Welcome to I Dare You a series through the book of Daniel with Skip Heitzig.
Would you turn in your Bibles to Daniel, chapter 7; Daniel, chapter 7. Baby Jesus got stolen. How's that for on opening line? In a town called Wellington, Florida, where they have nativity sets out every year that the city puts out its big nativity set, the little baby Jesus in the crib one year got stolen. Now, this is a wealthy community, Wellington, Florida, and to replace baby Jesus he cost eighteen hundred bucks.
So they replaced him the second time, a new baby Jesus in the nativity set, and wouldn't you know it, got stolen a second time. So they replaced the baby Jesus the third time. This time they wised up and put a GPS unit in little baby Jesus to track him if he got stolen a third time. He got stolen a third time. And they found by tracking the GPS, they found the eighteen-year-old girl who stole baby Jesus.
Now that is not an isolated incident. I did a little more research and found in 2008, Eureka Springs, Arkansas, they also—the city display baby Jesus got stolen from there also. But this time they stole baby Jesus, the chain, and the cement block he was chained to, to keep him from being stolen; they took it all. Some people do it as a joke. Some people do it just to spite Christmas.
But I did a little more research and discovered this is quite common. In fact, researchers have a name for this, they call it—and I kid you not—the "Stolen Baby Jesus Syndrome." How wacky is that? People do this all the time. In some cases they steal the baby Jesus and replace him with a doll or a stuffed animal.
And I submit to you on a much greater scale there is somebody who is going to come to this earth to replace Jesus Christ. The very name Antichrist, which everybody's heard of—when you hear "anti," you think somebody who's against Christ, that's true. But the little word anti in Greek is a word that also means instead of Christ. He's going to posit himself as one who takes the place of. For the world he'll be a messianic figure called the Beast in Revelation 13. We know him most definitely as the Antichrist. He'll be a deceiver.
President Abraham Lincoln said, "You can fool some of the people all the time, and all the people some of the time, but you can't fool all the people all the time." But this guy's going to do a pretty good job of deceiving the world at that time. You know, deception wears many masks. Sometimes there's political deception, sometimes there's spiritual deception, and sometimes there's economic deception. And this guy's going to be able to like put all those masks on and wear them so well.
In the 1920s there was an actor, a Scottish actor, rather famous one for his time by the name of Arthur Furguson. Arthur Furguson had incredible abilities on stage, and abilities to sell, because he was an actor, he was trained at it. Well, the story goes that Arthur Furguson was walking one day in London's Trafalgar Square. And if you've ever been there, it's very impressive. There is a pillar, and on top of the pillar is Admiral Lord Nelson; it's impressive.
He noticed a wealthy American admiring the statue, and Arthur Furguson with his persuasive abilities sold this pillar and statue in Trafalgar Square to the American for thirty thousand dollars. Sold. Like: "What? Are you going to ship it to me?" But he sold it to him, took the money, said it would be delivered.
A little while after that same actor Arthur Furguson sold Big Ben, you know, the big clock that's over there, to another American—what is it with Americans, are we, like, that gullible?—for five thousand dollars, and took a ten thousand dollar deposit on Buckingham Palace. And before the law finally caught up with him, and he served a lot of time in jail when they did, he managed to sell not only all those things, but the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower.
The Antichrist will come to this world and sell this world the biggest bill of goods it has ever seen. And if you even wonder if that's possible, because you know, after all, we're so smart, we're so enlightened, never gonna happen; understand that Paul promises in Second Thessalonians that "God will send them strong delusion, that they will believe the lie." They'll believe it. The world will believe it, and if they don't, there will be consequences the Bible also says.
We have been in Daniel, chapter 7, for a few weeks and we're there today again, and here's why: it is what we call the "passage of primary reference." Jesus Christ, Paul the apostle, John the apostle—all of them look backward to this writing of the book of Daniel, chapter 7, chapter 9, and others. And Jesus even referred to Daniel as "Daniel the prophet." So we're considering who Daniel the prophet said in chapter 7 is coming on the world scene in this passage of primary reference.
