Theological Issues

THEOLOGICAL ISSUES


Outline:

i) Problem of evil
ii) Doctrine of Man- man’s depravity, God’s judgment and mercy
iii) Coming of the Messiah- the 1st and 2nd advent
iv) Angels
v) Resurrection of the righteous and wicked

This section highlights and provides some theological background of some of the main theological issues in the book of Daniel. It is hoped that the information provided would be useful in understanding and addressing other questions that may arise from the further study of the book of Daniel, which are not addressed here.


i) Problem of Evil

In the Bible, events e.g creation of universe and man, allowing man to sin, redemption of the fallen man are instances of God’s eternal purposes or decrees. God’s decrees are His eternal purpose based upon his perfect and holy counsel which he has predestined to come to pass. The purpose of his decrees is for His own glory. God never changes and his ways never contradicts his character of holiness and love.

The implications of his sovereign plans are:

1. His decrees are eternal and there is no development in his thinking.

2. Everything that has happened or will happen is part of his decree.

3. His decrees also include human choice and faith. In God’s decrees, man is given the freedom to choose. He is responsible for his actions even though it is permitted in the sovereign plan of God.

This leads us to the problem of evil and its existence in God’s eternal purpose. Why did God allowed evil to enter the world? No man can claim to fully understand this. But we know from Scripture that in God’s sovereign plans, he permitted evil yet he is still in control of all things in the universe. This does not go against his holiness and his immutability. His foreknowledge and predestination goes together and not to be separated as we often do. Some people suppose that because God’s foreknowledge leads him to predestine or cause things to happen. It is not so as there is no development in God’s thinking. Finite beings as we are, being limited by time and space cannot fully grasp how this can be so. Yet the elements of foreknowledge, predestination and permissive rule are within God’s sovereign plans even before time began.

Also, the means and ends in God’s decrees go hand in hand. For example, Christ’s death (end) is predestined but the means, by ‘hands of godless men’ is also no less certain. We see that Old Testament passages have prophesied beforehand about the manner of Christ’s death. The same applies to the elect that are to be saved (end). The means through the preaching of the gospel by believers remains our responsibility. We cannot shirk from it by saying that God will save the elect even if we do not share the gospel. Overall, while it is true to say that all things that happen are in His sovereign plan including man’s actions; man is fully responsible for his own actions as he possesses free will to choose to do right or wrong.

Issues in the book of Daniel

Why use the Babylonians to punish Israel?

One of the issues involves the use of Babylonians to punish Israel. Daniel 1:1-2 mentioned that ‘the Lord gave Jehoiakim, king of Judah into his (Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon) hand”. The Babylonians were known to be evil and proud. They believed in many gods and even practiced various kinds of magic. Why should God hold his judgment on such an evil nation as Babylon and even use them to punish Israel? The prophet Habbakuk posed a similar question and received an answer that satisfied him. God revealed that though the Babylonians were used to accomplish God’s purpose, they would have to ultimately face judgment for their evil wrongdoings. This is consistent with God’s holiness that he does not leave the guilty unpunished.

Also, the timing of the judgment on the Babylonians shows another aspect God’s love and mercy on the Babylonians. The Babylonians had an opportunity to know about the God of the Israel that He is God who is in control of all things. For example, this was made possible through the exiled Israelites like Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. God’s dealing with king Nebuchadnezzar showed forth his abundant mercy, grace and love. In the first incident involving Daniel, king Nebuchadnezzar was also able to know the existence of ‘a God in heaven’ and his power (Dan 2). In a separate incident involving the throwing of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego into the furnace, God demonstrated his power by delivering the three men (Dan 2). King Nebuchadnezzar himself confessed and made a decree about the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego that “no other God can deliver like this” (Dan 3:29). The 3rd opportunity to experience God’s greatness and might was Nebuchadnezzar’s recovery from his madness. Nebuchadnezzar himself exalted and extolled the King of heaven, possibly indicating a change from his previous beliefs to the True God of Israel. Another example is King Darius who had a personal experience in witnessing the power of God in delivering Daniel from the lions.

Why does God allow the reign of the Anti-Christ in the end times?

An even more difficult issue is with regards to God’s sovereign plan for all mankind in the end times. This is relevant to the rise of the 4th kingdom, which “shall devour the whole earth, trample it and break it into pieces” (Dan 7:23). It will not be an easy time for all especially the Jews under the Anti-Christ. How can a holy God allow the Anti-Christ to reign on earth and commit great evil? It brings us back to the problem of evil in God’s decree. Most people would question why God does not prevent the rise of the anti-Christ or wipe out Satan right from the start. We are not fully capable of explaining it but we need to recall God’s character that he is holy, love and immutable. Thus, his ways are consistent with his character. In all his ways, he must be both holy and loving. While he would love man to do His will, he will not dictate man. He gave them a free will to choose and thus man is fully responsible for his actions. In this case, God in his eternal plans from the beginning foreknew that this will happen. We also know that he will not dictate man’s affairs and God’s permissive rule is a part of His eternal plans. Thus, the anti-Christ is permitted to reign for a while but he will face judgment and victory still belongs to God at the end.


ii) Doctrine of Man

Sin and human depravity cannot be separated. Sin is the wrong things we think, do or say (e.g hate, steal and lie) and it is also the failure to do what is right (e.g. love and honour God). In the doctrine of man, the depravity of all mankind is connected to the fall of Adam when he first sinned against God.

