Trouble

Daniel’s prophecy of end times (Daniel 11) was described to him as a time of trouble. The angel Gabriel told him, “And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book” (Daniel 12:1). Some have interpreted the time of trouble to be the time when the first century church was persecuted by the Romans. The Hebrew term translated trouble, tsarah (tsaw – raw´) is also translated as tribulation. In Judges 10, the people of Israel cried to the LORD for deliverance from their enemies. His answer to them was that in spite of the many times he had delivered them in the past, “Yet ye have forsaken me, and served other gods: wherefore I will deliver you no more. Go and cry unto the gods which ye have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation” (Judges 10:13-14).

It appears that the time of trouble Gabriel was referring to was associated with the resurrection of the dead that is mentioned in Revelation 20:12. Daniel was told, “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever” (Daniel 12:2-3). The term “great tribulation” is used in Revelation 7:14 where John, one of the apostles of Jesus said concerning the saints he saw wearing white robes, “And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” The great tribulation is thought to be “the period of final hostility prior to Christ’s return. Some hold that the beginning of this hostility was already being experienced by the church in John’s day” (note on Revelation 7:14).

Daniel’s final encounter with heavenly beings took place on the bank of a river where Daniel posed the question, how long will it be until this is all over? (Daniel 12:5-6). Jesus’ response to Daniel’s question is recorded in Daniel 12:7. It says, “And I heard the man clothed in linen, which was upon the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand unto heaven, and sware by him that liveth for ever that it shall be for a time, times, and a half; and when he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished.” The period of “a time, times, and a half” are also used in Daniel 7:25 to refer to the time when the antichrist, or a world power sharing in the characteristics of the antichrist, will rule over the earth. This time of trouble or great tribulation is believed to be coming sometime in the near future. The only clue we have as to when exactly it will take place is given in Daniel 12:11, where it says, “And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand and two hundred and ninety days.”

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The truth

The angel Gabriel’s second visit to Daniel was opposed by Satanic forces. Gabriel told Daniel, “Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine hart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia. Now I am come to make thee understand what shall befall thy people in the latter days: for yet the vision is for many days” (Daniel 10:12-14). Gabriel described for Daniel the spiritual battle that took place as a result of his prayer to understand the vision he had. It took both Gabriel and Michael, two archangels of God, fighting against the prince of the kingdom of Persia to overcome him, and the battle lasted twenty one days.

Gabriel told Daniel he would show him what was noted in “the scripture of truth” (Daniel 10:21). The exact meaning of this phrase is unknown, but Gabriel may have been referring to the divine record of the destinies of all human beings (note on Daniel 10:21). Gabriel’s reference to the scripture of truth indicates that God keeps a record of the events in his realm in the same way that earthly kings do (note on Psalm 51:1). This record is believed to include a list of the righteous, whom God blesses with life (note on Psalm 69:28). David prayed that his enemies would be “blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous” (Psalm 69:28). Moses interceded for God’s people and said, “Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written” (Exodus 32:32). Gabriel told Daniel, “there is none that holdeth with me in these things, but Michael your prince” (Daniel 10:21). Apparently, only the two archangels, Gabriel and Michael have access to this record.

Gabriel said to Daniel, “And now will I shew thee the truth” (Daniel 11:2). The Hebrew word translated truth  is emeth (571). Emeth is a shortened form or contraction of the word aman (539) which means to believe or have belief. Aman appears in Genesis 15:6 where it says that Abraham “believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.” In other words, God recorded Abraham’s belief in his book of righteousness. What Gabriel showed Daniel, was a detailed account of a conflict between the north and south that would ultimately lead to a power struggle between Jesus and the agent of Satan, Antichrist for the kingdom of God. In conclusion, Gabriel said of Antichrist, “And he shall plant the tabernacles of his palace between the seas in the glorious holy mountain; yet he shall come to his end, and none shall help him” (Daniel 11:45). Gabriel’s mention of the battle of Armageddon (Revelation 16:13-16) indicated that even before Jesus was born, it was predestined that in his first coming to the earth, he would be rejected by God’s people, and then, in his second coming be proclaimed as Savior, not only of the Israelites, but of the entire world.

Understanding

Daniel’s understanding of events that were to take place hundreds, and in some instances, thousands of years in the future was the result of a spiritual gift he received from the angel Gabriel. It talks about Daniel’s encounter with Gabriel in Daniel 9:22-23, where it says, “And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding. At the beginning of thy supplications the commandment came forth, and I am come to shew thee; for thou art greatly beloved: therefore understand the matter, and consider the vision.” Prior to this, Daniel had already demonstrated his ability to interpret dreams, so the gift of understanding he received from Gabriel must have been a type of supernatural awareness or divine discernment that went beyond Daniel’s human capability of perception.

