Our Ultimate Victory
Victory has always been somewhat elusive for me. Unless you’re talking about some intellectual or artistic endeavor (chess or debate or band). I did just do better bowling than Randy Bell; I guess you could say I won, but considering my score, it’s not all that impressive. It’s not at all impressive, really.
Victory has always been somewhat elusive for me. Unless, of course, you count all the trophies and monetary prizes I’ve won because of my good looks. It gets pretty old, really. “Please, stop giving me awards. I can’t help the fact I’m handsome.” All the attention is just too much...
Victory has always been somewhat elusive for me, just out of my reach. And I know this is true for many of you. I’m being serious, now. I’m not implying you’re all losers, but I know most of you well enough to know you’ve experienced the worst life has to throw at you.
Whether it be your health, or your family, or your job; whether it be school or relationships or the day-to-day grind, you struggle. Have you ever felt at the the end of the day like you’ve just lost? Life 1, Barrett 0.
Victory might seem elusive, out of reach, but I’m here to tell you (Daniel’s here to tell you), the victory of God’s people is not in question. There is coming a day when the Lord will be victorious, and because we’re in Him (here’s the Good News): WE WIN!
In the first half of Daniel 7 we have the initial description of Daniel’s first vision. It’s an apocalyptic vision (apocalyptic meaning there’s strange, scary, weird, head-scratching images used to make a point). In this first apocalyptic vision, Daniel writes down for us the substance of his dream.
And man, is it weird! He dreams about four creatures coming up out of the sea—a lion with the wings of an eagle, a bear with part of a meal still in its mouth, a leopard with bird’s wings on its back and four heads, and a fourth beast with iron teeth and ten horns plus another little horn that had eyes and a mouth.
Weird, weird, creepy, and weird.
In verse 15, Daniel’s really honest with us about how he’s feeling:
15 “I, Daniel, was troubled in spirit, and the visions that passed through my mind disturbed me.
You see, like Daniel, if we’re not careful, we can start to despair. We can start to think it’s all too much, there’s just too much evil, there’s no hope.
But that is not the case, not even remotely.
Remember the interruption? Daniel’s dreaming along—Beast #1, Beast #2, Beast #3, and Beast #4—everything in his dream is going along, Daniel says he was thinking about the horns of the fourth beast, when, all of sudden, out of nowhere, a well-timed interruption placed there by the Sovereign of the universe.
As Daniel looked, there was a vision of the Ancient of Days (God) sitting on His throne in glory and power, being worshipped, getting ready to hold court. And after the vision, Daniel saw one like a son of man coming on the clouds of heaven.
We know from our place in history, that this refers to Jesus, the Son of Man. What Daniel knew was that this one like a son of man was the Promised One, the One who would sit on David’s throne forever and ever, the One whose dominion would never pass away, whose kingdom would never be destroyed.
That interruption should have strengthened Daniel (as it should us). That interruption, reminding Daniel who was in charge of history, should have fortified Daniel.
Turns out, Daniel is, well, human. Even with this great reminder of the Ancient of Days and the Son of Man, Daniel is troubled in his spirit and his thoughts are bothering him.
Daniel is having a hard time seeing past the evil, a hard time seeing past the chaos and destruction being played out before his eyes. Daniel is having a hard time seeing past the beasts.
Don’t we have a lot in common with Daniel? We are all, well…human. We are often troubled and disturbed, bothered and concerned by the evil around us, the evil present within our culture, the evil in our own hearts. And we, like Daniel, routinely have a hard time seeing past the evil around us.
We’re meant to have our eyes fixed on the Lord, the Ancient of Days. Every morning when we wake up, we should quote the first couple lines of Psalm 121:
1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? 2 My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
We should remember the charge the author of Hebrews (Hebrews 12:2) gives us to [fix] our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.
It’s as we said last week: Don’t focus so much on the beasts; instead, fix your eyes on what’s above.
Daniel has been given, in the first half of his vision, a great assurance of the hope he and the people of God have in the Lord. We are given that same assurance: the Ancient of Days and the Son of Man are the cause and the source of our unshakable hope.
