The Beasts, the Son of Man and the Course of Empire

The purpose of books like Daniel, Revelation and Ezekiel is not to enable us to divine what's happening in the 21st century, it's to keep us from losing sight of God's lordship over history

Sermon Notes:

1.This chapter is both a glimpse into heaven and a glimpse into history. 

2.These events take place in the first year of Belshazzar. We are told of a vision given to Daniel, and we consider in specific detail the future of the kingdoms that God has established and the place of the saints, God's people and their place among the nations. 

3.When it comes to eschatological questions in history, diligent and honest Christians have come to different conclusions about some of the same things.

4.There can be legitimate differences of opinion on secondary issues without the breaking of fellowship. We need to come to this text in love and humility toward each other. 

5.Some have read these texts in part incorrectly because some of the thought patterns of the ancient world aren't familiar to them or other OT texts that can help us with these things.

6.Daniel is given a vision of events unfolding by the sovereign predestination of Christ. Daniel 7 is clearly about the future of certain empires.

7.We are not being given history in general, rather we have here a focus on God's plan concerning His people and His redemptive purposes; it is a peeling back of the curtain into the heavenly courtroom.

8.The four beasts represent four empires, not four individuals (v. 24). It is in a sense one beast, like the one statue representing four empires. Each beast incorporates the characteristics of the next into itself. 

9.We are tempted to think we know what contemporary events mean, and read those interpretations back on the text. But it's not helpful. We need to read forward, steeped in the word of God.

10.Ezekiel, a human prophet, is called “son of man” 91 times. It is as a greater Ezekiel that Jesus refers to Himself as the son of man (v. 13, cf. Matt. 12:8). Daniel would have understood this reference, but he doesn't have access to what comes after.

11.So, central to what Daniel sees is this view of the heavenly court where the Ancient of Days sits enthroned (v. 9). When we think about prophecy and history, we must keep our attention on the sovereign Lord, and not fixate on biblical prophecy itself.

12.Ezekiel approaches the throne chariot of God. An angelic hand gives him a scroll to eat (Ezek. 2:8-3:3). He digests that message. Ezekiel, the son of man, receives in one case a scroll and in another coals of fire. Daniel sees someone like a son of man approach the throne, and this time he receives a kingdom (v. 13-14).

13.Daniel 7 predicts the saints being given the kingdom. Daniel is seeing that taking place in the heavenly court. He sees what is happening when the saints receive a kingdom of God. 

14.The great offence of the book of Daniel is that it declares the sovereignty of God over history, nullifying man’s arrogant claim that history is his domain and subject to his interpretation. 

15.The first beast is the Babylonian empire, standing up and given the mind of a man (cf. Dan. 4:28-37). The plucking of the wings is reference to the judgment and humbling of Nebuchadnezzar.

16.The second beast is the Medeo-Persian empire. It's raised up on one side because the Persians are in ascendency.

17.The third beast is the Greek empire. It has four heads, probably representing the four successive ages of the Greek empire.

18.The last beast is not likened to an animal. During this empire the little horn, this minor power, manifests its presence in the land and counterfeits the gospel and the messiah because it's more human. It has eyes and it speaks (v. 8, 20). But it speaks counterfeits. And it heralds the coming of the ancient of days.

19.The little horn is the Herodian dynasty and false, apostate Jewish community. They controlled who served as high priest. All those Jewish leaders that opposed Jesus made war on the saints.

20.Jesus links the leaven of the Pharisees with the leaven of Herod (cf. Mark 8:15). Herod the Great came up among the Romans and is the face of the Romans in the Holy Land.

21.The little horn continues to blaspheme until it's destroyed in AD 70. 

22.We have already heard about the fifth kingdom in Daniel 2. The kingdom is now being given to God's people. 

23.With God's own Son's kingdom advancing in history, there is no longer a need for Jerusalem to be the centre for the people of God, and no longer a need for the guardianship of these beastly empires.

24.Christ has given the kingdom to his people. It's not something we are still waiting for. We approach the Ancient of Days through the resurrection and ascension of Christ.  

25.For us it doesn't matter in the end what world empires are doing. Christ, the Ancient of Days, is not removed from his throne. And he must reign until all his enemies are put under his feet.

26.Like Daniel, we should be grieved about the state of our nation. We should be concerned and in prayer and seeking to act on behalf of the kingdom of God.

  1. We come to the Lord’s Table as a royal priesthood and nation, because of God’s gracious covenant with us. We have inherited a kingdom that cannot be shaken or removed because Christ Jesus is Lord. 

Application Questions:

  1. Do we prayerfully ask for understanding of our own time?
  2. Where do we see the kingdom of God?
  3. What is the appropriate way to read and understand biblical prophecy?