February 6th, 1972 @ 8:15 AM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-6-72 8:15 a.m.
We welcome you who listen on the radio, sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Contrasting Kingdoms. In our preaching through the Book of Daniel, we have come to chapter 8:
In the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar a vision appeared unto me, even unto me Daniel, after that which appeared unto me at the first.
And I saw in a vision; and it came to pass, when I saw, that I was at Shushan in the palace, which is in the province of Elam; and I saw in a vision, and I was by the river of Ulai.
Then follows in the eighth chapter the vision of the ram, which represents the kingdom of Persia, and the goat, which represents the kingdom of Greece and especially Alexander; and then the little horn, which came out of one of the four divisions of Alexander’s kingdom, which represents Antiochus Epiphanes, a type of the antichrist, then the wasting and the persecution of the people of God; and finally, the setting up of the kingdom of our Lord that shall never pass away [Daniel 8:3-14].
As I look at the Book of Daniel opened before me, I am overwhelmed by some of the contrasts that I find on the sacred pages. Against the background of war, and bloodshed, and murder, and violence, and persecution, all of it depicted here in the great stream of human history – against that dark background there is always presented in bold and heavenly relief the coming King and the coming kingdom.
As I look at these vivid contrasts, written large here on the pages of the Book of Daniel, I think of a story that a missionary recounted after the last great World War. He was in China, and was fleeing before the rampaging and ravaging and raping army of the Japanese. And on a train, he had his little family with him, fleeing before the oncoming Japanese hordes. And to the horror of everyone on the train, it was stopped at a station and a band of Japanese soldiers climbed aboard.
To the terror of the missionary, on the seat in front of him came one of those Japanese soldiers and sat down. He was fully armed with gun and bayonet and cartridges, dirty from the field of battle. And the missionary said, "I had no idea what to expect or what to think." There he was with his little family, fleeing before those very men. The missionary said that one of the members of his family was their little girl, who was about three years of age. And the Japanese soldier began to look at her, and finally reached across and touched her. And in the terror of that moment, not knowing what could happen, the missionary said that the Japanese soldier began to talk to him about his little girl at home, and his family at home, and how he missed his children. And the contrast between the terror of rape and blood and ravaging war and the kindness and sweetness of that soldier toward the little girl was like light against night.
I see that here in the Book of Daniel as the prophet presents the tides of history that are so often violent and murderous. Against the background I see these vivid contrasts: the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light, the hope of heaven and the despair of earth. Now let us begin with some of these contrasts that I see in the sacred Book.
One is in Daniel himself: his body is in Babylon but his spirit is in Israel. His heart is in what he calls "the pleasant land" [Daniel 8:9]. He’s like Joseph, elevated to great official honor and political assignment because of character and competence, and yet his heart is in the homeland in Canaan. And when Joseph died, he asked that his bones be carried back and buried in the sacred soil of Israel [Genesis 50:24-25; Joshua 24:32]. Daniel was like that: in body a captive in Babylon, but his windows opened toward the homeland [Daniel 6:10]. Daniel was a slave, but his spirit and his heart soared above the heavens. He saw visions and dreams that for two thousand years are being fulfilled; all history runs in the outline delivered by Daniel five hundred to six hundred years before Christ [Daniel 2, 7-12]. And though a slave, his soul and his spirit were free. And the book that he has written is a book in which God has given to His saints incomparable promise; it is a forever book. You know, most books, time does to them what it does to eggs and milk – it addles them. But this book grows in character and pertinency with the passing of every page of human story. Daniel the slave, soaring in spirit and in the wings of God, seeing with the eyes of faith and revelation the consummation of the age; these contrasts in the Book of Daniel.
