The Daniel Factor – In the Fullness of Time
“But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship” [Galatians 4:4-5]
The bible is unquestionably the most powerful and the most important book that has ever been written. Every aspect of God’s word was not only divinely inspired, but also had a specific, providential and prophetic significance, implication and purpose. Yet, there are still certain books in the bible, as well as, certain passages in the bible that have particular significance, depending on the time in human history that the reader happened to have lived or happens to be living.
For example, if I were to ask a classroom of students the question, based on the tumultuous time in world history that we are currently living in, “what are some of the most important or significant passages of scripture in the New Testament,” I would no doubt, get several different answers. For instance, there would no doubt be those who would say, John 3:16, while others might point to Romans 9:9-10 and so forth. And in all actuality, none of those answers would be wrong, which shows the awesome uniqueness of the Bible.
However, if I were to personally respond to the question of what are the most significant passages of scripture in the New Testament, especially considering the tumultuous and “perilous time” that we are living in today, I would argue that at least from a prophetic standpoint, Galatians 4:4-5 and Ephesians 1:10 would be two passages that would be at the top of my list.
The reason why I believe that these two seemingly abstract and often overlooked verses might be two of the most prophetically substantive passages of scripture in the New Testament overall, is the fact that in Galatians 4:4-5 and Ephesians 1:10, Paul essentially encapsulated the prophetic and redemptive history of the world. A history of redemption that was first promised in Genesis 3:15 with the “seed of the women,” and subsequently officially began with the Abrahamic Covenant.
In essence, when man fell in the Garden of Eden, God could have decided to wipe out Adam and Eve right then and there and start over from scratch. But instead, God chose to embark upon a plan of redemption and restoration. A plan that would unfold and develop over thousands of years of human history. A plan of redemption and restoration in which God Himself, using fallen, flawed, depraved, and sinful human beings, would divinely and providentially oversee and orchestrate in order to restore the world and mankind back to their original perfect state.
In other words, many people mistakenly think that God is just up in heaven, idly watching and reacting as human history unfolds. However, that notion is contrary to Scripture. Paul to the contrary, was explaining to those believers in Galatia, that the birth and life of Christ, was not just some random event that just happened at an arbitrary point in time. But rather, as we will discover in this study, the birth of Christ occurred at a set, predestined, pre-arranged and providentially orchestrated time in human history.
Along with that, when the student of scripture undertakes an in-depth dive into Ephesians 1:10, and then contrast that verse with Galatians 4:4-5, you will discover two very important prophetic and theological points: First of all, in his observations that he gave to the Galatians, by using the phrase, “in the fullness of time,” Paul in essence, was encapsulating the previous several thousand years of redemptive history beginning with the call of Abraham to Christ’s first coming. In other words, Paul was inferring that once all of the historical and prophetic Messianic I’s were dotted and all of the historic and prophetic Messianic T’s were crossed, God in essence said that now the time is right.
Secondly however, and even more importantly to believers in this age, in Ephesians 1:10, by once again referencing the phrase, “in the fullness of time,” Paul similarly also summarized the past, nearly two-thousand years of prophetic and world history. Only this time, he was referring to the time that began with the establishment of the Church, to a time that is still yet in the future. A time, in which Christ will return for the second time and set up His earthly Kingdom.
Simply put, in Paul’s admonition to the Galatians, he was alluding to a pattern of human history in which, God Himself, had been providentially orchestrating and sovereignly overseeing for the purpose of setting the stage for Christ’s first coming. But what is even more interesting, is the fact that not only did God orchestrate human events in order to “set the stage” for His Son’s first coming, but according to Ephesians 1:10, in order to prepare the world for Christ’s second coming, God has been using the very same model or historical precedent of providentially overseeing human events in order to set the stage for Christ’s second coming.
Specifically, in Ephesus 1:10 Paul writes, “That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him.” If you will notice in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he once again references the phrase, “in the fullness of time.” This time however, instead of pointing to the historical and prophetic events that led to Christ’s first coming, Paul here is referring to a time that is yet to be fulfilled sometime in the future. A time when Christ will return and set up His Kingdom here on Earth, and the flow of human history that will precede His return.
To be more specific, in these two passages, Paul was literally referring to the flow of world prophetic and redemptive history that extended from the call of Abraham in Genesis 12, to the birth of Christ. And then from the establishment of the Church in Acts 2, to Christ’s second coming. A prophetic, redemptive and providentially orchestrated history that in fact, was recorded and subsequently fulfilled (and much of which is still being fulfilled) in astonishingly specific and historically precise detail in the Book of Daniel.
To add something else that we as believers should not loose sight of, is the fact that, at least from the standpoint of prophetic and redemptive history, what makes these two passages so significant, is the fact that prophetically speaking, we are currently living in arguably one of the most difficult periods of time in world history since the beginning of the church age. We are living at a time in which, just in the past year, the world has experienced an unapparelled rapid convergence of prophetic fulfillments happening all at the same time. In fact, Paul warned us of this time in his farewell letter to his young protégé Timothy when he warned:
“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! 6 For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:1-7 nkjv).
Now of course, because of the fallen state of the human race, there has always been difficult times throughout history. However, the modern amalgamation of satanic activity in the culture, should serve as signal to believers around the world that Christ’s return is immanent. Just for starters, consider for example, the fact that just in the past year in America, we have experienced a world wide Covid-19 pandemic, we are experiencing the rise of “woke” culture, the rise and dominance of the LGBT movement which is having the effect of desensitizing an entire generation by normalizing what God has called an abomination. Not only that, we have been experiencing riots in the streets of America that resulted from s9me highly publicized shootings of African Americans by white police officers. While at the same time, and even more alarmingly, we are witnessing the decline of the impact and influence of Christianity on society.
