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Author:Rev. Mendel Retief
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Kelmscott
 Kelmscott, Western Australia
 frckelmscott.org
 
Title:The comfort and the glory of Christ's ascension
Text:Daniel 7:13-18 (View)
Occasion:Ascension Day
Topic:Christ's Kingship
 
Added:2017-05-26
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps. 110: 1, 2

Ps. 110: 3, 5

Ps. 24: 4, 5

Ps. 2: 1 – 4

Ps. 47: 2, 3

 

Scripture reading:       Acts 1: 1 – 14; Daniel 7: 1 – 28

Text:                            Daniel 7: 13 – 18

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mendel Retief, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Christ’s Ascension                                        

Ps. 110: 1, 2

Ps. 110: 3, 5

Ps. 24: 4, 5

Ps. 2: 1 – 4

Ps. 47: 2, 3

 

Scripture reading:       Acts 1: 1 – 14; Daniel 7: 1 – 28

Text:                            Daniel 7: 13 – 18

 

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ,

 

We will focus this evening on Christ’s ascension.

 

Here in Daniel 7, the prophet Daniel saw Christ ascending on the clouds of heaven; ascending to the Father and to His throne.

 

The prophecy also reveals what happened at Christ’s ascension.   Verse 14:

 

“…to Him (that is: to the Son of Man) 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 the one which shall not be destroyed.”

 

With Christ’s ascension into heaven He was given universal dominion over all.

His ascension was His ascension to the throne – to the throne of God.

Christ, at His ascension, received all authority and power in heaven and on earth.

That is the vision here in Daniel 7.

 

But, note the context of Christ’s ascension.   We see four world empires arising, the one after the other.   They are described as terrible beasts that devour.   These empires arise out of a stormy sea, which symbolises raging nations.

 

The nations are in tumult and uproar.    The one kingdom follows the other.   But then comes the King, the eternal King, whose kingdom shall have no end.

Yes, note the context of Christ’s ascension.   And note the context in which this vision was given to Daniel.

God’s covenant people, His church, was in exile.   They are captives in Babylon.   The throne of David lies in ruins.   Jerusalem is destroyed.   Babylon prospers.  

That is the historical context in which Daniel receives this vision.   The picture is one of mighty world empires over against a small trampled people.

 

Where is the throne of David now?   And where is the Son of David?   What happened to the promise of the Son of David who will sit on the throne of David forever?   And what happened to the prophecy of Isaiah, of a Child that will be born, of a Son that will be given to God’s people, a King who will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, who will reign on the throne of David forever? – Isaiah 9: 6, 7.

 

It is the time of the Babylonian exile.   The throne of David seems to be totally destroyed.

But God remains faithful to His promise.   The eternal King, who will reign on the throne of David forever, is coming.   The dominion – yes, the universal dominion over all peoples, nations and languages – will be given to Him.  His kingdom will make an end to all the other kingdoms, and His dominion over all will last forever.

 

Dear congregation, we see then how Christ’s ascension is described as His enthronement, and how His dominion will be the fulfilment of prophecy.  His dominion and His kingdom will mean redemption for God’s oppressed people.   For then…

 

“…the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High…” – verse 27

 

Christ’s kingdom will be our kingdom.   His dominion our dominion.   His glory our glory.

When He ascends the throne, the saints of God will receive dominion with Christ.

 

It is a message of comfort to the suffering church of Christ in this world.

 

Daniel’s prophecy, here in chapter 7, is a description of the world’s history from Babylon up to the Roman Empire in the time of Christ’s first coming.  And this history reaches its climax with Christ’s ascension into heaven.

But, this same history, also serves as a picture foreshadowing what will happen in the last days.   In the New Testament the book Revelation takes this history, as described by Daniel, and presents it to us as a description of the last days until Christ will come on the clouds of heaven, in great power and glory, to judge the earth – the final day of Judgement, when Christ’s eternal kingdom will come in the fullness of His divine glory.

 

So then, our text is first of all a description of history stretching from the Babylonian empire up to the Roman empire at the time of Christ’s first coming.   It is the time of the four beasts.

The lion: that was the Babylonian Empire.

The bear: that was the Medo-Persian Empire

The leopard: that was the Grecian Empire

And the fourth beast with its iron teeth: that was the Roman Empire.

