Robert Jeffress - Daniel, Courageous Living In A Pagan World - Part 1
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. With each passing day, the moral standards of our society sink lower and lower, and popular opinion directly opposes God and his truth. So how can Christians remain steadfast and courageous in a world ruled by darkness? Today, we're beginning a new study in the book of Daniel. The depravity in Daniel's day greatly parallels our own, and this biblical hero can teach us volumes about standing strong. My message is titled "Courageous Living in a Pagan World" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
My first introduction to the book of Daniel was when I was a junior high school student attending the church I now pastor, but in Dallas, and our pastor at that time, Dr. Criswell, began a three-year study of the book of Daniel. I remember sitting right up there in the balcony, listening to that series, and people at that time, and many of you were here during that series, wondered why in the world, Dr. Criswell would spend three years in the book of Daniel. After all, it was the late 1960s. You had the Vietnam war that was raging. You had controversies like Kent State and Civil Rights, and the cold war was looming. I mean, the fashionable thing for pastors to do was to address those issues, rather than going back to a book that is 2.500 years old. Why in the world would he do it? Some people assumed it was because of his age. I mean, after all, in the late '60s, he was in his late fifties, and to a teenager like me, he seemed as old as Methuselah.
It's funny how your perspective changes through the years. That seems very, very young to me now. And even more incredible than the fact that he chose to spend three years on that subject of the book of Daniel was the way he divided the study. Many of you remember that Dr. Criswell spent an entire year just introducing the book of Daniel, defending the book of Daniel against liberal theologians. 45 years later, I still remember the title of some of those messages. I bet some of you do as well. "Will the real Daniel stand up"? Or, "Daniel is eaten up in the critics' den," or one of my favorites, "How Daniel's critics fare in the fiery furnace".
Now, why in the world would you spend a year defending a book of the Bible? I mean, after all it says, it's written by Daniel. Why would anybody doubt that? Well, when I got to college, I became very aware of why he had spent a year defending the book of Daniel. I told you before that, when I went off to the university, I had surrendered to the ministry. I was full of enthusiasm about being a preacher of the Gospel, and when I sat through some of those religion classes, I listened to so-called Christian professors denounce the Bible, talk about all the errors and inconsistencies in the Bible, and one professor particularly attacked the book of Daniel. He said the book of Daniel wasn't written by Daniel. It was written by an impostor, even though Jesus himself attributed the authorship to Daniel. And furthermore, he said the book of Daniel wasn't written in the sixth century BC, like it claims to have been written. Instead, it was written in the second century.
What difference does that make? It means all of those amazing so-called prophecies were not prophecies at all. They were simply history that was recorded and passed off as prophecy, and that was the liberal attack against the book of Daniel. Well, listen into that steady stream of teaching for two years had a profound effect on me personally. It diminished the interest I had in reading the Bible. I gave up reading the Bible, memorizing the Bible, and I seriously, seriously started questioning whether I wanted to give my life to preaching the Bible. After all, if the Bible is filled with historical inaccuracies and inconsistencies, why in the world would I want to spend my life proclaiming a book that was simply fable rather than fact? And it was that exposure to that kind of teaching, especially the attack on the book of Daniel, that led me as a older teenager and a young adult to begin my own study of the book of Daniel.
After all, if my pastor had spent three years defending the book, and if my professor had singled out this book to discredit it, then it only seemed natural that I needed to study this important book of the Bible for myself. And after a long study of the book of Daniel, I came to two conclusions about the book of Daniel. Number one, the book of Daniel is a book of fulfilled prophecies. I understood, after studying the book, why liberals singled it out to discredit it. The book of Daniel claims some of the most amazing prophecies in all of human history. It is the single book of the Old Testament that contains more prophecies than any other book. And the fact is, the liberal cannot stand the idea of fulfilled prophecy, because it involves the supernatural.
You know, these liberal theologians who pose as Christians, and some of them teach in seminaries and colleges, no matter what they say and give lip service to, they really don't believe in the supernatural, and that is why they are constantly defending such things as the virgin birth of Christ or the parting of the Red Sea or the literal resurrection of Jesus from the dead or the idea of fulfilled prophesy. To them, it is absolutely impossible that somebody could receive a supernatural revelation of future events, and those future events could come to pass, and that's why theologians have attacked the book of Daniel. Secondly, I came to the conclusion that Daniel is a powerful testimony to the sovereignty of God over human events. Kings and kingdoms come and go, the book of Daniel reminds us, but God has a plan that he is fulfilling in human history.
