David Jeremiah - The Conqueror
We are about to embark on another vision that God gave to his servant. This is the second major vision Daniel has, as recorded in this book. We read in chapter 8 and verse 1 the position of this vision.
Daniel 8:1 — In the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar, a vision appeared to me, to me, Daniel, after the one that appeared to me the first time.
This is his second vision. Now, notice the profile of the vision. The visions in Daniel 2 and parts of Daniel 7 are parallel. They summarize the rise and the fall of four main governments. Remember on the statue, Babylon was the head of gold, Medo-Persia with the arms and breast of silver, Greece was the belly of brass, and Rome were the legs and feet of iron. Today, in the eighth chapter, the Holy Spirit is going to take two of those kingdoms and zero in on them. First of all, the Medo-Persians, and secondly the Greeks. And we ask ourselves, why would God do that? Because the Medo-Persians and the Greeks had an incredible influence on the nation of Israel. It was during the reign of the Persians that Cyrus, king of Persia, gave permission to the Jewish people to go back to Israel and rebuild their city, and rebuild their temple. Cyrus the Persian was a mighty force in the program of God. He came out of the Medo-Persian empire. And in the Greek empire, the Greeks coined the language of Koine Greek, which is the language of the New Testament. And it was through that language and through the Greek leaders that the way was opened up for the spread of the gospel beyond Israel to the Gentile nations. And so, as we see this vision, we need to understand that it is given to us to kind of focus in on how God is going to use even these beastly nations to push forward his program for the Jewish people. Now, notice the place of the vision in verse 2.
Daniel 8:2 — I saw in the vision, and it so happened while I was looking, that I was in Shushan, the citadel, which is in the province of Elam; and I saw in the vision that I was by the River Ulai.
Daniel says he was in Babylon and he had a vision. And in this vision, he was transported to Shushan, the city. Now, the Bible says:
Daniel 8:15-16 — Then it happened, when I, Daniel, had seen the vision and was seeking the meaning, that suddenly there stood before me one having the appearance of a man. And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of the Ulai, who called, and said, “Gabriel, make this man understand the vision.”
The purpose of the vision is given to us in verses 17 and 19. When the mighty angel Gabriel appeared to Daniel to help him understand the vision, he said:
Daniel 8:17-19 — ...Understand, son of man, that the vision refers to the time of the end... I am making known to you what shall happen in the latter time of the indignation; for at the appointed time the end shall be.
And whenever you see the word "the time of the end" in the Bible, it's always about the time of the end of some kind of rebellion. For instance, the first rebellion took place in the northern kingdom of Israel, and the Assyrians came and took them away. The second rebellion came in the Babylonian captivity, and it was captivity once again that ended the rebellion. The time of the end, it usually means the time of the end of some period of rebellion. Now, the Bible says that not only was the rebellion significant in the northern kingdom, in the southern kingdom, but one day in the future, there's going to be another rebellion and the time of the end will appear again, the time of indignation. Daniel says in the vision, he was given a picture of the time of the end.
Now, beginning in these next verses, we move from the reception of the vision by Daniel to the revelation of it, what did it mean. Two animals dominate this vision. One of these animals is a ram and the other is a goat. These two creatures represent two prideful generals in a fierce battle for each other's kingdom. Let's look at the ram first. We read about the ram in verses 3 and 4.
Daniel 8:3-4 — I lifted my eyes and I saw, and there, standing beside the river, was a ram which had two horns, and the two horns were high. But one was higher than the other, and the higher one came up last. I saw the ram pushing westward, and northward, and southward, so that no animal could withstand him, nor was there any that could deliver him from his hand, but he did according to his will and he became great.
Now, the first animal that Daniel sees in his vision, this ram with two horns, represents the Medes and the Persians. Two horns, Medes, Persians. You say, "Well, Jeremiah, where in the world did you get that"? I am so glad you asked me that question because if you will just look down at verse 20, you will see. "The ram which you saw, having two horns, are the kings of Media and Persia". How many times have I told you that, especially in prophecy, the Bible is a self-interpreting book? Don't say you don't understand it unless you read it all because if you keep reading, you'll probably find a verse that'll help you understand what you read.
Now, look at the story again. Two horns grow up on the ram, but one grows higher than the other, and that is the Persian government taking over the Medes. The ram is the Medo-Persian government. And we'll stop with that because we could say more about it, but we'll come back to that in a moment. Now, notice the second animal, which is the goat.
Daniel 8:5-6 — Suddenly a male goat came across from the west, across the surface of the whole earth, without touching the ground; and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes. And he came to the ram that had two horns, and ran at him with furious power.
Now, we got the goat in a fight with the ram. The goat that comes against the ram of the Medes and the Persians represents Greece. You say, "Come on, man, you're just making this stuff up". No, look at verse 21.
Daniel 8:21 — The male goat is the kingdom of Greece. The large horn that is between his eyes is the first king.
And the powerful leader of Greece we know was the son of Phillip of Macedon, no one else but Alexander the Great. Now, listen carefully. Five prophecies come out of this passage on the conflict between the goat and the ram, the conflict between the Medo-Persians and the Greeks. And the fulfillment of each one is historically verifiable. And it's important, men and women, to understand that Alexander's rise to power took place 200 years after Daniel made the prophecy. Two centuries went by. God gave a message to Daniel through this vision and he said, "Daniel, this is what's going to happen". And 200 years later, we can watch it, we can write it down, we can study it. It happened exactly as God told Daniel it would.
Now, I know people say that there's no such thing as prophecy, that prophecy is baloney, that people make it up, that nobody could prophesy what's going to happen 200 years from the moment they speak. Nobody, unless that person was the one who spoke and the whole world came into being. Nobody unless somebody was able to breathe out and worlds and galaxies and stars and moons and universes were formed. If the God who spoke this world into being cannot speak about what's going to happen in the world he created, and by the way, he lives in the eternal now, not in 200 years before or after. If Almighty God can't do that, then we don't have much of a God.
Prophecy is a picture of the power, the almighty power of the God who is in heaven, who periodically reached down into the heart of a prophet and gave him a picture of something God already knew as if it were history. And he entrusted Daniel with this prophecy about the goat and the ram. And now we in this generation, we get to look back at it. And we see the prophecy, and we see how accurate, and we watch what happened. So, let me tell you a little bit about the story, the story of Alexander.
Alexander, if you read his life, was a precocious young boy. I can understand that because his mother told him that his ancestors were the Greek heroes Achilles and the god Hercules. If somebody tells you your grandfather was Hercules, you might have a pretty good opinion of yourself, amen? And Alexander did, he was a very, very arrogant, but a very gifted person. In fact, Alexander the Great conquered more nations at a faster rate than any other king in history. In 12 years, he conquered the Mediterranean world, much of North Africa, Mesopotamia, and even extended his reach as far as India. And listen to this, men and women, he never lost one single battle.
Alexander the Great, Now, in verses 6 and 7, we get some more information, the ruin of the Medo-Persian empire.
Daniel 8:6-7 — And he came to the ram that had two horns, which I had seen standing beside the river, and ran at him with furious power. And I saw him confronting the ram; he was moved with rage against him, attacked the ram, broke his two horns. There was no power in the ram to withstand him, but he cast him down to the ground and trampled him; and there was no one that could deliver the ram from his hand.
In his vision, Daniel sees the goat, Alexander the Great. And this goat is coming after the Medes and the Persians, and that's exactly what happened in history. In 334 BC, Alexander came from the west with 35.000 troops. He crossed the Hellespont, defeated the Persian army at the Granicus River, which is in modern Turkey, and he freed all the Greek cities of Asia Minor from the Persians. Alexander defeated everybody. Nobody could stand before him. But like all of those who build their lives around their achievements and their accomplishments, like all of those who believe I can do it myself or, like Frank Sinatra, I did it my way, after defeating the Medo-Persian armies, Alexander went toward India, but his army was weary. He had enough fighting. They didn't want to fight anymore. They came back to Babylon and Alexander got very, very ill. And at the age of 33, he died.
Now, nobody knows for sure the exact cause of his death. Some people think he might have been poisoned by one of his enemies. But it is certain that he died heartbroken. History records that he was found in the dying moments of his life in his tent, weeping because there were no more worlds for him to conquer. His life was cut short at the height of his power and Daniel prophesied it in verse 8.
Daniel 8:8 — The male goat grew very great; but when he became strong, the large horn was broken.
Well, it seems on the surface that Alexander was simply fulfilling his own dreams of conquest. In reality, Alexander was playing a role in God's prophetic plan. The Greeks brought civilization and a universal language to the Mediterranean world. Think about this with me. A few centuries later, the New Testament was written in Greek, making it accessible to everyone in that whole vicinity, which could never have happened had the Greeks not universalized Koine Greek, and now the Greek language was universal almost like English is today. And the gospel spread through the language of Greek because of what God was doing behind the scenes in this wicked Greek nation under this very proud and successful king.
