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Daniel 7: An Everlasting Dominion Print E-mail
Sunday, 21 October 2012

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There is a significant shift in the book of Daniel at chapter 7. The first six chapters, as we have seen, are narratives, or stories, taken from the life of Daniel and his exile in Babylon. Yet, beginning in chapter 7 and running through the remainder of the book, we are given a series of visions that Daniel has while in exile. There is overlap between the narrative sections and when Daniel has the visions. For example, we are told in verse 1 that the vision of chapter 7 took place In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon. The vision of chapter 8, which we will look at next week, takes place in the third year of Belshazzarís reign (8:1). The later visions take place during the reign of Darius and Cyrus (see 9:1 and 10:1). Thus, these visions are being given to Daniel at times that overlap with some of the stories in the narrative section of the book.

The form of writing that the visions take is identified as apocalyptic.  We have seen this type of writing in the book of Revelation.  It deals with the author writing of future events using various images and symbols.  It is these images and symbols which make it difficult for us to interpret at times.  They are often frightening and full of terror.  In fact, look at Danielís response to this first vision in verse 28.  These apocalyptic visions are meant to grab the readersí attention and encourage them to endure in the face of terrible evil (as we saw with the book of Revelation).  We are not meant to get lost in trying to identify all the symbols and images as much as we are supposed to find great strength in the central message, which is that God will conquer over all of His enemies in the end.  We need to keep this message in our mind as we look at these visions in the latter half of the book of Daniel.  Letís begin with the first vision and its interpretation found in chapter 7.

The Vision (v. 2-14)

Danielís vision in chapter 7 begins with four beasts coming out of the sea.  Look at verses 2-8.  Each beast came up out of the sea.  For Daniel and his original readers, the sea represented chaos and evil.  Thus, for these beasts to come out of the sea was a terrifying part of the vision.  Anything from the sea was to be feared.  Not only this, but the actual descriptions of the four beasts were terrifying as well.  The first was a lion with eaglesí wings.  It was unnatural and grotesque.  Daniel tells us that its wings were plucked off and it was made to stand on two feet like a man.  This description makes most interpreters identify this first beast with Babylon due to what happened to Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4.  The second beast is like a bear.  Daniel describes it as chewing on three ribs and being told to devour more flesh.  The third beast is a leopard with four wings and four heads.  Again, it is unnatural and apparently very quick.  The final beast is not compared to any known animal.  Rather, Daniel describes it as terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong.  It had great iron teeth and ten horns, along with an eleventh horn which takes out three of the original.

Of course, the focus of interpreters of this chapter has been the identity of these four beasts.  Many follow the interpretation that was given for Nebuchadnezzarís dream of the large figure with four sections.  If we follow what we said there, then the first beast would be Babylon, the second would be Media-Persia, the third Greece, and the fourth Rome.  Although such an approach makes sense and could be what is intended, another approach is viable as well.  It could be that the number four simply represents completeness, like the four winds of verse 2.  Thus, these beasts donít necessarily refer to particular kingdoms but simply the various kingdoms that will arise against God during this age.  Either of these approaches are possible and neither of them take away from the central message, which is Godís victory over the kingdoms of man in the end.  We see this central message in the remaining part of Danielís vision.

The scene shifts in verses 9-12.  Look at those with me.  The first part of the vision focused on the evil kingdoms of men upon the earth.  Yet, the second part of the vision contrasts the evil and chaos that we see in the four beasts.  Daniel describes a courtroom with two central figures present.  The first is called the Ancient of days.  This is a reference to God the Judge.  He is seated upon the throne.  His description reveals that He is holy (his clothing was white as snow and the hair of his head like pure wool) and powerful (his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire).  He is the One who will judge and Daniel describes the multitudes that are present serving, or worshipping Him, as He opens His books to judge.  We are then told of His judgments against the four beasts.  The fourth beast is killed, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire.  Likewise, the other beasts were judged and their dominion was taken away, even though they were spared for a time.

The second figure is described in verses 13-14, our memory passage.  He is called one like a son of man.  Such a description emphasizes the humanity of this figure.  Yet, He is not merely a man, for He is riding on the clouds, an activity that only God did in the Old Testament: He (God) lays the beams of his chambers on the waters; he makes the clouds his chariot; he rides on the wings of the wind (Psalm 104:3).  We are also told that this figure is given dominion and glory and a kingdom.  Yet, unlike the dominion and kingdoms that the beasts had, His dominion is an everlasting dominion and His kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.  It will include all peoples, nations, and languages.  Who is this Ďone like a son of maní?  We will return to this question in a moment, but first, letís consider the interpretation of the vision that Daniel is given.

