Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, 5/8/05
"Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor" (Matt 4:8).
This piece has been on the drawing board for what seems to me a very long time, due to "technical difficulties." The saying, "To err is human; to really mess up, you need a computer," is true. We've had quite a round of electronic issues to resolve, which kept us off-line for over three weeks. One reader wrote wondering if we had just quit the ministry, or perhaps he had been dropped from our list. As Winston Churchill allegedly said, "Rumors of our demise are premature." God took mercy upon me, or perhaps He couldn't bear any more of my whining, and so, we're back on the web again. About four weeks ago, I had asked the Lord what my next topic was to be and I heard "the kingdoms of this world." Then, the Holy Spirit pressed me to read Daniel, something I haven't done for years. After that, He moved on me to read large parts of Jeremiah, a book I tend to avoid left to my own preferences. However, when the Holy Spirit hovers over me, I do what He impresses me to do, knowing that a) He won't stop until I do it, and b) it will be a wonderful gift when He reveals Himself to me in the text.
The books of Daniel and Jeremiah are rich in imagery, symbolism, metaphors and graphic illustrations (such as the wooden yoke God made Jeremiah wear around his neck to show the rebellious Children of Israel that they would soon be wearing the yoke of iron around their lives, imposed by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar). Using verbal word pictures, Jeremiah prophesied to them, "Now I will hand all your countries over to my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; I will make even the wild animals subject to him. All nations will serve him and his son and his grandson until the time for his land comes; then many nations and great kings will subjugate him" (Jer. 27:6-7). Notice that the Lord refers to Nebuchadnezzar as "my servant." Lest anyone think this is the end of the story, God says through the prophet that when the time is right, many nations and kings will conquer Babylon. God left nothing to chance here.
Can you imagine what would happen today if God raised up a prophet [a real one, not one prophesying out of "the delusions of his own mind," as Jeremiah would put it (Jer. 23:26)], to tell the world what is going to happen in the future? Yes, I know that many are writing books and speaking on television, telling us what's going to happen, but they lack credibility since what they prophesy does not come to pass. By the way, that was a serious offense under the law. The end of false prophets was certain and sure, usually death. In any event, the news media would be flocking around a real prophet today like flies on carrion. Prophets did not just predict the future, by the way, but also delivered the word of the Lord, often a scathing rebuke, and threats, usually accompanied by a call for repentance.
God's prophets did declare events that happened far into the future. Isaiah, for instance, prophesied to King Hezekiah, "The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your fathers have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the LORD" (II Kings 20:17). Amazingly, he foretold this 115 years before it happened, and at the time, Assyria rather than Babylon was the world power. I often wonder what the prophets thought when they got these powerful messages from God about future events, but no matter what they thought, they delivered the word of the Lord, at great personal risk and suffering. In addition to the persecution they faced, God's spokesmen also had the aggravation of dealing with false prophets. Jesus warned, "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves" (Matt. 7:15). It was actually a worse problem for those living before Christ, than it is today, for they did not have the indwelling Spirit as we do, and thus, had no way to discern spirits, other than the obvious: "If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him" (Deut. 18:22).
Listening to false prophet was dangerous for them. Jeremiah threatened Judah: "Do not listen to the words of the prophets who say to you, 'You will not serve the king of Babylon,' for they are prophesying lies to you. 'I have not sent them,' declares the LORD. 'They are prophesying lies in my name. Therefore, I will banish you and you will perish, both you and the prophets who prophesy to you'" (Jer. 27:14 -15). And, it came to pass exactly as God had said it would.
In 605 B.C., during the reign of Judah's wicked king, Jehoiakim, the king of Babylon carried off the best and brightest of Judah's sons, and among them was Daniel and his three friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, who played such an important role in demonstrating the power of the living God to Nebuchadnezzar. Those three friends' names were changed to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Changing a conquered person's name was a common practice of the day to demonstrate the monarch's power and authority. I'm sure remember these three men whom Nebuchadnezzar had thrown into the fiery furnace because they refused to worship the golden image the king had made of himself (Dan: 3:1-29). When God delivered them, "They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them" (Dan. 3:27). Interestingly, the king saw not three, but four men in the furnace. His comment about it was that "the form of the fourth (man) is like the Son of God" (KJV). The king was so impressed by this miraculous deliverance that he made a royal proclamation: "Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way" (Vs. 29).
