Contending For The Faith

August 11, 2009

The Salvation of Babies Who Die

Filed under: C.H. Spurgeon,doctrine,John MacArthur — Lynda O @ 7:08 am
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I’ve been following the recent blog discussion, started at Challies.com, regarding the salvation of infants who die.  The faithbyhearing blog article includes a link to John MacArthur’s two-part message regarding this topic. I have now finished listening to these two messages, which were very helpful and very solid in reference to what the Bible has to say on the matter, which is more than I had realized.

For me this topic is more academic: I’ve not personally experienced the loss of an infant or young child. I’ve known a few cases, such as a friend who 15 years ago gave birth to a stillborn daughter, and that Christian woman still regrets the loss though accepts that this child is with the Lord. I recall a pastor years ago who was uncertain, but held hope based on God’s character, that our God is merciful. My more recent reference point is a pastor with many other errors (Hugh Ross creation, amillennialism, preterism, heavy emphasis on spiritualizing and allegorizing texts and skimming the details), who on this issue has not openly stated it, but tends toward the Tim Challies viewpoint of damnation for infants who die. In a conversation regarding the matter, his main point was the guilt of the young children, to compare them to snakes and even baby snakes. The baby human is sinful and will manifest its sinfulness if given time to grow up, just as surely as the young snake will manifest its deadliness. As I now reflect further on the matter, and considering this pastor’s other errors, I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised. It’s the same heartless attitude that allows him to compare human sinners to disgusting roaches– and true, human sinfulness is a very vile thing, but I’ve never heard MacArthur or other biblically grounded teachers describe sin in such terms (such a description instead, I suspect, relates more to his old-earth attitude of animal death and suffering for billions of years) — and to declare that people’s young children really “are just brats.”

In my recent general readings, I’ve noted Spurgeon’s clear view that all babies who die are with the Lord; and now MacArthur’s view, and really it does make a lot of sense and with good biblical reference. (My only exception to what MacArthur said was his reference to C.S. Lewis’ “The Last Battle.” That story has nothing to do with the salvation of babies; those who die in the train crash are those who were school-age children in the earlier books, and in “The Last Battle” are grown, in their late teens.) As Todd at FaithByHearing noted, the real issue isn’t the young child’s sin and guilt before God; we all are in that condition, and we all are saved completely by God’s grace, and even our salvation does not involve us in any way. The real issue is God’s grace and mercy, that which He extends to those who die while in a condition of being unable to comprehend, unable to rebel against God.  As MacArthur points out in reference to Romans 1, the lost are “without excuse.” Dead infants are “with excuse.” Likewise, at the Great White Throne judgment of the damned, the lost are judged by their works, their deeds. Infants (though guilty sinners with the curse of original sin) do not have any deeds to be damned for. If an infant were in hell, it may realize that it is suffering and in torment, but it would not understand why it is suffering. All the lost, at the final judgement, do understand why they are suffering.

I now offer the following theory, for what it’s worth. Admittedly it is based on an extremely small sample, and so I’m not being completely serious here, perhaps a little facetious, yet I still see some truth in the following. Those who reject the idea of salvation for infants who die, tend to also be those who like to spiritualize and allegorize much of the Bible, those who tend to skim over the scriptural details, and end up as amillenialists and preterists. The same group (again I speak generally) that would deny a future salvation for Israel, that would deny God’s promises and electing grace to Israel, who say that the Jews lost their salvation on the basis of works and thus inherit the curses while the Church receives salvation on the basis of election and now inherits the blessings — are the same people who would deny God’s grace and salvation to infants, to those incapable of consciously accepting or rejecting God.

  • C. H. Spurgeon: future for Israel, and salvation for all infants
  • John MacArthur, and like-minded bloggers: future for Israel, and salvation for all infants
  • Tim Challies, and like-minded bloggers: amillenialist, no future for Israel — damnation for infants
  • The nameless local pastor: amillenialist, no future for Israel — uncertainty and likely damnation for infants
  • John Calvin: amillenialist;  partial infant salvation: elect infants and non-elect infants
  • Martin Luther: amillenialist;  partial salvation: only for those infants who are baptized before death
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June 18, 2009

Great Christian Influences

This is a common topic on Internet blogs and message boards: list your favorite Bible teachers, or list the ones you’re most influenced by / learned from, etc.

Over time I find this list changes, and it’s always interesting to see the lists from others. Many of the names are unfamiliar, though over time I begin to hear more about those individuals. My own list is much smaller than others, those who obviously have been studying from many Christian teachers over many years.

Here is my own list of those great influences:

  • John MacArthur
  • Phil Johnson
  • Charles Spurgeon
  • S. Lewis Johnson

I’ve studied some from a few other names during the last 12 months– R.C. Sproul, Jim McClarty–but these are the important ones, and really more than I have enough time for in any given week. Unlike the Cal.vini.st  blogger, I don’t have an iPod to do podcasts, so I’m sticking with the “old” technology of MP3 files played on my computer, or burned to CDs and CD-RWs to play on the home DVD player or the car stereo.