On the whole, society is becoming more and antithetical to Christianity. We are seeing steady increases in homosexuality, support for abortion on demand, unwillingness to obey authorities, unwillingness to work, marriage being abandoned, clothing being abandoned, an increase in pornography, and an increase in lawlessness, to name but a few areas. Christian absolutes have been diluted or removed as the basis of society and replaced with a world view that says, “We do not have to accept that the Christian way of doing things (basing our world and life view on biblical principles) is the only way; we must tolerate all religious beliefs and ways of life.” However, this “tolerance” really means an intolerance of the absolutes of Christianity.
In addition to the proliferation of secularism, and a worldwide Covid-19 pandemic, in 2020 America also experienced one of the most divisive and polarizing Presidential elections in history, or at least since the election of Abraham Lincoln. And to add to all of that, we are seeing leaders from around the world, including the new US President, strongly advocating for and actually taking steps towards a “Great Reset” of the worlds economies. A great reset, which of course, is nothing more than a code phrase for establishing a universal economic system.
And when you add this unabashed and unwavering move towards the establishment of a universal economic system, along with the brazen and unapologetic attacks on Christianity and biblical values from every institution of cultural influence in America including the media, pop culture, public schools, academia, big tech, and even from the highest levels of the Federal Government, it should be enough to send shock waves throughout the Christian church all across America, regardless of denomination or race. And if that is not alarming enough, there is even discussions of developing a “vaccine passport,” in which “no one would be able attend sporting and events, or travel unless they show “the mark” or verification of the vaccine.
Unfortunately however, it would appear that instead of more believers and particularly pastors and other leaders and spokesman sounding the alarm, most instead have gotten caught up in the media and pop culture narrative of race and racism being the primary enemy, and not discerning the signs of the times, or understanding the fact that there are literal unseen forces at work behind the scenes that have been directly responsible for much, if not all, of the dysfunction that we see on the nightly mainstream news.
God’s Prophetic Pattern of the History of Redemption
Now, just to summarize Galatians 4:4-5 and Ephesians 1:10, when the student of scripture does a close examination of the text, you will discover that what is even more significant about these two verses, is the fact that when Paul used the phrase, “In the fullness of time,” in writing to the Galatians, he was actually referencing the prophetic and historic flow of events that led to the birth of Christ. However, when taking a deeper dive into subsequent world history, beginning with the establishment of the Church up to the present, we can clearly see the same pattern of historical and providential precedence of orchestrating human events, that God established leading to Christ’s first coming.
A prophetic precedent that would seem to point to the fact that, the same pattern or the same historical and prophetic model or template that God used in order to prepare the world or set the stage for Christ’s first coming, is the same providential process that He would use in order to prepare the world or set the stage for Christ’s second coming. And it is because of this ultimate point of God’s providential and prophetic working through previous human history, along with discerning where we now stand in God’s prophetic calendar, that I believe to be imperative that believers understand and discern as we live and navigate through these difficult and very possibly last days.
And even more significantly, Paul here was referring to the specific period of time in human history, that began officially with the establishment of the Church, and extend to the time that “know one knows the day or the hour,” and that future day and hour that will come “like a thief in the night,” when Christ returns and sets up His Kingdom here on Earth, along with all of the providentially orchestrated human events that will lead up to Christ’s second coming.
The Daniel Factor
How did God bring it all together to accomplish His divine purpose? While I may have been somewhat redundant in the above discussion of “the fullness of time,” understand that it was an important lead-in to what we are about to study now. In other words, if Galatians 4:4-5 and Ephesians 1:10 are the most important historically and prophetically all-encompassing passage in the New Testament, then the Book of Daniel is the most historically and prophetically important book (next to the book of Genesis) in the Old Testament.
In fact, the argument can be made that the book of Daniel represents the single most conclusive and definitive pieces of evidence that the bible is truly the divinely inspired word of God. Because the precision in which the prophecies in Daniel were so literally, meticulously and precisely fulfilled in real time, that only God could have known.
In other words, God gave Daniel the complete view of the history of the gentile kingdoms starting with Babylon and all the way to the 2nd Coming of Christ. Demonstrating that God is clearly and providentially in control of human events and man’s ultimate destiny. Furthermore, the Book of Daniel gives startling evidence, that not only does God notice us, but His hand has been steering world history towards one incredible final event. Proving also, that not only does God know the future, but He has revealed it to us as well.
To be more specific, in the pages of the Book of Daniel, God through a series of some extremely specific dreams and visions, gives Daniel a panoramic view, with remarkable accuracy and precision, of the succeeding several thousand years of human redemptive history. Many of those events in fact are converging upon us at this very moment. Notice for example, what God reveals to Daniel in Daniel 2:21:“And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise And knowledge to those who have understanding.” What God was letting King Nebuchadnezzar know in essence, was the fact that it was the God of Daniel, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who was the one true God, and who was literally sitting on high, and providentially orchestrating the rise and fall of Kings and Kingdoms. Who was providentially manipulating world history and human events for a pre-ordained prophetic and redemptive purpose.
