Tag Archives: Daniel

MYSTERY: THE MURDER OF A PROSTITUTE

Have you noticed the great divide growing not only in our country, but also among the peoples of the world? On the one hand, there are those of us who believe that there is great evil in this world and this evil finds its roots in the heart of man. This, of course, makes the other side angry, for they are optimistic. They believe man is born good with an unlimited potential for saving our planet. As Michael Jackson sang, “We are the world. We are the children. We are the ones to make a brighter day.” The Dalai Lama adds, “My true religion is kindness.” Mahatma Gandhi advised, “You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean. If a few drops become dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”

What is behind this hope for the future? One powerful factor is the New Age Movement, which is a smorgasbord of beliefs and practices from which each New Ager can fill his tray with whatever he finds appealing. As such, it is inherently self-centered—a “Have It Your Way Religion” perfectly suited to the tastes of modern man. Most of its beliefs find their roots in Eastern religion such as the belief that God is in everything (pantheism), that all is one (monism), that each person is his own god (idolatry), that each person’s experience is the test for truth (not an outdated book like the Bible), and that there is no evil in the world (only spiritual immature acts paid for through the process of  reincarnation.)

Among its promoters are Stuart Rose, Deepak Chopra, and Oprah Winfrey who was raised a Baptist, but no longer believes Jesus is the only way to God. This is the great weakness of the movement—their denial of the Lordship of Jesus Christ. We ourselves have had many blasphemous comments posted on our website recently cursing God and His people. Why? Because of the evil spirits that have turned so many hearts against the Lord and His Christ, promoting in their place a new age religions and practices.

All of this makes it clear that the New Age Movement is nothing new. It is ancient Babylonian occultism in modern dress—the false religion which has controlled the world since the beginning, and is now fighting for a foothold in the Church and hearts of Christians, while at the same time paving the way for Antichrist. So, do not be taken in! No matter how convincing the lies, remember: There will never be a brotherhood of man without the Fatherhood of God, and we will never enjoy the Fatherhood of God apart from the love of His Son, Jesus Christ.

 

How does God feel about this movement? In Revelation 17, He condemns it calling it “Babylon the Great, the Mother of Prostitutes.”

  1. THE MYSTERY OF THE PROSTITUTE

In keeping with his assignment to “prophesy again about many people, nations, tongues, and kings,” John flashes back to another dynamic behind the Beast’s kingdom. One of the angels with charge over the bowl judgments urges him to see “the great prostitute who sits on many waters.” From this we immediately know that it is no mere woman John is describing, for no woman could sit on many waters. Normally, the rule of interpretation is “When the plain sense of Scripture makes good sense, seek no other sense.” But in this case, the plain sense of Scripture does not make good sense, leading us to look for another explanation. When we do, comparing Scripture with Scripture, it is clear that God is using this woman to symbolize false religion. That is not unusual. In the Old Testament, Israel was pictured as the wife of Jehovah. In the New Testament, the Church is called the Bride of Christ. Therefore, it should not surprise us to find a prostitute masquerading as false religion. This is a common metaphor for both idolatry and witchcraft in the Bible. To appreciate her wickedness, notice four facts about her.

A. Her Influence

How powerful is false religion? One thinks of headhunters in the Amazon jungle, animists in Papua New Guinea, and the spiritually naïve in our own country who sell their souls to cult leaders like Jim Jones. But the picture John paints is far more pernicious. He emphasizes that in every age and every place “the great prostitute” has reigned supreme, controlling the worship of everyone who rejects Christ. Three details make this clear.

She sits on many waters. What does this mean? John explains in verse 15, “The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and languages.” In other words, whether they realize it or not, everyone has been affected by false religion. Unbelievers often take pride in the fact that they have made it through life without the “crutch of religion.” But they are deceiving themselves. As Freud said, “Man is incurably religious.” We may reject the God of the Bible. But when we do, we invariably open our heart to something else—humanism, materialism, scientism, etc. The hold that false religion has over the unbelieving world is absolute. She “sits” on everyone who rejects Jesus as Savior.

She seduces many kings. Verse 2 adds, “With her the kings of the earth committed adultery.” Pharaoh did so. Each time God displayed His glory through miracle after miracle, Pharaoh hardened his heart. Why? Because of the Satanic miracles of Jannes and Jambres, his court magicians. Nebuchadnezzar did the same. He filled his court with astrologers and built a huge idol in his own image. The Caesars took it a step farther, calling themselves gods and forcing everyone to burn incense in their honor. But the most flagrant example will be Antichrist whose very kingdom will be built on false religion. More on that in a moment.

She intoxicates the people of the earth. All of us seek comfort for the heartaches of life. But when Jesus, the Wonderful Counselor and Great Physician is rejected, the only thing left to turn top is drugs and false religion. One example is the beautiful actress, Linda Evans. Hurt by two broken marriages and deprived of the child she always wanted, she spent more than 15 years searching for inner peace. She explained in an interview, “I’ve tried a lot of things along the way—psychotherapy, TM, Science of the Mind. I don’t know where the answer is.” So finally, in an attempt to find it, she moved to the Pacific Northwest where she now lives near her dear friend and New Age psychic, J. Z. Knight. How sad!

Another graphic example is the false religion of Hinduism. Thousands of children lie starving in the streets of India, while half a billion cows (That’s half the cows on earth!) gobble up and trample their crops. Why not simply butcher them and feed everybody hamburgers? Because that’s against their religion! In the Hindu thinking, cows are even more sacred than children! You say, “A person would have to be drunk to think like that!” You are right. But that is what false religion does. It intoxicates the people of the earth.

B. Her Appearance

Verse 4 continues, “The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones, and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries.”

Two facts are emphasized by her appearance. The precious jewels show the wealth enjoyed by false religion. Hindu temples, Buddhist shrines, and Islamic mosques do not lack for gold or jewels. (Nor do the multiple homes of many television preachers.) But their worshipers are often forced to beg for their daily bread. That was one thing that turned Martin Luther away from the Roman church. When he saw the opulence of the Vatican, he knew it was something that Jesus would not commend. (See Revelation 3:17-18.) The woman’s clothing, on the other hand, symbolizes her immorality. In Rome, no common person wore purple or scarlet. Only two groups could afford such a thing—aristocrats and prostitutes. Paul made this contrast in 1 Timothy 2:9 where he said that godly women should dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not like immoral women with “braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes.”

C. Her Origin

Where does this prostitute come from? Three clues are found in her name.

She is a mystery. This doesn’t mean she is mysterious. When you see the word “mystery” in the Bible, it refers to a divine secret which only God can explain. For example, in Ephesians 3, Paul says this about the Church. In the Old Testament, it was a “mystery” in that its future creation hadn’t been revealed. The same is true of “Mystery Babylon.” Until now, the Bible hasn’t said much about her. So, rather than speculating about her, let us pay close attention to John’s explanation. Here he points out two important details about her.

