Have you ever set out to walk or cycle up a hill? From the bottom, you look up and see the summit. You make your way up, but when you get there, you look up again and there ahead of you is… another peak. Taller than the one you’ve just climbed, but hidden from view when you started out.
From the air, you’d be able to see both peaks, and any more that followed after the second, but from your perspective at the bottom of the hill it’s often only the first peak that is visible.
And sometimes it’s a bit like that with visions about the future that we find in the Bible. They don’t just have one, simple fulfilment in history. Rather, like a mountain range, they seem to come true initially, before they are fulfilled again in some fuller, richer way. And then maybe again in the future. As we reach each horizon, it helps us to see more clearly what was promised in the original prophecy and points us towards its ultimate working out.
Something like that happens with Gabriel’s interpretation of Daniel’s vision.
Read Daniel 8:15-27.
The final part of Daniel’s vision, the small horn that grows out of one of the four, was interpreted by Gabriel as ‘a fierce-looking king, a master of intrigue’ who would cause ‘astounding devastation’ and ‘take his stand against the Prince of princes’.
This was in part fulfilled by a guy called Antiochus IV, who led one of the four empires to come out of Alexander’s Greece. He brutally repressed the Jewish people and showed utter contempt for the God of Israel. But the language that Gabriel uses in interpreting this part of the vision ought to cause us to recognise that he is also describing a broader, more general picture.
Clearly, Antiochus was an initial fulfilment of this smaller horn, but we must also see in him a pattern of many who will come in opposition to the God of the Bible. They rise up and display their strength only to be trampled by the next ‘great’ power. They dominate for a time, but we can be confident that God has set a limit on the rule of these upstart kings; He alone is King forever.
And so, for us, we must keep this pattern in mind as we consider the powers at work in our world today. As we observe the rise of ISIS and the seemingly perpetual wars in the Middle East. As we consider a Western society so obsessed with money, sex and power that politicians are expected to be mired in promiscuity and greed and are expected to lie in order to gain office. As we survey all of that, we must see the pattern of what the Lord revealed to Daniel repeating itself yet again. Rulers rise and rulers fall, the people of God experience persecution and suffering in every age. But it will not last forever, their power is limited. Those who take their stand against the Prince of princes will, one day be destroyed. Of that we can be sure.
Write down some of the things that worry you in the world today. They might be at a national or international level, or they may be far more personal to you.
Do you recognise that God is King over all those situations? What would it look like for you to trust Him in those areas of your life?