My typical week includes:

  • listening to at least two John MacArthur sermons in my car, CD-RW discs with WAV files — currently listening to his Revelation series, up to chapter 16.
  • reading Charles Spurgeon devotionals (from Alistair Begg’s “Truth for Life” daily devotional emails), and reading a few sermons from the 1855 New Park Street volume
  • reading some of Pulpit magazine  and Teampyro blogs
  • listening to S. Lewis Johnson MP3s: half a sermon (about 23 – 25 minutes) each weekday morning before going to work.  I just started his series through Genesis.  Also, listening to MP3s of SLJ’s eschatology series, usually one message each weekday, on my PC at work (currently finished up through number 20 out of 37)

I’ve especially come to appreciate S. Lewis Johnson recently — a name I had often heard in the last several months, as being of like theological views to John MacArthur and Grace Community Church (baptist, Calvinist, dispensational). He really was a great teacher as well, with great depth of teaching (what I also appreciate about John MacArthur), and now I hope to listen to all of his messages, available on the Believer’s Chapel website (link here), and I’ll start by going through from Genesis to Revelation, all of his scripture-book messages.

March 5, 2009

Daniel 12: The Great Tribulation

Filed under: Bible Study,Daniel,eschatology,John MacArthur — Lynda O @ 12:57 pm
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Now to wrap up the study of Daniel, with a look at the 12th and last chapter. Here I reference John MacArthur’s first sermon on “The Great Tribulation” part 1. 

Daniel 12 opens with a message of hope, with the opening words “and at that time.” Here it is clear that the last verses of chapter 11 refer to the time of the end, for chapter 12 continues without break from the previous events. The next few verses make it clear what will happen: Michael will arise, a great time of distress will come, followed by the resurrection of the dead: some to everlasting life, some to everlasting shame and contempt. As I now have been studying through Revelation, up to chapter 6 in that study, I see even more how the different, parallel passages in scripture describe and give details to the same event in the future, and the very fact that the time of trouble is connected with the resurrection should make it obvious (and here I think of the Preterist error) that this has not happened yet.

Here are a few highlights regarding Daniel chapter 12, from MacArthur’s sermons:

Special distress: The “time of distress” is a special distress, none like any before it, and the term is a Hebrew idiom, a term used and described elsewhere throughout the Old and New Testament: Exodus 9 (verses 18 and 24), Deuteronomy 4:30, Jeremiah’s reference to “Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7); also Zechariah 13:8. Jesus describes it in Matthew 24, and Revelation 6 through 19 give the details of the last 3 1/2 years of this time.

The hope comes — Michael, a special defender. Described several places in scripture, he is the one given the “singular responsibility of defending the people of God.” Earlier in Daniel, Michael assisted Gabriel (Daniel 10); in Jude verse 9 Michael is even fighting Satan for the body of Moses. Revelation chapter 12 gives more description here; after the child (Christ) was snatched up to heaven, and after the woman (Israel) fled into the desert to be protected for 1,260 days (another reference to this same 3 1/2 year period of time) — in verse 7 Michael and the holy angels fight against the dragon. Daniel 12:7 also clues us to the time reference, that the events of the previous verses (about Michael coming, great distress, and the resurrection) are for “a time, times, and half a time” — another way of describing the 3 1/2 years.

Next comes a special deliverance: “But at that time your people-everyone whose name is found written in the book-will be delivered.” Jeremiah 30 agrees here, as does Romans 11, “and so all Israel will be saved.” Ezekiel 20:33 similarly describes this time of deliverance. As MacArthur points out, not every Jew alive on the earth at that time will be saved; God is going to purge, put them under the rod (Ezekiel 20); Zechariah 13:9 says two-thirds will die. We don’t know how this remnant comes to faith, and the Bible doesn’t give us all the specifics, but one of the key things to remember is the two witnesses set apart by God, in Revelation 11; Revelation 7 and Revelation 14 tell of the 144,000 evangelistic witnesses — 12,000 from each of the tribes — during this time.

A special destiny: the climax to the Tribulation is the resurrection. Some Bible scholars (see, for example, this blog article regarding New Covenant Theology, that the Jews were unsaved, unregenerate and served only as a type of the true people of God) contend that the Jews never had a clear understanding of life after death, but several passages tell us otherwise: Abraham clearly understood (see Hebrews 11:19), also Job 19:25; Isaiah 26:19; Hosea 13, and the words of David in Psalm 16:10. Revelation 20 gives more detail about this very special resurrection, and here a synopsis: the first resurrection has three parts: 1) Christ, the firstfruits; 2) the church at the rapture (1 Thessalonians 4, “the dead in Christ shall rise first” and then they who are alive are caught up together to meet the Lord in the air”); 3) the raising of the Old Testament saints, and the Tribulation saints. As noted here, the church is removed and not involved in the Great Tribulation; we weren’t in the first 69 weeks, we aren’t going to be in the 70th either; God is then going to go back to dealing with Israel, then “after the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” The second resurrection has just one part, a thousand years later at the end of the Millennial Kingdom, when God raises the bodies of the unjust, and they go into the lake of fire. Now Daniel does not see the thousand years in between, this is part of the flow of redemptive history and progressive revelation. The Old Testament prophets wrote many things they did not understand (as Peter later states), things which often included great leaps from Christ’s first coming to his second, all in the same sentence.

