We continue to look at the Roman era and its effect on global attitude and perspective. The Roman Empire is made “holy” but relatively soon experiences a magnanimous fall. The message of The Book of Daniel is similar to the message of Revelation: no matter what the circumstances, no matter who is in charge (Babylon, Rome, or Israel itself), our call is the same. Be a faithful witness to God and His Kingdom through every season and setting.
I learn a lot of geography from cab drivers. And I had this cab driver in Houston who was a really happy little short guy. And I got to chit-chatting with him.
And he’s from some state in Mexico that I can’t remember or pronounce. He said he was down by Guatemala. It’s only a 20-minute cab drive, but I kind of got the guy’s life in this cab ride. And it turns out he’s not Mexican. He’s Indian; and his first language is an Indian language that I can’t remember or pronounce either. His second language is Spanish, third language, English.
So I was talking to him, and the conversation drifted to the point where it was really easy to ask him, “Well, are you Catholic?”
He said, “No, no, no. I don’t want anything to do with those guys.”
I said, “okay, this is really interesting.”
He said, “Those guys came over, and they basically said, ‘You convert to Catholicism or we’re going to kill you all.’” He said, “I don’t want anything to do with any religion that’s a convert-or-die religion.”
Well, that kind of fits with the Holy Roman Empire version, doesn’t it?
He said, “Well, my ancestors, we did human sacrifice. So that’s not any better. No, I decided I’m just going to follow Jesus.”
I thought, isn’t this cool? Everywhere on earth you find guys like this. No wonder he’s such a smiley guy. It was really neat. I loved the guy. There was all kinds of other stuff he told me. I should’ve gotten his phone number! Maybe I could’ve had him come speak.
So anyway, the Holy Roman Empire. It is, “If you won’t agree with us, if you won’t be a servant of God, we’ll just kill you.” That’s easy, right? Make it simple for people. It didn’t really stand.
If you go to Vienna today, you can learn all about the Holy Roman Empire, and the Hapsburgs were the main family that did the Holy Roman Empire, and they didn’t conquer that much. They mostly just married. Marriage became like a merge-and-acquisition market. I wonder if they had investment bankers for that. Probably. That’s probably where the match makers came in. Kind of like an eHarmony sort of a thing.
And they would their girlfriends and whatever for their own pleasure. But then they would have this marriage stuff. That’s how they acquired. And you look at the empire, and it just keeps shrinking and breaking into pieces and so forth.
The empire dissolved
And then it was dissolved in 1806 because the Holy Roman Emperor, I think, was in Austria at that time; and there was this fellow named Napoleon, who had sort of broken loose and was wreaking havoc on the monarchies of Europe and winning.
And the emperor of Austria knew that Napoleon was coming for his crown. So he just one day said, “No more Holy Roman Empire. I’m just the emperor of Austria, small little piece.”
Didn’t stop Napoleon from coming. He went over that same pass that Hannibal went over. He was the second big parade that came across in front of St. Bernard’s monastery, which, by the way, has been there since the 1100s, and is a faith-based ministry, still operating today.
It’s Rome! If you say “Caesar” in German, what’s the word? Kiser. If you say “Caesar” in Russian, what’s the word? Czar. Do you get it? We are Romans, and we just keep breaking in pieces and reforming. And in the days of those kings another kingdom will be set up.
A stone cut without hands
Go back to verse 34, You watched while a stone was cut out without hands—So how many of you have ever seen that happen? Let’s go to the quarry and watch someone quarry this stone with no hands.
The finger of God has written on stone before. We saw that back in Moses’ time.
But now the finger of God is actually going to quarry the stone. And this stone is going to be used like a bowling ball. Bowling is biblical. He’s just going to bowl down. It’s going to hit this statue. It’s only one pin. And kaboom! The whole thing breaks up and fills the whole earth.
And that kingdom is going to stand forever. Whereas these four previous kingdoms all build on one another and all have characteristics of one another, the new kingdom is not going to be anything like it.
Let’s go to Revelation 13, where we’ve been before because we just finished Revelation. And I just want you to see all the parallels again. We’ve seen it through Daniel’s eyes; we’ve seen it through the dream to Nebuchadnezzar.
Parallels between Daniel and Revelation
Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his ten horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name.
Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority.
And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast.
Let’s go back to Daniel 7, and what we’re going to see here is Daniel’s dream, and it’s going to be the same four kingdoms again. It’s going to be just like the Revelation one.
Daniel 1-6 is a chronological history of Daniel and his interactions with the kingdoms Babylon and Persia. Chapter 7 through the end of the book is like the prophetic section of the book.
So this is the first part of the prophetic section of the book.
In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon—that’s the guy who’s in the handwriting-on-the-wall story we’ll see later—Daniel had a dream and visions of his head while on his bed. So this time it isn’t coming through the king. It’s coming straight to Daniel. Then he wrote down the dream, telling the main facts.
Daniel spoke, saying, “I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the Great Sea.
“And four great beasts came up from the sea, each different from the other. Just like in Revelation.
“The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings. That’s Babylon. Babylon actually had as its mascot a lion.
Eagle’s wings. Why eagle’s wings? Anybody have an idea why Babylon would have eagle’s wings?
We can see it if we got to Habakkuk 1:6, and he’s talking about the Chaldeans coming over and invading Israel. He says, For indeed I am raising up the Chaldeans, a bitter and hasty nation.
The Babylonians were well known for just rapid strikes, just lightening fast.
