“King of kings and Lord of lords”

King of kings, and Lord of lords,
|:King of kings, and Lord of lords,:|
And Lord of lords,
And He shall reign,
And He shall reign forever and ever,
Kings of kings, forever and ever,
And Lord of lords,
Hallelujah!  Hallelujah!

This is an excerpt from Handel’s “Messiah”, arguably one of the most well-known works in the world, at least the western world.  Handel was familiar with the Scripture and put to music what it says in verses like the ones below.

1. 1 Timothy 6:15, where this title is connected with His appearing, which He will manifest in His own time, He Who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords (emphasis added).  Cf. His own time with His statement in Luke 17:22 about the days of the Son of Man.  We believe the appearing of our Lord will end the attempt by the antiChrist to subvert this world and will usher in a time of peace and righteousness this world has never known.

2. Revelation 17:12, 14, where the title is connected with the appearance of ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast….  These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings….
In the words of Daniel 2, the stone will smite the image on its ten toes and destroy them and it.

3. Revelation 19:11-16, where the title is connected with heaven opened, followed by a description of Him and His activities, Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations.  And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron….  And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written:  KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

So, you see, this title is associated with His return to this earth to rule them (“the nations”) with a rod of iron (emphasis added).  As it too often happens now, “the nations” strike Him, through His people,”with a rod of iron.”  When He returns, this will not happen!

The word translated “rule” is very interesting.  It isn’t the usual word associated with the reigning, the “rule”, of a king.  The word John used means “to shepherd,” and is a form of the word translated “shepherd” in John 10, the “Good Shepherd” chapter.  What John actually wrote is, He will shepherd the nations with a rod of iron (emphasis added).  How this fits in with the Reformed idea that Jesus will return to this earth, there will be the final judgment, and then the eternal state begins, and all this on the very same day He returns, is unclear.  Perhaps that’s because the idea is unScriptural.  Why would “a rod of iron” be necessary is all that’s left for Christ to “rule” is saved people – in eternity?  And what does Scripture mean which says that Christ will rule in the midst of His enemies, Psalm 110:2?  What kind of a king would he be who “rules” in the midst of his enemies, and they don’t know it or ignore or reject him?   How is that to rule?  Especially if those enemies have been made his footstool?  And how does a “rod of iron” fit into the idea that Christ’s kingdom is only His spiritual rule in the hearts of His people?  Revelation 20:11 isn’t the only verse which talks about Christ’s reign on this earth.  Both Revelation 19 and 20 talk about it, to say nothing of the many Old Testament verses which foretell a worldwide time of peace and righteousness, something which can’t honestly be said to be fulfilled in “the church,” though many try, or to be simply pushed ahead into “the eternal state.”  There is a great deal more to Christ’s kingdom than many are willing to admit.

Where is there, right now, on this earth, a single kingdom or government which bows to the Lord Jesus as “King of kings and Lord of lords” and seeks to govern by His Word?

 

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“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”.

“Your Kingdom Come” – Reflections on the Fifth Kingdom

There have indeed been many more than five kingdoms on this earth, however, Daniel is only concerned with those kingdoms which directly impact his own people, the nation of Israel, beginning with his own time.  The “fifth kingdom” is the kingdom that the God of heaven will set up.  We live in a time of much confusion about this subject.  Many people believe that “the church” is the kingdom.  Is that what the Scripture teaches?  Others throw up their hands in confusion and say that the subject is too complicated, confusing and divisive and there are just too many contradictory viewpoints.  However, we hope our comments on the subject will be helpful.  We’ll frame these comments as answers to questions or other comments on the subject.

It might be argued that this post has nothing to do with the exposition of Daniel.  Perhaps that is true, however, we believe it is essential to the understanding of Daniel.  We cannot isolate the book from the rest of Scripture or from our own understanding of what it teaches.  Books and movies sensationalize ideas about the future, many of which have little if anything to do with a Biblical view of the future.  What does the Scripture say?

Before we go any further, the main point of controversy about “the kingdom” centers around whether or not there will be an earthly kingdom, i.e., a “millennium,” during which the Lord Jesus will sit on an actual throne in the city of Jerusalem for 1000 years before the destruction of this present world and the introduction of new heavens and a new earth.  It’s this thought of the presence of an “earthly kingdom” that this post addresses, and not so much its length, which is clearly shown in Revelation 20.  The 1000 years is simply the introductory phase, if you will, of Christ’s eternal kingdom.

