zechariah. The purpose is to understand the events that will happen, but also to apply the principles of prophecy while avoiding the pitfalls. Here are the sections of this study:

 


Isaiah

Isaiah's ministry occurred between 740 and 680 BC, and his prophecies spanned the fall of Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel, to the invasion of Judah, the southern kingdom. His writings came at a time in Jewish history, much like today in America, when prosperity had produced self-confidence. In the spirit, Isaiah saw through the people's facade into their deeper sins. He saw the iniquities that were abounding in the personal lives of those who were going after false gods. He saw the poor being oppressed by the wealthy. He saw ungodly alliances made with foreign nations. And above all he denounced hypocrisy in the religious leaders, who followed the outward observances of God's law but had no inward desire to serve the people. Isaiah took in the entire spectrum of society. He denounced sin wherever he found it, whether in the common people or in the rulers. He also saw the consequences of sin--the overthrow of Israel and Judah by Assyria and Babylon.

In chapter 2 Isaiah paints a conceptual picture of end times. In verses 1-5 he describes the nations at peace as they desire to learn the Lord's ways, walk in his paths, and are subject to his judgment in everyday life. In the remainder of the chapter, however, God first requires that man be humbled and that his idols be completely abolished. Man will be brought so low that he will hide in caves out of fear as the Lord shakes the earth. This applies to the Christian today in a very real way. The Christian's ultimate goal of living in peace will only come as we humble ourselves before the Lord and not judge others, but allow God instead to take care of judgment. Then he can work in others and in us to bring all to the mountain of the Lord to live in the peace we so earnestly desire.

Chapter 11 repeats the theme of the righteous judgment of God resulting in peace and rest for all, even the animals. Here also is the clear reference in verse 11 to Israel being re-gathered a second time--after the first time, which was the return of the Babylonian exiles. After this re-gathering in end times, a united Israel completely dominates the middle-east area, taking land to the west and east and making a way for the Syrian Jews to return.

Over the centuries many middle-eastern Jews migrated to Europe, America, Russia and other countries to escape the persecution of Islam. Beginning in this century, however, dispersed Jews from all over the world have flocked to Israel. Since Israel became a nation in 1948, it has won wars with Arab nations in 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, and 1982. All of these conflicts have enlarged Israel's territory at the expense of her neighbors and have been accompanied by significant immigration, especially from Russia.

In chapters 13 & 14 Isaiah prophesies against Babylon and recounts its utter destruction. This passage assumes increased importance in light of the references in Revelation 18 to the end times destruction of Babylon. There are a variety of views as to whether this is the destruction of the literal Babylon, which would imply that Babylon would have to be rebuilt in end times.

Some authors (e.g., Boyd, 1950) use verses from this portion of Isaiah to show that Babylon will literally be rebuilt. Chapter 13, verse 6, some say, puts the time of Babylon's destruction in the Day of the Lord, which is at the second coming of the Lord. This means, they reason, that it would have to be rebuilt in order to be destroyed again. Verse 10 describes signs in the heavens that did not occur at its destruction, but are more likely to be associated with end times as described in Matthew 24:29. Verse 19 indicates that Babylon will be destroyed as Sodom and Gomorra. Since it has never been destroyed in this manner, this would also seem to indicate a second destruction. Verse 20 states that Babylon will never again be inhabited, but the site currently has a village of 7,000 people called Hillah. Finally, 14:1-3 describes the ensuing rest for Israel, which has not occurred, again, indicating a future fulfillment for these scriptures. This view also cites a number of verses in Revelation 18 that indicate that the Babylon in end times is a literal city.

On the other side of this issue, the Scofield Reference Bible takes the position that there was a literal near fulfillment of this passage, but that there is also a far view, which is figurative. This interpretation says that there will be a political Babylon, which is the empire of Antichrist, and there will be an ecclesiastical Babylon, which is apostate Christendom. This view also cites 13:19-22 as evidence that Babylon will not be rebuilt in a literal sense.

There is even a third view. In Kirban's Prophecy New Testament (1973), the notes for Revelation 18:17,19 state that Babylon is a city, but it could be Rome, New York, etc. Old Babylon is not as likely a candidate because it is not near the coast. However, he does not rule out this as a remote possibility.

These various interpretations make a good illustration of the dangers in taking interpretation of prophecy too seriously. God's Word is infinitely rich, and one must never discount even the remote possibility that God may choose to fulfill the prophet's words in an totally unexpected way. The three interpretations given above also illustrate the potential danger of an inflexible interpretation. In particular, the first interpretation puts God in a box. It demands that Babylon be rebuilt on its historical site. While this interpretation appears to be the most literal one and can be supported very well, it also is the most restrictive, because it requires a precondition before certain events can take place, namely, that a major new city be rebuilt. In 1950, with a lot of new activity in the Middle East, this may have seemed to be a likely event, and we would expect a literal interpretation to be in vogue. During the 1960's and 70's, until the ascendance of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, it seemed less likely, and interpretations became less literal. Then it was publicized during Desert Storm in 1991 that Hussein was making plans not only to rebuild the site of Babylon, but to restore the glory of Nebuchadnezzar's buildings in an attempt to prove the superiority of the Arab people, and himself as perhaps a reincarnation of the spirit of past Babylonian kings. This flip-flop in approaching prophetic interpretation based on current circumstances can lead to deception and disappointment. The lesson is to be aware of the various interpretations but be ready to be amazed at God's infinite creativity in fulfilling his Word.

