Defending The Pre-Trib Rapture (Again) :: by Jack Kelley

Some body asked me a great question the other day.  “Does Scripture actually promise a Pre-Trib Rapture, or is it just an opinion passed along from teacher to student?”  Then he challenged me to cite even one Bible verse that would lead a person to believe the Pre-Trib Rapture position if they hadn’t already heard about it from some Bible teacher.  He said that in all his studies he’s not been able to find one.  Let’s see if he’s right.

First, Some General Pre-Trib Rapture Points
The Rapture is not another name for the Second Coming.  As 1 Thes. 4:15-17and John 14:1-3 explain, the Rapture is an unscheduled secret event where Jesus comes part way to Earth to meet His Church in the air and take us to be with Him where He now is.  I say unscheduled and secret because its specific timing will remain unknown until it actually happens – Pre-Trib Rapture.

On the other hand, The Second Coming is a scheduled public event where Jesus comes all the way to Earth with His Church to establish a Kingdom here. I say scheduled and public because the general time of His coming will be known on Earth over 3 ½ years in advance, and public because everyone on Earth will be able to witness His arrival. Matt. 24:29-30 says it will happen immediately after the Great Tribulation and all the nations will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds in the sky.

Membership in the Church and therefore participation in the Rapture is contingent upon having personally accepted the Lord’s death as payment in full for your sins. While His death actually purchased full pardons for everyone, we each have to personally ask to have ours activated.  Everyone who asks for salvation receives an unconditional, irrevocable “Yes!” (Matt. 7:7-8, John 3:16,Ephes. 1:13-14)  For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. (2 Corinth. 1:20)

It’s Greek To Me
And finally, although cynics can truthfully say that the word Rapture doesn’t appear in any passage of Scripture, the statement is not correct in its intent. Rapture is a word of Latin origin, not Hebrew or Greek, the languages of the Bible. (The earliest translation of the Bible was into Latin, and the word rapture comes from there.)  Its Greek equivalent is harpazo, which is found in the Greek text of 1 Thes. 4:17.  When they’re translated into English, both words mean “to be caught up, or snatched away.” Harpazo, the word Paul actually used, comes from roots that mean, “to raise from the ground” and” take for oneself” and hints that the Lord’s eagerly claiming us for Himself.  So while the Latin word doesn’t appear in our Bibles, the event it describes certainly does. There’s a similar situation with the word Lucifer, also of Latin origin.  It doesn’t appear in any of the original texts either, but no one would be naive enough to deny the existence of Satan on such a flimsy basis.

With that introduction, let’s go first to the best known of the Rapture passages.

According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. (1 Thes. 4:15-17)

Most of us are very familiar with these verses. But notice they don’t tell you when the rapture happens, only that it does. Notice also that the Lord doesn’t come all the way to Earth.  We meet Him in the clouds and go back with Him where He came from. – Pre-Trib Rapture  If this was the 2nd coming, He would be coming here to be where we are, not coming to take us there to be where He is.

Paul described the same event in 1 Cor 15:51-52.  In a flash, in the twinkling of an eye the dead in Christ will rise and the living will be transformed.  There he said that he was disclosing a secret, but the resurrection of the dead was not a secret. It can be found through out the Old Testament.  The secret was that some would not die, but be taken alive into the Lord’s presence following an instantaneous transformation – Pre-Trib Rapture. The rapture happens fast.  In one instant we’re walking on Earth and in the very next, we’re in the Kingdom.

Don’t try to use the trumpet reference in verse 52 to pin the timing down.  There are several “Last Trumpets” in the Bible and in Jewish tradition.  This verse just means it’s the last trumpet we’ll hear before we’re changed.  Since both the Corinthian passage and the one from Thessalonians describe the same things, it’s safe to assume that this trumpet is the same one mentioned in 1 Thes. 4:16 and is not pointing us toward any other event.

So these two references both say that one generation of humans won’t die but will be suddenly changed from our earthly form to our heavenly one. And since both Matt. 24:31 (they’ll gather His elect from one end of the heavens to the other) and Rev. 17:14 (with Him will be His called, chosen, and faithful followers) say that we’ll be with the Lord when He returns, this has to happen sometime before the 2nd Coming.  And it can’t be just the resurrected believers coming back with Him because the Rapture passages above say that we’ll be changed at the same time as the dead are raised.

