In my vision in the night I continued to watch: And I saw One like a Son of Man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into His presence.
I. THE KING. We read ver. 13 thus: "I continued looking in the visions of the night, and behold I with the clouds of heaven like unto a Son of man was advancing, and to the Ancient of days to come, and before him they caused him to approach."
1. The Personage was Divine. Advancing, girt with clouds, marks the Divine. Clouds hide the glory behind and beyond. They symbolize the veil that dims the glory of God. Many are the scriptural passages to illustrate. Select a few, and we shall see how the same idea starts up in successive ages of the Church (Exodus 13:21; Exodus 14:24). If these describe the action of the Angel-God, they are all the more pertinent as illustrations of this passage in Daniel (Exodus 16:10; Exodus 40:34; Leviticus 16:2; 2 Chronicles 5:13, 14; Psalm 97:2). Christ takes up these representations, and applies them to himself (Matthew 26:64). (In this last passage, note "the Son of maul" so again in Matthew 25:31.) Similar, though not identical, is the imagery of 2 Thessalonians 2:8; Revelation 1:7. Holy Scripture is consistent in applying such descriptions only to God, and to God in Christ. See the charge against one enemy of the Church in olden time (Isaiah 14:13, 14). These intimations of the Divine in Christ of the Old Testament are like the grey that precedes the dawn. If Daniel anticipated that the Messianic Deliverer would be one of the race, it is clear, and will be clearer, that he had a glimpse of the truth that he would be Divine.
2. The personage was also human. "A Son of man." The phrase is used in the Old Testament:
(1) For man simply (Numbers 23:19).
(2) To remind the gifted and inspired of their oneness with the race. So eighty times in Ezekiel (Ezekiel 3:10, 11, 17, et passim). So here the advancing one was partaker of the infirmity (innocent) of the race. With "clouds," the engirdlement of the Divine, he might come; so also like "a Son of man." Of none other can this double affirmation be made - of none save the Lord Jesus. That the phrase here denotes the Messiah is clear:
(1) From a general consensus of rabbinical opinion.
(2) From the Lord's own assumption of the name. Christ calls himself "the Son of man," though others call him "the Son of God." What is its significance? Answering, we do not limit ourselves to Daniel's standpoint.
(1) The Christ was to be of the human race. The humanity is Christologically as important as the Divinity, and each is indispensable to the mediatorial office. See the Athanasian Creed, "For the right faith... rose again the third day from the dead."
(2) In the name is an intimation of the universality of the Saviour's mission. An implied protest against Jewish exclusiveness. "Son of David points to the throne of Israel. Christ's right to it, albeit the sway spiritual. Son of man to his relation to the race; Son of God" to his relation to the Eternal.
(3) Of world-wide dominion. "The Son of man" was to be no ordinary mortal, but King of the race, and King for the race (romp. Psalm 8:4 8 with Hebrews 2:5-9). (A most impressive missionary sermon might be preached from the words, "Now we see not yet all things put under him [man]; but we see Jesus!" i.e. on the way surely to universal empire.) [Note in this connection the wide horizon of Daniel's prophetic vision. It is no longer merely Israel, but the whole world, that is in view. In keeping with the prophet's historical position. His watch-tower is no longer Jerusalem, but Babylon. His look is across the Assyrian plain, at the great world-powers, their developments in relation to the everlasting rule.
II. THE ENTHRONEMENT.
1. The King came from the heavenly world. Out of it, and down from it. He "came with the clouds of heaven." This empire is not like those that arose out of "the sea," from the turbulences of men.
3. The enthronement has no relation to the categories of time or space. We are not to suppose that at some place, at some moment, there was to be some literal fulfilment; that the Eternal under venerable form, would sit on a throne; that the Christ would come to sue for empire, etc. This is the rock on which many interpreters are wrecked. Nor is there reference to the last judgment, for then Christ himself is on the throne. Broad views, free from mere literalism, on such matters are best.
4. And yet there are the pomp and circumstance of an indefinite and multitudinous accompanying of the King "They caused him to approach." A sort of grand indefiniteness in the expression. Not alone does Jesus come to reign.
III. THE KINGDOM.
1. Supernatural in origin. "There was given him."
2. Spiritual in character. Invisible rule over souls. We speak of the empire of mind; we see in vision matter at the footstool of intellect. But what shall we say of the empire of religion, of Christianity, of Christ? Mind at the feet of Jesus, and, as a consequence, all below mind! Imaginations cast down, etc. (2 Corinthians 10:5).