Another important prophetic passage is found in Chapter 19. It deals with Egypt in end times, as evidenced by five paragraphs that begin with "In that day..." Leading up to this time, verse 2 states there will be civil war within Egypt. The country will then come into a very troublesome time so that "there is nothing Egypt can do..." (verse 15). Verses 16 and 17 indicate that Judah is the divine instrument of judgment on Egypt. Verse 18 begins a dramatic turnaround in Egypt's attitude toward Israel, to the point that several cities will speak Hebrew and swear allegiance to the Lord. Verses 19-22 indicate that the fear of God will spread to Egypt. The supernatural turnaround is completed when a highway is built to connect Egypt with Syria (verse 23), which would undoubtedly go through Israel. At this point Israel, Egypt and Syria become allies, worshipping together, a witness and blessing to the world (verses 24-25).

This chapter is a clear statement that in end times Israel will defeat Egypt, and through intense oppression, Egypt and Syria will turn to the Lord and will actually become allies with Israel. There is a lot in common between the Jews and the Moslems. They share a common racial, geographic, and religious heritage. Just as the charismatic Catholics and Protestants found common ground in the charismatic renewal, so Israel and certain Moslem countries will come together quickly as they all recognize their dependency on the one Lord God of Israel.

Although Egypt has had periods of instability in the past few decades and has made overtures to Syria, nothing like the extreme conditions pictured in these passages have taken place recently. Therefore, we would expect the situation to become much more desperate in Egypt as end times grow nearer. Also, it is not clear in these passages when the other end times events take place. It may be that the period of peace between Egypt, Syria, and Israel is only reached after the battle of Armageddon, as a part of the millennium of Christ's reign. Christ does not seem to figure explicitly in these passages, however, so it is possible that the peaceable relations among these traditional enemies would precede the period of great tribulation. This would explain the warning in I Thessalonians 5:3 that the day of the Lord will come when they say peace and safety.

Chapters 24-27 are known as the "Little Apocalypse." Chapter 24 depicts God's wrath on the earth because the people (verse 5) disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes, and broke the everlasting covenant. Chapter 25 verse 7 may in part refer to God destroying the deception of Antichrist that has covered all nations. Verse 9 then speaks of God's salvation after his people have waited on him. Chapters 25 and 26 could be a song of praise from the remnant of God's people after the tribulation. Verses 8-10 of chapter 26 confirm the difficult lesson that God's judgment teaches righteousness. Verses 3, 4 and 12 verify that God gives peace and strength to those who trust in him. Verse 20 shows that God's people are sheltered from his indignation and wrath.

Chapter 27, verse 1 refers to the leviathan, who may be compared to the dragon of Revelation 20:2. Verse 6 says that the Jews will bear spiritual fruit. Verse 13 identifies that great trumpet that will signal the return of the outcasts to Jerusalem.

In summary, Isaiah's "Little Apocalypse" gives the same message as the New Testament scriptures on end times. Namely, that God is going to judge sin throughout the earth with physical wrath. But those who trust in God will have peace and strength.

Throughout these chapters, Isaiah refers to those who will be punished with terms such as exalted ones, terrible ones, and aliens. He also speaks of removing the covering cast over all people, the veil that is spread over all nations, and the rebuke of his people. This terminology refers to the demonic realm and shows that the real enemy is Satan and his devils and that God's wrath and judgment are directed at them even more than those humans who have rejected God. It is no wonder then, that Satan is determined to confuse the church about end times issues. He will do everything he can to lead us astray and to dilute our efforts to bring back the King.

In the last few chapters of Isaiah, the Holy Spirit portrays Israel in end times and beyond. In chapter 61 verse 2b, we see the dual character of this eventful period. The Lord's second coming is both for "the day of vengeance of our God" and "to comfort all who mourn." Chapter 63 verses 1-6 further develop the theme of God's wrath during the tribulation, and then for the next several chapters the Holy Spirit alternates between God's protection and his judgment.

Finally, in 65:17 we see a divine intervention that brings about a new order--new heavens and a new earth. The next few verses describe the glorious activities in those days. Is this the millennium? Many have interpreted it so. But these verses seem to parallel Revelation 21:1, which is apparently after the millennium. Again, we see that there are different valid interpretations. We also see another example of a dramatic change in time frame and perspective from one verse to the next. This again illustrates the great flexibility one must have in trying to comprehend the depths of God's Word.

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Ezekiel

Much of Israel's background, trials and blessings, both past and future, are summarized in the book of Ezekiel. Ezekiel, whose name means "God strengthens," was a tower of strength in the midst of a defeated people. His ministry, from 593 to 571 BC, covered the early years of Judah's exile to Babylon. Ezekiel was taken there in 597 BC when Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem. Jeremiah stayed in Jerusalem while Daniel had been deported a few years earlier.

The first 24 chapters deal with the fate of Judah--her judgment and desolation at the hands of her enemies. Chapters 25-32 deal with the judgment and desolation of Judah's foes at the hand of God. The final chapters deal with the future restoration of Judah and Israel. In general, Ezekiel focuses on what was going to happen to Israel and the surrounding nations. His theme is that Israel will experience much tribulation as a result of violating the Mosaic law. However, God will preserve a believing remnant who in the end times will finally look to Messiah and worship him.

In chapters 34, 36 and 37 Ezekiel depicts Israel restored. They were scattered because they defiled God's name as well as the land he had given them. However, they will be re-gathered as a united nation. 36:24 indicates that this is not just referring to the return from Babylon, but a later gathering from many countries. This took place in the 20th century. God's purpose in restoring the Jews is to sanctify his name. It is not for Israel's sake that he is saving them, but for his name's sake. God will cleanse the Jews, giving them a new heart (36:26). The gathering will result in peace, safety and fruitfulness with "David" as the shepherd, king, and prince. The Jews will obey the ordinances and statutes, and the surrounding nations, seeing Israel sanctified, will know the Lord is God.

