Daniel’s Prophecies: Encouraging and Enlightening
Skeptics despise the book of Daniel. If Daniel received visions as he said he did, and if he wrote these prophecies as he claimed to have done, then this book is unmistakably a product of divine inspiration.
The issues raised by those who arbitrarily assign the book to an unknown, unnamed author of the second century B.C. are not our immediate point. We have rehearsed these matters in other articles, and the integrity of Daniel has been ably defended in various publications. Believing that Daniel was a prophet, as Jesus said he was, (Matt. 24:15), we shall focus on three aspects of his prophecies.
Daniel Prophesied About Political Powers
Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the great image signaled a reccuring theme about worldly empires that unfolds in Daniel. The prophet himself received a series of visions, which he recorded in chapters 7-12.
A number of facts were told to Daniel about these empires. First, he was informed about four successive powers: the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek, and Roman.
Second, some details about the conquests were revealed to Daniel. For instance, he saw the invasions of the ram, the “kings of the Medes and the Persians,” pushing westward, northward, and southward (8:3-4,20). Eventually, the king of Greece (i.e., the goat with a notable horn between his eyes) was stirred up, and he swiftly came from the west to destroy the Ram. Subsequently, he (i.e., Alexander the Great) would die though he was strong. His sons would not inherit his kingdom, but it would be divided fourfold (Dan. 8:5-8,21; 11:2-4).
Third, God is in control. He sets up kings and removes them. He determines the extent and duration of their power. He rules in the kingdoms of men. And even the Jewish nation was to be destroyed (in A.D. 70) because of their rejection of the anointed one (Dan. 9:26).
How could Daniel, or any man, have foretold the Medo-Persian expansion, the conflicts that would arise from the small kingdom of Greece, the amazing exploits of Alexander the Great, his untimely demise, and the divisions of his empire? No human being could have known such events many years beforehand. Indeed, God declared them that we may know that he is the Lord (cf. Is. 45:1-7).
Daniel Prophesied About Persecution
As the three Hebrew youths were threatened (ch. 3), and as Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den (ch. 6), so the faithful of other generations would walk through the fires of persecution. Daniel foresaw two major persecutions: one upon the Jews and another upon the saints of the kingdom (i.e., Christians).
Persecution upon the Jews would derive from a division of the fragmented Greek empire (Dan. 8:9-14; 11:20-35). Antiochus Epiphanes was described as the king who would: arrive after the untimely death of his predecessor; behave contemptibly; and obtain the kingdom by flatteries, for he was not the rightful heir to the throne. His conflicts with Egypt are foretold, which brought him into contact with Jerusalem and the temple. Daniel revealed that: Antiochus would take military control of Jerusalem; he would cause the sacrifices to cease; he would protect apostates and traitors; he would meet resistance; and these events would result in the purifications of the people of God.
The prophet spoke of another persecution (Dan. 7). Remember that Daniel prophesied that the establishment of God’s kingdom would take place during the Roman Empire’s days (Dan. 2:44). So the persecution of the “saints” during this era concerns Christians. The persecuting power would be a political and religious force, which developed after, and out of, the Roman Empire. It would blaspheme against God, think to change the times and the law, and severely afflict the saints. Its power, however, was confined to a limited period of time.
Daniel Prophesied About the Plan of God
God would set up his everlasting kingdom in the time of the Roman Empire (2:44). It would be inaugurated by the coming of the anointed one, the prince. The exact time of his coming was foretold in the prophecy of Daniel’s seventy weeks (Dan. 9:24-27). In a previous vision, Daniel saw One in human form, coming with the clouds of heaven unto the Ancient of Days. Because of his redemptive work on earth, this Person was given dominion, glory, and a kingdom, “that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him” (7:13-14).
It is a rewarding experience to study the book of Daniel. It teaches us to praise God for his plan and thank him for his inspired word. Like Daniel, to whom Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was revealed, we ought to respond, “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belongs wisdom and might. He changes the times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings. . . he knows what is in the darkness” (Dan. 2:20-22).