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Daniel: Prophet of the Ages - Book 1

This is a commentary covering the first six chapters of Daniel, which are the historical chapters.

Category - Bible Commentaries

Chapter 6

The Overcomers in Tribulation

The last verse of Daniel 2 transitions us into the event of the next chapter, where we see a two-sided prophecy: (1) how the king of Babylon misunderstood and misapplied the interpretation of his dream in chapter 2; and (2) how his carnality brought him to persecute the overcomers and bring them into tribulation.

Daniel was the “ruler over the whole province of Babylon” (Daniel 2:48), but he was strangely absent when the image was set up “in the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon” (Dan. 3:1). Even so, Daniel’s chief officials were there, and so they were summoned to the dedication of the image along with many others.

Dan. 3:1 begins,

1 Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, the height of which was sixty cubits and its width six cubits; he set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon.

The dimensions of this image are 10:1, which tells us that this was a column or pillar with some sort of golden image on its top. An image of a man would have been proportioned about 6:1. We are not told precisely what this image portrayed, other than it was made of gold. Neither are we given any date in which this event occurred.

The Number 666

The numeric value of Dan. 3:1 is precisely 4662, or 666 x 7. Six is the number of man, and 666 is seen also in Rev. 13:18 in connection with the second beast of the little horn whose “mark” is money in the modern financial system. The number is also associated with gold in 1 Kings 10:14,

14 Now the weight of gold which came in to Solomon in one year was 666 talents of gold.

Gold is not evil, but the love of money is the root of all evil (1 Tim. 6:10). We are not to make any gods out of gold or silver (Exodus 20:23), as the Babylonian king was doing. God claims all the gold by right of creation, and so He alone has the right to determine its use as well. In Joshua 6:19 God said,

19 But all the silver and gold and articles of bronze and iron are holy to the Lord; they shall go into the treasury of the Lord.

As part of God’s treasury, the four metals mentioned above are also the four kingdoms of men revealed in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (Dan. 2:32, 33). Even as Joshua overthrew Jericho, so also will God overthrow Babylon, for Jericho was a type of Babylon. The instruction to put all the metals of Jericho into God’s treasury indicates that Babylon’s overthrow was not designed to destroy the people, but to set them free by putting them under the authority of Christ (Joshua-Yeshua). The people are thus represented by the four metals, and their labor is to be directed toward building the Kingdom and serving the true Heir of the World.

The 666 Factor itself has to do with Christ and His treasury (Kingdom assets), whose ownership and use are contested by the kingdoms of men. Hence, in most applications of this number throughout Scripture, we see Christ’s authority being usurped by man, and so it appears in a negative context. This is seen in Psalm 118:22, where the phrase “the chief corner stone” has a numeric value of 666. It is a prophecy of the rejection of Christ, who is that chief corner stone (Eph. 2:20), and the usurpation of His rightful position.

In the case of Solomon, whose kingdom at first prophesied of the Prince of Peace ruling in the Age of Peace in the true City of Peace, we find in his later years that he usurped the place of Christ and used God’s treasury for evil purposes. The same is seen in Rev. 13:18, where the financial beast from the earth causes men to worship the beast-system and its god—in this case, gold, or money in general.

It is interesting that the phrase used in Rev. 13:18, “his number is six hundred and sixty-six” carries the numeric value of 2368, which is the same as “Jesus Christ.” The name Jesus, or Iesous, is 888, while Christ, or Christos, is 1480. Together they add up to 2368. In other words, the true 666, i.e., the True Man, is Jesus Christ, even though imperfect men have rejected Him and have usurped the number for themselves.

Therefore, the underlying principle on which this column was constructed was the elevation of man above God through the worship of gold.

The Ceremony

Dan. 3:2, 3 continues,

2 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent word to assemble the satraps, the prefects and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates and all the rulers of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. 3 Then the satraps, the prefects and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates and all the rulers of the provinces were assembled for the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

All government officials were required to gather around the golden image and bow before it, indicating their agreement with the king’s decree. This occurred in the time of Daniel—who was conspicuously and mysteriously absent—but it prophesied of a time yet to come, as seen in Rev. 13:11-18. In fact, it is only by connecting Daniel 3 with Revelation 13 that we are able to understand the meaning of either passage, because each gives us only half of the revelation.

