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Book of Daniel Bible Studies Series – Part 2
The story so far
Daniel, Shadrack, Meshack and Abed-Nego were deported to Babylon in 604 BC before the final conquest of Jerusalem in 586 BC on the 9th day of Tish B’Av. He and his friends were well studied, brilliant and godly young men who were equally determined at all costs to faithfully serve the God of Israel even though the nation, culture and ruling class were hostile to them. They would not give in and proved that their faith in God was vindicated time and time again and that the God of the Hebrews was the only true God. Even King Nebuchadnezzar had to admit that the God of Daniel and his three friends was the only true God (Daniel 2:46-48).
An interesting feature of the book of Daniel is that the first seven chapters are in fact written in Aramaic the prevailing language of the Babylonian region of the time. Chapters eight to twelve are written in Hebrew. The reason is simple, the first seven chapters deal with the great Gentile kingdoms that have and will yet oppose the God of the Bible and be defeated. The last five chapters are in Hebrew in order to set out the historical national journey of Israel as she moves toward her great end time encounter with her God.
The Gentile kingdoms are Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece, Rome and a final Global Empire that will, for a short period, gather all nations into a ten region federation. All of this was typified by the dream that Nebuchadnezzar had of a great statue of a man whose body was made up of various minerals. That of, Gold, Silver, Bronze, Iron and Iron and Clay. In the end this statue representing the powers of darkness is destroyed when the Stone Kingdom of a Jewish Messiah falls upon the final ten nation global kingdom. We are living in the days just prior to the manifestation of this final demonic global ten nation empire. We must know this because it will challenge the saints of the Living God. We have been warned! The book of Revelation carries the same warning in that speaks of a coming one world government that will divide the nations into ten regions. This will be a great challenge to Israel and the Church as it will be characterized by great and devilish demonic deception.
The Manifestation of Antichrist
“Nebuchadnezzar the King made an image of gold…….and
whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast
immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.”
Daniel 3:1; 6
It is fascinating to read in chapter three of Daniel that he and his friends are challenged by the demand to bow down and worship the image of the King. Failure in this regard will mean instant death. This is Antichrist as it represents an alternative, or another Christ. The saints of God have routinely been subjected to this challenge throughout history and will be again very soon, for such is the warning of the boom of Revelation.
“He was granted power to give breath to the image of the
beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and
cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast
to be killed,”
The early Church was subjected to Caesar worship and consequently, emissaries of the regime travelled throughout the empire with an image demanding that people should bow down to it and worship. Those who refused, like Bishop Polycarp of Smyrna were burnt at the stake or thrown to the lion. Many Christians failed and worshipped the image. This was eternally fatal (Revelation 13:8, Revelation 14:9-10).
The same thing happened with the advance of Islam, as we all well know, and Hitler’s Third Reich implemented a similar system; Swastikas replaced crosses in and on the churches and congregants were even required to sing hymns praising Hitler. Those who refused were reported to the SS and invariably were tortured and executed, like Dietrich Bonnhoffer and Pastor Niemoller. The book of Revelation warns that another testing of this type is just around the corner and don’t for a moment think that the church is going to be whisked away before it. John writes that this coming trial will constitute the, “Patience and the faith of the saints” (Revelation 13:10).
The age old hatred
“Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and
accused the Jews.”
The hatred of the Jews is an age old problem that is bound up with their national calling under God. One cannot understand this thing called antisemitism apart from the eternal mission placed upon the Jewish people by God Himself. They carry in their national destiny a message that is for the eternal blessing of every man, woman, boy and girl on the planet. But this message challenges the darkness of evil and sin that envelopes them and is therefore resisted in every way (Genesis 12:1-3). The only manner in which a sinful world can resist God and His message of salvation is to destroy the people who carry it (Psalm 83:1-4). This has been the sad testimony of history and even sadder still is the fact that Christians, who happily bear the name of the God of Israel, have participated in this wickedness. The stories, as in this case, are awful to say the least.
The testimony of faith
“Shadrack, Meshack and Abed-Nego answered and said to the
king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in
this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able
to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver
us from your hand. But if not, let it be known to you, O King,
that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold
image which you have set up.”
Daniel’s three friends stand firm and refuse to worship the image of a false God. This is a lesson for all time for those who serve the God of Israel. This is the testimony of faith that we are to make but many will not be able to do it because they have embraced a form of godliness that offers them ease, comfort, wealth and prosperity and consequently they have no power. John has also warned us of the testimony of faith that we are to make in that we overcome only, “by the blood of the Lamb, the word of our testimony and we love not our lives unto death” (Revelation 12:11).
The fourth man
“Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished; and he rose in haste
and spoke saying to his counsellors, ‘Did we not cast three men
bound into the midst of the fire?’ They answered and said to the
King, ‘True, O King.’ ‘Look!’ he answered, ‘I see four men loose,
walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the fourth
is like the Son of God.”
After taking their stand of defiance, Nebuchadnezzar is infuriated and has Daniel’s three friends bound and cast into the fiery furnace. At this point a fourth man appears in the furnace with Shadrack, Meshack and Abed-Nego and amazingly, they are all unscathed by the fire. The Fourth Man is clearly the means of their protection. This individual is:
1. The manifestation of the Angel of the Lord, to whom scripture applies divinity.
2. The manifestation of a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ, He is the Son of God.
3. The manifestation of deliverance. Their shackles are broken and they are free! Such is the power of the Son of God.
4. The manifestation of eternal deliverance from the Lake of Fire or Hell. If your life is linked to the Fourth Man you will be untouched by the awful fiery judgement to come (Revelation 14:9-11). The three friends emerged from the burning furnace with no smell of fire or smoke upon their bodies.
In the end Nebuchadnezzar is overcome by this mighty demonstration of divine deliverance and acknowledges that the God of Israel is the only true God, Consequently he decrees that all peoples, on pain of death should serve Him (Daniel 3:29-30). The tables have been turned and the people of God have triumphed. There is coming a day soon when the coming image of Antichrist will fail again and every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus, the Fourth Man, is Lord! (Philippians 2:8-11)