OF WHEN? - Part Four

Understanding Satan’s great time hoax

Published 26th May 2018
By John Aldworth

The devil is not only the ‘Great Pretender’ – i.e. purporting to be God when he is not – he is also the ‘Great Usurper’ and the ‘Great Pre-emptor’. That is, he anticipates what the Lord will do and presents his own counterfeit version first before God brings on the real thing.

The Apostle Paul said he was ‘not ignorant of Satan’s devices’ (2 Cor. 2:11) but sadly today many Christians are unaware of Satan’s ‘get in first’ strategy and misunderstand scripture as a consequence.

For example, most fail to realise the devil, in the form of the serpent, was already in the Garden of Eden before God placed Adam in it (compare Gen. 1:25, 2:8 and 3:1). And he also ‘got in first’ by saying Adam and Eve would be ‘as gods’ if they ate the forbidden fruit, long before the Lord revealed the true way for man to be like God, that is, recreated in his image through the death, burial and resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Satan made a further pre-emptive strike before Israel entered the Promised Land. Thus even before God told Abraham He would give him ‘this land’, ‘the Canaanite was then (already) in the land’ (Gen 12:7). Now, as emissaries of the devil, Canaanites stand as the foremost of the ‘serpent’s seed’ (Gen. 3:15). They were descendants of the hybrid giants spawned when ‘angels came in unto the daughters of men’ (Gen. 6:1-4), Satan’s shock troops sent in to secure the Promised Land before Israel, the people of God, got to occupy it.

You see Satan always sends in the counterfeit first. That is why Jesus gave solemn warning to his disciples that this is what would happen during the Day of Christ (Phil. 1:6, 10, 2:16), the pre-millennial kingdom of God in which He will rule over earth from heaven, saying:

Take heed no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying I am Christ, and shall deceive many (Matt. 24:5).

Why do you need to know this? Because failure to take into account Satanic pre-emption warps our understanding of both the Bible and God’s plan for the ages. Consequently, it takes its place as the subject of this, the fourth study in this series, ‘The important question of when’. 

In particular we now look at the great prophecies recorded in the Book of Daniel, here the devil has pulled off one the greatest hoaxes in history. In fact, it would not be going too far to say that Satan has deliberately altered and re-arranged the course of history to cover up the truth of what these prophecies mean.

Allow me to explain. Most bible-reading believers know God gave King Nebuchadnezzar a dream in which he saw an image depicting five great world empires (Dan. 2:24-45). Now, it is commonly taught that this ‘great image’ depicts four real empires of history with a fifth yet to come. They are seen as historical Babylon (a.k.a. the head of gold), historical Medo-Persia (breast and arms of silver), the Greece of history (belly and thighs of brass, or bronze) and the historical Roman Empire (legs of iron) with ‘restored’ Rome yet to come (as the feet of clay and iron).

But and it’s a big but, these empires of history cannot be the empires of Daniel’s prophecy. For one thing even today none of them as described in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream have come into existence as yet. Surely not, you say. Doesn’t history records that the empires of Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome really did exist in the past? Yes, it does, but the prophecies in Daniel are not about the past but the future; in fact about a different age, a different world to be brought about by God thousands of years after Daniel’s day and still to come after ours. And this timing is plainly set forth in scripture:

                Dan. 8:23: … in the latter time of their kingdom when the transgressors are come to the full …

                Dan. 11:40: And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him…

    Dan. 12:1: And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children (i.e. later descendants) of thy people…

    Dan. 12:4: But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, even to the time of the end.

    Dan. 12:9: And he said, go thy way Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.

Today we are still not living ‘in the time of the end’ as many assert, for the ‘latter times’ have yet to begin, let alone end.

Another reason is that Dan. 3:44 says:

And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven shall set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.

Most certainly hasn’t happened yet. So clearly ‘the days of these of these kings’ are yet to come. Why then, one might ask, do so many teachers understand them as having been already fulfilled? The answer is that they failed to carefully study what scripture actually says, and to ‘rightly divide’ it (2 Tim. 2:15).

But there’s more, and for this I am indebted to bible teacher, Tom Ballinger who spent years prayerfully examining and ‘rightly dividing’ (2 Tim. 2:15) the Book of Daniel. He was stunned to find the empires in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream will exist only in a time yet to come. Now granted, there really were the empires of Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome in past history but they were not and are not what the prophecy is about.

