January 31, 2012

Apocalypse Prophecy XI: Canon and Catagorization

Daniel In Relation to the Rest of Scripture and History

As aforementioned the Hebrew Bible places Daniel in the “Writings”. The Septuagint LXX puts it among the Prophets after Ezekiel which is also the order followed by the English translators. Although Daniel is read among the prophets, Daniel goes further than any of the prophets in unveiling God’s future purpose for the world as I have already noted. Because of this it is therefore classed as “apocalyptic” and "prohecy" which amounts to disclosing what God has appointed for history. His supernatural intervention and interaction was to be a basis of hope and promise of what happens when God’s reign and Kingdom encroaches or enters the Creation as it was originally intended.

As we know from Genesis, human rebellion against God resulted in death and expulsion from the garden, where the tree of life was situated (Gen 3). Ironically, Daniel starts with expulsion from the land by a powerful nation that worships other gods which is more or less the culmination and end game of people that have completely fallen or apostatized form God. Human rebellion has come full circle and reaches its culmination in the fourth beast. Hope has to be centered in divine intervention because believers themselves are helpless. In Daniel what we see matters most is “to put an end to sin” and “to bring in everlasting righteousness” (9:24).

What is even stranger is we see a period of continued suffering and this suffering is foreseen even for God’s Anointed (9:26), but in the disclosure from heaven there is one like a Son of Man in the presence of God (7:9-14)…we see the efficiency of God’s saving power. It is here that we see His kingdom is heavenly and eternal. Those who would enter it must be made spotless or holy (12:10). They must also remain faithful and wait on God (12:11-13). It is clear Jesus saw his own mission in the Son of Man of  Daniel and referred to Daniel by name (Matt 24:15) when he spoke of the desecration and destruction of Herod’s temple.

It is the very destruction of the Temple and the lifting up and exalting of Jesus that we begin to see the power and scope of God’s plan. It is absolutely massive, eternally far-reaching and profound beyond words. These episodes in Daniel pervade the Gospels and then even reach to the end of time in Revelation 1:14. John uses the theophany of Daniel 7:9-10 to describe the exalted Jesus, who is identified with God as the “one like a Son of Man” who is judge in the final judgment in Rev 14:14 & Dan 7:13, 22.

The message of judgment given by the pre-exilic prophets was fulfilled in the fall of Jerusalem; the sins of all Israel brought about this judgment of God (Dan 9:7-14). Conversely, there is also expectation that God in his mercy will forgive his people’s sin and restore his sanctuary in Jerusalem (9:15-19; cf. Ezra 1:1-4; 6:17-18). Throughout the book of Daniel (and the Bible) God vindicates individuals who trust him, delivering them from death and revealing his truth to them-just as we saw in Jeremiah’s Lamentations. For the first time we see the focus for the future no longer centers on Jerusalem and its restoration under a Davidic king. The “Beautiful Land” will be under threat (Dan 11:41), and the city and sanctuary will again be destroyed (9:26). God’s purpose for Israel involves suffering in a geopolitical world (global) context.

It is here that we begin to realize that God’s Kingdom embraces all the powers of heaven and earth in a never-ending dominion that is given to a human figure, whom all nations are to worship (7:13-14). The one- the only-Jesus Christ! Help for “God’s people” in this massive struggle, which is downright frightening, will be found in the leadership of God’s heavenly man (7:14, 27), whose sovereignty transcends death. Within the text is the inference that a long time will elapse before the world’s suffering will end and God’s kingdom is seen to finally triumph eternally in the end.

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.

Yeow!

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.

January 29, 2012

Christianity & The Bible: Perfect Quality System II - Kaizen

[Continued From Previous Post]

Four:

Kaizen: It frees human efforts through improving productivity using machines and computing power.

Christianity: Sanctifying oneself through acceptance of the Gospel and things the Bible teaches will free humans from the condemnation or eternal non-conformity sin brings. Through improving the state of holiness in people's lives the Kingdom of God becomes more involved in this world and it gains a better foothold in the hearts of repentant believers that have adhered to Biblical mandates, statutes or the biblical "thou shalls" and "thou shalts".

Exodus 20:3~”You shall have no other gods before me.”
Exodus 20:13~“You shall not murder.
Exodus 20:14~“You shall not commit adultery.
Exodus 20:15~“You shall not steal.
Exodus 20:16~“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

Five:

Kaizen: It usually delivers small improvements (but definitely produce large immediate ones also although this is the exception not the rule). A mindset or culture of continual aligned small improvements and standards eventually yields large results in the form of compound productivity improvement.

Christianity: It usually delivers small improvements (but definitely produce large immediate ones although this is the exception not the rule). A mindset or culture of continual aligned small improvements through sanctification and obedience to Godly principles eventually yields large results in the form of compound sanctification improvement or gains in holiness. Paul alludes to this slow deliberate and often painful process of improvement of individual holiness in Romans 7.

Romans 7:14-25~For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.

Six:

Kaizen: This methodology includes making changes and monitoring results, then adjusting.

Christianity: This methodology includes making changes and monitoring results, then adjusting based on a known holy standard: Jesus Christ and what we know of the mind of God in the Holy Bible.

2 Corinthians 13:5~"Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you--unless, of course, you fail the test?"

Seven:

Kaizen: The idea of Kaizen is developing best practices so that workers don't have to think. As such, Kaizen is an ideal approach to improve one's personal work flow. The worker does what he needs to intuitively.

