Lesson One – The Kingdom and World History Prophesied

The Kingdom and World History Prophesied

Lesson Aim:  To show that Daniel spoke for God; therefore, if we accept world history, we must accept the reality of God’s kingdom.

Introduction

If we had been one of the Jews taken captive into Babylon about six hundred years before Christ, our nation’s future would have looked very dismal.  Our faith might have been shaken in God’s promises to Abraham, Moses, David and others.  The most consoling person we could have known at that point in history would have been Daniel, the prophet.  He could have given us an “umbrella” of historical prophecy that would have let us fit in all of the other prophecies concerning the kingdom of God with Jesus as king.  Surely, his information would have helped us to maintain our faith in God, if we had lived in the seventy year span of history as captives in Babylon.

The following are some events from secular and biblical history from the time of Daniel to Jesus Christ’s first coming to this world.  It should enhance our study of prophecy, as well as the Gospels.  See Bible history book by F. F. Bruce and others.

A.      Babylon Empire.  Nabopolassar, king of Babylon, began to defeat the Assyrians in 625 B.C. and finished in 612 B.C.

  1. Nebuchadnezzar became king of Babylon and attacked Judah in 605, 597 and 586 B.C.  Each time he took Jews into captivity.
  2. Daniel was taken to Babylon in 605 B.C. (Dan. 1:1).  He lived there until, at least, 537 B.C. (Dan. 10:1).

B.      Persian Empire.  539 – 331 B.C.

  1. The rulers of Persia and Media captured Babylon in 539 B.C. without a fight.
    a.       Darius, the Mede, ruled at age 62.  Dan. 5:30; 6:28.
    b.      Cyrus ruled from 539 to 530 B.C.  Dan. 1:21; 6:28; II Chron. 36:22; Is. 45:1-4.
    c.       Darius and Cyrus may have been co-regents.
  2. Nebuchadnezzar’s dream:
    a.       Dan. 2:36-38, Babylonian kingdom.
    b.      Dan. 2:39, 40, 2nd, 3rd & 4th kingdoms to come.
    c.       Dan. 2:44, Kingdom of God.
  3. Daniel’s dream of four kingdoms plus one.
    a.       Dan. 7:2:  The lion, bear, leopard and a terrifying beast.
    b.      God’s kingdom was the 5th one.  Dan. 7:18, 27.
  4. Daniel’s vision in chapter eight.
    a.       In 8:3, the ram with two horns is the Persians and Medes in 8:20.
    b.      In 8:5, the one-horned goat from the west is the Greeks in 8:21; 9:20.

          In 8:22, the four horns replace the one horn and they represent the divided Greek kingdom after Alexander’s death in 323 B.C.

C.      Greek Empire replaced the Persian dominance of Jerusalem.  Alexander, the Great, began his attack in 334 B.C. and finished the overthrow of the Persians in three years (Dan. 11:2-4).  Alexander died of fever in Babylon on his way home from India in 323 B.C.  The following is how this influenced the Jews:

