Sermon April 10, 2016 Daniel 7:15-28 “Christ’s Saints: Tormented, Yet Triumphant!”

Daniel 7:15-28            Daniel Sermon #10                         April 10, 2016

Sermon Series: “The Lord is King”                                                               

Title: “Christ’s Saints: Tormented, Yet Triumphant!”

Pastor Louis Prontnicki    Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church

       Do you sometimes wonder: “If God is sovereign over the nations of the world, then why do believers have to suffer so much and be so persecuted? Why doesn’t the Lord of the universe do something to help us when we struggle and hurt so much?”

This is a question that Daniel might have also raised, as God revealed to him His sovereign plan for the centuries to come, yet it included oppression and even martyrdom for the saints.

 Let’s begin, though, with the Outline of the Passage before us, Daniel 7:15-28

A.1. Daniel’s troubled response to the vision (v. 15)

B.1. Daniel asks for an interpretation (v. 16a)

C.1. The interpretation is given: (vv. 16b-18)

  1. The four kingdoms (v. 17)
  2. The saints and the Everlasting Kingdom (v. 18)

B.2. Daniel asks for a further interpretation (vv. 19-22)

C.2. The interpretation is given: (vv. 23-27)

  1. The fourth kingdom and the different king (vv. 23-25)
  2. The saints and the Everlasting Kingdom (vv. 26-27)

A.2. Daniel’s troubled response to the vision (v. 28)

Note the symmetry and progression of God’s Word, which helps us see clearly what God is conveying to us.

 

Next, let’s consider the Pattern of Divine History:

What we see in this vision from God is part of a larger pattern that we see throughout Scripture.

First, earthly kings and kingdoms often persecute the saints, causing suffering and death.

Second, this struggle on earth is a reflection of a deeper spiritual war between Satan and God.

Third, in the end, Christ will triumph gloriously, and the saints will reign forever with Him.

In other words,

  1. The Lord is the everlasting and sovereign King.
  2. Satan is permitted by God to be the temporary prince of this world, harming the saints.
  3. The Lord will bring the ultimate victory, and His saints will reign forever with Him!

I would suggest to you that Daniel’s vision and the interpretation of it give us a vivid picture of this larger, divine pattern in history.

 

But here’s the pressing question: Why doesn’t God just send Satan and his minions packing to hell right now, which would allow us to avoid all this suffering and loss? Why does God wait so long to act and deliver His people? Isn’t that how you feel at times? “How long, O Lord?”

Here’s the answer of God in the Bible:

Two main reasons:

(1) Through this prolonged spiritual battle, we, the saints, learn to trust the Lord and love Him more deeply, than if everything was smooth sailing for us. Isn’t this principle true on a human level? Think about how your relationship with your spouse or a co-worker in ministry is actually deepened as you go through hard times together. Or the “Band of Brothers” in WWII.

(2) God is more glorified by the way He uses even the seeming victories of Satan, and turns them around, to defeat Satan and win the ultimate victory for His saints! For example, think about in the Book of Esther, when Haman built the 75 foot gallows to hang Mordecai on, but then the Lord turned it around, so that Haman was hung on the very gallows he had built.

This is what the visions that God gives to Daniel are about. This is the message that the persecuted church needs to cling to, to have Biblical hope! This is the truth that you and I need to hold on to and to cherish, if we are going to persevere, even with joy (!), through the suffering and loss that we face… and more of this persecution will be coming.

We see this divine pattern in the Book of Exodus, as God’s people had to wait and suffer for 400 years under Pharaoh. Then the Lord acted, and we hear the results in the song of Moses (Ex. 15:1) “I will sing onto the LORD for He has triumphed gloriously, the horse and rider (of Pharaoh’s mighty army) thrown into the sea.”  Note: Salvation for God’s people always means the overthrow and destruction of God’s enemies. James Hamilton wrote a book seeking to summarize the central message of the entire Bible, and the title of his book says it all: “God’s glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology”

We see this divine pattern from the time of the fall of the glorious kingdom of Israel, under David and Solomon, through the nearly 1,000 years until the coming of the Messiah. God’s people experienced “church splits,” deportations, the destruction of the Holy City of Jerusalem and the desecration of the temple and the holy of holies, where God had dwelt on earth with men.  It was so bad and so hard that the prophet Habakkuk cried out to God, “How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?” (Hab. 1:2). Habakkuk was desperate to know “where was God?”, when all this evil and violence was happening all around him, and the fabric of society was unraveling.  You see, what the prophet was seeing and experiencing – all this seeming triumph of evil – did not match up with what he knew of God from the Bible.