The final verses in Daniel 7 reassure us of future victory—our ultimate victory.
>Daniel is a bit curious about what these beasts were all about, curious about the meaning of all of this. And so one of those standing there, an angel, one of those surrounding the Ancient of Days and the Son of Man in Daniel’s vision, gives Daniel the interpretation of these things.
16 I approached one of those standing there and asked him the meaning of all this. “So he told me and gave me the interpretation of these things: 17 ‘The four great beasts are four kings that will rise from the earth. 18 But the holy people of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever—yes, for ever and ever.’
The angel doesn’t tell him everything, and doesn’t really clarify much of anything for him, but does reveal to Daniel and to us, the identity of those who will be victorious.
The beasts are four earthly kings who will wreak havoc and bring chaos and destruction upon the world throughout the course of human history.
But—notice that great word: but. A simple conjunction makes an enormous difference. It tips us off to the fact that something’s going to change. The text doesn’t say, “The four great beasts are four kings that will rise from the earth and they will rule for ever and ever.”
No, no. Praise the Lord, this is what it says: The four great beasts are four kings that will rise from the earth. BUT the holy people of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever—yes, for ever and ever.
Thanks to verses 17-18, we know exactly, but not precisely what this vision means.
This means we don’t know all the details, we don’t know all the juicy “whos” and “whats” and “whens” and “wheres”. This isn’t small town gossip where we can get everything figured out over a cup of coffee.
This is the Word of the Lord. It’s not meant to give us every salient detail, every bit of minutiae; this is meant to give the people of God hope. Hope. Unshakable Hope.
And it does. The Bible gives us hope and it points us to our sure and certain victory.
We know what this vision means. Daniel was told, and so have we been told. We’re told everything we need to know.
It’s not the beasts who will be victorious. The beasts will not reign forever. The beasts don’t get their way for long. The beasts—the kings and kingdoms of this world—have an end. They all come to an end. That’s the first part of the Good News.
It’s the holy people of the Most High who will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever—yes, for ever and ever. This is the second half of the Good News.
The focus of Daniel 7 is on the coming day of divine judgment, when these beastly monsters will finally receive justice and God—the Ancient of Days—will win the final victory—and His holy people along with Him.
In verses 18, 21-22, 25, and 27 (six times), the people of God are referred to as the holy people of the Most High, the holy people, or His holy people.
These are God’s believing people on earth—holy people, saints.
Several months ago, I went to the funeral of a friend. One of my High School teachers and good friends sat next to me at the funeral and then we rode to the cemetery together. On the trip out to the cemetery, Sue asked me, “Barrett, why did the preacher keep calling us ‘saints’?”
That’s the kind of question a preacher loves to get. That’s an open door to preach the gospel. I told Sue, “Well, he called us ‘saints’ but just as easily could have referred to us as ‘Christians’ or ‘brothers and sisters.’”
“Oh, okay,” said Sue. “I thought it was a little weird; we’re not very saintly, are we?”
Again, another wonderful opening for a preacher. Sue’s very intelligent, so I said, “Well, practically, no. But positionally, yes.”
With furrowed brow and the same look that many of you are giving me right now, Sue made it clear I needed to explain further.
“Practically, we don’t live like saints. We are sinners. We are scumbags. We mess up daily. We sin daily. Practically, it doesn’t really seem like we’re saints.
But positionally—that is, in Christ—we are absolutely saints. He has paid the price, He has covered our sins, He has made us holy by covering us in His blood and giving us His holiness. By faith in Jesus Christ, He has taken our sins and has given us His righteousness. In Christ, in our position as His people, we are saints.”
So, pick whichever phrase you like—saints of the Most High or holy people of the Most High—this is what we are. Saints, holy people refer to believers in God here on earth who will share in Christ’s Kingdom.
