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Sabbath Bible Lessons

The Lord has Spoken

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Lesson 2 Sabbath, April 10, 2010

Empires of Prophecy

“Four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another” (Daniel 7:3).

“We are to consider the dealings of God with the nations of the earth. We are to see in history the fulfillment of prophecy, to study the workings of Providence in the great reformatory movements, and to understand the progress of events in the marshaling of the nations for the final conflict of the great controversy.”—Testimonies, vol. 8, p. 307.

Suggested Reading:   Prophets and Kings, pp. 531-536, 552-557.  

Sunday April 4

1. COMMOTION-PRODUCING EMPIRES

a. How vital is the study of prophecy, especially those prophecies written by Daniel? Matthew 24:15.

“Read the book of Daniel. Call up, point by point, the history of the kingdoms there represented. Behold statesmen, councils, powerful armies, and see how God wrought to abase the pride of men, and lay human glory in the dust. God alone is represented as great. In the vision of the prophet He is seen casting down one mighty ruler, and setting up another. He is revealed as the monarch of the universe, about to set up His everlasting kingdom—the Ancient of days, the living God, the Source of all wisdom, the Ruler of the present, the Revealer of the future.”—Manuscript Releases, Vol. 16, pp. 333, 334.

b. What was Daniel shown in vision shortly before the fall of Baby­lon? Daniel 7:1–3.

“Shortly before the fall of Babylon, when Daniel was meditating on these prophecies and seeking God for an understanding of the times, a series of visions was given him concerning the rise and fall of kingdoms.”—Prophets and Kings, p. 553.


Monday April 5

2. THE MIGHTY BABYLON

a. What kingdom was symbolized by the lion of Daniel 7:4, and how did it fulfill its role in history? Jeremiah 4:6, 7; 50:17.

“God answered the cry of His loyal children. Through His chosen mouthpiece He revealed His determination to bring chastisement upon the nation that had turned from Him to serve the gods of the heathen. Within the lifetime of some who were even then making inquiry regarding the future, He would miraculously shape the affairs of the ruling nations of earth and bring the Babylonians into the ascendancy. These Chaldeans, ‘terrible and dreadful,’ were to fall suddenly upon the land of Judah as a divinely appointed scourge (Habakuk 1:7).”—Prophets and Kings, pp. 385, 386.

b. What happened to Babylon when the leaders of that kingdom had filled up the measure of their guilt? Daniel 5:1–6, 17, 23–31.

“In that last night of mad folly, Belshazzar and his lords had filled up the measure of their guilt and the guilt of the Chaldean kingdom. No longer could God’s restraining hand ward off the impending evil. Through manifold providences, God had sought to teach them reverence for His law. ‘We would have healed Babylon,’ He declared of those whose judgment was now reaching unto heaven, ‘but she is not healed’ (Jeremiah 51:9). Because of the strange perversity of the human heart, God had at last found it necessary to pass the irrevocable sentence. Belshazzar was to fall, and his kingdom was to pass into other hands. . . .

“Even while he and his nobles were drinking from the sacred vessels of Jehovah, and praising their gods of silver and of gold, the Medes and the Persians, having turned the Euphrates out of its channel, were marching into the heart of the unguarded city. The army of Cyrus now stood under the walls of the palace; the city was filled with the soldiers of the enemy, ‘as with caterpillars’ (Jeremiah 51:14); and their triumphant shouts could be heard above the despairing cries of the astonished revelers.”—Ibid., pp.530, 531.


Tuesday April 6

3. MEDO-PERSIA

a. Describe the overthrow of Babylon according to prophecy. Isaiah 44:27, 28; 45:1–3.

“In the unexpected entry of the army of the Persian conqueror into the heart of the Babylonian capital by way of the channel of the river whose waters had been turned aside, and through the inner gates that in careless security had been left open and unprotected, the Jews had abundant evidence of the literal fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy concerning the sudden overthrow of their oppressors. And this should have been to them an unmistakable sign that God was shaping the affairs of nations in their behalf.”—Prophets and Kings, p. 552.

b. What was the extent of the next world empire, Medo-Persia, symbolized by a bear and by a ram? Daniel 7:5; 8:3, 4, 20; Esther 1:1, 3.

