Study Notes for Daniel 7 “The Ancient of Days”

6a00d8341bffb053ef00e550438f818834-500wiThe Text:

Daniel 7:1-28 (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.

“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

Structure

Verse 1 – Prologue

  • It is important to note that the events in chapter 7 occur before the events in chapters 5-6.  Chapter 7 concludes the Aramaic portion of Daniel and links it to the historical section of the book (chpts. 1-6). I believe that Daniel 7 serves as a bridge between the historical and prophetic sections of this great book.
  • In this chapter, it is Daniel who has the dream and needs it interpreted, whereas, he has been interpreting the dreams of others up to this point.  There will be some similarities between this dream and the dream of Nebuchadnezzar in chapter 2. In chapter 2 Daniel’s interpretation explains how history will affect Nebuchadnezzar, and in chapter 7 Daniel is shown how history will directly affect God’s people.

Verses 2-14 – The Vision

  • The four beasts from the sea (2-8)
  • The Ancient of Days (9-10)
  • The judgment against the beasts (11-12)
  • The Son of Man (13-14)

Verses 15-27 – The Interpretation (alternates between Daniel’s reaction and the divine interpretation)

  • Daniel’s reaction (15-16, 19-22)
  • The Interpretation (17-18, 25-27)

Verse 28 – Daniel’s closing remarks

  • Note some of the similarities between Daniel’s reaction and Belshazzar’s reaction to the writing on the wall in 5:5-6, 9.

Theme/Main Idea

Theme: God’s control over history and care for His people.

Main Idea: There is an age-old conflict between two kingdoms, the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of men.  While we live in this age we can be comforted in knowing that God is in control as empires rise and fall and has established an eternal kingdom that he will give to his people through the Son of Man, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Aim of the sermon

One of the things that makes preaching the prophetic chapters of Daniel so difficult is the use of apocalyptic imagery.  It would be really easy to get bogged down in minutiae and miss the entire point of the passage.  Verses 17 and 18 are a great summary of what we are meant to really take away from Daniel 7, “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.”

Kings and kingdoms will rise and fall under the sovereign control of God but God’s kingdom, established by the son of man will become the inheritance of the saints forever.

The aim of this sermon is twofold.  First, to comfort and encourage believers as we experience significant geo-political upheaval in our world, and second, to point unbelievers to the Son of Man who gives such a magnificent inheritance to his people.

Gospel Focus

Jesus is the Son of Man who has been given dominion and authority.  Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Daniel and so those who belong to Jesus can be confident that they will one day reign with him forever.

Preaching/Application Points

  • The rise and fall of earthly kingdoms – this has been a continual theme of the book of Daniel.  It is God who gives them power and God who takes away their power.
  • The nature of human evil – the fourth beast represents a kingdom that destroys everything in its path.  Many Christians around the world today experience crushing and devouring persecution at the hands of destructive regimes.  These brothers and sisters understand the beast-like imagery of Daniel better than we in the west.  But as we see the erosion of Christian values, the rejection of the Christian message and increasing hostility to the kingdom of God, our own experience with this beastly kingdom may not be far off.  Should that occur, Daniel’s message still holds true…the saints will one-day reign.
  • The majesty of God – Daniel 7:9-10 is one of the most vivid portraits of God found in the Bible.  Sam Storms notes, “In contrast with the chaotic waters of the great sea and its bestial inhabitants there appears in the calm of heaven He in whom all authority and power reside.”
  • The Son of Man – he is given dominion and authority. In Mt. 28:18 Jesus tells his disciples “All authority on heaven and on earth have been given to me.”  Jesus refers to himself as the Son of Man around 81 times in the gospels.
  • The already/not yet aspects of God’s kingdom – this kingdom was inaugurated at Christ’s first coming but is awaiting its consummation at his second coming.  We now live in the interim and find ourselves subject to the wrath of the world’s kingdoms that oppose God.  But we can be certain that the Son of Man is coming with authority to judge and will reign with his people forevermore.
  • Cosmic conflict or spiritual warfare – As we observe geo-political upheaval we need to be reminded that behind it all is a spiritual warfare that will rage until the final day. It is God who raises up and sets low and is accomplishing his plan throughout history.  (See Eph. 6:12)
  • The inevitability of victory – the cross is our guarantee that the victory is ours (Colossians 2:14-15)
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