“Therefore just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because all sinned.”

This passage in Romans 5:12-19 speaks clearly of the imputation of Adam’s sin to the human race. Adam’s sin is thus passed to his descendants and all subsequent generations possess this sin nature. The sin nature that is passed down from Adam includes not only the capacity to sin but also the inclination and tendency to sin. We are affected by sin in all aspects, intellect (Rom 1:28), sensibility (Rom 1:26), and will (Rom 5:6). As a result, man is totally corrupted on the inside and this manifests in his outward evil and sinful actions, thus making all humans depraved.
Throughout the history of man, we see evidence of human depravity in the examples of sin committed e.g idolatry, disobedience, pride, lust, murder.

In the book of Daniel…

1. We see 3 kings: Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar and Darius the Mede all committing the sin of idolatry and pride. King Nebuchadnezzar who instituted the worship of a golden image and made his people do the same. When he is deep in sin, he became angry when his wishes were not met. Such was the case for King Nebuchadnezzar and he threw Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego into the furnace for failing to comply with his command. We see God’s mercy and grace to King Nebuchadnezzar in personally witnessing the power of God for the second time in delivering the 3 men (Dan 2). It was not until Nebuchadnezzar suffered judgment when he turned mad momentarily (Dan 4:1-37), after which he truly acknowledged the True God of heaven. Despite being a Gentile and his sinful actions, God showed grace in giving him repeated opportunities to know the True God.

The sin of pride is inherent as we see it in his son, Belshazzar who despite having known about God and His might, consistently refused to acknowledge God. He received God’s judgment and was eventually killed (Dan 5:30). We see 2 proud kings who both suffered God’s judgment yet with vastly different outcomes due to their choice to believe God and to humble themselves.

The throne was then given to Darius the Mede. In an environment of flattery and persuasion of sinful man, King Darius was overwhelmed by pride and committed a folly. His pride caused him to commit idolatry. He made a golden statue of himself and commanded people to worship him as God. The effect of his sin implicated Daniel in an irreversible situation where he ended up in the lion’ den. But God demonstrated his might and deliverance where Darius responded by exalting God and decreed his people to do the same (Dan 6:25-27).

2. God’s judgment on the Gentile powers of whom Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Darius and Cyrus were the chief representatives (Dan 2:4b-49; 7:1-28). This highlights the judgment on the sins of the Gentile nations through the 4th kingdom of the Anti-Christ. The rise of the 4th kingdom coincides with the Tribulation, which will be a time of judgment of all inhabitant of the earth for their iniquities. Yet the 4th kingdom is also temporal and it will eventually be replaced by God’s eternal kingdom. This eternal kingdom consists of people of all nations and languages demonstrating God’s mercy that is extended to all both Jews and Gentiles who trust in Him.

3. The repeated disobedience of the Israelites to keep God’s covenant and laws caused them to be captured and exiled to a foreign land of the Babylonians. The result of God’s judgment on Israel formed the backdrop of the book of Daniel and Daniel’s prayer for the Lord’s forgiveness and mercy (Dan 9). A message of consolation and hope concerning the future of Israel was given in response to Daniel’s prayer in the later part of chapter 9. Here, God showed his mercy in his judgment of Israel that the time of their judgment would end and the coming of the Messiah would be fulfilled.


iii) Coming of the Messiah

Old Testament prophecies have spoken of the Messiah as a mighty King as well as a suffering Servant. These diametrically contrasting roles are reconciled in understanding the coming of Messiah in 2 advents. In Daniel, there are some indications of the 2 advents of Christ.

The first is found in the prophecy of the ’70 Weeks’ addressed to the Jews (Dan 9:24-27). In Dan 9:25,26 it is stated that after 62 weeks from the decree to rebuild the city walls, the Messiah would be cut off. This highly suggests that the Messiah had already arrived for him to be subsequently cut off. Here, the 1st Advent of Christ is strongly implied. We have indeed seen the fulfillment of the first 69 weeks of the prophecy. The 70th week thus projects into the future.

The second advent of Christ as mighty ruler of his kingdom is suggested by the other passages in Daniel 7:13. This passage describes the rise of the 4th kingdom followed by the establishment of the eternal kingdom of God. It describes the coming of the Messiah on a cloud where He “was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.” This coincides around the time of judgment before the throne of the Ancient of Days (God).


iv) Angels

In book of Daniel, angels are described as ‘having the appearance of man’ or named e.g Gabriel, Michael. They are involved in the giving of visions or in helping Daniel to understand them. (Dan 8:15-19; 9:21-22; 10:13) The book of Daniel is one of the books that speaks of the existence and work of angels. The doctrine of angels is thus derived from Scriptures and not derived from Babylonian or Persian sources.