Christianity: The idea of Christianity is developing holy practices which are best for us so that believers don't have to think, they just know what to do intuitively. As such, Christianity is an ideal approach to improve one's personal life and professional life. The believer does what he needs to intuitively and becomes what he thinks and thinks what he becomes. The prverbial, "Where the minds leads, the body follows". In this case it is more akin to, "Where a Godly mind leads, a Godly body follows". Whether that body be individual or corporate.

Proverbs 22:1~ A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.

2 Corinthians 7:1~ Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.

Romans 12:2~ Do not be conformed to this world [which is clearly flawed and fallen in sin], but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect

Eight:

Kaizen: You also want to build in error-proofing as much as possible. The "urgent" things or bad emergency things need to be minimized. You need to clear the "urgent" box.

Christianity: The belief of a true Christian at its very core believes that the Bible itself is the inerrant word of God therefore anything it speaks to is regarded as without error or error-proof. It stands to reason if it is written by an all-knowing omnipotent perfect God it would contain everything it needs to perfectly help mankind towards righteousness and holiness. It is literally the mind of God…therefore it is God. Therefore if the Bible is strictly adhered to, the emergency issues that effect the eternal scale of things are minimized or become non-existent.

John 1:1~In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

And this Word became flesh in Jesus Christ

John 1:14~The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Therefore a perfect benchmark is contained in a documented source: The Holy Bible. Therefore a perfect benchmark is also contained in a real person in reality: Jesus Christ. Therefore it is a measurable standard not just a theoretical ideal. Granted, it is an unattainable standard for humans but perfection always is…unless you’re God...which is exactly who Jesus was.

Nine:

Kaizen: Focuses on eliminating waste. On the factory floor, this means wasted movement. Setting up tool stations so that everything is within arm's reach is an easy way of cutting out wasted steps, and iterated over the course of a day, or a month, for two hundred workers, this means greatly increased productivity. It also means less wear and tear for the workers themselves, and that's good for everyone.

Christianity: People's lives (Christian or not) are often an effort to find purpose, otherwise life itself often looks as if it has little or no meaning. A person can become quite nihilistic in their outlook. When we adhere to the practices and the purposes God sets before us in the instructions in the Bible we know that they are for the benefit of the believer and those that come in contact with them. The life instructions in the Bible also help to define our purposes for both the individual, the Church corporate and even those around us in the world-at-large. If God is sovereign as He is defined in the Bible (which I believe He is) and has a plan for everything...then everything in the entire Creation has a purpose and therefore fits into His grand overarching plan for Creation. If everything has a purpose…there can be no waste. There is no such thing as "superfluous" or "redundant" in God’s universe. A sovereign God is in control of all things. Therefore it has been created for a plan or design therefore it will be utilized to that end.

Romans 8:28-30~And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

Jeremiah 29:11-13~ For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Ten:

Kaizen: Standardization is another Kaizen principle. With standardization, you think about what "best practices" are, and you do so in advance. Then you externalize those best practices as much as possible, and you work those practices so that they become automatic.

Christianity: Standardization is also a Christian principle. With standardization, you think about what "best practices" are, and you do so in advance. Then you implement them into your behavior. That way your good thoughts become good actions

Proverbs 23:7 “For as he a man thinks in his heart, so is he…”

Romans 12: 2 - "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."

Then you externalize those best practices as much as possible, and you work those practices so that they become automatic. They become the way we act…behaviors that manifest themselves on the outside for others to see…we manifest and act out what we have become internally. Therefore they are measurable outputs that can be gauged and improved upon or critiqued.

The measurable outputs in a Christian life are quantified or called the "Fruits of the (Holy) Spirit" and they are elaborated on in Galatians 5:19-26. The bad results/outputs or non-conformity to holiness are also mentioned in the same passage.

Galatians 5:19-26~ The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

Eleven:

Kaizen: The policies and processes of the Kaizen process must be implemented through teaching, training and educating the indiviudal members of the corporation from the CEO to the new hire. As such it is a continuous and ongoing process that never ends until departure form the company or termination. This process is used so everyone is on the same page working with the same purpose, ideas and intent in unity.

Christianity: The statutes of God and principles outlined in the Christian Bible must be implemented through teaching, child-rearing and educating the indiviudal members of the Church both at the family level (basic building blocks) to the local congregation (larger corporate units). Training and the education of all involved from the Pastor and Elders to the new believers or young child just learning about what Jesus did for us to save us not only as individuals but as a corporate whole. As such it is a continuous and ongoing process that never ends until death. This process is used so everyone is on the same page working with the same purpose, ideas and intent in unity.

Twelve:

Christianity: A consciuous decision needs to be made to accept Jesus Christ and what He has done on the Cross that allows all of this to take place. This decision allows you to imrpove your life immeasurably and guarentee yourself eternal life in Heaven in the presence of Jesus who is perfect, holy and wonderful. Without this rudimentay descision all else is just suprerfluous and wasted action.

Kaizen: A consciuous decision needs to be made to accept the Kaizen process and but this decision only allows you to marginally improve a mediocre earthly and human system that will still be prone to failure. Regardless, without this rudimentay descision all else is just suprerfluous and wasted action.