First, she is a city. The angel explains in verse 18, “The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth.” To what city is he referring? Two explanations are given. Verse 5 says her forehead reads, “Babylon the Great.” In the early church, that was a code word for Rome. You can see this in 1 Peter 5:14 where speaking of the Church, the apostle says, “She who is Babylon, chosen together with you, sends her greetings.” The literal city of Babylon did not exist in Peter’s day. So, he was likely sending greetings from the Church in Rome, where he served and was eventually martyred. To support this view, many point to the “seven hills” in verse 9, reminding us that Rome was built on seven hills.

The second view is that it refers to the literal city of Babylon, which no longer exists, but will be rebuilt during the Tribulation. Some object to this based on Jeremiah 50 to 51, which say that once destroyed, Babylon will never be rebuilt. But the question is: Have Jeremiah 50 and 51 seen their final fulfillment? The answer is “No!” When Babylon fell to Persia in 539 B.C., it wasn’t utterly destroyed, as Jeremiah prophesied, but continued to be populated and productive for centuries. Nor is it without inhabitants today. Speaking about Babylon, L. Glynn Dairos, the assistant secretary of the British School of Archaeology in Iraq, said, “There are three modern settlements situated inside the walls of ancient Babylon. The government of Iraq does indeed plan to restore much of Babylon and has made a start on certain buildings.”

So, which view is correct? I think it is foolish to be dogmatic about either position. Daniel describes Antichrist as the Roman prince yet to come (Daniel 9:26), which means he may set up his capital in the city of Rome. However, Zechariah 5:11 hints that there may be a second Tower of Babel built in the last days in the literal city of Babylon. Consequently, like so many prophecies, we need to take a “wait and see” approach, knowing that wherever the Beast erects his headquarters, God will have the final say and burn this evil city to the ground.

She is a mother. Verse 5 adds, “The Mother of Prostitutes and of the Abominations of the Earth.” She is the mother of all that is spiritually depraved. Her history began in Genesis 10 when the world’s first dictator erected the world’s first center of false religion. His name was Nimrod (meaning “we will revolt!”) and is described as a “mighty hunter in defiance of the Lord.” Under his leadership in the days following the Flood, mankind rejected God’s command to “multiply and fill the earth.” They gathered instead in the plain of Shinar to build a tower “whose top would reach into the heavens.” These people weren’t so naïve as to think that they could build a stairway to Heaven. This was likely the world’s first astrological observatory, for centuries later, when God condemned Babylon, He said “she had labored with sorceries and astrology from her youth.” (Isaiah 47:12, 13) So, God confused their languages and scattered them across the face of the earth, where they took their false religion with them.

Dr. David Hocking describes how false religion even affected the Roman Church. He writes, “The wife of Nimrod (who himself was a son of Noah’s grandson Cush) was Semiramis the First, the high priestess of the Babylonian mystery religion. It was claimed that she had a son, Tammuz, born in a miraculous fashion, who supposedly was the promised deliverer. This was the beginning of the ‘mother and child’ religion of Babylon that eventually found its way to Rome. There it flourished under priests who wore head mitres in the shape of a fish (honoring the fish-god Dagon), and eventually took on the title ‘Pontifex Maximus.’ This title was adopted by Julius Caesar and passed down through the succession of emperors including Constantine, who assumed the role as head of the church at Rome. From there, the title was conferred on the bishops of the church at Rome, and is still borne by the Pope today. . . Other mystery motifs include purgatorial purification after death; salvation by sacraments; sprinkling of holy water; offering round cakes to the queen of heaven; and celibacy (of the priesthood).”

Babylon’s influence on the Roman church is undeniable. But, of course, it hasn’t been confined to Rome. Her “children” have spread her influence wherever false religion is found, even trying to worm its way into today’s Bible-based churches. Furthermore, one day this mother herself will come alive again in the plain of Shinar, where mankind will make one last effort to “reach into the heavens” apart from God. Only this time Babel will not merely be scattered. Verse 16 says she will be brought “to ruin,” left “naked “and burned “with fire.”

B. Her Guilt

Verse 6 explains why she will be judged. Not only is she the source of false religion, she is the motivating force behind the persecution of the saints. John says, “I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus.”

Today, we think of radical Islamic terrorism and the hundreds of thousands who have died because of that false religion. But false religion has also been at work within Christianity as well. One example is the Inquisition. Instituted by Pope Innocent III, it was the Papacy’s weapon for fighting the Reformation for almost 500 years. Those suspected of heresy were subject to torture without even being told the names of their accusers. If convicted, they were turned over to civil authorities for imprisonment or burning. Imagine! Priests and monks directing with heartless cruelty the torture of innocent men and women, all by order of the “Vicar of Christ!” In France, between 1540 and 1570, 900 thousand Protestants were killed. Things were worse in Bohemia. In 1600, the population was 4 million (80% Protestant). But by the time the Jesuits and Hapsburgs were finished, only 800 thousand were left—all Roman Catholics.

But her bloodthirstiness isn’t confined to history. If statistics are correct, more believers are being martyred today than in all previous centuries combined—by communists, Islamists, Hindus, animists, and every other false religion. But then, what has happened in the past and is happening today will seem mild once the Tribulation begins. For at that time, the Prostitute will inspire a bloodbath extending to believers from every tribe, tongue, and people. No wonder God will burn her with fire! What she has done to others will finally be done to her.

In our next lesson, we will finish this study of Revelation 17 and Babylon the Great by investigating the details surrounding her murder.

(To listen to or download the audio version of this message, click Audio. To download the PDF written version, click Written.)

ANGELS: GOD’S SECRET AGENTS

John G. Paton was a missionary to the New Hebrides Islands, a chain of islands 1200 miles east of Australia and known today as Vanuatu.  “Survivor” fans will remember that one of its seasons was filled on Vanuatu.  Paton and his wife Mary arrived on the island of Tanna on November 5, 1858.  At that time the natives on Tanna were cannibals.  In his diary Paton records the dangers this posed for him and his family.  One of the most terrifying experiences took place early on, shortly after their ship deposited them on the beach all by themselves.

2Paton and his wife quickly built a cabin in which to live.  But the natives made it clear that they did not want the missionaries on their island.  So one night they surrounded their home intending to burn it to the ground with them inside.  With no one to turn to but the Lord Himself, the two missionaries fell to their knees and spent the entire night praying for God’s protection.  When daylight dawned, they peeked out the window and were amazed.  Not a single cannibal was in sight! They had all returned to their village.

