Ancient of Days
Hiking in Calwood
Hiking in Calwood
I had the great privilege last week of chaperoning Dylan’s class field trip up to Calwood. (Just past Jamestown). Beautiful country, great time.
There were a couple ways, out on the trails, that kids could be SUPER annoying.
Kids who want to lead the way. Blazing the trails up way ahead of the counselor. What’s the problem? They have no idea where they are going!!!
Kids who want to answer every question, show off how smart they are. One kid was awesome, he had no idea what he was talking about but he would ramble on slowly, hoping he was getting nearly close to an answer… until the instructor finally would interrupt with “Good, yeah, no, anyhow...”
And, the hardest, were the kids who just HATED hiking. Back of the pack every time, asking when we will be done and how much further. First to take a break. I played caboose most of the time, come on, one step further, just a little bit farther. Look, I think that might be it up there!
Dangers of Prophecy
Dangers of Prophecy
We are getting into the 2nd half of Daniel.
The first half places Daniel in history, he was a real dude, a man of faith, of conviction. In the first 6 chapters he kind of earns a voice… and in the next 6 chapters he shares some crazy dreams.
Dreams of the future. Prophecy in the sense we usually think of prophecy. We are talking end times, anti-christ, days and remnants. If “Revelation” is the most famous book of end times prophecy, Revelation couldn’t exist without the book of Daniel. It is speaking the language, the symbology of Daniel all over the place.
Danger 1: Running Ahead
Danger 1: Running Ahead
MUCH harm has been done throughout Christian history by attempting to use prophecy to predict what’s about to happen.
Famously, William Miller studied Daniel, interpreted the days, counted everything out to be October 22nd (that’s today)... 1844.
Jesus didn’t show up. It’s called the “Great Disappointment” and Miller’s followers were called the “Adventists.” You want to know the biggest difference between us and SDA? We don’t believe Jesus returned, spiritually or otherwise, on October 22, 1844.
Miller was running ahead… but he didn’t know the way. And by and large, the result of predictions of the date of Jesus’ return has been embarrassment and division in the body of Christ.
Is that the purpose of prophecy? We must be careful here.
Danger 2: Pride of Knowledge
Danger 2: Pride of Knowledge
There is a 2nd danger here. This was a trap for arrogant teenage Dusty… but one I have seen in the church SO many times.
Here we have an obscure collection of knowledge that lends itself to confident interpretation with little to no verification. This is what the mystics and astrologers of Nebuchadnezzar’s day LOVED. Why? Because you can sound wise and knowledgeable and intelligent… more wiser and more smarter than your friends.
And this was me. Learn something about prophecy… and then use it as a bully pulpit, a proof of spiritual superiority over my “Christian friends.”
If you are using the Word of God to feel puffed up, prideful, better than other Christians… you are wrong and cruisin’ for a divine bruisin’
Is that the purpose of prophecy? We know it isn’t.
What is the purpose of prophecy? To encourage, to edify and to admonish the people of God.
If it isn’t encouraging the people of God… you’re wrong.
So, in light of those Dangers, we proceed with fear and trembling into Daniel 7. Watching carefully for where Daniel’s dream is going to encourage or admonish God’s people.
1 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.
So after Nebuchadnezzar’s death… but before the writing on the wall. Well before.
Close your eyes and picture these creatures as best you can. There are pictures, we will see some, but I think Daniel is seeing something so beyond the natural, he is reaching for words to describe:
2 Daniel declared, “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.
The one horn kept growing and, it’s freaky. Did your beasts look like this?
Then the whole scene changes. It’s like we lift dimensions for a moment. We were in the kingdoms, on the earth, now we see everything above, the heavens. And there is the Ancient of Days.
(What a cool name for God)
9 “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.
Now back to the beasts:
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.
And then this strange (to Daniel) new figure enters in. The Son of Man.
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.
Who is that??? That’s Jesus. How do we know? Because Jesus said “that’s me.” It is this, and others, that Jesus references when the high priest said to him
63 But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” 64 Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
What did the high priest say? Blasphemy!!! He knew exactly what Jesus was claiming.
Now I love Daniel. To everyone else, he always had the answers. But in his own dreams, he is as confused as we might be. So in his own dream… he asks people. What does this mean???
15 “As for me, Daniel, my spirit within me 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.’
Now Daniel is going to go on to ask for more details, especially about the “fourth beast.” We are going to talk more about that beast next week.
All about the anti-Christ. Aren’t you excited? Yikes.
But there is widespread agreement about the first 3 beasts, and general agreement about the 4th.
