Being in the season of advent, I wanted to take a few moments of your busy season to explain to you what it is that we are truly celebrating. Some think that we celebrate the “baby Jesus.” I would like to challenge that notion. We do not celebrate a mere babe, per say, but rather the birth of a king; the ushering in of a kingdom.
What I give to you in this article are some of the insights that I have gained and shared with my own congregation this past year. A note of warning, this is a bit lengthy (approx 4,000 words). I do not expect you to read it in one sitting, but as it is Christmas week, I have no intention of checking back here until the beginning of the year. This is a conglomeration of thoughts and insights gained over a lengthy period of time. At some places you may feel that I did not discuss things deeply enough. Other times you may find that I’ve said to much. Or, I suppose there may arise questions in your minds as to where exactly I am drawing the conclusions or inferences that I am. I realize that there are some areas that suffer atrophy, and it is my intention at some point in the future to discuss them in greater detail. With those things in mind I will pick up where I left off a moment ago…
At some point in the spring I believed that my study of the book of Daniel had reached a sufficient level of efficiency that we as a local body might begin delving into this prophetic book. The first six chapters of the book focus primarily on the historic happenings to a few well known biblical characters (Daniel, Hananiah, Azariah, Mishael1 and a Babylonian king named Nebuchadnezzar). Whereas, the remaining chapters of the book focus more on present/future events.
For the uninitiated there are two categories where prophecy can be divided. You have the one that is perhaps more commonly thought of “foretelling,” which deals with the prescription of what will transpire in the future.2 The other category is labeled “forthtelling” and this focuses on the prescribed will of God for mankind in every area of life (i.e., the Decalogue, as one example). The Bible consists more the of the second type of prophecy (forthtelling) than it does with the first (foretelling); although, one will sometimes see an overlap between the two (e.g., Exod 20.12; Eph 6.2; cf. Deut 30.15-19).
There is also a two-fold aspect to some prophetic passages of the Bible. These are what I call the “shadow and type” prophecies. The type is the perfect image that the shadow reflects. From what I can tell, these are always in reference to Jesus Christ. For the sake of time, I will only provide you with one, but if you have an inquiry into others feel free to ask.
Shadow and Type Prophecy…
The one I now refer to is often called protoevangelium (first-gospel)3 in theological circles. Genesis 3:15 reads as follows:
“I will put enmity between you [serpent] and the woman, and between your offspring [seed] and her offspring [seed]; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (ESV).
Here we are told of two different types of offspring or seed (the terms are both singular and plural; context determines meaning). There is the seed of the woman and there is also the seed of the serpent. They are said to have enmity (i.e., hostility) towards one another. Both seeking to strike the death blow against the other. The only one who is successful as a conqueror is the seed of the woman over the seed of the serpent.
But of whom do the differing categories of seed refer to? As a shadowy reference (or a general application) this speaks of those who are godly people (the children of God, those born from above in faith; cf. John 3.3, 5), and the ungodly (cf. Psa 14.1-3; Eph 2.1-3). But the Type (specific reference) the two differing seeds refer to Jesus Christ and the devil. For the hostility between the two categories of “seed” are those that serve God (in Christ), and those who serve another; namely, the beast of the field, the serpent (in Satan). Both striking at one another, but only the “seed of the woman” delivers the killing blow. (We’ll discuss this a little later).
A Question of Dominion
Obviously, this particular passage has overarching implications for the rest of the Bible. Thus, the reason that I wanted to highlight it. In the book of Daniel, this concept is woven throughout. Specifically, we find that there is a comparison and contrast between two differing types of kingdoms. The kingdom of beasts and the kingdom of Man. The hostility that we see expressly foretold in Gen 3:15 is further illustrated in the book of Daniel.
Before we delve into Daniel’s book, I need to take one other quick detour (back to the beginning) to explain why this hostility between the two type of seeds is really the enmity of two types of kingdoms seeking dominion. If you wonder why this year (2020) has been so crazy, what I’m about to share with you sheds some light on the reasoning behind the turmoil we are currently experiencing here in the USA.
The Dominion Mandate…
We know that in the beginning God created all things (Gen 1.1). We also know that in the beginning God made man as His chief representative; an image bearer (Gen 1.26-28).You have probably heard it said that God has made mankind as His steward. But what does that mean? I will tell you. To be God’s steward means to act on His behalf. To think, to speak, to live in a manner that accurately represents our Maker. God gave mankind (male and female; v. 27) dominion over all the creatures of the earth, with the express charge “to subdue the earth” (Gen 1.28) according to His will.