Why is this important? Because, God is a God who, “knows the end from the beginning” (Isaiah 46:10). In other words, before the heavens and earth were created, God’s plan to reconcile humanity was already in place. And we may very well be living in that time when we will see the “consummations of all things.” And outside of the book of Revelation, no other book in the bible highlights the history of God’s prophetic plan of redemption with more precision and detail than the book of Daniel. Also, there is no other book in the bible that gives believers today a better understanding of where we are now on God’s prophetic calendar than a careful examination of the Book of Daniel.
As I pointed out earlier, some people think that God is up in Heaven watching and reacting as human history unfolds, and that Christ’s being born in Bethlehem when He did, was just some random coincidence. But both of those notions are contrary to Scripture. Paul in fact, was explaining to those believers in Galatia, that the birth and life of Christ, was not just some random event that just happened at an arbitrary point in time. But rather, the birth of Christ literally occurred at a Divinely and providentially orchestrated, pre-set, and pre-arranged time in human history.
From a big picture perspective, the Scriptures chronicle the working of God’s hand as He sovereignly brings events into alignment with His will. Genesis 3 explains that reconciliation with God was needed because the entire human race has been corrupted by Adam and Eve’s sin. Yet, immediately after confronting them, the Lord promised to bring deliverance through the “seed of the woman” (Genesis 3:15). Then God chose Abraham as the ancestor of the One through whom, He would bless the entire world (Genesis 12:1-3).
From among Israel’s 12 sons, He chose a ruler to come from the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10). Centuries later, God selected David to be the one through whom a King would arise, whose kingdom would never end (2 Samuel 7:16). As the time of Christ’s coming drew near, the Lord used a Roman emperor named Caesar Augustus to send Joseph and Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem to fulfill His prophecy that the King would come from this small town (Micah 5:2). Then, Jesus arrived in the fullness of time.
However, while it is important that believers understand this essential redemptive narrative, it is in the pages of the Book of Daniel, that we get a much more comprehensive, or big picture historical narrative. And understanding this more comprehensive narrative, is essential for the believer who desires to be able to “discern the signs of the times” in today’s world.
The Purposes of the Book of Daniel
When looking at the contents of the book of Daniel, as well as observing the historical setting in which this book was written, there are a number of likely reasons why Daniel was guided by the Holy Spirit to write this book:
First, the book certainly must have been written to encourage the nation of Israel. In their Babylonian captivity the great question that weighed heavily on the hearts of these Israelite captives was “is God through with us?” Israel’s disobedience and unbelief had brought the severe discipline of the Lord God on them and it was natural to wonder if God was finished with them. But Daniel, along with his contemporary Ezekiel, was quite clear that God had not set them aside. Because of the grace and faithfulness of God, they did have an amazing future as the events of the future recorded in this book made clear. What an encouragement this would be to the Jews of that time.
A second purpose was to provide a prophetic framework that would be important to the understanding of other prophecies given before Daniel’s time as well as prophecies given centuries later. Daniel’s prophecies would particularly give a framework for that era known as “the times of the gentiles” (Luke 21:24). During this period gentile nations would exercise dominance over Israel culminating in the final seven years of human history commonly known as The Tribulation. Without Daniel, many prophecies would be quite obscure and we would be forced to speculate about them.
A third purpose for Daniel’s book is to reveal with absolute clarity the sovereignty of God over men and nations. The Lord God of Israel is not simply the God of Israel. He is the sovereign God of all the earth. Several of the Old Testament prophets have sections in their writings where gentile nations are addressed (Isaiah 13; Amos 1). Although the messages to those gentile nations may not have actually been delivered to them, these messages let Israel know that in spite of the power of these gentile nations, it is the sovereign Lord who has absolute power and authority.
So, in spite of the authority and power of Satan and the armament of nations, the Lord God of Israel is the One who sets kings up and takes them down. Eventually every nation of men as well as the forces of the devil will be forever destroyed. All authority resides in the Lord God of Israel, as Nebuchadnezzar learned firsthand. Every knee will indeed bow before the God of Israel.
A fourth purpose of the book of Daniel is to provide another illustration of God’s faithfulness to His covenant promises made with Abraham. In the Abrahamic Covenant, God had committed Himself to bring blessing to both Israel and the nations. And the Scriptures proclaim that reconciliation and restoration would occur through “the seed of Abraham” that is, the Messiah. The fulfilling of these covenant promises ultimately depended on God’s faithfulness and not on the faithfulness and obedience of Israel.
Daniel joins with many other voices 10 in the Old and New Testament in declaring that God will do what He said He would do in and through Israel. God will be absolutely faithful to His covenant commitments.
The Historical Setting and Timeline for the Book of Daniel:
After Solomon died, the Nation of Israel was divided in two (940 BC):
The Northern kingdom was made up of 10 tribes. Schechem was its capital for a time, then Penuel, then Tirzah.
The Southern kingdom was made up of two tribes with its capital in Jerusalem.
The two were never reunited and competed for dominance in the region. After the split there was a decline in moral and religious fervor in both kingdoms as periods of high and low fidelity to the Lord followed one upon another. During Israel’s development from 1400 BC to its divided kingdom in the 9th century, the Assyrian nation dominated the world scene politically and militarily. Their capital was to the north, in Nineveh, and the Jews often had to pay tribute or fight off this strong and wicked neighbor.
In 722 BC the Assyrians attacked and destroyed the Northern kingdom and scattered the people throughout other nations and brought many into exile to Assyria. They also brought foreigners to live in the North and mix with the remaining Jews. The result was that the Northern kingdom’s population was mixed with foreign nations and lost its pure Jewish blood and heritage. These “mixed” Jews were eventually called Samaritans by the Southern kingdom and despised because of their mixed blood, their mixed religion (pagan/Judaism) and their collaboration with enemies against the South in times of war.
