The Fiery Furnace
By Rev. Dr. Andrew M. T. Dibb
The third chapter of Daniel follows the same pattern as the first two: Nebuchadnezzar begins by making threats against those who do not bow to his every whim, and ends with his humbly admitting the Lord's power.
The similarities between the dramatic vision of the statue in chapter two and actually building an image in chapter three are not, however, mere repetition. Close attention to the detail in this chapter will show how in its pursuit of domination the selfish side of human nature continues to try to dominate, even though we might consciously submit to the Lord.
This third chapter opens with a huge image created by Nebuchadnezzar. The actual dimensions are important, not because of their physical impact, but because of the spiritual concepts they contain. Similarly, the impossibility of it being made from gold should not interfere with the spiritual exposition of the verse. The literal sense of the story is important only as a means of bringing out the spiritual sense.
This entire image was made of gold. But like the head of the statue in the previous chapter, this is not the gold representing love to the Lord, but self love. Every good correspondence also has an opposite sense.
The statue is described as sixty cubits tall, and six cubits wide. The recurring number "six" takes meaning from its contrast to the number immediately following. "Seven" is a state of fullness and completeness—the Lord rested on the seventh day of creation, clean animals entered the ark in sevens, we should forgive others "up to seventy times seven." As seven contains this sense of completeness, six represents a state of incompleteness.
"Six" is often used to describe the process of regeneration, especially in the creation series, and in the Ten Commandments. In the six days of creation, people are tempted and in a state of conflict, which must be overcome for the person to regenerate (AC 8494, 8539:2, 8888). The conflict illustrated in this chapter is between our sense of selfishness and our emerging conscience.
The number sixty is the fullness of this conflict, as sixty is a six multiplied by ten. If six represents the conflicts of temptation, ten represents completeness (AC 3107, 4638, 8468, 9416), or fullness of that conflict.
Ideally, the states of goodness, truth and their mutual expression should be equal. The shape representing a regenerate person would be a perfect cube, as described by "the Holy City coming down from God out of heaven" (Revelation 21:2).
But Nebuchadnezzar's image vastly different from this ideal: it was tall and narrow — ten times taller than it was wide, and no depth is described. It comes across as one dimensional, disproportionate, its most compelling feature the gold from which it is made.
As in the second chapter, Nebuchadnezzar calls together his advisers: before, it was astrologers and wise men. In this chapter he calls together the governors of his kingdom: the satraps, administrators and so on. When the Word speaks of governors, it speaks of our loves, because we are ruled and governed by loves. The list here gives a hierarchy of loves from the top, or ruling loves, down to the lesser affections we have.
We are shown our state when that ruling love is Nebuchadnezzar: he dominates the scene, his word is law. He controls a vast empire and has absolute control over life and death. Thus Nebuchadnezzar can summon his governors and order them around with the same ease with which he called together the wise men and demanded the impossible from them.
At the sound of music, his whole empire was to fall down and worship the gold image erected by the king. Music is used as a means of summoning the rulers of the land because if those men represent our various loves and affections, so music speaks to our loves.
If Nebuchadnezzar represents our selfishness and love of control, the Chaldeans come into the picture as a confirmation of this selfishness. The essence of profanation—evil pretending to be good—is the misuse of goodness and truth for one's own ends. Any state of genuine good or truth resisting this misuse would come into conflict with it.
Thus the Chaldeans with great enthusiasm name Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego who do not serve the king nor worship his golden image. By using their Babylonian names, they are refusing to recognize truth as coming from the Word. This is the very heart of profanation: to know something is from the Word, even to acknowledge it as such, and yet to deny it—just as those Chaldeans must have known that the three men were Jews, and that their Babylonian names were not truly their own. It is the ultimate denial of their identity, just as profanation is the ultimate denial of the Lord.
Nebuchadnezzar's life is first of military conquest and the expansion of his empire. This conquest comes with the dominion of religious things. Thus it was not out of character for him to command worship. As the love of self progresses, it demands greater and greater things, until it demands to be treated as the Lord Himself (AR 717).
"The evil of the love of self is not, as is generally thought, that external elation which is called pride, but it is hatred against the neighbor, and thence a burning desire for revenge, and delight in cruelty. These are the interiors of the love of self. Its exteriors are contempt for others in comparison with self, and an aversion to those who are in spiritual good, and this sometimes with manifest elation or pride, and sometimes without it. For one who holds the neighbor in such hatred, inwardly loves no one but himself and those whom he regards as making one with himself, thus he loves them in himself, and himself in them for the sole end of self" (AC 4750:5).