This portion of Ezekiel is prophetic in both a near and far sense. In the near term, the Jews did return to Israel and did enjoy a certain degree of peace and fruitfulness as a result of turning back to God. However, there is an ultimate fulfillment when they will experience the full measure of blessing God has ordained for them. At the time the prophecies were given, then, they could be seen as an encouragement to the Jews to be patient, for God would be faithful to deliver them from their trials and bring judgment on their enemies. However, the prospect of a corresponding far fulfillment was a warning that if the lessons were not learned in this generation, there would be even more harsh penalties in the future. Of course, God will then provide an even greater restoration, and will ultimately restore Israel to everlasting peace. Certainly the cycle has continued, as the Jews have been conquered by one power after another, and even in modern times were almost completely annihilated. The end is nearing, however, for they have indeed been gathered in a second time and are once again surrounded by enemies who are sworn to their destruction. God will surely intervene as he has prophesied through Ezekiel.

Chapters 38 and 39, which describe one of the great end times battles, are probably the most dramatic Old Testament scriptures relating to this period. Let's look briefly at the text and then compare various interpretations. 38:1-6 identifies the nations of Gog (Russia), Persia, Ethiopia, Libya, Gomer (eastern Europe) and Togarmah (southern Russia -- Cossacks) as those that will invade Israel. 38:10-14 indicates that their motive is to take spoil during a time of peace, when Israel least expects it. Verse 15 says that this will involve a great army with cavalry from the north. Verses 19-20 say that there will be a great shaking in Israel so that even mountains are thrown down. Verse 21 declares that the enemy will fight among themselves and verse 22 says that pestilence, rain, hailstones, fire, and brimstone fall on them. Finally, the Jews accept Jesus as Messiah, at least in part.

Picking up with chapter 39, verses 2-5 show that Gog turns back, with only one-sixth of the army left. These then fall on mountains and in open fields and are devoured by birds. Verse 6 indicates fire falling on the land of Gog and the coastlands of other countries. Verses 7-8 declare that God's name is then vindicated. In verses 9-10 the people of Israel burn the weapons for 7 years and in 11-16 also bury the dead for seven months. Verses 17-20 show the birds and animals eating the dead, similar to the passage in Revelation 19:17-21. Finally, verses 22-29 show God's restoration of Israel and vindication of his name.

As with most important prophetic passages, there are many interpretations of Ezekiel 38 and 39. Doug Clark in 1982, representing a fairly common view, said that the passage is being fulfilled with the Russian expansion into eastern Europe and the middle-east. America is the young lion of Tarshish, who questions Russia's advance on Israel. The Russians want a warm water port and Arabian oil, so the Arabs (Syria and Turkey, but not Egypt) promise them oil in return for help in defeating Israel. The great war, according to Mr. Clark, probably will occur before the mid-point of the tribulation, provoking the Antichrist into making a covenant with Israel. After Israel's victory, the temple will be built and Antichrist will help Israel recover under the terms of the seven-year covenant. However, after only 3-1/2 years, Antichrist marches on Jerusalem and controls the world through oil. The oriental communists rebel and invade Israel with 200,000,000 troops. Both are defeated by Christ at the second coming.

Hal Lindsey has a much different interpretation. He says that the Antichrist is a Roman prince and that the false prophet is a Jew. The Antichrist makes a mutual protection treaty with Israel, who then re-institutes the sacrificial system. Egypt, head of the Arab-African confederacy, invades Israel. Russia invades the middle-east, motivated by their material wealth and double-crosses the Arab-African confederacy. Russia, fearing attack from the orient and Antichrist (coming from western Europe), returns to establish headquarters in Jerusalem and is miraculously defeated, causing many Jews to turn to God. Antichrist and oriental forces fight for world control in the valley of Megiddo, when Christ returns and destroys both.

John Hall sees it differently as well. He believes Antichrist is a Syrian Jew who makes an alliance with Israel at the beginning of the tribulation. He then conquers Palestine and rules there the last 3-1/2 years of the tribulation. He conquers the north (Russia) and east (Asia) and becomes the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. He finally leads all conquered armies to Armageddon to rob and plunder Jerusalem to prevent Christ from setting up his kingdom, but is defeated.

Other authors place Ezekiel 38-39 before, in the middle, and at the end of the tribulation. Still others place it after the tribulation but before the millennium, while some consider it to be the final battle at the end of the millennium in Revelation 20:7-9. One author favors a near-far interpretation using the post-tribulation/pre-millennium for the near fulfillment and the post-millennium for the far fulfillment.

There are valid justifications for all of these interpretations. So what are we to believe? Is there a single accurate interpretation? Does it matter? The real lesson here is that we should not get hung up on timing. Remember that prophecy is primarily confirmational rather than directional. It is helpful to be aware of possible scenarios, but we must not become inflexible to the point that we shut out God's creative alternatives. If we do, we become susceptible to the enemy's deception and may react improperly to events and lead others astray.

For example, one key point that differs among interpretations is whether the Russian invasion is before or after Antichrist's covenant with the Jews. Suppose one holds that the Russian invasion precedes Antichrist's covenant. Then, one would not be looking for such a covenant until after the Russian invasion. Since a massive invasion is a much better defined action than a covenant, which could take many forms, a person holding to this view could miss the Antichrist's covenant with the Jews. This would potentially result in misidentification of the Antichrist, which could then lead, more seriously, to missing the mark of the beast, about which scripture explicitly warns.

The better position is to be aware of these key prophetic passages and be ready to apply them with an open mind as circumstances unfold. It doesn't hurt to think about potential scenarios to stretch one's imagination, but we must resist the temptation to fix the timing or even the sequence of events unless the text is clear and is supported adequately by other scriptures.