In this chapter, we've already seen it, but as a little bit of a recap, Daniel sees an incredible panoramic vision of the future: world-governing kingdoms that will come from his day onward beginning with the Babylonian Empire, followed the Medo-Persian Empire, followed by the Grecian Empire, followed by the Roman Empire. But this fourth one, the Roman Empire is odd; it's different than all the other previous ones, because it seems to have an early and a latter reign. That it will be somehow resurrected or brought back in some fragmented form in the end of days just before the Messiah comes.
But what is most important about the fourth empire is that a leader that emerges from it, a powerful leader, we have called him the Antichrist. He goes by twenty-five names in the Bible, including the Beast in Revelation, chapter 13. But he's called in this chapter the "little horn." Remember that, the little horn? He's the little horn with the big mouth. And I would say the little horn with a big mouth with big plans to take over the world.
Today we're going to look at this in a different kind of an angle and consider something that probably few here have ever considered. So I want to ask three questions. Number one: What do we know for sure? What do we know from the Bible? What do we know for sure? Second: What are we told that we'll see by others who looked to the future? And finally: What do we hope for some? I'll explain as we go along.
So what do we know for sure? I sound like a Californian, don't I? "Fer sure." This is what we know fer sure. We know fer sure that this ruler is coming, the Antichrist is coming. And we know fer sure that he's going to persecute God's people, verse 25 tells us. In Revelation, chapter 12, we understand that he's going to specifically target at the end of days Jews and Christians. And one of the ways he will do that according to Revelation 20 is cut their heads off, beheaded for the name of Christ.
In Daniel, chapter 9, we're told that this guy will set up a peace agreement with the Jews and the West for seven years. In the middle of that agreement he will renege on it, and he will persecute the Jewish people, setting up in the temple in Jerusalem on the Temple Mount what Jesus referred to, using Daniel, as the "abomination that causes desolation." And Jesus Christ in Matthew 24 said all the Jews who were reading that at this time should flee Jerusalem, get out of the city, because this ruler will set up his headquarters in Jerusalem.
Furthermore, this Antichrist is depicted in Revelation, chapter 6, as the rider on the white horse. He comes with a bow, no arrows, "conquering and to conquer." He comes peacefully at first; just a bow, but a threat, "conquering and to conquer," and what follows him is carnage and devastation and bloodshed. Now we know that fer sure because it's all over the Bible.
But there's something else we know, fer sure: not only will the Antichrist come, but he's going to have a compadre coming with him called the "False Prophet." Revelation, chapter 13, chapter 16, chapter 19, chapter 20, mention or describe this False Prophet. Now wouldn't you say that because he's called a False Prophet that that denotes that the Antichrist will have some sort of religious nature about his rule?
And get this, the False Prophet is described as one that has the appearance of a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon; the appearance of a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon. He's going to direct the world to obey the Beast. His primary job will be deception. He'll be able to perform miracles the Bible says, and deceive people to follow the Beast, the Antichrist.
So we have the False Prophet; we know that fer sure. We have the Antichrist followed by the False Prophet; we know that fer sure. And here's what else we know for sure, and it's the best news—after all of that, Jesus Christ will indeed come back and vanquish the Antichrist and the False Prophet, and set up his kingdom all over the earth.
Verse 27, "Then the kingdom"—Well, let's read verse 23, let's go. "Then he said: 'The fourth beast shall be a fourth kingdom on earth, which shall be different from all other kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, trample it and break it in pieces. The ten horns are ten kings who shall arise from this kingdom. And another shall rise after them; he shall be different from the first ones, and shall subdue three kings. He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, shall persecute the saints of the Most High, and shall intend to change times and law. Then the saints shall be given into his hand for a time, times, and a half a time.