And so God tells Habakkuk what He is about to do. In His great sovereignty and wisdom, the Lord will send a violent and wicked nation to accomplish His divine purposes.

Isn’t that what God is revealing to Daniel is this vision?  That He will use these beasts –these wicked powerful and violent kingdoms – to accomplish His divine purpose, so that in the end, after a defined period of suffering and persecution, the Lord will be glorified; all rebels will be crushed; and His redeemed saints will reign with Him forever!

But that requires trusting and waiting on our part, doesn’t it?  David Prior, in his commentary on Habakkuk, puts it this way: “The silences of God –mysterious and exasperating- require our trust at least as much as do the commands of God.” When God seems silent, when evil men and wicked rulers are getting the upper hand, we must trust God and lean on Him fully!

We also see this divine pattern in a brief but intense time while Jesus’ crucified body lay in a Jerusalem tomb for three days. Imagine the hearts of Jesus’ followers in those miserable days: Did it not seem to them that Satan had triumphed? Was it not obvious that all their hopes in God’s Messiah were dashed forever? Were they not tempted to give up on God and stop believing in His promises? But once again, God, in His amazing sovereignty, used even the betrayal of Judas, the denials of Peter, the cowardly judgment of Pontus Pilate, the jealous hatred of the Pharisees, and the nails of the Roman soldiers – to accomplish the greatest victory the world had ever seen, as the Father raised His Son from the dead and brought about salvation to the saints! Satan, sin and death were crushed, and the evil one had been “hoist with his own petard;” that is, the cross of Christ, far from being Satan’s lasting triumph, came back at him like a boomerang, to trounce the evil one and administer him a fatal blow.

This is what Daniel’s visions are about, in living color, in vivid images and symbolism, just as we see in portions of Isaiah, Ezekiel, and the Book of Revelation.  And when you combine those sections of the Bible with the gospel narratives and the history of the early church in Acts and the epistles, you end up with a glorious gospel which includes both a riveting story line and a sound and light show to accompany it!

To reiterate the principles we’ve already touched on:

One: there’s always going to be an intense and violent spiritual war going on between the forces of Satan and the Most High God. (From Gen. 3 to Rev. 20.)

Two, for much of history, the saints are going to suffer loss, defeat, and even martyrdom.

Three, but in the end, the Most High God will reign triumphantly, along with all His saints!

In Daniel’s visions in Dan. 7, God shows us how that will play out in history for the next millennium, or more. We can see that from the time of Daniel onwards, there will be four major kingdoms who will figure in the history of God’s people, but it is the fourth one that will cause the most torment for God’s saints. We know from other passages, such as in Dan. 2, 4, 8 and 11, that Babylon was the first kingdom, followed by the Medo-Persian Empire, and then Alexander the Great’s Greek Kingdom. Upon his death, the Greek empire was divided into four parts, and two of those will feature prominently in Israel’s future history (see Dan. 8 and 11). By the way, we see elements of these same beasts in Rev. 13.

 Remember, this is not recorded history, after the fact. This is God foretelling history in advance!

Finally, the fourth kingdom would be the most oppressive toward God’s saints. Most commentators see this kingdom as the Roman Empire, and indeed we know that the early church suffered greatly under the Roman emperors. As far as the ten horns and then the one horn, some have tried to interpret them as specific Roman emperors, while view them as symbolic of the ongoing persecution of believers down through the ages, even to today. The one horn who utters blasphemies is likely a picture of all anti-Christs and of the final Anti-Christ, as the end of the ages comes upon the earth.

