Daniel-An Overview of the Book of Daniel
September 8th, 1996 @ 7:30 PM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-8-96 Sunday School
Well, I have been a pastor for seventy years. And this is the first time in my life that I have ever addressed myself to a Sunday school class. And the experience is certainly new to me. I have found that there is nothing comparable between preparing a sermon and preparing a series of Sunday school lessons.
But, we have a marvelous book, in which we find the Word of God revealed in an amazing and remarkable historical revelation. You have to remember, now, that this Book of Daniel was written  years before Christ and in that prophecy the things that we see coming to pass in our very lives today as I say, almost remarkably unbelievable.
Now, I am going to take the Book as a whole, to begin with and when you look at it. it is divided into two equal parts. Chapters 1 through 6 are based on an historical background. And chapters 7 through 12 are visions of the life and world that is yet to come.
So, we’re going to start off with the first of these seven historical revelations in the Book of Daniel. Number 1: there will be no more world empires. In Daniel 2, we have the presentation of the great image made to king Nebuchadnezzar. And in that image, there is a head of gold, Daniel 2:37-38. And we are told that that is the Babylonian Empire. In that image there is a silver breast, arms and shoulders. And in Daniel 2:39, we learn that is the Medio-Persian Empire. Then, in Daniel 2:39, we are introduced to the thighs of brass. And we are told that is the Greek Empire. Then, in Daniel 2 and 40, the two legs of that image made of iron we are told represents the Roman Empire. Then tere are no more empires. The image ends in ten toes, made of iron and clay. And that represents the separate nations that do not cleave together. And that is the world history, according to this prophesy, after the Roman Empire. And we live in that era today.
Now, in Daniel 7, in the first chapter of the second division, that same revelation is made. In Daniel 7, it is described in terms of beasts out of the sea. In 7 and 4, that is a lion. In 7 and 5, that is a bear. In 7 and 6, that is the leopard. Then, beginning in 7:7, there is a fearful non-descript. It is an iron beast, with terrible iron teeth and that is the Roman Empire. Then, it breaks up. It is represented in that vision in the form and terms of ten toes. There are to be no more world empires.
Before Daniel’s day, there was the Hamitic; Egyptian Empire. Before Daniel’s day, there was the Hittite Empire. Before Daniel’s day, there was Assyrian Empire, whose world-famous capital was at Nineveh. But, after Daniel’s day, in the prophecy, there will no longer be a world empire. The ten toes and the ten horns represent the break-up of the nations.
All right, number 2; the amazing revelations in the Book of Daniel; when you look at the descriptions of the empires, you have one by a man and you have one by God. In the chapter 2 description according to a man, they are growing in strength and power: the gold, the silver, the brass and, finally, the iron.
When you look at these empires in the eyes of God, in chapter 7, they are described as beasts, arising out of the raging sea. There are raised to power by war, by force, by murder and by arsenals. They are growing in fierce domination. You have a picture of that in Ephesians 6 and12: "We war against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." Now, this is a prophecy of this world’s situation to the end of time. And I say those two are remarkable revelations.
Now, in the presentation of those little horns that represent all of these differing nations; there is special attention paid to a little horn. In Daniel 8 and verses15 to 26, you will find that this is a prophesy of the Antichrist. And here in the Book of Daniel, chapter 8, verses 8 to 14, it refers to Antiochus Epiphanes. He reigned over Syria from 175BC to 163 BC and he visited and conquered Israel. He destroyed the Temple worship and he is presented as a prototype of the antichrist that will appear at the end of the Revelation; at the end of the tribulation; and at the end of the age.
In Daniel 8:23-25, we have a picture of the antichrist that is featured in Revelation 13. He is, according to that passage in Daniel, destroyed by the Prince of Princes in 8:25, chapter 8, verse 25 that refers to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. In Daniel 8:26-27 is described the seven years of the great tribulation. And there, we are told that it is divided into three and one-half years and three and one-half years. The three and one half years of the first will bring to power a gracious, kindly king. But, in the middle of that seven years, he turns to be the most voracious king that ever occupied a throne. And he reigns in terror. That’s the last half of the tribulation.
In chapter11, verses 36 to 45, you have the reign, and ultimate destruction, of the antichrist. Then when you come to chapter 11, it is divided into three parts. The first part is chapter 11:1-4, which presents Xerxes and Alexander the Great – Xerxes of Persia and Alexander the Great of Greece. Then, that is followed by the verses that describe the wars between the Ptolemies of Egypt and the Seleucids of Syria, all of that in that area about 250 BC. Then, once again, you have presented, in chapter 11, 21 to 35, Antiochus Epiphanes. And again, he is presented as a type of the antichrist.
