Daniel 7:9-18: Your Throne, O God, Is Forever And Ever

In the first 8 verses of this chapter, Daniel was given a preview of the four world empires which have impacted, or will yet impact, Israel.  This part of his vision reminds us of what he told Nebuchadnezzar in 2:28.  Kingdoms come and go; they may go on a rampage for a while and ravage the earth, but watching over all things on earth, there is a God in heaven.  This is a theme Scripture never tires of.  Further, there is a kingdom coming which shall not pass away, and…which shall not be destroyed, v. 14.  The interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s first dream introduced us to this kingdom, 2:44.  This vision expands on that vision.  In the first part of this vision, there are three scenes:

1. There is a scene of unimaginable solemnity, vs. 9, 10.

From the confused mayhem on earth, we are suddenly transported into the measured order of a courtroom:  “I watched till thrones were put in place, and the Ancient of Days was seated,” v. 9.

This isn’t a throne of fellowship, such as described in Exodus 24:9-11,

Then Moses went up, also Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and they saw the God of Israel.  And there was under His feet a paved work of sapphire stone, and it was like the very heavens in its clarity.  But on the nobles of the children of Israel He did not lay His hand.  So they saw God, and they did eat and drink. 

Israel had not yet rebelled against God and broken the Mosaic Covenant; once that happened, we read of no further such “fellowship.”  In fact, they were shut out from the presence of God and had to come before Him through an intermediary – the tabernacle and the sons of Aaron and the priesthood.

Nor is it the throne of grace, such as is now available to the children of God for them to obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need, Hebrews 4:16.    It isn’t the throne of God’s providence, which Ezekiel saw, Ezekiel 1:26-28, nor of His glory, which Isaiah saw, Isaiah 6:1-3.

It’s a throne of judgment:  the books were opened.

This description reminds us of a similar description in Revelation 20:12, where John records,

“I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened.  And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life.  And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things written in the books,” emphasis added.

In our apostate day, with its unScriptural and humanistic views of the “love” of God, we have forgotten the other side of Paul’s admonition in Romans 11:22, …consider the goodness and severity of God.  People give no thought at all to the fact that they will stand before God and give an account of everything they’ve ever said, done or thought in their lives.  Every bout of drunkenness, every act of immorality or perversion, every tiny lie or twisting of the truth “just a little bit,” every act of greed or injustice.  Every commission, where they’ve done something they shouldn’t; every omission, where they didn’t do something they should have.  Every secret thing.  Every single thing….

Even Christians will give an account to God, 1 Corinthians 3:11-15.  Some seem to have the attitude that, since God has forgiven them because of what Christ did on the Cross, it doesn’t matter what they do.  They can live like the world and do what the world does, and it’s ok.  I was working next to such a group of people one day.  Their conversation was about the filthiest things imaginable.  In the midst of this verbal sewage, somehow the conversation got around to religion and the grace of God, and one of them said, “God loves us unconditionally.”  This is undeniably true, but I don’t think she meant it as the Scripture means it.  There is most certainly nothing in us that can cause God to love us, no “condition” we can meet.  The “reason” He loves us is always found in Him, never in us!  At the same time, when we are taught by the Spirit that we are objects of His love, that knowledge makes us want to please Him, not ourselves.  One of the other workers mentioned her enjoyment of a certain “gospel concert.”  It’s a terribly sad, terribly frightening commentary on the state of modern Christianity that professed Christians can wallow in moral filth in one breath and talk about “the love of God” in the next breath and see no inconsistency.

The froth and frivolity of much of what passes for “church” in our day – the “mega-churches,” the “mega-personalities” – would disappear in an instant if we could but get a vision of that One who sits on an eternal throne, high and lifted up, Isaiah 6:1.

On the other side of the ledger, there will be the revelation of and reward for the good things the saints have done, the sacrifices, the service to God which are often ignored, ridiculed or forbidden in this world.  Peter wrote to some people that believers have a living hope, not in this world, but in the fact that there is an inheritance, incorruptible and undefiled, reserved in heaven….ready to be revealed in the last time, I Peter 1:3-5.  Along this same line, Paul wrote that even the creation itself will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now, Romans 8:21, 22.

Not forever, and, we believe, not much longer, will this world thumb its nose at its Creator God and His Christ, even as Daniel shows us in the next verses.  Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

2. There is a scene of unimpeachable severity, vs. 11, 12.

This is a continuation of the scene of judgment.  The beast, certainly a man of great presence and power, has set himself against heaven, speaking pompous words, about which more will be said in a minute.  For now, all his braggadocio will come a halt, and he himself is slain, and [his] body destroyed and given to the burning flame.  He had been able to conquer some of his fellows, and had spoken great and proud things, but could not stand against the Ancient of Days.

3. There is a scene of indescribable majesty, v. 13, 14.

In my opinion, these verses form one of the most wonderful passages in the Old Testament.

a. The approach of One like the Son of Man, v. 13.

In contrast to the “beasts” of the earlier part of the vision, here we have One who bears the image of humanity.  We have the advantage over Daniel here, because we know that this One is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ.  “Son of Man” was one of His favorite titles, used by Himself of Himself many times during His earthy sojourn.  It’s a phrase which means so much more than just “human.”  It carries with it a hint of the Divine.  And of a truth, the Son of Man is also the Son of God.  He is the God-Man, God manifested in humanity.

b. The ascendancy of One like the Son of Man, v. 14.

Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom.  What the “beasts” fought over and killed for will be freely given to the Lord Jesus in order that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.  Universal dominion is granted Him, something coveted by the “beasts,” but never really attained.  Not only will this kingdom be universal; it will be eternal.  It’ll never disappear nor be taken away, as were the preceding kingdoms described by Daniel.

