What Christian has not marveled at the messages of prophecy in the Bible, and wondered about their meaning? Oh, we think we understand some of the prophecies pretty well, but others remain a complete mystery to the average believer. I dare say, that the average believer doesn't feel that it's really necessary to understand the prophecies of the Bible. So I ask you to consider just now: Why did God give us the written Word of prophecy? Is there any real purpose for these messages? What I'm telling you is that most churches, by their actions, do not see the importance of the messages of prophecy in God's Word. If they did, they would be teaching and preaching about it!
Please consider this line of reasoning: 1] In Revelation 14:6 it defines this prophecy as the "everlasting gospel", and says that it is to be preached unto all "them that dwell on the earth." (Remember that Jesus told His disciples to "go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" Mark 16:15. He also promised that when "this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come" Matthew 24:14.) 2] Verses 9 & 10 of this prophecy warns us: "If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:" 3] Now ask yourself: Would God give us such a warning without our knowing, for sure, who the beast is; what his image is; and what his mark is? This is just unthinkable!
It is obvious from the above, that there is a very important reason for God giving prophecy to man. Without the information contained in the Bible prophecies, we will be lost!
Remember: "they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come." (1 Corinthians 10:11) and: "Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets." (Amos 3:7) and also the introduction to the book of Revelation: "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw. Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand." (Revelation 1:1-3)
In studying the prophecies of the Bible, we will allow the Bible to interpret itself. When a symbol used in a prophecy, then somewhere, the Bible will tell us what the symbol represents. We can't use our imaginations to fill in the blanks. We need the wisdom of the Holy Scriptures. Daniel chapter two lays the foundation for understanding end time prophecy.
1. Who was Nebuchadnezzar? Daniel 1:1
2. What do we find troubling Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 2:1
Without the true interpretation from God, we will be troubled by the prophecies too!
3. Who did the king turn to for understanding about the dreams? Daniel 2:2
4. Were they able to interpret his dream? Daniel 2:10
We will never be successful in going to the worldly for the answers to questions that only the true God of heaven can answer!
5. Who came forth to help the king? Daniel 2:16
6. Why did Daniel ask for God's help in knowing the secret of the king's dream? Daniel 2:18
The same is true in our day! There is a spiritual Babylon spoken of in the book of Revelation. Soon it will be destroyed. God has given us the prophecies so that we will not be destroyed with it!
7. What had the king seen in his dream? Daniel 2:31
8. Describe the Image. Daniel 2:32-33
a. "Image's head was ___________________________"
b. "his breast and his arms of ________________________________"
c. "his belly and his thighs of ____________________________________"
d. "his legs of _________________________________"
e. "his feet part of ___________________and part of ____________________________"
9. What was it that smote the image and broke it to pieces? Daniel 2:34
10. Who did the head of Gold represent? Daniel 2:37-38
Notice verse 39 says that after Nebuchadnezzar, there would "arise another kingdom." This obviously would be the fulfillment of the "breast and arms of silver,"for it goes on to say that after that "another third kingdom of brass" would arise.
11. What is the fourth kingdom compared to? Daniel 2:40
12. What does the iron mixed with miry clay (the ten toes) represent? Daniel 2:41
It is an easy thing to go into the history book and find out the different kingdoms that have ruled the world. First we will name these kingdoms from the history book, but in the next lesson we will see how the Bible predicted, by name, these successive kingdoms that would rule the then known world. We are dealing with kingdoms more than we are with kings. Our study has already identified Nebuchadnezzar as the head of Gold so we know the identity of the first kingdom; Babylon.
We already have Babylon named for us. History tells us that in 612 BC, that kingdom was taken by the powers of Medo-Persia, the next world ruler. This kingdom fell to the power of Alexander, the great, and the empire of Greece. Of course, the Greecian empire gave way to the strongest and best known world power to ever rule; Rome.