So When Does This Happen?
In the New Testament, the clearest indication of Pre-Trib Rapture we get in the timing department is found in 1 Thes. 1:9-10. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath. The Greek word translated “from” in this passage is “apo.”  Taken literally, it means we’re to be rescued from the time, the place, or any relation to God’s wrath.  It denotes both departure and separation.  This is supported by 1 Thes. 5:9 that declares, “God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Some folks are fond of pointing out that you can’t use God’s wrath interchangeably with the Great Tribulation. They’re not the same, they say.  And they’re right, the two terms are not synonymous.  The Great Tribulation is 3 ½ years long and begins in Rev. 11-13.  God’s wrath is much longer, beginning in Rev. 6, as verse 17 explains.  Post-trib. and pre-wrath rapture advocates try to deny this but the Scripture is clear. The time of God’s wrath begins with the Seal Judgments.  The Bowl Judgments that come later don’t begin the time of His wrath, they end it. (Rev. 15:1)  Being rescued from the time, the place and any relation to God’s Wrath means the Church has to disappear before Rev. 6 (Pre-Trib Rapture), and that’s why we believe the Rapture takes place in Rev. 4 and the Church is the group of believers in view in heaven in Rev.5. – Pre-Trib Rapture

You Be The Judge
Now let’s apply my questioner’s litmus test.  Could a believer, sitting alone on the proverbial desert isle with nothing but a Bible and with no pre-conceived ideas, conclude that there’s a pre-trib Rapture just from reading about it, or could he only be led into this position by first hearing someone teach him about it?

Well, From Isaiah 13:9-13 and Amos 5:18, he would have learned that God is going to judge the Earth for it’s sins in a terrible time called the Day of the Lord when He’ll pour out His wrath on mankind. Reading Matt. 24 would have told him that this time of judgment would be so bad that if the Lord didn’t put a stop to it no one would survive.  But the Lord will put a stop to it by returning in power and glory. Since he would know that the Lord hasn’t returned yet, he would know that God’s wrath is still in the future.

When he got to 1 Thes. 1:9-10 he would see a pretty clear statement.  Jesus rescues us from the coming wrath.  In the “who, what, where, when, and why” methodology of the investigative reporter he would have the Who, (Jesus) the what, (rescues us) and the when (the time of the coming wrath).  Reading on he would come to 1 Thes. 4:15:17 and get the where (from Earth to the clouds – Pre-Trib Rapture) and in 1 Thes. 5:9 the why (because we’re not appointed to wrath).

From there he would logically conclude that since we’ll be rescued around the time of the coming wrath and since we’re not appointed to wrath, our rescue has to precede it (Pre-Trib Rapture). He could also answer another of the investigative reporter’s questions in 1 Thes. 4:15:17 and that’s how it would happen.  The Lord himself will come down from Heaven into our atmosphere and suddenly snatch us away from Earth to join Him there.  In chapter 5 he would learn that he would never know the exact timing of this event but only that it would precede the coming wrath.

Of course there are many more passages I could reference but I think I’ve made my point and answered the question.  In fact I’ll go one step further.  I believe that since our hypothetical reader has no one to persuade him differently, he would assume that what he’s reading is to be taken literally.  And if that’s the case, then the Pre-Trib Rapture position is the only conclusion he could logically come to, because every other position requires a moderate to massive re-interpretation of Scripture.

I contend that left alone to work this out with only the Holy Spirit as his guide he would expect to be raptured before the wrath of God begins in Rev. 6. You see, God didn’t write the Bible to confuse us, but to inform us.  It’s mankind that’s gotten everything all mixed up.  If you give the Holy Spirit a clear minded student, uncontaminated by man’s opinions and prejudices, He would bring that person to the understanding of the rapture that’s most consistent with a literal interpretation of Scripture.  And that requires a pre-trib rapture.

Pre-Trib Rapture, But Wait, There’s More
While we’re on the topic, there’s another issue that points to a pre-trib Rapture and it comes to us in the form of a clue in 1 Thes. 4:15, right at the beginning of the Rapture passage.  Verse 15 opens with the phrase “According to the Lord’s own word.”  There simply is no place in the New Testament where Jesus speaks of some being resurrected and some others being transformed to meet the Lord in the air.  He never said anything like that, nor does he even imply such a thing.

