Daniel 8: The Ram and the Goat
Identifying the ram and the goat
"The two-horned ram that you saw represents the kings of Media and Persia. The shaggy goat is the king of Greece, and the large horn between its eyes is the first king"
The original Hebrew sounds like this:
"Haáyil ashér-raíty, báal hakeranáyim, malkhé Madáy u-Farás. Vehatzafír haseír mélek Yaván. Vehakéren hagedolá ashér ben-enáv, hu hamélek harrishón"
Comparing the Hebrew text with our English translation, we can see that NIV has a pretty literal rendering of the original words Daniel got in Hebrew. It is impressive that Daniel received such an accurate prophecy about the Persian Empire - that should conquer Babylon ten years later and which didn't even exist at the time Daniel was receiving the revelation - and the Greek Empire of Alexander the Great, that should rise more than two centuries later.
When we began to speak about Daniel chapter eight, we emphazised that this revelation Daniel got has a powerful meaning for us, even when it is fulfiled prophecy. And the main reason for that is the praxis it sets to understand eschatology and apocalyptical prophecy in both Daniel and Revelation, among several passages in many other books in the Bible (especially in the words of Jesus, the apostles and the prophets of the OT)
What does "eschatology" means to you?
And how do you understand apocalyptical prophecy?
In the dictionary we can read:
"Eschatology: The branch of theology that is concerned with such final things as death and Last Judgment; Heaven and Hell; the ultimate destiny of humankind".
And it is right. But eschatology has to do with many more things, and it influences not only our future and eternal destination, but also our present life and faith on earth. "Eschatology" comes from Greek "éschatos" - which means "the last", that's why Our Lord Jesus says He is "o prótos kai o éschatos", the First and the Last - and "logy", meaning "the study of". This "study of the last things" is obviously connected with prophecy, but not only connected; it depends on the knowledge and understanding of the prophecies that Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Zechariah, Jesus, Paul, Peter and John, with many more, have left us about that last, future things. "Apocalyptical prophecy" is the kind of revelation about the "last things" - the things that "eschatology" studies - and there is much apocalyptical prophecy both in the OT and the NT, not only in the book of Apocalypse (John's Revelation) All prophets in the list above har left us apocalyptical prophecies.
A key passage to begin with in the prophecy of the last things is found in the gospel of John, chapter 14 and verses 1-3:
"Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am"
The "Father's house" - heaven - has many rooms - place - for all believers. Jesus is "preparing a place for" everyone of us by interceding before the Father so that we are found non-guilty and worthy to "be where He is" and not in hell for the eternity.
When the Lord gave the disciples this prophecy, they were troubled. Jesus had said to them we was about to leave, and that they couldn't go with Him. That's why the "if I go" is not at all a doubt about His departure, but the condition which was necessary to be fulfiled if they should be saved according to God's plan. He was meaning that if He didn't leave, it is by dying, raising from the dead and ascending to heaven, then there wouldn't be any salvation and the Holy Spirit shouldn't come. This is why it is vital to believe that:
"Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell. On the third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead".
One of the first things false prophets can tell you is to "discern between the Christ of the Creeds and the historical Christ". When you hear that phrase, then you know Satan is speaking, in order to take away salvation from you. Of course Our Lord is a real and historical person, but he wouldn't be a Savior at all if He wouldn't do all things the Creeds - and the Bible - say He did. Jesus WILL come back personally, and He will take us with Him.
How will this take place?
Paul explains it in these two passages, 1 Thess 4:14-18; 1 Cor 15:50-54 (we have corrected 1 Thess 4:14 so that we read the original Greek's literal translation, which matches Romans 8:11. We have to believe - by the Spirit of God - in the "Christ of the Creeds")
"For IF we believe [gr. ei gar pisteuomen] that Jesus died and rose again,
"I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed - in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory"
Those who have died "in him" shall be reunited with Jesus, if they "believe that Jesus died and rose again". A resurrection from the dead and a "resurrectional", glorifying change in the living ones will take place, and when all believers are "clothed with immortality", we will "meet the Lord in the air". That's the way Jesus will "take us to be with Him so that we also may be where He is".
False prophets don't see the church as the body of Christ waiting for the groom. They see a group of people influencing mankind with Jesus' message. The problem is that Jesus' message is not intended to "influence mankind". That's Karl Marx's message. Jesus' message is to save people from hell, to transform fallen creatures living in sin to the image and likeness of the God Who created them.
What's the difference between the "now" and the "then", when Jesus comes?
This is a key point to understand apocalyptical prophecies. False prophets have deceived many people by taking away eternity from the hearts of men and converting them in "Christian" Atheists. Nevertheless, the Bible show a great difference between the spiritual Kingdom of God - represented by the church now - and the Kingdom of God coming with the Messiah, where Israel and the Church will live eternally in God's Presence. This difference points to - at least - two aspects of our reality in the "now" spiritual kingdom and the "then" real kingdom: our daily life and our physical bodies. The first aspect is treated in 1 Peter 1:3-7:
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith - of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire - may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed"
Our "living hope" in salvation, our eternal life in which we believe "through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead", is an "inheritance kept in heaven" by Jesus (remember John 14:1-3) But we, "shielded by God's power through faith", will "suffer grief in all kinds of trials". Then our precious faith's genuineness will "result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed". This difference is more remarkable when you see Christians being killed because or their faith, persecuted because of their faith, accused and even declared "haters" because of their faith. In the Kingdom of God, our faith will be praised and honored, not despised and persecuted.