Finally, a special dividend: verse 3 “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.” As MacArthur describes it, “in eternity we will be rewarded by the capacity to manifest the blazing glory of God… in eternity we will shine as stars.”

February 19, 2009

Daniel 11, Continued

Now for a look at the last part of Daniel 11, verses 35 to 45.  Click here to view John MacArthur’s message on this topic.

These verses must refer to a future time, not something already fulfilled in history, for several reasons. Verse 35 tells us the purpose of all these events: for the purging of the people of Israel, their spiritual purification. Also, the term “time of the end” is an eschatological term, dealing with last things. Verse 40 reiterates this: “at the time of the end.” The end of verse 36 indicates that the antichrist will prosper “until the time of wrath is completed” — the completion of God’s wrath. MacArthur refers to this word as “the indignation” and notes that this is near synonymous with the term Tribulation.

The description of antichrist in this passage, detail by detail, parallels other Scripture passages about Antichrist. The beginning of chapter 12, referring back to these verses, tells us that Michael shall stand, a time of trouble will come, and the resurrection follows.

The previous three revelations in the book of Daniel all ended with a prophecy about the Antichrist; this prophecy follows the same pattern.

In these verses we see three things about the antichrist: his character, his conflict, and his condemnation. His character is revealed in words describing him as “the willful king.” Other titles in the Bible given to him include “the little horn” (Daniel 7), “the king of fierce countenance” (Daniel 8), “the prince that shall come” (Daniel 9), “the man of sin” and “the son of perdition” (2 Thessalonians 2) and “the beast” (Revelation 13). This willful king is marked by prerogative: he does everything according to his will, as an absolute ruler. It is true that Revelation 17 says there are ten kings, but they are just puppet kings under this one; Revelation 13 describes his cohort the “false prophet” but again the false prophet does his bidding; and also in Revelation 13, all men must take his mark, the mark of the beast. His other character features: he is proud and profane (verse 36), perverted (verse 37), and powerful (end of verse 37).

His conflict: beginning in verse 40, a revolution from the king of the south. Ezekiel 38 also describes the army that comes, the king of the north. The condemnation finally comes, in verse 45: “yet he will come to his end.” MacArthur identifies the northern army as Russia, and his message gives more details on the sequence of events and relates the events to the parallel passages described in Revelation.

Three great lessons from this prophecy:

1. God controls everything

2. God will purge His people Israel

3. The world will end in a holocaust, but Christ will triumph over that, and all will be well forever for the saints of God

These are great things to rejoice in and give thanks for, to consider how great is our God.

Daniel 11: The Reign of Rebellion

Filed under: Bible Study,Daniel,John MacArthur — Lynda O @ 12:13 pm
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Part 1
For study of Daniel 11, I’m looking at John MacArthur’s sermons “The Reign of Rebellion” (parts 1 and part 2).

This chapter gives a detailed prophecy about events that took place a few hundred years after Daniel, followed by events yet to occur at the end. The overall theme continues, that the chastening of Israel is going to continue until the time of the restoration, until the time when Messiah comes in His kingdom, and this (Daniel’s time) was only the beginning.

The details of the prophecy, especially verses 2 through 35, are amazingly accurate, and historically verifiable, such that its contents are the cause of all the criticisms of the book of Daniel. Lost man recognizes the accuracy of the prophecy, but cannot allow for God or miracles, and thus must conclude that Daniel wasn’t really a prophet but lived hundreds of years later, that the words must have been written after the events occurred. As MacArthur notes, they have two problems: a god who doesn’t know the future, and a man like Daniel, of impeccable character and highly esteemed as one of the most honorable men that ever lived, made into a first-rate liar.

One common “hook” running through the passage, a way to remember it all, is that all the kings’ names begin with the letter “A”: Ahasuerus (also called Xerxes) of Persia , Alexander the Great, Antiochus the Great, Antiochus Epiphanes, and antichrist.

Regarding the first king, there were actually more than four kings in Persia, but the angel picks out the key right here: there were three who ruled just before a fourth, and that fourth one was the one that led a major attack on Greece. The first three kings were Cambyses (son of Cyrus, king in Daniel’s time), a man named pseudo-Smerdis (an impostor who had great physical resemblance to Cambyses), and Darius Hystaspes. The fourth king, Xerxes or Ahasuerus, was the truly great king, the one mentioned in book of Esther, who had great wealth and commanded the largest army of ancient times.

About 150 years after Xerxes’ great battle against Greece, the Greeks finally got their act together, and Alexander came forth, as noted in Daniel 11:3. After Alexander died, his kingdom was parceled out to four rulers, two of whom had significance for Israel: the Ptolemaic line in Egypt (the kings of the south), and the Seleucid dynasty of Syria (the kings of the north), with Israel the pawn in the power struggles that continued for centuries.

