The Great Conflict
To those of us who have lost some tread on our tires, we know by experience that life at times is a struggle. We know that in life, there are times when difficulties abound. And the Bible is not shy. The Bible never hesitates in describing the Christian life as warfare--not physical warfare, but spiritual warfare. And this spiritual warfare is real. It's not a fantasy. It is not the product of someone's overstimulated imagination.
The Christian has powerful forces working both for them and against them in the unseen realm. Beloved, if you are in Christ, if you are a believer, you are a part of this great conflict. That's why the Apostle Paul teaches us about the spiritual armor that, it's a necessity for every believer to put on daily, the spiritual armor of God in order to protect ourselves and to keep us from becoming casualties of this spiritual warfare. Sadly, I'm afraid many Christians they're not properly prepared for the war, that they will inevitably face each and every day. They go out each day dressed as if they were going on a picnic or holiday. They're wearing their shorts and T shirts and or flip flops, leaving themselves totally unprepared for the day's battles. And what happens? We lose.
And perhaps there's some here today that you don't really think much of spiritual warfare now I'm not talking about when I was a younger man i think is about 30 years ago, Frank Peretti wrote a series of books: "This Present Darkness". Who read this read any of those series of books? okay. Let me talk to Don and Marion for a moment, no. Frank Peretti wrote thid series of novels and which dealt with the subject of demons in everyday life. And I think he wrote several but it just got to be too much because, old Frank, he saw demon everywhere: Burned your toast? Pray the demon out of the toaster. Ca r won't start? Open the hood up, get that demon out of there. I mean, it was just way too many demons for reality. But we must not make the mistake of going to the other extreme and think: "Well, there is no influence, apart from what we can see." Because Daniel 10 clearly teaches that there is influence going on in realms that we cannot see. And only by the grace of God, Daniel was given insight into this, so that not only would he understand what was going on, but that you and I would be able to understand what is going on. And so if you have not given much thought to the reality of spiritual warfare, my prayer for you today would be that by the time that we get through the end of Daniel chapter 10, you will see just how real it is.
Now, Daniel chapter 10, starts the final vision of the book. In fact, Daniel chapter 10 prepares us for the details of the vision in chapters 11 and 12. In reality, chapters 10, 11 and 12 make up one complete unit. And if time and your patience permitted, we really should address it as one complete unit. But I know time nor your patience would allow that to happen. So I've titled today's message as well as the next two messages, "The Great Conflict", because they all deal with the same subject. They're all a part of the whole. So in verse one is a setup for everything that follows. Let's look at verse one together. Daniel writes,"In the third year, Cyrus king of Persia, a word was revealed to Daniel, who was named Belteshazzar. And the word was true, and it was a great conflict. And he understood the word and had understanding of the vision." So this is written after-the-fact of that he's seen all of this, he's given understanding. And so he introduces the vision this way. So the vision that encompasses the final three chapters of the book of Daniel takes place two years after his previous vision that led to the subsequent appearance of Gabriel. Remember, Gabriel was sent by God to let him know that his prayer had been heard, that his prayer would be answered. And as we spent a lot of time on last week, to reassure Daniel, to let Daniel know that despite all of these terrible things that he saw that he was greatly loved. Now, if your Bible is like mine, you'll notice that verse two begins a new paragraph.
So in verse two, Daniel begins to tell us that for three weeks, he was in a state of mourning. For three weeks he had not any as he described it rich food, or drank any of the wine that was available to him as a man of standing in the government. He also says he didn't anoint himself with oil. And you have to keep in mind that Daniel lived in a very hot and arid climate that would quickly dry out his skin. And so to combat this problem, they would rub themselves down with oil, much like we use lotions today. So we see Daniel, he's morning, he's denying himself things that he normally would partake. So the question is, why was Daniel in mourning? What has caused him to change his regular pattern, his regular routine? Well, you know, it doesn't matter how old you are, you never forget the place of your birth. The place that you were born is always going to hold, at least for me it does, always has a soft spot in my heart; it's a place of affection. You have affection for the place that you call home. You know, you think of the things that you can I can only get and since now until recently skyline chili, amen. LaRosas pizza, even better, you know, The Reds? Bengals, meh? Yeah, but for better for worse, Cincinnati's my home, I'm a Buckeye through and through.