Those who believe they see it in Matt. 24:40-41 first have to ignore the fact that Jesus was explaining events on Earth on the actual day of His return, which would place the Rapture after the 2nd Coming, something no one believes.  They also have to ignore the fact that in Matt. 24:40-41 both believers and non-believers are sent somewhere, believers being received unto Him, while non-believers are sent away.  You have to research the Greek words translated “taken” (paralambano) and “left” (alphiemi) to realize this, but when you do you’ll see that the English is misleading.  No Rapture view includes the disposition of non-believers, nor does it even mention them.

By the way, this is a great example of why the literal, historical, grammatical interpretation is so important.  Our Bible was mostly written in Hebrew and Greek.  Every translation relies on the movement of words from one language to another.  This process doesn’t always produce a perfect fit, and so learned men have to make allowances for this and exercise their own judgment from time to time.  But men are not perfect. We all have our biases.  When it’s an important issue where you want an exact meaning it’s always a good idea to double-check their work.

Fortunately we have an incredible tool in the Strong’s Concordance.  It contains every Hebrew and Greek word in the Bible with their primary and secondary meanings, how often each word appears in the Bible and what meanings are used in each appearance. You can compare these with the meaning the translators used and see if you agree with their treatment of the passage. By doing this with Matt. 24:40-41, you’ll find that the primary meaning ofparalambano is to receive and the primary meaning of alphiemi is to send away.

People with a post-trib disposition read 1 Thes. 4:15, and then turned to Matt. 24:40-41 where they saw one group being “taken” and another group being “left” after the end of the Great Tribulation. Assuming that these were the Lord’s own words Paul was referring to, they stopped there.  They had seen what they wanted to see.

In actuality Matt. 24:40-41 is most likely a preview of the Sheep and Goat judgment of Tribulation survivors. The word taken (received) refers to believers going live into the Kingdom, and the word left (sent away) applies to non-believers who are sent to the place prepared for the Devil and his angels. (Matt 25:31-46)

Of course none of this pertains to our desert island reader above.  The verses I used there are clear enough that they don’t require any research into the original language. So he wouldn’t need a Strong’s Concordance, just his Bible.

What’s Your Point?
So if Jesus never taught about the Rapture, to which of the “Lord’s own words” was Paul referring? Some dismiss the phrase, saying that Paul was speaking of a conversation he had with the Lord that doesn’t appear in Scripture.  But I think we deserve a better answer than that.

Remember, 1st Thessalonians was probably Paul’s first written communication, undertaken in 51AD.  Depending on whose opinion you accept, Matthew’s Gospel was either just being written or was still nearly 10 years away.  Those who give it an early date say it was written to the Jews in Jerusalem and may even have been written in Hebrew.  In any case neither it nor any other Gospel was yet in wide distribution.  (Mark’s Gospel, the other candidate for earliest one written, doesn’t contain an equivalent to Matt 24:40-41.)  So if Paul was referring to Scripture, as I believe he was, it had to be the Old Testament.

Yes, like everything else in God’s plan, you’ll find hints of the Rapture even in the Old Testament.  Look at this passage from Isaiah 26:19-21. But your dead will live; their bodies will rise. You who dwell in the dust, wake up and shout for joy. Your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead.   Go, my people, enter your rooms and shut the doors behind you; hideyourselves for a little while until his wrath has passed by. See, the LORD is coming out of his dwelling to punish the people of the earth for their sins.(Emphasis mine.)

Notice how the pronouns change from second person when God speaks of His people to third person when He speaks of the people of the Earth. It means the two groups are different.  Those called “my people” are told to “enter your rooms” (the rooms of John 14:1-3?) because the others, called “the people of Earth” are going to be punished for their sins in a period of time called His Wrath.  Sound familiar?  (Note: the Hebrew word translated “go” in the phrase “Go my people” is translated “come” in some translations, recalling the command to John in Revelation 4, “Come up here!” But the word has another primary meaning and it’s my favorite.  It means vanish. “Vanish, my people!” Yes we will.)