Because “the kingdom” is such an important subject in Scripture, we will have several posts on different aspects of it.

Didn’t the Lord say that His kingdom is not of this world, John 18:36?

I don’t know how many times I’ve read or heard this verse used at proof that Christ’s kingdom is not “earthly,” which seems to be the worst thing that can be said about it.  Now there was a time when the Jews tried to take Him by force and make Him king, but that was simply because He fed them, John 6:15. It does appear that they did have some understanding that He was the “Prophet which is to come into the world,” Deuteronomy 18:15, cf. Acts 3:22, but they didn’t understand the spiritual realities He taught later in John 6, at which time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more, v. 66.  His kingdom is indeed “not of this world” in that it won’t be established according to the selfish desires or mistaken ideas of fallen man.  It also ignores the fact that it wasn’t time for the setting up of the kingdom.  In Luke 17:25, Jesus himself taught that there was something that had to happen first: “But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.”

This “rejection” isn’t simply the fact that they gave Him over to be crucified; they also rejected the message of His resurrection, which was the “sign” He Himself gave them to show that He was who He said He was, John 2:18-22.  Before the kingdom could be “set up,” He had to “suffer….”  Though many deny any such restoration or kingdom at all, referring it to a generic “people of God,” or to “the Church,” an entity unknown in the Old Testament, the kingdom is not going to be set up over a renegade Israel, as Israel was then and still is; it will be set up over a ransomed, redeemed and restored Israel, cf. Isaiah 1:24-27; 4:4, as well as many others.

Does John 18:36 really only mean, as many claim, that our Lord was teaching that His kingdom was “spiritual” and not “earthly”?  This is the entire verse:

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world.  If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”

A simple reading of this verse shows that the Lord was not talking about the sphere or location of His kingdom, but of its source.  In the same verse, He said, “My kingdom is not from here, emphasis added.  It isn’t going to be established by the usual conquests and stratagems of earthly kingdoms, like Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece or Rome, just to name the ones Daniel knew.  It isn’t going to be set up, as one has suggested the disciples believed it would be, by the Lord sending out troops here and there to fight against and overthrow the Romans.  It isn’t going to have the same philosophy of rule or conduct as most earthly kingdoms, which pay no attention at all to, or at best give merely formal acknowledgement of, the things of God.

Furthermore, if the Lord meant what the Reformed people claim He did, then what do they make of His statements that He Himself is not of this world, John 17:4?  Unless you’re going to be like one of those who deny that Jesus ever really existed or that He had an actual physical body, you have to admit that He lived “in the world” for about 33 years.  He ate, slept, walked, talked, ministered, got tired, got hungry and finally died, in this world.  He did everything everyone else in the world did, except get married or sin.  He was even born into this world.  It was His conception – the source, the origin of His humanity – that was unlike any other conception, including that of His mother.  Though indeed “born of woman,” the Son of God came into the world through the agency of the Holy Spirit, who conceived for Him in the womb of a young Jewish virgin named Mary, Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:26-38.  After this conception, however, He developed in the womb, and was born, like any other human being in this world.  Furthermore, His physical body was identical to every other human body, except for the capacity to sin.  “Sin” is not a essential or necessary element of being “human”.  Adam and Eve were fully human before their tragic fall in the Garden of Eden.  Simply stated, though living “in the world” as to location, He was not of the world as regards the origin of His human existence.

In addition, He made the same statement about His disciples, John 17:14, where He said that they, too, “are not of this world, just as I am not of this world.”  Yet they were most certainly born into this world and lived for many years after Jesus left it.  Clearly, to be “not of this world” has nothing to do with function, but everything to do with origin.

Likewise, His kingdom will not originate from, nor according to, this world.  Indeed, when He returns, so far from rejoicing at His coming, Matthew 24:30 says, then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power.  This “mourning” will not be in repentance, as some have suggested, but in sorrow that their time is up, and they will no longer be able to live fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, Ephesians 2:3.  The inspired record tells us that all the tribes of the earth will see Him, not just what He does, as those who believe that the events listed in Matthew 24, 25 all happened at or before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD tell us.

