Daniel and the Future Kingdom
Just like the northern nation of Israel hit rock bottom during the reign of Ahab (~850 BC), so now the southern kingdom of Judah craters during the reign of Manasseh, the son of Hezekiah. The author of 2 Kings describes the reign of Manasseh as being the worst of all the reigns of the southern kingdom of Judah. Normally whenever 2 Kings describes a king, it compares the king to David. For example, 2 Kings says that this or that king was like David but not quite. When describing Manasseh, 2 Kings does not insult David by even mentioning his name. Instead of comparing Manasseh to David, 2 Kings compares Manasseh to Ahab, the worst of all the kings of the northern kingdom of Israel. As Ahab leads the northern kingdom into the abyss, so Manasseh leads Judah to hit rock bottom.
Moreover, 2 Kings says that Manasseh has such a disastrous effect upon the southern kingdom of Judah that it now resembles the Canaanite kingdoms God had used Israel to destroy during the time of Joshua 600 years earlier. How bad had the Canaanite (Amorite) peoples been? Around 1800 BC God told Abraham that 430 years later He would lead Abraham's descendants out of the land of Egypt and destroy the Canaanites who inhabited the Holy Land. Why wait 430 years to destroy them? Because it would be another 430 years before the Canaanites had gotten so bad that the only right response for God to take towards the Canaanites would be to destroy them. Well now 2 Kings informs us that the Jews are as bad as the Canaanites God had brought judgment upon with the Jewish invasion 600 years earlier. Just as God had destroyed the Canaanite kingdoms, so now God was going to destroy the kingdom of Judah.
In what way did Manasseh lead the Jews to the depths of idolatry? He pollutes the temple and the holy city by erecting idols everywhere. He re-institutes the worship of Baal and the Asherah. He brings male prostitution into the worship services of the temple (intercourse being the means by which the worshipers would entice Baal the rain god to mate with the earth Asherah, thereby bringing forth crops). Manasseh will reenergize the shrines on every high place in Judah, for the worship of Baal and other idols. He will introduce the worship of the heavenly bodies (astrology). He will go so far as to erect the Topheth, the "furnace," that is, the place where he would offer his sons as human sacrifices to the Canaanite gods.
With regards to Judah, God has had it. God is not going to put up with it any more. There is no way that God would be able to look at His face in the mirror if He annihilated the Canaanites and yet let the Jews off scot-free when they committed the same sins. God is a righteous judge, not only with regards to pagans but also with regards to His own people. He's just not going to let the Jews off scot-free; in fact Peter tells us that instead of letting us off the hook, God actually starts judgment with His own household (1 Pet. 4:17). God will destroy the city of Jerusalem, the polluted temple, and the nation itself. It is the only appropriate response the righteous Judge of the universe can have in this situation.
With the rise of the Babylonian empire God punishes the southern kingdom of Judah. In 605 BC the Babylonians will conquer Judah and its capital Jerusalem, deporting many of the young adults into Babylon for captivity. This act is repeated in 597 BC and finally in 586 BC when the Babylonians destroy the nation of Judah. For the next 70+ years the southern kingdom of Judah will cease to exist as a nation.
It was during the first deportation of 605 BC that the young Jewish man Daniel is taken as an exile into Babylon. There Daniel will not only rise to second in command of the entire Persian empire, he will gain in great wisdom and understanding. From this wisdom will come some of the most important prophecies in the OT about Jesus and His kingdom.
DANIEL AND THE JEWISH FOOD LAWS
Daniel along with other young men of the Jewish nobility are led into exile into Babylon. The Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar decides that he wants to bring the finest of the Jewish young men into his royal court, educate them, fatten them up, and prepare them to serve him. What qualifications was he looking for in these young men (Daniel 1:4)?
Daniel along with three of his friends are chosen for this selection process. What are the names of Daniel's 3 friends and what new names are given to the 4 of them (1:6, 7)?
In order to make sure that these young men are healthy, what does Nebuchadnezzar order for them (1:5)?
Daniel has a problem with this order. Why did he not want to comply with this order (1:8)?
Although the text does not say it explicitly, this order undoubtedly went against the food laws in Leviticus.
What agreement does Daniel reach with the chief eunuch (1:8-14)?
Because the commander of the officials goes along with Daniel's plans, what results (1:15-16)?
