As we begin our trek through the book of Revelation, diving deep beneath the surface, our goal is to understand the Old Testament allusions the beloved disciple of Jesus uses so we can better grasp what the original audience would have understood from John and the Divine Author. As we saw in the introduction to John’s Apocalypse, this is not any old letter but is a revelation from God himself, to Jesus, sent by an angel, and delivered to John. The key to this handing off of revelation is that it is revealing what “must soon take place.” In short, the final things have begun and Jesus has handed to John a vision of images that will not focus as much on the distant future as the images zoom in on the latter days Kingdom of Christ currently at hand in the present (similar to Mark 1:15).
Daniel 2: The Revelatory Key
The last line of Revelation 1:1 says, “He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John,…” For the 21st century reader, this seems to appear as a mere handing off of the vision from the angel to John. Yet, when looking at the language of the text, it will bring into scope an unavoidable Old Testament allusion. The Greek word for Revelation (ἀποκάλυψις) in 1:1 is used five different times in Daniel 2:28-30; 45-47 and the phrase “that must soon take place” (ἃ δεῖ γενέσθαι) in 1:1 also shows up in Daniel three different times (Beale, NIGCT: The Book of Revelation, 181). The question then becomes: When the Spirit of God breathed out Revelation through the Apostle John, was it mere coincidence that Daniel showed up over and over? Or had God himself been weaving these realities together for his glory and the comfort of the suffering churches of Revelation 2-3?
The key to understanding why God would use the truths from Daniel 2 as he gave this revelation to John is found in the context of Daniel 2. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had a dream that he could not understand and was willing to kill his own magicians and sorcerers, along with Daniel and his friends, if they could not interpret the dream. When all looks bleak and none of Nebuchadnezzar’s hype men can interpret it, the threat of losing limbs is clearly on the mind of Daniel. After falling on his face and asking the covenant God of Israel for help, God reveals the dream to Daniel in 2:28-30. It says,
“Daniel answered the king and said, “No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked, 28 but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. Your dream and the visions of your head as you lay in bed are these: 29 To you, O king, as you lay in bed came thoughts of what would be after this, and he who reveals mysteries made known to you what is to be. 30 But as for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because of any wisdom that I have more than all the living, but in order that the interpretation may be made known to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your mind.“
The context of this similar revelation given from God to Daniel is in the context of the interpretation of the dream, which is about a massive statue that is a picture of different historical kingdoms that would follow Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon. No matter how powerful and mighty these kingdoms to come might be, they will ultimately be destroyed by a Divine Kingdom that will rule forever and ever (Dan. 2:44-45). The Rock that crushes all these other kingdoms is none other than Jesus Christ himself, the stone that the builders rejected (Psa. 118:2; Matt. 21:42). Yet, this Rock defeated these kingdoms not by force but through his triumphant victory on the cross and through his resurrection.
Why This Matters?
Imagine you are a first century believer who has witnesses the earthly rulers of your day crucify your family, feed your friends to lions, and soak your fellow church members in pools of steaming oil. What message would you need to hear most from God in those moments? When all of the suffering you see with your eyes and hear with your ears starts to tell you that recanting your faith would bring it all to an end. Then the beloved disciple of Jesus (John 21:20), reminds you of a similar message that Daniel, a man also greatly loved (Daniel 9:23), also shared with a suffering people hundreds of years earlier. That message is that Jesus has won the victory, Rome and all following kingdoms will come crashing down. The Revelation of Jesus Christ (Rev. 1:1) is a message of hope to encourage God’s people to keep pressing on while fixing their eyes on their beloved King (Phil 3:12-16).