Friday, May 26, 2017
Understanding Prophecy IV
Understanding the historical context is valuable in understanding any subject. Fortunately, the historical contest is usually a part of the story in he scriptures, making it relatively easy to learn. Because prophecy so often reaches beyond the immediate time, frequently the historical context is less obvious. Perhaps more than any other subject in the Bible, understanding prophecy depends on an understanding of history that had not yet happened when the prophecies were made.
First, it gives us a way of verifying that the prophecies actually came from God, because as Deuteronony 18:22 tells us, “When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.” Quite simply, if the prophecies have not been or are not being fulfilled, the person is a false prophet, and we should not pay attention to them. Secondly, if the prophecy is not yet complete, an understanding of the history can help us understand where we are in the prophecy and give a better understanding of what future events are described. Daniel 11 provides several examples.
Daniel starts the chapter by describing the time when he received the prophecy in Daniel 11:1. “Also I in the first year of Darius the Mede, even I, stood to confirm and to strengthen him.” About 500 BC, the medo Persian Empire conquered Babylon and Darius the Mede ruled the part of the Empire where Babylon was located.
Daniel 11:2 continues, “And now will I show thee the truth. Behold, there shall stand up yet three kings in Persia; and the fourth shall be far richer than they all: and by his strength through his riches he shall stir up all against the realm of Grecia.”
About seven years later, Darius died and Cyrus the Persian took over, giving the command for Israel to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. The Empire became known just as the Persian Empire. Cyrus was the first of the Persian emperors. He would be followed by Cambyses, using the title Ahaseurus or King of Kings. When Cambyses was Killed, Darius the Persian became emperor. Late in life he made his son Xerxes his co regent, but Xerxes was killed shortly before Darius’ death and never became emperor, When Darius died, Xerxes’ son Artaxerxes became Emperor. He was rich and powerful and toward the end of his reign, there became a lot of conflict with the expanding Greek power. The Persian Empire began to collapse shortly after his death, with various Greek forces taking over.
“And a mighty king shall stand up, that shall rule with great dominion, and do according to his will. And when he shall stand up, his kingdom shall be broken, and shall be divided toward the four winds of heaven; and not to his posterity, nor according to his dominion which he ruled: for his kingdom shall be plucked up, even for others beside those.” (Daniel 11:3-4)
Philip of Macedon was able to unite the various Greek city statesinto a single Empire, and His son, alexander the Great then conquered the rest of the Persian Empire. Alexander died in 320 BC, and his kingdom was split between his four generals, with Ptolemy taking the southern kingdom which included Egypt, the Arab Peninsula, Ethiopia and Libya.
“And in the end of years they shall join themselves together; for the king's daughter of the south shall come to the king of the north to make an agreement: but she shall not retain the power of the arm; neither shall he stand, nor his arm: but she shall be given up, and they that brought her, and he that begat her, and he that strengthened her in these times.” (Daniel 11:6)
Later, under the Roman Empire, the Greek empire would be reunited. Cleopatra, the last of Ptolemy’s descendants would make a treaty with Rome but later be executed by the Roman army. The Roman Empire became extremely powerful and lasted until 476 AD.
“But out of a branch of her roots shall one stand up in his estate, which shall come with an army, and shall enter into the fortress of the king of the north, and shall deal against them, and shall prevail: And shall also carry captives into Egypt their gods, with their princes, and with their precious vessels of silver and of gold; and he shall continue more years than the king of the north. So the king of the south shall come into his kingdom, and shall return into his own land.” (Daniel 11:7-9)
About 610 AD, Mohammed started the Muslim religion, in the Arab Peninsula, a part of the old southern kingdom. Islam would eventually spread throughout much of the old Roman Empire reaching as far north as Southern Russian and Austria. World War I finally finished their control, with various European nations dividing up their lands and driving the leadership back to their original homelands. . They had been a world power for almost thirteen hundred years, far longer than the Roman or Greek empires.
“But his sons shall be stirred up, and shall assemble a multitude of great forces: and one shall certainly come, and overflow, and pass through: then shall he return, and be stirred up, even to his fortress. And the king of the south shall be moved with choler, and shall come forth and fight with him, even with the king of the north: and he shall set forth a great multitude; but the multitude shall be given into his hand. And when he hath taken away the multitude, his heart shall be lifted up; and he shall cast down many ten thousands: but he shall not be strengthened by it.” (Daniel 11:10-12)
Today we again see the Islamic forces expanding, trying to gain world domination, especially trying to establish a presence in northern Europe and Asia. Clearly, Daniel’s prophecies have been fulfilled to this point, which means we need to take them seriously. Knowing the history also helps us to understand who the players will be in the future, even though they didn’t exist in Daniel’s day. Without a knowledge of history, it would be nearly impossible to understand Daniel’s prophecies. Many of the conflicts over prophecy have arisen because the history has been ignored.