Pay Attention to God’s Prophetic Word for Our Day
“Understand, O son of man, that the vision is for the time of the end.”—DANIEL 8:17.
1. What does Jehovah want all mankind to know about our day?
JEHOVAH does not keep knowledge of future events to himself. Rather, he is the Revealer of secrets. In fact, he wants all of us to know that we are deep in “the time of the end.” What vital news that is for the six billion people now living on earth!
2. Why are people concerned about mankind’s future?
2 Is it any wonder that this world is near its end? Man can walk on the moon, but in many places he cannot without fear stroll on the streets of this planet. He can fill a home with modern appliances, but he cannot stem the tide of broken families. And he can bring about the information age, but he cannot teach people to live together peacefully. These failures support the abundant Scriptural evidence that we are living in the time of the end.
3. When were the words “the time of the end” first used on earth?
3 Those striking words—“the time of the end”—were first used on the earth some 2,600 years ago by the angel Gabriel. A terrified prophet of God heard Gabriel say: “Understand, O son of man, that the vision is for the time of the end.”—Daniel 8:17.
This Is “the Time of the End”!
4. In what other ways does the Bible refer to the time of the end?
4 The expressions “the time of the end” and “the appointed time of the end” appear six times in the book of Daniel. (Daniel 8:17, 19; 11:35, 40; 12:4, 9) They pertain to “the last days” foretold by the apostle Paul. (2 Timothy 3:1-5) Jesus Christ referred to this period as his “presence” as enthroned King in heaven.—Matthew 24:37-39.
5, 6. Who have ‘roved about’ during the time of the end, and with what result?
5 Daniel 12:4 states: “As for you, O Daniel, make secret the words and seal up the book, until the time of the end. Many will rove about, and the true knowledge will become abundant.” Much of what Daniel wrote was made secret and sealed up to human understanding for centuries. But what about today?
6 In this time of the end, many faithful Christians have ‘roved about’ in the pages of God’s Word, the Bible. The result? With Jehovah’s blessing on their efforts, true knowledge has become abundant. For instance, anointed Witnesses of Jehovah have been blessed with insight, enabling them to understand that Jesus Christ became heavenly King in the year 1914. In keeping with the apostle’s words recorded at 2 Peter 1:19-21, such anointed ones and their loyal companions are ‘paying attention to the prophetic word’ and are absolutely certain that this is the time of the end.
7. What are some of the accounts that make the book of Daniel unique?
7 The book of Daniel is unique in a number of ways. In its pages, a king threatens to execute his wise men because they cannot reveal and interpret his puzzling dream, but God’s prophet solves the puzzle. Three young men who refuse to worship a towering image are thrown into a superheated furnace, yet they survive unsinged. During a festive celebration, hundreds behold a hand that writes mysterious words on a palace wall. Evil conspirators have an elderly man thrown into a pit of lions, but he emerges without a scratch. Four beasts are seen in a vision, and they are given prophetic significance that stretches right into the time of the end.
8, 9. How can the book of Daniel benefit us, especially now, in the time of the end?
8 Clearly, the book of Daniel contains two very different threads. One is narrative, the other prophetic. Both can build our faith. The narratives show us that Jehovah God blesses those who maintain integrity to him. And the prophetic portions build faith by showing that Jehovah knows the course of history centuries—even millenniums—in advance.
9 Various prophecies recorded by Daniel direct attention to God’s Kingdom. As we observe the fulfillment of such prophecies, our faith is strengthened and so is our conviction that we are living in the time of the end. But some critics attack Daniel, saying that the prophecies in the book bearing his name were really written after the events that seemed to fulfill them. If such claims are true, that would raise serious questions about what the book of Daniel foretold regarding the time of the end. Skeptics also question the book’s narratives. So let us investigate.
10. In what sense does the book of Daniel stand accused?
10 Imagine yourself in a court of law, attending a trial. The prosecuting attorney insists that the defendant is guilty of fraud. Well, the book of Daniel presents itself as an authentic work written by a Hebrew prophet who lived during the seventh and sixth centuries B.C.E. However, critics assert that the book is a fraud. So let us first see if the narrative portion of the book harmonizes with historical fact.
11, 12. What happened to the charge that Belshazzar was merely a fictitious character?
11 Suppose we consider what might be called the case of the missing monarch. Daniel chapter 5 shows that Belshazzar was ruling as king in Babylon when that city was overthrown in 539 B.C.E. Critics have challenged this point because Belshazzar’s name was found nowhere outside the Bible. Instead, ancient historians identified Nabonidus as the last Babylonian king.
