The book of Daniel is certainly no stranger to eschatology. With ample dreams, visions, cryptic riddles and symbolism, it is a fascinating book to study and interestingly becomes a key and anchor to understanding much of the timeline of Scripture in regards to the first and second coming of Christ. Scholars argue endlessly about it and attempt to late-date its authorship due to the fact that its accuracy in prophecy is so sharp. They claim it couldn’t possibly have been written at the time of the Babylonian exile. For the Christian, this sort of attempt is meaningless since Jesus spoke of a key event prophesied by Daniel in Daniel 9:27; 11:31 and 12:11 and refers to Daniel by name as the author in Matthew 24:15-18 (also Mark 13:14).
At the beginning of the Babylonian captivity we find Daniel and three of his friends receiving prominent status in the King’s service. They are educated for three years upon arrival in order to learn of the literature and language of the Chaldeans (Danial 1:4-5). All four of them receive Babylonian names and we end up knowing Daniel’s three friends by those names moreso than their Hebrew names. They are Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
In Daniel 2:1-6 we find King Nebuchadnezzar has a dream that bothers him so much so that he commands the wise men of Babylon to not only give him an interpretation of the dream but to tell him what the dream was. Of course, they ask the king to tell them the dream first and then they will interpret it but the king sees through this and demands they should be able to explain the dream as well. When they are unable, King Nebuchadnezzar orders the wise men to be killed, among them, Daniel and his companions (Daniel 2:13). When Daniel hears about the order he petitions the captain of the guard to give him an opportunity to fulfill the king’s request (Daniel 2:24).
Daniel is brought before the king and announced as a man from among the exiles from Judah who can make known the dream and its interpretation. The king questions Daniel if he is truly able and Daniel responds:
“No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days.”
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Da 2:27–28). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
Clearly, Daniel isn’t about to take any credit for explaining the dream and its interpretation. He then goes on to explain the dream to the king in Daniel 2:31-35. He explains that the king saw a great image that had a head of fine gold, a chest and arms of silver, middle and thighs of bronze, legs of iron and its feet of iron mixed with clay. Suddenly a stone ‘cut out by no human hand’ struck the image on its feet and the feet shattered followed by the iron, bronze, silver and gold. After the statue was destroyed, the stone that struck it became a mountain and filled the earth.
The dreams interpretation is the history of man followed by the setting up of God’s kingdom. Daniel explains in 2:36-45 that the head of gold represents Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon followed by the silver representing a kingdom inferior to Babylon that will arise, followed by a third kingdom of bronze that will rule. Finally a fourth kingdom that will divide and break into pieces until finally the stone ‘cut without hands’ destroys the fourth kingdom and sets up his kingdom that will never be destroyed which is God’s kingdom.
Nebuchadnezzar is astounded and of all things, falls on his face and pays homage to Daniel recognizing that Daniel’s God is truly the God of gods. Daniel is promoted ruler over Babylon (next to Nebuchadnezzar, of course) and chief of the wise men. Daniel then promotes Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to be put in offices over Babylon while Daniel remained in the court of the king.
Daniel was raised up as the leader of the world (Babylon) second only to the king. Back in Genesis 41 Joseph rose to power in a very similar scenario. He had interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh and Pharaoh proceeds to promote Joseph as ruler over Egypt (Genesis 41:40-41). In Revelation 5:9-10 the church is referred to as a kingdom of priests who will reign, some translations state ‘kings and priests’. Revelation 1:5-6 also makes this statement. It is with this idea in mind that Daniel becomes a picture of the church.
Nebuchadnezzar had an image of gold created whose height was 60 cubits and breath 6 cubits (Daniel 3:1). This statue was all gold (probably wood overlaid with gold) and perhaps a reaction to the dream and its interpretation in chapter 2. Of course in the dream, the head was of gold and Nebuchadnezzar was told that he was the head of gold. The king to some degree figured better to make this image of all gold, not to let his pride be outdone. In Daniel 3:4-6 he further commands that everyone is to worship this image whenever certain music is played and if they do not, they will be thrown into a fiery furnace. Of course, any exile from Judah who worships Yahweh knows that this is strictly forbidden and this becomes a problem for Daniels three friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They refuse to bow down and worship the image and the kings magistrates make this known to the king (Daniel 3:9-12). Nebuchadnezzar has the three summoned to be interrogated and surely they answer the king that it is indeed the case, that they worship Yahweh and cannot worship the image (Daniel 3:16-18).
Of course the king isn’t happy about this response. He has the furnace heated 7 times hotter than normal and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are thrown into it. The furnace was so hot that the flames even killed the men who were taking the three in. Once they were in, the king watched but to his amazement he counted four men in the furnace (Daniel 3:24-25), one with an appearance ‘as that of a son of the gods’. Nebuchadnezzar orders them to be removed from the furnace and not a hair on their head had been burned (Daniel 3:27). The king orders that no one is to speak against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego under penalty of death and promoted the three.
The fiery furnace is easily a picture of the tribulation and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are much like the remnant of Israel. The question in all of this is: Where is Daniel? The first two chapters wouldn’t exist without Daniel. The rest of the book (except for chapter four) surrounds Daniels life. Surely, Daniel must have been around at the time this had gone on, or perhaps he was on travel somewhere but the absence of him in Daniel 3 is peculiar and not unlike the absence of Isaac after he was taken up to Mount Moriah to be offered by Abraham. It is with his absence that a picture of a pre-tribulation rapture can form.
Daniel (a picture of the church) is removed prior to the fiery furnace (the tribulation) while his three friends (the remnant of Israel) are being saved (or sealed) by God.
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