*April 20- 26
Daniel 8: The Prince of the Heavenly Host
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Daniel 8.
MEMORY VERSE: "As he came near the place where I was standing, I was terrified and fell prostrate. 'Son of man,' he said to me, 'understand that the vision concerns the time of the end" (Daniel 8:17, NIV).
DANIEL 8, however similar in many ways to Daniel 7, develops a theme not found in Daniel 7, the attack against Christ as the High Priest in the heavenly sanctuary.
Daniel 8 exudes sanctuary imagery. The beasts, for example, used as symbols in Daniel 7, are unclean (lion, bear, leopard), while those used in Daniel 8 are clean (ram, goat). Also, in contrast to the beasts of Daniel 7, the animals in Daniel 8 are sanctuary animals. By employing these animals as symbols of kingdoms (particularly in contrast to the beasts used in the previous chapter), the Lord seems to be directing the reader's mind toward the sanctuary, thus giving hints on how we can understand and interpret the vision.
Daniel 8 also emphasizes the element of conflict, but at two levels: the historical (horizontal) and the spiritual (vertical). The goat attacks the ram and is victorious; the little horn attacks the south (the east and Palestine) and is victorious. But, then, the little horn does something that no other kingdom has done: It goes against the Prince of the Host in the heavenly sanctuary. This is the vertical dimension of its campaign: It makes an assault against Heaven itself!
*(Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, April 27.)
Sunday April 21
The vision of Daniel 8:1-14 can be broken down into four major events that follow in order:
Read the vision over in verses 1-14 as many times as needed, until you clearly can see this sequence.
Unlike Daniel 2 and Daniel 7, both of which begin with the Babylonian Empire, Daniel 8 starts with Media-Persia instead. Though no explanation is given, more than likely the omission has to do with the time that Daniel had the vision, 547 B.C.; by then, Babylon was declining in power and importance, while the Medo-Persian Empire was ascending in both. Babylon was excluded, probably because it was already fading away, and the Lord wanted to emphasize the events that followed Babylon and not Babylon itself.
The vision of Daniel 8 begins in the Medo-Persian Empire. In the 70-week prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27, the 70 weeks also begins in the Medo-Persian Empire (see Dan. 9:1, 2). Some believe that one reason Daniel 8 excluded Babylon and started with Media-Persia was to help establish the link between the prophecies of Daniel 8 and Daniel 9. Discuss that argument.
After the Medo-Persian Empire, another power arose. In Daniel 8, it is shown as a goat and represents Greece. It is even named as such (Dan. 8:21). The large horn between the eyes is Alexander the Great. The Medo-Persian Empire "became great" (vs. 4), but Greece, which followed, "became very great" (NTV), even trampling the ram (vss. 7, 8). Alexander died in 323 B.C. at the age of 32 (vs. 8), leaving the empire without a capable successor. After a few years of internal fights, the empire was divided among his generals. This happened exactly as Daniel prophesied in Daniel 8:8, where we read the prediction of Alexander's demise and the parceling of his empire: "The large horn was broken," and "in place of it four notable ones came up" to take his place (NKJV).
|How amazing! Daniel lived in the sixth century B.C. and not only depicted the rise of Greece in the fourth century B.C. but named it. How can a prophecy like this not only strengthen our faith in the Bible but give us courage amid trials to see that our loving God not only knows the future but even holds it in His hands?|
Daniel 8 depicted four major events: ram, goat, little horn, sanctuary cleansed. The ram was Media-Persia, and the goat was Greece. Next comes the little horn. Who is this power, and what does it do?
The correct identification of the little horn is of crucial importance. First, it represents an empire that "grew exceedingly great" (Dan. 8:9, NKJV), in contrast to Greece, which "grew very great" (vs. 8), and Media-Persia, which "became great" (vs. 4).
Second, the little horn originates from one of the four cardinal points of the compass, not from one of the divisions of the Greek Empire, suggesting that it is another empire.
Third, the parallelism between Daniel 2, 7, and 8 clearly shows that the horn represents a new power, the fourth power of the previous visions, and this is Rome, which conquered Egypt to the south, Syria to the east, and "the Beautiful land" of Judea (NIV). At first, the horn was fundamentally a military and political power, conquering other nations. In this phase, it represented pagan, or imperial, Rome.
Read Daniel 8:9-12 again carefully. At what point does the activity of the little horn shift from the horizontal (military, political) to the vertical (spiritual)? What appears to be the object of this vertical attack?
The little horn attempted something that no other power had done before: It reached up to the heavens, signifying its challenge to God's authority, an act that reflects the same spirit of rebellion that possessed Lucifer at the beginning of the great controversy (Isa. 14:13, 14).
