God of All Nations
Gods Kingdom Forever
Good Morning! Please Grab your Bibles and turn with me to Daniel chapter 7. If you do not own a Bible, please feel free to grab one from the back table as our gift to you.
We have been reading through the book of Daniel in a series we have been calling “God of all Nations.” We are gong to see why again today. Chapter 7 of this book is both a transition chapter and a connective chapter. The historical part of the book is over. The story of Daniel and his friends time in Babylon is over.
Now, we are going to go start in the prophetic or the apocalyptic section. God shows Daniel a series of visions that both show some of the future and some of the behind the scenes things about the eternal, victorious Kingdom of God.
It is important to keep, at the front of our mind, that these visons and dreams are necessarily symbolic and utilize a lot of imagery that stands in for reality. We need to be careful to not interpret some of this symbolism and imagery into things that God never meant it to be. One Bible teacher makes the point, “The text cannot mean what it never meant.”
Many commentators and theologians will make a lot of specific interpretations of these things in the visions and dreams. Some of them may be right. Most of them will be wrong, or at the very least, incomplete and out of context.
And don’t get me wrong. This is not to say that we shouldn’t try to figure out the details and identify the real-world side of the symbolism. But it is to say a couple of things. First, be careful. Don’t read things into the text that are not in the text. Second, ask yourself, what is the Bible trying to communicate with this text? Third, and most important, is this bringing closer to and focusing more on Christ? Or is this distracting me and taking my focus off of Christ?
We will get more into some of those things during the sermon, but as we continue, there are some more tidbits we need to recognize as we continue on. Daniel chapter 7 is still being written in Aramaic. This is the last chapter that will be written in that language before switching back to Hebrew in chapter 8. This helps bridge the book instead of only being slit in to two different and distinct sections, almost like they were two different books.
There are also a number of correlations between Daniel chapters 2 and chapter 7. We will get into many of these, specifically and especially the four kingdoms that are mentioned and represented.
Last thing before we jump into the text, our goal when reading the Bible is to figure out what God is saying to us. Not what we want him to say, or what we think he should say, but what he is and already did say. There is a reason that one of the first rules of theology, which simple means Study of God is that we don’t build our doctrines off the cloudy and the unclear. We build our doctrines off what the Bible says crystal clearly. We build our doctrine on what the Bible is most clear on.
Ok, so Daniel chapter 7. I’ll be reading out of the English Standard Versions and I greatly encourage you to read along in your preferred translations as we read Gods Word. I’m going to start with verses 1-9 and we will walk through this chapter.
Daniel 7:1-9, Daniel records
In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel saw a dream and visions of his head as he lay in his bed. Then he wrote down the dream and told the sum of the matter. 2 Daniel declared,[a] “I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. 3 And four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another. 4 The first was like a lion and had eagles’ wings. Then as I looked its wings were plucked off, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man, and the mind of a man was given to it. 5 And behold, another beast, a second one, like a bear. It was raised up on one side. It had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth; and it was told, ‘Arise, devour much flesh.’ 6 After this I looked, and behold, another, like a leopard, with four wings of a bird on its back. And the beast had four heads, and dominion was given to it. 7 After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth; it devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. 8 I considered the horns, and behold, there came up among them another horn, a little one, before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots. And behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things.
All right! So, we go back in time, back to between chapters 4 & 5, to the first year of Belshazzar’s reign. And God sent Daniel dreams and a vision. This vision starts with four winds from heaven blowing over the great seas. The sea, in the Bible, was often a symbol for great turmoil, chaos or of sinful nations.
Out of the seas, four beasts rose up, one after another. Each one was different from the last. These are snapshots of these beast coming out of the sea. And these four beasts are almost universally considered the same 4 kingdoms that were in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream that Daniel interpreted back in Daniel chapter 2.
The first beast that came up was like, that’s a key word for us to remember, especially in prophecy and apocalyptic literature. But this beast was like a lion with the wings of an eagle. This was represented Babylon as the greatest empire of the time. Babylon was often represented by lions in art from that time. And one of the things we see, starting with the first beast, with Babylon is that these empires and beast get their power and authority and success directly from God, not from within themselves.