One year later, by God’s grace, Paton led the chief of the tribe to commit his life to Jesus Christ.  Still curious about that night, Paton took the opportunity to ask him. “What kept you from burning our cabin to the ground?”  “It was the men with you!” the chief explained.  “What men?” Paton asked.  “We didn’t have anyone with us.”  “Oh, yes, you did!” the chief argued. “We saw hundreds of big men in shining garments with swords standing guard in front of your home. That is why we didn’t attack. We were afraid for our lives?”  I wonder. Who were those big men in shining garments standing guard around Paton and his wife?

melanesia-melanesia-new-hebrides-sacred-drums-antique-print-1900-117871-pBefore you answer, let me remind you what Gehazi saw.  He and his master, Elisha the prophet, were surrounded by the Syrian army, and Gehazi was certain that they were about to die.  So how what did Elisha do to comfort him? He said in 2 Kings 6:16, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”  And then he prayed, “Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.”  So the Lord opened the eyes of his servant and “Behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”

3One more example: this time from the Battle of Britain. In the early days of World War II, Hitler and the German high command ordered the Luftwaffe with its fighters and bombers to cross the English Channel and destroy the British military infrastructure. They bombed their railroads, their airfields, their factories, their shipping centers. But by the grace of God, the Royal Air Force managed to survive that 3-month long battle, making the Battle of Britain the first great turning-point in the War for the Allies.

How did they do it? Air Chief Marshall Hugh Dowding gave his explanation at a celebration in his honor at the end of the war. He described his pitifully small complement of men and how rarely they slept. Yet they kept on flying. He told about pilots who were also hit and left incapacitated. Some of them were even killed. Yet their planes kept on flying and fighting! In fact, he said in some cases, airmen in nearby planes saw figures still operating the controls even after the pilots had died. Who kept those planes aloft and helped the British win that crucial battle? Dowding was convinced that God has sent His holy angels to fly those planes and stop the advance of Hitler’s forces.

4Is that possible!  Not only is it possible; it has been the reality many, many times even when we haven’t been able to see them with our eyes.  God’s angels are at work guarding and guiding those of us who love Christ.  Hebrews 1:14 calls them “ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation.”  Or as Billy Graham put it in the title of one of his books, they are “God’s secret agents” sent to help His children in time of need.

That’s my topic as we come to Daniel chapter 10. Daniel has been helped by angels several times in this book.  So before we come to the end of his prophecy (and there are just 3 chapters remaining), I want to address the topic of angels from a Biblical position, because there is a great deal of confusion about angels in the world around us, and I do not want any of us to be led astray.  For that reason, let me explain 3 important facts that each one of us needs to understand about angels.  In this post I will address the reality of angels.  Then in the next two posts, I will focus on the nature and ministry of angels.

Strmline-AngelShepherds_E1.  The Reality of Angels

When I was a boy, almost no one talked about angels.  I remember asking my parents when I was 6 or 7 years old, “Is there such a thing as the devi? And what about angels? Are they real or not?”  My parents were devoted church members who took us to Sunday School every weekend.  But their answer was: “No. They are simply symbols of the good and bad inside each one of us.”  Because that was the scientific age when if you couldn’t see it, hear it, or feel it, it wasn’t real.  But today we find people at both extremes: those whose faith is still in science as well as those who call themselves spiritual and are in touch with all sorts of spirits.

Where am I on that continuum?  I believe in angels, not because of what I or others have experienced, though I believe that my family and I have been the recipients of angelic help on several occasions .  But there is a danger in seeking an encounter with angels.  Seeking is the key word, by the way. The danger in seeking an encounter with angels is that you could meet the wrong kind of angel who appears as an angel of light and leads you away from the God of the Bible.

angel-of-the-lordI believe in angels first and foremost of all, then, because God’s Word says there are angels.  34 of the 69 books of the Bible mention angels – 108 times in the Old Testament and 165 times in the New Testament.  The Lord Jesus spoke with great authority on this subject. For example, when Judas came with the Jewish rulers came to arrest Him, Jesus ordered His disciples to put away their swords, saying to them, “Do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of (72,000) angels?” (Matt. 26:53 NASB)  On two critical occasions, Jesus Himself was also strengthened by angels – once following His temptation by the devil in the wilderness (Matt. 4:11) and again while praying in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:43).

Gethsemane_Carl_BlochAnd yet, in spite of all that is written about angels in the Bible, the sad fact is how little clear teaching there is about them in the churches.  Ask yourself: When was the last time I heard a message on angels?  Let’s try to rectify that by examining what Daniel has to say about angels in chapter 10 of his prophecy.

As the curtain opens, we see Daniel fasting and praying for his people Israel and mourning over the future trials they are to suffer.  In fact, he has been in prayer for 3 long weeks, when suddenly a special visitor arrives with a  message for him. That, by the way, is what the word “angel” means in both the Old Testament and New Testament. The Hebrew word is malak meaning “messenger.”  The name Malachi (“my angel” or “my messenger”) is derived from it.  The same is true of the Greek word angelos.  It also means “messenger.”

DAN-8-GABEAt first, Daniel says his visitor was “a man.”  But it quickly becomes clear that this is no mere human being standing before him.  Daniel says of him in verses 5-6: “I lifted up my eyes and looked, and behold, a man clothed in in linen, with a belt of fine gold from Uphaz around his waist. His body was like beryl (or yellow serpentine), his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes were like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a multitude.”

The angel standing before him was glorious.  And yet, as we read on, we find that as impressive as he was, he has been in a great battle with an even stronger spirit, trying to deliver his message to Daniel.  He explains that he tried to come sooner but the Prince of Persia resisted him for 21 days.  Who was he referring to?  A mighty fallen angel who had control over the King of Persia and his realm.  We’ll take a closer look at what that means in our next study.  But the main point here is that angels are real. They think.  They communicate. They express emotion. They may even become visible to our eyes at times. But whether we see them or not, there are angels all around us fighting spiritual battles on our behalf. The reason we cannot see them (I for one am glad we can’t.  I already have enough to discourage me.)  is because our eyes aren’t calibrated to see them.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThink about it for a moment. Can your dog hear noises you can’t hear? Can a deer smell odors you can’t smell? Can an owl see things at night that you can’t see? Yes, they can. So why should it surprise us to find that there are spiritual realities we can’t pick up with our five senses?  1 Corinthians 11:10 suggests that there may be angels in this room right now watching us worship!  I say that based on Paul’s statement that our worship should be decent and in order “because of the angels,” implying that angels watch us worship.  We just don’t have eyes to see them.  “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” (1 Cor. 13:12 KJV) One of our girls’ favorite songs growing up was written by Amy Grant who sang:

1

(Click this link to listen to Amy Grant’s song – Angels.)

