Category: Sermons

Third Beast: Leopard with four Wings and four Heads

Around 333 BC, the Persian Empire was overcome by what had begun as an insignificant small kingdom. The kingdom was Greece.

The rise of Greece was so swift. In the vision of Daniel the nation was represented by a leopard and the swiftness of its conquests by four wings. But there was more strangeness to the form of the leopard: it had four heads!

6After this I beheld, and lo another, like a leopard, which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl; the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it.

What did these symbols mean? In chapter 8  Daniel narrated another vision about Greece which made clear the meaning of the four heads. That is covered in the next chapter of this book. But for now we can briefly explain that there was once a man called Alexander who made Greece to become a mighty empire. He conquered and subdued many kingdoms and thus presided over an immense empire. However, after Alexander died the empire got divided under the headships of his four generals  – Cassander, Lysimachus, Seleucus and Ptolemy.

First Beast: The Lion with Eagle’s Wings

It is important to know that although the Earth belongs to the Lord and the fullness thereof, the World does not. The world’s economic, political, religious, and military affairs are in the hands of Satan. Man, using his free will allowed Satan to rule this world and its systems. But God is merciful and has always provided a way of salvation to the sincere and repentant. Even to the sinner and arrogant, He always presents an opportunity to overcome evil. That is what often happened to Israel each time they lived sinfully and attracted evil to themselves.

Jeremiah’s prophecy concerning the lion-nation

One time, way before Daniel saw his visions of the four beasts, Jeremiah had prophesied concerning the coming of a nation whose brutality was likened to that of a lion: “The lion is come up from his thicket, and the destroyer of the Gentiles is on his way; he is gone forth from his place to make thy land desolate; and thy cities shall be laid waste, without an inhabitant” (Jer.4:7).

At the time of Jeremiah there was one great nation which ruled the then world whose national symbol was a lion. That nation was Babylon which had grown to become a mighty empire. The image below is found on the Ishtar gate in Iraq, where the ancient kingdom of Babylon used to be situated.

LionBab.jpg

Jeremiah’s prophecy went further to describe the greatness and swiftness of the armies of the lion-nation, likening them to the swiftness of eagles – “Behold, he shall come up as clouds, and his chariots shall be as a whirlwind; his horses are swifter than eagles. Woe unto us! For we are spoiled” (Jer.4:13). In his various other prophecies Jeremiah plainly identified the lion-nation to have been Babylon – “And now have I given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant; and the beasts of the field have I given him also to serve him. And all nations shall serve him, and his son, and his son’s son, until the very time of his land come: and then many nations and great kings shall serve themselves of him. And it shall come to pass, that the nation and kingdom which will not serve the same Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, and that will not put their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, that nation will I punish, saith the LORD, with the sword, and with the famine, and with the pestilence, until I have consumed them by his hand” (Jer.27:6-8).

Another prophet, Ezekiel, a contemporary of Jeremiah had also prophesied concerning the coming of Babylon to devour Israel.

Ezekiel’s prophecy

Ezekiel’s prophecy also described Babylon with wings of an eagle: “Thus saith the Lord GOD; A great eagle with great wings, longwinged, full of feathers, which had divers colours, came unto Lebanon, and took the highest branch of the cedar.. Say now to the rebellious house, Know ye not what these things mean? tell them, Behold, the king of Babylon is come to Jerusalem, and hath taken the king thereof, and the princes thereof, and led them with him to Babylon” (Eze.17:3,12).

Daniel’s vision

Daniel, who lived at about the same time with Jeremiah and Ezekiel, had a vision which also described Babylon as a lion and with eagle’s wings. It was the same God speaking to all the three men:

4The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man, and a man’s heart was given to it.

But what was the plucking off of wings? Well, what would happen to an eagle if its wings were plucked off? It would take away its ability to fly. That would be the end of its pride of flying high above all other birds and animals. And looking at Babylon as a lion, what would happen if the nature (‘heart’) of man was given to a lion? Well, it would lose its voraciousness and become powerless just like mankind. But would such a thing happen to invincible Babylon whose people dwelt safely behind its impregnable walls? History tells us that the Persians finally prevailed and overcame Babylon. How was this possible?

The fulfilment of the visions

Understand that Babylon was situated on a river, the river Euphrates. This river actually passed through the city of Babylon; it entered from one end and exited to the other end. This topography enabled merchant ships to easily move into the city for commercial activities. However, this would be a serious security loophole as invaders would have easy access into the city. To guard against this, apart from the walls which surrounded the city, there were also huge gates of brass that went down to the bottom of the river bed. When closed these gates would seal off the entrance and outlet for Euphrates rivers against any would-be intruder. There were always soldiers tasked with opening and closing the gates. It was thus an impossible task to break into Babylon. When Persians had decided to take on the city, from their high walls the Babylonians laughed and hurled insults at them.