Meanwhile, on the world stage, a new power emerged to challenge Assyrian supremacy and in 612 the Babylonians destroyed Nineveh, the Assyrian capital, and established themselves as world rulers. In 606 BC the Babylonian army led by future king Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem and carried off the main leaders, nobles, and royalty to Babylon where they began 70 years of captivity which was the subject of prophesies made by Jeremiah in 626 (20 years before the fact).
Background and Overview of Daniel
The book of Daniel takes place from B.C. 605 to 530, bridging both the Babylonian and Persian kingdom’s rule over Judea and Jerusalem. Daniel follows a turbulent and period in Israel’s history. Israel and Judah were buffer nations between the powerful nations of Egypt, Assyria and Babylon.
Babylon was a once former great kingdom dominated by the Assyrian Empire. In 621 B.C., Nabopolassar became the king of Babylon. He then challenged Assyrian control. In 612 B.C., with the aid of the Medes and Scythian hordes, Nabopolassar sacked the Assyrian capital of Nineveh.
Assyria, following the sacking went into a quick decline, the armies of Assyria abandoned the cities of Haran at the approaching Babylonians in 610 B.C. Egypt allied itself with Assyria against Babylon to retake the city. Pharaoh Neco, (2 Kings 23:28-30) on his way through Israel, was intercepted by the armies of Judah led by Josiah (640-609 B.C.). Josiah was killed in battle and Assyria become part of the Neo Babylonian Empire.
2 Kings 24:1-20; 2 Kings 25
2 Chronicles 36:1-23
2 Chronicles 35:20-27
2 Kings 22-23
Jeremiah 29, & 46:1-12
CARCHEMISH, PHARAOH NECHO & KING JOSIAH
In the fourth year of Jehoiakim’s reign (605BCE), the long-awaited conflict between Egypt and Babylon culminated in the Battle of Carchemish. The Egyptians met the full might of the Babylonian and Median army led by Nebuchadnezzar II at Carchemish.
This led to the total destruction of the combined forces of Egypt and Assyria. Assyria ceased to exist as an independent power. While Egypt retreated, ceasing to be a significant force in the Ancient Near East.
The Battle of Carchemish is one of those battles that changed the course of history. It lies central to the history of Judah and is spoken of in Jeremiah 46:1-12, yet few who read the Bible realize its importance.
This battle saw the final end of the cruel & vicious regime of the Assyrians, the ending of Egypt’s dominance in the Middle East and the rise of Babylon. Babylon, of course, was eventually to take Judah into captivity, for seventy years. (Jeremiah 29:10 & Daniel 9:1-2)
Egypt’s Pharaoh Necho, was an ally of Assyria and in 609BCE was heading to the Euphrates area to help the remnants of the Neo-Assyrian army. They had been driven out of Assyria when Nineveh fell to a coalition of forces including Babylonians, Chaldeans, Medes, Persians, Scythians and Cimmerians. The Assyrian army had taken refuge in Haran but three years later Haran was also captured. Pharaoh Necho had arrived too late to help but kept his troops in the area for the next four years.
On his way to help the Assyrians, Pharaoh Necho was stalled at Megiddo by the foolish decision of King Josiah to fight Necho and his army [2 Chronicles 35:20-24]. King Josiah had been a righteous king who had ruled Judah for 31 years, from the age of just eight (2 Chronicles 34:1).
This foolish decision led to Josiah’s death and Pharaoh Neco replacing him with Josiah’s son, Jehoash, as king. Necho only allowed Jehoash II to remain as king for three months, replacing him with his brother, Jehoiakim.
Josiah Dies in Battle (2 Chronicles 35:20-25)
20 After all this, when Josiah had prepared the temple, Necho king of Egypt came up to fight against Carchemish by the Euphrates; and Josiah went out against him.
21 But he sent messengers to him, saying, “What have I to do with you, king of Judah? I have not come against you this day, but against the house with which I have war; for God commanded me to make haste. Refrain from meddling with God, who is with me, lest He destroy you.”
22 Nevertheless Josiah would not turn his face from him, but disguised himself so that he might fight with him, and did not heed the words of Necho from the mouth of God. So he came to fight in the Valley of Megiddo.
23 And the archers shot King Josiah; and the king said to his servants, “Take me away, for I am severely wounded.”
24 His servants therefore took him out of that chariot and put him in the second chariot that he had, and they brought him to Jerusalem. So he died, and was buried in one of the tombs of his fathers. And all Judah and Jerusalem mourned for Josiah.
25 Jeremiah also lamented for Josiah. And to this day all the singing men and the singing women speak of Josiah in their lamentations. They made it a custom in Israel; and indeed, they are written in the Laments.
Among the leaders and young nobles carried off at this time was a young man named Daniel who would grow in importance and prestige in the foreign king’s court because of his ability to interpret dreams and prophesy. Also taken away at this time was Ezekiel the prophet. God allowed His people to be taken away into exile but He provided for their spiritual needs: Daniel in the palace was influencing the king with his special gifts, Ezekiel lived among the people and ministered to them with his teaching and his prophecies.
Twenty years later, in 586 BC, after the king who had been left in charge of the Southern kingdom by the Babylonians rebelled (Zedekiah), the Babylonians returned to Jerusalem and destroyed the temple and the city and carried off even more Jews into captivity. The Babylonian system was to carry off the leaders and retrain them in Babylonian culture, religion and politics, and return these people (after 20-30 years) to their homelands to rule under their administration.
