Sabbath School Lesson for December 28-January 3, 2020

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Here are some reasons why a study of the book of Daniel is important, especially in these last days:

  1. It affirms our faith in biblical prophecy.
  2. It gives us evidence of our belief in God.
  3. It encourages us to trust in the God who is in control.

Most of all, it is a powerful testament of the love and character of Jesus Christ. He is seen throughout the record Daniel left us. Whether it be the individual trials and experiences of His people, or the prophetic dreams and visions given to enhance our understanding of the future of our planet right down to the Second Coming.

This week, in particular, we will see…

  • that Christ is in the center of Daniel’s story (Sunday)
  • the literary structure of the book of Daniel (Monday)
  • what differentiates apocalyptic prophecy from classical (Tuesday)
  • why prophetic time (a day for a year) is needed to decipher the events (Wednesday)
  • how Daniel is relevant to our times (Thursday)


If one knows anything about the history and founding of the Adventist church, it is that the book of Daniel played a large part. William Miller’s most widely-used text to prove the soon Second Coming was Daniel 8:14.

He mistakenly thought the cleansing of the sanctuary meant the cleansing of our planet. Later, Adventist pioneers, through further prayer and study, saw that it referred to the heavenly sanctuary, as described in the book of Hebrews and Revelation.

With the state of the world today, many think pessimistically about our future. But a study of Daniel provides an uplifting outcome for God’s people. It affirms our trust in God, as He is always in control of even the most troubling events that occur all around the globe today.

Seeing the past fulfillment of prophecy bolsters our faith in the ability of God to make things right in the end, even in our personal, individual lives.

Memory Text: “So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ “ Acts 8:30 NKJV

We, too, can get far more out of God’s word, if we are able to do more than just read the selected verses. Understanding is vital for us to get the full benefit from the message God is trying so desperately to get to the world. Group Bible study, such as offered in the Sabbath School setting, is just one avenue we have available to get that understanding.

Sunday: Christ, the Center of Daniel

Christ is seen in Daniel in these ways…

  • Chapter 1–Daniel’s experience of facing Babylonian’s pagan darkness is similar to what Christ experienced by coming to our earth
  • Chapter 2– Christ will eventually replace all the kingdoms of the world
  • Chapter 3–Christ was with Daniel’s friends in the fiery furnace
  • Chapter 4–Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom being taken from him for a time reminded the king that Christ will rule His kingdom someday
  • Chapter 5–Babylon falling to the Persians, during King Belshazzar reign, foreshadows Satan’s defeat at the hand of Christ when end-time Babylon falls
  • Chapter 6–the plot against Daniel resembles the measures they used to get Christ crucified
  • Chapter 7–Christ as the Son of man
  • Chapter 8–Christ as a priest in the heavenly sanctuary
  • Chapter 9–Christ as the sacrificial Lamb
  • Chapter 10-12–Christ as Michael, successfully rescuing God’s people from final destruction

Discussion Questions:

Read Luke 24:25-27 and Isaiah 9:6. How do these verses point to the divinity of Christ?

Read John 5:39. How can searching the Scriptures bring us eternal life? Does this mean that Bible study will save us? Why, or why not?

Read Daniel 9:5, 6, Revelation 1:13-15, and Matthew 8:19, 20. Who is revealed in these passages? How do we know that the Son of Man is Christ?

Monday: The Structure of Daniel

We see a distinct pattern of literary organization in Daniel. In the Aramaic section, chapters 2-7, we see how the middle generally highlights what is most important in a literary work.

Here is how this particular structure then is seen:

  • Nebuchadnezzar’s vision of four kingdoms (Daniel 2)
    • God delivers Daniel’s companions from the furnace (Daniel 3)
      • Judgment upon Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4)
      • Judgment upon Belshazzar (Daniel 5)
    • God delivers Daniel from the lions’ den (Daniel 6)
  • Daniel’s vision of four kingdoms (Daniel 7)

The emphasis in these chapters is God’s sovereignty over the nations of the earth. Chapters 4 and 5, which are in the center of these Aramaic chapters, point to God removing the kingdom temporarily from Nebuchadnezzar and then permanently from Belshazzar.

Why are the visions of both Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel included, we might ask? God typically uses repetition to reach us with a message. For example, He gave Pharoah two dreams about the future of Egypt during Joseph’s time that indicated seven years of prosperity, followed by seven years of drought. They got the king’s attention. See Genesis 41:1-7.

In Daniel, we see repetition with the same historical time periods and kingdoms described from different perspectives. Understanding this repetitive technique helps us understand God’s message in the book of Daniel.

Discussion Questions:

Read Daniel 2:44, Luke 1:31-33, and Hebrews 9:28. Why wasn’t this everlasting kingdom set up when Jesus was here on earth the first time? How can we still have hope that He is coming again to see the fulfillment of this prophecy?

Read Psalm 9:7, 8. Why is judgment important for this kingdom that will last forever?

Read 2 Peter 3:11-13. Why is being holy so important before He comes again? What must we do to achieve this holiness?

Tuesday: Apocalyptic Prophecies in Daniel

In order to get the fullest understanding of the prophecies in Daniel, we must differentiate them from other kinds of prophecy in the Bible. These apocalyptic prophecies, which means they describe the end of the world, differ from classical prophecies in these ways…

  • Apocalyptic prophecies are delivered mainly by visions and dreams, whereas classical prophecies often are conveyed with the prophet receiving “the Word of the Lord”, with visions perhaps playing a minor role.
  • Symbolism is much more likely to be found in apocalyptic prophecies, and the symbols usually go beyond the realm of reality, such as hybrid animals with wings and horns that are found in Daniel.
  • Classical prophecies, found most frequently concerning God’s covenant with Israel, are conditional in nature. They depend on a certain human response, whereas apocalyptic prophecies are unconditional. The ones involving the end of the world will happen without any conditions attached.

