Saturday, February 17, 2018

The Beginnings of the Persian Empire

The Persians emigrated from the great plains of Russia in the 9th century BC.

The Persian kings: Teispes, Cyrus I, Cambyses I, Cyrus the Great, Cambyses II, (Gaumata the usurper), Darius the Great who was the 3rd cousin of Cambyses II, & Xerxes a.k.a. Ahasuerus.

The above mentioned kings, with the exception of Gaumata, were members of the Achaemenid Dynasty.  Nothing is known about Achaemenes, the founder of the dynasty.  Shortly after 700 BC, Teispes captured the city-state of Anshan and established himself as king.  Anshan became an ally of Elam against Assyria, the world power at that time.  In 639 BC, the Assyrians conquered the kingdom of Elam.  To retain Anshan’s independence, Cyrus I sent his eldest son with a tribute to serve as a hostage of Ashurbanipal in the Assyrian capital of Nineveh.  The crown prince perished in 612 BC when the Medes and Chaldeans joined forces to conquer Nineveh.  Thus his younger brother, Cambyses I, became Anshan’s heir apparent.

Cyrus the Great’s accession year was 559 BC.  From his humble beginnings as ruler of the tiny state of Anshan, he conquered Media, Lydia, and Babylon and built the humongous Persian Empire. 

Four Diadems

Behold, three more kings are going to arise in Persia.  Then a fourth will gain far more riches than all of them; as soon as he becomes strong through his riches, he will arouse the whole empire against the realm of Greece. 

Daniel the Prophet 605-535 BC

Cyrus the Great was succeeded by his son, Cambyses II, in 530 BC.  In his short, eight year reign, Cambyses added the kingdom of Egypt to the vast empire assembled by his father.

In 525 BC, Cambyses defeated Pharaoh Psammetichus III first on the Nile Delta and then at the key city of Memphis.  He continued south destroying the Egyptian temples along the way knowing full well that men were demoralized by the desecration of their gods.

After his successful campaign in Egypt, Cambyses hastened homeward to crush an attempt to usurp his throne.  In 522 BC, before reaching Persia, a sword wound inflicted to his leg became infested with gangrene and he died an untimely death.

Sibling rivalries were common among the Persian princes sometimes resulting in fratricide.  Before Cambyses invaded Egypt, he secretly murdered his brother, Bardiya. 

Now Bardiya had a double whose name was Gaumata.  He was a member of the Magi, a tribe of Medes who served as priests and diviners under the Persian kings.  Posing as Bardiya, he took control of the Persian throne.  Those who recognized his masquerade were expeditiously eliminated. 

While Gaumata replicated Bardiya's appearance, there was one difference.  The Mede was missing both of his ears.  Like other ancient cultures, the Persians practised mutilation.  It was not uncommon to lop off ears, noses, and even tongues as punishment for impropriety.

That difference was recognized by Darius the Great, Cambyses' third cousin and an elite fighting officer who served with Cambyses in Egypt.  Thus Darius and six other members of the nobility murdered Gaumata and his followers.  Over the next few weeks, Darius seized control of the Persian throne.

In an effort to solidify his claim to the throne, he took over the royal harem.  Atossa, daughter of Cyrus, was not only Cambyses’ sister but also his wife.  She was a key member of the harem whose second marriage to Gaumata preceded her role as Darius' chief wife and queen of Persia.  Atossa bore Darius four sons, the most distinguished being Xerxes who succeeded his father to the Persian throne.

Xerxes used his great wealth to gain military power and pursue the one jewel that evaded his predecessors, the kingdom of Greece.

In 480 BC, Xerxes declared war against Greece.  He defeated 300 valiant Spartans at Thermopylae and captured the city of Athens.  However his fortunes began to wane.  In a gulf near Athens, the Greeks destroyed a third of his fleet.  Xerxes turned over command of the Persian army to his general, Mardonius, and sought refuge in Asia Minor. 

