*April 6 - 12
Daniel 2 and 7: The ABCs of Apocalyptic Prophecies
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Daniel 2 and 7.
MEMORY TEXT: " 'Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him' " (Daniel 7:27).
SOME OF THE MOST INCREDIBLE FAITH-BUILDING PROPHECIES in all Scripture appear in Daniel 2 and Daniel 7. In these two parallel chapters, Daniel portrays the sweep of world history from his own time up through ours and to the end of the world. If anyone ever needed a "rational" basis to believe in the inspiration of the Bible, God has given it in these two chapters.
What is interesting is that Daniel 2 and 7 describe the same events from different perspectives. While Daniel 2 emphasizes the rise and fall of the kingdoms of the earth, Daniel 7 emphasizes the experience of the people of God before that eternal kingdom is finally established.
Whatever their differences, Daniel 2 and 7 both describe history from a spiritual angle, revealing a dimension not found in standard history books. Both chapters are deeply religious documents, showing that history is, after all, the arena of God's activity. Both chapters end with a note of triumph: God's kingdom will be victorious over the kingdoms of the earth. In the final victory, the Son of man is the indispensable instrument, and it is through Him that His people inherit the kingdom.
*(Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, April 13.)
Sunday April 7
Though two symbolically different prophecies in two different chapters, Daniel 2 and Daniel 7 parallel each other:
|Daniel 2||Daniel 7|
|Gold (vs. 32)||Lion (vs. 4)|
|Silver (vs. 32)||Bear (vs. 5)|
|Brass (vs. 32)||Leopard (vs. 6)|
|Iron (vs. 33)||Fourth beast (vss. 7, 8)|
|God's kingdom (vss. 34, 35)||God's kingdom (vs. 14)|
What great kingdoms do these symbols represent?
The Lord deemed the identification of these symbols so important that He named the first three in the book of Daniel and made the identity of the fourth unmistakable. The first one, the gold head in Daniel 2 and the lion in Daniel 7, is Babylon (Dan. 2:38). The second kingdom (the silver and the bear) is identified in Daniel 5:28, 30, 31 and 8:20 as the Medo-Persian Empire. The third (the brass and the leopard) is symbolized by a goat in Daniel 8:21 and identified as Greece in Daniel 11:2. The name of the fourth kingdom (the iron and the fourth beast) is not given, but only one power possibly fits its description in the sweep of world historyand that is Rome.
What identifying marks of the fourth kingdom in Daniel 2 and of the fourth beast in Daniel 7 make its identification as Rome the only sensible one?
What we see in these prophecies is what is known by theologians as "recapitulation," a fancy word for repetition. Certain prophecies are repeated, not identically but in ways that reinforce their basic message, even if these prophecies are given from different angles. In other words, they can cover the same historical period from a different perspective, thus revealing new elements in the events described. Daniel 2 and 7, for instance, trace history from the time of Babylon to the end of earth's history; chapter 7, however, though repeating what is in chapter 2, enlarges and expands on it, as well.
|José was the only Adventist in his family of atheists and skeptics. Only after studying Daniel 2 and 7 with them did they start to loosen up toward his beliefs. What is it about these two prophecies that can open people to the validity of God's Word?|
"And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron: forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things: and as iron that breaketh all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise" (Dan. 2:40).
"Then I would know the truth of the fourth beast, which was diverse from all the others, exceeding dreadful, whose teeth were of iron, and his nails of brass; which devoured, brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with his feet" (Dan. 7:19). See also Daniel 7:7.
What similarity exists between the language used in Daniel 7 to describe the fourth kingdom and the words used in Daniel 2?
The beast representing the Roman Empire is like no other beast. Daniel describes it as " 'terrifying and frightening and very powerful'" (Dan. 7:7, NIV). It was an undefeated power, committed to conquer through war. The Cambridge Ancient History points out that "from the end of the third century [B.C.] onwards, Roman policy was aggressive," having no interest in settling disputes through negotiations but rather making demands to other nations that made war unavoidableA. E. Austin, editor (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), vol. 8, p. 382. Cruelty characterized the Roman Empire's attitude toward those it conquered, a cruelty represented by its "iron teeth" (Dan. 7:19, NIV).
What would happen to the powerful Roman Empire? Dan. 2:41; 7:24.
