Daniel’s Visions of the Cross
As the Waters of Mystery Recede, the Cross is Revealed
As the waters of mystery recede, the highest peaks of revelatory truth are first to emerge. What the Bible reveals at first is always of foundational importance to all that follows. The dreams and visions given the prophet Daniel are the highest peaks of revelatory truth regarding the destiny of the saints. No additional future revelation ever diminishes their relative height and importance, but only reveals their base to a broader extent. These initial truths reveal the primary destiny and calling of the saints at the end of the age, and must be kept as the basis of our understanding of all that follows as the destiny of the saints becomes further clarified in the book of Revelation.
The content of the prophetic dreams and visions of Daniel has been taught by some as applicable only to the literal nation of Israel and not to the Church. It is true that the people described in Daniel’s revelations are not referred to as the Church, but rather as the saints of the Highest One, your people, or the holy people. Even in the book of Revelation, groups of people are frequently referred to as saints and not identified by the term church. However, these groups in Revelation can be identified as the Church based on their relationship to Jesus Christ. The book of Daniel does not identify these groups of people based on their relationship to Jesus. Therefore, Daniel’s dreams and visions must be interpreted in the light of further insight given in the book of Revelation and other New Testament Scriptures in order to apply them to the Church.
We will see that the saints and your people and the holy people of Daniel’s dreams and visions match exactly the saints in the book of Revelation. The period of time in view in both books is the final three and one-half years of the age. The book of Revelation clearly identifies these saints as followers of Jesus Christ. This must be understood in order to apply the critical foundational prophecies of Daniel to the Church and not consider them as applicable only to literal Israel. Daniel understood the saints and your people and the holy people to be the Jewish people. He was right, but his understanding was limited to the Jewish portion of the eventual one-new-man company known as the Church which would consist of both Jewish and Gentile believers.
Daniel’s Dreams and Visions
Daniel received a succession of dreams and visions crucial to our understanding of the destiny of the Church. He had difficulty comprehending this because of the measured extent of the revelation given him, and because he could only process it with his Old Testament theology. The revelations he received were so staggering to his understanding that at one point he became ill. He was looking forward in time and seeing the Church of Jesus Christ at the end of the age, specifically during the last three and one-half years of the age. He had no knowledge of a future Church or of a suffering Savior. Yet his dreams and visions are a clear prophetic picture of the destiny of the Church at the end of the age.
Each succeeding dream or vision builds upon previous revelations even as the book of Revelation builds upon the book of Daniel. The information given by all of these prophetic revelations needs to be pieced together in order to build an accurate picture regarding the destiny of the Church. Any piece of the puzzle left out or misapplied will result in an incomplete and inaccurate picture. Daniel was specifically told that he would not understand the things he was shown, but that he was to write them down to be preserved for --- and understood by --- a people alive at the time of the end.
Daniel’s Little Book is Now Open!
One of the strongest impressions that I ever received from the Holy Spirit regarding the study of these prophetic Scriptures concerned the little book of Daniel 12. The Holy Spirit seemed to say that the little book in Daniel 12, ordered sealed up until the time of the end, is the same little book that reappears opened in the hands of the angel in Revelation 10:2. The description of the last three and one-half years of the age, which was the topic of discussion of Daniel 12, is again the topic of discussion following the opening of the little book in Revelation 10. When the visions of Daniel and John are combined, a complete picture of the destiny of the Church at the end of the age emerges.
Daniel’s Vision in the First Year of Belshazzar
Daniel Chapter 7 describes a vision involving a succession of four strange beasts which represent empires.
These great beasts, which are four in number, are four kings who will arise from the earth. But the saints of the Highest One will receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, for all ages to come (Daniel 7:17-18).
The outcome of this vision is that the saints of the Highest One will one day receive the Kingdom and possess it forever, for all ages to come. These verses describing the first vision of Daniel are foundational to all that follows. Nothing is said to Daniel about who these saints are or how this comes to pass. This is the first revelatory peak to emerge as the waters of mystery recede.
Daniel asked for additional insight and was given further revelation regarding the beast empires and the saints.
I kept looking, and that horn was waging war with the saints and overpowering them until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was passed in favor of the saints of the Highest One, and the time arrived when the saints took possession of the kingdom (Daniel 7:21-22).
And he [the little horn] will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One, and he will intend to make alterations in times and in law; and they will be given into his hand for a time, times and half a time [three and one-half years]. But the court will sit for judgment, and his dominion will be taken away, annihilated and destroyed forever. Then the sovereignty, the dominion, and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One; His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve and obey Him (Daniel 7:25-27).
