Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Kingdom of God in Daniel

I mentioned at the end of my essay about the Kingdom of God that there were many things I didn't cover. Later on, I realized that I was remiss in not discussing the Kingdom message in the book of Daniel. I wrote the following to correct that oversight. If you were reading my original article, this section could be inserted directly before I begin my discussion of the New Testament.

Some of the most important references to the Kingdom of God in the Old Testament occur in the book of Daniel. The first passage I want to look at is in the dream of Nebuchadnezzar that Daniel interpreted. The king of Babylon had seen a statue with a head of gold, arms and breast of silver, stomach and thighs of brass, legs of iron, and feet of mixed iron and clay. The statue was destroyed by a stone cut without hands, and this stone grew into a mountain that covered the whole earth. Daniel then describes how the different metals refer to different earthly kingdoms (Daniel 2:31-43). There may be some parts of the statue that can be interpreted in different ways, but a common view is that the gold is Babylon, the silver is Persia, the brass is Greece, the iron is Rome, and the mixed iron and clay is the division of the Roman Empire, or possibly the union of the Empire with the institutional church. In every case, each kingdom is defeated and taken over by the succeeding kingdom. Now I will quote Daniel's explanation of the stone.

And in the days of those kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.
(Daniel 2:44-45)

This is the Kingdom of God. Unlike the kingdoms of the world, which exist temporarily and at their demise are taken over by others, God's Kingdom will never be defeated, and consequently never "left to other people." Instead of a new government replacing it, the Kingdom of God eventually will be victorious over all the nations on the world--but not through the sword.

I would next like to examine the fourth chapter of Daniel. Nebuchadnezzar's experience of losing his reason and living as a beast of the field, and then being restored as king of Babylon, prompted him to make some powerful declarations.

I thought it good to shew the signs and wonders that the high God hath wrought toward me. How great are his signs! and how mighty are his wonders! his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion is from generation to generation.
(Daniel 4:2-3)

And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up my eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned to me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation... Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase.
(Daniel 4:34, 37)

Unfortunately for King Belshazzar, he did not learn this important lesson as did his predecessor, and Babylon was left to the Medes and Persians. The next heathen ruler to be impressed with the supremacy of God's Kingdom was the Persian king Darius. After Daniel survived the lions' den, the king made this pronouncement.

I make a decree, That in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for he is the living God, and stedfast forever, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end.
(Daniel 6:26)

Finally, we have Daniel's vision in chapter 7. It is not my intention to consider all the meanings this prophecy could have, but I would like to highlight the important place it gives the Kingdom.

I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all the people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.
(Daniel 7:13-14)

But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever.
(Daniel 7:18)

I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom.
(Daniel 7:21-22)

And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.
(Daniel 7:27)

These passages describe how the Kingdom of God in its fullness will cover the earth. Until that time comes, the Kingdom is limited in its extent in this world, but it does have a present existence. I endeavor to demonstrate the validity of this statement in my original essay as I consider the ministry of Jesus.

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