And then the wings are plucked off, and it’s made to stand on two feet like a man, and a man’s heart was given to it. That’s Nebuchadnezzar, and we’re going to see that soon because Nebuchadnezzar actually is going to going to become one of the great spiritual godly men of the Bible, which is one of the craziest things in the Bible, and one of my favorite. Never underestimate God’s ability to change a heart.
And then another beast, a second, like a bear. How many of you would like to meet a bear in the woods? Bears are vicious when they pay attention to you, right? So he’s raised up on one side, and had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. And they said thus to it: ‘Arise, devour much flesh!’
I get the image of the bear kind of laying on its side chomping on these ribs because he’s just so gorged, he just can’t stand up anymore. The commentaries say he might be bigger on one side because Persia was bigger than the Medes, and whatever. And maybe that’s part of it too.
But he’s obviously full.
Probably the three ribs here represent three Persian conquests. The three big ones were Egypt, Babylon, and Lydia, which was western Asia.
So, After this I looked, and there was another, like a leopard, which had on its back four wings of a bird. So a leopard with four wings. Now you’re talking about something really fast. And the leopard is the most vicious of all.
We went to the San Diego zoo, and we got this backstage tour, which was fantastic! And they took us to the leopard cage. And they showed us how they feed the leopard and all this stuff.
And then they started talking about this leopard. It was a little bitty thing. About 75 pounds. It wasn’t much bigger than our dog. And he said, “Occasionally we will let the lions come into the leopard cage and the leopard go into the lions’ cage,” not at the same time. Just so they can have a little change of experience. “So we did that.” And there were several lions. You know, big shaggy mane, and the pride, and all that. And just one leopard.
So when they let the leopard go into the lion cage, she walks right out, smells the lion, and says, “Alright, is there somebody in here that needs a piece of me? Because if you do, let’s just get it on. How many of you are there? Five? That’s not enough.” That’s the attitude of the leopard.
And they said the lions came over and smelled the leopard and wouldn’t come out! They would just kind of peek around the corner to see if the leopard’s there. And finally when they got convinced that there was no leopard, then they came out.
You get increasingly vicious here. And this leopard has four wings! So it’s not that they’re not fast enough. That thing can fly too! Well, that’s Greece. I mean, Alexander conquered the Persians like in three years, maybe it was six years; it wasn’t very long. Just like lightening!
Now part of that is because the way he went about it, and we’ll talk about that another time. This is Greece.
Daniel 7:7 After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong. It had huge iron teeth; it was devouring, breaking in pieces—You’ve heard that before, right?—and trampling residue with its feet. Rome. That is Rome.
Now let’s go back to Revelation again, Revelation 13. And let’s just go through it again.
The beast was like a leopard. So there’s Greece. It’s vicious. Its feet were like the feet of a bear. So it’s got the pillars, the foundation of Persia. Persia was pretty well known for its administrative abilities. That was a strength and a weakness. We’ll talk about that in the future. And his mouth like the mouth of a lion. He’s got the meanness of a leopard, the speed of a leopard, and the jaw-crunching ability of a lion.
So we see that these kingdoms are built on top of one another. As they go along, they acquire each other’s characteristics. And when we get to the end, the beast, it’s got the best and worst of all the things. Best in terms of strength. Worst in terms of what the strength is applied to.
That’s the world’s kingdom.
But what’s going to happen is that world’s kingdom, that single statue made up of four pieces, that one beast that has characteristics of all the four kingdoms that have come before it, is going to be smashed into pieces, turned into chaff, thrown to the wind and to be nevermore.
Now, if politics bothers you, think about that often. This is just a temporary battle we’re fighting. It’s one we need to fight. We’re citizens. We’ve seen from Romans 13 that we the people, it’s our responsibility what this country becomes, and we all have a citizen responsible to exert. Each one of us will be called in a different way to do that.
But, ultimately, the real answer is a total displacement. And fortunately our permanent citizenship is in that kingdom. Isn’t that cool?
Now, why is that message in Daniel? And why is that message in Revelation?
Well, let’s just close by thinking about the context of Daniel. They’re ripped out of their homeland. They’ve been told the temple will protect you. God will never let anybody come and knock the temple down.
God told them through Jeremiah that that was wrong. And they didn’t listen.
So they come and knock the temple down. And they pluck them over into Babylon.
God told them, I’m doing this for your good. And I’m going to bring you back in 70 years.
But if you’re in Babylon, don’t you want to know, does God really have this under control? I’ve got the priest telling me one thing, and I’ve got the prophets telling me something else. Who am I supposed to believe?
And along comes God and says, let me just give you something that’s so spectacular and so validated by—guess who? The king of the world, Nebuchadnezzar, that you’ve just got to believe it.
And here’s what I want you to get: I got this. The whole world is in my hands. Nothing’s going to happen that I don’t authorize.
We come to the early church. Horrific persecution. The church is going to go from a tiny group of people to half of the earth in 300 years, and along the way horrific persecution takes place. And it’s Rome that’s doing the persecution. Now you’re in the Roman era. And people want to know, are we doing the right thing? Is this where we’re supposed to be going?
And the message is the same.
And as we saw in Revelation, no matter how crazy the circumstances are, God just wants us to be a faithful witness and not fear death. And guess what? That message isn’t new. Because what was he telling the Jews in Babylon that had been displaced from their homes? And in Daniel’s case, probably castrated and made to go through a pagan university? He’s telling them, look, just be a faithful witness. Don’t fear death. I’ve got this. This is my world.
Pretty cool, huh?
So, the next time, we’ll keep going on in Daniel and see what happens with Nebuchadnezzar. Great character.