In 539 BC, the Medes conquered the Babylonians and the new world leader was a man called Cyrus who became king in 536 BC. In that same period this king released the Jews to return to their homeland and provided them with help to begin rebuilding the temple and the city. During this time (534 BC) Daniel died while in captivity in Babylon, now controlled by the Medes. From about 500 to 332 BC, the Medes shared world power with another mighty nation, Persia (Medo-Persian Empire).
It is during the reign of the Persian kings that the city of Jerusalem was completed, the temple was rebuilt, Ezra reestablished the Law, Malachi prophesied to the people who had resettled in Jerusalem, and Nehemiah returned to rebuild the wall (486-400 BC).
Quick outline of Daniel
Author is Daniel (Daniel 8:15, 27; 9:2; 10:2,7; 12:4-5)
Written between 535 and 530 B.C.
Purpose is to encourage the exiled Jews by revealing God’s program for them both during and after the time of Gentile Power.
It presents God’s plan for the future of Israel and traces the course of Gentile world powers from his exile days in Babylon to the Second Coming of Christ.
Daniel’s story (1–6)
Daniel is taken to Babylon (1)
Daniel interprets Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of an image (2)
Daniel’s friends survive the fiery furnace (3)
Nebuchadnezzar is humbled (4)
Daniel interprets the handwriting on the wall (5)
Daniel survives the lions’ den (6)
Daniel’s visions (7–12)
Vision of the four beasts (7)
Vision of the ram and goat (8)
Prayer and vision of 70 weeks (9)
Vision of kings yet to come (10–12)
The Book of Daniel naturally divides itself into two parts:
God’s providence in history [Daniel 1:1 – 6:28] and
God’s purpose in history [Daniel 7:1 thru 12:13].
The second half of the book, contains four visions seen by Daniel that expands upon and gives more elaborate details to the prophecy in chapter 2:
The Vision of the Four Beast [Daniel 7:1-28].
The Vision of the Ram and the Goat [Daniel 8:1-27].
The Vision of the Seventy Weeks [Daniel 9:1-27].
The Vision of the Time of the End [Daniel 10:1 thru 12:13].
In the last section, God reveals to Daniel, things about His purpose and plan in history, regarding the Nation of Israel and the coming “Everlasting Kingdom.”
Chapter 1 describes the conquest of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. Along with many others, Daniel and his three friends were deported to Babylon and because of their courage and the obvious blessings of God upon them, they were “promoted” in the king’s service (Daniel 1:1-20; 2 Kings 24 & 25).
Chapters 2-4 record Nebuchadnezzar having a dream that only Daniel could correctly interpret. Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of a great statue represented the kingdoms that would arise in the future. Nebuchadnezzar made a great statue of himself and forced everyone to worship it. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused and were miraculously spared by God despite being thrown into a fiery furnace. Nebuchadnezzar is judged by God for his pride, but later restored once he recognized and admitted God’s sovereignty.
Daniel chapter 5 records Nebuchadnezzar’s son Belshazzar misusing the items taken from the Temple in Jerusalem and receiving a message from God, written into the wall, in response. Only Daniel could interpret the writing, a message of coming judgment from God. Daniel is thrown into the lions’ den for refusing to pray to the emperor, but was miraculously spared.
In chapter 7, God gave Daniel a vision of four beasts. The four beasts represented the kingdoms of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome.
Chapters 8-12 contain a vision involving a ram, a goat, and several horns – also referring to future kingdoms and their rulers. Daniel chapter 9 records Daniel’s “seventy weeks” prophecy. God gave Daniel the precise timeline of when the Messiah would come and be cut off. The prophecy also mentions a future ruler who will make a seven-year covenant with Israel and break it after three and a half years, followed shortly thereafter by the great judgment and consummation of all things. Daniel is visited and strengthened by an angel after this great vision, and the angel explains the vision to Daniel in great detail.
Dreams and Visions
When most Christians, (and even many non-believers) think about the Book of Daniel, generally speaking, often will automatically default back to their Sunday School days and the lessons about Daniel in the Lion’s Den and the Three Hebrew Boys in the fiery furnace. And while these encounters hold some obvious and very significant life lessons for us, the true meat or the primary significance of the book of Daniel, is the series of prophetic dreams and visions that covered the future rise and fall of world empires or kingdoms, and Christ’s ultimate and final Kingdom, will never be destroyed, and that will come and destroy all earthly kingdoms.
The first of these prophecies is recorded in Daniel Chapter 2. King Nebuchadnezzar had been greatly disturbed by a series of disturbing dreams. He called for all of his wise men and magicians to come and interpret the dream for him. But in this particular case, he threw in a huge curve ball. He demanded that not only they give him the dreams interpretation, but he demanded that they also tell him the dream. He further laid on the pressure, by telling them that if they can’t tell him the dream, that they would all be executed.
(2:2-9) Nebuchadnezzar demands to know the dream and its interpretation from his wise men.
Then the king gave the command to call the magicians, the astrologers, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans to tell the king his dreams. So they came and stood before the king. And the king said to them, “I have had a dream, and my spirit is anxious to know the dream.” Then the Chaldeans spoke to the king in Aramaic, “O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will give the interpretation.” The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, “My decision is firm: if you do not make known the dream to me, and its interpretation, you shall be cut in pieces, and your houses shall be made an ash heap. However, if you tell the dream and its interpretation, you shall receive from me gifts, rewards, and great honor. Therefore tell me the dream and its interpretation.” They answered again and said, “Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will give its interpretation.” The king answered and said, “I know for certain that you would gain time, because you see that my decision is firm: if you do not make known the dream to me, there is only one decree for you! For you have agreed to speak lying and corrupt words before me till the time has changed. Therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that you can give me its interpretation.”