Each person in this world is capable of giving freedom to these feelings, and if we do, soon we find ourselves doing what Nebuchadnezzar did: demanding that people see the world through our own personal spectacles, and roundly damning them to hell if they do not.
As we saw earlier, Daniel represents the conscience developing in opposition to our selfish states. Conscience is the activity of truth leading and guiding our minds towards a life in harmony with the Lord's. The conscience, however, must be made up of individual truths, truths applicable to different parts of our lives. We have a set of truths to govern marriage, work ethic, social interaction, and so on.
These individual truths are Daniel's Hebrew companions. Each time we have seen them, they have stood on their belief in God, but each time at Daniel's leadership. This time they stand alone, willing to confront the imperial wrath and face death for their belief.
The consequences were, of course, dire. Nebuchadnezzar flew into a rage, demanding that the young men be cast into a fiery furnace, heated to seven times its normal heat. The young men were prepared to accept this punishment rather than retract their belief in the Lord.
Nebuchadnezzar tried to scare the three men by heating the furnace to hotter than normal, which well describes the actions of evil spirits in temptation who,
"act against the affections of truth that make the conscience: as soon as they perceive anything of conscience, of whatever kind, then from the falsities and failings in the man they form to themselves an affection; and by means of this they cast a shade over the light of truth, and so pervert it; or they induce anxiety and torture him" (AC 1820:4).
The time the young men spend in the furnace represents a state of temptation, which occurs for the sake of regeneration (AE 439). Most simply defined, temptation is a battle between two sides within us, where the natural, or selfish side is subdued. Up until then, selfishness is seen as simply being a part of us, the way we are (AC 1820). In temptation, this self-image is changed, and we learn to see ourselves in the light of heaven (AE 439).
The power of the evil spirits is greatly illusory. Just as Nebuchadnezzar fell back after resistance, so the spirits also withdraw when we resist them. The greatest temptation we face is believing the Lord is unable to help us in our times of great need. If we cling to the believe that He can and does give help, then facing our inner selfishness becomes less difficult. The image the men were commanded to worship was, after all, an immobile object of gold, disproportionate and one-dimensional. Our selfishness is like that: seemingly monolithic, and yet devoid of any real life. Its attractions fade when seen in the light of heaven. Spiritual resistance is not so difficult, and the results give strength:
"Victories are attended with the result that the malignant genii and spirits afterward dare not do anything; for their life consists in their being able to destroy, and when they perceive that a man is of such a character that he can resist then at the first onset they flee away, as they are wont to do when they draw near to the first entrance to heaven, for they are at once seized with horror and terror, and hurl themselves backward" AC 1820.
Nebuchadnezzar is brought to awareness and appreciation of the power of the Lord, this time, with his own senses. There is a power in his acquiescence after witnessing the four men in the fiery furnace that is far more dramatic than his incredulity after Daniel foretold the dream in chapter two. This time he actually saw the power of the furnace, so strong that those who cast the three men in were killed by its heat, yet he saw the three men walk out unscathed. This proved the power of God to him more than anything before.
We see something of this process in the final verses of Chapter three, where Nebuchadnezzar praises the Lord, showing a new humility impossible for him before. As a result, the affection of truth begins to rule in place of the former selfish loves. Thus we see Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego promoted in the province of Babylon, presumably in place of the Babylonian satraps, administrators, governors, counselors, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the officials of the province who responded to Nebuchadnezzar's call to worship the gold image.
Apocalypse Revealed # 717
717. REVELATION: CHAPTER 17
1. Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and spoke with me, saying to me, "Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters,
2. with whom the kings of the earth committed whoredom, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her licentiousness."
3. So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness. And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.
4. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her licentiousness.
5. And on her forehead a name was written: Mystery, Babylon the Great, the Mother of the Whoredoms and Abominations of the Earth.
6. And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus. And when I saw her, I wondered with great wonder.
7. But the angel said to me, "Why do you wonder? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns.
8. The beast that you saw was, and is not, and will ascend out of the abyss and go to destruction. And those who dwell on the earth will marvel, those whose names have not been written in the Lamb's Book of Life from the foundation of the world, when they see the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.
9. This is the mind which has wisdom: The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits.
10. They are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come. And when he comes, he must remain a short time.
11. And the beast that was, and is not, is itself the eighth, and is of the seven, and is going to destruction.
12. The ten horns which you saw are ten kings that have not yet received a kingdom, but receive authority as kings for one hour with the beast.
