The book of Daniel might be called a handbook on history and prophecies. The element of prediction allows God’s people to see their time in the light of eternity. It enables them to prepare for the final crisis. And it gives them a solid foundation to build their faith upon fulfillment of these predictions.
The four prophecies
The prophecies in the book of Daniel set forth in brief outline, against the background of world history, the experiences of God’s people from the days of Daniel down to the close of time. In that outline we see a panoramic view of human powers and the All-merciful, God, patiently working out His own good will.
All four visions of the book of Daniel deal with the fight between the forces of good and evil on earth. Their time span stretches from Daniel to the final establishment of the eternal kingdom of God. Inasmuch as the devil uses the powers of earth in his attempt to prevent God’s plan and to kill God’s faithful ones, these visions present those political powers through which he has been most at work.
The first vision (ch. 2) deals mainly with political changes. Its main goal was to show Nebuchadnezzar his role as ruler of Babylon, to make known to him “what should come to pass hereafter” (v. 29).
The second (ch. 7) complements the first and stresses the experiences of God’s people during the dominion of the powers given in the first vision, and predicts the final victory of the saints and God’s judgment upon their enemies (vs. 14, 18, 26, 27).
The third vision (chs. 8; 9), also complements the second, and stresses the devil’s attempts to destroy the religion and people of God.
The fourth vision (chs. 10–12) summarizes the previous visions and gives more detail than any of the others. It magnifies the subject of the second vision and that of the third vision. Its emphasis is on “what shall befall thy people in the latter days: for yet the vision is for many days” (ch. 10:14), and “the time appointed was long” (v. 1). The outline of history given in ch. 11:2–39 leads up to “the latter days” (ch. 10:14) and the actions of “the time of the end” (ch. 11:40).
Each of the four lines of prophecy reaches a climax when “the God of heaven” sets “up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed” (ch. 2:44), when the “Son of man” receives “everlasting dominion” (ch. 7:13, 14), when opposition to the “Prince of princes” is “broken without hand” (ch. 8:25), and when the faithful are saved forever from their enemies (ch. 12:1).
The book of Daniel presents a demonstration of the values according to which God’s wisdom, power, and authority function through the history of nations to bring about His purposes. The four prophecies provide a divinely erected bridge that stretched from the beginning of time to the endless eternity. This bridge allows people, like Daniel, to love and serve God; to get empowered by faith through the difficulties of life and to have hope in the security of eternal life.
In His service,