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Daniel and the End Time

LESSON 2 *April 7–13

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: Luke 16:10; Daniel 1, 2, 3:1–6; Rev. 13:11–15; Dan. 3:13–18; John 3:7; Daniel 4; Daniel 6.

Memory Text: “The king answered Daniel, and said, ‘Truly your God is the God of gods, the Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, since you could reveal this secret’ ” (Daniel 2:47, NKJV).

The Lord had great plans for ancient Israel. “And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation” (Exod. 19:6). This holy nation, this kingdom of priests, was to be His witness to the world that Yahweh was the only God (see Isa. 43:10, 12). Unfortunately, the nation didn’t live up to the holy calling that God had given it. Eventually, its people even went into captivity in Babylon.

Interestingly enough, God still was able to use individual Judeans to be His witnesses, despite the disaster of their captivity. In other words, to some degree God accomplished through Daniel and his three fellow captives what He did not achieve through Israel and Judah. In one sense, these men were examples of what Israel as a nation was to have been and done.

Yes, their stories unfold in a time and place far removed from the last days. But we still can find traits and characteristics in these men that can serve as models for us, a people who not only live in the end time but who are called to be witnesses about God to a world that, like the pagans in the Babylonian court, does not know Him. What can we learn from their stories?

* Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, April 14.

SUNDAY April 8

Faithful in What Is Least

“ ‘He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much’ ” (Luke 16:10, NKJV).

Look at the words of Jesus here. It’s so easy, isn’t it, to compromise, to be “ ‘unjust in what is least.’ ” The problem isn’t so much that “what is least” is important in and of itself; it’s not. That’s why it is “the least.” As most of us know either by personal experience or by the examples of others (or both), the problem is that the first compromise leads to another, and then another, and then another, until we become “ ‘unjust also in much.’ ”

With this thought in mind, we pick up the story in Daniel 1, the first account of the experiences of these four Judeans in Babylonian captivity.

Read Daniel 1. In what ways did the stand that Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah took reflect what ancient Israel was to be to the nations? See also Deut. 4:6–8, Zech. 8:23.

Although the text directly does not link what they ate to their being “ten times better” in “wisdom and understanding” than all others (Dan. 1:20), the link is clearly there. The chapter also says that God gave them this knowledge and wisdom. That is, the Lord was able to work with them because of their faithfulness to Him in refusing to eat the unclean food of Babylon. They obeyed, and God blessed their obedience. Would God not have done something just like this for ancient Israel as a whole had it adhered to the teaching of the Bible as diligently and faithfully as these four young men did? Of course. And will He not also do that for us today, in the last days, if we are faithful?

Since we have been given so much light and truth, as a church we need to ask ourselves: Have we been faithful and obedient to what we have been given? At the same time, how can each one of us individually take positions that will enable us to be powerful witnesses for God?

MONDAY April 9

The Humility of Daniel

All over the world, Daniel 2 has helped untold numbers of people come to believe in the God of the Bible. It provides powerfully rational evidence, not only for the existence of God but for His foreknowledge. Indeed, it is the revelation that the chapter provides of God’s foreknowledge that presents evidence for God’s existence.

Read Daniel 2. How does the chapter provide such convincing evidence for the reality of God? Look, too, at Europe today as depicted in the book (Dan. 2:40–43). How could a man who lived about twenty-six hundred years ago have described so accurately the situation there, other than through divine revelation? _

Daniel openly and unashamedly had given all the credit to God for what had been revealed to him. How easily he could have attributed his ability to know and interpret the king’s dream to his own wisdom and understanding. But Daniel knew better than that. The prayers that he and the others prayed (Dan. 2:17–23) showed their knowledge of their utter dependence upon God; they knew that without Him they would have died with the rest of the wise men.

Later Daniel reminded the king that none of his professional wise men, enchanters, or magicians proved able to tell the king his dream. By contrast, the God in heaven can reveal mysteries because He is the only true God.

Thus, in his humility and in his dependence upon God, Daniel was able to be a powerful witness. If Daniel, back then, showed humility, how much more should we reveal our own humility today? After all, we have a revelation of the plan of salvation that Daniel didn’t; and if anything should keep us humble, it should be the knowledge of what Jesus did at the cross.

What should the Cross teach us about humility? What does it say to us, not only about our own sinfulness but also about our utter dependence upon God for salvation? Think about where you would be without the Cross. What, then, do you have to boast about, other than the Cross? See Gal. 6:14.

TUESDAY April 10

The Golden Image

Bible students have long noticed the link between Daniel 3, the story of the three Hebrews on the plain of Dura, and Revelation 13, a depiction of the persecution that God’s people have faced in the past and will face in the last days.

Compare Daniel 3:1–6 with Revelation 13:11–15. What are the parallels between these two passages?

In both cases, the issue of worship is central, but both talk about a worship that is forced. That is, the political powers in control demand the worship that is due to the Lord alone.

Read Daniel 3:13–18. What can we learn from the story that should help us understand not only what we will face in the last days but also how we should face what is coming?

As the most powerful leader on earth, Nebuchadnezzar mocked these men and their God, saying, “Who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?” (Dan. 3:15). He was soon to find out for himself just who that God was, for later he declared: “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God” (Dan. 3:28).

