The Late Great USA
Chapter One: Daniel 8
Where is the Coming US-Iraqi War in Bible Prophecy?
While most American prophecy scholars are looking across the ocean to see what is happening in the nation of Israel, Bible prophecy is being fulfilled in their presence in their own land. In this chapter we will engage in a short commentary on important portions of the eighth chapter of the biblical book of Daniel to show that the future of the United States is not a subject on which the Bible is silent.
It is helpful in interpreting the vision of Danielís eighth chapter to start with the clues given by the interpreting angel who comes to Daniel. The vision involves a ram with two horns being attacked by a goat from the west that has one notable horn. These animals and their horns represent nations. Scripture uses this symbolism in the previous chapter. In the seventh chapter of Daniel, the angel tells Daniel what the four beasts that he sees represent.
"These four huge beasts are four empires which will arise on earth." (Dan 7:17)
Thus, the animals represent nations, empires. We will want the angel to tell us what empires are represented in this vision in Daniel 8.
Another question we want the interpreting angel to answer is "When does this vision apply?" The angel does not disappoint us in providing these two items of information.
As to the question of the time of the vision, the angel says three different times, that the vision is for the time of the end:
1. v. 17: Understand, O son of man: for at the time of the end shall be the vision.
2. v.19a: I will make thee know what shall be in the last end of the indignation:
3. v.19b: for at the time appointed the end shall be.
The angel is being very clear that this vision is for the end of time. This is an angel from Heaven speaking, not an evangelical expositor. It is important to take note of this because all the evangelical expositors say that this vision deals with Alexander the Great.
A simple glance at the books on the church shelves and the Christian libraries, a read of all the major commentaries, a consult with the famous radio and TV preachers and a check of materials at the seminaries will agree. The verdict is well nigh unanimous. Because our forefathers for centuries (understandably) interpreted this vision to be Alexander's defeat of the Persian armies we will listen to them, not to the words of the angel from Heaven.
But for those few "noble Bereans" of today it should come as an exciting revelation that this vision will be fulfilled at the end of time, and thus it has an application long after the time of Alexander the Great.
As to the second area where we would look to the interpreting angel for help, that of the nations represented by these beasts and horns, the angel gives the following very plain declaration:
20 The ram which thou sawest having two horns are the kings of Media and Persia. 21 And the rough goat is the king of Grecia: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king.
Note in verse 21 that the goat is said to be a king, and then the "great horn" is also said to be a "king." What might appear to be an unnecessary redundancy in the vision, of having both goat and horn represent a "king" is cleared up upon examining the original tongue. "King" is from Strong's 4428 (melek) which is from 4427 (malak) which carries with it the idea of a "reign." It is translated that way in most of its 300+ usages. Thus the goat, the larger entity (compared to a horn) appears to represent a "reign", a territory of potentially vast proportions, whereas the horn would seem to represent one individual king within that larger "reign" or kingdom. Sort of like a state governor as a "king" within the larger "reign" of the United States, or even with a President as "king" over an entire area, or "reign."
If we are going to be loyal to the interpreting angel, we must find modern meanings for the phrase "kings of Media and Persia." To insist that these names can only refer to the ancient past, to the former kingdoms of Media and Persia, would be a form of rebellion. When angels give directions, it is best to listen.
A simple check of any encyclopedia will tell us that modern Iran was formerly called Persia. What about "Media?" The modern ethnic Kurds are the largest people group in the world without a home country. They dwell in several countries, including Iraq. The Kurds claim to be descendants of the ancient Medes, and thus it would be fair to say that the angel is using the name of the ancient nation of "Media" to refer to the area where it once existed, now the approximate area of Iraq and Syria.
We are given another rather interesting clue in this chapter about the nature of the kingdoms we are looking for. In the last chapter, ceremonially unclean animals, a leopard, a lion, and a bear, were used to represent heathen nations. But in this chapter, Daniel 8, Daniel is shown a vision which has sacrificial animals: a ram and goat. Sacrificial animals would imply religious conflict, and religious, not secular nations. Given the geography we have just uncovered, which includes the nations of Iran, Iraq, and Syria, it could be rationally and logically concluded that that "reign" we are being told about is that of Islam.
