Daniel warns, but provides hope & encouragement

As we progress in this investigation of the book of Daniel, it's essential to remember the historical context in which it was written. The text was likely written during a time of great persecution, and somebody intended to provide hope and encouragement to the people of God. It is a potent reminder that even in the darkest times, God is in control and will ultimately triumph over evil.

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The intriguing story of Daniel

By Ron Bruni

Saturday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Daniel 7:15-27
Luke 21:34-36 

Today, we delve into the intriguing story of Daniel, a man of profound faith and wisdom, as he faced the daunting task of interpreting King Nebuchadnezzar's dreams. In doing so, he created a fascinating piece of literature that has been the subject of much scholarly debate. Chapter 7, in particular, is essential in the book as it contains visions and interpretations under the rubric of eschatology, i.e., the study of end times. The text of Daniel is one of the most essential eschatological works in the Bible. It's also closely related to the book of Revelation, which St. John probably wrote. Both books contain visions of the end times and many similarities between them, which we will discuss in a short time. 

As we progress in this investigation of the book of Daniel, it's essential to remember the historical context in which it was written. The text was likely written during a time of great persecution, and somebody intended to provide hope and encouragement to the people of God. It is a potent reminder that even in the darkest times, God is in control and will ultimately triumph over evil.

First, a brief introduction about how Daniel became the interpreter of Nebachanezor's dreams. Daniel was one of three groups of  Israelites captured and transported to Babylon after Babylon conquered the southern kingdom. After some hair-raising confrontations with Nebuchadnezzar in a den of lions and being put into a burning furnace, both of which God's protection prevented harm, Daniel was put into prison, where he made friends with others and was able to interpret their dreams. This reputation he obtained came into reasonable force as Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had disturbing dreams that deeply troubled him. 

When he summoned his magicians and chanters, sorcerers, and astrologers to interpret the dream, he demanded that they first tell him the content of the dream itself. This request posed an extraordinary challenge for the wisemen as it was customary for them to interpret dreams with prior knowledge of the dream itself. Faced with Nebuchadnezzar's decree, the Wisemen expressed their inability to meet such a demand. In his frustration, the king ordered the execution of all the wise men in Babylon, including Daniel and his friends. 

When Daniel learned of the king's decree, he saw an audience with Nebuchadnezzar to request time and seek guidance from his God. In prayer with his companions, Daniel received a revelation from God regarding the king's dream and interpretation. Armed with this divine insight, Daniel appeared before Nebuchadnezzar and acknowledged the limitations of human wisdom. 

He declared that a God in heaven revealed mysteries and proceeded to unfold the details of the dream – a vision of a colossal statue with different materials representing successive world empires, all of which were eventually toppled by a sizeable meteor-like object from the sky. Daniel then provided the interpretation to explain the rise and fall of these empires and the ultimate establishment of God's eternal kingdom. 

Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and acknowledged the God of Daniel as the revealer of secrets, not only to spare the lives of Daniel and his friends but also to promote Daniel to a position of authority in the Babylonian court. Daniel's ability to interpret the dream saved lives and demonstrated the supremacy of God's wisdom over human understanding. 

This event marked the beginning of Daniel's prominence in the Babylonian court and set the stage for further instances where Daniel would interpret dreams and visions, contributing to the over-arcing narrative of God's sovereignty and the unfolding of his divine plan throughout the book of Daniel including ultimately the destruction of Babylon by King Cyrus the Great of Persia.

Chapter 7 of Daniel is a striking scripture filled with course imagery as it contains a vision of four beasts that represent four kingdoms; an angel interprets the vision as a prophecy of future events, including the rise of a powerful kingdom that will persecute the people of God.

The four kingdoms alluded to are commonly interpreted as representing historical empires. These are often understood as:

  • Babylonian Empire (represented by the Lion):
    The Lion with eagle wings symbolizes the mighty Babylonian Empire, known for its strength and dominance. The wings having been plucked off and the Lion standing like a man represent the transition from the mighty reign of Nebuchadnezzar to a more subdued period.
  • Medo-Persian Empire (represented by the Bear):
    The Bear raised on one side with three ribs in its mouth symbolizes the Medo-Persian Empire. The raised side indicates the dominance of the Persian component over the Median, and the three ribs may represent significant conquests or battles.
  • Greek Empire (represented by the Leopard with four heads and wings):
    The swift Leopard with four heads and wings symbolizes the rapid conquests of Alexander the Great and the subsequent division of his empire among his four generals after his death. The four heads represent these divisions.
  • Roman Empire (represented by the terrifying beast):
    The fourth beast, often described as dreadful and different from the others, represents the Roman Empire. It is robust and diverse, with ten horns representing ten kings or kingdoms. A little horn emerges and uproots three original horns, symbolizing a powerful and boastful ruler.