Dan. 3:4-6 says,

4 Then the herald loudly proclaimed, “To you the command is given, O peoples, nations and men of every language, 5 that at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe, and all kinds of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king has set up. 6 But whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire.”

It is interesting that six musical instruments are listed here, for this again suggests man’s carnal influence. Likewise, it prophecies that music itself was to be an important tool by which Mystery Babylon would cause men to bow down to the god of gold. A mere command may require eloquence to induce obedience, but music causes men to accept messages more easily. Music opens the doors of the heart more quickly than eloquence.

Broadly speaking, music, art, and philosophy not only reflect the culture and worship of a society, but these may also be manipulated and used to direct culture toward a desired end or goal. In these last days of Mystery Babylon, the modern kings of Babylon have done this by glorifying despair as “realism,” presenting crud as art, and saturating the airwaves with the music of rebellion, drugs, and self-centered base instincts.

The result has been a complete change from God-centered culture to one that glorifies self, and most people do not even realize what is being done to them. The worship of man leads inevitably to the worship of elite men, who then are empowered by such worship to enslave humanity, even while proclaiming man’s freedom from godly constraints.

The penalty for not worshiping the image of the beast is that he “shall immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire” (Dan. 3:6). This is the tribulation fire that is an ever-present threat during the long “seven times” captivity to the kingdoms of men, beginning with the “head of gold.”

The furnace of fire is a metaphor for tribulation and captivity. It was thus used by Moses in Deut. 4:20,

20 But the Lord has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, from Egypt, to be a people for His own possession, as today.

Although the “furnace” was metaphorical, it was a very real metaphor, because their bondage in Egypt was like being smelted in an Egyptian furnace to purify the Israelites like iron ore. The purpose of smelting, of course, was to make the metal useful.

The purpose of tribulation, insofar as God is concerned, is to baptize the overcomers in the fire of the Holy Spirit and the character of God Himself—who appeared later only as Fire. However, on the surface, the threat of the Babylonian king was to punish and torture all who refused to acknowledge the king’s decrees as taking precedence over God’s law. The Babylonian purpose was not to create something useful by fire, but to cause pain in order to induce subservience.

This threat is one more counterfeit, for in God’s Kingdom the believers are offered the “baptism of fire,” that is, the Holy Spirit’s baptism. Whereas Babylon’s fire pictures persecution and tribulation, the Divine Fire is given to purify the believers from the ungodly idolatry of Mystery Babylon.

The Response of the Officials

Dan. 3:7 continues,

7 Therefore at that time, when all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe, and all kinds of music, all the peoples, nations, and men of every language fell down and worshiped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.

The New Testament counterpart to this is found in Rev. 13:16, 17,

16 And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand, or on their forehead, 17 and he provides that no one should be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name.

The command, prophetically speaking, is that men should worship money, because the “mark of the beast” is the counterfeit of the divine law commanding us to write the law upon our hand and upon our forehead. Deut. 11:18 says,

18 You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.

When applied to the story in Daniel 3, we see that Daniel’s three friends refused to worship the beast, and so they were cast into the fires of tribulation. They stand as examples of the overcomers living in this time of tribulation. They chose the mark of God, which was to write the law in their hands (labor) and in their foreheads (way of thinking), which, taken together, describes their worship of God rather than man.

The Conflict

After the music signaled that all of Babylon’s officials were to submit to the image of gold, some of the watchmen noticed that three men had not responded properly. So we read in Daniel 3:8-12,

8 For this reason at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and brought charges against the Jews. 9 They responded and said to Nebuchadnezzar the king: “O king, live forever! 10 You yourself, O king, have made a decree that every man who hears the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, and bagpipe, and all kinds of music, is to fall down and worship the golden image. 11 But whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire. 12 There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over all the administration of the province of Babylon, namely, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. These men, O king, have disregarded you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up.”

