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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
Title:Before Whom Every Knee Shall Bow
Text:Daniel 7:1-28 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Christ's Kingship

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

All People That on Earth Do Dwell
Search Me, O God
All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name    
Christ Shall Have Dominion

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

“Before Whom Every Knee Shall Bow”
Daniel 7:1-28
The seventh chapter of Daniel takes us back in time. In chapter 6 we read about Daniel’s experience in the den of lions during the reign of King Darius. In this chapter we slip back to the time before Darius, when Daniel served under King Belshazzar; he was the king who followed Nebuchadnezzar and whose kingdom fell to the Medes and Persians.
Not only does chapter 7 take us back chronologically. It also takes us back symbolically. The four beasts represent four specific kingdoms, just as the statue that Nebuchadnezzar dreamed about. Back in chapter 2 we read how Nebuchadnezzar had a dream about a statue and we saw that the statue represented the kingdoms of Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome. Yet, in another sense, those four kingdoms, which are represented here again, represent all the kingdoms and all the nations of the world.
Daniel’s dream pictures for us, then, the kingdoms of this world, symbolized by the four beasts coming out of the sea.  The first beast, described as being like a lion with wings like an eagle is a reference, most commentators agree, to the Babylonian empire during Nebuchadnezzar’s reign. The imagery of the wings being torn off is a refence to Nebuchadnezzar’s humiliation when the Lord humbled him and caused him to eat grass like the cattle in the field.
The image of a bear with three ribs in his mouth (v. 5) is a portrayal the Medes and Persians. The three ribs may represent the three kingdoms that the Medes and Persians conquered at the height of their power.
Verse 6 describes another beast which had four wings and four heads. That beast represents the Greek Empire. With leopard like speed, Alexander the Great conquered the known world of his day. The speed is also represented by the four wings; the four heads represent the four divisions of the Greek Kingdom of Alexander’s death.
The most terrifying beast of all is described in verse 7. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims. It is a symbolic portrayal of the powerful and cruel Roman empire.
Yet in those kingdoms we see visualized all the kingdoms of this world and we see them in all their instability. Every kingdom thinks of itself as being powerful, and virtually all earthly kingdoms, even weak ones, pursue world power. That was true for the Babylonians, for the Medes and Persians, for Greece and Rome, and we still see that today.
We see the search for world power in large nations like Russia and China. And we see that thirst for power in smaller nations like North Korea and Iran. But all nations, whether large or small, fit the description of verse 2 where Daniel describes in his vision how “there before me were the four winds of heaven churning up the great sea.” The sea, in the Bible, describes the restlessness and the turbulence of all humanity apart from Christ. As Isaiah 57:20 puts it, “The wicked are like the restless sea which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud.”
It is out of that context of wickedness and instability that every nation – whether in Daniel's day or today – emerges. And after it emerges and establishes itself, existing for a period of time, that nation falls as another nation takes it over.
The vision of this chapter also portrays Jesus, described as the “Son of Man,” having all authority, glory and power. He is the One whom all will worship. As Daniel writes in verse 13 and 14: “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”
The title “Son of Man” is a title that Jesus took for himself. The expression is used sixty-nine times in the synoptics (that is, in Matthew, Mark, and Luke) and twelve times in the gospel of John to refer to Jesus. It is the title most often used by Jesus for himself. Jesus also referred to Daniel 7:13 and 14 as applying to himself at his trial before the Sanhedrin. It caused the religious leaders of his day to charge him – the eternal Christ, the spotless Lamb of God – with blasphemy.
Daniel’s dream also pictures the antichrist, represented by the imposing horn. Verse 8 describes how “There was another horn, a little one, which came up among them (the other horns). It had the eyes like the eyes of the man and a mouth that spoke boastfully.” A horn in Old Testament Scripture is a symbol of power. Just as a ram or bull has destructive power in its horns, so the nations of the world have their power measured by the symbolism of horns.
Some commentators believe that the little horn which spoke boastfully is a reference to Antiochus Epiphanes, the Greek king who desecrated the temple during his reign, which was from 175-164 BC. Many of the Reformers, back in the 16th century, saw that verse as a reference to the Pope, as they were being persecuted severely by the Roman Catholic Church. Others, including John Calvin, see the little horn as a reference to the Roman Caesars who persecuted the church.