The word translated “power” in Matthew 24:30 is the word we get the English words “dynamo,” “dynamite,” “dynamic.”  Loosely translated, it means power to get the job done.  Jesus will not come back as some nominal or ineffectual figurehead, a King in a realm nobody can see and to whom nobody pays any attention.  His “rule” will in no way be “invisible”!!  He will demonstrate the “exousia,” the jurisdiction, that He’s had all along, but which has generally been ignored or rejected.  However, there is coming a time when it will be impossible to deny that Jesus is indeed King of kings and Lord of lords.

There is a second question which goes along with this one:  Isn’t Jesus reigning right now at the right hand of the Father?  We’ll look at this question, Lord willing, in our next post.

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: 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.

Daniel 2: Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream: Laying the Foundation.

When one builds a building, the first thing he does is prepare some sort of foundation.  Even if it’s just a shed out in the garden, there must be some sort of anchor for the building.  If he’s building a skyscraper, the foundation must go down to bedrock, perhaps dozens of feet, to provide a secure basis for the building.

This vision of Nebuchadnezzar’s is the foundation upon which the rest are built.  And except for his vision of the tree, all the prophecies in the book come together to form a fairly comprehensive picture of the future of God’s people, that is, the nation of Israel, cf. Daniel 9:24.

The occasion of the dream, 2:1, 28, 29.

In 2:29, Daniel told the king, As for you, O King, thoughts came to your mind while on your bed about what will come to pass after this.  Evidently, Nebuchadnezzar had gone to bed one night and began to think about all he had done, the magnificence of his capitol, and the success he had had politically and militarily.  But he knew he wouldn’t live forever, and so perhaps he began to muse and wonder what would happen after he had died.  What would become of all his accomplishments?  In that frame of mind, he drifted off to sleep, and a dream so disturbing that he awoke with a start, and couldn’t go back to sleep.

The purpose of the dream, 2:28, 29, 45.

God wasn’t using this dream merely to satisfy Nebuchadnezzar’s curiosity.  It is true that Daniel told him that “the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this,” but then  he said, “The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure.”  This wasn’t simply to assure the king that the dream as given was correct, but rather to assure him, and us, that what is revealed will happen.

Furthermore, Daniel started his interpretation in v. 28 by saying, “There is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days, emphasis added.  This isn’t the first time we’ve encountered this phrase, about which there is much discussion, and it won’t be the last.

The parts of the dream, 2:31-35.

In this dream, we see the development, deterioration, disintegration, displacement and final destruction of certain world powers, in a description of what our Lord would later call, “The times of the Gentiles,” Luke 21:24.

1. The description of a great image, or statue, vs. 31-33.

This is a straightforward description of a man’s form from head to toe.  It was a statue composed of several materials, from a gold head through silver, brass and iron down to a mixture of iron and clay in its feet.

2. The destruction of the great image, vs. 34, 35a.

There are three elements to this destruction.  A stone cut without hands, that is, of no human origin or effort, struck the image on its feet, with the result that the image collapsed into pieces.  Then the stone crushed the broken image into dust, which the wind carried away till there was no trace of them.

3. The displacement of the great image, v. 35b.

After the destruction and disappearance of the image, the stone…became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.

The interpretation of the dream, 2:36-45.

Except for a couple of things, we’re going to leave out the perplexity of Nebuchadnezzar over his dream, and the resultant furor he caused among the court magicians.  There is some discussion over whether or not Nebuchadnezzar had forgotten the dream, but it doesn’t matter.  If he had forgotten it, he would recognize it when described by the magicians, and if he remembered it, he would know whether or not they were indeed able to describe it, and, therefore, as he thought, to interpret it.  We tend to believe that he remembered it, and this was simply a test.

Another thing of note is Daniel’s response to the decree to kill all the wise men.  He and his three friends prayed.  This is another example of his habitual prayer.

Finally, something the wise men said is interesting:  “There is [no one] who can tell the king’s matter,…except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh,”  vs. 10, 11.

It was this very point Daniel emphasized in his response to Nebuchadnezzar:  “but there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets,…and He who reveals secrets has made known to you what will be….  The great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this,” vs. 28, 29, 45.

