Contact Us

  • Phone: (509) 747-3007
  • Email:
  • Mosaic Address:
    606 West 3rd Ave., Spokane, WA 99201

Service Times

  • Sunday:  8:30 am, 10 am, 11:30 am
  • Infant through 5th grade Sunday School classes available
  • FREE Parking!



Back To List

Jun 09, 2013

Enough to Make You Sick

Passage: Daniel 8:1-27

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Daniel: Overcoming Under Siege

Keywords: persecution, history, suffering, astonishment, prophecy


Chapter 8 of Daniel was so graphic and traumatizing to Daniel that he fainted and was sick for days. Such was the nature of the suffering that was going to come upon God's people. This chapter deals with the history of the Jews leading up to the Massiah's coming. At the same time it has instruction for God's people of any age who will experience suffering in this world.


Enough to Make You Sick

“Overcoming Under Siege” Series

Daniel 8

June 9, 2013


Have you ever seen animals fight?  To the death?  It can be fairly traumatizing.

I seem to be a bad influence when it comes to dogs.  As a little boy, one of my favorite pictures is of me in my little 3-year old snow suit kneeling next to our family’s purebred collie dog.  We had grown up together.  There was this special sort of bond between us to the point that, whenever I would be walking down the street with my family, Laddy as he was named, would insert himself between me and anyone near me. 

            That all came to an abrupt end one day when Laddy attacked a neighbor dog and sent it to the doggie hospital with life-threatening wounds.  Within a week, my favorite boyhood pet had been shipped off to a pig farm west of Cheney.  I saw him one more time when we visited the farm one Saturday to see him at his new home.

            So naturally, when we got our only family dog about 9 years ago, we chose a warm, friendly Golden Retriever.  We really should have gotten a clue about what was coming when the woman who delivered her to us from the Golden Rescue Society said she had been “removed from her home for her treatment of the other dogs in her family.”  That’s a nice way of saying she’s an Alpha female.  Since then she has gone on to develop a rap sheet with the county pound that includes attacking a neighbor miniature collie and inflicting unspecified wounds.  She’s the most wonderful, gentle dog around people, but something ugly happens when she spies another dog.  And, to be honest, something really ugly happens to her owner (that would be me) whenever she’s with me and even thinks about getting near another dog. 


Seeing animals fight, especially to the death, can be a bit traumatizing. 

If you feel the same way I do at seeing animals kill each other, today’s biblical text probably won’t be your favorite.  But it might be fairly memorable. 


In Daniel 8, Daniel is going to be so traumatized by the vision God gives him that it is going to cause him to pass out and leave him literally sick for days.   Vs. 27—“And I, Daniel, fainted and was sick for days; afterward I arose and went about the king’s business.  I was astonished by the vision, but no one understood it.”


Let me warn you right now that this is not going to be a “feel-good” sermon today.  How do you take a vision of utter destruction and horror and make people feel good?  You don’t…and it would be immoral to try and do so. 

There are some things in this world that God wants us to literally feel sick over.  God has made us as human beings to “pass out” when pain, either physical or emotional, gets so great that it overwhelms us.  God has done that for a reason.  And just because we are His children does not mean we get an automatic insurance policy against pain or overwhelming experiences in life. 

I think it is past time for western Christians to begin to develop our biblical and practical theology about suffering.  It is high time that we take off the rose-colored glasses when we read the Bible and stop sanitizing the passages we find difficult and shocking.  The “just smile and be happy” Christianity that I was taught as a child will not be sufficient for the world unfolding before this generation of believers.  If we do not teach our children how to worship God in midst of a very evil, dark world, then we are not preparing them for what God has told us will someday come upon us and probably rather soon.


To this point in the book of Daniel, God has been giving an epic view of Gentile history apart from Israel and God’s people.  But now we have come to a chapter when Israel and its people are the focal point.  God is going to devote this next vision to some details about the Medes, Persians, and Greeks because these nations would be vital to the history of Israel. 