Well, Daniel was mourning for those who had returned to his home land. For those who returned to Jerusalem. He was mourning for them. And he was mourning for the condition that they found upon their return. Now, Daniel, and this is important, Daniel is not mourning for himself. Daniel was not having a pity party. Daniel was not saying "Oh, poor, poor me. I can't believe what's happened to my homeland. And I can't believe that I'm stuck here in exile." No, he wasn't having a pity party for himself. His concern was for the condition of the people. His concern was for the condition of the city of Jerusalem. His concern was for the opposition that the people were facing, and the discouragement, that opposition, if we are not careful, produces in our lives. So he was concerned for his national brothers and sisters. And likewise, as we mentioned in prayer meeting this morning, we as believers must be concerned about our spiritual brothers and sisters in Christ, who are at this very hour, some being persecuted for their faith. See, we sit here in little Berea, Kentucky and we've got air conditioning, and we've got a nice place to meet. And we forget about those people that have to meet in secret and who they don't know that perhaps there's someone in there midst who's a spy on behalf of the government ready to rat them out. And they live in fear that the knock at the door will come and their husband or their wife or their kids, or someone will be carried off and persecuted. It may be killed. Today, we should never ever forget that. Daniel's heart was with the people of God. And I pray that our hearts our prayers are with our brothers and sisters in Christ, wherever they may be.
I think Daniel also mourned because just a fraction of the exiles decided to return home. Let's think this through: Many of them, who had been carried into exile, were raised in the exile. Who knows? Maybe met their spouses in exile, had children in exile had grown so accustomed to the customs and the culture of Babylon, that they did not want to go back to Jerusalem. In other words, they forgot where they came from. They no longer felt any allegiance to the God of Israel. You say, is there a lesson for us to learn from this? Absolutely. Because what? We are exiles in this world, aren't we, this world is not our home. And if we are not careful, we will think that it is and we become so attached to it that we think that this is all that there is. It's not. We must guard, fiercely guard ourselves against the tendency of thinking that this world is our home.
I just finished reading the biography Ian Murray's biography of Martin Lloyd Jones. And the second to last chapter was worth all the other chapters in the book. You said "How come?" Because it dealt with his death. And what struck me was the attitude the good doctor had towards death. He was ready to die. He looked forward to his heavenly home for those of you who do not know, he was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1968- that's when he retired from the pulpit of Westminster. But he lived another 13 years. What many people don't know is that the cancer returned at the end of his life. And he would go and he would take his treatments. And finally, about three weeks before his death, the doctor said, "Doctor, there's really no point in you coming anymore. The treatments aren't doing you any good." And when he reached a point when he could no longer speak, he wrote a note to his family that said, "Don't pray for healing. Don't try and hold me back from the glory." The good doctor died on a Sunday morning. And he told Ian Murray who wrote his biography that he wished that people, that Christians spent more time thinking about death. And that far too many Christians don't spend enough time thinking about death and the glory that awaits them. Folks, beloved, do you realize there are no bad days in heaven? I would say the worst day in heaven is better than the best day here but there are no worst days in heaven.
I miss my parents. But I'm glad I don't see my mom suffer with cancer. I miss my dad. But I don't miss him struggling for breath. So I have to ask you are you so attached to this world that you don't want to leave it? Daniel mourned that too many of the of his people were content to stay in Babylon.
