Category Archives: Daniel

Daniel 10-12 – Speculation Isn’t Necessary: Jesus Will Reign Forever!

These chapters which end the book of Daniel are a prophecy speculator’s delight, especially chapter 12. Chapters 10 and 11 describe the warring kingdoms that will come in the next several hundred years after Daniel, but chapter 12 is a vision of far off into the future.

Daniel starts chapter 10 with an amazing vision of a man that is almost impossible for him to describe. He was with a group of men, but he was the only one who saw it, and however he was acting it freaked them out and they fled and hid themselves. The man tells Daniel something that all Christians should take to heart:

Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words.

To set our hearts means we have a passion, a hunger, a yearning for understanding, which can only be had through a pursuit of knowledge and prayer. We know Daniel knew his Scripture, and I bet he was familiar with Proverbs. The first nine chapters are a long exhortation to pursue wisdom and knowledge above all else. An example from chapter 3:

13 Blessed are those who find wisdom,
    those who gain understanding,
14 for she is more profitable than silver
    and yields better returns than gold.
15 She is more precious than rubies;
    nothing you desire can compare with her.
16 Long life is in her right hand;
    in her left hand are riches and honor.
17 Her ways are pleasant ways,
    and all her paths are peace.
18 She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her;
    those who hold her fast will be blessed.

Then Daniel gets a further peak into an angelic world where Michael, who we know is an archangel, is referred to, and princes of Persia and Greece can detain angels like the one talking to Daniel, and so must themselves be angels. He says of Michael, that he is Daniel’s prince. There is a spiritual reality that we can’t see and of which we have no idea, simpletons that we are. In fact most of us live most of the time as practical materialists, as if the material were all that is. It isn’t.

Chapter 11 is a long recitation of wars to come, which everyone seems to agree eventually ends up with Antiochus Epiphanes, who was also referred to in an earlier vision of Daniel’s. He was not a good man, and many Jews suffered as a result.

Finally chapter 12 gets into future events that very few agree on exactly what they mean. We learn that Michael is the “great prince” of Daniel’s people, and he will “arise.” We’re never told what that means. We assume it has to do with a “great distress” never before seen in the history of the world that is to come. Then we read of a general resurrection of the dead followed by judgment:

Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.

I’m pretty sure this is the first reference to a resurrection of the dead in Scripture, and an unequivocal affirmation of eternal life and eternal death. No annihilationism or universalism here.

The book ends with the angel giving Daniel some time frames as to when this will all happen. He mentions “the abomination that causes desolation,” which the dispensationalist pre-mills think refers to a literal Antichrist. Who knows, and really, who cares. We know how it all ends:

10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

Amen!

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Daniel 9 – No Guesswork About What the Lord Accomplished For Us

Chapter 9 is a prayer by Daniel, followed by Gabriel making another visit to interpret an apocalyptic scenario for him. This chapter is a prophetic speculator’s delight, specifically the last four verses. But if we are determined not to lose the forest for the trees, it’s very clear what’s being referred to.

Daniel starts by telling us he’s familiar with Jeremiah’s prophecy that “the desolation of Jerusalem would last 70 years.” He’s telling us this in the first year of Darius’ reign, so Babylon had fallen and the year would be 539 BC. In other words it’s time to go back, for the exiles to be exiled no more. But the promise God made was always contingent on Israel’s repentance, and turning from their wicked ways. So Daniel prays, and he confesses Israel’s sin (and his own), which is why Jerusalem lies desolate. His familiarity with Scripture means he knows exactly why all this has happened. If God’s people are treated according to their works, there will never be hope for the exiles, so he prays thus:

17 “Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. 18 Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. 19 Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.”

Daniel mentions Moses twice in the preceding verses, referencing the blessings and curses of the law. The problem with Israel, and us, is that we can never obey the law perfectly, and thus enjoy the promised blessings. If all we have is the covenant of works, we are doomed.

Daniel seems to get that because he’s pleading with God to not treat them as their sin deserves. The problem for Daniel, and any other saint prior to Christ, is on what basis would God be merciful? Why would he forgive one transgression, and not another? Without Christ all you are left with is something like the God of Islam. You hope he’s merciful if you jump through all the right hoops, but you have the sneaking suspicion he won’t be. To us what might be his justice or his mercy seems completely arbitrary.

Thus the elegant beauty of the plan of Almighty God to make Jesus Christ the chief cornerstone of our salvation. No guesswork here:

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

Or here:

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Or here:

13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.

Of course I could go on, and on, and on. Our salvation, and thus peace with God, is not based on what we do or don’t do, but what God has done for us in Christ! Now that is good news! The peace Isaiah mentions above means God’s wrath has been fully satisfied for us in Christ. He is no longer our judge, jury, and executioner, but our Father who loved us so much he gave up the life of his Son. Nothing arbitrary about that!

