“At The Right Hand of the Father”

This continues our side trip into some questions and ideas about “the kingdom”.  In Daniel 2:44, Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar that the God of heaven was going to establish an eternal kingdom.  Reams of paper and gallons of ink, to say nothing of gigabytes of data, have been used to explain what that is.  Our last post dealt with the idea that this kingdom can never be an “earthly” one.

The post today deals with the question, “Yes, but isn’t Jesus already reigning at the right hand of the Father?”

Without a doubt, the New Testament is clear that the Son is seated at the right hand of the Father.  The question is, What is He doing there?

Scripture tells us.

Leaving aside our Lord’s statements during His trial before the Sanhedrin that they would see Him sitting on the right hand of power, here are the verses which teach that He is at the right hand of the Father.

1. Acts 2:33, “Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God.”  This is Peter’s explanation on the Day of Pentecost about the events of the day and relating them to the death, resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus.

2. Acts 2:34, “For David did not ascend into heaven, but he says himself, ‘The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” ‘  Here he quotes Psalm 16:8-11.  This is an important testimony.

3. Acts 5:31, “Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.”  Compare Acts 2:36. Christ was not an executed criminal, but had been exalted to be a Ruler, in order for Him to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.  As grateful as we ought to be that mercy has been extended to us Gentiles, never make the mistake of believing that we have taken over all the promises and prominence given to Israel.  Whatever was given to them still belongs to them.  Note carefully the present tense in Paul’s listing of the advantages of being a Jew in Romans 9:3-5.

4. Acts 7:55, 56, The dying Stephen sees Jesus standing at the right hand of God, a phrase which is repeated twice.  Though in this one instance He is standing, Jesus is still “at the right hand of God.”  Some have suggested that this single recorded instance of His standing is because He is waiting to receive the first martyr of the church.

5. Romans 8:34, Who is He who condemns?  It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.  Paul here tells us that Christ is not “reigning,” but interceding for His people.  His work as High Priest, begun on Calvary, isn’t finished.  His work as “King” hasn’t yet begun.

6. Ephesians 1:19-21, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality….
Here Paul taught the Ephesians that the power that regenerated and saved them was the same power that resurrected the Lord Jesus and brought Him back to heaven.  That’s the same power that saves us.  It isn’t without reason that the Bible likens salvation to a creation, a resurrection, a birth.  That same power that created the heavens and the earth and called forth Lazarus from the tomb is the same power that calls us out of darkness into His marvelous light – an effective, irresistible power.  

7. Colossians 3:1, …where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.  The complete verse says, If then you are raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.  This verse isn’t so much about where He is right now, as it is about where we are right now.  Are we, like people of the world, content with the paltry things this world offers, or are we like those of whom the book of Hebrews speaks, These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth, Hebrews 11:13.

8. Hebrews 1:3, …when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high….  Note carefully the words, “by Himself.”  He doesn’t need “the saints,” or Mary, or the church, or “the sacraments” to save His people.  By Himself He paid the awful penalty.  By Himself He purged, “cleansed,” “put away,” our sins.  He says, “Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest, Matthew 11:28.  You won’t find rest at the front of a church, or in baptismal waters, or in ritual or routine.  Only in the Lord Jesus is there salvation from sin.

9. Hebrews 1:13, to which of the angels has He ever said, “Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool”?  This is the second time this Psalm has been quoted in this connection.  Our Lord quoted it in Matthew 22:41-46; Mark 12:35-37; Luke 21:41-44 to confound the Pharisees in their attempts to trip Him up.  The fact that this incident is recorded in all three Synoptic gospels is of some significance.

10. Hebrews 8:1, …We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven….  Again, the reference to Christ as High Priest.  He is not yet “King”.

11. Hebrews 10:12, 13, But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifices for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool.  Again, and this cannot be emphasized enough, one sacrifice for sin.  One sacrifice.  One.  One.  ONE!!!

12. Hebrews 12:2, looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
The Cross was no walk in the park for the Son of Man.  Even He only “endured” it.  We really have no idea what the Son of God “endured” on that day, with our glib and powerless Christianity, our sanitized pictures, our pretty crucifixes, blasphemous as these are because the cross is empty, and the death of Christ was a horrible and ugly thing, because of which, by faith, God saves us.  The early church was accused of turning the world upside down.  I’m afraid it must now be said that the world has turned the church upside down.

