We are about to celebrate our independence as a nation as we do each July 4th. We ought all to be very much aware of the way in which history affects our lives. In chapter 2 Daniel saw the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar' s dream as a series of four earthly kingdoms successively replacing one another until they were all wiped out by the kingdom of God. Here in chapter 7 he sees those kingdoms again in his own dream in greater detail bringing us up to the climactic end of earthly history and the last judgment. In this chapter the emphasis is more on how these kingdoms affect God's people verse 18, But the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever—yes, for ever and ever.’ It is most fitting then that during this vision Daniel is given a glimpse behind the scenes. In the ongoing drama of history, in the successive chaotic scenes of conquest and persecution, there is a calm and orderly oasis of God's throne over all and a solemn vision of the judge of all. It is a message Daniel needed very much and so do we. History moves under the guidance of the Almighty to an inexorable accounting. The message is that ultimate power is in God. We need not fear these changing scenes of turmoil and upheaval. Here is the ancient of days and His government is authoritative, active, and apocalyptic.
I Authoritative Government
Our view is what Daniel sees and he sees the heaven of heavens and the thrones of government and at the center is the Judge in verses 9 and 10, “As I looked, “thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze. A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him. Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was seated, and the books were opened. Everything revolves around His qualifications. He is the ancient of days. His white hair and the thousands waiting upon Him remind us of his incontestable wisdom. His white robe, the fiery stream issuing from his throne and the opening of the books declare His purity and fairness. Here truly is not a judge but the Judge. Shall not the judge of all the earth do right? This is what Daniel and we need to see. there is no question of his authority. In a world filled with inequity and injustice, with compromise and partiality we must see that God is presiding with wisdom and purity and in the end all things will be made right. Gladstone’s statement that justice delayed is justice denied may be true of the affairs of men but it is not true of God. Indeed as another has said God's mill grinds slow but sure. it is the absence of such justice in the affairs of men that brings about the demise of all earthly governments and all worldly empires and paves the road for totalitarianism. We need to recognize that no matter how great and fine the experiment in human government is, there is only one place where true justice is found and we're looking at it in this vision.
II Active Government
As we have already intimated the focus of the judgment in view here is the end of the world, the consummation of human history. At that time there is a judgment of the little horn which emerged last from the fourth beast. This is spoken of in verses 11 and 12, “Then I continued to watch because of the boastful words the horn was speaking. I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire. (The other beasts had been stripped of their authority, but were allowed to live for a period of time.) This is the anti-christ who is the heir to all the injustice and tyranny of the earthly governments which preceded. There is also a judgment of the earthly kingdoms which gave birth to the anti-Christ as well although their existence is prolonged for a period. This is a somewhat vague detail, but the point is that although we are looking at the final judgment we should not therefore conclude that the judge is not active now. This will become more clear as we look at the last part of this passage. but suffice it to say that the image of a fiery stream issuing forth from the throne, and a fiery stream with wheels of burning fire suggests action. Do you remember I told you that one of the functions of the prophet Isaiah was to prepare the people for their captivity in Babylon, which Isaiah predicts? In chapter 26 of his prophecy Isaiah gives tremendous counsel about peace in the midst of turmoil in verses 3 and 4, You wilt keep in perfect peace the mind stayed, for he confides in you. Confide you in Jehovah for ever; for in Jah, Jehovah, is everlasting strength. But if we look at the very next verse, verse 5, it reminds us of God's judgments which come not only at the end of history but during history, For he brings down them that dwell on high; the lofty city, he lays it low, he lays it low to the ground, he brings it even to the dust. The Judge is active when he deems it necessary, and although He allows injustice to prevail, He sometimes judges now. You've got to wonder when you see a Czechoslovakian dictator like Chouchesku running a socialist nation of poor people while he is living in luxury and now he's dead. Or you see Malcolm Forbes throwing a birthday bash for himself so extravagant that even the jaded critics of our day find it ostentatious and now he's dead. i draw no specific conclusions i just wonder, don't you? God the judge is active.
III Apocalyptic Government
The word Apocalyptic means revelation. The book of revelation is the apocalypse or unveiling of Jesus Christ, and that is just what we have here in this judgment scene in verses 13 and 14, “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. This is one of the high points of Old Testament prophecy. A man appears. and the man receives all the dominion, the power, the judgment so that He may exercise it. It is not an accident that Jesus referred to himself as the Son of Man. It was not a title of humility. It was not a mere reference to his representative humanity. It was taken from this passage. When he stood before the high priest on trial and was asked are you the Christ the Son of the Blessed He answered, I say to all of you: in the future you will see the son of man sitting at the right hand of the mighty one and coming on the clouds of heaven. This was directly out of Daniel 7. Yes, the figure of a man here is Jesus Christ and He could not have more clearly identified himself as the Messiah and the fulfillment of this prophecy. So the scene of the judge and the judgment includes the Savior who is also the judge and His revelation as the judge is confirmation of His words to His disciples when He commissioned them after his resurrection saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and earth, therefore go and make disciples of all nations. What does his enthronement mean to Daniel and to us? It means that the same one who became man, who lived among us, who was tempted as we are yet without sin, who fulfilled God's commands perfectly, who gave himself upon the cross and paid the price of our sin, the same one who is the perfection of mercy and love is also the judge. What will you do with Jesus who is the Christ is not just a question for Pilate or for the high priest of Israel; it is a question for us.
Both Daniel and we need this aspect of the vision to remind us that the affairs of men are never out of control, and that God reigns both now and forever. He reigns in history. In II Kings we read the story of Sennacherib the Assyrian coming against Jerusalem and Judah in the days of Hezekiah, the king. Hezekiah prayed and God sent Isaiah in answer to that prayer. We read in II Kings 19:20-22, And Isaiah the son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying, Thus saith Jehovah the God of Israel: That which thou hast prayed to me concerning Sennacherib king of Assyria I have heard. This is the word that Jehovah has spoken against him: The virgin-daughter of Zion despises thee, laughs thee to scorn; The daughter of Jerusalem shakes her head at thee. Whom hast thou reproached and blasphemed? and against whom hast thou exalted the voice? Against the Holy one of Israel hast thou lifted up thine eyes on high. And as Paul Harvey used to say, “The rest of the story” is found in verses 33-35 where God declares, By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, And shall not come into this city, saith Jehovah. And I will defend this city, to save it, For mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake. And it came to pass that night, that an angel of Jehovah went forth, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and eighty-five thousand. And when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead bodies. Who can doubt that God is in control and that His judgments have always been and always are wise and pure? The fact that all things work together for the good of those who love him and who are called according to his purpose is rooted in this vision. Let us watch as did Daniel in awe and reverence and submit all our doings to this dream. God reigns