RDean/Daniel Lesson 48
Stability in Crisis; Persia and Greece – Daniel 11:1-4
We're going to continue out study in Daniel 11. Daniel 10-11 presents us with the last visions; three chapters present the last vision that God gives to Daniel about the future related to Israel. Daniel 10 was a summary of the circumstances surrounding the giving of the visions, the setting of the giving of the vision and in that chapter we gained an insight into what goes on in the angelic realm when there is any sort of conflict in human history. Too often we have a tendency, as we studied last time, to look at history in a single dimension sense, just as what goes on in the physical dimension, what we can see, what we can empirically study. What this chapter demonstrated was that there is something that goes on in the invisible realm, in the realm of the angels and that what goes on there in terms of the struggle, the battle between fallen angels and God's holy angels or elect angels influences what goes on in human affairs.
I pointed out last time that the dangerous heresy that's developed around that in our area is the doctrine of territorial spirits that really comes out of what's called the third wave of the charismatic movement in the late 20th century, where there's an emphasis on praying down these demons, identifying these demons and that these territorial spirits aren't just demons or angels that have responsibilities over empires or nations but it extends down to the various blocks or neighborhoods in which you live and the reason that people really don't really get anywhere spiritually is because of the influence of these evil angels. And that's a completely erroneous application from this passage; it simply talks about the fact that there are these angels but Daniel, in his interaction, never prays down these angels, he never tries to identify these angels. The focus of the Christian is never on what the demons are doing or what Satan's trying to do, it's always direct communication to God; God is going to deal with the unseen invisible warfare. We deal with what we can control, what we can deal with which is our own sin nature and frankly, for most of us that's more than enough to deal with. We don't need to worry about demons and everything else and get distracted by that.
Now as we come to Daniel 11 I want to make four points by way of introduction. The first point has to do with the position of this chapter historically. Historically this is one of the most attacked passages in Scripture, outside of Genesis 1-3. Of course, Genesis 1-3 is attacked because of its position on origins, that everything was created by a personal infinite God, but this chapter is attacked because if this chapter is what it purports to be, then that gives overwhelming evidence that that personal infinite Creator God of Genesis 1-3 actually exists because what this chapter claims to do is to give detailed accounts of history two to three hundred years before it happens; not just a broad flow of history, it doesn't give a timetable that might be misinterpreted or reinterpreted because of calendar differences or something like that. There's always some way that people can try to get around the implications of such a detailed prophecy as Daniel 9 but Daniel 11 gives tremendous detail about what's going to happen in the Persian Empire in the next fifty years, what's going to happen in the subsequent Greek Empire, what will happen eventually, in detail, under the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes, and then it's going to leap forward in history from there and show how Antiochus Epiphanes and what actually happened in his reign is going to parallel what the antichrist will do in the Tribulation. So that gives us an overview.
Daniel 11 was the first chapter to be attacked by this kind of anti-supernatural criticism and it occurred in the 3rd century AD. So this battle has been going on for some time and the person that first put forth this view was name Porphyry and he lived in the 3rd century AD. Porphyry was an antagonist to Christianity and he was smart enough to realize that if this chapter was what it purports to be, that is a detailed precise prediction of exactly what would happen in history, that if this is what it claims to be, then the God it purports to be from must necessarily exist and that there is no way that the skeptic can avoid the existence of God if this chapter is true prediction. So Porphyry set out to undermine Christianity with regard to the predictive element of prophecy in the Old Testament and he claimed and tried to demonstrate that Daniel really wasn't written in 535 BC…here's the cross, this takes place in approximately 33 AD. Jesus is born approximately 5 BC, that's because of calendar problems, we won't go into that. Daniel writes between 550 and 535 BC. The Persian Empire lasts from 539 BC down to about 330 BC when Alexander the Great comes on the scene. Then you have the period of the Greek Empire down to approximately 150 when Rome comes into ascendancy.
