DUNCAN/The dream of the four beasts
Please turn with me in your Bible to Daniel 7:1-28. In this passage, Daniel is now being asked by God to consider a bigger picture than he has ever contemplated before which is that the events of history are not isolated from events beyond history. It is here where we learn that the course of humanity is determined in the throne room of God Almighty. As we survey the big picture of this vision, there are three things that we observe in particular in this passage. First, we see the apparent power and evident depravity of world empires. Secondly, we observe the actual sovereignty and righteousness of God. Thirdly and finally, we see the everlasting kingdom of God.
I. The Apparent Power and Evident Depravity of World Empires.
In verses 1-8, Daniel shares his vision of the four beasts. This passage provides us with a panoramic vision of world empires. However, this vision serves merely as the backdrop of the inauguration of the reign of the Son of Man in the kingdom of heaven. This passage also provides us with a picture of universal chaos amongst the kingdoms of men. For example, in verse 2, Daniel declared that “the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea.” However, it is important to notice that it is winds of heaven that are blowing that sea. In other words, Daniel’s vision reminds us that God is sovereign over the nations in the world.
While the identification of the four beasts in this passage has often been debated, one of the most straightforward interpretations is that these beasts represent four earthly kingdoms. What is important to remember is that these kingdoms represent the attempts of world empires to set up a lasting and almighty rule on earth among the sons of men and that they stand in contrast to the kingdom of God. Thus, verses 1-8 show us the evident depravity of these world empires. And Daniel, who has been involved in human government all of his life, is shocked at the wickedness and brutality of these earthly kingdoms. He is overwhelmed and his breath is taken away. Yet, even as he is describing these beasts in succession, that part of the vision ceases and we move to the second vision of the chapter.
II. The Actual Sovereignty and Righteousness of God Almighty.
In verses 9-14, we are taken to God’s throne room where we see the actual sovereignty of God and the righteousness of God over against the kingdoms of this world. There are four important elements to observe in these verses. First, notice that God is called, “Ancient of Days.” In other words, kingdoms come and kingdoms go; however, the Ancient of Days is still on the throne. These beasts, as terrifying and powerful as they were, are grasshoppers in the sight of the Ancient of Days. Secondly, we are told that the Ancient of Days is white as snow. In contrast to the wickedness of human government, Daniel pictures the Ancient of Days as white as snow which refers to His righteousness and His purity. Thirdly, we are told that “a thousand thousands served him” and “ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him” in verse 10. Throughout this book, we have seen that Daniel had to stand alone for his God on different occasions. Yet here in this vision, Daniel’s heart is lifted up to a place where there are tens of thousands worshipping God Almighty. In this life, we may be called to stand in the minority and to stand alone, but in heaven we will be with a multitude that no man can number. Fourthly, we see that God is not only in control, it is God who will judge the world. The four beasts are slain and little is said about it. This reminds us that no earthly empire is a match for the sovereign God.
It is also important to note that verses 13-14 depict a picture of awesome power and comfort. We are told that one who is like a Son of a Man comes and He approaches the Ancient of Days and He is enthroned. We also see this in the New Testament in Matthew 26:63-64, and Matthew 28:18 where Jesus Christ is called the Son of Man about whom Daniel writes. What this means for you and me is that the Lord Jesus Christ reigns now on his throne. Daniel, in exile and never knowing whether he will see his land again, knows that his God is on the throne for Him. Now that's so important because Daniel sees some things in this vision in the next few verses which absolutely rob him of his strength.
III. The Everlasting Kingdom.
In verses 15-28, Daniel concludes this vision with a troubled heart. Now, we may be a bit perplexed by that because of the encouragements that Daniel has been given in this particular vision. Specifically, we are told that the King is on the throne and that the Lord will bring judgment against the world. However, all Daniel can see is that the Lord's people are going to be persecuted and that there will be much suffering endured by the people of God.
God is showing Daniel the nature of the kingdom that He is going to establish. God has plans for a kingdom that will extend around this world and will bring in men and women and boys and girls from every tribe and tongue and nation to worship the living God. But it is going to involve incredible suffering. And it's a measure of Daniel's heart that he is troubled by the suffering that God’s people are going to experience. Thus, he needs every bit of the encouragement that God gives him.
There are at least three practical implications of this vision. First, the people of God must never be naive about the strength, the reality, and the durability of evil. It is a force of wickedness and harm, and we must never underestimate what it can do. Secondly, we must remember that the kingdom of God is a kingdom of suffering in the here and now. We must not only be prepared for it ourselves, but we must be in solidarity with all our brothers and sisters who also suffer in persecution and in oppression. Thirdly, this vision reminds us that our gaze must penetrate beyond history into the throne room of God. All of us have circumstances in our lives that could overwhelm us. But we are reminded that in God’s throne room, all is calm. Jesus sits at the right hand of God. Our hope in this life does not center on the focal points of world power. As believers, our hope centers upon the Lord Jesus Christ who is on the throne. May God take our breath away with a vision of the King of Kings and give us the strength to proclaim the Gospel in a fallen world.