Not by any stretch of the imagination has this passage been literally fulfilled. It’s an End Times prophecy that promises a resurrection of the dead and hiding of God’s people while God’s Wrath is unleashed on the people of Earth for their sins.  And it was written 2750 years ago.  The hiding of the Jews in the desert on Earth at the beginning of the Great Tribulation (Rev. 12:14) cannot be considered as a fulfillment of this passage because no resurrection accompanies it. The resurrection of Old Testament believers takes place at the end of the Great Tribulation. (Daniel 12:2)

Of course, no one knows for sure that this is the passage Paul referred to, but as evidence of its influence on him, let’s compare it with what Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 4-5.

Isaiah : But your dead will live; their bodies will rise. You who dwell in the dust, wake up and shout for joy. Your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead.

Paul: The dead in Christ will rise first.

Isaiah : Go, my people, enter your rooms and shut the doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until his wrath has passed by.
Paul: After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.

Isaiah :  See, the LORD is coming out of his dwelling to punish the people of the earth for their sins.

Paul: While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.

The wording is a little different, but is sure looks to me like they’re describing the same event.

And Still More
There are other sound theological reasons why the Church will be rapturedbefore the End Times judgments begin.  One is that the Lord seems to keepIsrael and the Church separate, never dealing with both at the same time (Acts 15: 13-18) If the primary purpose of Daniel’s 70th week is to finish fulfilling the six promises to Israel in Daniel 9:24, then the Church has to disappear.

Another is that the Church was purified at the cross at which time all the punishment due us was born by the Lord Himself.  From that time forward the Church is considered by God to be as righteous as He is (2 Cor 5:17 & 21) The idea that the Church needs to undergo some discipline to become worthy to dwell with God is unscriptural and denies the Lord’s completed work on the cross.

And third, the stated purpose of the Great Tribulation is twofold, to purify Israel and completely destroy the unbelieving nations. (Jeremiah 30:1-11) The Church isn’t destined for either of these outcomes.

There are also several subtle clues that on their own can’t be used to support the Pre-Trib Rapture position, but which underscore the validity of the clear passages I’ve just cited. Take for instance the fact that Enoch, who bears a great similarity to the Church, disappeared before the Great Flood, that the angels couldn’t destroy Sodom and Gomorrah until Lot and his family were clear, and that Daniel was missing from the story of the fiery furnace, a model of the Great Tribulation.

When the Lord described His coming in Luke 17:26-29 He said that it would be both like the days of Noah (some will be preserved through the accompanying judgments) and the days of Lot (some will taken away before them).   And what about the promise He made to the Church in Philadelphia that he would keep us out of the “hour” of trial coming on the whole world. (Rev. 3:10) Is that the same as the “hour” of Babylon’s destruction in Rev. 18?

But being asked to cite verses that didn’t require any prior knowledge I picked two that are clearest to me, 1 Thes. 1:9-10 and Isaiah 26: 19-21. And so by the testimony of two witnesses, one in the Old Testament and one in the New, we see the physical separation of believers from non-believers preceding the time of Judgment.  And by the testimony of two witnesses a thing shall be established. (Deut. 19:15)

Of course some won’t be convinced until we show them a verse that says the rapture will precede the Great Tribulation in those exact words.  Obviously, such a verse doesn’t exist.  I guess we’ll just have to wait and explain it to them on the way up.

The End Times According To Daniel – Part One :: by Jack Kelley

From about 1,000 to 900 BC Israel had been the most feared and admired nation on Earth.  Then, following Solomon’s death and the civil war that ensued, the nation had fallen from its exalted position into a kingdom divided over idolatry.Israel’s enemies saw their chance and took it.  First the Northern Kingdom was conquered in 701BC by Assyria and then the Southern Kingdom was carried away into slavery 100 years later at the hands of the King of Babylon.

Thus began The Times Of The Gentiles.  Also known as Gentile Dominion, it will span over 2600 years from the Babylonian Captivity to the MillennialKingdom.  Jesus said, “Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” (Luke 20:24) and so it has been. Israel’s reunification of the City of Jerusalem in June of 1967 and the events of our time are signs that the end of Gentile Dominion is upon us.

