THE DEDICATION OF NEBUCHADNEZZAR’S IMAGE AND THE FIERY FURNACE:
A LESSON IN FAITH
In response to the revelation in Daniel 2, Neb ordered the building of an image entirely of gold. This gold image may have been inspired by his dream. Instead of having only a head of gold, however, it was gold from head to toe. Nebuchadnezzar wanted his kingdom to last forever.
Israel was also guilty of idolatry and God sent them into Babylonian captivity. In essence, God was saying, “If you want idolatry, I will give you 70 years worth, right at its source.” Remember, the Book of Daniel is a book of prophecy regarding the Times of the Gentiles. In Daniel 3 we see a picture depicting what will happen at the end of the age in connection with the future period known as Daniel’s 70th week and the final phase of the times of the Gentiles.
THE GOLDEN IMAGE
1 King Nebuchadnezzar (This occurred in the 18th year of his reign, ~16 years after his dream, ~586 B.C., the year he destroyed Jerusalem. He was certainly the most powerful and possibly most cruel man in the world.)made an image of gold (we are not told what the image, overlaid with gold, represented, but he probably has come to believe his kingdom will last forever.), ninety feet high and nine feet wide (90 feet high, the size of a nine story building, by 9 feet wide), and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. (It may have been an image of a man, or an obelisk?) 2He then summoned the satraps (governors), prefects (military commanders), governors (mayors), advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates (law enforcement) and all the other provincial officials to come to the dedication of the image he had set up. 3So the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials assembled for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up, and they stood before it. (He summoned all the leaders of a kingdom over 1000 miles across.)
THE COMMAND TO WORSHIP THE IMAGE
4Then the herald (the preacher – representing the false prophet) loudly proclaimed, "This is what you are commanded to do, O peoples, nations and men of every language: 5As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music (a rock band), you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. (By falling down to worship this image you are showing loyalty to the King. The is the same kind of thing Antichrist will do at the end of the age.) 6Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace." (This is an industrial furnace, perhaps used to bake bricks or smelt metal.)
7Therefore, as soon as they heard the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp and all kinds of music, all the peoples, nations and men of every language fell down and worshiped the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. (Daniel 3 is a foretaste of the mark of the beast. At the end of the age men will be required to worship the image of the beast and receive his mark see Rev 13:14-18 and 14:9-12.)
THE COURAGEOUS WILL NOT BOW TO THE IMAGE
8At this time some astrologers came forward and denounced the Jews. 9They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, "O king, live forever! (An oriental greeting) 10You have issued a decree, O king, that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music must fall down and worship the image of gold, 11and that whoever does not fall down and worship will be thrown into a blazing furnace. 12But there are some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon--Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego--who pay no attention to you, O king. (There may have been others who refused, but these three were singled out as public examples.) They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up." (They were determined never to bow down to idols. In the end times, men will face the test of their lives, face a horrible physical death because they obey the true living God, or face spiritual death because they worship false gods see Daniel 11:33-35, 12:3.)
13Furious with rage (He had lost control.), Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king, 14and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, "Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods (This will be the same issue during Daniel’s 70th week.) or worship the image of gold I have set up? (Probably an honest inquiry, knowing the intrigue of his cabinet, and wanting to give them the benefit of the doubt because they are friends of Daniel, he gives them a second chance to respond.) 15Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?" (If God always rescued those who were true to him, Christians would not need faith.)
THE FAITHFUL REMIAN FAITHFUL REGARDLESS OF THE CONSEQUENCES
16Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. (Notice that they did not ask for time to think or pray about this issue. Sometimes, there is no need to pray.) 17If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it (God is able to deliver us from the time of fiery testing), and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. 18But even if he does not, (regardless of the consequences, whether He delivers us from the fire or not) we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." (During Daniel’s 70th week, some will be delivered. Others will be martyred. We are to be faithful, true and courageous regardless of God’s purposes.)
19Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious (Now he is really upset. They rejected and rebuffed his second chance offer.) with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual (He loses control and he goes to absurd lengths to guarantee their execution.) 20and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. 21So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. 22The king's command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, 23and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace. (During the end times, the final 7 year period of the Times of the Gentiles, the faithful will face profound persecution for refusing to bow to the image of the Antichrist see Matthew 10, the 5th seal martyrs, Rev 2,3.)
Those who limit the account of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah to a fascinating story of faith and bravery five hundred years before Christ have, in this writer’s view, missed the chapter’s significance completely. The third chapter of Daniel is intended to teach urgent prophetic truth.
At the end of the age, the Antichrist will arise. He will be the final ruler of the period of time called the “times of the Gentiles” and is depicted in the second chapter of Daniel as a great colossus. Nebuchadnezzar was the first ruler. The Antichrist will set up an image in his own likeness (Mt. 24:15; 2 Th. 2:3-5; Rev 13:11-18). He will demand that the Jews in Israel bow to the image. The purpose will be primarily for political assimilation – to bring the nation into his power base as he seeks to become a world ruler. Many from within Israel will welcome his advances. They will see him as the solution to their national problems – a leader who can bring about world peace. A remnant, however, from within the nation, will refuse his overtures. Among those who refuse, some will be martyred; others will be supernaturally delivered. The Antichrist, in his attempt to dominate the world, will then seek to kill all of those who, in their loyalty to the Son of God, refuse to bow to his image and receive his mark. These events are described as “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer 30:7) and the “great tribulation.” (Mt 24:21).
THE SPEAKING IMAGE OF THE BEAST
14Because of the signs he (the False Prophet) was given power to do on behalf of the first beast (Antichrist), he deceived the inhabitants of the earth (The False Prophet will perform lying wonders that will be so persuasive that they will even cause the elect of God to be deceived. See Mt. 24:24. The False Prophet's ability to deceive with these “miraculous” signs will be incredible; this is raw satanic power!). He (the False Prophet) ordered them (the followers of Antichrist) to set up an image in honor of the beast (After the Antichrist declares himself to be God, the False Prophet will place an image [Greek = “icon”] of the Beast in the rebuilt temple for the world to worship. See 2 Thess 2:2-4. Note the parallels to the golden image of King Nebuchadnezzar. See Daniel 3) who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. (Again, John underscores the importance of Antichrist's resurrection in establishing Antichrist's Kingdom. Also note that John reveals that a sword will be used to cause the death of Antichrist. Antichrist will miraculously survive this successful assassination attempt. Zech 11:17 tells us that the mortal wound will leave him blinded in his right eye and without the use of his right arm. Regardless, the fact that he survives causes the world to marvel and the healing brings him world-wide glory.)
15He (the False Prophet) was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast (the statute of Antichrist), so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. (The statue of Antichrist will literally come alive and be able to speak and have life. This speaking image of the beast will command the death of those who do not worship Antichrist. See Revelation 20:4. It is easy to understand how unbelievers could be deceived by such overwhelming supernatural forces. This is the beginning of tremendous supernatural activity and demonic oppression that will occur during Daniel's 70th Week.)
THE MARK OF THE BEAST (666)
The False Prophet will force the world to take the Mark of the Beast, which is the number “666.” The Mark of the Beast serves two purposes. First, it will separate the followers of Antichrist from those who reject his blasphemy. Remember, there will be those who, although they do not believe in Jesus, will see through Antichrist's deception and will refuse to take the Mark of the Beast. Chief among these groups will be the 144,000 Jews. Those without the Mark of the Beast will be easily identified as enemies of Antichrist's Empire and will be persecuted and killed. Second, the Mark of the Beast will be an additional tool in Antichrist's arsenal of persecution. Individuals who do not take the Mark of the Beast will be unable to buy and sell. As a practical matter, this will perform a great hardship on believers, as they will have great difficulty buying food and other necessities, and will likely drive any resistance movements underground. Note the parallels to Hitler's use of the Star of David to mark and persecute the Jews.