The second beast is like a bear. This bear represented the Medo Persian Empire. Now, we don’t have much time to get into the historicity of this empire, if you like history, read up on them. Its fascinating. It really is.
Now, this bear like beast was raised up on one side. This has been said to mean anything from its up on two legs and ready to pounce, or it could be the difference in the power dynamic between the Meads and the Persians, to any number of other things.
The bear had three ribs in its mouth and was told to go and devour. Now, many try to attach special significance to these three ribs and what they represent. I tend to agree with the theologians who give no special significance to the number three, that there are no people, nations or whatever to be identified by these ribs. It looks to me like this is a sign that the bear is hungry and ready to go devour, to conquer many nations, to feast on power.
The third beast that rises up is a weird looking leopard with four wings and four faces. This would be the fast acting, fast moving Greek empire under Alexander the Great, who conquered the known world and was then dead at 33.
The fourth beast is one like no other. We don’t get an animal to compare it to. It was dreadful and terrifying. This is the Roman empire. It came up and assimilated all the other kingdoms. One Kingdom to rule them all.
Here we see the infamous 10 horns, with one little horn pushing out three of those 10 horns. A lot of people will look towards future or current fulfillment of this here. They will see end times and antichrist allusions here. And they are likely right, but many also insist on trying to identify every single one of the horns here and I think that’s a mistake.
As we are going to see later in this chapter, the identities of these horns are not vital to understanding what God is communicating through this vision. It can be useful to study and speculate, but more often, what I have seen is that it takes our eyes off if Christ and instead, puts too much trust and fear into todays current events.
What we have seen here is that this vision builds with four successive kingdoms building, conquering each other and ending with one kingdom ruling the known world. Iain Duguid simplifies this point, summarizing the begging part of the vision, saying, “The vision declares that our world is being run by a succession of fearsome monsters that will go from bad to worse, each one more frightening than the one before.”
Daniel’s vision continues in verses 9-14:
“As I looked,
thrones were placed,
and the Ancient of Days took his seat;
his clothing was white as snow,
and the hair of his head like pure wool;
his throne was fiery flames;
its wheels were burning fire.
10 A stream of fire issued
and came out from before him;
a thousand thousands served him,
and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him;
the court sat in judgment,
and the books were opened.
11 “I looked then because of the sound of the great words that the horn was speaking. And as I looked, the beast was killed, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire. 12 As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.
13 “I saw in the night visions,
and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.
14 And 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 one
that shall not be destroyed.
And here we are introduced to the Ancient of Days. Father God himself. Contrasted with the chaos and the energy of the four beasts coming up out of the sea, God is patiently sitting on his throne, waiting for the fullness of time. He is never surprised; He knows all that is happening and will happen. He is in control of all the world and all their kingdoms.
He is seated on a fiery throne and is surrounded by and worshipped by so many multitudes, reminding us of the scene is Revelation 5 and Revelation 7 which show all the saints surrounding the throne in heaven.
The fourth beast is struck down, showing that he too is under the sovereign control of the almighty God. Duguid again comforts us, saying, “The purpose if the passage is not to give us nightmares but to calm our nightmares.”
In this vision, after we see the Ancient of Days on his throne, we see one coming like the Son of Man. This is of course Jesus Christ. And he is presented by God with the throne and the keys to the kingdom of heaven. He comes down on clouds. This is important because in the Old Testament, only God is shown to come on the clouds. So fully God, and like the Son of Man, appearing as a man, Fully Man. This is Jesus Christ.
His humanness here is contrasted with the beasts we just saw. Jesus is the fulfillment of man, who man was supposed to be. Where Adam failed and severing our relationship with God and condemning us to a life of sin, Jesus succeeded. He lived a sinless life, earning our redemption, accessed through the Grace of God and through our faith in Christ. Jesus redeemed us, restored our relationship with God the Father and defeated death and sin.