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[The next and final idea seems to make these two ideas diverge in a marked way…and here is where we must draw the distinction between Kaizen and Christianity. This is where you can take or leave this entire dissertation.]
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A Major Non-Conformity

In the end Kaizen: Is a way of doing better business. Kaizen at its very heart is a system for introducing improvements to company or corporation. You can use it to pump out more work, and that's a good thing but it must be tempered with the thought that they don't become a way of life, they become a way to act at work. Kaizen does not make better people it makes better processes and systems. One needs to realize that it is not the processes or systems that make the company…it is the people. It’s like the guy that has yellow Post-It notes all over his workstation to tell him how to do everything but he has nothing internalized. The idea or way of life has not "become him". Instead he looks outward for his self worth and direction. He worships the Post-It notes and they just end up becoming totems…idols. It doesn't have to be that way.

In the end Christianity: Is a better way of life and is a divine system [therefore perfect] for introducing improvements or sanctification and holiness and keeping them. These qualities carry over not only to our workplace but also…into eternity. These exact processes and “shalls” and “shalts” that God wants us to do and learn are the very thing that give us our passage to Heaven and eternal life. It is these things that all point to Jesus Christ. The Old Testament was fulfilled in Jesus so we do not need to get all of the Law correct, we need only accept Jesus and emulate Him to the best of our flawed ability. It is and always has been about Jesus Christ. He is the benchmark…the cornerstone…the Son of God. The Bible asks us to internalize and become what it tells us to do in or out of our workplace. But the most important thing is to use these systems to make your/our lives more holy…to make our lives better in accordance with the way God wants us to be. The Christian looks inward to the Holy Spirit who is Christ within us for his self worth and direction. In this way a Christian truly internalizes Christianity. The Helper/Holy Spirit resides within us as a down payment on the justification received from the work of Jesus on the Cross. This assures that we are of acceptable quality to be taken home to be in the presence of God for eternity. Through Jesus we are found to be of acceptable quality and of an acceptable standard to be used as vessels that can hold the very thing that we were intended for. We were intended to be Temples of the Holy Spirit. Kaizen could never do this for us but there are some striking parallels here as I have noted.

My Synopsis:

First off I must say that there is much more going on here than I have typed or that meets the eye. I just don't have the time to pursue all of this to its meaningful end because I am working fulltime, teaching classes and attending Seminary. Unless of course someone wants to hire me as a consultant to pursue this for their corporation that wishes to have a Biblical Quality Control System implemented ;).

That being said, the two philosophies are very much alike. Having said this I must "cut to the chase" as a Christian. Why is it that we cannot phase in a Christian Quality Process based in Biblical principles into corporations rather than force a Japanese mindset of Kaizen on Christians in corporations? At worst we could call it something like...Christian Quality or (TCQM) Total Christian Quality Management? Can we just do away with the pretense and just utilize a Christian mindset or Christian Quality philosophy as Christian rather than trying to re-label it to make it more PC or less offensive? What harm is there in doing away with the Kaizen label completely? Why try to sell a what is sound Christian philosophy merged and blended with the Kaizen label or nameplate?

As a Christian I also see the secular gearing of the Kaizen philosophy and it gears itself to the scientific method which in some respects is a good thing and it is also a bad thing. Its good because it regiments gauges, measures and benchmarks to quantify outputs whether they be good or bad. The bad comes from the presuppositions of those observing the outputs. If they have not absorbed the Christian philosophy/tenants and are secular, agnostic or atheistic it precludes the possibility of anything outside the realm of the empirical or naturalistic. This is bad because scientific method nearly always excludes the involvement of the supernatural (i.e.: God) in its outcomes, observations or equations.

Why not adhere to a Christian Quality Control methodology outright rather than try to blend a secular quality control method. Why not just recognize a physical AND spiritual system that has been around for millennium before the business field introduced Kaizen philosophy.

Its called Christianity and it is based in Jesus Christ and is primarily revealed to us in a written work instruction: The Bible.

January 28, 2012

Christianity & The Bible: Perfect Quality System I - Kaizen

In this short three part post I will revisit and again draw parallels as I did before to the idea that the Bible is a Quality Control manual for holiness and sanctification. Not only that, it is a perfect quality manual to make people holy and righteousness as it states within its own pages.

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:16-17

But this time I will be comparing the Christian philosophy to the quality philosophy of Kaizen to draw a more distinct parallel between two known philosophies from two different cultures. One of the philosophies is Biblical and the other secular...both based in a premise of quality and continuous improvement. As an apologist I see things like this as an opportunity to reach those unreached especially in places like the Far East where there are hundreds of millions or even billions of people that do not know Jesus Christ. One of the main tools or methodologies of an apologist like myself is to meet people where they are at, speak in their terms and use their own examples to try and win them to the Faith. Paul did this and that is what I will attempt now. It may fail but at least I have tried.

First off, as I have already noted, what I am about to do...using a worldly philosophy to get a biblical point across (to spread the message of my faith) is in itself...biblical. It finds its pattern in Acts 17:18-33 in Paul the Apostle's sermon to the Greeks at Mars' Hill (the Areopagus or the Hill Of Ares) in Athens.

A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to dispute with him. Some of them asked, "What is this babbler trying to say?" Others remarked, "He seems to be advocating foreign gods." They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, "May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean." (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.) Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: "Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 'For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.' "Therefore since we are God's offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by man's design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead."~ Acts 17:18-31

Paul takes the "Altar to the unknown God" and tells the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers in their terms that this "Unknown God" is in reality, "...the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands" and "'For in him we live and move and have our being" and " As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.' " Paul is directly linking the Greek philosophy to the Christian belief of the Great "I AM" of the Old Testament that is knowable and does not have a name per se but is the eternally existent "I AM". Paul had his hearers captivated until he mentions resurrection from the dead which turns them off and drives many away because of the Gnostic (and other philosophies) belief that the physical or materiality, and the human body, is perceived as evil and constrictive, a deliberate prison for its inhabitant.

