by Taylor MacHenry
Some 620 years before the time of Christ, the Prophet Daniel was born. When Daniel was a young man 15 to 21 years old, the Babylonian tyrant, King Nebuchadnezzar II, laid siege to the Kingdom of Judah, approximately between 605 and 598/7 BC. The battles lasted about 10 years, approximately until 587 BC, when the Babylonians finally overwhelmed Jerusalem. Judah’s King Jehoiakim died during the siege and his successor, his son Jeconiah (aka Jehoiachin), surrendered Jerusalem and became prisoner of Babylon. The Babylonian horde destroyed Solomon’s Temple, the First Temple of Israel, built around 950 BC, and pillaged all the gold artifacts within the Temple, except the Ark of the Covenant, which mysteriously disappeared.
Unsolved to this day, some historical data points to King Jeconiah selecting the most loyal and faithful to God of his warriors among the Levites (traditionally the priests of the Temple, chosen by God from the family of Levi), and sending them away with the Ark of the Covenant, to hide it from the Babylonians. One of the stories tells that these loyal soldiers took the Ark to Ethiopia and hid it in a secret tomb in the highlands, where a society of the heirs of the Levites keep it hidden to this day; its location known only to a select few, passed father to son, from generation to generation.
Many Ethiopian Christians claim that the Ark of the Covenant came to the small town of Aksum, in Ethiopia’s northern highlands, 3,000 years ago, and remains vaulted safely there, beneath stone over which a chapel stands today.
Now a man approximately 33 years old, (the same age of Jesus when He was crucified), Daniel became a slave to King Nebuchadnezzar II, who took more than 10,000 of the principal citizens of Jerusalem captive, along with Judah’s King Jeconiah, and marched them to Babylon as his slaves. (See 2 Kings 24 and 25)
Nebuchadnezzar assigned Daniel, who was a noble among the Jewish people, and his three friends, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah to study the Chaldean language (a common language of Babylonia, from the region known as Chaldea, which was an ancient country in the marshy region of southeastern Mesopotamia, which lay between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, today Iraq and the area around Baghdad). Because the names were Hebrew, Nebuchadnezzar ordered that the names be changed to Chaldean. Thus, Hananiah became Shadrach, Mishael became Meshach, and Azariah became Abednego, their names commonly known today.
In the first three chapters of the Book of Daniel, we see Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego thrown into the fiery furnace, because they would not deny God and bow down to the king, who regarded himself a god. And how the Angel of God stood in the fire with them, and God did not allow them to burn. Then the Book of Daniel continues with Daniel’s visions that foretold the fate of King Nebuchadnezzar, his going mad, being cast into chains in a dungeon and dying in 562 BC.
When Nebuchadnezzar went mad, King Belshazzar of Babylon replaced him. Not nearly the tyrant that his predecessor had been, Belshazzar valued the wisdom of Daniel, and held him in great esteem.
During the first year of Belshazzar’s rein, Daniel beheld in a dream his prophetic vision of The Four Beasts, which depicts the End of the Age and the Coming of the Lord. What Danial saw in his prophecy (the interpretation of his vision or dream) compares remarkably well with the prophecies contained in the New Testament, Book of Revelation.
We read of the wicked ruling of the kings, depicted by the beasts, and the lordship of Earth by Satan, depicted by the fourth beast with ten horns and then the great horn with eyes and that spoke “arrogant words.” Then we have the coming of who Daniel called, “the son of man,” which is the prophecy of the coming of the Messiah, who in Daniel’s vision delivers the holy ones from evil and defeats the beast.
It is interesting that Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, also referred to Himself as the Son of Man, consistent with Daniel’s prophecy. Jesus, as one of the Three Persons of God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) became human flesh or the Son of Man through His miraculous human birth from His mother, Mary, a virgin.
Also consider the beloved disciple of Christ, John, son of Zebedee, who as an apostle of Christ near the end of his life recorded the Revelation that Jesus Christ showed to him, now the prophetic final Book of the New Testament, Revelation. Interestingly, all the books of the New Testament are regarded as didactic (history and teaching) except for Revelation, considered an apocalyptic prophesy.
