Showing posts with label Daniel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Daniel. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 04, 2022

Flyover Country: Daniel

Lately, when I get feeling a bit melancholic and don’t have time for a full-length tour through Hebrews or John’s gospel, I read a chapter of Daniel. That’ll set me straight every time.

Other Old Testament prophets are primarily concerned with nations long gone or dispersed and judgments that for the most part have already taken place, and often with exhorting God’s people to acts of repentance that sadly never happened. There are important lessons to be learned from them, as with all books of the Bible, but these are frequently either allegorical or second-hand.

Daniel is way, way bigger than that. It has the whole world and much of human history in view, and it even gives us fleeting, suggestive glimpses what’s going on behind the scenes in the heavens as well.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

The Fifth Empire

Daniel 2 is a fascinating trip through the history of human accomplishment. A panoply of the greatest and most powerful Gentile empires in world history, most of them then-future, is revealed by God to the king of the Chaldeans in a dream.

Nebuchadnezzar dreamed of a great image in the form of a man. We would probably be better to call it a statue than an image because it had substance as well as appearance. The head of the statue was gold, the chest and arms were silver, the belly and thighs were bronze, the legs were of iron, and the feet and toes a mixture of iron and clay.

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

After the Fact

The Latin term vaticinium ex eventu is used by liberal scholars and critics of the Bible to describe a prophecy they believe was made “from the event”, or literally after the fact. For example, German scholar Ferdinand Hitzig objected to prophecies about the king of Egypt made in Jeremiah 44:29-30, calling them vaticinium ex eventu. The argument of men like Hitzig is that later writers forged one or more prophecies in Jeremiah’s name based on events which had already occurred, and grafted them into the existing text of Jeremiah, presumably in order to make his writings appear more credible.

Hitzig died in 1875, by the way, so obviously this is not a new issue. And he’s far from the only expert to make such claims.

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

The Motive Doesn’t Matter

In chapter two of Daniel, the Chaldean king Nebuchadnezzar dreams of the end of all this world’s great secular empires ... including his own. A great stone representing an eternal kingdom set up by the God of heaven destroys the image of which Babylon was the golden head.

The weak point of the statue in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was its feet, which were a less-than-sturdy composite of iron and clay. Perhaps with this in mind, the king eventually decided to build an image of his own. His version was ninety feet high, with no weaknesses which might be easily targeted by other would-be empire builders. Anyone who observed it saw nothing but gold from head to toe.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Escapism in a Time of Trouble

Christians are sometimes accused of escapism, primarily with respect to the doctrine of the “rapture” (or parousia) taught in the New Testament.

After all, why should a bunch of Gentile believers expect to get a free pass on the judgment of the world? Doesn’t that seem just a little unfair?

Not all those who dislike the idea of Jesus Christ making a special trip to this planet specifically to carry away his people to be forever with him object to the notion for exactly the same reasons. Some feel believing in a parousia is elitist. Others see it as baseless and wishful. Still others, like Kurt Willems, are troubled by the idea that Christians with a psychological safety net like the “rapture” will give up trying to make society a better place — or worse, will mislead others about what Willems believes are God’s plans for this world. He says, “Our world’s future is hopeful. Let’s tell that story and not the escapist narratives that many of us grew up with.”

Nice idea. Tough to see where he gets that “hopeful” bit from these days though.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Too Much for Sunday School

I can recall nearly every chapter of Daniel from my childhood. Many kids who grew up in Christian homes can (or could; our current generation may not be so well versed).

This shouldn’t surprise us. Many stories from Daniel make fantastic Sunday School material, and I mean literally fantastic — there are miracles to be found throughout the book: the golden image and the fiery furnace; Nebuchadnezzar’s dream; the king’s humbling at the hand of God; the writing on the wall; the den of lions; the prophetic visions of coming kingdoms depicted as beasts (kingdoms we actually studied in history class, so I knew this was no fairy tale); and so on.

And the stories are not just fascinating; they make significant moral points: stand for what you believe in; don’t be proud; don’t blaspheme; trust in God; the heavens rule.

Of course the book sticks in our memories. Why wouldn’t it?