When we get to Gabriel’s interpretation of the vision, there is little need to speculate because he tells us what it all means:

24 “Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place.

This is exactly what Jesus came to do, so whatever else these verses mean, and whatever the time frame might be, this is the end game, and exactly what Jesus accomplished.

 

 

Daniel 8 – And Truth Was Thrown to the Ground

In this chapter Daniel has another vision, this one of a ram and a goat. The angel Gabriel is sent to Daniel to interpret the vision, which is about kings and kingdoms to come (Media-Persia and Greece). The focus of the vision is a king who will stop the temple sacrifices, and set himself up as the one to be honored in the temple. Most seem to agree that this man is the one referred to:

Antiochus Epiphanes was a Greek king of the Seleucid Empire who reigned over Syria from 175 BC until 164 BC. He is famous for almost conquering Egypt and for his brutal persecution of the Jews, which precipitated the Maccabean revolt. Antiochus Epiphanes was a ruthless and often capricious ruler. He is properly Antiochus IV, but he took upon himself the title “Epiphanes,” which means “illustrious one” or “god manifest.” However, his bizarre and blasphemous behavior earned him another nickname among the Jews: “Epimanes,” which means “mad one.”

The article linked to describes what he did and why it was so horrible. The Lord’s message through Daniel’s vision? That evil, even of this kind, will not be allowed to stand against God and his people. As Gabriel tells Daniel, “he will be destroyed, but not by human hands.” In the Lord’s perfect time, even though there will be suffering, evil will be judged and God’s reign restored.

A part of one verse stands out to me. In verse 12 it says in everything this horn (king) did it prospered, “and truth was thrown to the ground.” I wonder exactly what was in Daniel’s mind as he wrote this. Or, what exactly he was seeing when he wrote it. The Hebrew word translated truth can also mean firmness or faithfulness. I found this commentary, with which most seem to agree:

And it cast down the truth to the ground – The true system of religion, or the true method of worshipping God – represented here as truth in the abstract. So in Isaiah 59:14, it is said: “Truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter.” The meaning here is, that the institutions of the true religion would be utterly prostrate. This was fully accomplished by Antiochus. See 1 Macc. 1.

I’ll have to familiarize myself with the intertestimental period and the Maccabees sometime.

I get the sense that the truth thrown to the ground means everything that is right with the world, as if it were a beautiful vase, is thrown down and shattered all over the ground. This king displays a hostility to the truth, or what makes the basic nature of reality real. And nothing is more real, and right, and true than to worship the true and living God. Those who deny that there is truth, such as many do in our post-modern relativistic age, are also denying the God who is the ground and basis of all existence. When we honor truth we honor him. Even those who do not honor him, but honor truth do in some way honor him. Which is why we boldly stand for truth!

Daniel 7 – The Saints Will Inherit An Everlasting Kingdom

Daniel 7 is another dream of four beasts such as we found in chapter 2 which represent four great empires: Babylon, Mede-Persian, Greece, and Rome. The purpose of this dream is to give the Jewish exiles hope, as is the whole book of Daniel. A generation of exiles had arisen that don’t even remember the land of Israel or Jerusalem. The pious among them must have wondered if they would ever get back, or if God’s covenant promises had failed. Daniel is written to assure them that this is most certainly not the case. The Lord, as we’re reminded over and over again in the preceding chapters, is the Lord of history, of empires, and all that happens. They, and we, can trust that he will bring everything to its perfect conclusion, that good will triumph over evil in the end.

Conservative Christians (liberals and skeptics believe Daniel was written in the second century BC, and is thus not prophecy at all, but history), especially since the rise of premillennial dispensationalism about 150 years ago, have treated Daniel 7 and following as a speculation factory. There are no doubt certain passages that lend themselves to speculation, but much or all of that speculation arises from the assertion that such passages must be taken “Literally.” Since I was introduced to amillennialism, I’m much more comfortable taking such passages metaphorically or symbolically. Witnessing the “speculation wars” about prophecy over my lifetime has convinced me that “literal” is a fool’s errand.