“Daniel’s prayer had been offered ‘in the first year of Darius’ (Daniel 11:1), the Median monarch whose general, Cyrus, had wrested from Babylonia the scepter of universal rule. The reign of Darius was honored of God. To him was sent the angel Gabriel, ‘to confirm and to strengthen him.’ Upon his death, within about two years of the fall of Babylon, Cyrus succeeded to the throne, and the beginning of his reign marked the completion of the seventy years since the first company of Hebrews had been taken by Nebuchadnezzar from their Judean home to Babylon.”—Ibid., pp.556, 557.

“In the history of nations the student of God’s word may behold the literal fulfillment of divine prophecy. Babylon, shattered and broken at last, passed away because in prosperity its rulers had regarded themselves as independent of God, and had ascribed the glory of their kingdom to human achievement. The Medo-Persian realm was visited by the wrath of Heaven because in it God’s law had been trampled underfoot. The fear of the Lord had found no place in the hearts of the vast majority of the people. Wickedness, blasphemy, and corruption prevailed. The kingdoms that followed were even more base and corrupt; and these sank lower and still lower in the scale of moral worth.”—Ibid., pp.501, 502.

“While the nations rejected God’s principles, and in this rejection wrought their own ruin, it was still manifest that the divine, overruling purpose was working through all their movements.”—Education, p. 177.


Wednesday April 7

4. GREECE AND ROME

a. By what symbols was Greece, the third universal empire, represented? Daniel 7:6; 8:5–8, 21.

b. What was the symbolic meaning of the four heads of the leopard and the four horns of the goat? Daniel 8:8, 22.

c. How have the proud philosophies of the Grecian Empire pervaded throughout history even to our day—and what should be our response to them? Ecclesiastes 12:12–14.

“Is it safe to trust our youth to the guidance of those blind leaders who study the sacred oracles [of the Scriptures] with far less interest than they manifest in the classical authors of ancient Greece and Rome?”—Fundamental of Christian Education, p. 98.

“Paul declared that neither Jewish learning nor Grecian eloquence could reach the mark of the high calling that is in Christ Jesus.”—Central Advance, April 8, 1903.

d. How was Rome, the fourth empire of prophecy, described? What instrument of cruelty did the Romans employ? How was the fall and division of the Roman Empire predicted? Daniel 7:19, 20, 23, 24.

“As in old time Cyrus was called to the throne of the world’s empire that he might set free the captives of the Lord, so Caesar Augustus is made the agent for the fulfillment of God’s purpose in bringing the mother of Jesus to Bethlehem. She is of the lineage of David, and the Son of David must be born in David’s city. Out of Bethlehem, said the prophet, ‘shall He come forth . . . that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from the days of eternity’ (Micah 5:2, margin).”—The Desire of Ages, p. 44.

“The cross was associated with the power of Rome. It was the instrument of the most cruel and humiliating form of death.”—Ibid., p.416.


Thursday April 8

5. THE EVERLASTING KINGDOM

a. Explain the vision given Ezekiel showing that, amidst the strife and tumult of nations, God guides the affairs of this world. Ezekiel 1:4, 26; 10:8.

“Every nation that has come upon the stage of action has been permitted to occupy its place on the earth, that the fact might be determined whether it would fulfill the purposes of the Watcher and the Holy One. Prophecy has traced the rise and progress of the world’s great empires—Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. With each of these, as with the nations of less power, history has repeated itself. Each has had its period of test; each has failed, its glory faded, its power departed.

“While nations have rejected God’s principles, and in this rejection have wrought their own ruin, yet a divine, overruling purpose has manifestly been at work throughout the ages. It was this that the prophet Ezekiel saw in the wonderful representation given him during his exile.”—Prophets and Kings, p. 535.

b. How will history be repeated until the world’s kingdoms are given to Christ and His faithful ones? Ezekiel 21:26, 27; Psalm 75:7; Daniel 2:21, 44; 7:27.

“The final overthrow of all earthly dominions is plainly foretold in the word of truth. . . .

“That time is at hand. Today the signs of the times declare that we are standing on the threshold of great and solemn events.”—Education, p. 179.


Friday April 9

PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS

a. Why did the prophets read the writings of other prophets?

b. How does prophecy reveal that Babylon eventually trusted to its own abilities—and with what results?

c. How did God use Babylon’s overthrow to prepare for the exiles’ return?

d. Describe the legacy of the Grecian Empire.

e. What was the predominant characteristic of the fourth kingdom?

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