Topical and Doctrinal Notes
Thought: The Lion's Den
The point of the story of Daniel in the lions' den that we wish to emphasize is that he was thrown into the den because he would not worship a man as god, even if that man was the king. It shows us how very low humanity had sunk at that time, that they should actually deify a person. Although Daniel knew the decree established by the wicked schemes of the leading men of the kingdom who were jealous of him, he would not debase himself to such man-worship. He would worship the Lord even if he had to die, rather than worship a man.
This was not the only case in ancient times when people were proclaimed gods. We are taught in The True Christian Religion that many of the idols that used to be worshiped were images of people who had once lived and who had been proclaimed gods.
But you who are familiar with the story as it is told in the literal sense will want to know something of the inner meaning.
You will remember that there are several inner meanings in the Word of the Lord. The highest or inmost sense is called "the celestial sense" and treats of the Lord Jesus Christ alone, how He assumed and glorified His human nature. The next to this is called "the spiritual sense" and treats of the reformation and regeneration of humanity. The next lower to that is called "the internal historical," or "proximately interior sense," and treats of the history of churches.
In "the internal historical sense," "Babylon" means the Roman Catholic Church; and "the lions' den" means the Inquisition.
You know that when the Lord our Savior, Jesus Christ, established His Church, the members were simple, earnest people; they loved one another and obeyed the Lord's commandments. This went on for two or three hundred years. But gradually, the ministers changed. Instead of loving the Lord above all things, they began to love to rule over people, and to control them so that they should do what they wanted them to do. They continued to preach with great zeal and to profess belief in Jesus Christ, but only because by such preaching they could obtain influence over the people. They taught people that the Lord Jesus Christ had given His great power on earth and in heaven to the leading bishop of the church, whom they called the pope, and that the pope could let anyone into heaven or into hell as he chose. They taught the people that when the Lord said to Peter, "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 16:18-19), it meant that the Lord gave power to Peter to admit anyone to heaven or to hell; that Peter was thus the first pope, and that he transferred this power to the next pope, and this one to the next, and so on, down the centuries. And the people believed that this must be so because the words seemed to read that way, and they did not understand them aright. But the Lord has now taught us in the Writings that "the Rock" on which He said that He would build His Church was not Peter but the truth that Peter confessed in verse 19, in the words, "Thou are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
By their misinterpretation of the Lord's words, the popes, and the priests who were under them, obtained power and wealth. They would take money from the people, promising them forgiveness of sins if paid for it. They introduced a kind of religious service called a "mass for the dead," which was said to free the dead from the torments of a place called "purgatory," if the priests were paid to perform the mass. They obtained such power over people that they even made kings afraid of them.
Now, was not this claim that they could let people into heaven or cast them into hell as they chose, making themselves like God? For only the Lord alone can save people. The Roman Catholic priests did just as the leaders and the king of Babylon did, and therefore this love of ruling over the souls of people is meant in the internal sense by Babylon.
Of course, this love of ruling over others, controlling them, and being able to make them do just what one wants, is very bad. It makes a devil of a person, just as the love of serving others makes an angel of him or her.
In time, the Roman Catholic Church became so wicked that they would imprison and torture people who did not believe as they did. It would be too horrible to relate the various kinds of instruments of torture they planned and made in order to compel people to believe as they did. This is known as the "Inquisition," from the word to "inquire," for they set spies to work to inquire, or search out, what people said and did that was contrary to the decrees of the Church, and they then punished them so that many died.
This Inquisition, of which you may read in history, is what is represented by the lions' den into which Daniel was thrown. Daniel himself represents the good people who read the Word and worshiped the Lord Jesus Christ instead of the pope, and who were tortured.
You know that all who die enter the world of spirits - that great world that is between heaven and hell - and live there as they did in the world, remaining there a shorter or a longer period, but not more than thirty years. Before the Last Judgment (that stupendous event that took place in the spiritual world in the year 1757, and of which much is told us in the Writings, especially in the work entitled the Spiritual Diary), people remained in the world of spirits for many centuries. Indeed, nearly everyone who had lived from the time when our Savior was in the world, remained in the world of spirits until the Last Judgment.
The evil popes and priests, as they died, went into the world of spirits, and lived there, occupying immense mountain regions, where they built great cathedrals, and convents, and watch-towers, and splendid palaces, and carried on an elaborate worship just as in the world, with which to fool the common people who came into that world by death, and to maintain their control of them.
And as the Roman Catholic Church was there, so also was the Inquisition.
The good people, who really loved the Lord, and were truly of His Church, and who, as we have seen, are represented by Daniel, were guarded by the Lord, so that they might not undergo the punishment of the Inquisition. This is meant by the Lord's keeping the lions from hurting Daniel. On the contrary, those who invented that horrible crime were cast into hell, which is meant by the leaders of Babylon being themselves cast into the den of lions.