How does man view the world’s kingdoms? Well, he is impressed, for the most part. He thinks of them as glorious – differing in splendor, to be sure, but nevertheless all worthy of some degree of honor. He is enamored of them. On occasion he is seduced by the secular political power. He sees the state as the greatest of all good and as an end in itself.
How does God view earth’s kingdoms? A mixed answer must be given at this point. It is mixed because, on the one hand, God has created and authorized the secular authorities, as Romans 13 indicates “The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves” (vv.1-2). But on the other hand, the state is generally corrupt and therefore aptly described as beastlike, which is what the vision of beasts in Daniel 7 does.
We said last time that from God’s point of view the state is not so much a noble, glorious thing as it is an animal that conquers, devours, and tears those subject to it. What is more characteristic of the kingdoms of this world’s history: the properly functioning state of Romans 13 or the corrupt, devouring state of Revelation 13? It would be nice if we could point confidently to Romans 13. Unfortunately, honesty compels us to admit that the kingdoms of this world have often been terrible and ferocious and richly deserve judgment.
By comparing the vision of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 2 and the vision of Daniel in Daniel 7, we must also admit that the latter is the way God seems most often to view them.
The kingdom of Jesus Christ will triumph over the kingdoms of this world and will endure forever. This idea was present in the vision of the statue given to Nebuchadnezzar, for in that vision a rock not made with human hands struck the statue and destroyed it, after which it grew to be a large mountain that filled the earth. But there is a new element here, and that is the personal rule of God’s Anointed, described as being “like a son of man.”
We are going to consider this further another time perhaps, but it is important to note that this is the very phrase picked up by Jesus and used over and over as a title for himself. Indeed, He used it in the Olivet discourse just a few verses after His reference to Daniel, saying, “For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (Mathew 24:27). There are other references to the coming of this Son of Man in Daniel’s prophecy.
_The saints of the Most High will reign with Jesus._ In the interpretation of this vision in the latter half of Daniel 7, it is said that the saints will be persecuted by the king who is the little horn (vv.24-25); but he will be destroyed, and the “sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High” (v.27). To my knowledge this is the first occurrence of this idea in the Bible – that the saints will rule with Jesus and not merely that Jesus will himself reign. It is an astonishing truth, but a very practical one.
One practical application is made by Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:1-11. In those verses Paul is concerned with the practice of the Corinthian Christians of going to law against one another. He argues, “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases?” (v.2). It is a powerful argument. If we are to rule with the Lord Jesus Christ one day, we should be able to show something of the wisdom and justice of his rule now—and not have to appeal to unbelievers to settle our internal disputes. More than that, we should be models of integrity, compassion, love, honesty, and wisdom in our dealings with other men and women.
There is this application also. In II Timothy 2:12, Paul says, “If we endure, we will also reign with him.” The context has to do with our remaining faithful to the Lord in difficult times. So it is in the nature of a warning as well as an encouragement. We can be encouraged to endure now because we know that one day we will reign with Jesus. That can lift our spirits and give us a renewed determination to fight on. It is also a warning since our reigning with Christ later seems to depend on our endurance now. It is the same thing Jesus meant when he said, “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:12–13). Are you enduring? Will you be standing firm when Christ returns?
You may argue that this is a tough age in which to be faithful, and that is true. But it was tough for Daniel; the empires were in political and moral decline in his day. And it was tough for Paul, who makes these applications for us; the Roman Empire of the first Christian century was particularly decadent. It has always been tough for God’s people. But those who truly are His people persevere – as they look forward to Christ’s reign and to reigning with Him.
“The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.” (Revelation 3:21)