Going to do one more from the book of Daniel today. We’ve already seen the dreams of Nebuchadnezzar, those nightmares of the empire. Nightmares that include the end of their beastly empire and the beginning of a new, just kingdom overtaking the world.
Daniel had a dream as well. Daniels dream was no nightmare, it was a beautiful prophetic vision of the coming of a Son of Man coming on the clouds to establish a new, just kingdom that would never end. Daniel had a dream of Christ coming into the world.
Daniel begins in prose…a Joe Friday, just the facts telling of what he saw in his vision. Daniel declared, “I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. And four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another. The first was like a lion and had eagles’ wings. Then as I looked its wings were plucked off, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man, and the mind of a man was given to it. And behold, another beast, a second one, like a bear. It was raised up on one side. It had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth; and it was told, ‘Arise, devour much flesh.’ After this I looked, and behold, another, like a leopard, with four wings of a bird on its back. And the beast had four heads, and dominion was given to it. After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth; it devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. I considered the horns, and behold, there came up among them another horn, a little one, before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots. And behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things.
Four great beasts coming up out of the sea. If this reminds you of Revelation, it should. John the Revelator borrowed heavily from the Old Testament book of Daniel. To understand Revelation, you have to understand the book of Daniel. Here we see the beasts coming up out of the sea. Some will tell you these beasts represent Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome. Other scholars will tell you these are the kingdoms of Assyria, Babylon, Persia, and Greece. You and I…we really don’t care specifically what empires these represent, nor should we. But we need to understand the picture being given us. These great beasts all come out of the sea. In Revelation it says the seas will be dried up. Well, why would we want the seas to be dried up? What fun would that be? You have to understand, ancient people did not sea the oceans the way we do. They weren’t “vacationing at the beach.” The oceans, the seas, were frightening. There were sea monsters in there!! So theses visions of beasts coming from the sea, this is where great beasts would come from. It’s also where the beasts of invading empires might arrive…
Like I said, the specific history is just not that important. Which empire came first, which is the bear and which is the lion and which had ten horns…really does not matter. What matters is that for an oppressed people, people who have been long suffering and under bondage and oppression…it’s just one thing after another. And the Jews at this point were just such a people. From pharaoh, to Babylon, to the Greeks, and now the Romans, one empire after another, taking advantage and punishing and oppressing God’s chosen people.
Think for a minute about the African continent, or the indigenous people on the American continent. (First…what do you think they thought of what came from the seas??).
To hear history told from their perspective, it might go something like this. “The Portuguese were first, they came like a lion. Then the Spanish, they were like a bear, mauling and tearing us up. The Dutch were a great leopard. And the English….man, they were just a beast, different than all the rest…”. Just one empire, one great beast after another. Nation with aspirations of empire bringing suffering and oppression to the poor and marginalized. But then…one little horn begins to poke through, knocking three of the ten horns of the final, great monster right out. It has the eyes of a man, speaking great things. This is the vision of Daniel, told in prose, but now he shifts to poetry…
As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire. A stream of fire issued and came out from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened. “I looked then because of the sound of the great words that the horn was speaking. And as I looked, the beast was killed, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire. As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time. “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.
This is different from just telling the facts. This is Daniel seeing the world not as it is, but as it should and could be. This is also borrowed, not only in Revelation, but by Jesus Himself. Much of Jesus understanding of just who He was, He got from the book of Daniel.
So Daniel sees a great courtroom scene, with the Ancient of Days, Yahweh, presiding. A thousand thousands serving before Him, and ten thousand ten thousands awaiting judgement. I looked then because of the sound of the great words that the horn was speaking. And as I looked, the beast was killed, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire. As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time. The horn which rose from the last great beast comes speaking great words, and the beast is killed and thrown into the fire. (Again, much of this shows up again in Revelation). The rest of the beasts lose their power, their dominion, even though they aren’t killed right away. Their power is eroded by the horn breaking through speaking great things.
“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” Now we see the Son of Man, presented before the ancient of Days, before Yahweh. The Son of Man is given all power and dominion, all the people, every nation, every language will serve Him. He will have an everlasting kingdom, a kingdom which will not be destroyed.
Daniel’s dream is the Gospel. Daniel’s dream is what every prophet dreamed about – that the beastly empire would come to an end and God would establish His own kingdom, the kingdom of God, and it would bring peace, liberating the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized. and that would be the kingdom to end all kingdoms, that is the kingdom which will last forever. That kingdom is a just kingdom, not a beastly kingdom following the long line of beasts coming out of the sea. Daniel’s dream is the same as the empire’s nightmare.
And this Son of Man is exactly who Jesus claimed Himself to be. I believe the number is about 80 times in His gospels that Jesus refers to Himself as the son of man. But more specifically….Jesus claims that this Son of Man, right here in Daniel chapter 7 – this is who Jesus claimed to be. The Son of Man who would be given power and glory, and establish the kingdom that would last forever.
Think I’m wrong? Look at the words of Jesus at his “trial” by the religious leaders, speaking to Caiaphas, the high priest at the time. “But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”” “You have said so.” But look what else Jesus says here. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven. The same son of man presented before the ancient of days in Daniel chapter 7. Look what else Jesus says specifically – from now on you will see...Not a few thousand years from now, not a galaxy far far away. But from now on you will see…because the one true king was about to come into his glory. Not a few thousand years from now…but from now on. That guy in Daniel…that’s me!! That’s what’s happening. Jesus was about to be crucified, and the cross used for his crucifixion would be His throne forevermore.
All violent empires of the world are ultimately beastly. But we don’t worship the beast. For us, Jesus is Lord. The Gospel of the empire at the time was “Caesar is Lord”. That’s why the early Christians were persecuted so badly, not because they were telling everyone what would happen when they die, but because they proclaimed “Jesus is Lord” and not “Caesar is Lord“. They put their hope in the cross of Christ and not in the armies of Rome.
Jesus brings the peace of God. Jesus is the last best hope for mankind. Jesus brings peace not by killing but by being killed. The cross is his coronation. The crown is thorns, His scepter is a reed, His acclamation came by insult, His throne is a cross, His coronation by crucifixion, but it’s a real coronation of the true king of the world. The start of the humane, just empire which will never end.
It doesn’t come like storming the beach at Normandy. It comes quietly, we might not see it. “Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”” John 3:3 ESV. We enter by faith and baptism. Jesus changes the world not at a battlefield but at a table. The Kingdom of God always seems to be on the verge of being eradicated, decimated, but, somehow, it’s still here. The Greeks came and went, the Romans thought Caesar is Lord, they thought theirs was the everlasting empire. They laughed at, mocked, persecuted and marginalized those crazy Christians running around proclaiming “Jesus is Lord”, now all the ruins of Rome have little crosses on top of them…even the famed coliseum. The Portuguese came and went, the Spanish had the greatest empire ever. Yet they are gone and the Kingdom of Christ is still here. The British were coming, the British came, the Brits are gone. The Kingdom of God still stands. It still grows, it is still shared from soul to soul, one changed life after another.
Which Kingdom is really the last, best, great hope for mankind??