John Bradshaw - Kingdom Come
This is It Is Written. I'm John Bradshaw. Thanks for joining me. It was a remarkable and very complicated story. Two days after a baby girl was born in a hospital in Capetown, South Africa, a woman dressed in a nurse's uniform took the baby while the infant's mother was sleeping. For years the little girl's parents tried to find her, and they lived with the uncertainty of not knowing where she was, or whether she was dead or alive. Even after they had another daughter, they celebrated the birthday of their missing girl every year. But a fascinating thing happened.
Seventeen years after their first daughter was kidnapped, their second daughter became friends with an older girl at school. People noticed the girls looked remarkably similar. And when the parents learned about the similarity, they met the older girl and arranged for DNA testing to be carried out. The couple and their lost daughter were reunited for the first time in nearly two decades. Of course, unraveling the complications of it all was not easy.
The story is told in a book, written by the young woman at the center of it all: "Zephany: Two Mothers, One Daughter, an Astonishing True Story". A mystery, indefatigable searching, careful investigation, and ultimately, a mystery solved. The Bible can seem like that: a mystery. I'm not referring to "For God so loved the world" or "Love your neighbor as yourself". The fact is an enormous amount of what is written in the Bible is very understandable. But there are some passages, prophecy, for example, sometimes that can be a little complicated, and there might be times that you wonder why prophecy even matters.
Together, we are going to see that prophecy can be understood. We'll see how relevant it is. And we'll learn how it answers some of the biggest questions of them all, including questions about the end of the world. In the Old Testament you find a section often referred to as "the major prophets" and another referred to as "the minor prophets". The major prophets are Isaiah, Jeremiah, who wrote Jeremiah and Lamentations, Ezekiel, and Daniel, while the minor prophets are Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. The major prophets are considered major because the books are longer.
Now, there are other prophets in the Bible who didn't write books. Abraham was a prophet, as well as Agabus and Gad and Miriam and Joshua and Deborah and, and others, many of whom are not named. Moses was a prophet, but the books he wrote are considered history more than they're considered prophecy. Now, they contain prophecy, but the chief burden of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy is history. Moses also wrote Job, considered to be a book of poetry. Genesis is the book of beginnings. Exodus tells the story of the Exodus, Israel's exit from Egypt. Leviticus deals with the priesthood and the sanctuary services.
Numbers starts with the numbering of Israel, then adds to what was written in Leviticus, and traces the wanderings of Israel, while Deuteronomy, which means "second law," deals a lot with the laws and regulations given to Israel. By the time you get to the major prophets, you see the prophetic content of those books is very high. Let's focus together on Daniel, 12 chapters in all. The first six are largely history, and the final six are largely prophecy, but, but even the chapters that deal with history really speak to prophecy. In Daniel 3 there's a law passed concerning worship, and those who wouldn't comply with that law were sentenced to death.
Now, the book of Revelation speaks to that same idea. Daniel, chapter 6, the story of Daniel in the lions' den also has a last-day application. But we're gonna start in Daniel 2, fascinating chapter, and then we'll build on that. In fact, to get the context of Daniel 2, we need to look at Daniel, chapter 1. Jerusalem is attacked; Daniel and others are captured and taken to Babylon. The captives are to be fed from the king's table. "But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself".
That's Daniel 1, verse 8. He requested that he and his friends be provided with healthy food, and water instead of wine. That was an act of real faith. You don't want to insult the king of Babylon, and if the health of those boys had suffered, the man tasked with taking care of them would have been in real trouble. But God blessed Daniel and his friends for their faithfulness. Verse 17 says, "As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams". It's always better to honor God. "And the king communed with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: therefore stood they before the king. And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king enquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm".
Daniel 1, verses 19 and 20. The young men honored God with their bodies, and God blessed them spiritually. With that background, we go to Daniel, chapter 2. In Daniel 2, the king, Nebuchadnezzar, had a stunning dream. It was so striking it woke him up. He believed the gods were talking to him, but he couldn't remember what the dream was. He asked his counselors to tell him what he dreamed and what it meant. What unfolded was an interesting exchange:
"'O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will give the interpretation.' The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, 'My decision is firm: if you do not make known the dream to me, and its interpretation, you shall be cut in pieces, and your houses shall be made an ash heap. However, if you tell the dream and its interpretation, you shall receive from me gifts, rewards, and great honor. Therefore tell me the dream and its interpretation.' They answered again and said, 'Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will give its interpretation.' The king answered and said, 'I know for certain that you would gain time, because you see that my decision is firm: if you do not make known the dream to me, there is only one decree for you! For you have agreed to speak lying and corrupts words before me till the time has changed. Therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that you can give me its interpretation.' The Chaldeans answered the king, and said, 'There is not a man on earth who can tell the king's matter; therefore no king, lord, or ruler has ever asked such things of any magician, astrologer, or Chaldean. It is a difficult thing that the king requests, and there is no other who can tell it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.' For this reason the king was angry and very furious, and gave the command to destroy all the wise men of Babylon".
