Behind the Curtain of Heaven

For more study see commentary on Daniel 10.

Daniel 10, in my opinion, is one of the most difficult passages in all of the Bible. This is because it pulls back the curtain to heaven and gives us a glimpse of the heavenly warfare that takes place. We have a couple of other examples in the Bible that we can correspond with but ultimately it is a difficult task. The reason this is so difficult is that it feels like we should know a whole lot more about what is going on than we do. We try to search for answers and understanding but we simply do not have enough information to get a clear picture.

Today’s modern era probably doesn’t make Daniel 10 any easier for us to understand or accept. We feel that we have a right to know exactly what our troops are doing overseas. Frankly whether we have this right or whether it is healthy is a completely different discussion. But beginning with the Vietnam War, Americans have becomes used to knowing the overall picture of what is going on. It is most likely why sentiment has been against recent wars as well, because people have a better understanding of what is taking place.

Frankly, Daniel 10 only gives us a glimpse of the war that is going on behind the scenes. We’d like to know more but God hasn’t given us any more information. We may be properly cynical and skeptical of the information our government releases to us about what has taken place in the wars that we are involved in but we don’t have the right to question the little information that God has given us. We must accept that He is in control as we have seen time and time and again throughout the book of Daniel.

On to the specifics of Daniel 10, this chapter is the beginning of the close of the book. Chapters 10-12 are all part of one narrative. Every other chapter has broken cleanly with the end of the story. Chapters 10-12 are broken up somewhat artificially with chapter 10 breaking mid story. This means that you’ll have to come back the following two weeks to hear the completion of the story.

Daniel 10:1-3

1 In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia, a revelation was given to Daniel (who was called Belteshazzar). Its message was true and it concerned a great war. The understanding of the message came to him in a vision.
2 At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. 3 I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over.

Just like in many other instances in Daniel, the prophet has been given a vision. This isn’t unusual or worthy of much note. His reaction is stronger than any other however. First of all, we should note when this takes place. In the third year of Cyrus, king of Persia, Daniel is an old man and is finally retired. The end of Daniel tells us that Daniel stayed in the service of the king until the first year of Cyrus’s reign.

Daniel is able to retire because God has finally achieved His purpose in having Daniel in such a high position. The Israelites have been granted permission to return home to Jerusalem. Daniel would certainly love to return with them but is too old to make the trip.

Just because Daniel is through working as Prime Minister does not mean that God is through with him. He still has one great vision yet to be revealed to Daniel.

Some visions have left Daniel physically ill before but this one moves him to a state of mourning. It is worth noting Daniel’s fast here. He doesn’t abstain from eating entirely but gives up more decadent food as a show of his mourning. This also shows that Daniel was not against eating meat as might be improperly inferred from Daniel 1. Instead, it was something specific about the meat that Daniel found unacceptable – quite possibly that it had been used in idol worship.

Daniel 10:4-9

4 On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river, the Tigris, 5 I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of fine gold from Uphaz around his waist. 6 His body was like topaz, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude.
7 I, Daniel, was the only one who saw the vision; those who were with me did not see it, but such terror overwhelmed them that they fled and hid themselves. 8 So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless. 9 Then I heard him speaking, and as I listened to him, I fell into a deep sleep, my face to the ground.

The man whom Daniel encounters here is none other than Jesus before His birth. How can we be sure that this is God in flesh and not an angel? Compare Daniel’s vision to what Ezekiel and John have recorded:

Above the expanse over their heads was what looked like a throne of sapphire, and high above on the throne was a figure like that of a man. I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him. Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. (Ezekiel 1:26-28)

Someone “like a son of man,” dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash round his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. (Revelation 1:13-16)

These are all descriptions of the same man – Jesus Christ. Daniel and Ezekiel see Jesus before His birth and John witnesses Him after His death and resurrection but it is the same man.
Daniel’s encounter with Jesus is very similar to Saul’s (better known as Paul) on the road to Damascus.

Acts 9:3-7

3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone.

The major difference between Daniel and Saul’s encounters is that Daniel is righteous and is strengthened by Jesus. Saul is struck blind in order to open his eyes to the gospel that he was rejecting.

Vs 10-11

10 A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. 11 He said, “Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you.” And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling.

Despite Jesus’ comforting words, Daniel is still trembling. It is much the same as Isaiah when He see the Lord in His glory.

