“God’s Indestructible Kingdom”: A Series of Bible Discussion Outline Based on the Prophecy of Daniel – Lesson I and II

OUTLINE I – Discussion Material: Daniel 1.

A. Introductory Remarks:

1. In the previous issue you will find a brief article introducing the Book of Daniel. It is intended to give an over-all impression of this Bible book.

2. Our plan is to cover Daniel in a series of twelve outlines. These will be published over a six-month period (two lessons per issue). Those who require more than twelve lessons will find it profitable, perhaps, to devote two discussion periods to each chapter.

3. The general title, “God’s Indestructible Kingdom,” is intended to say that the Kingdom of God is shown in this Book to be able to survive and triumph even though the most impressive of the world’s kingdoms always decay and fall. They that have a tme faith in the King of that indestructible Kingdom possess “the victory that overcometh the world” (1 John 5:4b), even today!

4. No possible substitute could be urged for anything but a careful, repeated reading of the Book of Daniel itself! For that, neither these outlines nor any other book are a replacement, but may be seen as mere aids. For an English commentary of sterling, conservative quality we recommend Edward J. Young, The Prophecy of Daniel (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Mich.).

B. Jerusalem vs. Babylon, chap. I:

1. Jerusalem and Babylon are mentioned in the very first sentence of this Book (1:1). These cities represent the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world or the kingdom of Satan, respectively. These are in God-ordained (Gen. 3:15) opposition to one another. This opposition is often called tile antithesis. This antithesis is due to an irreconcilable conflict between two different spiritual principles. This conflict penetrates to the depths of every human heart, and extends to every manifestation of temporal life: science, culture, politics, economics. The Book of Daniel indicates plainly that the deepest source of our attitude and viewpoint with respect to life’s most basic questions is not some scientific theory but the actual religious posture and motive of our lives.

2. Please note that Babylon seems to be in control here. It was the great city in the great kingdom built by the brilliant young Nebuehadnezzar upon the ruins of Assyria and its capital city, Nineveh. Babylon is the first of the great monsters which Daniel sees emerging from the turbulent waters of the history of that time. Spiritually Babylon stands in the tradition of Nimrod (Gen. 10:8), is the center of unbelief, the proponent of salvation by its own power and in its own way. Babylon reaches out to seize Jerusalem and the People of God. Although at first concessive, in about fifteen years both city and temple are destroyed, throne and altar are removed, and the flower of the nation deported. This is God’s judgment upon the sin of David’s house, the infidelity of the Aaronic priesthood, the idolatry of a covenant-breaking people.

3. Domination by the world is not normal for the City of God! Jerusalem is the center of faith, the city of David, “God is in the midst of her” (Ps. 46:5), the city of sure protection and wondrous deliverance by God through grace. It is not because Jerusalem cannot survive or conquer in this world that she is defeated and destroyed, but because she does not care to utilize in Covenant obedience and love the resources found only in the Word and grace of God.

4. It is not, however, the intent of this Book to focus attention upon the citizens of Judah and Israel. God is not indifferent to their plight (as can be seen from the fact that He raised up three great prophets in the time of lsrael’s Captivity: Jeremiah, whose task is to preach to those who remained behind in Judah; Ezeckiel, who worked among the exiled people of God; and Daniel, whose “parish” is the Babylonian palace). The Book of Daniel reveals that the God of the Scriptures is the King of the kings of the earth, and that the Kingdom of God is indestructible and therefore everlastingly victorious. This is the same Kingdom which is to be fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church (Matt. 28:18; L.D. 19:50, Heid. Catechism). This emphasis can be seen from the fact that the Book of Daniel seldom uses the covenantal name for God (Jahweh), and uses repeatedly those names which reveal Him to be the Most High, the God of heaven, the King of the kingdoms of this earth, the God who is the ruler of history.

5. The nature of the Captivity can be compared to a temporal excommunication. His scrvice was cut off, His people were cast out of their inheritance, the covenant blessing was displaced by God’s curse until the end of His wrath should be accomplished. The sacrifices of atonement and reconciliation ceased, the Mosaic temple service was terminated, the Davidic kingdom of peace was lost, God’s kingship over His people seemed entirely absent. There was neither throne nor altar for Israel and the loss of these is fatal!