            One of the signals of that shift in audience comes here in Daniel 8 when the book literally changes languages.  It moves from Aramaic to Hebrew.  Though the vision of the remaining chapters was given to Daniel in a Gentile nation and pagan cities, God wanted to be sure that His chosen people understood that it had huge ramifications for them and in Israel. 


NOTE:  Isn’t it interesting that, from the time of Abraham, Israel has been the nerve center of the world?  Since the coming of Jesus it has been the truth center of human history.  Most recently in the last 60 years it has been the conflict center of the world.  And there is a day coming (the Millennium) when the land will be the peace center of the world. 


Remember back in Daniel 5 when Daniel walked into the hall where Belshazzar and his cronies were having that infamous last party of their life, the one with the handwriting on the wall?  Do you know why Daniel could keep his cool when everyone else there that night was shaking in their boots? 

            Chapter 8 is the vision that God gave Daniel during the 3rd year of King Belshazzar’s reign, when Daniel was in his early sixties.  Remember, the book of Daniel doesn’t go in strictly chronological order.  Chapter 8 is like a flashback in a movie of something that happened before chapter 5.  God is going to give Daniel information he will need to know when he walks on the scene at the Babylonian going-away party of chapter 5. 

Read 8:1-2

In the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar a vision appeared to me—to me, Daniel—after the one that appeared to me the first time. I saw in the vision, and it so happened while I was looking, that I was in Shushan, the citadel, which is in the province of Elam; and I saw in the vision that I was by the River Ulai.

            In this vision, Daniel was transported to Susa, a small, nondescript city in Babylon.  He saw himself standing by a canal in front of the palace.  What possible difference could it make that God’s man in Babylon was somewhere out in the sticks on the bank of an unremarkable waterway?  This little town wouldn’t even rate a large red dot on the map.  But God was signaling that this place was going to be the very nerve center of the next kingdom.  Babylon was a falling star, and the Persian Empire was about to begin.  Both the books of Nehemiah and Esther talk of Susa as home to the royal throne of Persia (Neh. 1:1; Esther 1:2).  Long before the Persian Empire began, before Babylon fell, Daniel saw himself at the coming capital of the future Persian kingdom.  Don’t tell me God doesn’t speak in specifics!

            While Daniel was standing beside the canal, this is what he saw (vss. 3-4):

Then I lifted my eyes and saw, and there, standing beside the river, was a ram which had two horns, and the two horns were high; but one was higher than the other, and the higher one came up last. I saw the ram pushing westward, northward, and southward, so that no animal could withstand him; nor was there any that could deliver from his hand, but he did according to his will and became great.

            There is no guesswork needed to figure out who this ram represents.  In verse 20 where told that the two-horned ram signifies the kings of Media and Persia.  After the Babylonian kingdom fell, the Medes stepped in first and were joined by the Persians.  Soon the Medes fade into the background because the Persians assimilated their whole kingdom, just as this prophecy says. 

            Cyrus the Persian and his son, Cambesis II, built the largest empire the world had ever seen to that day.  It moved in every direction, and no other kingdom could stand before them. 

            Enter the Goat!  (read 8:5-7)

And as I was considering, suddenly a male goat came from the west, across the surface of the whole earth, without touching the ground; and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes. Then he came to the ram that had two horns, which I had seen standing beside the river, and ran at him with furious power. And I saw him confronting the ram; he was moved with rage against him, attacked the ram, and broke his two horns. There was no power in the ram to withstand him, but he cast him down to the ground and trampled him; and there was no one that could deliver the ram from his hand.

Here’s another sort of historical no-brainer.  The Grecian Empire followed that of the Medo-Persians.  Interestingly, the first Greek colony was established by an oracle that sent a goat for a guide to build a city.  The goat came to the region of Greece, and in gratitude for the goat’s leading them in the right direction, they called the city Agae, meaning “The Goat City.”  The name of the sea upon whose shores the city was built was call the Aegean Sea, or the “Goat Sea.”

            Here God gives us 5 amazing prophecies that were fulfilled in history down to the minutest detail.  In this vision, as the goat began to expand its holdings and cover the whole earth, it moved so rapidly that its feet didn’t seem to touch the ground.  It set world records for bringing the known world under its dominion.  History tells us that the Greeks conquered the entire civilized world in 12 brief years without losing a single battle.  Greece became the dominant force in the world faster than any other kingdom before it…and God predicted it some 200 years before it happened. 

            The second amazing prophecy has to do with the reputation of the king.  He is called “a notable/prominent horn.”  Remember from previous weeks who this chap was?  None other than Alexander the Great.  When little Alex was growing up, his mother taught him that he was the descendant of the gods Achilles and Hercules.  No wonder the kid was motivated! 

            The story goes that, when he was just a little shaver, there was a horse that everyone in his family had tried to break, but no one could.  Alexander said, “I’ll do that!”  And he did.  According to historians, that was the horse that he rode in all of the great campaigns as he led the Greeks in their conquest of the world. 

            Alexander’s father, Philip of Macedon, was a cracker-jack military man himself.  We’re told that Alexander used to spend most of his time worrying that there wouldn’t be anything left for him to conquer after his father got done.  But his dad told him after one significant victory, “Alexander, my son, seek out a kingdom worthy of yourself.  Macedonia is too small for you.” 

            Wow!  No pressure there, right? So he conquered the known world.  Dads, our modeling and our words of destiny to our children carry more weight than we can imagine.  Let’s learn to inspire our children to great things.  (I remember dropping my kids off at junior high and high school some days saying, “Well, give them Jesus!  Go lead well.  Somebody is going to lead here today and it might as well be YOU!”)

            The third prophecy had to do with the ruin of the Medo-Persian Empire.  God foretold how Alexander was going to strike the ram and shatter his two horns. 

            When Alexander took the Medes and Persians down, he came with 35,000 troops from the west, crossed over the Hellespont, and defeated the Persian army.  He swept on south and took Egypt, Tyre, and Gaza and then he retraced his steps through Syria and met an enlarged Persian army for the 3rd time.  That was the end of that two-horned ram. 

            In the process, Alexander Hellenized the world by bringing it all under the Greek culture and language.  That language became the foundation for the New Testament we have translated into English from the Greek today.  By the time Alexander died, he had built a vast system of highways and roads over which the Gospel would travel and put in place the language God would use to write the New Testament.


The fourth remarkable prophecy here has to do with the death of the king.  Verse 8 says, “Therefore the male goat grew very great; but when he became strong, the large horn was broken, and in place of it four notable ones came up toward the four winds of heaven.”  As we saw last week, Alexander the great died in Babylon at age 33, a victim of his own drunkenness and depression because there were no more world to conquer. 


The fifth remarkable prophecy concerns the 4 “horns” or leaders that divided Alexander’s kingdom after his death. From one of those four kingdoms would come a ruler who would surpass all the others in cruelty and hatred for the Jews and their God.  Daniel was given a historical preview of this man of evil, a preview that that would be both fulfilled by a man born 175 years before Christ and have a possible second fulfillment still in the future today.

Look at 8:9-12And out of one of them came a little horn which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the Glorious Land. 10 And it grew up to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and some of the stars to the ground, and trampled them. 11 He even exalted himself as high as the Prince of the host; and by him the daily sacrifices were taken away, and the place of His sanctuary was cast down. 12 Because of transgression, an army was given over to the horn to oppose the daily sacrifices; and he cast truth down to the ground. He did all this and prospered.

            The fellow being spoken of here was fulfilled in the person of Antiochus Epiphanes.  His name means “Antiochus, God Manifest.”  Talk about diabolical arrogance!  After trying to conquer the world and being stopped by Roman armies, he turned his fury on Jerusalem and sacked the city.  He killed some 80,000 Jews and sold another 40,000 into slavery. 