Daniel 7: Perspective

To this point in Daniel, all the visions and dreams have happened to other people and Daniel has merely interpreted them.  Now he begins to experience them for himself.  These visions, though happening to different people at different times, are all about the same thing: the future, some of which is future even to us.  Daniel gives us detail not found anywhere else in Scripture.

This particular vision came to Daniel in the first year of Belshazzar, v. 1, or within a few years of the beginning of the Medo-Persian empire under Cyrus.

The chapter may be divided into two sections:

1. Vision and interpretation, vs. 1-18.
2. Question and answer, vs. 19-28.

Daniel’s vision and its interpretation, 7:1-18.

This vision seems also to be divided into two sections:

a. an earthly scene, vs. 1-8.
b. a heavenly scene, vs. 9-14.

An earthly scene, vs. 1-8.

Something to pay attention to in this vision is the different way it views the various empires of which it speaks compared to Nebuchadnezzar’s vision.  Nebuchadnezzar’s vision was of a great image, or statue, 2:31, something man could build and be proud of, something which would show off his ingenuity and skill, a statue made of valuable materials.  Daniel himself described it like this:  this great image, whose splendor was excellent,…and its form was awesome.  Even the least significant part, the feet and toes, was made of ceramic clay, a valuable commodity.  This is, if you will, the earthly viewpoint.

Daniel’s vision in chapter 7 shows these same empires as vicious beasts, mongrel beasts, monstrous beasts, good only to destroy and to be destroyed.  This is the heavenly viewpoint.

Strange, isn’t it, the difference between the two viewpoints.  What fallen man, even religious fallen man, praises and glories in, God finds detestable, Luke 16:15.

As we look more closely at this vision, we see:

A. The first three beasts, vs. 2-6.

We lump these three together because of the relative lack of space given to them as compared with the fourth beast.

1. From later prophecies in Daniel, and from history itself, we know this first beast, vs. 2-4, represents the Babylonian Empire.  Lion-like figures with wings and human heads abound in the ruins of this empire.  The latter description of this first beast perhaps refers to the humiliation of Nebuchadnezzar and his restoration, with a consequent lessening of the brutality of the empire.  Cf. the phrase, a man’s heart was given it, v. 4, with the corresponding verses in 4:13-16, where a watcher, a holy one, …from heaven cried aloud concerning Nebuchadnezzar, “Let his heart be changed from that of a man.  Let him be given the heart of a beast.”
Perhaps a key word for this beast is “demeanor,” as Nebuchadnezzar learned the cost and futility of human pride of accomplishment.  This lesson was lost on those who followed him, either in his own family, i.e., Belshazzar, or in the empires which followed.

2. The second beast, v. 5, is Medo-Persia.  The raised side refers to Persia, which was the stronger of the two kingdoms.  The three ribs refer to the three kingdoms this empire destroyed:  Babylon, Lydia and Egypt.  Lydia was a kingdom in approximately the area we know today as Turkey, the area of the seven churches in the Revelation.  Perhaps a key word for this kingdom is “destruction”:  “arise, devour much flesh.”  This kingdom was noted for its rapacity and cruelty.

3. The third beast, v. 6, is Greece.  The beast itself, a leopard, is described as having four wings, which symbolize the rapidity with which Alexander, though not named, conquered the Persian Empire.  The four heads refer to the four generals who served with him and who divided his kingdom after his early death at 33.  The key word for this kingdom is “dominion,” which even the text uses of it.  However, Grecian influence went far beyond the mere conquest of lands and kingdoms.  Alexander’s great desire was to spread Greek culture, including the language, throughout his domain.  So successful was he in this that Greek became the universal language of the day, even down to New Testament times.  Wherever the Gospel went, it could be understood.  The New Testament was written in ordinary, everyday Greek, and even the Old Testament was translated into Greek.  Sometimes that translation is quoted in New Testament uses of Old Testament verses.

A century and a half before the birth of our Lord, it was a ruler of the Seleucid segment of Alexander’s empire, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who did his best to destroy the Jews.  His efforts are prophesied in Daniel.

Finally, Greek customs prevailed even among many Jews.  This led to a culture war, if you will, between those who wanted to remain faithful to their own heritage, customs and language (the “Hebrews”), and those who saw nothing wrong with adapting and conforming to the Greek culture, even to speaking the language (the “Hellenists,” from the Greek word for “Greek”).  The first church dispute, recorded in Acts 6, reflects this dissension:  …there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution, Acts 6:1.  Vs. 1-6 show how wisely that dispute was resolved.  Note the Grecian names of the seven chosen to take care of the problem.

B. The fourth beast, vs. 7, 8.

Again we note that the most space is given to this beast, whose key word is “different.”  Exactly how it is different is not described:  perhaps there are no earthly beasts to which it can be compared.  One difference is that this beast is nowhere identified as to which kingdom it represents.  It is simply a fourth beast, vs. 7, 19, and a fourth kingdom, v. 23.  It is usually identified as Rome, which did indeed defeat Greece and then spread throughout their known world.  This identification in historically tenable, yet it seems this fourth beast of Daniel isn’t quite analogous to Rome.  The Spirit’s own interpretation follows later in the chapter.

There are a couple of things said about this beast:

1. its destructiveness, v. 7.  The description is of an unstoppable “mad dog” sort of beast, tearing and destroying everything in its path.