I would suppose that the reason Antiochus Epiphanes, which was absolutely one of the most inconsequential and insignificant rulers, commanders of all time – I would think the reason he is chosen is because he conquered Israel and he brought to pass the reign of the Maccabees and in honor of and in memory of the triumph of Judah over Antiochus Epiphanes they instituted the Feast of Hanukkah, which they call the Feast of Lights or the Feast of Dedication. He loomed tremendously large in the life and history of Judah – actually, an insignificant ruler. But, Daniel in the revelation made to him finds and sees in Antiochus Epiphanes a prototype of the great antichrist that ends human history.
So, in Daniel 11:26-45, as the prophecy continues, Antiochus gradually fades away and the antichrist himself comes increasingly into view. He is Satan’s masterpiece. He is the last great son of those beasts mentioned in chapter 7. And his destruction is the end of the age. There is no doubt but that when you come to the revelation of the antichrist, you have come to the revelation of the end of the world – the consummation of history.
Now, one of the amazing – and this is the fourth marvelous revelation in the Book of Daniel – as you go through those unbelievable historical presentations that are yet to come – and as I said, some of them 2,000 years ahead of him – when you come to these wonderful revelations, you meet again and again the appearances of Christ, the Messiah. Now, remember I repeat, you are talking about a man who is writing so many years before Christ that you can hardly think of it. But, he describes the coming of our Lord Jesus, Messiah, again and again and again.
For example, in Daniel 2:44 and 45, in the midst of the ten trees and the ten horns, in those verses you have the welcome to Jesus the Messiah. And again in Daniel 3:24 and 25, you have in the fiery furnace, one walking with the three Hebrew children that Daniel describes as like to the Son of God. Now, in Daniel 7:8 and 21 and 22 and in Daniel 7, verses 9 and 10, and in Daniel 7, verses 13 and14, you have the Lord Messiah victorious over the great antichrist, revealed ultimately in the Book of the Revelation.
And you have here, again, the "time, times and half a time" that he reigns in terror: the year, the two years – that makes three – and half a year – that’s the last half of the reign of the antichrist. Then, in Daniel 8:25, you have the antichrist described again, and the prophesy that he shall be destroyed by the Prince of Princes. That would be our Lord Jesus Christ.
In Daniel 9:25-26, you have the seventy heptads and we are going to spend time looking at them. That’s one of the most amazing revelations you could ever dream of or imagine. In Daniel 10:5-10, you have the vision of the glorious revelation of Christ. And when you read the actual appearance and description of the glorious Christ in Revelation 1:13-16, you would think that you were reading that revelation given to Daniel 10:5-10. I just can’t believe such a thing.
And of course, in Daniel 12:5-9, the two angels speak of the triumphant Christ. So Daniel sees Christ as coming in terrestrial supremacy but the revelation sees Christ as coming in celestial supremacy. And in one of my lectures here, I’m going to speak of the two apocalypses in the Bible, namely, Daniel and the Revelation. And it is unbelievable how John, in the Revelation found so much of what he was going to speak of in the Book of Daniel.
The world sees the beasts that terrify us. But, Daniel sees something over and beyond and upward namely the coming of Christ. That’s a remarkable thing when you read these Revelation, so much of it is terrible, damnable, horrible but always Daniel will see over and beyond them the glorious Christ – our coming triumph in Him.
I think of a story I, one time, read about Robert Louis Stevenson. He tells the story of a group on a ship in a terrible storm that is being driven to the rocks. And certain terrible death awaits all of them. And they are grouped together in the hold of the ship in terror. Finally, one of the men in the group says, "I’m going up to see the pilot." And he makes his way from the hold up and up to the pilot’s place, guiding the destiny of the ship. And when he comes there and stands in the midst of the storm, the pilot looks at him and smiles. The man returns down and down and down to the hold of the ship. And when he arrives, he announces, "Be no longer afraid. Everything is well. I have seen the pilot’s face and he is smiled."
Now sweet and precious people that story is worth remembering in all of the providences of life. Whatever the tragedy or the storm or the sorrow or the hurt, whatever the terrible situation in which we find ourselves, remember: the pilot is there, guiding our ship and our destiny. And He smiles.
Now, our next marvelous revelation is like the one before – looking at his presentation of the coming of Christ. And he presents Him under three categories: judgmental – you will find that in Daniel 7 and 10, repeated in John 5:22: "the Father hath committed all judgment to the Son." The great Judge of the earth is our best friend, our Redeemer and our Savior.
Second, after Daniel presents our Savior, the Christ as judgmental, he presents Him as premillennial. Every one of these passages that I’ve mentioned this morning, I intended to read this morning. Then I looked at it and I thought, "We’ll be here until the evening if I do that." So, all I can do is just cite the passage. In Daniel 7 and13, he presents the coming of our Lord as premillennial. So does Revelation 1:7: "Behold, He is coming and every eye shall see Him, and they who pierced Him; and all tribes of the earth will bow because of Him." Now, that is premillennial. And sweet people, you may think that I am doubly or trebly or quadrupely prejudiced but, I don’t think there is anything in the Bible that presents the coming of our Lord in any other stance but premillennial. He is coming before the millennium.
