DANIEL AND REVELATION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Our Lord loved and read and studied and knew the Book of Daniel. I picked out six times where the Lord referred to the Book of Daniel. And, by name in the apocalyptic chapter, Matthew 24, where He refers to the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel, the prophet; speaking of him by name. When the apostle Paul was in his last incarceration, just before he died, in the fourth chapter of 2 Timothy, he referred to being delivered out of the mouth of the lion, such as was Daniel. In the list of heroes, the heroes of the faith in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews, Daniel is mentioned: “Who by faith stopped the mouths of lions.” But upon all of those who followed after Daniel was the influence of the prophet not greater than upon John the seer, to whom God gave the vision of the Revelation. You will find so much of Daniel in the Revelation. And without an understanding of Daniel, you cannot understand the Revelation.
Now the Revelation, the Apocalypse, was an unveiling that God gave to Jesus, and through Him and the angel to the apostle John, to us here in the Bible. But from the heavenly point of view, the same One that revealed the vision to Daniel revealed the vision to John. And, of course, much of the nomenclature, the language, the thought, the truth, the revelation would be the same because the same Author did it. But from the earthly point of view, the Book of Daniel is so much in Revelation. And as you read Daniel, you will find it in the Revelation, and that’s why the comparison of the two books in the introductory message this morning.
First, we shall compare the two men. They were favored of heaven. They were loved of God, of men and of angels. Three times Daniel is referred to as “O man, greatly beloved.” And five times in the Gospel of John is John referred to as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Favored of God, both men were given the privilege of seeing the sweep of history until the consummation of the age. Again, both men wrote apocalyptically. Daniel is unique among the authors of the Old Testament. John is unique among the authors of the New Testament, for both men wrote apocalyptically. Daniel is the apocalypse of the Old Testament; and the Revelation is the apocalypse of the New Testament. Apocalyptic writing is a vehicle by which the message of God unfolding the future is presented in visions and in signs and in symbols. And the things we read in the Book have a great meaning beyond themselves. We shall illustrate that in a moment.
Now, a third thing about the men: they both wrote and saw their visions in exile. Daniel was an exile in Babylon. And John was an exile on the lonely Isle of Patmos. And, while both men were exiled away from home, God showed them those marvelous visions of what the Lord purposes for His people in the future. The saints shall inherit the earth: so Daniel; so says John.
All right, a fourth thing; the books the men wrote are books of prophecy, and that is all-important in our study and in our remembrance. They are books of prophecy. For example, five times in the Revelation is the book referred to as a book of prophecy. Look at this, in the third verse you just read: “Blessed is he that readeth and they that hear the words of this prophecy” [Revelation 1:3]. That is, the things in them have a meaning beyond themselves. The books are books of prophecy. And when I study the book, when I read it, I am to remember that God has a message in it beyond what is in the syllable or sentence itself. In the Revelation, for example, the Lord sends messages to the seven churches of Asia. Were there just seven churches in Asia? Why, no. There are far, far more churches than seven in Asia, the Roman province of Asia. Right across the Lycus River from Laodicea was one of the famous churches of all time, the church at Hierapolis. The pastor of it was Papias, a disciple of John and a friend of Polycarp, who was the pastor at Smyrna. But Hierapolis is not named, nor dozens of others.
Well, why those seven? Because they are vehicles of a great revelation from God; they are prophetic. They are prophetic churches. They are used and they stand for something meaningful and significant far beyond their own day and hour. And in the case of the seven churches of Asia, they represent this prophetic unfoldings of the future. There is an Ephesian period in the history of the church. There is a Smyrnan period. There is a Pergamean period. There is a Thyatiran period. There is a Sardinian period. There is a Philadelphian period. There is a Laodicean period of the church. And, beyond what you read, is a great meaning and message from God. John was so given to that.
In the Gospel of John, for example, John never uses the word “miracle”—para dunamis—never. Always it was the semeion, “signs.” That is, what he saw Jesus do represented something far beyond the thing itself. When He turned the water into wine, there were foot tubs there made out of stone, and they were filled according to the law. They were filled, then they drew out and took to the governor of the feast. That is, Jesus fulfilled the old Law, all of it, and now, in liberty, in grace, “for the Law came by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” [John 1:17]. This is a new love. It’s a new freedom. It’s a new dedication. It’s a new revelation. This is the Christian faith. It is not legal, that was filled. Ah, we have a new religion and a new life in Christ. John saw that in the miracle, and he calls it a semeion: a sign. Opening the eyes of the blind: a gracious deed; but all beyond, Jesus is the light of the world. Or the raising of Lazarus from the dead: a man resuscitated, yes, but that’s incidental. The great thing is the semeion, the sign. He is the resurrection and the life. Now, when I read then the book of prophecy, I am to understand that beyond the page, beyond the actual thing itself, there is a great revelation of God, a prophetic overtone. Now, when I turn to the Book of Daniel, beyond what I read, I am to see, I am to understand, I am to sense the great profound meaning that God is speaking to our hearts and revealing to us.
Now, the Book of Daniel is divided in two. The first six chapters are historical. The last six chapters are prophecies as such. But remember, all of it is a book of prophecy. Like the Revelation, the first part of it to the churches of Asia, but that is a prophecy; the second part, the tribulation period, but that a prophecy. So it is in the Book of Daniel. The first six chapters: historical. They are prophetic as well as the last six chapters. So, when I look at the Book of Daniel and turn to the first chapter, here is the captivity of Daniel and his friends. It is a picture of the diaspora, the captivity, the scattering abroad of God’s people.