The Sweep of Human History
December 15th, 1996
THE SWEEP OF HUMAN HISTORY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-15-96 Sunday School
In our Holy Bible, turning to the Book of Daniel, why, we are going to follow through on chapter 2 and chapter 7. And the title of the discussion is The Sweep of Human History.
The Book of Daniel is divided into two distinct parts. The first part is chapters 1 and 6. And the second part is chapters 7through12. And both of these divisions start off with the same theme and the same revelation. And the presentation is a vision of all time and history.
Chapter 2 and chapter 7 are two of the great pivotal chapters of the Bible. The course of human history to the end of the age is outlined in those two chapters. And those two chapters are the foundation of all other visions. The vision at the beginning of chapter 2 is the same vision at the end of chapter 7. When we study, therefore, these two chapters, we have God’s revelation of the whole history of mankind and of the world.
It has been suggested that the first part, chapters 1 through 6, present events; and the second part, chapters 7 through 12, present personalities. It has also been suggested that chapter 2 is a review as man looks at it and that chapter 7 is a review as God looks at it. So, you have the two in Daniel 2:36 and 38, the head of gold, which is Babylon. But, in the description of the second vision, in Daniel 7:4, it’s referred to as a lion.
In the second part, Daniel 2:39, the shoulders and the arms of silver are Medo-Persia. In chapter 7, verse 5, it is described as a bear. In chapter 2, verse 39, the thighs of brass – which is the picture of the Greek Empire – in chapter 7, verse 6, it is referred to as a leopard. In chapter 2, verse 40, the legs of iron, which describe the Roman Empire – in chapter 7:7, it is referred to as a vicious beast with iron teeth. Then, as you know, there are no more world empires.
In Daniel 2, verses 41 to 45, we have the description of the toes of iron and clay. And the same description in chapter 7, verses 23 and 24. Then, is presented in Daniel 2:44, 45, the mystic stone: Christ and the kingdom of God. And that’s going to be my Christmas outline, and discussion and presentation next Sunday; the stone that came out of God’s hand and became a mountain and finally filled the whole world. The first time the stone strikes is in the days of the Roman Empire. And the second time the stone strikes in 1 Thessalonians 5:3, in Revelation 19:11- 16, the second time the stone strikes is in the consummation of the age, the end of history in the world.
God takes the leadership of the kingdoms from the Jews to the Gentiles in our lesson today. Ezekiel beholds the departure of the Shekinah glory from Jerusalem. God gives the dominion to Nebuchadnezzar and to the Gentiles; Jeremiah 27:5-9. Daniel is the prophet of "the times of the Gentiles," the era from Nebuchadnezzar to the rapture of the church, at which time God starts dealing with the Jews again.
I want us to turn to the Book of Romans, the Book of Romans, chapter 11. And this is a background text for what God is doing. In the days of Nebuchadnezzar, in 605 BC, God gives the leadership of the history of the world to the Gentiles. But, at the end of the consummation of the age, God gives it back to the Jews and we’re going to look at that in a minute. Now, the passage in Romans 11, starting at verse 25:
For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this musterion, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits and blindness; that blindness in part has happened to Israel, until the fullness – the times – of the Gentiles be done.
And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and turn all ungodliness from Jacob:
For this is my covenant with them, when I shall take away their unbelief.
As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as concerning the election, they are beloved for the Fathers’ sakes.
For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance – without change.
And we’re going to look at that in a minute.
So, Daniel is the prophet of the times of the Gentiles. And that era lasts from Nebuchadnezzar until the rapture of the church, at which time God once again turns the leadership of all history and time over to the Jews. So, we’re going to look at the times of the Gentiles. Look at Daniel 2:37-38 – Daniel 2:37-38. God says, addressing Nebuchadnezzar:
Thou, O king, art a king of kings; for the God of heaven has given thee a kingdom, power, strength, and glory.
And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of heaven God has given these into thy hand, and thou art made the ruler over them all. Thou art that head of gold.
So, Daniel, in saying this, was announcing that Babylon was the first in the political prophetic series that controls the world during the times of Israel’s desolation. This gift of dominion and power to Babylon was from the hand of God. This is something God has done. This did not happen in the history of the Hittites, or the Hamites, or the Egyptians, or the Assyrians. But, God did it in the days of the Babylonians.
Now, I want you to look at something. God says in Daniel 32:8 and 9, that His purpose was to rule the world through the elect chosen nation of Israel. It was His purpose to send His incarnate Son to be the King of Israel and, through Him and His people Israel, to administer righteousness, and truth, and justice throughout the whole earth and throughout all history. It was to bring benediction and blessing to every creature. That was the original purpose of God in choosing Israel. God chose Israel ultimately to receive His incarnate Son as their king. God chose Israel to administer His mercies, and grace, and will throughout all time and throughout all history.