And what Porphyry claimed was that Daniel, instead of being written way back here in 550 BC foretelling events that are going to occur between roughly 530 BC all the way down to about 150 BC, that Daniel was, in fact, not written until about 150-160 BC and so this isn't predictive prophecy, this isn't the foretelling of the future. See, his assumption is that can't happen; in a natural universe where there's no intrusion of the supernatural, where God doesn't speak to man, that's the presupposition, it's an anti-supernatural presupposition. Critics presuppose it can't happen, so arguing from that position they would say well, since prophecy really can't happen in the real world it couldn't be, you can't have this kind of accuracy in real prophecy so it's got to have been written later. So they front load the argument with their presupposition and they argue it has to be history, not prophecy. So that's what Porphyry did and the classic response was by Jerome. Jerome, if you're from a Roman Catholic background you usually knew as St. Jerome, the translator of the Latin Vulgate, and he wrote a commentary on Daniel defending the early date of Daniel of 535-550 BC and demonstrated that this was true predictive prophecy and for a thousand years Jerome's argument stood against those of Porphyry.
But that conflict between Jerome and Porphyry mirrored the present conflict between the conservative and the liberal. What I've discovered in Church history is that it's really good to go back and read what those early guys wrote because in many cases they had greater insight and greater evidence and greater arguments for the case than many modern theologians have, so that's one of the reasons, years ago that I put an emphasis on Church history so that I would be forced to read and study the early church fathers and many of their arguments.
Now one of the important reasons that we have prophecy like this in the Old Testament and we can see that it was fulfilled in such detail is because for us in the Church Age that becomes one of the greatest evidences for the truth of the Bible. And that's something that the prep school teacher who teaches Christian evidences should pay attention to in this particular prophecy. It doesn't prove the Bible, not in the sense that a scientist wants to prove something in a laboratory but it is one of many evidences that the Bible is distinct from any other book in human history because it contains these elements of genuine predictive prophecy in many cases centuries before it was actually fulfilled. We live in the Church Age and during the Church Age there are no direct miracles. In fact, even the miracles that Jesus performed are simply attested by witnesses and word of mouth so for some they could be easily dismissed as mere legend or somebody's trying to just build up Jesus and make it look as if He was some sort of miracle worker but when it comes to predictive prophecy, such as the detailed timetable of Daniel 9, such as Ezekiel's prophecy regarding the fall of Tyre, Jeremiah's prophecies regarding the fall of Babylon, and the prophecy of Daniel in Daniel 11 you can't get away from the fact that there are prophecies, detailed prophecies, detailed predictive prophecies in the Scripture that the fulfillment of which could not happen unless God were the One in control of history and unless He actually knew every detail before it transpired. So for the believer today the fulfillment of these prophecies historically provides us with tremendous evidence of the supernatural origin of Scripture and of its veracity. And this is one reason why the book of Daniel, especially Daniel 11, has been a major battleground for the last 1600 or 1700 years.
The second point I want to make by way of introduction to this chapter is to ask a question; on the basis of this question, Why did the preincarnate Son of God, remember we have the preincarnate Son of God introduced back in Daniel 10, why did the preincarnate son of God find it necessary to give Daniel such detailed prophecy like we have here in Daniel 11. And the reason is to provide some hope, a level of hope, a level of certainty to the believers in Israel who are going to live through these tumultuous times.
Too often people today think that somehow tumultuous times are a modern thing and we forget that people in generations prior to us have gone through much worse situations. We can think of the Russians who lived under the Soviet Empire and during World War II and if you've never studied that, the Soviets lost 27,000,000 dead in World War II and I think the United States lost a little less than 400,000 dead in World War II. So just think of that in human terms; if you were living somewhere where the battle raged, somewhere in western Russia and how that would affect you for four years in terms of your family, in terms of the number of people in your family who were probably killed during the war, in terms of how it affected your business, your economics, a home and a life that you had built that would be completely destroyed by the war. So people in history have gone through times of tremendous uncertainty and instability where they have spent years sweating and toiling to build something and not much, not anything compared to what most of us have, and yet in just a few short years they lost everything and they lived through times of incredible instability and times of tremendous fear. We think about the events of September 11th and think of the uncertainty of events in our own time and what might happen and we hear of threats continuously put out by the government that there's this plot discovered or that plot discovered and for many people the fear factor increases.
