Monday, September 27, 2021

An Overview of the Book of Daniel

 Daniel's Answer to the King by Briton Rivière (1840–1920)
A few weeks ago, I gave a lesson on the book of Daniel as part of a Bible survey series. You can listen to the lesson on Daniel at this link. (You can also listen to my sermon series on Daniel here.) Here is the handout that I provided along with the lesson. 

Daniel and his three friends were some of the youths “of the royal family and of the nobility” (1:3) taken from Jerusalem to Babylon in 605 BC when Babylon first subdued Jerusalem (cp. 1 Kgs. 24:1). Isaiah had prophesied that this would happen in 2 Kings 20:18. Daniel would rise to prominence as a ruler and counselor in the courts of Babylon and Persia. His career recounted in the book of Daniel spans 69 years. 

The theme of the book of Daniel

God is sovereign over the kingdoms of men. He will deliver and exalt his people and humble proud rulers. He will establish his anointed one and his kingdom, which will fill the earth.


1 - Introduction: Daniel and his friends in Babylon

2-7 - In Aramaic

        2 - The vision of the image and the mountain
                3 - God saves Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the fiery furnace
                        4 - God humbles King Nebuchadnezzar
                        5 - God judges King Belshazzar
                6 - God saves Daniel from the Lion’s Den
        7 - The vision of the four beasts and the son of man

8-11 - In Hebrew

        8 - The vision of the ram, the goat, and the little horn that becomes great
                9 - Daniel’s prayer and the vision of seventy weeks
        10-12 - The vision of the kings of Persia, Greece, the north (Seleucids), the south (Ptolemys).

The Four Kingdoms/Empires (as they are described in the referenced chapters)

Babylon: golden head (2), lion with wings (7)

Medes and Persians: silver chest and arms (2), lop-sided bear with three ribs in its mouth (7), lop-sided ram (8), kings of Persia (11).

Greece: bronze middle and thighs (2), leopard with four wings and four heads (7), the goat with one horn that becomes four (8), Greece’s mighty king, whose kingdom will be divided in four (11)

Rome: legs of iron and feet of iron and clay (2), the fourth beast with ten horns (7).

The Little Horns that Become Great

The third kingdom divides into four after Alexander the Great’s death. From one of them comes a ruler, Antiochus Epiphanes, described in chapter 8 and 11-12. He persecutes the saints and profanes the temple.

The fourth kingdom also has a little horn that rises to prominence and persecutes the saints, the Roman emperor, described in chapter 7. Rome also is used to destroy Jerusalem and the temple (9).

The Fifth Kingdom/Empire

The kingdom of God: a rock that becomes a mountain (2), the Son of Man and the saints (7), the anointed one, a prince (9). It arises in the days of the rulers of the fourth kingdom, Rome (2:44, 7:13-14, 18, 22, 27)


605 BC - Daniel taken from Jerusalem to Babylon, about 14 years old (1:1-16). 
605-562 BC - Nebuchadnezzar’s 43-year reign in Babylon.
553-539 BC - Belshazzar reigns as king, though technically a regent under his father Nabonidus.
539 BC - The Medes and Persians conquer Babylon; Daniel is about 80 years old. 
536 BC - The “third year” of Cyrus’ reign in Babylon, when Daniel receives his last recorded vision (10:1). 
336-323 BC - The reign and conquests of Alexander the Great
175-164 BC - The reign of Antiochus Epiphanes 
167-165 BC - The Maccabean revolt
64-63 BC - Rome conquers Jerusalem and finishes conquest of the Seleucid kingdom
49-27 BC - The rise of the Roman Empire under Julius Caesar and Caesar Augustus
33 AD - The death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ

The Benefits of Union with Christ in This Life

Q. 32: What benefits do they that are effectually called partake of in this life?
Answer: They that are effectually called do in this life partake of justification, adoption, and sanctification, and the several benefits which in this life do either accompany or flow from them. (WSC)

This catechism question calls attention to at least two things:

First, all the blessings of salvation necessarily come together, since they all come as a consequence of our union with Christ. All those who are effectually called into union with Christ receive from him all the benefits of his redemptive work. All those who are justified are also being sanctified, since justification and sanctification both come from Christ. Receive Christ by faith, and you receive it all. “And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption...” (1 Cor. 1:30). “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11).

Second, the believer receives many important blessings “in this life.” The catechism will describe the benefits believers receive from Christ in this life (Q. 32-36), at death (Q. 37), and at the resurrection (Q. 38). In this life, believers partake of justification, adoption, sanctification, and more. While there is more to be received from Christ after death, yet what we receive in this life is already tremendous. And going back to the first point, one of the blessings in this life is a sure hope of the blessings to come, remembering that these blessings come together - if you are justified and being sanctified, then you will also be glorified (Rom. 8:9-30).