Since the beginning of nations, when by force of arms Nimrod made himself king over men, there has been a conflict between civil and religious authorities. From the dawn of creation it was established that God was the final King of the earth, and that men’s duty was to obey God before man. But Nimrod’s conquests began to usurp that authority, demanding that men should obey man rather than God.

Kings normally do not dare to assert their authority above God, or even above their gods. Instead, they demand that men should obey the gods of the kings. Yet in practice, all false gods are the product of men’s carnal understanding, and men’s idols or images depict men’s imaginations of God and His character. But there is a difference between God and men’s understanding of God, between God’s character and what men believe His character to be, and between God’s law and men’s understanding of His law.

This was the basis of Jesus’ conflict with the religious leaders of His day, who upheld the “traditions of men” which nullified the law of God. The same conflict still rages today between the overcomers and the Church authorities and also more broadly between secular governments and Christian believers.

So it was also in the days of Nebuchadnezzar. His gods conflicted with the God of the three Hebrew officials in the government of Babylon. All were expected to worship and honor the king’s gods. The charge against them was not merely that they had failed to submit to a golden image. It was said in verse 12, “they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up.”

In other words, the golden image was one of the king’s gods—or perhaps his foremost god. This may suggest that the golden image depicted a particular god that was already established in the kingdom. We are not told, but the main lesson for us is that all men were to worship gold (or money). The people were required to adopt the religious value which made the love of money a virtue, rather than a vice.

The love of money is rooted in self-interest. Secular rulers do not understand that if their officials and people adopt such a principle, then money (to them) is the highest god of the land, even standing above the king himself. It breeds corruption and sows the seeds of destruction in all of men’s kingdoms. Kings find themselves in a position where they must continually pass more restrictive laws in order to keep order. The people are thus ruled by fear, rather than by love. Ultimately, the kingdoms are overthrown by the people’s desire for freedom and their lack of love for the government.

Here is where the Kingdom of God differs from the kingdoms of men. Jesus Christ, the King, is the express image of God and “the exact representation of His nature” (Heb. 1:3). He is no mere idol created in the image of men. Beholding Jesus, we see the full nature of the Father and Creator of all things. His unselfish love and His willingness to die for the people sets Him apart from all other kings and their demands.

Jesus never commanded men to disobey the laws of God, whereas earthly kings nearly always make this demand, thinking that their own laws supersede the laws of God. But such is the difference between Christ and the usurper-kings of men. For this reason, the three Hebrews found themselves in trouble by not bowing to the king’s image of gold.

Nebuchadnezzar’s Indignation

Dan. 3:13 continues,

13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in rage and anger gave orders to bring Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego; then these men were brought before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar responded and said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up?” 15 Now if you are ready, at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, and bagpipe, and all kinds of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, very well. But if you will not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?”

It had been some years since Daniel’s interpretation of the king’s dream, so perhaps the king had forgotten about the God of heaven. Life had gone back to “normal” in those intervening years, and once again the king assumed that he was the highest authority in the land. In fact, it is plain that he did not think that ANY god could deliver men out of his hands. Nebuchadnezzar was an absolute monarch, and he believed that his power was above all gods.

In Dan. 3:16-18 the three Hebrews gave their answer:

16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this. 17 If it so be, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

 The three Hebrews understood that God Himself had required them to submit to Nebuchadnezzar, who was called God’s servant (Jer. 27:6). But God’s requirement did not include worshiping false gods. They were required to suffer the penalties for their refusal, unless it were possible for them to flee. Starting a revolution was out of the question, for they had no mandate to revolt and try to overthrow the king.

So they were resigned to undergo the fiery tribulation that the king had threatened, whether God might save them or not. Nebuchadnezzar became very angry at the affront, and we read in Dan. 3:19,

19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with wrath, and his facial expression was altered toward Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. He answered by giving orders to heat the furnace seven times [shiba] more than it was usually heated.