3. Universal in extent. "All people," etc,
4. Everlasting. "Shall not pass away," etc. - R.
i.e., what distinguishes man from other animals is his moral greatness. He is an animal in his lower nature; but he has a higher nature which makes him "man." Therefore, this vision describes the victory of the kingdom in which man's moral nature is redeemed from sin, and is made supreme over the kingdom in which his lower animal nature is victorious. It teaches that the domination of brute force and the sovereignty of selfishness do obtain; but they are judged by God unworthy to continue, and must give place to the domination of redeemed humanity and to the sovereignty of goodness. Only a kingdom represented by a Son of Man can be lasting and universal. One of the most striking thoughts here is that a civilisation which may appear very splendid to man, may appear very unworthy to God. The prophet describes these world-powers from God's standpoint. He judges the beast unworthy to rule, and gives the dominion to the Son of Man, Now it does not concern us to identify very closely these "beasts" with the world-powers they were meant to represent by Daniel. Probably they were the Babylonian empire under Nebuchadnezzar, the Median empire, the Persian empire made splendid for a season by Cyrus Darius. Artaxerxes and Xerxes, and the Greek dominion in Asia connected with the meteor-like glory of Alexander. These were all mighty empires. Some aspects of them appeal powerfully to our senses. No one can consider these ancient empires without being affected by their magnificence. But there is another tribunal before which they must be judged. The eyes from which no secrets are hid look beneath all this dazzling glory; and they see there — brutality! These empires are founded upon the supremacy of man's animal nature. They rule because they are strong. They have great iron teeth! They devour much flesh. They speak great things. And this is the supremacy of the lower nature. This is a very instructive analysis of greatness. The prophet's inward vision has been purged when he can see that all selfishness is essentially bestial. "Let us pray to be delivered from deception by dazzle! We admire power and massiveness, whether in individuals, or societies, or empires. Let us be sure to examine what lies behind the glory which appears. Nothing can match the story of the uprising of these ancient empires except the story of their fall. They seemed destined to continue for ever. It looked as if nothing could destroy them. But with startling suddenness they tottered to their fall. So must fall every dominion which is brutal in its foundations, which is founded on strength and selfish instinct rather them on goodness and reason. The only dominion which can be finally triumphant is the dominion of the saints of the Most High. What representative is like unto a Son of Man? The consideration of this phrase leads us to take a big step forward. As Daniel used the phrase, it is probable that there was no definite personal reference. The phrase is "a Son of Man," not "the Son of Man" and in v.27 it is substituted by "the people of the saints of the Most High." Doubtless Daniel shared the Jewish hope that the final kingdom was that inaugurated by the Messiah; but here the phrase "Son of Man" is meant only to contrast the human kingdom with that of the beasts, Now, if we compare the usage of the name in the, Gospels, it seems clear that Jesus took the name from this very passage. Daniel may not have meant to describe the Messiah by it; but when the Messiah came He adopted it at once as an admirable description of Himself. This means, therefore, that Jesus considered that He was founding that kingdom which should be universal and everlasting. He was that representative of the race whose sovereignty is guided by the highest principles of reason and goodness, and to which the Ancient of Days will give "dominion and glory and a kingdom that all people, nations and languages should serve Him." The kingdom which Jesus founded is the kingdom of wisdom and love. It is to take the place of all kingdoms in which man's lower nature is supreme. It is to be the sovereignty of a redeemed humanity. This philosophy of history has been justified not only by the overthrow of the ancient monarchies, but also by the gradual permeation of modern monarchies by Christian teaching. There is abundant evidence that the nineteen centuries of the Christian era have seen an ever-increasing application of Christian principles. Brute force is not worshipped to-day as it was in the days when Roman legions ruled the world. Character is becoming more and more the object of our praise. An altogether higher standard of duty obtains in every department of life. Selfishness in every form is being condemned increasingly. This transformation must go on until everything that is brutal is destroyed and man's highest nature redeemed from sin is supreme. The dominion of the Son of Man is to be universal and it is to be everlasting. That is what you and I are to believe! I suppose that we are all prone to believe that the reforms of the past were wise and good, but that it is hopeless to expect much further change. That is the temptation of the devil to little faith, and it must be resisted earnestly. We must be much more worthy of the title, "Saints of the Most High." And we must have more faith in the triumph of our Saviour's kingdom upon earth. Think of this prophet away in the pre-Christian times when might was right and all the world seemed against Him. It did require faith to call this might that of a beast, and to speak of a Son of Man to whom the kingdom was to be given. But Daniel could believe it. Surely we can! "To doubt would be disloyalty, to falter would be sin." Let us be more bold in our claims, more fearless in applying our principles, more confident of victory. The limit of the sovereignty of the Son of Man will not be until dominion and glory and a kingdom are given unto Him, and all people, nations and languages shall serve Him. Therefore, there is very much land yet to be possessed, and there is very much for us followers of the Son of Man to do. I want to ask you whether you belong to this kingdom of the Son of Man? There is a very simple test, "Is Jesus your King or is He not?" If He is, you are in His kingdom. If He is not, you are outside. If He is your Lord, you belong to a kingdom which is everlasting, and you have eternal life! Death will not divide you from His dominion. Death will set your spirit free from the trammels of your sinful fleshy nature, and will usher you into His immediate presence. But if you do not belong to His kingdom, then know that you belong to the kingdom which is essentially brutal, because you are giving the victory to your lower animal nature. Perhaps there are fine qualities in your character which you admire and seek to develop. Perhaps there are splendid moments when the Godlike in you stands erect and declares it will be supreme. But if you reject the Son of Man, you turn away from the only One who can redeem you from sin and make you a saint of the Most High. And so the crown is upon the head of that which makes you like the brutes that perish. That kingdom cannot stand. The Eternal God has judged it; it stands condemned to destruction.
