The Gospel in Daniel

This article is part of the Christ in All of Scripture series.

The Object of Our Worship

The “gospel according to Daniel” comes in glowing revelations of the power of God to redeem his people, overcome their enemies, and plan their future. We will not see these gospel truths clearly if we fall into two common but erroneous approaches to the book: (1) making Daniel the object of our worship; or, (2) making Daniel the subject of our debates.

We are tempted to make Daniel the object of our worship in the first half of the book, which is largely a biography of his life. Daniel’s courage and faithfulness in a land of cruelty and captivity can easily tempt us to make him the primary hero of the text. In doing so we neglect Daniel’s own message: God is the hero.

The righteous will be vindicated, evil will be destroyed, and the covenant blessings will prevail because Jesus will reign.

God saves a sinful and weak people; he preserves young men from impurity and old men from lions; he answers prayer and interprets dreams; he exalts the humble and humbles the proud; he vindicates the faithful and vanquishes the profane; and he rescues covenant-forsaking people by returning them to the land of the covenant. Daniel acts on the grace God repeatedly provides, but God is always the One who first provides the opportunity, resources, and rescue needed for Daniel’s faithfulness. If we reverse the order, and make God’s grace dependent on Daniel’s goodness, then we forsake the gospel message Daniel is telling and produce the hero-worship of adventure tales, rather than the divine worship of the gospel according to Daniel.

The Subject of Our Debates

The second half of the book, which contains most of the prophetic content, can make us susceptible to the second error: making Daniel primarily the subject of our debates about eschatology (the end times). This book contains some of the most amazing and detailed prophecies in all of Scripture. Centuries in advance, Daniel predicts events as momentous as the succession of vast empires, and he relates details as precise as the symptoms of a disease that will slay a future king. Daniel also speaks about the future of the people of God in visions that are hard to understand and that relate to some events still future to us.

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These are important prophecies, but we can become so stressed and combative about the interpretation of particular aspects of the prophecies that we neglect the central message: God will rescue his people from their sin and misery by the work of a Messiah. The righteous will be vindicated, evil will be destroyed, and the covenant blessings will prevail because Jesus will reign. All this occurs not because humans control their fate or deserve God’s redemption, but because the God of grace uses his sovereign power to maintain his covenant mercy forever. This, too, is the gospel according to Daniel that should give us courage against our foes, hope in our distress, and perseverance in our trials.

This article is adapted from the ESV Gospel Transformation Study Bible. Browse other articles in this series via the links below.

Old Testament

GenesisExodusLeviticusNumbersDeuteronomyJoshuaJudgesRuth1–2 Samuel1–2 Kings1–2 ChroniclesEzraNehemiahEstherJobPsalmsProverbsEcclesiastesSong of SolomonIsaiahJeremiahLamentationsEzekielDanielHoseaJoelAmosObadiahJonahMicahNahumHabbakukZephaniahHaggaiZechariahMalachi

New Testament

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