Second, he was mourning because the situation that was taking place in Jerusalem. Remember, God had shown Daniel through the writings of Jeremiah that the time of the exile was coming to an end and that God would fulfill his promise. And the people of Judah would be allowed to return to the promised land. So in the first year of Cyrus, the first of the exiles return home to Jerusalem. But upon their homecoming things didn't go as they had planned things didn't go as they had hoped. There was no welcoming parade. There was no homecoming party. They managed to get the altar and the temple rebuilt. But once they got that completed, they began to encounter opposition. And the opposition was so fierce that they ceased the rebuilding program. And it didn't begin again until 15 years later. So think about what those people must have felt. They've been so excited to return home. But what did they find when I got there? A city in ruins, a temple destroyed, and neighbors who did really want them coming back. And Daniel, Upon hearing this news goes into a period of mourning not for himself, but for the people of God and for the glory of God. And it wasn't just the opposition to the rebuilding that concern Daniel, I think what concerned Daniel more was that the fact that the exiles gave up so easily in the face of opposition. The situation at home meaning Jerusalem, required the people of God to return to their God, and to remain faithful to God despite the hardships and the opposition that they were facing. See, excitement will only take you so far right? We've all entered into some project with a great deal of excitement. But excitement fades, doesn't it. And many times what happens when the excitement fades, we give up we quit.
We're not careful, this temptation to give up overwhelms us. And so that's exactly what we do. Now listen, there are times when you ought to quit some things. Okay? But this wasn't one of those times. So h ow do you stay faithful to God over the long haul? How do you stay faithful to God over the long haul? Well, Sinclair Ferguson says "The knowledge of God's work of grace in the past encourages us to trust him and seek His blessing in the present and for the future." So what's the best way to remind yourself of what God has done in the past? Stay in the scriptures. You know, you read the Old Testament, you read the books of the law, you read the prophets and repeatedly you see God telling the people remember, remember, remember. Remember what? Remember, particularly the Exodus. Remember how I delivered you out of slavery. Remember how I went toe to toe with Pharaoh and I squashed all of his false gods, I conquered them all. I brought you out with a mighty hand, they made the mistake of chasing after you and what happened? They drowned in the midst of the Red Sea. Remember. Remember my faithfulness to you remember my power that I've used on your behalf. But I think there's also another way and that is we can look back in our own past and our own lives and see what God has done for us. And that encourages us to be faithful now in the future. All of us can look back to something that God has done, that gives us encouragement, and keeps us moving forward gives us the strength and faith in order to keep us moving forward.
Second it's just a very practical thing. Faithfulness over the long haul requires commitment. Commitment. You have to make up your mind. "Here I stand I can do no other". "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Faithfulness requires commitment. Daniel was mourning over the lack of commitment being displayed by those who had returned to Jerusalem. And if anyone understood the need for faithfulness over the long haul, it had to be Daniel. We meet Daniel in chapter one, obviously, of the book. And we said he was probably somewhere 14 or 15, maybe 17 years of age. Now we come to Daniel here again and Daniel chapter 10. And guess what? He's in his mid to late 80s. That's what I call faithfulness over the long haul. Don't you think that there was a period in his life when he had to make a commitment? There was times we had to re up on that commitment, he had to recommit himself. Daniel was faithful. Daniel was committed even in the face of death. "If you pray three times a day, you're going into the lions den." "Thn I'm going into the lions den." So he was willing to risk his life in order to remain faithful to God. And so God rewarded His faithfulness by letting him get a glimpse into the future or what the future held for the people of God.
So out of the mourning, comes a messenger. Look at verses four through six. "On the 24th day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river that is Tigris, I lifted up my eyes and looked and behold, a man clothed in linen. With a belt of fine gold from Uphaz around his waist. His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a multitude." Daniel, who already in his life had had several strange visions and dreams, now sees one that by his own account, affects him more than the previous visions. And in this final vision, he describes a man who was unlike any man, or anything that he had seen. So immediately, our minds want to know, who is this man? Can we identify this man 100%? Get your pencils out? I'm going to give you the answer. You're ready? No, we can't. We can't.