 

These are the same four empires as described in chapter 2, where Nebuchadnezzar saw the image of a man.

The head was of pure gold – that was the Babylonian Empire.

The chest and arms of silver – that was the Medo-Persian Empire.

The belly and thighs of bronze – that was the Grecian Empire.

The legs of iron with the feet partly of iron and partly of clay – that was the Roman Empire.

 

Daniel interpreted that dream to Nebuchadnezzar, saying:

 

“You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces.

Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found.   And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.”  (2: 34, 35)

 

The stone that will crush and grind all the kingdoms of this world to powder would come during the time of the fourth empire.   That is: in the time of the Roman Empire.   And it was indeed in the time of the Roman Empire that Christ was born.   He is the rock that came down from heaven without the doing of man.  

 

But the coming of this stone does not only refer to the birth of Christ; it refers to the whole history of His first coming, which includes His death and resurrection and His ascension into heaven.   It was also in the time of the Roman Empire that Christ was seated at the right hand of God and received all authority and power in heaven and on earth.   To Him it was given to break the kingdoms of this world with an iron sceptre, and to dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel – Psalm 2.

 

But then, in the second place, this same history becomes a picture of the last days, the time in which we are living.   The prophecy here in Daniel 7 has a first and a second fulfilment.   The first fulfilment reaches its climax with Christ’s ascension on the clouds of heaven when He was brought to the Father and His throne; the second and final fulfilment of this prophecy will be at Christ’s second coming in glory.  

His ascension on the clouds of heaven, and His return on the clouds of heaven are part of one and the same prophecy.

 

And so, from this text, I proclaim God’s Word to you with the theme…

The comfort and the glory of Christ’s ascension

 

We will note…

1.      That Christ’s ascension comforts His suffering church

2.      That Christ’s ascension is the prelude to His return

3.      That Christ ascended on our behalf

In the first place, we note that…

Christ’s ascension comforts His suffering church

 

Judah finds herself in Babylon.   The seventy years of captivity are nearly over.   Soon they will return to rebuild the ruins of Jerusalem, as the Lord has spoken. 

When Judah would call to memory the prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah in which the Lord promised them deliverance from Babylon after 70 years, and the promise that they will return to rebuild Jerusalem (Jer. 29: 10; Isaiah chapters 14, 21 and 49, etc.), then they could easily have thought that with their return to Jerusalem they will enter a wonderful time of complete peace and prosperity.  

 

But now, the future of Israel after their deliverance from Babylon is made known to them.    Jerusalem will indeed be rebuilt, but it will be built in troublesome times.   There will even be yet another destruction of Jerusalem and of the temple – Dan. 9: 25, 26.   

With the prophecies of Daniel it now becomes clear that when the seventy years of their captivity is full, the church will not immediately enter the glorious kingdom of peace of their promised Messiah.

The Lord reveals to Daniel that there are yet more word-empires to come, and the world will be in turmoil.   Much tribulation and suffering still awaits God’s church in this world, before the promised King will come.  

 

With this prophecy, the LORD prepares His people for the sufferings which they will yet have to endure.   The eternal kingdom of glory and peace is not yet.

Daniel sees the four world-empires of the Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, and lastly the Romans.   They will be ravenous beasts, and it will be troublesome times for God’s people.   With this prophecy, then, the Lord prepared His church of old for the sufferings that were still to come.  

 

At the same time this prophecy also reassured the captives that the glorious kingdom of their Messiah is indeed coming.   When they see the whole world in commotion and turmoil, with great kingdoms rising and falling, and the church being oppressed and almost destroyed, they must know that God is still in control.   He is still executing His Word and His purpose.   His promise shall be fulfilled.  The glorious and eternal kingdom of the Messiah is coming.  

 

The nations will be judged; and the saints of the Most High, now oppressed and despised, will receive the kingdom and reign with Christ, forever. 

 

That is the context in which we find the gospel of Christ’s ascension: mighty world empires, raging nations, a suffering church, and the promise of a mighty everlasting King that will ascend to the throne on behalf of God’s people.  

Indeed, a prophecy of comfort to God’s oppressed people!

 

Dear congregation, understanding this to be the content and purpose of the prophecy, we now turn to the vision itself.

