More Things ... 23


Prepare to Die

The close of the Old Testament period was a dark, desperate time. By the end, the vestige of God’s portion, the family he had raised up through Abraham after forsaking the nations at Babel, consisted of only two tribes (Judah and Benjamin), collectively referred to as the kingdom of Judah. But even as the hordes of Babylon, the army of Nebuchadnezzar, descended on Jerusalem for the last time, the prophets offered a glimpse of hope. Yes, God would punish his children for turning to other gods, but a remnant would survive. Yahweh’s plan had not been overturned. He would send a servant who would ensure its survival. There would be an Edenic kingdom, but in the future, not in the Old Testament era.
We stopped last week looking at the divine nature of the deliverer, linked his appearance with this message of hope in the wake of the exile: the kingdom of God had failed in the Old Testament, but would rise from the ashes when the divine king made his appearance. That messianic king would inaugurate a kingdom that would spread throughout the earth and eventually succeed in restoring Eden.
These ideas are familiar. Less apparent, however, is the way the Old Testament characterizes the launching of God’s kingdom as a war between gods and men. In this discussion we will briefly look at this material, The Deut 32 worldview looms large. The kingdom will come. The divine holy ones loyal to God and God’s people are his agents to expand that kingdom. But the nations and the gods who rule them will stand opposed. As the kingdom of God grows, the dominions of the dark powers will shrink and their gods will ultimately perish.

The Kingdom will Come

In the divine council scene of Daniel 7, the son of man, a second Yahweh figure, received an everlasting kingdom. But it is crucial to note that this kingdom came only in the wake of the decision to judge the four beasts (four empires) reported in the vision of Daniel with which the chapter began. Daniel reported:
Daniel 7:11–14 ESV
“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. As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time. “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. 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.
a more precise description of this kingdom follows in verses 15-28. We need to look carefully at certain statements in this passage.
Daniel 7:15–18 ESV
“As for me, Daniel, my spirit within me was anxious, and the visions of my head alarmed me. 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. ‘These four great beasts are four kings who shall arise out of the earth. But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever.’
In his vision, Daniel asks one of the standing divine attendants at the meeting about the meaning of what he has seen. He learns that the beasts are kings, but “the kingdom” will be given to the “holy ones of the Most High,” who will never lose possession of it.
Two items are noteworthy. First, the interpretation is interesting in that, in verse 13-14, it was the divine son of man who recieved an everlasting kingdom from the Most High. We have to keep reading to discern who the holy ones are. Second, verse 13-14 didn’t describe any conflict before the son of man recieved the kingdom, only that the four beasts had been judged before the kingdom was given. We can agree with Daniel that more information is needed. He asks the attendant:
Daniel 7:19–22 ESV
“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, 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. As I looked, this horn made war with the saints and prevailed over them, 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.
The chronology gets some clarity here. The fourth beast - obviously prior to its death in verse 11 - makes war on the holy ones and defeats them. This causes the Most High to act on their behalf, and so take possession of the kingdom, something that must follow the demise of the fourth beast. See it here
Daniel 7:23–28 ESV
“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. 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. 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. But the court shall sit in judgment, and his dominion shall be taken away, to be consumed and destroyed to the end. 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.’ “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.”
The reference to the fourth beast “(wearing) out the holy ones of the Most High” harks back to his victory in verse 21. The enemy (the little horn) defeats the holy ones. In response the “Court” (divine council) hold session - the assembly Daniel is witnessing - to deal with (destroy) the fourth beast. The result of that meeting in verse 27 is that the kingdom is given to the “nation of the holy ones of the Most High.” Interestingly, earlier the kingdom had been given to “the holy ones of the Most High and before that to the divine son of man.
The passage is clear in one respect - before the everlasting kingdom is recieved, the fourth beast is destroyed. It is less clear who inherits the kingdom. There are three candidates: the son of man, the holy ones of the Most High, and the nation of the Holy Ones of the Most High. The Kingdom is not made of human hands and will never be destroyed.