13. 1 Peter 3:21, 22, …Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him.
What does this mean?  Weren’t they already subject to Him?  They were subject to Him as God, but He laid all that aside when He came into this world to live and die for His people.  At the Ascension, His humanity and human nature were exalted to the same level as His deity and divine nature.  A real human being is seated at the right hand of the Father, a Being who is fully Human and, at the same time, fully God.  To Him, to this Man, this God-Man, angelic beings were brought into subjection.  That cannot yet be said of humans.  The time is coming when it will be.  The question is how and when that will happen.
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These verses certainly teach that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father.  But notice how He Himself characterizes this in Revelation 3:21, “To him who overcomes, I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne (emphasis added).  Right now, according to the Scriptures, the Lord Jesus is seated with His Father on His Father’s throne.

So, when does He sit on His own throne?

Hear His own words in Matthew 25:31-34,

When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.  All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will divide them one from another, as a shepherd separates his sheep from the goats.  And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.  Then the King will say to those on His right hand…,” emphasis added.

The Lord Himself calls Himself “the Son of Man” at the time of His Second Coming.  It isn’t until then, when He returns to this world, that He sits “on the throne of His glory.”  His sitting on His own throne as King is connected with His Second Coming, not His Ascension.

Matthew 19:28 also bears witness to this.

So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory….”

The rest of the verse answers a question that Peter had, which has no bearing on our subject.  In the part we read, our Lord referred to “the regeneration”.  I believe that  Scripture teaches a regeneration of society just as it teaches the regeneration of an individual.  We call this, “The Millennium”.  If one asks, “Why?” I believe it is to answer once and for all the idea of some that all that is needed is the proper education, or the right economic conditions, or some other improvement, and men will finally show that, at heart, they are basically good people.

Yet, Scripture tells us that, after 1000 years of the most perfect government and environment this fallen world has ever known, Satan will have no trouble fomenting a world-wide rebellion, Revelation 20:7-10.  This will demonstrate once and for all that man is not basically good.  He is basically evil.
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In our next post, we’ll discuss the title of our Lord Jesus:  “King of Kings”.

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Daniel 7:27, “The Greatness of the Kingdom”

Then the kingdom and dominion,
And the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven,
Shall be given to the people, to the saints of the Most High.

His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
And all dominions shall serve and obey Him.’   (NKJV)

In chapter 2, Daniel foretold that the God of heaven shall set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, v. 44.  In 7:11, this kingdom is given to One like the Son of Man.  Now, in the interpretation of Daniel’s vision in chapter 7, we discover that the saints will also participate in the kingdom.  In verse 27, several things are said of this kingdom.

1. The splendor of the kingdom, then the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven….

In other words, this kingdom is not going to be some little insignificant thing, some mystical something that nobody can really see or touch, and which has very little, if any, influence on the world around it.  There have been times when “the church” has been influential in its surroundings, though not now.  By “the church,” I don’t mean organizations like Romanism or the various state churches of Europe.  “The church” is not some denominational hierarchy, not some monolithic religious structure, not some political entity enforcing submission to a creed or catechism.  Indeed, it has often been these manmade structures, with their political posturing or social agendas, which have been at the forefront of opposition to the people of God.  “The church” is saved people, living out their lives in seeking to please God, and coming together from time to time to praise and worship the God who has saved them, often in the face of great persecution or ridicule.  When God sets up the kingdom the Bible talks about, such persecution or ridicule will not be possible.

We don’t really have any great kingdoms today, egalitarianism has taken care of that, but there have been such in history.  The splendor of ancient Egypt, the riches of the Ming dynasty in China, the far-flung reaches of the British Empire, all these and many others bear eloquent witness to the greatness that earthly kingdoms can achieve.  All this will be wrapped up in and overshadowed by the greatness of the fifth and final kingdom, which will encompass the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven….(emphasis added).  It seems to me that this cannot refer to anything other than an “earthly” kingdom, in agreement with what Daniel said in his interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream:  the “stone” will grow into a great mountain which will fill the whole earth.