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

The Effectual Call of God

Q. 31: What is effectual calling?
Answer: Effectual calling is the work of God's Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel. (WSC)

The Westminster Shorter Catechism has already stated that the Holy Spirit unites us to Christ by working faith in us. It goes on in this question to explain how the Spirit works faith in us in our effectual calling. Effectual calling is distinguished from ineffectual calling. Ineffectual calling is where the free call of the gospel is proclaimed without producing an effect. Effectual calling is the call of God through the gospel which produces a change in the person such that the person chooses to receive what is freely offered. The word of God is the sword of the Spirit which he uses to pierce the soul and heart of man (Eph. 6:17, Heb. 4:12). In effectual calling, the gospel is the power of God unto salvation, the imperishable seed by which we are born again (1 Cor. 1:18, Rom. 1:16, 1 Peter 1:23).

In our effectual calling, the Spirit persuades and enables us to embrace Christ. In the end, we choose to trust Jesus as our Lord and Savior with a free will and convinced mind. But we do this as a consequence of the Spirit’s work. He works upon our minds and our wills. Both need to be renewed for us to receive Christ.

The Holy Spirit works on our minds by convincing us of the truth about our fallen estate (sin and misery) and enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, thereby persuading us to embrace Christ. He pricks our hearts with a true sense of our sin and misery and builds them up with an understanding of the gospel. Apart from the Spirit, we tend to minimize our fallen condition and trust in false hopes. In our fallen condition we suppress the truth and are spiritually blind to the gospel (2 Cor. 4:4, 1 Cor. 2:14, Rom. 1:18). But with the Spirit of the Lord, we are freed of this blindness and with an unveiled face behold the glory of the Lord (2 Cor. 3:14-18). “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).

The Holy Spirit works on our wills by renewing them, enabling us to embrace Christ. Apart from the Spirit, our wills are corrupt, in rebellion against God, but this is changed when the Spirit comes to dwell in us (Rom. 8:7-9). The Spirit gives us a new heart and a new spirit, so that we begin to be disposed unto faith and obedience (Ezek. 36:26-27). All those and only those whom God draws in this way will freely come to Christ (John 6:44). Notice that God does not destroy man’s will, but renews it. Having a strong will is bad when it is opposed to God, but not when it is aligned with his will. In his work of redemption, God does not create people with broken wills, grudgingly doing the inevitable, but people who offer themselves to Christ freely, who force their way into the kingdom of God, and who run in the way of his commandments (Luke 16:16, Ps. 110:3, 119:32).

Monday, September 6, 2021

Abortion, Feminism, and the Creation Order

The point of anti-abortion laws is the same as existing laws against murder. The pro-life position argues that abortion is murder, the unjust taking of innocent human life.

This is why many of the objections to anti-abortion laws make no sense to someone who is pro-life. For example, exceptions for rape and incest do not make sense. Rape and incest should be punished, but they do not justify the killing of an innocent party.

This is not a "war against women." The focus of anti-abortion laws and the pro-life position is on the life of the unborn child. Its goal is not to punish or suppress women - in fact, the pro-life movement has resulted in many charitable efforts to help pregnant women and their children in difficult circumstances.

With that said, egalitarian feminism is waging a war, with unborn children as casualties. This is not true of all feminists - some have opposed abortion, pointing to other solutions such as birth control, adoption, and accommodations in the work place. But a certain type of feminism believes that women need access to abortion to eliminate the difference between men and women and preserve individual autonomy. With its individualist and egalitarian principles, it comes into conflict with nature (that is, the way things are designed to work).

In general, we naturally desire sex, which naturally leads to pregnancy, which naturally leads to distinctions between men and women and their abilities. Fathers and mothers have natural obligations to their children, just as those children will have reciprocal obligations to their parents. All this naturally leads to traditional marriage as the best arrangement for these factors, all of this being designed by God, including marriage.

The conservative and biblical approach is to strengthen marriage and the family (Ex. 20:12-14, 1 Cor. 7:2, 1 Tim. 5:4, 8-16). This includes passing laws such as those that limit divorce (Matt. 19:3-9), hold men accountable for premarital sex (Ex. 22:16-17), and punish rapists (Deut. 22:25-27). It also involves extended family and other institutions stepping in when the family breaks down (1 Tim. 5:3-10, Deut. 14:29, Ruth 1-4). Its approach is to exhort people to fulfill their natural obligations through custom, education, and law. But the modern theory that affirms a woman’s right to kill her unborn child for the sake of autonomy and equality ultimately denies that such obligations exist, which is a big problem. Like Cain, they distance themselves from the victim and disown their responsibility. "Am I my child's keeper?" As Carl Trueman puts it,
“Abortion is simply one way in which a fictional notion of what it means to be human is reflected in our culture and enabled by law. In denying the obligation of the mother and father to the child, legal abortion denies not simply the personhood of the child in the womb, but also the humanity of the mother and the father.”