The Apostle John was a man who Jesus named with John’s brother, James (see Mark 3:17), Boanerges, Hebrew that translates in English, “Sons of Thunder.” Christ called James and John this inspiring nickname because they were rough-hewn, salt of the earth, rugged men whose love, conviction, faith in and loyalty to Christ was unshakable and fierce.
They were fishermen alongside Simon, who Jesus called by his Roman name, Peter, and his brother Andrew, both great disciples of Christ and His apostles after the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came as the Helper who Jesus said would take His place on Earth, after Christ ascended to Heaven and now sits at the right side of the Father, holding all power over Heaven and Earth. One God in three Persons.
The Apostle John was the last of Christ’s disciples to die. More than 70 years after Jesus had suffered crucifixion, death and risen, alive again, on the third day, on Sunday, the first day of the week, as foretold of the Messiah. Then Jesus remained on Earth for about 40 days, which He spent with His disciples, charging them with what they must now do to carry out His plan, and what lay ahead for each of them–hardship, persecution, and terrible deaths.
When Christ came to John with His Revelation, this, the last living disciple of Jesus, now a very old man, toiled in a stone quarry, a prisoner of Rome on the Island of Patmos. His life was a miserable and hard existence of constant labor, horrible food, and terrible living conditions. Yet John, still a Son of Thunder, did not waiver in his love for Jesus nor in his unshakable faith in Him.
And in that awful place, Christ came to John and showed him His vision, the Revelation of Jesus Christ, which told all believers in Jesus from then until the final day of this world, the prophecy of what will come. The End of the Age and the Return of the Lord.
Consider that John was not an educated man, except for his basic Hebrew schooling. He and his brother, James, alongside their father, Zebedee, and often with Simon (Peter) and Andrew were fishermen. Not much different than commercial fishermen today: Men who face a harsh life filled with hard work. Salt of the earth, Jesus said of them in His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew, chapters 5 through 7).
John had no access to libraries or any kind of reference resources. Raised as Jewish boys and men, they knew of God only in simple terms. They knew what they heard the Rabbi tell them at the Temple, when they went, when they were not toiling away in a fishing boat, except on Sabbath. And sometimes they even cheated a bit, when times were lean and fishing was poor, fishing on the Sabbath or the night before when they were supposed to be indoors, at home.
Yet when we read the Book of Revelation, we see the consistency and strong parallels of the prophecies in Revelation with the prophecies of Daniel, especially in the 7th chapter of the Book of Daniel. Also, in the prophecy that Daniel told of the Seventy Weeks of Years and the Seventieth Week of Years, which the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 30:7) called, the time of Jacob’s trouble (distress). The reference to Jacob means Israel, since God named Jacob, Israel, father of the twelve tribes that comprise the Jewish nation.
Consider now what we see today. What is happening around us. Do we see the buds on the trees, as Jesus described the coming of the End of the Age, and know that springtime is near?
The kings of this world are denying God. People are falling away, as foretold.
Christianity no longer holds a place of respect among popular culture. In fact, popular, politically correct society condemns Christian faith and Christian values as archaic, led by ignorance, and often misogynist and homophobic. More and more we see Christians persecuted and murdered in the streets, such as we saw ISIS and Al-Qaeda executing Christians in Kabul as American presence departed. The kings of the world embrace evil and condemn Christ.
Jesus told of what we see happening in our world today nearly 2,000 years ago, as He walked with His disciples past the Second Temple in Jerusalem, and as He said to His disciples and others later as they sat on the Mount of Olives and Christ told them of the signs of the times and the End of the Age in Matthew 24:
1Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. 2And Jesus said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”
The Signs of the Times and the End of the Age
3Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”
4And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. 5For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. 6And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. 7For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. 8All these are the beginning of sorrows.
9“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. 10And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. 11Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. 12And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. 13But he who endures to the end shall be saved. 14And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.
The Great Tribulation
15“Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand), 16“then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. 18And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. 19But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! 20And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. 21For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. 22And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.
23“Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. 24For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 25See, I have told you beforehand.
26“Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it. 27For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 28For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together.
The Coming of the Son of Man
29“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
The Parable of the Fig Tree
32“Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. 33So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors! 34Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. 35Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.
No One Knows the Day or Hour
36“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. 37But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 38For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 40Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. 41Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. 42Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. 43But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. 44Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect….”