Verse 10 introduces the third king, Antiochus the Great. The next several verses describe with astonishing accuracy the events of the king of the south (Ptolemies) and the king of the north (Seleucid). The fourth king, Antiochus Epiphanes, is introduced in verse 20, and again Daniel describes to the specific details the events of his reign, in the verses up until verse 35. Starting in verse 35, Daniel describes future events which do not fit with known history. Yet since we have the record of history for the previous verses, we can trust God that the future verses will also take place, as precisely as the previous events did.

February 5, 2009

Daniel 10: The Vision of Glory

Filed under: Bible Study,Daniel,John MacArthur — Lynda O @ 12:55 pm
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Daniel 10 begins the last section of the book, including the last and greatest vision. Chapter 10 introduces the vision, chapter 11 gives the prophecy, and chapter 12 is an epilogue.   John MacArthur’s message “The Vision of Glory” discusses chapter 10.

This chapter occurs two years after the previous vision (the third year of Cyrus), and Daniel is feeling discouragement and disappointment, because the people really haven’t gone back yet. Only 42,000 returned with Ezra, the rest living their new lives in Babylon and Persia, and the 42,000 were such a small number.

Daniel 1:21 tells us that Daniel retired in the first year of Cyrus, so by chapter 10 Daniel has retired from public service. Yet Daniel did not return with Ezra’s group, and here MacArthur suggests a reason: not because Daniel was too old, but because he was too disapppointed. Daniel saw himself as having the responsibility to motivate other Jews to return, and he couldn’t return because he wasn’t satisfied.

Instead, Daniel does what he always does in a crisis: he prays. Chapter 10 shows us that Daniel fasted and prayed for three weeks, and that “Daniel received a revelation. The revelation was true. He understood very well the revelation.”

Here are six points in the outline of Daniel 10:

  1. Mourning toward heaven
  2. Manifestation of heaven
  3. Mastery by heaven
  4. Messenger from heaven
  5. Mischief in heaven
  6. Message from heaven

Mourning toward heaven: the three weeks of mourning

Manifestation of heaven: verses 4 through 6 describe the appearance of a certain man “dressed in linen.” This is not an angel, but a preincarnate appearance of Christ, a Christophany, for the description is very similar to John’s description of Christ in Revelation 1.

Mastery by heaven: as with others in the Bible who have an encounter with God, Daniel is overawed. The others who are with him flee in terror; Daniel loses all strength and his face turns deathly pale. Such a reaction is similarly shared by Job, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and John.

Messenger from heaven: an angel appears and touches Daniel, to restore him and deliver a message to Daniel, who is greatly beloved (verse 11). Mischief from heaven: The angel explains his delay of three weeks; the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood him for 21 days, and Michael came to this angel’s assistance. These verses teach us that the true rulers of the kingdoms of men are not men but demons. Verse 20 tells us that a demon is to be assigned to Greece. In the New Testament, Paul tells us that we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual powers. Here we have a rare glimpse behind the scenes in world history.

Message from heaven: verse 21 begins this section, which really develops in chapter 11. “First I will tell you what is written in the Book of Truth.” The vision concerns Daniel’s people, is a vision not just for now, not just for the 70 years but many years, until the end of the Tribulation.

Some important truths we learn from Daniel 10 include the reality of demonic powers over nations of men, and that “God actually carries out His will through the angelic conflict.”

January 31, 2009

Daniel 9: Israel’s Future

The second half of Daniel 9, the answer to his prayer, is contained in seven important verses, Daniel 9:20-27, and here I review the three sermons MacArthur preached, “Israel’s Future.”   Here are part 1, part 2, and part 3.

MacArthur focuses on three features and three main characters:

  • The Circumstances of Daniel
  • The Coming of Gabriel
  • The Communication of God

First, Daniel and his circumstances: he was praying, a very strong, fervent prayer, as described in the first 19 verses and the previous sermon set.

Second, the coming of Gabriel: he is an angel, though he comes in the form of a man, and his name literally means “The strong one of God” from the hebrew words gabar “the strong one” and el “God.” Gabriel also appeared in other important situations: to Zechariah to announce the birth of John the Baptist, and to Mary to announce the birth of the Messiah. God wants Daniel to know that His message is a high-priority one, sent by Gabriel personally; this information also connects the events with Gabriel in chapter 8, Gabriel’s previous visit to Daniel.

Third comes the communication, the prophecy in verses 24 to 27, a well-known prophecy about 70 weeks. Daniel had been praying about the ending of 70 years of captivity, and God responds that there is much more to come, not just 70 years but 70 times 7 years. An interesting side note here regarding scripture: when Daniel read the term “seventy years” in Jeremiah’s writings, he thought it actually meant seventy years. As MacArthur points out, so many Bible commentators and when the Bible says seventy years, “they immediately go into instant hocus-pocus and they invent all kinds of fantastic symbols which were not the case in Daniel’s mind.

Now for a summary of the prophecy: the entire prophecy has to do with Daniel’s people and Daniel’s city, the nation of Israel and the city of Jerusalem.

Two different princes are mentioned: “Messiah the Prince” in verse 25, and “the prince that shall come” in verse 26 — the first is Christ, the next one is antichrist.