Notice that this additional revelation adds details indicating that the saints will be warred against, that they will be worn down, and that they will be given into the hand of a "little horn" (commonly understood to be the antichrist) for a period of three and one-half years. Nevertheless, they will emerge victorious. This is a crucial additional piece of data regarding the prophetic destiny of the saints at the end of the age. The saints will be victorious, but that path to victory will be through a process of being warred against and worn down. This is the second revelatory peak to emerge as the waters of mystery continue to recede.
Daniel’s Vision in the Third Year of Belshazzar
Daniel received additional revelation in this vision indicating that the holy people would not only be warred against and worn down, but that they would be destroyed.
And his [the antichrist’s] power will be mighty, but not by his own power, and he will destroy to an extraordinary degree and prosper and perform his will; he will destroy mighty men and the holy people (Daniel 8:24).
Daniel’s Vision in the Third Year of Cyrus
Chapters 10 through 12 reveal Daniel’s last vision concerning the saints at the end of the age.
The age will end in a specific period of three and one-half years during which the power of the holy people will be shattered. These holy people are the same people previously referred to as the saints. They are warred against, worn down, shattered, and destroyed --- yet emerge victorious as recipients of the Kingdom. It is the process of being purged, purified, and refined that has transformed these saints, who have been warred against, into the holy people. That is the essence of the destiny of the saints portrayed in the book of Daniel.
The New Testament, and most specifically the book of Revelation, builds upon these foundational revelations and applies them clearly to the Church on earth at the end of the age. But nowhere else is the path of victory for the Church so clearly described as in the book of Daniel, where it is described as a process of being physically destroyed. The first two peaks are further revealed as the waters of mystery continue to recede, and the contents of the little book, reopened in the book of Revelation, are exposed.
The Saints of Daniel are the Saints of Revelation
The third revelatory peak to emerge, as Daniel’s little book is opened in Revelation Chapter 10, is that the saints of Daniel and the saints of Revelation are one and the same. They are destined to be physically destroyed for the express purpose of overcoming Satan thereby demonstrating God’s wisdom through the Church to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.
And there was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies; and authority to act for forty-two months [three and one-half years] was given to him. And he opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, that is, those who dwell in heaven. And it was given to him [the antichrist] to make war with the saints and to overcome them; and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him. And all who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain. If anyone has an ear, let him hear. If anyone is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes; if anyone kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed. Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints (Revelation 13:5-10).
The Saints of Daniel and Revelation are the Church
The fourth peak to emerge from the waters of mystery is that the saints of Daniel are not only the saints of Revelation, but that they are the Church of Jesus Christ. The identity of the saints of Daniel is forever settled by their relationship with Jesus as revealed in the following verses:
And another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, "If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or upon his hand, he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb"...Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, "Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!’" "Yes," says the Spirit, "that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them" (Revelation 14:9-10,12-13).
The Mystery and Paradox of the Cross
The mystery of the cross was revealed to Daniel, although he did not understand what he had seen and heard. He had no historical pattern in which a people could be victorious through a process of being worn down, shattered, and destroyed. And yet he was given a revelation of a holy people at the end of the age who are ultimately victorious through such a process --- a process that he could only understand as total defeat. It suggests the appearance of total defeat that Jesus must have displayed as He hung shattered and destroyed on the cross.
This is a glimpse of the Church at the end of the age walking the path that Jesus walked. It may be as confusing and disconcerting to us as it was to Daniel, even though Daniel’s little book has been reopened for our reading. However, much of our current theology and teaching avoids the foundational truths of the cross. Some will disassociate those saints who are overcome at the end of the age from those in the seven churches in Revelation who are called to be overcomers. The essence of the cross, however, is that one overcomes by laying down one’s life, sometimes physically. Those saints who are physically overcome are the same saints who do spiritually overcome.
I Heard but Could not Understand
Daniel was staggered to the point of illness by these revelations. The Church must understand that she will be victorious, but her path to victory at the very end of the age, as mapped out in the book of Daniel, involves her physical destruction. Such a destiny seems bitter to us and impossible to swallow. Do we also hear but fail to understand?
We will never be able to embrace this destiny without the mind of Christ. Only for the joy set before us, in valid eternal perspective, will we be able to accept and endure these things. The cross of Christ is the wisdom of God because God established it as His wisdom; it does not depend on our understanding or lack of it. He said it; that settles it. Pray that we may have our minds renewed to understand this awesome destiny and that God may give us the grace to both embrace it and endure.
Living Out the Sermon on the Mount
This is a living demonstration of the theology of the Sermon on the Mount. It is the life that Jesus lived. It is the wisdom of the cross. Wasn’t His path to victory through allowing Himself to be physically overcome? The churches in Revelation are counseled to be overcomers, yet the paths of some of the overcomers in the church of Smyrna clearly led to being physically overcome (martyred). There is no inconsistency with the overcomers also being overcome. We must, however, differentiate between being spiritually overcome and being physically overcome. The definition of being spiritually overcome would involve falling away and receiving the mark of the beast. We must not be overcome in that manner.