God is never afraid to meet sinful men on their own ground.  In referring to God’s defeat of Egypt before Israel’s deliverance, Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, said, “Now I know that the LORD is greater than all gods, for in the very thing in which they behaved proudly, He was above them, Exodus 18:11, emphasis added.  In 1 Corinthians 3:19, 20, quoting Job 5:13 and Psalm 94:11, Paul wrote, The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.  For it is written, “He catches the wise in their own craftiness,” and again, “The LORD knows the thoughts of men, that they are futile,” emphasis added.

Here, then, is Daniel’s interpretation of the dream.

1. you are the head of gold, vs. 37, 38.

This dream was Nebuchadnezzar’s.  It had likely come while he was wondering what would become of his kingdom after he died.  It was fitting that the interpretation begin with him:  he is the head of gold, v. 38.

Daniel, however, emphasizes something generally ignored or overlooked by men.  He says, “the God of heaven has given you a kingdom….  He has given them [‘the children of men, birds and beasts’] into your hand, and has made you ruler over them all,” vs. 37, 38.  Certainly and truly, Nebuchadnezzar had conquered most of his world, but it was through that conquest, and not independently of it, that God had put him where he was.

Nebuchadnezzar was on the throne because God wanted him there, Daniel 2:21!  The present occupant of the White House, or the Kremlin, or 10 Downing Street, or leaders in the Middle East or Africa or South America – all are there because God has put them there, not independently of what they have done, but by means of what they have done.  It may seem chaotic to us, but everything moves in perfect accord with God’s purpose, Daniel 4:34; Ephesians 1:11.  It’s hard to understand sometimes, but Scripture says it is so.

2. after you shall arise another kingdom, inferior to yours, v. 39.

As silver is inferior to gold, this second kingdom would be inferior to Babylon.  Nebuchadnezzar could do anything he wanted, but Darius, for example, was bound by the law of the Medes and Persians, which does not alter, 6:8, 12, 15.  The phrase, “does not alter” is, literally, “does not pass away,” which shows how foolish sinful men are.  There is only one King whose Word is settled forever, Psalm 119:89; Isaiah 40:8.  At this time, nothing more is said of this kingdom.

3. a third kingdom of  bronze, which shall rule over all the earth, vs. 39.

Again, nothing more is said of this kingdom.  Note, however, that the various kingdoms decrease in “value” even as they increase in strength:  gold, silver, bronze, iron.

4. the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron, (yet flimsy), vs. 40-43.

It will break in pieces all the other kingdoms.  The first three kingdoms are plainly identified in later visions of Daniel.  Though the identity of this fourth kingdom may be known from history as Rome, it is never mentioned by name, either here or in subsequent visions.  In the wisdom and providence of God, there is a reason for this omission, which perhaps we’ll see shortly.

God does say more about this fourth kingdom than He does the other three together.  Not mentioning the legs of the image, though their presence is implicit, Daniel calls attention to the toes, toes and feet which are a strange mixture of iron and clay.  He gives a two-fold interpretation of this conglomeration:

a. It will have great strength, v. 41, the strength of iron will be in it.  That kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others, v. 40.

b. It will have great weakness, v. 42, the kingdom will be partly strong and partly fragile [brittle].  They will mingle with the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay, v. 43.

5. In the face of human effort and failing, God Himself will set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever, v. 44.  This is the stone that struck the image [and] became a great mountain and filled the whole earth that Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream, v. 35.

But when will He do this?  Or has it already been done?  What does Daniel say?

a. When will God do this?  In the days of these kings, v. 44.

The question then becomes, “Which kings?”  The Reformation Study Bible (RSB) has this note on v. 44:  “The most natural interpretation is that the kings are the rulers of the four powers making up the image just described.  The other possibility is that they are a sequence of several rulers of the fourth kingdom,” (p. 1216).  Just in passing,  I  consider this version representative of current Reformed thought.  As such, I refer to it several times.