But what God is showing here to the Jews of that era as well as to us is that God is in control of history and when we understand God's plan, when the Jew at that time could understand through the details of Daniel 11 what God's plan was for Israel, what God was going to do and as they saw those events unfold before their very eyes it gave them hope. Remember, hope in the Scripture, especially in the New Testament, the word is elpis and it has that idea of confident expectation, and hope focuses on the future. And when the Jews recognized that they had a future and that God had a destiny that despite the chaos today, the uncertainty today, the adversity today, whatever the difficulty might be in their life at that time or your life at this time, that when you realize that God has a destiny and a purpose and you can start living in light of that destiny and purpose, that gives you hope. So there's a relationship here between hope and what we studied as the sixth problem solving device or stress buster, our personal sense of our eternal destiny, that this enables us to live with tranquility and calm in the midst of uncertain circumstances. This is the principle that's outlined in Romans 5:3-5. There Paul gives us a little schematic on Christian growth. He says, "Not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations," and the word there for tribulations is the Greek word thlipsis which means pressure; it's adversity, difficulty, when you're being pressed down or weighed down by circumstances, we have joy, we exult, we are exuberant. I mean this isn't just a Christian that says yeah, I'm going through trials but the Lord's going to get me through and you can hear the burden in your voice like I'm going to apply doctrine but it's tough. This is a believer who's exulting in the fact that he's going through tribulations, he's excited about it because he knows what the process is.
See, we "exult in our pressures," our adversities, "knowing," and here we have a present active causative participle and it should be translated because we know something, it's the same principle James has in James 1:2, "Count if all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, because you know," it's a causal participle there as well, "because you know" something, you know that God is working in and through that adversity giving you the opportunity to apply doctrine, to apply the Word, to apply promises or principles to that adversity and by doing so under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, under the filling of the Holy Spirit, spiritual growth is produced, spiritual maturity is then developed. So "we exult in our adversity because we know that adversity brings about perseverance." That's hupomone which means hanging in there, and perseverance develops proven character, the Greek word there is dokime which means to exemplify character, exemplified demonstrated integrity. And demonstrated integrity then develops hope. See, the last thing in the chain is hope. How do you get from spiritual infancy to that stage in spiritual growth, spiritual adolescence, which is a personal sense of our eternal destiny, how do we get from point A to the midpoint? It's by going through this process, adversity, testing gives you the opportunity to apply doctrine. That brings about endurance; endurance develops character, exemplified character and that gets you to the midpoint which is hope, confident expectation.
Romans 5:5, "And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God," that is God's love, subjective genitive, "has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." This is the principle that the Jews are going to realize by applying the principles of Daniel 11. Daniel 11 gives them that blueprint, they know where they're going, so that gives them hope and they can apply doctrine in the midst of the crises that are going to occur in Israel during this 200-300 year period.
Here's a chart, a little graphic to work it out. We started off with tribulations; tribulations of pressure and adversity, and that leads to perseverance. We stick with it, what my mother used to call stick-to-it-iveness. That's a good old southern phrase, stick-to-it-iveness, hupomone, hanging in there, continuing to apply doctrine, continuing to go to Bible class, week in and week out. You may not see the end of the tunnel. In fact, when you do see a light at the end of the tunnel it may be that proverbial train and you just hit harder and harder testing, but it's all under the sovereign control of God and you stick with it and you continue to apply doctrine, you continue to claim promises and that develops character. Christian maturity is all about developing character, demonstrated integrity, dokimazo, and that then leads to hope. That is how you get from spiritual infancy to spiritual adolescence, that's the grown process, that confident expectation that God has a plan and a purpose and the decisions that we are making today are going to determine who we are and what we do when we arrive in the millennial kingdom.