2. its distinctiveness, vs. 7b, 8.  Again, we’re not told how it is different.  The only description Daniel gives us besides its dreadful teeth and paws is the fact that it had ten horns.  As we’ll see, this is perhaps the most vital part of the vision.  Another horn appears and defeats three of the ten horns.  This “horn” possesses eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words.  These speak of intelligence and an insolent attitude, although toward what we’re not yet told, as Daniel’s attention is drawn elsewhere. What he saw, Lord willing, will be in our next post.

Daniel 2: Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream: Laying the Foundation.

When one builds a building, the first thing he does is prepare some sort of foundation.  Even if it’s just a shed out in the garden, there must be some sort of anchor for the building.  If he’s building a skyscraper, the foundation must go down to bedrock, perhaps dozens of feet, to provide a secure basis for the building.

This vision of Nebuchadnezzar’s is the foundation upon which the rest are built.  And except for his vision of the tree, all the prophecies in the book come together to form a fairly comprehensive picture of the future of God’s people, that is, the nation of Israel, cf. Daniel 9:24.

The occasion of the dream, 2:1, 28, 29.

In 2:29, Daniel told the king, As for you, O King, thoughts came to your mind while on your bed about what will come to pass after this.  Evidently, Nebuchadnezzar had gone to bed one night and began to think about all he had done, the magnificence of his capitol, and the success he had had politically and militarily.  But he knew he wouldn’t live forever, and so perhaps he began to muse and wonder what would happen after he had died.  What would become of all his accomplishments?  In that frame of mind, he drifted off to sleep, and a dream so disturbing that he awoke with a start, and couldn’t go back to sleep.

The purpose of the dream, 2:28, 29, 45.

God wasn’t using this dream merely to satisfy Nebuchadnezzar’s curiosity.  It is true that Daniel told him that “the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this,” but then  he said, “The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure.”  This wasn’t simply to assure the king that the dream as given was correct, but rather to assure him, and us, that what is revealed will happen.

Furthermore, Daniel started his interpretation in v. 28 by saying, “There is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days, emphasis added.  This isn’t the first time we’ve encountered this phrase, about which there is much discussion, and it won’t be the last.

The parts of the dream, 2:31-35.

In this dream, we see the development, deterioration, disintegration, displacement and final destruction of certain world powers, in a description of what our Lord would later call, “The times of the Gentiles,” Luke 21:24.

1. The description of a great image, or statue, vs. 31-33.

This is a straightforward description of a man’s form from head to toe.  It was a statue composed of several materials, from a gold head through silver, brass and iron down to a mixture of iron and clay in its feet.

2. The destruction of the great image, vs. 34, 35a.

There are three elements to this destruction.  A stone cut without hands, that is, of no human origin or effort, struck the image on its feet, with the result that the image collapsed into pieces.  Then the stone crushed the broken image into dust, which the wind carried away till there was no trace of them.

3. The displacement of the great image, v. 35b.

After the destruction and disappearance of the image, the stone…became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.

The interpretation of the dream, 2:36-45.

Except for a couple of things, we’re going to leave out the perplexity of Nebuchadnezzar over his dream, and the resultant furor he caused among the court magicians.  There is some discussion over whether or not Nebuchadnezzar had forgotten the dream, but it doesn’t matter.  If he had forgotten it, he would recognize it when described by the magicians, and if he remembered it, he would know whether or not they were indeed able to describe it, and, therefore, as he thought, to interpret it.  We tend to believe that he remembered it, and this was simply a test.

Another thing of note is Daniel’s response to the decree to kill all the wise men.  He and his three friends prayed.  This is another example of his habitual prayer.

Finally, something the wise men said is interesting:  “There is [no one] who can tell the king’s matter,…except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh,”  vs. 10, 11.

It was this very point Daniel emphasized in his response to Nebuchadnezzar:  “but there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets,…and He who reveals secrets has made known to you what will be….  The great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this,” vs. 28, 29, 45.

God is never afraid to meet sinful men on their own ground.  In referring to God’s defeat of Egypt before Israel’s deliverance, Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, said, “Now I know that the LORD is greater than all gods, for in the very thing in which they behaved proudly, He was above them, Exodus 18:11, emphasis added.  In 1 Corinthians 3:19, 20, quoting Job 5:13 and Psalm 94:11, Paul wrote, The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.  For it is written, “He catches the wise in their own craftiness,” and again, “The LORD knows the thoughts of men, that they are futile,” emphasis added.

Here, then, is Daniel’s interpretation of the dream.

1. you are the head of gold, vs. 37, 38.

This dream was Nebuchadnezzar’s.  It had likely come while he was wondering what would become of his kingdom after he died.  It was fitting that the interpretation begin with him:  he is the head of gold, v. 38.

Daniel, however, emphasizes something generally ignored or overlooked by men.  He says, “the God of heaven has given you a kingdom….  He has given them [‘the children of men, birds and beasts’] into your hand, and has made you ruler over them all,” vs. 37, 38.  Certainly and truly, Nebuchadnezzar had conquered most of his world, but it was through that conquest, and not independently of it, that God had put him where he was.

Nebuchadnezzar was on the throne because God wanted him there, Daniel 2:21!  The present occupant of the White House, or the Kremlin, or 10 Downing Street, or leaders in the Middle East or Africa or South America – all are there because God has put them there, not independently of what they have done, but by means of what they have done.  It may seem chaotic to us, but everything moves in perfect accord with God’s purpose, Daniel 4:34; Ephesians 1:11.  It’s hard to understand sometimes, but Scripture says it is so.

2. after you shall arise another kingdom, inferior to yours, v. 39.