Another contrast: the symbolic nature of the kingdoms and empires and nations of the world. In the second chapter of the Book of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar the king, by a revelation granted from heaven he sees the story of human civilization. And how does Nebuchadnezzar see it? As a man, he looks upon it as a colossal and gigantic figure. It is the figure of a great man, made of gold, and silver, and brass, and iron [Daniel 2:31-33]. As the man looks at the building of empire, as the man looks at conquest and victory, he sees in it the glorification of the human leaders who are able thus to achieve it: a Nebuchadnezzar, a Cyrus, an Alexander the Great, a Caesar, a Napoleon. That’s the way the man looks at his own achievements and conquests. Then the contrast: in the seventh chapter of the Book of Daniel, you see that same vision – the story of human civilization from the days of Nebuchadnezzar, the times of the Gentiles to the end of the age – only this time in the seventh chapter, you look at it from God’s point of view, with God’s eyes [Daniel 7:1-28].
And how does God look at the conquest and at the empire and at the kingdom? In the seventh chapter, in God’s eyes, they are presented as beasts – a lion, a bear, a leopard, a vicious non-descript who devours with iron teeth [Daniel 7:1-8]. The man looks upon his conquest and his empire building as self-glorification. It is the ticket to immortality. But when God looks upon it, it is full of violence, and greed, and hatred, and vengeance, and murder, and bloodshed, and war, and battle. The contrasts in the Book of Daniel: again, the contrast between the kingdoms of the world [Daniel 7:1-8] and the kingdom of Christ [Daniel 7:9-14]. The kingdoms of the world are set forth under the figure of beasts [Daniel 7:1-8].
You know, symbols are the most vivid of all of the carriers of truth: a language can change, but a symbol remains. And this Book of Daniel is the first piece of apocalyptic literature that was ever written. Thereafter, there was a stream of it, but this is the first. And in the Book of Daniel, he uses symbols to depict the truth of God. And in those symbols, there is presented the ravenous, and carnivorous, and vicious, and destructive power of the nations of the earth; either in war or preparing for war, in violence or cringing before it. And yet in the midst of, say, the seventh chapter, in the midst of the depiction of the nations and kingdoms of the world as being violent and marshal, here is a picture of the kingdom of Christ:
I saw in the night visions, and . . . One like the Son of Man came,came to the Ancient of Days,and there was given Him dominion, and glory, that all people, and nations, and languages, should serve Him: and His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and one that shall not pass away,
The contrasts in the Book of Daniel.
Now again, in the eighth chapter of the Book of Daniel there is a prophecy delineated in great detail concerning Alexander the Great [Daniel 8:5-8]. And here again, you have a contrast between possibly the greatest military empire builder the world has ever known, and Jesus the humble Nazarene.
Alexander was born in 356 BC, the son of Philip the king of Macedon. He died in 323 BC, at the age of thirty-three. And in twelve years of battle, he had conquered the civilized world. He never lost a battle. Nebuchadnezzar had besieged Tyre, for example, for thirteen years and failed to reduce it. But not Alexander: in his besieging Tyre, he conquered the city and reduced it to smoke and to ashes. In twelve short years, Alexander subdued the entire world and died its conqueror at the age of thirty-three. Alexander thought he was doing his own work. As he took his armies across into Asia, down into Egypt, through Persia, and to the Indus River, he thought he was adding glory to his illustrious name. He was extending the boundaries of his empire; he was doing and bringing to pass the work of his own genius. He was not at all. We see history and its meaning only in the life of God’s revealed truth; Alexander was doing nothing other than fulfilling the outline that God had sketched in His Holy Word [Daniel 8:5-8]. He thought he was the penman; he was nothing but an amanuensis. He thought he was the originator; he was nothing but the copyist. He thought he was the great director and author; he was nothing but the pencil and the pen. He thought that the genius of his own hands had brought to his feet the civilized world; he was nothing but an instrument in the hands of Almighty God. And the Lord had allotted him so much space and so much time, and when that space and that time had ended, he was broken!
The he goat waxed very great: and when he was strong, the great horn was broken [Daniel 8:8], suddenly! It did not gradually waste away inch by inch, but it was broken, it was snapped asunder. And in 323 BC, at the height of his glory, in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar, in the city of Babylon where he proposed to build his capital and rule the world, suddenly he was snapped asunder; broken, just as God had said in His Word [Daniel 8].
