Sermon June 12, 2016 Daniel 11 “Heaven’s View of History Gives Us Hope”

Daniel 11:2-45                            Daniel Sermon #17                                        June 12, 2016

Sermon Series: “The Lord is King” 

Sermon Title: “Heaven’s View of History Gives Us Hope”

Pastor Louis Prontnicki    Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church

     The conservative Lutheran commentator Herbert Leupold once stated, “We do not see how (Daniel 11) could be used for a sermon.” At first reading of this chapter, many of you might tend to agree with Mr. Leupold! After all, 45 verses about battles between some obscure northern and southern kings are hardly the Scriptures that you would rate as one of your favorite chapters!

But just as you need to dig hard to find precious stones, and to drill deep to strike oil, so too you need to work a little harder to discover the gold, silver, and valuable oil that are below the obvious surface of a first reading.

Overview of this sermon: 1. Remember the context of this prophecy; 2. Get a handle on the main parts of this prophecy; and 3. Put into practice the applications of this prophecy.

  1. Let’s begin by remembering the context of this prophecy. Going back to Daniel chapter 9, we recall that it was a discouraging time for the Jews who had returned to Jerusalem….

So Daniel responded by praying for them; God heard his prayer, and this prophecy of chapter 11 is God’s response to that prayer. In other words, the prophetic details giving God’s overview of the next 400 years, and more, are meant to encourage and strengthen Daniel; they were designed to give hope to the Jews in the centuries after him; and they meant to impart confidence in us, who read them today, as prophecies largely fulfilled. Heaven’s view of history gives us a sure and certain hope that God is working out His detailed plan for the kings and kingdoms of the world, and therefore we can be encouraged to trust our Lord in all the detail of our lives.

2. Next, let’s get a handle on the main parts of this prophecy

First Part: Xerxes and Alex (536 – 323 BC) vv. 2-4

This prophecy begins where Daniel is, in Persia, and describes three Persian kings, followed by another king who will be far greater. This is Xerxes, who reigned from 485-468 BC, and is the king we encounter in the book of Esther and in Ezra.

But the mighty Persian Empire will be overcome by a mighty king from Greece, and this of course would be fulfilled in the person of Alexander the Great (356-323 BC)

After his untimely death, his vast empire was divided up into four parts, each one under one of Alexander’s generals. The two that concern the Jewish people are the king of the north, Seleucid (Think Syria) and the king of the south, Ptolemy (think Egypt). And guess which nation is right in the middle between these two feuding kingdoms? Israel, the beautiful land (vv. 16, 41), the beautiful holy mountain (v. 45), and the people of the holy covenant (vv. 28, 30)

Second Part: The North vs the South (vv. 5-20) (323-176 BC)

Duguid: Here we have a seemingly endless sequence of grand conflicts, wars, and politics, which never reach a conclusion. [The same could be said of just about all the wars in Europe over the last two millennia.] According to John Goldingay, Daniel 11 refers in a specific, historically identifiable way to 13 of the 16 rulers of these two kingdoms, between 322 and 163 BC! We see that “Neither power is able to conquer the other; nor can they live in peace with one another,” with Israel in the middle!

We have here a microcosm of human history- the balance of power in earthly politics shifts from one nation to another, from one king to another, but it never gets permanently settled.

What is described there was part of a larger pattern that would be an ongoing feature of human history, until Christ returns. Two helpful implications: The first is that we must persevere in our faith, for years, and for decades; for nothing will be permanently settled until Jesus returns to earth, The second is seeing that no one nation or no one king, no matter how terrible, can ever destroy God’s work and kingdom. The waring nations of the world are like the tide that ebbs and flows, but the ocean stays where it is. Consider Acts 4:27-28, where we are told that even when Herod and Pilate, the rulers of the Romans and the Jews, conspired together against Jesus, they only did what the Lord’s power and will had already decided should happen.

Third Part: The Despised Antiochus IV (vv. 21-35) (175-163 BC)

After 15 verses which cover 150 years of history, the next 15 verses focus on a single king, Antiochus Epiphanes IV. Why? Because of the terrible shame and destruction which he unleashes on Jerusalem, and because of his intense persecution of the Jews. He is introduced in v. 21 as contemptible/ despicable/ vile/ despised, and we’ll pick up on that later. We already saw in Daniel 9:25-27 some of the terrible things that Antiochus would do to Jerusalem, and how he is a foreshadowing of the final Antichrist.

Now think about it: we know that the man of lawlessness, the final antichrist, will appear before Jesus Christ returns, and he will unleash horrible persecution upon the believers, right? In the same way, God was preparing the people of Israel for the terrible events that would occur in the next 300 years. Why? So that they could be prepared for them; so they would know that the Lord is sovereign over history, and so they would cry out for the coming of a Savior!

