Monday, May 14, 2007

The Importance of the Book of Daniel

It is probably wrong to say that any book of Scripture is more important than another, and yet each book certainly has its significance by which it addresses certain issues over others. In terms of an encompassing plan of world events, Daniel rises above most other writings of the ancient prophets. In the great sweep of the far off horizon, none compare with this book. 

The Outline of World History
Daniel provides a panorama of history. With a broad sweep, the history of the great and powerful nations is out laid before the reader in a most graphic manner. While often in contemporary history we look through a glass darkly, the road of the march of time becomes clearer because of the revelations of the book of Daniel. Walvoord writes:

In the prophecies of Daniel an amazing revelation is given of world history in outline. To Daniel the prophet was given the rare privilege of outlining not only Gentile history from his day until the second coming of Christ but also the parallel pathway of Israel, beginning with the rebuilding of Jerusalem in the time of Nehemiah and culminating in the second coming of Christ. Daniel 9:24-27 provides the outline of Israel’s future and Daniel 2, 7-8, and 11-12 provide many details of the future of the nations in relationship to Israel.1 Its Relation to the New Testament The New Testament is but a parenthesis to the plan of history seen in Daniel. The Age of Grace, and the Church Age, is not found in the predictions of the Old Testament prophets. They were however given the forecasts of things to come for the Jewish people. And they saw clearly the predicted movements of the great powers of History. But the book of Daniel is nevertheless important to the New Testament. Unger writes:
Daniel, one of the most important prophetic books of the Old Testament, constitutes an indispensable introduction to the New Testament prophecy, … [namely] the revelation of the Antichrist, the Great Tribulation, the second advent of Christ, the resurrections, and the establishment of the millennial Kingdom. Those themes … are Daniel’s themes also. The prophecy traces the course of "the times of the Gentiles" (Luke 21:24) from the captivity of Judah under Nebuchadnezzar till the second advent of Christ and the setting up of the Messianic Kingdom over Israel.2 The Sovereignty of God
The book is replete with important passages revealing the absolute sovereignty of the God of both time and history. God is the one who establishes nations and rulers, and He is the one who pulls down the great arrogant, boastful nations. While every book of the Bible show the sovereignty of God, Daniel appears to major on this truth. God is sovereign in His dealings with Israel, with the nations, and the powerful kings of Babylon and Persia. This is admitted and testified by Nebuchadnezzar when he recovered from his illness.
All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, "What hast Thou done?" (Dan. 4:35) "Daniel portrays God as the sovereign Ruler of the universe, who controls the destinies of both pagan empires and His exiled people. He revealed His mighty power to the kings of Babylon and Persia, forcing them to acknowledge His supremacy."3

The Confirmation of History
The critics of Scripture search with great fervor the pages of history to try to disprove the historical nature of Daniel. But this work is stamped by the confirmed data of time past, acknowledged by honest students of antiquity. Though the skeptics continue to try to destroy Daniel, they have failed miserably. Therefore, Daniel is important to show that the Scriptures were written now outside of history as we know it, but it is part of the record of history. Daniel
records for us the course of the history of the nations from Daniel’s time even until the end, with an accuracy which has made the higher critics and skeptics grown in despair. No other book in the Bible has been vindicated by history more than the book of Daniel. All of the predictions and prophecies which it records have up until this time been meticulously and accurately fulfilled in every detail.4 Repudiation of False Gods In Daniel there is a sharp departure between the God of the Israelites and the pagan deities of Babylon. In the encounters in the book of Daniel, the foreign gods were no match for the prophecies of Jehovah and His dealings among the nations. Many rulers were embarrassed, and others were compelled to acknowledge that the God of Israel was the Lord over the affairs of the nations.
With the events of the captivity of Judah, to the Babylonians
their own deities seemed to be stronger. This was not a pleasing situation to God, and He used Daniel as His special instrument to bring a change. Particularly through the interpretation of two dreams for Nebuchadnezzar, and the deliverance from the lions’ den in the reign of Darius, God used Daniel to prompt adoration from the lips of these foreign rulers.5 The Holy Nature of the Book In Daniel, God and all His works are seen in the context of holiness. The Lord stands as the righteous one, who is incomparable with the rulers and the deities of Babylon. His servant Daniel is also seen as a righteous and Godly example, living and ministering in a sea of paganism. While every book of Scripture plays its part in uplifting the reader to the heights of spiritual peace and calm, there is something about Daniel that seems to go beyond!
The holy sublimity of this book is of such a nature that no genius, no matter how great, could ever produce such a piece of writing on his own. … Finally, we can boldly declare that the testimony of the Holy Spirit tells us that the Lord Himself speaks to us in this book, … [it] has a sanctifying influence on a person’s heart and life.6 Larkin writes:
[Daniel] is the only spotless character in the Bible outside of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is not one flaw to be found in his character. He was a man "greatly beloved" of God. He associated with kings and politicians. He led a public life. He held office, yet his character was never impeached. He talked with angels. The Lord Himself appeared unto him, and he had visions of God. He was a great man of faith.7 A Book About Redemption God will redeem His people and bring about eternal righteousness among the nations. This is a clear purpose set for in Daniel. The Lord’s indomitable grace will fulfill His promises to Abraham and his descendants. The Lord’s purposes are unchangeable: Abraham’s offspring will "surely become a great and powerful nation" (Gen. 18:18), despite their waywardness that led them away from His promises. A redemptive triumph will happen! The kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ will come down to earth!
The Book of Daniel thus sets forth the pattern of God’s preserving grace that characterizes the NT as well, that "god’s gifts and his call are irrevocable" (Rom 11:29). And even though in the NT age Israel as a nation has experienced hardening of the heart, yet after the full number of Gentile believers … has been redeemed, "the deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob" (Rom. 1:25-26).8 Conclusion The book of Daniel contributes significantly to the doctrine of eschatology with its central theme dealing with the course of history and Israel’s relation to it. The theme points to the second coming of Christ, Israel’s promised Messiah. But even more, the book gives us an enlargement to the field of biblical theology in keeping with the general revelation with all of Scripture.
Walvoord writes:
In many respects, the book of Daniel is the most comprehensive prophetic revelation of the Old Testament, giving the only total view of world history from Babylon to the second advent of Christ and interrelating gentile history and prophecy with that which concerns Israel. Daniel provides the key to the overall interpretation of prophecy, is a major element in premillennialism, and is essential to the interpretation of the book of Revelation. Its revelation of the sovereignty and power of God has brought assurance to Jew and Gentile alike that God will fulfill His sovereign purposes in time and eternity.9 ___________
1. John F. Walvoord, Major Bible Prophecies (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1991), 125-26.
2. Merrill F. Unger, Unger’s Commentary on the Old Testament, 2 Vols. (Chicago: Moody, 1981), 2:1603.
3. David S. Dockery, gen. ed., Holman Bible Handbook (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 1992), 448.
4.M. R. De Haan, Daniel the Prophet (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1995), 17.
5.Leon Woods, A Commentary on Daniel (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990), 17.
  1. Harry Bultema, Commentary on Daniel (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1988), 19.
  2. Clarence Larkin, The Book of Daniel (Glenside, PA: Clarence Larkin Estate, 1929), 16.
  3. Frank E. Gaebelein, gen. ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 12 Vols. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985), 7:9.
  4. John F. Walvoord, Daniel (Chicago: Moody, 1971), 27.