Furthermore, God tells us through Daniel that the rest of the beasts had their dominion taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.  The nations which made up the first four kingdoms still exist in one form or another, but they themselves will one day fall under the sway of the Son of Man and His saints.  As much as some decry the idea of “an earthly, carnal kingdom,” there is coming a kingdom of God which will fill the whole earth.  Peter describes this time as one in which righteousness dwells, or, literally, “is at home,” 2 Peter 3:13.  It certainly isn’t at home in this present evil world.

By the way, the word translated “fill” has the basic meaning, “to be abundant and overflowing”. This kingdom isn’t going to be some “hole in the wall” affair with people hiding in caves and forests, scared to death they’re going to be discovered worshiping God.  No, no.  It will be the answer to that petition in the Lord’s Prayer:  “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” Matthew 6:10, emphasis added.

How is God’s will done “in heaven”?

Joyfully, willingly, completely, openly, only.

There are some today who desire to serve God like that, but they are few and far between in comparison with the earth’s population.  Nevertheless, there is coming a time when the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea, Habakkuk 2:14.  We don’t really think about this, “the waters cover the sea,” but it’s quite a picture.  If we could take the highest point on Earth, Mount Everest, and drop it into the deepest part of the ocean, the Mariana Trench in the western Pacific, there would still be well over a mile of water covering Everest!

And it isn’t just some academic knowledge of God Habakkuk is talking about, reserved for scholars in some dusty hall, it’s the knowledge of the glory of God.  God will be known in His fullness.  He won’t just be shunted off to one side to await our “decision”.  Zechariah 14 gives something of an account of this time.  Though you should read the whole chapter, v. 16 says, And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of the nations who came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.  The earth will be filled with worship and praise of Him, as well as obedience to Him, vs. 17-19.

There’s that word again:  “filled” – to be abundant and overflowing.  That certainly isn’t true today, all the varied means of communication we have today notwithstanding.

2. The saints and the fifth kingdom, this kingdom shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High.

Who are these people, these saints of the Most High?  This subject is hotly debated.  We’ll postpone our own comments until the next post, where we’ll deal with objections to the idea of an “earthly” kingdom, which the Scriptures clearly teach.

3. The certainty of the fifth kingdom, His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom….

Earlier in this chapter, Daniel said, “His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed, v. 14.  There will never be any “ruins” for future archaeologists to sift through and try to figure out.  There will never be a “sixth” kingdom.  This King is eternal.  His kingdom will be eternal.

“Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”

 

Daniel 7:25-28, When The Time Is Right

25] ‘He shall speak pompous words against the Most High,
Shall persecute the saints of the Most High,
And shall intend to change times and law.
Then the saints shall be given into his hand
For a time and times and half a time.

26] ‘But the court shall be seated,
And they shall take away his dominion,
To consume and destroy it forever.
27] Then the kingdom and the dominion,
And the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven,
Shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High.
His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
And all dominions shall serve and obey Him.’

28] “This is the end of the account.  As for me, Daniel, my thoughts greatly troubled me; and my countenance changed; but I kept the matter in my heart.” (NKJV)

In our last post, we looked at several characteristics Daniel gives us of a man called, “the beast.”  We believe this is the same individual called the Antichrist in the New Testament.  Here is the rest of what Daniel says about him.

e. his power, then the saints shall be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time.

This is an astounding statement.  This is how the Antichrist will be able to “prevail” against the saints, but why would God give His people over into the hand of His, and their, enemies?

There are two reasons for this.  The Old Testament gives us abundant evidence of one of them:  Israel’s sin.  This will be part of the reason, as we’ll see shortly.  However, there is another reason.  In Daniel 12:10, the angel says, “Many will be purified, made white, and refined, but the wicked shall do wickedly, and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand.”

In other words, trials and trouble are intended to have a purifying and steadying effect on God’s people.  Peter put it like this in 1 Peter 4:12,

Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.

This also from Peter, in 1 Peter 1:6, 7:

…though now,… if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being more precious than gold, may be found to praise, honor and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

One purpose of trials is to prove the genuineness of faith and to increase it, as we see that God is able in any circumstance to take care of us.  In the US, we don’t know much about the bloodshed other generations, and believers in other parts of the world, have known.  If it comes to us, it will prove who are Christians, and who are just church members….

There is one other thing, of paramount importance.  The saints will be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time (emphasis added).  This statement has caused a lot of discussion.  Though the beast may seem to have unlimited power and might be able to prevail against the saints, yet there is a limit.  His despotism will come to an end.