Jesus continues His preview of the End of the Age in Matthew 25, with His parable of the ten virgins, five of them wise and five of them foolish. The five wise virgins took vessels of oil with them when they went out to meet their bridegroom. The foolish ones took no oil. The bridegroom was delayed until after midnight. The wise virgins trimmed their wicks and had their lamps lit while the foolish virgins had their lamps go out because they had not prepared. The foolish virgins had to go for more oil while the bridegroom came. He took the five wise virgins into the wedding with him, and the door was shut.
The foolish virgins returned and cried out, “Lord, Lord, open to us!” However, he answered to the foolish virgins shut outside, “Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.”
Jesus tells us, “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming….”
Christ underscores this parable with another, The Parable of the Talents. A man traveling to a far country called his own servants and delivered his goods to them, while he would be gone. To one, he gave five talents and to another he gave two, and another he gave one talent, each according to his own ability. Then he immediately went on his journey.
After a long time, the lord of the servants returned and settled accounts with them. The one with five talents returned with five additional talents. He showed his lord what he had gained, and his lord was pleased.
The master said, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.”
The servant with two talents likewise returned to his lord and showed him that in addition to the two talents he had also gained two more talents.
Like the servant with five talents, the lord was pleased in his servant and said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.”
The Scripture in Matthew 25, beginning with verse 24 reads:
24“Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’
26“But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. 27So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. 28So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents.
29‘For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. 30And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
God blesses each of us with talents, blessings, abilities that we must use to serve Him, to glorify God. He made humanity for His purposes and for His glory. We are not talking about material wealth but Spiritual wealth. Spiritual talents and abilities given to us for God’s purposes. For us to not use them, develop them and make them flower is to do what the servant who hid his one talent did. Not serve the Lord’s purposes.
This becomes vividly important as Christ continues.
Jesus concludes His telling of what will come at the End of the Age and what we as His believers should be doing in the Scripture beginning with Matthew 25, verses 31 through 46:
The Son of Man Will Judge the Nations
31“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. 33And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. 34Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
37“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
41“Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: 42for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; 43I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’
44“Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ 45Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Jesus vividly tells us of what will come and gives us every precaution and direction. As a father counselling his son before his son departs the home to pursue his life as a man, Christ cannot be more complete and more revealing in His words to us. We are His children, children of God, and He loves us just as we love our own children, and even more than we love our own children or our own lives. Our Lord cannot be clearer to us!
Christ could be that person standing on the corner, needing you to stop and talk to him or her. Needing a friend. Needing comfort. Needing you to love him.
God blessed us with those Spiritual talents that come from not only our hearts, but from the Spirit of the Lord Himself. All of them surrounded in God’s great and unyielding love.
Our Spiritual talents do not make us rich on Earth, but enrich us with our Creator, our Lord, our Savior, our most devoted Friend.
Thus, we come back to the vision of Daniel and The Four Beasts, and to the Revelation of Jesus Christ to John, His devoted and greatly beloved apostle on the island of Patmos, laboring as a prisoner of Rome, and the direct parallels that underscore the prophecies told by Christ.
Then even more profoundly, we read these very same prophesied warnings from Daniel nearly 600 years before the coming of the Messiah, telling of the coming of “The Son of Man,” to which Jesus Himself refers as He cautions us and teaches us of what will come. And how we must prepare for Him.
The messages told over and over and over again, not just by Daniel, but by the prophets Jeremiah and Isaiah and many others give us the very same instructions and warnings.
I close this commentary with the vision that Daniel experienced nearly 3,000 years ago and is repeated to us by prophets and disciples and apostles and by God Himself to us in the Person of Jesus Christ.
I believe that the End of the Age is at hand. It can come at any time. Today, tomorrow, a year from now, ten years or more from now. Only the Father knows, and He didn’t even let Jesus in on His secret. But nonetheless, we need to be ready for Christ when He comes, just as He tells us that He will come.
It will not be some guy on television or some celebrity. There will be no parades or sold-out football stadiums filled with music, entertainment, and baskets of money. Christ will come just as He departed. From above.
As the lightning flashes in the east and thunders in the west, so will be the coming of the Lord. His angels will take up “His elect” (believers in Christ) and the rest of the world will mourn.