Daniel 2 and 7 give us two different views of Gentile world government during this period, man’s and God’s. As you can imagine they’re substantially different. We’ll look at things from man’s perspective first.

Our study opens in chapter 2 as Daniel, having been taken hostage to Babylon as a teenager, soon finds himself fighting for his life.  If he can’t interpret the King’s troubling dream, he and his friends will be brutally executed.  There’s just one catch.  The King won’t tell him what the dream was.

Fortunately there is One who will.  Let’s look in.

Daniel 2:26-49 
The king asked Daniel (also called Belteshazzar), “Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it?”

Daniel replied, “No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come. Your dream and the visions that passed through your mind as you lay on your bed are these: (Daniel 2:26-28)

Daniel had prayed that God would reveal the dream and its interpretation to him. Reasoning that God would not have brought him to a place of influence in the court of Israel’s conqueror just to be executed, he has committed himself to meet the king’s impossible challenge and asked for God’s help. Now it’s show time.

“As you were lying there, O king, your mind turned to things to come, and the revealer of mysteries showed you what is going to happen.  As for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because I have greater wisdom than other living men, but so that you, O king, may know the interpretation and that you may understand what went through your mind. (Daniel 2:29-30) The King’s motives are revealed.  He’s refused to disclose the dream’s contents because he doesn’t trust his advisors.  Someone who can tell him both the dream and its interpretation will have proven himself both knowledgeable and trustworthy.

“You looked, O king, and there before you stood a large statue—an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance.  The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay.  While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them.  Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were broken to pieces at the same time and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth. (Daniel 3:31-35) There’s the dream.  I can imagine that the King was on the edge of his throne staring intently into Daniel’s eyes as he came to the realization that Daniel had just described his dream to the last detail.  In fact, I’ll bet that Daniel had the entire court’s full attention, because one look at the King’s face told them that he was saving their lives as well as his own.  Now for the interpretation.

“This was the dream, and now we will interpret it to the king.  You, O king, are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; in your hands he has placed mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds of the air. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold. (Daniel 2:36-38)  Babylon was the country we know as Iraq today.  Jeremiah, a contemporary of Daniel’s who wrote from Jerusalem had told envoys from each of Israel’s neighbors that God was giving them two choices; surrender to the King of Babylon and live, or fight and die. God had chosen King Nebuchadnezzar to punish Israel’s enemies for their past treacheries at the same time He’s bringing His promised judgment upon Israel. (Jeremiah 27:1-11)  As a result, Babylon will wind up ruling the entire Middle East including parts of Egypt.  But Daniel has just informed the King that any place on Earth that he desires will be given into his hands. Even the animals have been made subject to him.  Nebuchadnezzar, representing Babylon, is the statue’s head of gold.

“After you, another kingdom will rise, inferior to yours. Next, a third kingdom, one of bronze, will rule over the whole earth.  Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron—for iron breaks and smashes everything—and as iron breaks things to pieces, so it will crush and break all the others.  Just as you saw that the feet and toes were partly of baked clay and partly of iron, so this will be a divided kingdom; yet it will have some of the strength of iron in it, even as you saw iron mixed with clay.  As the toes were partly iron and partly clay, so this kingdom will be partly strong and partly brittle.  And just as you saw the iron mixed with baked clay, so the people will be a mixture and will not remain united, any more than iron mixes with clay. (Daniel 2:39-43) The advantage of history makes accurately interpreting this passage possible for us.  Babylon was conquered by a coalition of the Medes (today’s Kurds) and the Persians (Iran) at the end of the seventy year period set aside for Israel’s captivity.  They’re the chest and arms of silver.  The Greek armies under Alexander conquered Persiaand are represented by the belly and thighs of bronze.  The legs of iron are the Eastern and Western divisions of the Roman Empire that displaced the Greeks, and from this point on we’ve switched from history to prophecy. The Roman Empire was never really conquered, but collapsed from the weight of its own decay, transforming itself from a political entity to a religious one in the process.  The Holy Roman Empire held sway over the known world well into the middle ages.  Since then various components have had their time in the sun,Spain, England, and England’s colony, the USA.

