Saturday, January 28, 2012

Prophecy's Empire Kingdoms

Daniel 2:21 “It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men and knowledge to men of understanding."

Yesterday we began to peer through the Book of Daniel to understand Prophecy's Big Picture.  We looked at the entity referred to in scripture as "Babylon the Great", or what we are calling in this blog series: "The Enormous Empire".  Babylon the Great in its historical and prophetic versions represents the united effort of humanity to set up a system hostile to God's prophetic Kingdom.

Today we want to consider what took place after the fall of the Babylonian empire in Daniel's time.  We will discover that Daniel predicted the rise and fall of 3 major world empires that would take us into the days of Christ's birth.  We will begin with Belshazzar of Babylon in Daniel 5 and trace history to discover how accurately the Bible predicted Prophecy's Big Picture.

1. Babylon - The empire who gave us the Magi
The Babylonian Empire of Daniel's day began under Naboplassor in 626 b.c.  By the time we come to Daniel 5, it is in the eve of its existence.  According to the 1st century historian Josephus, Darius the Mede had over a period of months used his army to divert the flow of the Euphrates river to flow around, rather than through the mighty city of Babylon.  In Daniel's vision of the Colossal statue of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 2, Nebuchadnezzar's empire was the head of gold. 

Though valuable, gold as a metal is soft.  Daniel predicted that the might Baylonians would fall, albiet peaceably, to the combined efforts of Darius and Cyrus the Persian.  In 538 b.c, that is exactly what took place.  From the Babylonians, Daniel's influence infused into the pagan priests the idea of the coming Messiah.  It is from that group that we would have the Magi, the Kings of the East, who came to worship at Jesus' feet in Matthew 2.

2. The Medo-Persian Empire - the ones who invented crucifixion
In Daniel 2 we continue with the vision of the statue.  From the head of gold we see the statue having arms and a chest made of silver.  (Daniel 2:32)  Daniel 7-8 reveals the identity of this part of the statue as being the Medo-Persian Kingdom.  From 538b.c into 333 b.c the Persian Empire stretched from modern day Iraq into the realms of Israel.  The two arms represented the stronger Persian element and the weaker Medes.  By 350 b.c or so the Persians would devise the most diabolical torture of crucifixion, which by the days of Rome had been perfected.  God was raising up these historic empires to Sovereignly fulfill His overall plan.

3. The Greeks defeat the Persians and spread the Greek Language
Daniel 2 and chapters 8-11 record in striking detail the rise and fall of the Greek Empire under Alexander the Great in 333 b.c.  According to Greek and Jewish Historians, Alexander the Great conquered the Persians and in 333 b.c began his spread of Greek language and culture (called by historians Hellenization).  By 275 b.c this effort was well underway and the Jews in Alexandria Egypt translated the Hebrew Old Testament into the Greek Septuagint.  This paved the way for the language of the New Testament, inspired by God following the ascension of Christ in 33 A.D.  Daniel 8-11 tells of the split of the Greek Empire into four sub-kingdoms under the reigns of Alexander's four generals. 

4. The Romans defeat the Greek's and are in power by Jesus' day
Greece had weakened into a divided empire, which gave rise to the Romans.  Under the leadership of Caesar Augustus, Rome was very much a world power by Jesus' day.  Throughout the Medditerranean world the Romans had divised a road way system called "The Roman Road" (via Romana), winding its way for some 50,000 miles.  This was the perfect way of spreading the Gospel in the days of the Apostles.

In Daniel's vision of the statue in Daniel 2, the legs of Iron is Rome.  At the end of the vision were toes composed of iron and clay.  Though Rome would collapse as a result of internal division and corruption, a kingdom like it will once again be revived in the last days.  The Rome-like nature of the world's final empire will be mankind's final attempt to rebel against Christ. 

5. God used these empires of history in Christ's 1st coming, and He will show Himself supreme in Christ's second coming.
Prophecy's Big pictures demonstrates that what these empires meant for evil, God used to accomplish his Greatest good. He used the Magi of Babylon to worship the infant Christ.  He used the Persian's crucifixion to bring about the death of Christ.  He used the Greek Language to reveal the acomplishment of Christ in the New Testament.  Then He used Rome to be the tool to provide the circumstances in which the Lord of glory would be crucified, buried and risen. 

Though the Book of Daniel and Revelation 13 do depict the reviving of a final evil empire that can be likened unto Rome, its purpose will be to show the vain attempts of Satan and sinful humanity to usurp Jesus Christ.  As Revelation 11:15 reminds us: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.”

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