Let me say again, the heart of Nebuchadnezzar’s ‘Great Image’ dream is that the empires ‘broken into pieces’ by an everlasting kingdom will only come into being in the ‘latter days’, that is, in the ‘hereafter’. This is made clear in Dan. 2:28b and 29 which state that God:              

                … maketh known to King Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days.              

As for thee, O king, thy thoughts came into thy mind upon thy bed, what should come to pass hereafter, and He that revealeth secrets maketh known to thee what shall come to pass.

Clearly then the empires shown in the vision of the ‘great image’ belong to the future, not the past. Thus, while Nebuchadnezzar truly was ruler of Babylon the world’s greatest empire at the time he dreamed, the Babylon he saw in the ‘great image’ vision lay far in the future. Indeed, it has not come existence even in our day. It will only emerge in the coming Day of Christ.

The same can be said for the subsequent empires of silver, brass, iron, iron and clay (Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome and the latter day empire of iron and clay, as the popular view of Daniel has it). Yes, such empires did indeed exist in the past but they did not fulfil the ‘great image’ prophecy, for the simple reason that in their days ‘God did not set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed’ (Dan. 2:44). Therefore, they are still future.

But God will set up such a kingdom in the Day of Christ after the five great empires portrayed in the dream prophecy hold sway successively over the earth in the first centuries of this wonderful new age now shortly to come to pass. Thus, again your attention is drawn to importance of when.

You see, diligent bible study shows that both the latter days (Dan. 10:14) and hereafter (Dan. 2:28b and 29, 10:45) refer to the period mentioned as ‘the last day’ in the gospels and later designated by the Apostle Peter as the ‘times of restitution of all things’ (Acts 3:21). This special day of God’s dealings with man is termed the ‘Day of Christ’ (Phil. 1:6, 10 and 16) by the Apostle Paul. It is when Christ will shine forth his glory from heaven at his ‘appearing and his kingdom’ (Titus 2:13, 2 Tim. 4:1). It is when the Lord will inaugurate his rule from heaven over earth. It is when He will ‘judge the quick and the dead’ (2 Tim. 4:1).

So how come bible interpreters have had it wrong all these years? Short answer: the devil.  He has so engineered world history, to make it ‘his story’, that he has fooled nearly all of God’s people into believing the bulk of Daniel’s prophecies have been fulfilled already. In effect he has persuaded them that he, the devil, is fulfilling Daniel’s vision, not God, and that, indeed, he has already done so.

But, you say, is the devil able to contrive and bring about in real life his version of history, and make the whole world run to his programme? Well, yes he is. Didn’t the Apostle John write: ‘The whole world lies in the power of wickedness’ (1 John 5:19)? Didn’t Paul the Apostle say ‘… the course of this world (is) according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience’ (Eph. 2:2)?

When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness Satan declared he held power over all the kingdoms of the world, not God, and offered them to the Lord if only He would worship him. What’s more Jesus did not argue or deny that Satan held such authority (Luke 4:5-7).

So, then, hard as it may be to believe, Satan has engineered and brought about four great world empires thousands of years ahead of the time God said they would exist. Why? To obscure and hide the truth of the ‘latter days’, the Day of Christ in which such empires will flourish under his rule, not just their own.

You see, in God’s plan of the ages, the five yet to be raised up Gentile world empires, as depicted in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, will hold sway for some 700 years in the coming Day of Christ. This timing was deduced by Tom Ballinger from the Dan. 9: 24-27 ‘seventy weeks’ prophecy.

But, I hear you say, wasn’t the ‘seventy weeks’ prophecy largely fulfilled at Christ’s first coming? Well, no, not if you see it from God’s perspective. And, again, as He sees it, the fact that the empires of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome did rule in ancient times does not fulfil the prophecy of the ‘great image’ dream.

Again, allow me to explain. The reality from God’s perspective is always his rule and the execution of his plan and purpose for the ages. This will stand regardless of whatever in the meantime, to human eyes, seems to totally contradict it.

Now, at the time of the dream Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian empire held sway over the earth. Sadly, Israel, which should have been ‘the head, not the tail’, no longer existed as a nation in her own land. Conquered, killed and dispersed with only a few believers surviving in captivity the people of God were as far from being the vehicle to bring the God’s rule on earth as it was possible to be. All because of their rebellion against the Lord and descent into idol worship, of course.  Consequently, the devil, to all intents and purposes, now ruled the earth through the person of Nebuchadnezzar.

Yet God, looking far forward to the end game, saw something entirely different. He foresaw an earth ruled from heaven, a new age in which all men would bow the knee to his Son and every tongue confess the name of Jesus as the God who became man and, on dying for our sin, was exalted by God to bear a name above every name (Phil. 2: 9-11).

