Daniel and the End Time
The Lord had great plans for ancient Israel. “And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation” (Exod. 19:6). This holy nation, this kingdom of priests, was to be His witness to the world that Yahweh was the only God (see Isa. 43:10, 12). Unfortunately, the nation didn’t live up to the holy calling that God had given it. Eventually, its people even went into captivity in Babylon.
Interestingly enough, God still was able to use individual Judeans to be His witnesses, despite the disaster of their captivity. In other words, to some degree God accomplished through Daniel and his three fellow captives what He did not achieve through Israel and Judah. In one sense, these men were examples of what Israel as a nation was to have been and done.
Yes, their stories unfold in a time and place far removed from the last days. But we still can find traits and characteristics in these men that can serve as models for us, a people who not only live in the end time but who are called to be witnesses about God to a world that, like the pagans in the Babylonian court, does not know Him. What can we learn from their stories?
* Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, April 14.
Look at the words of Jesus here. It’s so easy, isn’t it, to compromise, to be “ ‘unjust in what is least.’ ” The problem isn’t so much that “what is least” is important in and of itself; it’s not. That’s why it is “the least.” As most of us know either by personal experience or by the examples of others (or both), the problem is that the first compromise leads to another, and then another, and then another, until we become “ ‘unjust also in much.’ ”
With this thought in mind, we pick up the story in Daniel 1, the first account of the experiences of these four Judeans in Babylonian captivity.
Although the text directly does not link what they ate to their being “ten times better” in “wisdom and understanding” than all others (Dan. 1:20), the link is clearly there. The chapter also says that God gave them this knowledge and wisdom. That is, the Lord was able to work with them because of their faithfulness to Him in refusing to eat the unclean food of Babylon. They obeyed, and God blessed their obedience. Would God not have done something just like this for ancient Israel as a whole had it adhered to the teaching of the Bible as diligently and faithfully as these four young men did? Of course. And will He not also do that for us today, in the last days, if we are faithful?
All over the world, Daniel 2 has helped untold numbers of people come to believe in the God of the Bible. It provides powerfully rational evidence, not only for the existence of God but for His foreknowledge. Indeed, it is the revelation that the chapter provides of God’s foreknowledge that presents evidence for God’s existence.
Daniel openly and unashamedly had given all the credit to God for what had been revealed to him. How easily he could have attributed his ability to know and interpret the king’s dream to his own wisdom and understanding. But Daniel knew better than that. The prayers that he and the others prayed (Dan. 2:17–23) showed their knowledge of their utter dependence upon God; they knew that without Him they would have died with the rest of the wise men.
Later Daniel reminded the king that none of his professional wise men, enchanters, or magicians proved able to tell the king his dream. By contrast, the God in heaven can reveal mysteries because He is the only true God.
Thus, in his humility and in his dependence upon God, Daniel was able to be a powerful witness. If Daniel, back then, showed humility, how much more should we reveal our own humility today? After all, we have a revelation of the plan of salvation that Daniel didn’t; and if anything should keep us humble, it should be the knowledge of what Jesus did at the cross.
Bible students have long noticed the link between Daniel 3, the story of the three Hebrews on the plain of Dura, and Revelation 13, a depiction of the persecution that God’s people have faced in the past and will face in the last days.
In both cases, the issue of worship is central, but both talk about a worship that is forced. That is, the political powers in control demand the worship that is due to the Lord alone.
As the most powerful leader on earth, Nebuchadnezzar mocked these men and their God, saying, “Who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?” (Dan. 3:15). He was soon to find out for himself just who that God was, for later he declared: “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God” (Dan. 3:28).
After seeing such a miracle as that, there is no question that the king was convinced there was something special about the God whom these men served.
Suppose, though, that these young men had not been delivered from the flames. This outcome is one the men realized was a distinct possibility (Dan. 3:18). Why would they still have done the right thing in not obeying the king’s command even if it meant being burned alive? This story presents a powerful testimony to the men’s faith and their willingness to stand for what they believed, regardless of the consequences.
Daniel 3 ends with Nebuchadnezzar acknowledging the existence and power of the true God. But knowledge of God and of His power isn’t the same as having the born-again experience that Jesus said was crucial for salvation (see John 3:7). Indeed, the man depicted in Daniel 4:30 was anything but a converted soul.
By the time that the chapter is done, though, Nebuchadnezzar learns, even if it is the hard way, that all true power exists in God, and without God, he is nothing at all.
“The once proud monarch had become a humble child of God; the tyrannical, overbearing ruler, a wise and compassionate king. He who had defied and blasphemed the God of heaven, now acknowledged the power of the Most High and earnestly sought to promote the fear of Jehovah and the happiness of his subjects. Under the rebuke of Him who is King of kings and Lord of lords, Nebuchadnezzar had learned at last the lesson which all rulers need to learn—that true greatness consists in true goodness. He acknowledged Jehovah as the living God, saying, ‘I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and His ways judgment: and those that walk in pride He is able to abase.’ ”—Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, p. 521.
Daniel 4 ends with a Gentile acknowledging the authority, dominion, and power of the “Hebrew” God. In a sense, this scene is a precursor to what happened in the early church, when, through the witness of Jews and through the power of God, Gentiles learned the truth about the Lord and began to proclaim that truth to the world.
Further Thought: “As we near the close of this world’s history, the prophecies recorded by Daniel demand our special attention, as they relate to the very time in which we are living. With them should be linked the teachings of the last book of the New Testament Scriptures. Satan has led many to believe that the prophetic portions of the writings of Daniel and of John the revelator cannot be understood. But the promise is plain that special blessing will accompany the study of these prophecies. ‘The wise shall understand’ [Dan. 12:10], was spoken of the visions of Daniel that were to be unsealed in the latter days; and of the revelation that Christ gave to His servant John for the guidance of God’s people all through the centuries, the promise is, ‘Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein.’ Revelation 1:3.”—Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, pp. 547, 548.
Although we tend to look at the book of Daniel in the context of the rise and fall of nations, the judgment (Dan. 7:22, 26; 8:14), and the final deliverance of God’s people in the time of trouble (Dan. 12:1), we saw this week that the book of Daniel also can give us examples of what it means for us individually to be prepared for trials and persecution, whenever they come. In this sense, these stories present us with crucially important messages in the last days. After all, however helpful it may be to know about the “mark of the beast,” the “time of trouble,” and the upcoming persecution, if we haven’t had the kind of experience with God that we need, all this knowledge will only condemn us. More than anything else, we need the “born-again” experience that Daniel and the others, including Nebuchadnezzar, had.