And this is the vivid contrast: in the ninth chapter of the Book of Daniel and the twenty-sixth verse, Daniel there prophesies the coming of the Messiah and says there also, that the Messiah shall be suddenly cut off [Daniel 9:26]. He was, at the age of thirty-three. At the same age of Alexander the Great, Jesus the Messiah was cut off; but what a contrast between the two. Listen:
Jesus and Alexander died at thirty-three,
One lived and died for self; One died for you and me.
The Greek died on a throne; the Jew died on a cross;
One’s life a triumph seemed; the other but a loss.
One led vast armies forth; the other walked alone,
One shed a whole world’s blood; the other gave His own.
One won the world in life and lost it all in death;
The other lost His life to win the whole world’s faith.
Jesus and Alexander died at thirty-three,
One died in Babylon, and the other on Calvary.
One gained all for self; and One Himself He gave.
One conquered every throne; the other every grave.
The one made himself a god, the God made Himself less.
The one lived but to blast, the other but to bless.
When died the Greek, forever fell his throne of swords;
But Jesus died to live, forever Lord of Lords.
Jesus and Alexander died at thirty-three,
The Greek made all men slaves, the Jew made all men free.
One built a throne on blood; the other built on love.
The one was born of earth; the other from above.
One won all of this earth, to lose all earth and heaven.
The Other gave up all, that all to Him be given.
The Greek forever died; the Jew forever lives.
He loses all who gets, and wins all who gives.
["The Conquerors," Charles Ross Weede]
The contrasts in the Book of Daniel: the prophecy of the death of Alexander [Daniel 8:8], and the prophecy of the death of Jesus [Daniel 9:26].
The last contrast: Christ and antichrist. In the seventh chapter of the Book of Daniel, there is, in the eighth verse – and the sermon next Sunday morning will be about this final world dictator, the final antichrist. After the sweep and the flow of the story of the nations of the world, the last empire is broken into the nations as we see it today [Daniel 7:3-7]. And there is a little horn that comes up; it is an eleventh horn, "Behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things" [Daniel 7:8]. Now in the eighth chapter, you have the revelation of a little horn [Daniel 8:9]. Out of the four kingdoms into which the empire of Alexander was broken in verse nine, and out of one of them came forth a little horn which waxed exceeding great [Daniel 8:9]. Now that little horn, in the seventh chapter, is the final great dictator at the end of the age [Daniel 7:8]. In the eighth chapter, of that little horn is a prophecy of Antiochus Epiphanes [Daniel 8:9] who is a type of that great final antichrist, the final world dictator. And here in the Book of Daniel, you have the prophecy of that antichrist [Daniel 7:8] and of Christ Himself [Daniel 9:26]; the contrast between the two.
In the second chapter of 1 John, verse 18, John says that there are many antichrists [1 John 2:18], all of them prefiguring the ultimate and final opponent of God who shall appear at the end of the age and upon whose destruction in the battle of Armageddon the kingdom of God shall come [Revelation 19:19-21]. I think all through history, there appears that antichrist, just as the apostle John spoke of it in the second chapter of the eighteenth verse of his first letter: the antichrist who opposes Christ Himself [1 John 2:18].
In the first Christian centuries there was emperor worship: the Caesar. And the people were given the choice on pain of death of saying kurios kaisar, "Caesar is Lord," or kurios iesous, "Jesus is Lord." And the story of Polycarp and the other martyrs is the story of those who were true to Jesus until death. I think Mohammed was an antichrist. The difference between Mohammed and Jesus is the difference between life and death, between light and darkness: Mohammed and Jesus, the Koran and the Bible, Ishmael and Isaac. The difference between Mohammed and Jesus is the difference between heaven and hell.
Mohammed was presumptuously hypocritical; he was inordinately ambitious, and he was lustful beyond any leader I have ever read about. He allowed other men four wives at a time by special revelation. He used women one after another. He even took his own son’s wife. And in violence and murder, he propagated the faith by the edge of the sword. Think of that and contrast Mohammed with the sweet and mild and blessed, gentle Jesus.
