Sermon April 3, 2016 Daniel 7:1-14 “A Terrifying Dream and an Everlasting Dominion”

Daniel Chapter Seven             Daniel Sermon #9                               April 3, 2016

Sermon Series: “The Lord is King”    Sermon Title: “A Terrifying Dream and an Everlasting Dominion”

Pastor Louis Prontnicki             Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church

     Last night I had a terrifying dream. I dreamed that we were in a place that looked like a zoo. It was at night, but there were no lights on, yet we were also able to see that all the animals were out of their cages! We were terrified, and we ran to the exit, only to find it locked. There was no way out. We were trapped in one big cage.  We could see snakes, reptiles and monkeys freely going about the zoo. But what scared us the most were the large animals. We watched in fear as leopards, lions and bears went prowling around to stalk us. And then every so often you would hear a blood-curdling scream, as one of the hungry animals would find a helpless victim. Soon the elephants started to stampede, and the birds of prey swooped down from the sky. We had no strength left in us, as we were paralyzed by fear! Then we saw some people being crushed to death. Others were ripped apart, limb by limb, while a few were devoured nearly whole.  We felt that we were doomed to die a horrifying death in that zoo.

As we watched and tried to hide, I saw some strange animals that I had never seen before. There was a lion who had the wings of an eagle, a huge bear, and a leopard with four wings and four heads. But worst of all was a beast that had iron teeth and ten horns on its head. I looked as it crushed and devoured its victims. Then I nearly fainted when one of the horns on its head spoke to us! This horn taunted and mocked Christians, and it uttered blasphemies against our Lord Jesus Christ.  I felt that all my strength had drained from me, and I nearly collapsed.

But just as it seemed that we were all going to die, I saw a royal palace with a magnificent throne room inside, right there, in the middle of the zoo. And I saw one who was called the “Ancient of Days” come and take his seat upon the throne. His clothes and his hair were a brilliant white. His throne was a flaming fire, and a river of fire flowed from his throne. And as I watched, the throne room was filled with millions of people, all bowing down and worshipping this glorious One on the throne.

I watched as He opened these special books, and listened as He pronounced two kinds of judgments. The first judgment was a declaration of our righteousness in Christ, that all those who worshiped and served Him were justified and free!  But the second judgment was a condemnation upon all these terrifying beasts. Immediately, all these horrible animals were stopped dead; they were defeated and destroyed.

And then I looked again toward the throne room, and I saw another glorious figure approaching. He was coming on the clouds of heaven, and He seemed to have the characteristics of being both human and divine.  He was called “Son of man,” and as he approached the throne of the Ancient of Days, He was crowned with power and authority, so that all the peoples of the world bowed down and worshipped Him!

And then those who had been killed by the beasts were raised to life, and we were all ushered into God’s eternal kingdom, where we reigned with the Son of Man over the whole universe, forever and ever.

What an ending to such a nightmare, to go from a terrifying dream to an eternal dominion!

Then I awoke from my dream, covered in a cold sweat, trembling, and wondering about it.

 Hear the Word of the Lord, from Daniel 7:1-14

Perhaps you wondered where I was going with my dream… until I read Dan. 7. I usually don’t give such long introductions in my sermons, but I deliberately wanted you to feel a bit of what Daniel felt and wrote about here. For in Daniel chapters 7 – 12, God is giving us apocalyptic literature, a genre of revelation that uses vivid symbolism and images to get us to experience the spiritual warfare that occurs behind the scenes of history, and to reveal more of God’s awesome power and glory! Therefore as we go through the second half of the book of Daniel, we need to not only think with our minds; we also need to see with our eyes and be moved in our imagination.

Notice that what Daniel saw in this dream/vision was the central feature this chapter. He writes that “I watched/ was watching” (vv. 4, 11, 13); and “I looked/ kept looking” (v. 2, 6, 7, 9, 11, 13). This chapter is all about what Daniel saw.  In a similar was, the Lord wants us to see this vision, that is, He wants us to imagine it in order to experience a bit of what Daniel was seeing and feeling. So we shouldn’t be satisfied with merely figuring out which beast corresponds to which future empire. No. God is calling us here to be overwhelmed and caught up with this dream.