Anyway....on with my premise
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I. Thought One: It Becomes You

Christianity & Kaizen: Kaizen is what amounts to a daily quality process, the purpose of which goes beyond simple productivity improvement. A Christian life does the same. Christians strive daily to sanctify and improve our lives (and others) to make them more Christ-like. As I have stated last year in my original post on the Bible being a Quality Control manual called The Bible: Quality Control and Continuous Improvement, this daily process is to ingrain a behavior of quality into the system. Quality becomes you. In the case of a Christian, holiness and righteous behavior are the manifest traits. This wears off on others in Discipleship which is to make another disciple which continues the chain that builds the Kingdom of God which is a corporate body/community.

Sanctification towards holiness is similar to the idea of Kaizen in that it is also a process that, when done correctly, humanizes the workplace, eliminates overly hard work ("muri"), and teaches people how to interact with their work using the biblical principles where Kaizen seeks to apply scientific method. In turn this allows Christians to learn how to learn to spot and eliminate wickedness and unrighteousness in peoples lives. In Kaizen it seeks to eliminate waste and superfluous action and wasted time/material, etc.

II: Thought Two: Making Us More - From Less

The next step or explanation is where I see the sanctification (make more holy) process of Biblical Christianity seems to walk in lock-step with Kaizen philosophy as a pattern of behavior but also begins to diverge as a means to an end or where it's ultimate goal or end result differ. In all, the Biblical Process seeks to take a more spiritual approach to make us more like God or Christ. We do this by humbling ourselves and making ourselves less...by becoming servants of the Most High God and serving our fellow human beings to achieve a common goal...Salvation in Christ.

Philippians 2:5-11 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

In all, the Kaizen Process seeks to take a more humanized approach and there is little or no focus on spiritual aspects to help workers to increase quality or productivity. It is similar and parallel to Christianity yes, but with two totally different end results in mind. Both begin with the intent that they are for improvement but they both use a different standard as a benchmark for final product or end result and diverge in methodology.

The Bible wants us Godly and heavenly minded, the Kaizen philosophy wants us people and earthly minded. 1 Corinthians sums this up nicely.

"For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength." 1 Corinthians 1:25

Paul later goes on to say this in 1 Corinthians 3:

"Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. "For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. 1 Corinthians 3:18-19

Paul is essentially saying that we can compare the wisdom of humans to God's wisdom as a benchmark (as God's pattern would be perfect) but in the end we must acknowledge the superiority of God's philosophy and wisdom. Why? Because God's wisdom, which is the revelation of righteousness and His Son Jesus Christ.... grants us eternal life if we accept Him. Why is this superior? Can we take Kaizen beyond the grave? No. What we can do is use it as a point of comparison here but it is useless knowledge/philosophy on the eternal scale of things. Where it becomes useful and wise from God's standpoint is when it helps us bridge a gap to win people to the Christian philosophy and eternal life.

III. Thought Three: Underlying Premise-Unity of Mind (in Jesus Christ)

...and this is where things become strikingly clear between these two paralleled side-by-side.

The Kaizen philosophy is to nurture a company's human resources as much as it is to praise and encourage participation in kaizen activities. Successful implementation of Kaizen requires the participation of individual workers in the improvement so that it becomes a corporate mentality or culture. People at all levels of an organization participate in kaizen, from the CEO down individual stakeholders.

The Biblical way of life is to nurture a corporate body/community of believer's resources by praising God and to encourage participation in Biblical activities such as fellowship (κοινωνία /kiononia) that are basically things like corporate worship (going to church) or group prayer. It should also encourage Christians to adhere to Biblical philosophy that helps build up individual adherence (devotion) also known as sanctification. The two would conceivably run hand-in-hand. Individual adherence (devotion) helps build others up or edifies them thereby individual sanctification leads to corporate sanctification. Successful Christianity requires the participation of all individual believers in the improvement so that it becomes community mentality or body with Jesus Christ as the unifying Head, as the unifying focus and purpose (the benchmark). People at all levels of an organization participate in Church or the Body of Christ from the pastor and elders to the individual laity.

Here again we see a extremely close parallel. The Bible / Christianity spells out and clarifies the underlying principle better then the Kaizen philosophy here. The underlying premise in both is unity of mind and purpose. In Christianity it is a unified body and mind towards Christ and unified thought towards quality and continuous improvement in Kaizen...which ironically is also a Christian's goal when referring to sanctification (continuous improvement) and holiness (quality). A Christian would go as far as to say that the only way you could even have unity of mind in a philosophy like Kaizen would be to have Jesus Christ as the "cornerstone" or the unifying factor at the base of the philosophy. The cornerstone on which all the other blocks are laid so they remain perpendicular and straight on the foundation. Hence the idea that all stones on a cornerstone stay aligned to the cornerstone....which is Christ. Perfect unity, perfect alignment...perfect quality (holiness). This is why Christian's preach and teach Christ crucified. It is the cornerstone of our Faith. Without Christ's Resurrection from the dead...Christianity falls apart.

Jesus Prays for All Believers in John 17:20-23…“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

Paul also alludes to Church unity all over Ephesians…

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. ~Ephesians 2:19-22

IV. Thought Four: Point-by-Point Contrasts

One:

Kaizen: Is a quality philosophy that can be individual, small group, or large group.

