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Sermon for November 22, 2015

Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14 (Last Sunday in the Church Year/Proper 29—Series B)

“His Kingdom is Our Kingdom”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT

November 22, 2015

 In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Our text is the Old Testament lesson recorded in Daniel 7:

As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire. 10 A stream of fire issued and came out from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened. . . . 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. 14 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.

 

           “In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel saw a dream and visions of his head as he lay in his bed.  Then he wrote down the dream and told the sum of the matter” (Dan. 7:1).  The year was about 550 B.C.  Can anything written down so long ago possibly have anything to say to us today 2,565 years later?  Most assuredly it can when those words are the divinely inspired Word of God.  Daniel wrote down the account of the vision which God gave to Him, and He wrote it down exactly as God the Holy Spirit breathed the words to him.  The Word of God that is before us this morning is a snippet of a larger text.  To best understand what these ancient words bring to us we must first get the big picture of Daniel 7. 

          So a quick Bible study.  In a night vision, Daniel saw four great beasts come up out the sea.  The first beast was like a lion and had eagles’ wings.  The second was like a bear that had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth.  The third was like a leopard with four wings of a bird on its back.  The fourth beast, however, couldn’t be described in terms of animals that we are familiar with.  Daniel described it simply as terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong.  It had ten horns, but as Daniel looked at it, a little horn replaced three of the ten horns!  “And in this horn were eyes like the eys of man, and a mouth speaking great things.” (7:8)

          Now at this point Daniel writes the first verses of our Old Testament lesson, “As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire.  A stream of fire issued and came out from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened.” 

          After this, Daniel sees the fourth, terrible beast killed.  Its body was destroyed, burned with fire.  The dominion of the other beasts was taken away.  Daniel then concludes with the last two verses of the Old Testament lesson, “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.”  Following this, Daniel’s vision is explained to him by an angel.  Summarized in verses 17-18, “These four great beasts are four kings who shall arise out of the earth. But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever.” 

          Can you imagine what Hollywood could do with this Biblical material?  They could make it into some sci-fi fantasy with some pretty impressive graphic effects, I’m sure.  But this isn’t science fiction.  It isn’t fantasy.  This is the Word of the Lord.  Thanks be to God!  And what is that Word revealing to Daniel, and through Daniel, to us? 

          The three beasts compared to animals represent three earthly kingdoms.  But this fourth beast, to which no comparison can be made with an animal of this world, surpasses all the others in power.  This beast also represents a kingdom, a kingdom that will “be different from all the kingdoms, and it shall devour the whole earth, and trample it down, and break it to pieces. . . . [This king] shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and shall think to change the times and the Law. . . . But the court shall sit in judgment, and his dominion shall be taken away, to be consumed and destroyed to the end.” (Dan 7:23, 25)

          This fourth beast represents the Antichrist.  This is one and same with Paul’s “man of lawlessness,” in 2 Thessalonians 2, the “son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.”  He speaks great words against God.  The effect of those words is that they “wear out the saints” like you and I wear out our clothes.  The Antichrist’s false teachings, heresies, and blasphemies against God have the effect of wearing down the saints, the people of God in Christ Jesus, until they become exhausted in their attempt to resist and remain steadfast to God’s Word.  He will seek the prerogatives of God and usurp God’s authority by seeking to change the worship and piety of God’s people, corrupting their understanding of God’s Word.  The Antichrist will sinisterly substitute human words for God’s Word to get the saints to change their faith, worship, and life to match those deceptive words.[1] 

          The Antichrist remains throughout the whole time of the Church until the return of Jesus Christ.  We, then, are living in the time of the Antichrist who speaks with the words of its ultimate master, Satan!  And this is not being done through some worldwide political ruler who can deprive God’s people of earthly goods, or limit commerce, or even take our physical lives.  It’s being accomplished through the corruption of the Gospel which announces that people are declared “not guilty of sin” through Christ alone, replacing it with a false gospel that mixes faith and works and false spirituality.  These words of the Antichrist can cause the people of God in Christ to shift their trust from the atonement of Jesus to themselves and human or demonic teachings.  Compromising the exclusive claims of God in Christ in order to accommodate other religions runs the risk of the Christian losing their relationship with the loving, merciful God who accomplished their full redemption in Jesus.[2] 

          Consider what you hear by some preachers via radio, TV, or the Internet.  Is it all about what you can do to help yourself?  Is it about how wonderful life with God is really supposed to be, without any mention God’s Law, of sin and death, the punishment for sin?  Do you hear Jesus Christ proclaimed as the only Lord and Savior from sin, death, and the power of the devil?  Do you walk away with the message that your sins are forgiven by God in Christ or do you go away from the message feeling guilty or that you have to try harder to be good?  Discern what you hear and read.  Is it the pure Gospel or a false, twisted gospel that appeals to your senses, your passions, and your way of thinking? 

          How dangerous the words of the Antichrist are!  They are subtle.  They sound good and make us feel good.  But they are not “good news” words.  They are lies seeking to drag us away from the Word of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  And that is why this text from Daniel 7 is important and necessary for us 2,565 years after it was first written.  This text makes us aware of the constant danger of the Antichrist who seeks to sever God’s people from Him by changing the basis for their faith, God’s Word.  But the verses of our Old Testament lesson today also offer us hope and comfort.  God knows the trials of His people.  He constantly governs the events of this world, from Daniel’s day to the end.  Here, He focuses us on the kingdom that is ours already because of the cross and the empty tomb of Jesus. 

It is Jesus Christ who is the “one like a son of man.”  He is the One who received from God the Father dominion and honor and a kingdom.  Jesus, because He suffered and died on the cross winning the forgiveness of sins for you and me and the whole world, is the One to whom all peoples and tribes and languages will pay reverence.  Jesus, with His death for us and with His resurrection for us, has secured for you and me an everlasting kingdom that will never be destroyed. 

The Antichrist will be destroyed at the Last Day.  Satan will be destroyed on the Last Day.  Death will be destroyed on the Last Day.  For Jesus Christ has all dominion, power, and authority.  Jesus Christ has the victory over Satan, sin, and death.  We who are baptized into Christ and who by grace through faith trust in Christ also have Jesus’ victory.  We are heirs of Christ’s eternal kingdom.  Yes, you have the legal right to inherit the kingdom of heaven!  What an inheritance—imperishable, lasting forever, never depleted.  And joy of all joys, that kingdom is yours now.  Your sins are forgiven in Christ.  You have eternal life in Christ.  And when Jesus comes again in glory on that final day we shall receive the fullness of that kingdom inheritance, as Daniel writes, “And the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.” (Dan. 7:27)

Until that day, our Lord Jesus richly and daily provides us with a foretaste of our heavenly inheritance as He provides in His Gospel Word and Sacraments all that we need to continue to be His children, saints of the Most High.  He forgives our sins and strengthens our most holy faith so that we can stand firm in His Word against the Antichrist.  We are empowered to stand strong against the tempting voice of Satan.  By the power of the Holy Spirit, we remain faithful to God through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom belongs “glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 1:25)

[1] Andrew E. Steinmann, Daniel (St. Louis: Concordia, 2008), 374.

[2] Ibid.


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