One like the son of Man.
I. WHEN THIS KINGDOM WAS GIVEN TO OUR LORD.
1. Our Lord is described as coming with clouds in the day of judgment. But the coming of Christ to the universal judgment is not the coming of Christ spoken of in the text. The coming of Christ to judge the world will be the end of all things; but the coming of Christ in the text must be during the time of the fourth or Roman empire. The coming of Christ to the universal judgment will be to reward or punish mankind; but the coming of Christ in the text is to receive a kingdom for Himself. The coming of Christ to the last judgment will be to utter the final sentence and to fix the eternal state of all the righteous and the wicked; but the coming of Christ in the text refers to temporal events, and to temporal kingdoms.
2. What can the coming be but His coming from earth to Heaven at the triune of His ascension. The prophet does not represent "the Son of Man" as coming in the clouds from Heaven to earth, but as coming with the clouds of Heaven from His former residence on earth towards the Ancient of Days on his fiery throne. The description of Christ's ascension by the Evangelist is the best explanation of this part of the vision of the prophet. Again the prophet says, "And they brought him near before him," i.e., they brought the Son of Man near before the Ancient of Days on His throne. Again, "There was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom." In His hand was put the sceptre of everlasting empire. When, therefore, our Lord ascended on high, and sat down on the right hand of God, then He received His kingdom and glory.
II. THE NATURE OF HIS KINGDOM.
1. It is Divine. It is altogether of God; it is given to the Son of Man by the Ancient of Days; it is set up on earth by the God of Heaven; it is not of this world, it is a spiritual kingdom. As God alone could set up this kingdom in the world, so God alone can make men its willing subjects.
2. It is universal. From the first the greatest opposition was made to the establishment of this kingdom. But in the course of three centuries all opposition was overcome, and Christianity became the religion of the world.
3. It is everlasting. "Of his kingdom there shall be no end." The subject is instructive, alarming, and consolatory.(1) It teaches the magnificence of the scheme of salvation by Christ crucified. It teaches who in times past has shed, like water, the blood of the saints. It teaches the folly or the impropriety of attempting to change Popery, or to conciliate Antichrist. Popery cannot be changed. Antichrist cannot be conciliated.(2) The subject is alarming. It is full of terrors to all who live in sin, and oppose the Kingdom of God.
(J. E. Roberts, M. A.)
(Archdeacon Sinclair, D.D.)
1. It is a spiritual service. External subjection may be yielded in the absence of all those principles and affections which alone invest it with moral character and worth. Human legislation discharges its duty when it uses all competent means for ensuring obedience to positive statutes. It cannot go further. The first demand which Jehovah prefers is, My Son, give me thy heart. Love to Heaven's Lawgiver is the rudimental principle of obedience to His will. Of this love, mankind, without a solitary exception, are wholly destitute. Against Scriptural views, illustrated by the findings of experience, it is nugatory to oppose the testimony of superficial moralists, or dreamy poets. One main design of the mediatorial supremacy of Christ is to restore to the human soul that best of all affections, the love which is the fulfilling of the law. For this end, Messiah became "the Son of Man." The love of God our Saviour is shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost, and becomes the living principle of new obedience.
2. The service which Christ requires from all people, nations, and languages is unreserved. Those who are redeemed by the blood and renewed by the Spirit of Christ, "have respect unto all God's commandments." Every requirement in the infallible directory deserves and demands our prompt and faithful observance. A genuine servant of the Son of Man is not satisfied with generalities. A common practice of false teachers in our Lord's day was the exaltation of some favourite precepts at the expense of others which are specially irksome to flesh and blood.