The book of Daniel, like the Book of Revelation, tells us that history is not circular. History is linear. That is, all of human history is moving toward some great climactic conclusion, and that is the return of Jesus Christ, and the book of Daniel and the Book of Revelation tells us how we ought to live our lives in light of the soon coming of Christ. Now, I want you, as a result of this study, to come away with two assurances. First of all, I hope that the study of book of Daniel will assure you of the trustworthiness of the scripture. As we're going to look at some of these amazing prophecies, many of which have been verified in human history, I want you to come away from this study with the absolute assurance that you can trust this Bible to be God's word. And secondly, I hope our study of the book of Daniel will lift you up above your present circumstances, whatever they are, and give you the confidence that God is working out his plan, not just in the world in general, but in your world in particular.
Now, one promise I'm going to make to you. I'm not going to spend a year introducing the book of Daniel. In fact, we're going to do that in a single evening, but it is important for us to gain an overview of the book. And so, for the few minutes we have tonight, we're going to do three things. First of all, I'm going to give you some very important, and I think you'll find interesting introductory material about the book of Daniel. Secondly, we're going to look at a brief overview of Daniel's book, how it's laid out. And then finally, I want to share with you three practical benefits that come from studying the book of Daniel. First of all, let's talk about the author of the book of Daniel. Now, that seems obvious, doesn't it? It claims that Daniel is the author of Daniel. The word Daniel, the name means God is my judge, and even though his name doesn't appear until chapter seven, where he identifies himself as Daniel, it is very clear that he is the author.
In fact, in Matthew 24, verse 15, Jesus ascribed this book to Daniel. Remember, Jesus is describing the great seven-year tribulation that is yet to come, and he says, "Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken up through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place". Daniel is identified as the author of this book. Now, we don't know a lot about Daniel's family. We know from chapter one, as we'll see next time, that he came from a royal family. He was a part of the first of three groups taken hostage by king Nebuchadnezzar, when Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king, invaded Judah in 605 BC. Probably Daniel was about 16 years of age, which for those of you who are teenagers, that ought to make this book particularly interesting to you. Daniel was 16 when he was taken captive. He was taken to Babylon, and he stayed there and lived until the third year of Cyrus, the Persian king, so that means he was about 85 when he died.
Now, Daniel was known as a man of great, great righteousness. Remember, he was in the first group taken captive. He was a contemporary of another prophet you know, named Ezekiel. Ezekiel was taken prophet in the second group, about eight years later. When he arrived in Babylon, Daniel had already been there for eight years, and in Ezekiel 14, verse 14, Ezekiel talks about this man, Daniel. He says, "'even though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and job were in its midst, by their own righteousness, they could only deliver themselves', declares the Lord". In other words, Ezekiel said, this fellow Daniel is just as real of a character as are Daniel and job. In fact, Ezekiel was a contemporary of his. Secondly, let's talk about the date. As I said earlier, there's a great debate about the date of this book, and the date of this book tells us whether it's legitimate or it's a forgery. The book claims to cover events that began in the late seventh century BC. That is, 605 BC when Nebuchadnezzar invaded Judah, and that's when it claims to have began, and the book was probably written by Daniel sometime in the sixth century BC, that is the 500s.
Now, let me give you a brief review of Israeli history that will help you put this book in context. Remember, Israel was a United Kingdom under Saul, David and Solomon, and remember, under Solomon's son, Rehoboam, the kingdom had a civil war and split in two. You've heard me describe that before. There was the northern kingdom, which was called Israel. It was composed of 10 tribes. There was the southern kingdom, Judah, which had two tribes. Now, the northern kingdom was more wicked than the southern. It had 19 kings, and all of them were evil. And remember, the northern kingdom said, "Ha, ha! We can disobey God's laws and he can't do anything about it". I always remember that. I got this from my friend, Bruce Wilkerson. Ha, H-A, reminds me of the prophets that spoke to the northern kingdom, Hosea and Amos. They were the ones who said, "You're wrong. You can't disobey God's laws without repercussion". So you had the prophets who spoke to the northern kingdom, and just as those profits prophesied, in fact, God used the pagan Assyrian nation to invade Israel in the north in 722 BC, and took them captive to Assyria.
