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The Third Unknown of Daniel 2: An Unknown Message

Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face and paid homage to Daniel, and commanded that an offering and incense be offered up to him. The king answered and said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery.” Daniel 2:46–47

For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one-who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Romans 3:28–30

God chose a strange dreamer and an odd interpreter, so we should expect by now that the dream itself would be something off the charts. Let’s dig into this challenging dream, beginning with the question of relevance: why is this dream important anyway?

More than a Dream

We’ve already noted how shocking it was that God would even speak to the gentile king of Babylon. The heathen king got the dream while captive Israel slept soundly in ignorant darkness. The entire episode displays a role reversal that God predicted as far back as Moses (Dt. 28:36; 32:21). The message was clear: in spite of Israel’s stubbornness God would be glorified; yet not among His own people. His name would be exalted among the Gentiles!

But God’s choice to speak to the king is not so stunning as what He chose to say, for the sum total of the vision amounts to one of the largest gifts of revelation in history. Think about it—God made known to Nebuchadnezzar the future course of world history through a timeline that begins with his reign (605 B.C.) and ends with the future reign of Christ (TBD A.D.). This amounts to one of the most expansive revelations in Scripture, a timetable of human and divine rule spanning 2,500 years and counting.

What’s more, this revelation was big news—information that Israel had been waiting for and wondering about for years. Israel’s prophets of old had provided noteworthy briefings on the Messiah and His future kingdom, various peeks into a glorious future established by a coming King; but Nebuchadnezzar’s dream put all these onto a schedule. And this was only the beginning, for the vision of Daniel 2 would be the foundation on which God would build an increasingly detailed outline of His plans for this world and world to come. Each proceeding vision in Daniel’s book finds its relevance in the timeline provided in God’s first vision to King Nebuchadnezzar.

Light unto the Gentiles

In effect, this dream is a place where the Old Testament meets the New. The first rays of the gospel shone out in God’s revelation to a king who had no claim on Him. News that should have been proclaimed on Israel’s lips were instead made known through the lips of a puzzled monarch and his enlightened Jewish eunuch. The cat was now out of the bag; the Good News was coming to Gentiles, five hundred years before Christ.

It wasn’t by chance that men came from the East asking, “Where is He who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw His star when it rose and have come to worship Him?” (Mt. 2:2). These Parthian officials were heirs of the knowledge that God had imparted to their Babylonian and Persian predecessors. The Magi knew the dream and knew its corresponding visions and therefore knew whom to look for and when He would be appearing.

So the dream is much more than a dream; it is an announcement of salvation to all people. God’s choice to shine such light on someone who didn’t know Him—a gentile king—was nothing short of a declaration of something far higher than the covenant made at Sinai, and something far beyond even an earthly kingdom and an earthly temple.

A Key to More

Understanding comes as a result of slow, steady learning, which is no less the case with Scripture. When we understand Daniel’s prophetic ministry, we are empowered to comprehend questions that baffle many Bible scholars today. We will consider some of these riddles in the coming weeks. Until then, may the Lord bless you with a deepening appreciation of Him and His precious, peerless Son!

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