The Old Testament Presents... Reflections of Christ
by Paul R. Van Gorder
The prophecy of Daniel is one of the most important books in the entire Word of God. It introduces us to the realm of New Testament prophecy. Like Ezekiel, the author was a child of the captivity, and both prophets were contemporaries of Jeremiah. The Holy Spirit commissioned Daniel during the Babylonian captivity for a specific purpose. His inspired testimony would open ''the times of the Gentiles,'' an important new era in God's redemptive plan. In fact, from verse 4 of chapter 2, to the close of chapter 7, the original writing was not in Hebrew but in Chaldean, the language of Babylon. It is almost as if God were saying to the kingdoms of the world, ''Read in your own language what shall be the end of your boasted power.''

The book of Daniel marks out the exact course the nations of the world will take. It tells how the kingdoms of this earth shall become the kingdom of our Lord and His Christ (see Revelation 11:15). If the Jews had been receptive, I believe they could have calculated, from Daniel, the exact day their Messiah would present Himself. And the Savior referred to this book when He spoke of the signs of His return to earth.

The book of Daniel has two major divisions:
However, even the historical segments contain prophecy, for the characteristic features of Gentile dominion are exhibited in the narratives that provide the background for Daniel's visions.
  1. Introduction (ch. 1)
    The personal history of Daniel, and his faithfulness to God, is recorded here.
  2. The Vision of Nebuchadnezzar (2,3)
    1. The forgotten dream and failure of the wise men of Babylon to interpret it (2:1-12).
    2. The revelation of the king's dream to Daniel (2:13-26)
    3. The vision presented with the interpretation (2:27-45)
      • The head of gold represents Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, and his monarchy. This is the beginning of the ''times of the Gentiles'' (Luke 21:24).
      • The breasts and arms of silver represent Medo-Persia, the kingdom that followed Nebuchadnezzar's and was inferior to it.
      • The belly and thighs of brass represent Greece under Alexander the Great.
      • The legs of iron are Rome, divided in two (Eastern and Western).
      • The toes, part of iron and part of clay, represent a deterioration.
      • The Stone ''cut out of the mountain without hands'' depicts Jesus Christ and His glorious appearing (v.44,45). His return will spell the destruction of Gentile dominion, and He will be exalted to world rulership.
    4. The pride of Nebuchadnezzar (2:46-3:30)
  3. The Tree Vision (ch. 4)
    Daniel said to Nebuchadnezzar, ''The tree that thou sawest... it is thou, O king'' (v.20-22). That tree was to be cut down. The proud king of Babylon was made to eat grass, like an ox, until he recognized that God the Most High rules in the kingdoms of the world and gives them to whomever He will.
  4. The Pride of Belshazzar (ch. 5)
    Belshazzar and a thousand of his lords, while engaged in a licentious drinking feast, desecrated the sacred vessels of the Jewish temple. Handwriting suddenly appeared on the wall, and Daniel was brought in to interpret it. The predicted event, the fall of Belshazzar, signaled the end of the first [empire] of Gentile world rule, and the beginning of the second, under Darius the Mede.
  5. From Darius to Cyrus (ch. 6)
    Daniel defied the king's decree that prohibited asking a petition of any god or man except the king for 30 days. Anyone who violated this rule would be cast into the den of lions. Daniel remained faithful to his God and prayed three times a day as he always had, with his windows opened toward Jerusalem. Consequently, he was cast into the den of lions, but the Lord delivered him by shutting the mouths of the lions.
  6. The Vision of the Four Beasts (ch. 7)
    The difference between this vision and Nebuchadnezzar's similar vision (chapter 2) is that the king was seeing from the standpoint of man, while Daniel saw from the viewpoint of God. The 'great image' of chapter 2 presents the outward appearance of Gentile domination, while the 'beast vision' [of chapter 7] depicts the true character of Gentile rule as ravenous, cruel, and selfish. The national symbol of many world powers today is of a beast or bird of prey.
    The great sea, in Scripture, is usually a symbol of the mass of humanity.
    Out of the ''great sea'' came these four beasts:
    1. The lion, representing Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon (v.4)
    2. The lopsided bear, symbolizing Medo-Persia (v.5).
    3. The leopard, speaking of the Grecian power of Alexander, later divided into four heads after his death (v.6)
    4. The nondescript beast representing Roman world power. The 10 horns are ''ten kings that shall arise'' (v.7) [v.24].
    5. The ''little horn'' depicts an eleventh king who will rise up among the 10 and overcome 3 of them [cp. v.8,24-26] (read 2Thessalonians 2:1-10; Revelation 13:1-8).
    6. The ''Ancient of days'' appears [v.9-14] (v.21-27)
  7. The Ram and the Rough Goat Vision (ch. 8)
    The interpretation is given in verses 21-25. The ram with two horns is Medo-Persia, and the rough goat is Alexander the Great. The ''little horn'' of this vision is a forerunner or example of the ''little horn'' of chapter 7. Antiochus Epiphanes, the ''little horn'' of this 8th chapter, entered the temple and sacrificed a pig on the altar [c. 170 B.C.]. This was the first ''abomination of desolation of the holy place.''
  8. The Vision of the Seventy Weeks (ch. 9)
    Sir Edward Denny, English theologian of the last century [ie., 1800's], said, ''This is the backbone of prophecy.'' The 70 weeks are divided into units of 7, 62, and 1. ''Week'' used here is a generic term like ''dozen'' or ''score,'' and in this Scripture it indicates a 7-year timespan (a week of years). Let's look at the divisions of this important prophecy [9:24-27]:
    1. Seven Weeks.
      In 49 years, the city of Jerusalem would be rebuilt.
      This was fulfilled at the time of Ezra and Nehemiah.
    2. Sixty-two Weeks.
      The Messiah, the Prince, would be ''cut off'' 434 years (62 x 7) after the rebuilding of Jerusalem. This was fulfilled when Christ was crucified. Sir Robert Anderson and Royal Astronomer G.B. Airy have calculated that the timespan from the day the order was issued in Nehemiah 2:1-8 for the rebuilding of Jerusalem (445 B.C.) until the day of Christ's triumphal entry [Mat 21:1-11] (A.D. 32) was exactly 173,880 days. This figure is the result of multiplying 483 prophetic years (Daniel's 69 ''weeks'') by 360 days. That this is the current timespan for a prophetic year seems to be clearly indicated in the book of Revelation, where the 3.5 years, or 42 months, of the Great Tribulation is designated as 1260 days (Rev 11:2,3; 12:6,14; 13:5). After the 483 years were over, Messiah was cut off. The prophetic clock stopped. God's dealings today do not center upon Israel; rather, He is taking out of the Gentiles ''a people for His name'' (Acts 15:14).
    3. One Week.
      Seven years of the prophecy remain to be fulfilled (v.27). Antichrist, the ''little horn'' of chapter 7, will make a covenant with the Jews, then he will break that covenant in the middle of this ''week'' of years. We believe that this 70th week is the Great Tribulation period spoken of by our Lord in Matthew 24:15-28. This is the ''time of trouble'' prophesied in Daniel 12:1 and the ''hour of temptation'' mentioned by the risen Christ in Revelation 3.
  9. The Vision of Glory (ch. 10)
    This vision was given to the prophet in the third year of the reign of king Cyrus. It was designed to make Daniel understand what would happen to his people, the Jews, in the latter days. ''For yet the vision is for many days'' (v.14).
  10. Concluding Prophetic Visions (11,12)
    1. Three more kings of Medo-Persia (11:1,2).
    2. The division and rule of Alexander's empire (11:3-20).
    3. The ''little horn'' of chapter 8 is Antiochus Epiphanes (11:21-35).
    4. [The ''little horn'' of ch.7, the willful king, the antichrist (11:36-45).]
    5. The great tribulation (12:1).
    6. The resurrection and God's final message to Daniel (12:2-13).
We cannot consider the prophetic Scriptures without coming eventually to the One who is the Spirit of prophecy, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Smiting Stone of Daniel 2:44,45. God's Son is the One who shall come to destroy Gentile dominion. It is He whose kingdom ''shall stand forever.''