And as you are going to see as we look at these passages, the end time consummates in terror, in tragedy, in war – like the war of Armageddon – in sorrow, in trouble, in persecution, as you have in the life of the antichrist. Now, that’s the way the Bible presents it. And it’s in those days of terrible tragedy and sorrow and persecution that Jesus comes and brings with Him us – brings with Him His saints, His bride, His church.
We’re going to be raptured. That’s the way it is with us. We are going to be raptured as it will reveal itself to us in the Book of Daniel, we’re going to be raptured. And at the end of that terrible tribulation, the Lord brings us here to inherit our eternal reward in the millennium and in the world to come. Now, I think that there is no exception to that in the entire Word of God.
So, you have it repeated again in Daniel 7, verse 9. And we could write – we could ask, and it is answered in Daniel 7, verses 17 and 18. How is the rule of the nations transferred from the beast nations to the saints of God? How does that come to pass? It comes to pass, according to Daniel 7:13-14, through the coming of Lord Jesus Christ. And then, there is one other: Forever triumphant are the saints of God. "And we shall reign with Him forever and ever." That’s Daniel 7:22-27.
Now, I’m going to speak of one of the most remarkable and unbelievable revelations that mind could imagine. I’m going to speak of the seventy heptads. A heptad is a week of years. And in Daniel 9, verses 2 and verses 24 to 27 – and that passage is, I repeat, the most amazing passage you could ever think for or imagine.
Now, it is divided into three parts: the seventy heptads, the seventy weeks of years. It is divided into three parts: first of all, seven weeks of years – seven weeks of years. So that would be from 445 BC to 396 BC – seven weeks of years, years: from the edict of the Persian King, Artaxerxes Longimanus, in his twentieth year, for the rebuilding of the wall and streets of Jerusalem, mentioned, described in Nehemiah 2, verse 5. In the following years, that covers the between the decrees of Artaxerxes and the closing of the Hebrew canon – the closing of the Old Testament canon. It closes with Malachi. And those seven weeks of years – those seven heptads – describe the end of Hebrew prophecy, the closing the Old Testament canon in about 400 BC.
All right, the second part of this remarkable prophecy: there are 62 heptads. There are 62 weeks. There are 434 years. That would be from 396 BC to 30 AD; the crucifixion and death of our Lord, and soon thereafter, the destruction of the city and the sanctuary by the Roman general, Titus. And that’s the second part of this amazing revelation.
Then, there is left one week; one heptad; one, seven years. Now, you look at this. You keep thinking, this week – this last heptad – is set apart. Up here, you have 69 heptads – 69 weeks. Then, before the end of the age and the end of the world, you have one week left: the seventieth. Well, that brings us to the great tribulation before the consummation of age. That brings us to the climax of Jewish history. In Daniel 9:26, and it ends in a flood. It ends in a disaster. Then you have one week left. And that means, between the sixty-ninth heptad and the final heptad there is a great interlude; a great parenthesis; a great hiatus. And that is where we live.
Now, I want to show you something that I pray you will always remember when you read the Bible. World without end do liberals and cynics read the Bible with all kinds of interpretations. And the number one disastrous one to me is that they identify the church with Israel. The church is the continuation of Israel and all of those things about Israel are continued in this era and this dispensation in the church. There could be no more thing that is antithetical to the revelation of God in the Bible than that.
For example, the Apostle Paul writes specifically about that; the Old Testament back there and the New Testament here; God and the Jew. And he writes about it in the third chapter of Ephesians. And I’m going to take time to read that, because it is all-important:
If you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward;
– that’s the dispensation in which we live. Now, you look at this –
How that by revelation he made known unto me the musterion (as I wrote afore in a few words)
– and in order to save time, verse 9: –
And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the musterion, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ;
To the intent that now it is revealed; the musterion.
[Ephesians 3:1, 2, 9]
Now, you look at this, and listen with your heart, as well as your mind. Musterion is a word that is spelled out in English as "mystery." So, you have it translated here in the Bible as a mystery. That’s not true at all. A mystery, to us, is something that is enigmatic – something beyond our understanding or purview. That’s what a mystery is to us. A musterion, in the Bible – it’s used here twice as he discusses this – a musterion in the Bible is a secret that God kept in His heart until He revealed it unto His apostles. That’s what a musterion is.
Now, the musterion that he’s talking about, and the one that is presented here in this heptad – this last week that is separated from all the other history of the world – that musterion is the consummation of the age. And in between the sixty-nine heptads – the history of Israel – and the last heptad, which is separated from it, is our dispensation; the one in which we live.