The big picture purpose of Daniel 7, then, is confirmation that God himself will reign forever with his “saints” (verse 18). Contra the Catholic church, saints or holy ones are not believers who do some miraculous work, but those who have been made holy by God. That is the clear implication of all of Scripture. We also get a picture that this reign includes the work of the Triune God. Verse 9 speaks of the “Ancient of Days” being seated on his throne, and multitudes before him as “the court is seated and the books were opened.” Judgment is coming. Then comes into the picture what Jews interpreted as a Messianic figure:

13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority,glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

Both of these figures are clearly divine. One of Jesus’ favorite monikers for himself was “son of man.” It’s used 86 times in the gospels alone. Throughout his ministry Jesus was clearly saying that this “one like a son of man” is him! This one, and Jesus, must be divine because you don’t worship a man. Everlasting authority, glory, and sovereign power are not human attributes either. The problem for the Jews of Jesus’ time is that they were expecting this Messiah, and not the Messiah of Isaiah 53, even though he told them over and over again he was going to suffer and die. This Messianic expectation was why his disciples found it so hard to believe in the cross and resurrection, it was so contrary to their expectations.

The rest of the chapter is the interpretation of the dream, which is told to Daniel by one of those multitudes attending the Ancient of Days. The point of this dream is the end game:

27 Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the saints of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.’

To the people living in Daniel’s time, they are being given hope that they will not be exiles forever. God has a plan for his people, and it is to rule with him forever. Our is, and must always be, an eternal perspective. On this side of the resurrection, we know how God the Father accomplished this. We wait patiently through the toils, struggles, and tears of this life for “They kingdom come . . . “

Daniel 6 – Daniel in the Lions’ Den: Trusting God in the Face of Danger

We find the final of the supposed tale tales of Daniel in chapter 6. Daniel is one of the few people in Scripture who everything written about him is positive. He has lived a long time in Babylon and earned a spotless reputation. King Darius learns about this, and decides to appoint him a ruler over his whole kingdom. But some jealous administrators hear about this and scheme to have Daniel discredited before he can be appointed. In this they fail: “They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.” So they go after his religion.

The administrators trick the king into issuing a decree that no other God except he is to be worshiped for the next 30 days. Because of his pious, Jewish reputation, they know Daniel will never do this, and thus be sentenced to death. As soon as he hears about the decree, he goes home, opens his window toward Jerusalem, gets on his knees and “gives thanks to his God.” Even though he knows he is likely to be executed he gives thanks! He knew what Paul would command to us some 500 years later, “in everything give thanks.”

Daniel must have been familiar with I Kings 8, or knew of Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple. Numerous times in that chapter Solomon says something like this:

 29 May your eyes be open toward this temple night and day, this place of which you said, ‘My Name shall be there,’ so that you will hear the prayer your servant prays toward this place.30 Hear the supplication of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place. Hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.

Not only did Daniel do what it said, he had a reputation for doing what his God required. His enemies knew this. They catch him praying on his knees three times a day as is his custom, and go tell the king, whose response it interesting:

14 When the king heard this, he was greatly distressed; he was determined to rescue Daniel and made every effort until sundown to save him.

We don’t know what those efforts were, but a king who made a decree could not annul his own decree. So he ordered him thrown into the lions’ den, and the king says to Daniel: “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!”

The king has a fitful night and can’t sleep. First thing in the morning he “hurried to the lions’ den” and calls out “in an anguished voice”:

 “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?”

Daniel answers, “My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions.” Overjoyed, the king orders him out, and “no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.” Trusting God doesn’t always lead to the results we want, but we trust nonetheless.

Then something happens that seems incredibly harsh and unjust to us:

24 At the king’s command, the men who had falsely accused Daniel were brought in and thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children. And before they reached the floor of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones.

I found this commentary that tells us why this happened:

This was obviously severe, but it was also according to ancient customs among the Persians. An ancient writer named Ammianus Marcellinus wrote of the Persians, “The laws among them are formidable . . . by which, on account of the guilt of one, all the kindred perish.”

Heathen justice is not biblical justice. But notice what the lions do, whereas Daniel spent an entire night with them and not a scratch was found on him.

The chapter ends with King Darius issuing a decree for all peoples and nations to worship (“fear and reverence”) Daniel’s God. Sorry, king, it doesn’t work that way. But good try. Daniel prospers throughout the reign of Darius and then Cyrus (who may have been one in the same), which is in the 530s BC.

One thing about the supernatural in Daniel, which to unbelieving scholars proves it’s all made up. Supernatural acts in Scripture are rare. God only acts directly in history for a reason, and it’s not to impress people at what he can do. They always have a redemptive-historical purpose. Maybe the supernatural interventions in Daniel (there really aren’t many given Daniel’s long life) are to lend credibility to his eschatological prophecies in the rest of the book. We have seen that the Lord has a direct line to Daniel’s mind, which we’ll see more of in coming chapters.