But what does the phrase “time and times and half a time” mean?  Since Daniel says more about this, we wait til then for further comment.

6. his punishment, But the court shall be seated, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and destroy it forever, v. 26.  Once the terror of this earth, the beast will be stripped of all his power and, in the words of Daniel, his bodydestroyed and given to the burning flame, v. 11.  There is a corresponding reference to this in Revelation:  Then the beast was captured,,,. and [was] cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone, Revelation 19:20.

There’s a lot that could be said about the fact that the body isn’t all there is to a person.  He has (is) soul and spirit, as well.  The body may die, but the soul lives on.  We read of Adam that when God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, he became a living soul.  He was more than just an animated body.  So are we.

The grave is not our final destination.

In the words of Hebrews 9:27, it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgement.  As far as this life is concerned, there is an “after”.

There is a time of judgment coming.

But that’s not all Hebrews 9 says.  Verse 28 says, Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many.

We didn’t quote all of Hebrews 9:27, 28.  What these verses say is, As it is appointed for men once to die, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many.  The underlined words complete the thought.

The death of Christ wasn’t just some happenstance, some measure dreamed up in a “hastily called meeting of the divine council,” as one Bible scholar” put it.  It bore a direct relation to man’s condition:  he is a sinner, and, as such, under a just condemnation.   

But God made Him who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him, 1 Corinthians 5:21.  In other words, Christ took to Himself something that wasn’t His – namely, our sins, in order that He might give to us something that wasn’t ours – namely, the righteousness of God.

This is why the Scripture says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved,” Acts 16:31.

Daniel 7:9-18: Your Throne, O God, Is Forever And Ever

In the first 8 verses of this chapter, Daniel was given a preview of the four world empires which have impacted, or will yet impact, Israel.  This part of his vision reminds us of what he told Nebuchadnezzar in 2:28.  Kingdoms come and go; they may go on a rampage for a while and ravage the earth, but watching over all things on earth, there is a God in heaven.  This is a theme Scripture never tires of.  Further, there is a kingdom coming which shall not pass away, and…which shall not be destroyed, v. 14.  The interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s first dream introduced us to this kingdom, 2:44.  This vision expands on that vision.  In the first part of this vision, there are three scenes:

1. There is a scene of unimaginable solemnity, vs. 9, 10.

From the confused mayhem on earth, we are suddenly transported into the measured order of a courtroom:  “I watched till thrones were put in place, and the Ancient of Days was seated,” v. 9.

This isn’t a throne of fellowship, such as described in Exodus 24:9-11,

Then Moses went up, also Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and they saw the God of Israel.  And there was under His feet a paved work of sapphire stone, and it was like the very heavens in its clarity.  But on the nobles of the children of Israel He did not lay His hand.  So they saw God, and they did eat and drink. 

Israel had not yet rebelled against God and broken the Mosaic Covenant; once that happened, we read of no further such “fellowship.”  In fact, they were shut out from the presence of God and had to come before Him through an intermediary – the tabernacle and the sons of Aaron and the priesthood.

Nor is it the throne of grace, such as is now available to the children of God for them to obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need, Hebrews 4:16.    It isn’t the throne of God’s providence, which Ezekiel saw, Ezekiel 1:26-28, nor of His glory, which Isaiah saw, Isaiah 6:1-3.

It’s a throne of judgment:  the books were opened.

This description reminds us of a similar description in Revelation 20:12, where John records,

“I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened.  And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life.  And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things written in the books,” emphasis added.

In our apostate day, with its unScriptural and humanistic views of the “love” of God, we have forgotten the other side of Paul’s admonition in Romans 11:22, …consider the goodness and severity of God.  People give no thought at all to the fact that they will stand before God and give an account of everything they’ve ever said, done or thought in their lives.  Every bout of drunkenness, every act of immorality or perversion, every tiny lie or twisting of the truth “just a little bit,” every act of greed or injustice.  Every commission, where they’ve done something they shouldn’t; every omission, where they didn’t do something they should have.  Every secret thing.  Every single thing….