Another evidence from the text highlighting this secular/religious dichotomy in these visions is that Daniel 7 is written in Aramaic, the tongue of the Gentiles, and Daniel 8 is written in Hebrew, the tongue of the Jews.
The ram symbolizes the fundamentalist power of Islam in the Middle East in a life-or-death struggle with the goat, representing Greece. What power in the modern world is represented by the interpreting angel's mention of "Greece?" If we insisted on interpreting the angelís words with the literalism that Biblical conservatives and fundamentalists often insist upon, we would be forced to say that "Greece" means the modern nation of Greece.
Fortunately, the Bible offers evidence stronger than the culture of fundamentalism. The apostle Paul uses the expression "Greece" several places in the New Testament to refer to the civilized world. For example:
"For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: 23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;" (1 Cor 1:22-23)
The Greek word hellen, here translated "Greeks" is also translated as "Gentiles" and basically means a person who speaks Greek, not necessarily someone from the literal country of Greece. Greek was the language of the learned. It carried the culture which began with the famous ancient Greek poets and philosophers and ultimately became the basis for what today we call "Western civilization."
Notice that this goat comes from the "west." (v. 5) Thus we have pictured here, in cartoon form, the struggle between Islam and Western civilization, rooted in the culture of Christianity. Since September 11, 2001, is there any struggle on the face of the earth more prominent? The Bible, here in Daniel 8, has zeroed in on our time with amazing singularity.
The angel tells us that the prominent horn on this goat is "the first king." (v. 21)
Here the word translated "first" means "foremost", not necessarily first in terms of order. Who is the foremost, the "first", nation of modern Western civilization? It is certainly the United States of America, the wealthiest country in the history of the world. Thus we have pictured here in Daniel 8 a vision of the clash of civilizations East and West, a clash of religious cultures, Islamic and Christian.
The prophecy says that two major ram horns, or powers, will arise. The symbolism is saying that two kings or leaders will arise from this region. It is fair to say that in modern times there are exactly two major leaders who have arisen from this region, both who have been thorns in the side of the U.S. and the West. Time Magazine chose the Ayatullah Khomeini as the man of the year in 1979. He single handedly moved the nation of Iran from the modern course it had been taking to a radical, fundamental, Islamic nation whose laws were tied to the Koran, whose orientation was hostile to the West. This small country seized the U.S. embassy and held the West as a helpless hostage. Here is what Time had to say about its choice for Man of the Year:
In 1979 the AyatullahÖKhomeini met TIME's definition of Man of the Year: he was the one who "has done the most to change the news, for better or for worse."
In this choice, Time was acknowledging that this man from this small Middle Eastern country had a more singular effect on the world than any other man living. His orientation was plain: Allah must reign, the U.S. is Satan.
And who would the second horn be? Obviously one man stands out above all others in the world as a Middle Eastern leader of an Islamic nation, with great antipathy to the West, especially the U.S. The Iraq of Saddam Hussein would seem to be the other horn, coming from the area of Media and Persia.
The interpreting angel mentions the two horns as the kings of Media and Persia. Khomeini (Persia) and Saddam Hussein (geographical Media) would seem to fit the bill. The prophecy says
Then I lifted up mine eyes, and saw, and, behold, there stood before the river a ram which had two horns: and the two horns were high; but one was higher than the other, and the higher came up last. (Dan 8:3)
As far as these two horns being "high", the Hebrew word carries the idea of being proud. No one would argue that Khomeini and Hussein are anything but proud. As to one being "higher," we are simply being told that the latter of the two, presumably Hussein, is more proud than the former, Khomeini.
It would be helpful to mention here the tentativeness with which all unfulfilled prophecy should be held. While we have no doubts about the general meaning of this section of prophecy, that it depicts an all out war between Islamic and Western cultures, it may be that Saddam is the first horn and that a more evil horn will follow him, a wild-eyed religious leader more fiery and dangerous than Khomeini. But it would be hard to deny that two major twin horns from this region, which is what the prophecy calls for, have been Khomeini and Hussein.
