10 November 2010

The Four Beasties Met Their Match

"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.”
(Dan. 7:13–14)

IT'S ADMITTEDLY DIFFICULT to come down hard on the details of certain texts that have to do with eschatology ("end times"), but the pastoral points remain the same—the Messiah is now enthroned. He has an eternal rule over the whole earth (Dan. 7:14; Luke 1:32–33). King Jesus, the fully divine and fully human Son of God and son of David, will judge all things before the very throne of the Almighty, the Ancient of Days (Dan. 7:10; Matt. 25:32). For those in union with this King, the Christ of God, the verdict will be “not guilty” (Rom. 8:1; 1 John 2:1–2). Not so for the four beasts—and especially for the fourth beast: his “dominion shall be taken away, to be consumed and destroyed to the end” (Dan. 7:26). This is good news, indeed!

The panmillennialist’s mantra—“It’ll all pan out in the end!”—is surely agreeable at this point. But we needn’t be content with just that. There’s always more to say, not least with respect to eschatology, and not least with respect to Daniel 7, a magnificent portion of God’s Word. Daniel’s vision climaxes with the installation of one like the son of man as the eternal king in 7:13–14. Contrary to popular opinion, this scene has to do with the Messiah’s first coming, not his second, final coming (and I’m no
postmillennialist). Clearly, the vantage point of Daniel's vision is from the heavenly court—not earth—and one like a human being ascending toward it. John Calvin picked up on this long ago when he argued that this passage is best understood as a vision of Christ’s ascension to the right hand of the Father after his resurrection (see Acts 1:9–11; 2:33; 5:31).

Thus, Christ is enthroned
now. But much like when David the shepherd boy was anointed by Samuel and spent the following several years waiting and fighting to see that kingship manifest itself fully, “all authority in heaven and on earth” has been given to Christ Jesus, complete with its own set of marching orders that are to be carried out while we await, and fight for, the full manifestation of that heavenly kingship: “Go therefore and make disciples” (Matt. 28:18–19). We couldn’t even begin to do the latter if the former were not true.

Keith Mathison argues convincingly in
From Age to Age that the “coming Son of Man” sections of Matthew’s gospel that are often understood as pointing to Christ’s second coming actually refer to Jesus’ installation as the eternal king and judge during the entirety of his first advent, but most notably at his ascension (e.g., Matt. 10:22–24; 13:40–42; 16:26–28; 19:27–29; 24; 26:63–65, and parallels). In other words, all of these sayings are fulfillments of Daniel 7:13–14, when Jesus receives the kingdom from his Father, the Ancient of Days.

Let us praise the Lord this day that the linchpin of history has already been banged into place. The promised restoration of creation, including the blessing of all nations, is well underway. “Despite resistance, tribulation, and suffering, all the forces of hell will not be able to stand against the church, for Jesus has overcome the powers of death and hell, and nothing will ever be the same” (Mathison, p. 387).


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