Now, we get to the fun stuff. The parts of Daniel that have people scratching their heads.
Wait, not yet.
Before we talk about chapter 7, go back to 5:6. In the NRSV, it says Belshazzar’s knees knocked together. In your translation, it probably says something similar. Fun fact, that is an ancient euphemism for pooping your pants. There’s no spiritual application here, I just think it’s funny.
Oh, also, if you haven’t read my Introduction to Apocalyptic Literature, I highly recommend you do that first. I’ll wait here for you to finish…
Okay, now back to Daniel 7. In chapters 1-6, we’ve seen several stories of what it looks like to live under the rule of someone who does not believe in God Almighty. They are there to be encouragement and teaching on how we should live under pagan rule. Unflinching, uncompromising and fiercely loyal to God. Daniel 7 starts a new sequence, where Daniel dreams and encourages his readers that this will not last forever. There is an end in sight.
This shirt says “Y3K are you prepared?” Now, we understand what this shirt means because we lived through Y2K. We understand Y3K means the year 3000. But imagine you came upon this shirt in the year 4210. You would be puzzled. “What is Y3K? Maybe the 3K is significant, whY 3K?” And on and on.
We have this difficulty deciphering Daniel’s writing, his readers would not have.
The beasts are coded references to different empires over time. All empires whose rule Israel has lived under. The 10 horns that spring out of the last beast are followed by an 11th horn. A little one with a big mouth. The guy Daniel’s pointing to is a Seleucid ruler by the name of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Google him sometime, he makes Nebuchadnezzar look like a bastion of sanity.
Epiphanes was not his last name, it was a title he had given himself. He claimed to be an epiphany, or a physical incarnation of god. He made life miserable for the Jews, persecuting them for political reasons and blaspheming God.
We see here that his rule does not last forever. This is good news to Jews living under that rule as they’re reading this. Daniel sees not only that Epiphanes is going to be torn down, but a greater vision of what God is doing.
A man is given dominion and glory and kingship, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him forever in his kingship that shall not pass away and shall never be destroyed.
The Jews called this man to come, “the Messiah.”
We call him Jesus.
This is the good news.
In the Gospels he establishes a kingdom. By his death, he sits on his throne at the right hand of the Father. He sends an advocate in his place to help his people make their world look as close to his vision as possible. One day he will crack the sky, return the same way he left and finish the job.
These thoughts do not terrify me or cause me to turn pale. They ignite a fire inside my chest that burns with passion.
Let us always, every single day keep this matter in mind.