After seeing such a miracle as that, there is no question that the king was convinced there was something special about the God whom these men served.

Suppose, though, that these young men had not been delivered from the flames. This outcome is one the men realized was a distinct possibility (Dan. 3:18). Why would they still have done the right thing in not obeying the king’s command even if it meant being burned alive? This story presents a powerful testimony to the men’s faith and their willingness to stand for what they believed, regardless of the consequences.

When the issue of worship arises in the last days, how can we be sure that we will stand as faithfully as these four men did? If we are not faithful now in what is “least,” what makes us think we will be faithful in something as big as the final crisis?

WEDNESDAY April 11

Conversion of the Gentiles

Daniel 3 ends with Nebuchadnezzar acknowledging the existence and power of the true God. But knowledge of God and of His power isn’t the same as having the born-again experience that Jesus said was crucial for salvation (see John 3:7). Indeed, the man depicted in Daniel 4:30 was anything but a converted soul.

Read Daniel 4:30. What was this man’s problem? See also John 15:5, Acts 17:28, Dan. 5:23.

By the time that the chapter is done, though, Nebuchadnezzar learns, even if it is the hard way, that all true power exists in God, and without God, he is nothing at all.

“The once proud monarch had become a humble child of God; the tyrannical, overbearing ruler, a wise and compassionate king. He who had defied and blasphemed the God of heaven, now acknowledged the power of the Most High and earnestly sought to promote the fear of Jehovah and the happiness of his subjects. Under the rebuke of Him who is King of kings and Lord of lords, Nebuchadnezzar had learned at last the lesson which all rulers need to learn—that true greatness consists in true goodness. He acknowledged Jehovah as the living God, saying, ‘I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and His ways judgment: and those that walk in pride He is able to abase.’ ”—Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, p. 521.

Read Daniel 4:35. What truths about God did Nebuchadnezzar express here, as well?

Daniel 4 ends with a Gentile acknowledging the authority, dominion, and power of the “Hebrew” God. In a sense, this scene is a precursor to what happened in the early church, when, through the witness of Jews and through the power of God, Gentiles learned the truth about the Lord and began to proclaim that truth to the world.

Read John 3:7. Although we think of last-day events in terms of the death decree, worship, and persecution, what does Jesus say here that, above and beyond everything else, prepares people for the end of time?

THURSDAY April 12

The Faithfulness of Daniel

Read Daniel 6 and then answer the following questions:

1. What does Daniel 6:4, 5 reveal about the character of Daniel? What lessons can we take from these verses about how we should be seen?

2. What parallels can we find in this chapter that link it to final events as depicted in the book of Revelation? See Rev. 13:4, 8, 11–17.

3. Put yourself in the place of Daniel in this situation. What rationale or argument could he have used in order not to pray? That is, how could he have justified not doing what he did, and, thus, spared himself the ordeal of getting thrown into the lions’ den?

4. Why do you think Daniel continued to pray as he always did, even though he necessarily didn’t have to do so?

5. What did King Darius say (Dan. 6:16) even before Daniel was thrown into the lions’ den that showed he knew something about the power of Daniel’s God? What in his words showed the witness of Daniel himself to the king concerning the God whom Daniel worshiped and served?

FRIDAY April 13

Further Thought: “As we near the close of this world’s history, the prophecies recorded by Daniel demand our special attention, as they relate to the very time in which we are living. With them should be linked the teachings of the last book of the New Testament Scriptures. Satan has led many to believe that the prophetic portions of the writings of Daniel and of John the revelator cannot be understood. But the promise is plain that special blessing will accompany the study of these prophecies. ‘The wise shall understand’ [Dan. 12:10], was spoken of the visions of Daniel that were to be unsealed in the latter days; and of the revelation that Christ gave to His servant John for the guidance of God’s people all through the centuries, the promise is, ‘Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein.’ Revelation 1:3.”—Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, pp. 547, 548.

Although we tend to look at the book of Daniel in the context of the rise and fall of nations, the judgment (Dan. 7:22, 26; 8:14), and the final deliverance of God’s people in the time of trouble (Dan. 12:1), we saw this week that the book of Daniel also can give us examples of what it means for us individually to be prepared for trials and persecution, whenever they come. In this sense, these stories present us with crucially important messages in the last days. After all, however helpful it may be to know about the “mark of the beast,” the “time of trouble,” and the upcoming persecution, if we haven’t had the kind of experience with God that we need, all this knowledge will only condemn us. More than anything else, we need the “born-again” experience that Daniel and the others, including Nebuchadnezzar, had.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Read Daniel’s prayer in chapter 9:3–19. How does this prayer show that Daniel understood grace, and that God loves and redeems us out of His own graciousness as opposed to any merit or goodness on our own part? Why is this so important a truth not just to understand but to experience?

  2. In class, discuss the challenges that the three Hebrews (Daniel 3) and Daniel (Daniel 6) faced in regard to standing up when their religious practices were threatened by political authorities. What similarities do you find in the two accounts? What differences? And what can we learn from both accounts about how we can be powerful witnesses by being faithful?

  3. What does it mean to be “born again”? Why would Jesus say that we “must be born again” (John 3:7)?