"'But the court shall be seated, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and destroy it forever. And then the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms [plural] under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High, his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, all and dominions shall serve and obey him.' "
Now, that's what we know for sure is going to happen. What we don't know for sure is exactly who the Antichrist is, and I'm not going to be added to the list of people who have tried to guess and were wrong all throughout history. It started in the early church. They said Caesar Nero is the Antichrist, then they said Caligula was the Antichrist, and then just about every single Pope who's ever been in the Vatican has been called the Antichrist. John Fitzgerald Kennedy was called the Antichrist, Henry Kissinger, Ronald Reagan, Bill Gates, Barack Obama has been called the Antichrist. Maybe even by some of you, I don't know. [laughter] But I would think it's safe to say they're wrong. Now, if you would have asked me when I was nineteen, I would have said, "My anatomy professor, I think that's the Antichrist." Just kidding, I had a rough class there.
For years scholars have looked to Western Europe for a revived Roman Empire because they said, "Well, that's sort of where the Roman Empire was and fragmented." And so they have looked for some secular Western leader, or perhaps a religious leader like the Pope. Today I'm just going to suggest that we look in a different direction and we consider what is today the fastest growing religious system on planet earth; if for nothing more than to be aware of it, to be able to pray for it, and to share Christ with those people.
Did you know that right now on the earth—you may not see a lot of it in this town, but there is an Islamic revival, a revival. It is the fastest growing religion—get this—since September 11, 2001. Did you know that before 911 they estimate roughly twenty-five thousand Americans per year converted to Islam? Since 911 it has quadrupled, a hundred thousand a year. Over 80 percent of the American converts to Islam were raised in Christian churches. Islam will bypass Christianity as the world's largest religion in about twenty years. And when that starts to happen there's going to be an emotional psychological tipping point that happens on both ends of that spectrum.
I guess with all of that significant data, it's just good to ask this question: What plan do 1.8 billion Muslims have in the plan of God for the end times? Any at all? My hope is there will be mass conversions to Christ. But could there be something else? Now, I know, I know that even talking about this is not politically correct; probably most of what I do is not politically correct.
But I know it's fashionable to sort of lump all religions together, and put bumper stickers on our cars that say "coexist," and you know, okay. I know it's fashionable to say that Judaism and Christianity and Islam, because they're monotheistic, they believe in one God, they're basically all the same with just different names; it's fashionable to say that.
It's even fashionable in Christian churches to say that Muslims are okay because they believe in Jesus. And you're right, they do believe in Jesus, but the Jesus they believe in is not the Jesus that this Book speaks about; it's a very different Jesus. So there's things we know for sure, but then number two, the second question: What are we told that we'll see? You see, we're not the only ones that are predicting the future using our Bible. The Muslims have their idea of what the end times is going to be like.
What do Muslims believe about the future? Did you even know that Muslims had an eschatology? Some of you are giving me that look like: "What is an eschatology?" Eschatology simply means a theology, a belief system about end of days, the end times. All that I'm talking to you about in the last couple of weeks has been eschatological; it's the theology from the Bible about the end of days.
Muslims refer to Jews and Christians in a rather respectful term. They don't do this all the time, but we are called the "People of the Book." The People of the Book means that we believe in the Bible. Now they believe that our Bible, Old and New Testament, has been corrupted over time, does not reveal the will of God. Because it has been corrupted, God gave the final revelation to mankind, and that is the Qur'an.
So there are two sources for theology for all Muslims: number one, the Qur'an, the word of the Allah, the scripture of Allah; and number two, the Sunnah/Sunna. The Sunnah are the words and works of Muhammad the prophet. It includes the hadiths, simply whatever Muhammad said, whatever he did, whatever he condemned, whatever he condoned—all of that forms the tradition called the Sunnah. And they used the Sunnah and the Qur'an to establish everything they believe in.
Much like Roman Catholic theology is based upon Scripture and the tradition of the Fathers, or Jewish theology is built the Old Testament and whatever is the tradition of the rabbis over time, so the Sunnah and the Qur'an form their view, their worldview.