Angels surround us who love Christ, guiding and protecting us.  Balaam, who proved to be a false prophet and more stubborn than his ass, failed to grasp that fact and almost lost his life.  He beat his poor beast to continue on a path God had forbidden him – cursing the nation of Israel – until his donkey spoke up and the prophet’s eyes were opened to the danger before him – a mighty angel about to kill him because of his opposition to the people of God. (Num. 22:33)

(Next time – “The Nature of Angels”)

Prayer: The Most Joyful Resolution!

When you set out to make something new—build a picnic table, knit a scarf, cook a gourmet meal—do you like to follow a pattern or recipe? Or do you like to make it up as you go along? Most of us, unless your name is MacGyver, feel much more confident if we have an example to follow. In fact, even those who are experts in their field usually like to have a pattern to guide their work. Very few of us are creative enough to invent something out of thin air.

Picture14My wife Cheryl, for example, has been making and mending clothes since before we were married. In fact, that was our first big investment as newlyweds. At the time we had an old sewing machine that someone gave us – a White machine. I’m sure it’s an antique by now. So we decided to step out in faith and spend $300 on a new Bernini machine that came with a 30 year warranty. And 40 years later, we got our money out of it! And yet, even though Cheryl is great at sewing and making alterations, ask her and she’ll tell you, she always looks for a pattern before she sets out to make anything new.

Or here’s something you may not know about me. I took 10 years of piano lessons as a boy and played in 25 or 30 recitals. But unlike Cheryl, I was a technician, not a musician, because instead of playing by ear, I had to have the sheet music sitting in front of me. So when I saw how much talent she had and how the music just flowed out of her, I decided to invest my time and energy in other projects. And you may be like that too. When you employ a new skill, you want a model or mentor to follow.

Now, transitioning into our study, I can’t think of a place where that’s more important the area of prayer. You’ll remember the disciples asked Jesus at one point, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.” Jesus then went on to teach them what we call the Lord’s Prayer: “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Jesus-Christ-Praying-Wallpapers-13But the example I want to focus on tonight is Daniel the prophet whose prayers were so life-changing that King Belshazzar of Babylon said of him, “I have heard of you, that the Spirit of God is in you and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom are found in you.” (Daniel 5:14) But my question is: Where did Daniel get such unusual wisdom and winsomeness? He found it (And we can find it too! (in a regular quiet time alone with our Lord where we ask Him to fill us with His love, His wisdom, and His joy.

To see what’s involved in that, let’s look together at 3 lessons we can learn from Daniel’s pattern of prayer. The first lesson is: He had a fixed time for prayer.

1. He had a fixed time for prayer.

If you read our last study, you know that we finished Daniel chapter 9, which means we have just three chapters to go—chapters 10, 11, and 12. But before we move on, I want to backtrack and zero in on Daniel’s prayer in chapter 6. I do so because I don’t believe there’s any better way to invest our time and energy in the year ahead than by developing a daily habit of spending time with God.

Picture2You know the back story. Babylon has just been conquered by Persia, and Darius the new governor is in need of a few trusted advisers who can help him understand the language and culture of Babylon. So guess who rises to the top! Daniel who impresses him so much that he not only appoints him to his cabinet; he plans to set him over his entire staff. But that does not sit well with the other advisers who are jealous of Daniel and set out to find a way to destroy him. But try as they might, they are unable to find any fault in him. So they turn instead to the most predictable and vulnerable area of his life, and that’s his prayer life. It’s so consistent that it provides a way for them to trap him. They trick Darius into signing a law that bans prayer to anyone for 30 days but the governor himself. So Daniel is thrown into the lion’s den, and the Lord comes to his rescue.

That’s the back story. But what I want us to focus on now is verse 10, where Daniel describes his practice of prayer and how it gave him the courage, the wisdom, and the faith that set him apart from everyone else. It says: “Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God just as he had done before.” Daniel loved spending time with God, so much so that he was unwilling to give it up even in the face of death! Is it any wonder, then, that his prayers were so powerful? Imagine how powerful our prayers would be if we were willing to sacrifice everything else in our pursuit of God and His holiness.

By the way, do you know what Daniel’s habit of praying three times a day brought to my mind? The Muslim call to prayer! That’s how Cheryl and I were awakened every morning at 5 am on our trip to Cairo—the call to prayer going out from the top of minaret with faithful Muslims all over the city rolling out their prayer mat and kneeling in prayer – not just three, but five times a day – which is impressive until you realize why they do it. It isn’t out of love for their god. Allah is not a warm and loving deity who invites his followers to enjoy intimate fellowship with himself. Theirs are rote prayers that come not from a heart of love, but from a fear of punishment.

Picture16That is not what Daniel was doing! Daniel knelt before his Lord three times a day not to win His favor or earn salvation, but because he loved Him and didn’t want to miss the joy of spending time in His presence. And Jesus extends the same invitation to you and me: “Come unto Me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matt. 11:28)

But you say, “I’m not really a ‘structured person.’ I’m what you’d call a free spirit. I like to pray whenever the urge strikes me—riding in the car, washing the dishes, folding clothes.” And I do too! I like to pray about everything all day long. That’s what the Bible calls praying without ceasing. But I believe it’s also important to make a date and set aside a special time every day to meet with God in prayer and worship.

Picture5But I realized I could be wrong, so I tried it on my wife. We’ve been busy lately and haven’t spent as much time together as we’d like. So I made a date with her this last week. I promised her that we’d spend time together during the halftime of the Seahawk game. And you know what? She wasn’t excited about it. Wasn’t that ungrateful of her? To tell you the truth, I didn’t actually do that. After 40 years of marriage, I know what draws us together and what doesn’t. And the same thing is true of God! You’ve heard of the five love languages through which people like to give and receive love? Well, time is God’s love language! That means if you want to get closer to Jesus, the only way to do it is by spending lots and lots of time with Him, not during the halftime of a football game, but when it costs something, early in the morning, just the two of you alone together.

If you don’t believe that, go down the list of those who have been especially close to Him: Martin Luther the great reformer, John Bunyan the Puritan preacher who wrote Pilgrim’s Progress in prison, John Wesley who helped ignite the First Great Awakening, in America, William Carey the first Protestant missionary sent out into the world, David Brainerd the missionary to Indians, and George Mueller the lover of orphans and man of prayer. They all pursued the same persistent pattern. They spent two or three hours in prayer every day, which is how they also became the great saints that they were. And I urge you to do the same, even if it’s just five or ten minutes to begin with.

Picture6Like Daniel, set aside a fixed time to meet with God every day. That was his first habit of prayer. The second was this: He had a fixed place for prayer.

2. He had a fixed place for prayer.

Read verse 10 again. It says, “When Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home and in his upper room with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days.”