6. It is just then that the world powers arise. As bulwarks of Satan they emerge in forms more powerful, more fearful than ever before. They are indeed shadowy precursors of the very Antichrist himself. In them the contours of the man of sin (2 Thess. 2:3 ff.) are more sharply drawn than ever before. But here is a principle which we must see to understand the work of the God of history: When the light is extinguished in Jerusalem, then the (lark depths of hell come into view. We see such hellish depths in our own time, and the Biblical perspective by which we can understand the reason for their appearance demands that wc look at the world from the vantage point of a recognition of the evergaining apostasy. The church has doused its light, and the flickering flame…of hell’s ungodliness and lawlessness is a miserable substitute.

7. It is just then that God presents Himself as the One who has not abandoned His people. He has, on thc contrary, accompanied them into Babylon, and established Himself in the very palace of Nebuchadnezzar. There He will demonstrate His royal power, that power which is redemptive for His own, at the same time a terror for His enemies. God does this not only in terms of a spiritual comfort for His children, but also as the actual King in the very political life of this monstrous Babylonian dictatorship. Political life belongs to Him, and He will not allow it to be taken away from out of His control. Temporarily He has given His own over to the Babylonian beast, but this is not because He has capitulated, but because His people have preferred to be like the world rather than to live as the peculiar, antithesis-conscious people of God.

8. A very important part of this antithetical struggle concerns the youth of the church. Daniell pictures this in a very deliberate and striking manner. In addition to the holy vessels taken out of the Temple, several holy young people (1 Cor. 7:14) are brought to Babylon. The intention was to “Babylonize” God’s own peculiar and holy people, to erase their spiritual distinction by dealing with them as if they were just another of the several kinds of people, of no essential difference from the heathen. We would say today: these representatives of God’s heavenly people were to be made worldly so that they could adjust well to their new environment. A primary intention, of course, was to break their will to resist as a captive people.

9. Why did Babylon’s powerful rulers fasten their attention upon such young fellows (about fourteen years of age)? And why did they choose this representation from Israel’s royal family and nobility? There arc several obvious reasons: (a) the world rarely takes lightly the importance of the younger generation; (b) the world understands that youth are indeed impressionable, and that they can of all groups be most readily influenced and changed; (c) the world understands that particular attention should be directed toward the more gifted, since they will soon occupy positions of leadership in life.

10. Dan. 1 mentions three ways in which the effort is made to drench Israel’s elite youth in the spirit of heathondom (meaning: the world of the non-Christian religions as fallen away from and opposed to the one, true God, and as addicted to the idolatrous pursuit of security and happiness by finding a oneness with the forces of the cosmos). These three ways are:

(a) Education: Vs. 4 indicates that these lads arc to be trained so that their Biblical, religious ideas will be replaced by the thought-patterns of the Babylonian world;

(b) Identification: Vs. 7 shows that everything, even their names, which might remind them of the God of Israel (the name Daniel means, “God is my judge”) had to be effaced;

(c) Religion: (by Religion we mean the practical system of faith and worship). Their daily menu (cf. vss. 5, 8ff.) was so designed as to make them forget the laws regarding diet. All of the features of the lifestyle of their forefathers must be rejected. From all of this it is easy to see that a well-designed system had been devised to bring about a break with all things that would remind them of and keep alive the old religion, “the faith of the fathers.”

11. The faith and wisdom of Daniel and his three friends appear in the fact that they saw through the satanic objective, namely, the gradual weaning away of God’s children from Him and His service. It is tragic that this is to be found in these four only. The large majority of their class in Babylon’s court seems to have capitulated right from the start. It may be supposed that they found the attitudes of Daniel and his friends to be highly exaggerated and unnecessarily rigid. Still more, it is noteworthy that especially Daniel not only “stopped the mouths of lions” (Heb. 11:33) when he was cast into the lions’ den, but that he was also alert to the presence and threat of the satanic forces as he moved among the privileged in the luxurious salons of the kings palace. The danger at the kings table was just as much as that in the lions’ den.

One could say it this way as well: the practice of godliness comes up for decision and application in the most ordinary things of everyday living.

