Summary: The kingdom of God does not take shape in the physical world. It exists in the hearts and minds of believers who inhabit earthly countries and kingdoms. Unlike earthly kingdoms it is eternal.
November 25, 2012
Last Sunday of the Church Year -- Christ the King -- Series B
Grace mercy and peace from God the father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
Text Daniel 7:13-14 ESV
I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him.
And to him 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 one that shall not be destroyed.
To better understand these verses it is helpful to review a little ancient history. In 605 BC, Nebuchadnezzar , (Neb‘-uh-kud-nez‘-zur.) leader of the Babylonians, defeated Pharaoh Neco (Knee’koe) of Egypt at Carchemish. The balance of regional power shifted to the Babylonians at this point. He then laid siege to Jerusalem and the Lord gave Jehoiakim ( Jih-hoy’uh-kim’) ,the King of Judah into his hands. Nebuchadnezzer then, among other changes and a little plundering, ordered that some of the people of Judah be taken to Babylon. This included members of the royal family, other nobility, youths without blemish, who were skillful in all wisdom and endowed with knowledge, understanding, learning and competent to serve in the King’s palace. In other words he took some of the elite back with him to Babylon. Daniel was part of this group. Additional captives were take to Babylon in 597 BC and again in 587 BC. At this time the Temple in Jerusalem, and significant parts of the city were destroyed and only the poorest people of the land were excluded from captivity.
Essentially, the entire nation was relocated to Babylon.
This is a very significant event in the religious and secular history of the Jewish people. Life in Babylon wasn’t that bad by worldly standards. They were not prisoners. This was not a Soviet style gulag or a Nazi concentration camp. They were relatively free to live their lives but it wasn’t home and at times their rights to worship only the God of Israel were compromised. ---- Psalm 137
They analyzed their situation. Why did this happen? They asked, can we worship God here or is he confined to the promised land? They came to the conclusion that they were being disciplined due, in a large part, to their failing to even attempt to live according to God’s law given to them by Moses at Mount Sinai over eight centuries earlier. They determined that when they were allowed to return they would “get it right” this time. From this thinking came the extreme legalism of the Pharisees which Jesus confronted during his ministry. This is also the time that Synagogues came into existence as meeting places for scripture study and worship. Synagogues, provided convenient sites for Jesus, and later Paul, to preach and teach. These along with the widespread use of the Greek language and Roman roads helped to pave the way to spread the Gospel. .
Chapter seven of the book of Daniel tells us about Daniel’s vision of the four beasts. He states that four great beasts came out of the sea. The first was like a lion yet it had eagles wings. He saw the wings plucked off and it stood on two feet like a man and the mind of a man was given to it. The second, like a bear, was raised up on one side. It had three ribs in it’s mouth between its teeth and was told , ‘Arise, devour much flesh.’ The third beast was like a leopard, it had four bird like wings on its back. This beast had four heads. A fourth and final beast appeared. It was terrifying, dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth. It crushed and devoured it’s victims and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it and it had ten horns. As Daniel looked a little horn emerged which plucked out three of the original Horns by their roots. The little horn had eyes like a man and a mouth speaking great things.
These four great beasts represent four different Kingdoms that will arise from the Earth.
Naturally there are plenty of Bible scholars, students and preachers who spend a lot of time trying to identify these kingdoms in history. It is not necessary for us to attempt this. There is plenty of speculation about the little horn -- the anti Christ --arising out of the fourth kingdom that made war with the Saints and prevailed over them until his dominion is take away to be consumed and destroyed forever. (7:26).
I can suggest a few candidates for this role myself!