He answered and said, Lo I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the five, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.
“Who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?”
That was the challenge: the daring taunts of anti-Christ against the Christ.
Who were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to face it? How could these mortal men, fashioned of dust â”€ a composite of flesh and bones, ever endure the heat of the fire raging sevenfold?
They were men of faith, “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.”
Their God did deliver them, for they walked in the mist of the fire with Jesus, the Son of God at their side.
And so it is with us. The forces of evil had arranged a mighty confrontation. It centered in the image of Nebuchadnezzar.
The King had a dream and forthwith had forgotten it. In deepest consternation he had turned to his wise men, magicians, and sorcerers in hope of learning the dream and the interpretation thereof. This proved futile. His consternation turned to wrath and he issued a decree that all these would-be wise men should be put to death. He was convinced that they possessed no more power of divination than he. This edict of death was published by the executioners themselves. Coming to Daniel, they plotted their bloody deed. Quite naturally Daniel’s response was, “Why is the decree so hasty from the king?” Immediately he implored of the king that time be given and he would show the king his dream and the interpretation. Daniel went to his three friends and together they brought their need unto God that He might show the dream to Daniel and their lives might be spared.
The God of revelation answered their prayers. Daniel went in before the king and related to him what God had revealed. His dream consisted of a mighty image whose head was made of gold, breast and arms were of silver, belly and thighs of brass, legs of iron, and his feet of iron and clay. A stone was cut out of the mountain without men’s hands, and this stone smote the image and destroyed it, with the result that the stone became larger and larger till it filled all the earth.
In the interpretation of this dream Daniel pointed Nebuchadnezzar to the golden head. His kingdom was one of power, strength, and glory. Following him would be three kingdoms in decreasing glory, which in turn would be divided into many smaller kingdoms, all of which would eventually be destroyed by the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. The whole image was no better than the ten toes of iron and clay wrought by an impossible mixture.
Nebuchadnezzar ignored the little stone that would destroy the kingdoms of the world. All he cared about was that head of gold. His was a golden kingdom, and he was the golden king. What more fitting way to express the glittering vanity than to build a huge image, overlay it with gold, tell all the princes of the kingdom that this image represented the king, and command all the princes to bow down and worship the image and thereby pay tribute to the king.
His proud heart throbbed excitedly at the very thought. Construction began immediately and before long the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer and all kinds of music was heard and the heads of all the princes and governors bowed low before the image that rose some 90 feet above the plain of Dura.
All, that is, except three Jews, the friends of Daniel, who had refused. Daniel must have been absent because “he sat in the gate of the king.” The three friends of Daniel however, were among the governors of the land.
Why did they refuse? The answer is very simple: they refused to bow before antichrist. The golden image was the natural by-product of the king’s dream. The statue in the king’s dream is one of the clearest revelations of the kingdom of antichrist from a historical point of view. It consists of outward glory, but has no foundation and therefore no real durability. It is marked by division that for a time may appear unified but in essence is bound to crumble into ruin. Spiritually it stands opposed to Christ, it glories in gold and the things that perish, and hates the Kingdom of Christ. Yet, the kingdom of Christ is triumphant, for as a mighty mountain it shall fill the whole earth. This world shall be destroyed and the kingdoms of men shall perish, but the Kingdom of Christ shall be built upon its ruins in the new heaven and new earth.
For Daniel’s three friends, this kingdom of antichrist was personified in Nebuchadnezzar and his image. Subsequently we have passed through the Persian rule, the silver soon tarnished and Persian rule gave way to Roman power. Even the brass could not endure the weathering forces of time, and soon the glory of Greece overtook Rome. History indicates to us that this too was but iron, an internal weakness that led to the dark ages and division of the nations into splintered world powers, that had no backbone of durability and therefore were as ten toes of part iron and part clay.
This entire image nevertheless represents antichrist as he will be revealed in the last days. It isn’t so that the antichrist that now reigns and is assuming his last “glorious” dominion consists of one of the ten toes of part iron and part clay. The entire image represents the anti-Christian kingdom of the last days. This image is the product of history. This is the ultimate of what man has produced.
When Daniel’s three friends were required by the king to bow before the image of gold, this in essence meant that they were required to bow before the antichristian world power as it was represented in their day.
