“Welcome to the Jungle: Trust the God of the Future”

We continued our series called “Welcome to the Jungle” at Gateway Church in Austin.

You can trust God with your now and with your unknown. The book of Daniel gives us a guide on how to thrive in the midst of challenging circumstances.

Digging Deeper:

Work through these questions with your roommates, family, or community group:

Digging Deeper

Audio:

Message Notes from John Burke and Eric Bryant:

Today we’re wrapping up Welcome to the Jungle.

We’ve spent 7 weeks going chapter by chapter through the Book of Daniel—looking at how to thrive wherever God has you, especially when you don’t want to be there. 

  • So today is a radical departure.
  • As we cross into chapter 7 of Daniel, we cross the threshold from history to prophecy, from the literal to the symbolic.
  • So our teaching team laid out the weeks, and said “John loves all that prophecy stuff, so Week 8 he can do Chapters 7 through 12 –which are filled with visions Daniel was given, forecasting what would happen into the future.”
  • But we just had John last week which I had to miss, so I’ve decided to try and cover 5 very confusing chapters full of prophetic symbolism, and make it understandable, interesting and compelling in 30 minutes. So pray for me!

But I am going to teach you about prophetic history, and show some of it through Daniel 7 mainly, because it really does matter.

Here’s why it matters for all of us, whether you’re unsure about God, or believe. 

Have you ever wondered, why should we believe the Bible is inspired by God—like why in the world should we take it as “from God” and take the time to read it and study it and live our lives by it?

Well, this is one of the reasons how we know. 

What Does God Says About This?

Right about the time human history started being widely recorded, 1500 BCE, God tells Moses and the Israelites how to know if a prophet is speaking for God: 

Any prophet who falsely claims to speak in my name . . . must die.’ But you may wonder, ‘How will we know whether or not a prophecy is from the Lord?’ If the prophet speaks in the Lord’s name but his prediction does not happen or come true, you will know that the Lord did not give that message” Deuteronomy 18:20-22   

God says, I alone know the future, and I validate my Word spoken through a prophet by telling him in advance what is to happen—so then when it happens you will know it’s from me.

God reiterates this to Isaiah in 700 BCE:

“‘Present your case,’ says the Lord . . . ‘declare to us the things to come, tell us what the future holds, so we may know that you are gods’” (Isaiah 41:21-23). 

Only the true God can tell us what the future holds. 

And God does that in unbelievable ways in Daniel 7-11.

I want to encourage you to read and study it on your own using the BibleProject.com, but I want to show you some things that will help.

Putting the pieces together is not always easy, mainly because all the pieces aren’t there.

Daniel himself has trouble making sense at times of the collage of images.

Some of the prophecies point toward kings and kingdoms leading up to the coming Messiah, others skip ahead to the time referred to in the book of Revelation – the end times and the time of the antichrist and the final judgment.

What’s important to understand is that God is not giving us a full-blown picture of the future, only fragments and portions just enough to reassure us that he’s in control and enough to inspire us to stay true no matter what the future holds.

What you realize if you study prophecy is that it’s very clear looking back, but (so that we can see in hindsight that God is the One authoring this)—but looking forward it’s sketchy for a purpose—God does not let us fully know the future because that would be detrimental to us and too much for us.

Are These the Last Days?

What we see in the prophecies of Daniel are the times concerning the Jewish nation – many scholars think there is a prophetic “time gap” from the first coming of Messiah to the last days, when the Jewish nation (which was foretold would be scattered, but in the last days, be regathered from across the globe and become a nation again overnight—that happened in 1948 miraculously after nearly 2000 years of no homeland, no nation state—just as Isaiah, and Jesus foretold).

Makes you wonder, are these the last days—we don’t know!

But I can guarantee this: we are definitely closer today than we were yesterday! 🙂

Seriously though, the Scriptures tell us to live with urgency – to be about loving God and loving people as if the time of Jesus’ return is near. We don’t need to fear His return. We need to be faithful to loving Him and loving those around us so that those we love will be ready for His return too. Because the Scriptures tell us that one day, Jesus will return and all will be made right! But there are a lot of things going wrong in the world. Is this the beginning of the end of all time or is this the beginning of the end of an era and the beginning of a new era?

Remember, to God, a day is like a 1000 years and a 1000 years are like a day.

Matthew 24:14 is one of my favorite verses about the end of all things:

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

Jesus is waiting to come back to make all things right. He’s waiting until all people groups have a chance to choose whether or not they will follow Him.

We can be a part of bringing the end by sharing the message that God loves all people and can be known, and His name is Jesus!

Now the downside is this comes right after Jesus warns us to avoid letting others deceive us because many will come claiming to be the Messiah, and there will be wars, famines, and earthquakes, an increase in wickedness, persecution for those with faith, but in the middle of that he says: “see to it that you are not alarmed.”