What we need to realize is that the dominion mandate has never been removed. God’s plan of dominion through His image bearers is, as it were, set in stone. The problem that mankind has faced since the fall is that there is now a struggle for power.
Prophet, Priest and King…
You see, being God’s steward also means that God made man to be prophet, priest and king:
- Prophetic Office: An entrusted herald of the Word of God. One that not only obeys the commands of the Creator God, but speaks them authoritatively into every facet of life.
- Priestly Office: As God’s priest the man is made to minister to the Lord through the giving of sacrificial worship; which is obedience. The priest is charged with worshiping God in Spirit and Truth.
- Kingly Office: As a king man is given full dominion over all creatures, including the command to subdue the earth, to bend creation to his will; which is a reflection of the will of God.
This was the charge, the responsibility, laid before Adam in the beginning. Though his wife was a fellow image bearer, equal in standing before God their Maker, she was under his charge. He was created first because he was given preeminence over her. Remember that the fulfillment of the law is love, and that love is expressed when one recognizes God’s absolute sovereignty. For to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength is to bow down to His authority over you. To keep the commandments, which is love expressed through faithful obedience, is a recognition of God’s supremacy. Thus, the man who loves God with all of His being comes to God in humble fear in order to gain God’s wisdom and knowledge in living righteously. To love one’s neighbor is an extension of this truth, for one cannot truly love their neighbor as themselves if they fail to honor the commandments that guard our steps in our neighbors behalf.1
What happened in the garden, however, was a total disregard for these truths. Adam failed to exercise dominion as a king in the garden, submitting to a beast of the field. Adam failed to offer God true worship in sacrificial obedience as a priest, preferring to elevate, and therefore, worship himself by partaking of the fruit. Adam failed as the Lord’s prophet in that he heeded the word of his wife over the voice of God.2
Adam’s sin brought down on all his children the curse of sin (Rom 5.12). When we are born we are born like Adam became, a child of disobedience (Eph 2.3; cf. Rom 1.18-34). And God has purposefully kept us in that state since the beginning so that we might hope for true freedom from this bondage to corruption (Rom 8.20-21).
Observations of Cain and Abel…
If we look at Cain and Abel, what do we see? We see two different types of men born from the same woman. These brothers represent the enmity promised to the children of man (Adam means man). This is seen easily enough because Cain slew his brother Abel in the field. But what we also need to see is that both of these men sought to exercise dominion on the earth. Cain exercised dominion as a farmer, and Abel did so as a shepherd. What is also true, but you may have not thought this through, is that both of these men were led by their religious zeal. Abel offered what God desired in faithful obedience because he loved Him. Cain offered what his god desired in faithful disobedience because he loved him.
That is to say, Abel loved God and this is expressed through true worship. He sought to exercise dominion in a godly way by keeping God’s commands. Cain loved his god too, and this is expressed through the worship that he offered. He sought to exercise dominion in honor of his god; which was himself.
You see, the lie that the serpent propagated in the beginning is that “they could be like god.” All that Adam and Eve had to do was abide by their own rules. Ignore God’s designation of good and evil and declare their own. This is the lie Cain embraced. His life reflected the conviction that he was his own god. When he offered worship, it was not to the Creator God, but to himself. This is the reason why God was not pleased with Cain’s sacrifice. You cannot please God without faith, and the only faith that Cain had was in the work of his own hands. His own thoughts were to him, holy scripture.
My point, or what I want you to see right now, is that both men (Cain and Abel) sought to exercise dominion on the earth. Both men sought to exercise the function of prophet, priest and king. But only one of them acted like a man, the other acted like a beast.
Observations of false kingdoms…
Kingdoms of men that exercise dominion apart from the Holy God who made them act like beasts. They rule like beasts. This is why the Bible refers to such pagan kingdoms as beastly (cf. Dan 7; Rev 13). Rather than acting like a true man that lives for God and honors Him with their lives, ruling according to His Holy will, these beastly kingdoms follow the whims of their own hearts.
If you were to take a quick survey of all the ungodly kingdoms of this earth historically, what you would find is that everyone of them has pretended that they are god-in-the-flesh. We see this with Cain, who raised a city and through his lineage exercised a form of dominion on this earth in the creation of culture (music, tools, industry, etc.; Gen 4.17-22). But, by the time of Noah the religious zeal of this pagan culture filled the earth with “great…wickedness…[where] every intention of the thoughts of [man’s] heart was only evil continually” (Gen 6.5; ESV). A little later we see the rise of Nimrod (Gen 10.8-10; cf. Psa 91.3; Jer 16.16; Lam 3.52).1 Then you have the Pharaoh of Egypt who stood against Moses because he recognized no god over him, believing that he was the sun god incarnate (see Exod 1-15). King Saul of Israel evidently believed something similar for he raised an image of himself up to be honored in the land (1Sam 15.12). He constantly refused to listen to the voice of God, but held his own word in higher esteem (1Sam 15.22-23). And, when his life was in danger he turned to his own hand to deliver him from his enemy, rather than the Lord (1Sam 31.4).
Let us not forget the kings of Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome that likewise assumed that they were gods-in-the-flesh. Even if we were to turn to our recent past do we not find other tyrants who have falsely assumed that they are gods? Did not Hitler of Germany? Or what of Stalin of the Soviet Union? Shall we forget about Pol Pot of Cambodia? Or the Democratic Party of our day?
Observations from Daniel’s Book: Two Kingdom Types
There are two specific chapters that we are going to briefly focus on here. As I pointed out above, there is a compare and contrast being presented to the reader of two different types of kingdoms. The first grouping presented in Daniel always appear majestic and mighty, but the second type of kingdom is said to be the greater.
In Daniel 2 we are told of a dream that Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon had. In this dream there was a great statue (an image) made up of elements of the earth. “The head of this image was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its middle and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay” (Dan 2.32-33). These elements represented four kingdoms of the earth. The golden head was Nebuchadnezzar (i.e., Babylon; Dan 2.36-38). The silver represented the kingdom to come after Babylon (Dan 2.39a), whom we know historically to be Medea-Persia. The bronze represents a third kingdom which shall rule after the Medea-Persia has been conquered; namely Greece (Dan 2.39b; cf. Dan 8). And the fourth kingdom is one identified as iron mixed with clay, a kingdom of strength mingled with weakness; also known as Rome (Dan 2.40-43).
There is a fifth kingdom mentioned in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. It is different than the rest, for rather than coming from the earth, its origins are from above. It is identified as a “stone [that] was cut out by no human hand” (Dan 2.33), which was hurled at the image in order to destroy it. In the dream the stone that crushed the statue grew into a great mountain the filled the earth (Dan 2.35b). Daniel provides the meaning (interpretation) of that mountainous kingdom:
“And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever….”Dan 2:44
In Daniel 7 we are told of a dream that the prophet Daniel had during the first year of Belshazzar, king of Babylon, son of Nebuchadnezzar. In this dream Daniel declared,
“I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. And four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another.”Dan 7:2
The first beast was like a lion (Dan 7.3), the second like a bear (Dan 7.4), the third like a leopard (Dan 7.5), and the fourth was indescribable, although it certainly had characteristics like a bear (Dan 7.7, 19).
Without delving deeply into every detail, the interpretation of the beasts is offered in Dan 7:17,
“These four great beasts are four kings [i.e., kingdoms] who shall arise out of the earth.”
In other words, they are symbolic representations of the four kingdoms earlier revealed in Dan 2. Just as there was one statue (one image) and four kingdoms in Dan 2, there are four kingdoms and one beast ultimately being described in Dan 7. Each kingdom is described as a beast, because each kingdom is beastly in nature; a reflection of its master. This should hearken the readers mind to Gen 3 where the serpent is described as a beast of the field, the one who usurps the authority granted to Adam by Adam’s willful decision. And just like in Dan 2, in Dan 7 there is a fifth kingdom spoken of, and a compare and contrast is once again given.
The final beast has a little horn (Dan 7.8) and it is shown to be antagonistically hostile to the members of the fifth kingdom, “the saints of the Most High” (Dan 7.22). It serves in this function as a representative of the hatred for God and His people. However, in Dan 7:9-11 we see that a judgment takes place where the beast experiences permanent judgment at the hand of Yahweh (Dan 7.11). The other beasts are said to have their dominion taken away but they are permitted to exist for a time (Dan 7.12). Again, there is much more that we could spend time discussing, but I am only trying to give you a bird’s eye view.