Discussion Questions:

Read Hebrews 1:1 and 2 Timothy 2:15. Why does God use a variety of ways to reach us through these prophetic messages? Why is it important to “rightly divide the word of truth”?

Read Daniel 7:6 and 8:22. Why are such outlandish symbols used in apocalyptic prophecies?

Read Galatians 3:26-29. Although some Christians believe Israel and the Middle East will be directly involved in end-time events, how do these verses counter that belief? How important is it to recognize the difference in classical prophecies that are short-termed, conditional ones that spoke only to the nation Israel, and unconditional, apocalyptic ones that speak to those of us living in the latter days?

Wednesday: God’s Timescale

Adventists have preferred a historicist approach in understanding the apocalyptic prophecies in Daniel and Revelation. Historicism relies on human history, from the time of the prophet to the time of the end, to explain events that are predicted in the future.

Differing views of interpretation include…

  1. preterism–sees everything described in prophecy as occurring in the past
  2. futurism–sees everything described in prophecy as occurring in the future
  3. idealism–sees everything as spiritual symbols without any reference to actual human events or time periods

Historicism seems to be the most effective way to interpret apocalyptic prophecy, such as those in the book of Daniel. The sequence of kingdoms, or empires, has been validated over the centuries, and has made historicism the method of interpretation during the early Christian church and by the Reformers.

In addition, prophetic time, which sees a day for a year, has also been shown to be the most effective method for time reckoning when it comes to these apocalyptic prophecies. Here are some reasons why…

  1. Since the visions are symbolic, the time periods allotted for them should also be symbolic. Thus, one day is symbolic of one year.
  2. The time periods involved in these end-time events have proven to happen over long stretches of time.
  3. The book of Daniel which gives us the 70-week prophecy, for example–the one that began in the days of Artaxerxes to the coming of the Messiah–verifies the day-for-a-year principle. It actually occurred over a 490-year time span.

Discussion Questions:

Read Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:5, 6. Why are these two verses relied on so heavily when explaining the day-for-a-year principle? What do they tell us?

Read Daniel 9:24 and 10:14. Why was Daniel so troubled over the time spans given to him in these visions, and how might understanding that a day stood for a year have eased his anxieties?

Read Daniel 8:14, Leviticus 16:33, 34, and Hebrews 9:11, 24. How did William Miller use this verse in Daniel to show that Jesus would come in 1844? How did he misinterpret the event, but not the time, and how did this affect Adventist believers who lived through what became known as the Great Disappointment?

Thursday: Contemporary Relevance of Daniel

Many find the intricately, highly symbolic study of Daniel totally beyond their understanding, and even their interest. But, when studied wholeheartedly, it can be a source of encouragement for those of us living in the end times.

In Daniel we learn a great deal about the God we serve:

  1. He is a powerful, all-knowing sovereign. Just as He rules and works unceasingly in guiding the kingdoms of the world, He rules and directs what happens to us individually.
  2. Although we may often be confused about the world around us, God is steering us toward a most welcome happy ending.
  3. God is a role model of faithfulness for us. We see in the life of Daniel and his friends that it’s possible and important that we remain faithful to God, just as He is faithful to us.

Although written more than 2,500 years ago, Daniel has a lot to offer the world today. When studied properly, the book of Daniel can be a rich source of wisdom in the latter days we now find ourselves. It actually says in Daniel 12:9 that “the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.” Few doubt that we are now living in that time. It’s time, therefore, to open up the book and search there for God with all our heart.

Discussion Questions:

Read Daniel 9:23 and 10:11, 12. Why is it important for us to understand the prophecies in Daniel, and why does God do all He can to increase our understanding?

Read Matthew 10:29-31. Why is it so easy to forget that God cares about our struggles? How can we remind ourselves of His caring nature and trust in Him more, even in this troubled, sinful world?

Read Luke 21:14-19. Even when it is beyond our ability to understand all the prophetic time periods and remember their relevance, what can we learn from the book of Daniel that will serve us in the time of the end?

Final Thoughts

Since knowing Jesus is one of the most important goals for Bible study, we must not miss the opportunity to know Christ, as experienced by Daniel and his friends during the Babylonian captivity. The Son of God was certainly by their side, informing them of His love and protection in those troublesome days, when all seemed hopeless for the children of Israel. We, too, need the information that bolstered their courage and brought them through trials, which we will no doubt experience as we near Christ’s Second Coming.

Even if the visions and historical time periods escape your understanding at first, you will find much in Daniel to delight and feed your soul. When you read the stories, be open to understanding all you can about the messages from heaven that God imparted to Daniel and his friends. They serve a vital purpose in our survival today, just as they did in Daniel’s time.

“Study the history of Daniel and his fellows. Though living where they were, met on every side by the temptation to indulge self, they honored and glorified God in the daily life. They determined to avoid all evil. They refused to place themselves in the enemy’s path. And with rich blessings God rewarded their steadfast loyalty.” ~Ellen G. White, Manuscript Releases [No. 224], pp. 169, 170.

May we, too, manifest the same courageous spirit of Daniel and his friends. Through prayer and Bible study, we can be spiritually equipped to fight the sinful times we live in. God, too, will shield us from fire furnaces and lions’ dens, when we determine to live within His will.

Next Week’s Lesson: From Jerusalem to Babylon

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