Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
Daniel 11 – Three more kings will rise and challenge the prince of Javan [Greece]. A mighty ruler will rise but even his empire will not last. The king of the South – Ptolemy I Soter – will rise and then a whole series of events are predicted that reflect the history of the time and the region. A lot of this is lost on me. The two Hellenistic empires – Seleucids and Ptolemies – that arose after Alexander’s death have a lot of history that we don’t really study any more. This book reflects the inner turmoil between these dynasties and the impact it all had on the Jews. Antiochus IV Epiphanes is the one important in the Maccabaean books. He seizes the throne that Demetrius, the young son of his brother Seleucus IV, was supposed to inherit.
Antiochus engages in several military campaigns against the Ptolemies of Egypt, one of which resulted in terrible abuse of the Jews and the second of which led to Roman intervention and Antiochus’ withdrawal. The king will become so full of himself, he will consider himself “greater than all the gods; he will utter incredible blasphemies against the God of gods, and he will thrive until the wrath reaches a bursting point; for what has been decreed will certainly be fulfilled” (11:36-37). He will “use the people of an alien god [New Jerusalem note says this is a reference to “Syrians and to renegade Jews with whom the king had garrisoned the new citadel” (1447)]
“When the time comes for the End, the king of the South will try conclusions with him; but the king of the North will come storming down on him with chariots, cavalry, and a large fleet . . . He will invade the Land of Splendor, and many will fall; but Edom, Moab, and what remain of the sons of Ammon will escape him” (11:40-41). He will attack Egypt and subdue Libyans and Cushites as well. Reports from the East and North will bring distress and “in great fury he will set out to bring ruin and complete destruction to many” (11:44). He will come to an end when he dies.
Daniel 12 – The struggles of the times are seen somehow as a part of the end-of-times scenario the writer believes God is unveiling to him. “There is going to be a time of great distress, unparalleled since nations first came into existence. When that time comes, your own people [the Jews] will be spared, all those whose names are found written in the Book. Of those who lie sleeping in the dust of the earth many will awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting disgrace. The learned will shine as brightly as the vault of heaven, and those who have instructed many in virtue, as bright as stars for all eternity” (12:1-3).
Daniel is told he must keep this all secret and the book sealed “until the time of the End” (12:4).
Daniel has a vision in which he sees two men standing by the stream where he was and one of them addresses the “man dressed in linen who was standing further up the stream” (12:5), and he asks how long it will be until this all happens. “The man raises his right hand and his left to heaven and swore by him who lives forever, ‘A time and two times, and half a time; and all these things are going to happen when he who crushes the power of the holy people meets his en’. I listened but did not understand” (12:7).
The man in linen tells Daniel to keep these words secret until the “time of the End” (12:9). “Many will be cleansed, made white and purged; the wicked will go on doing wrong; the wicked will never understand; the learned will understand. From the moment that the perpetual sacrifice is abolished and the disastrous abomination erected: one thousand two hundred and ninety days. Blessed is he who stands firm and attains a thousand three hundred and thirty-five days. But you, go away and rest; and you will rise for your share at the end of time” (12:10-13). What can one say. Harold Camping thought he had it all figured out, but they are meant to be words of mystery.
The conflicts among nations in the context of unfaithfulness and lack of responsiveness of people to God’s call to faithfulness is the eternal scenario – one that could be seen in the 2nd century BC and one that could be seen as the deep reality of today as well.
From Leadings: A Catholic’s Journey Through Quakerism
In my senior year, my disaffection with everything—government, country, and American culture—reached such a pitch that I decided to leave the country forever. I would move to Europe and became an expatriate like Camus—in Paris preferably—be an intellectual, try to find people who understood where history was going and who were interested in making a better future. I made plans to work in a suburb of Paris and purchased tickets to travel one way to Europe by freighter—nothing else seemed apropos. What I would do to make a living what skills I would bring to the world—none of these things seemed relevant. The world was on the verge of revolution. You couldn’t just settle into the system that existed, so you might as well strike out and see what was around, what was going on in more “progressive” places.
Before moving to that stage of my journey, however, it is important to mention one last thing about college. In my last year at college, I rediscovered Eliot’s Four Quartets. A routine assignment in a modern poetry class was to write a long study of any modern poem. It didn’t need to be a research paper, but it had to be a thorough personal analysis. Rather than reading a poem over and over, I decided to take out a recording I could listen to so I could really get a feel for the work. I came across a record of Eliot reading his Four Quartets. As soon as I started listening to it, I realized it was the poem I had read in high school. I listened to it over and over until I knew much of it by heart. I fell in love with it in a way I have never loved any piece of literature, but I would stop short of saying I understood it. Like many great poems, it was elusive, but there were parts of it that hit me hard. It seemed to capture in a poetic way many of the mysteries I had found so alluring in religion—that sense of a reality that reached beyond time; the oneness we felt with human beings who had come before us in time or who would come after us; the irrepressible intuition we had that there was some ultimate significance to human existence. Over the next fifteen years, the poem would keep alive in me a small place where faith continued to be valid.