Introduction

As a book of prophecy, Daniel is a rich source of end-time details. A rabbi once informed me that among Jews Daniel was the least accepted of the Scriptures. Was the reason the disdain which many rabbinical schools have for prophecy? Perhaps it has to do with the apocalyptic images in the second half of the book (Chapters 7-12); they are not written originally in Ancient Hebrew, but in the Aramaic language instead.

My assumption is that the Jewish scholars who give little regard to Daniel because it’s orientation is Gentile with prophecy directed to scattered Israel. Daniel 9:24 foretells how Israel—not just Jews—will have 70 weeks of 7 years of punishment. The last seven years will be separated from the first 69 weeks of years (9:27). It will begin with Jewish leaders sitting down with their enemy and making a covenant—or perhaps strengthening one that is already in force. The Gentile ruler they covenant with will manifest as the beast in the Temple of God at the mid-point of the final seven years. He then will trample the Holy City and oppress God’s people. Throughout the earth the saints will endure great distress (Daniel 8:23-24, 12:1).

Blinders will cover Jewish eyes as the above events begin to unfold. If only God’s people would listen to his prophets—but many will not. Those who diligently study Daniel and the other prophets are not children of the night, but of the day. Students of this prophecy will not be surprised by what occurs (1st Thessalonians 5:1-6). So, let us proceed with reverence, knowing the high honor and privilege we have in serving our Great King as Daniel did, and solving his mysteries.

1:9-10

…but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.”                       (1:10)

“Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified of them or I will terrify you before them. Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land—against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land. They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,”                          declares the LORD.                       Jeremiah 1:17-19

Those who serve the king live in fear of his sword. If they do right, they will be protected by the same sword. But if they stir his wrath by failing to obey, they will be removed from his presence. They will be assigned an unpleasant task or worse, be put to death. It is reasonable, therefore, for Ashpenaz, the official in charge of the king’s household, to fear Nebuchadnezzar. The great king of the Babylonian Empire had power over the life and death of many people.

Daniel did not seem to have the same fear. Though he served in an inferior position to Ashpenaz, the Jewish exile had a greater respect and awe of God than he did the king. Daniel honored Nebuchadnezzar but reserved the highest place of honor for the Lord his God. When the Lord spoke, he listened, even if it did come in conflict with the Babylonian king’s decrees.

In The Book of Acts, Peter and some other apostles were brought before the Sanhedrin, the Council responsible for the religious life of the Jewish people. They were threatened with death for preaching and teaching in Jesus’ name in the temple courts. Unlike other men who stood before them, the apostles were unafraid of the physical harm the Council might inflict.

“We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he [the high priest] said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”      Acts 5:28

Displaying no fear of the high priest or the Council, the apostles responded in boldness, “We must obey God rather than men! (Acts 5:29) It is the concept of the higher law that Peter, John, the other apostles and Daniel understood. Obeying God trumps giving obedience to men, even if the men are kings. Whenever authority conflicts, the higher power is the one to be obeyed.

1:17

To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.

(1:17)

Up from among the dead Jesus ascended. He led captives in his train and gave gifts to men (cf. Ephesians 4:8b). He promised his disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit. When they stood up and spoke under the power of the Holy Spirit, the results were amazing.

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.

Acts 4:13

The four young Babylonian exiles displayed astonishing gifts just as the unschooled disciples, the early teen, David, or the talented young athlete did. Where did they get the ability to obtain such knowledge, understanding and learning? How did Daniel come up with the right interpretations to dreams and visions? God gave his gifts to these young men of Judah. They would practice; then test their God-given skills out on a small scale. After they realized what they had and were confident with using it, they were ready to display their gifts to the king.

2:1-3

…and he said to them, “I have had a dream that troubles me and I want to know what it means.” (2:3)

In the morning his mind was troubled, so he sent for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but no one could interpret them for him.

Genesis 41:8

History is altered when the Lord plants an idea in the heart of a king. Visions and dreams are vivid messages etched into the mind often to plant a God-thought. In Genesis 41, Pharaoh’s dream would set the stage for Joseph’s exit from an Egyptian prison into the palace of Egypt.

As it was, no one among Pharaoh’s priestly group of enchanters, magicians, sorcerers or astrologers could show him his dream’s meaning. The reason, of course, was the same as it was in Nebuchadnezzar’s situation: the dream was from the Lord and his court priests were not. If it was from any other source but God, they would have given an accurate interpretation. Because it was divinely ordained, they were totally in the dark as to what to tell their king.

