What Daniel 3 Reveals about the Antichrist

The book of Daniel is one of the books in the Bible most associated with end time events because of the dramatic visions that Daniel is given both about the return of Jesus and what will come just before it. The book of Daniel also gives more details about the Antichrist than any other book including the longest prophecy about what the Antichrist will do.

The book of Daniel is generationally separated into two sections:

  • The chapters which are primarily historical – chapters 1, 3, 4, 5, and 6.
  • The chapters which are primarily apocalyptic and eschatological – Chapters 2, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12.

While Daniel 3 is usually treated primarily as a historical chapter, there is quite a bit in the chapter that is intended to help us understand some of the unique dynamics that will precede the return of the Lord.

The Context of Daniel 3

To understand Daniel 3 we first have to recognize the context of the chapter. The first thing we must recognize is that Nebuchadnezzar is a prototype of the Antichrist. He is egotistical and proud. He goes to war in the name of a false god. He lays siege to Jerusalem and destroys it taking the Jewish people captive.

It is not an accident that Daniel was given his visions during the rule of Nebuchadnezzar. Though he is ultimately humbled in chapter 4, up to that point he provides the starting point for how Daniel understands the person we know as the Antichrist. Not only is Nebuchadnezzar a prototype, his capital city Babylon is also prototype. The book of Revelation refers to a great wicked city that will emerge at the end of the age as “Babylon” (Revelation 14:8; 16:19; 17-18).

In Daniel 2, Nebuchadnezzar has a troubling dream of a great image of a man which represents the wicked empires of the age. The king is troubled by the dream and Daniel is called to interpret it. Daniel reveals that there is an end-time dimension to the vision. He predicts a cruel iron kingdom (Daniel 2:40-44) that he will find later in Daniel 7 ultimately represents the rule of reign of the Antichrist (Daniel 7:7-8). He also predicts that the image will finally be destroyed by an indestructible kingdom that God will establish over the entire earth (Daniel 2:44-45).

Daniel 3 opens as Nebuchadnezzar builds a massive golden image. The fact that the image is golden connects it directly to the dream of Daniel 2 because, in that dream, it was the golden part of the statue that represented Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel wants us to connect the fact that the image of Daniel 3 is going to reveal even more information about the nature and character of the image in Daniel 2.

31“You saw, O king, and behold, a great image. This image, mighty and of exceeding brightness, stood before you, and its appearance was frightening. 32The head of this image was of fine gold…38…you are the head of gold. (Daniel 2:31-32, 38 ESV)

1King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its breadth six cubits. He set it up on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. (Daniel 3:1 ESV)

Daniel 3 also connected to Daniel 4. In Daniel 4 Nebuchadnezzar is humbled because of his arrogance. Arrogance and boasting is one of the primary characteristics of the Antichrist both in Daniel and Revelation (Daniel 7:8, 20, 25; Revelation 13:5-6). Part of Nebuchadnezzar’s humbling is that his mind is changed into the mind of a beast for seven periods of time.

16Let his mind be changed from a man’s, and let a beast’s mind be given to him; and let seven periods of time pass over him. (Daniel 4:16 ESV)

Because he is not the Antichrist, Nebuchadnezzar’s humbling is redemptive and brings him to the end of himself (Daniel 4:34-37). However, his humbling serves as a prototype for the future Antichrist. Like Nebuchadnezzar, the Antichrist will be given the mind of a beast (Daniel 7; Revelation 13) for a period of seven years (Daniel 9:27). The effect will be dramatically different than it was for Nebuchadnezzar but nevertheless it is important to notice the connection.

An Image and a False Worship Movement

Daniel 3 begins as Nebuchadnezzar creates a massive image. This image is central to the story in the chapter.

1King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its breadth six cubits. He set it up on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. (Daniel 3:1 ESV)

The book of Revelation predicts that the Antichrist, also known as the beast, will raise up an image and this image is one of the most prominent elements of the Antichrist’s rule in the book of Revelation. It is significant that the image is placed in the city of Babylon. The Antichrist prototype erects the image in the city that is the prototype for the great wicked city that will emerge at the end of the age.

Revelation 13 tells us that when the Antichrist emerges that an image will be made for him and the nations will be commanded to worship at the point of death.

14…telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived. 15And it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain. (Revelation 13:14–15 ESV)

This image is one of the most distinctive characteristics of the Antichrist’s rule in the book of Revelation (Revelation 13:14-15; 14:9, 11; 15:2; 16:2; 19:20; 20:4).

In Daniel 2, evil empires are presented as an image. In Daniel 3, an Antichrist prototype erects that image. In the book of Revelation we are told that the true Antichrist will also setup an image. Because the image is so prominent both in the rule of Nebuchadnezzar and the rule of the Antichrist, we are intended to study the image of Daniel 3 to better understand the image of Revelation 13.

When Nebuchadnezzar erects his image, he invokes worship in a specific way. First he uses music to compel the people to worship. Nebuchadnezzar does not just command worship by his voice, he commands worship through music, creating a false worship movement that is musical and is designed to cause the nations to worship the image.