Now, one other thing about it; there is no hint – there is no prophecy – there is no sentence and no verse in the Old Testament of anything about this dispensation. It is never referred to. It is never seen. It is never discussed. It is never revealed. It is a musterion. Our entire dispensation was a secret God kept in His heart until He revealed it to the apostles. They never saw the church. They never saw this age of the preaching of the gospel. They never saw this marvelous invitation to the whole world to accept Jesus as Savior. It is never referred to. It was never revealed. It was a secret that God kept in His heart.
I have one other comment about those critters who identify the church with Israel. I won’t take time to turn to it but in 1 Corinthians 10:32, Paul says there are three classes of people in this earth: the Jew, the Gentile and the church. The Jew: he will be here until Jesus comes. And the great heptads have to do with him; every one of them. The Jew will be here, and we’re going to look at that.
Good night alive! How do you teach this class, when you just get started and the time is gone?
There is the Jew. There is the unbelieving Gentile – the Jew; the unbelieving Gentile; and the believing people in the church. Now, when you identify the Jew with the church, you are doing exactly what God says is not true. The Jew is one. An unbelieving Gentile is another. And this believing Christian in the church is the third one.
Well, dear me, dear me. One of the; and this is the sixth of the seven remarkable revelations given to Daniel concerns the tragedies and the troubles of the Jew. You see that in Daniel 12 verse 1. It’s referred to in Jeremiah 30, verse 7: "the times of the Gentiles." You have it described – and I wanted to read that – in Matthew 24:15. The Jew will be here until Jesus comes.
In the Bible, you read about the Hittites and the Jebusites and the Girgasites and the Hivites. Did you ever see anybody who ever heard of anybody who ever saw a Hittite or a Hivite or a Girgasite or an Amorite or any of those other " – ites?" Did you? But I can show you a Jew in every city in this world. There are thousands of them here in Dallas. Last Friday – last Friday, I shared in a memorial service for a rabbi who died. He is here and he’s going to be saved.
I have the most amazing reading in the Book of Romans, chapter 11, beginning at verse 25:
I would not, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this musterion, lest ye be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part has happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.
And so all Israel shall be saved, .
[Romans 11:25, 26]
Now what do you think of that? I never said that. It wasn’t anybody except the inspired Apostle Paul. So, all Israel shall be saved. That’s a musterion kept in the heart of God. As it is said:
There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob;
For this is My covenant with them, when I shall take away their sins.
As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes; but concerning the election – the musterion – they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes.
For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.
Now, I tell you sweet people when you read the Bible, it’s a different kind of a book than just those people who just casually read a verse now and then. There’s not anything that overwhelms me like the revelations of the Book of God.
Now, I just mention this and I have to close – I just have to mention the seventh of these unbelievable revelations in the Book of Daniel. Well, the way it is presented in the Book of Daniel is in just a few words in the twelfth chapter:
At that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to this time; and at that time Israel shall be delivered, every one that is written in the book of life.
Now, the next verse and this is the seventh of these marvelous revelations: "And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt.
Now, this is the seventh of all those marvelous revelations in the Book of Daniel. There is a contrast there between the many who sleep and the comparatively few who will be alive and remain until the coming of the Lord. So we have here a partial resurrection. And it’s in two parts. It says many, not all. One; there shall certainly be a resurrection. That is stated in that twelfth chapter and verse 2. There will be a resurrection. There will be a divided resurrection; some to a resurrection of life and some to a resurrection of damnation. Then there shall be a great separation.
In Matthew 13:24-30, the tares are separated from the wheat. And in Matthew 25:25-30, the sheep are separated from the goats. In Revelation 20:4-5, there is a time differential of 1,000 years. There’s a time differential of 1,000 years between the rapture of the saints in Revelation 4 and the white throne judgment that ends all history in Revelation 20, verse .
So, sweet people, I regret this. At the end of my talk, I have to go to a prayer meeting. Always, before our services up there in the church, we have a ministers’ prayer meeting. And I have to go to that. So, when I try to finish here, I’d love to shake hands with everyone of you and hug you and kiss you. I was so burdened about this class but, your teacher, Mrs. C said to me, "Now, listen: those people love you so deeply and they will listen to you so reverently. You don’t have to be burdened." Well, that didn’t help me. I’m burdened just the same. But talking about the coming of our Lord:
It may be at noon day
It may be at twilight
It may be in the blackness of midnight
Will burst into the light in the blaze in His glory
When Jesus comes again
O joy, O delight should we go without dying
No sickness, no sadness, no dread and no crying
Caught up through the cloud with our Lord into glory
When Jesus comes for His own
O Lord Jesus, how long, how,