We see the four winds of heaven breaking loose upon the sea of nations.  

Yes, the sea symbolises the nations.   Scripture often compare the restless nations with a stormy sea.   Isaiah says:

 

“…the multitude of many people…makes a noise like the roar of the seas…the rushing of nations…makes a rushing like the rushing of mighty waters!   The nations will rush like the rushing of many waters…” – Isaiah 17: 12, 13.

 

Multitudes of people making uproar, are often compared to the roaring waves of the sea; as we read in the Psalms:

 

“You who still the noise of the seas, the noise of their waves, and the tumult of the peoples” – Ps. 65: 7.

 

And we find some very clear explanations in the book of Revelation, for example where it says:

“…the waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and tongues.” – Rev. 17: 15.

 

And so, when the four winds of heaven cause the sea to rage, it means that the nations of the earth are raging in war and tumult.   Out of this tumult and raging of the nations, Daniel sees four empires arising, one after the other.  

After that, Daniel sees how God takes His seat to judge the nations.  He says:

 

“I watched till thrones were put in place, and the Ancient of Days was seated; His garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head was of pure wool.   His throne was a fiery flame, its wheels a burning fire.   A fiery stream issued and came forth before Him.   A thousand thousands ministered to Him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him.   The court was seated, and the books were opened” – verses 9, 10.

 

God is called the Ancient of Days to indicate that He is the One of Old, the eternal God.   He, the eternal God, was seated to judge the nations.  

His white garment signifies His holiness.   His judgment will be holy and just.  

His throne was a fiery flame, and a river of fire went out from His throne to consume His enemies.  

 

Millions and millions of angels stand before Him.   He is the Lord of hosts.   God Almighty is seated to judge the nations.

 

The heavenly court was seated, and the books were opened – that is: the books in which the deeds of the nations are recorded, so that they may be judged according to their deeds.

 

But there are also other thrones, plural, placed for judgment.     

In the book Revelation we read of twenty-four thrones around the throne of God.   The twenty four elders were seated with God around His throne, clothed in white robes with golden crowns on their heads – Rev. 4: 4.

And the apostle Paul says:

 

“Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? … Do you not know that we shall judge angels? ...” – 1 Cor. 6: 2, 3

 

We see the same here in the vision of Daniel as the court is seated for judgment.   The thrones, plural, are set for judgement.

While the court is seated, Daniel still hears the proud and blasphemous words of that little horn that came forth from the fourth beast.   In the final fulfilment of this prophecy, that little horn, which became great, will be the final antichrist.   But the first fulfilment of this prophecy lies in the time of the Roman Empire.

Finally, the beast was slain and its body was devoured by the fire that proceeded from God’s throne.

 

Dear congregation, it is clear from the rest of Scripture, especially when we turn to the book Revelation, that, as with the other prophecies in Scripture, also this prophecy stretches far beyond its first fulfilment.   Its first fulfilment was with Christ’s ascension; its final fulfilment is with Christ’s return on the clouds of heaven.

 

Just as Israel’s deliverance from Egypt became a picture and a symbol of God’s deliverance and salvation to the church of all times, so also has Israel’s deliverance from Babylon become a picture of the deliverance of God’s church – a picture which is also used in the New Testament to describe the last days.

 

Also the troublesome history of Judah, when they had to rebuild Jerusalem in the midst of much opposition, becomes a shadow of the church in the latter days – of the time in which we are living today.

 

And so the basic theme of our text returns in the New Testament.     The beast will war against the church, persecute it, and destroy the church to such an extent that the church will seem to be wiped out – Rev. 11: 7.  

The whole world will unite in war against the church, and when it will seem as if the church will be totally wiped away, Christ will come and judge.  

And so the parallel with Daniel 7 is clear.

 

It is now within this context that we find a description of Christ’s ascension into heaven.  

Daniel sees Him ascending on the clouds of heaven to the Father.   To Him, the Son of Man, was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.   And His saints, who are so oppressed and persecuted in this world, will reign with Him forever.

It is a prophecy of glorious hope in the midst of suffering.

It is the hope of Christ’s saints in this world: the coming of their mighty King; the gospel of Christ’s dominion.

