See our "How to Interpret Scripture" lesson index plus extra resources on our 2020 Second Quarter Index
As the nineteenth century disappeared into the twentieth, a sense of optimism pervaded the West. Through science and technology, humanity was advancing toward a golden age, a future of wonderful possibilities when war, pestilence, poverty, and hunger would finally be ended. That was the hope, anyway.
Of course, the twentieth century proved this hope not only wrong but foolish and naïve. This helps explain why, when we entered the twenty-first century, it was with no great sense of optimism about a better future.
From a worldly perspective, the world still seems in pretty dismal shape and, worse, holds little prospect of improvement. Humans seem just as inclined toward greed, oppression, violence, conquest, exploitation, and self-destruction now as our ancestors were in ages past. Meanwhile, many of our great technological advances, though sometimes serving humanity well, have aided us in our greed, oppression, violence, conquest, exploitation, and self-destruction.
None of this should be surprising, of course, not with texts like “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9, NKJV) or “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places” (Matt. 24:7, NKJV).
And yet, amid all this despair and calamity, we have the book of Daniel, our study for this quarter, a book that’s especially relevant for us who are living in the ayt qatz, “the time of the end” (Dan. 12:9). And that’s because in the sacred pages of Daniel we have powerful, rational, faith-affirming evidence not only for our belief in God but in the Lord Jesus Christ and His death on the cross, as well as the promise of His return and all that His return entails.
Think about it. All through Daniel (chapters 2, 7, 8, 11), we have been given, from various angles, the following sequence of empires: Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece, Rome, and God’s eternal kingdom after the Second Coming. From our perspective today, living when we do, we can see that all the worldly kingdoms have come and gone as predicted. Or, in the case of Rome, it came and remains, at least for now, just as Daniel wrote. It is depicted in the feet and toes of Daniel 2:33, 41, and is manifested in the still-divided nations of Europe as well as the Roman church itself. Thus, we have an affirmation of biblical prophecy as broad and as solid as the history of the world that someone living in the time of Babylon, or Greece, or even in the earlier days of Rome, could not have had.
Living where we are on the prophetic time scale, we also can see that Daniel was correct about all these kingdoms; thus, we have even more reasons to trust him regarding the only one yet to come: God’s eternal kingdom, after the Second Coming.
Yes, the book of Daniel remains a powerful, faith-affirming document, especially for Seventh-day Adventists, who find within its pages texts seminal to our church, especially Daniel 8:14: “And he said to me, ‘For two thousand three hundred days; then the sanctuary shall be cleansed’” (NKJV). This text is parallel to Daniel 7:22, 26, 27, which shows that after the great heavenly judgment, given “in favor of the saints of the Most High”, God’s eternal kingdom will be established. In contrast to the fleeting, earthly empires, it will last forever.
And yet, alongside the “big-picture”, we see just how close Christ can be to us, individually. From King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream to Daniel’s deliverance from the lions’ den, the book shows us God’s immanence, or His nearness to us; as Daniel told wicked King Belshazzar, He is the God “who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways” (Dan. 5:23, NKJV).
In short, the book of Daniel, our study for this quarter, remains what it was when penned thousands of years ago: a powerful revelation of the love and character of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Elias Brasil de Souza serves as director of the Biblical Research Institute at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists World Headquarters. He holds a PhD in Old Testament exegesis and theology from Andrews University.
Lesson 1 December 28-January 3
Read for This Week’s Study: Luke 24:25-27; 2 Pet. 3:11-13; Jonah 3:3-10; Num. 14:34; Dan. 9:23; 10:11, 12.
Memory Text: “So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ ” (Acts 8:30, NKJV).
Our church was born from within the pages of the book of Daniel, our study for this quarter. As we begin, we should keep the following points in mind as a template to help guide us through our study.
First, we should always remember that Christ is the center of Daniel, as He is of the entire Bible.
Second, Daniel is organized in a way that shows literary beauty and helps us to understand its major focus.
Third, we need to understand the difference between classical and apocalyptic prophecies. This will help us distinguish between the prophecies of Daniel and those of others such as Isaiah, Amos, and Jeremiah.
Fourth, as we study the time prophecies of Daniel, we should understand that the prophetic outlines of Daniel span long periods of time and are measured according to the year-day principle.
Fifth, we shall emphasize that the book of Daniel not only conveys prophetic information but is profoundly relevant to our personal life today.
Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, January 4.
Sunday ↥ December 29
Read Luke 24:25-27; John 5:39; and 2 Corinthians 1:19, 20. In what ways is Christ the center of the Scriptures?