We believe, in Adam, all people sinned. It’s as if we were all there in the Garden. It’s as if we took the fruit and ate that which we shouldn’t have. We can’t blame it on Eve. We can’t start to believe that we would have done any differently than Adam. In Adam, we all fall. In Adam, we’re all of us kicked out of the garden.
Adam’s sin had consequences for a whole species. That was the fall of the human race, the fall of man.
Just as Adam’s sin has consequences for us, so does Jesus’ victory.
Because Jesus defeated sin and death, so have we. His conquest means that all who belong to Him share in His victory. All who belong to Jesus share in His kingdom and rule alongside Him.
The victory of God’s people is not in question; the victory of God’s people is not in doubt.
Even as Daniel presses for more details, this much is clear: though God’s people go through some terribly, ghastly, painful, beastly stuff, they will be victorious.
Daniel wants to know the meaning of the fourth beast, and oddly, Daniel gives us more details than we have been given up to this point. And then the one Daniel approached to ask the meaning of all of this (v. 15) gives Daniel further explanation.
Daniel tell us a little more about what he saw:
19 “Then I wanted to know the meaning of the fourth beast, which was different from all the others and most terrifying, with its iron teeth and bronze claws—the beast that crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. 20 I also wanted to know about the ten horns on its head and about the other horn that came up, before which three of them fell—the horn that looked more imposing than the others and that had eyes and a mouth that spoke boastfully. 21 As I watched, this horn was waging war against the holy people and defeating them, 22 until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the holy people of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom.
And then the angel explains it to Daniel:
23 “He gave me this explanation: ‘The fourth beast is a fourth kingdom that will appear on earth. It will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing it. 24 The ten horns are ten kings who will come from this kingdom. After them another king will arise, different from the earlier ones; he will subdue three kings. 25 He will speak against the Most High and oppress his holy people and try to change the set times and the laws. The holy people will be delivered into his hands for a time, times and half a time. 26 “ ‘But the court will sit, and his power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever. 27 Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the holy people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.’
The victory of God’s people is not in doubt.
At no point in the chapter, at no point in Daniel’s vision should we be concerned about whether or not we’re going to be victorious. By no means is Daniel uncertain about the victory the people of God will share.
Three times in the second half of Daniel’s vision we’re comforted—comforted, once again, by a preposition (until) and two conjunctions (but).
The first comfort is in verse 18:
18 But the holy people of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever—yes, for ever and ever.’
The second in verse 22:
21 As I watched, this horn was waging war against the holy people and defeating them, 22 until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the holy people of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom.
And the third in verse 26:
25 He will speak against the Most High and oppress his holy people and try to change the set times and the laws. The holy people will be delivered into his hands for a time, times and half a time. 26 “ ‘But the court will sit, and his power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever.
“But…until…but...” What great comfort there is in knowing evil will be interrupted, in knowing evil doesn’t have the last word, in knowing evil comes to an end.
The victory of God’s people is not in doubt.
However, we need to be realists. The assurance of ultimate victory shouldn’t blind us to the travail and anguish that many of the people of God will suffer under the persecution of the little horn.
The little horn, the horn which pops up from underneath the 10 horns of Beast #4—that horn is the consummation of evil. It’s the final evil kingdom, the final evil king.
In a word, the little horn, this final king is what the Bible refers to as the Antichrist. Please don’t spend any amount of time trying to identify who the Antichrist is. The speculation just gets silly.
In my lifetime, as long as I’ve been aware of such things, I believe I’ve heard, for instance, every president of the United States called “the Antichrist” by someone. Don’t do that. That’s just foolish and unproductive.
What we know is this: there is untold evil in the world—and so it has been since the fall of man. The Apostle John wrote nearly 2,000 years ago about the coming of the antichrist and how many antichrists have come.
18 Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.
The little horn, in Daniel’s vision, is waging war against the holy people and defeating them (v. 21).
The little horn, the Antichrist, will:
Speak against the Most High
Oppress [God’s] holy people
Try to change the set times and the laws
This is blatant and sinister opposition to God and His rule. One (or many) will come who will speak pompous and blasphemous words against the Lord.