As silver is inferior to gold, this second kingdom would be inferior to Babylon.  Nebuchadnezzar could do anything he wanted, but Darius, for example, was bound by the law of the Medes and Persians, which does not alter, 6:8, 12, 15.  The phrase, “does not alter” is, literally, “does not pass away,” which shows how foolish sinful men are.  There is only one King whose Word is settled forever, Psalm 119:89; Isaiah 40:8.  At this time, nothing more is said of this kingdom.

3. a third kingdom of  bronze, which shall rule over all the earth, vs. 39.

Again, nothing more is said of this kingdom.  Note, however, that the various kingdoms decrease in “value” even as they increase in strength:  gold, silver, bronze, iron.

4. the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron, (yet flimsy), vs. 40-43.

It will break in pieces all the other kingdoms.  The first three kingdoms are plainly identified in later visions of Daniel.  Though the identity of this fourth kingdom may be known from history as Rome, it is never mentioned by name, either here or in subsequent visions.  In the wisdom and providence of God, there is a reason for this omission, which perhaps we’ll see shortly.

God does say more about this fourth kingdom than He does the other three together.  Not mentioning the legs of the image, though their presence is implicit, Daniel calls attention to the toes, toes and feet which are a strange mixture of iron and clay.  He gives a two-fold interpretation of this conglomeration:

a. It will have great strength, v. 41, the strength of iron will be in it.  That kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others, v. 40.

b. It will have great weakness, v. 42, the kingdom will be partly strong and partly fragile [brittle].  They will mingle with the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay, v. 43.

5. In the face of human effort and failing, God Himself will set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever, v. 44.  This is the stone that struck the image [and] became a great mountain and filled the whole earth that Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream, v. 35.

But when will He do this?  Or has it already been done?  What does Daniel say?

a. When will God do this?  In the days of these kings, v. 44.

The question then becomes, “Which kings?”  The Reformation Study Bible (RSB) has this note on v. 44:  “The most natural interpretation is that the kings are the rulers of the four powers making up the image just described.  The other possibility is that they are a sequence of several rulers of the fourth kingdom,” (p. 1216).  Just in passing,  I  consider this version representative of current Reformed thought.  As such, I refer to it several times.

Let’s look at this note more closely.  Is there any evidence that God “set up a kingdom” during the Babylonian Empire?  The Persian Empire?  In Greece?  In Rome?  Especially a kingdom that destroys all the rest?  There is one possibility – in Rome, or, more accurately, during the preeminence of Rome.  It was during this time that the Lord Jesus came into the world and was crucified – by a representative of Rome.  In addition, on the same page, the RSB says, “This kingdom was inaugurated and preached at the First Coming of Christ (Mark 1:15; Matt. 12:28; 24:14).” According to this view, then, the kingdom was actually set up some time during the time represented by the middle of the image.  Since there is more said about Christ and His kingdom in Daniel, we’ll leave further remarks about this viewpoint until then.

Actually, we believe there is another possibility, from the text itself.  Here is where we have difficulty with Reformed interpretation of prophecy.  Because, according to them, prophecy doesn’t mean what it seems to say (that is, it’s not to be taken “literally”), close attention apparently doesn’t need to be paid to what it actually says.  The vision clearly shows that the image will be struck on its feet, v. 34.  It seems to me, then, that these kings refers to kings symbolized by the ten toes.  Then, what about them being “a sequence of several rulers of the fourth kingdom”?  I believe John has a reference to these kings in his Revelation: “the ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast,” Revelation 17:12, 16.  See also Revelation 12:3.  These kings are not sequential; they rule simultaneously.  We grant that John isn’t commenting on Daniel, but he and Daniel saw much of the same future.  Granted, some of what Daniel saw as future was history for John.  Further, these kings are later referred to as “horns” by Daniel himself, Daniel 7:24.

“Feet” would be foundational to any statue; destroy them and you destroy the statue.  However, this isn’t Daniel’s thought.  These kings aren’t “foundational” to the statue or to the governments it represents.  They are the final form of those governments, and it’s during their tenure that the God of heaven will set up a kingdom.

b. Who will do this?  The God of heaven, v. 44.

We do agree with the Reformed view that this kingdom will not come through political maneuvering or military power, as have other kingdoms.  There will be no vote to “approve” it.  We are not going to “bring in the kingdom.”  In fact, if I understand Scripture correctly, this kingdom will be the last thing humanity wants.

The question becomes, what kind of kingdom will God set up?  Ad we’ve already seen, He’s already in absolute charge of all that goes on, as Nebuchadnezzar found out the hard way in chapter 4.  So what kind of a kingdom can God set up that He doesn’t already have?  Perhaps we can find the answer as we go along.  Furthermore, since there is no place where God isn’t already in control, another question might be, where will He set it up?  And when will He set it up?  There’s a great deal of discussion about these questions.

c. What will it be like?  It shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms.

Let’s think about this for a minute.  According to Daniel, God’s kingdom will destroy all these kingdoms.  Yet, as we look at history, Babylon wasn’t destroyed by God, at least not directly, but by the Medes and Persians.  The Persians were conquered by Greece, who in turn was defeated by Rome.  Rome as a political entity was finally destroyed by Germanic tribes invading from the North in 476 AD.  Pagan Rome was succeeded, if we can put it like that, by Papal Rome, “The Holy Roman Empire,” a political entity over which the Pope had control.  (It’s interesting that Papal Rome still uses the language – Latin – of Pagan Rome.)  Eventually, it split into east and west (hence, perhaps, the two legs of the image).  In 1870, the Pope’s power was limited to the Vatican, though the Roman church is still very powerful.  If we understand correctly, Papal Rome will continue until a confederation of ten kings under the rule of “the beast” destroys her, Revelation 17:16.

d. it’s endurance, v. 44.

