“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.”
This is an unusual and fascinating passage because it presents a vision of Jesus that is not found elsewhere in the Old Testament.
The first intimation of a plurality in the Godhead is in the first verse of the Bible where the plural name for God, _Elohim,_ occurs. It can be a plural of emphasis, as if it meant “the God of all gods.” But later in the same chapter we find this one true God saying, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.” And later, at Babel we find God saying, “Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” There are verses like that scattered throughout the Old Testament.
The use of a plural name for God does not necessarily imply a plurality of persons within the Godhead. But it is not just the name of God that is plural. God is referred to by plural pronouns also, and this is strange in a book that stresses the truth that there is only one God – unless it is meant to indicate a plurality in God that is, as we know, increasingly disclosed in the Bible anyway.
Another intimation of the existence of a second person in the Godhead is the appearance of a figure who is usually described as “the angel of the Lord” or “the messenger of the Lord.” The first clear reference to this figure is God’s appearance to Abraham to warn him of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. In that story three figures appear to Abraham. Two may be angels. But the third, who does most of the talking and who speaks to Abraham as God, saying, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?” seems more than an angel. He speaks as only God can speak, and the chapter probably refers to Him at the very beginning where we read, “The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great tree of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent.”
God may have appeared as this figure to Adam and Eve in the garden in the cool of the day.
This is probably also the figure seen in chapter 3 of Daniel. In that chapter one “like a son of the gods” appeared with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the midst of the blazing furnace and protected them. He was even seen by the unbelieving Nebuchadnezzar.
In the sixth chapter of Isaiah, “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple.” In itself this would hardly be remarkable. In John, the fourth evangelist says that Isaiah “saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him,” presumably referring to this vision. In other words, in John’s view Isaiah saw Jesus seated as God in the heavenly temple.
These and other texts hint of the existence of the second person of the Trinity. Yet they are sometimes unclear, and they are certainly subject to differing interpretations. Nowhere but in Daniel 7:13–14 (except perhaps in Psalm 110:1) does the distinct person and glory of the Lord Jesus Christ emerge so clearly. For here are two great personages: The Ancient of Days and “one like a son of man.” And it is to this latter figure that dominion over the peoples and nations of the earth is given forever.
Unusual and unexpected as Daniel’s vision of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Old Testament is, it is actually precisely what we should expect at this point in Daniel’s prophecy.
In Nebuchadnezzar’s judgment, the gods of Babylon were superior to and more powerful than the Jewish God, Jehovah. But were they? It seemed so. Jerusalem had fallen to Nebuchadnezzar’s armies. However, the entire development of the book shows that God’s answer to the question is that God is still in control of history – although the kingdom of Babylon had triumphed for a time. As a result, the kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar would eventually fall to the kingdom of the Medes and Persians under Darius; the kingdom of Darius would eventually fall to the kingdom of the Greeks under Alexander the Great; the Greek kingdom would fall to the Romans. And only at the end of that long history, which God was controlling, would there come an eternal kingdom that, like a rock, would destroy the other kingdoms, grow to be a great mountain, and fill the earth.
How can any mere human kingdom, however blessed by God, take on these eternal characteristics? When God told David that He would establish His kingdom forever, David understood this difficulty and protested rightly, “Is this your usual way of dealing with man, O Sovereign Lord?”
David meant that human kingdoms do not endure forever. How then can any kingdom grow to be a great mountain?
The answer comes in Daniel 7:13–14. The one who is to establish and maintain this kingdom, while He is “like a son of man,” that is, a human being, is no mere human being, and His kingdom is no mere human kingdom. The one who is “like a son of man” is also God; He is the God-man. And His kingdom is to be established by God in spite of the rebellious opposition of Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, or any other of this world’s emperors.