The Keys To Understanding The Book Of Daniel
Key Studies in Daniel - Series No. 2
1. The World's Future
In our previous series of messages on Daniel, we saw that this book was primarily a prophetic book. Jesus, in Matthew 24:15, spoke of Daniel as "the prophet." We also saw that Daniel was written to set forth the entire course of history from the beginning of The Times of the Gentiles to the coming of the Lord, and then forward to that period called the Millennial Age. The Times of the Gentiles began with Nebuchadnezzar and will end with the return of Christ.
So few seem to understand the significance of world events in our day. When we look at the national and international leaders and consider their efforts to bring about world peace we see the futility of it all. Yet they continue to on with their "pipe dreams" and program either for their own lives or for the nation.
The professional men, businessmen, politicians and educational leaders live and work as though they were going to live forever. We see their building programs, their financial assets and other worldly interests, and in contrast we see their ignorance of eternity. So many fail to realize that the Lord is going to return and that one day they must give an account of their lives to Him.
In the religious realm, we see the efforts of modern churches to bring about a world utopia, a one - world church; building expensive, luxurious church buildings, and providing the best in facilities and equipment, yet showing little or no concern for the lost souls of 90% of the world. The church has lost their anticipation for that blessed hope and rather than waiting and watching and working for Christ's return they are seeking to establish the kingdom without the King.
God's primary purpose for this age is the completion of His Church. Every soul saved becomes a member of His Church, is baptized into the body of Christ. The one last command from heaven to every believer is, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matt. 28:17-20)
Until this is done and the last member of Christ's Church is won our Lord cannot return.
Let us study today Daniel Chapter 4. It is a long chapter but we can summarize it in order to consider an important prophetic truth.
In verses 1-3 we have a marvellous testimony of a Gentile king concerning God's divine revelation through His Word. This chapter recounts the transformation of Nebuchadnezzar as he humbled himself and confessed that there is one true God and that His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom.
Then we read that Nebuchadnezzar dreamed a dream. He called the magicians and the astrologers and others and told them the dream but they could not interpret it for him. Finally, Daniel was called in and with the Lord's help he was able to reveal its meaning for the King.
The dream itself was very unusual. We have it recorded in verses 10-16, "...I saw, and behold a tree in the midst of the earth, and the height thereof was great. The tree grew, and was strong, and the height thereof reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth: The leaves thereof were fair, and the fruit thereof much, and in it was meat for all: the beasts of the field had shadow under it, and the fowls of the heaven dwelt in the boughs thereof, and all flesh was fed of it. I saw in the visions of my head upon my bed, and, behold, a watcher and an holy one came down from heaven; He cried aloud, and said thus, Hew down the tree, and cut off his branches, shake off his leaves, and scatter his fruit: let the beasts get away from under it, and the fowls from his branches: Nevertheless leave the stump of his roots in the earth, even with a band of iron and brass, in the tender grass of the field; and let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts in the grass of the earth: Let his heart be changed from man's, and let a beast's heart be given unto him; and let seven times pass over him."
This is a very strange dream. Let us keep in mind that the primary meaning of this dream is prophetic although there are many practical applications. What does it mean?
Here we have a picture which is like unto the picture of Daniel Chapter 2, with the large image representing the Gentile powers up to the time of the coming of the Lord. However this is a large tree which represents the king himself or world government as it is portrayed through the king in his day. It is a picture of all the efforts of men from that day right up to the return of Christ to set up a world government here upon the earth without any recognition of the rule of God.
This tree provided food and shelter for all the animals of the earth and for the fowls of the air. It pictures world government which will bring together all nations of the earth under one leader and will provide, for a time, daily provision and a temporary fulfilment of man's heart desires. This of course will bolster man's pride so that he will boast of his accomplishments without the help of God.
How proud the king was! "The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?"(verse 30). Then at that moment he heard a voice from heaven saying, "The kingdom is departed from thee" (verse 31).
We have this picture everywhere today. Modern secular and even so-called "Christian" education is constantly boasting of its accomplishments apart from Christ and apart from the Bible. World leaders with world dominating ambitions boast of their accomplishments apart from God But one day a voice will be heard from heaven. The Lord will shout from the air and take out His people, the Church, and then will follow a terrible period of Tribulation that will truly show the emptiness of man's ambitions.