1. It shall never be destroyed, as were all the kingdoms of the image.
2. It shall not be left to other people, that is, it won’t be given to or taken away by someone else, as kingdoms often are today.

e. It’s extent, It (as represented by the stone) became a great mountain and filled the whole earth, v. 35.

Not just some local kingdom, nor even an extensive empire, but a world-wide sovereignty over every part of this planet.  There is much discussion about this, which we’ll enter into shortly.  Not just a statue, but an awe-inspiring mountain, or perhaps a mountain range, which will make the Rockies or the Apennines look like foothills!  Everest will hang its head in shame at the splendor of this mountain!  Perhaps that seems a little too much, but God’s kingdom will certainly be far beyond anything this world has ever experienced.
It’s common for expositors to go ahead and tell us that the second kingdom is Medo-Persia, the third is Greece and so forth.  We’ve identified them like that ourselves.  However, the Holy Spirit didn’t see fit to have Daniel tell us, or rather, for Daniel himself to learn the names of these kingdoms until chapter 10.  Perhaps the Spirit wants us to focus on this vision and what it says.  We’ve already noted that the rise and fall of kingdoms, though perhaps accompanied by much confusion at the time, are all in tune with what God has told us beforehand.  Nothing catches Him by surprise.  He never has to say, “Oops!”  He has no “Plan B”.  He doesn’t need one.  ( As I’ve written elsewhere, I don’t know about you, but if God had to revise His plan every time I mess something up, He’d be way beyond Plan B!)  We grant this is contrary to much preaching today.  Nevertheless, “there is a God in heaven,” and there are a couple of things to emphasize from this vision.  First, God’s kingdom will supersede and destroy all human kingdoms.  Second, it will fill the whole earth.  These thoughts will be expanded in later visions.

Though we’ve mentioned it before and will have more to say as we go along, it’s again noteworthy that Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was not interpreted as “principles” or “ongoing processes,” but as events, that is, things which would actually happen and which could be and, in many cases have been, individually and historically verifiable.  In fact, as we’ve already noted, there is so much detail given with such accuracy that unbelieving scholars deny that it is prophecy at all, but was written well after the fact by someone using Daniel’s name

“There Is A God In Heaven”

There is a great deal that could be said about this, but we’re interested mainly in the name or description of God that is used several times in Daniel.  That name is El Elyon, used most notably in chapter 4, where Nebuchadnezzar learns that there is someone higher than he is, someone he begins to understand who rules in the kingdom of men and gives it to whomsoever He will, Daniel 4:17, 25, 32.  In that same chapter, the name also occurs in vs. 24 and 34, and it occurs as well in Daniel 5:18, 21.

Regarding this confession of Nebuchadnezzar, there are some who believe that he was converted.  I disagree.  Even though he was compelled to acknowledge the God of heaven, there is no evidence that he ever submitted to the God of heaven.  Even in his celebrated “confession of faith” in Daniel 4, (in which he does exhibit a higher view of God than many professing Christians), he makes an incredible statement about Daniel.  After admitting the failure of his own magicians and wise men to interpret a certain dream, he says, “But at last Daniel came before me (his name is Belteshazzar, according to the name of my god; in him is the spirit of the Holy God), Daniel 4:8, emphases added.  In this statement, he plainly says that “the Holy God” is not “his god.”

It seems to me that the whole thrust of the Book of Daniel is to answer the question, “Who’s in charge?”  Nebuchadnezzar thought he was, and so did those who followed him.  Men still think that today, whether at the highest levels of government or among those whom they govern.  There is often a blatant denial of God’s existence or a complete disregard for what He has said.  Even when He’s “believed in,” it’s too often with thoughts along the line, “if it’s to be, it’s up to me.”  Even in “church,” He’s often relegated to a secondary place, as churches are more interested in buildings and budgets, politics and power, “health and wealth,” “nickels and noses,” that is, how much the offering was  and how many attended Sunday School or the morning service….  The preaching seldom extols Him, but implores people to “open the door and let Him in.”  He’s on the outside looking in and they have to take the first step toward Him before He can take a step toward them.

All this mischaracterization of God is answered by Daniel’s simple assertion:  “There is a God in heaven.”

Who is this God?

The name El Elyon tells us a great deal about Him.  The name is first used in Genesis 14:19, 20, where Melchizedek calls Him God Most High.  Abraham repeats and defines this name to the king of Sodom, who is offering him a substantial reward for help in defeating the king’s enemies.  Abraham refuses, saying that he had made a promise to the LORD, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth that he would’t take even the smallest reward, even as much as a shoe lace.

The fact that humanity has rebelled against God and lives in more or less open defiance or ignorance of Him doesn’t diminish the fact that He owns this ball of dirt we live on and everything and every one on it.  Very early in Israel’s history, when He was giving them the conditions under which they would remain in the land, God told them the conditions under which they would also remain as “a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine,” Exodus 19:5 emphasis added.  It’s His to do with as He sees fit.