The entire time period involved is exactly specified as 70 weeks, which are divided into three sections: the first seven weeks, then 62 weeks, and a last week.

Verse 24 is important, as it tells the purpose of these 70 weeks in God’s redemptive plan. Six purposes are described, of which the first three are negative — finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity. The following three purposes are positive: to bring in everlasting righteousness, seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint a Holy of Holies. The prophecy for the 70 weeks goes from Daniel’s time to the end. The first three purposes point to Christ’s work on the cross; the last three purposes go beyond the cross to the kingdom, which lets us know there’s a time gap.

These seventy weeks are “determined” for God’s sovereign eternal plan. The Hebrew word literally means “to cut off,” and so “it’s as if God has just cut off or cut loose a seventy-week period, pulled it right out of human history and in that period He will accomplish His purposes with His people Israel.” These weeks are determined by God, and determined by God “upon thy people and upon thy holy city.”

MacArthur gives reasons for stating that the years are according to the Jewish calendar, 360 day years (see previous blog entry “Daniel’s Seventy Weeks“). Parallel texts in Revelation say that the great Tribulation will last 42 months (Rev. 13) and specifically, 1260 days (Rev. 12:6), and 1260 days means you have to be using 360 day years.

In the third part of this series, MacArthur looks more closely at verses 26 and 27. We note from the text that Messiah is cut off, killed, AFTER the 69 weeks, not during it. Then come more events AFTER the 69 weeks; “the people of the prince that shall come” describes the antichrist (the prince or ruler that shall come), and the people of the prince are Romans, who “will destroy the city and the sanctuary.” This part refers to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 by the Romans. Then, “War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.” The gap continues, and then, verse 27, “He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering.” We know there’s a time gap before the 70th week, though we don’t know how long it lasts — only that it ends when antichrist comes to confirm a covenant with Israel. As MacArthur relates, the book of Revelation gives us additional information not disclosed here in Daniel, describing the same time period. Additional texts describing the antichrist and the great Tribulation include Revelation 13: 4-5, also 2 Thess. 2.

January 27, 2009

Daniel 9: Elements of True Prayer

Filed under: Bible Study,Daniel,John MacArthur — Lynda O @ 1:00 pm
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Daniel chapter 9 consists of two major parts: Daniel’s prayer, and the answer. For study of this great chapter in Daniel, I’m looking at John MacArthur’s sermon series “Elements of True Prayer” for the first part of the chapter, Daniel’s prayer. Here are the links to the sermons: part1, part2, and part3.

First we consider the biblical context: the prayer is about 70 years, the answer is regarding 70 weeks of years. The prayer is for restoration, and the answer tells of the ultimate restoration in the coming of Messiah. When looking at Daniel 9, we need to look at both the prayer and the prophecy. As MacArthur says, “Prophecy is important, but it cannot substitute for prayer.”

The historical setting is the first year of King Darius, at the beginning of the Medo-Persian empire. Daniel is now over 80 years old, and along with his fellow Jews has lived most of his life in captivity. The Jews in exile had brought scrolls of the Old Testament writings with them and compiled them together. Daniel had a set of these books, including the books of Jeremiah (Jeremiah and Lamentations). Daniel’s prayer in chapter 9 comes as a response to reading Jeremiah’s prophecy about the 70 years, since he knows the end of that period of time is fast approaching. Daniel didn’t know when the 70 years had begun, but he himself had been in captivity close to 70 years now. Actually, as history shows us, the 70 years really would not end for another 20 years, since it did not begin until the temple’s destruction in 586 B.C.; and though at this time Cyrus gave the decree to rebuild the temple, very few went back, and the work to rebuild was slow for many years.

The main point of the prayer passage, though, is a look at intercessory prayer, and here we note the spiritual context: Daniel shows humility (verse 3), confession and reverence (verse 4), a proper attitude of prayer.

Here, from Daniel’s prayer, are eight principles to remember, regarding the nature of true intercessory prayer.

1. Prayer is in response to the Word of God.

“unless we understand the word of God, we do not understand the purposes and the plans of God in order to govern and guide our prayers. ”

2. Prayer is grounded in God’s will

“If God has a purpose, His people identify with His will”

3. Prayer is characterized by fervency. Verse 3 tells us that Daniel “fixed his gaze on the Lord God.” He fasted, without food, in sackcloth an dashes, all cultural indicators of humility. Verse 20 indicates he’s been praying for a long time, so that Gabriel has to touch him to let him know he’s there.

4. Prayer is realized in self-denial. Verse 4: “I prayed unto the Lord my God, and made my confession.” Understand that you don’t belong in the presence of God.

5. Prayer is identified with God’s people. Daniel says “we” throughout the prayer, identifying himself with others, with his fellow Israelites.

6. Prayer is strengthened in confession.

7. Prayer is dependent on God’s character. In verse 4 he prays “O Lord, the great and awesome God.”

8. Prayer consummates in God’s glory. Daniel says in verse 19, “Your people have become a reproach to You.” In other words, don’t do it for us, do it for You. Don’t do what you promised because of us, but do it for Your sake, for Your great name and Your reputation.

