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Advent of Hope: The Victory of Christmas - Daniel 7

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Introduction

Hope is a powerful thing. Hope is what sustains us and gives us courage and strength to face the current circumstances despite the opposition we may or may not be facing. Hope helps us to believe that the future will be better than the present and that we can keep pressing on.
The idea of hope plays a primary role in many movies and stories. One of my favorite stories begins in the middle of a civil war. A small band of rebels are fighting against a tyrannical empire that appears to strong to overcome. But a surge of hope appears as these rebels have gained access to a secret that can help to weaken this tyrannical government. Hope is also found in the person of a special young skilled pilot who is found in an obscure overlooked backwater place.
For anyone familiar with what I am talking about, of course, I’m speaking of Star Wars, specifically of the very first movie that George Lucas had made, in which he later titled, “A New Hope.” This new hope is what kept the rebellion alive and fighting against all odds. The idea that things could get better and that the future could be brighter for others is what gave them courage to stand against the powerful and tyrannical Emperor and his servant, Darth Vader.
As we have seen over the last several weeks, Daniel and his friends have endured much hardship and darkness. They have been oppressed and their faith attacked. What kept them going was the hope that God had not abandoned them and was working towards a better future for their people. However, even those who know and are assured of God’s presence and work, need to be reminded of the hope we have in Him. This is where we pick up in Daniel 7. We actually go back in time before Darius came and took over Babylon during the first year of Belshazzar, when Daniel himself has a dream. So far, we have seen him give interpretations for others’ dreams, but God is now giving him a dream of his own to give him hope to keep pressing on.
Read Daniel 7
Daniel 7 ESV
In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel saw a dream and visions of his head as he lay in his bed. Then he wrote down the dream and told the sum of the matter. Daniel declared, “I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. And four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another. The first was like a lion and had eagles’ wings. Then as I looked its wings were plucked off, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man, and the mind of a man was given to it. And behold, another beast, a second one, like a bear. It was raised up on one side. It had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth; and it was told, ‘Arise, devour much flesh.’ After this I looked, and behold, another, like a leopard, with four wings of a bird on its back. And the beast had four heads, and dominion was given to it. After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth; it devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. I considered the horns, and behold, there came up among them another horn, a little one, before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots. And behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things. “As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire. A stream of fire issued and came out from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened. “I looked then because of the sound of the great words that the horn was speaking. And as I looked, the beast was killed, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire. As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time. “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed. “As for me, Daniel, my spirit within me was anxious, and the visions of my head alarmed me. I approached one of those who stood there and asked him the truth concerning all this. So he told me and made known to me the interpretation of the things. ‘These four great beasts are four kings who shall arise out of the earth. But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever.’ “Then I desired to know the truth about the fourth beast, which was different from all the rest, exceedingly terrifying, with its teeth of iron and claws of bronze, and which devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet, and about the ten horns that were on its head, and the other horn that came up and before which three of them fell, the horn that had eyes and a mouth that spoke great things, and that seemed greater than its companions. As I looked, this horn made war with the saints and prevailed over them, until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given for the saints of the Most High, and the time came when the saints possessed the kingdom. “Thus he said: ‘As for the fourth beast, there shall be a fourth kingdom on earth, which shall be different from all the kingdoms, and it shall devour the whole earth, and trample it down, and break it to pieces. As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom ten kings shall arise, and another shall arise after them; he shall be different from the former ones, and shall put down three kings. He shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and shall think to change the times and the law; and they shall be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time. But the court shall sit in judgment, and his dominion shall be taken away, to be consumed and destroyed to the end. And the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.’ “Here is the end of the matter. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts greatly alarmed me, and my color changed, but I kept the matter in my heart.”

I. The Four Beasts

A. The Lion with Eagles’ Wings - Babylon/Nebuchadnezzar

B. The Bear on its Side - Medes & Persians

C. The Leopard with four wings and four heads - The Greek Empire after it was divided among Alexander the Great’s four generals

D. The Super Beast - Possibly Rome

Great Iron Teeth - It’s Destructive strength
The Ten Horns - Horns were a symbol of strength and protection. 10 strong and destructive kings.
A Horn like a Man - A ruler who would uproot three other leaders in his strength (possibly an image of the Anti-Christ).

This seventh chapter of Daniel corresponds with the second chapter of Daniel. His vision of these four beasts are related to the four metals in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in chapter 2. Notice:

the similarities between the teeth of iron of this fourth beast with the metal of the fourth kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream
the ten toes with the ten horns
These are meant to be seen as one and the same
And just as there was a stone that was uncut by human hands that came to destroy the image, look what comes after this fourth beast!