I think the persecuting church was an antichrist: I read in a book of history that more than fifty million martyrs laid down their lives under the heavy, murderous, persecuting hand of the papal church. I think that the totalitarian state is an antichrist. What we see destroying the faith in Red China and in Russia, in the outreach of that dread spread of communism, is the spirit of antichrist; all of it prophetic, all of it a harbinger of the awesome time when the ultimate and final antichrist shall appear in the earth which shall signal the denouement of the age, the end of the age, the end of the world.
And here in the Book of Daniel are those contrasts between Christ and antichrist. May I speak of three of them and then I am done? War and peace: when the antichrist comes, he comes on a white horse [Revelation 6:2]. He presents himself as the deliverer of humanity, but he is followed by the red horse of war [Revelation 6:3-4], and the black horse of famine [Revelation 6:5-6], and the pale horse of death and destruction [Revelation 6:7-8]. But Christ, when He comes, brings with Him the hope of mankind for peace and tranquility [Revelation 19:11-16]. "No more shall the war cry sever, or the winding river run red" [from "The Blue and the Gray," Francis Miles Finch, 1867]; and the instruments of destruction shall be beaten into the instruments and implements of husbandry [Isaiah 2:4; Micah 4:3]. And from the man of war, we shall welcome the Prince of Peace; and from cannon, we shall greet the glories and the sweet blessedness of the cross [Psalm 46:9].
As the prophecy of Isaiah declares, the Prince of Peace, "of the increase of His government . . . there shall be no end," to establish it upon the throne of His father David forever and forever" [Isaiah 9:6-7]. Not only the contrast between war and peace, but the contrast between the length of reign. Here in the [seventh] chapter of the Book of Daniel, it says that the reign of antichrist "shall be for a time and times and a half a time," for three and a half years [Daniel 7:25]. But the reign of Christ shall be forever and forever. In the same prophecy it says "And there shall be no end to His kingdom" [Isaiah 9:7], and the saints shall share it with the Lord forever [Daniel 7:18, 27].
The stars shine over the land.
The stars shine over the sea.
The stars look down on you
And the stars look down on me.
The stars have shined a million years,
A million years and a day
But we shall live and love and reign with Christ
When the stars have faded away.
The contrast of the temporal and the eternal.
And last of all, the contrast of blasphemy and of praise. In the seventh and eighth chapters of the Book of Daniel, the final antichrist comes speaking blasphemous things about God and God’s people. But when the kingdom of Christ shall come, His saints shall be full of the praises and the glories of the kingdom of love and peace.
Look, in the eighth chapter Daniel says "I was standing by the river of Ulai." Where is that river? Nobody knows; just somewhere flowing out of Elam into the great Euphrates. I think there is a reason for that. Daniel was "standing by the waters of the river Ulai" [Daniel 8:2]. I think they represent the waters of the rivers of the nations of the whole earth. A picture, someday, when the Thames, and the Tiber, and the Danube, and the Rhone, and the Rhine mingle their waters with the Yangtze and the Ganges, and the Euphrates, and the Nile, and the waters of Europe, and the East mingle with the waters of the Ohio, and the Mississippi, and the Missouri, and the Amazon, and the ParanÃ¡; and all shall be together like the voice of many waters in the love and praise to God forever, when the whole earth shall be filled with the knowledge and the glory of the Lord, as those waters cover the sea [Habakkuk 2:14]. "I was standing by the river Ulai" [Daniel 8:2], a symbol and a prophecy of the universal praise that shall ascend to God in Christ from every voice, and every language, and every tribe, and every people under God’s heavenly Son. Oh! What encouragement and what blessedness to be a part of, to belong to the kingdom of Christ.
While we sing our song of appeal, a family you, a couple you, or just one somebody you, while we sing the song, while we make the appeal; out of that balcony and down to the front, into this aisle and here to the pastor, "I make this decision for Christ today, and I am coming." Make it now in your heart. Decide now, and in a moment when you stand up, stand up responding. Stand up answering. Stand up, coming down that aisle, "Here I am, pastor, and here I come. I have decided for God and I am giving my life to Christ and I am coming this morning." Or, "I want to put my life in the circle of this dear church and I am on the way." Do it now. Come now. On the first note of that first stanza, come. And God bless you, and angels attend you in the way as you come, as we stand and as we sing.