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Who is in charge? (Daniel 7)

When I was a teenager in the 1960s I remember the widespread fear that communism would take over the world through the empire of the Soviet Union, which seemed so impregnable in its hostility to Christian faith. Yet in my own lifetime I have witnessed its collapse and disappearance.

FAITHFUL UNDER PRESSURE AUTOR 15/Michael_Gowen 28 DE FEBRERO DE 2015 17:00 h
buildings, NY Photo: Justin Beckley (Flickr, CC)

What are we to make of these first visions of Daniel, with their weird, destructive and terrifying beasts? What relevance do they have to us today?



The four great beasts are four kingdoms, empires, that will rise from the earth (verse 17). The history of the world is in many aspects a history of its kingdoms and empires. These visions tell us that every empire is destined ultimately to fall: the beasts were stripped of their authority, but were allowed to live for a time (verse 12).



When I was born, the British Empire still stretched over the whole globe; but in my lifetime it has shrunk to just a few islands. The French Empire and the Spanish and Portuguese colonies have gone the same way. When I was a teenager in the 1960s I remember the widespread fear that communism would take over the world through the empire of the Soviet Union, which seemed so impregnable in its hostility to Christian faith. Yet in my own lifetime I have witnessed its collapse and disappearance.



So, when we see empires in the world today - maybe not the traditional type of empire - but global forces which dominate economically or culturally, or which capture the hearts and minds of millions and hold them in their sway - let us not be afraid. Let us not fear when we see them threatening the way of life which we hold dear, or when we see them actively persecuting our brothers and sisters in Christ. Their days are numbered. They may last for centuries, like the Ottoman or Habsburg Empires; or they may last for only a few fleeing years, like the German Third Reich. But sooner or later the court of heaven will sit (verse 10) and will bring their power to an end.



The beasts in Daniel’s visions are like nothing anybody has ever seen on the earth. You could go to all the zoos in the world and you would never see any of these! That is because governments and empires take on a personality of their own which unnatural in God’s creation. They are intended to be servants of God, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer (Romans 13:4). But instead, most of them say to the Lord and his Anointed One, “Let us break their chains and throw off their fetters” (Psalm 2:3). In doing so they open themselves to demonic forces, which fashion them into unnatural entities such as these horrific, destructive beasts.



My own experience of 25 years working in government service has shown me that these demonic forces are far from illusory. I knew that I was under pressure at work - and not just the pressure of the workload. Sometimes, for example, I found myself falling asleep at 9.00 in the morning while trying to pray in my office! But it is only after retiring from work that I realise, in retrospect, just how powerful these forces were, and just how great was the grace of God sustaining me at work each day. So if you are working for a large bureaucracy - or a large multinational company - take heart. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it (1 Thessalonians 5:24). Receive his strength, and get other colleagues, friends and family members to stand with you in prayer for your work.



For here is the good news: The saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it for ever - yes, for ever and ever (verse 18). This is much the same as the vision given to king Nebuchadnezzar, where he was told, The God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure for ever (Daniel 2:44). And by the mouth of two witnesses a matter is confirmed (2 Corinthians 13:1).



Until this comes about, we are called to remain on this earth, where we will see rulers and empires rise and fall, as in Daniel’s visions; and one day some of us may be alive when that terrible 4th beast appears, devouring the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing it, speaking against the Most High and oppressing his saints (verse 24). When this happens, or when you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened, like the people around you. These things must happen (Luke 21:9). God has not abandoned his throne on earth. He has brought down rulers from their thrones, but he has lifted up the humble (Luke 1:52). Let us take courage: if we endure, we will also reign with him (2 Timothy 2:12).


 

 


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