Picture7No fear, no shame, no hiding! Daniel simply did what he’d always done in the place where he’d always done it. He knelt down in his upper room with the windows open facing Jerusalem, praying and giving thanks to God. This is why we call it a spiritual discipline. It’s called that because it’s something we do again and again until it becomes such a natural part of our lives that we no longer have to strain to do it. Think about it! Taking a shower, brushing your teeth, tying your shoes—does it take a lot of mental energy to do those things? Not really! Why? Because they’re habits! That’s how God designed the human personality. He designed us so that what would normally be very difficult becomes easier the longer we do it. That’s also the difference between trying and training. Trying is putting out one big effort on one big day to get the job done, whereas training is something that becomes easier through regular exercise and practice.

Some of you may know that I started power walking a couple years ago. When I first started I could barely make it a mile, huffing and puffing if I had to climb a hill. But now that it’s a habit, I can do that very easily. And I always do it in the place that works best for me, especially during these rainy winter months. I do it on my treadmill in the comfort of my own home at 5:30 or 6:00 o’clock at night.

So let me encourage you, if you want to experience a spiritual breakthrough with God, set aside a regular time and place where you meet with Him—a chair in the living room, a place at the kitchen table, a little corner in your upper room with a Bible, a pen, and a notebook next to you, so you can write down what the Lord says to you. Again, the important thing is not where you do it but finding a place that works for you. The only caveat I offer is: Don’t do it in bed or you’ll find yourself falling back to sleep.

Picture8 John Wesley, the evangelist who helped spark the Great Awakening, prayed so consistently in the same spot every morning that if you visit his home today, you can see two worn spots in the wooden floor where he knelt in prayer three hours every morning. Where you do it isn’t the important thing because wherever you meet with God becomes a holy place. Remember what the Bible says about Jacob when fleeing from his brother Esau? It says that God spoke to him in a dream promising to bless him. So what did he do the next morning? He said to himself, “Surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it!” Then he took the stone he used as a pillow, set it up as a pillar, poured oil on it, and called it Bethel, meaning “the house of God.” And the same thing can be true of the place you meet with God! You can literally make it the “house of God” by setting it apart as a special place where you spend time with God every day.

By the way, while I’m talking about the place of prayer, let me remind you what Jesus said about it. In the Old Testament, God’s people worshiped in the Temple in Jerusalem. That’s why Daniel prayed with his windows open facing Jerusalem.  He was praying towards the place where God’s Temple had once stood. But no longer is there a temple standing in that place. Instead, where does God’s Word say that God’s Temple is today? 1 Corinthians 3:16 says that we the church are His Temple and that the Spirit of God lives in us who love His Son. Therefore, wherever we meet for worship is holy because God is there. Furthermore, Jesus said our first priority when we meet together is to make it “a house of prayer.”

Picture9That’s why we open the room next-door to our worship center every Sunday at 4:00 o’clock inviting you to come and pray with us. And I hope even more of you will choose to join us in the months ahead, not because you ought to, but because God is with us when we pray. That’s why we also set aside time in our services for prayer. We do it, not because we ought to, but because we love God. Knowing Him is our passion and joy. So that’s what we want to be known for. We want to be known as a people of prayer.

Daniel had a fixed time for prayer. He had a fixed place for prayer, and most important of all, he had a fixed purpose for prayer.

3. He had a fixed purpose for prayer.

Read verse 10 one more time. It says, “Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously.” Have you ever felt so strongly about something that you’ve said to yourself, “I’m going to do this even if it kills me!”? That was Daniel’s attitude, except that it wasn’t an occasional feeling on his part; it was his daily resolution even in the face of death!

Picture3So I say to you with all love and seriousness, if you make any resolution in the year ahead, make it this one. Determine, with all the grace God gives you, that you’re going to spend time with Him every day, even if it kills you! It won’t, of course. It’ll be difficult at first, like most new habits are. But it won’t kill you to do it. It will bless you beyond anything you can imagine, just as it did Daniel.

You know the rest of the story. Daniel is caught in the act of praying, as his enemies plotted, and sentenced to didin the lion’s den. But what’s amazing is that it was Darius, not Daniel, who was racked with anxiety. Verse 18 says that once Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den, Darius returned to his palace, refused all entertainment, and spent the night in fasting and prayer, unable to get a wink of sleep. Whereas Daniel? He was at perfect peace. Isaiah 26:3 promises, “You will keep him perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You because he trusts in You.”

That takes us to Daniel’s purpose for prayer. Sometimes we get the mistaken notion that the reason we pray is for God’s benefit, as if He’s dependent on us for His happiness. Nothing could be farther from the truth! God is by His very nature an infinitely happy God who has from eternity past enjoyed perfect fellowship with His Son, making Him dependent on us for nothing! God has no unfulfilled needs. But we do. And that’s why we pray! We pray not because He needs us, but because we need Him.

To illustrate this, let me finish with the example of another great man of prayer, George Mueller pastor of the Baptist church in Bristol, England for 64 years -from age 28 in 1834 till the day he died at age 92 in 1898. (Credit goes to Pastor John Piper for his biographical message on the life of George Mueller from which I learned much about this great man and his passion for prayer.)

Picture13But what he’s best known for is his work with orphans. Before Mueller, there were 3600 orphans being cared for in all of England with twice that many under the age of 8 in debtor’s prison with their parents, whereas 50 years later, because of Mueller’s work, there were over 100,000 orphans being cared for in England. Mueller himself built five orphanages where he cared for over 10,000 orphans, even though he was penniless. In fact, he said that’s why he did it. He wanted to find a way to prove to the people of England, who had lost their faith in God, how good God is to meet His children’s needs. So he took on a project that could only be explained by the power of God. He also did it without asking for donations, for he wanted it to be clear that it was God who did it through prayer alone.

Mueller also happened to be one of the biggest givers to missions in his day, even though he took no salary from his church, nor did he have any money of his own. For example, he was by far the biggest supporter of Hudson Taylor, giving more than $3 million to his ministry in China all by kneeling in prayer and asking God for money that he could give away.

Imagine having thousands of orphans depending on you for their daily bread with no means to provide it! Would that make you anxious? Not Mueller! He said he welcomed every problem as a chance to prove the sovereign goodness of God. In fact, he talked about that a lot: God’s sovereign goodness electing him to be saved, preparing good works for him to walk in, and providentially ordering every detail of his life.

Picture15For example, when Mary his wife died, whom he loved with all his heart, he could say with perfect peace, “I am fully satisfied with the will of my Heavenly Father and seek by perfect submission to His holy will to glorify Him. I continually kiss the hand that has afflicted me for whilst He smites with the one hand, He supports with the other.” And when he was about to lose a piece of property he wanted for an orphanage, he said, “If the Lord were to take this piece of land from me, it would be only for the purpose of giving me a still better one; for our Heavenly Father never takes any earthly thing from His children except He means to give them something better instead.”