Here we see another prophetic indicator. The furnace was to be heated “seven times more than it was usually heated.” The tribulation, beginning with the fall of Jerusalem, was to last “seven times,” (Heb. sheba) according to the law in Lev. 26:18, 21, 24, and 28. In Dan. 7:25, as we will see, a “time” (Aram. iddan) was to be a length of time. But here in Dan. 2:19 the Aramaic term shiba is used to indicate intensity, rather than a length of time.

The Fiery Trial

Dan. 3:20-23 says,

20 And he commanded certain valiant warriors who were in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, in order to cast them into the furnace of blazing fire. 21 Then these men were tied up in their trousers, their coats, their caps and their other clothes, and were cast into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire. 22 For this reason, because the king’s command was urgent and the furnace had been made extremely hot, the flame of the fire slew those men who carried up Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. 23 But these three men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego fell into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire still tied up.

The king’s “valiant warriors” would have done better to walk by faith into the fiery furnace with their three prisoners! Perhaps God might have spared their lives, too. But the three Hebrews represented the overcomers during the tribulation period during the “seven times” (7 x 360 = 2,520 years) of tribulation. The warriors of Babylon were ill equipped to survive such tribulation. God did not allow the three overcomers to escape tribulation, but stood with them in its midst.

Perhaps if the rapture doctrine were true, the story would have read differently.

Nebuchadnezzar’s Revelation of Jesus

God’s deliverance is not out of, but through tribulation. In this way God proves His sovereignty, for He does not retreat from the world but overcomes it. This is not a battle where God and the devil each win a few and lose a few. While it may appear on the surface that the devil wins many battles, such victories are illusions, because the only way for God to lose a battle is to plan to lose ahead of time for a greater good yet to follow.

In the case of the three Hebrew officials, it appeared as if they were going to be killed in the fiery furnace. But because they represented the overcomers in tribulation over a period of “seven times,” their deliverance was never in doubt. Of course, they had no way of knowing that they represented a greater body of people, so they did not know whether God would deliver them personally or not. Their names, along with Daniel’s, had a total numeric value of 888, which was the same as that of Iesous (Jesus), but since the Messiah had not yet come, it is unlikely that they had received the revelation of His name, and so they did not know that they represented the body of Christ on a prophetic level.

Even so, the three had faith in God, knowing that whatever the outcome of their trial, they agreed that He was a good God and had not forgotten them. So they were cast into the furnace of fire, and to prove its temperature the guards leading them into the fire were killed by its heat.

The Fourth Man

Dan. 3:24, 25 then says,

24 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astounded and stood up in haste; he responded and said to his high officials, “Was it not three men we cast bound into the midst of the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “Certainly, O king.” 25 He answered and said, “Look! I see four men loosed and walking about in the midst of the fire without harm, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods [Aram. elahh]!”

The Hebrews in tribulation were not alone. Jesus walked with them through the fire, and what the Babylonians meant for evil, God turned into good. What the Babylonians meant for destruction, God turned into an occasion for manifesting His glory.

Who did the king see? He saw one “like a son of the gods” (NASB). The text, written in Aramaic, uses the term elahh, which is the equivalent to the Hebrew eloah. It can be translated either as “the gods” or as “God,” depending on the context. In this case, since it is a statement by the Babylonian king, the NASB translates it according to the understanding of a pagan king, “the gods.” Yet we know that the king was prophesying inadvertently about the Son of God, which the text itself fully supports.

The king was astounded,” for the second time in his career, as Jesus chose to reveal Himself at a distance to the Babylonian king. The first revelation in Daniel 2 was not face to face, for it came through Daniel’s interpretation of the dream. There the king bore witness of Christ through Daniel, according to the principle found in John 14:8, 9,

8 Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how do you say, ‘Show us the Father’?”

But the king’s encounter in Daniel 3 was a greater revelation, because he saw Christ for Himself and not merely through one of the believers. The prophetic implication here is that at the end of the time of tribulation in our time, Jesus intends to reveal Himself even to the rulers of Babylon. In fact, one might easily conclude from this prophetic story that it is this revelation itself that will fully end the time of tribulation. Dan. 3:26 says,

26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the furnace of blazing fire; he responded and said, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, come out, you servants of the Most High God, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego came out of the midst of the fire.