Even Christians will give an account to God, 1 Corinthians 3:11-15.  Some seem to have the attitude that, since God has forgiven them because of what Christ did on the Cross, it doesn’t matter what they do.  They can live like the world and do what the world does, and it’s ok.  I was working next to such a group of people one day.  Their conversation was about the filthiest things imaginable.  In the midst of this verbal sewage, somehow the conversation got around to religion and the grace of God, and one of them said, “God loves us unconditionally.”  This is undeniably true, but I don’t think she meant it as the Scripture means it.  There is most certainly nothing in us that can cause God to love us, no “condition” we can meet.  The “reason” He loves us is always found in Him, never in us!  At the same time, when we are taught by the Spirit that we are objects of His love, that knowledge makes us want to please Him, not ourselves.  One of the other workers mentioned her enjoyment of a certain “gospel concert.”  It’s a terribly sad, terribly frightening commentary on the state of modern Christianity that professed Christians can wallow in moral filth in one breath and talk about “the love of God” in the next breath and see no inconsistency.

The froth and frivolity of much of what passes for “church” in our day – the “mega-churches,” the “mega-personalities” – would disappear in an instant if we could but get a vision of that One who sits on an eternal throne, high and lifted up, Isaiah 6:1.

On the other side of the ledger, there will be the revelation of and reward for the good things the saints have done, the sacrifices, the service to God which are often ignored, ridiculed or forbidden in this world.  Peter wrote to some people that believers have a living hope, not in this world, but in the fact that there is an inheritance, incorruptible and undefiled, reserved in heaven….ready to be revealed in the last time, I Peter 1:3-5.  Along this same line, Paul wrote that even the creation itself will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now, Romans 8:21, 22.

Not forever, and, we believe, not much longer, will this world thumb its nose at its Creator God and His Christ, even as Daniel shows us in the next verses.  Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

2. There is a scene of unimpeachable severity, vs. 11, 12.

This is a continuation of the scene of judgment.  The beast, certainly a man of great presence and power, has set himself against heaven, speaking pompous words, about which more will be said in a minute.  For now, all his braggadocio will come a halt, and he himself is slain, and [his] body destroyed and given to the burning flame.  He had been able to conquer some of his fellows, and had spoken great and proud things, but could not stand against the Ancient of Days.

3. There is a scene of indescribable majesty, v. 13, 14.

In my opinion, these verses form one of the most wonderful passages in the Old Testament.

a. The approach of One like the Son of Man, v. 13.

In contrast to the “beasts” of the earlier part of the vision, here we have One who bears the image of humanity.  We have the advantage over Daniel here, because we know that this One is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ.  “Son of Man” was one of His favorite titles, used by Himself of Himself many times during His earthy sojourn.  It’s a phrase which means so much more than just “human.”  It carries with it a hint of the Divine.  And of a truth, the Son of Man is also the Son of God.  He is the God-Man, God manifested in humanity.

b. The ascendancy of One like the Son of Man, v. 14.

Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom.  What the “beasts” fought over and killed for will be freely given to the Lord Jesus in order that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.  Universal dominion is granted Him, something coveted by the “beasts,” but never really attained.  Not only will this kingdom be universal; it will be eternal.  It’ll never disappear nor be taken away, as were the preceding kingdoms described by Daniel.

Daniel 7: Perspective

To this point in Daniel, all the visions and dreams have happened to other people and Daniel has merely interpreted them.  Now he begins to experience them for himself.  These visions, though happening to different people at different times, are all about the same thing: the future, some of which is future even to us.  Daniel gives us detail not found anywhere else in Scripture.

This particular vision came to Daniel in the first year of Belshazzar, v. 1, or within a few years of the beginning of the Medo-Persian empire under Cyrus.

The chapter may be divided into two sections:

1. Vision and interpretation, vs. 1-18.
2. Question and answer, vs. 19-28.

Daniel’s vision and its interpretation, 7:1-18.

This vision seems also to be divided into two sections:

a. an earthly scene, vs. 1-8.
b. a heavenly scene, vs. 9-14.

An earthly scene, vs. 1-8.

Something to pay attention to in this vision is the different way it views the various empires of which it speaks compared to Nebuchadnezzar’s vision.  Nebuchadnezzar’s vision was of a great image, or statue, 2:31, something man could build and be proud of, something which would show off his ingenuity and skill, a statue made of valuable materials.  Daniel himself described it like this:  this great image, whose splendor was excellent,…and its form was awesome.  Even the least significant part, the feet and toes, was made of ceramic clay, a valuable commodity.  This is, if you will, the earthly viewpoint.