  1. The following are four of the generals in Alexander’s army who divided his kingdom:
    a.       Ptolemy in Egypt.
    b.      Seleucus in Babylon (Asia).
    c.       Antigonus in western Asia.
    d.      Cassander finally controlled Macedonia and Greece. (Alexander’s legal heirs were his half-witted brother, Philip Arrhidaeus and a male child by one of Alexander’s wives, Roxana. General Perdiccas was made their guardian by the other generals but still the heirs were eliminated).
  2. In the year 275 B.C. the dynastic powers were as follows:
    a.       Ptolemy’s in Egypt, which also included the Jerusalem area.
    b.      Seleucids in Asia.
    c.       Antignoids in Macedonia.
  3. Dan. 11:5, 6: The king of the South was Ptolemy in Egypt and the king of the North was Seleucid in Asia.
  4. In 200 B.C.  Antiochus III of the Seleucid empire fought Ptolemy V of Egypt in the Battle of Panion at the source of the Jordan river and took Jerusalem under the control of the Seleucid’s empire.
  5. In 190 B.C. Antiochus III lost the Battle of Magnesia to the Romans and had to pay Rome a heavy indemnity.  (Rome won the last Punic war with Carthage in 202 B.C. and turned her armies to conquests in the east).
  6. Antiochus IV, or Epiphanies, was the king of the North in Dan. 11:29, 30.
  7. At this time, Onias from the family of Zadok had the priesthood. Please see I Kings 2:27, 35.
  8. The Hellenistic culture was opposed by the conservative Jews known as the Hasidim’s.  Jason, the brother of Onias, persuaded Antiochus to make him high priest in order to promote Hellenism.  (Hellenism is the synthesis of the Greek culture with the cultures of other nations).
  9. Menelaus, who was not from the dynasty of Zadok, purchased the chief priesthood from Antiochus and Onias was assassinated.
  10. In 168 B.C.  Antiochus had one of many battles with Egypt, after which he was told by Rome to stay out of Egypt.  (Rome had finished their Macedonian War and they dominated the Mediterranean region at this time).
  11. Because of the large sum of money the Seleucid kings had to pay Rome each year, Antiochus IV was continually trying to find money.  He had already taken 1800 talents of gold from the temple treasures in Jerusalem.
  12. ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION – (168 or 167 B.C.  Daniel 11:31).  Antiochus Epiphanies ordered the Jews to cease their worship at the temple and cancelled all their festivals.  He stopped the Jewish practice of circumcision and set up a temple to Zeus in Jerusalem.
  13. The Hasmonean Jewish family started a resistance movement.  Mattathiah, the father of five sons, killed a Jewish citizen who was about to offer a sacrifice to Zeus in Modin.  He led the rebellion against the Seleucid king from 167 until his death in 164 B.C.
    a.       Judas Maccabaeus (The Hammer), Mattathiah’s oldest son, led guerrilla warfare from 164-160 B.C.  Before he was killed he was able to secure the Jerusalem area and cleanse the Temple.  The celebration called Hanukkah is still celebrated by Jews today in memory of Judas’ work.
    b.      After Judas was killed in battle at the pass of Beth-horon, just north of Jerusalem, Jonathan led the resistance movement for 17 years.  Although he was not from the family of Zadok, Jonathan accepted the appointment of Balas, who was the Seleucid ruler, to take the high priest position.  All of Zadok’s family line had fled to Egypt.
    c.       In 143 B.C., Simon, another son of Mattathiah, took the leadership of the Jews.  By this time Rome had recognized the independence of Judea.
    d.      In 140 B.C. the Seleucid ruler appointed Simon as the governor.  He was also high priest and commander of the army.
  14. Simon was killed by his son-in-law, Ptolemy, son of Abubus, in 134 B.C.  Simon’s son.  John Hyrcanus took his father’s position.
  15. A dispute among the Jewish leaders arose and as a result the Jewish Pharisee party first appeared in history.  They were against John Hyrcanus; therefore, he sought aid from another party known as the Sadducees.  The Hasidim’s appears to have dropped out of the historical records at this point.
  16. John Hyrcanus sought to extend the territory of Judea to its original size.  He captured the Idumaeans (Esau) and had them circumcised.  King Herod’s father was an Idumaean.
  17. Aristobulus, son of John, took the title of king and ruled Judea one year from 104 to 103 B.C.
  18. The next king, Alexander Jannaeus, a half brother of Aristobulus, was released from prison by Salome Alexandra, the wife of Aristobulus.  She married Alexander and gave him the kingdom and priesthood.  He was a brutal warrior.  When he died in 76 B.C. he controlled most of the original Israelite territory.
  19. Salome Alexandra ruled Judea for nine years.  She made peace with the Pharisees.  Her oldest son, Hyrcanus II, was high priest.  Her other son, Aristobulus II, was a military commander.
  20. When Salome died in 67 B.C., Aristobulus, with the backing of the Sadducees, moved his army against his brother and took the kingship and priesthood from John Hyrcanus II.
  21. Antipater, the Idumaean, backed Hyrcanus II, and with the help of Aretas, the Nabatean king, defeated Aristobulus; however, this civil strife was viewed with disapproval by Rome.

C.    Roman rule over Judea.

  1. In 63 B.C., the Roman general, Pompey, captured Jerusalem and brought an end to Judea’s independence.  Jerusalem was destroyed and the temple burned in 70 A.D. by Titus, another Roman.  The temple has never been rebuilt even though the Jews gained partial control of Jerusalem in 1948.
  2. Pompey confirmed Hyrcanus II to the priesthood; however, Israel was given a procurator in the place of a king.  His name was Antipater, the Idumaean.
  3. Julius Caesar appointed Antipater, procurator of Judea in 47 B.C.  Antipater made his two sons, Herod and Phasael, military commanders in Judea and Galilee.
  4. After the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 B.C. by Brutus and Cassius, Mark Anthony and Octavian put down the rebellion and Mark Anthony ruled Judea.
  5. Antipater was killed in 43 B.C.  Anthony appointed Antipater’s sons as joint tetrarchs of Judea.
  6. The Parthians drove the Roman army from Syria and Judea and installed Antigonus, the nephew of Hyrcanus, as priest and king in Jerusalem from 40 B.C. to 37 B.C.  Herod escaped but Phasel committed suicide while in prison.
  7. After a three-month battle, Herod returned to Jerusalem as king with the blessings of Rome in 37 B.C.
  8. Herod married the Hasmonean princess, Mariamne.  Her father was Alexander, elder son of Aristobulus II and her mother was Alexandra, the daughter of Hyrcanus II.  King Herod the Great reigned under the hand of Rome from 37 B.C. to 4 A.D.