Well, what happened? The nation of Israel failed grievously and utterly. The ten tribes – up there in the northern part of it – the ten tribes deliberately and politically chose idolatry. And they were destroyed by the Assyrians in 722 BC. So, that left the two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, down in there in the south. But, those two tribes gave themselves to moral rebellion and idolatry. And finally, they slew their own Son, Jesus the Messiah. Then, they were destroyed by the purpose of God, by the Romans in 70 AD. And from that time until now as we’re going to mention, they have been scattered and afflicted throughout the history of the world.
Now, the commission to Nebuchadnezzar contained the transfer of world rulership from the Jews, which was God’s purpose, to Gentile hands. This was the climax of God’s judgment. It was the end of Jewish power. It was the beginning of Gentile power. Jewish time had come to an end. Gentile time had begun. Jerusalem was torn down. Babylon, and the great cities of the empires was built up. Jerusalem was a political cripple. Babylon was the center of the world, and then followed after all those other cities of the empires.
The coming of Nebuchadnezzar, in 605 BC marked the beginning of 70 years of captivity prophesied by Jeremiah, and marks the beginning of the times of the Gentiles. Israel thereafter was weak and weaker, and dependent and more dependent, and never recovered, even so to this day. The Jewish nation is weak and were it not for the sustaining hand of America, they would have overrun it and slain it before it even began.
Daniel is the prophet of the times of the Gentiles. Before the armies of Nebuchadnezzar, Jerusalem and Judah fell. They have never since recovered. The "times of the Gentiles" refers to the long period of history when the Gentiles rule over God’s chosen people: Israel. But, prophecy has nothing to say about the nations as such in their relationship to one another but only in the relationship to Israel and the Holy Land. That’s one of the most amazing things you could ever think for.
Deuteronomy 32:8 says the key to all prophecy is the Jew. The Jew is God’s clock! What time is it in world history? In the judgment and purpose of God, look at the Jew! If the Jewish nation had not forsaken God, there would have been no "times of the Gentiles." This period began when God transferred earthly rule to the Gentiles.
Now, Daniel, I say is the prophet of the times of the Gentiles. His visions sweep the whole course of Gentile world rule until the establishment of the Messianic millennium, the kingdom of Christ. Now, Daniel was not a prophet in the same sense as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the Minor Prophets. Their mission was to go to the people to proclaim the Word of the Lord.
Daniel’s mission was to record what was revealed to him in his visions from Heaven. He did not have the prophetic office. He was a statesman in the court, even though God gave him visions of the whole history of the world that is to come.
All right; now I want you to look at the vision of the nations in chapter 2. It is a vision of descending value. That is a striking feature. Go down to mud. Why? The order is certainly a descending one in value, especially in the estimates and in the eyes of Nebuchadnezzar. Iron, in his eyes, would certainly hold the lowest place. It is not even mentioned in any of the human inscriptions, the Babylonian inscriptions. The thoughts of the king were so much set in the more precious, and showy, and costly metals. And we cannot escape that same conviction. It goes from gold down to mud.
All right, why this? Because of quality! There is a downwardness, a deterioration, in all society and in all national life. There is a going from gold, to silver, to brass, to iron, to mud. And if I had time here, we would talk about it in the United States.
All right, a second quality in it: in cohesion, dual breasts and arms, dual legs, but most exaggerated in the feet and the toes. The pulling apart in national and political life: crumbling state, broken covenants, discarded alliances. History runs in the mold of this prophecy. All of it does! Then another: in those visions’ downwardness, it is found in the nature of existence. And here, I’m going to take a moment to talk about Daniel and Darwin.
Daniel speaks of the downwardness of all existence. The universe is running down. The universe is a great clock wound up and it is running down. Animal life runs down. Fine breed of cattle, and horses, and sheep – leave them alone and they will all turn into scraps. And human life and history runs down.
There is a vast difference between Darwin and Daniel. Darwin says we have been a head of mud and we are going up, and up, and up. And finally, we’re all going to become angels. That’s what Darwin says in evolution. But, Daniel says it is a head of gold and it goes down, and down, and down. If ever two men took opposite positions, these two men have done it. Daniel speaks of the descent of hope, and the decline of nations, and the catastrophes of civilization. But, Darwin writes of inevitable evolution upward.