The bottom line is that God is revealing to Daniel, and to God’s people, that the next 1,000 years of so are going to include lots of suffering for the saints.

Let’s try to see this vision from the standpoint of Daniel (and of the saints after him). He was troubled because the interpretation of his vision meant that the saints of the Most High would have to undergo suffering, persecution and torment for a longer, undefined period of time (v. 25b – the saints will be handed over to this “anti-Christ” for three and a half times). Therefore in his lifetime and for the near future, the sovereign will of God was that His people would continue to be oppressed, and the kingdom of darkness and evil would continue to defeat the saints.

Now that’s tough news to hear, when you know that God is sovereign and rules over these pint-sized kings and emperors who persecute and kill your fellow believers. Like Habakkuk, or like the persecuted saints of today, Daniel may have cried out in prayer, “Almighty LORD, since You are the Sovereign King over all kings and all kingdoms, then why do You allow such suffering and persecution to go on?”

And when you look at the one boastful horn who wages war against the saints (vv. 20-21, and 24-25), things look even worse for the believers. Note the 3 characteristics of this horn in v. 25:

First, he will speak (pompous words) against the Most High – Blasphemy against God

Second, he will oppress/persecute/ wear out the saints – Persecution of the Church

Third, he will try to change the set times and laws – A form of self-deification.

Who is this little horn? Antiochus Epiphanes? The persecuting Caesars?

The final antichrist, the man of sin?  Sinclair Ferguson: “We have here a picture of the entire history of the Christian church. Just as the character of the beast reaches its apex in the little horn, so the kingdom of God will reach its climax in the destruction of the Antichrist.”

Yet at the same time, Daniel had already heard a number of pagan rulers confess that the Most High is indeed the supreme king over all the nations and peoples of the world (see Dan. 2 and 6). Therefore, Daniel had to live by faith. He had to trust that God was going to work out His glorious and triumphant plan not merely in decades, but in centuries and millennia. Daniel had to rest in God’s sovereign purposes, since they included lots of suffering and oppression for the church.

We also need to ask: How does Jesus Christ fit into this divine pattern of history?

We have already seen in Daniel 7:13-14 that “One like son of man” would be given authority, glory, and sovereign power; that all peoples and nations would worship Him; and that His kingdom would be an everlasting kingdom. We know from passages in the New Testament that this prophecy was speaking of our Lord Jesus Christ, so it’s clear that the interpretation of Daniel’s vision centers on Jesus as well.

But does this refer to Jesus’ first coming (2,000 years ago), or to his second coming, when He will appear as King and Judge? Consider that Jesus said in Matt. 28:18 “All authority in heaven and earth has (already) be given to me.” Jesus has been reigning ever since he conquered Satan on the cross and through His resurrection and ascension!  (Also see John 5:26-27 The Father has given the Son authority to judge, because He is the Son of Man; as well as John 12:31-32 Judgment on this world has begun and the prince of this world (Satan) has been driven out, as Jesus is lifted up from the earth.)

Therefore, although we do look forward to Christ’s return to earth to destroy all evil and to take us home to be with Him forever, we already are celebrating His triumph and victory, and we worship Him as the conquering King! We, His saints, are reigning with Him already… just not yet in all the fullness that we will one day experience.

But for now, God’s people are painfully aware of the reality and power of evil and the evil one.

The kingdom of God is a kingdom of suffering (Romans 8:16-17)

We must look, by faith, beyond the terrible events of history, and gaze upon the throne of God.

Our great hope, as God’s people, lies not in centers of world powers, but in the triumph of Jesus Christ. And we live in an age when we already reign in Christ.

Iain Duguid comments: “For now, we live in the day of the monstrous beasts. [Think of ISIS and egotistical presidential candidates.] But the day will come when all that is broken will be fixed. All wrongs will be righted. All wounds healed. All sorrows made into joyful singing. Even death’s power will be annulled.”  “In the midst of this beastly world, our challenge is to live our lives with our eyes firmly fixed on the heavenly throne room.”

“[For] after the world has done its worst, God will welcome me into His very best.”

All the beasts will be slain, and the saints will reign!