We should not allow our love for God and for others to grow cold. We are not to give up on our faith.

We have seen what Jesus described will happen in Matthew 24 happen throughout history – in different parts of our world. And just because followers of Jesus have not been persecuted in the USA in our lifetimes as much as in other parts of the planet does not mean it won’t happen. But when it does, we shouldn’t be surprised. We should realize that Jesus warned us it would happen and promised to be with us when it does.

Two things will happen as you study these prophecies to come — one is that it will give an assurance that God really is sovereign, in control, and inspiring his prophets who wrote the Scriptures because they deal with very real historical events.

The other is to remind us that we are part of a new spiritual kingdom that we should hold firmly to, and not to get too caught up in the kingdoms of this world that are passing away. 

Love God and Serve Him—seek to know him through His Word.

Learning to hear God’s voice through the Scriptures on your own is critical to spiritual growth.

Four Resources for Your Walk With Jesus

Let’s me give you three resources to help you get started in this or grow in this:

1. If you don’t spend time in the Scriptures on your own during the week, I want to invite you start doing that with me.

Just follow me on social media.

Either just as you get up in the morning or just before you go to bed, watch the video I’ve posted on the chapter for the day.

Then pray and ask God to speak to you as you read the chapter. Then write down your thoughts or reflections in the comments of the video or in your own journal.

Try it for one month. Just read the Gosprl of Luke with me in March. You can get started today or tomorrow morning!

2. Another resource I want you to add to your week is Digging Deeper (gatewaychurch.com/diggingdeeper).

Digging Deeper helps you understand how to read and interpret the Bible by looking more deeply at the passages of Scripture we look at on Sundays.

3. Many of our community groups dive into those discussions each week! New groups are starting this week! (Gatewaychurch.com/groups)

There are so many parts of the Bible that are quick and easy to understand and those parts can help us understand the more difficult parts – like prophecies.

4. The Chosen

There is a very well done television series which now has season one on Netflix!
“A charismatic fisherman drowning in debt, a troubled woman wrestling with real demons. A gifted publican ostracized by his family and his people. A religious leader struggling with his beliefs. See Jesus through the eyes of those that met him.”

Two Extremes When It Comes to The End Times

Now, I realize for some who are followers of Jesus, the prophecies are still so mysterious but you have a resolution of trust in God. But it’s important to note that some may be coming from 2 extremes.

1) You may be here saying “I don’t buy this whole prophecy stuff- prove it! the Bible is just an old book that is just a moral guide.”

OR

 2) Some of you trust the Bible but this topic induces fear and anxiety.

You’re watching all the illuminati conspiracy videos, you’re watching the news trying to line up world events and geopolitics to Scripture. And you’ve forgotten that the God of the future is the God of your present and he wants to bring you PEACE, not fear.

So… no matter where you fall today here’s the point of this message-

You can trust God with your now and with your unknown.  

The God of your present is the God of your future, that means fear does not win.

The Vision of the Kingdoms

So let’s look at one of the prophecies in Daniel:

(7:1) In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream, and visions passed through his mind as he was lying on his bed. He wrote down the substance of his dream.  2 Daniel said: “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me were the four winds of heaven churning up the great sea. 3 Four great beasts, each different from the others, came up out of the sea.

Chronologically chapter 7 actually takes us back in time. If you recall, Belshazzar who is Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson, was dethroned in chapter 5.

Daniel was there when the hand writing on the wall foretold Babylon’s fall to the Medo-Persian Empire that would be ruled by King Cyrus.

That happened in 539 BC.

But in Daniel 7 we are taken back to 553 BC when Belshazzar just begins his rule — that’s when this dream comes to Daniel in the night. 

Daniel would have been around 68 years old at this time, having faithfully served Babylon for most of his life. It was Belshazzar’s first year as King of Babylon. The political winds were calm, yet Daniel saw a stormy vision about the days to come.

A couple of things to notice is chapter 7 is in two parts: the vision, and then an angel interprets the vision. Daniel a great churning sea — which usually represents turbulent humanity — and four winds of heaven churning sea.

This image is also mentioned in Revelation 7:1 which says the four winds are under the control of four mighty angels.

In Revelation 9:14 the four angels are told to release the winds on the earth. So this starts to connect us to the book of Revelation so we can conclude that the four winds represent God’s judgments to come.

Daniel 7:2-8  gives a vision of four beasts which an angel in the vision explains in 7:16-17 to be 4 Great Kingdoms that will rise up.

And most commentators agree the 4 Kingdoms in ch. 7 map to the four kingdoms in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the statue in Daniel chapter 2. Let me show you how they map before we read it:

Daniel 2                     Daniel 7                                 The Kingdoms

Golden Head            Winged Lion                        Babylon (553 B.C.)