The three overcomers made no attempt to leave the fire until they were ordered to come out of it. In fact, they found no compelling reason to leave the fire, because they were in perfect peace in spite of the fire. While the Babylonian king was applying his own earthly fire to them, God applied the heavenly baptism of fire to them. The fire signified two things on different levels. The two fires converged at the point where they understood the fire of tribulation to be part of God’s plan to purify His people by the work of the Holy Spirit’s baptism.

Dan. 3:27 continues,

27 And the satraps, the prefects, the governors and the king’s high officials gathered around and saw in regard to these men that the fire had no effect on the bodies of these men, nor was the hair of their head singed, nor were their trousers damaged, nor had the smell of fire even come upon them.

There was no smell of roasted flesh or hair, and their clothing was undamaged. They did not even carry “the smell of fire.” They were entirely unaffected by the fire. History shows us that many of the overcomers were indeed killed by the fires of tribulation. However, in the end their hope was in the resurrection of the dead, where they would emerge fully restored as sons of God.

One can only imagine the conversation that took place at that time, because it is not recorded for us. It was witnessed by all of the top officials in the Babylonian government, and surely all then concluded that the God of these men was the Most High God. The inadequacy of all their petty gods and images was very clear.

Dan. 3:28 says,

28 Nebuchadnezzar responded and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, who has sent His angel and delivered His servants, who put their trust in Him, violating the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies so as not to serve or worship any god except their God.”

The king understood that God had sent “His angel” to deliver the three overcomers. The term indicates a divine messenger. This term does not eliminate the possibility that Jesus was that fourth man in the furnace. Mal. 3:1 prophesies of John the Baptist, saying,

1 Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me…

This “messenger,” or angel, was a man. Then we see in the same verse another “messenger,” or angel, prophesying of Jesus Himself:

1 “… And the Lord [Adon, “lord, master”], whom you seek, will suddenly [pithom, “suddenly, surprisingly”] come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the Lord of hosts.

Jesus went to the temple many times, but only once did He come “suddenly.” This was fulfilled in John 7:14, when Jesus went to the temple “in secret” (John 7:10) and then appeared in a surprising manner. Jesus was “the messenger of the covenant,” that is, He was the Mediator of the New Covenant.

Nebuchadnezzar’s Decree

In Dan. 3:29 Nebuchadnezzar said,

29 “Therefore, I make a decree that any people, nation or tongue that speaks anything offensive against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego shall be torn from limb to limb and their houses reduced to a rubbish heap, inasmuch as there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way.”

The king of Babylon thus recognized the Most High God and put an end to the tribulation that had been brought on by the overcomers’ refusal to worship other gods. The king’s decree was extreme, of course, for he did not know that “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16). Those who lack such revelation believe that God is like human kings. Even as the king of Babylon thought it proper to burn the three Hebrew officials in the furnace of fire for daring to disobey his decree, so also he still thought it proper that those speaking offensively against the God of heaven should be “torn from limb to limb.”

Many worship an Indignant God who demands to be worshiped and treated with utmost respect on pain of torture or death. It is assumed that God holds His own rights to be more important than love. Like any idol, they have created a god in the image of men, seen in the example of earthly kings like Nebuchadnezzar.

It is difficult to overcome the assumptions inherent in one’s culture and to know God for who He really is. But we see the example of Jesus, who demonstrated His love for us and was willing to suffer death for us in the most humiliating manner. He did not consider His own need or comfort, but suffered all things for our benefit. Phil. 2:3-5 says,

3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.

Dan. 3:30 concludes,

30 Then the king caused Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego to prosper in the province of Babylon.

It appears that this incident gave the three overcomers true freedom of conscience. Their God was recognized as the Most High God, and no one dared to say otherwise. This is a prophecy of the conversion of the rulers of Babylon in our time, who will soon be compelled—not by force but by revelation—to bow to Jesus Christ and to recognize that the overcomers are the ones called to reign with Christ.