One of the more puzzling prophetic passages is Ezekiel 40-48, which describes what is apparently a millennial temple, a new sacrificial system, and tribal land division. All of these are very difficult to imagine today, for several reasons. Nevertheless, a large portion of scripture is dedicated to the detailed description of these items and is corroborated by other scripture.

Chapters 40-42 describe a temple that is necessary to provide a dwelling place for the return of the glory of God. Its location, although not explicitly stated, is almost certainly Mt. Zion. The detailed measurements and description includes an outer court, an inner court, the temple itself, and an altar of sacrifice. The details given show that it is meant to be built. The temple complex is 875 feet square, while the entire area is bounded by a wall one mile square.

43:1-9 describes the return of the glory of the Lord, while the next verse describes very frankly the purpose of the house--that Israel might be ashamed of their iniquities. The next several chapters supply detailed regulations for the temple, including duties of the priests, animal sacrifices, and feasts. 47:1-12 describes the river for healing, similar to the one in Zechariah 14:8-9 and Revelation 22:1-2. Finally, the remainder of the book is devoted to the division of land among the tribes of Israel.

So what are we to make of this temple, and especially the animal sacrifices? Should we really expect this in end times? Didn't Christ's death and resurrection make such practices unnecessary? Is Ezekiel off on a tangent here? Since these practices are also mentioned in Isaiah (56:5-7; 60:7,13; 66:20-23), Jeremiah (33:17-18) and Zechariah (14:16-21), we must take them seriously and attempt to learn what the Holy Spirit is saying.

First, we know from Hebrews 10:3-4 that Old Testament sacrifices never provided eternal salvation, although they did provide forgiveness of specific sin. An individual in Old Testament times was saved by faith in the finished work of Messiah as portrayed by sacrifices and feasts, just as one is saved today by faith in the finished work of Christ fulfilled on the cross. The sacrificial system pictorialized for the Jew what Messiah would accomplish on man's behalf.

Therefore, we can say that if this describes a millennial sacrificial system, then it is commemorative in the same manner as the Lord's Supper, as mentioned in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26. Note that Ezekiel does not mention the ark of the covenant, the feast of Pentecost, the day of atonement, the lamb in the Passover, the high priest, etc. The emphasis instead is on the altar of sacrifice. The other items and rituals may be present, but this emphasized the need for Israel to be reminded of their past iniquities and their daily need for cleansing. With their Messiah ruling and reigning on earth, it would be a gentle embarrassment (to their shame, Ezekiel 43:10) and a reminder of their stubbornness and rebellion. (Alexander, Ezekiel)

In summary, then, the reason for God's glory lifting from Israel was their failure to follow the spirit, much less the letter, of the law. When his glory returns, Israel may very well worship Yahweh correctly in a commemorative way with elements similar to, but distinct from, the Mosaic system. What does all this mean to Christians today? Simply that if God is possibly planning to re-institute animal sacrifice as a reminder to Israel during the millennium, how much more important is it today for Christians to constantly be reminded of the efficacy of the shed blood of Christ.

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Daniel

Daniel, whose name means "God is judge," ministered between 605 BC and 535 BC, from the time the Jews were deported to Babylon until Zerubbabel returned to Jerusalem to begin building the temple. The first half of the book is historical and contains things that happened to Daniel. The second half is prophetic and contains Daniel's visions of future events. The overall purpose of the book is to demonstrate that God controls history and will bring it to his appointed goal. The only hope for a degenerating civilization is Christ's return.

Daniel - Chapter 7

Chapter seven, which is the first of the prophetic sections, was written when Daniel was about 72 years old. Babylonia had several ineffective kings over a short period of time so that the Jews were concerned about their future. In verse 2, the four winds represent various forces which play upon the sea. The sea, or waters, represent the peoples, multitudes, nations and tongues (see Revelation 7:1; 17:15).

Verses 3-7 describe the four beasts that rose from the sea. The first, like a lion with eagle's wings, stood up on its feet and had the heart of a man. The lion is the king of beasts as the eagle is king of birds. An often-mentioned historical fulfillment of this image is Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, conqueror, and city builder. In chapter 4 he literally became like a beast, but later regained his sanity (heart of a man), humbled himself, and turned to God.

The second beast is a bear, raised on one side with three ribs in his mouth, and was to devour much flesh. A bear is large, heavy, and ponderous. It has powerful claws, eats a wide variety of food, has thick skin, is very crafty and very territorial. The common historical analogy here is Medo-Persia, of which the Persian "side" was stronger. This kingdom conquered three major countries (Lydia, Babylonia and Egypt) using very large armies.

The third beast is a leopard, with four heads and wings, and having great authority to rule. The leopard is swift and fierce. It has a lust for meat, is a loner and extremely crafty. Historically, this is considered to be Alexander the Great of Greece. He used small, quick armies and had a lust for victory. His four generals took over after his premature death and divided up the kingdom into regions to the north, south, east and west. These kings of the north and south are referred to in chapter 11.

The fourth beast has large iron teeth, bronze nails, ten horns, and was very powerful and terrifying. It is not likened to any particular animal, but if it is the same as in Revelation 13:2, it had the body of a leopard, the feet of a bear and a mouth like a lion. In other words, it is a combination of the most powerful parts of the preceding animals. It had fear-inspiring strength, devoured and broke everything into pieces, and then stamped the residue. This is normally taken to be the old Roman kingdom. Rome was not satisfied with a loose federation of occupied territories, but consolidated and organized them for lasting control.

Next, Daniel's vision focuses on the ten horns. A horn, which only beasts have, is for defense and attack, and represents power, strength and pride. Man is not to lift up his own horn (Psalm 75:4-10), but allow it to be exalted in the Lord (1 Samuel 2:1). Only when the horn is emptied and turned upside down can it be filled with the oil used to anoint kings and to cleanse and heal.