Christianity: Is a Christian holiness philosophy that can be individual, small group, or large group.

Matthew 18:20~" For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."

Two:

Kaizen: At corporations it is usually a local improvement within a workstation or local area and involves a small group in improving their own work environment and productivity.

Christianity: In the Body of the Church it is often localized improvements within peoples individual homes or local congregations by working on individual relationships with God and then immediate family/local church members that are the impetus to do so at higher levels of the Church-at-large or the Church universal. The key is starting with improving one's relations with Jesus Christ first. Thereby synchronizing ones behaviors and mindset to a known perfect quality standard of holiness just like everyone else in the Faith should be doing.

Ephesians 4:1-6~Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. [Ephesians passage about unity of the Church corporate body]

It goes on in later verses to state...

Ephesians 4:11-16 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming [poor quality processes or standards created by sin]. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ [The perfect standard or benchmark of holiness]. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Three:

Kaizen: This localized small unit or group is often guided through the kaizen process by a line supervisor; sometimes this is the line supervisor's key role...to be a steward of workers who will eventually pass on the exact same philosophy to the next generation of adherents to the philosophy.

Christianity: This localized small unit or group is called a family and is often guided through the Christian process by Christian parent; sometimes this is the parents key role...to be a steward of children who will eventually pass on the exact same philosophy to the next generation or family. Its called discipleship. We see it in The Shema of the Old Testament.

Deuteronomy 6:1-9~These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the LORD your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the LORD, the God of your ancestors, promised you. Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Many of these commands and statutes us the words "thou shalt" or "thou shall". These are quality terminologies. these are requirements to assure that an individual adheres to the stipulations put forward. Why? To assure that one improves in holiness and movement towards Godly living (sanctification). "Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads? " and "Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates?" Is this a Biblical form or work instructions for holiness and sanctification for individual households? I believe it can be seen that way.

Proverbs 22:6~Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.

[More Sanctification, Holiness and Quality Priniciples to follow in Part II...]

Apocalypse Prophecy IX: God's Plan For The Future



Persian Warriors
Berlin Museum
 Daniel Literary Structure-Chapters 7-12

When we get to the 6th chapter of Daniel we see a wise and godly exile (Daniel) now becomes the focus of concerted opposition. Since no means can be found of rescuing him from impending death, he is thrown to the lions. By his own decree the king’s hand is forced. The powerlessness of King Darius contrasts with the supremacy of the living God, who delivers Daniel from the mouth of the lions. The man who should be dead is found very much alive in the morning ready to resume his place in government, so triumphing over his enemies as if nothing even happened.

A swift and harsh vengeance befalls on Daniel’s opponents, demonstrating that the powers that oppose God’s rule cannot succeed and will be crushed by God’s justice in the end.

In Daniel 7 we encounter a vision and it is like Chapter 2. It bridges the interim between Daniel’s time and the intervention of the Most High to establish his kingdom. Although there are four beasts in the vision that are clearly against God, the most destructive in the fourth beast, whose authority comes to a sudden end with his death and judgment. We see Heaven opened, and the “Ancient of Days” gives worldwide dominion to “one like the son of man” (v. 14). Hostility having been trounced, the sovereignty and power are handed to the people of the Most High God (v. 27). Despite the interpretation, much remains mysterious, and, like Daniel, we are perplexed. But we can affirm that Jesus identified himself with the role of the one who was to come (the Son of Man), human and yet exercising divine authority as ruler and judge.

In Daniel 8 we see two dominant world powers, identified as Medo-Persia and Greece, will each come to an appointed end. A Greek ruler will attack God’s people and so defy God himself (v. 25). “He will cause deceit to prosper, and he will consider himself superior. When they feel secure, he will destroy many and take his stand against the Prince of princes. Yet he will be destroyed, but not by human power.” The fall of such deviant sinful people is certain. This is the last of the symbolic representations of the future.

In Daniel 9, momentously Daniel enters the presence of Israel’s covenant God, confessing the sin that brought about Jerusalem’s disaster and appealing to the promises of a covenant God. Deliverance of his people will vindicate God’s character. Gabriel’s response uses symbolic numbers based on “seventy” (Jeremiah 25:11; 29:10) to confirm that Jerusalem will be rebuilt but surprisingly will not escape further devastation down the road.

Daniel 9:2~ in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the LORD given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years.

Jeremiah 25:11~ This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years.

Jeremiah 29:10~ This is what the LORD says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place.

We see the culmination God is working towards stated in Dan 9:24-27.

“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. “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.”

It is clear that the ministry of Jesus began to bring in God’s kingdom

Mark 1:15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

Jesus’ death put away sin (Hebrews 9:24-28).

Though defeat of the persecutor was certain…

If we move to Daniel 10:1-12:13 the final revelation was brought by a radiant figure of a man, who had power to strengthen Daniel and enable him to receive the long and detailed narration from the Book of Truth. History is presented as a succession of reigns. Kings jostle for power and exert their authority, and then their kingdoms are broken and fall. The course of events is veiled in couched language, but one ruler who exalts himself above all and says unmentionable things against the God of gods and receives detailed attention.

“The king will do as he pleases. He will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard-of things against the God of gods. He will be successful until the time of wrath is completed, for what has been determined must take place.” Daniel 11:36

The book of Daniel says that religious persecution is his weapon. He succeeds in dividing the people of God, desecrating the temple, and causing the death of believers. The references seem to be very appropriate to Antiochus IV (175-164 BC) but this could and probably does look beyond him to later persecutors of God’s people. All of their ends will be the same as all of the enemies of God’s people. Despite initial political and military might, all meet the same end.