Picture11Where did he get such great faith in God? From hours and hours enjoying the presence of God. He said in a message to his students, “In my judgment, the most important point to be attended to is this: above all things see to it that your souls are happy in the Lord. Other things may press upon you and the Lord’s work may make urgent claims on your attention, but I deliberately repeat: It is of supreme and paramount importance to keep your souls happy in the Lord Himself. Seek to make this day by day the most important business of your life. This has been my firm and settled condition for the last five and thirty years! The first few years after my conversion, I knew not its importance but now after much experience, I specially commend this to my younger brothers and sisters in Christ—the secret of all true and effective service is joy in Christ.”

Why is that important? He explained, “I have stated he deep importance of being satisfied with the will of God not only for the sake of glorifying Him, but also as the best way in the end of satisfying the desires of our own hearts. Whatever we do must be the result of joy in God.” And again, the way he did that was by spending daily time reading God’s Word and talking to Him in prayer.

Here’s how he finished his message, so that’s how I’ll finish mine. He said, “My dear Christian friend, will you not try it this way? Will you not learn for yourself the preciousness and the happiness of casting all your cares and necessities on the Lord? This way is as open to you as to me. Everyone is invited to trust in the Lord, to trust in Him with all your heart and cast all your burdens upon Him and call upon Him in the day of trouble. Will you not do this, my dear brother and sister? I long for you to do so, to taste the sweetness of that state of heart in which, though surrounded by difficulties and necessities, you are yet at peace, because you know that the living God, your Father in heaven, cares for you.”

Do you believe that? Then begin to put it into practice right now in prayer.

prayer-challenge2

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COUNTING DOWN THE DAYS

A short excerpt from “Guideposts Magazine” tells this story. You’ll like it. It’s a good one. The author writes, “One hot summer afternoon, my wife and I were invited to a swimming pool party by some friends. As I stood on the diving board, I felt as free as the breeze, when suddenly a frantic voice rose above the din crying out, “My baby! He’s at the bottom of the pool!” No one did anything. People just stared at the woman.

When I saw what looked like a motionless form beneath the water, I dove in, and a baby was there. I swept him off the bottom and laid him on the deck. He was blue and wasn’t breathing. Nor did he have a pulse. So I started CPR praying, “Dear God, help me do this right.” At last the little boy coughed. A breath came, then another. He was going to live. An ambulance was called, and while we waited, I asked the others, “Why didn’t you do something? Why did you ignore that mother’s cry for help?”

1“We didn’t understand her,” they said. “What do you mean? Didn’t you hear her screaming for someone to help her baby?” “No,” they said. “She was speaking Spanish, and none of us could understand her.” “What do you mean, Spanish?” I said. “I heard her screaming in English.” “We didn’t,” they said. “All we heard was Spanish.” “To this day, I’m still bewildered because I don’t speak a word of Spanish either.”

God moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform; He plants His footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm. You fearful saints, fresh courage take. The clouds you so much dread are big with mercy and shall break with blessings on your head.” We serve an amazing God! He’s amazing in His power, amazing in His wisdom, amazing in His mercy. In fact, if not for His love and His desire for us to know Him, we wouldn’t be able to understand a thing about Him. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

You see, if it were up to us to figure out God, we would never know Him. For how can the finite mind of man ever hope to know the infinite mind of God! We just don’t have the equipment to do that. But then, God hasn’t left us to ourselves. He became one of us in the Person of His only begotten Son, died on a cross for our sins, drew us to Himself through the work of His Spirit, and revealed His plans to us in His Holy Word.

That’s the focus of this study. Our passage is Daniel chapter 9 where we find one of the most powerful prayers ever prayed as well as one of the most pivotal prophecies in all of Scripture. As we study it, what I want to emphasize are three amazing attributes of the God we love. The first is the intimacy of His friendship.

Prayer_Daniel_study1.             The Friendship of God

Daniel has been cultivating a friendship with God all his life spending time in prayer and Bible reading three times a day every day. By the way, if that hasn’t been your habit, start now, not because you ought to but because you’re missing out if you don’t. You know that great feeling of taking time for yourself and relaxing with a cup of coffee and a good book? Now imagine letting Holy Spirit join you in that because that’s what a quiet time is—taking time to rest in God’s presence reading a few verses from the Bible and talking to Him about your needs. Do that once a day and it’ll change your life!

In this case, what Daniel was studying was the prophecy of Jeremiah where God promised that in spite of His people’s sin, He’d forgive them and bring them home from 70 years of captivity in Babylon. And as he rereads the passage, he suddenly realizes—have you ever had that happen, rereading a passage of Scripture you’ve read before and suddenly something leaps out at you that you’ve never noticed? That is the Holy Spirit at work in your mind—and suddenly, as Daniel reads this passage, he realizes that the 70 years are almost over. So what does he do? He goes to prayer and asks God to keep His promise. And God answers way beyond his expectations!

1 John chapter 5 wasn’t written yet; but it was still true both then and now. “And this is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.” Isn’t that an amazing promise? I’d say that’s a verse worth memorizing. What do you think?

One of the best examples is right here in Daniel chapter 9. He says in verse 20: “Now while I was speaking and praying and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and presenting my supplication before the Lord…while I was still (praying)…the man Gabriel (at least he looked like a man), whom I had seen in the vision previously, came to me in my extreme weariness about the time of the evening offering. He gave me instruction and talked with me and said, ‘O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you insight with understanding.’” The moment Daniel started praying, God answered by sending Gabriel to him, the same angel who later appears to the Virgin Mary. How long did that take? I timed it at home to see how long it takes to read his prayer, and guess what! It took me 3 minutes! 3 minutes for Gabriel to arrive in answer to his prayer!

11As Gaebelein, the German pastor put it, “Heaven is not far away. There is no space and distance for God. The moment we pray in the Spirit and in His name, our voices are heard in the highest heaven.” Why? Because we’re His children—princes and princesses of the Most High King! So take advantage of it! For the Bible says, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us!”

Daniel’s prayer highlights one of the most important truths we can take into our minds, and that’s the friendship of God. Abraham is another example, for what did God do just before He destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah? He told Abraham about it, so he could pray for his nephew Lot. And the same is true of us! Jesus said, “No longer do I call you servants for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for everything I’ve heard from My Father, I’ve made known to you.” And that’s Gabriel’s purpose here. In fact, that’s the purpose of all prophecy—God sharing His heart and plans with His friends.