One horn in verse 8 started small, but became the most imposing. It was among the others, but not one of the ten. Three of the ten horns were uprooted gradually before this horn. It represents a human of remarkable ability, with great insight, supernatural wisdom and charisma. It is equivalent to the Antichrist. Its downfall is that in its pride it speaks boastfully. For this, verses 9-14 describe its judgment. It is destroyed along with the fourth beast, while the other beasts linger on, although without any power. This event is also described in Matthew 25:31,32,41,46 and Revelation 19:19,20 and 20:4. Verse 13 contains the only reference in the Old Testament to "the son of man," which is the way Christ often referred to himself. This terminology is meant to contrast with the beastly nature of the Antichrist.

The remainder of the chapter deals with the overall interpretation of the vision. Verse 17 reveals that the four beasts are four great kingdoms that will arise from the earth. At the time that Daniel had this vision, the great king Nebuchadnezzar had been dead a number of years, and the Babylonian era was coming to a close. Yet, the verse says that the four kingdoms will rise from the earth, indicating that the vision may not refer to the common historical interpretation mentioned above, but rather may refer to an end times fulfillment for all four beasts. This interpretation is also strengthened by verse 12, which indicates that the four beasts all exist at one time and, in fact, the first three actually outlast the fourth.

Are there indications that these beasts represent certain countries today, if we are truly in end times? Some have equated the first beast with the United States, since the eagle is America's symbol and the lion represents England, from which America was largely populated. The second beast is often associated with Russia, again because of the characteristics and obvious symbolism of the bear. The leopard is a little more difficult. Although the leopard is found over a large part of Africa and Asia, it is not associated with a particular country. One probably thinks of jungle tribes, however, who prized the leopard's skin for ceremonial dress. Between the classical association of these animals with the Babylonian, Persian, Greek, and Roman empires and a more contemporary interpretation, there is plenty of room to see a variety of nations playing key roles in end times events. The characteristics of these beasts are undoubtedly clues to the nations that are represented.

Verse 21 adds a new piece of information, that the imposing horn makes war against the saints and defeats them temporarily, until God's judgment is pronounced. Verses 23-25 also add the information that the ten kings will come from the fourth beast's kingdom, and that another king, different from the ten, subdues three kings, leaving seven. The new king then becomes the eighth king. This parallels and helps explain Revelation 17:7-13. This eighth king not only oppresses the saints, but he also tries to change the set times and laws and has authority over the saints for three and one-half years. The set times and laws could be anything from simple changes in laws affecting religious observances to major changes that would attempt to void God's natural laws. An example of the latter occurred during the French revolution when the authorities tried to establish a ten-day week.

If "the saints" refers to the Christian church, then the church, or at least some portion of it, should expect to suffer persecution from the Antichrist. If this term refers to the Jews, then they should likewise expect a period of defeat prior to supernatural deliverance.

Finally, in verses 26-27, the last king is destroyed at Christ's coming and the millennial reign is begun. As a result of the vision, with all of the imagery and interpretation swirling in Daniel's mind, he became pale, but held on to the revelation and did not in any way downplay it. How much more reason do we have today, as the signs of the times draw closer to these prophetic signals, to keep these matters in our heart and think on them seriously. We are living in a time when these dark mysteries will be revealed to those that need to know them and are sensitive to God's timing and prompting. As Anna and Simeon prepared through meditation on the Word, fasting, and prayer, so we must make ourselves willing and ready vessels to receive the glorious revelations that God wants to give us to prepare us for end times events. We indeed need to keep these things in our hearts and think on them seriously.

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Daniel - Chapter 8

Chapter 8 reverts back to the Hebrew language, whereas chapters 2 through 7 were written in the everyday commercial language of Aramaic or Chaldee. Although Belshazzar was the last of the Babylonian kings, Daniel's vision takes place in Shushan, which was a capital of Babylon's enemy, Persia. This change in language and location prophetically anticipates the fall of Babylon and the transition to Persian rule, during which time the Jews returned to Jerusalem and re-instituted temple worship.

Verses 3-4 begin the description of the vision of the ram and he-goat. The ram had two horns, which, as we learn later represent the dual Medo-Persian kingdom. As one horn became longer at a later time, so Media was initially the stronger country, but then Persia, under Cyrus, eventually became dominant. Its empire extended to the west (Babylonia, Syria and Asia Minor), north (Armenia), and south (Egypt and Ethiopia).

In verses 5-8 the he-goat is introduced as an adversary to the ram. A he-goat, although smaller, has greater strength and agility compared to a ram. The he-goat represents the kingdom of Greece, as we later learn, which is west of Persia. The notable horn was to be Alexander the Great, the first king of Greece. His conquest was accomplished very quickly, taking only 12 years. He defeated much larger Persian armies because of his brilliant strategies. He died suddenly, however, at age 32, at the peak of his achievements, and his four generals ("four prominent horns") succeeded him, each taking a section of the empire ("toward the four winds").

Verses 9-12 then describe a "little horn" that appears to be the same as the little horn of chapter 7. This may have been historically fulfilled by Antiochus Epiphanes (171-164 BC), who devastated the Jews and desecrated the temple.

The 2,300 evenings and mornings in verses 13-14 have been interpreted many ways. Lindsay equates this time period to 1,150 full days, which was the length of the Maccabean tribulation under Antiochus (168-165 BC), and which ended with the cleansing of the temple. Larkin relates it to a total of 2,300 days, 1,260 of which represent 3-1/2 years of the Great Tribulation, leaving 1,040 days for the construction of Ezekiel's temple. Wood says this is the 2,300 days of the Maccabean tribulation which lasted from 171 to 165 BC. Miller, White and the Seventh Day Adventists took this time period to be 2,300 years and calculated as a result that Christ's second coming would be in 1844.

