Seeing the Incomparable Christ and His Kingdom
Daniel 7 – Faithful: God’s Character, Our Calling – November 14, 2021
Opening reading of Daniel 7:1–14.
This morning I’ll do something I’ve never done before in a sermon. And that’s saying something. This isn’t my first sermon.
Seeing physically is HELPFUL. Seeing spiritually is ESSENTIAL.
See what’s around me. Above me. Ahead of me.
Review of Daniel
- Daniel the teenage exile.
- Taken from Jerusalem to Babylon around 605 BC.
- Would live out his days as a servant to various kings.
Structure of Daniel:
- His 12 chapters have two overlapping ways to divide it.
- Chapters 1–6 (narratives) and 7–12 (visions).
- But then Hebrew (1, 8–12) and Aramaic (2–7)
- This makes Chapter 7 doubly important, the transition point.
Sermon: Look At (Daniel 7–12), Look Around (7:1–8), Look Up (7:9–14), Look Ahead (7:15–28).
I. Look At (Daniel 7–12)
First, we want to Look AT . . . Daniel 7–12. Go from narrative to apocalyptic literature.
What is that? A kind of prophetic literature. The prophet sees a vision instead of receiving words from God.
“Apocalyptic” fr. Greek apokalupsis, “revelation.” Like the NT Book: “the Revelation of Jesus Christ” (Rev 1:1).
Ezekiel’s visions are slightly earlier than Daniel’s. Ezekiel’s = early 500s BC, Daniel in the mid-500s BC. These two books really define what we mean by Apocalyptic writing.
In the visions of these two prophets you find:
- “A book of pictures” (Ferguson, 134).
- Emphasis on what is seen:
- “Daniel saw” (7:1) . . . . “I looked” (7:5, 6, 9, 11, 21).
- “I saw” (7:2, 7, 13; 8:2, 4, 7).
- “Vision(s)” (7:2; 8:1, 2, 13, 15, 16, 17, 26, 27; 9:21, 23, 24; 10:1, 7, 8, 14, 16; 11:14).
- These images “APPEAL TO OUR SENSES” (Ferguson, Daniel, 134).
- Point not to give Bible nerds a way to make money.
- But to affect our emotions to change how we live.
- Emphasis on the FUTURE.
- Emphasis on SPIRITUAL REALITY—Peeling back curtain of reality.
- Seeing God and the devil in their ongoing cosmic battle.
- One that God WINS!
Should you read it “literally”? Yes. Literally . . . as apocalyptic literature!
Ralph Dale Davis:
Roughly, I would say that biblical apocalyptic is a sort of prophecy that seeks to enlighten and encourage a people despised and cast off by the world with a vision of the God who will come to impose his kingdom on the wreckage and rebellion of human history—and it communicates this message through the use of wild, scary, imaginative, bizarre and head-scratching imagery.
Ralph Dale Davis, The Message of Daniel
This morning: A sermon that is also a kind of guide for interpreting this type of biblical literature.
II. Look Around (7:1–8)
“First year of Belshazzar” (v. 1):
- Belshazzar’s dad actually king in Babylon, Nabonidus.
- But Nabonidus is residing elsewhere, so son vice-regent.
- Around 550 BC.
- Remember chp 5 Belshazzar saw writing on the wall & killed that night (5:30) and Medes took over—he’s last king in Babylon.
What happens is kind of like NIGHT VISION GOGGLES.
- In complete darkness. See nothing.
- Switch on Night Vision Goggles.
- Oh, wow.
“WINDS OF HEAVEN,” “GREAT SEA” —vv. 2–3a.
- “The great sea” = symbol of things evil and dangerous and terrifying.
- “Chaos” and all that goes along with it.
- “Out of the sea” come all these destructive and malicious beasts.
- See the contrast: “Winds of heaven” cause these things to happen.
- Subtle nod to God’s sovereign control even over the chaos of the sea (Ferguson, Daniel).
THE FOUR BEASTS—vv. 4–8.
- Angelic interpreter V. 17: “four great beasts are four kings.”
- Another clue = Aramaic sections = chp 2 (start) and chp 7 (end).
- Reasonable connect beginning and end.
- Chp 2 = Nebuchadnezzar’s statue; chp 7 = four beasts.
- Statue: First was Babylon.
- Then, chp 8: Ram and a Goat.
- Angel Gabriel in 8:20–21 says these Medeo-Persia and Greece.
- POINT = To interpret, start with clues author gives.
WE BEGIN TO CONNECT ALL THESE DOTS -->
- Lion = Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon – See his humbling in chp 4.
- Bear = Medo-Persian – 3 ribs possibly Babylon, Lydia, Egypt.
- Leopard with wings = Speed and massive destructiveness of Alexander the Great and Greece.
Fourth Beast = “Different from all the other beasts.”
- Basically Rome but in a very different sense.
- This beast gets far more of the focus of the chapter than the first three.
- “Great iron teeth” (v. 7)—remember iron and clay of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream statue.
- “Ten horns” (v. 7) = “completeness.” Sometimes means 10 kingdoms.
- Ends with “a little one” (v. 8).
- “Eyes like the eyes of a man” (v. 8).
- “Mouth speaking great things” (v. 8)—proud boasts.
- Fourth Beast --> Ten Horns --> “Another horn, a little horn . . . eyes of a man . . . mouth speaking great things” (proud boaster).
- More details in the last part of the chapter.
- What we’ll see is that this “Terrifying and Dreadful and Exceedingly Strong” beast (v. 7) is a massive human empire
Remember Daniel’s reaction – V. 28.
- To him it’s not words on a page.
- Not watching a scarry movie–Kind of expected, totally fictional.
- More like the most vivid and terrifying nightmare you could have.
- Nightmares are fiction—but in the moment they feel so real.
- Daniel’s vision had that effect.
NOTICE ANOTHER MORE SUBTLE TRUTH—INVISIBLE HAND OF GOD
- Lion: “wings were plucked” (passive verb)
- Lion: “was made to stand” (passive causative verb)
- Lion: “Mind of a man was given to it” (passive verb)
- Bear: “Was raised up on one side” (passive causative verb)
- Bear: Acts on command: “it was told, ‘Arise, devour much flesh.’”
- Leopard: “Dominion was given to it” (passive verb)
- In other words, this is not evil spinning out of control. Evil under the guiding hand of God.
APPLICATION: LOOK AROUND!
- Passage impacts our EXPECTATIONS.
- In this life: Things around us will never be as good as we want
- In this life: The evil around us will never be as great as the devil wants
III. Look Up (7:9–14)
One of the great throne of God passages in the Bible (Isaiah 6; Ezekiel 1; Revelation 4 et al; Job 1).
Three sub-sections: 7:9–10 (Ancient of Days), 7:11–12 (the beast), 7:13–14 (One like a son of man).
“As I looked” — again, we’re in the realm of word pictures. Meaning is in the pictures.
THE ANCIENT OF DAYS
- “Thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat” (v. 9)
- “Ancient of Days” = Not, “a really old man, frail and forgetful.”
- Idea = Ageless, eternal, wise, significant.
- Drumbeat in Daniel: “his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom” (4:3, 34).
- Darius after lion’s den: “God of Daniel . . . is the living God, enduring forever; his kingdom shall never be destroyed” (6:26).
- To Belshazzar: “God has numbered the days of your kingdom” (5:26).
- In this chapter these four great beasts—and the little horn after the fourth beast—all these endure for a while and then end (“time, times, and half a time”).
- But the “Ancient of Days” remains.
- Seated on his throne. Seeing all things. Judging all things. Ruling over all things.
- “Thrones” = occupied by angels (E. J. Young, Daniel, Geneva, 151).
- “Clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool” (v. 9) – Refers to the color, white for purity. White haired = wisdom.
- Passage is Not saying, “GOD THE FATHER IS A PERSON WHO LOOKS LIKE AN OLD MAN.”
- This is TRUTH IN PICTURES.
- God is revealing truth about him, not giving us something we can draw and keep in our wallet.
- “His throne was fiery flames” (v. 9);
- “wheels were burning fire” (v. 9);
- “stream of fire issued and came out from before him” (v. 10)
- 4th beast “killed, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire” (v. 11).