Though we do not know the details, early on God had given Daniel the same ability with dreams and visions that Joseph had. As a young man about to enter the king’s service, we learned, “And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.” (Daniel 1:17b)

Apparently, Daniel had been tested. He was correct in his interpretations 100% of the time. The Lord was about to elevate him, as he elevated Joseph. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, would not leave this one to chance. He asked for his Wisemen to not only interpret his dream but to tell him what he dreamt. The king reasoned, the one who could do so had to be from God.

Daniel was unaware of all that was going on behind the scenes. Joseph was going about his normal routine as a prison steward while Pharaoh was quizzing his Wisemen. Dreams were their strong suit. All was prepared for the day when opportunity and preparation would meet.

2:12-13

So the decree was issued to put the wise men to death, and men were sent to look for Daniel and his friends to put them to death.

(2:13)

Dispatches were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces with the order to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews—young and old, women and little children—on a single day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods.

Esther 3:13

Daniel and his three Hebrew friends, Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego, had survived a lot in their young lives. While many other young men of Judah were slain by the Babylonians, the four were spared the sword and taken into exile. While others were passed over, Daniel and his friends excelled and earned a position in the king’s palace. What happened to those not chosen is open to question. To have lived through all that, only to die in the king’s purge of Babylon’s Wisemen, would have been a cruel twist. The cruel twist belongs to God’s enemies, not to those who revere his name. What may have sounded like certain death was the Lord’s opportunity.

The messengers bore terrible news. Their words sounded ominous. Death was decreed by the king. Women and children would meet the same fate as their husbands and fathers. Their places would be ransacked and turned to rubble. Yet in both these cases, the way was being paved for a great turnaround. Neither Daniel nor Mordecai would be put to death. Both would be elevated to positions next to the king.

I must not be taken in by ominous news. The cruel twist belongs to those who conspire against the friends of God. The further into affliction for my testimony in Christ, the greater the turnaround will be. Daniel could have written these words: “Count it all joy when you suffer trials of various kinds.” (James 1:2) I need to remember them during desperate times in the future.

3:4-7

Therefore, as soon as they heard the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp and all kinds of music, all the peoples, nations and men of every language fell down and worshiped the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

(3:7)

[The 2nd beast] ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. He was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed.

Revelation 13:14b-15

It would be hard to hide the construction of a ninety foot tall image of gold; so, it is assumed that all present had time to consider what would take place. Anticipating the dedication of an image of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, the three Hebrews, Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego, had their minds made up. They knew they were to honor God before the king.

Saints will not bow to the beast or to his image. Their refusal will enrage the beast as the three Hebrews refusal kindled the wrath of Nebuchadnezzar. Even if billions adore and worship his image, his attention will be on the few who will not bow. The Lord’s attention will be on them also. They may not be spared the fiery furnace, but they will be spared the fires of hell.

3:16-18

   Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered the king, ” O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to present a defese to you in this matter. If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire and out of your hand, O king, let him deliver us, but if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up” ( Daniel 3:16-18, NRSV).

The example of these three warriors of Yahweh serve as a blueprint for how the saints must act as we approach the 70th Week of Daniel (the final 7 years of this age). The nations will follow a world leader who sets up a psuedo-peace. Those who have an intimate relationship with Jesus will not follow. In fact, the Bible gives us the formula for overcoming Satan.

But they conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony,  for they did not cling to life even in the face of death” (Revelation 12:11, NRSV).

Victory does not mean that all Christians will win a physical war with the beast. It means spiritually, we do not give in and we will endure to the end (of our lives or until Jesus returns). We know this by Scripture.

” He shall speak words against the Most High, shall wear out the holy ones (saints) of the Most High, and shall attempt to change the sacred seasons (Moadim/appointed times) and the law; (Commandments of GOD) and they shall be given into his power for a time, two  times and half a time” (Daniel 7:25, NRSV).

The beast was gven a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming His Name and His dwelling, that is those who dwell in Heaven. Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. It was given authority over every tribe and people and language and nations, and all the inhabitants of the earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written  from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that was slaughtered. Let anyone who has an ear listen: If you are to be taken captive, into captivitiy you go; if you kill with the sword, with the sword you must be killed. Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints” (Revelation 13:5-10, NRSV).

Jesus will give us the grace and strength to meet our expected end. We must embrace it and march forward into battle. Those who are martyred will be resurrected and have a special rule with their king in the Millennium (Revelation 20:4). The rest of the faithful saints will also receive their inheritance on a renewed earth. The beast has authority for three and a half years (known as The Great Tribulation). Yet, Jesus promises that for our sake, He will cut short that intense time of testing (Matthew 24:21-22).