That leaves the 10 toes, a kingdom not yet in power whose arrival on the world scene will be characterized by a coming together and splitting apart of components uncomfortable with each other.  This describes the European Union, 22 nations consisting of just 10 permanent full partners with 12 associate members at various levels of short of full acceptance. While seemingly unified, they’ve also come close to falling apart altogether, such as during their currency crisis a few years back and more recently the defeat of their constitution.

But don’t forget, in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream the statue had two legs, pointing to the Roman Empire’s two components.  The Eastern one was comprised of much of today’s Islamic world. The Western one is called the EU today.   Sometime soon we should see some kind of accommodation made to effectively but imperfectly unite these two legs. Perhaps the rampant “islamization” of Europeis an early sign of this.

In the King James Version, Daniel 2:43 reads, “And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay.”

Miry clay apparently refers to pottery made of the recycled shards or broken pieces of different kinds of pottery ground into dust again and mixed with water to make a clay like substance. It was very brittle and easily broken apart. InNebuchadnezzar’s dream it’s meant to symbolize the difficulty the end times Empire represented by the ten toes will have in staying together.

But then verse 43 says “they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men” Who is they? Is Daniel telling us that some non-human beings will attempt to join up with humans, or even mix themselves into the human gene pool? And if so, that they’ll have a hard time remaining united? We can’t tell, but some scholars say we shouldn’t be surprised to learn that the return of the Nephilim is prophesied by this verse.

By the way, the King James Version of Daniel 2:43 reads, “And whereas thousawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay.”

Miry clay apparently refers to pottery made of the recycled shards or broken pieces of different kinds of pottery ground into dust again and mixed with water to make a clay like substance. It was very brittle and easily broken apart. InNebuchadnezzar’s dream it’s meant to symbolize the difficulty the end times Empire represented by the ten toes will have in staying together.

But then verse 43 says “they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men” Who is they? Is Daniel telling us that some non-human beings will attempt to join up with humans, or even mix themselves into the human gene pool? And if so, that they’ll have a hard time remaining united? We can’t tell, but some scholars say we shouldn’t be surprised to learn that the return of the Nephilim is prophesied by this verse.

“In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever.  This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands—a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces.

“The great God has shown the king what will take place in the future. The dream is true and the interpretation is trustworthy.” (Daniel 2:44-45)

But just when it looks like the 10 toes are finally becoming cohesive and are consolidating their power, the Lord will bring His greatest and final judgment upon the Earth.  Every last vestige of the Gentile kingdoms will be destroyed, and the Lord Himself will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed.  Nor will it ever fall into the hands of others.

Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell prostrate before Daniel and paid him honor and ordered that an offering and incense be presented to him.  The king said to Daniel, “Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery.”

Then the king placed Daniel in a high position and lavished many gifts on him. He made him ruler over the entire province of Babylon and placed him in charge of all its wise men.  Moreover, at Daniel’s request the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego administrators over the province of Babylon, while Daniel himself remained at the royal court. (Daniel 2:46-49) And so begins Daniel’s remarkable career as chief advisor to first the King of Babylon, and then the King of Persia.

I said earlier that this vision represents man’s view of Gentile Dominion, represented by shiny and precious metals.  While each metal is less valuable than its predecessor, representing a decline in the quality of life, each one is also less malleable, harder and therefore stronger, representing increased power.

Next we’ll look at these same four kingdoms from God’s perspective, and as I told you, it’ll be way different.

Daniel 7:1-14
Daniel’s Dream of Four Beasts
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.

Daniel said: “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me were the four winds of heaven churning up the great sea. Four great beasts, each different from the others, came up out of the sea. The events of chapter 7 occurred 50 years later.  Belshazzar was Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson, and Daniel was now an old man.  The four winds of heaven symbolize a sovereign act of God, and the fact that these beasts come up from the sea hints that they represent the wickedness of Gentile Dominion. (Isaiah 57:20-21)

“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. (Dan. 7:4) Babylon’s symbol was the winged lion.  Being made into a man makes it representNebuchadnezzar.

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!’ (Dan. 7:5) The bear symbolizes the Medo-Persian coalition.  Though Media was the senior partner Persiabecame the stronger, which is shown by one side being raised above the other. The three ribs are Persia’s three major conquests, Lydia in 546BC, Babylon in 539, and Egypt in 525.

