This section of Daniel is unique: practically every
commentator agrees on what this section means. For all that, it is still a
section of controversy.
in reading this passage of Scripture there are a few ground
rules we must observe.
The passage is
"Jerusalem-centric." That means that North and South, for example,
are to be taken relative to Jerusalem. The suffering indicated is that of the
Jews who lived in Palestine.
"King of the North" are parallel to titles today such as, "Queen
of England." They mean the same Royal rank and location, but not
necessarily the same person.
this interpretation, liberal scholars are adamant that the date of writing must
be after 150 BC. Why? Because the prophecy is so accurate and so detailed they
feel it must be written after the fact. Of course if you believe that prophecy
is possible, then there is nothing wrong with the traditional date. This fact
however does tell you that the prophecy in question is quite unique --- and
Table of events
The table in question is taken from John Stephenson at this hyperlink.
Why is this prophecy in Daniel?
The prophecy is so detailed that one may ask, "why is
this here at all?" There are lessons to be learned:
The first set of
lessons concerns the nature of God. It is good for the Christian to know the
character and the power of God. In particular, we see that he is omniscient,
omnipotent, and ruling through divine providence.
The second set of
lessons we learn concern the nature of the Scripture. We must learn to see it
as being revealed (rather than written after the fact); accurate, even when we
are not dealing with the past; and in all cases instructive.
section is here so that you may be confident of the prophecies God has given.
This is not an impractical point. Christ teaches us to be ready for his return
at any time; human nature says, "but not just yet." Prophecy exists
to warn us that he will return just as he says.
Scripture is instructive; so let's see what we can learn from
these Kings and the people they ruled.
In normal human existence the life of King is well beyond
that of his subjects. It seems as if the rules just don't apply to our rulers.
But this is not entirely so:
First, they are
human beings too. They have emotions, they get jealous, they do stupid things,
they commit crimes, and in short do the same things that we use policemen to
Next, they all
die. It sometimes looks like their reign will go on forever, and that we will
always Be oppressed. But they will die.
all temptation, Machiavelli did not get it right. The scheming, murderous,
conniving King does not prevail. It may seem so for quite some time, but the
universe is a moral place.
it would appear that people in those days are very much like
people in our time. In particular,
The sins of the
rulers are visited upon their people. It's well known in the Army that the
private pays for the general's mistakes.
As if that
weren't bad enough, the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children. You
can see here that often enough the children appear to have no option but to
attempt to avenge their fathers.
inevitable for the people --- but so is God's triumph.
About God's dominion
Examining this, we see 300 years of history in which the
people of God are constantly being washed over by waves of invasion; oppressed
by various rulers, and generally have a hard time. Why does God allow this? It
seems as if politics are of no particular concern to him; or rather, that
they're just not important to him. This is in fact correct. The ruler of the
universe, the Almighty one, does not see politics the way we do. His purpose is
to prepare his people for their ultimate blessing; therefore, a little dirty
politics along the way doesn't seem to be a major problem.
But God is righteous; therefore, why does he allow such evil?
The question is an old one. Discuss as you please, but note these things:
First, he has a
plan for the universe. His will ultimately will be done.
But this must be
reconciled the concept of free will.
How do we reconcile this? Perhaps Rabbi Akiva put it best:
"all is surveyed, and the power is given."
Religion and Politics
The relationship of religion and politics has been a
controversial topic since our earliest days. In this short lesson we will
attempt to give some guidance as to how the to should relate.
May we begin with a few red herrings? Here are some thoughts
that you will hear which actually distract from our understanding of religion
"You can't legislate morality." Of course you can. We
do it all the time. For example, is bank robbery immoral? Of course it is. But
that doesn't prevent us from passing a law against it.
"Separation of church and state." This is taken to mean
that anything the church (meaning of course, Christians) happens to think is
right must be ignored. Our founding fathers intention was quite the reverse;
they wanted to keep the state from you over the church. They had plenty of
historical examples of why this was a good idea. It is only recently that liberals
have claimed the church should have no business in the public arena of ideas.
This is nonsense.
"Morality can be kept in tiny little compartments." The
example most cited is Bill Clinton; his affair with Monica Lewinsky is
dismissed as being in a separate compartment from his ability to keep his
promises (including the one to his wife.) This goes over well with the
Liberals, who see sex as being a separate compartment of the rest of the human
being. May I give you a counter example? Mike Duvall was an assemblyman from
Orange County, California. He made the mistake of bragging about his sexual
conquests into an open microphone; his constituents, being mainly conservative,
took this to me that he was not worthy of his position. A promise is a promise;
a politician should be able to keep one.
The Classic Christian View
It may come as a surprise to some, but there exists a
classic view of the Christian relationship between church and state. Its main
points are as follows:
In most normal circumstances, the government is considered to be
an agent of God. For example, we hire policemen. They exist to catch criminals.
We hired judges to try and sentence the criminals. All these things are done to
reduce crime or prevent crime. It is clear to see that these employees of the
state are doing God's work in a minor way. The duty of the Christian is to
support them in this.
It does happen that we find rulers over us who are evil. We are
warned that this is going to happen. The Christian response to this is to
suffer, not revolt. The exception to that is when the ruler begins to take
himself as being like God.
The operating principle is given to us by Christ: "render
unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are
God’s." In short, we are to find out what duties we have to the government
and perform them faithfully and cheerfully; and likewise to be sharply aware of
our duties to God. The problem, of course, is in the details.
Problems in Democracy
A democracy presents some unusual problems for the classic
Christian view. There are three particular types of problem:
First, it is possible for the church to co-opt the state. An
example of this in the United States would be the temperance movement. Whatever
your views on temperance, it is clear that the movement was a religious one,
particularly Christian, and rode a tide of victory to the abolishment of
alcohol. In the process, much of American political life was skewed based upon
the politicians preference as to temperance. It got rather ugly. The saving
grace is that when the church co-opts the state there is a limit to what can be
done. It is hard to imagine a democracy taken over by a theocracy.
Second, it is possible for the state to co-opt the church. This
is the much more common case. The usual symptom is division in the church,
between those who are cooperating with the authorities and those who are
defying them. An example of this in the early church history would be the
The worst-case is when the state thinks itself supreme, and takes
upon itself the responsibilities of God. The phrase, "the Fuhrer is always
right," is not part of a comedy routine. In the earliest days of such a
domination, the persecution of the church indirect. Taxation and regulation are
the usual forms; it's made clear that those who wish to advance in this world
had best change their ways. When that fails (not if) the more powerful means
are employed. Christians are arrested and locked up. Sometimes they're shot. If
you don't think this can happen now, consider that picketing an abortion mill
is almost a certain guarantee of being arrested. Announcing from the pulpit
that the Bible declares homosexuality to be a sin is now considered "hate
speech". It can happen here.
Perhaps the most important point of this lesson is this: as
Americans, we are accustomed to freedom of religion in a quiet country which
honors God. That is an extraordinarily unusual circumstance. I fear that we are
now moving to a time when the relationship between church and state will be
more normal by historical standards. Oppression and martyrdom occur for good
late in church history. And church history is not over yet.