(53) The End of Days and the Start of a New World Order
Critics believe Daniel’s vision moves toward end-times prophecy at Daniel 11:35. Many Jews believe the king in verse 36 is the Antichrist. Many Christians agree, viewing this as prophecy of Christ’s return, matching the destruction of the image in chapter 2 and the destruction of the horn in chapter 7 (Daniel 2:44-45, Daniel 7:11-14).
1. Read Daniel 11:36-39
a. Who or what do you imagine as you read this?
b. What might be a god of fortresses?
c. What is the king’s attitude to God or gods?
d. What is his attitude to women (The one desired of women is sometimes translated women’s desires)?
2. Read Daniel 11:40-41. Given where Israel is, how many directions might it be under attack from?
3. Read Daniel 11:41-45
a. Who wins, and how?
b. If God was in charge of all the ups and downs of the historical battles foreseen by Daniel, who do we believe is in charge now?
c. What difference should that make to our social and political stances?
4. Read Daniel 12:1-4
a. Which angel spoke to Daniel earlier? Is he the angel of Israel?
b. Who is Michael?
c. Read Zechariah 13:8, Deuteronomy 4:30, Jeremiah 30:7 What will the last days be like?
d. Is there life after death in the Old Testament?
e. Who might you describe as running to and fro (or going here and there) today?
5. Daniel wants to know, just as before, when this will happen, and scholars have run to and fro trying to understand the answer ever since.
a. Read Daniel 12:5-7. What might a time (one), times (two) and half a time (totally 3½ times) mean, remembering how important seven is?
b. And we’re back to mathematics. Read Daniel 12:8-11
i. How many years (of 360 days each) is 1290 days?
ii. 1260 would be 3½ years, which would be much more convenient. Would it help if you add 30, from Jesus’ birth to his death?
iii. Read Daniel 12:12 What about the number 1335? We have to add 45 to 1290 this time. Is it the time to the destruction of the Temple?
iv. But these interpretations all look to Jesus’ life and death. What might the numbers mean to us?
v. Does this lend credence to the theory that God would have wound up the world in Jesus’ day if his people had accepted him?
6. Here’s some more history, because if you’re anything like me, you want to know what happened next (and why we haven’t just interpreted the rest of Daniel’s vision the same way as the earlier parts):
a. Judas Maccabees dedicates the altar in 164BC. He dies in 160BC (which is where we stop interpreting Daniel’s visions through historical references). Judas is succeeded by his son, Jonathan.
i. What sort of future would the Jews be expecting at this point?
b. Rome fights Carthage and defeats Corinth around 150BC
c. Jonathan is murdered and his brother Simon takes his in 140BC
i. Does this surprise us? Should it? Do you suppose it surprised the Jews to see things go wrong?
d. Hyrcanus (priest leader) destroys the Samaritan temple in 129BC
e. Aristobulus (Hyrcanus son, priest and king) conquers Galilee; the Saducees support Jannaeus (a younger son of Hyrcanus), while the Pharisees rebel; then Jannaeus’ widow becomes Queen of Israel in 76BC
i. Do our churches and denominations ever take political stances in opposition to each other?
ii. Should we?
f. Aristobulos II, supported by the Saduccees, seizes power
i. Should we expect it to be a good thing when religious influence succeeds in getting someone into power?
ii. Should we expect God to bless our political assumptions?
g. Jerusalem is under siege again in 65BC, with Hyrcanus the priest leading the attack
h. Pompey conquers the Syrians in 64BC
i. Gaius Octavius, later known as Augustus Caesar is born in 63BC
j. Hyrcanus II becomes High Priest in 63BC
k. Julius Caesar defeats Pompey and becomes leader of Rome in 48BC
l. Herod the Great becomes governor of Galilee in 47BC
m. Caesar is assassinated in 44BC. Octavius, Mark Anthony and Marcus Lepidus rule Rome
n. Herod the Great becomes ruler of Judea too in 40BC
o. Herod the Great becomes King of Judea in 37BC, and remains in charge till he dies in 4BC
i. Do any of these names and events surprise you?
ii. Does putting the story into historical context help us understand Daniel?
iii. Does putting the story into political context help us learn from Daniel?
iv. Does putting the story into spiritual context help us draw closer to God?
The last of our prophets is John the Baptist, born like Samuel to a mother who longed for a child.
1. Read Luke 1:5-7,13-17 Some people say Elijah will also return before the end-times. What would you think if someone told you “I am Elijah”? What makes us believe and doubt, and how can we be “sure”?
2. Read Luke 1:39-45 How is the unborn baby so sure?
3. Read Luke 1:67-79 Who is making this prophesy? Can a prophet doubt? Can a doubter prophesy?
4. Read Matthew 3:1-12, Isaiah 40:3, Malachi 3:1 Do you think John knows his Bible references? Do you?
5. Read Luke 3:10-14 What matters to God?
6. Read Matthew 3:15-17 What is the relationship between Jesus and John?
7. Read John 3:22-30. How willing are we to decrease in God’s name?
8. Read Matthew 11:2-15. Who is Jesus? Who is John?
9. Read Matthew 14:1-12 John doesn’t get to say anything at the end. Can a prophet be silenced?
10. Can we be prophets?