The best way to describe Daniel’s understanding would probably be to say he had God’s perspective of things. Daniel was able to comprehend what God intended to do with and for his people in the future. Through divine revelation, Daniel was able to see Jesus Christ in a similar form to what was recorded by the apostle John in Revelation  1:12-16. Daniel said, “Then I lift up mine eyes, and looked, and behold, a certain man clothed in linen whose loins were girded with fine gold of Uphaz: his body also was like the beryl, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as lamps of fire, and his arms and his feet like in colour to polished brass, and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude” (Daniel 10:5-6). Daniel does not say who the person was that he saw. He does not even let on that he had actually seen the face of God. Daniel’s miraculous vision had such an impact on him that he was left speechless.

Daniel was not alone at the time of his vision. His encounter with Jesus was similar to that of the apostle Paul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:7). Daniel said, “And I Daniel alone saw the vision: for the men that were with me saw not the vision; but a great quaking fell upon them, so that they fled to hide themselves. Therefore was I left alone, and saw this great vision, and there remained no strength in me: for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength” (Daniel 10:7-8). Daniel was transformed by his experience. The Hebrew word Daniel used, haphak (haw – fak´) is translated turned, but it also means to change (2015) and refers to the transformation of king Saul after his encounter with the Spirit of God in 1 Samuel 10:9. The interesting thing about Daniel’s conversion was that he went from glory to shame. In the presence of Jesus Christ, Daniel understood that he was a dead man. He was completely corrupted and ruined by sin.

Gabriel’s explanation

Daniel’s second vision provided further details about the difficulties God’s people would experience before their Messiah was born. The location of his vision was significant. Daniel said, “And I saw in a vision; and it came to pass, when I saw, that I was at Shushan in the palace, which is in the province of Elam; and I saw in a vision, and I was by the river of Ulai” (Daniel 8:2). Shushan was the capital of Persia and it was noted several times in the book of Esther as the place where the Jews would face extermination. It could be that God chose to show Daniel the future of his people at this location because it marked a critical turning point in their deliverance from their enemies.

In his vision, Daniel saw a ram “pushing westward, and northward, and southward; so that no beasts might stand before him, neither was there any that could deliver out of his hand; but he did according to his will, and became great” (Daniel 8:4). Then, Daniel saw a goat with a notable horn between his eyes come against the ram and defeat him (Daniel 8:5-7). As a result of his victory, the goat became stronger, but eventually, his great horn was broken and out of it came up four notable horns “and out of one of them came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land” (Daniel 8:8-9).

Daniel’s vision concluded with a picture of God’s temple being desecrated by the little horn. At the time of Daniel’s vision, about 551 B.C., God’s temple lay in ruins. It had already been destroyed by king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Daniel was confused and  needed God to help him understand what was going on in his vision. It says in Daniel 8:15-16, “And it came to pass, when I, even I Daniel, had seen the vision, and sought for the meaning, then behold, there stood before me as the appearance of a man. And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of the Ulai, which called, and said, Gabriel, make this man to understand the vision.”

The angel Gabriel is believed to be one of only three archangels identified in the Bible. The fact that he was specifically directed to explain the vision to Daniel indicated that the information was probably only available to this high ranking official in God’s kingdom. Gabriel said of himself in Luke 1:19, “I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee.” Unto Daniel, Gabriel said, “Understand, O son of man: for at the time of the end shall be the vision” (Daniel 8:17). What Daniel was expected to understand was that there would be a conclusion to the Israelites’ story. God would one day bring to an end the earthly kingdom that he had once inhabited.

Personal experience

Daniel’s ability to interpret dreams was useful in his godly ministry to the Babylonian and Persian kings, but it was his own personal experience with dreams and visions that made Daniel unique as a prophet. The last half of Daniel’s book was devoted to the unfolding of God’s plan to establish his eternal kingdom on earth. Daniel’s dream of four beasts (Daniel 7:3) showed that God’s power would be challenged, but remain supreme in spite of the continual onslaughts from kingdoms that wanted to wipe out his people. In his dream, Daniel saw, “the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea. And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another” (Daniel 7:2-3). This picture of beasts rising from the sea was intended to portray the establishment of Satan’s earthly kingdom, an inevitable occurrence of something that was not only predicted, but also prearranged by God.

It might be hard to imagine why God would want to help Satan establish his kingdom on earth, unless you understood God’s motive for doing so. God’s agreement with Satan was designed to allow him a prescribed amount of time to undo the work that Jesus did on the cross, so that it could be shown that Satan could not overcome his eternal kingdom. Without God’s kingdom being challenged, there would be no way of knowing if Jesus’ power was sufficient to reign supreme. The four beasts that came up from the sea represented four separate attempts that Satan would make to stop Jesus from saving the world. Three attempts were to be made prior to Jesus’ birth, but the final attempt would come after his kingdom was fully developed (Daniel 7:22). Essentially, the real threat to Jesus’ kingdom was that he would never be born or die on the cross, but once he did, Satan’s eternal fate was sealed.