What’s more, this future Lord of glory revealed Himself as such to Daniel at least twice during the prophet’s lifetime. That is, He appeared in vision to Daniel as ‘the great God and Saviour’ (Titus 2:13) and the ‘blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords’ (1 Tim. 6:15) He will be in the soon coming Day of Christ, the next great event on God’s calendar. Read about these visions in Daniel 10: 1 and 5-6:

In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a thing was revealed unto Daniel, whose name was called Belteshazzar, and the thing (i.e. message) was true but the time appointed was long…

Then I lifted up mine eyes and looked and, behold, a certain man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with fine gold of Uphaz.  His body was also like the beryl (a precious stone, sea-green in colour)[1] and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as lamps of fire, and his arms and feet like in colour to polished brass, and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude.

Here the Lord appears in all his heavenly glory as He will ‘at his appearing and his kingdom’ (2 Tim. 4:1) when He is made manifest to all men at the start of the Day of Christ. In that day all on earth will know Him; they will bow the knee to Him who, though God, humbled Himself to become a man and die. They will bow the knee to Him and confess that He is Lord. Daniel then in this vision is being carried far forward in time to see Jesus as He will be when He is revealed to all in heaven and earth as the Saviour and God of all men, as the ‘judge of the quick and the dead’ (2 Tim. 4:1) and to Whom all will bow at ‘his appearing and kingdom’.

And what did the coming Lord of all (Phil. 2:9-10 and Eph. 1:20-22) tell Daniel about the time when He would be revealed in his glory? In Daniel 10:14 He said:

Now I am come to make thee understand what shall befall thy people in the latter days for the vision is for many days.

Again, in Dan. 7:13, 10:9-19 and 8:15-19 Daniel is fast forwarded in time to see the Lord in glory ‘as one like the Son of Man’, to see Him approach ‘the throne of the Ancient of Days’  and to be spoke to and even touched by Him.

Furthermore, it seems all the heavenly visions imparted to Daniel in his book concern or culminate in the ‘latter days’, a.k.a. the Day of Christ, as the following notes from our earlier study ‘What are the latter days?’ show.

For example in Daniel 8:17 and 19 the angel Gabriel tells Daniel:              

Understand, O son of man: for at the time of the end shall be the vision. And he said, Behold I will make thee know what shall be in the last end of the indignation, for at the time appointed the end shall be.

The words ‘at the time of the end’ and their equivalents run like a river through Daniel’s prophecies. Thus in Dan. 10:1 Daniel understands that ‘the thing was true but time appointed was long’; After being foretold of the rise and fall of Persia and of Greece the prophet is reminded by the angel in 11:27, ‘for yet the end shall be at the time appointed’.

As to Daniel’s own people, he is told that even those that ‘understand’ shall fall (11:35) ‘to try them and to purge, and to make them white, even to the time of the end: because it is yet for a time appointed.

The ‘latter days’ timeline is restated again in 11:40: ‘And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him (until the indignation be accomplished) and the king of the north shall come at him …’

Thankfully, for Israel there will be deliverance amid her great trouble in these times. Daniel 12:1 proclaims that:

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 that same time, and at that time they people shall be delivered, every one that shall be written in the book.

And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament: and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.

We Gentiles should not be ignorant of these ‘latter days’ for the resurrection that occurs then will at the start include us. Accordingly, in 2 Timothy 4:1 the Apostle Paul tells Timothy:

I charge thee before God and the Lord Jesus Christ (who) shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom.

This kingdom, of course, is the Lord’s ‘heavenly kingdom’ (2 Timothy 4:18), to which we Gentile, grace-saved saints of the ‘high calling’ are summoned. It is the time when the Lord will rule from heaven over earth, as we see Him doing, in rehearsal as it were, in the Book of Daniel.

To sum up, we learn again that asking the question ‘when?’ reveals huge and important truths.  Among them is that the devil hijacks human history in a bid to forestall God’s plan and determined eternal purpose to fully redeem mankind. However, he will not succeed. God is actually the Lord of time and his purpose will be accomplished perfectly, no matter it takes thousands of years. So, both Israel and we Gentiles, look for our resurrection in the latter days, the Day of Christ which He inaugurates through his appearing (Titus 2:13). It is both our ‘blessed hope’ and theirs.


Series to be continued

[1] The beryl appears in Rev. 21:20 as the eighth foundation of ‘the new Jerusalem’. It signifies that the holy city’s inhabitants will occupy it through resurrection.