Cyrus worked out a plan. His troops dug out a channel which deviated the waters of Euphrates. The ancient historian Herodotus wrote:

Hereupon the Persians who had been left for the purpose at Babylon by the, river-side, entered the stream, which had now sunk so as to reach about midway up a man’s thigh, and thus got into the town… the Persians came upon them by surprise and so took the city. Owing to the vast size of the place, the inhabitants of  the central parts (as the residents at Babylon declare) long after the outer portions of the town were taken, knew  nothing of what had chanced, but as they were engaged in a festival, continued dancing and reveling until they learnt about the capture (Livius, 1999).

On that fateful day when Belshazzar organised the impious feast, so drunk were the soldiers manning the gates that they left them open. This was not a coincidence. Isaiah had prophesied about this incidence: “That saith to the deep, Be dry, and I will dry up thy rivers. That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid. Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut” (Isa.44:27-28).

Cyrus the Great gave Babylon to be ruled under the leadership of Darius the Mede (Prideaux, 1823). With Babylon out of the way the Persian Empire had established itself as the most powerful empire.


References

Levius (1999). Capture of Babylon (Herodotus). [Online]. Available from: http://www.livius.org/articles/person/darius-the-great/sources/capture-of-babylon-herodotus/ [Accessed: 30 March 2018].

Prideaux, H (1823). The Old and New Testaments connected : in the history of the Jews and neighbouring nations, from the declensions of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah to the time of Christ.[Online]. Available from: https://archive.org/details/oldnewtestaments01prid [ Accessed 30 March , 2018].

 

Notes on Daniel Chapter 7

Part 1: The Tide of Winds

The various prophetic visions recorded in the book of Daniel all spoke about the same thing, each vision only added more details to the previous one. As sir Isaac Newton correctly noted: “The Prophecies of Daniel are all of them related to one another, as if they were but several parts of one general prophecy, given at several times. The first is the easiest to be understood, and every following prophecy adds something new to the former.[1]

In Chapter 7 we read about a strange vision given to the prophet Daniel. The vision spoke about the rise and fall of four empires. This had been earlier shown to Nebuchadnezzar in form of a great composite image (see Daniel Chapter 2). To Nebuchadnezzar it was told that the head of gold symbolised his mighty empire but which would later be succeeded by another one, depicted by arms and breasts of silver.

Nebuchadnezzar lived to witness and experience the power of Yahweh, the God of the Jews. After him rose other Babylonian kings during whose reign Babylon continued to enjoy supremacy over the kingdoms of the world. At the time of the reign of Belshazzar it was almost 70 years since Jerusalem had been besieged by Babylon. Daniel was so greatly concerned about the future of his people and Jerusalem that he often prayed and supplicated over the matter (cf. Dan.9:2-3).When a person is sincerely concerned about a matter and consistently seeks the face of God over it, God hears and speaks (2 Chr.7:14). To Daniel, who had endured the many years of living in Babylon and waiting in faith for the deliverance of his people, was given a vision which gave details of how soon Babylon would give way to a new empire. The vision revealed details of the other empires to rise after Babylon, until the coming of the kingdom of God.

1 In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel had a dream and visions of his head upon his bed: then he wrote the dream, and told the sum of the matters.

Now notice what Daniel saw first before the appearance of the beasts:

2 Daniel spake and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea.

3 And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another.

The “four winds of the heaven” are spirits (principalities or evil forces) that were behind the rise of the “four beasts”. In the world the principalities affect the economic, political, military and religious forces of the world, the “four winds of the earth” (Rev.7:1). It is the tide of these winds of the earth that causes tension between kingdoms, leading to the fall of one empire and the rise of another.

Different scriptures emphasise that political systems of the world are controlled by evil forces. Believers who are spiritual (like Daniel) are aware that it is in the spiritual realm where real warfare begins before it manifests in the material world – “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph.6:12).

When one notices the madness of egos and selfishness which stirred and precipitated disastrous wars on a global scale – World War I and World War II – he or she should see that the events were influenced by spiritual wickedness in high places. It would actually be worthwhile at this juncture to illustrate how economic, political, military, and religious tides manifest and cause tension. This knowledge will help us understand how the “winds of the earth” can manifest.