Suffering for believers is always followed by an unprecedented promise of restoration and resurrection (12:2-3). Death is not the end. The meaning of the entire unfolding of history has a meaning that lies beyond time…beyond history…within the immutable purpose of God. Like Daniel, the faithful on earth are to remain faithful despite suffering and persecution.

January 27, 2012

Apocalypse Prophecy VIII: Empires Rise & Empires Fall

Daniel's Literary Structure-Chapters 1-6

So now we get into the beef of the book and the actual interpreting of the text itself chapter by chapter in its context. As stated before, the book of Daniel exhibits more than one literary pattern. The simplest and most obvious is the division between the stories in Chapters 1-6 and the visions in Chapters 7-12. Two features connect the two aforementioned divisions of Daniel together. One is the similarity between chapters 2 and 7 in that both point in uniquely but synonymously to the setting up of God’s kingdom.

The other feature is the use of two original languages mentioned before. The Aramaic section (2:4b-7:28) links the two halves of the book together like a linchpin. Accordingly Chapters 1:1-2:4a and Chapters 7:29-12 are in Hebrew book-ending the Aramaic section in the center. what is even more focusing is a strong chiasmus/chiastic/“X” shape pattern in the Aramaic section formed around chapters 4 and 5 and I believe this is to draw attention to it. This is about God steering and working through even the most powerful individuals in the world to bring His plans to fruition. We see the phasing out of the worldly power and the ushering in of the power and glory of the Kingdom of God

A. Four empires and God’s coming kingdom (Chapter 2)
    B. Trial by fire and God’s deliverance (Chapter 3)
        C. A king warned, chastised, and delivered (Chapter 4)
        C. A king warned, defiant and disposed (Chapter 5)
    B. Trial in the lion’s dean and God’s deliverance (Chapter 6)
A. Four empires and God’s everlasting kingdom (Chapter 7)

I believe, based on this information alone we can lay to rest the liberal theologians wacky opinions and it also helps create a signpost to bring emphasis in the book where it is needed in which show the reward for obedience and the curse for disobedience (a la Deuteronomy 28). Man's empires and kingdoms rise and fall but God's Kingdom is coming and it will breech into this realm. It will be the Messiah that ushers it in. Daniel lived to see the end of the Babylonian empire. The sovereignty of the God he served is absolute. It is the same God we serve as Christians. God’s hand in human events ensured meaning and hope in life because God's ultimate work through His Son is life and is the Kingdom.

In the midst of all this there was a faithful remnant determined to be faithful to God, and God was faithful in providing an advocate within the Babylonian government. The advocate was a young man who was, "handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand" Daniel 1:4. Although God revealed His secrets to Nebuchadnezzar, it was Daniel, a man of God, who was the interpreter.

Focus now shifts to world history and Nebuchadnezzar is the unquestioned world ruler of his day by divine decree (Dan. 2:37-38). He is clearly the statue’s head of gold, whereas his successors will be inferior to him.

“Your Majesty looked, and there before you stood a large statue—an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay. While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were all broken to pieces and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth. Daniel 2:31-35

When a rock strikes the feet of clay, the whole statue crumbles, and "the rock" that is God’s kingdom fills the earth. The human king bows before God who, because he controls history, gives meaning to each era of history and reveals it to Daniel (Dan. 2:44). In Daniel 3:1-30 - The ceremony to unite courtiers from all the nations before the king’s golden image was the occasion for accusations against three Jews who refused to worship the image: Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. The king, furious that his orders should be defied, carries out his threat to condemn them to the flames. This test becomes the opportunity to experience God’s saving power: A fourth figure accompanies them in the fire and delivers them from death and the fourth, "looks like a son of the gods.” Loyalty to God takes precedents over personal safety even if the outcome is still unknown. Because of this unquestioning obedience they gained the right to worship God unmolested. God defends those that are faithful.

In Daniel 4 Nebuchadnezzar's dream of a tree was a omen, warning him that his prosperity would be short-lived unless he acknowledged the Most High God and gave priority to righteousness for the subjugated and exploited of his kingdom (vv. 25-27).

"You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox and be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes. The command to leave the stump of the tree with its roots means that your kingdom will be restored to you when you acknowledge that Heaven rules." Daniel 4:2-26

So....

None of this changes until Neb's goes stark raving mad. So much so that he is exiled from human society and takes on bestial existence eating grass (can anyone say moooooooo). After gaining his senses and his throne back (thanks to God) he acknowledges God having done so. No man has infinite power, only God. Nebuchadnezzar's restoration shows that there is a purpose for all nations and kings as God has allowed such kingdoms and kings to exist.

On the flip side of Nebuchadnezzar's eventual obedience, we will later see the disobedient Belshazzar who summary dismisses God and gives Him no place in his life. His defiance of God contrasts sharply with Nebuchadnezzar’s eventual submission. Subsequently, death came swiftly at the hands of Persian invaders, who brought Babylon’s empire to an end in the form of Cyrus. The United States could learn a lesson from this...leaders and nations--bad deeds inevitably return to them. History repeats and it is divine retribution at work over and over again. In the Bible and outside of it also.

