A Deep Dive into Daniel — Part 7 — The Mystery of Prophecy

“The vision of the evenings and the mornings that has been told is true, but seal up the vision, for it refers to many days from now.”

Daniel 8:26

The prophetic word carries with it a degree of ambiguity and mystery for a reason. Historically, it has required a considerable amount of hindsight to understand how the oracles of God have beeb fulfilled, but once God’s plans come into fruition, mystery dissolves into stunning clarity.

Take the profile of the Messiah for example. While the expectation of Israel predominantly focused on the coming of a Warrior King to liberate God’s people from their enemies, few were able to predict the coming of the Suffering Servant who would be nailed a cross, only to rise again. The lines between the first and second comings of Christ often were blurred in the Old Testament, creating some obvious interpretive challenges.

Although there are valid reasons why the LORD speaks in ambiguous and sometimes puzzling terms, I believe the best explanation is strategic at heart. Let us never forget, the Evil One — Satan himself — scours the Holy Scriptures for an advantage. He knows better than anyone that God has declared the end from the beginning, and so the devil undoubtedly is a serious student of Biblical prophecy.

Although the big picture is clear — God wins in the end — there are details concealed in the prophetic word that God purposefully wants to keep hidden from his arch enemy. The LORD reveals just enough to keep the powers of darkness guessing, but never too much to give them an advantage.

As understandable as that may be, the difficulties with the prophetic word also create somewhat of a challenge to God’s children, especially those who earnestly desire to put together the prophetic puzzle pieces involving the last days.

The book of Daniel is no exception. In all honesty, I find Daniel’s prophecies especially difficult to interpret, which should come as no surprise considering Daniel’s own troubles of grasping these future visions. Not only did the LORD command Daniel to seal up his prophecy until the appointed time of the end, but also Daniel struggled understanding the visions even after interpretations were given.

Consider what Daniel said after receiving his vision of the shaggy goat and the ram in chapter 8.

“And I, Daniel, was overcome and lay sick for some days. Then I rose and went about the king’s business, but I was appalled by the vision and did not understand it.”

Daniel 8:27

So if Daniel — who received both the vision and its interpretation — still could not fully comprehend what he saw, then surely we cannot expect to understand it all. Knowing this has brought me to a newfound level of humility and dependency on the Holy Spirit to approach this passage with great care and consideration.

I confess that there are parts Daniel 8 that I feel confident about and other parts that I simply don’t have a clue, but all in all, I believe we are called to dig in and dive deep and ask the God of the Word to help us understand and interpret the Word of God.

With that being said … I will do my best to work through Daniel 8 and attempt to address all the nuances and context clues that emerge. By necessity, I may need to camp out here for a while, but I hope that it will be well worth our time.

So here goes.

Daniel 8 Overview

Daniel chapter 8 is one of the most misinterpreted prophetic passages in all the Bible, which is unfortunate because this chapter provides some of the most important details of the future rise of the Antichrist and his early career. Most commentators and Bible scholars interpret Daniel 8 through strictly historical lenses, suggesting that everything revealed in the vision has been fulfilled in history past and therefore has little merit for future generations.

When we read Daniel 8 carefully, however, we get an entirely different perspective that clearly reveals this prophecy refers to the last days and remains to be fulfilled in the future. That’s not to say that there could have been a partial fulfillment in history that prefigures the time of the end, but if we restrict this passage to the past only, then we will miss one of the most important prophecies of the end times.

Let’s look at a brief overview to set the stage.

The Ram and the Goat

Much like the bizarre beast imagery found in Daniel 7, the vision in Daniel 8 picks up with two different beasts — a ram with two horns and a male goat with one prominent horn — representing two king/kingdoms. The ram shows significant military aggression before being confronted and defeated by the goat, led by this prominent horn/king. Shortly after the goat subdues the ram, the prominent horn is broken off and the kingdom is divided up into four other horns.

The good news about this chapter is that the LORD provides an interpretation of these two beasts. Like all Bible prophecy, we must remember that this passage is Israel-centric and pertains to Middle Eastern territories. Here is the interpretation provided to Daniel.

He said, “Behold, I will make known to you what shall be at the latter end of the indignation, for it refers to the appointed time of the end. As for the ram that you saw with the two horns, these are the kings of Media and Persia. And the goat is the king of Greece. And the great horn between his eyes is the first king. As for the horn that was broken, in place of which four others arose, four kingdoms shall arise from his nation, but not with his power.”

Daniel 8:19-22

So we know we are dealing with the territories/kingdoms of Medo-Persia and Greece — or Javan. Of course Daniel uses their ancient names, but today these same territories are controlled by the modern nations of Iran and Turkey. I will spend more time in a future post to demonstrate how Biblical Greece — or Javan — represents the Ancient Macedonian empire that spread from Asia Minor into the Middle East and Northern Africa.

But for now, I need to address the reasons why I believe this vision is still future and has not been fulfilled in history past.

The Appointed Time of the End

Whereas a rigid historical view of Daniel 8 proposes that the male goat is representative of the Alexander the Great and his Greek Empire and the two-horned ram is ancient Medo-Persia, the futurist view understands this passage as a prophecy that pertains to the appointed time of the end — or the latter days.

As I have said, there certainly were some partial foreshadows in Alexander’s career that can be applied to Daniel 8. Alexander the Great expanded eastward in lightening speed and unexpectedly died at the height of his empire. The Macedonian Empire was eventually divided up after Alexander’s death, and the subsequent career of Antiochus Epiphanes certainly qualifies as a historical type of the Antichrist. There are other details about this prophecy, however, that simply do not align with history.

While it is important to thoroughly investigate the historical accounts, I will not go into those details here. Instead, I would like to share with you the primary reason I interpret Daniel 8 as a future prophecy that applies to the latter days.

Simply because the Bible says so.

Consider the explicit language used in this passage. When the angel Gabriel is commanded to make Daniel understand the vision, he does not mix his words.

And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of the Ulai, and it called, “Gabriel, make this man understand the vision.” So he came near where I stood. And when he came, I was frightened and fell on my face. But he said to me, “Understand, O son of man, that the vision is for the time of the end.

Daniel 8:16-17

He said, “Behold, I will make known to you what shall be at the latter end of the indignation, for it refers to the appointed time of the end.

Daniel 8:19

And at the latter end of their kingdom, when the transgressors have reached their limit, a king of bold face, one who understands riddles, shall arise.”

Daniel 8:23

“The vision of the evenings and the mornings that has been told is true, but seal up the vision, for it refers to many days from now.”

Daniel 8:26

Not once. Not twice. Not three times.

But Daniel is told at least four times that his vision is referring to the last days, the end of days, the appointed time of the end.

I’m not sure how Bible scholars and historians miss this over-emphasis by Gabriel to make sure Daniel understands when this vision will be fulfilled. God Himself provided the interpretation of this prophecy, and it specifically refers to the last days just before the return of the Son of Man, who is coming like a stone from heaven to crush the evil empires of the Antichrist.

That truth in and of itself precludes a rigid historical view of this prophecy. Daniel 8 has not yet been fulfilled, and therefore we should be expecting it to unfold in the coming future.

In my next post, I will investigate the geopolitical climate between Iran and Turkey and do my best to understand how the rise of Antichrist is connected to this coming conflict in the Middle East.

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