The vision in Daniel 7 is often seen as providing a prophetic overview of significant world empires from Daniel's time to the establishment of God's everlasting kingdom. The interpretation is not without debate among scholars, and various perspectives exist, but the consensus is that the empires represented are Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome.

The Book of Daniel, particularly Chapter 7, and the Book of Revelation in the New Testament, written by St. John, share significant thematic and symbolic connections. These biblical books contain apocalyptic visions and prophecies, and scholars often note parallels between the two.

Here are some key points of relationship between Daniel 7 and the Book of Revelation:

Similar Symbolism:

Daniel 7 and Revelation use symbolic imagery to convey visions of future events. The four beasts in Daniel 7 and the series of seals, trumpets, and bowls in Revelation are examples of symbolic visions used to depict various aspects of God's plan for history.

Four Kingdoms:

Daniel 7 has a vision of four beasts representing successive world empires. Similarly, in Revelation, there is the symbolism of four horsemen representing various aspects of God's judgment. Both sets of symbols are interpreted to mean different periods or aspects of history.

Son of Man:

The title "Son of Man" is notably used in Daniel 7 and Revelation. Daniel refers to a divine figure who receives authority and an everlasting kingdom from the Ancient of Days. In Revelation, Jesus is often called the Son of Man, emphasizing his humanity and divine power.

Battles Between Good and Evil:

Both books depict cosmic battles between the forces of good and evil. In Daniel 7, there is a heavenly courtroom scene where God's kingdom triumphs over the oppressive earthly powers. Similarly, Revelation describes the ultimate victory of Christ and the establishment of the new heaven and earth.

Persecution and End Times:

Both Daniel and Revelation contain prophecies about times of persecution for believers. The Beast in Revelation and the Little Horn in Daniel are often interpreted as symbols of oppressive rulers or systems that persecute God's people.

Eschatological Themes:

Both books contain eschatological themes, focusing on the end times, the final judgment, and the ultimate establishment of God's kingdom. The visions in both Daniel and Revelation provide insights into God's sovereignty over history and the ultimate triumph of righteousness.

While there are similarities, it's important to note that the Book of Revelation is a complex and highly symbolic work that draws on various Old Testament prophetic themes, including those found in Daniel. Interpretations of these texts can vary, and different scholars and traditions may emphasize other aspects of the connections between Daniel and Revelation.

 Tying together the messages in Daniel Chapter 7 and Luke 21 involves connecting the themes of eschatology, God's sovereignty, and the call to remain vigilant and faithful in anticipation of the fulfillment of God's ultimate plan.

The entire chapter 21  of Luke* is a reminder that the horrific things portrayed in Daniel were not just something that happened in the past but are a portend of future times forecasting not only the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. but the ultimate cleansing of the world as we know it. The sanctification of God's people in the new Jerusalem provided, and here is the caveat, would only "be fulfilled provided that through divine grace, they made it their care to guard against those sins" that would've exposed into God's judgment. 

In most of Luke's writings, he has a characteristic tendency to record all portions of the Lord's teaching that warned men against sensuality and worldliness, so we see this emphasis in the 21st chapter. So I guess the word of the day would be "watch Ye" lest we, either at "the hour of death or day of judgment, should come upon us when we neither expect nor" prepare for such awful events. The fig tree parable is a reminder to the apostles that things will happen in a planned sequential manner and for them to be vigilant for the signs of its coming.

There are several parallels between the two readings of Daniel and Luke:

God's Sovereignty over History:

Both Daniel 7 and Luke 21 emphasize God's sovereign control over history. In Daniel, the vision reveals the rise and fall of earthly kingdoms, ultimately leading to the establishment of God's everlasting kingdom. In Luke 21, Jesus speaks of the signs of the end times and assures believers that God is in control despite the chaos and upheavals in the world.

Eschatological Themes:

Connecting the eschatological themes present in both passages: In Daniel 7, the focus is on the final judgment, the establishment of God's eternal kingdom, and the reign of the Son of Man. In Luke 21, Jesus speaks about the signs of the end times, the coming of the Son of Man, and the redemption that will accompany these events.

Vigilance and Faithfulness:

There is a call to vigilance and faithfulness in both passages. In Luke 21:34-36, Jesus encourages his followers to be watchful and not be weighed down by the anxieties of life. This message in Luke's Gospel parallels the message in Daniel 7, where believers are called to endure and remain faithful in the face of challenges and persecution.

Endurance in the Face of Adversity:

Daniel and Luke convey the idea of enduring hardships and remaining faithful to God. Daniel and his friends faced challenges in Babylon, and believers in Luke's audience were to expect persecution and trials. The call is to endure with faith and trust in God's ultimate deliverance.

Hope amid Turmoil:

Both passages offer hope amid the turmoil. Daniel's vision concludes with the assurance of God's everlasting kingdom. In Luke 21, Jesus provides hope by promising redemption and the coming of the Son of Man.

*Luke 21 - Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments - Bible Commentaries - StudyLight.org. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/luke-21.html

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