That we live in what the Bible calls “the last time” there simply can be no question. The signs of Christ’s coming about which our Lord Jesus Christ spoke to us in a passage such as Matthew 24 are all being fulfilled: wars and rumors of wars, nation rising up against nation, famines, pestilences, and earthquakes. All these are occurring today in ever greater measure. With respect to Jesus’ statement that in the last time “false prophets” would arise, and that those false prophets would “deceive many,” one does not have to think too hard or too long to realize that what Jesus said is indeed true. There are many false prophets today, yes, even in what is called Reformed circles. Indeed, we, you and I, live in the last time.
I say once more, we live in the last time. We know that. But the question, the question which is so very crucial, is: how are we living in the last time? How? Are we living our lives as befits a Christian? Are we living our lives as pilgrims and strangers as our father Abraham of old, who sought a better country, that is, an heavenly? Are we keeping our lives unspptted from the world? In short, are we living our lives in this last time as Jesus would have us live? That is the question. Or is it the case that we so easily confess that we live in the last time, but, when it comes right down to it, do not live as though we live in the last time. Do we find ourselves giving in to the world? Do we find ourselves loving the pleasures and treasures of this life? Do we find ourselves seeking what this world has to offer, instead of zealously seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness? How are we living in this world in the last time? That is the question.
And as I said, that question is so very crucial for us today. Do not say to yourselves, “Oh, it really doesn’t matter how we live. We can enjoy the pleasures and treasures of this life for a season. The end is not yet. We have plenty of time before the end comes, before we have to think about living our lives as Jesus would have us live them.” Oh, no! It is crucial as to how we live in this last time, so crucial in fact that our very salvation is dependent upon it. Our very salvation, for Jesus Himself says in Matthew 10:32-33, “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” How are we living in the last time?
That we may answer that question in a right way, I have decided to use the space that is allotted to me in theStandard Bearer, not only in this issue, but also in the following issues, to call our attention to the Word of God as it comes to us in the book of Daniel. Yes, Daniel! And I have decided to do that exactly because the book of Daniel has so very much to say to us as to how we are supposed to live in the last time. In this issue we consider together the first seven verses of Daniel, chapter 1.
From Daniel, chapter 1 we discover the fact that one King Nebuchadnezzar, of Babylon, had come to Jerusalem, and having come, he conquered it. As a mighty conqueror, he returned to Babylon with all the spoils of war, including the vessels of the house of God. But that, however, is not all that Nebuchadnezzar brought back to Babylon. For Nebuchadnezzar also brought back to Babylon “certain of the children of Israel, and of the king’s seed.” That is, Nebuchadnezzar brought back to Babylon none other than the royal seed of David, of which Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were a part.
Oh yes, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, the royal seed of David, God’s children, Nebuchadnezzar took from Jerusalem, the city of David, to Babylon. And there he subjected those four children of God to a most horrible plot. I use that word deliberately. Nebuchadnezzar subjected those four children of God to a most horrible plot. A plot according to which Nebuchadnezzar attempted to cause those four children of God to forget about the Lord their God, and to forget about their love for the Lord their God, and to forsake the worship of the Lord their God.
What was that plot? It was this, namely, that King Nebuchadnezzar instructed one of his servants to take Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah into the king’s palace, and there to instruct them in all the wisdom, and in all the learning, and in all the knowledge of Babylon—and to do that, mind you, for three years. For three years Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were to be subjected to a thoroughly man-centered education—not a Godcentered education, but most emphatically,. a mancentered education. But that was not the end of it. For the subjection of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah to his thoroughly man-centered education, necessitated that Nebuchadnezzar take those four children of God away from their covenant parents. And he did! Nebuchadnezzar took those four children of God away from their covenant parents at the very early age of fourteen or fifteen years. Imagine that, at the very early age of fourteen or fifteen years! No longer might they be instructed by their covenant parents. No longer might they be instructed by their covenant parents in all the knowledge of Scripture. No longer might they be told by their covenant parents about the faithfulness of Jehovah their covenant God, the God of their salvation, and about the fact that they must love and serve and worship only and solely Jehovah, their faithful covenant God. That had all come to an end. Imagine that! No more covenant instruction! But, once again, that was not the end of it. For not only did Nebuchadnezzar subject them to a thoroughly man-centered education, and not only did Nebuchadnezzar separate them from their covenant parents and the covenant instruction that they had received from their parents, but he also had the audacity to change their names. He changed their names! Their beautiful names which their covenant parents had given to them—those names Nebuchadnezzar changed. Daniel’s name, which means literally “God is my Judge,” became Belteshazzar. Hananiah’s name, which means ‘literally “Jehovah is gracious,” became Shadrach. Mishael’s name, which means literally “Who is what God is,” became Meshach. And Azariah’s name, which means literally “Jehovah is my Helper,” became Abednego. All of these names had at least something to do with the heathen idol worship of Babylon. To be sure, Nebuchadnezzar, in his horrible scheme to remove and root out forever the memory of Jehovah from the minds of these four children, so to speak, did not miss a trick. He was confident that if he subjected them to a-man-centered education, and took them away from their covenant parents, and changed their names, which names reminded them of the Lord their God, that they would then be fit servants of Nebuchadnezzar. And not God!
Well, you say to yourself: “What a horrible thing. What a horrible thing Nebuchadnezzar did. How could he do such a thing? But that will never happen to us. We teach our children. We have Christian schools where the fear of God is taught to our children. Our government has not closed our schools and taken away our children. Such a thing will never happen to us.”
Be not deceived. I assure you, that sort of thing that happened to those four children of God can, and not only can, but will happen to us. And it will happen to us exactly because Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon is in Scripture a type of this antichristian world: this antichristian world which hates Christ, and which opposes Christ and which does everything in its power to stop the cause of Christ’s kingdom and covenant. And we live in that world. There will come a time when we will wake up in the morning to find that the doors of our Christian schools will be shut. There will come a time when we will look in our children’s bed, and our children will be gone! They will be snatched away by the hands of wicked men. And by the hands of wicked men they will be subjected to a man-centered education. No longer will we be able to tell them about Jehovah our covenant God and about His faithfulness and wondrous ways. That will all come to an end. And by the hands of wicked men the names of our children will be changed, changed from the name “covenant children of God” to the name “children of the devil.”
Be not deceived. But I am afraid sometimes that we are. I am afraid sometimes that we take so very much for granted. We have a tendency to take for granted our covenant schools and our covenant education. I ask you: how often do we think about our covenant schools? If we are at all honest with ourselves, we will have to admit that, more often than not, the only time we think about our covenant schools is when we complain about how high the school tuition is, and about how much we have to sacrifice to maintain them.
Do not do that. Do not take all of that for granted. And, most of all, do not take for granted our children, the covenant seed which God has given to us. Instruct them. Teach them. Fill them to overflowing with the knowledge of the Lord our God. Do that, for it is as Paul says in Romans 13:12, “The night is far spent, the day is at hand:” We live in the last time. But how are we living?