12. It is crucial to the understanding of Daniel 1 to recognize that the issue at stake in the mattcr of the food and drink prescribed by Nebuchadnezzar was indeed important. Nothing appeared on the-table of the king which had not first been consecrated to the gods of Babylon. When Nebuchadnezzar deposits in his temple the sacred vessels stolen from Jerusalem, and when he urges upon Daniel and his friends the roynl diet, he is in both instances denying the true God, and involving these young men in this denia1. For the warfare between Jernsa!em and Babylon was raging across the entire range of human life. ex tending right down to the very food required for the sustenance of life. It is amazing and encouraging that God’s Holy Spirit was able to make the king’s servant willing to try Daniel’s suggestion. This was not only contrary to his religion, but also extremely dangerous for his persona! life and well-being! Imperialistic despots do not usually show much tolerance for acts of disobedience. But God triumphs in Babylon’s temple by making one of Nebuchadnezzar’s disciples perform this act of disloyalty.

13. Daniel’s faithfulness is rewarded by God with long life, vs. 21. Daniel continued to the first year of Cyrus, which is the year of liberation for Israel. Daniel survives even the removal of the kings and the nations. He is typical of the Church which, although violently attacked, remains until the return of Christ. This kind of security is for all who, like Daniel, stay with and stand upon the Word of God. The victory of Christ over Antichrist is certain, as can be seen from this chapter, in which we see that God really maintains Himself and His own right in the presence of and in opposition to the king of the golden empire, Nebuchadnezzar.

Suggested questions for discussion:

1. Are there any obvious parallels between the features of modem life and those of the life which Daniel and his friends were drawn into in Babylon? For example: Does the world today try to erase from our consciousness the awareness of our distinctiveness as people of God? Do today’s Christians really dare to assert that they are something special and different as God’s people?

2. Is there any relationship between the ordinary things of earning a living today and our Christian testimony? Can a Christian really obscure his position without actually compromising that position in today’s society?

3. Is is required that we raise the issue, like Daniel, at the seemingly indifferent point of our daily diet? Isn’t Daniel really too serious and too religious? Should we train our children to be that careful about things?

4. Dan. 1 reveals that the believer is to be found right in the very arena of the world with its antithetical, spiritual struggle. Why is the word antithesis all but lost among us? Do we really desire to show our true colors in this struggle by, say, building Christian schools, or are merely in the grip of a pious tradition which is in danger of being replaced by a desire for schools “of superior academic and moral quality?

OUTLINE II – Discussion Material: Daniel 2

A. Introductory Remarks:

1. Dan. 2 might be called the overture to the drama of world history as described by the prophet. In it the Great Maker of History gives us in a Single, quick projection taken from His secret counsel a brief but nevertheless comprehensive look at the course of history with respect to its scope, meaning and purpose. This is done very simply in a dream! Only God could give us such a short, all-comprehensive, true and easy-to-understand vision.

2. In Dan. 2 we find, therefore, an introduction to the fest of the Book, and a revelation which is necessary to the understanding of history as interpreted by this Book. Although we have no quarrel with the interpretation which identifies the four principal sections of this dream with Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome, our viewpoint is that in this chapter we have a description of the true nature of all imperialistic kingdoms based on worldly considerations rather than thc Word of God. This viewpoint we would work out in this lesson, drawing lines, therefore, which reach into our own time and circumstances, and which speak to us concerning our calling as believing Church members in today’s world.

B. The Dream and Its Interpretation (Dan. 2):

1. Unrest and panic in Babylon!

a. Dan. 2 tells us of things which probably took place in the twelfth year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign. His star was still ascending even though a great portion of the Near East was already under his domination. Daniel and his friends are now about twenty-one years of age.

b. We go along with authorities such as Aalders that the reference to “the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar” is at fault since it obviously conflicts with the statement in chap. 1 that Daniel and his friends were to undergo a three-year period of training. There are other possible ways to explain such things, of course, but it would appear that we cannot go out from the idea that Dan. 1 represents the first year and Dan. 2 the second year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign.

c. The dream of Nebuchadnezzar of the great image which is destroyed is not an ordinary but a revelational dream. God gives this monarch to see how transitory his kingdom is. Apparently Nebuchadnezzar fell that this was the case early in his reign. And this awareness makes him restless and uneasy. It seems as if he had not retired restfully, but that he was bothered with “thoughts of what would be hereafter” (see vs. 29). This was not a consideration of life after death, but of the future of his kingdom. Apparently he did not regard the political prospects of Babylon to be altogether favorable. The dream attached itself to these dark and disturbed thoughts. Kings are always sensitive to harbingers of danger, and so the dream and its interpretation became a matter of utmost importance.