Back to Daniel; Daniel 11:1 is really the last verse in Daniel 10. I guess whoever divided it into chapters saw the temporal marker, "in the first year of Darius the Mede" and thought that was like all the others and made it a chapter division. But actually this is the closing statement in the previous chapter. Let me go back to Daniel 10:20 and pick up the context. This is where Daniel is having a discussion with this angel who's interpreting the vision for him. "Then he," that is the interpreting angel, "said, Do you know why I have come to you? And now I must return to fight with the prince of Persia," that is the demon who is seeking to influence Cyrus, "and when I have gone forth, indeed, the prince of Greece will come," history is moving on, Satan is going to get past Persia because Persia is going to be too pro-Semitic. We studied that last time; under Cyrus the Jews were allowed to return to the land, they were going to start rebuilding the temple and so Satan wanted to target the Jews and to stop them from being able to go back to the land because he wanted to prevent the coming of Messiah.
So "he said, Do you know why I have come to you? Now I must return to fight with the prince of Persia and when I've gone, indeed, the prince of Greece will come." That's the demon who will influence the kingdom of Greece. Verse 21, "But I will tell you what is noted in the Scripture of truth. (No one upholds me against these except Michael, your prince. [11:1] And in the first year of Darius the Mede, I, even I, stood up to confirm and strengthen him." The "him" here refers to Michael the prince. What this angel is saying is that in this battle against the demon who is trying to influence Cyrus it took both Michael and this interpreting angel to overcome the influence of this demon on Cyrus. Now we don't know the mechanics of that. Speculation gets us in trouble; all the Scripture is that this happens, but that's not where…never in Scripture is the believer to focus on those kinds of dynamics, it's never mentioned, it's never made an issue. We're just told here that this is a dynamic, that history is more than what you see and what you feel.
Now in Daniel 11:2, we're going to get an explanation of the vision. "And now I will tell you the truth." Now the truth here refers back to the use of truth in verse 21, "I will tell you what is noted in the Scripture of truth," then in Daniel 11:2, "I will tell you the truth," he's going to explain to Daniel the meaning of that revelation of truth that has been given to him. "Now I will tell you the truth, Behold, three more kings are going to arise in Persia. Then a fourth will gain far more riches than all of them; as soon as he becomes strong through his riches, he will arouse the whole empire against the realm of Greece." So this gives us the outline of that kingdom, the current kingdom that Daniel is in, the kingdom of Persia.
Now if we look at an outline of Daniel 11 there are three sections to this outline. The first division covers the history of the Medo-Persian Empire and that's Daniel 11:2-3. Point number two in the outline, the focus is on Greeks and the period of Hellenization, the period of the Greek Empire and the influence of the breakup of the Greek Empire and the Hellenization of the Middle East and that covers Daniel 11:4-36. We'll show some subdivisions of that when we get there; 11:4-36 focuses on the Greeks and the period of Hellenization. And the third division prophecies events in the Tribulation, that's Daniel 11:36-45.
Now one other thing I want to go back to by way of introduction before we get into the text itself and that is that this passage shows for us that the purpose of history is to glorify God. Now that's a very important thing to say; the purpose of these events is to bring glory to God. Now you see, we hold to a position called dispensationalism. Most of you are familiar with that term. There are two basic theological systems out there and this is important to understand if you want to get a glimpse of what's going on today and understand history. The first is replacement theology; it's called replacement theology because in this theological system Israel is X-ed out of God's plan permanently and replaced by the Church.
Now let me show you why that's important. Replacement theology under girds Roman Catholic theology, Lutheran theology, all Reformed theology, all Calvinism and Covenant theology. Wesleyan theology, which comes out of the Anglican Church, it has come to influence much of Pentecostal charismatic's theology, although for many years in the early part of that movement they held to dispensationalism. But because it is inherently a revivalistic movement and there are inherent postmillennial kinds of themes, the improvement of society, since the late 70s and early 80s more and more Pentecostal charismatics have divorced themselves from dispensationalism and moved towards some form of replacement theology. That's what you see when they say "kingdom now," every time you hear people talk about the kingdom, we're children of the kingdom, emphasizing some element of the kingdom today, that's some kind of replacement theme. What has happened historically is if Israel has no future and is no longer significant to God and God's plan, then that becomes a very subtle foundation for anti-Semitism.