Daniel told the king that just as the tree was cut down, so would the king be cut down and his empire taken away from him. The king himself would be driven away to live like the animals for a period of seven years. This pictures for us the madness of man in the Tribulation Period when all godly restraints will be removed and the Antichrist will rule and reign over man. This period will last seven years.
Does not this reveal to us how near we are to the coming of our Lord? Already it would seem that godless leaders are mad, going their own way, farther and farther from God.
Then we have the picture of the stump of the tree which is left in the earth. The roots left in the ground picture the Gentile nations who will be left after the Tribulation period is over and who, it seems, will turn to the Lord. This is set forth clearly in Acts 15:13-17, one of the most prophetic passages in the Bible.
"After this", that is, after this present age in which God is building up His Church by taking out from the world a people for Himself, "I will return," which is the return of our Lord from heaven, "And will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up" which is the setting up of the Millennial kingdom of our Lord, "That the residue of men" represented by these roots, "Might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called."
There are so many today who believe that the world is getting better and better, and by means of education and religious activity and social service and the effort of the United Nations and other human means, there will be ushered in a great Utopia. This is far from the truth of God's Word.
This age shall be and is already characterized by wars and rumours of wars, terrorism, abounding sin, apostasy, a turning from God's divine revelation to the wisdom of man, and other such signs.
Our true and blessed hope today is the coming of our Lord. Jesus is coming. Are you ready? As a believer are you honestly living and working in the light of Christ's soon return? If you are not saved, why not prepare today to meet your Lord?
2. Times of the Gentiles Finished
As we look in chapter 5 of the Book of Daniel, we find the situation very sober and important. It is a chapter that all should read because it bears real testimony of what is going to take place in the last days.
In verse 1 we find that "Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the thousand."
In order to understand this scene let us go back to the historical setting. Babylon itself was a great city. It was surrounded by high walls which were so wide that chariots could be driven on them. The river Euphrates flowed under the walls to divide the city into two parts, and at its entrance and exit there were large impassable gates so that the invading armies of Cyrus could not enter. However, the Persian leaders conceived of the plan to dig a new channel to divert the river's course so their invading army could enter the city by walking on the river bed. The very night that Belshazzar had this great drunken feast, the Persian army was making its way into the city.
Keep in mind that Babylon represents a system which is anti-Christian and shows man's effort apart from God to establish a Utopia upon earth. This effort was made also in Egypt, Persia, Greece, and the Roman Empire. The same spirit pervades Euro-asian lands today. The world is waiting for some 'superman' to come along and bring all the nations into one great unified empire.
One day, soon after the Rapture of The True and Faithful Bible Believing Church, this man, the Antichrist, will appear.
Let us notice the terrible sin this king committed in using the sacred vessels of God's house for wine. Verses 2-4,"Belshazzar, while he tasted the wine, commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem; that the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, might drink therein. Then they brought the golden vessels that were taken out of the temple of the house of God which was at Jerusalem; and the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, drank in them. They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone."
These vessels had been set apart for the Lord's use and Belshazzar showed his utter disregard for God and desecrated these holy things. 1 Corinthians 6:19 tells us that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Ghost. The holy vessels speak of the "members" of our bodies - - our hands and feet and tongues and minds and hearts. All these we can use to honour or dishonour the Lord. (See Romans 6:13). God's people are to live holy lives by His grace.
Then in verse 5 we read of the handwriting on the wall. "In the same hour came forth fingers of a man's hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaster of the wall of the king's palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote."
This was God's hand of judgment. Many have the thought today that they can live any way they wish but there is a time when they shall have to meet God. We are not going to live on this earth forever. God says in Hebrews 9:27, "It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment."
The king was troubled. He realized how serious it was to face God in judgment. Many of you now reading this make light of heaven and hell and coming judgment. But when you become ill or when you are on your death - bed there will be no light jokes about eternity. It is then too late to become troubled. God wants you to face the eternal issues NOW.