Nevertheless, most commentators, no matter how they see that little horn represented in history, agree that its clearest meaning is a reference to the antichrist. At the end of history there will be a person who will be the personification of evil. He will speak against the Lord, persecute God’s people, and try to set himself up in the place of God. Verse 8 is pointing to that person. As Sinclair Ferguson points out, “In Daniel’s vision…the little horn represents the final consummation of evil.” (The Communicator’s Commentary, Daniel, Sinclair Ferguson, pg. 162)
Under God’s Authority
How do we apply this unusual dream of Daniel’s – the dream involving the kingdoms of this world, Christ and the antichrist – to our lives in the 21st century? First, we can take comfort that the kingdoms of this world are under God’s authority. Each kingdom comes out of the sea, which as we have seen, represents wickedness. As Isaiah 57:20 puts it: “The wicked are like the restless sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud.”
We see the effect of sin powerfully at work within nations. Each nation in this vision is represented by a beast, and each dream of a beast is more horrific than the one before, with the fourth beast being described in verse 7 as “terrifying and frightening and very powerful.” The vision reminds us that nations are cruel. We see that in the news each and every day, and that is, unfortunately, the nature of sin at work within the nations of the world.
The inhumanity of nation against nation is documented throughout history. We see it in the Biblical and historical records of ancient times. And we see the hostility of the nations in our world today. Whether looking at Russia’s cruel and heartless ravage of Ukraine, or China’s determination to take over Taiwan, or North Korea’s desire for dominance, we see “a beastly picture,” much as Daniel saw.
Many people have come to the point where they don’t want to see the news anymore because of the violence of one nation against another, and of violence, hatred and bloodshed within individual nations, such as our own. We can relate to Daniel’s thoughts at the close of this chapter where he writes: “I, Daniel, was deeply troubled by my thoughts, and my face turned pale, but I kept the matter to myself.”
Yet as Christians we can take great comfort in knowing that the kingdoms of this world are under God’s authority. Verse 9 and 10 describe the power and might of God over the nations. Daniel writes: “As I looked, “thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire…. A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him. Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.”
And then, in the last part of verse 10 we read: “The court was seated, and the books were opened.” The books being opened is a picture of God's judgment. These verses remind us that God will judge the nations. He will correct the wrongs. He will usher in the eternal kingdom of his Son and his Son will rule forever. Therefore, no matter how bad history gets, no matter how cruel nations become, we who know the Lord and trust in him, can take comfort in knowing that the kingdoms of this world are under God’s authority.
We sing of that truth in the hymn, This Is My Father’s World.  The last verse gives us this assurance:
This is my Father's world:
O let me ne'er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the Ruler yet.
This is my Father's world:
Why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is King: let the heavens ring!
God reigns; let earth be glad!
In the United Sates, in 2016, Donald Trump surprised the whole world as he was elected as the President of the United States. But even though “the Donald” was elected to be the president, God still rules. And if Hillary Clinton had been elected, it would still be God who rules.
In a very real sense, this chapter teaches us that all of history is seen from two different perspectives: There is the human perspective which sees history being made in the rise and fall of nations and in the rise and fall of those who come into power within those nations. And then there is the perspective of history from the throne room of Almighty God. He allows any nation he chooses to attain power and world dominance. He raises up whom he will to be leaders of nations, and he removes whom he will as well.
The Rise and Fall of the Antichrist
Secondly, we can be assured that although the antichrist will have great power, he will not overcome God’s people. Verse 25 tells us three things that the antichrist will do: “He will speak against the Most High and oppress his holy people and try to change the set times and the laws. The holy people will be delivered into his hands for a time, times and half a time.”
First, he will “speak against the Most High God.”  There have always been those who speak blasphemy against the Most High God. King Belshazzar, the King when Daniel had this vision, blasphemed the Lord not only verbally but also, as we saw in Chapter 5, by his use of the gold and silver goblets from the Temple of God – which led to his immediate demise.
While there have been evil doers throughout history, at the end of history there will be a person of great power who will be exceptionally evil. That person, known as the antichrist, will speak persuasively and powerfully against the Most High God.
Verse 25 tells us that the antichrist will also “oppress (God’s) holy people.” We should not be surprised by that. The oppression and persecution of God’s people began shortly after the fall when righteous Abel was murdered by his unrepentant brother, Cain. Ever since we have witnessed the persecution and oppression of the people of God.
Throughout history, and still today, those who have saving faith in Christ alone face severe oppression and persecution. And in the future, just before the Lord returns, Christians will be delivered into the hands of the antichrist for a period of time. It will be a period of time that God will cut short for the sake of his people (Matt. 24:22). And that truth is symbolically set forth as “a time, times and half a time” in verse 25.
