The world we live in right now looks scary. Watching the news is a task of endurance as you go from one crisis to another crisis, with no apparent solution or end in sight.
For many, it appears that the world has become a different place – an strange place – it has changed beyond recognition from their childhood.
Many feel they are living in a foreign land.
Daniel faced something very similar.
He and his nation were in exile, in captivity in Babylon. Everything Daniel had held dear to him had been ripped away – his way of life, how he worshipped, his culture, what he ate, how he dressed, even how he spoke. The Babylonians even took his name away from him – Belteshazzar.
What happened to Daniel and Israel was effective Armageddon – the end of the world.
Daniel’s people, the Israelites, had a very simple worldview. They had always believed that the stability of the world was guaranteed by the fact that Yahweh, created the world and ruled over the world. Yet Israel faced a crisis. Daniel, I believe, himself faced a crisis. The stability of the world had fallen off a cliff. When a nation was defeated – so was your god. So when you believed that you had the most powerful god in the universe, and then this god does not rescue you from defeat, the question is – was the other nations god more powerful than your god.
Daniel believed Yahweh to be the one true God – creator and sustainer of all things and that all other gods were subject and under the power of Yahweh. But the defeat by Babylon meant that this worldview was being severely tested.
Had God forgotten Israel? Was he able to defeat the Babylonians? Why was evil prevailing? What was going on?
The future looked grim for them. It looked hopeless – and it looked like a future without Yahweh.
It is in this contextual background that Daniel gets this vision in Chapter 7 V9-14. The vision has one simple point – God has not abandoned his people to the will of their oppressors. Those who remain faithful to the end will see the consummation of God’s Sovereign purpose.
Yahweh was a “to go” God – He was not restricted by the temple, or national boundaries – God – Yahweh was right there in Babylon, with the people of Israel, and even working on the King of Babylon himself – but that is another sermon.
Boy, did they need to hear this. God had not abandoned them. He is not powerless to stop what had been happening.
A similar thing was happening with the apostle John. John had served his God and his master Jesus, but was now, banished to the island of Patmos during a time of persecution. Christians were being killed – the world ruled by a mad and insane man. Jesus had not yet returned. What was delaying him? What is going to happen? Then John receives this revelation – revelations of things that have happened that are happening and that will happen.
I want you to notice something. We often call Revelation the revelation of John. But that is not accurate. Look at the first line of our reading this morning.
The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants what must soon take place; and he made it known by sending his angel to his servant John.
This is a the Revelation of Jesus – given to Him by the Father, and then given to John. This is directly from the Father to the Son, and then to us!
Daniel and John are given two incredible visions which take us into a place which is quite remarkable – a glimpse into the heavenly perspective of time.
And these visions, given by God are not here in scripture to satisfy human curiosity about heaven but to affirm faith and give hope in the midst of difficulty and encourage obedient service.
The vision of Daniel 7 is of a court room – the Ancient of Day has taken up his place in the court of justice, and this court, the court of God, is always convened. In fact it is convened right now – his justice is always flowing; even as the earthly kingdoms exist – God has already passed judgment on these Kingdoms, and on the Kings, prime ministers and Presidents of the world – and in due course, the sentence will be passed into the physical realm of this world.
God is on the heavenly throne, even when it appears that earthly thrones are occupied by tyrants.
There is a story of two friends used to play basket ball in a public school after they had finished work. On the side lines, an elderly janitor waited patiently until the two finished playing. Invariably he sat there reading his Bible. One day one of the players asked him what he was reading. The man answered, ‘The book of Revelation.’ Surprised, the man asked if he understood it. ‘Oh, yes,’ the Janitor assured him. ‘I understand it!’ ‘What does it mean?’ the man asked. Quietly the janitor answered, ‘It means that Jesus has won, Jesus has won.’”
What is your view of the world right now? Do we look at the world with hope or fear? Do we see a future which is bright or dark? Do we have confidence or are we uncertain of what is to come.