Although it appears a paradox, it is not a paradox in light of the wisdom of God, which is the wisdom of the cross. What makes it a paradox in our minds is that we often think with the minds of men, as Peter did , when in honest good intention he counseled Jesus not to go to the cross. The wisdom of man, which is diametrically opposed to the wisdom of God, is that we overcome by striking back and by vindicating ourselves. But the wisdom of God is the cross of Christ, whereby Jesus allowed Himself to be overcome in the flesh to the point of death. He never struck back. He never opened His mouth to vindicate Himself. In this manner, He won the victory. We are called to do the same and to again demonstrate the wisdom of the cross. This is the wisdom that God will demonstrate through the Church. It will overcome evil and re-establish righteous rule over all of creation for eternity.
The paradox of the conflict is revealed by balancing two separate verses from the book of Revelation.
And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even to death (Revelation 12:11).
And it was given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them; and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him (Revelation 13:7).
The him in these verses is Satan, or his antichrist. The they and the them are the saints who are the Church. The saints are both overcome and overcomers through the same event.
Holy and Powerful
There are two additional points which reveal that the saints of Daniel are the Church. Notice from the context of Daniel 12:7 that the saints at the end of the age are holy and powerful, even though they are warred against and overcome. Who or what must be the source of the holiness and power of these saints? Can there be any source of holiness and power at the end of the age other than Jesus? We know that Satan is powerful, but he is not holy. The combination of holiness and power can only be supplied by Jesus Christ. The only way these saints can be holy and powerful is if Jesus is living in them and exhibiting His holiness and power through them. These must be the Church. We should not be surprised, therefore, to find these same saints identified in the book of Revelation as the Church of Jesus Christ.
Recipients of the Kingdom
The second point is that these saints of Daniel are recipients of the Kingdom. With the benefit of the New Testament, we understand that followers of Jesus will receive the Kingdom. Therefore, these saints in view at the end of the age must also be followers of Jesus.
Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom (Luke 12:32).
Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him (James 2:5)?
Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:28-29).
And turning His gaze on His disciples, He began to say, "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God" (Luke 6:20).
The foundational truth revealed in Daniel is that the Church will be victorious and receive the Kingdom through the process of being warred against and worn down and overcome. Nowhere do we read of the option of escape from this process. If there is an option of escape, perhaps it will be revealed further along. For now we have to understand that this call is primary. It is equally as primary for the Church at the end of the age as it was for Jesus --- for all but one of the same reasons, as we shall see.
There is a strong natural tendency to identify ourselves with a group that is protected and exempt from the onslaught of Satan during the great tribulation. And in a sense we are exempt, because Jesus prayed that we would be kept safe from the evil one. However, being kept safe in that context has nothing to do with preserving our physical lives. God is more concerned with our billions of years in eternity than with our seventy years of earthly life, and so should we be concerned. The safety that Jesus is referring to is in the context of spiritual safety, not physical safety. The martyrs in Smyrna are told that they will not be hurt by the second death. Their first death is not of eternal consequence, but their potential second one is. Jesus said in Luke 21:16-18 that some of us will be put to death, but not a hair of our heads would perish. The primary call of the saints as described in the book of Daniel is physical destruction. The two foundational truths regarding the walk of the Church at the end of the age are that she will be victorious and receive the Kingdom, but through the process of being physically overcome to the extent of being shattered and destroyed.
Regardless of the validity of exceptions to this primary call, it is a multitude so great that no one could count them that emerges victorious from the great tribulation in Revelation 7. We will see that the logical sequence and context of events identify these as martyred saints, not raptured ones.
When Jesus said "Follow Me," He was not inviting us to the presidential suite of the King David Hotel. He was inviting us to join Him in reproach and death outside the camp. If the nature of our call is significantly different than this, why were the foundational apostles, with the possible exception of John, martyred even as their Lord was? It is said that the Church was birthed through the blood of the martyrs. Apparently the Church will grow to maturity as well through the blood of the martyrs, for we will see that it is the death of the saints at the end of the age that ushers in the time when the bride is at last declared ready.
Demonstration of the Mystery
This scenario is most clearly demonstrated by the life, death, and subsequent resurrection of the two witnesses of Revelation Chapter 11. They are said to be overcome, but they are classic examples of those who do overcome as a consequence of allowing themselves to be overcome. These two witnesses are witnesses of the Lord Jesus Christ, and represent the Church at peak power and authority. They are holy and powerful. Yet they are warred against, overcome, and killed. Three and one-half days later they are resurrected to heaven. This is a snapshot of victory after being overcome! This is a demonstration of overcoming after being overcome! Saints, may all of our destinies be so glorious!