But that doesn't mean that there aren't some parallels in Scripture that we can draw from to aid our understanding. Of course, immediately for most of us, many of us, perhaps our minds immediately turn to the Lord Jesus. And why is that? So? Because, as we read the vision of Daniel here, and we remember the vision of John in Revelation, there are some similarities. But as we read the text closely here in Daniel chapter 10, I think there are couple of things that lead us away from identifying this one as Jesus. For instance, in verse 11, the main in Division says to Daniel that he has been sent to Daniel by someone else in order to strengthen him. He goes on to tell Daniel, that he had been obstructed for a time in reaching him by the prince of the Kingdom of Persia, a demonic being until the angel Michael arrived to help him. Now, I will grant this, that one could argue that if it is Jesus, then perhaps it was the Father who sent him. But that still leaves us with a problem: why Jesus, of why the Son of God, why God would need help from Michael. That goes against everything else that we know the Scripture teaches. So for that reason alone, I would not identify this man is Jesus. Here's what we can do. If we study the parallels between the appearance of this man and Daniel chapter 10. And then we go to Ezekiel chapter one where Ezekiel has this really strange vision of God and the cherubims. Well, we can see from that from comparing those two accounts, that there are some similarities, but they're not identical. There are some differences between the two visions between the two appearances. But if we go to Ezekiel, chapter nine, verses two through four, and Ezekiel chapter 10, you can do this this afternoon at halftime while you're watching a football game, amen? If you read that, you will see that in these two passages of Scripture Ezekiel has a vision of a man dressed in linen. And what was the main and Daniel chapter 10 wearing? Linen. Okay. So could it be that the one that is Ezekiel saw is the same angelic being that appears to Daniel chapter 10? We can't say for sure, because the Bible doesn't tell us for sure. But I can live with that, if that's what it is. See, here's the key. Each of these messengers, whether it's in Daniel or whether it's in Ezekiel, they were sent to reflect the image of the glorious God who sent them. See, we get so hung up on trying to identify who they are that we miss the point. The point was to impress upon Daniel, the glory and the holiness of God. Hence, the dramatic effect his appearance had on Daniel. When Daniel saw this great vision, his body is drained of all strength. Verse eight says, that his "radiant appearance was fearfully changed," the Hebrew reads, "my splendor was changed to ruin." We hear the echo of Isaiah here don't we? Who got a glimpse of the throne of God? And what's he say? Woe, is me. Why Isaiah? Because my eyes have seen the king, the Lord of hosts. And what is it that made such a dramatic effect upon Daniel that had such a dramatic effect on him? I want to emphasize this. It's not necessarily the main strange appearance, is what his strange appearance communicated to Daniel. His appearance communicated the holiness of God. It was unlike anything that Daniel had ever seen. Such was the awesome display that represented God's holiness. And what happens? Do not miss this folks. Daniel will struck down by the holiness of God. See the holiness of God is not simply a subject to be studied, or a doctrine to be debated. The holiness of God is a reality, when properly understood, lays us low in the dirt and causes us to cry out like Isaiah, "Woe is me." Like Daniel, we become mute, it shuts our mouths, we hang our heads, we tremble, we have nothing to say, in the face of such holiness.
The holiness of God shows us just how sinful we are, and therefore shows us that we have absolutely nothing to offer him to make restitution for our sin. And I wrote a question down here, but I need to rephrase it. The question was, "Could it be in our casual culture that we have severely diminished view the have a severely diminished view of God's holiness?" Let me restate that: in our culture, we have a severely diminished view of God's holiness. Amen? Iain Duguid writes, "The vision pulsates with brightness and reverberates with sound crushing Daniel to the ground and sending his companions scurrying for cover." That's not the vision that our culture has of the holiness of God is it? And you know why? Because it's not the vision of the holiness of God that the modern church has. You go to many churches, not all churches, but you go to many churches and God's your friend, God's your bro, God's your buddy. God is just an old man just doing the best that he can. One commentator said "Our culture's God is just like Santa Claus." He may perhaps threaten to put coal in your stocking, if you're bad, but we all know that it's merely an empty threat. Well, God, my friend makes no empty threats. The exile is proof of that. And the Bible is filled with examples of it.
