- Lesson 8 in the BaptistWay Press Connect360 unit “Faith Under Fire” focuses on Daniel 7:1-28.
Unfortunately, many come to apocalyptic passages like Daniel 7 and spend so much time focusing on the interpretive details that they miss the meaning of the passage. While we will certainly explore the prophetic identity of the lion, the bear, the leopard and the fourth beast, we will spend more time trying to comprehend what Daniel is actually trying to declare in chapter 7, one of the most meaningful and powerful passages in all of the Old Testament.
In chapter 7, we find ourselves at the major transition in the book. In the first six chapters, we have focused on stories about Daniel and his three friends, revealing both their faith and courage as they find themselves in exile. When we move to chapter 7, however, narrative (story) passages are replaced by apocalyptic passages.
The term apocalyptic comes from a Greek word and literally means “revelation.” This label, apocalyptic, is taken from the first verse in the book of Revelation, also known as the Apocalypse of John. Daniel 7-12, much of the book of Revelation and various other biblical passages are from the genre of apocalyptic scripture. Apocalyptic passages share some clear similarities, whether they come from Daniel, Revelation or even apocalyptic literature outside of the Bible (though apocalyptic literature outside the Bible is not divinely inspired).
What common characteristics do apocalyptic passages share?
Apocalyptic literature often:
- Deals with cosmic dualism, that is, the final battle between good and evil.
- Communicates its message by the use of visions and revelations.
- Uses animal symbolism to communicate a reality about humanity. Animals, or creatures made up from a combination of various animals, represent either persons or entire nations.
- Sees history as moving toward a certain climax or destiny.
- Uses numbers as symbols (numerology) to communicate a message beyond themselves.
- Reveals mysteries and symbols to set forth the future destiny of both the evil (the world) and good (the kingdom of God).
As you teach this lesson, be careful not to insist on one particular interpretation of the passage to the extent that you fail to acknowledge that humility must always be present when we interpret challenging passages like Daniel 7. Throughout the centuries, even biblical scholars have had different opinions in regard to the details of Daniel’s apocalyptic section. No interpreter, therefore, should be adamant about a scheme for the cosmic climax of history, nor arrogant about his or her own particular identification of the strange animal-like images found in this passage. To take away all the mystery of the apocalyptic passage would be to destroy its very nature. Have hope; God’s people win through his Messiah. That is the message that matters.
Based on commentary written by Howard Batson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Amarillo, as condensed by Stan Granberry, marketing coordinator for BaptistWay Press.
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