Aug. 24 Explore the Bible: Victory for God's Kingdom
Aug 18, 2014
By MARK A. RATHEL
We live in tumultuous, albeit interesting, times. Daily news provides mind-boggling accounts of horrific evil, wars, atrocities and persecution. Daniel and his contemporaries lived in a transitional era of world history. In this confusing time, God revealed to Daniel the prophet that God, His Kingdom and His people win.
Daniel, the interpreter of the dreams of other people, received a personal dream/vision. Daniel 1-6 primarily narrates historical events with occasional prophetic visions; Daniel 7-12 contains several prophetic visions with historical references. Daniel 7 provides a theological interpretation of world events.
What lessons did God communicate through Daniel’s vision of different kingdoms?
First, Daniel described a progressive intensification of evil powers opposed to the kingdom of God (Dan. 7:1-8). The prophet observed four kingdoms arising from the tumult of the Great Sea (Mediterranean). In the Bible, the “sea” often describes more than a literal body of water. The tumultuous sea describes the unrest of the wicked (Isa. 57:20). At the consummation of all things, the sea ceases to exist (Rev. 21:1).
Daniel saw four kingdoms. The lion with eagle’s wings portrays Babylon. The bear depicts the ruthlessness of the Persian kingdom. The leopard with wings represents the conquests of Alexander the Great and the division of his kingdom into four parts after his death. An appropriate animal cannot characterize the final kingdom. The leader of the final kingdom speaks blasphemy against God, oppresses the people of God, and alters religious practices (7:25). The description may describe aspects of the reign of Syrian king Antiochus Epiphanes (175-163 B.C). The description of the victory of the kingdom of God through the “Son of Man” points to an ultimate fulfillment of the activities of the fourth beast in the Antichrist.
Second, God will act in history as Judge (Dan. 7:9-12). Daniel’s vision of God reveals the character of God. Revelation 1 describes Jesus with similar terms. In contrast to the chaos caused by the four earthly kingdoms, Daniel 7 sets forth an orderly, tranquil and unthreatened sovereign ruler. The title “Ancient of Days” reveals the eternal nature of God in contrast to all temporal earthly authorities. The imagery of white clothing and hair portrays holiness (Rev. 1:14). God’s holiness requires judgment. Otherwise, a failure to judge would compromise His moral purity. In the Bible, fire often depicts the judgment of God. The opening of the books represents the forthcoming judicial sentence. The fourth beast blasphemed God and oppressed the people of God, but the Judge holds the evil power accountable. The first three kingdoms experienced destructive judgment by military conquest. God destroys the fourth kingdom.
Third, the Son of Man achieves ultimate victory for God’s people (Dan. 7:13-14). The Bible described the four earthly kingdoms as beastly. In contrast, the ruler of the eternal kingdom is the Son of Man. The title “Son of Man” was the favorite self-designation of Jesus. In response to the high priest’s questioning, Jesus cited Daniel 7 in support of His claims of deity and to warn the priest of coming judgment (Mk. 14:62). The majestic clouds served as picturesque vehicles of transportation. Christ will “ride” the clouds at His second coming (Matt. 24:30). The Son of Man figure approached God and received ruling authority, glory and an everlasting multi-ethnic kingdom comprised of people rather than geographic territory. More importantly, the people comprising the Kingdom worship and serve the divine Son of Man. The title “Son of Man” affirms both the deity and humanity of Jesus. The beastly nature of the four kingdoms sought to destroy the saints of God. The Son of Man achieves victory over all earthly kingdoms. The saints of God share in the victory forever.
In the context of difficult days, Daniel 7 reminds believers that God’s Kingdom wins.
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