The Persian fate was sealed.  Their army was decisively defeated and the remainder of their navy destroyed.  Xerxes had failed miserably in his quest to conquer the kingdom of Greece.

The Times of the Persians

Now the Jews began to rebuild Jerusalem's temple in 536 BC, during the reign of Cyrus.  The reconstruction was halted due to the harassment of the Samarians coupled with their own lack of dedication to the project.  Encouraged by the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, they resumed the temple's reconstruction in the second regnal year of Darius the Great. 

While the Samarians lobbied Darius to prohibit the reconstruction project, the Jews claimed they were working under an edict proclaimed by Cyrus in 538 BC.  

To clarify the issue, Darius searched the archives in the treasury at Babylon but could find no such edict.  After checking the royal itinerary, he discovered that Cyrus left Babylon in 538 BC to summer in Ecbatana.  So he searched the fortress at Ecbatana, in the province of Media, where he found the scroll containing Cyrus' decree.

Then Darius resolved the disagreement with his own decree which was sent to the governor of Samaria:

“Leave this work on the house of God alone; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews rebuild this house of God on its site.

“And I issued a decree that any man who violates this edict, a timber shall be drawn from his house and he shall be impaled on it and his house shall be made a refuse heap on account of this.

“And may the God, who has caused His name to dwell there, overthrow any king or people who attempts to resist, so as to destroy this house of God in Jerusalem.  I Darius have issued this decree, let it be carried out with all diligence.”

The temple was completed on March 12, 515 BC in the 6th regnal year of Darius the Great. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Great Tribulation

"And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.

For there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until this time, nor ever shall.

And the man of lawlessness will be revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.

And all who dwell on earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.

How long shall it be until the end of these wonders? It shall be for a time, times, and half a time.

And from the time that the regular sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that maketh desolate is set up, there shall be 1,290 days.

How blessed is he who keeps waiting and attains to the 1,335 days!"

The seventy weeks in Daniels Messianic prophecy are often interpreted as seven year cycles which were fashioned by God and recorded by Moses in the Books of Exodus and Leviticus.

Chapter 9 of the Book of Daniel tells us that after sixty-nine weeks, Messiah will be slain and the people of the prince shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Those prophecies were fulfilled in 30 AD when Christ was crucified and in 70 AD when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and Herods Temple.

Week seventy will come during the reign of the “abomination of desolation” spoken of by Daniel the prophet and re-introduced by Jesus Christ in the Gospel of Matthew.

The “abomination that maketh desolate,” also called the antichrist or the beast, will capture the popular imagination and inspire allegiance and devotion. He will strike up a covenant with rabbinical Judaism allowing them to perform animal sacrifices and grain offerings in Jerusalems Third Temple. Notably, for that agreement to be realized, Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque would have to be eliminated and the Third Temple erected on Mount Moriah in their place.

However, in the middle of the seventieth week, the beast will break the covenant and prohibit the Jews from making sacrifices and oblations to their God. It is then that he will sit in Jerusalems Third Temple declaring himself to be God. This will mark the beginning of the Great Tribulation, a time of unprecedented suffering, the likes of which has not occurred since the beginning of time, nor ever shall.

Daniel measures the length of the Great Tribulation as “a time, times, and half a time.” Thats the equivalent of 1260 days or 42 months according to the Book of Revelation. Hence, the Great Tribulation will span the last three and a half years of Daniels seventieth week or “a year, two years, and half a year” in prophetic parlance.

Many believe that the Second Coming of Jesus Christ will occur 30 days after the Great Tribulation. Forty-five days later, Christ will establish His Millennial Kingdom. (1260 + 30 = 1290; 1290 + 45 = 1335)

Will believers suffer through the holocaust known as the Great Tribulation? Many think not. The following passages are examples of scriptural evidence supporting a rapture of the saints prior to the Great Tribulation:

“Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I will also keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell upon the earth.”

“And there will be a time of distress such as has never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued.”