The Four Beasts
The Four Beasts
The first beasts are pretty clear and reach back to Nebuchadnezzar’ dream of the statue with four parts. The lion is Babylon, and Nebuchadnezzar was often represented as a lion. Even the part about him being a beast, and then raised up to a man. Donkey Brains. You get it.
The second beast is the Medean Persian Empire. It’s coming. Now we’ve entered the future.Being “raised up on one side” reflects that the Persian side is stronger in the alliance than the Medean side. There’s another dream in chapter 8 where the ram has two horns, one bigger than the other.
AMAZING prediction of geo-political details of what’s coming. Maybe, maybe, Daniel being such a highly placed government official he could predict the next empire to rise and some broad characteristics.
But this blows my mind.
The third beast is the Greek Empire. Alexander the Great conquers the known world and does so before he’s 32. And he weeps for there was “no more world to conquer.” He did it SO fast… maybe like a leopard (which is crazy fast)… and how do you make a leopard faster? Give it four wings.
But Alexander dies at 32. And, leaving no children, his empire is divided between his four generals. The beast has four heads.
Now Daniel has accurately predicted the next several hundred years, the geo-political events that would shape his people.
The 4th beast… things get strange. It is natural to see the 4th beast as the Roman Empire. Likely a strong connection there. The challenge is that there is no real direct parallel to the “10 toes” (in Nebuchadnezzar’s statue) or the 10 horns, here in Daniel’s dream, and certainly not this figure that rises up. That is fast forward future.
So Daniel predicts hundreds and also thousands of years into the future.
And here’s the big question: WHY?
And the answer is right here, again and again.
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.’
Or again at the end of the chapter
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.’
And that’s Jesus.
For Daniel and the people of Israel… trouble is coming.
They might feel like everything is about to be perfect. After all, Babylonian captivity is about to end. And this has been the big punishment. Much of recent prophecy has been up to and about this point. Jeremiah’s 70 years, Isaiah named Cyrus of Persia.
That day of returning is coming soon.
But Israel, well it’s never really going to be “Israel” again. Not the way it was. They are going to be ruled and conquered and traded from one Empire to the next. They get a flash of independence with the Maccabean revolution… but it is short and brutal and achieves nothing like the glory days of David.
They are going to have trouble upon trouble… in the human realm. And it is going to be easy to lose all heart. In fact, Daniel is still just troubled by this dream...
Because he sees trouble coming for his people.
But what is the message of Daniel’s prophecy?
Ancient of Days is on the Throne
Ancient of Days is on the Throne
Son of man is an everlasting King
The Ancient of Days is on the throne. Ruling over all of it. Triumphant over all of it. Kingdoms rise and fall… but the Ancient of Days is on the throne still.
And the Son of Man, Jesus, the Savior, the Messiah, He Wins.
His Kingdom is an everlasting Kingdom.
Back to our hiking metaphor.
Daniel isn’t running ahead declaring what is going to happen to the world. This doesn’t help Israel better navigate world politics. They don’t. At all.
But they see it as it unfolds, and it encourages them, because the Ancient of Days is still on the throne. And the Son of Man is going to win in the end.
Daniel and the people of Israel can’t use this as know-it-all we are better-than-you proofs. Maybe the “Biblical scholars” try. The one answer that matters is this:
The Ancient of Days is on the throne. And the Son of Man wins.
Daniel and the generations of Israel to follow are the exhausted and broken kid struggling up the mountain.
You see that tree ahead? That’s the next stop!
You see that kingdom? That’s 2 out of 3. Maybe the Son of Man is coming soon? Either way, the end is coming… and it is GOOD NEWS!!!
Oh, the view from on top of that mountain is going to be SO GOOD!
And, this encouragement wasn’t written to you… but it is written for you.
Christian. Child of God. Trouble is coming. In this world you will have trouble.
Trouble of many and many more kinds. Troubles of daily life. Troubles on the world stage. Persecution and anti-christs… more about that next week.
We might identify some of the troubles after the fact as being these ones here in Daniel. More likely, we are living in the in-between times and we get troubles in between the BIG Troubles.
But this we know.
The Ancient of Days is on the throne of the universe. And NONE of this is a surprise to him.
He is actively working all things together for the good of those who love him.
And in the end, the Son of Man takes up his everlasting kingdom. And he calls you and I up to “receive the kingdom with him” forever and ever, amen.
The Ancient of Days is on the throne, the Son of Man shall rule an eternal kingdom, and we are inheritors with him. This is, and always has been, the good news. Hallelujah!