Fourth Part: Antiochus, with Hints of the Anti-Christ (vv. 36-45)

On some wine bottles, you will sometimes read of a taste that is described as having a hint of, say, oak, or a hint of fruitiness; in other words, as your taste buds savor the flavor, you can taste more than is on the surface. Well, so it is when we come to vv. 36-45. The passage is still talking about the terrible things that Antiochus will do, but now we have hints of a more powerful and amore wicked king, who will be the fulfillment of the shadow that Antiochus was.  The description seems to point to a more horrible fulfillment, yet to come, likely the antichrist himself.

He demands complete autonomy from God. (v. 36) “The king will do as he pleases.”  He is full of arrogant pride and requires independence from God, just as in Gen. 3.  He is full of blasphemy against God (v. 36b, 37) “He will say unheard things against the God of gods.”  “He will exalt himself above all gods.” He believes in absolute power for himself (v. 38). This may be true in many aspects: financial, intellectual, moral, political, and militarily…. As well as spiritually.

Then in vv. 41-45 we are given a picture of the final struggle. The only nations to escape (v. 41) are the age-old enemies of Israel. And yet surprisingly, the narrative is cut short at vv. 44-45! His defeat will be as fateful as his rise to power was swift and dazzling.  “He will come to his end, and no one will help him.”

Now I realize that this prophecy continues in Dan. 12:1-4, but we will save that portion until next Sunday, Lord willing.  For today, having thought about the context of this prophecy and then the main parts of the prophecy…

 3. Let’s conclude by applying this prophecy to your life.

 i. You need to see all history from heaven’s viewpoint.

Iain Duguid writes “The goal of history is to put our lives into perspective.” (And that’s the goal of this prophecy. For as we know how the story will ultimately end, it gives us great encouragement to persevere. Think of the promised return of Jesus Christ!)

Our view of history is foundational to the way we live. Consider this: if God is sovereign over all history, from national events to the details of our life, then our actions are filled with meaning. All our sacrifices will be worth it, because God rules over it all. “The hope of glory, rooted in God’s sovereign control of history, makes any sacrifice worthwhile for the sake of faithfulness to God.”

“We need this heaven-given and long-term perspective on the affairs of our own time. This is what gives peace and strength to live through the crises experienced by the kingdom of God (10:19).  The people of God do not view the great ones of this world (Frederick the Great, Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, etc.) through the eyes of the media but through the spectacles of Scriptural revelation.” See Isaiah 40:22-23.  God wanted the Jews to learn how to live faithfully in the midst of their upcoming trials and persecution, and the Lord wants us to learn the same, so we can have hope in our suffering.

ii. You need to stand firm against the attacks of evil. (vv. 31-33)

Part of our response to such persecution and suffering is to “Resist” faithfully, even unto death. “Sometimes obedience to God will mean a lifetime of faithfulness in a hostile environment, as it did for Daniel himself. Sometimes it will mean literal martyrdom for the faith….with no dramatic rescue at the last minute, as there was for Daniel and his three friends.”  Remember Matt. 10:28 “Do not fear those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul.”

Duguid:  “Tyrants rise and fall, empires come and go, but the Lord’s kingdom endures forever, and with it, those whom God has redeemed by His grace.” Our present circumstances, whether good or bad, pleasant or painful, will pass away, but His mercy will endure forever!  In the power of the cross of Christ, the saints will reign forever with Him.

Let me share with you what was a big help in standing firm for me this week: “The (sure) prospect of heaven is the answer to Satan’s temptation to compromise and submit to his ways. The anticipation of seeing God’s face shinning upon us with the same warmth and love that he has for His own Son is the answer to our present discouragement, difficulty, and despair. Lift up your eyes from the trials and difficulties of the present and behold the glorious inheritance God has prepared for you. Gaze intently upon that glorious sight and let it strengthen your weak knees and encourage your failing arms for the battle that is set before you.” – Duguid

iii. You need to look upon Jesus as your contempt-carrier, your scorn-sufferer.

Remember back in v. 21, where Antiochus was described as contemptible or despised? That same Hebrew word is used in another prophecy to describe not another antichrist, but rather the anointed one, the Messiah, the Christ. I am referring to Isaiah 53:3: “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from men hide their faces, he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” This week something happen to make me want to avoid being with a large group of people. I had some reason to think that they had contempt for me, and that they would be talking badly about me, and it felt awful. I wanted to retreat. And then the Holy Spirit reminded me, “That’s a tiny bit of how Jesus felt when he was on earth, and he knew that many hated Him. He knew that even His own friends would disown Him and betray Him!” And I realized that my little taste of what Jesus felt would both help me through and would increase my appreciation for what He did for me.

Jesus took upon himself the contempt, the scorn, and the hatred that belonged to not only the antichrist, but to each of us, in our place, so that through his suffering and brokenness, we might be healed and made whole! Look by faith upon Jesus as your contempt-carrier, your scorn-sufferer. Hallelujah that he all that for you and me! Hallelujah, what a Savior!

So, contrary to Mr. Leupold, there is a sermon found in the depths of Daniel 11! There is gold, silver, and oil below the surface! God’s Word is amazing, and all of it speaks to us, in all of our needs, in the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ!