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Daniel as a “type” of Christ?

We have recently finished our series called impacT going through a few passages in the book of Daniel and asking the question – how can we impact our community for Christ?  It has been very rewarding for me to read and study Daniel in depth as I have prepared for the messages.

While preparing for the final message on Daniel 6, however, it struck me that in many ways Daniel’s encounter with King Darius in chapter 6 appears to point forward to the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  In theology, this is referred to as “typology”, where a previous event or person in the Bible points forward to a future event.  For example, Abraham’s restrained sacrifice of Isaac on the wood fire in the mountains of Moriah in Genesis 22 points forward to Jesus’ unrestrained sacrifice on the wooden cross on mount Calvary.  Another example is Jonah’s three days and three nights in the belly of the fish pointing forward to the one “greater than Jonah” who would spend three days and three nights in the belly of the Earth.  Other major Biblical characters like Joseph, Moses and David all operate as typologies of Christ in different ways and to varying degrees.  These typologies are to be expected as we study Scripture, for Jesus himself said “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me” (John 5:39).

Daniel 6 is a very well-known Biblical story commonly referred to as Daniel in the lion’s den.  In this story, Daniel is shown to be a man of absolute integrity, one who is trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.  The only way his accusers can find anything against him that will stick is to find something to do with the law of his God.  As the story progresses, King Darius is manipulated into enforcing a decree that no one is permitted to pray to any god or human being other than himself for thirty days.  Daniel, a man of unrivaled integrity, refuses to betray his God and continues praying as he always had three times per day.  His accusers quickly find him, report him and ensure he is thrown into the lion’s den.  King Darius is greatly distressed but there is nothing this mere human can do, no matter how powerful he is.  The lion’s den is sealed with the king’s own signet ring and the rings of his nobles and Daniel is left alone to be devoured by the beasts.  In the morning, to King Darius’ exceeding joy, Daniel has been rescued by his God and is quickly lifted up out of the den.  The story ends with great irony – those who orchestrated Daniel’s demise are themselves thrown into the den and immediately killed by the ravenous lions, and King Darius issues a second decree that results in fear, praise, worship and glory for the “God of Daniel”.

Perhaps you can already begin to see the connection between Daniel and Christ.  The strongest clue is found in verse 17 where we read “A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring”.  This statement should rouse the grey matter in our brains and cause us to think about Jesus’ tomb, when Pilate commanded the chief priests and Pharisees to do something very similar.  In Matthew 27:65-66, Pilate commands the chief priests and Pharisees to take a guard and then “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” After this we read these words: “So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.”  There is a clear typological connection here with Daniel being thrown into a den/tomb and his enemies sealing it with a large stone.  Starting from this clue, a number of other connections begin to appear.  Let me point out some of these connections more explicitly:

  • Like Daniel, Jesus was completely faithful to his God and lived a righteous life
  • Like Daniel, Jesus was a man of unquestionable and unrivaled integrity.  As Peter writes regarding Jesus, “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” Or as Jesus himself said, “Which of you convicts me of sin?”
  • Like Daniel, the leaders in Jesus’ day took advantage of him and attempted to manipulate him because of envy
  • Like Daniel, they couldn’t find anything wrong with Jesus unless it was something to do with the law of his God
  • Like Daniel, Jesus prayed three times right before his arrest
  • Like Daniel, it was those close to Jesus who betrayed him
  • Like Daniel, the “king” of Jesus’ day, Pontius Pilate, tried unsuccessfully to release him
  • Like Daniel, Jesus was sentenced to death
  • Like Daniel, Jesus was handed over to the lions, which in Jesus’ case was the arch-lion Satan, looking for someone to devour
  • Like Daniel, no bone of Jesus was crushed
  • Like Daniel, Jesus was abandoned to the grave
  • Like Daniel, Jesus’ tomb was sealed tight by a large stone and the command of the king
  • Like Daniel, Jesus was found to be alive at the break of dawn
  • Like Daniel, Jesus was lifted up again to new life
  • Like Daniel, Jesus’ Resurrection resulted in praise and glory to the one true God
  • Like Daniel, Jesus was completely vindicated by God

In all of these ways (and probably more), it is evident that Daniel’s life and his encounter with the lion’s den prefigures the death and Resurrection of Christ.  In other words, it points forward to a far greater fulfilment in Christ.  Yes, Daniel in this sense is a “type” or “illustration” of Christ, but we must recognise that even Daniel falls far short of Christ.  Without question, he was a normal flawed sinful human being just like you and me and we must remember that Daniel was not Resurrected but only rescued from certain death.  The purpose of Daniel’s typology, therefore, is to drive us forward to seek the greater person of Christ; the one who is perfectly faithful, perfectly righteous, the only one who is without sin and the one who perfectly obeys his Father even unto death on the cross, and ultimately, the one who perfectly saves all people from the greatest enemies of all – sin and death.  We can all be encouraged to emulate the integrity and faithfulness of Daniel just as the old hymn goes “Dare to be a Daniel! Dare to stand alone! Dare to have a purpose firm! Dare to make it known!”.  With respect, though, we should probably forget about Daniel and cling solely and completely to Christ, the author and perfector of our faith.  If the story of Daniel and the lion’s den drives us to Christ, then in that sense, we should be greatly encouraged.

Perhaps the greatest aspect of the way Daniel points forward to Christ does not come from Daniel himself, but from the mouth of the pagan king, King Darius, in his response to Daniel’s deliverance.  Daniel 6:25 – Then King Darius wrote to all the nations and peoples of every language in all the earth:

May you prosper greatly!

I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel.

For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end.
He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth.

King Darius certainly did not realise it at the time, but these words were prophetic and no doubt were given to him by the Holy Spirit.  This proclamation unequivocally points forward to Jesus Christ, the true “God of Daniel”, who established God’s eternal kingdom through his Resurrection from the dead.  Jesus Christ is the one who now sits on the throne of God, reigning over God’s kingdom for ever and ever.  “For he is the living God, he endures forever, his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end.”  And without question, he is the only one who truly rescues and saves us from the greater enemies of sin and death.

May you all be encouraged by the study of Daniel, but in the end, may this study unequivocally drive us forward to our wonderful Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  Just as we have been singing in church recently:

By grace I am redeemed
By grace I am restored
And now I freely walk
Into the arms of Christ my Lord

Ray Forlin
Senior Pastor