Submission to the Son of Man

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Amid Israel's exile during Belshazzar's reign, Daniel, a captive from Judah, receives a heavenly vision of four beasts, the Ancient of Days, and the son of man. In the prophetic vision, God explains what is yet to happen and gives his people hope by showing Daniel that Most High will destroy all the beasts and rescue his beloved servants. In this God kingdom, we serve, rejoice, and live in victory.

Welcome, everyone, to our current sermon series "His Kingdom Come," from the Old Testament prophetic book of Daniel. In our previous gatherings, we've been unpacking the theme that reoccurs in Daniel's narrative, which focuses on the collision of God's kingdom with our world. In the first six chapters, we discover how four young boys named Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, are exiled into a foreign nation called Babylon. Taken as prisoners, and then enrolled in the Babylon University and became Wisemen for King Nebuchadnezzar. During their stay, the boys must choose either to stand up for the Lord. Or be overcome by the social, cultural, and political of their time.
How to Read Daniel Chapter Ten: “One like a Son of Man”: Daniel 7

The first of the four visions of the second part of the book introduces us to the vivid and striking imagery characteristic of apocalyptic literature. To a modern readership, this figurative language seems quite fantastic and even strange. When read it in its ancient context, however, many of the images have ancient roots that would have made the message more immediately clear to its original readers. Unfortunately, modern readers who do not understand this ancient context are often misled by some popular contemporary readers who are able to exploit our modern distance from the language of these chapters (see more in chap. 2).

Each of the four visions in the second half of the book is self-contained. They present their own account of future events. But that does not mean that they don’t overlap, treating at least in part the same time period. They all start in Daniel’s present and stretch our vision into the future. Some, but not all, take us to the end of history. Along the way, they treat different parts of the story with different levels of detail.

Daniel 7 is the first of these divinely given visions. As we will see, this vision is an example of one that takes us to the end of history, though we will mention those who dispute this idea. Daniel 7, with its striking figurative depiction of evil kingdoms and divine intervention, may be the best known of the four visions. It is, after all, the one that is most often alluded to in the New Testament (see chap. 16).

Daniel 7:1–8 ESV
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. 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.
How to Read Daniel The Vision (Dan 7:1–14)


Beast-like human figures (Dan 7:1–8). The narrator sets Daniel’s dream in the “first year of Belshazzar” (Dan 7:1). In our earlier historical review (see chap. 2), we noted that Belshazzar became his father Nabonidus’s coregent after the latter moved his palace out of Babylon to Tayma. We do not know exactly when this occurred, but we surmise that it was a few years after Nabonidus became king (556 BC) and a few years before the writing on the wall episode (Dan 6) and the end of the Babylonian Empire (539 BC).

The message of this vision was not meant for the Babylonians though. Rather, God through the vision is speaking directly to Daniel and through Daniel to God’s faithful people. Though the vision is terrifying, the ultimate message to this audience is one of tremendous hope.

The first part of the vision describes four horrifying beasts arising out of a chaotic sea. While the vision mystifies a modern twenty-first-century audience from the start, much of the figurative language would have immediately resonated with the original audience, though they too would have needed the angelic interpretation that follows the description of the vision to plumb more deeply into its meaning (Dan 7:15–27).

Daniel begins by describing the setting of the vision, which is at a shore looking out at the sea whose waves are being whipped up by the four winds of heaven. The four winds would be winds coming from all four directions, thus producing a scene of chaos.

By the time Daniel had his vision, the sea was a long-established symbol of chaos and even the forces of evil in the broader ancient Near East. The Babylonian (Enuma Elish) and the Canaanite (Baal Myth) accounts of creation all pictured the creator god as creating order out of chaos by controlling the waters. The Bible, too, often describes creation in this way (Job 38:8–11; Ps 24:1–2; Prov 8:22–30; perhaps even Gen 1:1–2). In addition, the psalmists (e.g., Ps 29:10) and the prophets (e.g., Nah 1:4) often depicted chaos through the figure of the sea.

Thus, not only the waters but its monsters were associated with evil. One only has to think of Leviathan (Job 41; Ps 74:12–17; Is 27:1) as an example. Here in Daniel’s vision, we have four beast-like monsters emerging from the sea. A Jewish reader would have an immediate gutwrenching reaction to such a vision. But worse, these are not any ordinary sea monsters. Their individual descriptions are horrifying.