While Daniel’s vision frightened him terribly, as he writes in the Scripture, and what he describes of his vision is certainly terrifying indeed, the lost people who Christ leaves behind will sadly face far worse.
I leave you with what the ancient prophet says in Daniel, chapter 7:
CHAPTER 7—DANIEL’S VISION OF THE FOUR BEASTS
1In the first year of King Belshazzar of Babylon, Daniel had a dream with visions in his mind as he was lying in his bed. He wrote down the dream, and here is the summary of his account. 2Daniel said, “In my vision at night I was watching, and suddenly the four winds of heaven stirred up the great sea. 3Four huge beasts came up from the sea, each different from the other.
4“The first was like a lion but had eagle’s wings. I continued watching until its wings were torn off. It was lifted up from the ground, set on its feet like a man, and given a human mind.
5“Suddenly, another beast appeared, a second one, that looked like a bear. It was raised up on one side, with three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. It was told, ‘Get up! Gorge yourself on flesh.’
6“After this, while I was watching, suddenly another beast appeared. It was like a leopard with four wings of a bird on its back. It had four heads, and it was given dominion.
7“After this, while I was watching in the night visions, suddenly a fourth beast appeared, frightening and dreadful, and incredibly strong, with large iron teeth. It devoured and crushed, and it trampled with its feet whatever was left. It was different from all the beasts before it, and it had ten horns.
8“While I was considering the horns, suddenly another horn, a little one, came up among them, and three of the first horns were uprooted before it. And suddenly in this horn there were eyes like the eyes of a human and a mouth that was speaking arrogantly.
THE ANCIENT OF DAYS AND THE SON OF MAN
9“As I kept watching,
thrones were set in place,
and the Ancient of Days took his seat.
His clothing was white like snow,
and the hair of his head like whitest wool.
His throne was flaming fire;
its wheels were blazing fire.
10A river of fire was flowing,
coming out from his presence.
Thousands upon thousands served him;
ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.
The court was convened,
and the books were opened.
11“I watched, then, because of the sound of the arrogant words the horn was speaking. As I continued watching, the beast was killed and its body destroyed and given over to the burning fire. 12As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was removed, but an extension of life was granted to them for a certain period of time. 13I continued watching in the night visions,
and suddenly one like a son of man
was coming with the clouds of heaven.
He approached the Ancient of Days
and was escorted before him.
14He was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
so that those of every people,
nation, and language
should serve him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
that will not pass away,
and his kingdom is one
that will not be destroyed.
INTERPRETATION OF THE VISION
15“As for me, Daniel, my spirit was deeply distressed within me, and the visions in my mind terrified me. 16I approached one of those who were standing by and asked him to clarify all this. So he let me know the interpretation of these things: 17‘These huge beasts, four in number, are four kings who will rise from the earth. 18But the holy ones of the Most High will receive the kingdom and possess it forever, yes, forever and ever.’
19 “Then I wanted to be clear about the fourth beast, the one different from all the others, extremely terrifying, with iron teeth and bronze claws, devouring, crushing, and trampling with its feet whatever was left. 20I also wanted to know about the ten horns on its head and about the other horn that came up, before which three fell—the horn that had eyes, and a mouth that spoke arrogantly, and that looked bigger than the others. 21As I was watching, this horn waged war against the holy ones and was prevailing over them 22until the Ancient of Days arrived and a judgment was given in favor of the holy ones of the Most High, for the time had come, and the holy ones took possession of the kingdom.
23“This is what he said: ‘The fourth beast will be a fourth kingdom on the earth, different from all the other kingdoms. It will devour the whole earth, trample it down, and crush it. 24The ten horns are ten kings who will rise from this kingdom. Another king, different from the previous ones, will rise after them and subdue three kings. 25He will speak words against the Most High and oppress the holy ones of the Most High. He will intend to change religious festivals and laws, and the holy ones will be handed over to him for a time, times, and half a time. 26But the court will convene, and his dominion will be taken away, to be completely destroyed forever. 27The kingdom, dominion, and greatness of the kingdoms under all of heaven will be given to the people, the holy ones of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will serve and obey him.’
28“This is the end of the account. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts terrified me greatly, and my face turned pale, but I kept the matter to myself.”
Christian Standard Bible. (2020). (Da 7:1–28). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.