Sunday, November 08, 2020

Nationhood and Angelic Representation

A state is a political and geopolitical entity, while a nation is a cultural and ethnic one. Or at least so says Wikipedia.

Keep this distinction in mind.

What follows is more of an intellectual exercise and a conversation provoker than a specific meditation, but I throw it out there for those who, like me, are intrigued by the details of scripture.

You may be familiar with the concept of the angelic representation of people groups, which is plainly stated for us in the book of Daniel.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Seeing What We Want to See

Christians cannot agree across the board about what the Bible teaches. If we could, there would be no need for denominations, and there would be a single, clear, accepted interpretation of every verse of scripture.

Wouldn’t that be nice? But it ain’t so, and we all know it.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Resting and Standing

“But go your way till the end. And you shall rest and shall stand in your allotted place at the end of the days.”

The very last verse of the book of Daniel is a personal promise from a mighty angel to an Old Testament saint three times called “greatly loved”. It assumes something the Old Testament refers to rarely and about which Judaism today says next to nothing: a future for godly men and women beyond this present life.

The angel doesn’t formally teach this so much as he simply takes it for granted: “You will lie in your grave for a bit, then God has something specific in mind for you after all that.”

I wonder what Daniel thought about it, but not even the greatest Bible expositor or translator can tell me that. The book of Daniel ends there. As usual, God gets the last word.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Responsibility and Blame

I do a lot of intercessory praying, and probably so do you.

You know the sort of prayer I mean. Say, for instance, you are friends with a Christian couple experiencing marriage difficulties. You did not introduce them. You did not choose the one for the other or recommend one to the other. You did not officiate at their wedding ceremony and you certainly have nothing to do with the issues that make their marriage dysfunctional. The ultimate outcome of their current domestic turbulence, good or bad, will not affect your life in any significant way beyond the occasional moment of empathy or concern.

You have no dog in the hunt, so to speak.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Inadvertent Agents of Blessing

A little over 600 years prior to sending his Son into the world, God began to make obvious preparations for his next step in reconciling a fallen world to himself through Jesus Christ.

These weren’t God’s first steps in his program of salvation, of course, and for the most part they were not seen as movements forward at all by those who played a part in them, but they are obvious to us in hindsight, looking back over the centuries.

After all, how would the gospel have spread so effectively throughout Europe and Asia in the first century if there had been no Judean Captivity?

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Skepticism and Renown

Director David Lynch says this about U.S. President Donald Trump:

“He could go down as one of the greatest presidents in history because he has disrupted the thing so much. No one is able to counter this guy in an intelligent way.”

Lynch is not necessarily expressing approval here; note that his metric for presidential greatness is the ability to disrupt. That would not be everyone’s measure of a man, let alone a U.S. president.

What Lynch’s comment does point out, though, is that it is not the least bit outrageous for a man to mull over how a contemporary stacks up against the all-timers in his field, whether or not his verdict is a favorable one. This sort of comparison is made all the time, even when only a year or two have passed.

Monday, October 08, 2018

Apocrypha-lypso (12)

Throughout this series we’ve been examining ancient books that some non-Protestant Christians feel have been wrongly excluded from our Bibles. I’ve read, summarized and critiqued eleven of the most popular claimants to date, but there are plenty more out there, enough to keep me at it well into the next decade.

Tempting as that may be, I won’t go down that road for several reasons: (1) the further down into the Apocryphal jungle you travel, the feebler and less substantive the contestants become, such that anyone reading them with the least discernment starts to feel like the exercise of critiquing them is something akin to clubbing baby seals on the beach, as opposed to putting up a valiant defence against plausible error; (2) I promised to do a 12-part series, and I plan to keep that pledge; and (3) the reasons for excluding books from the canon begin to repeat themselves.

We wouldn’t want that. After all, figuring out which qualities make the canon the canon is pretty much the point of the exercise, right?

Monday, September 17, 2018

Apocrypha-lypso (9)

I once came across an online critic of the gospels who attempted to demonstrate his Bible savvy by pointing out that one gospel records a miraculous feeding of 5,000 while another tells of only 4,000 being fed.

“Aha! Contradiction!” cried the elated skeptic, hoping for one of those “gotcha” moments we all enjoy from time to time.

