Studies in Daniel and Revelation

Daniel, Part 4

Daniel chapter three seems out of place; a piece of history in the midst of a dreams, visions, and prophecy.  Daniel chapter four, though containing dreams and visions, is also piece of history that seems to have little to do with the prophetic future.  But the book of Daniel is unique among the body of prophetic literature in the Word of God.  Everything that happened to Daniel is a lesson about God’s plan for the future of His people and for the world.

Keeping that in mind, we will take a brief look at each chapter; what happened to Daniel at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar in chapter three, and what happened to Nebuchadnezzar at the hands of God in chapter four, and we will consider how the events of both chapters relate to both the Church of today and the world of tomorrow.

1.  Nebuchadnezzar’s Colossus, chapter 3

(a)  The prideful king

In spite of God’s warnings through dream and interpretation that He would judge and destroy idol-worshiping nations, Nebuchadnezzar, recipient of that dream, forgot what God had shown him and proceeded to impose on all the people of Babylon the worship of a massive idol of his own making.

This shows us two things about Nebuchadnezzar.  First, his earlier “confession” was not to be taken seriously:

The king said to Daniel, “Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery.”  (Daniel 2:47)

And second, the king’s ego is seen to be beyond limit.  Even though he was shown great things by God, instead of humbling him, the effect of the divine revelation only served to puff Nebuchadnezzar up with pride.

This is clearly the character defect of a narcissist.  One who lives only for ones’ self will use anything to their benefit, even the things of God.  A confession of Christ means nothing without a corresponding change of life.  It reminds us of this verse:

You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.  (James 2:19)

And those who have been blessed with spiritual blessings have been so blessed not because of  their merits but those of Jesus Christ.  It’s wrong to assume God’s apparent favor is a sign of His approval if one’s behavior is sinful.  God is sovereign, and His blessings are rooted in a covenant relationship with Him through His Son, not necessarily on one’s deservedness.

In Nebuchadnezzar’s case, God dropped a dream into his head for a distinct purpose, but because of Nebuchadnezzar’s pride and self-will, he took what amounted to a great blessing and tried to use it for his glory.

J.A. Seiss in his book Voices from Babylon has suggested that the colossus Nebuchadnezzar built and erected  was the direct result of his dream.

In his mixed-up pagan mind this was a wonderful tribute to the God of Daniel and his Hebrew friends.  This would make their refusal (to worship the statue) all the more unreasonable and infuriating.

Could it be that this despot had so misunderstood what God had shown him that he was moved to build this image over 90 feet high so that it could been seen for miles?  Seiss argues that Nebuchadnezzar’s method was wrong, not his intent.

This is a highly unlikely scenario.  Daniel had explained the meaning of the dream clearly to the king, and while the king had great appreciation for the wisdom of Daniel, he had no heart for the God of Daniel.  There was another man who was shown great things by God and this man was not all that different from Nebuchadnezzar:

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows.  (2 Corinthians 12:2)

The apostle Paul, a servant of God and the preacher’s preacher, had been given so much by God in terms of divine revelation, that he admitted on more than one occasion that he had a right to boast:

I repeat: Let no one take me for a fool. But if you do, then receive me just as you would a fool, so that I may do a little boasting.  (2 Corinthians 11:16)

To keep Paul from getting a big ego, God gave him his “thorn in the flesh” to keep him humble:

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.  (2 Corinthians 12:7)

(b)  The abomination of desolation:  a preview

Nebuchadnezzar’s statue was a symbol, not only of Babylon, but of Gentile dominance of the world and independence from God.  In fact, in this incident, we see a harbinger of things that will happen in Revelation 13:14-15,

Because of the signs he was given power to do on behalf of the first beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth. He 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.

The statue of Nebuchadnezzar set up on the plains of Dura, then, becomes a sort of type of the abomination of desolation (see also Daniel 9:25-27; 11:31; Matthew 24:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:4),even down to the persecution of those who will refuse to worship the image is previewed for us in Daniel three.

A question that is often asked is why would normal, sophisticated, clear-thinking people actually bow down and worship an image?  Again, we have a clue in the book of Daniel:

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.  (Daniel 3:7)

Music was given prominence in the worship of Nebuchadnezzar’s statue.  It may also play a part in the worship of the Antichrist’s image.  Music, though not a drug, often affects the emotions and feelings of people like a drug because it alters people’s moods; it can make people feel happy or sad.  It can excite the emotions, and give people a sense of a having a “religious experience” or a “divine encounter” and devotion which may be completely fabricated.