The attack of the little horn against the sanctuary is described in military terms (compare vs. 12, NKJV). In the earthly sanctuary, an army ("a host") of Levites protected it against desecration (Num. 18:1-10; 1 Chron. 9:27-33). The enemy would have to fight first the Levitical guard and defeat it before having access to the sanctuary itself and to the ministering priest. This same picture is used in Daniel 8. The little horn attacks the heavenly host and casts "down some of the host" (vs.10); it then goes into the sanctuary where he "exalted himself as high as the Prince of the host" (vs. 11, NKJV). The little horn is attacking Heaven and a ministry in heaven.
|How, possibly, could an earthly power, of any kind, wage an attack against Heaven? Did this power attempt to burn it down? Or are the texts talking about a spiritual attack instead? If so, what could that mean?|
So far, this chapter has revealed the following sequence of events:
Media-Persia, Greece, Rome (pagan/papal). Indeed, the little horn represents Rome in its pagan and papal aspects. Passages dealing with the horizontal, political expansion refer to imperial Rome (vs. 9), while the religious, vertical growth designates the second, or papal, phase (vss. 10-12), the part that Daniel spends numerous verses describing in detail.
Identify the Prince of the host, or the Prince of princes, who comes under attack by the little horn. Josh. 5:13, 14; Dan. 8:11, 25.
The title "Prince of the host," or "captain of the host of the Lord," is found in one other place in the Bible (Josh. 5:14), and it designates a heavenly being identified as the Lord Himself (Josh. 6:2), the preincarnated Christ. In Daniel, this Prince is also the Son of man, the Messiah, the King, and the Priest (Dan. 7:13; 9:25; 12:1). In Daniel 7 He is described primarily as King, but in Daniel 8:11, He is officiating in the heavenly sanctuary. What Daniel 8 shows is that the little horn is attacking Christ Himself, not as a human being (as Rome did in its pagan phase) but now as High Priest in the heavenly sanctuary.
What did the little horn remove from the Prince? Dan. 8:12.
The little horn tried to control the "daily" or "continual" (in Hebrew, tamid) ministry of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary. Most translations render tamid as "continual sacrifice," but the term sacrifice is not in the original. In the sanctuary services, tamid was associated with the different activities performed by the priest during his daily ministry, and only his daily ministry. It is used in connection with the daily/continual sacrifice (Exod. 29:42), the bread of the presence (Exod. 25:30), the offering of incense (Exod. 30:8), and the fire upon the altar (Lev. 6:13). The daily ministry of the priest in the Holy Place of the earthly sanctuary was a type of the daily ministry of the intercession of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary. It is this aspect of the priestly work of Christ that the little horn opposes and attacks.
|Many Christians have tended to focus on Christ's earthly ministry alone, at the expense of His heavenly one. What does the little horn's attack on Christ's heavenly ministry say about the importance of this ministry? What is it about Christ's ministry that would make it the subject of attack?|
What did the little horn do to the daily ministry, the sanctuary, and the truth? Dan. 8:11, 12.
Though pagan Rome killed Jesus (Dan. 11:22), papal Rome began an assault against Him from another angle, that of interfering with His high-priestly ministry in heaven. How, though, could the little horn, essentially an earthly religiopolitical power, attack Christ and His ministry in heaven? What did it do?
1. "It overthrew the place of his sanctuary" (NRSV). A literal translation reads: "And the place of his sanctuary was thrown." Place refers to the foundation of the sanctuary, used here metaphorically to designate the essence, the purpose, of the sanctuary. The verb was thrown expresses the idea of casting aside, rejection, abandonment (see 2 Kings 7:15). By misappropriating the priestly work of Christ, the horn rejects the foundation of the heavenly sanctuary as a place of mediation and forgiveness.
2. A host is placed over the daily ministry. Daniel 8:12 could be translated, "A host was given over the continual in transgression/rebellion." The verb was given over often means "to set someone over" (see Dan. 11:21). Hence, the text says that the horn misappropriated the daily ministry of Christ and then "set over," or appointed, its own host to control or minister it. A false religious system was instituted instead of the biblical one, an act of terrible rebellion against God and the truth.
3. It cast the truth to the ground. The truth of the work of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary (which includes the plan of salvation) was discarded by this religiopolitical power, the same power shown (in Dan. 7:25), as attempting to change the law of God.
What question was raised by a heavenly being in Daniel 8:13?
The question is about the event that will put an end to the series of events listed in the chapter. A literal translation reads: "Until when the vision, the daily, and the rebellion that causes desolation . . . ?" The vision is the one recorded in 8:1-14, which includes Media-Persia and Greece; the daily; the work of the Prince of hosts (vs. 11); and the rebellion or the attack of the little horn (vs. 12). The question addresses the duration of the whole vision.
|Obviously, Daniel 8 is dealing with crucial issues. Review what this week's lesson has so far covered until all the events are clear enough in your mind, to the point where you could explain them to someone else.|
What does the phrase "evening and morning" designate? Gen. 1:8, 13; Exod. 27:20, 21; Lev. 24:2, 3.
