During my early years of discipleship, biblical training as a follower of Christ, I was exposed to Biblical Eschatology. Eschatology is an ancient Greek word that means “last-ology”, or the study (“ology”) of what comes last. From a Biblical perspective it is the study of the end times, end of the world, the apocalypse, and the second coming of Christ. I’ll admit it’s a pretty intense topic for a 12-year-old, but I really got into it. It wasn’t a fundamentalist indoctrination or meant to scare me to death, although some of things written in the Bible about the return of Christ can be unsettling. However, these prophecies are really meant to give us hope that Jesus will return and that we need to be ready.
It is impossible to have a detailed study of Biblical eschatology in one devotional. There are volumes of information on the subject, so this week I just want to hit some highlights from Daniel 7-12 that may lead you to a deeper study of the return of Christ. However, I just want to be fair and warn you that Biblical eschatology can be confusing, cryptic, mysterious, and difficult to decipher. There are gurus of eschatology that think they have it all figured and mapped out, but they really don’t have a clue how it’s all going to play out. I think the Lord meant for it to be that way, so that we wouldn’t know for sure. As Doc Brown from Back to the Future says, “nobody should know too much about their own destiny” because we would probably mess it up if we did. Eschatology/Biblical prophecy is mainly a reminder that God has a plan to return triumphantly, and he wants us to be ready. It is also a warning to those who have not repented of sin and turned to God.
In Matthew 24 Jesus is asked about what is going to happen, as in the future. You can read the entire chapter to get the full picture of what Jesus says, but I primarily want to focus on verse 36.
“36 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Matthew 24:36 NIV
We can speculate all we want and worry about the “signs of the times”, but basically only one person really knows for sure what’s going to happen and when, and that’s God the Father. However, that doesn’t stop people from speculating or even becoming radical extremists on the subject. There are several definitive encampments or divisions of eschatology that are hotly contested, which I find distracting from the bigger picture. If people want to get worked up about it, that’s up to them, but if Jesus says we can’t crack the code, then we can’t crack the code.
Matthew 24 is a pretty detailed explanation from Jesus himself on how we need to proceed and prepare for His return, but that doesn’t mean that a study of Biblical prophecy is not beneficial. The awe, power, glory, and majesty that is reflected in Biblical prophecy can lead us to repentance, a deeper faith, form of worship and relationship with the “Ancient of Days” (God-Yahweh) described in Daniel’s visions.
Okay, here we go with the final 5 chapters in Daniel. We are going to jump them superman style with a single bound. Watch the landing it can be a little bumpy! Please read chapters 7-12 for context and full effect. Always keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle. Make sure your seat belt is safely fastened and return your tray table to its full upright and locked position.
Here are possible explanations and meaning behind some of the symbolism of the visions in chapters 7-12. (Chapters 7 and 8 this week and 9-12 next week.) Remember these are just highlights, not a comprehensive breakdown, and there is a lot jumping around between the visions of the 490 years after Daniel and the events leading up to Jesus’ 2nd coming.
Chapter 7 possible explanations:
- 4 Beasts could represent the empires of Babylon (Lion), Medo-Persia (Bear), Persia or Greece (Leopard w/4 heads may represent 4 great kings of Persia), and Rome (4th Beast with “iron teeth” also corresponds with “legs of iron” in Daniel 2 which is believed to be Rome as well.)
- Reference to “bronze claws” in 7:19 could be Greece or Persia if your following Chapter 2 vision. I told you it was confusing!
- Fourth beast or kingdom with 10 horns is believed to represent last 10 great kings of that kingdom that would precede and set in motion the 2nd coming of Christ.
- Eventually one horn or king will subdue 3 others. This king is believed to be the anti-Christ. He will speak against God’s people, ultimately bringing them under his control or rule. Verse 25 says, “The holy people will be delivered into his hands for a time, times and half a time.” The “time, times and a half” refers to the “Great Tribulation” or 7 years that will occur after the anti-Christ takes power. The “Great Tribulation” will be a time of great persecution and suffering for God’s people, believers. People will be given the “mark of the beast” referenced in Revelation 7:2; 13:7-10, 6-17; 14:9-10; 19:20; & 20:4 during this time.
- “Ancient of Days” in this chapter is a common Biblical reference to God the Father, Yahweh.
- Son of Man reference could be Jesus.
- Ram w/two horns. Horns represent combined Medo-Persian empire. The horn that grew longer and later is Persia.
- Goat w/one horn between its eyes represents Greece, the horn is Alexander the Great who is torn off after his death.
- The “four prominent horns that grew up toward the four winds of heaven” after Alexanders death represent the kingdoms of Egypt, Asia, Macedonia, and Syria, into which the Grecian monarchy was divided after the death of Alexander. The “little horn” references also mean that these kingdoms won’t be as powerful as Alexanders.
- The “Little horn” that rises possibly refers to Antiochus IV Epiphanes, a Greek Hellenistic king who ruled the Seleucid Empire from 175-164 BC.
- The hosts of heaven” or “starry hosts” could refer to angels (heavenly hosts) or Jews.
Okay I’ve got to stop here for now. We’ll get the rest next week and finally finish our study of Daniel. It will give you some more time to read and digest chapters 7, 8, and get a preview of 9-12.
Have a great weekend! Love y’all!
Director of Family Ministry and Facility Coordinator – Andrews UMC