There is no question that Jesus is central to the Scriptures, and this includes Daniel as well. For example: Chapter 1 shows, although in a limited and imperfect way, that Daniel’s experience is analogous to that of Christ, who left heaven to live in this sinful world and confront the powers of darkness. Moreover, Daniel and his companions are endowed from above with Christ-like wisdom to face the challenges of the Babylonian culture. Chapter 2 describes the figure of the end-time (eschatological) stone to indicate that the kingdom of Christ will eventually replace all the kingdoms of the world. Chapter 3 reveals Christ walking with His faithful servants within a furnace of fire. Chapter 4 shows God removing Nebuchadnezzar from his kingdom from for a period of time so that the king could understand that “Heaven rules” (Dan. 4:26, NKJV). The expression “Heaven rules” reminds us that Christ, as “the Son of Man” (Dan. 7:13, NKJV), receives the dominion and the kingdom, as depicted in Daniel 7. Chapter 5 shows the demise of King Belshazzar and the fall of Babylon to the Persians during a night of revelry and debauchery. This foreshadows the defeat of Satan and the obliteration of end-time Babylon by Christ and His angels. Chapter 6 shows the plot against Daniel in ways that resemble the false accusations voiced against Jesus by the chief priests. Moreover, as King Darius unsuccessfully tries to spare Daniel, Pilate unsuccessfully tries to spare Jesus (Matt. 27:17-24). Chapter 7 depicts Christ as the Son of man receiving the kingdom and reigning over His people. Chapter 8 shows Christ as a priest of the heavenly sanctuary. Chapter 9 portrays Christ as the sacrificial victim whose death reconfirms the covenant between God and His people. And chapters 10-12 present Christ as Michael, the commander-in-chief, who fights the forces of evil and victoriously rescues God’s people, even from the power of death.
So let us bear in mind that Christ is central to Daniel. At every chapter of the book there is some experience or idea that points to Christ.
Amid struggles, trials, or even times of great happiness and prosperity, how can we learn to keep Christ at the center of our lives? Why is it so important that we do so?
Monday ↥ January 30
The arrangement of the Aramaic section of Daniel, chapters 2-7 (parts of Daniel were written in Hebrew and other parts in Aramaic), reveals the following structure, which helps reinforce a central message of that section, and of the book:
A. Nebuchadnezzar’s vision of four kingdoms (Daniel 2)
B. God delivers Daniel’s companions from the fiery furnace (Daniel 3)
C. Judgment upon Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4)
C'. Judgment upon Belshazzar (Daniel 5)
B'. God delivers Daniel from the den of lions (Daniel 6)
A'. Daniel’s vision of four kingdoms (Daniel 7)
This kind of literary arrangement serves to highlight the main point by placing it at the center of the structure, which in this case consists of C and C’ (Daniel 4 and 5): God removes the kingdom from Nebuchadnezzar (temporarily) and from Belshazzar (permanently). Therefore, the emphasis of chapters 2-7 is on God’s sovereignty over the kings of the earth as He establishes and removes them.
One of the most effective ways of conveying a message and making a point clear is by repetition. For example, God gives Pharaoh two dreams about the immediate future of Egypt (Gen. 41:1-7). In the first dream, seven fat cows are devoured by seven thin cows. In the second dream, seven ears of healthy grain are devoured by seven thin and blighted ears. Both dreams make the same point: seven years of prosperity will be followed by seven years of scarcity.
In the book of Daniel, God also uses repetition. There are four prophetic cycles, which are repetitions of an overall basic structure. In the end, this structure shows us the ultimate sovereignty of God. Although each major prophetic outline conveys a distinct perspective, together they cover the same historical period, extending from the time of the prophet to the end, as the following diagram shows:
|Daniel 2||Daniel 7||Daniel 8, 9||Daniel 10-12|
that Leads to New Earth
of the Sanctuary
|Michael Stands Up|
What great hope do these texts present regarding our long-term prospects? Dan. 2:44, Ps. 9:7-12, 2 Pet. 3:11-13.
Tuesday ↥ December 31
The prophetic visions recorded in the book of Daniel are of a different nature than most prophetic messages delivered by other Old Testament prophets. Daniel’s prophecies belong to the category of apocalyptic prophecy, whereas most of the other Old Testament prophecies belong to the category of classical prophecy. An understanding of the basic difference between these prophetic genres is crucial for a correct understanding of biblical prophecy.
Read Jonah 3:3-10. Is this a classical or apocalyptic prophecy? Justify your answer. What about Daniel 7:6?
Knowing about broad prophetic genres such as classical and apocalyptic prophecy can be of great benefit. First, these genres show that God uses a variety of approaches to communicate prophetic truth (Heb. 1:1). Second, such knowledge helps us better appreciate the beauty and complexity of the Bible. Third, this knowledge also helps us to interpret biblical prophecies in ways that are consistent with the testimony of the entire Bible and rightly explain “the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).
On the basis of passages such as Hosea 3:4, 5; Amos 8:11; and Zechariah 9:1; some Christians today expect the final events of world history to unfold in the Middle East. What is wrong with this interpretation? How can knowing the difference between apocalyptic and classical prophecies help us clarify this matter?