d. In his anxiety, perplexity and insecurity Nebuchadnezzar seeks help from the sources of human wisdom. The king’s uneasiness is reflected in the haste with which he summons his advisers before him in the royal chamber. The soft light of hundreds of lamps glowed in the darkness of a night not yet spent as row upon row of “magicians, astrologers, sorcerers and Chaldeans” stand before the great (and capricious) king. These were the men who claimed to possess the holy art of divining the secrets of the gods. Nebuchadnezzar shocks them by demanding not only the interpretation of the dream, but the telling of the dream itself without information from the dreamer.

e. The request of the king is not altogether unreasonable, nor unfair, even though it might seem that way at 6rst glance. There is dictatorial arrogance in this request, of course, but despots are always marked by such conduct. Nebuchadnezzar has not forgotten the dream, but he is uncertain as to whether he can really trust his wise men. The whole situation is one of frightening anxiety, and these sly, clever men know that their very existence depends upon the whim of the king. Don’t forget, these men maintained as their boast that they owned a special relationship to the gods, and so the dream itself as well as the interpretation should be available to them. It would seem as if Nebuchadnezzar had been disappointed by his wise men before, but this time he senses that the significance of his dream is so great that he cannot risk deception.

f. The wise men cannot furnish the text of the dream, and their acknowledgement of this fact causes the king to order their mass execution. TI1C unrest and confusion in the capital city of the great Babylonian empire intensifies. We see a repetition of this kind of disturbance and anxiety in our own time. Today, for example, modem man is very upset about the possibilities for destruction and calamity resident in his own inventions. Vainly he looks for the world of wisdom, as did Nebuchadnezzar. A straight line can he drawn from the unrest and panic of Dan. 2 to that of our own day. We also see that prosperity and strength do not bring peace and security, but fear and distrust and disquiet.

2. The restfulness of faith:

a. We do not know why Daniel and his three friends were not present in the palace when the king had his unsuccessful conference with the wise men. Perhaps they were not members of a particular religious order in Babylon, perhaps they were not available when the hasty summons was issued. At any rate, they are among those ticketed for death by the king’s decree (people like Nebuchadnezzar have little concern for such details as the presence or absence of a particular victim of mass execution).

b. Daniel’s reaction is notable for its wisdom, sobriety, and restfulness. He gains audience with the captain of the king’s guard, and with prudence and discretion discusses with him the nature and the reason for the king’s severe decree. At this point Daniel requested formally of the king an appointment for an interview in which he might show the king the interpretation of his dream. Please note that this appointment is sought before he has the revelation from his God! This is faith.

c. The first constructive thing that Daniel did when he learned of the desperate situation he and his friends and his colleagues (supposedly!) were in was to pray. He and his friends did that which is quite characteristic of the Church when they brought their need to the Lord (Phil. 4:6,7) and pleaded with Him for mercy. Their motive is not simply preservation of life, but the desire not to perish with a group which had been exposed as untrustworthy ami deceptive. God’s people do not belong in that kind of company.

d. When it comes to the welfare of the Kingdom of God and His Church no prayer is ever too much! Humanly speaking, they asked an im possible thing, namely, the revelation of that which was known only to the mind of the king. Even after it was given them by the Lord they would have to trust God to so work in Nebuchadnezzar’s heart that he would acknowledge the truth of the revelation as well as agree to its interpretation. After praying they go to sleep (God’s answer came to Daniel while he was asleep). The righteous can sleep even when the sword of a cruel and arbitrary despot hangs over their heads. Note the contrast between Nebuchadnezzar’s unrest and Daniel’s quietness, between the different effects of faith and unbelief.