January 20, 2009

Daniel 8: False Messiahs

Daniel 8: False Messiahs

John MacArthur has three sermons for the text of Daniel 8, “False Messiahs.”   Here are part 1, part 2, and part 3

A basic outline for this chapter is: the big horn, the little horn, and the final horn. The first two are types of antichrist, historical figures now long past but future to Daniel, who would show some of the attributes of the final antichrist, as precursors to the future wicked one. The big horn is Alexander the Great, and shows antichrist’s power; the little horn is Antiochus Epiphanes, and shows antichrist’s character.

In the New Testament, John writes of the antichrist yet to come, and thus points back to Daniel’s prophecy. Paul also teaches about the antichrist, in his writings to the Thessalonians about the coming lawless one. Jesus also tells about this figure, in the Olivet Discourse. The source of all New Testament material about the antichrist is Daniel’s prophecy, which describes this figure in great detail, and in chapter 8 gives us two precursors as examples.

Daniel has a threefold purpose: to the Jews of his day, to prepare them for coming persecution; also, to warn the Jews of his day to not be confused by the trend of history — the fact that the Gentiles are going to rule the world from this point forward. Thirdly, Daniel “always comes to the Kingdom,” to let us know that, no matter how bad things get, God’s Kingdom will prevail.

Now to the text, and here we must remember that Daniel is writing this before it happens, during the time of the Babylonian empire. The ram with two horns represents the Medo-Persian kingdom. Interestingly, history tells us that the Medo-Persian empire actually used the symbol of a ram.

MacArthur: “Ammianus Marcellinus who is a fourth century historian, states this: “On all the rulers of Persia or the Medo-Persian Empire…they bore a ram, or the head of a ram, on some part of their garments or some part of their armor. Especially when they went to battle.” Marcellinus says that, “When a Persian general or a Persian monarch stepped in front of his troops for a battle, he represented a ram somewhere on his attire.” In the signs of the Zodiac, which come, of course, from the occult, the sign of the Ram, Aries, has always been connected with Persia…Other historians tell us that the guardian spirit of the Persian kingdom appeared under the form of a ram with clean feet and sharp hooves. The ram, then, in ancient times, symbolized Persia, the Persian Empire.”

The second horn, which comes up after the first horn and is taller, represents the power of the Persians finally taking supremacy over the Medes, in the person of Cyrus. Cyrus became a very powerful ruler, a tyrannical dictator, who “became great” as verse 4 describes. MacArthur:

“When Cyrus set up the Medo-Persian Empire, he was a absolute tyrant…an absolute tyrant. Tyrannical dictatorship. So the rapid progress of Cyrus in just ten years, from 549 to 539, he conquered the world. And it is suggested by this ram in front of Daniel in his vision. And, of course, in the process, at the end of verse 4, it says, “He became great.” A better way to translate that Hebrew phrase is he magnified himself. He magnified himself. Cyrus was characterized by two things: self-will, he did what he wanted; and pride.”

 

Verse 5 describes a goat (some translations, “hegoat”) with a notable horn between his eyes. Daniel 8, verses 20 and 21 give us the interpretation of both the ram and the goat — the goat is the Greek empire, with Alexander the Great (the first king) as the notable horn. Isaiah 14:9 also references hegoats, as an expression referring to leaders or chiefs. The goat comes from the west, at incredible speed so that it covers the face of the earth and never touches the ground, showing the incredible speed at which the Greek Empire, under Alexander the Great, conquered a vast amount of territory. Daniel 7, the previous chapter, describes the Greek empire as a winged leopard, also noting the great speed and agility.

As Daniel 8:8 describes, “the hegoat grew very great, and when he was strong, the great horn was broken.” The text goes on to describe the kingdom being divided into four parts. The working out of this prophecy is also interesting. Alexander the Great was at his high point when he suddenly died, defeated by his own sinfulness. Then, the kingdom divided into four parts did not happen immediately, but was the end result after 22 years. As MacArthur explains:

“In Alexander’s place came up four new leaders. That’s what the Bible says will happen. Couple hundred years before it happened. And that’s exactly what happened. When Alexander died, his empire was divided among four generals. Remember? Cassander, Lysimachus, Seleucus, and Ptolemy. And what does it say? “Toward the four winds.” Cassander took the west. That was Macedonia and Greece. Lysimachus took the north, Thrace, Bithynia, and Asia Minor. Seleucus too the east, Syria, Babylonia and east. And Ptolemy took the south, Egypt, Israel, Arabia. You wanna know what fascinates me? You say, “Well, it just all fell into place, ’cause all he had was four generals.” It took 22 years…22 years of the most incredible intrigues and the most unbelievable historical events until those things were divided into four. Twenty-two years after Alexander died, they finally got those four divisions, and those were 22 years of subterfuge and infighting among all the generals of Alexander that finally ended up with four. And there was a fifth who hung onto the last, named Antigonus. But at the very last, he was defeated and shoved out, and there were four.”