Along these same lines, just a couple of chapters later, Daniel makes an astounding statement to Belshazzar, who was Nebuchadnezzar’s son, or grandson, because of Belshazzar’s blasphemous misuse of the Temple vessels taken by Nebuchadnezzar many years earlier.  You know the story.  During a drunken banquet, Belshazzar had commanded that these vessels be brought in to be used in idolatrous honor and worship of his own gods.  A hand suddenly appeared and began to write on the wall.  Daniel was brought in to interpret this writing.  After recounting Nebuchadnezzar’s greatness and the insanity which only ended when he recognized the God of heaven, Daniel says this to Belshazzar:
“But you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, although you knew all this.  And you have lifted yourself up against the Lord of heaven.  They have brought the vessels of His house before you, and you and your lords, your wives and your concubines, have drunk wine from them.  And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, bronze and iron, wood and stone, which do not see nor hear nor know; and the God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways, you have not glorified,” Daniel 5:22, 23, emphasis added.

As troubling at the thought may be to some that God “owns” the ways of a drunken idolater, who believe that God must wait patiently on the sidelines of His own creation until we decide to send Him into the game, the simple fact is that God is in heaven and He is in charge.  Belshazzar was as much in His hand as Daniel.  This doesn’t mean that God approved of, was accountable for, or accepted what Belshazzar did.  It simply means that in the midst of Belshazzar’s deliberate and drunken defiance of God, God was as in control of the situation as He was when Daniel was thrown into the lions’ den.

Centuries later, Paul put it more generally to a bunch of Greek intelligentsia on Mar’s Hill:  the God who created everything has no need for men to “take care of Him,”
“since He gives to all life, breath, and all things,…and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings,” Acts 17:24-26.

Daniel and Paul aren’t the only one with this high view of God.  Centuries before them, David had put it on a personal level in Psalm 139:16, Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.  And in your book they were all written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.  

To Jeremiah himself, God said, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.  Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.”  And Paul wrote something similar about himself, …it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace…, Galatians 1:5.

To Sennacherib, an enemy of Israel, God declared, “Did you not hear long ago how I made it, from ancient times that I formed it?  Now I have brought it to pass, that you should be for crushing fortified cities into heaps of ruins…, Isaiah 37:26.  He goes on for a few verses after this, but these and the other verses, as well as many others in Scripture, amply verify that, in the words of Daniel, “There is a God in heaven.”

Simply put, history is only God performing in time what He planned to do before time.  All prophecy is simply the unfolding before it happens of “preappointed times.”  The old idea that God has an office full of angels busily writing down everything that happens (or, I suppose, to update the image, “inputting” into their computers) is not Scriptural.

Speaking of “prophecy,” does it really matter, all this fuss about it?  What a person might believe about it doesn’t determine whether or not they are saved.  It’s commonly said that prophecy isn’t really one of “the fundamentals of the faith,” not really something to break fellowship over.  That might be true to a certain extent.  Perhaps prophecy isn’t as important as what you believe about the deity of Christ, or the inspiration and authority of the Bible, or a number of other doctrines.  There are saved people in all camps of prophecy and there are lost people in all of them.  Does it really matter then, for example, if the Bible teaches that there is an earthly element to the “kingdom of Christ,” in which He will rule over this world for 1000 actual years?  Or if those Old Testament prophecies of a coming kingdom just find their fulfillment in Christ’s “spiritual” rule in the hearts of His people?  Or perhaps they will all come to pass in eternity, when this world’s sad history is over and done with.  Does it really matter??

While it is certainly true that one can be saved regardless of his or her views on prophecy, I do think it does matter what one believes about it.  After all, about 1 verse in 4 verses in Scripture is prophecy, some of which has been fulfilled and some of which has not.  All these verses are as inspired by the Holy Spirit as the others, and I think it’s a great insult to Him to say that it doesn’t really matter what He says in them.

At the same time, there are good men on all sides of the question.  So, though perhaps useful to know, it’s not of great importance what Dr. So-and-So or Pastor Such-and-Such teaches about the subject.  May we in all humility ask Paul’s question in Romans 4:3, “..what does the Scripture say?”  What does God say about the future?

One final thought for those concerned about “free will” in discussions of God’s sovereignty.  In addition to the Scriptural teaching that God is in control of this world and its inhabitants and happenings, note that Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar did exactly what they wanted to.  Nebuchadnezzar wanted to be a great conqueror and ruler of the world.  He was.  Belshazzar wanted to throw a party.  He did.  Neither of them was the least bit concerned about the God – “god” to them – of a bunch of captives and slaves.  Yet both of them were absolutely in the hand of that God.  So is humanity.  It always has been.

There is a God in heaven.

“This Daniel”

Our title is found in the first few verses of chapter 6.  In organizing his government, Darius divided his kingdom into 120 satrapies, or districts and set men over each district.  Over these 120, he set three men as governors, to whom the 120 district managers were responsible.  The three men were responsible for seeing that the king suffered no damage anywhere throughout his kingdom.  Daniel was appointed to be one of these higher-ranking officials, and did such a good job and was such an excellent administrator that the king gave thought to setting him over the whole realm, v. 3.  This didn’t set well with the others and so they set about to trap Daniel and get rid of him.

The life of “this Daniel” is filled with lessons for us.

1. His dilemma, 1:1-7.

Daniel was taken in the first of three deportations from Israel, about 19 years before the final captivity, cf. Jeremiah 52:28-30.  The third and final deportation accompanied the destruction of Solomon’s Temple and the dissolving of the nation.  Because of Isaiah’s prophecy to King Hezekiah in Isaiah 39:6, 7, it’s believed that Daniel was of royal blood, though that isn’t stated anywhere in Daniel.  There were indeed some of the king’s descendants chosen for special training for service to the king of Babylon, but there were also some of the children of Israel and some of the nobles chosen for this, the only requirement being that they possessed certain qualities and abilities, 1:3, 4.