It is interesting to note that it is not Arab solidarity that the prophecy is pointing to, because Iran is not an Arab country, like so many countries are in the Middle East. The solidarity of Iraq and Iran is that of Islam; it is religious solidarity.
Jesus talked about the purpose of prophecy when he said,
And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe. John 14:29
Thus, one of the purposes of prophecy is not so much that we might have a crystal ball to know the future, but that through the proclamation of prophecy, people will come to faith when the prophecy comes to pass.
After the prophecy points us toward the ram, and the Islamic powers it represents, where are we then pointed?
And as I was considering, behold, a he-goat came from the west over the face of the whole earth, and touched not the ground: and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes. (Dan 8:5)
Here is a power coming from the West. It is another reference to Western civilization. This power comes "over the face of the whole earth and touches not the ground." This is not a reference to Alexander the Great, no matter how hard commentators try to say these words apply to him. Alexander marshaled his troops on the ground. But in Desert Storm we used the air as a main line of attack. Our jets did not touch the ground. We came over the whole earth. Here is indeed another clue that that this is a modern reference. "Not touching the ground" requires sophisticated air travel.
What does the prophecy say will be the response of the U.S. to the rise of this second "horn"? You donít need a Bible to know what is presently in nearly every newspaper in the world: The U.S. is getting ready to bomb Iraq. The prophecy said that the goat had a "notable horn between his eyes." Thus the goat is the West generally, and the horn is the ringleader of the West, the U.S. The unified action of the goat shows that the U.S. will have the backing of the West, but it also makes plain that the U.S. is leading the way. That is certainly how the coming war with Iraq has been taking shape. The U.S. has had to spar with the other Western nations to try and get them on board for this attack.
Verse 6 says:
And he came to the ram that had the two horns, which I saw standing before the river, and rush upon him in the fury of his power. (Dan 8:6)
This is plainly the description of a frontal attack. It is going to happen. It is written. It is prophesied.
Verse 7 says:
And I saw him come close unto the ram, and he was moved with choler against him, and smote the ram, and brake his two horns: and there was no power in the ram to stand before him, but he cast him down to the ground, and stamped upon him: and there was none that could deliver the ram out of his hand.
In Daniel 8 is a vision of a ram crushing a two-horned goat.
This depicts a Desert Storm-like obliteration of these Islamic forces. The two horns are utterly broken with no one to help. With the demise of the Soviet Union it would seem we need not fear retaliation if we should bomb several of these Islamic countries into submission. The war drums are being beaten by the current U.S. administration, and it is no secret that troops and equipment are being deployed for a move on Iraq.
The Scripture says that the U.S. is "moved with choler." That is, the U.S. is angry. Isnít that a fair description of U.S. attitudes after the destruction of the World Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001? While it is very possible that another atrocity like that of September 11 could occasion the final deadly blow pictured in the prophecy before us, even that might not be needed to trigger a strike. President Bush has not hidden his tough talk about Iraq, and no one would be surprised if he gave the order, even though many people would object. One way or another, there will be a U.S. strike on Iraq or some other Middle Eastern country that is set on terrorism and destruction, because this prophecy says so.
What happens next? The U.S. becomes very proud. "Therefore the he goat waxed very great." (v. 8) We will be so proud of our Super Bowl sting of these Islamic dogs. Picture George Bush's victory dances around the country after Desert Storm. Beware when you see the U.S. in its next victory dance of this type, when the second horn is crushed. Verse 8 succinctly says:
"...and when he was strong, the great horn was broken."
Here is the plain biblical revelation of the fate of the U.S. The symbolism of the "great horn"--the U.S.--being "broken" is a graphic picture of the economic collapse of the U.S. Thatís what is depicted by the symbolism of a horn being broken. The horn is not vaporized. The U.S. will still exist. But if the economy of the U.S. suffers a massive depression, the whole world will be weakened, and the U.S. will suffer what all countries experience in such a depression. There will be a massive loss of power, and a vacuum which will quite likely be filled by an authority alien to the American model of representative democracy.
This topic is one that arises in the study of Revelation 13, to which we will now turn.