Verses 15-19 introduce Gabriel, who is to interpret the vision. Gabriel also announced the births of John and Jesus, so it is appropriate that he reveal a major event of the end times. Note that Daniel was trying to understand the vision, but Gabriel emphasized that the meaning applied to a distant time in the future. No amount of entreaty on Daniel's part would have yielded any more understanding, because God will fully answer only when the time is right.

The interpretation, which we have already alluded to, is contained in verses 20-25. The ram was actually the battle emblem for Persia, as was the goat for Macedonia (Greece). The little horn could be partially fulfilled by Antiochus, as described in 1 Maccabees, but undoubtedly has its ultimate fulfillment in the Antichrist of end times.

Verses 26-27 describe Gabriel's instructions to Daniel and Daniel's reaction. Daniel was to seal up the vision for a time in the future. He was simply a vessel to record God's prophetic word for a future purpose that he would not understand. Yet, Daniel was greatly affected by the vision and thought about it, although it was beyond understanding. We must likewise think about these things, especially as the time draws nearer. The difference is that, when the time comes, we will begin to have understanding

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Daniel - Chapter 9

The events described in this chapter take place in 538 BC, 68 years after Daniel had been carried to Babylon, in the same year that Daniel was put in the lion's den (chapter 6). Seventy years of captivity had been foretold by Jeremiah 29:4-10. Cyrus (as Darius is also called) had just taken Babylon as prophesied in Isaiah 44:28. Perhaps Daniel, who had been kindly treated by Darius, was prompted by the change in rulers to search the scriptures to see what might be happening.

When he discovered that the time was approaching for the desolation of Jerusalem to end, he sought God to determine what should be done. Verses 3-19 show that he recognized the source of the Jews' troubles and realized that their sin must be dealt with before the prophetic promises could be fulfilled. In response to Daniel's ultimate repentance and humility, God answers him, not merely with direction for the next few years, but with prophetic direction for Israel's ultimate history. This remarkable prophecy first declares Israel's release from the captivity of sin through Christ's first advent, and then their release from earthly oppression through Christ's second advent.

Beginning in verse 24, Gabriel reveals that there will be seventy "sevens" decreed for the Jews and the city of Jerusalem. The term "sevens" is used in Genesis 29:27-28 to mean seven years. There are three undesirable matters to be removed (transgression, sin and wickedness) and three positive things to be done (bring in everlasting righteousness, seal up vision and prophecy, and anoint the most holy). There are many interpretations of what these signify. For example, some believe that "anointing the most holy" refers to restoring the temple.

Verse 25 refers to a time interval between the command to rebuild Jerusalem and the coming of the Anointed One. This time period is broken into two parts, one of seven sevens, or forty-nine years, and another of sixty-two sevens, or 434 years. There are many interpretations of these beginning and ending points. Beginning points include (1) Cyrus' decree to return to rebuild the temple in 538/37 BC, (2) Ezra's return in 458 BC to continue the temple rebuilding, and (3) Nehemiah's return in 445 BC when the city itself was rebuilt. The ending points have been taken to be Jesus' baptism, triumphal entry, and crucifixion. Some use a 360-day "prophetic" year rather than a calendar year.

Many authors have been able to use various combinations of these interpretations to show the accurate prediction of Christ's first coming. Most have pointed out that in Old Testament prophecy, the timing for Israel is precise and therefore may provide some clues about the timing of end times events. For example, by picking the right starting point, these time periods in years exactly match the time from the decree to rebuild Jerusalem in 445 BC to the restoration of Jerusalem and the end of OT prophecy 49 years later (7x7). This was followed in 434 years (62x7) by Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem and then the crucifixion a few days later. At this point the prophetic clock stops as the Jews reject the Christ. Then in the end times, a final seven years will be counted for Israel, starting when Antichrist makes a covenant with Israel, and lasting for seven years until the end of the great tribulation, when Israel finally recognizes the Messiah as he returns. This seven-year period is corroborated by many other passages, both in the Old and New Testaments.

Many authors claim that the Old Testament only refers to Israel and that the gap between the 62 weeks and final 7 weeks in Daniel is an indeterminate period of time related to the church age. It is indeterminate because Israel is not in the picture, but has been rebellious and again driven out of the holy land.

However, in the book Armageddon, Grant Jeffrey uses several prophetic scriptures to explain the gap left by Daniel. Ezekiel 4:4-6 refers to 390 + 40 years of punishment, from which we can subtract 70 years for the subsequent Babylonian captivity, leaving 360 years of captivity to be served. However, Israel did not fully repent, even after the Babylonian captivity, so we multiply their punishment by seven for un-repentance according to Leviticus 26:18, which gives 2,520 years of 360 days. This is the exact time between end of Babylonian captivity and May 14, 1948, when Israel became a nation!

Thus we see that the nation of Israel is central to the occurrence and timing of prophetic events.

As an example of how prophetic passages can be interpreted in widely different ways, let's look at an unconventional interpretation of the division of the 69 sevens into two periods of 49 years and 434 years. Let's hypothesize that the 434 years applies to Christ's first coming and the 49 years to his second coming. Could this be legitimate?

By taking the latest starting time (445 BC) we can compute the end point of the 434 years approximately as Christ's birth (5 BC), give or take a few years. Verse 26 says that the Anointed one will be cut off after this point in time, not necessarily at this point in time. The period of 49 years could then refer to a second time when the command to rebuild Jerusalem goes forth, leading to Christ's second coming and just prior to the seventieth week. In recent history, Jerusalem was resettled by the Jews beginning in 1967, and rebuilding began at that time. Could the prophetic clock have started ticking again in 1967? Only the Father knows, but this illustrates that there are many creative ways that the prophetic scripture can be interpreted, and that it is very dangerous to settle on one interpretation to the exclusion of others that might prove in time to be more appropriate. One must then be flexible and willing to change interpretations as what once seemed to be obvious does not come to pass.