So, though quite possible, it isn’t certain that Daniel was of royal blood.  That doesn’t matter anyway.  As the story plays out, it’s apparent that he was of royal character, which is far more important.  Furthermore, it doesn’t matter where he had been; what’s important to the story is where he is:  a captive in a pagan land to be trained to serve a pagan king in a pagan court.  What will he do?  How will he survive?

2. His determination, 1:8-13.

As the story unfolds, Daniel and the other young men were to be well taken care of.  Verse 5 tells us that they were give a daily provision of the king’s delicacies and of the wine which he drank.  However, it’s likely that these provisions had first been offered to pagan gods.  Furthermore, Daniel and his friends lived under a strict dietary code about clean and unclean foods that probably wasn’t high on the list in Babylon.  Therefore, Daniel made a conscious decision that he wouldn’t defile himself with the king’s food, generous though it might be, and, no doubt, delicious.

At the same time, he wasn’t of a rigid legalistic spirit.  What is right and what is often considered to be right aren’t necessarily the same.  He was considerate of the steward who was responsible for his welfare.  This man had real and legitimate concerns about deviating from the king’s directions.  Daniel was concerned, and rightly so, about diet, but the steward was concerned, and rightly so, about death.  Therefore Daniel proposed a simple and short test, after which he would abide by the steward’s decision.  Test him and his friends for ten days with a diet of vegetables and water, then compare them with the other young men, and as you see fit, so deal with your servants, v. 13.  Courtesy and consideration need not be considered foreign to a stand for the truth.  2 Timothy 2: 24, 25 says, a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, apt to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth.

Further, I believe that implicit in Daniel’s request was faith that God would intervene in this situation – as He did.  The results of this test are well known, 1:14-20:  Daniel and his three friends were far superior to the other young captives.

3. His devotion.

We see this in several places.  He never forgot that changes in earthly realities, even what we might consider catastrophic changes, never change eternal realities.

Daniel was a man of prayer, 2:17, 18, 6:10; 9:3-19; 10:12.

One of the best known portions of Daniel is the account of his overnight stay in the lions’ den.  Perhaps what is overlooked is something that happened just before, after the giving of Darius’ foolish decree, but before Daniel was caught by it.  Daniel 6:10 tells us, Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home.  And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days.

There is so much here, more than we have space for.  As we said above, Daniel was a man of prayer, but it was habitualThat day was no different in that regard than any other day he had lived.  He had been a man of prayer since early days.  This prayer wasn’t brought about by the sudden appearance of danger because of Darius’ decree.  I’m sure that was included, but Daniel prayed every day – three times – every day!  Oh, what a rebuke this is to our shallow and too often sporadic prayer lives.

And don’t forget his situation.  He wasn’t as if he was retired and had all the time in the world!.  No, no, he was a prominent, busy and responsible member of the king’s court, and no doubt had to make time to pray.  And I’m sure prayer was the first thing he put down in his day planner.  Prayer wasn’t just squeezed in; everything else was.

Further, he was a man of The Book.

This is in chapter 9:2,  In the first year of his [that is, Darius’] reign, I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of years specified by the word of the Lord, given through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.

Not only was Daniel not too busy to pray, he was not too busy to study the Word of God.  How this rebukes us!  The lamentable lack of Bible knowledge among professed Christians is, well, lamentable.  The superintendent of a young peoples’ group I attended in Bible college admitted to us one day that, even though he had been a teacher for 17 years, he had never read the Bible through.  He is not alone in this.

There might be coming a time when we don’t have the free access to the Word that we enjoy now.  This is already true in a large part of the world.  We argue over which version to use, while large numbers of God’s children are thrilled to have just a few verses.  It will not go well with us when we stand before God if we know the TV or cable listings better that we know His Word.

Perhaps there is a reason for this neglect.  While I was in Bible college, I met and fell for a young woman in another state.  I was convinced she was the one.  She wasn’t, God had someone else for me (someone just right!), but I didn’t know that at the time.  We wrote letters.  Oh, how I waited for those letters!  I devoured them!  I almost had them memorized.  I didn’t have to have a “reading schedule” for them.  I didn’t have to “force” myself to read them.  I didn’t just read a few lines and then get on with the business of the day.  Those letters were preeminent!  Then she broke up with me.  Perhaps God had someone else just right for her.  After we broke up, I read some of those letters again.  Funny, they didn’t have the appeal they once had.  They seemed empty and hollow.  They weren’t “mine” anymore.  Perhaps that was because she wasn’t “mine” anymore; there was no relationship between us.  We had become strangers.

I threw the letters away.

Could it be, my friend, that the Word of God has no meaning to you, no interest, because you don’t know the One who wrote it?  You are a stranger to Him?  His words aren’t really “yours”?  Oh, it’s not enough simply to go to “church” or to have your name on a church roll!   To go through some ritual or ceremony!  To partake of “the sacraments”!  To be able to recite some creed or to agree with a particular doctrine!  To one who had more along this line than most of us will ever have, our Lord said,”You must be born again,” John 3:3, 7.  Without that life, which comes from the Spirit of God, you and I will never understand the Word of God.

There is one other thing, germane to our study.  Daniel expected a “literal fulfillment” of Jeremiah’s prophecy.  To him, it wasn’t about “principles” or “ongoing processes.”  It’s true that additional information was given to him, but he expected, and there was, an actual, real, true, literal fulfillment of the seventy years Jeremiah wrote about.  Likewise, the New Testament gives us further information about the Old Testament prophecies and promises, but we can expect that there will be an actual, real, true and literal fulfillment of the Kingdom and promises made to the nation of Israel.  One thing the New Testament does not teach is that these have all been fulfilled!