MacArthur also shares a great poem, contrasting Alexander the Great and Jesus, from Charles Ross Weede:

“Jesus and Alexander died at 33. One lived and died for self; one died for you and me. The Greek died on a throne; the Jew died on a cross. One’s life a triumph seemed; the other but a loss. One led vast armies forth; the other walked alone. One shed a whole world’s blood; the other gave His own. One won the world in life and lost it all in death; the other lost His life to win the whole world’s faith. Jesus and Alexander died at 33. One died in Babylon, and on at Calgary. One gained all for self; and one Himself He gave. One conquered every tongue; the other every grave. The one made himself God; the other made Himself less. The one lived but to blast; the other but to bless. When died the Greek, forever fell his throne of swords; but Jesus died to live forever Lord of Lords. Jesus and Alexander died at 33. The Greek made all men slaves; the Jew made all men free. One built a throne on blood; the other built on love. The one was born of earth; the other from above. One won all this earth, to lose all earth and heaven. The other gave up all, that all to Him be given…And then this final statement…The Greek forever died; the Jew forever lives. Jesus and Alexander died at 33.”

Now to the little horn: Antiochus Epiphanes, who was the eighth ruler of the Seleucid dynasty, who ruled from 175 to 164 B.C. — another 150 years past Alexander the Great, hundreds of years after Daniel’s life. Daniel 8 tells us that this horn rises from littleness — Antiochus was a usurper with no right to the throne. The rightful heir was a hostage, and Antiochus by flattery took the position, and called himself Epiphanes — the people called him Epimanes (the maniac). The Seleucids controlled the east part of the original Greek Empire, and the Ptolemys controlled the south (Egypt), with Israel as a buffer area, right in the middle of the conflict between the two powers.

Horns on animals in scripture are always the symbol of power and dominion. The little horn of chapter 8 is different from the little horn of chapter 7; both describe a horn that starts out small, yet referring to two different people. The little horn in chapter 7 comes from the Roman Empire, whereas the one in chapter 8 comes from the Greek Empire. The chapter 7 little horn is the antichrist, and the chapter 8 little horn prefigures the antichrist and, as commentators generally agree, is Antiochus. In the third sermon, MacArthur described the specific atrocities committed by Antiochus against the people of Israel.

Of particular interest, note the specific dates and numbers given in this prophecy. The Bible tells us that the antichrist will only last 1250 days (3 1/2 years), and in Matthew 24 Jesus tells us that if it lasted any longer, on one would be saved — antichrist’s time is limited. Antichrist will be far worse than Antiochus, who was given a longer period of time: 2300 days (verse 14). Note this from MacArthur, how this prophecy actually played out:

Now, people, when the Bible starts getting that specific, that is really amazing. The Bible says there’ll be 2300 days in which Antiochus will oppress the Jews. Historical data is rather unavailable at this point. We can’t really tell the precise point at which this horrible holocaust began. But, now listen, and this is what’s fascinating. We do know when the closing of the 2300 days came, because it says the closing will be the sanctuary cleansed. On December 25th, 165 BC, under the leadership of one of the Maccabees, Judas Maccabeus, the great leader of that family who led the revolution against Antiochus, came in and cleansed the temple. December 25th, 165 BC.

So you start with December 25th, 165 BC, and go backwards how many days? Twenty three hundred days, and you figure back. You wind up at September 6th, 171 BC. September 6th, 171 BC. That, then, would be the date when some event occurred that was sufficient enough to mark the beginning of Antiochus’ anti-Jewish atrocities. Now, September 6th, 171, we don’t have any record of what happened on that day. But I’ll tell you one thing, something did happen, because God knows his numbers. And just to confirm that, listen to this. Though the nature of the event is not known, history is very clear about this. The Jewish atrocities began in 171 BC. That’s very clear from history…Until 171, say the historians, there was peace between Antiochus and the Jews. The pious high priest, a good man by the name of Onias III, was removed from office. Jason…who bribed Antiochus for the position, was put in the place of the true high priest. The anger of the Jews became stirred. That is the righteous Jews, and though the revolution didn’t break out for a while, the thing began to fester that eventually led to that revolution.

And then 2300 days from September 6th, the temple was cleansed as the Maccabeans won their battle against Antiochus. Now, you get a little idea of the history of this individual by looking at verses 9 to 14. … Antiochus was such a maniac that he imprinted on the coins…and by the way, you might be interested to know we found 126 coins. I say “we,” speaking of archeologists. Have found 126 coins with this on them: “Theos Antiochus Theos Epiphenes,” which means Antiochus, God manifest. What a picture of antichrist who comes as the false god.

 

 

 God’s word never ceases to amaze — even to the literal fulfillment of prophecies, and prophecies which involve numbers. We can look at the near-term prophecies of Daniel and realize they were right, and thus can trust that the future prophecy will also be fulfilled. So much for all those skeptics who say that “all numbers in Revelation are used symbolically.” Nonsense. As I’ve learned through continual study, the book of Revelation is a very Jewish book, with many references to prophecies in Daniel, also things in Ezekiel and Zechariah. This study of Daniel helps to connect the dots and fill in the pieces, as one major part of God’s progressive revelation, which began in the Old Testament

January 8, 2009

The Coming Kingdom of Christ: the Chronology

Continuing now with MacArthur’s sermons through Daniel 7 (part 2 and part 3), now comes the chronology of the kingdom.