These 4 did not simply do well; they didn't simply do as well as the other young men; they surpassed the other young men chosen for this experiment. This episode helps to explain the radical devotion of the Jews to the Jewish food laws of Leviticus. Daniel had remained faithful to the Lord by observing the food laws in the OT and the Lord had blessed him. The Jews were not about to give up these food laws now.
DANIEL AND NEBUCHADNEZZAR'S DREAM
Nebuchadnezzar's Dream (2:1-13)
Daniel and the other 3 Jewish young men now serve in Nebuchadnezzar's court as royal advisers. In those days the royal advisers were magi, that is, astrologists and men versed in dark magic. They were supposed to be wise not only in literature but also in the understanding and interpretation of signs in the sky and of people's dreams. One night Nebuchadnezzar has a dream. How does this dream affect him (2:1)?
What does he command the magi (wise men or Chaldeans) to do (2:5-6)?
What is unusual about Nebuchadnezzar's command (2:7)?
Why doesn't Nebuchadnezzar relent and tell the Chaldeans (magi) the content of the dream (2:8-9)?
The king does not relent. He demands that they inform him the content of the dream in addition to the interpretation of the dream. Anybody can come up with any interpretation of a dream. But would that interpretation be true? This is the only way he can know for certain that their interpretation of his dream is true.
Great stress now falls upon the wise men, Chaldeans. Nebuchadnezzar has raised the ante. He declares that if they do not inform him of the content of his dream, he will do what to them (2:5)?
Because the wise men keep pestering the king as to the content of the dream, he figures out that they are indeed charlatans, as he suspected all along. Nebuchadnezzar is infuriated and decrees that all the wise men be destroyed.
Daniel Interprets the Dream (2:13-49)
When the soldiers seek to kill Daniel and his Hebrew friends, Daniel halts the proceedings and requests that the soldiers take him to see the king. When the soldiers take Daniel to the king, Daniel informs the king of the content of the dream. What exactly was the content of the dream (2:31-35)?
Now the different parts of the statue have specific meanings. In the chart below write down the meaning of each part of the statue.
|PART OF THE STATUE||VERSE(S)||MEANING|
|Head of Gold||2:36-38||.|
|Chest and Arms of Silver||2:39||.|
|Belly and Thighs of Bronze||2:39||.|
|Legs of Iron||2:40||.|
|Feet of Iron and Clay||2:41-43||.|
Notice several things about this statue. First all the kingdoms are in sequence. He is not talking about kingdoms just in general; he is talking about a sequence of kingdoms. Second, all the different parts of the body are completely different EXCEPT for the fourth and fiftth parts, the legs of IRON and the feet of IRON and clay. In other words, there appears to be some type of continuity between the kingdom of the legs and the kingdom of the feet.
What does the rock which destroys the statue and becomes a mountain represent (2:44)?
THROUGH THE EYES OF THE APOSTLES
There is standard agreement among scholars that the different parts of the statue refer to different world-wide empires. The head of gold would represent the Babylonian empire; the chest of silver, the Persian empire; the belly of bronze, the Greek empire; and the legs of iron, the Roman empire. Notice that all these empires are in sequential order. These are not just empires in general; they are specific empires which followed one right after the other.
Next, notice that the last empire has feet made of iron and clay. In other words, there is continuity between the empire of iron (the legs) and this empire of iron and clay (the feet). Now the British empire was the greatest empire the world had ever seen; however, there is no continuity between it and the empire of iron, the Roman empire. Since continuity seems to be a major factor in identifying this, it appears that this last kingdom in some way or other has connections with a revived Roman empire which will emerge at the end of time. (This is the reason so many conservative Christians are keeping their eyes on the European union, which to a real degree is the revival of the old Roman empire.)
Few Americans understand the fascination continental Europeans have with the old Roman empire. They see the revival of this empire as the only means at their disposal to counter the American and Chinese mammoths. When Hitler gave his empire a name, he called it "The Third Reich," that is, the third manifestation of the Roman empire. (The other 2 manifestations were the original Roman empire and the Holy Roman empire begun Christmas day, 800 AD.) In many ways the new Europe sees itself as the revival of the old Roman empire.
"Oh," you might say, "aren't you getting a little ridiculous thinking that the European Union is this last kingdom?" Maybe it is, AND maybe it isn't; HOWEVER, Pope Benedict XVI does not have kind words to say about the European Union. He claims that it promotes a culture of evil because of its fascination with homosexuality.