5that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. (Daniel 3:5 ESV)

7Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. (Daniel 3:7 ESV)

10You, O king, have made a decree, that every man who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image. (Daniel 3:10 ESV)

15Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” (Daniel 3:15 ESV)

Nebuchadnezzar commands the nations to worship, and the Antichrist’s will also demand the nations worship his image (Revelation 13:14-15).

4And the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, (Daniel 3:4 ESV)

7Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. (Daniel 3:7 ESV)

Those who do not worship are condemned to death just as they are in the book of Revelation (Revelation 13:15).

6And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.” (Daniel 3:6 ESV)

11And whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into a burning fiery furnace. (Daniel 3:11 ESV)

15Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” (Daniel 3:15 ESV)

The event in Daniel 3 is a warning to us that the Antichrist is going to put an image in place and then use music in a specific way to demand global worship at the point of death.

Three Jewish Men Refuse to Worship

When Nebuchadnezzar raises up the image, there are three Jewish men who refuse to worship the image. Their refusal to worship illustrates two key issues related to the end of the age. The first one is that only those who follow the God of Israel will stand strong and refuse to worship. Revelation 12 tells us that the end time church will refuse to worship the Antichrist because they love not their lives even until death. just as the three Jewish men were faithful to YHWH even at the point of death.

12There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Daniel 3:12 ESV)

16Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16–18 ESV)

11And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. (Revelation 12:11 ESV)

The second issue illustrated in this incident is the rage of the Antichrist against the Jewish people. Just as the three Jewish men were singled out (Daniel 3:12), so also the Jewish people will be singled out from the nations by the Antichrist.

1And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars…13And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. (Revelation 12:1, 13 ESV)

Revelation 12 tells us that the persecution of both the followers of the God of Israel and the Jewish people will be directly connected. Revelation 12:13 tells us that the dragon who represents Satan will pursue the woman who represents Israel. At the same time, he will also pursue those who are faithful and loyal to the God of Israel.

17Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea. (Revelation 12:17 ESV)

Nebuchadnezzar reacts to the refusal to worship in great rage demonstrating the arrogance and rage that the Antichrist will express when people refuse to worship (Revelation 13:15).

19Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury, and the expression of his face was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was usually heated. (Daniel 3:19 ESV)

Great Tribulation

In his rage at their refusal to worship, Nebuchadnezzar commanded that the three who refuse worship be thrown into the fiery furnace. Nebuchadnezzar had the furnace heated “7 times hotter.” It is so hot that his own men cannot even endure it – it is hotter than any normal furnace.

19Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury, and the expression of his face was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was usually heated…22Because the king’s order was urgent and the furnace overheated, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. (Daniel 3:22 ESV)

Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace is precisely how Jesus describes the great tribulation. It will be a time of unparalleled trouble. There have been many furnaces of affliction in human history, but this one will exceed them all. The furnace of tribulation under the Antichrist will be “seven times hotter” than anything that has gone before.

21For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. (Matthew 24:21 ESV)

Those who are the objects of the Antichrist’s wrath, both those who follow the God of Israel and the ultimately the Jewish people will be thrown into the furnace.

20And he ordered some of the mighty men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. 21Then these men were bound in their cloaks, their tunics, their hats, and their other garments, and they were thrown into the burning fiery furnace…23And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace. (Daniel 3:23 ESV)

7Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, (Revelation 13:7 ESV)

Nebuchadnezzar threw three men into his furnace, but was shocked to see four men in the furnace.

24Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” 25He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.” (Daniel 3:24–25 ESV)

In the midst of the great tribulation Jesus will be found in the midst of His people supernaturally preserving them. This will apply both to the followers of Jesus and to the Jewish people.

9In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old. (Isaiah 63:9 ESV)

This is what Revelation 12 predicts. It predicts that the salvation and power of God will come at the same hour that many lose their lives for the gospel due to Satan’s wrath. God will be among his people in the fire of the great tribulation.

10And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. 11And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. 12Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” (Revelation 12:10–12 ESV)

Daniel 3 also tells us the fire of tribulation is not the end of the story because Jesus will bring His people out of the tribulation. When the three Jewish men are brought out of the fire, they do not even smell like smoke, and this is a picture of the resurrection. The end of the great tribulation, both for the followers of Jesus and Israel will be a resurrection. It is supernatural. There isn’t even the smell of their final suffering. They will be raised in indestructible bodies.

26Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. 27And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men. The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them. (Daniel 3:26–27 ESV)

5But the multitude of your foreign foes shall be like small dust, and the multitude of the ruthless like passing chaff. And in an instant, suddenly, (Isaiah 29:5 ESV)

4Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. (Revelation 20:4 ESV)

Conclusion

Daniel 3 is more than a story of how three Jewish men stayed faithful under pressure.  Nebuchadnezzar’s activity in Daniel 3 is the prototype for the final Antichrist who will come. By studying the details of Daniel 3 we can better understand what the Bible tells us about the activity of the Antichrist.

The insights in Daniel 3 illustrate the rich depth that is in this book. The entire book is a gift to the church and particularly the end-time church. The closer we get to that day the more we will see the riches that God has given us in this small book. This is precisely what the angel means when he tells Daniel that the book is sealed until the time of the end.

9He said, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are shut up and sealed until the time of the end. (Daniel 12:9 ESV)

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