This is Not the End...

Pray: That God may open his Word to us by the power of His Spirit. That he we may gain in knowledge that we grow in the love of Jesus.  That we may share this joy in all our lives and to those around us.

Read: Daniel 8

“This is the end. My only friend the end.”  So goes the 60’s hit song “The End” by The Doors.  The vision of Daniel 8 is supposed to help Daniel understand, “the time of the end,” (Vs. 17).  Instead Daniel says he is “appalled by the vision and did not understand it” (Vs. 27).  He is so affected that he is “overcome and lay sick for some days”.  Even though the angel Gabriel stands with him to “make this man understand the vision” (Vs. 16), the truth is, he really doesn’t understand.  He seems to feel more like “this is the end.”

If Daniel had trouble understanding, what about us? A complete study of Daniel 7-11 is a rather major undertaking, one that a short devotional such as this cannot hope to cover. There is a lot to examine. While all of this is interesting, to understand Daniel’s response we have to look no further than verse 1, which begins, “In the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar…” What this reveals is that this particular vision occurred before the conquest of Babylon and events of Daniel 5.

Remember that Daniel, as a boy who lived through the destruction of his homeland Israel, and was enslaved by the kingdom he now served, Babylon. Now, here he was about to witness the overthrow of Babylon as well (Daniel 6 and 7).  Babylon was to be overthrown by Media/Persia, which according to this new vision in Daniel 8 was to then be conquered by Greece. On top of all this, the vision in Daniel 8:12-14 prophesizes an orchestrated persecution against the worship of God, that would be far more severe than the events of chapter 6. By the end of his visions, perhaps Daniel was wondering, “What about your people Lord? What about Jerusalem?”

For Daniel it is becoming more and more apparent that this time period that he lives in is not the end of the suffering of the people of Israel. In fact, it was only going to get worse.  In chapter 9 (after the fall of Babylon), Daniel turns his prayers and hopes towards God and pleads that God might turn his anger away from Jerusalem and restore his sanctuary (9:16-17). By the time we finish chapter 10-12 it becomes clear, that the troubles besetting the Israelites were not going to be over when they returned from exile.

After Daniel’s time, God’s people did continue to suffer.  Even though the temple was rebuilt as promised (see Ezra and Nehemiah), it would be completely ravaged by Antiochus Epiphanes IV from 168 B.C. to 164. He would stop the sacrifices, sacrifice a pig on the altar and erect a statue of Zeus above the altar.  Many scholars believe this to be the events of which Daniel 8 is speaking.  Whether that is the case or not, what it meant to Daniel is that even though the temple might be rebuilt, the full restoration would come much later.  The Son of Man of chapter 7 was still to come. 

As Christians we must hold to what Daniel didn’t have at that moment, the knowledge that Christ has come and Christ is coming again to rule forever.

Too often, as Christians, we boggle to understand passages like these.  We read Revelation or Daniel and wonder how they relate.  Is this or that passage in the future or the past?  We pull out our commentaries, watch recommended sermons on TV and YouTube, read history books, and watch the news for hints of things to come.  We worry over current events and get anxious about the future. But we must ask a hard question: Does all our speculation strengthen our faith, or does all this seeking around make us anxious and fearful?  Are we focused on the suffering to come or remembering the One who has overcome it?

Truthfully, I have studied eschatology (end-times) on and off for about twenty years.  I’ll admit, it can be very interesting stuff.  To seek to understand God’s hand as He works across the arc of time is a wondrous thing. However, when we make our desire to understand the “end” an end to itself we have made an idol of it.  I think it is important to have an understanding of what we believe about the end, but not at expense of the gospel itself. 

Daniel talks about mysteries all throughout his book and the last verse of Daniel says volumes. I think it does us well to remember the end of not only the book of Daniel but also the book of Romans.

Daniel 12:13 – “But go your way till the end. And you shall rest and shall stand in your allotted place at the end of the days.”

Romans 16:26-27 – “Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith – to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.”

If we are followers of Jesus, then we have these promises as well.  We shall stand and rule with Jesus at the end of days! 

Reflection Questions:

  1. How has your knowledge of Christ affected the way you see world events around you?  Do you find yourself anxious or emboldened by the knowledge of what has come and is to come?
  2. The angel Gabriel is found in only two places in the Bible: here in Daniel 7 and in the Gospel of Luke when he instructs Mary, the mother of Jesus on his birth.  Compare the responses of Daniel and Mary’s responses and see what you can learn or apply to your life this week.  

For further encouragement read: 1 Thessalonians 5

Memorize: Daniel 12:13