TODAY’S READING: Daniel 7–9
The final six chapters of Daniel are prophetic in that they foretold details of the inter-testament period, a period of which the Bible is largely silent, though the Apocrypha is not. In these “silent years,” Alexander the Great defeated the Persians and set up Greek colonies across the Middle East. This period of Greek dominance gave us Pericles, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle among others. When Alexander died, his conquered territory was divided among four generals; the two most prominent launched dynasties in Egypt (Ptolemies) and Syria (Seleucids). Jewish nationalists (led by priests who would become kings) overthrew the Greeks in the Maccabean revolt of 166 BC, only to be subdued by the Romans who then controlled Palestine by 63 BC.
Daniel’s visions are the examples of apocalyptic literature in all the Old Testament. Apocalyptic literature was a particularly Jewish form of writing, fairly common in the centuries after the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. Apocalyptic texts usually presented symbolic visions, with every detail appearing to have a specific hidden meaning, though not always explaining it. The primary purpose of apocalyptic writing was to comfort those who were being persecuted for their faith. Such comfort was found in knowing that all the kingdoms of earth, however powerful they might appear, would one day be crushed and replaced by God’s eternal kingdom, in which the faithful would be vindicated (Dan. 2:44, 45, 7:27; 8:25).
Apocalyptic writing (Daniel and Revelation) can have multiple fulfilments: the time of the visionary, the time of coming persecution, and then ultimate fulfilment on the great and terrible day of the Lord when King Jesus comes back to rule and reign. Over and again in Daniel we are reminded that Jehovah reigns in the kingdom of men (4:17, 5:21), setting those He chooses over the kingdoms for His purposes. The context for Daniel 7 to 9 is the persecution to come from the Greeks and Romans. First, the land of Palestine was a Ptolemaic kingdom, then a Seleucid one. “The Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175–164 BC) sought to establish Greek religion and culture in his realm and to wipe out rival beliefs. He outlawed the Jewish faith, burned all copies he could find of the Jewish Scripture, and in 167 BC sacrificed pigs to Zeus on the altar of the Jerusalem temple. Faithful Jews rebelled [the Maccabean revolt] and in 164 BC were able to cleanse and rededicate the temple, a rededication still celebrated by Jews today, Hanukkah.”
The missions implications are simple and profound. The Ancient of Days yet rules from His eternal throne in the kingdom of men. Persecution and trouble are a normal part of gospel advance, but just for a season. At the end the Lord and His people will prevail. If we hold steady, Messiah will come. Let us be resolved that our missions future includes suffering and enduring abominable things, resolved not to doubt the sovereign goodness of God, resolved that God will use our sufferings to display His glory among all nations, and resolved to remember that Jesus comes to His people and on one marvelous day for His people.