My friend Mark didn’t appreciate this. Mark is the friend from college who led me to faith in Jesus Christ. So we got together some time back to catch up on what the Lord was doing in our lives. I mentioned that I was studying prophecy and was excited about the Lord’s return. His reaction: Why are you wasting time doing that? Don’t tell me you’re one of those Christians who thinks the Lord is coming back in our lifetime!” And when I said, “I think He may,” he got even more irritable. So rather than ruin our time arguing, I changed the subject.

But so often that’s the reaction you get when you talk about prophecy. People rolls their eyes and think you’re naïve and irrelevant. “After all, what’s that got to do with me?” Friends, I hope you don’t feel like that, because not only does this prophecy have a great deal to do with you and me; it’s also the King of the Universe sharing His heart with us His friends.

2That’s the first truth revealed in this passage—the intimacy of God’s friendship. The second truth follows in verses 24 to 27, and that’s the faithfulness of His promises.

2.             The Faithfulness of God

Daniel has been studying prophecy and realizes that the time is short. So he kneels in prayer and not only asks God to keep His promise, but to show him if there’s a role he’s to play in it. Remember! Cyrus the Great is about to conquer Babylon and is going to need some trusted advisers who know the culture and language of Babylon.

So guess who he’s going to enlist as one of his chief counselors! That’s right! Daniel who will show him his name in the book of Isaiah where it says that he, Cyrus, will be the king who gives the decree that God’s people can go home and rebuild their Holy City! All of that is in Daniel’s mind as he goes to prayer. In response, God not only gives him assurance of their present deliverance, but one of the most pivotal prophecies in Scripture, describing the final salvation of His people, both nationally and spiritually.

3But before we get to that, let me say this very kindly. It takes patience to understand this prophecy, just as it does all the prophecies of the Bible. That’s intentional on God’s part. Prophecy is God sharing His heart with His friends. So He makes us dig a little knowing that we who love Him will make the effort, whereas those who don’t won’t bother no matter how important it is.

I’ll never forget working with a history teacher years ago and trying to share my faith with him by telling him about the prophecies fulfilled in the book of Daniel. I thought he’d be interested because it had to do with history. Not a chance! He had no interest whatsoever because he didn’t have a heart for God! As 1 Corinthians 2 explains, “The natural man does not welcome the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; neither can he understand them, for they are spiritually discerned.” But you can understand them because you have both the Spirit and a heart for God.

So let’s take a few minutes to try to understand what Gabriel is saying. Verse 24: “Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place.”

5The first detail to notice is the number “seven” which is the number of completion in the Bible. God completed His work of creation in how many days? Seven! Jacob worked for Laban how many years before he could marry Rachel? Seven! There were how many years of plenty and how many years of famine in the land of Egypt? Seven of both! And how many times did the children of Israel march around the city of Jericho on the seventh day before the walls came “tumbling down”? Seven! The examples go on and on.

That same thing is true here. Gabriel says there will be seventy more “sevens” before God completes His work of redeeming the nation of Israel.  Your Bible may read “weeks” instead of “sevens,” and that can be confusing. But much of the confusion can be overcome if we understand that the Hebrew word here is Shabuwa which means “a heptad” or group of seven. It’s similar to our word “dozen,” which refers to any group of twelve things – a dozen donuts, a dozen eggs, a dozen cookies, etc. So in order to avoid confusion, from this point on in our study, I will use the word “sevens” instead of “weeks.”

In this case, Gabriel says that God’s work of redeeming Israel will be completed after “seventy sevens,” or 490 if you multiply the two figures together. “490 what?” you ask. In this case, he is describing not 490 days, but 490 years. If you consider what Gabriel includes in the time frame here – the rebuilding of the city and temple of Jerusalem, the atonement of Christ, and the end of sin – it is clear that these things could not and were not fulfilled in just 490 years. 

In fact, to make it easier to understand, Gabriel breaks the “70 sevens” down for us starting in verse 25. He says, “So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven ‘sevens’ and sixty-two ‘sevens’; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress.” The first seven ‘sevens’ or 49 years, then, was the amount of time it took the people of Israel to return and rebuild their city and its temple. That was then followed by an additional sixty-two ‘sevens’ or 434 years of waiting during which God seemed to be silent because there were no more prophets sent to them until John the Baptizer began to cry out in the wilderness, “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand!”

4So add those two blocks of time together (seven “sevens” and sixty-two “sevens”) —remember I said we’d have to do some thinking here—and what do we get? Sixty-nine “sevens” or 483 years before Messiah would appear. Harold Hoehner, a professor at Dallas Seminary, wrote a book about this. Using the Jewish calendar of 360 days and starting with Cyrus’ decree in 444 B.C., that the city of Jerusalem should be rebuilt, he added 483 years to it and pinpointed the exact day on which this prophecy was fulfilled—March 30, 33 A.D! Do you know what happened on that day? The Lord Jesus Christ rode into Jerusalem on a donkey offering Himself to the nation of Israel as their long-awaited! God’s Word was literally fulfilled down to the very day. In fact, the Jews could have set their watches by it, if they’d had watches in those days.

Then what happened? Verse 26 says, “After the sixty-two ‘sevens’ the Messiah will be cut off (the phrase means to ‘execute’) and have nothing.” Did that happen to Jesus? It did. The crowd that cheered for Him on Sunday turned against Him and called for His execution on Friday leaving Him with absolutely nothing, not even the clothes on his back! The Roman soldiers gambled for his clothes, and Jesus was made to hung naked upon the cross. In fact, He was so poor that He also had to be buried in the borrowed tomb of a friend named Joseph of Arimathea.

The prophecy continues, “The people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined.” “Wait a minute!” you say. “Didn’t we just read about Messiah coming and being ‘cut off’?” You’re right! We did. “Then who is this second prince?” He’s the false prince and counterfeit messiah who will come from the same people group as those who destroyed Jerusalem and its Temple. Do you see that in the verse above? The people came first and their prince comes later. We’ll learn more about that in verse 27.

5But first, who were the people that destroyed Jerusalem and its Temple? Four Roman legions under the command of Titus, who burned Jerusalem to the ground in 70 A.D.! In fact, it is interesting. When Titus marched into Jerusalem with his armies, he ordered his soldiers to leave the Temple intact. But one soldier, acting on impulse, threw a torch into the sanctuary to get a better look at its treasures. That caught the tapestries on fire, and the building was soon a raging inferno, which fulfilled a second prophecy. All that decorative gold in the Temple soon melted and ran down into the cracks in the floor. So when it finally cooled, the soldiers literally overturned every stone to get at it, not only fulfilling Daniel’s prophecy that the Temple would be destroyed, but also the words of Jesus who said, “Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down.” (Luke 21:6)

The Word of God is alive and powerful and absolutely trustworthy, not one word of it ever failing to come true. So believe in it and trust it more than you ever have before, both for your salvation and for every other need in your life.