13. These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast.
14. These will do battle with the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful."
15. Then he said to me, "The waters that you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples and multitudes, nations and tongues.
16. And the ten horns which you saw on the beast, these will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire.
17. For God has put it into their hearts to carry out His purpose, and to be of one mind and give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled.
18. And the woman whom you saw is the great city which holds sway over the kings of the earth."
THE SPIRITUAL MEANING
The Contents of the Whole Chapter
The subject is the Roman Catholic religion. Described is the way in which it falsified the Word and so perverted all the church's truths (verses 1-7). How it falsified these and perverted them among peoples subject to its dominion (verses 8-11), but less among peoples who had not so subjected themselves to its dominion (verses 12-15).
Regarding the Protestant Reformed, that they had withdrawn themselves from the yoke of its domination (verse 16, 17). Its continuing domination anyway (verse 18).
The Contents of the Individual Verses:
|Verse Contents||Spiritual Meaning|
|1. Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and spoke with me,||Influx now and a revelation from the Lord from the inmost of heaven about the Roman Catholic religion,|
|saying to me, "Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters,||a revelation about that religion as regards its profanations and adulterations of the Word's truths,|
|2. with whom the kings of the earth committed whoredom,||that it adulterated the church's goods and truths that it had from the Word.|
|and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her licentiousness."||Its insanity in spiritual matters owing to the adulteration of the Word among those immersed in that religion.|
|3. So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness.||John's being carried away in a spiritual state to people in whom everything of the church had been destroyed.|
|And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy,||That religion resting on the Word that they profaned.|
|having seven heads and ten horns.||Their intelligence gained from the Word, at first reverent, later abandoned, and at last irrational, and their continued great power drawn from the Word.|
|4. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet,||The celestial Divine good and truth contained in the Word among them.|
|and adorned with gold and precious stones||The spiritual Divine good and truth contained in the Word among them.|
|and pearls,||The concepts of goodness and truth contained in the Word among them.|
|having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her licentiousness.||That religion derived from the sacred contents of the Word profaned, and from its goods and truths defiled by dreadful falsities.|
|5. And on her forehead a name was written: Mystery, Babylon the Great, the Mother of the Whoredoms and Abominations of the Earth.||The Roman Catholic religion such as it is interiorly, which is concealed, that from its origin, springing from a love of exercising dominion from a love of self over the sanctities of the church and over heaven, thus over everything connected with the Lord and His Word, it defiled and profaned things having to do with the Word and so with the church.|
|6. And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus.||That religion irrational because of its adulterating and profaning the Divine truths and goods of the Lord, of the Word, and so of the church.|
|And when I saw her, I wondered with great wonder.||Astonishment that that religion is of such a character interiorly, when indeed it appears otherwise outwardly.|
|7. But the angel said to me, "Why do you wonder? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns.||A disclosure of the symbolic meaning of the preceding events and scenes.|
|8. The beast that you saw was, and is not,||The Word among them acknowledged as holy, and yet really not acknowledged.|
|and will ascend out of the abyss and go to destruction.||The laity's and common people's being given the Word and reading it deliberated several times in the papal Consistory, but rejected.|
|And those who dwell on the earth will marvel, those whose names have not been written in the Lamb's Book of Life from the foundation of the world, when they see the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.||The astonishment of those who belong to that religion, of all those who from its commencement strove for dominion over heaven and earth, that even though the Word had been thus rejected, still it endures.|
|9. This is the mind which has wisdom:||This is the interpretation in the natural sense, but intended for people who have the spiritual meaning from the Lord.|
|The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits. 10. They are also seven kings.||The Divine goods and truths in the Word on which that religion was founded, in time destroyed and finally profaned.|
|Five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come. And when he comes, he must remain a short time.||The Word's Divine truths have all been destroyed but this one, that the Lord was given all authority in heaven and on earth, and a second one, which has not yet been called into question, and when it is, will not survive, namely, that the Lord's humanity is Divine.|
|11. And the beast that was, and is not, is itself the eighth, and is of the seven, and is going to destruction.||The Word, as mentioned previously, is Divine good itself and Divine truth, and it has been taken from the laity and common people to keep the Roman Catholic hierarchy's profanations and adulterations of it from appearing, and the people's turning away on that account.|
|12. The ten horns which you saw are ten kings that have not yet received a kingdom,||The Word as to the power it has from Divine truths among Roman Catholics who live in France and are not so much under the yoke of papal dominion, who nevertheless have not yet formed among them therefore a church separate from the Roman Catholic religion.|
|but receive authority as kings for one hour with the beast.||The Word has force with them, and through the Word they prevail, as though they possessed its Divine truths.|
|13. These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast.||They unanimously acknowledge that the only means of government and dominion over the church is through the Word.|
|14. These will do battle with the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings;||The Lord's battle with them over an acknowledgment of His Divine humanity, because the Lord in that humanity is God of heaven and earth and also the Word.|
|and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful."||People who turn to the Lord and worship Him alone are those who go to heaven, both those concerned with the external elements of the church and those concerned with its internal and inmost elements.|
|15. Then he said to me, "The waters that you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples and multitudes, nations and tongues.||Under papal dominion, but caught up in various ways in that religion's adulterated and profaned truths of the Word, are peoples of a varying doctrine and discipline, and of a varying religion and confession of it.|
|16. And the ten horns which you saw on the beast, these will hate the harlot,||The Word as to the power it has from Divine truths among Protestants, who have thrown off entirely the yoke of papal dominion.|
|make her desolate and naked,||They will rid themselves of its falsities and evils.|
|eat her flesh and burn her with fire.||They will with hatred condemn and destroy in themselves the evils and falsities inherent in that religion, and will renounce the religion itself and expunge it in themselves.|
|17. For God has put it into their hearts to carry out His purpose, and to be of one mind and give their kingdom to the beast,||A judgment among them from the Lord that they should utterly repudiate and renounce the Roman Catholic religion and expunge and eradicate it in themselves, and a unanimous judgment that they should acknowledge the Word and found the church on it.|
|until the words of God are fulfilled.||Until all the things foretold about them have been fulfilled.|
|18. And the woman whom you saw is the great city which holds sway over the kings of the earth."||The Roman Catholic religion will reign as to doctrine in the Christian world, and to some extent still also among the Protestant Reformed, even though the latter are not under papal dominion.|
The Protestant Reformed were the subject before this in chapters 7-16. The subject now in this chapter and the next is Roman Catholics, and those among them who claim for themselves the power of opening and closing heaven are meant by Babylon. We must first say here, therefore, what Babylon means specifically.
Babylon or Babel means a love of ruling over the sanctities of the church stemming from a love of self, and because this love increases to the degree it is given free rein, and the sanctities of the church are also the sanctities of heaven, therefore Babylon or Babel symbolizes dominion over heaven as well.
Moreover, because this love thus plays the part of the devil, who aspires to similar ends, it cannot help but profane sacred things by adulterating the Word's goods and truths. Consequently Babylon or Babel also symbolizes the profanation of what is sacred and the adulteration of the Word's goodness and truth.
These are the symbolic meanings of Babylon here in the book of Revelation, and of Babel in the following places in the prophetic and historical Word:
(Regarding) Babel... Behold, the day of Jehovah is coming, cruel...., ...the stars of heaven and their constellations do not give their light; the sun has been darkened in its rising, and the moon does not cause its light to shine....
"I will halt the arrogance of the proud, and will lay low the haughtiness of the violent...."
Babel, the glory of kingdoms..., will be as God's overthrowing of Sodom and Gomorrah... Ziyyim 1 will lie down there, their houses will be full of 'ochim, 2 and the offspring of owls will dwell there, and satyrs will caper there. 'Iyyim 3 will reply in her palaces, and dragons in her pleasant palaces. (Isaiah 13:1, 9-11, 19, 21-22)
 Not to mention many other declarations throughout that chapter.
...you will take up this parable regarding the king of Babel...:
"Your magnificence has been brought down into hell....
."..you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer... ...you have said in your heart, "I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God...; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High." Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol....
...I will rise up against them... and cut off from Babel the name and remnant...." (Isaiah 14:4, 11-15, 22)
 Not to mention many other declarations throughout that chapter.
...Jehovah spoke against Babel...: "Your mother was deeply ashamed; she who bore you was ashamed. Behold, the last of the nations shall be a wilderness, a dry land and a solitude....
"Put yourselves in array against Babel all around..., shoot at her, spare no arrows....
"How Babel has become a desolation among the nations!
."..she has behaved insolently against Jehovah, against the Holy One of Israel....
"A drought is against her waters, so that they are dried up. For it is the land of carved images, and glories in shocking things.
