The prophet Daniel had been fasting and praying for three weeks. He wanted to understand a divine message God had delivered to him. Drained of strength and energy, he opened his eyes and made out the image of a man standing before him. The figure blazed with the light of the sun and the gleam of gold, jewels and fire. His voice was loud, strong and commanding.
Suddenly a hand touched Daniel. His body began to tremble. The angelic figure addressed him by name: “O Daniel, man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for I have now been sent to you” (Daniel 10:11).
The being continued: “Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words.
“But the Prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I have been left alone there with the kings of Persia. Now I have come to make you understand what will happen to your people in the latter days, for the vision refers to many days yet to come” (Daniel 10:13-14).
This was quite a revelation!
Living in a time of monumental change
Consider today’s headlines: “Russia Invades Ukraine,” “ISIS Advances in Middle East,” “Iran Close to Developing a Nuclear Weapon,” “Terrorists Massacre Hundreds,” “Scandal Brings Down Government”—and on and on they go.
All of these events tell of a world going through a period of monumental change. Big events are happening on the world scene that are reshaping much of the global order. What does this mean? How are we to understand what happens in the world in light of what the Bible tells us about a God who guides human history? Above all, what does it mean for you, your family and your daily life?
It can be frightening and upsetting. Wars and events may seem far away and irrelevant. Yet these events impact your life more than you might realize. And it’s vital that you discern the times in which we live—to understand what it means in the light of Bible prophecy and God’s purpose for human life.
A spirit world behind the scenes
What we learn from the story we just read in Daniel is there is more to this world than we see with the eyes and take in through our other senses. As Shakespeare put into the mouth of Hamlet, “There are more things in heaven and earth . . . than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Daniel was trying to understand the events of his time and world when God gave him a little glimpse behind the scenes to show him this truth. Notice how this is presented in Daniel’s story.
Daniel’s prophecy gives us a glimpse into these powers of the unseen world.
Daniel continued: “Then the one who looked like a man touched me again, and I felt my strength returning. ‘Don’t be afraid,’ he said, ‘for you are very precious to God. Peace! Be encouraged! Be strong!’
“As he spoke these words to me, I suddenly felt stronger and said to him, ‘Please speak to me, my lord, for you have strengthened me.’
“He replied, ‘Do you know why I have come? Soon I must return to fight against the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia, and after that the spirit prince of the kingdom of Greece will come. Meanwhile, I will tell you what is written in the Book of Truth. (No one helps me against these spirit princes except Michael, your spirit prince)’” (Daniel 10:18-21, New Living Translation, 2013).
This translation adds the word “spirit” to clarify what is being spoken of—powerful spirit beings. Whether we realize it or not, or understand it or not, powers and principalities are at work on the spiritual level influencing physical events in our world. These unseen spiritual forces ultimately are behind many of the headlines you and I read every day. This is a key to understanding great world events and what is happening in our world. The implications are crucial to your life and mine.
How do we know this? We know this from not only what Daniel’s story tells us but also what we see elsewhere in the Bible.
A glimpse into the spirit dimension
Let’s break this down and look at what we’re told here in Daniel. We see mentioned a “prince of Persia” and a “prince of Greece.” These unseen powers from the spirit world control the physical kingdoms of Persia and Greece in this physical world.
These evil spiritual powers influence the actions and politics of nations even today. In Daniel’s day that meant the political, military, economic and cultural atmosphere of those nations or kingdoms were actually manipulated and shaped by powerful unseen spirits. And as we see from this passage, these beings were determined to try to thwart the will of God—though unsuccessfully.
God had a message for Daniel that ultimately showed the future history of the region for several hundred years—and then into our modern world and the times just ahead of us today. The message revealed to Daniel foretold events that would lead up to and include the threshold of the coming intervention of Jesus Christ into the affairs of this world and the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth.
Daniel was astounded by what he was shown. This section of the Bible is one that opens our eyes to the details of history. God guides and directs the nations according to His purpose for humanity and the world. He knows the end from the beginning, and no power on earth or in heaven will prevent Him from bringing all of history to the conclusion He has foreordained (Isaiah 46:9-11).
And this little-understood key opens the door of understanding for us. Step back a minute and consider what this means for your life!
The personal struggles of life
We all have our struggles with life. Jobs we may not be happy with. Relationship problems with our mates or with our children. We may be uncertain about how the economy will affect our lives. We may be anxious about the future.
Do you look at the incessant political fighting in society, with events at times spiraling out of control? I watch the news and sometimes wonder if we’ll ever get back to a stable world scene in this age.
The world can become so distressing that the best thing to do is to take a step back and ask: “Is something else going on that I don’t see or understand? Is there more here than meets the eye?” The answer is yes, there often is.
The Bible tells us the struggles of life can sometimes involve spiritual elements we don’t even see. Notice these revealing words by the apostle Paul in the book of Ephesians:
“A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm” (Ephesians 6:10-13, NLT, 2013).
This is not a modern-sounding idea—that we might struggle against wicked unseen powers and that these powers are behind some of the frustrations of life at the individual level as well as the highest levels of world affairs.
But that is what the Bible says! And it’s time you begin to read the Bible with deeper understanding and learn what God’s purpose is for your life!
Three keys to being a Daniel
Here’s how it’s done. Here are three keys to being a Daniel in a time when kingdoms are at war and powers of the unseen world rule our planet.