Chapter 7 is one long vision, with three segments: first, the four beasts that rise out of the sea; second, the Ancient of Days on the throne; and third, Christ being given His kingdom as He comes in glory. Though of course we don’t know any specific dates for when Christ’s Kingdom will come, we can know these points:

The Kingdom of Christ follows the final kingdom of the nations

Christ returns after the four great world empires, described in the first seven verses: Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome. Daniel sees these as four beasts, rather ugly creatures, since he sees things from God’s perspective. Contrast this with Nebuchadnezzar’s vision in chapter 2, in which the four kingdoms are described in very beautiful, attractive language — a statue with gold, silver, and bronze: Nebuchadnezzar as a pagan saw the kingdoms of men in a positive way.

The Kingdom of Christ follows the final form of the final kingdom of the nations.

The final form of the final kingdom will be some form of Rome. Rome died a long time ago, yet we still have many vestiges of the Roman system today: our legal system, our culture, even our language has some derivatives from Rome’s language. Daniel 7, verse 7, tells us that the final form will have ten horns. John MacArthur, from this message in 1980, believes this will be some type of European Union, a ten-nation confederacy, and saw significance in the forming of the European economic union. I’ve heard other preachers (more recently) say it will come out of the Middle East, which after all was also part of the Roman Empire.  Again, we don’t know the details, but can only speculate, yet it will somehow be a revived form of the Roman Empire, in the general Middle East / European part of the world.

Here as in many places of Daniel, we find parallel descriptions, with more details, in the book of Revelation. Revelation 13 describes a beast with ten horns and seven heads, and one of the heads was dead and came to life again.

The Kingdom of Christ follows the final ruler of the final form of the final kingdom of the nations

Verses 8, 20, and 24 tell us that one particular king arises from the ten:

MacArthur: Verse 8, Daniel 7, “I considered the horns, and behold, there came up among them another little horn, before which there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots. And behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things.” Verse 20, “And of the ten horns that were in its head, and of the other which came up and before whom three fell, even of that horn that had eyes and a mouth that spoke very great things, whose look was more…stout says the authorized…than its fellows.” Again commenting on this little horn that rises. Verse 24, “And the ten horns out of this kingdom are the ten kings that shall arise.” That’s the final form of the final kingdom. “But out of that final form shall arise after them another, diverse from the first, and subdue three kings. And he shall speak great words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and think to change the times and the laws; and they shall be given unto his hand until a time, and times, and the dividing of time… there is a constant comment that there’s going to rise a king out of the ten. He will subdue three others. He will take over and rule, and he will do various and sundry things. Now, this is a prediction of what we call in Daniel 7 “the little horn.” But he is none other than the antichristHere, among all the uncertainty as to the details, we can discern a few specific traits: he starts out small, a little horn, and apparently becomes larger, more “stout” as one translation renders it, in verse 20 — meaning abundant in size, rank, such as a captain or a chief. Antichrist is clearly a political genius: an individual so subtle that he gradually rises up the political ladder, without an upheaval or revolution. He conquers without fighting. Revelation 6 further describes this, a rider on a horse, with a bow but not arrows. He is also an intellectual genius: “eyes like the eyes of a man (verse 8), which refer to insight, knowledge, shrewdness and cleverness, someone who is able to solve the world problems, who will be able to bring peace to the Middle East as another passage describes. Antichrist will also be a great orator (verse 8, a mouth speaking great things), paralleled in Revelation 13:5, as well as a military genius. MacArthur: “Once he rises to his place peaceably, once he obtains his kingdom by flattery, then the holocaust begins.” He’ll also be a commercial genius, able to solve economic problems (Revelation 18). Also he will be a religious genius — someone who has charisma, who passes himself off as a great religious leader, and (verse 25) speaks boastfully against the Most High God. Fortunately, as we see at the end of verse 25, his time will be limited, to 3 1/2 years.

The Kingdom of Christ follows the final ruler, and the final form, and the final kingdom, only after the final persecution by that final ruler.

Verse 21 describes a persecution by the final ruler, against the saints. Zechariah 13:8-9 describes this terrible persecution also, in which the antichrist kills 2/3 of the Jews, and literally conquers Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:1-2). Revelation 13:5-10 also describes this time, including a great persecution, and that many saints will be killed.

The Kingdom of Christ follows a divine judgment for the great persecution by the final ruler of the final phase of the final kingdom of the nations.

In verses 9 and 10, the Ancient of Days took His throne, and the books were opened. Verse 9 describes “His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze.” Fire here speaks of His authority, and is associated with judgment, as described also in Psalm 97:3. Ezekiel 1 also describes God as wheels of flaming fire. Revelation 1 has a similar description, of God the Son, to show that the same description is applied to both God the Father (in Daniel 7) and God the Son (Revelation 1) — the amazing truth of the trinity, how they are described because, though distinct persons, they are of the same essence.

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