Thursday, 12 July 2012

Daniel's Bewildering Visions

A couple of days ago I was reading Daniel Chapter 8. It describes one of Daniel's most bewildering visions. What amazed me was its near future, historical relevance and the simultaneous distant future, apocalyptic relevance. Even after Gabriel interprets it, explaining the historical relevance, Daniel is left perplexed and worried, accentuating the complex nature of his visions.

The Historical Relevance

What Gabriel states, in explanation to Daniel, has already come to pass, Biblical prophecies are real, another proof that the Bible isn't just an ordinary book written by a bunch of crazy men - it is God-breathed and was written by men who were inspired by God, they themselves understood very little of what they actually noted down (as depicted by Daniel's baffled response).

The vision commences with the image of a ram with two long horns - however, one horn is longer than the other. The ram established its might in the north, south and the west.  Gabriel later refers to the ram as the Medo-Persian empire. The longer horn clearly refers to the Medians as they emerged first and the later, the Persians. As the map illustrates, the directions in which the Medo-Persian empire extends its dominion historically, is accurate with the Biblical prophecy. Moreover, this also fulfills one more of Daniel's visions as it links to the 'bear with 3 ribs' in Chapter 7 - Medo-Persian empire, having defeated Babylon, Egypt and Lydia, seems to fit the description well.

Map of the 4 divisions of GreeceHistorically, the Greek empire followed the Medo-Persian with Alexander the Great actively conquering over and thrashing the Medians and the Persians. Gabriel's interpretation of the goat which follows the ram, therefore is very accurate. It is also, thus, universally agreed that the single horn symbolizes Alexander the Great. After this horn was broken, in its place emerge 4 smaller ones - from one of the four, emerges a tinier one. This beautifully parallels with the four Divisions of the Greek Empire after Alexander's death as the kingdom was divided between his four general successors: Cassander, Lysimachus, Seleucus and Ptolemy.
However, unlike the unanimity in the agreements regarding the interpretation of the other images, the little horn has been the center of many disputes, disagreements and debates - while some outline the possibility of it representing Antiochus of Epiphanes, a Syrian who ruthlessly persecuted Jews; others believed it could represent the Roman Papal Dynasty, due to its predominant influence in laws and other matters which also complied to the description in Chapter 7. (Please check out this article for an in depth analysis of the various interpretations: The 'Little Horn' of Daniel's Sea-Beast)

The Apocalyptic Relevance

Besides the excitement this evokes, we ought not forget the passage's apocalyptic relevance which will affect our future. Gabriel did say, "...seal up the vision, for it concerns the distant future." This is the beauty of the Bible, although it was primarily meant for the different era, it is also very contemporary and relevant to our society. The words in it are ever-pertinent, thus significant, and should not be changed!

Many have devised ideas and interpretations trying to surface the apocalyptic relevance the book of Daniel holds, especially this Chapter! (I know that I myself have formed an idea of my own about how this fantastical book relates to the end times - which, for obvious reasons, I will not be sharing here!) But, God is the only One who ultimately knows what these wise words truly mean; our incompetent minds often fail us.

However, one thing is certain. The precision and accuracy rendered historically, automatically implies the same when we take the apocalyptic relevance into consideration. Be weary, search God's word and earnestly seek to fathom its mysteries in prayer. Let us be prepared for the Lord's coming! Are you ready to meet our Lord, the God of the universe?

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