 

 

Daniel 5 – The Writing on the Wall

We read in chapter 5 yet another of the famous Daniel stories, this one about Nebuchadnezzar’s son (or descendant), Belshazzar. He’s having a party, and in the midst of the festivities for some reason he thinks it’s a good idea to have the gold and silver goblets that his father took from the temple in Jerusalem brought in so everyone can drink from them. Actually for him, it’s a very bad idea. As “the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines” drink from the goblets, “they praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone.” Bad ideas all around. Not only do they take sacred items to use for their pagan bacchanalia, but use them to praise false gods which are no gods at all.

The next paragraph is where the phrase “the handwriting is on the wall” comes from (although many of our youngest generation will have no idea because of their biblical ignorance):

Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lampstand in the royal palace. The king watched the hand as it wrote. His face turned pale and he was so frightened that his legs became weak and his knees were knocking.

A total buzz kill. As his father had done, he calls on all the wise men to interpret these words on the wall, which they cannot do. It’s not that they don’t know what the words mean, because they’re in Aramaic, but what they are meant to mean as a message to the king.

This incident happened right before the fall of Babylon to the Medes and the Persians, after which the exiles returned to Jerusalem, and which we know was after 70 years in captivity. So Daniel having been taken to Babylon as a teenager, would have been an old man. Over those years he had developed a reputation for “the ability to interpret dreams, explain riddles and solve difficult problems,” and the king’s mother tells him to call on Daniel to explain what the words mean.

The king starts by telling Daniel he’ll lavish wonderful gifts on him if he can explain the words, but Daniel tells him that he can keep his gifts. Then he proceeds to rebuke him to his face. He recounts the life of Nebuchadnezzar, and how God humbled him when he lived in the wild as an animal. Daniel says Belshazzar knew all this, but that he refused to humble himself before God. In fact he says to the king these chilling words: “you have set yourself up against the Lord of heaven . . . . But you did not honor the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways.”

Daniel tells him that the three words on the wall mean that it’s curtains for the king. Word one, his days are numbered. Word two, and I love this phrase, “You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.” Like I said, chilling. And word three, his kingdom will be divided and given to the Medes (northern Iran) and the Persians. That very night the king is killed. It must have been some kind of battle because “Darius the Mede took over the kingdom,” and with the added seemingly unimportant detail that Darius did this “at the age of sixty-two.” (Such seemingly unimportant details are all over the Bible because it’s a document that records true history.)

I read that “critical scholars” (i.e. those that come to the Bible assuming it is merely a human book) don’t believe Daniel existed, that he is an historical fiction. Of course he was as real as you and me. The problem with such scholars is that if something cannot be explained or corroborated from some other historical record, it must be fiction. And if the Bible records a supernatural event, like Daniel does over and over, it is obviously fiction. Their a priori commitment to naturalism destroys their credibility for me. And also how often they’ve been proved wrong. These same claims that have been made for probably 150 years, that such and such never happened, or that so and so never existed, have proved bogus over and over again. The growth in archaeological knowledge has made sure of it.

The Lord, as Daniel says, is sovereign over history, and he is so for one reason. Paul says this in Galatians 4:

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

Amen!

Daniel 4 – The Lord is Able to Humble the Pride of Man

In this chapter we read another great Daniel story related to king Nebuchadnezzar. The king has another dream, and this time instead leaving Daniel guessing, he tells him exactly what the dream is about. The whole chapter is a letter from the king: “To the nations and peoples of every language, who live in all the earth,” and how he starts it may surprise us coming from a pagan king:

It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the Most High God has performed for me.

How great are his signs,
    how mighty his wonders!
His kingdom is an eternal kingdom;
    his dominion endures from generation to generation.

Obviously, Yahweh got his attention. The dream is about the greatness of his rule, and how it will be taken from him until he acknowledges that “Heaven rules.” Daniel implores him to renounce his “sins by doing what is right, and [his] wickedness by being kind to the oppressed.” Does he listen? Of course not. The greater the pride, the greater the downfall must be to humble the one who possesses it.

The dream is about the king losing his mind, and being driven out into the wild to live like an animal. A voice comes from heaven telling him the dream will be coming true, and then this:

Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes.

That’s a long time to live like an animal (times equals years). But at the end of that time he gets it: “Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.” He then acknowledges the “Most High” as one who has absolute almighty sovereign control over “the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth.” Nothing in spiritual or temporal reality is beyond his will. Whether he wills it directly or allows it to happen, who knows how that works. But we can rest in the confidence that the Lord orchestrates everything toward his glorious ends, which means ultimately for our, his people’s, good, and all leading to when every knee will bow . . .

The Lord then restores his kingdom back to Nebuchadnezzar even greater than before. His conclusion to the letter it beautifully true:

37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.

The takeaway from the story? It’s far better that we humble ourselves before the God of the universe, then having to be humbled by him.