Lesson

Daniel was a young, intelligent, good looking Jewish boy who lived during the early years of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign in Babylon (Dan. 1:4).  In spite of the fact that he was in a foreign country with a heathen ruler, he decided to live faithful to God (Dan. 1:8; 6:3-28).  God used Daniel to inform the world of things that would take place in the latter days.  The following is Daniel’s declaration to King Nebuchadnezzar about the source of his information.

Daniel answered before the king and said, “As for the mystery about which the king has inquired, neither wise men, conjurors, magicians, nor diviners are able to declare it to the king.  However, there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will take place in the latter days.  This was your dream and the visions in your mind while on your bed.  Dan. 2:27, 28

Historians tell us that Nebuchadnezzar began to carry Judah into captivity six hundred and five years before Christ.  Jerusalem surrendered in 597 B.C. to the Babylonian army who brought about her final destruction in 586 B.C.  The Medes and Persians overcame Babylon and let the Israelites return to Jerusalem seventy years after their capture.  Babylon fell to Cyrus’ army in 539 B.C.  Daniel was still receiving information from God in the third year of the Cyrus’ reign; therefore, he served as a prophet for about three quarters of a century (Dan. 10:1).

When we correlate all of the messages received by Daniel about the various kings and their kingdoms, we have an “umbrella” type picture of four world empires for our study of prophecy.  They are the Babylonian, Persian/Mede, the Greek and Roman empires.  The Greek empire became international in their conquest in 334 B.C.  What was finally known as the Roman empire started to develop as far back as 753 B.C. with, perhaps, her Golden Age arriving during Augustus Caesar’s rule from 27 B.C. to 14 A.D.  The Roman Empire ceased to be a power in about 476 A.D.  This fourth kingdom has meaning for us in Daniel’s prophecy because it was during this period that God proclaimed His kingdom open to all faithful people of the world with Christ as king.  Please consider the following scripture.

And in the days of those kings (Roman) the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever.  Dan. 2:44

In Daniel chapter two a single statue is described that represents all of the four kingdoms.  This was King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.  It was interpreted by Daniel (Dan. 2:26).  The dream is given is verses 31-35 and interpreted in verses 36-45.  The first kingdom, which is the Babylonian kingdom, is the only one identified in this dream (verse 37).  Our interest should focus on the “stone cut out without hands which became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.”  Dan. 2:35This is the church Jesus built (Matt. 16:18, 19)

In chapter seven, Daniel’s dream is revealed which let him see four great beasts coming up out of the sea.  This happened during the reign of Belshazzar, king of Babylon.  The dream is given in verses 3-14 and interpreted in verses 17-28.  Again the emphasis is on things that were to happen during the time of the fourth kingdom.  In verse twenty-two, during this Roman Empire “the saints took possession of the kingdom.”

The kingdom of Christ became a reality in this world.  Jesus rules in both heaven and earth.  The man-dimension of His kingdom is the church (Col. 1:18).  The following scripture is a prophetic statement that was made about six hundred years before the first citizens were added on the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Jesus (Acts 2:47).

Then the sovereignty, the dominion, and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One; His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve and obey Him.  Dan. 7:27

In later lessons we will observe how all of these prophecies coincide with the establishment of Jesus’ kingdom during the Roman empire in 30 A.D.  It was during the first century A.D. the kingdom of God with Jesus as king was preached.  The result was the establishment of the church of God in Christ (Acts 20:25-28).

Daniel’s dream in chapter eight helps us identify by name the second and third kingdoms from the visions in chapters two and seven.  The Mede-Persia kingdom followed Babylon and Greece was the third kingdom.  Gabriel, the angel, explained this to Daniel in the following scripture.