Let’s look at this note more closely.  Is there any evidence that God “set up a kingdom” during the Babylonian Empire?  The Persian Empire?  In Greece?  In Rome?  Especially a kingdom that destroys all the rest?  There is one possibility – in Rome, or, more accurately, during the preeminence of Rome.  It was during this time that the Lord Jesus came into the world and was crucified – by a representative of Rome.  In addition, on the same page, the RSB says, “This kingdom was inaugurated and preached at the First Coming of Christ (Mark 1:15; Matt. 12:28; 24:14).” According to this view, then, the kingdom was actually set up some time during the time represented by the middle of the image.  Since there is more said about Christ and His kingdom in Daniel, we’ll leave further remarks about this viewpoint until then.

Actually, we believe there is another possibility, from the text itself.  Here is where we have difficulty with Reformed interpretation of prophecy.  Because, according to them, prophecy doesn’t mean what it seems to say (that is, it’s not to be taken “literally”), close attention apparently doesn’t need to be paid to what it actually says.  The vision clearly shows that the image will be struck on its feet, v. 34.  It seems to me, then, that these kings refers to kings symbolized by the ten toes.  Then, what about them being “a sequence of several rulers of the fourth kingdom”?  I believe John has a reference to these kings in his Revelation: “the ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast,” Revelation 17:12, 16.  See also Revelation 12:3.  These kings are not sequential; they rule simultaneously.  We grant that John isn’t commenting on Daniel, but he and Daniel saw much of the same future.  Granted, some of what Daniel saw as future was history for John.  Further, these kings are later referred to as “horns” by Daniel himself, Daniel 7:24.

“Feet” would be foundational to any statue; destroy them and you destroy the statue.  However, this isn’t Daniel’s thought.  These kings aren’t “foundational” to the statue or to the governments it represents.  They are the final form of those governments, and it’s during their tenure that the God of heaven will set up a kingdom.

b. Who will do this?  The God of heaven, v. 44.

We do agree with the Reformed view that this kingdom will not come through political maneuvering or military power, as have other kingdoms.  There will be no vote to “approve” it.  We are not going to “bring in the kingdom.”  In fact, if I understand Scripture correctly, this kingdom will be the last thing humanity wants.

The question becomes, what kind of kingdom will God set up?  Ad we’ve already seen, He’s already in absolute charge of all that goes on, as Nebuchadnezzar found out the hard way in chapter 4.  So what kind of a kingdom can God set up that He doesn’t already have?  Perhaps we can find the answer as we go along.  Furthermore, since there is no place where God isn’t already in control, another question might be, where will He set it up?  And when will He set it up?  There’s a great deal of discussion about these questions.

c. What will it be like?  It shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms.

Let’s think about this for a minute.  According to Daniel, God’s kingdom will destroy all these kingdoms.  Yet, as we look at history, Babylon wasn’t destroyed by God, at least not directly, but by the Medes and Persians.  The Persians were conquered by Greece, who in turn was defeated by Rome.  Rome as a political entity was finally destroyed by Germanic tribes invading from the North in 476 AD.  Pagan Rome was succeeded, if we can put it like that, by Papal Rome, “The Holy Roman Empire,” a political entity over which the Pope had control.  (It’s interesting that Papal Rome still uses the language – Latin – of Pagan Rome.)  Eventually, it split into east and west (hence, perhaps, the two legs of the image).  In 1870, the Pope’s power was limited to the Vatican, though the Roman church is still very powerful.  If we understand correctly, Papal Rome will continue until a confederation of ten kings under the rule of “the beast” destroys her, Revelation 17:16.

d. it’s endurance, v. 44.

1. It shall never be destroyed, as were all the kingdoms of the image.
2. It shall not be left to other people, that is, it won’t be given to or taken away by someone else, as kingdoms often are today.

e. It’s extent, It (as represented by the stone) became a great mountain and filled the whole earth, v. 35.