What about the seventieth “seven”? Has that been fulfilled yet? No. That’s still future. You see, something unexpected happened when Israel rejected their Messiah. God’s time clock for Israel temporarily stopped leaving one more “seven” to be fulfilled. And it will be fulfilled right on schedule just as the first sixty-nine “sevens” were fulfilled!

6How do we know when it begins again? Verse 27 says, “He will make a firm covenant with the many for one ‘seven’.” In other words, God’s prophetic clock for the nation of Israel will begin ticking again when a Roman prince signs a peace treaty with Israel for a period of seven years. That has never happened at any time in history. There has never been a prince rise out of the region that Rome once ruled, promising peace to Israel. “Nor will that ever happen!” you say. “There will never be peace in the Middle East!” Not genuine peace perhaps. But that is what he will promise. In fact, that’s how Orthodox rabbis say they will recognize the Messiah when He comes. He will bring peace to Israel and the conditions under which they can rebuild their Temple. Unfortunately, he won’t be the true Messiah; he will be the antichrist who betrays them in the middle of the last seven years and tries by the power of Satan to destroy the Jewish people once and for all.

Verse 27 says, “He will make a firm covenant with the many for one ‘seven’ but in the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate.” Do you realize that none of this was possible just 70 years ago? Because for 1878 years, there was no Jewish nation! Israel did not become a nation again until May 14, 1948. Furthermore, prior to 1945, all of Europe was involved in a great war, making a European union over which the antichrist could rule absolutely impossible. But what was impossible then is more than possible today!

Alan Franklin, editor of “The Free Press” and a frequent guest on “Christ in Prophecy” said this in a recent message. “In Europe the Roman Empire has returned. At Christ’s First Advent, Rome was ruling the earth, and when He comes back, Rome will be ruling again.” José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, said it this way: “Sometimes I like to compare the EU to the organization of an empire because we have the dimension of an empire.” Very understated but that’s what they intend to do.

6In fact, here are their stated goals and the way they plan to do it: 1) Move the headquarters of the United Nations to Europe and replace America as the leader of the world; 2) Bring all of Europe under one jurisdiction making it one great super-nation with one central bank and one central court of justice; 3) Expand their jurisdiction into North Africa and the Arab nations as Ancient Rome once did; and 4) Eliminate the borders, so there’s no distinction between Europeans, Africans, and Middle Easterners. Their goal is to unite all of Europe under one central rule which is highly bureaucratic and has absolute power.

How likely is all of this to happen? Just as likely as the first sixty-nine ‘sevens’ were fulfilled! Both the book of Daniel and the book of Revelation say that there is a day coming when the whole world will united together under a final dictator known as the beast or antichrist. How soon that happens is something that God alone will decide. He can allow it to happen very soon, or He can hold it off for another hundred years. But even now I think we see the stage being set for it. In fact, having lived in Europe from 1995 to 2000 and having made more than a dozen ministry trips to Europe since then, I can tell you that their goals are well on the way to being realized. Did you know, for example, that 75% of the laws made in Europe today originate not in the individual countries but in the European Parliament where there’s virtually no debate and members rarely understand what they’re voting for? Sound familiar?

Of course, all of this talk about the antichrist and his reign of terror can cause a great deal of anxiety, can’t it? But we don’t need to be anxious, if we are trusting in Jesus, for we are His beloved, and He always looks out for those He loves. In fact, it’s my belief that the Lord will remove His Bride from the world before the last ‘seven’ begins. For the seventy ‘sevens’ are about Israel, not the church! And just as there was no church on earth when the first sixty-nine ‘sevens’ were took place, I don’t believe the church will remain on earth when the seventieth ‘seven’ is fulfilled. After all, remember who we Christians are! We’re the Bride of Christ, and what kind of Husband would He be not to rescue His Bride from danger? That’s “Job 1” for a Christ-like husband – protecting his wife from harm.

Now on to God’s amazing grace. The first great truth about Him is the intimacy of His friendship; the second great truth is His faithfulness to His promises; and the third great truth about Him is His amazing grace towards those He loves.

73.             The Amazing Grace of God

Two examples are found right here in our passage. The first is written between the lines in verse 27. It’s that long, gracious gap between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks that Daniel wasn’t told about at the time. In fact, it isn’t mentioned anywhere in the Old Testament, but it’s on virtually every page of the New Testament. For what took place immediately following Christ’s death for our sins and before the antichrist could appear? Something incredibly gracious! God opened the gates of His kingdom to us miserable Gentile sinners and welcomes us to become fellow members of His family and one day walk the streets of New Jerusalem with great Jewish saints like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Sarah, Ruth, and Esther, Moses, David, and Daniel.

That’s what’s written between the lines here in verse 27—the great age of God’s grace in which we now live, which has lasted almost two thousand years and during which time both Jew and Gentile can become brothers and sisters in Christ and members of God’s forever family called the church. That was the gracious secret God kept to Himself in the Old Testament. But now that Christ has shed His blood for our sins and miraculously risen from the dead, He wants everyone in every place to know about it.

Paul explains the secret in Ephesians 3:4-6. By the way, that’s he means by “mystery” in these verses. He’s talking about something incredibly wonderful that was kept secret in times past, but is now to be made known to every person in every place under heaven. He says, “In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.”

bigstock-Pause-D-Button-8446993Do you realize what he’s saying! He’s saying that the reason God punched the pause button on His prophetic clock and made the Jewish nation wait two thousand years for their kingdom to begin was to allow enough time for you to be born, give your heart to Christ, and win the rest of your family to Him as well. Isn’t that amazing grace! God did that because He has loved you from eternity past and wanted you to be His child!

Finally, one last comment about verse 27: God is also going to be incredibly gracious to the nation of Israel, who rejected His Son at His first coming and will turn to antichrist when he appears. Jesus said to them, “I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive.” (John 5:43) Consequently, what does the Jewish nation deserve? Whatever antichrist does to them! But that’s not what they get—at least not those who resist him. They get salvation both nationally and spiritually.

Verse 27 concludes, “On the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.” In other words, the antichrist, not Israel, is the one that’s destroyed and punished forever. And Israel? Both Daniel, Zechariah, Paul, and Jesus Himself say that it’s at that moment that the Lord Jesus will return from heaven and all Israel will be saved. That’s grace!

So if you’re in need of love and compassion, look no farther than the Lord Jesus Christ because He is here and He has loved you from time began. You’re going to see that portrayed at the Lord’s Table tonight. So as I bow my head and close this time in prayer, open your heart to Him and ask Him to come into you and fellowship with you, and He will! For He is your friend, the Friend that sticks closer than a brother!

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