Now, the southern kingdom was a little more righteous. They had a few righteous kings, like Josiah and Hezekiah and so forth, and they didn't fall until 586 BC. That was the official fall day, when Babylon finally took them all captive. But before 586 BC, Nebuchadnezzar did invade Judah, and he started taking hostages back to Babylon. Now, remember some of the prophets warned that what will happen to Israel, the northern kingdom, would happen to Judah as well if they didn't repent. Prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah said to the southern kingdom, "Remember what happened to your brothers and sisters in the north when they disobeyed God? If you don't repent, God is going to do the same thing. He will use a pagan people, the Babylonians to take us into captivity". And the prophets specifically said, "Because you violated God's law, God is going to punish you". Specifically laws about the tithe and laws about the sabbath.
Now, the prophet Habakkuk had a difficult time with some of these prophecies. He couldn't believe that God would use a pagan people like Babylon, idol-worshipers, to bring judgment upon God's own people. And in fact, in Habakkuk 1, verse 13, Habakkuk was having an argument with God and himself, and he said, "God, your eyes are too pure to approve evil. You cannot look on wickedness with favor. Why do you look with favor upon those who deal treacherously"? That is the Babylonians. "Why are you silent when the wicked swallow up those more righteous than they"? That's the whole question of the book of Habakkuk.
How can God use pagans to bring about his judgment against the godly? You know, we see the same question being asked today. I don't know whether the events of 9/11 were God's judgment on America or not. God didn't tell me, so I don't know. There are a lot of reason bad things happen, but one thing I do know was absolutely ludicrous during that discussion were people who said, "Well, God would never use Islamic terrorists to accomplish his purpose. That's impossible". That's not impossible at all. God often uses pagans to accomplish his purpose, even among godly people. God used the Assyrians to bring judgment against the northern kingdom. He used the Babylonians to bring judgment against Judah as well.
Now, in Daniel 1:1, look at this verse with me. "In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it". Daniel, as I said, was one of the young captives who was in the first group of hostages taken to Babylon, and we'll know and we'll see in chapter two that he was able to interpret Nebuchadnezzar's dream, and because of that, Nebuchadnezzar raised him to a place of prominence. Apparently after Nebuchadnezzar's death, however, Daniel fell into disfavor with subsequent kings. In fact, you don't hear anything about him until the last king of Babylon, Belshazzar, called upon Daniel to read the mysterious handwriting on the wall. Remember that story? And Daniel interpreted, "God has numbered your kingdom and has put an end to it," and of course that very night, God delivered Babylon into the hands of Darius the Mede. He invaded Babylon, became the king of Babylon, and he elevated Daniel to become one of the three leaders of Babylon.
And Darius was king, and finally Cyrus the Persian king invaded Babylon, and it was in the third year of Cyrus's rule that he issued the decree for Judah to be able to return to her homeland. And so the book of Daniel covers the time period between 605, that's Nebuchadnezzar's invasion, until the time that Cyrus the Persian king told the Israelites that they could go back to their home country. Now, if this is so clearly stated in the Bible, that these events started in the seventh century and concluded in the middle or the end of the sixth century, why is it that people want to put a late date to the book of Daniel, and say it was written in the second century BC, like 165 BC? Why do they do that, when it is so clearly stated here? Well, you need to understand that, for 2.000 years of church history, the older date of Daniel was widely accepted by most theologians, with one notable exception.
In 250 AD, 250 AD, there was a heretic, an unbeliever named porphyry, and porphyry wrote 15 books entitled "Against Christianity," and he attacked the Christian faith, and book number 12, he devoted solely to the book of Daniel, and he made the claim that Daniel was not written in the sixth century, but it was written in the second century, that it was an imposter who wrote it and tried to pass it off as prophecy. Well, porphyry was roundly denounced by the church fathers. His findings were highly discredited, and that was the end of porphyry in 250 AD. You never heard from him again until the 17th century, when, with the rise of higher criticism, liberal theologians resurfaced the teaching of porphyry, that Daniel was a fraud and a forgery.