That's Daniel 2, verses 4 through 12. What unfolds is a prophecy that is foundational to end-time Bible prophecy. But first, Daniel has to get out of a jam. He's just been sentenced to death. What do you do when you're innocent and the executioner knocks on your door? We're gonna find out in just a moment.
Thanks for joining me on It Is Written. There are a lot of mysteries that puzzle us: the lost city of Atlantis, the lost colony following Sir Walter Raleigh's attempt to set up the first English colony in the United States, and that mysterious word "Croatoan" carved into a gatepost, the fate of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370. There just aren't good answers. But the Bible is a book designed by God to provide answers, which means that, although there are some parts of the Bible that don't read quite as simply as "I have loved you with an everlasting love," God speaks to us through the Bible to provide direction and an understanding of who He is and of His purposes for the world.
When we looked at Daniel, chapter 2, we saw that King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream so startling it woke him from his sleep. When his advisers weren't able to interpret the dream, he sentenced them to death. When the executioner arrived at Daniel's door, Daniel asked for time to interpret the dream. He and his friends prayed, and the Bible says, "Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision". Ushered into the presence of the great king, Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar that he dreamed of a large statue, an image, an idol, not surprising, considering Nebuchadnezzar was an idol worshiper.
And then Daniel interpreted the dream: "You, O king, were watching; and behold, a great image! This great image, whose splendor was excellent, stood before you; and its form was awesome. This image's head was of fine 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 clay". And then he interpreted the dream for the king. Remember, this was a monumental dream. But rather than this being "the gods" speaking to King Nebuchadnezzar, it was the God of heaven communicating with him. With him, and with you and me.
Daniel explained to the king that the head of gold in that image represented Nebuchadnezzar, or Babylon, more correctly. "You are this head of gold," the young prophet said. And then he said that the other metals, silver, brass, and iron, represented succeeding kingdoms. It turns out that those kingdoms that followed Babylon were Medo-Persia, often referred to as simply Persia, Greece, and Rome. Back in Isaiah 13, verse 17, the Bible names Medo-Persia as the kingdom that would succeed Babylon. "Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, which shall not regard silver; and as for gold, they shall not delight in it". And then two verses later, God says, "And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees' excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It shall never be inhabited". And sure enough, it never was.
Jeremiah wrote something similar: "Make the arrows bright! Gather the shields! The Lord has raised up the spirit of the kings of the Medes. For His plan is against Babylon to destroy it, because it is the vengeance of the Lord, the vengeance for His temple". You find that in Jeremiah 51 in verse 11. After Medo-Persia, Greece came into power on the world stage, with the footprint of the kingdom getting even bigger before Greece was conquered by Rome, which existed as a power until 476 A.D. These were seriously influential kingdoms. The Babylonians gave us the 360-degree circle. They gave us 60 seconds to a minute and 60 minutes to an hour. They adopted a 12-month calendar, each month with 30 days, and, religiously, they were idol worshipers and sun worshipers.
It's said that the Persians invented algebra, great for science, not so cool with high school students. The impact of the Greek empire is still felt today through philosophy, astronomy, medicine, mathematics, and architecture. The New Testament was written in Greek. And Rome's influence is seen through architecture, government, law, and religion. Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, Rome would divide, as represented by the feet and toes in Daniel 2, part of clay and part of iron, indicating that the influence of the iron monarchy of Rome would be felt long after Rome itself was gone.
So Rome divides, and then... Daniel 2:44. "And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever". Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, Rome divides, and then the establishment of a kingdom that will never pass away, a kingdom that, unlike those four kingdoms, will last forever. In a moment, we'll see how another of Daniel's prophecies builds on Daniel 2 to tell us about events in this world that are still to come, and the one thing that prevents a lot of people from understanding prophecy.
There's one thing that prevents a lot of people from understanding the prophecies of the Bible, and that is... not reading them. You'd be surprised what you can find out by simply reading the prophecies of the Word of God. God didn't intend to keep us in ignorance. He said, "Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done". That's Isaiah 46, verses 9 and 10. That's God saying He gives you information ahead of time through the prophecies so that when what He says is going to happen, happens, you can know that He truly is God. It's like what Amos 3, verse 7 says: "Surely the Lord God does nothing, unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets". No one else can predict the future, not Nostradamus, not one of the supermarket tabloid prophets, no one, only God. And the fact that He does, and with such amazing accuracy, should make a believer out of any skeptic.