Verse 25 also tells us the antichrist will “try to change the set times and the laws.” In other words, his goal is exactly opposite of the goal of Christ. That is why he is the antichrist. Since God has set the times and put his law into place, the antichrist wants to undo God's law and undo God's set time for all things, especially the second coming of Jesus Christ.
Perhaps you noticed that Daniel is describing truths that unfold in the New Testament. This vision looks forward to the truth that Jesus spoke about in Matthew 24 when he said, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.
   “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. (8-11)
   “...If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you ahead of time.” (22-25)
This vision also prefigures the truths concerning the antichrist – described as the man of lawlessness – whom Paul warned the Thessalonians about. In 2 Thessalonians 2 he writes: “Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.” (2 Thess. 2:2, 3)
   “The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.” (9-12)
These verses point us to the New Testament truths given by the Holy Spirit in 1 John 2:18, “This is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.”
But three times over in this chapter we are reassured that the antichrist will not get away with his goals. We certainly see it in verse 8 and 9.  In verse 8 we see the description of boastfulness against the Most High God. And in verse 9, as Daniel looked, “thrones were set in place, and the ancient of days took his seat.” Daniel is describing for us the certainty of the judgment that is coming on the antichrist and on all who have set their hearts against the Lord God Almighty.
We read about the certainty of judgment again in verse 21 and 22: “As I watched, this horn was waging war against the holy people and defeating them, until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the holy people of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom.”
And we read that reassuring truth again in verse 25 and 26. Verse 25 describes the efforts of the antichrist to oppose God and his people. And then verse 26 describes the futility of that opposition: “But the court will sit, and his power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever. Then 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. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.” (26-27)
Every Knee Shall Bow
How else do we apply this unusual and powerful dream? A third application is that we must, by God’s grace and Holy Spirit’s power, be reconciled with God through saving faith in “the Son of Man.”  It is crucial because every knee will bow before him, either in adoration or dread. Verse 13 and 14 tell how “the Son of Man” – a very clear reference to Jesus – will be worshipped by “all peoples, nations, and men of every language.”
The New Testament puts it this way in Philippians 2:9-11: ...Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
There are going to be two groups of people who confess that Jesus Christ is Lord on that day. One group will be doing it out of dread, acknowledging that Jesus is truly Lord, just before they are consigned to an eternity in hell because of their unbelief during their life on earth.
The other group, on that great and glorious Day, will joyfully confess that Jesus is Lord. They will look in adoration at the One who sacrificed himself for their salvation. They will look in adoration at the One who was the object of their faith during life on earth. And they will reign with him over the new heaven and new earth.
You and I will be in one of those two groups. There is no middle ground, no way to be neutral to Jesus. May you and I, today – and on that great and glorious Day of the final judgment – be found as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of Man to whom all authority is given, the One before whom every knee will bow. Amen!
Sermon Outline:
...There before me was one like a Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven...
He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations, and
men of every language worshipped Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion
that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
                                                                                                      Daniel 7:13-14
                            “Before Whom Every Knee Shall Bow”
                                                   Daniel 7:1-28
I.  Daniel’s dream pictures:
     1) The kingdoms of this world, symbolized by the four beasts (2-7)
     2) Jesus, described as the “Son of Man,” having all authority, glory
          and power; the One whom all will worship (13-14)
     3) The Antichrist, represented by the imposing horn (8, 20-25)
II.  Applications:             
     1) We can take comfort that the kingdoms of this world are under
          God’s authority (9-10)
     2) We can be assured that although the Antichrist will have great
          power, he will not overcome God’s people (8-9, 21-22, 25-26; 
          Matthew 24:15-28; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12; 1 John 2:18)
     3) We must make sure that we are right with “the Son of Man” in
          this life, for every knee will bow before Him, either in adoration
          or dread (13-14; Philippians 2:9-11)


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2016, Rev. Ted Gray

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