In Dan 7:13-14 the fifth kingdom is introduced. Just like the stone that was cut without human hands is said to grow into a great mountain to fill the earth, this kingdom is said to see no end to its reign of influence. Here’s the text…
“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.”
Okay, what is the meaning? As I tell members of the congregation, prophecy is given for the children of God. The purpose is so that these things given are revealed to us, not kept locked in mystery or some strange hidden code. If you want to know the meaning of this grouping of verses, then all you have to do is continue reading, for the answer is given to us in the text. In verse 18 we are given the proper interpretation:
“But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever.” (repeated in vv. 22, 27).
But why does Dan 7:13-14 refer to “him” or “one like a son of man,” and these verses say “saints of the Most High?” The answer is found in the two-fold meaning that I described to you above. The shadowy meaning here in Dan 7 is that God’s people are possessors of the kingdom of man. The meaning in reference to the Type that the shadows reflect, however, is Jesus of Nazareth, called the Christ.
The Kingdom of Man Explained
Who was the earth created for and granted to? Mankind. Who is said to have the earth as their inheritance? The meek, the humble, those that fear God (Matt 5.5; cf. Psa 37.9, 22, 29, 34). Jesus was born as a king (John 18.37; Matt 2.1-2). His kingdom did not derive from the earth, though His rule is here on earth (John 18.36; Col 1.12-14).
When I preached through the gospel of Luke, one of the things I sought to stress from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry is that He came upon the scene as the rightful prophet, priest and king of the earth. He viciously attacked wherever the curse was found. He preached with great authority the Word of God, giving its true meaning and intent (as Prophet). He offered to God true worship through sacrificial living, upholding the law of God perfectly in faithful obedience, obedience even to the point of death (as Priest). He exercised dominion, subduing the earth to the will of God in combating the curse of sin, as He waged war against the works of the devil. Demons fell before Him, Satan fled from Him, and this authority He gave to His true disciples (citizens of His kingdom) as well (as King).
At Golgotha, Jesus pierced the head of the serpent. And, though the beast(s) thought that they had struck the final blow against Him, He arose from the grave victorious over all opposition. Daniel 7:13-14 is often misunderstood as a sign of Jesus’ second coming. But this is a misreading of the text. For Daniel’s vision shows that it was
“with the clouds of heaven [that] there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him.”Dan 7:13
Notice the direction is “to the Ancient of Days” meaning up to the Father, not down to the earth. And Dan 7:14 says at that time, before the eternal God in heaven, that
“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.”
And according to Isaiah, the government of this kingdom which Jesus has received will continue to grow in influence (Isa 9.7). How so? Through His people.
“All authority on heaven and in earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”Matt 28:18-20
We need to be reminded during this advent season that though we remember the birth of our king, He is not a baby any longer. We serve the Lord and Savior of the world. He is the world’s Lord—King. He has dominion now and He exercises it through us His servants.
We live in a period of time when the kingdom of beasts seems to be victorious over us. They seem to be exercising dominion in such a way that there is no hope. This is a lie. Satan is said to flee when we resist him. Does that sound like he is all powerful to you? Does that sound like he has dominion over you? No, it is the exact opposite. The only reason why things look the way they do now is because we have failed to exercise our birthright. If we stopped looking at the world around us as if we were merely grasshoppers and we stood against the tyranny surrounding us, we would prevail. The beasts overwhelm the land only when God’s people are unfaithful. It may be that the time we face is a testing of the marrow of mice or men. Are we men? Are we citizens of Christ’s kingdom? Then what do we have to fear? What are we doing in the living of our lives that shows we are not cowards, but men of great courage? In a way we are Esther. We have been positioned in a foreign land, occupied by a bunch of pagans and we are being told to act. But will we listen to the voice of Mordecai and stand? Or will God have to raise another because…we will not!
I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas. God bless.
1These three friends of Daniel are often more easily recognized by their Babylonian names: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego.
2Reader, please bear in mind that “future” is a relative term. It can mean something as little as “later in the day” or something greater as “a few hundred years in the future.” As always context helps us determine how far into the future is being meant.
3Meaning the first time it is given in recorded Scripture.