This is not referring to the Second Coming of Christ. This is referring to his first coming. His entrance into this world. This is referring to him getting the keys to the kingdom. Jesus himself said, in his earthly ministry, that the kingdom of heaven is here. And he earned those keys with his life, death and resurrection. Then with his ascension, he went back up to heaven and was seated on the thrones and is ruling over the kingdom at this very moment, as we speak.
This is an everlasting kingdom. A kingdom that rules over all other kingdoms. This kingdom will never be destroyed and none who are citizens of this kingdom will be left behind.
Babylon rose and fell.
Persians rose and fell.
Greeks rose and fell.
The Romans rose and fell
But the Kingdom of God will rise and will not fall/ Gods kingdom remain forever.
We finish up this chapter with Daniel 7, verses 15-28, where he writes:
“As for me, Daniel, my spirit within me[b] was anxious, and the visions of my head alarmed me. 16 I approached one of those who stood there and asked him the truth concerning all this. So, he told me and made known to me the interpretation of the things. 17 ‘These four great beasts are four kings who shall arise out of the earth. 18 But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever.’
19 “Then I desired to know the truth about the fourth beast, which was different from all the rest, exceedingly terrifying, with its teeth of iron and claws of bronze, and which devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet, 20 and about the ten horns that were on its head, and the other horn that came up and before which three of them fell, the horn that had eyes and a mouth that spoke great things, and that seemed greater than its companions. 21 As I looked, this horn made war with the saints and prevailed over them, 22 until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given for the saints of the Most High, and the time came when the saints possessed the kingdom.
23 “Thus he said: ‘As for the fourth beast,
there shall be a fourth kingdom on earth,
which shall be different from all the kingdoms,
and it shall devour the whole earth,
and trample it down, and break it to pieces.
24 As for the ten horns,
out of this kingdom ten kings shall arise,
and another shall arise after them;
he shall be different from the former ones,
and shall put down three kings.
25 He shall speak words against the Most High,
and shall wear out the saints of the Most High,
and shall think to change the times and the law;
and they shall be given into his hand
for a time, times, and half a time.
26 But the court shall sit in judgment,
and his dominion shall be taken away,
to be consumed and destroyed to the end.
27 And the kingdom and the dominion
and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven
shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High;
his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom,
and all dominions shall serve and obey him.’[c]
28 “Here is the end of the matter. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts greatly alarmed me, and my color changed, but I kept the matter in my heart.”
These visions understandably make Daniel nervous. He wants to know what all these details mean. See? Daniel is a man, just like us! We are not alone. I know that’s the interesting part to many people of these stories, these visions. And so, Daniel walks up to an angel that is standing there and asks him to interpret this vision.
Notice that the angel is not concern with identifying the kingdoms, who all the horns were or who the beast is/will be. Instead his focus is on what God has made clear. To me, verses 17 & 18 are the key points to the entire chapter, maybe even book.
Everything else is interesting, but this is the main point. Christ became man to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. The general gist of this vision is what’s ultimately important and we all have to agree in.
Then we also that the saints of the Most High will also receive their portion of the kingdom. Paul tells us in Romans that we will be Co heirs with Christ.
Daniel essentially says, I don’t care about that! Yeah sure, I know the general stuff. I know that things are going to end up working out in the end. That the other kingdoms are going to be knocked down by you and will end up pointing towards you as the ultimate ruler. But I want to know the all the intricate, unknowable, cloudy, unclear minutia and details.
This is what we often do. James made sure to point out that Elijah was a man, just like us. The same holds true for Daniel as we see in this section, making him much more relatable.
The angel answered Daniel and essentially told him what we already knew. He says that the fourth kingdom will be widespread and super powerful. He mentions the 10 horns and the three horns and says they are rulers of kingdoms. I read this and I see these numbers being used as specific, symbolic numbers like scripture often does. 10 being a number for completeness. Three being a significant portion of that 10 and one coming out of them to be the ultimate leader and ultimate representative of sin. This one will blaspheme God; he will persecute believers and he will change laws of the land.