Not just some local kingdom, nor even an extensive empire, but a world-wide sovereignty over every part of this planet.  There is much discussion about this, which we’ll enter into shortly.  Not just a statue, but an awe-inspiring mountain, or perhaps a mountain range, which will make the Rockies or the Apennines look like foothills!  Everest will hang its head in shame at the splendor of this mountain!  Perhaps that seems a little too much, but God’s kingdom will certainly be far beyond anything this world has ever experienced.
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It’s common for expositors to go ahead and tell us that the second kingdom is Medo-Persia, the third is Greece and so forth.  We’ve identified them like that ourselves.  However, the Holy Spirit didn’t see fit to have Daniel tell us, or rather, for Daniel himself to learn the names of these kingdoms until chapter 10.  Perhaps the Spirit wants us to focus on this vision and what it says.  We’ve already noted that the rise and fall of kingdoms, though perhaps accompanied by much confusion at the time, are all in tune with what God has told us beforehand.  Nothing catches Him by surprise.  He never has to say, “Oops!”  He has no “Plan B”.  He doesn’t need one.  ( As I’ve written elsewhere, I don’t know about you, but if God had to revise His plan every time I mess something up, He’d be way beyond Plan B!)  We grant this is contrary to much preaching today.  Nevertheless, “there is a God in heaven,” and there are a couple of things to emphasize from this vision.  First, God’s kingdom will supersede and destroy all human kingdoms.  Second, it will fill the whole earth.  These thoughts will be expanded in later visions.

Though we’ve mentioned it before and will have more to say as we go along, it’s again noteworthy that Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was not interpreted as “principles” or “ongoing processes,” but as events, that is, things which would actually happen and which could be and, in many cases have been, individually and historically verifiable.  In fact, as we’ve already noted, there is so much detail given with such accuracy that unbelieving scholars deny that it is prophecy at all, but was written well after the fact by someone using Daniel’s name

Acts 14:19, 20: Left For Dead

19] Then Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there; and having persuaded the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead.  20] However, when the disciples gathered around him, he rose up and went into the city.  And the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.

Perhaps this is the time Paul experienced what he recorded in 2 Corinthians 12:2-4:

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago – whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows – such a one was caught up to the third heaven.  And I know such a man – whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows – how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.

From time to time, someone comes along who claims to have died and gone to heaven, only to return to this life and tell us all about it.  Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t, “God knows,” but Paul says some things about his experience that we ought to compare these other experiences by.  First, what he heard was “inexpressible.”  Second, it’s “not lawful for a man to utter.”  Third, lest he be puffed up with pride over this experience, he was given a “thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet” me, “lest I be exalted above measure,” v. 7.

If we were actually caught up to heaven in this body, I’m not sure we’d be able to describe that experience.  There is nothing in this life to compare it with.  That’s one reason the Book of Revelation is so difficult to understand.  We’ve very little, if anything, to compare it with.  “Streets of gold,” “gates of pearl.”  John describes these things that he actually saw, but maybe these visions, while describing things that are real, are also the Spirit’s way of telling us that God measures wealth by a far different standard than we do.

That’s not the interesting thing to me, though, about these verses.  Verse 19 tells us those multitudes who once wanted to worship Paul as a god, now wanted to kill him.  Ah, the fickleness of human nature.  Popularity may come and go, and usually does, but Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.   “I am the LORD God, I change not,” Hebrews 13:8; Malachi 3:6.

There’s only one sure and certain thing in this world, and that is the faithfulness of God.  Even in those relationships of life which are the closest to us and the most meaningful – spouse, parent, sibling – there are likely to be disappointments.  Even on those occasions where we blame God for “disappointing” us, the fault is with us, not with Him.  We have too much of Adam in us, wanting to do things our way, but His way is the good way.

The other thing that interests me about vs. 19, 20 is Paul’s “reaction” to being killed – as the townspeople thought.  His body was dumped outside the city.  However, that’s not the end of the story.  V. 20 continues, However…  As the disciples gathered around his body, he stirred, rose up and went into the city.  And the next day, he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.

“The next day”…!

A few cultures still practice stoning, but such a thing is far removed from us here in the West.  Indeed, we bend over backwards to protect the “rights” of the condemned.  Not so in this case.  Surely, Paul had severe cuts and bruises, perhaps some broken bones.  These “stones” were not little pebbles.  And I’ve read that as a final stroke a large rock was used to crush the skull and finish the job.  That may or may not have been the case with Paul, but whatever happened, his condition would not have been good.  No doubt, his injuries were treated as best they could by the disciples, but still….

The next day.

The next day, Paul was “back on the job,” so to speak.  Nothing short of actual death could prevent him from serving His God.

Isn’t this a lesson for us?