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TEXT: Daniel 7:1-28
SUBJECT: Daniel #8: Dominion Restored
Here's something you won't hear every day: 'If you want to understand the visionary parts of the Bible, watch music videos'. The music videos I've seen are not very wholesome, for the most part, but there's no denying their artistry. The flashing images are not presented in an orderly way, but their message is unmistakable. Whether it's falling in love, protesting injustice, or just having a good time, you know what the video is saying--even if you can't explain it with words.
This is how the visionary parts of the Bible work. They bombard us with images and even though we cannot understand them as well as we'd like to, the message comes through loud and clear.
This is what we have in Daniel 7-12: 'visions' or what scholars call 'apocalyptic'. It differs from Daniel 1-6 in the same way a music video differs from a documentary or a poem differs from a set of directions. One reaches the heart through the brain; the other gets there via the imagination. While the two halves of Daniel differ very much in style, their message is one and the same.
What is it? The Lord is King!
In the first year of Belshazzar's reign, Daniel went to bed one night and had a bad dream. Like you and me, I suppose he had his share of nightmares, but the dream he had that night was not like the kind we have. It was a revelation from God and, because he knew it was important, Daniel wrote it down; not every detail, it seems, but what v.1 calls--
The main facts.
The dream began in the Mediterranean Sea. The waters were being whipped by strong winds from all four directions at the same time. The roiling waters would have scared the hardiest sailor, but Daniel was no sailor at all. The Jews were not a seafaring people, and to them, it symbolized untamed and evil powers, like the legendary leviathan.
As he looked on in horror, he saw four beasts rising from the troubled waters.
The first combines the strength of a lion, the speed on an eagle, and the majesty of both. It looks invincible, until its wings are pulled off and it becomes an ordinary man.
The second beast is bear, huge and ravenous, but also deformed, one side being bigger than the other. There are three ribs in its mouth and someone is urging it to devour much flesh.
The third beast is a leopard with four wings and four heads, emphasizing power and speed and, perhaps intelligence, or confusion. In any event, a dominion (or rule) is given to the beast that the previous ones don't have.
Finally, a fourth beast rises from the sea and it looks like nothing he's ever seen before. It's not so much an animal as it is a monster--
Dreadful, terrible, exceedingly strong; it was devouring, breaking in pieces, and trampling the residue with its feet.
Looking more closely, he sees the monster has ten horns (or symbols of power) and one of the horns has a big mouth and is covered with eyes. The mouth is never shut and does nothing but brag about itself and blaspheme the One True God.
INTEPRETATION OF THE BEASTS
What are the Beasts? Daniel doesn't know, but someone has come into his dream who does. Daniel learns--
The great beasts, which are four, are four kings that arise out of the earth.
'Four kings'. That rings a bell, doesn't it? Back in Chapter 2, Nebuchadnezzar dreamed of four kings rising in the world, and now, with different imagery, Daniel has had the same dream.
Nebuchadnezzar's dream emphasized the kings majesty and power. But Daniel, looking at the same kings, saw their character.
The first king is Nebuchadnezzar himself, a man who conquered the speed of an eagle and the power of a lion. After exalting himself one day, God humbled him, by taking away his mind and making him live like an animal for some time. When the king repented of his pride, he became a man again, and lived the rest of his life as a humble servant of God.
The second king ruled the Medo-Persian Empire and the three ribs in his mouth are the empires he destroyed, Babylon, Egypt, and Lydia.
The third king is Alexander the Great, the young man who moved east and west, north and south with the speed of a flying leopard, conquering the world in three years and dying in despair at thirty-three, having, 'no more worlds to conquer'.
The fourth king is Caesar who ruled the biggest, strongest, and cruelest empire known to man.
What do the kings (and their kingdoms) have in common? They're not human! Physically, they're men, and civilized men at that, but spiritually, they're wild beasts. And they're ruling the world.
The world is upside down! God put man over the animals, but now the animals are in charge. Two-legged animals, to be sure, but still, animals ruled only by appetite. Lions are not reasonable; bears are not compassionate; leopards are not wise, and monsters are not merciful.
This is the kind of rule we need, but beasts are not going to provide it. The animals have to be put in their place, and man has to regain his dominion.
Of course this seems impossible. In Daniel's day, every bad Empire was replaced by a worse one. We see the same thing in our world. We moan and groan about our leaders, and then we look back on their rule as 'a golden age' compared to the men who took over for them.
THE HEAVENLY COURT
We're not the only ones to feel this way. God is more offended by the rule of animals in pants than we are; but, unlike you and me, He's done more than complain!
This brings us to the most important and least understood part of the chapter, vv.9-14.
Daniel sees God the True King, sitting on His throne in Heaven. His hair and clothing are whiter than white, signifying His holiness and the purity of His rule. His throne is a flame, but it doesn't burn Him, for God Himself is a consuming fire. The servants attending to Him are ten thousand times ten thousand, ready to confirm His judgment and see it done in the world.
What kind of judgment is it? Not a hasty and arbitrary one, but one worthy of the true Judge. The Law book is opened and the beasts are judged out of it.
This means instant death to the loud-mouthed little horn and easier sentences to the other kings. But, though the beasts have been chastened, they're still beasts and still in charge.
This won't do!
A fitting King has to be found, and that means a human king to rule the world with the justice and mercy of Heaven.
Knowing kings as he does, Daniel must wonder of such a man exists. Can man exercise a rule worthy of God?
One man can, and Daniel sees him in a night vision, vv. 13-14--
Behold, one like the Son of Man
coming with the clouds of Heaven!
He came to the Ancient of Days
and they brought Him near before
Then 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 the one
which shall not be destroyed.
Son of Man means 'man'. But this is remarkable because, while Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, and Darius see the kingdom going to God, Daniel sees it going to Man. Who's right? They're all right! Because the Son of Man is Jesus Christ, who is both fully Divine and totally human, as the Creed says--
Very God of very God, and
very man of very man.
When does He take the Kingdom? Most Christians say, 'At the end of the world, when Jesus comes again'. But this is not what Daniel saw in his night vision. Let's get our geography right.
Where are the beasts? They're on earth.
Where is God? He's in Heaven.
Which way is the Son of Man going? He's going up to God. What's the word for 'going up to God'? Ascension. When did Christ ascend to Heaven? Forty days after the crucifixion. What did He do when He got there?
He sat down at the right hand of God.
What did He receive at God's right hand? All authority in Heaven and on earth.
What does this all mean? It means Jesus is Lord--right now! Not Lord over His Church only, but Lord of all.
What does this mean?
It means nothing happens to His people without His permission, and what He permits is good for us, even when it's martyrdom or cancer!
It means His enemies are doomed. No one unseats King Jesus and those who reject Him in this life will be rejected by Him in the life to come, and that means forever!
It means the Gospel can be preached and when it is, disciples will be made. The devil is a powerful enemy, but with the coming of Christ, he has been bound so he can deceive the nations no more. Bad men also menace the Lord's work, but when they're gone, it will go on. Nothing threatens the Kingdom more than death, but Jesus has promised it will not prevail against His Church So, get out there and witness and work and see the Lord's hand is not shortened that it cannot saved
Jesus is Lord.
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