The second aspect - our bodies' transformation - has been seen previously in the passage of 1 Corinthians 15, and is treated also in 1 John 3:1-3:
"See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure"
All the real believers are "children of God", even when "what we will be" can't be seen now, because it "has not yet been made known". We are not risen from the dead yet, we are not changed yet, so we have no "imperishable, powerful, glorious" body yet (as 1 Corinthians 15 says we'll have) But "when Christ appears, we shall be like Him". The resurrection, or the transformation of the living believers when Jesus come, makes a supernatural change in our bodies, which has not taken place yet.
When you've got these prophecies straight in your heart, when the revelation of God is clear for you like a film before your eyes, then you have the light to understand Revelation 20, dealing with the Millennial Kingdom and the Last Judgement. In a former message in this blog - under the final note to "Daniel 6:26-29" - you can read about the main names in the history of the early church, up to Augustine of Hippo and including himself in his youth, who believed in these eschatological prophecies. In the same message you can read about the false doctrine called "Amillennialism" which replaced the straight theology of John - the apostle who received Revelation and wrote the book - and his disciples. We will talk a little bit more about Amillennialism.
There is another false doctrine we have talked about in a former message. In the message under Daniel 2:44-45 we presented "Preterism", the notion that all prophecies in Daniel and Revelation are already fulfiled. This lie was developed by a Jesuit priest as a part of a counter-Reformation in the Catholic Church, because some of the reformators were calling the Pope "Antichrist" and Preterism tries to set the boundary between apocalyptical prophecy and the Catholic Church. But even when the Pope is not the Antichrist - which shall be a political leader - Preterism is totally wrong, as Amillennialism is. They both "see" the Kingdom of God's prophecies fulfiled in the times of Rome (in 33 AD with the birth of the church, or 70 AD with Jerusalem's fall)
In order to deny the literal Millennium or Kingdom of God that will come with the Messiah, false prophets need to allegorize Revelation 20. That's why Augustine interpreted this passage as the "era of the church" between Jesus' First and Second Comings, and tried to see it as a "time of struggle" between good and evil, God and Satan.
There's a big problem with this "exegesis". In the Millennium you read about in Revelation 20, the Kingdom of God prophesied by Isaiah, Daniel and many others, the whole world is under Jesus Christ's rule. Satan is bound and can't deceive anybody, nobody sins, the world lives in peace, Israel is fully restored and everyone lives under God's law, which comes from Jerusalem. Jesus' officials are the believers of both OT and NT, which have resurrected, glorified bodies as Jesus' body after His own resurrection.
There is another big problem for Augustine and all Amillennialists: the verses we began with (Daniel 8:20-21) state that the beasts represent Kingdoms and the horns represent kings. This "interpretation praxis" is the same throughout the books of Daniel and Revelation wherever you find the same images, for instance in Daniel 7:16-18, 23-27, or in Revelation 13, 17, 18, 19 (a lesser difference that the book itself explains is that the 666 beast in Revelation 13, corresponding to the prostitute in Revelation 17, is a religious leader, the False Prophet who leads the whole world in an apostate religion) If a biblical passage denies your "interpretation", then it is your interpretation which is wrong. And if you want to transform to allegory an image in that passage that God himself says to represent a real event, it doesn't make your "theology" better. It makes you to a liar and false prophet.
Because Daniel received the revelation of these kingdoms and their fall - or division - we certainly know that the beasts of chapter seven represent the same (even there, the interpretation is in the same chapter) and that they correspond to Nebuchadnezzar's dream, and that all the prophecy about these kingdoms is coming back in the book of Revelation. Because we live in a chaotic world with natural disasters, infirmities, wars, terrorism, injustice, rejection of Israel and persecution of believers, and because a resurrection of believers with glorified bodies hasn't taken place, we certainly know that this is not the "Millennium" prophesied in the Scriptures. We live in times when Augustine's interpretation is simply absurd, after history itself has proven it wrong.
The rise of the ram - the Persian Empire - and the goat - the Greek Empire - have being treated in Daniel 8:5-7 in this blog, commenting the Greco Persian wars as secular history calls them, and the Persian kings who tried to conquer Greece, some of them prophesied by Daniel. The prophet speaks only of the two first wars, because after Xerxes the Great, Darius I's son (486-465 BC) the one who started the second Greco-Persian war and was crushed in Salamis and Plataea (480-479 BC) the illusions of Persia about conquering Greece died. The wars of the Delian league - or "third Greco-Persian war" - were about Greece retaking the positions that the Persian Empire had taken, especially in Asia Minor. And the next great conquest should be Alexander occupying the whole Persian Empire.
Daniel's prophecies, as those in the book of Revelation and in the whole Bible, don't deny our future resurrection, Jesus' Second Coming and the Kingdom of God that will bring peace and justice. They corroborate that prophetical event. There is hope in the Word of God! Keep reading!
In the love of Christ, your brother
PS. Jesus is coming soon!