The ram which you saw with the two horns represents the kings of Media and Persia and the shaggy goat represents the kingdom of Greece, and the large horn that is between his eyes is the first king.  Dan. 8:20, 21

This dream also reveals four other kingdoms that came out of the broken horn.  This horn represented the Greek empire under Alexander the Great.  History shows he died in 323 B.C. which was about ten years after he conquered most of the Asian world.  Four of his generals divided his conquered territories and established their own kingdoms (Dan. 8:22).  In chapter eleven we see a struggle between two of these kingdoms.  They are identified as the king of the South and the king of the North.  By this time the Israelites had been re-established in Jerusalem of Judea which lay between these two kings’ countries (Dan. 9:24, 25).  The king of the North was aggravated by the Jews; consequently, his heart was set against the holy covenant (Dan. 11:16, 28).  Daniel prophesied he would pollute the holy temple in Jerusalem.

And forces from him will arise, desecrate the sanctuary fortress, and do away with the regular sacrifice.  And they will set up the abomination of desolation.  Dan. 11:31

The Jews were incited to revolt and establish an independent nation.  The Maccabean revolt started 167 years before Christ.  I and II Maccabeus are a part of the Apocrypha.  They give us some historical data about the Jewish rebellion against the Seleucid kings, the kings of the North.  The Ptolemy’s of Egypt were the kings of the South.

The book of Daniel ends with a phrase Jesus used.  It is the “abomination of desolation.”  This abomination was to happen 1290 days after the regular sacrifice was abolished, and it involved the destruction of Jerusalem.  Jerusalem would be surrounded by armies and made desolate (Dan. 12:11; Matt. 24:15; Luke 21:20).  Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 A.D. by the Roman army.

All of Daniel’s information he received from God surely was a source of great encouragement for the faithful Jews during their captivity and also in their later struggles.  They were told that from the rebuilding of Jerusalem until the Messiah, the Prince, there would be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks (Dan. 9:25).  How long was this period?  In retrospect, as we look at Biblical history, it was about 500 years.

What do these prophecies do for us today?  If we will put ourselves at the point in time where Daniel stood, they tell us of four great world kingdoms, one was, but three were to come.  Did it happen as Daniel was told?  Yes, history agrees with Daniel’s prophecies.  If we can accept history, we must realize Daniel was a prophet of God.  He told about Greece’s victory over Persia and the Medes before it happened.  He told of a great strong kingdom that followed these two.  Did such a kingdom come?  Yes, everyone knows about the Roman Empire.

The skeptics should ask themselves: “Could Daniel be so right about world history and yet be wrong about God’s eternal kingdom?  If not, then God’s kingdom with Jesus as king was established 2,000 years ago, and today, we can be a part of this great mountain (Eph. 1:20-23; Col. 1:13-18).  The stone which was “cut out without hands” became a great mountain and filled the earth.

It is the same kingdom the God of heaven set up during the Roman Empire with the Messiah as its king.  He still reigns.  It has citizens all over the world and no force on earth is more powerful; no king is greater (Rev. 5:9, 10).  There is no need to look for a more unique kingdom on earth.  Yes, finally, God has a kingdom that functions as a family.  This is what He always desired.  Our physical death, resurrection and judgment will be God’s final move to correct all flaws in the man-dimension of His eternal kingdom.

Other prophets such as Isaiah also spoke of a kingdom with the seed of David as its king.  Unless these are two different kingdoms then both prophecies had their fulfilment under the fourth kingdom spoken of by Daniel.  Later in this series of lessons, we will learn about promises made to David by God, assuring him that his descendants would rule over God’s kingdom on earth (II Sam. 7:12-16).  At the same time we will see how the sceptre was retained by the house of Judah through David (Gen. 49:10).  God has only one kingdom of which Daniel and all other prophets spoke.  These prophecies were fulfilled during the Roman Empire (Luke 1:26-33; Acts 2:29-36).

Questions for Discussion

  1. How could Daniel’s prophecies have encouraged the Jews during their captivity in Babylon?
  2. Why should Daniel’s personal life inspire us?
  3. From Daniel, chapter two, sketch a figure representing the statue Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream.  Please identify each of the four parts.
  4. Read Daniel, chapter seven, and do the same exercise.
  5. What are the approximate dates from secular history for each of the four kingdoms mentioned in the dreams?
  6. How should Daniel’s ability to name the victor of the Persia-Mede and Greek war affect our acceptance of the kingdom of God as a present reality?
  7. How could the information in chapter eleven have encouraged the Jews during Daniel’s time?
  8. Give the historical event recorded in I and II Maccabeus.
  9. What was one sign of the abomination of the desolation’s beginning?  Has it happened yet?
  10. Name a kingdom that meets all of the conditions foretold by God to Daniel.

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