God’s amazing plans for the future
Find out more in this final article of our series on Daniel
Life as a Christian in our world can be very good: enjoying God’s good creation; enjoying good gifts from God; enjoying warm fellowship with other Christian brothers and sisters. But as we saw in part 4 (click here for all previous articles) life as a Christian can be tough in a world often hostile to Jesus: living in a fallen world; struggling with sin; and persecution from those who hate Jesus. Sometimes life in our world can be overwhelming. When you feel overwhelmed, what will enable you to persevere in life?
This is the final study in the Daniel 1-7 series. Daniel 7 will give us a bigger picture of history that will enable us to keep trusting Jesus until the end.
Daniel 7 marks a shift in the form of literature from Dan 1-6. Daniel 7-12 belongs to a type of writing called ‘apocalyptic’. Basically apocalyptic writing includes a whole bunch of crazy things like beasts, dragons, angels, dreams, visions, numbers, colours and images. It’s a symbolic type of writing that began appearing around the time of Exile. It was to bring a private and hidden type of comfort to the People of God in times of trial. They were reminded that, regardless of the trials they were going through, God was still in control and that in the end everything would be okay.
The setting of the vision in Daniel 7 is the great sea (7:2). The sea was a symbol of the forces of evil in the world. Out of this great sea came 4 great beasts. First there was a lion with eagle wings (7:4). Second there was a rib eating bear (7:5). Third there was a 4-winged and 4-headed leopard (7:6). And then the fourth beast had crazy teeth, 10 crazy horns and was basically too terrifying for words! This forth beast was far more dangerous than the other 3 (7:7). It’s all pretty hectic, go and read it now to get a glimpse!
What do the beasts represent? They are four kingdoms that will rise from the earth (7:17). Who are they? It could be 1 Babylon; 2 Medes; 3 Persians; 4 Greeks. On one level that might be right. But it doesn’t really matter who the beasts are! To identify them with one ruler only, would be to misunderstand the nature of apocalyptic writing. So what is the point? This is what human power in human history is like: A succession of beastly rule after beastly rule. It even represents powers in our own world today.
In verse 9 there is a shift in the scene. The setting: a court room scene. The judge: The Ancient of Days. Who is that? It’s God, the great judge (7:9-10). In verse 11-12 we see his judgement begin with the 4th beast. This will be the reality for any power and any person who tries to run their life without God. In verses 13-14, “one like a son of man” approaches the Ancient of Days:
He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. (Dan 7:14)
This son of man figure is obviously Jesus. But don’t jump to the New Testament too quickly. First you need to notice the contrast between this son of man and all the beasts that came before him. This one is MAN-like rather than BEAST-like. In the reign and rule of this son of man, God is restoring things to his original creation purposes: a man, ruling the world under God’s sovereign rule. But this is better than the original creation. In this New Creation, the Son of Man will reign and rule and sin will never again enter that Kingdom.
In the New Testament, Jesus identifies himself with ‘the Son of Man’. Mark 10:45 and Luke 19:10 are two of the many places he does this. And then in the final book of the Bible, Revelation, a book also written in the apocalyptic style, Jesus is introduced as the one “like a son of man” (Revelation 1:9-20). Jesus is the one who has overcome. Jesus is the King of all Kingdoms. Jesus is the one who will judge the living and the dead.
In the second half of Daniel 7, we see what will happen now for the People of God, but we also see what will happen in the future. Bad things will happen now as they are persecuted. Good things will happen in the age to come when God’s people will actually reign and rule with Jesus (Daniel 7:15-28).
What will enable you to persevere when the world seems overwhelming? Know your history. Knowing your history will involve knowing what happened in the past, knowing what is happening now, and knowing where God is taking all of history. When you know where God is taking history, you can keep clinging to Jesus now, even if times are tough.
Do you trust the God of history? God has made it clear that “he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.” (Act 17:31) God will judge the world. The only ones who will stand on that day are those who trust in Jesus – the Son of Man who gave himself as a ransom for many, and then 3 days later rose again.
If you’re already Christian:
- Don’t forget Jesus - keep clinging to Jesus, long for the day he returns, and even if you have to put up with crap in this life, know that good times are coming!
- Don’t give up meeting with Christians – in a world often hostile to Christians, don’t neglect meeting with each other. Hebrews 10:24-25
- Don’t waste your life – as those who are part of a kingdom that will NEVER BE DESTROYED, give the rest of your life to letting other people know about the eternal life they can have by trusting in Jesus.