The Gospel of Daniel

Next up is Daniel in our journey, The Gospel in the Old Testament.  In the history and prophecy of Daniel, we discover one of the most impressive figures in all the Bible. He stands out so much that Ezekiel, his contemporary who was also exiled to Babylon in the second exile of 597 BC, refers to Daniel along with Noah and Job as the best of the best in terms of being blameless and righteous. Ezekiel 14 Further, it is Daniel, not Solomon, who is Ezekiel’s example of excelling in wisdom, Who is wiser than Daniel? Ezekiel 28:3.

One of the early exiles from Jerusalem to Babylon in 605 BC, nearly twenty years before the destruction of Jerusalem, Daniel was probably just a a teenager.  He, along with his three friends, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah (also known by their Babylonian names, Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego), resolved not to be reprogrammed with the Babylonian world view and values.

Unlikely to resist the inevitable as they were enrolled in three years of training in the language and literature  of the Babylonians 1:3-5, yet they did resist and remained true to their godly heritage. They were trained to be government officials to serve King Nebuchadnezzar, but along with his friends, Daniel resolved not to defile himself…” 1:8  Daniel and his friends were in a powerfully hostile environment to their faith, attending the equivalent of a major state university, but in the midst of extreme pressure, stayed true to God.

Daniel had one of the longest and certainly the most unusual careers of all the prophets, serving in the administrations of Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar in Babylon, then serving Darius* and Cyrus in the Medo-Persian empire after Babylon fell. His prophetic career lasted at least sixty years, presumably well into his eighties. His courage was unabated from his early refusal to violate Jewish dietary laws, to in his old age, refusing to submit to a ban on prayer. That led to the experience for which he is best known, being cast into a den of lions and suffering no harm.

Daniel records some of the most detailed and far reaching prophecies of any prophet, clearly setting forth through interpreting the dreams of others, and visions he himself received, the succession of kingdoms from the Babylonian era to the Medo-Persian, the the Greeks, and finally the Romans, but with a look even beyond the Roman era.  Daniel describes events that occurred in the second and third centuries BC, hundreds of years after the prophecy. Those with a presupposition denying supernatural prophecy have insisted that Daniel was written, not by the 6th century prophet, but by a historian of the times in which the events occurred. However, that not only defies the evidence, but doesn’t account for prophetic fulfillment of Daniel’s words that were even later, specifically regarding Christ.

Daniel’s prophecy is a vital part of the discussion of “end times” prophecy that includes other prophecy from Isaiah, Ezekiel and other prophets; Jesus’ Olivet discourse in Matthew 24; the teaching of Paul in 1 and 2 Thessalonians; the the Revelation of Jesus Christ revealed to John. There is a broad range of views about these things and it is not my purpose to deal with those details and possibilities.

Where is the Gospel in Daniel?

The dominant idea in all of Daniel’s prophecy is that God is the sovereign king. The kings of the earth have their time in the spotlight, but they only rule under God’s sovereign permission, and will all pass away. History under God’s sovereign control, is marching on until Christ Himself is the recognized and eternal King.

Where is Jesus in Daniel?  The most obvious identity comes in Daniel 9:24-27 as the Anointed One.

“Verse 24 “Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place.

Verses 25-27 “Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.

This passage is absolutely remarkable in its detail. History is unpacked in 70 periods of sevens (years) or 490 years, but three divisions of 7, 62 and 1; or 49 years, 434 years, and seven years.

The first period of sevens, 49 years, relates to the return of the Jewish exiles and the restoration of Jerusalem, both the temple and city.  This was first decreed by Cyrus (prophesied in Isaiah), the timing prophesied by Jeremiah (25:11, 12) that it would be 70 years of exile. It was 70 years from the first exile to the first return (605 BC to 535 BC) and 70 years from the destruction of the temple to the beginning of the rebuilding of the temple (586 BC to 516 BC). Daniel’s 49 years starts about 80 years later after Cyrus’s edict and reflects the erratic nature of the process in the days of Zerubbabel, Ezra, Nehemiah and Haggai.

The second period of 62 sevens, 434 years, added to the earlier 7 sevens, 49 years, gives the subtotal of 483 years which brings us to the time in which the Anointed One, the ruler,comes.(9:25)  This fits very well with the climax of Jesus’ ministry, His death and resurrection. After delays in the restoration of Jerusalem from Cyrus’s initial decree, new decrees were issued in 457 BC and 445 BC to renew the work. Whether this is based on the lunar calendar (360 days) or the solar calendar (365 days), either of these dates fit very well with the end of Jesus’ first advent, when the Anointed One will be cut off and have nothing, surely a reference to the death of Christ.

What about the last week of years, the last 7 years of the 490?  There is great diversity of thought on this.  Was it fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 AD? This view is taught by some, but is hugely problematic because it doesn’t bring the required resolution. I believe with many that the last seven years is set apart until the time right before and leading up to the second advent of Jesus, His return as king. This last period of time fits better with the devastation described in Revelation, the rise of the Antichrist.

This amazing passage, Daniel 9:24 lists six things that will happen in relation tot he 490 years. Two of these stand out to me as the heart of the Gospel, one fulfilled in the first advent of Jesus, the other in the second advent of Jesus.

1.  Sin will be resolved in some manner – to atone for wickedness

What can this be other than the death of Christ for our sin, the anointed one will be cut off – verse 26 

2.  Righteousness will be established – to bring in everlasting righteousness

What can this be other than the return of Christ to restore the world to righteousness?

Both of these, the first and second coming of Christ are Good News, the Gospel.  Our personal sin problem is resolved so that we can be forgiven with justice. The world will be restored to a place of justice and righteousness by Jesus, our righteous King, who establishes His reign on earth.

One more section in Daniel addressed the final resolution.

Daniel 12:1-4  “At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered.  Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake:some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.

There is the bad news element, a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations.  Commonly called the Great Tribulation, descriptive of much of the book of Revelation, this precedes the return of Christ and is the time of the ruler who will come (9:26) called the Antichrist, Satan’s representative.  But even the horrific nature of this is a sign of hope because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short. Revelation 12:12

But here are the Good News elements:

1.  But at that time your people–everyone whose name is found written in the book — will be delivered. The salvation provided by Christ at his first advent will result in a congregation of the saved, people purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. Revelation 5:9 

2.  Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life. This describes the resurrection of the dead, the restoration of body and spirit, so that God’s people will live eternally as whole persons in a physical re-creation of a new heaven and a new earth 2 Peter 3:13

The sobering portion of this is that all who have rejected this deliverance provided by the Anointed One are described as others who are destined to shame and everlasting contempt.

Daniel doesn’t give us all the details of the Gospel, but he shines the bright light on the essential elements and the final results.  Why the delay in bringing all this to fruition?  Peter gives the answer, The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9

*Darius the Mede (mentioned in Ezra, Nehemiah, Daniel, Haggai and Zechariah) is not found in other historical  sources outside of the Bible, He was possibly a commander/governor under King Cyrus, possibly Gubaru, or maybe another name for Cyrus. (notes from the NIV Study Bible)

 

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