Daniel’s dream was explained to him by an angel that stood by him as he peered into God’s heavenly realm. Daniel said, “I came near unto one of them that stood by, and asked him the truth of all this. So he told me, and made me know the interpretation of the things” (Daniel 7:16). The truth that Daniel sought was so troubling that he could barely process the information he was given. Focusing on the fourth beast, Daniel wanted to know how Satan’s kingdom would finally be brought to an end. The angel’s response is recorded in Daniel 7:23-26:

Thus he said, The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon the earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces. And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings. And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time. But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end.

Daniel learned through personal experience what many today still don’t understand about the end of time. As recorded in the book of Revelation, Satan’s dominion over the earth will last for only three and a half years, during which time the earth will be completely devastated and most of the population wiped out. Afterward, the devil will be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where he will spend eternity (Revelation 20:10).

The secret

One of the unique characteristics of God’s relationship with his people is he doesn’t keep secrets from them. The Bible is filled with prophecies of future events that were shared exclusively with the Israelites until Jesus was born. One of the things that distinguishes God from all other beings is he knows everything; past, present, and future, and can reveal hidden secrets such as how the world we now live in will eventually come to an end. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was given the privilege of seeing in a dream how God intended to establish an eternal kingdom for his people. It says in Daniel 2:1-3:

And in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams, wherewith his spirit was troubled, and his sleep brake from him. Then the king commanded to call the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans, for to shew the king his dreams. So they came and stood before the king. And the king said unto them, I have dreamed a dream, and my spirit was troubled to know the dream.

King Nebuchadnezzar perceived in his spirit that the dream he dreamed had a special significance. When it said his spirit was troubled in Daniel 2:1, it meant that God was communicating with Nebuchadnezzar. A literal translation of the phrase “spirit was troubled” would be, “the mighty penetrating power of the invisible God caused his spirit to come to life or his spiritual heart to start beating within him” (7307/6470). The type of dream Nebuchadnezzar had was a sign of his having acquired a supernatural, spiritual health because he had received a prophetic revelation directly from God. The only problem was Nebuchadnezzar didn’t know what the dream meant. He needed the dream to be interpreted for him.

Nebuchadnezzar didn’t have a relationship with God. In fact, it appears that he was unaware of God’s existence. His attempt to have his dream interpreted by magicians, astrologers, or sorcerers indicated that Nebuchadnezzar’s god was Satan. The reason Nebuchadnezzar was given a vision of the future was revealed in Daniel 2:30. Daniel said, “But as for me, this secret is not revealed to me for any wisdom that I have more than any living, but for their sakes that shall make known the interpretation to the king, and that thou mightest know the thoughts of thy heart.” God wanted Nebuchadnezzar to know that he not only knew the meaning of his dream, but could read Nebuchadnezzar’s mind and was aware of every thought that went through his head, even the things that Nebuchadnezzar couldn’t remember.

Daniel said of God, “He revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him. Daniel was referring to the profound mysteries of life that only God can unravel and illuminate in the human mind. Those who are separated from God cannot see the future. Even though Nebuchadnezzar’s magicians, astrologers, and sorcerers pretended to know what was going to happen and gave him advice regarding future events, they really didn’t know the truth. When Nebuchadnezzar saw the future in his dream, he realized that it was nothing like what he expected it would be. After Daniel told him what his dream meant, “Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face, and worshipped Daniel, and commanded that they should offer an oblation and sweet odours unto him. The king answered unto Daniel, and said, Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret” (Daniel 2:47).

Restoration

Joel’s brief prophetic message portrays the entire process of the nation of Israel’s restoration from beginning to end. It begins with a complete devastation of the land (Joel 1) and concludes with eternal blessing for God’s people (Joel 3:18-21). In between, was a transformation that started with Israel’s invasion by an army that Joel said looked like “the morning spread upon the mountains” (Joel 2:2). Afterwards, there was a call to repentance. Joel instructed God’s people to, “blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly: gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children, and those that suck the breasts: let the bridegroom go forth out of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet” (Joel 2:15-16).

Joel portrayed an instantaneous interruption of all activities. His call to repentance was one that could not be delayed, even for a moment. The reason for his urgency may have been an awareness of impending doom, such as a nuclear missile that was about to be launched. Joel’s incredible insight was no doubt the result of his prophetic gift. I’m sure the message he was given was very troubling and it caused him a great deal of distress. Even though Joel may not have understood all the details of what was about to happen, his urgent plea for repentance showed that he believed the end of Israel’s existence was near. Unlike the warnings given by Jeremiah and Ezekiel before the nation of Judah was taken into captivity, it appeared that the people would respond and were ready to repent. Joel stated, “Then will the LORD be jealous for his land, and pity his people” (Joel 2:18).

Joel’s incredible prediction seems to be associated with the transition from the great tribulation to the millennial reign of Christ. What is clear about his prophecy is that the events he described have not yet taken place. One of the most intriguing aspects of the transformation of God’s people that will occur is recorded in Joel 2:28-29 where the LORD says, “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.” Some scholars believe God will pour out his spirit before the great tribulation in a last ditch effort to expand his kingdom on earth. What seems to be more likely is that God’s people, the nation of Israel will finally acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah and will be restored to their place of prominence in God’s plan of salvation.