(2:12-13) After they attempted to stall for time, a furious Nebuchadnezzar sentences all his wise men to death.
“For this reason the king was angry and very furious, and gave a command to destroy all the wise men of Babylon. So the decree went out, and they began killing the wise men; and they sought Daniel and his companions, to kill them.”
(2:14-16) Daniel reacts to Nebuchadnezzar’s decree by asking for a brief extension.
Then with counsel and wisdom Daniel answered Arioch, the captain of the king’s guard, who had gone out to kill the wise men of Babylon; he answered and said to Arioch the king’s captain, “Why is the decree from the king so urgent?” Then Arioch made the decision known to Daniel. So Daniel went in and asked the king to give him time, that he might tell the king the interpretation.
(2:24-30) God reveals to Daniel the dream of Nebuchadnezzar and its interpretation.
Therefore Daniel went to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to destroy the wise men of Babylon. He went and said thus to him: “Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon; take me before the king, and I will tell the king the interpretation.” Then Arioch quickly brought Daniel before the king, and said thus to him, “I have found a man of the captives of Judah, who will make known to the king the interpretation.” The king answered and said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, “Are you able to make known to me the dream which I have seen, and its interpretation?” Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, “The secret which the king has demanded, the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, and the soothsayers cannot declare to the king. But there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. Your dream, and the visions of your head upon your bed, were these: As for you, O king, thoughts came to your mind while on your bed, about what would come to pass after this; and He who reveals secrets has made known to you what will be. But as for me, this secret has not been revealed to me because I have more wisdom than anyone living, but for our sakes who make known the interpretation to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your heart.
1. Arioch tried to glorify himself and Daniel for the answer to the king’s dream. But Daniel refused to take credit, recognizing that the credit went to God, who revealed this dream to Daniel.
2. Nebuchadnezzar’s dream didn’t just concern himself for his kingdom, but the whole span of the future – which was to Nebuchadnezzar the latter days.
(2:31-35) Daniel describes Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and reveals God’s redemptive providence over human history.
“You, O king, were watching; and behold, a great image! This great image, whose splendor was excellent, stood before you; and its form was awesome. This image’s head was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.”
1. Daniel’s description was clear. This was a massive and spectacular image made of different materials (fine gold… silver… bronze… iron… partly of iron and partly of clay).
2. The materials descended in value from top to bottom, with gold at the top and iron mixed with clay at the bottom.
3. This spectacular image was destroyed by a stone made without hands, and what remained of it was blown away like worthless chaff, while the stone became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.
(2:36-45) The interpretation of the dream.
“This is the dream. Now we will tell the interpretation of it before the king. You, O king, are a king of kings. For the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, strength, and glory; and wherever the children of men dwell, or the beasts of the field and the birds of the heaven, He has given them into your hand, and has made you ruler over them all; you are this head of gold. But after you shall arise another kingdom inferior to yours; then another, a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. And the fourth kingdom shall be as strong as iron, inasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and shatters everything; and like iron that crushes, that kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others. Whereas you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; yet the strength of the iron shall be in it, just as you saw the iron mixed with ceramic clay. And as the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile. As you saw iron mixed with ceramic clay, they will mingle with the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay. And in the days of these kings the God of heaven 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. Inasmuch as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure.”
That Daniel was indeed a prophet is well substantiated. He accurately prophesied the rise of the Medo-Persian, Greek and Roman empires even at a time when the Babylonian Empire, which preceded them all, was at its height. He accurately predicted the fortunes, conflicts, wars and conspiracies of the two kingdoms of Syria and Egypt between the fracturing of the Greek Empire and the conquest by Rome.
The glorified outward appearance of the image depicts the power and character of world powers; however, their ultimate destruction demonstrates the lifeless and weak formation of any world governments. Being established on the dangerous foundation of clay and iron, the image does not have any strength or stability. This further depicts the weak establishments of world governments and the tendency for it tumble against stronger forces. Although individual materials of the image hold value, they cannot be mixed together to create coherence. Upon studying past kingdoms and present democratic governments, it can be said with certainty that political tension and a lack of unity is a critical fault in present world powers.
Daniel further explains the meaning of the four parts of the image:
The Golden Head represents the first established world power: the Babylon empire. Ancient Babylon can into being after the fall of Israel and its glory lasted 70 years from B.C. 606 – 536. The attractive and precious gold points to the splendor and wealth of Babylon accumulated by its great ruler, King Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar ruled Babylon as a powerful autocrat for 44 years till B.C. 562. His successors were weak and led lives of pleasure which ultimately led to their demise. Belshazzar, Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson, was killed in the midst of a boisterous and drunken gathering in the palace when the Medo-Persian Kings came and took over the land.
The Chest and Arms of Silver illustrates the Medo-Persian empire which became powerful after the fall the of Babylonian empire. This empire lasted more than 200 years from B.C. 536 till 330. As silver is inferior to gold, Medo-Persian kings had less prosperity and splendor than the Babylonians, but they lasted longer and controlled more areas. Furthermore, gold symbolizes the authority of kings while silver represents the power of princes. The Medo-Persian empire was governed by coherent rule of assigned princes with a king as an overseer.