The heathen magicians were called to read the handwriting but they were unable to do so (verses 7-8). The Queen then insisted that Daniel be called, "...and the queen spake and said, O king, live for ever: let not thy thoughts trouble thee, nor let thy countenance be changed: There is a man in thy kingdom, in whom is the spirit of the holy gods" (verses 10-11).
Praise God! Hallelujah! There was a man in the midst of all the sin of that day who knew the Lord. Thank God! There are men and women today in every community who "have not bowed the knee to Baal," who still love the Lord despite apostasy and abounding sin on every hand. Are you living for the Lord in your community? Are you young people taking your stand for Christ in that godless enviroment? You can by His grace.
Daniel appeared before the king and told him the story of how Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged God in all his affairs. Then notice verse 22, "And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this."
The king knew all this but he would not humble his heart. There are so many today who know that the only way to heaven is Christ Jesus Himself. Many today cling to the church and in pride refuse to come before Christ as a sinner in order to be saved. There are many who read this today who will go to Hell because of your pride and of your church.
One fact we must all face, either here or at the Judgment Bar of God. We stand before God as sinners and must be born again if we are to enter into heaven. God has made full provision for your salvation. But you must come God's way for it is His salvation and His gift. Why not lay aside your pride and come just as you are to the Saviour?
What did this writing mean? Notice the words carefully:
which means "numbered",
"God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it"(verse
That very night the enemy conquered the city and Belshazzar was slain. "Darius the Median took the kingdom, being about threescore and two years old"(verses 29-31).
Now this pictures for us that great period called the TIMES OF THE GENTILES which will end at the coming of our Lord. Babylon represents that world empire system which seeks to unite the world without God. Just as God wrote "numbered" and "finished" over Babylon so will God write it over the TIMES OF THE GENTILES.
What a time the king and the leaders of Babylon were having. They were eating and drinking. Christ said that as it was in the days of Noah, when they were "eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage," so will it be in the days preceding His coming. People today are eating and drinking as never before. People are marrying and giving in marriage as separations and divorces increase. So we have here a picture of the last days of the TIMES OF THE GENTILES.
3. Daniel in the Lion's Den
We now come to one of the most familiar passages in the entire Bible, the story of DANIEL AND THE LION'S DEN.
When Darius took over the kingdom from Belshazzar we read that he put one hundred and twenty princes and three presidents in charge, of which Daniel was the first (Dan. 6:1-2). Daniel honoured God and God honoured Daniel. God says in 1 Samuel 2:30, "Them that honour me I will honour."
Let us not forget that Daniel was a Jew and God loves the Jew. Despite the hatred and jealousy of the world towards them, the Jew is still prosperous. Many are great musicians, scientists, bankers, doctors, and scholars. Many are successful in business.
God said this would be so. Let us read Deuteronomy 28:11-13, "And the Lord shall make thee plenteous in goods ... and to bless all the work of thine hand: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, and thou shalt not borrow. And the Lord shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath..."
So, after Daniel was put in charge over the other princes and presidents they became very jealous of him; "...but they could find none occasion nor fault" (verse 4). Daniel's testimony was above reproach. His daily life counted for God. May God help us to live holy, pure lives in the midst of this wicked and perverse generation.
These jealous leaders then planned to trick Daniel so that the king would have to deal with him. They appeared before the king to establish a royal statute and to make a decree which is set forth in verse 7, "...whosoever shall ask a petitio of any God or many for thirty days, save of thee, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions."
This is a marvellous prophetic picture which describes the rule of the Antichrist in the last days when the people will be asked to worship him rather than God. We read about this in Revelation 13:15-17, "And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and CAUSE THAT AS MANY AS WOULD NOT WORSHIP THE IMAGE OF THE BEAST SHOULD BE KILLED. And he caused all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name."
Daniel here gives to us the prophetic picture of the last days when, after the Lord's return, there will arise another great world ruler who will be the Antichrist who will demand personal worship from the people and from God's Jewish remnant. Darius is a type of this Antichrist.
Verse 10,"Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime."
Here is a verse that could teach us much about prayer. Notice that when Daniel heard about the decree which the King had signed he did just what he always did, he prayed "as he did aforetime." There are many people who say they prayed when they were wounded on the battlefield, when they faced death, or when they met some special crisis in their life. But Daniel's daily habit was to pray. Even as the chief president he found time to pray.