Wednesday ↥ January 1
Another important concept that we need to keep in mind as we study the book of Daniel is the historicist approach to apocalyptic prophecies. This approach, also known as historicism, can be better understood if compared with the opposing views of preterism, futurism, and idealism.
Read Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:5, 6. In prophetic language what does a “day” usually represent?
As we study the book of Daniel, we should also keep in mind that prophetic time is measured according to the year-day principle. That is, a day in prophecy usually equals one year in actual historical time. Thus, for example, the prophecy of the 2,300 evenings and mornings should be understood as referring to 2,300 years (Dan. 8:14). Likewise, the prophecy of the 70 weeks should be understood to be 490 years (Dan. 9:24-27).
This time scale seems to be correct for some obvious reasons: (1) Since the visions are symbolic, the times indicated must also be symbolic. (2) As the events depicted in the visions unfold over long periods of time, even to the “time of the end” in some cases, the time spans related to these prophecies should be interpreted accordingly. (3) The year-day principle is confirmed by the book of Daniel. A clear example comes from the 70-week prophecy, which extended from the days of King Artaxerxes to the coming of Jesus as the Messiah. So the most obvious and correct way to make sense of the prophetic time periods given in the book of Daniel is to interpret them according to the year-day principle.
Some of these time prophecies cover hundreds, even thousands of years. What should this teach us about patience?
Thursday ↥ January 2
Although written more than 2,500 years ago, the book of Daniel remains profoundly relevant for God’s people in the 21st century. We shall note three areas in which Daniel can be relevant for us.
Read Daniel 9:23; Daniel 10:11, 12; and Matthew 10:29-31. What do these verses say about God’s interest in our personal struggles?
Friday ↥ January 3
Further Thought: “The Bible was designed to be a guide to all who wish to become acquainted with the will of their Maker. God gave to men the sure word of prophecy; angels and even Christ Himself came to make known to Daniel and John the things that must shortly come to pass. Those important matters that concern our salvation were not left involved in mystery. They were not revealed in such a way as to perplex and mislead the honest seeker after truth. Said the Lord by the prophet Habakkuk: ‘Write the vision, and make it plain, … that he may run that readeth it’. Habakkuk 2:2. The word of God is plain to all who study it with a prayerful heart. Every truly honest soul will come to the light of truth. ‘Light is sown for the righteous’. Psalm 97:11. And no church can advance in holiness unless its members are earnestly seeking for truth as for hid treasure”. — Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, pp. 521, 522. “Study the history of Daniel and his fellows. Though living where they were, met on every side by the temptation to indulge self, they honored and glorified God in the daily life. They determined to avoid all evil. They refused to place themselves in the enemy’s path. And with rich blessings God rewarded their steadfast loyalty”. — Ellen G. White, Manuscript Releases [No. 224], vol. 4, pp. 169, 170.
Igor Gospodarets ordered 800 colorful evangelistic posters reading “Bible Opens the Path to a Healthy and Happy Life” from Moscow. He plastered the advertisements around his city in a former Soviet republic where a majority of the population is not Christian. Then an elderly evangelist told him to start over.
“Order 800 new posters advertising the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s five-day stop smoking program”, said Arturo Schmidt, the evangelist from Argentina.
Igor couldn’t believe his ears. The posters had taken considerable money and time, and he didn’t want to start from scratch again. “Why?” he asked.
“Our goal is not to make Adventists out of non-Christians”, Schmidt said. “Our goal is to make friends”.
It was 1992, only a year after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Igor, a young Adventist pastor, was eager to take advantage of new-found religious freedom to share his love for Jesus.
He didn’t like Smit’s advice. It didn’t make sense to him to not preach Jesus. He didn’t see the logic of offering stop-smoking classes. He didn’t want to lose the money invested in the evangelistic posters. He prayed.
Finally, Igor decided to take a chance. Perhaps the elderly evangelist knew something that he didn’t. Igor ordered 800 stop-smoking posters from Moscow and placed them over the old posters.
A surprise greeted Igor’s eyes when he showed up for the first stop-smoking seminar. The rented hall was packed with 1,000 people. Most of the visitors were not Christians. Igor realized that the original posters never would have attracted such a large turnout.
Five years passed. After a Sabbath sermon, a stranger reached out to shake Igor’s hand in church.
“Do you remember me?” the man asked.
“I was in that crowd of 1,000 people who took the stop-smoking class five years ago”, the man said. “I heard you and Pastor Schmidt speak”.
The man explained that he had been raised in a non-Christian home and had struggled to quit smoking. The seminars had helped him stop and, realizing that the Adventists were his friends, he had started attending church every Sabbath.
Igor couldn’t believe his ears.
“It was at that moment that I understood the importance of friendship evangelism”, said Igor, now 59 and a church leader in southern Russia. “Our goal is not to make Adventists out of non-Christians. Our goal is to make friends for Jesus”.
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