We live in a culture where the Christian community has recreated God in its own image—the postmodern Christian God that is big on grace and low on human commitment. Rationalizations are given for every biblical principle. Compromise and explanations are touted any time biblical principles conflict with human desire. In short, we live in a world where Christianity promises you everything and yet requires little or no commitment.
Daniel chapter 3 radically challenges the postmodern picture of God. The God of Daniel is the God of both radical grace and radical commitment. Rather than recreating God in our image, we are recreated in the image of God’s willingness to sacrifice even life itself.
The radical grace of God that required the death of God brings out a response of radical human commitment even unto death. The three Hebrews made their stand on the plain of Dura, exemplifying radical faithfulness unto death, a characteristic that will be reproduced again in God’s people at the end of time.
Daniel’s three friends are standing on the plain of Dura. They can see the smoke ascending from the furnace and perhaps even feel its heat. The music plays, and thousands of people, like dominos, bow before the golden image gleaming in the sun. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego remain standing while all around them are bowed down as far as the eye can see. It’s clear they are the only ones standing.
The temptation to compromise in this moment would have been almost irresistible. It would have been the easiest thing to do to rationalize in that moment. There would have been a thousand excuses to kneel before the image or even conveniently tie your shoelaces! After all, it’s just kneeling. Wouldn’t God understand that I’m really kneeling to Him in my heart and not to the image?
The three Hebrews on the plain of Dura made a commitment that they would rather die than kneel. They represent a radical commitment to truth and duty that is foreign to our contemporary culture. Yet it is this radical commitment that God is calling His faithful to emulate at the end of time. “We should choose the right because it is right, and leave consequences with God,” even if that means our death (White, The Great Controversy, 460).
Biblical end-time ethics is not situational; it is radically principled. Even life itself is not worth compromising over our allegiance to God. “It is better to die than to sin; better to want than to defraud; better to hunger than to lie” (White, Conflict and Courage, 119).
The scenes on the plain of Dura will be repeated at the end of time. An image will be set up, and all will be forced to worship the image on penalty of death. But there will be a remnant that will refuse to worship the image. The clarion call to be faithful to God, even unto death, will be answered by God’s people. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s radical faithfulness typifies the characteristics of God’s last-day people.
Nebuchadnezzar used a conveniently biased hermeneutic (an interpretive lens) to reinterpret the Daniel 2 dream to suit his own egotistical ambitions. Instead of the multi-metal man of his dream, the king erects an image entirely of gold—implying, of course, that his kingdom would never end. Using an alternative hermeneutic to that which God has revealed, unfortunately, did not end with Nebuchadnezzar and continues today.
The three main schools of prophetic hermeneutics are preterism, futurism, and historicism. Preterism assumes that prophecy is entirely a description of the past: there is no predictive nature to prophecy. Futurism assumes that prophecy has no present or historical bearing as it will only happen in the future. Historicism follows history as it relates to God’s people down to the present day and through the end of time. This is what we see in Daniel 2 as it begins with Babylon and extends down through history to the present day into the future prediction of the second coming of Jesus and the establishment of God’s kingdom.
Nebuchadnezzar incorporated the use of music to capture the emotions and set the stage for worshiping the image. Four times in Daniel chapter 3 the music is mentioned, including repetitious detail of even the types of instruments that were played. The music clearly was the signal to bow down and worship the image that the king had set up.
Music plays a critical role in false worship. It has the power to capture the emotions, overriding reason and conscience. Music will no doubt play a crucial role in false end-time worship as well.
There is popular belief today among Christians that God’s people in the end of time will avoid tribulation. However, the story of the fiery furnace illustrates that God will not keep His people from tribulation, but rather He will be with them through tribulation. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were not saved from the fire; they were saved through the fire.
Revelation 13 and Daniel 3
The same issues and themes that presented themselves in Daniel 3 will play out again in the end of time as described in Revelation 13. Even as there was an image set up in Daniel 3, there will be an image set up in the end of time. Even as there was a call to worship the image, there will be a worldwide call to worship the image in the end of time under the penalty of death.
What was the motivation that drove the three Hebrews to make such a radical stand on the plain of Dura? It certainly was not the fear of humankind; it was the fear of God. This was not a fear of God in the sense of being afraid; rather, for the Hebrews, the opinion of God mattered more than the opinion of their human peers. God’s opinion was worth dying for. They cared what God thought more than anyone else in the world!
The person you love the most is the person whose opinion matters the most. In a sense, because you love them, you “fear” displeasing them. In the end of time, there will be two groups of people: those who fear God and those who fear the beast—those who worship the Lamb and those who worship the beast. The beast uses coercive measures, while those who follow the Lamb do so out of love.
The Hebrew young adults made their stand because, to them, God was living reality in their consciousness. Through the eyes of faith, they believed in the invisible God, and when the music played, it was as if they were in the audience of the only One whose opinion mattered most.
“What a lifework was that of these noble Hebrews! As they bade farewell to their childhood home, how little did they dream of their high destiny! Faithful and steadfast, they yielded themselves to the divine guiding, so that through them God could fulfill His purpose.
“The same mighty truths that were revealed through these men, God desires to reveal through the youth and the children of today. . . .The greatest want of the world is the want of men—men who will not be bought or sold, men who in their inmost souls are true and honest, men who do not fear to call sin by its right name, men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole, men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall.”