Daniel’s vision in chapter 7 shows these same empires as vicious beasts, mongrel beasts, monstrous beasts, good only to destroy and to be destroyed.  This is the heavenly viewpoint.

Strange, isn’t it, the difference between the two viewpoints.  What fallen man, even religious fallen man, praises and glories in, God finds detestable, Luke 16:15.

As we look more closely at this vision, we see:

A. The first three beasts, vs. 2-6.

We lump these three together because of the relative lack of space given to them as compared with the fourth beast.

1. From later prophecies in Daniel, and from history itself, we know this first beast, vs. 2-4, represents the Babylonian Empire.  Lion-like figures with wings and human heads abound in the ruins of this empire.  The latter description of this first beast perhaps refers to the humiliation of Nebuchadnezzar and his restoration, with a consequent lessening of the brutality of the empire.  Cf. the phrase, a man’s heart was given it, v. 4, with the corresponding verses in 4:13-16, where a watcher, a holy one, …from heaven cried aloud concerning Nebuchadnezzar, “Let his heart be changed from that of a man.  Let him be given the heart of a beast.”
Perhaps a key word for this beast is “demeanor,” as Nebuchadnezzar learned the cost and futility of human pride of accomplishment.  This lesson was lost on those who followed him, either in his own family, i.e., Belshazzar, or in the empires which followed.

2. The second beast, v. 5, is Medo-Persia.  The raised side refers to Persia, which was the stronger of the two kingdoms.  The three ribs refer to the three kingdoms this empire destroyed:  Babylon, Lydia and Egypt.  Lydia was a kingdom in approximately the area we know today as Turkey, the area of the seven churches in the Revelation.  Perhaps a key word for this kingdom is “destruction”:  “arise, devour much flesh.”  This kingdom was noted for its rapacity and cruelty.

3. The third beast, v. 6, is Greece.  The beast itself, a leopard, is described as having four wings, which symbolize the rapidity with which Alexander, though not named, conquered the Persian Empire.  The four heads refer to the four generals who served with him and who divided his kingdom after his early death at 33.  The key word for this kingdom is “dominion,” which even the text uses of it.  However, Grecian influence went far beyond the mere conquest of lands and kingdoms.  Alexander’s great desire was to spread Greek culture, including the language, throughout his domain.  So successful was he in this that Greek became the universal language of the day, even down to New Testament times.  Wherever the Gospel went, it could be understood.  The New Testament was written in ordinary, everyday Greek, and even the Old Testament was translated into Greek.  Sometimes that translation is quoted in New Testament uses of Old Testament verses.

A century and a half before the birth of our Lord, it was a ruler of the Seleucid segment of Alexander’s empire, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who did his best to destroy the Jews.  His efforts are prophesied in Daniel.

Finally, Greek customs prevailed even among many Jews.  This led to a culture war, if you will, between those who wanted to remain faithful to their own heritage, customs and language (the “Hebrews”), and those who saw nothing wrong with adapting and conforming to the Greek culture, even to speaking the language (the “Hellenists,” from the Greek word for “Greek”).  The first church dispute, recorded in Acts 6, reflects this dissension:  …there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution, Acts 6:1.  Vs. 1-6 show how wisely that dispute was resolved.  Note the Grecian names of the seven chosen to take care of the problem.

B. The fourth beast, vs. 7, 8.

Again we note that the most space is given to this beast, whose key word is “different.”  Exactly how it is different is not described:  perhaps there are no earthly beasts to which it can be compared.  One difference is that this beast is nowhere identified as to which kingdom it represents.  It is simply a fourth beast, vs. 7, 19, and a fourth kingdom, v. 23.  It is usually identified as Rome, which did indeed defeat Greece and then spread throughout their known world.  This identification in historically tenable, yet it seems this fourth beast of Daniel isn’t quite analogous to Rome.  The Spirit’s own interpretation follows later in the chapter.

There are a couple of things said about this beast:

1. its destructiveness, v. 7.  The description is of an unstoppable “mad dog” sort of beast, tearing and destroying everything in its path.