In spite of seeing God's power up close and personal, Nebuchadnezzar really didn't get it. While at home in his palace, lounging in luxury that the rich and famous today can only fantasize about, he had a dream which troubled him. He saw a tree, whose branches reached into heaven. It was beautiful to look at with delicious fruit on it. The beasts of the field found shelter under it, and while he was looking at it, a messenger from heaven came: "He called in a loud voice: 'Cut down the tree and trim off its branches; strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the animals flee from under it and the birds from its branches. But let the stump and its roots, bound with iron and bronze, remain in the ground, in the grass of the field. 'Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him live with the animals among the plants of the earth. Let his mind be changed from that of a man and let him be given the mind of an animal, till seven times pass by for him" (Dan. 4:14-16). If we had a dream like that, we might reach for the Prozac, but Nebuchadnezzar knew it had major significance and called in his magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners, who did not have a clue as to what it meant (Vs. 7). Finally, he called for Daniel, whom he had renamed Belteshazzar (the name of one of his gods), because he said, "Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you, and no mystery is too difficult for you. Here is my dream; interpret it for me" (Vs. 9).
The king was a lot like people today who run to psychics, astrologers, and even to their pastor, hoping he will act as seer, in order to explain what is happening in their lives and what they need to do to fix it. Daniel had set the king straight on a previous occasion, telling him, "No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come..." (Dan. 2:27-28). We often get e-mail from some wanting answers to tough questions they have about events in their lives. We comment if God gives us something to say, and if not, we refer them to the great Counselor Himself, for He alone has the words of life and the truth we need.
Also like many today, Nebuchadnezzar's problem was that in spite of everything he had experienced of the living God through Daniel and his three friends, the king still did not acknowledge God's total sovereignty. Giving bad news to a king could be hazardous to his health, so Daniel reluctantly told Neb that the tree in the dream, whose branches reached to heaven, was Nebuchadnezzar himself: "You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like cattle and be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes. The command to leave the stump of the tree with its roots means that your kingdom will be restored to you when you acknowledge that Heaven rules. Therefore, O king, be pleased to accept my advice: Renounce your sins by doing what is right, (there's always an altar call), and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue" (Dan. 4:25-27).
This was a call for repentance of gigantic proportions, but alas, the king did not take Daniel's advice, though God gave him an entire year to do so. Events happened exactly as Daniel had said they would: the king ate grass like cattle; his hair grew like feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird (Vs. 33). Later, when he raised his eyes toward heaven, his sanity was restored, and this was his conclusion gleaned from a terrifying experience: "Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: "What have you done?" (Dan. 4:34-35; See Paul's take on Nebuchadnezzar's declaration in Rom. 9:20-21).
The NIV study bible says that some scholars question the veracity of the book of Daniel, assuming it is fictional based on the "modern philosophical assumption that long-range predictive prophecy is impossible." In actuality, the Bible is filled with long-range predictive prophecy, as in Isaiah's assurance that Babylon would conquer Judah, some 115 years before it happened. It takes the Holy Spirit to open our eyes to see the truth spoken by the prophets.
The West tends to be logical and analytical, whereas the East is mystical and intuitive. Therein lies the reason that false prophets today, working out of their natural minds, come up with the ridiculous tripe they extract from the book of Revelation. They take what John the Apostle said literally, whereas he was speaking in symbols which Jewish Christians would understand since they knew well what was written by the prophets. Here's an example of the use of symbols: "This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, said to me: "Take from my hand this cup filled with the wine of my wrath and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. When they drink it, they will stagger and go mad because of the sword I will send among them." So I took the cup from the LORD's hand and made all the nations to whom he sent me drink it" (Jer. 25:15-17). Here, Jeremiah used poetic hyperbole (an exaggeration to make a point). In the first place, he is not talking about a literal wine goblet, nor did he ever really go to all the nations and make each of them drink from it. Drinking God's wrath from a cup is a familiar biblical metaphor. John used this imagery in Rev. 18:3. He said of the great whore of Babylon: "For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries. The kings of the earth committed adultery with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries." John's readers well knew the history of the Babylonian captivity. In fact, it was written in their emotional DNA, you might say, so that the name Babylon had come to mean a wicked place, a haunt of idol worshippers and rebels against the authority of God.
