The Book of Daniel is named after its main character or “hero,” a young Jewish man who is taken into exile to Babylon. The book is part of a literary genre known as “apocalyptic,” meaning that it deals with the topic of the “end times.” This type of literature was very popular in the centuries just before and after the birth of Jesus. In fact the Book of Revelation is an example of New Testament apocalyptic writing.
The reason for this seeming obsession with the “end times” was because this period of time, before and after the birth of Jesus, was a time of great persecution and distress for Jews and then for Christians. The Book of Daniel was written during the 2nd century BC at a time when the Jewish people were facing great persecution under Antiochus IV Epiphanes. The purpose of apocalyptic literature is to encourage those who are facing persecution because of their faith.
The Book of Daniel teaches, through the stories of Daniel and his companions, that people of great faith can endure and overcome hardships and adversity. The visions described in Daniel hold out hope for ultimate deliverance for the Jewish people when God’s kingdom is fully established and his glory revealed.
The concept of the Kingdom of God is, of course, central to the message of Jesus in the Gospels. Especially in the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke), Jesus repeatedly uses the phrase “the kingdom of God” or “the kingdom of heaven” in his teaching.
Likewise, the concept of the “Son of Man,” a phrase used often by Jesus in the Gospels to refer to himself, comes from the Book of Daniel (chapter 7). Jesus refers to himself as the Son of Man (see Matthew 26:64), invoking imagery of the fulfillment of God’s kingdom described in the Book of Daniel. Christians see this as an indication of the Second Coming of Christ. Scripture scholars believe that Matthew’s reference to Daniel (Mt 24:15 and also Mark 13:14) about the “Great Tribulation” offers proof that the Gospel was written after the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD.