Daniel was the greatest figure in Jewish leadership until the birth of Christ; there were others, of course, like Ezra and Nehemiah and different prophets like Ezekiel. Daniel spoke clearly about a coming Kingdom and what that would mean not only to Jews, but to the world.
First of all, Daniel revealed the reality that God’s people did not need to be physically in charge for the Kingdom to be in complete control. Neither did the people of God need to be perfect. The Jews were under judgment from God and subjected to political oppression, and yet the whole of Daniel declares that it doesn’t matter. God is real. There is a Kingdom. And God doesn’t need one of his people to be on the throne for him to redeem and influence the world.
In other words, the fact that they were currently under an oppressive rule and in a foreign land did not make the Kingdom of God less real.
This was an important lesson for the Jews, and they did not fully learn it. When Jesus begins to preach the Kingdom, the Jews were adept at political maneuvering and the experts were experts at looking for a physical throne and a Messiah to take that earthly kingdom back to its height. Jesus had a different calling, a higher one, that didn’t include placing the world under one earthly throne but each individual nation under a heavenly one.
Their rejection of Jesus was not because he wasn’t big enough but because God’s plan was too big for them.
Second, Daniel clearly describes the time frame of when this Kingdom would come. Other prophets, like Isaiah, detail the Messiah himself and connect him to that final Kingdom. Through the dream of the statue given to Nebuchadnezzar and other prophetic numbers, the time of Christ wast the time for this new Kingdom.
And the fact that Jesus’ proclamation was “repent, for the Kingdom of God is here,” would have placed Daniel at the forefront in their minds. They knew history and the stories of the exile – were reminded of their failures daily by their low status in the most powerful Empire in the world at the time, the Romans. Daniel was not too far from their thinking.
While prophetic numbers can be manipulated and confusing from the Bible, combined with Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, Jesus wasn’t the only Messianic figure walking around during that time.
He was simply the only one that died and rose again.
Third, the Wise Men. “Wise Men from the East.” Daniel was educated to be a leader in the Babylonian Empire and served as such. With Nebuchadnezzar and his son, Belshazzar, we get continued references to the “wise men” of the Empire that could not interpret or understand these visions and dreams while Daniel could. Three of Daniel’s friends, also educated as he was, refused to bow to a big golden statue. These four were counted among the “wise men” of Babylon and then Persia.
This was no small thing. These were vast Empires with treasures of knowledge available to them. Babylon and especially Persia were well known for their high culture and education. Daniel was a leader and governor of both great Empires.
How would these men from the East have such detailed information on the Messiah and astrology? Perhaps because Daniel, as a governor in Persia, would have had such a huge influence? Seems more than plausible.
Wise Men traveled from the East – symbolizing these two Gentile Empires and Daniel and his friends – and bowed down to a baby.
Bowing was a big thing. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego wouldn’t bow to a statue under threat of death. When angels show up in the scripture and people bow to them, the angels say, “Whoa. Get up. I’m not the one you bow to.”
The fact that they bowed to baby Jesus was a huge statement. He was not a normal man. He was God.
Those are the main points, but there’s a lot there. Read through Daniel again and think about the Christmas story, about the declaration of the angels of the King being born and the world being blessed, about the Wise Men from the East and their unashamed worship of this little baby, about how Daniel had nothing to fear from any other kingdom on earth because of the Kingdom of God. It’s fascinating and encouraging.