Of course if you’re familiar with either the books of Matthew or Mark, you’ll recall that they each contain references to both feedings. Worse (for the critic at least), Mark records a conversation between Jesus and his disciples that explicitly compares the two events right down to counting the post-dinner leftovers. Jesus fed huge crowds of hungry men, women and children on at least two occasions. Two careful writers noted it.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Apocrypha-lypso (8)

“One of these things things not like the others
  One of these things just doesn’t belong ...”
— Sesame Street

Ah, the relics of my misspent youth.

I hated school. Hated it with the burning rage of a thousand suns, or one of those other overwrought metaphors my kids use.

I loathed it so passionately that in order to avoid it, I spent an inordinate amount of time home “sick”, usually on the pullout couch. Daytime TV just doesn’t get much better than muppet Ernie and the “One of These Things” song.

And once in a blue moon there’s even a spiritual application ...

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

The New Head

The new department head was appointed internally.

That decision runs counter to customary business practice, which dictates that management functions are best performed by those trained and accredited to manage. However, the conventional wisdom fails to take into account that the learning curve for a manager in a new environment is long and steep. More importantly, the staff can have no confidence in or loyalty to someone who has been merely parachuted in; who knows nothing about the company’s product, processes and people — let alone someone who has no investment in what they are working to accomplish (beyond, of course, nailing down and taking home his annual bonus package).

So you appoint from within. At least, that’s how God did it.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

On the Mount (7)

While the prophet Daniel revealed the coming of a “kingdom that shall never be destroyed” that was to be “given to the people of the saints of the Most High”, John the Baptist got the job of formally announcing the arrival of the King to his nation.

If all we had to go on was the book of Daniel, we might associate heaven’s kingdom with the power, glory and dominance of the earthly empires that preceded it, and which it would forever eclipse and obliterate: Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome.

That idea would not be wrong so much as it would be incomplete.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

On the Mount (6)

In my previous posts in this series I’ve been attempting to demonstrate the extent to which the content of the Sermon on the Mount, while often looking forward, remains inextricably tied to the Old Testament.

But the kingdom of heaven with which the Sermon is deeply concerned is itself a New Testament concept — a new frame, a new way of describing the government of God on earth. First proclaimed by John the Baptist, the kingdom occupies a central place in the teaching of the Lord Jesus. You will not find the phrase in your Bible prior to (or, rather remarkably, after) Matthew’s gospel, where it occurs 31 times.*

Before going much deeper into the Sermon, we need to pause briefly to consider what “kingdom of heaven” means.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Misappropriating Scripture: The Practical Consequences

Reams have been written on the subject of Bible prophecy and how it is to be interpreted. Even within Protestantism, the number of distinct views of what scripture teaches concerning the end times is mind-boggling and often daunting to the new Christian, so much so that many are inclined to throw up their hands and declare that the answers cannot possibly really matter.

But they do. And they matter practically as well as intellectually.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Out of the Closet and Out of the Sea

Globalism is out of the closet. Finally.

For years now, politicians from countries all over the world enraptured with the Ideology That Dared Not Speak Its Name have pursued their dream of global government. Until the end of last year, they were savvy enough to do it behind the scenes, giving the occasional barely-perceptible nod to national interests in order to avoid raising the hackles of the rank and file that their policies had impoverished and unemployed by the millions. Attentive observers of Washington and the Eurozone noticed something was a bit off, but recognized that being overly vocal with their suspicions would tend to nuke their credibility with the audience that pays the bills.

Hey, even political commentators have to eat, right?

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Ask Not For Whom Rob Bell Tolls

Universalists, as I mentioned in a previous post, are people who wrongly believe everyone, no matter how willfully and determinately wicked, will eventually be saved.

Popular pastor/author Rob Bell has been called a universalist, though I don’t believe he describes himself that way. His book Love Wins is arguably the most well-read recent exploration of the subject, stirring up a fair bit of evangelical dust upon its release in 2011. However, if you want to argue fine points of universalist doctrine (or even broad strokes), Bell’s not your guy. Even his most ardent supporters (like Greg Boyd) admit Bell prefers asking questions to providing stringent proofs, and is more of a “poet/artist/dramatist” with a “fantastic gift for communicating in ways that inspire creativity and provoke thought” than an actual Bible teacher.

