The Son of Man
The first part of Daniel 7 showed us a picture of earth’s history of a succession of evil kingdoms opposed to God. Each was temporary, although powerful, culminating in the most powerful kingdom of all in the 4th beast. Despite their power, each ended in judgment and destruction by God.
It shows us that God will let sinful man run his course for a time. But, at the end of that time, God will demonstrate his power and sovereignty by judging the kingdoms of evil.
The next part of the vision, recorded in verses 13 and 14, showed one like the son of man arrive in heaven on the clouds. This is an Aramaic term meaning “human being” as contrasted to the beasts.
But it takes on more meaning for us than it would for Daniel, for it is used 69 times in the Synoptic Gospels and 12 times in the Gospel of John to refer to Christ. It is also the title Jesus most often used of himself. The Hebrew term translated “son of man” was also used to mean a human being in contrast with the divine being. Numbers 23:19 says “God is to man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind.
The image of one like the son of man in Daniel 7 is used to portray Christ in Revelation 1:13.
The Son of Man comes with the clouds. In the Old Testament, only God comes on the clouds. It is a symbol of divinity. For example:
Isaiah 19:1 says “Behold, the LORD is riding on a swift cloud”:
Ezekiel’s first vision of the glory of the Lord began with a cloud that had brightness around it. (Ezekiel 1:4)
When God came to Mount Sinai to make a covenant with Israel, there was a thick cloud on the mountain. (Exodus 19:16)
At his trial, Jesus was asked by the high priest if he was the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Jesus said he would see the Son of man seated at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven. The high priest accused him of blasphemy, understanding he was claiming to be God. (Matthew 26:57-68)
The Son of man was presented to the Ancient of Days. This is how we know he ascended to heaven in this vision. The Son was presented to the Father. The son received dominion, glory and a kingdom. This must have been confusing to Daniel, for this Son of Man had human and divine traits. It makes sense to us, though, for we know Jesus was fully human and fully divine on earth and will keep his appearance, in glorified form, for eternity.
In this kingdom all peoples, nations, and languages serve and worship the Son. This is the same language used in the kings proclamations in Daniels to refer to all the people of the world. The dominion of the Son will last forever. it will never pass away. It cannot be destroyed, unlike the kingdoms represented by the beasts. (14)
Daniel Asks For An Interpretation
Daniel was anxious. These terrifying images scared him. He did not know what they meant. So he asked one of the beings standing there in the court of judgment what it meant. And this person gave Daniel the meaning, the interpretation.
Before we go on to the interpretation, let us pause for a moment to think. Where God, in his Word, gives us an interpretation, we are bound by it. We cannot interpret the symbols differently. But, further, when God gives us the interpretation, he tells us the part upon which he wants us to focus. In our scatter brained human way, we often want to spend our time trying to figure out or speculate on other matters and miss the point. When God gives us the point, let us focus on that point.
The Interpretation - Short Version
Daniel was anxious about the vision. The beasts were scary and the implications for God’s people were dire, at least until the beasts were defeated.
The person Daniel asked gave a very specific meaning of the vision. He said the four beasts are four kings on earth. But the saints of God will receive a kingdom that lasts forever. That, my friends is the point of the vision.
So, not only will Christ reign, we will reign with him. 2 Timothy 2:12 says “if we endure, we will also reign with him”.
But, our first instinct is to try and figure out what kingdoms are represented by the beasts. Volumes have been written on this. The problem is, God did not reveal it other than in very general terms. In retrospect, we may find kingdoms that exhibited the traits mentioned. But so did other kingdoms. And, no time period is given. But the point remains, kings will rise and fall, they will get worse as time goes on, but ultimately God’s kingdom will come and saints will enjoy it forever.
More About The 4th Beast
Daniel, like us, wanted to know more. He especially wanted to know more about the 4th beast, for it was terrifying. and different than the others. It also had those horns, including the little horn that spoke.
Evidently, the vision continued as Daniel asked his questions. Think of a child asking his father questions during a movie. As the vision continued, the little horn made war with the saints and even prevailed against them until the Ancient of Days came and judged the beast on behalf of the saints.
The person still does not identify the beast as a particular king or kingdom. But he describes more fully the actions of the beast. He adds that:
he will speak words against the most high;
he will wear out the saints;
he will think to change the times and the law; and
the saints are given into his hand for a time, times and half a time. But, in the end, the court still judges him, God takes away his dominion and destroys him. (26)
Again, the person says that, in the end, the saints receive an everlasting kingdom that is God’s kingdom.
Daniel was still alarmed. He focused on the beasts, and especially the 4th beast, and was afraid. It is the first time we have seen Daniel actually afraid or alarmed.
So, in a way, Daniel missed the point of the vision, as many today miss the point. That is because he focused on the wrong thing. He focused on the beasts and not the victory of God.
If God wanted Daniel, and us, to know the identity of the beasts, he could easily have told us. Many have firm beliefs as to what they are. All of that time spent on such conjecture, however, is wasted to a large extent. The better thing would be to focus on the message God intentionally delivered: things will get bad on earth, the saints will suffer, but God will triumph and those who believe in Jesus will triumph with him, enjoying a perfect kingdom forever in God’s presence.
There are those who believe that humankind will make things better and better until the end. That is not the message of Daniel. Daniel’s message is that things get worse until the new age, the new kingdom arrives.
The end of the beasts, even the most powerful one, is judgment and destruction. All kingdoms and kings that have power on earth and exercise it against God and his people will be judged when Jesus returns, and will be destroyed by eternal punishment in Hell.
Come Lord Jesus!