First, understand the gods of this world have no love for you.
The Bible shows us there is a “god of this age”—of this present world—and he blinds people’s minds from seeing his reality. He blocks the “light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” and prevents it from revealing his evil and inhuman acts (2 Corinthians 4:4).
Daniel had to contend with this god and his sinister accomplices. And Daniel’s world parallels ours in so many of the same ways. For all the time that has passed, we still face the same fundamental enemies who are dead set against God and all who would try to seek His will and follow Him.
As we have seen, God revealed this reality to Daniel and it helped him understand his world and time. That false god, Satan the devil, still has global reach and influence. And understanding his existence and how he works is critical to resisting his world and its impact on you.
Satan is described in Scripture as “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31; John 14:30; John 16:30). And he has other rulers or princes ruling under him—like the prince of Greece and the prince of Persia, as we saw in Daniel’s experience.
Moreover, Satan is called “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2). His influence invisibly works like the communication transmissions that fly unseen through the air today.
Think about this: All around us are many communication waves. Radio and television transmissions surround us. Cell towers relay our phone calls and texts around the world. We don’t see or hear these transmissions. But they are real and, upon our receiving them, they influence our moods and emotions as we are entertained and informed and interact with people we know.
Scripture tells us that without knowing what is happening, we live out our lives according to the programmed plans put in place by the prince of the power of the air, the god of this age and ruler of this world, who “deceives the whole world” (Revelation 12:9). He wields powers that move nations and people to do his evil will (2 Timothy 2:26; 1 John 5:19).
This is the world we inhabit. Things are not what they seem. Reality is bigger than what we think we see!
You can understand this, like Daniel did, and you can get control of your life—come alive and live a godly life in the midst of a world suffering the inhumanity of these unseen evil powers.
The second key is to set your mind to resist this power.
Daniel did. Let’s see how he did it.
Daniel’s story opens with a challenge that to our modern minds seems insignificant and trivial. It’s a story about something we encounter every day—food.
Daniel found himself in a strange land with strange customs he hadn’t encountered in his upbringing. And Daniel wasn’t interested in adopting a foreign culture.
Daniel fully understood that all cultures were not equal! He knew that not all religions were equally righteous. And he did not believe that all teachings and values were valid options for one’s lifestyle. If Daniel lived today and tried to make his way through our schools and our business cultures, he would likely find himself penalized for not going along!
Daniel found himself in the court of the king of Babylon. Not only that, but he was also in line, in a kind of fast track, to be trained as a civil servant in the government. He was intelligent and met all the criteria the Babylonians used to select their best and brightest.
The king’s court was full of food, wine and delicacies, a place of physical pleasure. The Babylonians valued eating and drinking and obviously didn’t follow biblical restrictions on what they ate. For Daniel this wasn’t an option. He knew God set certain standards in what to eat. God’s law had determined how he would live, and there would be no compromise in his mind.
So after hearing the requirements for his training in the ways of Babylon, “Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. He asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat these unacceptable foods” (Daniel 1:8, NLT).
Daniel set his heart and mind not to compromise with teaching and laws he knew to be from God for the sake of convenience or to just go along with the times. Daniel could have easily reasoned, “My nation is gone, my way of worship no longer works—look at us, here in captivity!” He could’ve even reasoned, “God no longer cares—maybe He was overthrown by the Babylonian gods or was never real to begin with.”
But Daniel didn’t rationalize like this. He held firm to his faith. He held firm to the life he knew, even down to the food he ate. And God honored his faith. At the end of the 10 days the chief of staff allowed for the physical examination of Daniel and his friends and found they appeared healthier than others who had eaten the Babylonians’ food. King Nebuchadnezzar interviewed them and saw that they were fit and ready for work. God gave them the help and the gifts needed to excel in service to Babylon.
What is the lesson? Set your mind to resist the culture of this world when it conflicts with the culture of the Kingdom of God. Don’t compromise in the face of adversity.
The third key from Daniel’s example is to seek God’s wisdom and understanding.
King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream. None of his counselors and staff could interpret what it meant. This was no ordinary dream. As the story is related in Daniel 2, it was a dream that foretold world history from that time down to our day and beyond. It shook the king’s view of his world, and he knew he had to pull every shred of meaning from it.
It’s hard for us to understand something like this today, but this ancient king knew his dream was significant—almost unworldly. It held an important message.
When no one from the king’s inner staff could interpret the dream, it came to Daniel’s attention, and he stepped forward to say that with a little time he could explain the meaning of the dream.
Daniel returned to his home and consulted with his closest friends “that they might seek mercies from the God of heaven concerning this secret” (Daniel 2:18). The secret was then revealed to Daniel, and he delivered it to the king.
The point here is that we need to seek God’s wisdom and understanding to discern the times in which we live.
Our need to seek godly wisdom and understanding
Spiritual powers are at work behind the scenes in today’s world. Much more is going on behind today’s headlines than what we read or see.
Just as Daniel wanted to understand the world of his day, so you should want to understand the world you live in today. You can understand what God is doing in today’s world and what that can mean not just for your understanding of our modern world but how to make a better life for yourself today.
God’s hand is guiding events in this world even when we might see only disorder and confusion. He can take that same hand in your life and help guide you to peace and a settled mind. He is not a remote and distant God, but a close and personal Creator ready to guide your life today. Reach out to Him, just as Daniel did, and come to better understand our times!