12 In the year 1854, however, some small clay cylinders were unearthed in the ruins of the ancient Babylonian city of Ur in present-day Iraq. These cuneiform documents included a prayer in which King Nabonidus referred to “Bel-sar-ussur, my eldest son.” Even critics had to agree: This was the Belshazzar of the book of Daniel. So the missing monarch was not missing after all, just not yet known in secular sources. This is only one of many proofs that the writings of Daniel are truly authentic. Such evidence shows that the book of Daniel surely is part of God’s Word that merits our careful attention right now, in the time of the end.
13, 14. Who was Nebuchadnezzar, and to what false god was he especially devoted?
13 Woven into the fabric of the book of Daniel are prophecies involving the march of world powers and the acts of some of their rulers. One of the rulers might be called a warrior who built an empire. As Babylon’s crown prince, he and his army shattered the forces of Egyptian Pharaoh Necho at Carchemish. But a message compelled the victorious Babylonian prince to leave mopping-up operations to his generals. Learning that his father, Nabopolassar, had died, this young man named Nebuchadnezzar took the throne in 624 B.C.E. During his 43-year reign, he built an empire that embraced territories once occupied by Assyria, and he extended his domain into Syria and Palestine down to the border of Egypt.
14 Nebuchadnezzar’s religious devotion went particularly to Marduk, the chief god of Babylon. The king credited Marduk with all his conquests. In Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar built and beautified the temples of Marduk and of numerous other Babylonian deities. The image of gold that this Babylonian king set up on the plain of Dura may have been dedicated to Marduk. (Daniel 3:1, 2) And Nebuchadnezzar appears to have relied heavily on divination in planning his military moves.
15, 16. What did Nebuchadnezzar do for Babylon, and what happened when he boasted about its greatness?
15 By completing Babylon’s massive double walls that his father had started to build, Nebuchadnezzar made the capital city seemingly impregnable. To satisfy his Median queen, who longed for the hills and forests of her homeland, Nebuchadnezzar reportedly built the hanging gardens—one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. He made Babylon the greatest walled city of the time. And how proud he was of that seat of false worship!
16 “Is not this Babylon the Great, that I myself have built?” boasted Nebuchadnezzar one day. According to Daniel 4:30-36, however, “while the word was yet in the king’s mouth,” insanity struck him. Unfit to rule for seven years, he ate vegetation, just as Daniel had foretold. Then his kingdom was restored. Do you know the prophetic significance of all of this? Can you explain how its major fulfillment brings us right down to the time of the end?
Picking Up Prophetic Strands
17. How would you describe the prophetic dream that God sent Nebuchadnezzar in the second year of his reign as world ruler?
17 Let us now pick up some prophetic strands in the book of Daniel. During the second year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign as world ruler of Bible prophecy (606/605 B.C.E.), God sent him a terrifying dream. According to Daniel chapter 2, the dream involved an immense image with a head of gold, breasts and arms of silver, belly and thighs of copper, legs of iron, and feet of iron mixed with clay. What did the various parts of the image represent?
18. What did the dream image’s head of gold, breasts and arms of silver, and belly and thighs of copper represent?
18 God’s prophet told Nebuchadnezzar: “You, O king, . . . you yourself are the head of gold.” (Daniel 2:37, 38) Nebuchadnezzar headed a dynasty that ruled over the Babylonian Empire. It was overthrown by Medo-Persia, represented by the image’s breasts and arms of silver. Next came the Grecian Empire, signified by the belly and thighs of copper. How did that world power get its start?
19, 20. Who was Alexander the Great, and what role did he play in making Greece a world power?
19 In the fourth century B.C.E., a young man played a significant role in the fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy. He was born in 356 B.C.E., and the world has come to call him Alexander the Great. Upon the assassination of his father, Philip, in 336 B.C.E., 20-year-old Alexander inherited the throne of Macedonia.
20 In early May of 334 B.C.E., Alexander embarked upon a campaign of conquest. He had a small but efficient army of 30,000 foot soldiers and 5,000 cavalrymen. At the Granicus River in northwestern Asia Minor (now Turkey), Alexander won his first battle against the Persians in 334 B.C.E. By 326 B.C.E., this relentless conqueror had subdued them and had gone as far to the east as the Indus River, located in modern-day Pakistan. But Alexander lost his final battle while in Babylon. On June 13, 323 B.C.E., after living a mere 32 years and 8 months, he surrendered to the most formidable enemy, death. (1 Corinthians 15:55) Through his conquests, however, Greece had become a world power, as foretold in Daniel’s prophecy.