The Holy Ones of the Most High

There is, of course, a lot of argument about how to best identify the fourth kingdom. Daniel 2:44 makes id with Rome obvious enough, in that the kingdom of God appears at the time of the fourth kingdom. The New Testament, of course, has the kingdom of God inaugurated at the coming of Jesus during the Roman Empire, and yet still in the process of coming.
It might help us if we knew who the holy ones here are? The Hebrew term can be divine council members and/or human being. In Leviticus it refers to the people. But the imagery of priesthood, tabernacle and temple analogous to the sacred space of God’s throne room and those who have access to God in heaven - the divine family, the divine council. This range helps us parse the holy ones of Dan 7. It is both.
The kingdom of God is reborn a the first coming of Jesus. His arrival marks the beginning of the end of the rule of darkness and the initiation of God’s reclamation of the nations ruled by the other minor gods. Jesus is the son of man, and the kingdom is his. Ruling with him will be the holy ones of the council.
Note in Daniel 7: 27 that the kingdom is given to the nation of the holy ones of the Most High but it is still referred to as God’s kingdom. This is a subtle reference to joint rulership in God’s kingdom.
Revelation 2:26 ESV
The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations,
Revelation 3:21 ESV
The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.

A Coming War of Gods and Men

The triumph of the kingdom of God will not come before the final conflict known in Scripture as the Day of the Lord. See Zech 14: 1-5
Zechariah 14:1–5 ESV
Behold, a day is coming for the Lord, when the spoil taken from you will be divided in your midst. For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women raped. Half of the city shall go out into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward. And you shall flee to the valley of my mountains, for the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azal. And you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him.
Yahweh comes with his heavenly army at the day of the Lord to disarm and defeat the hostile supernatural powers .... Isaiah say the same thing
Isaiah 24:21–23 ESV
On that day the Lord will punish the host of heaven, in heaven, and the kings of the earth, on the earth. They will be gathered together as prisoners in a pit; they will be shut up in a prison, and after many days they will be punished. Then the moon will be confounded and the sun ashamed, for the Lord of hosts reigns on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and his glory will be before his elders.
God will rule before his council - here called elders - having punished human and supernatural fores, in order to reestablish his rule in his earthly abode - Mount Zion.
How does He punish the gods? who led people astray, away from the Most High..
Psalm 82:6–7 ESV
I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.”
Psalm 82:8 ESV
Arise, O God, judge the earth; for you shall inherit all the nations!

The Future Re-Inheritance of the Nations

The Day of the Lord is a time of judgment, but it also cast in Scripture as a time of rejoicing for God’s people. When the rule of the gods begins to crumble, God will call his own from among the nations. Isa 66, a passage that plays a role in explaining the explosion of the gospel after the resurrection, describes the judgment and hope looming in a time future to the Old Testament:
Isaiah 66:16–22 ESV
For by fire will the Lord enter into judgment, and by his sword, with all flesh; and those slain by the Lord shall be many. “Those who sanctify and purify themselves to go into the gardens, following one in the midst, eating pig’s flesh and the abomination and mice, shall come to an end together, declares the Lord. “For I know their works and their thoughts, and the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and shall see my glory, and I will set a sign among them. And from them I will send survivors to the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, who draw the bow, to Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands far away, that have not heard my fame or seen my glory. And they shall declare my glory among the nations. And they shall bring all your brothers from all the nations as an offering to the Lord, on horses and in chariots and in litters and on mules and on dromedaries, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, says the Lord, just as the Israelites bring their grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the Lord. And some of them also I will take for priests and for Levites, says the Lord. “For as the new heavens and the new earth that I make shall remain before me, says the Lord, so shall your offspring and your name remain.
incredible as it sounds, people from the disinherited nations will return to God, out from under the dominion of their gods. Where Israel failed in that mission as a kingdom of priests, God himself will succeed. He will be the agent for his own mission. This is the story of how Eden will be reborn — a story told in the New Testament.
We will cover the final conflict. There are other connections to this worldview we have been discussing in eschatology. But we don’t have to wait until the ends times for NT connections to the supernatural worldview of the Old Testament. In that regard, the NT hits the ground running.
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