Many reasons can be given for the breakup of the Roman Empire, "but it was really the massive invasions, which had become incessant during the second half of the [fourth] century, that toppled the empire."The New Encyclopoedia Britannica: Macropoedia (Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., 1981, fifteenth edition), vol. 15, p. 1132.
|Unlike the three powers that preceded it, Rome was not replaced by another single power, in the way that Media-Persia replaced Babylon or Greece replaced Media-Persia. Instead, it was broken apart into smaller entities, just as Daniel's vision showed. How amazing that Daniel, centuries before this event, described the demise of pagan Rome so accurately! If God can tell the future of empires, certainly He holds our individual future in His hands, as well. How does that knowledge give you comfort, especially in the midst of terrible trials?|
"If a man consider the origin of this great ecclesiastical dominion, he will easily perceive that the papacy is no other than the ghost of the deceased Roman empire, sitting crowned on the grave thereof."Seventeenth-century British philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, in Great Books of the Western World (Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1971), p. 278.
Read Daniel 7:8, 24 and describe in your own words the rise of the little horn. What events surround its rise that can help lead to a certain identification?
The identification of the power represented by the little horn is of critical importance for the interpretation of Daniel 7. The prophecy provides several facts that help make a sure identification.
First, the little horn arises out of the fourth beast (7:24); thus it is not separate from the Roman Empire but is actually part of it.
Second, it appears after the other 10 horns (7:8). The 10 horns represent the collapse and division of the Roman Empire; therefore, the little horn came after the Roman Empire's collapse.
Third, as Daniel 7:20 reveals, it becomes greater than the other horns ("literally 'whose appearance was bigger than that of its companions' "[The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 4, p. 830:20. "Stout"]). It represented an entity more powerful than the other kingdoms of divided Rome.
Fourth, three of the ten horns were uprooted (7:8). In order for it to have space to exercise its greatness, three powers are eliminated.
What power arose out of the ruins of pagan Rome to be a leading influence among the divided kingdoms? The answer is blatantly clear, the Roman Church. Historian R. P. C. Hanson comments that though the church "was formally unprepared for the appalling and unprecedented collapse of the society in which it had grown into maturity, when the crisis came the Church found powers within itself to deal with the crisis, to endure, to survive and finally to go far towards permeating and controlling the new state of affairs which the barbarian invasions and settlements had brought about.""The Church and the Collapse of the Western Roman Empire," Church and State in the Early Church, ed. Everett Ferguson (New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1993), vol. 7, p. 385.
|How can we teach the texts we have studied today in a way that does not appear bigoted? What can we do to show that we are not discussing individuals but an institution? Or can we, honestly, make that distinction? Discuss different approaches.|
"And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time" (Dan. 7:25).
Daniel spends much time giving specific details about the activity of this little-horn power, papal Rome. Among those details are:
1. Speaking great words against God. The church spoke with authority through its teaching office, defining dogmas and beliefs and requiring submission to them. In the process, truth and error were mixed together. Consequently, nonbiblical teachings were accepted as truth (for example, immortality of the soul, sacrament of penance, purgatory, mediation of the saints, etc.).
2. Persecution. Those who did not submit to the dogmas were persecuted and even killed. During the Inquisition, torture was used against the "enemies" of the church. "In 1252 [Pope] Innocent IV sanctioned the infliction of torture by the civil authorities upon heretics, and torture later came to have a recognized place in the procedure of the inquisitorial courts."New Catholic Encyclopedia (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America, 1967), vol. 14, p. 208: Torture and the Church.
3. Changing the law. The most dramatic and daring change introduced through the union of church and state was the change of the law of God. The biblical day of rest, the seventh-day Sabbath, was changed to Sunday. This change was made, based on the teaching authority of the church, and remains today the day of rest among Catholics and most Protestant denominations. One Catholic source reads: "Why do we observe Sunday instead of Saturday? We observe Sunday instead of Saturday because the Catholic Church . . . transferred the solemnity from Saturday to Sunday."Rev. Peter Geiermann, C.S.S.R., The Convert's Catechism of Catholic Doctrine (St. Louis, Mo.: B. Herder Book Co., 1937), p. 50.
|Even a cursory study of Daniel 2 and Daniel 7 reveals that the Lord has given us a lot more details about the little horn and its activity than about any of the other powers depicted. Why do you think that is so, and what does it tell us about the importance of knowing just who this power is?|
"And they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time" (Dan. 7:25).
Unlike any of the other powers in Daniel 7, the little-horn power is distinguished by one special characteristic: It comes with Daniel's first apocalyptic time prophecy. It is the only one of the kingdoms represented in the chapter identified with a time prophecy, another detail that strengthens the argument that God wants us to know, in particular, who this power is.
