Daniel: The Everlasting Kingdom

 

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The prophetic book of Daniel is fascinating to read and often acts like an lightening rod, galvanizing those who hold to a literal interpretation of Scripture and those who like to spiritualize and allegorize Scripture.

Some scholars have great difficulties with the accuracy of Daniel’s prophecies, so they claim much of the book was written after the fact by an anonymous writer calling himself Daniel, pretending to write prophecies when, in fact, the events he wrote about in future tense had already happened.  Conservative scholars, however, take the book of Daniel at face value, believing Daniel to have been exactly what he claimed to be, writing when he claimed to have written, and his words are taken to be prophetic utterances, exactly what he said they were.

Daniel was a young man when he was taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar to the city of Babylon.  He, along with many of his people, had been taken from Jerusalem and the surrounding area as the great kingdom of Babylon rolled over the Middle East, absorbing smaller nations and making their people part of a greater whole.  Eventually, though, many Jews were permitted to return home and rebuild their city.  But this was long after Daniel wrote his famous prophecies.

The events in his book of prophecy cover a long period of time; from Nebuchadnezzar’s time (605 BC) to Cyrus’ time (559-530 BC).   By the time he  wrote some of his prophecies, young Daniel had become an old man, living most of his life in Babylon, working in and around the highest political circles.  God has His people everywhere!

1.  Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, Daniel 2:26-35

(a)  Trying to understand, verses 26, 27

The king asked Daniel (also called Belteshazzar), Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it?  Daniel replied, No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about…”  (Daniel 2:26-27 NIV84)

The Babylonians were an interesting race of people.  Babylon, the capital city (Baghdad, Iraq today), was a true marvel in its day.  The Babylonians, though quintessential nation-builders, were not interested in war and killing, but in peace.  This is why when they conquered a nation, like Judah, for example, rather than kill everybody in sight, the Babylonians would come in, take most of the citizens away as captives and re-settle them in various locations around the Babylonian Empire.

They were also a very spiritual people, interested in such things as dreams and visions. And this is why Nebuchadnezzar was so determined to get to the bottom of his dream and why he was troubled by it.  Apparently there were no wise men or magicians in Babylon capable of giving the king a satisfactory explanation.  Enter Daniel, claiming he could do what nobody else could do.  The king may have been skeptical, but in back of all of this was the hand of God, moving Daniel along a divinely charted course.

(b)  God’s ability, verses 28-35

Right away, Daniel makes an important point made centuries later by Paul:

Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  (1 Corinthians 1:20 NIV84)

For the foolishness of God is wiser than mans wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than mans strength.  (1 Corinthians 1:25 NIV84)

God had put Daniel in the perfect position to enlighten the king of Babylon:

but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come. (Daniel 2:28a NIV84)

This is an important verse because it forms the very basis and purpose of the whole book of Daniel:  to show the king what will happen in the future.  Furthermore, Daniel, living in a land of pagans who worshiped strange gods, wasn’t afraid to give the one true God credit!  The dream, declared Daniel, was given to the king by God.

Some people may wonder why God chose to show a pagan king, Nebuchadnezzar, a detailed history of the future.  First, we can actually learn something about God here:  He is completely sovereign, and He can use whomever He wants to reveal His will.  Here God chose to reveal His plan for the future to a pagan king, but God also used a donkey one time (Numbers 22:21-40).

Second, this dream was given to tell the king of Babylon something.  Would Nebuchadnezzar have listened to Jewish prophet?  Probably not.

Lastly, this dream was so important, it needed to be paid attention to and it needed to be remembered.  Lots of people have dreams, but when a king has a dream, people notice.  And when God gives a pagan king a dream and God’s man interprets it, it has credibility and it is remembered by believes and non-believers alike.

Another very interesting factoid about the book of Daniel has to do with language.  The Old Testament was written in Hebrew because it was written for the Hebrew people, except for one section, which was written in Aramaic.  The section is Daniel 2:8 – 7:28, and Aramaic was the language of the Babylonians!  God always communicates to people in a language they understand.

2.  Kingdoms come and go, Daniel 2:36-43

The king saw a big statue made out of various substances, and it probably looked something like the one at the top of this study.