And the reason I bring that up is to simply say, whenever you hear a noted Christian scholar, a Christian teacher in a college or a seminary claiming that Daniel was written in the second century and not the sixth century, you're not listening to the theory of a believer. You're listening to the repackaged and regurgitated teachings of a heretic. Everybody who believes the Bible believes that it's telling the truth when it tells the fact that Daniel wrote this book. It is not a forgery. It is an amazing book, filled with all kinds of fulfilled prophecy. Remember, the liberal theologian cannot accept the idea of a fulfilled prophecy, because it involves the supernatural. Let's talk about the language for a minute. It's interesting that the book of Daniel actually is written in two different languages. Chapter one and chapters eight through 12 are written in Hebrew. Chapters two to seven are written in Aramaic.
Now, again, those who want to discredit the book of Daniel say, "Well, there it is. That shows you it's a forgery. Why would any one author use two languages"? Well, it's very clear. When he's writing in Hebrew, he uses Hebrew to describe God's dealings with Israel. God's dealing with Israel is written in the Hebrew language, but when he describes God's program for the gentile nations in chapters eight to 12, or pardon me, in chapters two to seven, he writes it in Aramaic. Now let's talk about the place in scripture. To me, this is really interesting. The place that Daniel has in scripture, the Old Testament.
Remember, the Old Testament was divided into three categories, Jesus and others divided the Old Testament into three categories. You had the law, that's the first five books of the Bible, Genesis through Deuteronomy. You had the prophets, prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel. We call the prophets, some of them are major prophets and some are minor prophets. It had nothing to do with the status or the importance of the prophet. Had to do with the length of the book that he wrote, whether it was a major prophet or a minor prophet, but you had the prophets. That was the second category, and then you had what you call the writings, the writings. That includes the Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Ruth and Daniel was included in the writings.
Now, again, the critic of Daniel said, "There it is. There's another evidence that he's really not a prophet, that this was a forgery". And according to this theory, the reason that Daniel was placed in that final category, the writings, is at the very last minute, this forgery called Daniel was slipped in when nobody noticed it, to the canon of scripture, and the fact that it is placed in the third category shows that it was written at a relatively late date. Now, that theory has as many holes in it as a piece of swiss cheese, and let me show you why. There's a simple reason why Daniel was not included in the prophets and instead included in the writings.
Daniel by his profession was not a prophet. He was not called as a prophet. He was a politician, a government official that God used for a miraculous purpose, so it would have been out of place to put him as one of the prophets. And as far as the late date, the fact that Daniel is included in the third category doesn't mean it was written at a late date. Do you realize job is also included in the writings? It's the earliest book that was ever written in the Old Testament. No, the fact is Daniel is more suited to be in the writings than in any other place in scripture. Now, I'll once for all drive the nail through this plane that Daniel was written in the second century, 165 BC. Here's why that is absolutely impossible.
Do you remember what the septuagint is? The septuagint was the Greek translation of the Old Testament. It was composed in Alexandria, Egypt, and the date of the septuagint was anywhere from 300 to 250 BC. Now, the septuagint, I mean, everybody knew about the septuagint. It is very clear that the septuagint included the book of Daniel. Now, if the book of Daniel wasn't written until 165 BC, how did it find its way into the septuagint in 300 BC? The fact is, Daniel has always been considered a part of the canon, the measure of Old Testament scripture. And one thing you'll find very interesting, I'm going to talk about this more in our morning series, when I talk about how can you know that the Bible is true?
One thing is very interesting. There were some debates about some Old Testament books, whether or not they measured up and should be included in the Old Testament. There was a debate about Ecclesiastes, there was a debate about Ruth, there was debate about the song of Solomon, but never was there one recorded debate about the book of Daniel. From the very beginning, it was accepted for what it was, a book of miraculous prophecies. Let me say a word about the style of Daniel. The book of Daniel is called an apocalyptic writing. It's apocalyptic literature. Now, you remember from our study of the Book of Revelation, that revelation is actually called the apocalypse, it comes from the Greek word apokalupsis, which means the unveiling.