Silver Chest             Lopsided Bear                     Medo-Persia (559-333 B.C.)

Bronze Belly            Four-Headed Leopard      Greece (333-164 B.C.)

Legs of Iron             Terrible Beast                     Rome (Final Rome?) (63 B.C?)

Feet of clay

Let’s keep reading:

(7:4-8) “The first was like a lion, and it had the wings of an eagle. I watched until its wings were torn off and it was lifted from the ground so that it stood on two feet like a man, and the heart of a man was given to it.  

The first kingdom, represented by a lion with wings, stands for Babylon. The lion was the seal of Babylon, and the symbol of its wings being plucked off and then standing on 2 feet like a man who is given a heart — this refers to Nebuchadnezzar.

Remember in chapter 4 Nebuchadnezzar was humbled for seven years and lost his sanity, then God restored his sanity once he turned to God so he worshiped and served the true God — was given the heart of a man.

(7:5) “And there before me was a second beast, which looked like a bear. It was raised up on one of its sides, and it had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. It was told, ‘Get up and eat your fill of flesh!’ 

The second beast in the vision is a bear, raised up on one of its sides — which symbolizes the lopsided alliance of the Median Empire with the Persian Empire (which joined forces to defeat Babylon, but was clearly ruled by Cyrus—the Persian—it was lopsided or raised on one side). It lasts from 539-333 B.C. and Cyrus and his son led 3 major military conquests (represented by the 3 ribs he devours)—The Lydian Empire, the Chaldean Empire, and he conquered Egypt.

(7:6) “After that, I looked, and there before me was another beast, one that looked like a leopard. And on its back it had four wings like those of a bird. This beast had four heads, and it was given authority to rule.  

This third kingdom, represented as a leopard with four wings and four heads, maps historically to the reign of Alexander the Great and the Greek empire which swiftly overthrew the Persian Empire in 333 BC and lasted until 164 B.C. when the Jewish Maccabean Revolt occurred against the Greek King Antiochus Epiphanes.

Here’s what’s amazing—Daniel is given another prophecy in Daniel 8 then in Daniel 11 years later, with even more detailed specifics of each Kingdom to come. 

The Vision of the Kings

In Daniel 11 the Angel explains to Daniel:

“Now then, I tell you the truth: Three more kings will arise in Persia, and then a fourth, who will be far richer than all the others. When he has gained power by his wealth, he will stir up everyone against the kingdom of Greece. 3 Then a mighty king will arise, who will rule with great power and do as he pleases. 4 After he has arisen, his empire will be broken up and parceled out toward the four winds of heaven. It will not go to his descendants, nor will it have the power he exercised, because his empire will be uprooted and given to others. (Dan 11:2-4)

Daniel writes in about 537 here foretelling history to come:

The angel foretells three Kings who will come after Cyrus (the King when this was written).

537 B.C. Prophecy given to Daniel foretelling this succession of 3 Kings…

529 B.C. – Cambyses

523 B.C. – Gaumata (assassinated next year)

522 B.C. – Darius  and then a 4th king

485-464 B.C. – Xerxes who the angel said would amass enough wealth and ambition to try to conquer Greece (that’s what happened).

A website on ancient Greek history explains that Xerxes attacked Greece with a massive army and burned Athens to the ground in 480 BC. Greece pulled a naval surprise attack and defeated Xerxes.

Then the Angels said after the rich King, A Mighty King will rule with great power and do as he pleases, but his kingdom will not go to his son, but be broken up and parceled out to the 4 winds—in 4 kingdoms.

It’s well known that 333 BC Alexander the Great was a military genius who conquered the then known world in a decade during his 20’s (that’s an ambitious 20-something, think “Mark Zuckerberg” on steroids), but he died at age 32, they assassinate his 1 year old son, and his Empire was divided and ruled by 4 of his Generals.

Wikipedia explains: Alexander’s kingdom settled into 4 stable power blocks: the Ptolemaic kingdom of Egypt, the Seleucid Empire in the east, the kingdom of Pergamon in Asia minor, and Macedonian Kingdom.

Divided in 4 as God foretold through the Angel to Daniel.

Note this is all history of the world, with real Kings and real dates of the most powerful nations known from 540 to 164 BCE.

Daniel’s vision goes on to describe exactly what History now says Antiochus Epiphanes did, a Greek who invaded Israel around 169 BCE, who was an archtype of the Antichrist to come.

Think about how phenomenal this is – Daniel accurately “foresees” the kingdoms to come, including this division of Alexander’s empire into 4 Greek Kingdoms). 