- Fire = Purifying, judgment, destruction (“Our God is a consuming fire,” Heb 12:29; cf. Isa 33:14).
- “A thousand thousand served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand . . .” (v. 10) — goes from 1 million to 100 million. Poetic way to say “a vast multitude.
- “Court sat in judgment, and the books were opened” (v. 10) – Actions of earthly and heavenly beings are recorded and judged.
THE BEAST (VV. 11–12)
- “the great words the horn was speaking”
- “beast was killed and given over to be burned with fire”
ONE LIKE A SON OF MAN (VV. 13–14)
- “Coming with the clouds of heaven” = A sign of deity, not just generic heavenly being. See Exod 13:21; 19:9; Ps 104:3; Isa 19:1; Nah 1:3.
- “One LIKE a son of man”
- “Dominion and glory and a kingdom”
- Things said of Yahweh are said of him:
- “All peoples, nations, and languages should serve him” = Remember 3:29. “Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.”
- “Dominion is an everlasting dominion” = Remember Daniel 4:34
Matthew 26 and Jesus as the Son of Man:
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.” 64 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.” 65 Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. 66 What is your judgment?” They answered, “He deserves death.” (Matt 26:63–66)
Application: LOOK UP!
- Stephan Wilkinson, “10 Incredible Aerial Rescues,” for 2016 issue of Aviation Magazine. See the “Alaska Ranger” story.
- And us:
Behold Him there the risen Lamb
My perfect spotless righteousness
The great unchangeable I AM
The King of glory and of grace
One with Himself I cannot die
My soul is purchased by His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high
With Christ my Savior and my God
“Before the Throne of God Above”
IV. Look Ahead (7:15–28)
READ Daniel 7:15–28.
Angelic Explanation: 7:17–18.
4th Beast — What Daniel SEES in vv. 19–22. Note especially vv. 21–22.
- “This horn made war with the saints and prevailed over them” (v. 21).
- “Until” (v. 22)
- “Until the Ancient of Days came”
- “Judgment was given”
- “Saints possessed the kingdom” — YES!! Our future kingdom!!
Then what Angelic Interpreter SAYS in vv. 23–27.
Remember in vv. 7–8: 4th Beast --> 10 horns --> Little Horn.
Now that gets explained a little more – v. 24 – “As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom ten kings shall arise.”
Then “another shall arise after them.”
So now, Beast --> 10 Kings --> Final King “different from the former ones” (v. 24).
This last horn FLOWS OUT OF these other kingdoms but is DIFFERENT.
Indicators this last horn isn’t a typical human kingdom but something more sinister:
- Beast made war with the saints until the Ancient of Days came and kingdom given to the saints — (vv. 21–22).
- “Devour the whole earth” (v. 23)
- “Shall wear out the saints” (v. 25)
- “Change the times and the law” (v. 25)
- But then his end, which seems to be the end of all things—v. 22, 26.
The most convincing is this little horn = “Man of lawlessness” (2 Thess 2):
Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, 2 not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 3 Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. (2 Thess 2:1–4)
But when this “man of lawlessness,” this boastful little horn is destroyed, then the end comes—v. 27:
“And the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.”
You see that? “Kingdom . . . shall be given to the people of the saints”!
- To belong to Christ is to share in his kingdom.
- We become kings because we are united with the king (cf. John Calvin, Daniel 7:27).
APPLICATION: LOOK AHEAD!
These visions are FOR US, not just exiles in Babylon.
- We’re always in Babylon, exiled and not where we were meant to be—when our first parents kicked out of Eden to “east of Eden.”
- Always serving a Nebuchadnezzar—sometimes honors our God, sometimes builds a gold statue
- Always in the fiery furnace—“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial” (1 Peter 4:12)
- Always in the lion’s den—“Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
These visions are FOR US, so we need to:
- Look Around: Terrifying . . . but Temporary
- Look Up: Unconquerable . . . and Glorious
- Look Ahead: His kingdom . . . our kingdom
Our gaze must always penetrate beyond the terrible events of history to the throne of God. Only in the assurance that He reigns will we be able to live triumphantly when we cannot trace or understand His plan of victory.
Sinclair Ferguson, Daniel
Prayer and Closing Song (new song, “Ancient of Days”)