But here's what I want you to know. Some day in eternity future, we will look back and say, "Oh, so that's what you were doing, God. That's what you were up to". Let me tell you what I know. Whatever it is that's happening in our culture today, God is up to something. And if we keep our eyes on the Scripture and our hearts right before God, little by little, we'll get little glimpses of what he's up to, just as he was up to something with the Greeks, and the Medo-Persians, and then finally the Romans. At the end of Alexander's life, according to the Scripture, something was going to happen. Read with me verse 8 and then verse 22.
Daniel 8:8, 22 — The male goat grew very great; but when he became strong, the large horn was broken, and in place of it four notable ones came up toward the four winds of heaven. As for the broken horn and the four that stood up in its place, four kingdoms shall arise out of that nation, but not with its power.
Cassander, Lysimachus, Seleucus, and Ptolomy, the four generals of Alexander. Cassander took over Macedonia, Lysimachus conquered Thrace, Seleucus took Syria, and Ptolomy became the king of Egypt in Palestine. And each of these events that I have given to you were prophesied in this prophecy. And the symbols that God gave to Daniel, I want to remind you again every single one of them were fulfilled to the exact detail, and all of them were prophesied 200 years before they were fulfilled.
Now, let me just say, if that's true, and we know it is, then what does that say about all of the prophecies of the Word of God? If God can secure a prophecy for 200 years before it's finally fulfilled, what do you think is going to happen with all of the other prophecies that have not yet been fulfilled? Listen to me, what I get from studying prophecy is this. I see the prophecy of the past, I see the fulfillment of it in history, and I know that all of the prophecies that are yet unfulfilled will be just as accurately fulfilled as the early ones were. So, studying prophecy, especially prophecy that is fulfilled in history, gives me great confidence to believe every single word of this book. If God said it, he will do it, and you can count on it, and it's going to happen.
There's a bit of an aftermath about this man, Alexander. Once again, it's quite astounding. Josephus, who is the greatest and most prolific compiler of Jewish history secular-wise lived in the first century AD. And in one of his writings, he describes what happened to Alexander when he was thinking about going against Jerusalem and destroying the city of the Jews.
Alexander went up into the temple, he offered sacrifice to God according to the high priest's direction, and magnificently treated both the high priest and the priests. And when the book of Daniel was showed to him, wherein Daniel declared that one of the Greeks would destroy the empire of the Persians, Alexander knew that that was a prophecy about himself.
He went to the temple, and he read the Bible, and saw himself in the Bible as a fulfillment of the prophecy of God. I didn't make that up. That's in the history book of Josephus. Alexander the Great. He offered sacrifices to God. And from Alexander's side of time, there was a prophesied event yet to happen, and he was the fulfillment of that prophecy.
As we wrap up this amazing chapter full of all of these stories which are helpful to know as you read the secular sources that go with the Scripture, you just have to say, "We have an awesome God". We have an awesome God. He can make kings rise and make them fall. He is behind the scenes, in control. And when I sometimes get a little bit of a foreboding spirit about what's happening in my nation, I'm reminded that the same God who was in control during Daniel's days, during Alexander's days, is the same God who's in control now. That may seem like nobody else is in control, and sometimes I think that, but God is in control. He is the one who is seated on the throne. And we can rest assured that the same God who engineered the events in Alexander's life can surely take care of whatever events we need him to engineer for us.
And I want to just pause as we close this message and remind you that, in a real sense, Alexander over here and Jesus over here represent the two choices we have in life. Alexander was a great man who had great goals for his life, and determined that he was going to do everything that was in his heart to do. In many respects, we admire him. We admire him for his vision, his courage. He was an incredible person of power over people. He built a great empire, the fastest growing army that ever existed.
But I want to remind you, he died a brokenhearted man at the age of 33 because he set his sights on the wrong goal. On the other hand, there is Jesus. He can transform your life and make you the person you always wanted to be, and keep you going in the right direction forever, for eternity. Don't choose Alexander. So many people in our culture think that's the way to go, all the self-help seminars, and how to be yourself, and be the greatest and all of that. But Jesus will transform your life. Jesus and Alexander died at 33. One died for self, the other for you and me.