As we continue through the different prophecies, you will be amazed at the detail found in God's Word. For instance, in this image, the head of gold, which represented his kingdom, is described as the greatest of all kingdoms. By God's standards, Nebuchadnezzar was indeed the greatest of the kings, for Daniel chapter four was written by Nebuchadnezzar himself and tells the story of his conversion. The next kingdom is described by two arms of silver and fits the two powered kingdom of the Medes and the Persians. The third kingdom, Greece is described in verse 39 as ruling over the entire, then known world. History confirms that Alexander, was the first to conquer all four corners of then known civilization. Tradition has it that at the age of 30, Alexander sat down and cried because there was nothing left to conquer. The fourth kingdom, Rome, is represented with two legs; showing the two phases of Roman rule: The Pagan Roman Empire; and the Holy or Papal Roman Empire. After these two, come the ten toes or ten divisions of Europe, as we find it even today. Next we will look at Daniel's prophetic dream about 48 years later.
13. In Daniel's dream what does he see? Daniel 7:3
14. What did the angel say the four beasts represented? Daniel 7:17
Here we have another prophecy concerning four kingdoms. As you read Daniel chapter 7, you will find that none of the kingdoms are named; Only the characteristics of the kingdoms are given. But it is very interesting to consider the characteristics that are given. They make it clear that we are dealing with the same four world empires. First Babylon is described as a lion, and the national symbol of Babylon was indeed a lion. Then comes the bear which is raised up on one side, showing that in the two powers of the Medes and the Persians, the Medes were much more powerful, and thus ruled on the throne first. Greece is described as a leopard with four wings on his back. The leopard is a very fast animal, but the wings indicate even greater swiftness in it's taking over the then-known world. Next, Rome is described as a terrible and dreadful beast with great iron teeth. Rome was also represented by the iron legs in Daniel chapter 2, and we understand that iron is the strongest of all the metals. There is little doubt that Rome was ideed the strongest of all the world empires. Then at the very end of this prophecy, we see that this beast has ten horns. Just like the ten toes of Daniel 2, these ten horns represent the final division of the Roman kingdom into the European nations. We will now proceed to Daniel chapter 8 and another vision of prophecy, but we will come back to this great chapter again!
15. What kind of beast does Daniel first see in this vision? Daniel 8:3
16. What did this beast represent? Daniel 8:20
17. What kind of beast did Daniel see next? Daniel 8:5
18. What kingdom did this beast represent? Daniel 8:21
19. What did the notable horn on the he goat represent? Daniel 8:21
What detail! History tells us that the first king of the Greecian empire was a very notable one indeed. Alexander the great left no stone unturned, he ruled every corner of the known world. He was a conqueror.
20. What happened to this notable horn and how was it replaced? Daniel 8:8
21. What comes up out of one of the four notable horns? Daniel 8:9
Although it is referred to as a little horn, notice that immediately the Bible says that it "waxed exceeding great." Bible prophecy is somewhat like a mathematics text book. In a math book, you will find three things that are commonly used to teach math: 1] a formula; 2] an example problem, with the answer; and 3] a set of unsolved problems for you to work. In the Bible we are given a formula for understanding Bible prophecy. We are also given example prophecies with the answers. -- What I mean by that is we are given prophecies which have already come to pass in our past history. We can see with perfect vision the fulfillment and just how accurate God's Word has been. We have also been given prophecies that are yet to be fulfilled.
In mathematics, if we follow the formula given, and apply it precisely as it is used in the example problems, we are bound to get the right answer. The same is true of prophecy.
This chart represent the three prophecies that we have looked at so far. They are aligned by prophecy and side by side. All three prophecies are describing the same kingdoms or world empires. *Babylon is not mentioned in the prophecy of Daniel 8 because the prophecy is recorded at the very time that the Babylonian empire was to pass away. The names that are printed in RED are mentioned by name in the prophecies. The others are identified by their characteristics. Of course we know who the kingdoms are because the history books tell us so, but as we line these three prophecies up, you will see that the Bible gives us the names of three of the four world empires. Our goal in our next lesson, is to find out who the fourth power is, and why God is calling our attention to it!