Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Living Lives Of Purpose: Lessons From The Book Of Daniel. Day 24, Son Of Man

Living Lives Of Purpose:
Lessons From The Book Of Daniel
Day 24
Son Of Man

We learned yesterday that Daniel had a prophetic dream during the reign of King Belshazzar of Babylon. This dream involved the great kingdoms of the ancient world: the Babylonian Empire, the Medo-Persian Empire, the Grecian Empire, and the Roman Empire. A remnant of the Roman Empire will somehow revive in the last days, and the beast with the iron teeth in Daniel's dream represents both ancient Rome and the final kingdom on earth before the reign of Christ begins. Many scholars have attempted to explain what a revived Roman Empire might consist of, but the truth is we simply don't know. Nebuchadnezzar's dream of the statue with ten toes made of iron and clay, and Daniel's dream of the empire with ten crowns, seem to correspond with the beast of Revelation 13 who has ten horns and a crown on each horn. In Revelation 17 we learn that this symbolizes ten kings (heads of nations) who join with the Antichrist in the last days. I think it's possible that these ten nations come from territories that were originally conquered by the ancient Roman Empire, but I also think it's possible that their identities will not be revealed until the end times. We could spend a lot of time speculating but that could cause us to lose sight of the most important part of Daniel's dream: the eternal and righteous reign of the King of kings.

Daniel concluded yesterday by telling us he saw a fearsome beast with iron teeth that had ten horns. While puzzling over this sight, the image changed. "While I was thinking about the horns, there before me was another horn, a little one, which came up among them; and three of the first horns were uprooted before it. The horn had eyes like the eyes of a human being and a mouth that spoke boastfully." (Daniel 7:8) This is the rise of the Antichrist. This is the one whom the Apostle Paul called "the man of lawlessness" who will "oppose and exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God." (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4) This horn starts out small but uproots three of the ten horns before it (taking over or absorbing their power) and thinks so much of himself he dares to boast against the living God. When the Apostle John saw him, he said, "The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise its authority for forty-two months. It opened its mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander His name and His dwelling place and those who live in heaven." (Revelation 13:5-6) The identity of the Antichrist is another matter over which we could puzzle for many hours. I believe we can conclude he will be a Gentile because in John's vision the beast comes out of the sea, and in the Bible the sea tends to symbolize "the nations", not the Jews. Other than that I have a feeling his identity will not be revealed until the time is at hand. We need not be overly concerned about this because, as the church, we are not to be looking for Antichrist but for Christ. 

"As I looked, thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took His seat." (Daniel 7:9a) Sinclair Ferguson, in his book Daniel: The Preacher's Commentary, says of this scene, "In contrast to the hectic and often demoniacally inspired activity of the earthly kingdoms, God sits on the universal throne. The little kingdoms have their day; however, God is 'the Ancient of Days'. The kingdoms rise and fall, but Daniel sees a God whose ways are everlasting. His plans stretch into eternity whereas the plans of a Nebuchadnezzar or an Alexander or a Caesar are ephemeral." Following the rise of the little horn of Daniel's vision, we see no panic in heaven. Heaven's inhabitants go about their duties in an orderly fashion and God reigns supreme from His throne, perfectly in control of all things. God has always been sovereign over every kingdom on earth. They rise at His command and they fall at His command. One day they will bow at the feet of His Son, to whom the Father will give the kingdom of the earth.

"His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of His head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze. A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before Him. Thousands upon thousands attended Him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. The court was seated, and the books were opened." (Daniel 7:9b-10) A garment of white in the Bible is used to symbolize holiness and righteousness. God has never stained His garments or dirtied His hands, because every judgment He has made has been right. His holy character has always been and always will be the same. His hair is white as befits an aged one, one whose origins are of eternity past and will continue into eternity future. King Solomon said of the one who attains old age, "Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness." (Proverbs 16:31) And, "gray hair is the splendor of the old". (Proverbs 20:29b) In ancient times the thrones of kings and of gods were often depicted in artwork as having wheels. Indeed, the false idols of the pagan nations had to be carried about on wheeled carts because they had no power in themselves. The wheels may also represent the ability of God to be everywhere at once, to see all the activity of mankind, and to be qualified as an eye-witness to judge the deeds of mankind. Fire usually indicates judgment and so we see God, in all His holiness and righteousness, seated on a throne from which He will judge the Antichrist and the wicked of the earth.

Even as the court is seated, the little horn keeps boasting against Almighty God. Its pride is unbelievable, unmeasurable. Even when the Judge enters the chamber and takes His seat, this little horn continues its blasphemy against the Holy One. Daniel cannot believe his eyes. "Then I continued to watch because of the boastful words the horn was speaking. I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire. (The other beasts had been stripped of their authority, but were allowed to live for a period of time.)" (Daniel 7:11-12) The Apostle John saw the beast, (the little horn, the Antichrist), thrown into the lake of fire in Revelation 19:20. The demise of Antichrist's followers came after. We see the same chronology in Daniel's vision: the little horn perishes first and then later the other beasts (nations or kings) who conspired with him against the King of kings. 

Some critics of end times prophecy have attempted to equate the little horn of Daniel's vision with the exceedingly wicked Greek king Antiochus Epiphanes. The Jews endured severe persecution under him and he even desecrated the temple by sacrificing a pig on the altar. Antiochus may represent the spirit of Antichrist, the spirit that boasts itself against God, but he cannot be the little horn who is judged in Daniel's dream, for the kingdom of Christ follows immediately after this judgment. As you and I know, we are not yet living in the kingdom of Christ with our Lord and Savior ruling the world. Antiochus was an evil man who hated God's people, but I think his sinfulness will pale in comparison to that of the "man of lawlessness". Antiochus was one of the most vicious and anti-Semitic leaders of the ancient world because he lived under the influence of Satan. How much more profane and atrocious will be the acts of the Antichrist who is possessed by Satan himself?

"In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven." (Daniel 7:13a) The identity of Antichrist may be a mystery to us, but the identity of this One is not. The Lord Jesus applied this verse to Himself in Mark 14:62 and Matthew 26:64. Jesus' listeners knew He was quoting from the book of Daniel and understood that He was calling Himself the Messiah and King. His enemies had no doubts about who He claimed to be. This is why Jesus was brought up on charges of blasphemy and was crucified with "King Of The Jews" written above His head. His enemies knew what He was saying, but they didn't believe Him.

"He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into His presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples 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." (Daniel 7:13b-14) There is much unrest in the world today. Wars and rumors of wars abound. Revolutions break out. Kingdoms rise and fall. But a kingdom is coming that will never end and our Redeemer and Friend will rule over it in perfect righteousness. Even at its best, the rule of man is flawed because mankind is flawed. Even the most godly leaders are capable of error. But when the King of kings comes, the world will at last be all that it was meant to be, and we will be all we were meant to be, and the face of the One who loved us and gave Himself for us will shine on us forever. 

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