4. His dedication.

Even in the face of certain death, he was faithful to that which had been the habit of his life.  Someone has well said, “When we are young, we make our habits.  When we are old, our habits make us.”  And in his prayer, he gave thanks before his God.  We can’t emphasize this enough.  “Thanks” in the face of certain death!  No moaning, no groaning, no “why me?”  Though he had never read it, he knew and exemplified 1 Thessalonians 5:18, In everything give thanks….

5. His destiny, 12:13.

Daniel had a lot of questions about what he had written.  Some of those questions were answered; others were not.  At the end, God told him, “But you, Daniel, go your way until the end; for you shall rise to your inheritance at the end of days.”  God told him that his future was secure and when this life was over, he would enter into an inheritance far greater than he could ever have known in this world, even if he had never been captive, and if he could have had anything and everything he ever wanted.

In these days of the “health and wealth gospel,” which has nothing to do with the gospel, I think we’ve lost sight of the fact that this world is not our home, that everything we see on this planet, even the planet itself, will one day be destroyed and new heavens and a new earth will take its place.  The mansions of the rich will be destroyed along with the hovels of the poor.  All the beauty of this world will be destroyed along with the ugly.  There are a lot of questions about the future, a lot of discussion about prophecy and how to deal with it, but one thing is certain.  The Christian’s hope isn’t in this world, but in the next.  God help us, like Daniel, to be faithful in whatever situation He has put us, but also may He help us, like Daniel, to realize that something far better awaits us, Romans 8:18; 1 Peter 1:3-5.

There’s something else here.  I believe it was due in part to Daniel’s writing that certain wise men came many years later seeking One who was born King of the Jews.  Now, do you suppose that Daniel sat down one day and decided that he was going to write something that one day would lead men to the promised Messiah?  No, no, he was simply faithful where he was and God used him then, used him much later for the wise men, and according to our Lord, will use him yet again.  Let this be a lesson to us to be faithful where we are, because who knows what God might be pleased to do with our efforts?

After all, God has done stranger things.  He saw to it that the deliverer of His people from captivity in Egypt was raised in the household of the one holding them captive.  When Stephen was stoned to death, God replaced him with the man who was holding the coats of the men killing him.  Never, ever believe that God is limited by circumstances or by our own failings and fallibilities.  He created everything out of nothing; He still likes to bring His something out of our nothing.  He used Daniel, a captive in a foreign country.  There’s no reason he can’t use us.

Framework For The Future

Studies in the Prophecies of Daniel
(with comments on prophecy in general)


General introduction.

In the study of the Bible, I think that sometimes there is a dichotomy perceived between the Old and New Testaments.  On the one hand, there is the Reformed view that all the Old Testament prophecies have been fulfilled.  For example, in its study notes of Matthew, the Reformed Study Bible says this about Matthew’s use of several OT prophecies:  “His citations are not presented as isolated predictions and fulfillments, but as proof of the fulfillment of all the expectations of the Old Testament,” emphasis added, p. 1360.  If this is true, and we don’t agree that it is, then it seems to me that there is really very little, if anything, to be gained by studying Daniel or other prophets.

On the other hand, there is the Dispensationalist view that the Old Testament belongs to an earlier time, and so has little to say to us today.  This is especially true of the differences between law and grace.  A study of these differences is outside the scope of these studies; let me simply say that while the Bible is crystal clear that we are saved by grace through faith in the finished work of Christ on the Cross, it is also crystal clear that “grace” in no way lessens the authority of God’s Word or our responsibility to obey what it says to us.

Dispensationalism at it’s very simplest teaches that there is a difference in God’s redemptive purpose between the nation of Israel and the church.  The Reformed view is that the NT church is the continuation, spiritually speaking, of Israel.  They speak of “spiritual Israel,” and treat the the prophetic portions of the OT as if they speak to us.  According to this view, God is done with Israel and she as a nation has no further part in God’s purpose.

At least the dispensationalist studies the prophecies of the OT.  There is, however, at the same time an unfortunate tendency to set dates for the return of our Lord.  According to one such earlier writer, we should now be about 50 years into the Millennium.  At the same time, I suppose that’s balanced out by the Reformed teaching that we’ve been in the Millennium since the Book of Acts,  though I do wonder where it finds a single national government that acts like it’s being obedient to “King Jesus”.  That can’t even be said of a lot of churches.

After a lifetime of reading and studying the Scriptures, I simply cannot accept the idea that every prophecy in Daniel, or the rest of the Old Testament, has been fulfilled.  To say that they have been is a very broad statement, to say the least, and makes it very difficult to read the Old Testament prophecies with any clarity.  And it seems to me that it also makes understanding the prophetic portions of the NT, if not a good deal of the rest of it, almost impossible.

Background of the Book.

There are really only two areas of concern about the Book of Daniel:  who wrote it and when?  Whether or not it is truly prophetic is wrapped up in the answer to these questions.  We’re not going to deal at length with these answers, but simply state what we believe to be the truth about them.

1. Author.

The Lord Himself referred to “Daniel the prophet,” Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:14.  The phrase He quoted, “the abomination of desolation,” is found in Daniel 11:31 and 12:11.

2. Date.

The incredible detail given in chapter 11 has caused unbelieving scholars to assert that it must have been written after the events described and not before, during the times of the Maccabees around 165 B.C.  These sinners against their own souls, to say nothing of those who follow them, simply cannot accept that there is anything supernatural in the writing of the book, a view they hold about all Scripture, not just Daniel.  Conservative scholars believe Daniel to have been written before the events, some time in the sixth century B.C.