            Adding insult to injury, he brought pagan feasts to the temple, forbade the observance of the Sabbath and the reading of the Scripture, even burning every copy of the Torah he could find.  On penalty of death, Jews were forbidden to practice anything Jewish. 

            One Greek general, under the direction of Antiochus, set up some games outside the temple.  Every Jewish priest and other Jews who were part of the Jewish worship, were stripped naked and required to participate in the games. 

            Jews were forbidden to practice the sign of God’s covenant with them, circumcision.  History records that there were 2 mothers who, because of their deep commitment to God, were determined to circumcise their baby boys.  When Antiochus heard about it, he took the babies and killed them, hung them around each mother’s neck and marched the women through the streets of Jerusalem to the highest wall from which the women and their babies were thrown headlong over the precipice.  Another story tells of a mother who had 7 sons who defied Antiochus’ law.  He cut out the boys’ tongues in front of their mother and fried them to death on a flat iron one at a time.  Then he murdered their mother. 

            This prophecy’s reference to the desecration of the temple is a reference to the moment when Antiochus walked into the sacred place of the Jews with a pig and slit its throat as a sacrifice on the altar of the Jewish people.  Then he took the blood from the animal and sprayed it all over the inside of the temple.  The Bible speaks of that as the Abomination of Desolation.  Nothing was more horrible to the Jews than to have their sacred place profaned by the blood of an unclean animal. 

            Somehow God caused Daniel to visualize all of this in his mind as vividly as if he were actually there.  The limited stories I’ve told today are enough to make us squirm today.  Imagine seeing such horrible atrocities in living color by the thousands in the space of a few minutes. 


Whenever you are thrust into the throws of devastating suffering or war or something horrific like that, there are usually a couple of questions that come to the surface.  One of those questions is, “How long must this go on? “ 

Anyone who cared at all about God’s people would naturally cry out, “How long will these atrocities go on?”  That is what happens in vss. 13-14.  The answer of roughly 2,300 days is given.  That time actually corresponds with the time between when Antiochus polluted the temple and when God used the Maccabees to end that reign of terror and cleanse the temple. 

That latter story is not found in Daniel, but it does occur in what is called the intertestimental period, in a book most Protestants consider apocryphal, called Maccabees.  It is a history of the Jews being delivered by God from Antiochus through a Jewish family called the Maccabees.   And this history explains much of Judaism’s holy days celebrated nowadays. 

Let me tell you the story of a fellow named “Judas the Hammer.” (Kind of sounds like Jessie “the Body” Ventura, no?)   During those days of terrible persecution, there was a priest, Mattathias, who lived in a town outside of Jerusalem.  He was a great patriarch and grieved over the sorrow of his people.  One day an emissary from Antiochus came to the place where Mattathias lived and said, “You are ordered to bow down before the altar of Jupiter, our Greek god.”  Mattathias was so incensed over this order that when a Jew came to worship Jupiter, the old priest killed the Jew then killed the officer who made the Jew bow.  This was the beginning of the Maccabean revolt. 

The old priest died but he passed the torch of liberty and revolution to Judas Maccabeus, his son, who was know as Judas the Hammer.  He won the victory over Antiochus and independence for his people.  When Judas went back to cleanse the temple in 144 B.C., the first thing he wanted to do was find oil to light the lamps.  According to tradition, the ceremony that would re-consecrate the temple would take eight days, but when e found only one cruse of oil, he knew he didn’t have enough to last for all that time. 

However, as the story goes, that small amount of oil lasted for the entire eight days.  To this day the Jewish people celebrate the feast of reconstruction and dedication of their temple.  They call it the feast of Hanukkah, celebrated during our Christmas season.  On the first day of Hanukkah, devout Jews light a candle, the second day they light another, and so on until after eight days there are eight candles burning.  It is a sign of victory and deliverance, which goes right back to this period in history in the Book of Daniel.