Isaiah 6:1-5

1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”
4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”

Daniel 10:12-14

12 Then he continued, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. 13 But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. 14 Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come.”

Here’s where things get difficult for a couple of reasons. The first is the difficult thought that Daniel 10 is not about one vision but two. The NIV Bible and several others have a heading that says something like “Daniel’s vision of a man.” This is accurate but here’s what has really taken place. First, Daniel has had a vision that has shaken him so much that he mourns and fasts for 21 days. In the midst of this fast he is traveling and he sees a vision of a man – Jesus – who is going to explain his earlier vision to him.

That wasn’t the really difficult however. The part that I find so hard to grasp as I assume you will is the idea that Jesus would be held up from answering Daniel for twenty one days. What can this possibly mean?

In Daniel 9, Daniel had his prayer answered while he was still praying:

Daniel 9:20-23

20 While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and making my request to the LORD my God for his holy hill— 21 while I was still in prayer, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me in swift flight about the time of the evening sacrifice. 22 He instructed me and said to me, “Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding. 23 As soon as you began to pray, a word went out, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed. Therefore, consider the word and understand the vision:

This time however Daniel’s prayers are delayed by the Prince of Persia. And didn’t I just identify this man as Jesus? How can anyone or anything delay Him? To answer this, we must look at some other things that scripture has revealed about Jesus. Here are some rhetorical questions that highlight what Jesus has done.

Did the LORD wrestle all night with Jacob?
Did Satan tempt Jesus?
Did angels attend to Jesus after Satan’s temptations?
Were twelve legions of angels at Jesus’ disposal to rescue Him from the cross?
Does Satan come and take away the Word sown on the heart by Christ?
Did Jesus become hungry and tired while on earth?
Did Satan attempt to resist Christ through the apostle Peter?
Did Satan use the disciple Judas to betray Christ?
Was Jesus unsuccessful in releasing all the prisoners of Satan?
Was Christ cut off from Israel in His first advent?

The answer to these questions is yes. Jesus, as a man has limited Himself. I can’t begin to explain it because I can’t fully comprehend it. Jesus is fully man and fully God. He is Immanuel which means God with us. He is God in flesh. But as a man, he was subject to the limitations of man even while displaying miraculous powers through God the Father.

This still begs the question of why God would allow this at all. Why won’t God just squash Satan like the bug that he is? How can Jesus be resisted and delayed? You’re not going to like the answer. We don’t know. We have no clue why God allows Satan to have any sway over the earth. We don’t know why God didn’t cast Satan into hell at the moment of his rebellion. It’s not because God doesn’t have the power to do so. The victory is assured. The end is not in doubt in the slightest bit.

The best explanation that I can give you is that God is glorified in the midst of such chaos. If God were to just wipe the slate clean on all sin, there would be no need for Jesus’ death. Why did Jesus have to die rather than God just forgetting about sin altogether and letting us live the way we want to? It has to come back to His glory but I can’t pretend to understand it all.

Isaiah 55:8-9 explain things as well as can be explained: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts”

So, whether we can understand it or not, Jesus is held up and resisted for 21 days. Who is the Prince of Persia? This is either Satan himself or a strong satanic influence. Just as there are different ranks of the angels in heaven – cherubim, seraphim, arch angels, and possibly many more that are not mentioned – it stands to reason that there are ranks among fallen angels as well. Since Persia is the seat of world power at the time, if Satan himself is not involved, he has his “head demon” on the job of deceiving and doing all it can to frustrate the work of God. It was most certainly the work of Satan that incited men to deceive King Darius and cause Daniel to be thrown into the lion’s den.

Even though we don’t understand the warfare of heaven, this is not the first battle, nor is it the last. Jude 9 references a battle over the body of Moses.

But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”

Revelation 12:7-9 records a battle in heaven that is yet future:
And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

Does this mean that we are mere pawns in a holy war or subject to become casualties of a holy war? Not at all. Paul writes in Ephesians 6 that we are soldiers as well and we should be prepared for battle – and it will come whether or not we are prepared for it.

Ephesians 6:10-17

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

We can’t understand it all but we’re called to be prepared. Our only weapon is God’s Word. This is what Jesus used to combat Satan’s lies when He was tempted and it is what we must use to combat Satan as well.

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