January 30, 2012

Apocalypse Prophecy X: God Does What He Says He Will

Daniel's Theology

The theological themes arise from the distinctive problems thrown up by the Babylonian Exile. As wave after wave of empires engulfed Judea, opposition would bring increased persecution, not liberation. The question arose, where was God in this? The true God rules over humankind…period. Other than being a sovereign God who determines the outcome of the siege of Jerusalem…He is the one who will bring about the restoration of the His people and the temple in agreement with own plan to bring glory to His name.

God is everywhere in Daniel. He is on the lips of all that speak in the book. Whether they speak good of Him or ill…they are speaking of Him. He is referred to by the pagan king (Nebuchadnezzar) as “God of gods,” “Lord of kings,” “revealer of mysteries” (2:47); “Most High God” (4:2). Daniel prayed to the God of heaven and declares God’s attributes as did kings of other nations whose prayers God answered (4:3).

We see God disclosed his future purpose to a pagan Babylonian king (2:45b) as well as to Daniel in the dreams and visions. By doing this he shows his sovereignty and control over all humanity and history all of which points to a Kingdom down the road. Daniel prays to the God: Yahweh which is the God referred to as the covenant God in Exodus 3. Yahweh is clearly reactive to his people (Dan 9:4-19).

We see in Daniel that believers must expect to suffer and endure strife either in the form of tests or conditions of enduring hostility. Political movements caused suffering (Dan 1:2). This is a very obvious negation of the "so-called" Social Gospel today that seeks to find justice through activism that will pave the way to God’s Kingdom….never mind that this would amount to an religion of works not true salvation. We also see in Daniel that loyalty to God aroused persecution in a hostile environment (Chapters 3, 6:). We see this abundantly today. Christians ask me why Muslims are not persecute like Christians are and I tell them that it is about being faithful to Christ. The Muslims do not believe in a real god they believe in what probably amounts to a demonic being if it even exists at all. Personally I believe Allah is just the figment of a deranged imagination that came from a murderous and homicidal social outcast. Christ on the other hand was a real man document in real history and He warned us that we would be persecuted because He is real and the powers of this world do not like that. Although punishment, defeat and death await God’s people, they will be restored...forever.

Although arrogant world rulers and ignorant and arrogant people meet their end, new opposition will continue to sprout up in new locations. The Devil never rests. We must be prepared for our ultimate deliverance to be delayed. Contrary to what many believe, suffering is not meaningless and we must remain true to God and impart this to others through discipleship and training in the Faith to build faith. Death is not the end (12:1), for there is to be a resurrection and a judgment (12:2-3).

What we see in the story of the persecution of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego is not God sparing them from the fiery furnace or the heat of the persecuation but rather God protecting them in it. In the heat and fire of persecution God upholds us and makes us stronger. I suppose this is a good case to argue that we will often have to run through the hail of bullets and we will need to rely on God to pull us through. If not then it was God's will that we not survive it. Regardless, our final destination is absolutely secure for having believed in the first place (so much for losing your salvation). The promise of the strengthening presence of God in a time of trials rather than a promise of miraculous deliverence. If we look closely...this is exactly what we see in the trial and crucifixion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! The Savior's willingness to go through His trial and crucifixion to atone for our sins prevents us from having to do the same. He atoned for sin which we could never atone for anyway. Because Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego walk through the flame the other exiles will now not have to...their right to worship as they please has been won by three men's faith in their God who had the power to save them but waited until the perfect time. God is more concerned that we learn and understand then the specific morality of the situation. Rather than exerting His power and might to extract us from our predicaments he cleverly waits until thngs seem almost lost to pull us from the gaping maul of destruction. Destruction that we have often brought on ourselves. Its like a parent that is always there to save the child when the child gets in trouble. What does the child stand to learn from always having a "get out of jail free" card to rely on?

God's not a fire escape or the fire extinguisher...He's the flame itself and how it affects you...whether or not it engulfs you or leaves you unscathed.


When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. ~Isaiah 43:2

We must never forget that there is more to history and it’s unfolding than the original event when we first observe it. Humans live in the “now” but God lives in the “eternal present”. The message of Daniel shows that history is not a series of random events. We see that spiritual warfare goes on in heaven as well as on earth (Eph 6:12).

In the end the goal of history is God’s kingdom. Whereas the fall of Jerusalem brought death to Israel’s hopes (Lamentations), God inevitably uses the course of history and powers of the world to demonstrate the extent of his sovereignty.

Ironically, it is only when rulers acted responsibly (4:34-35) as opposed to acting foolishly (5:22-24) that God’s purposes actually begin to move forward. During all of this, the world and history is cruel, war-plagued, and ruinous and it is often necessary that God’s people suffer oppression and his sanctuary is desecrated. What we must remember is that even when there appears to be no hope…there is. When all seems lost, God intervenes and establishes his reign (7:27). BANG!

A question remains though. How long it will be before this happens permanently? Daniel didn’t live to see the spiritual aspect of this fulfilled in the coming of Jesus (600) six hundred years later and we probably will not see the His second coming…but if history is any indicator about God’s faithfulness and immutability…He is most certainly coming back. When He is...isn't the issue. The faithfulness and belief in the fact that He will is. It’s about our heart’s intent and faith, not dates and predictions.

He is coming back to inaugurate His physical kingdom forever in a final act of resurrection and judgment, until then we must wait and believe.

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