What does this time prophecy mean here in Daniel 7:25, regarding the little horn? In apocalyptic symbolism, "day" often represents "year." Scholars of many denominations have long recognized this principle (Jewish commentators were applying the day-year principle to biblical texts centuries before Adventists ever existed). The Old Testament gives numerous examples of the day-year principle.
For example, 1 Samuel 20:6 reads, "For there is a yearly sacrifice there for all the family"; the word for "yearly" is really translated as "days." This is just one of many examples.
Read 1 Kings 1:1; the word translated "years" here is really "days." See also Genesis 6:3, Numbers 14:34, and Ezekiel 4:6 and try to find hints of the day-year principle in these texts, as well.
The "time and times and the dividing of time" in Daniel 7:25 is depicted in Revelation 12:6 as 1,260 days. If the "time and times and the dividing of time" equals 1,260 days and a day equals a year, then the "time and times and the dividing of time," or 1,260 days, equals 1,260 years. Thus, the reign of the little-horn power (or, at least, a phase of it) will last more than twelve centuries.
In A.D. 538, after the retreat from Rome of the Arian invaders, the way was paved for the rise of papal Rome. Amazingly enough, in 1798exactly 1,260 years laterthe French general Berthier arrested and exiled Pope Pius VI, with the intention of bringing to an end the Roman Catholic system. In fact, there were some Bible students before 1798 who, studying these prophecies, came to the conclusion that something drastic would happen to Rome near the beginning of the nineteenth century, which is precisely what happened. For further study, see The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 4, p. 834, "A time and times and the dividing of time."
FURTHER STUDY: Read The SDA Bible Commentary on Daniel 2 and 7; C. Mervyn Maxwell, God Cares (Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press Publishing Assoc., 1981), vol. 1, pp. 101-141; Ellen G. White, "An Era of Spiritual Darkness," in The Great Controversy. pp. 49-60.
Read the following insight in conclusion to this week's topic:
The Beasts and the Lamb. "To Daniel was given a vision of fierce beasts, representing the powers of the earth. But the ensign of the Messiah's kingdom is a lamb. While earthly kingdoms rule by the ascendancy of physical power, Christ is to banish every carnal weapon, every instrument of coercion. His kingdom was to be established to uplift and ennoble fallen humanity."Ellen G. White Comments, The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 4, p. 1171, on chapter 7:2-7: "Messiah's Ensign, a Lamb."
SUMMARY: Daniel 2 and 7 complement each other, providing an overview of history from God's perspective. The vision, with amazing accuracy, predicted the rise and fall of the ancient kingdoms, including the rise of the papacy, which is depicted in the prophecy with unmistakable clarity and precision. Clearly, God wanted us to know the identity of that power. The reasons will become more apparent as we continue this study.
J. H. Zachary
Christopher was in and out of trouble on the New Mexico Navajo reservation where he grew up. Eventually he ended up on probation. He decided to enroll in Holbrook Indian School, an Adventist institution that serves Native Americans, in order to straighten himself out.
But Christopher again fell in with the wrong crowd. One of the boys got the keys to the school vehicles, and one night several boys crept out a window after the school watchman left and took a joyride in one of the school's cars. They carefully returned the car to its parking place and slipped back into the dormitory before anyone saw them.
Emboldened by their success, the boys tried it again the next night. They drove to a town 30 minutes away from school and again managed to return the vehicle without being seen.
On the third night they decided to visit Phoenix, more than three hours away. Although they started out just after midnight, they soon realized that they had to hurry if they were to be back before daybreak. They turned around and started for the school. As the 14-year-old driver sped down the highway to avoid being caught with the car, they were, instead, stopped by a highway patrol officer.
The officer called the boys' parents to pick them up at the local jail, and the school dean picked up the vehicle. Since the boys planned to return the vehicle, the school did not press charges. But three of them were placed on six months' probation. However, Christopher was almost 18, and his part in the joyride broke his probation. He was sentenced to spend spring break in a state correctional facility.
Christopher missed the school trip, which he had been looking forward to. But the experience in the correctional facility gave him time to examine his life and see that he was headed in the wrong direction. When he was released from the correctional facility, he returned to the school a different person. He asked for Bible studies and gave his heart to Jesus. Staff and students rejoiced when, as the school year ended, Christopher was baptized.
Christopher plans to graduate from Holbrook and go on to college as the Lord opens the way. "That careless joyride has opened a whole new life for me," he says. "I thank Christian teachers for their love and guidance. Their response to my behavior has shown me what the forgiveness of Christ is all about."
J. H. Zachary is coordinator of international evangelism for The Quiet Hour and a special consultant for the General Conference Ministerial Association.
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