“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. (Dan. 7:6)  The leopard isGreece.  The four wings represent the speed with which Alexander conquered the known world.  It took him only 10 years. The four heads are his four generals who took the kingdom upon Alexander’s death and divided it among themselves.

“After that, in my vision at night I looked, and there before me was a fourth beast—terrifying and frightening and very powerful. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. It was different from all the former beasts, and it had ten horns. (Dan. 7:7)  This beast is so strange and terrifying to Daniel that it didn’t look like anything he’s seen before.  It’s iron teeth recall the legs of iron from Daniel 2:40. Rome was a powerful Empire that brooked no resistance.  In the reference to the 10 horns we again jump from history to prophecy, from the ancient Roman Empire to its revival in our times.

“While I was thinking about the horns, there before me was another horn, a little one, which came up among them; and three of the first horns were uprooted before it. This horn had eyes like the eyes of a man and a mouth that spoke boastfully. (Dan. 7:8)  Here’s the origin of one of the anti-Christ’s titles, the little horn of Daniel 7.  Notice that he’s not one of the original 10 horns, but comes from among them.  A horn symbolizes power or authority when used symbolically. To me this means that the anti-Christ is not originally part of the recognized leadership, but comes from a   less significant member state outside the power structure to depose three of the existing leaders and assume their authority.  If I’m correct, look for the anti-Christ to burst on the scene suddenly from a previously unimportant segment of the Empire to achieve his position of prominence.

When Daniel approached an angel also observing the things he was seeing, he asked about the fourth kingdom and the little horn and was given this explanation: ‘The fourth beast is a fourth kingdom that will appear on earth. It will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing it.  The ten horns are ten kings who will come from this kingdom. After them another king will arise, different from the earlier ones; he will subdue three kings. He will speak against the Most High and oppress his saints and try to change the set times and the laws. The saints will be handed over to him for a time, times and half a time.  (Daniel 7:23-25) It’s obviously an End Times reference and includes the 3 ½ year duration of the Great Tribulation during which the Little Horn will gain control of the entire world, taking over from the 10 kings.  As Paul later confirmed he will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshipped. (2 Thes. 2:4)  And as Revelation 13:7 tells us he’ll make war against Tribulation believers and overcome them.

“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 its wheels were all ablaze. A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him.  Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.  The court was seated, and the books were opened. (Dan. 7:9-10)  But while the anti-Christ consolidates his power on Earth, a Greater Power is setting His plan into motion in Heaven.  The lines are being drawn for the climactic battle for Planet Earth. The “thousands upon thousands” attending Him likely represent the angelic host.  Ten thousand was the biggest number they had in those days, so Daniel used that number multiplied by itself to describe a multitude no one count, perhaps a reference to the Raptured Church.  John borrowed this illustration to describe the scene before the throne in Rev. 5:11.

And notice the plural thrones.  Daniel’s having a peek at the End Times and sees a hint of the thrones of the 24 elders.  None of the other Old Testament views of God’s Throne mention these thrones because they all occur in real time. This little insight argues against the opinion some theologians hold that the 24 thrones are occupied by an otherwise unidentified order of angels who assist God in governing the Universe. The fact that they don’t appear in Old Testament accounts, but do when the End of the Age is the context implies that another level of government has been added since the cross.  It could only be the Church.

“Then I continued to watch because of the boastful words the horn was speaking. I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire.  (The other beasts had been stripped of their authority, but were allowed to live for a period of time.) (Daniel 7:11-12) Back on Earth, the Great Tribulation is summarized in two verses.

“In my vision at night I looked, 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. 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 7:13-14) And finally, the culmination of human history.  Dominion over Planet Earth, which Adam lost to Satan,  has been regained by the Son of God, never to be lost again. He’ll rule and reigh with His Church forever.

A period in man’s history seen from his perspective as a beautiful statue of shiny and precious metals is described by God as it really is, a series of voracious beasts who oppress and devour mankind and oppose every effort by God to free us. You and I have come in on the tail end of this.  We weren’t here to see it’s beginning like Daniel was, but because of his description we’re better able to recognize our world for what it is and correctly identify the signs that tell us that the end is near.