 

But, what exactly is the connection between Christ’s ascension and His second coming?  For His ascension and His return are clearly connected.

We note that in the second place, that…

Christ’s ascension is the prelude to His return         

 

Brothers and sisters, when we hear of Christ’s coming on the clouds of heaven, we immediately think of His second coming which will be in great power and glory.   And rightly so, for the second coming of Christ is indeed described to us in many places as the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven.   And these passages do indeed refer back to the words of our text.

But, we have to note that that description of Christ’s second coming is rooted in His ascension – which was also on the clouds of heaven.

Our text says in verse 13:

 

“I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven!   He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him”.

 

This is also how Christ’s ascension is described in the book of Acts.  

In our translation, Acts 1: 9 reads:

 

            “...He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight”

 

The Greek text may also be translated:

 

            “...and a cloud took Him up out of their sight”

 

A cloud took him up out of their sight.

The meaning is not that a cloud blurred Him out before their eyes, but that He was taken up on a cloud before their eyes.

And that is exactly what the prophet Daniel saw.   The Son of Man was taken up on the

clouds of heaven and was brought to the throne of God and received the dominion. 

That happened at Christ’s ascension.

 

Listen again what the prophet Daniel saw.   The Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven to the Ancient of Days and 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 the one which shall not be destroyed – verse 14.

 

When we understand Christ’s ascension into heaven within the context of this whole chapter, then we also start to grasp the meaning of Christ’s ascension.   Christ, at His ascension, received dominion over all.

 

He is now already reigning at the right hand of God.

His kingdom has come.

But there also comes a final and glorious fulfilment of this prophecy when Christ will appear a second time on the clouds of heaven in great power and glory.

 

When Christ ascended into heaven, the apostles were looking steadfastly toward heaven as Christ ascended on a cloud.   Suddenly, two men, dressed in white, stood next to them and said:

“Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven?   This same Jesus, who was taken up from you in heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go to heaven” – Acts 1: 11.

 

The angels made the connection: Christ will so come in like manner as you saw Him go to heaven.

 

Christ’s ascension is linked to His return with this promise: as you saw Him ascending on a cloud, so also will you see Him return on a cloud.

 

How then do we understand the rest of Daniel 7 when it is said that the dominion and the kingdom was given to the saints of the Most High?  

Did the church receive dominion when Christ ascended?

Yes, indeed!  

 

The apostle Paul says that when Christ ascended into heaven, we were seated with Christ in heaven – Eph. 2: 6

In Christ, our Mediator, we were seated in heaven.

 

We note this in the last place, that…

Christ ascended on our behalf

 

Here in Daniel 7, Christ is called the Son of Man.

There is now a Man seated at the right hand of God.  

He is the Son of Adam.   The Son of Abraham.   The Son of David.  

 

The Son of Man is one of us.   Yet, He is on the throne of God!

 

When Christ is here pictured as the Son of Man, He is portrayed in His office as the Son of Man representing us.

When He ascended into heaven, we ascended.   When He received dominion, we received dominion.   What happened to Him, happened to us!  

 

Dear congregation, when Christ ascended into heaven something happened which had never happened before: there is now a Man seated at the right hand of God!   A man on the throne of God!   A Man representing us. 

 

Christ’s ascension was a glorious moment in the history of our salvation.  

 

Why then do we read here, in verse 15, that Daniel was grieved in his spirit, and that the visions troubled him?

 

Daniel’s grief does not refer to the glory of the Son of Man, but to the whole vision by which it is made clear that much suffering awaits the church before their promised King will receive His dominion.  

 

But the final outcome is indeed glorious.   When Daniel asked the angel to interpret the vision to him, the whole vision was summarised for us in verses 17 and 18:

 

“Those great beasts, which are four, are four kings which arise out of the earth.   But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever”.

 

There is something amazing about this interpretation.   Was it not the Son of Man that received the dominion and the kingdom?   Yes, but now, in the interpretation, it is the saints that receive the kingdom!   The dominion of the Son of Man is their dominion, and His kingdom is their kingdom!

 

This is repeated and confirmed in verse 27:

 

“…the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High.   His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him”.

 

When the Son of Man received the kingdom, the saints received the kingdom.