The picture of two hands depicts the joint authority of Medes and Persia. When Cyrus and the Persian king Darius (Cyrus’s father-in-law) conquered Babylon in B.C. 536, they consented upon joint rule. However, as Cyrus became increasingly engaged with matters of war, he appointed Darius to be governor of Babylon. Two years later, when his father, Cambyses, died, Cyrus took over control of the total empire. Cyrus was succeeded by 9 kings and the empire faded away with its last king: Darius III.
The Belly and Thighs of Bronze points to the Greek empire which became powerful from B.C. 331 to B.C. 63. In B.C. 331, Alexander the Great, a valiant man of war, conquered the Medo-Persian empire and established his kingdom. He became a feared and powerful emperor as he was able to conquer Persia, Egypt, Syria, Mesopotamia, Bactria, and the Punjab within a very short span of time. However, he greatly favored his subjects, displaying great leniency towards the Jews. He built cities in all lands that he conquered and tried to teach Greek language to all people. When he died unexpectedly in B.C. 323, the kingdom as divided into four. Nevertheless, they stood strong as the most dominant powers of the world politically, socially, and culturally until the roman empire gained power.
The Iron Legs represent the Roman empire which became powerful around B.C. 63. Rulers were all autocratic men from noble families who conducting strict administration without any leniency towards anyone. Rome was original known as ‘Roma’, a city founded by an Italian named Romulus in B.C. 758 on the banks of the Tyber River. As the city rulers became very powerful, they conquered more land and formed an empire. An army general named Pompey, who ruled from B.C. 86 to 48, subdued rebels and pirates and conquered Syria, Palestine and other middle eastern nations.
Pompey was killed in B.C. 48 and Julius Caesar became the ruler. Julius Caesar was killed by Brutus in B.C. 44. Then Octavius (Caesar’s son-in-law), Mark Antony, and Lepidus ruled the empire together. Later, in B.C. 30, Octavius took the name of Augustus Caesar and assumed charge as the first emperor of Rome. Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem during the reign of Augustus. In A.D. 364, as depicted by the two legs of the image, Rome was divided into Western and Eastern empires.
The Feet of Mixed Iron and Clay depict the democratic governments which come up after the fall of the Roman empire. Currently we are in this stage of world governance, as many countries around the world our adopting the democratic system.
A Stone Untouched by Hand proceeds out of the mountains and smashes the image. According to the interpretation of Daniel, the stone represents Jesus Christ who is to appear in the end times. The birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ goes beyond the understandings of human intellect; therefore, His return will also be of similar fashion. All world powers will come to an end at the coming of Christ and He will establish His glorious kingdom in which we are the honourable members.
“The great God has shown the king what will take place in the future. The dream is true and its interpretation is trustworthy.” (Daniel 2:45 NIV)
The reason why the book of Daniel is so interesting is due to the parallel evidence we can draw from proved historical events. It is quite mesmerizing to unravel the depth of meaning hidden in the scriptures and come to understand that the recorded events continue to be fulfilled in this day and time.
Certainly, every book in the Bible has an important contribution to make to our understanding of God and His ways. However, Daniel makes its important contribution in a number of unique ways:
First, the Book of Daniel provides a comprehensive view of the movement of the history of gentile nations through the lens of the nation of Israel. After the fall of man (Genesis 3), instead of destroying man and the universe and starting over again, God chose to embark on the course of reconciliation and restoration.
The key to this reconciliation would be the “seed of the woman”. This broad concept was later narrowed down to the “seed of Abraham”; that is, the nation of Israel. It would be through the nation of Israel that God would accomplish His purposes. And the Book of Daniel makes a major contribution to understanding the course of Israel’s history as it relates to gentile nations.
Second, the Book of Daniel gives many key elements essential to an understanding of prophecy in both the Old and New Testaments. Daniel’s revelations of the coming kingdom, of the future tribulation, of the “abomination of desolation” and of the coming Antichrist are built upon by the Apostles and Jesus Himself. And Daniel’s “seventy weeks” prophecy is the foundation for Revelation 6-19 and other prophetic portions of scripture.
Third, the Book of Daniel gives some insight into the Israelites’ experience during their captivity in Babylon. While this is not a book of history per se, it does give some snapshots of the nation in that land in the years between the Old Testament books of 2 Kings and Ezra. The book does make it clear that God is not done with His disobedient nation and that there is hope and that they do have a future.
Fourth, in a practical way, the book shows that God does honor those who honor Him (1 Sam. 2:30). Daniel is an example of such a person. The book reveals many of the ways that Daniel honored God and how God, in turn, honored Daniel. God declares that Daniel was a “highly esteemed” man (cf. 9:23; 10:11, 19). The book provides us with an outstanding model of living godly and righteously in a world that is not conducive to such a lifestyle.
An Historical Analysis of Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream:
An Synopsis of Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream
1. Now we will tell the interpretation: Daniel first accurately reported the content of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. This gave Daniel credibility when explaining what the dream meant: the interpretation.
2. Three dominating empires came after Babylon: Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. The nature of these empires was accurately reflected by the nature of the image Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream.
3. The empires succeeding Babylon were inferior to Nebuchadnezzar’s head of gold in the sense of their centralization of absolute power. Nebuchadnezzar was an absolute monarch, and the succeeding empires were progressively less so. They were larger and lasted longer than Babylon, but none held as much centralized power as Nebuchadnezzar did.