When John cries, "Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great! She has become a home for demons and a haunt for every evil spirit, a haunt for every unclean and detestable bird" (Vs. 2), he is echoing Isaiah: "Babylon has fallen, has fallen! All the images of its gods lie shattered on the ground!" (Isa. 21:9). Using this theme, Jeremiah said, "Babylon was a gold cup in the LORD's hand; she made the whole earth drunk. The nations drank her wine; therefore they have now gone mad. Babylon will suddenly fall and be broken. Wail over her! Get balm for her pain; perhaps she can be healed" (Jer. 51:7-8).
After plowing through Daniel and Jeremiah for the better part of three weeks, I came away with a new appreciation for the fact that the gospel of Christ is written everywhere in the Bible, Old and New Testaments alike. Paul offers a short summary of the gospel: "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the POWER OF GOD for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith" (Rom. 1:16-17). The sermons I have heard on this verse never focused on the POWER OF GOD, but rather on what man had to do to receive this power. IF GOD WAITED FOR MAN TO OBEY HIM, NO ONE WOULD EVER BE SAVED, HEALED, OR SET FREE. Instead, Father God relies upon Himself, upon His own power, His own plan for the ages, which will never fail nor be defeated by the world, the flesh, false prophets, or the devil.
"When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, saying, "I will surely bless you and give you many descendants" (Vs. 13-14). God's oath to Abraham, the basis of His salvation of all, did not depend on man, because like us, they were unable to make it happen on their own. Descendants of Abraham's attempt to do it by himself are still wreaking havoc in the Middle East. God, however, fulfilled His covenant, even as He does today! His promise to bless all nations through Christ, Abraham's seed IS the gospel: "The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: "ALL NATIONS will be blessed through you" (Gal. 3:8). God's unconditional promise was fulfilled in Christ: "The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed..... meaning one person, who is Christ" (Gal. 3:16). "It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy" (Rom 9:16).
The Old Testament prophets brought God's word to a disobedient, rebellious and ignorant people. These intrepid men lectured, cajoled, warned, threatened, and acted out God's message. Still, the people did not turn to God, which He always knew would happen (Rom. 11:32; Rev. 13:8). The Old Testament's seemingly endless saga of sin, deprivation, rebellion, and punishment clearly demonstrates that all man's efforts are filthy rags, worthless, "wood, hay, or straw," fit only to be burned up (I Cor. 3:11-15). God has always had a plan. In days of yore, He revealed Himself through the prophets. Today, He reveals Himself through the Holy Spirit. The kingdoms of this world are still seducing men and women with their power, glitter, and promise of human glory and grandeur, but as Jesus said to the devil, who offered them all to him if He would bow down and worship Him, "Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only" (Matt. 4:8). The kingdom of heaven, which Jesus came to establish, is the very one which Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar would be like the rock which "struck the statue and became a huge mountain that filled the whole earth" (Dan. 2:35). Daniel also told the king, "...the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever" (Dan. 2:44). Fast forwarding the tape, John heard a loud voice in heaven crying, "Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down" (Rev. 12:10). The writer uses present tense, meaning that the kingdom is here NOW, and Satan's power is vanquished NOW! Hallelujah!
Father, we thank You that Your kingdom is secure from storms within and wars without and that we may rest in Your power to protect, guide, and glorify Your Holy Name. We thank You that You have called us in this hour to manifest the kingdom to creation, and we offer You all our praise and glory and honor, now and forever. Amen. Jan Antonsson
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
The Last Days
Gog and Magog, Final Battle
Heaven, Fact or Fable?
The Day of the Lord
That Beastly Bug
The Beast and the Elder Brother
A Mark of the Beast
The Glory Road
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This page was uploaded to the web on 05/05/05
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 10/13/08.