The first one is a hybrid beast. It was like a lion, but it had wings like an eagle. Ultimately it stands on its feet like a human being (Dan 7:4). We begin with the observation that hybrids of any sort were repulsive to the original readers. Remember that the Torah forbade mixtures of all sorts, whether material or of seeds in a field (Lev 19:19). Further, the best explanation for why certain animals were considered clean and others not clean (and therefore inappropriate to eat) was because the former were normal to their environments (like a fish with fins and scales) and not abnormal for its environment (like a lobster that looks like a land creature living in the sea). Thus, the very hybrid nature of the first creature would have been nightmarish to the original audience. The fact that this animal-like creature took on a human form would have been particularly upsetting.

The second beast was not a hybrid, but it frightens in a different way (Dan 7:5). The creature is like a bear, one of the most dangerous animals known to humans. And this one is pictured in a violent pose. Lying on one of its sides, it was gnawing on three ribs. An unidentified voice then orders it, “Get up [from its prone position] and eat your fill of flesh!” (Dan 7:5).

Daniel’s attention then is directed to a third beast, another hybrid (Dan 7:6), again a beast of prey (“like a leopard”) combined with a bird’s wings. This bird-leopard was abnormal in another way: it had four heads! This beast is said to have been “given authority to rule.”

Finally, Daniel sees the fourth beast rising out of the sea (Dan 7:7–8). The first three were indeed horrible, but this beast took it to a new level. It was “different from all the former beasts” (Dan 7:7). The focus of the vision is on this fourth beast; the first three were just the beginning.

This beast is primarily different in the fact that it is not compared to any known animal in human experience. It is not like a lion or an eagle or a bear or a leopard or a bird or even a human. The only physical description we get in the vision itself is that it has “iron teeth,” while later in the interpretation we will hear that it has “iron teeth and bronze claws” (Dan 7:19). Daniel describes his understanding of what this metallic beast’s description communicates by saying that it was “terrifying and frightening and very powerful” (Dan 7:7).

The last important detail of the description of this fourth beast is the fact that it has horns. Animal horns were a well-known biblical symbol of strength. While most animals have two horns at most, this beast had ten. The number ten itself is often, and certainly here, used symbolically rather than straightforwardly. It connotes a large number. But then Daniel sees another horn break through. This horn is little, but it still manages to displace three of the original horns. Amazingly, this little horn has human-like characteristics, having eyes and the ability to utter proud words.

Thus ends the first part of the vision. But before we hear the interpretation of its meaning, we turn next to the second part of the vision itself.

1. Daniel's beast are the chaotic kingdoms of our world.
These beasts represent the powers of the world. In them we fear for they are predicable and outright deadly to the people of God. Every beast symbolized a kingdom that seeks power and control of the world. We are living in this time when the world’s powers are seeking more authority and control. This last beast is different for it is more powerful than all the others. We live in an unstable world ruled by the beast. But there is hope for the people of God.
Daniel 7:9–14 ESV
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. 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.
How to Read Daniel Human-like Divine Figures (7:9–14)

Human-like divine figures (7:9–14). In Daniel 7:9–14 the setting of the vision abruptly changes. No longer are we at the seashore where we observe the emergence of horrifying and destructive beasts. We are now in a courtroom and are first introduced to a figure referred to as the Ancient of Days.

The scene is a courtroom, but this is not any ordinary courtroom. The centerpiece is the throne of the Ancient of Days, a title that indicates a person of great antiquity. As such he is described as having white hair. He is also wearing a white robe. His throne is engulfed in flames, fire often associated with the appearance of God, and indeed, this figure can only be taken to refer to God himself. A river of fire flows from this throne. Fire not only warms and illuminates but also burns. Here God is pictured as a judge ready to render judgment (“The court was seated, and the books were opened,” Dan 7:10). God’s angelic servants surround him by the thousands.

The object of the judgment of the Ancient of Days is implicit but made clear in verses 11–12. The boastful words of the destructive little horn had drawn the attention of the Ancient of Days with the result that the fourth beast, which hosted the horn, was destroyed. Interestingly, and somewhat enigmatically, we learn that the first three beasts were still alive and allowed to survive for a period of time.

But then something totally unexpected occurs. Into the presence of the Ancient of Days steps “one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven” (7:13). Who is this figure? While the language and imagery of this verse would have been familiar to the ancient reader (though strange to us), the implications would have shocked them.

First, we should realize that “son of man” is a phrase that occurs a number of times in the Old Testament, particularly in the book of Ezekiel (2:1, 3, 6, and throughout the book), and always means “human being.” But notice this is one “like a human being,” not a human being per se. And his association, though not identification, with humanity is clear from the fact that this human-like figure is accompanied by the clouds of heaven. In other words, this person is a cloud rider, a sure indication of divinity.