All right, we are going to look at that just for a minute. What is this to be found in human personality, and in intelligence, and in strength? Is it really going up? All right, look at it for a minute. Look at Moses. How long did he live? One hundred and twenty years! If the noblest man of the hour stood beside him, would it be up or would it be down? Chose any man you want here in modern life and put him by the side of Moses. Have we ascended up? Or, are these men that are up in the headlines of all newspapers today, are they down compared to Moses?
All right, look at the galaxy of great men who shined in that ancient firmament – most brilliant, incomparable, in the history of the world. All right, I’m going to name some of them; Miltiades, who lived 488 years before Christ; Themistocles, who lived 480 years before Christ; Aristides, who lived 468 years before Christ; Pericles, who lived 428 years before Christ; Aeschylus, who lived 456 years before Christ; Euripides, who lived 406 years before Christ; Sophocles, who lived 406 years before Christ; Phidias, who lived 433 years before Christ; Socrates, who lived 400 years before Christ; Plato – without doubt the greatest philosopher that was ever born – Plato lived 347 years before Christ; Aristotle, the pupil of Plato and the incomparable writer of the philosophy, lived 322 years before Christ. And he was the teacher of Alexander the Great. Did you know, in Oxford University, there are 297 courses taught on Aristotle? And Demosthenes lived 322 years before Christ; and Aeschines lived 314 years before Christ.
Now, I just give you a little thing. You go through the world today and show me anybody that lives today comparable to those men who lived 400 and 300 years before Christ. Darwin says we are going up. We’re going up. Daniel says we’re going down. We’re going down.
And may I take our own faith – our Christianity as an example? Think of the beginning of the Christian centuries: Jesus, Paul, Peter, John – those mighty men of God. You know what? Hatton Sumners – for many years a Congressman, a leader in the House of Representatives – Hatton Sumners came here to church every time he was in Dallas. As long as he lived, he was there, listening to me preach – and talking to me. I was just so blessed just by his presence.
And here’s a sentence he said to me. He said, "There are no great men today." That was his judgment – up there in Washington for all of those years and years, a generation, watching the great men, so-called, of the earth, come to Washington, visiting with them and everything else and his judgment after a lifetime in his sentence to me, "There are no great men today!"
Well, I have a long pericope here from I. N. Haldeman. He was pastor for years at the First Baptist Church in New York but I’ll not take time to read it.
There is a thing about the Bible and the nations of the world that is a surprise to me. If you will look at it carefully, just look at the whole Bible, you will be impressed by the fact that there is little space given to Gentile conquest or superiority, or anything else about them. There is practically nothing in the Bible about Gentile superiority. Earthly heroes are treated in the Bible as the grass that withers and the flowers that fade away. Man’s history relates to his own heroes and victories. These occupy all the pages of human history – the way they write. But, God’s history relates and describes man in the light of eternity. And there’s nothing to write about him.
Yet, [Daniel] does not conclude his prophecies, visions in pessimism and despair. He describes the ultimate glory of the coming and heavenly kingdom of God. And we’re going to see that in our lesson next time – in "The Mystic Stone" – and the triumphant resurrection. It’s an amazing thing to me when you read the Bible and look at it with understanding, just believing what God says. Oh, it’s another world!
Now, I’m going to take time to conclude this by turning to Daniel 9. And I want you to turn to it. Daniel 9, beginning at verse 24 – this is possibly the greatest vision ever given to mankind; verse 24; Daniel 9:24: "Seventy heptads" – weeks of years – "are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city." – 25:
Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem until the Messiah the Prince shall come shall be seven heptads, then that follows with threescore and two heptads; the streets shall be built again, and the wall, even unto the time of trouble.
And after threescore and two heptads, Messiah will be cut off, but not for Himself; and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and the desolations of despair.
And he shall confirm the covenant for many with one heptad: and in the midst of tha heptad he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the end time, there will be all kinds of judgment poured out upon the desolate.
[Daniel 9: 25-27]
All right, I want you to look at that now. First, the division of the seventy heptads; they are three: The first division is made up of seven weeks of years. So, seven times seven is forty nine years. And that is the prophecy concerning the time between 445 BC and 396 BC. That’s the first heptad. So, that’s the time from the decree of Artaxerxes Longimanus, mentioned in chapter Nehemiah 2 verse 5, for the rebuilding of the city to the closing of the Hebrew canon and prophecy closing with Malachi. Now, that’s the first heptad; forty nine years from 445 BC to 396 BC.
All right, the second group of heptads: there are sixty two heptads. That’s 434 years: sixty two times seven. So, that covers the time from 396 B.C. to 30 A.D. And soon thereafter, at the end of those heptads, the city and the nation of Israel is destroyed and has been largely, practically, completely so ever since. So, we have the second group of heptads describing the period from the close of prophecy through the destruction of Judah in 70 A.D.
