War, Worship, and Worlds End
by Desmond Ford
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THE first "battle" in this world, the first shedding of human blood, was over the issue of worship. It transpired at the very gates of Eden when one brother slew the other. "And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, arid his brother's righteous" (1 John 3:12). But of more interest to us probably is the fact that the last battle of earth is also to be over the manner of worship. History begins and ends with religious conflict. (See Genesis 4 and Revelation 16:13, 14.) 1
Both of the famous apocalypses of Scripture, Daniel and Revelation, foretell that the final crisis of history will revolve around the issue of allegiance to God and His revealed manner of worship. Not Communism, nor any other political "ism," is to decide the fate of earth's multitudes, but rather the supreme concern of every human being's relationship to his Creator.
The familiar prophecies of Revelation symbolically picture the final religious confederacy that will endeavor to compel all men to submit to its form of legislated worship, an "image" or replica of the false worship of other eras, and foretell a final call to all men to worship the Creator of heaven and earth. They also present the warning that submission to false worship will bring eternal loss.
Because some of this imagery is drawn from the book of Daniel only he who already understands "Daniel the prophet" in harmony with Christ's admonition so to do is in the position to understand John the revelator. What is there then in Daniel about this issue of worship?
A Summary of Daniel 1-6
Throughout the pages of Daniel the conflict between true and false worship is graphically illustrated. The first half of the book is narration and the second is prophetic revelation, but both halves revolve around the same issue, namely, worship. In six different forms in the narrative portion, the supremacy of the true God and His worshipers is shown over the oppressive, idolatrous worship of Babylon and its successors.
1. Chapter one reveals that those who worship idols are inferior in wisdom to the worshipers of the Creator.
2. Chapter two describes how only a true worshiper could under stand the mysteries of the future. Only Daniel could interpret the king's dream about "the latter days."
3. Chapter three tells how God can deliver from fiery ordeal those who refuse to submit to idolatrous worship.
4. Chapter four demonstrates the superiority of divine sovereignty over the greatest secular man of the age. Nebuchadnezzar's "I" succumbs to the great "I AM." Self-worship is shown to be self-destructive.
5. Chapter five teaches that sacrilege must inevitably bring retribution. The story of Belshazzar's profane feast climaxes in the terrifying handwriting of judgment on the wall. Man-made worship issues in a harvest of death.
6. Chapter six illustrates how the divine Lawgiver can defeat the persecuting programs of earthly lawgivers. The fiat of Darius falls to the ground and Daniel emerges unhurt from the den of death.
The second half of Daniel proceeds to teach out by prophetic vision what had already been acted out in the narrative portion.2 The theme remains that of the conflict between true and false worship a theme later extended by the seer of Patmos in the New Testament's complementary book to Daniel, Revelation.
Thus the opening verses of Daniel illustrate the whole book. They tell of the conflict between Babylon and Jerusalem, between false worship and the true, between the kingdom of Satan and the kingdom of God. All that follows is to enlarge these themes.
A Test of Appetite
As we read the first chapter of Daniel these verses seem at first almost a letdown. We read merely of a test over diet and its outcome. But stop a moment. The first test recorded in Holy Writ also seems pathetically insignificant. It, too, concerned appetite. Could it be that the depth of love is best revealed in the little things? We might abhor a man who delivered his mother up to death in order to gain a king's ransom, but with what revulsion would we contemplate one who sold his mother for a few cents?
Then again, great doors often swing on little hinges. Does not this story as well as Genesis 3 illustrate Satan's mode of attack? Does he not ever endeavor to reach the citadel of the heart through the senses? Does not successful Christian living depend upon the adequate barricading of the senses? If the Spirit of God communicates with sinners through the nerves of the mind and if these nerves are physical, reflecting the state of the stomach, what more important duty could there be than that of preserving that organ in the best possible condition? Did not Christ Himself begin His ministry by illustrating how victory was to be achieved in this very matter? See the record of His forty days' fast. Calvary, the salvation of the world, and the safeguarding of the universe, were dependent upon Christ's submission of His appetites to the will of God.
The plot thickens as Daniel proceeds. The initial test is to be fol lowed by others. The test over the acceptance of unclean and unhealthful food is succeeded by a test over worship. The situation described in Daniel, chapter three, called for a positive affirmation of idolatry the worshiping of a golden image on the plains of Dura. Later came a more difficult, searching ordeal. Only cease to do something belonging to your own worship. Just stop praying to God. This negative test is more rigorous than the preceding one at Dura. It would seem so much easier and permissible just to by pass one's visible praying than to bow down before an idol. Thus is represented the increasing pressures that come to every Christian and that ultimately will overtake the church itself.
Two Profound Conclusions
The faithful worshipers of the true God become the type of those loyal believers whose persecutions are sketched in the later prophecies of the same volume. We are not the first to suggest the deep significance of the historical record in Daniel concerning trial and persecution. Modern Bible students would do well to ponder the thoughtful conclusions of the well-known scholars Patrick Fairbairn and Bishop Christopher Wordsworth: "Daniel's history, too, was in the closest manner connected with his prophecy. The one may fitly be regarded as a type of the other, and on that account, probably, occupies so large a place in his book. The grand aim of the revelations imparted to him, was to unfold the progress of the kingdom of God from deep depression, and through manifold struggles, to the supreme place of honour and glory, and the process is already imaged in the marvellous rise of Daniel himself from the condition of a Hebrew exile to the place of highest power and influence at the court of Babylon.3
"Christ vouchsafed these revelations to Daniel, in order that the . . , Christian Church, studying diligently the words of her divine Lord in the Book of Daniel, may look beyond the present distress to the future victory and everlasting bliss which will succeed it.
"The last of our Lord's eight beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount is reserved for those who suffer for righteousness' sake. . . . The last beatitude looks forward to the last age of the church, the age of suffering and glory. . . . Daniel . . . was a precursor of St. John. . . . Both were 'persecuted for righteousness' sake.' Both were delivered by God. . . . Both are examples to those who live in the latter days, and cheer them under persecution by the gleams of everlasting glory that will follow." 4
How great is the faithfulness of Cod! Foreseeing the trials and troubles that are the lot of all men and particularly those loyal to principles, He has placed in Scripture the assurance that He knows the way we take and that He has made complete provision for the ultimate joy of all who make Him first and best in everything. The elevation of Daniel and his faithful friends in the court of ancient Babylon is a pledge that all who emulate their example will one day be elevated to the heavenly courts of eternal glory and joy.
1. See Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 72-77, which delineates the manner in which the first conflict in Eden typifies the final worldwide "battle."
2. The following remarks by E. W. Heaton in his commentary on Daniel are pertinent here and apply also to our application of the historical chapters in later articles in this series. "There are in the Old Testament numerous situations which disclose the fundamental relationship between God and his world, and when the problems of that relationship recur in later history, it is natural and inevitable that they should be expounded in the language and thoughtforms previously employed in a similar connection. As the God of the Hebrews and the God of Christians is one and the same (Heb. 1.1 ff.), the 'types' of the Old Testament, developed and reinterpreted in Christian thought, provide a method of interpretation which is properly and fundamentally theological." The Book of Daniel, pp. 96, 97.
3. Patrick Fairbairn, The Interpretation of Prophecy, p. 35.
4. Bishop Christopher Wordsworth, Commentary, vol. vi, p. xx.
Condensed from an article that originally appeared in the Australian Signs of the Times, June 1, 1973.