Story:  Speaking of Jewish feasts, there is a story about a persecutor of the Jews in a country which was at one time behind the Iron curtain.  He asked one of the Jews who had been tortured, “What do you think will happen to you and your people if we continue to persecute you?”

            “Ah, the result will be a feast,” replied the Jew.  “Pharaoh tried to destroy us, and the result was Passover.  Haman attempted to destroy us, and the result was the Feast of Purim.  Antiochus Epiphanes tried to destroy us, and the result was Feast of Dedication.  Just try to destroy us, and we’ll start another feast!” 

[Much of this message was taken from David Jeremiah’s chapter 13 of his commentary The Handwriting on the Wall—Secrets from the Prophecy of Daniel.]


Satan tried to destroy the Jews by destroying their Messiah too. But from that torture and crucifixion came another feast, one that is celebrated more often by more people than any other in the world—the Lord’s Supper. 

            We serve the only God who can take tragedy and suffering at the hands of evil people and turn it into something good.  He’s been doing it for thousands of years.  But if we are materialistic enough to think that the survival of our own bodies is his foremost concern, we will be deeply disappointed.  While God values every human life, he is not a materialist.  He knows that everything physical will one day pass away.  So he calls us to let go of this temporal, physical life so that we might truly find life that is full and eternal. 

            Sometimes he will call us to let go through physical illness.  Others he will ask to pass through old age and dementia.  Some he will call to follow him in the valley of torture and martyrdom.  But all of us will be asked to “lose our life in Christ so that we might truly find life eternal in Christ.”


None of us relish the thought of suffering torture or imprisonment or death for the sake of Christ.  But if this chapter has anything to teach us it is that we must be ready for such a reality.  This chapter ends with an angelic interpretation of these events that left Daniel faint and sick.  As the angel told Daniel in vs. 17, “Understand, son of man, that the vision refers to the time of the end.”  We, church, are living in the “end times,” certainly more so than even the Jews of the 2nd century B.C.  As we will see shortly from Daniel, there are yet many horrible and deeply disturbing prophecies about this “end time” yet to be fulfilled. 


And it seems to me that God has given to the church in these end times many reminders of the type sacrifice he is asking us to be willing to enter into by giving the church so many who are suffering and dying for their faith in Christ today.  Let me end today by telling you of a few of them. 


PAKISTAN: just a few months ago, a Muslim mob in Lahore, Pakistan burned down over 150 Christian homes and two churches over allegations that a Christian man had committed blasphemy.  It all began after a Muslim man accused his lifelong boyhood friend, Sawan Mashi, a Pakistani Christian, of insulting the Prophet Muhammad, an allegation punishable by death under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. 

            Even through Pakistani police had swiftly arrested Masih, Christian families hurriedly fled the area in fear of Muslim reprisals, an exodus which proved fortuitous given the ensuing Muslim rampage by over 3,000 people. 

            Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws can earn sentences of death or life in prison for those found guilty of insulting Islam’s Prophet Muhammad or desecrating its holy book, the Koran. 

            To that end, 20 Pakistanis convicted of blasphemy are currently serving life sentences while another 16 are sitting on death row awaiting their appointed date with the executioner.

            Among those currently slated to die is Younis Masih, a Christian father of 4 who has been on death row since 2007.  Younis Masih’s heretical act occurred in September 2005 when he was arrested after he had reportedly asked a group of Muslims who were holding a religious service one evening in a nearby house to turn their music down.

            And then there is Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of 5, who in 2010 was the first Pakistani woman convicted for blasphemy and sentenced to death by hanging. Bibi’s transgression against Islam came in 2009 after a verbal disagreement with some Muslim women in her village led bibi to claim that Christians and Muslims are equal before God, and affront apparently stinging enough to lead to her being accused of having blasphemed against Mohammad. 