Sinclair Ferguson writes that if the Lord had simply wanted Daniel to know the facts of history about certain empires, ahead of time, then God could have given him a chart with all the names of the nations to come with their corresponding dates. But that’s not what God did. Rather, God gave Daniel a complex, curious, multi-colored, sense-appealing revelation. Why this type of revelation? Because “God not only revealed facts about history in advance; He revealed Himself to Daniel, impressing on him something of His own awesome and glorious purposes. If we miss this then we miss almost everything.”  [This is what He would give to John, in the book of Revelation, as well.]

Ferguson goes on to say that when we come to Daniel chapters 7-12, we are looking at chapters of images, visceral messages, and vivid pictures, all of which are meant to appeal to our senses. Like the Book of Revelation, we could think about the second half of the book of Daniel as a “sacrament of the imagination.”  The Lord of Scripture has designed these portions of His Word to challenge us, stretch us, and fill us, just as Daniel was blown away by the revelation of the beasts, the Ancient of Days, and the Son of Man.

Therefore we need to seek to experience what Daniel experienced. Look at how this dream impacted him: v. 15 “I was troubled in spirit, and the visions that passed through my mind disturbed me.” And in v. 28 “I was deeply troubled by my thoughts, and my face turned pale.”

So you and I cannot take in Daniels visions as a mere academic exercise, because God is momentarily drawing back the impenetrable curtain that normally hides His glory.

So as we travel with Daniel in these next six chapters, we should ask God to help us feel with Daniel,  as his emotions range from being greatly troubled and grieved, to being in the presence of the glorious and holy One, our Lord Jesus Christ.

God is also giving us, through Daniels’ eyes, a visual impression of the great spiritual warfare that is going on behind and beyond human history. God is revealing to Daniel a weighty measure of the spiritual battle that is going on in the universe. For the most part, it appears that the saints of the Lord are losing and getting beaten! We glimpse into the devious devices of Satan and of the puppet governments he controls.  Yet we don’t stay there.

For as Iain Duguid writes, “The purpose of these visions is not to give us nightmares… but to strengthen us for the fight ahead. We look forward to the future day of God’s perfect judgment, when these beasts will be judged and Jesus Christ will be victorious!” For in the darkest hour, God reveals Himself in judgment and power, showing His glory and greatness! Hallelujah!

One of the reasons we need this apocalyptic revelation is that we have grown too accustomed to how things are going here below. Though we have almost instant access to news all around the world, from multiple sources, yet we are often missing the big picture of what is really going on in the universe! We are missing the forest for the trees. And so God gives us these dreams and visions to open our spiritual eyes and to stir up the imagination of our spirits!

Let me give you an analogy: My first plane ride ever was scheduled to take off out of the Philly airport, on a snowy, stormy February morning. I took the subway and a bus to the airport, and I think my flight was the last one to take off, before they closed down the airport, because of the snow. Sitting in the plane on the runway, looking out the small window, all I could see was this snowy and stormy scene. Then the plane took off, and after a while, all of a sudden we were above the storm clouds, and the sun was shining, and the sky was a brilliant blue! The whole scene had radically changed, although above the clouds, it had been that way the whole time. And so it was for Daniel. For 50 or 60 years he had been laboring as a civil servant as an exile in a foreign culture. On earth he saw the destruction of Jerusalem and of the holy temple of God; he saw how the chosen people of God had been conquered by a godless empire. And he longed for the restoration of God’s kingdom and glory!

But when the Lord sent Daniel this terrifying dream and the other visions like it, he was able to see above the clouds. Yes, he saw the intense spiritual warfare going on between the Lord and the forces of darkness; but more than that, he watched as the Son of Man was given all authority, glory and sovereign power, so that His reign would be an everlasting dominion!

The lessons God taught Daniel are the same ones we must grasp: namely, (1) that God’s people, down through the ages, must expect fierce opposition from Satan and his puppet governments on earth. (2) We should expect that Satan will continue to twist the good, God-given authority of civil governments (Romans 13) into the evil beasts of Rev. 13, and they will seek to devour the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, even as Satan tried to destroy Jesus on earth.

But (3) never forget that God, through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ, brought about an awesome victory over sin, Satan, and death! And (4) when Jesus returns to earth as King and Judge, He will destroy all evil forever, and Satan and his minions will be completely defeated.

Will there be terrifying dreams ahead for us, as God’s people? Yes.

But ultimately, these visions are not meant to give us nightmares, but to strengthen us for the fight ahead. We look forward to the future day of God’s perfect judgment, when these beasts will be judged and Jesus Christ will be victorious! For in the darkest hour, God reveals Himself in judgment and power, showing His glory and greatness! Hallelujah!