Nebuchadnezzar looked into the fiery furnace and said, ''Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like a son of the gods'' (Daniel 3:24,25). He did not know of whom he spoke, but this no doubt was a theophany, a pre-incarnate appearance of the Lord Jesus.

What a majestic scene in chapter 7! The Ancient of days, God the Father, is seated upon His throne. The time setting is immediately before the return of Christ to establish His kingdom. We read, ''I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days...'' (Dan 7:13). The verses that follow are paralleled by the description of Christ in Revelation 5:1-7. ''And there was given Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve Him; His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed'' (Dan 7:14,15).

Daniel 9 foretells the death of Messiah, the Prince.

Like a thread of gold, the assurance of the ultimate triumph of our Lord runs through the prophecy of Daniel. Indeed, He is Lord of lords, and King of kings.

The Lord Jesus Himself quoted from this book of Daniel (Mat 24:14,15,30; Luke 21:24-27; Mat 26:63,64). He used the prophecy of Daniel, about the coming of the Son of man in clouds of heaven, as proof of His messiahship and deity.

See the Book Notes on Daniel for a verse by verse study of this book.

Return to table of contents for ''The Old Testament Presents... Reflections of Christ,''
written by Paul R. Van Gorder, Copyright 1982 by RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI.
Used by permission [within The Book from].
Further distribution is not allowed without permission from RBC.

For another brief look at this book of the Bible,
see the related chapter in Christ in All the Scriptures, by A.M. Hodgkin.

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