Who are Angels?

1. Angels are spiritual beings (Ps 104:4) and they can appear to men in visible (Jn 20:12, Matt 1:20, Lk 1:26) and in human forms (Gen 19). They have no gender forms but are often referred in masculine form (Jude 2:1, 6:11,22).

2. They are also created beings. “For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones or dominions, or principalities or powers: all things are created by him and for him” (Col 1:16). See also Heb 12:22,23; Neh 9:6; Matt 22:28-30.

3. They are beings of might and power. “Whereas angels which are greater in power and might (than man)” 2 Pet 2:11. They are angels of His might: “Bless the Lord, ye his angels, which excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of the Lord.” Ps 103:20. In Revelations, angels are the ones who lay hold of the dragon. Going back to the OT, angels are responsible for smoting the Assyrians (Isa 37:36).

4. Angels have ranks. In Daniel, Michael is known as the archangel. Also, in 1 Thess 4:16, “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first.” See also 1 Pet 3:22, Col 1:16.

5. There are a great number of them. See Heb 12:22, Matt 26:53, Jn 25:3.

In the book of Daniel….

Angels are mentioned in several places. Some of them are even named e.g Gabriel (Dan 8 and 9) and Michael (Dan 10, 12). Gabriel was described as having the “appearance of man” that is he had the form of a man. He was also said to be able to fly. Like Michael, both of them helped explained the visions to Daniel. However, it seems that these angels had specific jobs. For example, Michael was mentioned to have the specific job of protecting Israel (Dan 12:1).

Other works of angels include defending, protecting and delivering God’s people. One instance was the 4th man who was with Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego in the furnace, protected and delivered them from harm (Dan 3). The other instance was the angel who shut the lions’ mouth to prevent Daniel from being harmed (Dan 6).

Fallen angels were also mentioned (Dan 10:5-21). These are angels who have sinned. 2 Pet 2:4 mention them. “For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment.” Jude 6: “and the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.” The fall of angels are likely connected to the fall of Satan.

The works of these fallen angels are to oppose God’s purposes (Dan 10:10-14) and execute Satan’s purposes (Matt 25:41, 12:26,27). In Daniel 10, they seemed to have been able to hinder the work of angels by delaying his going to Daniel. These fallen angels in Daniel were called “princes of the kingdom of Persia”.


v) Resurrection of the Righteous and the Wicked

Daniel 12 speaks of the resurrection of the dead either to life or eternal death. Some Hebrew scholars who translated this passage showed that there will be 2 resurrections. The resurrection of the righteous to eternal life is separate from that of the wicked to judgment and eternal damnation. Revelations 20:4-6 shows that at least a thousand years separate the 2 resurrections. The resurrection of the wicked is connected to the judgment before God’s throne (Dan 7:9-10).

The Doctrine of Resurrection

In both old and new testament, resurrection is taught. Isaiah 26:19 speaks of “the dead that shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise.” This teaches a bodily resurrection of Israel. The Lord Jesus said in John 6:40 that “everyone who believes in Him may have everlasting life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

Nature of Resurrection

1) Bodily or physical resurrection of all men. “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming in which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth” (Jn 5:28).

2) Redemption of the body is included in our complete redemption. Rom 8: 11-23: “And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan with ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wait the redemption of our body” (v23). Our physical body will be transformed into one that is suitable for entrance into the kingdom.

Time of the Resurrection

Most evangelicals agree that there will be an eternal state where time will end and eternity will begin. They see eye to eye on the basic essentials of God’s plan for the future. However, they differ on the timing of specific events relating to unfulfilled prophecy. Here, we (the FCF) adopt the pre-millennialist position with a pre-tribulational dispensational view.

1) Resurrection of the righteous – The righteous refers to those who belong to Christ. There are 3 phases of this resurrection:

a) Resurrection of Christ is considered the start of the resurrection program (1 Cor 15:23).

b) Rapture of the church: Believers in Christ who are still alive will be caught up in mid-air to meet with Christ. The dead in Christ will rise up and be raptured (1 Thess 4:16). This occurs before the 7 years of Tribulation.

c) Resurrection of Israel: This involves the Tribulation saints who have died (Rev 20:3-5) and Old Testament saints (Dan 12:1-2; Isa 26:19). This occurs after Tribulation at the 2nd advent of Christ to earth.

2) Resurrection of the wicked – Following the millennium, Christ will defeat Satan and his armies in the battle of Armageddon. The second resurrection of all the unsaved dead or that of the wicked occurs. This likely happens just before the Great white throne judgment where they are sentenced to suffer eternity in hell. This differs from the first resurrection to life and glory.