2. its distinctiveness, vs. 7b, 8.  Again, we’re not told how it is different.  The only description Daniel gives us besides its dreadful teeth and paws is the fact that it had ten horns.  As we’ll see, this is perhaps the most vital part of the vision.  Another horn appears and defeats three of the ten horns.  This “horn” possesses eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words.  These speak of intelligence and an insolent attitude, although toward what we’re not yet told, as Daniel’s attention is drawn elsewhere. What he saw, Lord willing, will be in our next post.

Framework For The Future

Studies in the Prophecies of Daniel
(with comments on prophecy in general)

Introduction

General introduction.

In the study of the Bible, I think that sometimes there is a dichotomy perceived between the Old and New Testaments.  On the one hand, there is the Reformed view that all the Old Testament prophecies have been fulfilled.  For example, in its study notes of Matthew, the Reformed Study Bible says this about Matthew’s use of several OT prophecies:  “His citations are not presented as isolated predictions and fulfillments, but as proof of the fulfillment of all the expectations of the Old Testament,” emphasis added, p. 1360.  If this is true, and we don’t agree that it is, then it seems to me that there is really very little, if anything, to be gained by studying Daniel or other prophets.

On the other hand, there is the Dispensationalist view that the Old Testament belongs to an earlier time, and so has little to say to us today.  This is especially true of the differences between law and grace.  A study of these differences is outside the scope of these studies; let me simply say that while the Bible is crystal clear that we are saved by grace through faith in the finished work of Christ on the Cross, it is also crystal clear that “grace” in no way lessens the authority of God’s Word or our responsibility to obey what it says to us.

Dispensationalism at it’s very simplest teaches that there is a difference in God’s redemptive purpose between the nation of Israel and the church.  The Reformed view is that the NT church is the continuation, spiritually speaking, of Israel.  They speak of “spiritual Israel,” and treat the the prophetic portions of the OT as if they speak to us.  According to this view, God is done with Israel and she as a nation has no further part in God’s purpose.

At least the dispensationalist studies the prophecies of the OT.  There is, however, at the same time an unfortunate tendency to set dates for the return of our Lord.  According to one such earlier writer, we should now be about 50 years into the Millennium.  At the same time, I suppose that’s balanced out by the Reformed teaching that we’ve been in the Millennium since the Book of Acts,  though I do wonder where it finds a single national government that acts like it’s being obedient to “King Jesus”.  That can’t even be said of a lot of churches.

After a lifetime of reading and studying the Scriptures, I simply cannot accept the idea that every prophecy in Daniel, or the rest of the Old Testament, has been fulfilled.  To say that they have been is a very broad statement, to say the least, and makes it very difficult to read the Old Testament prophecies with any clarity.  And it seems to me that it also makes understanding the prophetic portions of the NT, if not a good deal of the rest of it, almost impossible.

Background of the Book.

There are really only two areas of concern about the Book of Daniel:  who wrote it and when?  Whether or not it is truly prophetic is wrapped up in the answer to these questions.  We’re not going to deal at length with these answers, but simply state what we believe to be the truth about them.

1. Author.

The Lord Himself referred to “Daniel the prophet,” Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:14.  The phrase He quoted, “the abomination of desolation,” is found in Daniel 11:31 and 12:11.

2. Date.

The incredible detail given in chapter 11 has caused unbelieving scholars to assert that it must have been written after the events described and not before, during the times of the Maccabees around 165 B.C.  These sinners against their own souls, to say nothing of those who follow them, simply cannot accept that there is anything supernatural in the writing of the book, a view they hold about all Scripture, not just Daniel.  Conservative scholars believe Daniel to have been written before the events, some time in the sixth century B.C.

Revelation 4, There Is A God In Heaven

Revelation 4:1-11, After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven.  And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.”
Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne.  And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne in appearance like an emerald.  Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads.  And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices.  Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.
Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal.  And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back.  The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle.  The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within.  And they do not rest day or night, saying:

“Holy, holy, holy,
Lord God Almighty,
Who was and is and is to come!”

Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

“You are worthy, O Lord,
To receive glory and honor and power;
For You created all things,
And by Your will they exist and were created.” (NKJV)

John has given us a view of seven churches of his time.  Perhaps, perhaps not, they also foreshadow the history of the church in general.  Regardless, in the ebb and flow of church or national history, the rise and fall of cities, nations, kingdoms, or empires, he now points us to one throne that is eternal.  We look back on far more history than Daniel did, and see the rise and fall of many nations, kingdoms and empires yet future to his time, yet he, too, saw the rise and fall of nations under Nebuchadnezzar, and he points out the one central fact of existence.  In the words of Daniel 2:28, “There is a God in heaven.”  And, further, Daniel 5:26, “His kingdom is the one which shall not be destroyed.”