3. God’s revelation to Daniel:

a. Daniel’s prayer is answered by God with clear and unmistakable revelation of both the dream itself and its infallible, divine interpretation. His first reaction is praise to God (vss. 20–23). This does come first, even ahead of saving one’s life! In this doxology Daniel shows us that this dream and this Book have to do with “the times and the seasons” in which God “removes kings and sets up kings.” In true prayer God’s glory is always the first consideration.

b. After thanks and praise to God Daniel goes to the captain of the guard to ask him to tell the king that he has the knowledge that the king desires. Here another Christian principle is revealed: when we have that which God has told us as revelation of His will, then our making known of that will is for the preservation of others. For it is not to impress Arioch that Daniel says, “Do not slay the wise men of Babylon,” but to indicate that he is the one who alone can save them from impending disaster. The pattern of true prophecy always reveals the activities of the Christ, our chief prophet, whose prophecy is the only sure word of salvation.

c. Note that Daniel is introduced by a liar. The captain of the guard says that he has found someone who can make known the interpretation the king desires. This is indicative of the lying atmosphere in which Daniel labored as a prophet of truth, and of the fact that truth is always opposed by the counter claims of him who is a liar from the beginning, even the devil.

d. It is important to notice how Daniel begins his address to the king. He declares that only God in heaven could possibly reveal and explain the dream, that the dream was indeed a revelation of God to Nebuchadnezzar, and that he is merely the instrument of God in this instance. This is the necessary prophetic humility and self-denial, vss. 27–30.

e. The perspective of the dream’s interpretation reaches all the way to the end of time. As we have said, the identification of the golden head with Babylon is obvious, of the breast and arms of silver with Medo-Persia, the belly and thighs of bronze with Greece and the legs of iron with Rome is likely. The difficulty comes, however, when we consider the feet of iron and clay. Without detailed explanation, we suggest that the dream means to say that there is a real difference between the first four kingdoms and those represented by the feet and toes with their iron and clay composition. The difference lies in the fact that after the Roman Empire the kingdoms of the world are marked by a more pronounced attempt at synthesis of all the different elements of race, ideology, social and political institutions, religion, etc. The reference is to the New Testament Age in which monolithic empires such as the first four is not the dream, but rather the composite, truly world-wide empire of social and spiritual amalgamation in the way of synthesis.

f. It would appear that the Bible is telling us that these attempts at world organization will be marked by hardness (cruelty, ruthlessness, especially with respect to God’s people, the people of the antithesis) and weakness (the attempt to synthesize all these different backgrounds, races, ideas, religions docs not ever really succeed). The hardness is represented by the iron, the weakness by the clay, of course. (Please take note of the reference to mixed marriage, vs. 43.)

g. There is only one real union of all the peoples of the world, and it is in Christ, the King of the everlasting Kingdom, pictured as “a stone…cut out by no human hand.” It smites the whole image, and reduces it to powder which blows away as the chaff of the threshing floors. Please note that every last vestige of the world’s kingdoms will be destroyed. One might wonder if this does not do violence to the suggestion that the “true, the good, and the beautiful” found in the world will be preserved and ultimately brought into the Kingdom of Heaven. We must not forget that whatever these kingdoms possessed of such truth , goodness, and beauty was there only because of and through Jesus Christ. It never was indigenous to the heathen mind or culture as such.

h. The amazing thing in this chapter is the reaction of Nebuchadnezzar to Daniel’s account of the dream and its interpretation. How would you like to tell such a king such a story? Daniel knew what he was doing, and he did it, not to gain prestige with the king, surely, but because he was ordered by his God! Disregarding self he gains everything in God’s service: the recognition of his God as supreme (Nebuchadnezzar kneels before him!), elevation to high office. promotion for his brothers, wealth, personal honor, etc. This is evidence of the power of the Word, which overcomes every anti-christian bulwark, and accomplishes that which God intends it to do.

Questions for Discussion:

1. Is it in conflict with our high view of the infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture to try to solve the kind of difficulty posed in connection with the reference to the second year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign (vs. 1)? What is the difference between “lower” and “higher” criticism of Scripture?

2. What is the true nature of Biblical wisdom? Is wisdom a natural endowment? Can wisdom be had by all Christians (Jas. 1)? How does wisdom rank with other Christian characteristics? ls it really important to be wise?

3. In chap. 1 we saw the existence of the all-pervasive antithesis between the Cause of God and the world. How does the antithesis make itself known in chap. 2? Doesn’t Daniel ignore the antithesis by his concern for his fellow, unbelieving wise men?

4. Is there a reflection in today’s world of that which is said of the kingdoms of clay and iron? Is there a difference between the foot and the toes in this vision (note that in vs. 41 the clay is mentioned first, in vs. 42 the iron receives first mention)? Can you see anything prophetically in the fact that life is reported to be dull and gray and monotonous in such places as Moscow? in the revolt recently suppressed in Czechoslovakia?