16He (the False Prophet) also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, (the mark will be easily seen) 17so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name. 18This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man's number. His number is 666. (John literally gives us the Mark of the Beast so that we will not be tricked into taking it.)
John indicates that spiritual wisdom is required to understand how the Mark of the Beast will function. Today, no one knows what this mark is, but there is much speculation. Many feel it may involve an embedded computer chip under the skin. Such a chip could contain all financial, medical and personal data. Regardless, its meaning will be plain when the time comes.
The False Prophet will somehow incorporate the name of Antichrist into the Mark of the Beast. Note that, in a rare instance of total clarity, John provides us with the Mark of the Beast. It is vitally important that we NOT receive this mark, and John does not want us to be deceived into doing so. Late in Daniel’s 70th week, an angel will announce a warning to the world concerning the Mark of the Beast and the reign of Antichrist. The angel will explain that anyone who receives the mark will be eternally damned, and will forfeit any further opportunity for salvation. The angel tells the faithful to persevere, keep God’s commandments and their faith in Jesus. Revelation 16 also reveals that God will visit physical plagues on those who have received the Mark of the Beast.
A SPECIAL BLESSING FOR THOSE MARTYRED DURING THE DAY OF THE LORD
John departs from his graphic depiction of the torments of Hell to encourage those who choose to follow Jesus during the Day of the Lord. Remember, there will be a large group of people, including the 144,000, who will recognize the power and truth of God immediately following the Rapture. John is encouraging these new believers as well as those who will come to Christ prior to the Final Judgment. Additionally, a voice from Heaven explains that believers who are martyred for their faith during the Day of the Lord will receive a special blessing - their deeds will be rewarded in Heaven.
Revelation14:12 This (time of great peril and judgment) calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God's commandments and remain faithful to Jesus. (Remain patient and don't turn away from God - this Day of Wrath has begun.) 13Then I heard a voice from heaven say, "Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on." (Blessed are those who are martyred during the Day of the Lord. Remember, although some believers will be protected and survive this time period, including the 144,000 Jews, others will be martyred for their faith. The Lord gives a special blessing to those saints who are martyred during this most hostile period in the history of the world.) "Yes," (Blessed indeed!) says the Spirit, "they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them." (The suffering experienced by new believers during these final days will continue, until Armageddon. This suffering warrants special encouragement from the Holy Spirit to remain faithful, for the deeds of these martyrs will follow them into Heaven.)
A HEAVENLY VISITOR APPEARS
24Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, "Weren't there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?"
They replied, "Certainly, O king."
25He said, "Look! I see four men walking around in the fire (The 3 men are still alive and a fourth has joined them!), unbound (Only that which bound them had been burned. God’s fiery furnace sets us free from what binds us!) and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods." (We can not be certain who the fourth man was. It could have been an angel, or the pre-incarnate Son of God, Jesus.)
26Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, "Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God (El Elyon – A name for God, the strong and strongest, the high and highest God. Israeli airlines “El Al” – “up, up” airlines.), come out! Come here!" So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, 27and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them. (The Lord used the fiery furnace only to burn away the cords that bound the Hebrews. He employs the same heat of adversity and trial to remove sin from our lives and transform us into Christ’s likeness.)
NEBUCHADNEZZAR ACKNOWLEDGES THE GOD OF ISRAEL
28Then Nebuchadnezzar said, "Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel (He saw a theophany – a manifestation of the angel of the Lord, an appearance of the Son of God pre-incarnate.) and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king's command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. 29Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way." (Nebuchadnezzar was not making a commitment here to serve the Hebrews’ God alone. Instead, he was acknowledging that God is powerful, and he commanded his people not to speak against God. He didn’t tell the people to throw away all the other gods, but to add this one to the list.)
30Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the province of Babylon.