 

The ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ into heaven, is described as the moment in history that He received all dominion and power in heaven and on earth.   That was the official start of His reign at the right hand of the Father, and of His dominion and His kingdom.   But we see that this vision and its interpretation describe Christ’s ascension as the glory of His people, His church.   Then the saints – that is: all believers – will receive the kingdom and reign with Christ forever.

 

The same is stated in Rev. 22: 5, that we will reign with Christ forever and ever.  There you have the second fulfilment in glory.

But the point that we have to note is that our dominion with Christ is now already a reality.   Through faith we are united to Christ and share in His exaltation and glory.

Also, the souls of the saints in heaven, are now already reigning with Christ in heaven, until He comes again – Rev. 20: 4

The connection between the two fulfilments of this prophecy is clear.   Christ’s second coming will be the consummation of everything that He received already at His ascension.

 

And, what we already received in Christ, in principle, at His ascension, we will receive in full glory at His second coming.   Both events are described with “the coming of the Son of Man on the clouds of heaven”.  

The angels made this connection clear to the apostles when they told them:

 

“…This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1: 11)

 

Dear congregation, our Lord Jesus Christ did not only die on our behalf, and He did not only rise from the dead on our behalf; He also ascended on our behalf

 

And now, as the first fulfilment lies behind us, we look forward to the final fulfilment of this prophecy.   The Son of Man will also return on the clouds of heaven.  

 

Daniel saw that the court was seated, and the books were opened.   A river of fire flowed from the throne of God.   Christ’s ascension into heaven is placed within the context of God’s judgment on the nations.   The dominion is taken away from them and given to the Son of Man.   With His ascension into heaven the nations have been judged.   With His ascension, the dominion has been taken away from the empires of this world.    The kings of this world do not hold the dominion; Christ does.

 

Christ came to this world as the stone that struck Nebuchadnezzar’s image on its feet – Daniel 2.   Christ dashed the kingdoms of this world to pieces.   He is grinding it to powder.   He is stretching out His sceptre from Zion, ruling in the midst of His enemies.   He is putting them under His feet.   He is the rock that becomes a mountain, until His kingdom will fill the whole earth.

 

Much suffering still awaits the church, but our Head, Jesus Christ, is already seated on the throne.   And where He is, we shall be.

Christ’s accession is a glorious message of hope and comfort, for He ascended on our behalf.

The kingdom belongs to the saints of the Most High.

 

This gospel is given to His church in captivity, that we may not despair in the sufferings that we experience, and which still awaits us.

 

But someone may ask whether this kind of comfort is really relevant for us in our day, for we do not experience severe persecution, do we?   We do not find ourselves in Babylon, do we?   And we do not have a difficult time laying ahead of us to rebuild Jerusalem, do we?

 

Well, in fact we do!   That history of Israel also applies to us.   This history of Israel serves as a picture of the church in the last days – the time in which we are living!

 

We have to remember that the persecution of the church and the war against the church does not come from some worldly empire – not in the first place – but, as we learn also from the book of Revelation, the persecution in the New Testament era proceeds most of all from the harlot, the false church, in co-operation with the beast.    We see this also in church history.   The fiercest struggles of the church have not been against heathen empires, but struggles within the church when the truth of God’s Word was attacked by a false gospel and by deception.  

The fiercest battles are fought there where the truth is upheld over against the lie.  

And in that light we do indeed find ourselves in the midst of a spiritual war – a war in which it may sometimes seem to us as if the false church, the harlot, is having the upper hand.

 

Has the true church not become very small in this world?   Pitiful small, you may say.

 

Brothers and sisters, this prophecy is meant for us, to comfort and to strengthen us in this warfare, which is indeed a spiritual warfare, which is not fought with fleshly weapons.  

 

In this context, then, Christ’s ascension into heaven is our comfort in the present, and our hope for the future.  All power in heaven and on earth has been given to Him, our Representative, the Son of Man.   He reigns at the right hand of God, on our behalf.   And from His exalted throne He is pouring out all the heavenly and spiritual blessings on His church.

 

Let us then, in the midst of trials and strife, lift up our eyes to heaven.   This Jesus, who was taken up into heaven, will so come in like manner as He ascended on the clouds of heaven.

And we will reign with Him, forever.  

 

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mendel Retief, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Mendel Retief

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