Daniel knelt when he prayed. Realizing his great need, with much humility he sought the Lord. May God speak to our hearts today about coming to the Lord in humility and seeking His face daily in prayer.
When the other princes and presidents saw that Daniel prayed, they reported the matter to the king. Verse 14, "Then the king, when he heard these words, was sore displeased with himself, and set his heart on Daniel to deliver him; and he laboured till the going down of the sun to deliver him." The king tried to find a way out for Daniel but could not do so. The only way he might have delivered him would have been to take his place in the lion's den. This reminds us of how God delivered us by sending His Son to pay the penalty of our sin on Calvary's Cross.
Verse 16, "Then the king commanded, and they brought Daniel, and cast him into the den of lions. Now the king spake and said unto Daniel, Thy God whom THOU SERVEST CONTINUALLY, he will deliver thee." The king knew that Daniel served his God continually. Many go to church at Easter and Christmas and do not return until the following year. Many professing believers are not consistent in their serviced for the Lord, but Daniel served God continually.
While Daniel was in the lion's den, the king had a restless night. Verse 18, "Then the king went to his palace, and passed the night fasting: neither were instruments of musick brought before him: and his sleep went from him."
Early the next morning the king hastened to the den of lions. Notice his question to Daniel in verse 20, "...and the king spake and said to Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the living God, is they God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions?"
"Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live for ever. My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt" (verses 21-22).
Daniel was in the lion's den but God shut their mouths. Perhaps Daniel used one of the lions for a pillow. Perhaps like Paul and Silas in jail he spent the night rejoicing, singing, and praising God. But one thing we know - - God delivered him.
We all are called upon to face difficulties and tests and trials along life's journey. Many of them seem big like lions. But our God is able to deliver if we only believe. Verse 23 tells us that Daniel "BELIEVED IN HIS GOD". The Book of Hebrews Chapter 11, is one grand testimony of victory for those who believed in God. Do we really believe in God? So many of us say we do, but I wonder just how great is our faith.
This is also a picture of God's remnant people during the Tribulation Period. Daniel represents the one hundred and forty - four thousand (Revelation 7:1-4) who will be preserved by the power of God. (Read also Revelation 14:1-5).
We read here also that Daniel's enemies were destroyed. The king instructed that they be cast into the lion's den, "... and the lions had the mastery of them, and brake all their bones in pieces or ever thy came at the bottom of the den"(verse 24). This is a picture of what will happen when our Lord returns the second time from heaven. He will deliver the faithful remnant of His people, but He will pour out His judgment upon the nations and leaders who tried to destroy them.
A casual study of history will reveal that even now this principle is being worked out. Hitler hated God's Jewish people and tried to destroy them completely. But where is Hitler today?
4. The Four Beasts
In Daniel, chapter 7, we have another outline picture of the Gentile nations. Nebuchadnezzar's image which was composed of precious metals was now seen by Daniel as great ferocious beasts. The beasts represent the moral character of the four kingdoms seen by Nebuchadnezzar. They are shown to act without conscience, reason, or moral responsibility before God. The book of Daniel outlines the characteristic features of Gentile dominion, its idolatry, pride, and degradation being set forth in Nebuchadnezzar. Its impurity, impiety and licentiousness is pictured in Belshazzar's wild revelry. its daring blasphemy is shown in the Decree of Darius who forbade prayer to be offered to any other being than himself.
Let us read Daniel 7:1-8,"In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel had a dream and visions of his head upon his bed: then he wrote the dream, and told the sum of the matters. Daniel spake and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the sea, diverse one from another. The first was like a lion, and had eagle's wings: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man, and a man's heart was given to it. And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear, and it raised up itself on one side, and it had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it: and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh. After this I beheld, and lo another, like a leopard, which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl; the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it. After this I saw the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it; and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns. I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things."
Here we find Daniel in vision standing on the shore of the great sea which is the Mediterranean Sea, from which region four kingdoms arose. Out of the sea four "great beasts" came up in succession. They are the same four kingdoms given to us in the image of Daniel chapter 2.
The lion represents Nebuchadnezzar and shows his superiority. The rapidity and unabated strength of his conquests is shown in that the lion had eagle's wings. In due time his conquests ceased and the old king slowed up, for his wings were plucked.