3. The service which the Son of Man claims is habitual service. Temporary or occasional devotedness of heart and life to Christ is not the kind of obedience which He will ever accept. Wherever living faith is implanted, it is an undying principle of obedience. In this world the servants of the Son of Man are distinguished rather by the sincerity and fervour of their aspirations than by uniform progress in holiness.
II. THE UNIVERSAL EXTENT OF CHRIST'S SOVEREIGNTY. "All people... should serve Him." The period referred to is after His resurrection. Previously to the ascension of the Son of Man, the gospel kingdomhad been, for reasons infinitely wise and good, confined almost exclusively within Palestine and its vicinity. Whilst other nations professed that measures of traditionary knowledge which a primary revelation and their occasional intercourse with the seed of Abraham supplied, it was little more than sufficient to render their spiritual darkness awfully visible.
III. THE STABILITY AND ENDLESS DURATION OF THE DOMINION OF THE SON OF MAN. The fluctuating and evanescent nature of all earthly power and glory is apparent to the most superficial observer. To a casual observer of human affairs, the destinies of the church may seem to he subjected to those sweeping resolutions which have overthrown the proudest dynasties of the world. When we speak of the stability and endless duration of the dominion of the Son of Man, our contemplations are carried forward "to the end of all things." Practical lessons:(1) The obligation of personal subjection to the dominion of the Son of Man. It will avail us nothing to admit the complete, universal, and everlasting supremacy of Christ "over all flesh," unless we yield, individually, submission to His authority. True religion must begin at home.(2) The duty of fervent and persevering prayer for the advancement of Christ's kingdom.(3) The duty of promoting our Redeemer's kingdom by active and beneficent exertions.
(J. Smyth, D.D.)
(J. Bailey, A.M.)
1. To be universal — "All people, nations, languages," etc.
2. To be everlasting — "not to pass away"; "not to be destroyed." Contrast in these respects the greatest of human kingdoms which stretch only over part of men: carry seeds of own decay: sink before superior force. It is to be the mediatorial kingdom of Christ; distinct from His empire as the everlasting God; for:
I. IT IS "GIVEN TO HIM" (v. 14). By Ancient of Days, i.e., the Eternal Father. This explained in the New Testament (Philippians 2:6-10). Given as the purchase of His blood, and recompense of His obedience (Isaiah 53:12; Psalm 110:7).
II. GIVEN TO HIM AS "SON OF MAN" (v. 13). The glory of the Ascension carries us back to humility of the Incarnation (Ephesians 4:9, 10). The one is the top stone in "the mystery of godliness," the other its foundation (1 Timothy 3:16). It was through His death in the flesh He conquered the usurper (Hebrews 2:14). By His sacrifice for sin as our High Priest, He prepared way for His throne us our King. Hence Zechariah 6:13. First the cross, then the crown.
III. SHARED WITH HIS PEOPLE. Saints of the Most High to "possess the kingdom"(v. 18). This was Christ's design (Titus 2:14). This was His prayer (John 17:22-24). He would not have the kingdom apart from them. What love from Him! what honour on us! It is this which makes the subject so intensely practical. We are even now either amongst His enemies or His friends. If the former, how terrible! (Luke 19:27). "Whither I go, ye cannot come." If the latter, how blessed! (Matthew 24:34). "Where I am, there shall also my servant be." All of us by nature enemies, rebels, etc. What Christ did to bring us from this state (Colossians 1:20-22). How are we to be savingly connected with His glorious reign? By faith in Him (1 Peter 2:7-10): by true reception of Him into our hearts (John 1:12); by grace of His Holy Spirit (John 3:3, etc.). Are we now the subjects of His kingdom of grace, that so we may be hereafter sharers of His reign of glory? Observe the twofold pledge of His kingdom in the Ascension and the Pentecost, and how closely they come together (next Sunday-week). Christ has taken one part of the pledge (our nature) up to Heaven; He Sends down the other part (His Spirit) to us on earth. The last that the disciples saw of Him on earth was human nature carried up
; the next they knew of Him was the Holy Ghost sent down. He holds a pledge from us; we hold one from Him. Both for our assurance — His kingdom shall come.
1. Present duties resulting. Service, obedience, loyalty. He is our king, though absent; has left us work to do; talents to improve; His cause to advance; His enemies to oppose, and still heavenly-mindedness to be cultivated. (See the Collect for the day.)
2. Present comforts suggested. Such hopes for the future, and their influence (1 John 3:1, 2). Grounds for patience and expectation (Hebrews 10:36, 37). What are present sorrows in comparison with such coming joys? (Romans 8:18). Through the cross lies our way to the throne; so it was with Christ; so it must be with us; "He himself went not up," etc. (See Visitation of Sick.) Let "Thy kingdom come" ever indissolubly link itself to "Thy will be done."
(W. P. Walsh, D.D.)
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