Daniel sees a man ablaze with holiness and whose presence even for a man as godly as Daniel was, lays him out with his face to the ground. I have to ask you, have you seen the holiness of God with the spiritual eyes of faith? Has your vision of God's holiness calls you to lay in the ground drained of all strength, leaving you totally dependent upon His mercy and grace? Have you experienced the weightiness of the glory of God? Martyn Lloyd Jones in his book "Preaching and Preachers," he said this: "The role of the pastor is to give the people a sense of the presence, the glory, and the weightiness of God." You should walk away hearing scripture, being impressed with God. Fearing God. Not in a slavish way, but in a loving way. appreciative way. Duguid again says "God's purpose in revealing himself to Daniel in this glorious manner was not to crush him, but to encourage him." To encourage.
So Daniel first sees the main and that has a tremendous impact on him. But then the man speaks and Daniel describes it like the sound of a multitude. You know, the best way that I think that we could understand this and illustrate this is if you've ever gone to a sporting event, Major League sporting event, an NFL event, where the stadium was actually full, perhaps in in Boston, but certainly not in Cincinnati. But anyway, you hear the roar of the crowd, right? It is almost deafening at times. That was the sound that this man spoke with. Upon hearing this voice, Daniel falls on his face, he says in a deep sleep. But the next thing Daniel knows, this hand, he feels the touch of a hand and this touch revives him enough to get on his hands and his knees. But he says I'm still trembling from the experience. Now we want to make sure that we don't miss the contrast between human weakness and divine strength. Just the appearance, and the sound of the voice of this angelic being, not God himself, but this angelic being was far more than Daniel could stand. But an act of grace, this angelic being continues to reach out and touch Daniel, in order to provide him with the strength that he needed. See, God was teaching his children, through Daniel, a much needed lesson, which is that he shows us our weaknesses, so that we will not look to ourselves for strength, but look to him for strength. What did Paul say? "When I'm weak, then I'm strong."
Daniel needed help. He needed strength. He needed help from outside of himself. In the face of the holiness and the glory of God. He was helpless. He was unable to help himself. He couldn't even get up off the ground. without help. The man clothed and Linda speaks to Dana What does he say? Oh, Daniel, a man greatly loved. I've been sent to you to help you understand what you're about to hear. Daniel finally has enough strength to get up on his feet.
And Daniel was about to receive a message of encouragement and this angelic being wanted to make sure that he had the strength to not only hear the message but to understand the message. So this man in the linen clothes, speaks to Daniel at the beginning in verse 11.
"And he said to me, “O Daniel, man greatly loved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for now I have been sent to you.” And when he had spoken this word to me, I stood up trembling. Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia, and came to make you understand what is to happen to your people in the latter days. For the vision is for days yet to come.”"
We see what's happening here, Daniel is given insight into the powers of the unseen world. The man dressed in linen had been dispatched by God, but it took him 21 days, it took him three full weeks to reach Daniel. Say, "Well, why was he delayed?" Well, he tells us that he was confronted by a satanic Angel, who possessed enough power to impede the delivery of the message that God had for Daniel, and the prince of the Kingdom of Persia, is an agent of Satan. Now notice this satanic angel is identified with the kingdom of Persia. And we wonder at times why the various governments of the world make some of the decisions that they do, don't be naive. They are being influenced scripture testifies to the fact that they are being influenced by dark spiritual forces. Say, "oh, you're a conspiracy nut." No, I'm a Bible believer. Say "well, that's probably true of North Korea. That's probably true of Iran. Tt's probably true of that old axes of Evil, that's sure not true of the United States." You better get your head out of the sand.
So we have insight here into the difficulties of God's people, we have insight into the difficulties God's Church faces here on Earth. There is a heavenly conflict being waged by the forces of God and the fallen forces of Satan. And in this case, the power of this demonic Prince was so great that it delayed the one sent by God but notice, it delayed the delivery. It delayed the delivery, but it did not stop the delivery. The message got through. God's word always prevails, always. God's word always prevails.