According to Islam there will be three great signs at the end of days, and all three signs are three persons. First of all, they believe somebody is coming called the Mahdi. Now the Mahdi, if you've ever heard the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad address the United Nations, he's addressing now all the nations that are there, he always mentions that the Mahdi is coming. In fact, always, every time he speaks he says, "Glory to the Mahdi. Glory to the Twelfth Imam," one in the same persons.
The "Mahdi" means the guided one. He is also called the awaited savior; the lord of the age, interestingly; and the Twelfth Imam. What is he going to do? And by the way, all Sunni and Shia Muslims believe in him as coming. The Mahdi they say is coming to set up a new world order to establish an Islamic caliphate around the world; that is, a civil, political, and spiritual world domination. He will lead a world revolution. He'll establish Islam as law around the earth.
According to their sources, quote, "Mahdi will offer the religion of Islam to the Jews and the Christians. If they accept it, they will be spared, otherwise they will be killed," close quote. He's going to do that through a series of battles, holy wars, jihad, using a massive army on earth, all carrying black flags. On the black flag is one word: "punishment." Interestingly, the armies of Iran today carry black flags, because they pray for that they will be included in that massive army of black flags when the Mahdi comes.
He will lead the army of black flags to conquer Jerusalem; he will kill Jews in the process. He will establish his headquarters, his rule, from the Temple Mount in Jerusalem; they call it Haram al-Sharif. He will make a peace agreement after that with the Jews and the West, whom interestingly they refer to as the Romans. And what is probably most noteworthy and most amazing is the time frame that says the Mahdi will rule. Take a guess. Seven years. The Mahdi will rule seven years.
They even say he's going to come riding a white hours. And get this—they even say in their writings, as it is predicted in the book of the Prophets, Revelation chapter 6 verse 1, "He will come conquering and to conquer the rider on the white horse." Now, they say that Scriptures and corrupted, but evidently there's a few that aren't, and that's, in their view, some that aren't.
So put it all together, here's the summary: they say he's a messianic figure, an unparalleled leader, he'll take control of the world, he'll destroy all who resist him, he'll invade many nations, he'll enact a seven-year peace treaty with the Jews, he'll conquer Israel and massacre Jews, he'll establish Islamic world headquarters at Jerusalem on the Temple Mount, he'll ride a white horse, he'll rule seven years, he'll be loved by all people on the earth. Sound familiar? It's what the Bible describes as the Antichrist. That's sign number one in Islamic eschatology.
Their second sign is the coming of Christ. Yes, they believe Jesus Christ is coming again. You go, "Oh, goody. See." Yeah, but just wait. Muslims do not believe that Jesus is anything but a man and that he never died. He certainly didn't die on a cross and atone for sins. "Nobody," they say, "can do that." So he didn't die. You know what that means? If he didn't die, he didn't—what? Rise. If he didn't die, and he didn't rise, there is no atonement for sins like Christians claim.
So what they say is Jesus almost died, but God whisked him to heaven where he is now at the side of Allah waiting to come back, and at some point in the future Allah will send Jesus back to the earth. Why would Allah want to send Jesus back to the earth? He's got a lot of prophets to choose from. They say so that Jesus can correct all of the Christians who have misunderstood who he was. That he is not the Son of God, he's not God in the flesh, he did not die on the cross, and he's going to correct Christians and direct them to worship in Islam.
They say he's going to come back as a radicalized Muslim. He's going to descend from heaven to a minaret just east of Damascus as the Mahdi is gathered with his army of black flags. As they gather for prayer he will come, and Mahdi will see him and ask Jesus to lead in the prayer. Jesus will say no, he will stand behind the Mahdi, showing that he's inferior to the Mahdi, and asking the Mahdi to pray. They say that Jesus will be the greatest witness on the Day of Judgment against non Muslims, and he will kill the Dajjal. The Dajjal is the Muslim version of Antichrist. Then Jesus will get married, raise a family, die, and be buried next to Muhammad.