Cyrus and Darius were represented by a bear which is less noble but more savage. The three ribs set forth the three kingdoms conquered by the Medes and Persians.
Alexander the Great is symbolized by a leopard and this speaks of being fierce and swift. When Alexander unexpectedly died, his kingdom was taken over and divided up into four parts by his four generals - his four wings if you like, that led him to victory, These four generals then became the four heads, each one commanding one-forth of the kingdom. [ see our on-line sermon document; "Revealing The Beast of Revelation" ]
The fourth beast portrays the dreadful iron Empire of Rome. It was unlike any other beast and had IRON teeth. It devoured the other beasts and had TEN HORNS. The 'iron' here corresponds to the 'iron legs' and the 'ten horns' to the 'ten toes' of the Great image.
The four world Gentile empires are first represented in Daniel by a mighty metallic colossus and secondly by four wild beasts. From man's point of view the present kingdoms of the world are the concentration of all material wealth, pomp and power. From God's viewpoint they are a set of wild, bloodthirsty beasts devouring and destroying one another.
The last great empire to be fully revealed after the coming of the Lord is represented by the 'ten horns' which is a picture of the revived Roman Empire. As Daniel considered the "ten horns" there came up another little horn with "eyes like the eyes of a man" and a "mouth speaking great things." Out from these ten kingdoms there will arise the Anti - Christ, the Man of Sin, the superman of the end time. He will assume all responsibility and will declare himself the Dictator of the World.
This is what the world is looking for today. The United Nations is so helpless in the midst of mounting problems. Conference after conference of the nations of the world become frustrated and no easy solutions are being found to mounting world tensions. If only a man would come upon the scene who could unite the various divisions and bring about a new era of peace and prosperity. The world today is waiting for the anti - Christ to take leadership over the nations.
The rise of the little horn sets forth one more outstanding event yet to take place to bring to an end Gentile Supremacy. Some of these events are:
The rapture of the Church.
A comparison of this fourth beast with the LITTLE HORN and the MAN OF SIN of 2 Thessalonians 2 and John's BEAST of Revelation 13shows that they are one and the same person.
It is important to see that Daniel occupies the same position in the Old Testament as Revelation occupies in the New Testament. Both must be studied together. In Daniel we have the scene as it would come to pass in the future. In Revelation we have the backward look on many things already fulfilled which Daniel had prophesied. In Revelation 13:1-4.
We have the same scene as pictured by Daniel:
"And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea" (Mediterranean), "having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority. And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly would was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast. And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? Who is able to make war with him?"
In Daniel we have the same animals mentioned only in reverse order. The reason is that when Daniel spoke of these things he was looking forward in the order that these nations would arise. When John wrote he was looking back and saw them from the historical viewpoint. In Daniel 2 we have the ten toes of the image of Nebuchadnezzar. In Daniel 7 we have seven horns upon the beast. In Revelation 13 we have the bast with seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, all speaking of this great confederacy of nations of the end time, and all portraying the Antichrist who will be able to take charge of the nations.
Daniel describes this superman as having "eyes like the eyes of man" which is a picture of wisdom. He also has a "mouth speaking great things." He will be an orator and will capture the imagination of the world. Every little soap - box prattler on the streets and in our universities who is against God and the Bible is a forerunner of the coming Antichrist. John tells us in 1 John 2:18,"Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time."
Surely we can see the stage being set today for the fulfilment of all these events. Already men are crying for a world leader. On June 19, 1965, a preacher in British Columbia spoke before the Kiwanis Club and said, "We are not going to be able to think and live as we have. We must become universally - minded in the same way we now accept our own culture and our own civilization." Chaos for the world was predicted by the speaker unless the nations of the world adopt some form of effective international control. "We need some kind of world government. Each nation must sacrifice some of its power for the common good, so war may be rendered an impossibility."
Yes, the heart's cry of mankind will soon be fulfilled. First, we wait for the coming of our Lord and the rapture of His Church. Then will be revealed the Antichrist and the beginning of the end of Gentile dominion among the nations.
Go To Lesson Three - Key Studies in Daniel - Series No. 3