The way that plays out since 1948 is in Covenant theology Israel, the current nation of Israel, has no purpose in God's plan, there's no future state, there's no tribulation as we know it, as we've described it, there's no future millennial kingdom, it's just an aberration. Now that becomes a justification for what I call the neo anti-Semitism. We're on the edge of a new anti-Semitism, and this isn't the anti-Semitism of Hitler that's saying that all Jews are evil and the Jews are responsible for all evil in history, and anti-Semitism is about as… you know, if you get into anti-Semitism that's about as far from the Bible as you can get. The Bible says that those who bless Israel, God will bless those; those who curse Israel God will curse. But this is a new form of anti-Semitism which takes the position that Israel doesn't need to be supported so it's more subtle, it's an attack on the state of Israel and that becomes the cloak or the guise for the new anti-Semitism.
People today often wonder and perhaps you've wondered; why it is that most of Europe is not supportive of the modern state of Israel and yet the United States is very supportive of the modern state of Israel. What makes the difference? Theology makes the difference. Doctrine makes the difference. The reason America is pro-Israel is because of the influence of premillennialists and dispensationalists since the mid 19th century, because in most fundamentalist…most conservative Christians have been influenced by dispensationalism in the early part of this century, we are pro-Israel. But Europe doesn't have a dispensational or a premillennial element to its historical theology. It's predominantly amillennialism in the Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Calvinistic theology, so they never had a high view of the Jews and that has always made them open to anti-Semitism and the harshest forms of anti-Semitism as seen in the Third Reich under Hitler and he often quoted Luther because Luther made some horrible statements, some vitriolic statements against the Jews in his later years; he was terribly, terribly anti-Semitism.
In Covenant theology the purpose for history isn't the glorification of God. This chapter shows the purpose for history is the glorification of God. In covenant theology the purpose for history is to save mankind. I want you to think about this for a moment; this logic may jump past some of you but others of you are going to understand this. If the purpose for God is to save men, then God fails because most men aren't saved. So that's the first problem with that; if God's purpose is to save men and most men aren't saved, then God fails. But the way Calvinism and covenant theology gets away from that is through the doctrine of election and limited atonement. God's purpose is to save the elect and He secures the salvation of the elect. So covenant theology is inherently related to both a Calvinistic view of election and limited atonement; that means that Christ died only for the elect, He did not die for everyone, but Scripture teaches that He is the Savior of all men, especially to save. So that indicates that Christ died for all, although only those who believe are going to be saved.
Now the second problem with the view that history is just soteriological or God's plan to save men is that that doesn't include God's plan for the angels at all; it completely ignores God's plan for the angels and there is no salvation plan for the angels and it just limits God's plan for history to the human race, so it's faulty on two accounts. Whereas the idea that the purpose of history is to glorify God includes God's purposes for mankind and the angels and it also fits with unlimited atonement. So dispensationalism has a better understanding of history, not just because it's dispensational, but because its Biblical. It more accurately reflects the Biblical text and those who are not are not Biblical and in my opinion they are in some level heretics, especially at the level of hermeneutics. So we see here that the purpose in this chapter shows us that the purpose of history is to bring glory to God.