There is a profound message here for all of us, not just rulers, kings and presidents but also parents, teachers managers and politicians who are responsible or are in the role of providing others a means to learn and/or to live such as a paycheck. Roles like these need to be carried out with humility like Jesus. If not, the results are disastrous. In Nebuchadnezzar we see him make the claim to be godlike as human and he is reverted to an animal state. It is the very sin he commits that becomes his judgment in reverse. Humans being created lower than God  were given dominion over animals. When man usurps his roll and attempts to either bring God down to his level or elevate himself to God's he is punished by becoming less than human or animalistic. Man not being satisfied with what God has made him reaches for the unreachable and is cut-off at the knees so-to-speak to grovel and graze in a field. Reaching for Heaven prematurely, man reaches only the dirt of the Earth and becomes one of the "base" things of creation! When we reject God and what God has made us we are threatened with and we threaten others with becoming subhuman monsters. Nebuchadnezzar, Nero, Henry the VII, Hitler, Stalin, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot your boss, you, etc etc etc.

Pride and the thought that we can be like God or act like we can...the thing that brought humanity down in the first place in Genesis. Have we learned nothing from our past?

The real truth is that the only way we truly rise to be with Christ as co-heirs is to humble ourselves before the "tree" of Christ (the Cross) and accept what He has done in His sacrificial death. There is no other way. Self-exaltation amounts to nothing more than self-condemnation.

Who is really The King? Self or Christ?

January 25, 2012

Apocalypse Prophecy VII: Daniel’s Purpose

Daniel the person was a benchmark of personal dedication and devotion to God despite living amongst pagans.  He was an encouragement and role model to the other exiles in the midst of their plight.

The Book of Daniel focuses in on the sovereignty of God over all nations and history and all these things combined serve His purposes...even Kings, Pharaohs, Emperors, Dictators, Presidents and your megalomaniacal boss or supervisor :P.

Daniel the book provides an example of the faithfulness of God to His people despite their unfaithfulness.  This book shows that God will work His purpose within the community of faith in patience with promise of future blessing in spite of their stupidity an sinful nature. This should be reassurance for us today.

Daniel the book provides a framework for a time coming that is understood as “The Time of the Gentiles mentioned in Luke 21:24.  Daniel the book also charts the course for the Gentiles through history. Daniel also elaborates on the discipline of Israel during these times. Daniel shows the time of the Gentile will eventually run its course with judgment from God. It then goes into explicit details about the Gentile impact on Israel while they wait for their Messiah and His coming Kingdom. He assures Israel will be delivered and blessed in conjunction with said Kingdom.  In the end because of God's love and grace, Israel will be brought to repentance and will eventually be restored.      

A Bit More Historical Context

There is a 4th empire mentioned in Daniel 2:40 and 7:7, in which history is to reach its climax because God intervenes, stretches beyond the Greek period, presumably into the Roman empire.

"Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron—for iron breaks and smashes everything—and as iron breaks things to pieces, so it will crush and break all the others." ~ Daniel 2:40

“After that, in my vision at night I looked, and there before me was a fourth beast—terrifying and frightening and very powerful. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. It was different from all the former beasts, and it had ten horns. ~ Daniel 7:7

We know from history or historically that the Roman consul in 168B.C. exercised his authority over Egypt and expelled the Syrian king. The vision of Daniel probably concerns the distant future in Daniel 8:26:

“The vision of the evenings and mornings that has been given you is true, but seal up the vision, for it concerns the distant future.” Daniel 8:26

This is possibly is a reference to a time beyond the historical empires of Greece and Rome. I personally hold to a 6th century date of writing thus taking the visions and dreams as predictive prophecy. Others more liberal interpreters hold to a 2nd century date of writing is to be preferred so that the ‘foretelling’ should be regarded as having been written after the event removing of course the predictive element. Regardless of the date, it does not great affect the interpretation.

A Theological Pit Stop & Relevant Things to Note

The earliest date noted is Dan. 1:1's, "the 3rd year of Jehoiakim" which was 605B.C. The latest date is, "the 3rd year of Cyrus" in Dan. 10:1 which was 537B.C. These anchors in time bookend Daniel to an exact chronological window in history. It is interesting to note considering all the apocalyptic language that Daniel never once directly mentions either the destruction of Jerusalem in 587B.C. or to the return of the exiles to Judah in 538B.C. Ezra 1 does but Daniel does not. What the book does reveal in a generalized lofty 30,000 ft manner is God’s wider plan concerning kings and kingdoms. It is of particular note that the Greek empire is named in Daniel 8:21 and its end envisaged in Daniel 8:25.

The shaggy goat is the king of Greece, and the large horn between its eyes is the first king. Daniel 8:21

He will cause deceit to prosper, and he will consider himself superior. When they feel secure, he will destroy many and take his stand against the Prince of princes. Yet he will be destroyed, but not by human power. Daniel 8:25

January 23, 2012

Apocalypse Prophecy VI: Daniel - Historical Background & Context

Dan the Man

The Book of Daniel tells the story of a young Hebrew taken from Jerusalem in the days of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar circa 605-562 B.C. The primary theme of his life is of faithfulness to his God and the Covenant with his God in light of hardships lived in exile. No matter what Daniel stays true to God and as such is an anchor of hope and encouragement to those around him and to us today. In this manner Daniel was very much like Joseph or a kind of typology that inevitably points to Jesus Christ. Both rose to prominence in a foreign court through unorthodox means that are clearly attributed to God's sovereignty; both were blessed with insight into the future purposes of God in history through dream and/or visions. Different somewhat from Joseph though is Daniel is told mostly in the 3rd person and the portion that does this contains a series of extraordinary visions and its presented in autobiographical fashion.