So in Daniel 2, you have the progression of kingdoms followed by God's eternal kingdom. Over in Daniel 7, you have the same thing expressed in a different way. There's a principle in interpreting apocalyptic prophecy called "repeat and enlarge" where what is said here is repeated over here with additional information given. See how that plays out in Daniel 7. We start in verse 1: "In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel had a dream and visions of his head upon his bed.... Daniel spake and said, 'I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea. And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another.'"
Four metals in Daniel 2, four beasts in Daniel 7, and what you find is that in Bible prophecy a beast represents a kingdom or a nation. If you keep that in mind, it's going to save you a lot of confusion, especially when you try to understand the book of Revelation. A beast represents a nation. We know that beyond a shadow of a doubt because Daniel 7, verse 23 says, "The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth". Verse 17 says, "These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth". A beast is a kingdom. Simple. So what kingdoms are represented by these beasts? The fact is we already know. We just read that the fourth beast is the fourth kingdom, and we know already that that is Rome. But let's take this methodically.
Verse 4: "The first was like a lion, and had eagle's wings: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man, and a man's heart was given to it". Interesting. When I was in the town of Babylon on Long Island, New York, some years ago, I was fascinated to see a lion with eagle's wings on, on a tall pillar. It's a well-known symbol of Babylon. This first beast represents Babylon. Then, there's a bear raised up on one side. "And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear, and it raised up itself on one side, and it had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it: and they said thus unto it, 'Arise, devour much flesh.'" - Daniel 7:5.
Medo-Persia, you'll notice the bear is raised up on one side because the Persians were more powerful than the Medes. Three ribs in its mouth? Three of the kingdoms it destroyed on its way to power. Verse 6: "After this I beheld, and lo another, like a leopard, which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl; the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it". That's Greece, which rapidly conquered the world of its day and divided into four nations, represented by those four heads. Verse 7 focuses on Rome: "After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns".
The iron teeth correspond with the legs of iron in Daniel 2. It's the same kingdom, and you'll see it's extremely powerful. Now look in verse 8: "I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things". So who's this? Well, it comes out of Rome. Some have said this is Antiochus Epiphanes, a Roman king, except that he doesn't come after Rome is gone but during the reign of Rome. And in Daniel 8 it says that this little horn is "exceeding great," which Antiochus definitely was not. During the Protestant Reformation, people like Luther and Zwingli and Calvin and Farrell, and later John Wesley, identified that little horn as the Vatican City, the Papacy, which was exceedingly great in the world. And, of course, it did spring out of the Roman Empire.
Now, after the sequence of kingdoms, Daniel 7:21 says, "I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the Most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom". So you see, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, an intervening time, and then Jesus returns. But let's go back to Daniel 2. This is a verse we haven't looked at yet. It's verse 34: "You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them to pieces". Verse 44: "And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever".
So I want you to notice: The prophecies in Daniel lead us directly to the return of Jesus. We don't know precisely when that will happen, but the signs point to that time coming soon. So, the prophecies say Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, Rome divides, and all that has happened. So where are we in the stream of Bible prophecy? If you're looking at the Daniel 2 image, we'd have to be right down in the toenails, very near the return of Jesus. Both chapters 2 and 7 of Daniel suggest that. And look at this remarkable statement in Daniel 2:45. After interpreting Nebuchadnezzar's dream, which parallels Daniel 7, remember, Daniel says, "The dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure". Certain and sure, that's encouragement for you. When the road seems long, when your weakness gets the better of you, when life is tough and you're not sure where to turn, God says, this dream is real. This interpretation can be trusted. Jesus is coming back soon. The best is yet to come.
The best is yet to come, and you can be ready for that best. Can we tell God together now that we want Him to prepare us for that day? As you allow Jesus into your heart, you can pray with assurance today that when Jesus returns, you're gonna be with Him forever. Let's pray that prayer now:
Our Father in heaven, we thank You today for the certainty of Your Word, for the certainty of prophecy, which tells us beyond a shadow of a doubt that Your Son Jesus is soon to return and Your kingdom is soon to come. Lord, keep us in Your will. Save us, as imperfect as we are. Grow us to be more and more like Your will for our lives. Friend, the assurance of salvation, of being part of God's forever kingdom, that assurance becomes yours when you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior. He died for you, and in heaven intercedes for you at God's right hand. Allow Him into your heart now. Invite Him to be your personal Savior. Lord, this is our prayer. And we pray it in Jesus' name, amen.