The third person they believe is coming after Mahdi and Isa/Esa, Jesus, is Dajjal this Antichrist, third major sign. His full title is al-Masih ad-Dajjal, which means the messiah, the deceiver. It's written in numerous hadiths in Islamic literature. Get this—he's going to come as a false miracle worker, he's going to claim to be Jesus, and even claim to be God. They say he will attempt to destroy Mahdi and Jesus, but the Islamic Jesus, Isa, will conquer and kill the Dajjal.
Now, are you putting all this together? The Bible's Antichrist is Islam's savior, the Bible's False Prophet is Islam's Jesus Christ, and the Bible's returning Jesus Christ is their Antichrist. It is an exact threefold reversal and substitute counterfeit. Here's the real truth, baby Ruth—according to this text of Scripture, as well as what Jesus Christ said and Paul and John, altogether—at the end of days the Antichrist will come followed by the False Prophet, Jesus Christ will come and put an end to their kingdom and set up his kingdom forever and ever, and ever, and ever, and ever—no end. [applause] Now if you can't get excited about that, I cannot relate to you.
Look at verse 13 of Daniel 7. "I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven and he came to the Ancient of Days and they brought him near before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom the one which will not be destroyed."
Now, this idea that I've been talking about does pose some issues that people have. One of them is: "Yeah but what about the revived Roman Empire? That doesn't sound like the Roman Empire." Because we're thinking about Rome in terms of Western Europe, right? Well, if you know your history, you know that the Roman Empire survived a long time, the longest of all of the previous empires mentioned in Daniel: Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. Before chapter 7 was chapter 2; Nebuchadnezzar had a dream, Daniel interpreted as the same succession of kingdoms.
The longest part of that statue that Nebuchadnezzar saw were the two legs that were on it, of iron; that's the kingdom of Rome. So you got two legs, it's split into two. We know from history, AD 395 the Roman Empire split into West and East. Constantine decided to move the seat of government from Rome to Constantinople, which is today Istanbul. It continued for another thousand years even after the western part of the Roman Empire virtually dissolved. Did you know that over 60 percent of the Roman Empire at the time of the New Testament is today under Muslim control? Those are the fragments of the Roman Empire.
Something else that's just interesting to note, look at verse 25, this has always puzzled scholars: "He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, he shall persecute the saints of the Most High, and shall intend to change times and law," times and law. In all Islamic apocalyptic literature the Mahdi will come and use Jesus to institute Sharia law. Do you know what Sharia law is? It's Islamic religious law. Ladies, there's a burqa in your future. [laughter] Establish worldwide Islamic law, changing from the laws of the land, that's always the ambition, to Sharia law.
Not only that, but every observant Muslim must change the times in which he or she lives. There's an Islamic calendar that follows the migration of Muhammad from Mecca to Medina, and it's based around that. And every observant Muslim is told that he must observe those times and those laws.
Well, there's a third question: What do we hope for some? I realize that this kind of a talk, this kind of a study can unnerve people and bring fear. I do not want to bring fear, I want to grow your faith that God indeed has a plan and that you're a part of it. And to balance out everything I've said so far—Muslims are coming to Jesus Christ en masse around the world.
You go, "Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute. First of all you said it's the fastest growing religion in the world, and in twenty years it's going to be the largest." You're right, but mostly because of birthrate, not conversions. So, hey, there is a dare for you, right? Young Christian couples, pump out those babies! [laughter] God loves children. We're kind of lagging behind the baby thing. That's an interesting dare.
But truly, truly, across the Middle East, South America, Asia, Africa, many, many Muslims are coming to faith in Christ, many of them by dreams and visions. I've read many books on this and heard many stories. One Muslim sheikh has claimed that in Africa alone over six million Muslims have converted to Christ, six million. [applause] That would break down to six hundred sixty-seven per hour, sixteen thousand per day.