Many try too hard in my opinion to make specific correlations to these 10 horns. A specific example is a number of years ago, when England joined the European Union, this made it so that 10 countries were a part of it. Many saw that this was triggering end times events.
But we need to be careful to not be too literal in places where God does not mean or the text to be literal. Sinclair Ferguson makes this point, saying:
Such anticipations of fulfillment of the details of visionary teaching may be fundamentally mistaken. It would be like looking for exact doctrinal equivalents to the Fathers kiss, the robe, the ring, and the fatted calf in the Parable of the Prodigal Son., or the donkey, innkeeper and the coins in the parable of the Good Samaritan. This is to fail to grasp the genre of the passage whose details do not have on to one equivalent. Where details of the symbolism of the vision are not given further weight, the symbolism probably has general significance. Where that symbolism is underscored and elaborated, then it is fitting that we pursue the matter further.
And so we see that there are details in these visons that God does want to us to think on and investigate, but he, nor the angel interrupting this vision give any indication of the identities of the leaders that these horns represent, nor does he give any indication that they are specific individuals, or specific kingdoms either.
Now, it is commonly understood that the little horn that supplants the three other horns symbolizes the end, ultimate antichrist that will rise up. God will give him power and authority for a time, times and a ½ a time. We saw the same phrasing with Ol Nebbys mental issues, when he was made to be like the beasts of the field for 7 times. Many assume that a time equals 1 year, though we have no biblical evidence for this. If this happened to be true, the little horn would be in power for three and ½ years.
We know from 1 John especially that there have been, are and will be many antichrists in the world, who will come against God and his people. Gods people spend a lot of time trying to identify them and dig them out. This little horn will be the apex of evil in the world. He will be the culmination of all that is being built to in the world today. He will be what brings the world to that point where it was right before the Flood, where God has determined the time for his coming back and when he will put an end to all these things. As Ferguson says, “The Ancient of Days will bring all this activity to a halt with his righteous decree.”
Again, the important aspect of this, Gods rule reigns. His Kingdom prevails. His saints will rule. His kingdom will rule forever over all other kingdoms. Eventually every earthly kingdom will fall away. When that happens now, another one rises up to take its place as a world superpower. Eventually, there will be no more and only Gods kingdom will stand.
Daniel says in verse 28 that this vision and the thoughts associated with it alarmed him and his color changed. He was concerned for what the future holds for Gods people. This vision is a picture of Gods church through history and it is a warning that we would know that hard times and persecution would be coming. But it is also an encouragement that God will bring us through it and will and is in fact already victorious over sin and death. Sinclair Ferguson wraps things up well, regarding the ultimate purpose of this vision and this chapter of the book of Daniel.
The overarching concern of this chapter is to focus our attention on the age-long conflict between two kingdoms: the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world. Just when Daniel is anticipating the deliverance of the kingdom of God from its oppression in the form of the return from exile, he learns an important lesson: This conflict is endemic to world history until the end. Rather than decrease, it will be perpetuated until it reaches its zenith in the ferocious blasphemies of the Little horn.
And yet, and yet in all this, we go back again to verse 18, But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever.’
The affect this had on Daniel was to pray for the future saints and what they will be going through. So too should we. We look and see what fellow believers are going through around the world. And we need to occasionally focus on that, instead of always focusing on how that persecution will be coming for us. Pray for fellow believers and future believers and what they will have to go through. Pray boldly and powerfully, knowing that the end is already achieved and determined by the power and sovereignty of God. Look beyond our present situation, look at church history, look at the church’s future and look at the good and bad for both. The good infinitely outweighs the bad, because God himself is pure good.
Things can and will be tough. This is not meant to downplay that. But the cure for the disease has already been administered. Now we wait for the symptoms to cease. God is God. God is powerful. God is sovereign. And God wins in the end. What an encouragement to not eliminate the tough times, but to help get us through them.