And in Chapter 9 and 11, the Visions get so specific that it has led skeptics to insist Daniel was not the writer, the book must have been written in 164 B.C. because otherwise, he couldn’t know history with such detailed accuracy (unless you believe that God truly is sovereign and has demonstrated His Hand in History through his prophets—Just like he said he would.)

Still with me?

I know this is a lot and for some of you this is BIBLE NERD overload. But our hope is that you never just take our word for it but that you take GOD’S WORD. Everything we claim and utter you can search the Scriptures to verify, and you can trust that the Bible you are reading is the inspired revelation of who GOD is, what He’s done, and how much he loves you.

So as we unpack this topic a little more remember here is our filter- You can trust God with your now and with your unknown.

But how do we know Daniel wasn’t a forgery written by someone in 164 B.C. or later looking back on history and attributing it to Daniel? 

Proof Daniel Was Written in 500 BCE:

1). Internal Claims – The writer spells out specific dates and kings during which he writes—facts check out with archeological sources just like that in history around 500 B.C.

2). Aramaic and Hebrew vocabulary – remember Languages change over 100s of years. Skeptics claim Daniel was written not in 540’s but 164B.C. – 400 years apart. Big language changes happen in 3-400 years—listen to Shakespeare’s English, written 400 years ago:

“Glamis thou art, and Cawdor; and shalt be What thou art promised. Yet do I fear thy nature; It is too full o’ the milk of human kindness To catch the nearest way: thou wouldst be great; Art not without ambition; but without The illness should attend it.”

Say what? 

That’s why well-respected archaeologist Kenneth Kitchen, studied Daniel and found that ninety percent of Daniel’s Aramaic vocabulary was also used in documents dating in the 5th-6th century B.C. Daniel’s language doesn’t match the 164 BC language.

3). Josephus puts Daniel before 332 B.C.:

Josephus a non-Christian historian, wrote a history for Rome in early 100 A.D. says the Jewish High Priest, in 332 BC saw Alexander the Great as fulfilling Daniel’s prophesy that Greece would overthrow Persia, and he showed Alexander the book of Daniel.

He writes: “And when the book of Daniel was shown to him [Alexander], in which he had declared that one of the Greeks would destroy the empire of the Persians, he [Alexander] believed himself to be the one indicated; and in his joy he dismissed the multitude for the time being.” Antiquities of the Jews book 11:8.3 

Did you catch this?

This Roman/Jewish Historian says Alexander read the Book of Daniel prophecy about himself.

So skeptics are dismissing 1st century history that says Daniel was written by 332 BCE not 164.

4). Dead Sea Copies of Daniel date 150 B.C. – From the Dead Sea Scrolls we have 8 copies of Daniel, some in Aramaic, some in Hebrew carbon dated at 150 BC. How could the original be written 14 years earlier?

Remember—you didn’t copy Daniel at Kinkos—it was an expensive, long, handwritten task which is why Archeologist Millar Burrows said 

“The [Daniel] originals came from a period several centuries in advance of the earliest date to which these manuscripts and fragments can be assigned on any basis of reckoning.” [M. Burrows, The Dead Sea Scrolls]  

So archaeologists say Daniel (the original), must have been written 200 years before all these copies, or later, no way 164 BCE.

Do you see this? 

God, the Sovereign Lord of the Universe—the creator of every Galaxy, of every plant and animal, the Creator of Your soul—has mysteriously used His prophets, guided by His holy Spirit to reveal His Word—His truth to us.

It’s right there for all to see if we have eyes to see and hearts that are open to God’s Spirit.  Doesn’t that inspire you to want to study the Bible, know the Bible, meditate on the Bible—and follow it so you will live blessed by God? 

Jesus said,

Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Matthew 7

All the Kings and Kingdoms, famous, rich and powerful will all come to nothing. 

But if you live to serve the King of Kings, the Kingdom you will inherit will never end. 

In the Daniel 7 vision, Daniel saw this Kingdom too:

As I looked, “thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire … and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. (Daniel 7:9-14)

Daniel sees Jesus (the Son of Man), approaching God the Father on his throne, and his Kingdom will be a kingdom for all people, all nations, every language loving and serving the King of the Kingdom that will not pass away. 

So I want to leave you with this. 

Will you trust your life fully into the Hands of the King of all Kings? 

He knows you, He loves you, He died for you—Daniel foretold it so You’d know it’s true. 

Don’t just build your own Kingdom, it will not last—live for God’s Kingdom and you will never be sorry. 

And know this too from our study—God knows your past, present, and future.  He is the God who oversees history, including Your history and future—you can trust Him. 

Even when things seem out of control, go to him, seek Him, study his word, follow His Spirit—He is in Control, and if your life is in His hands, Your life is in Good Hands.

You can trust God with your now and with your unknown. 

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