This admittedly flexible interpretation hinges on the portion of verse 26 which says that after sixty-two weeks, the Anointed One will be cut off. This could be narrowly interpreted as meaning that Christ's death occurs at the end of the sixty-two weeks. However, the scripture says that he is cut off "after" sixty-two weeks, which could mean any number of years after the sixty-two weeks (or sevens) has elapsed. This latter approach allows the sixty-two weeks to apply to the first advent. This is a good example of how a very small point of language can have a major effect on one's interpretation of prophecy.

The remainder of verse 26 indicates that Christ will die with nothing, i.e., without friends or honor. Then "the people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary." This certainly happened in 70 AD when four Roman legions sacked Jerusalem and tore down the temple. The "ruler that shall come" is almost certainly the Antichrist, and this verse seems to tie him to the Romans. Since Rome had a very wide influence throughout history, this is not very restrictive and does not, practically speaking, identify the nationality of the Antichrist. For example, Christ's geographic origin was predicted in scripture variously as Egypt, Bethlehem, Nazareth, and Galilee. Each of these had a specific fulfillment, but was only recognized long after Christ's death.

Verse 27 indicates that the Antichrist makes a firm covenant for one week, i.e., seven years. At the halfway point, "he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him." This confirms many other scriptures that indicate a seven-year period with a key event in the middle that leads to the ultimate destruction of Antichrist. The seven-year period is popularly known as "the tribulation," although it is not referred to as such in Daniel. More likely, the last three and one-half years are the "great tribulation," as indicated in the discussion of chapter 12 below.

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Daniel -- Chapter 11 "The Kings of the North and South"

This is one of the most remarkable predictive passages in all scripture. It describes detailed maneuvers of historic and future kings. Verses 2-20 very accurately prophesy the actions of several kings including Cyrus, Alexander the Great, the line of Ptolemy from Egypt, called the South, and the line of Seleucus from Syria, called the North. These two kingdoms are featured since between them lies the "Beautiful Land" of Israel. God's prophecies deal primarily with his people and those things that affect them.

Beginning in verse 21, the prophecy deals with a particular "contemptible person," who was most certainly Antiochus Epiphanes, one of Israel's most despicable enemies. Verses 21-35, however, also foreshadow the characteristics and perhaps specific actions of Antichrist as well. This is shown clearly from verse 36 through the end of the chapter, which almost entirely refers to a future king that is easily identified not only in New Testament scripture as Antichrist but also in Daniel 7:8, 8:9, and 9:26 as having the same self-exalting characteristics and the same manner of destruction.

Since it is very likely that some or all of verses 21-45 will have ultimate fulfillment in end times, let us summarize these events so that we may be watching for them.

Verse 21 introduces the King of the North (Antiochus Epiphanes), who is a contemptible usurper, coming peaceably with no warning and taking over by intrigue. He invades the South, also destroying a Jewish leader (prince of the covenant). He then breaks a promise with the South, invades it, and it falls from within. He makes deceitful agreements with the South, and on his way home, because he hates God's people, takes action against them.

Starting with verse 29, the king of the North again invades the South, but the South's allies from the western coastlands force him to turn back (vs. 30). Humiliated, he vents his fury on God's people, sets up a heathen idol in the temple (vs. 31), and shows favor to those who forsake God for heathen ways (vs. 32). But God's true followers resist him, although with a great deal of suffering, through which they are purified (vs. 32-35).

Verse 35 contains the phrase "time of the end" that normally refers to end times. This transition leads to verse 36 and following, which apparently describes more than the historical character Antiochus. This is truly the Antichrist of end times, with the same characteristics and the same end as described in Daniel 7:8, 8:9 and 9:26. He goes to extreme lengths to exalt himself and to demonstrate his trust in the god of armed might. He will attack heavily armed lands and will enlist allies to share in the spoils.

The Antichrist will then be attacked from a kingdom to the south (vs. 40), signaling the "time of the end." Then, in one of those mysterious passages, the king of the North attacks "him," who could be the king of the South or the Antichrist. In the latter case, the king of the North is different from the Antichrist, but the passage could be read so as to equate the two. The king of the north invades Israel along with many other countries, and in fact subdues Egypt, who had attacked him first (vs. 40-43). He will then hear of action against him from the north and east and will move against them, making the holy mountain (Jerusalem) his headquarters. He will shortly afterwards meet his end, without anyone to help.

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Daniel Chapter 12 - "The Great Tribulation"

This chapter is continuous with chapter 11. The Antichrist is on the scene, destroying many of God's people. But Israel's prince, Michael arises to deliver them from this time of Israel's greatest distress, otherwise known as the great tribulation. Verses 2-3 describe the reward of those who are wise and righteous and verse 4 shows that Daniel's book will aid them in their knowledge during end times. The implication here is that until that time, Daniel's book will be closed to understanding.

Verses 5-7 depict a man clothed in linen similar to that in Revelation 10:1-6, where the angel announced that there would be no further delay in completing the events of the tribulation. Then begins the time, times and a half, which term is also used in Daniel 7:25 and Revelation 12:14. This is restated in Revelation 12:6 as 42 months, or 3-1/2 years. Daniel 9:25-27 indicate that this period occurs in the second half of the "week" of years, again, equal to 3-1/2 years. This time period is apparently what is required to break the power, or self-sufficiency, of the Jews so that they will be willing to accept Christ. These three and a half years are undoubtedly what is referred to in Matthew 24:21 and Revelation 7:14 as the Great Tribulation.