The phrase "for two thousand three hundred evenings and mornings" (NRSV) defines the period that will cover the fulfillment of the vision of the ram, the goat, and the little horn, including the daily ministry of Christ and the little horn's attack on His work. At the end of that prophetic period an important event is introduced: The sanctuary will be cleansed (vindicated/restored). This is the event that initiates the prophetic period and the event that closes it. What the chapter does not provide is a specific date for the beginning of the period (that comes in Daniel 9).
If the 2,300-day period covers the time span that includes the ram, the goat, and the little horn, why must the 2,300 days not be taken literally?
Daniel 8:10 introduced the daily ministry of Jesus in the heavenly sanctuary; Daniel 8:14 reveals the yearly service, called the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16). In Daniel 8 both phases, the daily and the yearly of Christ's high-priestly ministry, are shown.
During the earthly daily service, the sanctuary was cleansed from the sins of the Israelites, but just for that year. In the true fulfillment of this earthly service, Daniel 8:14 announces that after 2,300 years Christ was to initiate a work that would end the sin problem, not just for a year but for eternity.
What is the final fate of the little horn? Dan. 8:25.
During the Day of Atonement, God manifested Himself as the One who overcomes evil. In the earthly service, that was the day the people faced a final cleansing of sin for the year, an act that made it possible for them to continue in His presence. It was also the day of judgment. In chapter 8, Daniel looks forward to the time when those events, symbolized by the earthly type, will be finalized on a cosmic scale.
FURTHER STUDY: C. Mervyn Maxwell, God Cares, vol. 1, pp. 145 188; William H. Shea, Daniel 7-12, pp. 85-120.
Christian Rome interfered with the work of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary in different ways. For instance:
1. The Eucharist is the sacrifice of Christ. Through it "the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner." Catechism of the Catholic Church (New York: Doubleday, 1997), p. 381.
2. Forgiveness of sin is not exclusively through the work of Christ. "He [Christ] entrusted the exercise of the power of absolution to the apostolic ministry." Page 402. "It is through the sacrament of Penance that the baptized can be reconciled with God and with the Church"Page 278.
3. Confession of sins to priests. "Confession to a priest is an essential part of the sacrament of Penance."Page 405.
4. Exclusive mediatorial role of Christ is obscured. Mary "is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix."Page 275.
5. Purgatory casts shadows on Christ's work. After death Christians imperfectly purified "undergo purification [in purgatory], so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven."Page 28.
"It required a desperate struggle for those who would be faithful to stand firm against the deceptions and abominations which were disguised in sacerdotal garments and introduced into the church. The Bible was not accepted as the standard of faith."Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 45.
SUMMARY: God has informed us about the succession of kingdoms, the persecution of His people, and the effort of the little horn to distract the attention of the world from the work of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary.
When Carlos Flores arrived in Cuba, he found that several boxes containing Bible lessons had been detained in customs. He showed the customs agent some sample Bible lessons, praying that God would protect the lessons that he hoped to distribute to the thousands of Cuban children who were waiting for them. But when the customs agent asked for a complete set of the Bible lessons, Flores realized that God was using the Bible lessons to reach a young woman's heart.
Flores gave Yolanda a set of the Bible lessons and invited her to evangelistic meetings being held at a nearby church. She agreed to come on Friday but said she would be busy on Saturday. However, after she attended the Friday evening meeting, she decided to cancel her plans and return Saturday night.
Yolanda asked to complete the Bible study course, even though it was for children. She was thrilled to know more about the truth that her grandmother had tried to teach her when she was a child.But deciding to keep the Sabbath posed serious problems. Yolanda knew that embracing the Sabbath could cost her job, and jobs were not easy to get in Cuba. However, she took her stand and was baptized.
Her mother and sister knew that she was studying with Adventists, but she prayed for a month before telling her father. He was amazed that she would make such an "ignorant decision." But after seeing the peace and joy in her life, he told her, "I wish everyone could be an Adventist Christian!" However, he, too, was concerned that her decision would cost her her job.
Yolanda prayed for weeks that God would provide a proper time to tell her boss. She had invited her two co-workers to witness her baptism, and they understood the importance of religion to her. But they had not indicated a desire to become Christians.
Then one day while Yolanda was busy with a client, her boss came in and told the other two women that the three of them would need to report to work on Saturday. Yolanda heard her boss's orders and cringed. Would this mean the end of her job?
(continued next week)
Yolanda (left) is a pseudonym. Charlotte Ishkanian is editor of Mission.
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