Our future as Christians is entirely controlled by the past. The past, of course, is the victory of Jesus on the cross. When Jesus rose from the dead and defeated death, and ascended back to heaven, the Kingdom of Christ won – and it began to conquer. As people give their lives to Jesus, when they trust in Him alone, and live under HIS kingdom, his government, the Kingdom of God is conquering. It is running parallel with other kingdoms, but all other kingdoms and governments will fall, just as Babylon fell, the Med & Persian Kingdom fell, Greece fell and Rome fell. Christ’s Kingdom will continue forever and ever.
Faced with suffering, injustice, and oppression and with no deliverance or remedy at hand, hope has to lie in the belief that there is more to reality than is apparent – that there is a righteous, holy and mighty God who does sit on his throne and who acts to deliver the faithful.
There is a Kingdom coming and the Kingdom’s of this world cannot stand against it.
Our Gospel reading is a fabulous illustration of this.
Right here we have the confrontation of two kingdoms – the Kingdom of Rome, of the world, of which Pilate is a representative and the Kingdom of Jesus, the kingdom of heaven. Jesus is the visual image of what Daniel and Revelation is illustrating. Visually, the Kingdom of Rome appears to be winning. Pilate is interrogating Jesus. He has the authority. Pilate believed this. He tells Jesus in Chapter 19: 10 Pilate therefore said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?” The oppressor, the ‘evil’ man appears to be in control and to have won the day. Pilate had no doubt that he was in a place of power – for it was his kingdom that ruled on earth.
But how wrong Pilate was.
There is another Kingdom – and even here, Jesus is speaking to Pilate about this kingdom. Jesus is ministering to Pilate and even now, in Pilate’s palace, is offering him the chance to take hold of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Jesus’ response to Pilate is so amazing – Jesus asks Pilate, why are you asking me whether I am the King of the Jew? Your motive for asking will determine the answer i give.
In other words, If Pilate is truly asking because he wants to know then Jesus will say yes. If Pilate is just repeating the charge of the Jews then the answer is no, because he is not the King of Jews that the people expected.
No, even here – even as Jesus is about to be judged and sent to the cross, Pilate is not in control. The ruling government is not in control. Jesus is. The Lord is. God is.
Jesus’ kingdom is not from this world. It does not operate like the kingdoms or governments of this world. And it has been Jesus role and the Churches mission, to tell the world about the truth of the Kingdom of Heaven.
N.T Wright is a very well known theologian and scholar, as well as being the former Bishop of Durham in the UK. He said that the Gospel is the declaration of four things which stem from the prophets:
• That on the cross Jesus defeated all evil & the power of sin and death
• In Jesus a new age has dawned of the fulfillment of the prophets and scriptures and that the whole world would be addressed by one God
• That Jesus is the long awaited messiah and King
• That Jesus is the Lord and one true King of the whole world to whom one day every knee will bow to.
The Gospel is a declaration of truth – of fact – of the Kingdom of God.
And this kingdom is returning – he is coming back. Jesus has won. Evil will not win.
CS Lewis said that If you read history you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.
Do we live in this knowledge despite what our world shows us – despite what life is throwing at us right now? Do we know that God’s kingdom has arrived? Even though it is not yet here in its complete fullness? Do we see the wars in the world today and the conflicts and the evil people and political empires who oppress and kill and know that God has judged them and that sentence will be passed soon. Do we know that in the struggles of life that face us through illness, or hardship; in our work places or families, that we belong to Christ’s kingdom and that our future is with Him.
The message of Daniel and John is the same, and it is illustrated by Jesus as he stood before Pilate.
If we base our faith only on the realities we see here and now, we will flounder and lose hope. But if we place our hope deep into God’s future promises, which he has revealed to us now, it will hold us through the very worst of storms. As the Psalmist said this morning: The LORD reigns; he is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed, he is girded with strength. Amen!