In verses 8-9 Daniel is curious about the meaning of all of this, but the angel implies that we need to be content with what God has made clear and not try to force anything else. God reveals only what is necessary, and does not go beyond merely to satisfy man's curiosity.

In verse 10 we see a refining process similar to 11:35. This will happen as a result of the wise witnesses in 12:3. Zechariah 13:8,9 indicates that 1/3 of the Jews will be refined. This may be more than the 144,000.

Verse 11 introduces another time period that begins when the restored Jewish temple ceremonies are taken away by Antichrist and the abomination of desolation is set up. The 1290 days allows for 3-1/2 years, or 1260 days plus an additional 30 days. There is nothing explicit here or elsewhere in scripture concerning this additional 30 days. It may be for the judgment of the nations in Matthew 25:31-46. Verse 12 adds another unexplained 45 days, perhaps the time required to build the millennial temple, set up the new government, establish Israel's new boundaries, and so forth.

Finally, verse 13 apparently indicates that Daniel will be resurrected to participate in the blessings of the millennium. This makes a good case for the resurrection of Old Testament saints just prior to the start of the millennium.

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Zechariah

Zechariah, whose name means "One whom Jehovah remembers," prophesied between 520-518 BC. He was a contemporary of Haggai, and his overt purpose was to encourage the Jews to rebuild the temple. He focused, however, on the need for a spiritual change, i.e., rebuilding their spiritual temples. The book is known as the "apocalypse of the Old Testament" because of the rich symbolism and numerous references to Christ's advents.

Chapter 1 describes God's purpose in rebuilding Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile. Does it point to events in today's efforts to rebuild Jerusalem? In verse 11 there is a period of rest that precedes the rebuilding of Jerusalem. In verse 15 the nations at ease appear to be helping, but with evil intent. Verse 16 says God's house shall be built in Jerusalem. Verse 21 shows that the four nations or powers (Daniel 7 or 8:8+) that scattered Israel and Judah are cast out by the Lord's craftsmen.

Chapter 2 sees the Lord reestablishing Jerusalem as His dwelling place after her people return from the "north" and Babylon.

Chapter 4 concerns the lampstand and two olive trees. In this context the Lord is showing Zerubbabel that he will finish God's work as he trusts not in his own strength, but as he is empowered by the Holy Spirit. The lampstand and lamps, as in Revelation 1, represent God's messengers to his people, which in this case is Zerubbabel. The olive trees are the source of the oil that lights the lamp. The angel in verse 13 implies that Zechariah ought to know who they are. They stand before the Lord of the whole earth and supply encouragement to God's leaders. These relate to the two witnesses in Revelation 11:3-4 and have been identified by various authors as Moses, Elijah, Enoch, etc.

Chapter 5 depicts a woman in a basket, perhaps showing that wickedness will be set in Babylon when the time is right.

In chapter 6 the four chariots and horses are the same colors as in Revelation 6. The white and black horses go to the north and give "My Spirit" rest. In Revelation 6 these are associated with conquering and economic disruption. (Could this be turmoil in the Russian area that has allowed Jews and Christians freedom to leave and to worship openly?) After this the captives from Babylon provide gifts for a crown of the king/priest--the BRANCH--and are charged to build the temple.

Chapter 8 says the Lord will return to Jerusalem as his dwelling place on earth. He will exalt the Jews, who will be sought by many others because of their favor with God.

Chapter 9 prophesies several events that have already taken place, including the subjugation of the Philistines, Christ's triumphal entry, the abomination of, and revolt against, Antiochus Epiphanes, the Greek ruler of the area including Jerusalem, and the dispersion of the Jews. Some of these prophecies may also have a far fulfillment, such as verse 13, which pits the sons of Zion against the sons of Greece. This could be another reference to the persecution of the Jews (and/or Church) will undergo in end times and could indicate the nationality of the person/people responsible for it. The chapter ends with a promise of double blessing to replace the hardships previously endured.

Chapter 10 depicts the re-gathering of Israel, the rule of the Lord of hosts, and the humbling of Israel's enemies. Israel is strengthened by the Lord in battle over her enemies and is given the land including Lebanon and Gilead (the northern part of modern Jordan). The humbling of Assyria (Syria-Iraq) and Egypt is mentioned as well.

Chapter 11 depicts the destruction of Israel in the hands of worthless shepherds who reject the true shepherd. God destroys these three shepherds (who represent leaders of Israel) in one month. The fulfillment may have been the rapid disintegration of Israel after Christ. “Beauty” was cut off for the price of a slave and Jerusalem destroyed, and the "Bonds" holding Israel together were broken, resulting in the dispersion. Finally, a shepherd is raised up--the Antichrist--who turns on the flock. This may indicate that the Antichrist appears initially to be a friend or leader of Israel, but ultimately betrays them. A further characteristic is a withered arm and blinded right eye, which are God's judgment. This could be representative of a loss of strength and wisdom and/or actual physical impairment which occurs after he betrays Israel.

Chapter 12 depicts Jerusalem besieged and ultimately delivered by the Lord, who destroys her enemies. This leads to national repentance as the Jews "look on him whom they have pierced" and mourn bitterly over their previous rejection of Christ.

Chapter 13 deals with Israel's cleansing in the last days. It also recounts the events leading to this cleansing, including the smiting of the shepherd, and the resultant scattering of the sheep and finally the death of 2/3 of them. This is the consequence of rejecting their shepherd.

Chapter 14 revisits the siege and rape of Jerusalem as the Day of the Lord comes. The city is taken and half the people removed into captivity. But then the Lord comes to fight Israel's enemies, accompanied by great signs such as the Mount of Olives splitting. Then the Lord comes with his saints to a city that has changed geographically as the surrounding hills become flat and a river flows to the east and west. Finally, with the Lord's return, the nations come annually to Jerusalem to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.

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