COLOMBIA—January 2013.  In September of last year (2012), National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas in Colombia demanded that Alicia Castilla leave her home in Arauca, in northeastern Colombia. Four months later, on the evening of Jan. 7, during a visit from the family’s pastor, assassins entered her home and shot her in front of her three children and her father. She died immediately. The guerrillas had killed Alicia’s husband Nelson, a lay-minister, two years earlier. Nelson was shot to death in the family’s home as his wife and two small daughters, now 9 and 6, watched.  Nelson had become a Christian two years before his death and often shared the gospel in Saravena, a town near Colombia’s border with Venezuela. A few months after his conversion, the ELN issued its first expulsion order against him and his family.



Susan was just 13 when an evangelist spoke at her school and she turned to Christ for salvation.  That year, 2009, marked the beginning of the troubles with her father.

            At first her father beat her because of her new faith.  Then, in March 2010, he locked her in a room in their mud shanty.  He kept her there for 6 months without feeding her, and she survived on roasted bananas that her brother slipped under the door when their father was gone.  During that time she suffered a bout of untreated malaria, and the long-term lack of calcium affected her growing bones.  After 2 operations on her left thigh bone, she can now walk with the assistance of crutches. 

            Neighbors became concerned and told police, who rescued her from the home.  A local pastor who visited her in the hospital after her rescue said she was bony, weak and unable to walk or talk.  “Her hair had turned yellow, she had long fingernails and sunken eyes, and she looked very slim, less than 45 pounds,” he said. 

            She continues to have serious pan in her left knee and is worried about future complications as her left leg is not growing as it should.  But when asked how she felt about being a Christian, she smiled and said, “I feel very well, because I’m now with Christ.”


CHINA—Nov. 2007

Shi Weihan, now known as John Stone, was a bookstore owner who sold books with the government’s permission.  But Shi was also a pastor who printed and freely distributed Bibles and other Christian books on the side.  From 1996 to 2007, Shi and his group printed almost 2 million copies of the Bible to be distributed throughout China. 

During his first arrest he was stripped of his clothes, handcuffed and forced to stand outside in the frigid winter cold.  His handcuffs were attached to a metal hook over his head and then he was sprayed with cold water and shocked with electricity.  This went on hour after hour until the pain became more than he could bear.  “God, save me,” he prayed.  You helped Peter get out of jail.  You can help me today.”  God didn’t open the doors to the detention center.  Instead, when the police returned to torture and interrogate him by spraying him with cold water, this time the water felt warm.  God spoke to him, “My grace is enough for you.”  He awoke the following day on the floor of one of the offices.           

He was held for 37 days, released, and then rearrested less than 3 months later.  On June 10, 2009, he was sentenced to 3 years in prison for “violating the regulations of the state in printing illegal publications.” In his first year in prison he led 6 convicted murders to Christ and, without access to a tub or pool, baptized them in their cells using a rice bowl.  After more than a year in jail, a sympathetic guard jail finally got him a Bible. 

Called to the prison office one day, he saw piles of letters all addressed to him.  The letters came from all over the world—the U.S., Netherlands, England, Australia.  Shi, though unable to read English, saw this as God’s way of telling him he had not been forgotten.  The guards told him, “You have too many friends.”

One of Shi’s biggest challenges was his oldest daughter’s belief that her dad was a bad person since he had been arrested.  Shi and his wife could not share any details of their secret work with their daughters, Lily and Grace.  The girls attended school in Beijing, where they were constantly taught that communism is good and those who oppose it are criminals and imprisoned.  But when so many letters arrived at their home, Shi’s daughter Lily gained a better understanding of her father’s imprisonment.  No longer did she think he had done something bad; she realized that he was arrested for doing something that was right.

In fact, one letter that called her dad a “hero” got her to begin reading her Bible which led her into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  She said of that experience, “I started getting all the answers I needed, like believing in one thing and not two things that are completely opposite.”

She said of the letters she received, “I don’t know what would have happened if I didn’t receive the letters because they really changed my life—changed my point of view. 


[Invite people to write letters.  See “The Grid” for details.]