Folks, Muslims are not the enemy. Don't think of them as the enemy. Satan with his lies and his false teachings and doctrines, that's the enemy. "We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but principalities, and powers . . . in heavenly places." and I love Revelation where John sees the vision. And keep this in your mind as you leave today the vision of what John saw. He saw that people from every nation, tongue, and tribe were gathered around the throne of God worshiping God in that heavenly scene, and I'm praying that many of them will be Muslims who have seen the light of the gospel.
Now, let me end with this, I'll give you four quick takeaway things that you can do. This is what you and I need to do. Number one, be prayerful, be prayerful. Now, I know you think, "Well, yeah, you're a pastor and that's sort of the thing you always start with right—pray?" I mean this seriously. Prayer is it most significant power that God has enabled us to have on this earth. Try tapping into that; be prayerful in the midst of this.
Number two, be watchful. You and I need to look at our world and current events through the lens of Scripture. We can't just go on anymore and just like: "Okay, well then I'll go to college, and then I'll have a family, and then I'll have a job, and then I'll kind of do this, and I'll kind of do . . . I'll have a boat and I'll retire." You won't have a boat around here. [laughter] We have to think differently. We have to be watchful. Be prayerful; be watchful.
Number 3, be tactical. Be tactical. You know, we Christians could be a little more strategic in our thinking. This is what I mean: right now, not twenty years from now, right now 20 to 25 percent of the entire world is Muslim. What that means to you and me is one person out of every four or five people is a Muslim. In a few years it's just going to be one out of four. And yet, 25 percent are Muslim, only 2 percent of Western missionary strategies include sending people or mission or resources to Muslim nations.
And if indeed one hundred thousand Americans every year are converting to Islam, that means we need to be doing evangelism in spades, all the time. We can't just say, "Well, just whatever happens." Listen, don't go to churches that don't evangelize. Don't do that. We have to, we have to ratchet up the giving the gospel out.
Fourth and finally, to kind of tone it all down now: be respectful. That Muslim man or woman that you encounter at college, or at work, or in the community is made in the image and likeness of God. God loved the world including that person who doesn't see or think like you do. They have a soul, and many of them sincerely authentically want to worship and please God, that's just all they know. So be respectful to them, open your hearts to them in dialogue.
Well, we began with that weird thing—the stolen baby Jesus syndrome. I still can't get my head around that. It's an actual syndrome. It's going to happen every year. They're stealing Jesus, not just from city displays. I read an article about one man who had his personal baby Jesus in front of his house, and his little plastic nativity set stolen, 10-watt lightbulb and all stolen from his house.
Well, it got out in the community. The newspapers even came over, and he said in the paper, "Do you know where my Jesus is? Please return him to me," close quote. The world by and large doesn't have a real clue as to the real Jesus. He's been stolen by secularist. He's been stolen by other religions. He's been even stolen by so-called Christian churches, and made into something he is not.
He is Lord. He is God. He is coming back. He is going to rule and reign over this planet. And I want to be a part of that, and I want to bring as many people to that as I possibly can; don't you? To do that we need to let the real Jesus be seen and really let him shine, and that's our task, and what a glorious task it is on Team Jesus. Let's pray.
Father, that promise that Jesus said just keeps ringing into my ear, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever would believe, trust in him, would not perish, but have everlasting life." What a glorious gospel we have, different from every other belief system. That there is a holy God, and man and woman have fallen from the ideal in what it is called sin, but that all of our transgressions and sins were placed on one perfect Person who came from heaven as God in human flesh to bear away our sins. So that having satisfied your wrath, you could then extend grace to anyone who would simply trust and believe in Jesus.
I pray for anyone who's gathered here today who doesn't personally know Christ yet. This is just too important to mess with. The stakes are too high to not be aware of this stuff. We need to be sober-minded as the Bible says. I pray for anyone who hasn't left darkness to step into the light of Christ. I pray that they today will put their faith and trust in you, in Jesus' name, amen.