In the Old Testament it is true that the orchestra and music was a key ingredient of worship at the Temple, but in the New Testament we have no such instruction about worship.  A great many Christians want to take God’s instruction for worship in the Old Testament dispensation and apply them to the New Testament dispensation but they fail to realize that the worship of the Old Testament dispensation was typical of worship in our dispensation:

Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:9)

We are able to do that, the Old Testament worshipers could not.  Too many Christians today need to be motivated by slick musical productions in order to “feel” like they are worshiping God.  They assume corporate worship cannot take place otherwise.  That is a delusion because corporate worship takes place when the Body of Christ assembles to “worship in spirit and in truth.”  Gratifying your need for a melody and a harmony should never be confused with worship.  True worship takes place in the believer’s heart; that is where the sweetest music is heard, but only by the One to Whom it is offered.

Music stirred the people to worship in Daniel’s day; music and the threat of death.  Daniel’s three Hebrew friends refused to bow to the graven image set up by Nebuchadnezzar just as many will refuse during the reign of the Antichrist.  In his rage, Nebuchadnezzar ordered that the three Hebrews be thrown into the furnace to be burned alive, yet it is obvious that the king went to absurd lengths in his execution.  First, it made no sense to heat the furnace to seven times its normal temperature; he was not dealing with asbestos dolls, after all, but flesh and blood human beings who would not have survived a moment in that fiery hell.  Second, having the prisoners fully dressed was irrelevant, and finally binding them was also completely unnecessary.  As Gleason Archer observed, Nebuchadnezzar had thought of everything.

The Antichrist, also, in his hatred of God and God’s people, will think of everything as he seeks to exact his hatred against any person who refuses to worship him, Revelation  13:15.

(c)  God’s supernatural deliverance

Daniel’s friends should have been burned to a crisp in mere moments, but God had other plans for those who remained faithful to Him.

“Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”   (Daniel 3:25)

We’re not told whether or not Nebuchadnezzar saw this fourth man in the fire, but one of his soldiers saw him and was dumbfounded.  Who was this fourth man?  How did he get into the furnace?  And where were these men still alive?   The prophet Isaiah’s words were never more true than they were in this case:

No weapon forged against you will prevail.  (Isaiah 54:17a)

We know this fourth man was not “a son of the gods,” but “the Son of God,” the One who never abandons His faithful followers.  Again, Isaiah’s words ring true:

When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.  (Isaiah 43:2)

Nebuchadnezzar, pagan that he was, probably meant “son of the gods,” it is highly unlikely God showed him His Son!   The point of the story, though is simply this:  the fire did not effect the faithful Hebrews, it neither burned them nor did it stop them from worshiping Yahweh.  In the end, because they remained faithful, they were completely vindicated.  Once again, we see a foreshadowing of God’s supernatural deliverance of believing Jews during the Tribulation:

She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne.  (Revelation 12:5)

The identity of this male child is the 144,000 Jews, who will be sealed and protected through the first six trumpet judgments, then they will be caught up, or raptured, to heaven during the seventh trumpet judgment, around the middle of the Tribulation, and they are seen in heaven throughout the last half of the Tribulation (Revelation 14:1-5).

2.  Nebuchadnezzar’s change of heart, chapter 4

According to Daniel 3:29, Nebuchadnezzar was again very impressed with the God of Israel, but this God had not yet become HIS God.  Note what he said:

“Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.”

God would have to go to extraordinary lengths to bring the king pagan to his knees in humiliation before he could be exalted once again.  This occurred in chapter four:

“This is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree the Most High has issued against my lord the king:  You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like cattle and be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes.”

The result of this was, in fact, exactly what God wanted and is recorded in Daniel 4:33-37, with verse 37 an indication that Nebuchadnezzar finally got the message:

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.

3.  Prophecy in type and a way of life, chapters 3 and 4

These two chapters are unique in Bible prophecy because they foreshadow themes and events that will take place in the future, even though the events they record are actual history.  There will come a day when the Antichrist will set up the Abomination of Desolation.  In that day, there will be a remnant of believing Jews that will be supernaturally protected.  We see historically, on a small and local scale, what will happen in the future on a march larger scale.

But these chapters are even more than just prophecy in type, for in this story of Daniel and his friends we see how all believers should act and live in the world.  In the years of the Antichrist’s awful reign, it will be almost impossible to go against him, yet we know many will.  How will they do it?  Where will the courage come from?  It will be the work of the Holy Spirit that will enable believers to live their faith during such a reign terror, as He has always done.  The apostle Paul experienced this supernatural empowering:

At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth.  (2 Timothy 4:16-17)

The examples of  both Daniel and Paul stand, not so much as an inspiration, but more of a rebuke to modern Christians, who know so little of standing for their Lord.  Too many of us can barely make our way to church once a week to stand with those who believe as we do, but in our weakness would find in impossible to stand alone for Him, who died alone for us.

(c)  2009 WitzEnd
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