We stand before this same image today. It is obvious in the political sphere, the world is working for a unification of the ten toes into one great body controlled by a golden head. This is the world unity that is sought today by such organizations as the United Nations. This same goal permeates the social sphere; big government is reaching its greedy fingers into every sphere of life. Government is not simply providing education for its citizens, it is even interfering with parents who feel it their duty to fulfill this responsibility themselves. Government presumes to itself the care of the poor and even determines what should be preached in the churches. Powerful labor unions have the blessing of government, to the degree that the rights of the minority who cannot for conscience sake join them are disregarded more and more. The nominal churches gladly flirt with government favors and abandon their calling to preach the gospel, in order that they can serve as mistress to the state to accomplish its dreams. What else is the World Council of Churches doing?
The child of God may not recognize and take part in this evil design. Surely the antichristian powers desire and demand that we recognize them. Daniel’s three friends were not excluded from the assembly. They had to come. The music was sounded and they were expected to bow. Yet they didn’t. The same holds for us. We may not preach a social gospel even though this is popular and doing it wins government favors. WC may not join worldly unions and sacrifice our Lordship to Christ in order to get a little more gold. Wemay not enter into the social sphere of anti-Christian “culture.” We may not obey the government if its orders conflict with those of the Word of God. We may not bow before the image of gold.
The result is always the same, fire!
Of course they didn’t grab the three friends of Daniel and immediately throw them into the fire. Nebuchadnezzar had better psychology than that. Listen, “Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet…ye fall down and worship the image…well, but if not ye shall be cast into the burning fiery furnace.” Nebuchadnezzar did a little elbow twisting first, it would be better for his “image” to have all bow rather than have three refusals and force them to death in a furnace.
So he offered them a second chance. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? That’s that union manager who confronts you with all the “advantages” of the union and begs you to join. Sometimes it comes in the form of the county superintendent of public education who threatens to take action if our schools can’t meet the required teacher certification. Remember the Amish! Our ministers get mail by the tons, brought by the Ministerial Unions and Councils of Churches telling us what to do and how to preach. The schools of our land are infested with the god of Science before whom children are told to bow rather than before the Word of God. And the answer to it all: unification, one world government, one world society, one world church, one world people joined in the common good of man. Their arm twisting is appealing to the flesh.
Refuse to bow, and there is only fire.
Just as surely as the three friends of Daniel were at last thrown into the fiery furnace heated seven times greater as an appeasement to the burning wrath of the king, so the church of all ages bears the brunt of the enmity of antichrist. The history of the church is written in blood from this point of view. Stephen, Paul, the saints during the days of Nero, the persecuted under the Inquisition, our Reformed forbearers, and even today.
On the part of antichrist there is no compromise. Refuse to join the union and the boss can only point to the door and say goodbye. It’s not difficult to see that if we refuse to cooperate with government in education we may be forced to close our schools. We refuse to preach the popular gospel, we won’t be allowed to preach. We refuse to go along with the social program, we won’t be allowed to live in this society. Sometimes death is the product of an extended period of suffering, sometimes it comes suddenly with murderous wrath. Yet, it is death.
Daniel’s three friends walked through the fire.
Christ was with them. The Kingdom of Christ is victorious. He vanquished the foe when He established our peace with God on the cross. The devil and the world are living in a marked age;’ their time is limited and the devil knows it. Feverishly he drives men to accomplish their empty dream of building a kingdom of gold on feet of iron and clay. A kingdom established on the “virtues” of natural man and founded upon the dreams of depraved man is a kingdom that is the object of the wrath of God. When Christ merited peace for His elect through the blood of atonement, He also received the necessary power to realize it. This is twofold: the power to gather His church in history and the power to destroy His enemies.
The king had to admit that there was a fourth Man walking in the midst of the fire, and with Him a mighty work had been accomplished.. The wicked shall eternally acknowledge, though by force, that God is God alone and the Kingdom of Jesus Christ is victorious; it is a mountain that shall endure forever.
No, Daniel’s three friends didn’t escape the fire. We would desire that, but that isn’t promised us. The indignant wrath of the citizens of the kingdom of this world shall surely be upon us; it will bring suffering and death, yet God through Jesus Christ shall escort us safely through that fire as we walk our pathway to glory.
And they had no hurt! What was true physically for Daniel’s three friends is true spiritually for us. The courage, the conviction, and the spiritual wisdom shall be given us as Christ walks besides us by His Word and Spirit.
With God all things are possible.