One (or many) will come who will oppress and persecute and torture God’s people.
It has been estimated that since 1990 an average of 160,000 Christians have been killed every year. Thousands of others are imprisoned, tortured, exiled, blacklisted, deprived of their property, or abused in more subtle ways.
The number of Christian martyrs in the twentieth century has been estimated at 45 million.
One (or many) will come who will try to change the set times and the law.
This sounds weird—try to change the set times—but it’s happened before and it will happen again. Pol Pot, the Cambodian dictator in the time of the Vietnam Conflict instituted “Year Zero” during which time and thinking would restart with him.
In 1997, North Korea’s whacky dictator Kim Jong-Il, set a new time called Juche (Chuch-e), in honor of another whacky leader of North Korea. 1912 was Juche 1. So the year 2017 in North Korea is actually year 106.
All this amounts to is blatant and sinister opposition to God and His rule.
The victory of God’s people is not in doubt.
Even with the assurance of our ultimate victory, we understand that many of God’s people will suffer persecution. Ours is guaranteed victory, but victory after much suffering.
That’s why I’m calling it ultimate victory and not immediate victory. I suppose I could have entitled this sermon “final victory”, but final doesn’t start with a “u”.
Victory will be fully realized…eventually. Victory will be ours…soon, but not now.
For all the evil—generation after generation, year upon year of evil—there is one reality that blows all evil out of the water: we are victorious because our God is victorious!
The holy people of the Most High will be the recipients of all the kingdoms under heaven. We will reign with God forever and ever.
The purpose of this passage, then, is not to give us nightmares, but to calm our nightmares.
The central point of the vision is that the time when the beastly kingdoms of the earth will oppress the saints is limited by God, and beyond it lies the scene of the heavenly court, where the beasts will finally be tamed and destroyed (cf. Rev. 20:1–4, 10).
And the holy people of the Most High (that’s us, Christians) will overcome. We will be victorious. Because of the Sovereign One who is steadily in charge of the world, because of Jesus, our Victor, we will triumph.
11 They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.
As the end of the world approaches, because the Ancient of Days sits on His throne and the Son of Man is coming back, we can, with unshakable hope, look forward to the ultimate victory that will be ours.
Today, we live in a world of terrifying beasts, but we shall not live in their world forever. There will come a day when all wrongs will be set right, when all tyrants will be dethroned, when all that is broken will be fixed. There will come a day when all hunger will come to an end, when all sickness will be cured, when every sorrowing heart will be comforted. There will come a day when even death, the last weapon of the beast, will have its power broken once and for all.
On that day, the great beast, Satan himself, will be bound and brought before the throne of the Ancient of Days; he will answer for his crimes and will be cast into the lake of fire forever. In the midst of this beastly world, our challenge is to live our lives with eyes firmly fixed on the heavenly throneroom and on our Savior.
If it’s true that God is our judge, are we ready to meet with Him?
Are we ready to have the book of life opened and its contents put on public display with all of our sins made visible for all to see?
On that day of judgment, our only hope will be that Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, has taken the judgment we deserve for all our sins.
He was bruised for our transgressions and mauled for our iniquities so that in the coming day we could be exalted with Him and reign with Him forever and ever. The debt for every sin I ever committed or will ever commit was laid on His shoulders, and He bore it all.
If God is my judge and the Son of Man is my Savior, then let the world do its worst.
The Ancient of Days and Son of Man reign. Their kingdom will fill the whole earth. We will, as God’s holy people, share in this Kingdom. This is Good News—unrelenting, unparalleled, unbelievably Good News.
We should rejoice and take heart. We should look forward, with unshakable hope to the victory Christ Jesus won for us and the ultimate victory we, as His holy people, will have on that Great Day.
With unshakable hope now and the assurance of ultimate victory, let us remember:
“This is my father's world Oh, let me never forget That though the wrong seems oft so strong God is the ruler yet
This is my father's world Why should my heart be sad? The Lord is king, let the heavens ring God reigns, let the earth be glad”