The Book of Daniel is placed after the Prophets in the Canon but ironically it was probably Daniel who was sent in the first wave of exiles to Babylon. Interestingly in the Book of Daniel, Daniel himself is never referred to as a prophet. He is given this title posthumously by Jesus in Matt. 24:15 (which is good enough for me :). The book of Daniel has a title name in Hebrew that could either mean, “God is my judge” or “God is judging." This would suggest Daniel is one of the chief characters in the book (after God Himself working through Daniel and kings) but it was customary, not always consistent though, in Hebraic literature to affix the name of the author to the book he wrote. Daniel’s contemporaries who included Ezekiel attributed righteousness and wisdom among his attributes (Ez14:14, 20; 28:3). Daniel of a royal family and was of the nobility of Judea (Dan. 1:3,6 this is why he was taken in the first wave of exiles as the first wave primarily contained royalty, leaders and/or VIPs. He was most likely good-looking and a quick study (Daniel 1:4). At the time of his captivity he would've been in his mid-teens. At the time of the lions den 80 years of age (so much for all those bogus paintings of him in the prime of his youth...people need to learn how to read). He was approximately 85 at his death.

Daniel the Book

The Book of Daniel is prophetic and is the first great book of apocalyptic literature in the Hebrew Bible. Within its characteristics is: (1) The one who received God’s truth in visions records what they saw. (2) extensive use of figurative language, i.e., symbols or signs, (3) gives revelation concerning God’s program for the future of His people, (4) apocalyptic prose was used rather than the poetic style which was rather common in most prophetic literature. The Book of Daniel is written it two different languages. It is written Aramaic (Daniel 2:46-7:28) and the remainder is in Hebrew. Hebrew was the language of God's People and Aramaic was the common or spoken language of Daniel’s day. The two primary overarching themes of Daniel are:

(1) God’s plan for the Gentiles: Therefore we see the purpose of using Aramaic, the language of the Gentiles that surround Daniel.

(2) The nation of Israel and the influence or effect of the Gentiles on Israel: Therefore we see the purpose of using Hebrew, the language of God's people.

Also, Chapters 1-6 record historical events in Daniel’s lifetime and Chapters 7-12 record the extraordinary prophetic visions given to Daniel. Although many Liberal Theologians and scholars see a lack of unity in Daniel due to language and themes, the unity of Daniel is supported by noting the combination and dependence of two major divisions in the book: The unveiling/revealing in chapter 2 parallels intricately with the revelation in chapter 7. Additionally we see the same Hebrew expressions and euphemisms in chapters 7 and later that we see previous to chapter 7. Read it closely and you will see what I mean.

Historical Context of Daniel

In Daniel we see Nineveh, the Assyrian capital fell to the forces of Babylon and Media in 612B.C. Although some Assyrians fled westward to Haran to establish the Assyrian Empire. In 611B.C. Nabopolassar, the king of Babylon attacked Haran – in 610B.C., allied with Media, they defeated the Assyrians in Haran who fled again westward beyond the Euphrates. In 609B.C. the Assyrians aligned Egypt to fight against the Babylonians. King Josiah of Judea sought to prevent the Egyptian & Assyrian alliance died at Megiddo against the Egyptians (2Kings 23:28-30; 2 Chron. 35:24). Pharaoh then allied with Assyrians in their assault against the Babylonians at Haran unsuccessfully.

Assyria was left in ruins but the Egyptians continued their conflict with Babylon. In 605BC at the Battle of Carchemish, Nebuchadnezzar soundly trounced them and while in pursuit of their retreat he expanded his empire southward into Syria and Palestine. After the death of his father, Nebuchadnezzar returned home to become king in 605B.C. Later the same year he returned and attacked Jerusalem. It is at this point that he took Daniel (young intellectuals), royal family members and nobility (where the head leads the body follows theory).Jehoiachin spurred a rebellion and it is decisively squashed Nebuchadnezzar. Jerusalem is essentially enslaved at this point and it is now that we see the likes of Ezekiel also taken to Babylon into captivity (Ezekiel 1:1-3; 2 Kings 24:8-20). It is then due to further recalcitrance on Jerusalem’s behalf that in 588B.C. Nebuchadnezzar marches on Jerusalem, sieges it and annihilates the city thereby leveling the First Temple in the process-hence the need for the prophet Jeremiah’s Lamentations. Nebuchadnezzar reigned for 43 years until 562 B.C. It is then in 539B.C. Cyrus overthrows Babylon and established the Medo-Persian Empire. In 538B.C. Cyrus issued an edict allowing the Jews to go home to Judea & Jerusalem (2Chron. 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-4).

Some Jewish exiles opt to return to their land and began to rebuild the temple. Some actually chose to stay behind because they had grown accustomed to Babylon and were comfortable with their situation. I have to believe that this was the less devout option on the table at the time. This kept in sync with Daniel’s prayer in Daniel 9:4-19.

The temple was completed in 515B.C. (Ezra 6:15). At this point approximately 70 years have passed from the time of the first conquest of Jerusalem and Daniel’s exile (605 B.C.) until the Jews returned and rebuilt the temple foundation in 536B.C.

Therefore...Jeremiah’s prophecy in Jeremiah 25:11-12 was deadly accurate.

“This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years.“But when the seventy years are fulfilled, I will punish the king of Babylon and his nation, the land of the Babylonians, for their guilt,” declares the LORD, “and will make it desolate forever."

Babylonians per se never do rise from the dust of history like Israel does over and over.
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