Economic, Political, Military, and Religious tides in Modern history

The world witnessed the gruesome tempests of the winds during World War I and World War II. The first war should have been a mistake and the second a lesson never to be forgotten, but as of today, international politics seem to be quickly skewing towards another world war. Armed with nuclear weapons, it would only be prudent for the world to heed Albert Einstein’s words: “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” It is said that man is the only animal that trips twice over the same stone. But just how did the world get here? Incontinency!

In order to have a better understanding of how the four winds affect events of the world, let’s look at events which characterised the twentieth century

Incontinency and wars: reflecting on modern history

Incontinency is responsible for much of the trouble in the world. “The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing”, King Solomon said (Ecc.1:8). Commenting about World War I, a twentieth century historian remarked that the war was “the well-spring of our discontents.”

In the 1900s, although being already a great industrialised country, Germany became so obsessed with wanting to become a global power. One country stood in its way – Britain. Being aware of Germany’s manoeuvres, Britain began to fortify its naval forces. At that time industries relied on coal-fuel for transportation. But an alternative of oil slowly started becoming appealing. In the 1800s oil had mainly been used as kerosene for lighting lamps. But with the invention and continual development of aircrafts and motor cars in the 1900s, there was new and increased demand for oil.

In the United States of America John D. Rockefeller’s oil company – Standard Oil – had dominated the industry. Any competitor who would rise would either be bought and brought under Standard Oil or, if it resisted the offer, thrown out of business when Standard cut down its prices in regions where the competitor operated. Standard became such a formidable combination dominating the world market. However, with time other powerful companies began to rise and merge giving considerable competition against Standard Oil. In Russia Mr Ludwig Nobel was the ‘Oil King’ who established the Nobel Brothers Petroleum Producing Company. This company dominated the Russian oil trade.  In France there were the Rothschilds, a Jewish family, which invested heavily in oil. In Britain, Mr Marcus Samuel, also a Jew, ran Shell, a company which later combined with Mr Henri Deterding’s Royal Dutch. The fierce competitions that ensued among these companies were in every description war except bullets were not used! It is little wonder they became known as the Oil Wars. Daniel Yergin, in his book, The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power gives a description of the tensions which well befits the term ‘wars’:

The rapid rise of Russian production, the towering position of Standard Oil, the struggle for established and new markets at a time of increasing supplies – all were factors in what became known as the Oil Wars. In the 1980s, there was a continuing struggle involving four rivals – Standard, the Rothschilds, the Nobels, and the other Russian producers. At one moment, they would be battling fiercely for markets, cutting prices, trying to undersell one another; at the next they would be courting one another, trying to make an arrangement to apportion the world’s markets among themselves; at still the next, they would be exploring mergers and acquisitions. On many occasions, they would be doing all three at the same time, in an atmosphere of great suspicion and mistrust, no matter how great the cordiality at any given moment (Yergin, 2008, p.55).

Now, whenever a commodity becomes a significant force in the economy it soon becomes a political factor. This was exactly so for oil. Oil had begun as a mere economic commodity but which soon started influencing international politics.

The growing demand for oil led companies to start looking outside the borders of their countries to secure sufficient supplies for their markets. This quest for more, that bottomless hole which never gets filled, combined with inventions of oil-propelled vehicles was stirring the world into a dangerous direction. The thirst for more speed (from slow moving coal-powered vehicles to faster oil-fuelled ones, for example) was no longer for the mere need to do business quickly,  but to satisfy strategic requirements for war in case it broke out.

After WWI broke out, the victory of Britain and allied forces was quite influenced by oil propelled vehicles.  Thus, following WWII the quest to secure oil supplies was no longer a game only for businessmen; politicians were now heavily involved and were soon at the epicentre of oil conflicts. It was realised that oil was now a crucial strategic commodity, for the economy of a country as well as its military security.

No longer would the competition for new oil lands be primarily restricted to a battle among risk-taking entrepreneurs and aggressive businessmen. The Great War had made abundantly clear that petroleum had become an essential element in the strategy of nations; and the politicians and bureaucrats, though they had hardly been absent before, would now rush headlong into the centre of the struggle, drawn into the competition by a common perception – that the postwar would require ever-greater quantities of oil for economic prosperity and national power (ibid, p.168-169).

It was out of this quest that some European powers began to seek to control the Middle East, a region rich with oil.