II. The Ancient of Days - God Himself

A. Clothing and Hair White

B. The Judge of All the Nations

The Throne that Moved

The Fire That Judged and Purified

III. The Son of Man

A man is given authority - Genesis 1 & 2

A man with an eternal kingdom

A man who is a Cloud-Rider

No mere man can ride on the clouds

Only God can come with the clouds

God’s glory was displayed through a cloud

This Son of Man is both fully human and fully God.
The hope of Christmas is that this Cloud Riding Son of Man has come!
God Himself, left His throne in heaven and became flesh and has dwelt among us
Daniel is giving us a vision of Christmas right here with this image of the Son of Man

I. Our Hope is in the Son of Man Who Will Overcome All Earthly Kingdoms

Adam and Eve subjected themselves to the beast (serpent) in the garden
God promised that He would send someone to defeat this beast
Cain subduing Righteous Abel
The Beasts of the world of the flood
The beastly rulers of the Tower of Babel
The beastly Pharoah of Egypt
The beastly kings of Israel
Saul, David, Solomon, their sons
The beastly king of Babylon and Persia
The super beast might point towards Rome, but the point of Apocalyptic literature is not to simply give a literal interpretation, but to give a deeper, more richer and broader view of the world from a spiritual point of view.
This Super beast really represents all kingdoms going forward until the end when Christ establishes His physical kingdom. This super beast will forever seek to crush God’s holy people.
The Super Beast was found in German and in all the nations that supported the terrible Nazi regime and the murder of millions of Jews.
The Super Beast has been found even within our own country during the time of the slave trade and the treatment of a whole ethnicity of people as less than human. Our own country has also exemplified the Super Beast in its murder of over 60 million babies since the 1970’s.
This super beast has been found in every age and in every human kingdom since the time Adam and Eve had to leave the garden of Eden.
The hope that is being offered to Daniel is that while there are more kingdoms coming, there will come a time when those kingdoms will be brought to an end. He is facing the beast of Babylon right now. God is offering him the hope that this will not last forever. God is showing him that he has already won the war. This hope is to help him to remain patient while God works to bring about the final end of all the beasts.
The hope of this vision is that God is showing us the end of all these kingdoms and that only the Son of Man will have the eternal kingdom.
And because He has kept His promise to come, we can: Romans 12:12
Romans 12:12 ESV
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

II. Our Hope is in the Son of Man Who Has Overcome the Beast Within us

However, as we talk about this Super Beast, part of the beauty of this symbolic literature is that while it does refer to a future kingdom, it has a wider and deeper meaning than just a kingdom.
To Better Understand the Super Beast, we have to see how Christ understood this fourth beast.
Jesus always confirmed other’s calling Him the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One. But we don’t really ever see Him using that title for Himself. But we do see another description that He does use for Himself in Mark 14:55-64
Mark 14:55–64 (ESV)
Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none. For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’ ” Yet even about this their testimony did not agree. And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death.
In His trial before the chief priests and the council, Caiaphas asked Jesus if He was the Christ. Jesus did not deny this claim. In fact, He readily embraced that title for Himself. But He went further than simply saying yes or even “I am.” He proceeds to say that not only am I the Christ, I am the Son of Man that you will see seated at the right hand of Power and coming with the clouds of heaven. I am the cloud riding Son of Man come to defeat the super beast within creation!
He is directly quoting Daniel 7. What does this mean? He is picking up on a cultural image that Caiaphas would have been well aware of.
Ex. I am borrowing this example from Tim Mackey at the Bible Project. He used this example saying, what if I were dressed all in black and carried a red laser sword and went to someone here and said the phrase: “I am your father?” Most of us familiar with pop culture would know that this would be a reference to Darth Vader in the Star Wars films. Now when I say this line to this person over here, what role would I be assigning to them? That’s right, Luke Skywalker. This is a cultural image we are familiar with and one character’s identity would go right along with the next.
In the same way, Jesus claiming to be the Son of Man that would ascend would have alerted Caiaphas to the role Jesus was assigning him to as well. By saying I am the Son of Man that will rise when you strike against me, you are the super beast that is seeking to subdue and destroy me. Not the kind of image a religious leader would have wanted to be associated with. And thus you might understand the indignation and anger of his response.
Jesus, the Son of Man, fully human and fully God, was born in this world that first Christmas night to give us the hope of knowing that God is going to deal the final death blow to the beast that has been crushing God’s people since the beginning of time. And He did this, not by overthrowing a particular human kingdom, but by defeating Satan’s power of sin and death through His work on the cross and His resurrection.
Here’s the last thing we need to see from this passage. While this fourth beast can refer to the Roman Empire, and probably also references a future kingdom in which Christ will victoriously overthrow when He returns, it also symbolizes a spiritual kingdom that has dwelt in this world by capturing the hearts and minds of men.
If the Super Beast could represent someone like Caiaphas, the High Priest, how much more could it represent our own hearts right now? Since sin has entered the world, all men have been born in sin. We all have hearts that are beast like in our pride and arrogance as we have rebelled against God and have spoken great things against Him whether in words or in deeds. Every sin we have committed has been words of rebellion against the Most High. We all have been ruled and dominated by the Super Beast and we have all been the Super Beast in some way or another.
When Christ came to earth that first Christmas day, He came to defeat the Beast and to set us free from our own beastly rebellion!
The Hope of Christmas is that the Cloud Rider was born that night in order to die to set us free from the Beast that lives within us so that we can live as Sons and Daughters of Man and not as beasts in rebellion to God.
As we relate to our families, as we care for our neighbors, as we submit to our bosses and lead our employees, as we do business with clients or vendors, in every area of life, we are freed to display Christ in how we love and serve others. Instead of seeking our own needs and interests, we seek the best for those we come into contact with.
The Hope of Christmas is that we will not have to endure forever these beastly kingdoms. Christ has come as the Son of Man to do battle with this Super Beast and He has already won through His death on the cross and His resurrection!

Conclusion

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