Daniel 11:2 states, "And now I will tell you the truth. Behold, three more kings will arise in Persia." Now at the time that Daniel writes this Cyrus is the king. Cyrus has put together the Empire when he first conquered the Medes in 549 BC. He went on to conquer the Lydians, he defeated Croesus at the Halys River, and then he dies in 529 BC. He is the present king so he's not counted in this list because the text reads, "yet" in the Hebrew, literally it says "yet there will be," that is future. So Cyrus is the present king at the time of this vision which is in the third year of Cyrus, so he is currently the king and he is going to be succeeded by his son, Cambyses. Now Cyrus was a fantastic military leader, organizer and administrator of the kingdom. He defeated three major kingdoms, he defeated the Medes, he defeated the Lydians and he defeated the Babylonians in order to consolidate this vast empire. But his son, Cambyses, extended it even more by conquering the Egyptians. So under Cyrus and Cambyses the Persians came to rule everything from Greece to India; that would include just northern India, what we would call today Pakistan and Afghanistan. They ruled all of Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, all the Middle East, Syria, Turkey, up into the northern parts of Greece, Thrace, southern parts of Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan would also have come under their empire. Cambyses and Cyrus consolidated this.
Cambyses is the first of these three kings mentioned. He is succeeded by a false king. See, Cambyses had a younger brother named Smerdis. Smerdis opted for the Zoroastrian religion of the Medes and so the Zoroastrian priest who come down in the history under the name "magi," to be identified with the same magi that show up at Jesus' birth, except those magi were believers. How come they were believers? They got the gospel indirectly from generation to generation from Daniel. So you have this group of magi who were the religious priestly class, they were originally a Persian tribe, and they wanted to get rid of Cambyses and his family because they were not pro the Zoroastrians. So when Smerdis, his younger brother dies, Cambyses is down fighting in Egypt, they came up with an imposter, another Media priest, he's called in history Pseudo Smerdis, or false Smerdis. He was a counterfeit. They weren't going to tell anybody that the real Smerdis died, they were going to pass off a duplicate, a counterfeit in his place. And so when Cambyses is mysteriously killed, many believe he was assassinated by the magi on his way back from Egypt, they put this Pseudo Smerdis into power but he only lasted a year before he is assassinated. And he is succeeded by another one of the great kings of the Persians, Darius Hystaspes I who is also called Darius the Great. And he, like Cambyses and Cyrus, is a great administrator and great military leader and takes Persia to fantastic heights and under him the Persians begin to look west toward the Greeks and taking control of the Greek Peninsula. They want to align themselves or ally themselves against the Greeks with the Trojans, and you all have heard the story of the Trojan War, and the Trojan Horse and that's what this relates to.
Then after the Trojans were defeated by the Greeks then the Trojans looked for an ally to help them so that they could get revenge on the Greeks and they went to Darius and it was under his successor, who is the fourth king mentioned here, and that is Xerxes. So Xerxes is the great king who amasses an incredible amount of wealth and takes an army of 180,000 against the Greeks. We have studied that in some detail and we will review it again next time. So in this remarkable prophecy in Daniel 11:2 Daniel is told that there are going to be three more kings after Cyrus, and these would be Cambyses, Pseudo Smerdis and Darius.
Then "the fourth king will be far richer than all of them, by his strength, and through his riches, he shall stir up all against the realm of Greece." So that predicts exactly what Xerxes will do in taking the Persians against the Greeks. We'll come back next time and begin to study that but don't forget the point here, this isn't just history. This isn't just details, I want you, as we study this, to think what it would have been like, what this would have meant for you personally if you were a Jew and you had gone back to the land, because in the midst of all of this, under Cambyses they stopped building the temple, they come under more anti-Semitism pressure and opposition; under Xerxes there's more problems and then later on under the Greeks there's going to be more anti-Semitism and more attacks against the Jews and more assaults against the Jews and it's during this time, it's incredible instability and people would be commonly asking what's God's purpose for us, has God forgotten us, has God just made these promises and gone off and now He's concerned about somebody else. And those are the questions that many of us ask whenever there are difficulties or problems or adversities in our life and yet God has given us his revelation so that we can have confidence, so that we can have hope in the midst of instability, in the midst of crisis, in the midst of chaos we can relax and be calm knowing that Jesus Christ controls history.
With our heads bowed.
It's a privilege to have Jim Meyers and his wife here from Kiev.