In the first place, in the broader ancient Near East, cloud riding was the function of storm gods like Baal, who was often called “cloud rider” in the Ugaritic myths that describe his exploits. By the time of Daniel, many Old Testament texts had appropriated this description and applied it to God (Ps 18:1–9; 68:4; 103:3; Is 19:1; Nah 1:3). Thus, to ancient readers this human-like figure was God himself riding into the presence of the Ancient of Days, also God himself, after achieving victory over the beasts. No wonder this passage is cited so often in the New Testament in reference to Jesus, God’s Son and God himself (more on this in chapter 16).

But for now, restricting ourselves to an Old Testament reader’s perspective, we should notice that the vision ends with the Ancient of Days conferring great honor on the one like the son of man. Indeed, “he was given (presumably by the Ancient of Days) authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshipped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed” (7:14).

Matthew 25:31–35 ESV
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
2. The Son of Man is restoring what is broken.
Jesus is the son of man who is coming into our world to destroy the beast and judge every living creature. No only is he king, but God the Father (Ancient of Days) gives all power, authority, and dominion to Christ because of his perfect sinless life that he lived for God. Even when our world is falling apart, God’s message still speaks hope for everyone. This life which is broken will be fixed. Evil, sin and death will be sent to lake of fire and all will be bliss, but until this day we must wait and do something else.
Daniel 7:15–28 ESV
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.’ 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.’ 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.”
How to Read Daniel The Angelic Interpretation of the Dream (Dan 7:15–28)


Daniel has been perplexed and disturbed by this vision. He thus, still seemingly in the vision, turns to “one of those standing there” (Dan 7:16), perhaps one of the thousands of heavenly beings surrounding the Ancient of Days, to get the meaning of what he has seen.

The angel begins with an overall interpretation. He starts by simply saying that the four beasts are four kings who will appear in earthly history, but then “the holy people of the Most High … will possess it forever—yes, for ever and ever” (v. 18). In other words, while beastly human kingdoms will oppress the people of God (in spite of present difficulties), God is in control, and he will have the final victory.

But Daniel wants more details, particularly about the fourth beast and the little horn. The angel obliges him, but only to a point.

In verses 19–22, Daniel recounts what he saw and what he understood about the fourth beast. He knows that this beast was particularly frightening and devastating, different from all the rest in that it is never compared to any known animal but simply described in metallic terms. He also wanted to know about the meaning of the horns and in particular the little horn that had human-like features (eyes and a mouth) that uprooted three of the ten horns.

At this point we learn a detail about the violence of the little horn that we did not learn in the description of the vision itself. For example, we learn that the object of the little horn’s violence was “the holy people” (v. 21). These people, of course, are none other than those, like Daniel, who were among the faithful, and, shockingly, the little horn was winning! That is until the Ancient of Days rendered judgment, and then they, “the holy people,” would possess the kingdom.

The angel responds by filling in more details but, interestingly, still keeping matters somewhat opaque. He says that the fourth beast is a fourth kingdom and that the ten horns are ten kings of that kingdom. The little horn is a king that will arise and will direct his ill‑will against the holy people. He will interrupt the “set times” (perhaps ritual times like Sabbaths and festivals) as well as the holy people’s laws. This will take place for a period, described as a “time, times [or two times] and half a time” (v. 25), which appears to be an intentionally enigmatic statement (see comments on the use and purpose of statements about time in chap. 3).

But, according to the interpreting angel, this is not the end of the story. Turning to the second half of the vision, he notes the judgment that will be rendered on the oppressive king represented by the little horn. His power will be removed and given to the “holy people” whom he had oppressed. But then finally, “his [presumably the one like the son of man] kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him” (7:27). Daniel reacts to this interpretation with increased concern, but he keeps it to himself.

Matthew 25:35–46 ESV
35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ 41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
3. Life in the kingdom requires service.
In the end, God’s kingdom saves his people from the beast and gives us a home right now. Wherever the church is, so is the kingdom of God. Now since we’re saved by son of man (Jesus Christ) we find our place to serve him and people. This is our duty and privilege as we await for the coming of our savior. For the people of God know they are safe and secure in Christ and in our love for him we serve his kingdom.
Let’s serve as his church through truck-or-treat this month, helping with service, inviting our friends to church to hear the gospel. It’s our mission until he puts all evil away for eternity. Living for the
Christ's kingdom saves the broken and gives work for the saved.
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