In the early 1900s in Iran, a British by the name William Knox D’Arcy had been given a concession by the king of Persia (later named Iran) to explore, obtain, and market oil found in south-western Iran. That led to the formation of the Anglo Persian Oil Company (APOC). Mr D’Arcy became just the right contact Britain needed to get into Iran. By the year 1914 the British government managed to own 53% of the company shares to enable it take ownership of APOC. This gave Britain the opportunity to get into Iranian affairs and that was to change the country’s course of political history. Kazemi (2012) in Encyclopaedia Iranica notes:

British government involvement in the oil concession was intimately connected with the imminent conversion of the Royal Navy to oil fuel. The British provided indirect financial assistance and political backing to D’Arcy’s company, and in 1909, through complicated financial arrangements and intricate political maneuvers, the original D’Arcy concession became the Anglo-Persian Oil Company…The company also acquired the rights and shares of the First Exploitation Company and later, of the British-created Bakhtiari Oil Company. D’Arcy became a director of the new conglomerate, a post which he held until his death in 1917. The British government foothold in Iranian affairs was solidified by a 1914 Act of Parliament which effectively gave the government control over APOC through ownership of fifty-three percent of the shares and the privilege of appointing two ex officio directors with veto powers over all acts of the company and its subsidiaries. A thirty-year contract between the Admiralty and the company ensured a steady supply of oil to the Royal Navy at substantially reduced prices.

Local tribes in Iran were not happy with the operations of APOC. They began to oppose its operations. APOC then began to allocate 3% of some company shares to the chiefs. The company, later renamed Anglo Iranian Oil Company (following the change of the name of the country from Persia to Iran in 1935) continued to prosper, expand, and establish itself until the time of one brave democrat who had just become the Prime Minister of Iran, Dr. Mohammad Mosaddeq. This was in 1951.

Mosaddeq believed it was time for Iran to be in control of its oil. It was time for the country to receive the economic benefits of its commodity. He nationalised AIOC and then all hell broke loose! Political tension between Iran and Britain ensued. Attempts by president Truman of USA and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill of Britain, to persuade Mossadeq to reach a compromise solution failed and eventually diplomatic ties were severed. Next, the Western powers did what they know best – sanctions.

With looming economic difficulties, Mosaddeq had serious problems in leading his government. A coup d’état was organised and Mossadeq was ousted from power. At least that’s what every common person watching or reading the news knew. But reading the narration of events by Christopher Montague Woodhouse, a senior British secret agent in the operation that overthrew Mossadeq, reveals appalling details. As though a fiction Hollywood movie or alleged revelations of a conspiracy theorist, but actually details of the coup that the CIA officially admitted was carried out under its direction “as an act of U.S. foreign policy, conceived and approved at the highest levels of government” (Merica and Hanna, 2013), Robert Fisk presents the discussion he had with Woodson:

‘One of the first things I had to do was fly a planeload of guns into Iran’ Woodhouse said. He travelled on the aircraft from the Iraqi airbase …and then bought millions of Iranian riyals[2], handing them over at a secret location to the Rashidian brothers. They were to be the organisers of the mobs who would stage the coup (Fisk, 2006, p.116).

So Mossadeq was overthrown and replaced by the Shah, a puppet for the West. Diplomatic ties which had been severed now resumed. AIOC was granted 40% share of Iranian oil, and American oil companies were also given 40%. The remainder was to be given to other European oil concerns (Kazemi, 2012). The name of AIOC was changed to British Petroleum. A honeymoon it was between the West and the Shah. “Over the next quarter-century, the international oil industry exported 24 billion barrels of oil out of Iran” (Fisk, 2006, p.121). However, the honeymoon was to be only for a season.

A critical voice against the Shah was gaining momentum. The voice denounced the Shah as a puppet for the West; he lived a luxurious life and not having the future of his country at heart. This was not a mere voice of a politician. It was a religious voice of one, Ayatollah Khomeini. He won the support of Iranians and that was the beginning of the Islamic Revolution of Iran. Armed with ‘faith in Allah’, the people fought the Shah until his power was no more. Khomeini became the supreme leader of Iran.

These events of the world were not haphazard. It is important to know that although the Earth belongs to the Lord and the fullness thereof, the world does not. The world’s economic, political, religious, and military affairs are in the hands of Satan. Kingdoms and empires are controlled by principalities. It is for this reason that one can never receive true love or care in this world. Political powers of the world are at war for selfish interests. That is what Daniel was seeing in the vision as he saw the winds of heaven striving upon the sea as kingdoms, depicted as animals, rose one after another.

Citations

[1] Newton, I (1733).Observations upon the prophecies of Daniel, and the Apocalypse of St. John. London: J. Darby and T. Browne.

[2] Riyal is the currency of Iran.