21. In addition to the Roman Empire, what other world power was pictured by the iron legs of the dream image?
21 What is represented by the iron legs of the immense image? Well, it was ironlike Rome that crushed and shattered the Grecian Empire. Showing no respect for God’s Kingdom proclaimed by Jesus Christ, the Romans put him to death on a torture stake in 33 C.E. In an effort to shatter true Christianity, Rome persecuted Jesus’ disciples. However, the iron legs of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream image pictured not only the Roman Empire but also its political outgrowth—the Anglo-American World Power.
22. How does the dream image help us to see that we are deep in the time of the end?
22 Careful study proves that we are deep in the time of the end, for we have reached the dream image’s feet of iron and clay. Some present-day governments are ironlike or authoritarian, whereas others are claylike. Despite the fragile nature of clay, of which “the offspring of mankind” are made, ironlike rulerships have been obliged to let the common people have some say in the governments ruling over them. (Daniel 2:43; Job 10:9) Of course, authoritarian rule and the common people stick together no better than do iron and clay. But God’s Kingdom will soon bring an end to this politically fragmented world.—Daniel 2:44.
23. How would you describe the dream and visions that Daniel had in the first year of Belshazzar’s reign?
23 The 7th chapter of Daniel’s gripping prophecy also brings us into the time of the end. It relates an event in the first year of Babylonian King Belshazzar. Then in his 70’s, Daniel has “a dream and visions of his head upon his bed.” How those visions frighten him! “See there!” he exclaims. “The four winds of the heavens were stirring up the vast sea. And four huge beasts were coming up out of the sea, each one being different from the others.” (Daniel 7:1-8, 15) What remarkable beasts! The first is a winged lion, and the second is like a bear. Then comes a leopard with four wings and four heads! The unusually strong fourth beast has large iron teeth and ten horns. In among its ten horns rises “a small” horn having “eyes like the eyes of a man” and “a mouth speaking grandiose things.” What grotesque creatures!
24. According to Daniel 7:9-14, what does Daniel behold in heaven, and to what does this vision point?
24 Daniel’s visions next turn heavenward. (Daniel 7:9-14) “The Ancient of Days,” Jehovah God, is seen sitting gloriously enthroned as Judge. ‘A thousand thousands minister to him, and ten thousand times ten thousand keep standing before him.’ Judging the beasts adversely, God takes rulership away from them and destroys the fourth beast. Lasting rulership over “the peoples, national groups and languages” is vested in “someone like a son of man.” This points to the time of the end and to the enthronement of the Son of man, Jesus Christ, in the year 1914.
25, 26. What questions may arise when we read the book of Daniel, and what publication can help to answer them?
25 Readers of the book of Daniel are sure to have questions. For instance, what do the four beasts of Daniel chapter 7 represent? What is the explanation of the prophetic “seventy weeks” of Daniel 9:24-27? How about Daniel chapter 11 and the prophetic conflict of “the king of the north” and “the king of the south”? What can we expect of these kings in the time of the end?
26 Jehovah has granted insight into such matters to his anointed servants on earth, to “the holy ones of the Supreme One,” as they are called at Daniel 7:18. Moreover, “the faithful and discreet slave” has made provision for us to gain further insight into the inspired writings of the prophet Daniel. (Matthew 24:45) This is now available through the recent release of the book Pay Attention to Daniel’s Prophecy! This beautifully illustrated 320-page publication covers every part of the book of Daniel. It deals with each faith-building prophecy and every narrative recorded by the beloved prophet Daniel.
Real Meaning for Our Day
27, 28. (a) What is true about the fulfillment of prophecies in the book of Daniel? (b) In what period are we living, and what should we do?
27 Consider this significant point: All the prophecies in the book of Daniel have been fulfilled except for a few details. For example, we now see the world situation portrayed by the feet of the dream image of Daniel chapter 2. The tree stump of Daniel chapter 4 was unbanded by the enthronement of the Messianic King, Jesus Christ, in the year 1914. Yes, as foretold in Daniel chapter 7, the Ancient of Days then gave rulership to the Son of man.—Daniel 7:13, 14; Matthew 16:27–17:9.
28 The 2,300 days of Daniel chapter 8 as well as the 1,290 and the 1,335 days of Da chapter 12 are all past—behind us in the stream of time. A study of Daniel chapter 11 shows that the conflict between “the king of the north” and “the king of the south” has reached its final stages. All of this adds to the Scriptural evidence that we are now deep in the time of the end. Considering our unique place in the stream of time, what should we be determined to do? Without question, we should pay attention to Jehovah God’s prophetic word.
How Would You Answer?
• What does God want all mankind to know about our day?
• How can the book of Daniel build our faith?
• Nebuchadnezzar’s dream image had what features, and what did these symbolize?
• What is noteworthy about the fulfillment of prophecies found in the book of Daniel?