dreamy, wispy clouds September 5 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Daniel 7, 8

Dreams and Visions

We all have dreams. Some claim to have visions. What are the purposes of dreams and visions? Why do we have them? What do they mean? Are they just a result of consuming a late night pizza, too much caffeine, medication, or is there something more? Solomon, the wisest man to ever live (outside of Jesus Christ) said, “...a dream comes when there are many cares” (Ecclesiastes 5:3, NIV). That is often the case. A peaceful mind, however, usually gives a person a peaceful sleep. Reading Psalms in the Bible often helps a person go to sleep peacefully. If we watch a scary movie, however, do our taxes, have an argument, or are worried about life situations, we often have dreams. Do the dreams warn us of some future event? While God may use dreams to warn us, we should not think of them as prophecies (more…). The writer of the book of Hebrews says,

In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe, (Hebrews 1:1-2, NIV).

Prophetical dreams, therefore, are no longer necessary because God has spoken to us through His Son and through His Word, the Bible. Do we know Him? He offers us forgiveness, peace, and spiritual life which will last forever (more...)

In today's Bible reading, God speaks to Daniel and shows him things to come. He does this as an encouragement to the Jewish people in exile. Daniel is shown three dreams, and although different in content, they basically predict the same events.

The first dream, as we saw in Daniel 2, was of a great statue with a head of gold, chest and arms of silver, belly and thighs of bronze, and feet with a mixture of iron and clay. They represent the four kingdoms: Babylon (which was in power at the time), Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome, respectively.

King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was so impressed by the dream’s interpretation that he promoted Daniel and had an imposing statue of gold made in his own honor. In fact, he required all the people to worship the image whenever they would hear the prescribed musical instruments playing (August 3 Bible study). We are not sure where Daniel was at the time, but his three friends refused. They were thrown into a hot fiery furnace but were miraculously saved.

Later, Nebuchadnezzar became very proud and this led to his downfall. In fulfillment of a dream, Nebuchadnezzar is dethroned for insanity; for seven years he lives as an animal, even eating grass. One day he comes to his senses and realizes that God is Sovereign, not him. Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom is then restored.

Another dream corresponding to the one given in Daniel 2 is recorded in chapter 7. King Belshazzar, a successor and Nebuchadnezzar’s descendant by marriage, is now king. He, too, has a dream. In his dream there are four beasts. First, he sees a lion with eagle’s wings that are torn off, and then it is lifted up off the ground and made to stand like a man. Finally, it is given a man’s heart. This beast represents his patriarchal father, Nebuchadnezzar, who was the great majestic king of Babylon. He was powerful, but after he was humbled, he recognized God is Sovereign.

Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble (Daniel 4:37, NIV).

King Belshazzar forgets this lesson and doesn't learn from him.

The second beast, a bear, represents Medo-Persia. Daniel sees her lying on her side, meaning that one side will be higher (greater) than the other. Persia will become more powerful than Media, and like the bear devouring three ribs, she will devour three nations. Theologians are not sure exactly which nations these are. The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the O.T., edited by Walvoord and Zuck, ©1985, p. 1350 suggests these nations might be Babylon, Assyria, and Egypt or Lydia. Egypt, however, seems unlikely to have been destroyed by Medo-Persia because, as we learned in yesterday's lesson, she was destroyed by Babylon.

The next beast is a leopard with the wings of a bird. This beast represents the nation of Greece and the speed with which Alexander the Great will conquer the entire known world. He will even conquer the proud mercantile nation of Tyre. Four horns coming out of its head pictures four rulers that will come out of her after his death.

The last beast is fierce, with iron teeth and bronze claws. It crushes all in its path. This beast represents Rome. Later, in the end times of the earth, another beast-like nation will rise up (like Rome) and will crush nations. There will be ten rulers, and then one prominent ruler will rise up from among them. At this time the Lord Jesus will come back, the ruler will be thrown into hell (a place of burning torment), and the Lord will reign on the earth for 1,000 years. The interpretation of the dream and the identifying of the nations in Daniel 7 are found in succeeding revelations in Daniel 8 and 11.

The third dream is recorded in Daniel 8, although it is just a different version of the dreams recorded in Daniel 2 and 7. In this dream Babylon is left out because Babylon is on the precipice of being conquered by Medo-Persia. The ram with two horns represents the kingdoms of Media and Persia, respectively, with the bigger horn being Persia. The fleet-footed, shaggy goat with the single prominent horn represents the nation of Greece and Alexander as its king. After its horn is broken off (i.e., he dies) four other horns (rulers) take his place. Out of one of these ruling horns issues a master of intrigue, (probably Antiochus Epiphanies). He will be empowered (probably by Satan) to crush and destroy. He will defile the Jewish temple and seek to destroy the people. God will later destroy him.

What significance do all these dreams have?

  • First, the LORD is Sovereign and in control of all nations and their destinies.
  • Second, tougher times are ahead for the exiled Jews. Again, their land will be torn up by wars. Although these nations will be oppressive, their reigns will be temporary.
  • Third, God will preserve a remnant of His people. His Son [Jesus] will one day rule over them with all authority, glory, and sovereign power, forever (Daniel 7:14).
  • Fourth His kingdom will never be destroyed. His saints (believing Jews who survive the Great Tribulation) will receive the kingdom promised them since the days of Abraham, and they will possess it forever.

Lessons to Live by

  • God has an eternal plan for the Jewish people and He will fulfill it.
  • Today our focus should not be on dreams and visions but upon God’s Son Jesus, who fulfills Biblical prophecies. Jesus gave His life for us so we might have forgiveness, peace, and spiritual life (more...)
  • God’s will for the future is found in His Word, the Bible.
  • God has already fulfilled many prophecies of the Bible, literally. We can expect the same thing with prophecies which are still fulfilled.
  • Prophecies encouraged the Jews that God is not done with them as a nation. We are encouraged that if the LORD can fulfill prophecies to the Jews, He will also keep His word to us.
  • Although in Daniel’s time Israel will soon be restored to her land, tough times are ahead. The same may be true for us. God saves us and we are guaranteed our place in a heavenly land. Some of us, however, may also face tough times on this earth. Let's not be discouraged; God will be with us through them.

Focus Verse

John 16:33 (NIV) “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

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A Look Ahead: Learn How God is Working in our World in our Next Lesson from the book of Daniel.

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