4. The third kingdom of bronze was the one which shall rule over all the earth. Indeed, Alexander’s Grecian Empire was the largest among those compared in the image (except the final government of the Messiah).
5. In the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed: This described the fulfillment of this prophecy in the future. The stone cut without hands. shatters a confederation of kings, represented by the feet of the image, and then God’s Kingdom will dominate the earth.
6. Since Roman history provides no fulfillment of this federation of kings (which seems to number ten, because of the number of toes, and passages like Daniel 7:24 and Revelation 17:12) this prophecy must still be future.
7. Since the fall of the Roman Empire, there has never been a world-dominating empire equal to Rome. Many have tried – the Huns, Islam, the so-called Holy Roman Empire, Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin – but none have succeeded. Each of these had amazing power and influence, but nothing compared to that of the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire, in some form or another, will be revived under the leadership of the final fallen dictator, the Antichrist.
8. It broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold: This described a single, decisive event that shattered the image representing the glory of man’s rule on earth. Since the Church or the Gospel have not, in a single decisive event, shattered the reign of human kingdoms, this event is still in the future.
10. Therefore, the final superpower of the world is thought to be a revival of the Roman Empire, a continuation of this image. This will be the final world empire that the returning Jesus will conquer over.
11. Some 40 years from this, Daniel had a vision describing the same succession of empires. Daniel saw it from God’s perspective, and Nebuchadnezzar saw it from man’s perspective. Nebuchadnezzar saw these empires as an impressive image; Daniel saw them as fierce beasts.
12. The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure: Daniel didn’t guess or analyze. Through him God announced the future. The only reason that God can predict history is because he can control it.
Old Testament history ends in 400 BC with the work of the prophet Malachi. There are two other historic events that take place that have great significance for the world and also for the coming of Jesus and the spread of the gospel.
Alexander the Great conquers Persia in 331 BC and Greece becomes the new world power. Alexander dies soon after (323 BC) in Babylon with a broken heart because there are no other nations to conquer.
In 146 BC Rome destroys Carthage and puts an end to Greek dominance and will become the new world power for the next 500 years.
It is important to understand that there is a story within a story going on here:
There is the story of the Jews: their kingdoms being destroyed by foreign armies, their people being carried off and two of their people (Ezekiel and Daniel) writing about the experience.
There is the story of world kingdoms: through the Bible accounts of the experiences of the Jews we can trace the rise and fall of five world powers (which historical records confirm): Assyrian, Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek, Roman.
The significance of this is important for several reasons:
Much of Daniel’s visions, dream interpretations and prophecy will chronicle the rise and fall of these world powers and the eventual coming of the Christian age at its proper point in history. Exact historical prophecy that can be verified through history books is one of the strongest proofs for the inspiration of Scripture. In 605 BC Daniel begins to predict the rise and fall of 4 world powers into the next 600 years.
The language, symbols and prophecy are directly related to the meaning and interpretation of the book of Revelation.
(2:46-49) Nebuchadnezzar’s reaction to Daniel’s reporting of the dream and its interpretation.
Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face, prostrate before Daniel, and commanded that they should present an offering and incense to him. The king answered Daniel, and said, “Truly your God is the God of gods, the Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, since you could reveal this secret.” Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts; and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief administrator over all the wise men of Babylon. Also Daniel petitioned the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego over the affairs of the province of Babylon; but Daniel sat in the gate of the king.
a. Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face: This great king was obviously impressed. He wasn’t in the habit of showing such respect to anyone, especially a foreign slave who was about to be executed with the rest of the wise men. This confirmed that Daniel accurately reported the dream and skillfully explained its meaning.
b. Your God is the God of gods: Nebuchadnezzar knew that it wasn’t Daniel himself that revealed these things, but Daniel’s God revealed it through Daniel. Daniel wanted the glory to go to God, and it did.
c. The king promoted Daniel: Daniel not only had his life spared, but he was promoted to high office – and he made sure his friends were also promoted. It was fitting that Daniel’s friends got to share in his advancement, because they accomplished much of the victory through their prayers.
Daniel 1:19-20, “The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.”
Daniel 2:31, “You looked, O king, and there before you stood a large statue – an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance.”
Daniel 3:17-18, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
Daniel 4:34-35, “His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: ‘What have you done?’”
Daniel 9:25-27, “Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ’sevens,’ and sixty-two ’sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. After the sixty-two ’sevens,’ the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. He will confirm a covenant with many for one ’seven.’ In the middle of the ’seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing [of the temple] he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.”
In summary, the book of Daniel this book is key to understanding end times prophecy. The Book of Daniel contains some remarkable prophecies concerning how history will come to a climax. God gave Daniel the complete view of the history of the gentile kingdoms starting with Babylon and all the way to the 2nd Coming of Christ. Demonstrating that God is clearly and providentially in control of human events and man’s ultimate destiny.
Finally, the Book of Daniel gives startling evidence, that not only does God notice us, but His hand has been steering world history towards one incredible final event. Proving also, that not only does God know the future, but He has revealed it to us as well.
Daniel’s vision of the end times depicts Israel’s Messiah by whom many will be made pure and holy (Daniel 12:10). He is our righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30) by whom our sins, though blood-red, will be washed away and we will be as white as snow (Isaiah 1:18).
Recommended Resource: Daniel: The John Walvoord Prophecy Commentary by Walvoord & Dyer.
Daniel, NIV Application Commentary by Tremper Longman III.
Daniel, Holman Old Testament Commentary by Kenneth Gangel