The Interpretation (v. 15-27)

As we saw in Revelation at times, Daniel is actually given an interpretation of the vision by an one who is standing there.  The interpretation that is offered can be broken into two parts: a general interpretation and a more particular interpretation dealing with the fourth beast.

The general interpretation is found in verses 15-18.  Look at those with me.  As with the end of the chapter (v. 28) we see that Daniel is alarmed by what he has seen.  He asked one of those who stood there and he gave him a basic interpretation in verses 17-18.  The beasts represent earthly kings (and their kingdoms).  Some donít necessarily see these beasts as representing four specific kings in history but rather all the wicked kings.  Yet, it could be that they do represent four specific kings.  Either way, we are told of what will happen to them in verse 18: But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever.  The beasts may rule for a time, but in the end, Godís saints, His people, His followers, will be given the kingdom that will last forever.  The central message of the vision is that God will judge all His enemies and His people will be given an everlasting kingdom.

Yet, what about that fourth beast?  We are told again of the fourth beastís greatness in verses 19-25.  Look at those verses with me.  This kingdom will be great and terrible.  It will involve multiple kings, one in the end who will actually rule over some of the others.  Also, this final king will speak words against the Most High and shall wear out the saints of the Most High.  He will make war on Godís followers and do all that he can to destroy them.  And for a time he will succeed, for they shall be given into his hand.  As we see in the book of Revelation, we see here that Godís people are promised persecution and difficulty.  Daniel knew this in his own lifetime, which was spent in exile in Babylon under pagan kings.  And he knew that more would come.

But the story does not end with Godís people suffering at the hands of the final king.  Look at verses 26-27.  After his time is spent, this final king will be judged by God and his dominion shall be taken from him and given to Godís people.  They shall reign with God in an everlasting kingdom.  In one sense, the whole book of Daniel is teaching us this lesson repeatedly.  Nebuchadnezzar thought he was in control.  He thought he could do what he wanted with Godís people.  But he was wrong.  He was given a vision that foretold the coming defeat of his kingdom by the Kingdom of God, which will last forever.  Likewise, Belshazzar thought he could act however he wanted towards God, but he was wrong.  God removed the kingdom from him and gave Babylon to Cyrus.  In all of this we see that God is sovereign over the kingdoms of men.  They may have power for a season, but it is limited and God decides when it will be taken away.  Ultimately, all the dominion of the kingdoms of men will be taken away and given to Godís people and His kingdom. 

So then, what do we learn from this vision?  First, we see that kingdoms will repeatedly rise against God and His people.  Daniel lived through this.  Those alive during the days of Jesus and the power of Rome lived through this.  The book of Revelation tells us, along with Daniel, that this will be the case until the return of Christ, which will bring the consummation of Godís Kingdom.  Until then, we should expect difficulties and hardships.  We should not be surprised by evil kings and wicked rulers.  One of my commentatorís writes: ďOne evil power succeeds another in a cycle of oppression, which will be broken by only divine intervention.Ē 1  The Ďcycle of oppressioní will continue until Christ returns, which leads to our second lesson.

Second, we learn that Godís people will have victory and be given an everlasting kingdom.  How encouraging is this to those who are facing persecution?  No matter what the world does, no matter how wicked things become, God will win in the end and He has promised to give His people a kingdom that shall not be destroyed.

Yet, how will such a kingdom be brought to Godís people?  According to Daniel 7 it will first be given to one like a son of man.  Who is this?  Jesus taught us that He is the Son of Man, who was spoken of in the book of Daniel (Mark 10:45, 14:21, 62).  He has come to usher in the Kingdom of God by living a perfect life, dying on a cross, and rising from the dead.  All of those who turn from their sins and believe in him will be brought in to His Kingdom, which shall not be destroyed.  His Kingdom (v. 13-14) is our kingdom through faith in Christ (v. 27).  O Church, take joy in the fact that through faith in Christ you are a part of an everlasting kingdom.  May our lives be spent in service to the King!  Amen.

1 Tremper Longman III, Daniel NIVAC (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing, 1999), p. 180.

~ William Marshall ~

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