The destruction of this last empire brings about the kingdom of God upon the earth. (If an empire emerges, is destroyed, and does not bring in the kingdom of God, then that kingdom is not the one prophesied by Daniel.)
Dr. J. W. MacGorman, professor of NT at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth and one of my major mentors, used to be a raving amillennialist, that is, he did not believe in a physical reign of Jesus upon the earth. (He was so caustic about premillennialism that he earned the nickname "Cactus Jack.") When he worked on his second doctorate, Duke University, where he was getting his degree, did not allow him to major in NT studies; rather he was forced to major on biblical studies, which included the study of Daniel. Because of this passage and others like it in Daniel, MacGorman came to believe in a literal, physical reign of Christ upon the earth. Some may reject a physical reign of Christ upon the earth; however, when they do so, they are rejecting the clear teaching from the book of Daniel that the kingdom of God will actually be upon the earth, that is, it will be an earthly kingdom. Whatever else this mountain represents, it definitely represents a physical kingdom of God upon the earth, the same location as the other kingdoms pictured in the image.
It is at this time that many Christians get crazy and start saying that this mountain represents the 1,000-year reign of Christ upon the earth. They are adamant in their claims that this reign will literally be 1,000 years in length. Because numbers are so symbolical in the Book of Revelation, the exact length of the reign is definitely open to dialogue. HOWEVER, the number 1,000 does represent completion or perfection in Revelation. Moreover, the symbol of Christ reigning on the earth MUST have some substance behind it; otherwise, the symbol is meaningless. (In other words, you can't say that this kingdom is heaven because you simply would not use the earth as a symbol of heaven. Such a symbol would be meaningless. You would be using a word to represent its exact opposite. I don't think so.) It would be extremely difficult NOT to link the 1,000-year reign of Christ with the kingdom Daniel predicted would come.
Why is it MORALLY NECESSARY for Christ to reign 1,000 years on the earth? Because of Jesus' obedience to the point of humiliation and death, His Father has the goal of subjecting all things beneath the feet of Jesus (Phil. 2:5-11; 1 Cor. 15:25-28). The literal physical reign of Christ upon the earth is the only way this goal can be accomplished. Although we benefit immeasurably by the reign of Christ, this reign is ultimately not about us. It ultimately fulfills God's agenda for His Son, that His Son be exalted to the highest position in the universe, second to none, except to the Father.
Few people realize the link between Jesus and the earth. Of all the Godhead there is only one who has a unique link with earth, Jesus. Why? Because of the 3 Jesus is the only one who is Man. He is God; however, He is also fully man. (Jesus in fact is so much man Paul calls Him the "second Adam.") Jesus' humanity is not a temporary affair. When He rose from the dead, He arose not only spiritually; He also arose physically. The Bible knows only of a physical resurrection. Throughout eternity Jesus remains God AND Man. This reign of Christ UPON THE EARTH harmonizes with Jesus' important and unique relationship with the physical creation.
Some think though that at some point in time Jesus will discard or has already discarded His humanity. Not so. That's the whole point of the resurrection. Jesus does not discard His humanity; He remains permanently Man with a resurrection body. Discarding that body is the very essence of Gnosticism, the religion of The Da Vinci Code. The reason the Gnostics discarded the body was that they could then say that their body was not the real them; the soul inside them was the real them. As a result it did not matter what a person did with his body since it was not the real them. This led to condoning all sorts of immoral sexual behavior. In fact in The Da Vinci Code the protaganists walk into a ritual worship service for the goddess which is little more than an orgy. Be careful with your theology. Christian theology values the body because God made it. God does not annihilate what He creates.
We all to some extent or other live our lives in light of the future. For example, if I believe my child is going to go to college, then I will start saving up for his college tuition. If a nation believes that war lies in the future, then it builds up its military. The future dictates our present actions. Well, the bottom line is this: the goal of human history is the coming of Jesus and the kingdom of God. If that is true, and we believe it ot be true, then we need to live our lives in light of that future event. Right now we need to allow Christ be lord over our lives. Waiting till He returns is not going to cut it. Then it is too late. Obeying Christ right now is the only appropriate way we can truly show we believe He is coming to reign over all creation.