God’s plan for the future, revealed to Nebuchadnezzar, the first great world leader, symbolized him using a head of gold.  Of Nebuchadnezzar, we read this elsewhere in Scripture:

By my great power I have made the earth and all mankind and every animal; and I give these things of mine to anyone I want to. So now I have given all your countries to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, who is my deputy. And I have handed over to him all your cattle for his use.  All the nations shall serve him and his son and his grandson until his time is up, and then many nations and great kings shall conquer Babylon and make him their slave.  Submit to him and serve himput your neck under Babylons yoke! I will punish any nation refusing to be his slave; I will send war, famine, and disease upon that nation until he has conquered it.  (Jeremiah 27:5-8  TLB)

The point, which Nebuchadnezzar eventually got during his tenure on the throne, was that God made him; God made Nebuchadnezzar into the king he was.  But since God establishes earthly thrones, He can also topple them, and this is what the dream was all about.  God would eventually bring Babylon’s dominance in the world to an end, only to be replaced by a succession of kings and kingdoms.  Each successive kingdom was represented by another part of the statue and another substance.  Each successive substance, it has been noted, is less precious than the one that preceded it.

The forth kingdom is the kingdom we are in today.  Yes, it’s the Roman Empire, or more accurately a form of the Roman Empire.  We have been in this era since the days of Christ.  There will be no great world empires following the Roman Empire.  Rome, incidentally, was never destroyed like other empires were; Rome fell apart from the inside.  But in a sense, it exists today in the nations of Europe (Italy, France, Great Britain, Germany).  The laws and even language of Rome live on.

The image represents four empires, and there will be no great world empire after the forth one.  There are 4 interesting points about the statue in the dream:

First, the quality of the metals.  Gold is more precious than silver; silver finer than brass, brass more valuable than iron, and iron is preferable to clay.  There is a definite deterioration from the head down.

Second, the position of each metal says a lot about the honor and glory of each kingdom.  The head, for example, has more honor than the feet.  No other kingdom had the glorious position that Nebuchadnezzar had.

Third, we have the testimony of Scripture:

After you, another kingdom will rise, inferior to yours. Next, a third kingdom, one of bronze, will rule over the whole earth.   (Daniel 2:39 NIV84)

And last, we can see how nations are temporary and their position as world leaders never lasts.  A nation’s influence in the world comes and goes.

3.  Christ’s enduring kingdom, Daniel 2:44-45; 1 Thessalonians 2:10-12

(a)  A final kingdom, Daniel 2:44-45

The Antichrist, at some point in the future, will “revive” a version of the Roman Empire.  He will try to become a world-wide dictator and he will attempt to rule the world as Nebuchadnezzar did (Revelation 13).  The feet represent his kingdom, which will be very inferior to those kingdoms that came before.  For all his abilities, the Antichrist will be failure.

In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever.   This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human handsa rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces.  (Daniel 2:44-45 NIV84)

The Antichrist’s pathetic attempt at world dominance will be a utter failure; his “kingdom” crushed by the Kingdom of God.  When Jesus Christ returns in power and glory, He will be the King – the world leader – all people from all times have been looking and waiting for.  He will crush the Antichrist and smash up his puny kingdom as he sets up His own Millennial Kingdom.

(b)  Be worthy of the Kingdom, 1 Thessalonians 2:10-12

You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed.  For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.  (1 Thessalonians 2:10-12 NIV84)

The thing about man’s kingdoms and governments is that they rule by force; you must submit to them.  Christ’s kingdom is a little different:  He calls us to live in His kingdom, but it is up to those who hear the call, to heed the call.  The model for kingdom living is found in the Gospels, where we see Jesus calling people to follow Him.  Some chose to follow, many did not.  Some even chose to oppose Him.

We are considered worthy to live in Christ’s kingdom by making Him our Sovereign and by living for Him.  Paul, for his part, tried to model Christ so accurately that people would be drawn to Christ through his example.

Are we worthy to live in the kingdom?  It’s true, we can’t see the kingdom because it’s not here yet physically.  But in the spiritual sense, the kingdom of God IS here, right  now, and it is being built one soul at a time.  If you can’t live for God now in His spiritual kingdom, how will be you able to live for Him the the physical, future kingdom of God? 

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