"Therefore ziyyim shall dwell there with 'iyyim, and the offspring of owls shall dwell in it..., as in God's overthrowing Sodom and Gomorrah...." (Jeremiah 50:1, 12, 14, 23, 29, 31, 38-40)
 Not to mention may other declarations regarding Babel in that chapter.
"Babel was a golden cup in Jehovah's hand, that made all the earth drunk. The nations drank of her wine; therefore (they) are demented....
"Forsake her..., for her judgment reaches to heaven and rises up to the clouds....
"Behold, I am against you, O destroying mountain, that destroys all the earth... I will... roll you down from the rocks, and make you a burnt mountain....
"I will visit judgment on Bel in Babel, I will take the chewed food out of his mouth, so that the nations do not stream to him anymore. The wall of Babel also shall fall....
."..behold, the days are coming when I will visit judgment on the carved images of Babel, so that her whole land is ashamed....
"If Babel were to mount up to heaven, and if she were to fortify the height of her strength, yet from Me would come destroyers....
"Indeed, I will make drunk her princes and wise men, her leaders and her prefects..., so that they sleep the sleep of an age and do not awake...." (Jeremiah 51:7, 9, 25, 44, 47, 53, 57)
 Not to mention many other declarations throughout that chapter regarding Babel.
"Come down and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon; sit on the ground, without a throne... Take a millstone and grind meal... Uncover the thigh, pass through the rivers. Your nakedness shall be uncovered..., your shame will be seen....
"You said, 'I shall be a lady forever,' ...you did not remember the end....
"You trusted in your wickedness; you said, 'No one sees me.' Your wisdom and your knowledge led you astray, when you said in your heart, 'I am, and there is no one else besides me'....
"Ruin shall come upon you suddenly, without your knowing.
"Persist... in your enchantments, in the multitude of your sorceries, in which you have labored from your youth. Perhaps they will possibly be of some use, perhaps you will become fearsome." (Isaiah 47:1-3, 7, 10-12)
Not to mentioned many other declarations regarding Babel in that chapter.
 Similar qualities are symbolically meant by the city in Genesis 11:1-9 and by the tower whose top was in heaven, which the people coming from the east into the valley of Shinar began to build, people whose languages Jehovah, descending from heaven, confused, because of which the place was named Babel (confusion).
 Similar qualities are symbolically meant by the following things in Daniel:
By the statue that Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babel, saw, whose feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, which the stone cut without hands struck and broke in pieces, and all the pieces of the statue became like chaff on the threshing floors, and the stone became a great rock (Daniel 2:31-47).
By the great statue that Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babel, made, and commanded that people fall down before it and worship it, and that whoever did not do so would be cast into the fiery furnace (Daniel 3:1-7ff.).
By the tree growing until its height reached heaven and it was visible to the end of the earth, which a watcher and holy one, coming down from heaven, ordered to be chopped down, stripped, cut up, and scattered; and because it represented the king of Babel, it came to pass that he was driven from mankind, dwelled with beasts, and ate grass like an ox (Daniel 4).
By Belshazzar, king of Babel, in company with his lords, wives and concubines, and his drinking wine from the gold and silver vessels of the temple in Jerusalem and praising the gods of gold, silver, bronze, iron and stone, on which account the writing appeared on the wall and on that very day the king himself was slain (Daniel 5).
By the edict of Darius the Mede, king of Babel, that for thirty days no one petition anything from God or man, but from the king alone, or else be cast into a den of lions (Daniel 6:7-28).
And by the four beasts that Daniel saw come up from the sea, the fourth of which was dreadful and strong, and having huge iron teeth, it devoured and broke in pieces, and trampled the residue with its feet; and judgment was set then, and the books were opened, and the beast was slain and its body given to the burning flame; and then one like the Son of Man was seen, coming with the clouds of heaven, to whom was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, and all people, nations and tongues will worship Him, His dominion being an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom one which shall not be destroyed (Daniel 7:1-14).
1. A Hebrew word (צִיִּים), appearing six times in the Old Testament (Psalms 72:9; 74:14). It seems to refer to desert dwellers, and in contexts suggesting animals, to desert creatures, but the actual identity is unknown. It may not be a precise term.
2. Another Hebrew word (אֹחִים), appearing only once in the Old Testament. Isaiah 13:21 identifies them as birds of the night.
3. Another Hebrew word (אִיִּים), appearing only three times in the Old Testament (Isaiah 13:22; 34:14)