As we get into the chapter, note what the “voice” said to John, “I will show you things which must take place after this,” v. 1.  “Things,” not “principles,” not “processes.”  Not even just “generalities.”  Things.  Events.  True, there is a lot of discussion about this, but it’s my view that Revelation is the disclosure of history before it happens.  Actual, verifiable history.  Events future to our time which people will be able to point to in the book and say, “See.  This is what is happening.”  We’ll get into this later, Lord willing.

The first thing John saw was a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne, v. 2.

This is where every worldview, every way of thinking about life, without exception, begins.  What do you think of this One who sits on the throne?  Even those who flatly reject Him, or don’t know of Him at all, or worship other gods, live their lives in view of an answer to this question, though they may never actually come into contact with the question.

There are several such incidents in Scripture, beginning with Genesis where Adam and Eve enjoy fellowship with God in the cool of the day, though this soon came to an end when they concluded they could decide for themselves what was “good” and what was “evil”.  In Exodus 24:9,10, after the giving of the Law and Israel’s agreeing to keep it, though they had no idea what they were getting into, we read that Moses, Aaron and his two sons, Nadab and Abihu, along with seventy elders of the people, climbed Mt. Sinai and they saw the God of Israel.  This, too, never happened again because Israel very quickly broke her promise.

There are other such incidents, but perhaps my favorite is found in Ezekiel 1:25-30, where Ezekiel describes his vision of the likeness of a throne and goes on to describe a little of what he saw, ending with this:  like the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud in a rainy day, so was the appearance of the brightness all around it.  This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.

“Like the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud in a rainy day.”

Have you ever seen a rainbow?

Really seen one?

I used to drive for a living and one of my vehicles was a well-used 1982 Dodge van.  One day, it rained.  As the storm passed and the sun began to break through the clouds, there was a rainbow.  Not like the ones you see on the horizon, this one looked like it came out the hood of that old beater.  It was right there, two feet in front of me.  I can’t even begin to describe it.  It was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.

That’s how Ezekiel saw the glory of God.

That’s how John saw the glory of God, with a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald.  This is different from the 7-color rainbows we see.  It had just one color, a glorious color “like an emerald.”

As I look out the window, I see the drabness of winter, with just a leaf or two here and there clinging to a branch, defying the pull of gravity.  Soon, though, we’ll begin to see green, just a tinge at first, but it tells us that spring is coming, that life will triumph.

Perhaps John is telling us that here he is seeing life at its most triumphant, in the presence and glory of God.

But he sees something else, as well.  Leaving aside much of the description of what John saw, and the description of the “living creatures,” John tells us of “twenty-four elders” who sit on thrones around the central throne.

Who are these “elders”?  There’s a lot of discussion about this.  My own view is that they represent the redeemed of Israel and the church.  I believe this is borne out by the description of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21, which has twelve gates, named after the tribes of Israel, and twelve foundations, named after the twelve apostles.  This tells me that, no matter how they may be united in the future, Israel and the church will never lose their distinct and separate identities.

What are these elders doing?  Vs, 10, 11 tell us:

…the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,  

“You are worthy, O Lord,
To receive glory and honor and power;
For You created all things,
And by Your will they exist and were created.”

This is probably as good a place to end this year as chapter 5 is to start the new year.  It takes us back to the beginning and tells us that we’re not here just as the result of some mindless, random, meaningless cosmic explosion.  Strange, isn’t it, that “science” is willing to believe that that’s how it all started, in spite of the fact that no one has ever been able to create anything by blowing nothing up and making something out of it.  They do tell us that there was this tiny amount of matter, and that’s what blew up, but they never really deal with where that came from.  They never really deal with “origins.”   It seems to me that it takes a great deal more “faith,” though of a different kind, to believe as they do than it does to believe –

In the beginning God created…. 

So, as we ring out the old year in a few days and bring in the new, let this be the confidence in which we rest, the hope that we cling to.  Regardless of what the new year brings, let this be our firm foundation:

There is a God in heaven.