Now notice how Daniel responds to the angels words verse 15, "When he had spoken to me according these words, I turned my face toward the ground and was mute." What's going on here? He just doesn't know what to say. I think there's probably a part of him that's just like "I just can't believe what I'm hearing." That's the reality of what he was hearing. As he understood the reality of what he was being told, as he understood the reality that he understands now that he's a part of, he just falls silent. All he can do is stare at the ground. It wasn't till he is once again strengthened by the angel that he was able to speak. Now Daniel understands why the exiles and Jerusalem were facing such opposition. Now Daniel understood why they couldn't get more done. He understood why they're facing this hostility. It wasn't just the neighbors who didn't want the city rebuild. It wasn't just the neighbors who didn't want the temple rebuilt. It was Satan himself who didn't want the temple rebuilt, and the city rebuilt. See, the nature of the fight was spiritual, not physical. But notice this, to encourage us, we are not fighting the battle alone. Daniel was not alone in this struggle. I would assume that up until the appearance of this heavenly Angel, he probably didn't understand everything that was going on behind the scenes. And perhaps he kept searching for an earthly solution. But the reality of the matter was, there was no earthly solution.
See, when we feel like we're in the fight all by ourselves, we can quickly become discouraged and depressed. We can easily adopt a defeatist attitude. But once we realize that we are not in the fight alone, we can fight on with a renewed sense of what? Confidence. We draw strength and encouragement knowing that we are not alone in life's struggles. Truly, God is on our side, and he sent his angels to fight for us. But frankly, we don't know it. We don't get a text, "Hey, this is your guardian angel looking out for you today." You don't need a text. It's a reality. It's happening.
Now notice something special in verse 21. "But I will tell you what is inscribed in the book of truth: there is none who contends by my side against these except Michael, your prince." You get that? Michael, your prince? What's he saying here? Someone's looking out for you, Daniel. Someone's fighting for you, Daniel. Someone's protecting you, Daniel. You're not alone. You have God's brightest and best contending for you.
Just a couple of quick thoughts. First, as a believer, you must realize the nature of the great conflict. As a believer, you must realize the nature of the great conflict. What is the nature of the conflict, its spiritual. Paul makes this abundantly clear Ephesian's chapter six, which we will come to here in just a few weeks, Ephesians 6:10 "Finally be strong in the Lord in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil." Why, Paul? Why don't have to put on this armor? Why do I need this protection? "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." That's the nature of the conflict. That's the nature of the fight.
Second, realize that the great conflict is continual or ongoing, however you want to say it. The nature of the great conflict is continual. Look at verse 20. "Then he said, “Do you know why I have come to you? But now I will return to fight against the prince of Persia" But before Daniel could breathe a sigh of relief like okay, one big battle and it's done. No. "And when I go out, behold, the prince of Greece will come." See this angelic being who was sent to Daniel says, When I leave you, I will continue my fight on your behalf. against the demon that's doing whatever he can to exert influence over the kingdom of Persia. But Daniel, you need to know this, that once the Persian Empire is no more there will be another Empire. It'll be Alexander the Great it will be the Grecian Empire. And then the spiritual battle will continue with the prince of Greece. And implied in that statement is Daniel once the empire of Greece is no more another Empire will arise another Empire after that, another Empire after that, another Empire after that, and each corresponding Empire will have its own demonic agent attached to it, and will continue to fight them. And they'll continue to fight you.
Know, go on until Look at verse 13, of Daniel chapter 12. "But go your way till the end." These are precious words, "and you shall rest and stand in your allotted place at the end of the days." See, the people of the kingdom of God are engaged in a great conflict. There are battles being fought against us and for us in the unseen realm. But we are not alone in the fight. Say what have we been given? Let me give you four things I think it is we have been given the Son of God, the Spirit of God, the Word of God, the armor of God, and don't neglect this last one, the Church of God, the people of God. Never forget, "Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world."