All right, now, you look at that. There is one heptad left. We have covered sixty nine of them. But there are seventy heptads in the history of the world. And that last heptad is separate and apart. It’s pulled away altogether from the other two. And that separate heptad is revealed to us in the Revelation chapters 4 to 19.
In this heptad, it speaks of it being divided. The last heptad: three and one-half years and three and one-half years. Now, that is the Great Tribulation. That is the consummation of history and this age, and the climax of Jewish history. When that one last heptad comes to pass, that’s when God turns aside from the Gentiles, the church is raptured, and down there in the earth is the tribulation. And, in the tribulation, God is dealing with the Jew once again.
All right, we are going to look at that last heptad for just a moment. I have pointed out that, in the revelation given to Daniel, that last heptad, the last seven years, is separate and apart. And between the sixty nine heptads and the last heptads is a great intervention. There is a great parenthesis and you live in it!
That great interlude is between the sixty-ninth heptad and the beginning of the last – the seventieth heptad, that was hid from the Jews, from the prophets. For example, in [Ephesians] 3:3-9, it is called this age between the last sixty-ninth heptad and this one that is coming, it is called a musterion, a musterion.
What is a musterion? You have it spelled out a "mystery," which is all right. But a musterion in the Bible is a great secret that God kept in His heart until He revealed it to the apostles – the apostles of Christ. And the Jew never saw this era of the church age. Never! You don’t find it in the Old Testament. It’s not there! You don’t find it in Daniel. He did not see it! He did not know it. It was not revealed to him. This great era of time before that last heptad is a musterion. God kept it a secret in His heart and they never saw it. And it was revealed to us in Christ and His apostles. And this is the age in which we live. When the present Church Age is past, God begins again with the Jew. We’re gone. We’re up there in heaven with the Lord.
God’s purpose for Israel has never changed. And that’s the reason I had us to read Revelation – Romans 11:25 and following. God’s purpose, in the beginning, was that Israel with their king, the incarnate Son of God was to rule the universe. God does not change. The Bible says that. And God’s purpose will be brought to pass when the church is raptured and this age in which we live comes to an end and the Lord begins with the Jew.
And God’s purpose is that the nation of Israel, when He appears; that the nation of Israel will accept Him and believe. And God’s going to take the Jew and the Lord God, their Son – He’s not our Son. He’s born a Jew. God’s going to take the Son and the Israel and that’s going to be the millennium and the world that is yet to come. So, this passage is one of the most marvelous you ever read in your life.
Now, I’m going to show you that I’m just not talking. I’m just not exploding here. Is it gone? You all running that radio, you wait on me! I want you to turn to Zechariah. I want you to turn to Zechariah. I want you to turn to Zechariah; Zechariah – this ends chapter 12 in Zechariah, beginning at verse 11:
In that day there shall be great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadad-rimmon – when they were mourning over the slaying of Josiah – at Megiddo.
And the land shall mourn, every family apart, the family of David, of Nathan, the house of Levi, the family of the house of Levi,
And in that day there shall be a fountain open to the house of David and to the inhabitants for Jerusalem for sin and for unrighteousness.
[Zechariah 12: 11, 12; 13:1]
Now, in that chapter 13:6: "And one shall say unto Him, What are these wounds in Thine hands? And he shall answer, These are the wounds which I received in the house of My friends."
All right, turn to chapter 14:
And His feet shall stand upon that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem, and the mount of Olives shall cleave to the midst toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a great, great valley.
All right, look at verse 9, in chapter 14: "And the Lord shall be king over all the earth; in that day shall there be one Lord, and His name one."
Jesus is coming back and they are going to recognize Him. And wounds in His hands and His sides – you did it. You did it! And there’s going to be a great repentance, a mourning in Israel such as the world has never seen. And they are going to accept their Lord. And He’s going to be King over Israel and King over all the earth. Were it not for you, we would rejoice and say "Amen."
We’ve got to quit.
THE SWEEP OF HUMAN HISTORY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. Times of the Gentiles
A. Announcement that Babylon took over world rulership
B. Israel and Judah failed and were destroyed by God
C. Commission of Nebuchadnezzar: transfer world rulership to Gentile hands
II. Depiction of the series of empires
A. Golden head, Babylon
B. Silver breast and arms, Medo-Persia
C. Brass thighs – Greece
D. Iron legs – Rome
III. Meaning of the choice of differing metals
A. Ascending in strength
B. Descending in values
C. Declension in cohesiveness