Too bad, really. Those of us waiting for a well-reasoned, serious defense of universalism from scripture will continue to keep our eyes peeled.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Show’s Over

It’s the devil’s show I’m talking about, not God’s. I mean this present world.

The fact that it is the devil — Satan, Lucifer, Abaddon, Beelzebub, the Serpent of Old — who is running the show here on earth is not well understood in or outside religious circles, possibly because so many have difficulty with the notion of personal evil. Social evil, sure. Patriarchal evil, definitely. We’ll even maybe sorta kinda acknowledge that once in a while there comes on the scene a man or woman so virulently depraved that even a bad upbringing, lack of education, racism or poor social conditions do not fully account for it. Who would blame Jeffrey Dahmer’s mother, after all?

But an invisible supernatural being pulling the strings behind the scenes? A bit of a stretch. For the source of all the bad news in this world, let’s look elsewhere.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Inbox: Booking It

In connection with the episode in Exodus 32 where God says, “Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book,” WD wonders, “What about those who repented (if any did)?”

Good question. I think this might be the first mention of such a heavenly “book” in scripture (assuming we take the reference literally), but similar language comes up in other places more than once. The Hebrew in Exodus is çêpher, an umbrella term for all kinds of written decrees, long and short, variously translated “book”, “letter”, “scroll” or “evidence”. The sense of the word is not merely a communication but a communication that has legal force.

That part we can all agree on. Don’t worry, it won’t last ...

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Nationhood and Angelic Representation

 The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Quote of the Day (10)

From David Cambell’s Illustrations of Prophecy, 1839
Students of prophecy make reference to a future geopolitical entity described in detail in both Daniel and Revelation. In scripture it is called the “fourth kingdom”. Some Bible students also refer to it as the “revived Roman empire” because it will be the spiritual and political reanimation of ancient Rome.

Neo-Rome is consistently depicted as being comprised of ten divisions or kingdoms. Nebuchadnezzar’s dream image in Daniel 2 has ten toes. The fourth beast of Daniel 7 has ten horns, as does the seven-headed monstrosity energized by Satan’s power that John saw in Revelation 13, and the beast on which the great prostitute rides in Revelation 17.

This ten nation confederacy is said to “devour the whole earth, and trample it down, and break it to pieces”. So, you know, fairly significant stuff, at least to those of us who believe these things are still to take place in our world.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Too Much for Sunday School

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Let’s Play ‘Spot the Agenda’

Daniel B. Wallace is a Bible scholar with a Ph.D. from Dallas Theological Seminary who has been teaching Greek at graduate school level since 1979. That’s just in case credentials matter to you.

In this article he attempts to referee a (very polite) disagreement between two other equally educated men about a verse in Ezekiel that I happened to read again this morning.

Everybody involved has an agenda.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Will There Really Be A Millennial Temple? [Part 1]

The concluding chapters of the prophetic book of Ezekiel are among the most hotly debated in all of Scripture. Many differing and conflicting interpretations have been proposed by scholars, each according to his own school of eschatological thought. Are these chapters, which describe a great temple, speaking figuratively or literally? Do they refer to a time now past, or to a future state?

The opportunities for controversy are manifold, and a mere consideration of the chapters themselves, in isolation, is insufficient to provide all the answers. For instance, this temple description occurs at the end of a book heavy with symbolism, yet contains precise details and measurements suggesting a more literal approach. There are mysteries in chapters 40-48, as well — who is the ‘prince’ or leader involved in the temple worship?

Neither the figurative nor the literal approach to these chapters is adequate to explain every detail, unravel every mystery. However, it is not necessary for us to know all the answers in order to understand the passage properly. Despite the potential for controversy, Scripture does supply us with enough information to answer the main questions associated with the passage, which are as follows: 

1.    Is the temple and its worship literal, or figurative?
2.    Do these things take place at a time now past or at some point in the future?
3.    If the time is future, does it involve the millennial kingdom of Christ on earth, or the heavenly state?
4.    In any case, what is the purpose of the sacrifices described? 

Let’s consider these issues and attempt to provide some sound and scriptural answers.