We all have dreams don’t we? During our sleep we sometimes dream about things that are strange, things that are scary or sometimes things that are really funny. In our Bible reading today, we heard about a strange dream Daniel had in his sleep one night. A dream involving an old man and a ‘son of man’. An ‘ancient of days’ and a coming king.
As we try to understand Daniel’s dream this morning, we will see a Power and a Puzzle, and face a Question and an Answer. But we are going to need God’s help, so let’s pray: Father God, help us to decode Daniel’s dream today. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
A Power: The Ancient of Days!
Daniel’s dream began with the sight of a great Power. He looked and saw a powerful person he calls “the Ancient of Days” (v.9). An old man seated on a flaming throne, with clothing as white as snow, hair as white as wool, plus thousands and thousands of angels all around him. It’s an amazing scene. A scene that shows us God’s character and his courtroom, God’s personality and his power, because this ‘Ancient of Days’ is God himself.
By calling him the Ancient of Days, Daniel is reminding us that God is eternal and everlasting. God has always been around, and always will be. He was around before we were born and even before the world was made. History is his story.
God’s character is symbolised by his hair and his clothes as well as his name. They are vivid white – whiter than any washing powder could ever achieve! This striking brightness shows us that God is perfect and pure. He is completely good and totally loving. Compared to him, even the nicest people we know would look grubby and dirty!
Daniel’s dream also shows us God’s courtroom, as well as God’s character. Daniel sees God take his seat on a throne (v.9). A throne which reminds us that God rules the world and is the judge of everyone. God will one day weigh up everything that is ever said and done, and judge fairly and justly. In his dream Daniel saw God opening some books. Books that recorded what had taken place on earth – books containing the evidence for God’s judgement.
Daniel then actually sees God deliver a verdict and pass a sentence. Some ugly-looking beasts with horns are stripped of their power, condemned and destroyed by fire. These beasts represent evil human kingdoms. Kingdoms like Babylon, which had oppressed and persecuted God’s people. Daniel’s dream is telling him – and us – that one day God will get rid of evil, and put all things right. Goodness will win in the end.
A Puzzle: The Son of Man?
But the next part of Daniel’s dream is very puzzling, quite confusing. An unknown man takes the stage. A man Daniel calls the ‘son of man’.
But what’s puzzling and confusing is that this is clearly no ordinary human being. This ‘son of man’ seems to be on very friendly terms with God. He seems to be literally “God’s right hand man”. In fact, he even seems to be a lot like God himself. For example:
- The Son of Man arrives on the scene “coming with the clouds of heaven” (v.13). Elsewhere in the Bible (e.g. Ps 68:4) we are told that riding on clouds is something that only God does. Cloud-surfing is not a normal human sport!
- What’s more, when he does arrive on his cloud, this Son of Man is led straight into the presence of God, right up to the Ancient of Days (v.13). That is remarkable, when you remember how good and perfect God is. What kind of man could walk confidently and easily into the presence of God? Not a normal fallible, fallen person like you and me, for sure!
- What happens next is even more amazing. The Son of Man begins to be “worshipped” by “nations and peoples of every language”. Surely only God can be worshipped? What on earth (or in heaven!) going on?
- At the end of Daniel’s dream, God gives this astonishing ‘son of man’ a kingdom. He makes this son of man a king. He is given “authority, glory and sovereign power” forever. This kingdom will never end. It is “everlasting dominion”. This amazing king will never die!
Just who is this son of man? And if he really is the ruler of the world and God’s right hand man, we really all do need to know him.
An Answer: Christ has come!
Thankfully there is an answer to our puzzle. Our confusion can be lifted! Because the New Testament, written hundreds of years after Daniel’s dream, gives us the solution. The son of man that Daniel saw was Jesus Christ. The king promised in the dream was Jesus to come.
During his life Jesus repeatedly called himself the Son of Man – both in public and in private, in the countryside and in the city. Above all, Jesus called himself the son of man at his trial in Jerusalem. On that first Good Friday, Jesus was asked if he was God’s promised king. Jesus replied: “I am…and you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of God and coming on the clouds of heaven”.
And of course this staggering claim by Christ came true. The New Testament tells us that after his death by crucifixion, numerous people saw Jesus alive again, before seeing him ascend to Heaven in a cloud. Once he got there, the New Testament tells us he sat down at his Father’s side, from where he rules the world forevermore.
A Question: Who will be your king?
So Jesus claimed to be the Son of Man in Daniel’s dream. Jesus claimed to be Daniel’s dream come true. But do you believe him? Normally a question comes before an answer, but not today. Because if Jesus really is the Son of Man, if he really is God’s promised King, then we all face a really big question: Who will be our king? Who will rule our lives?
One option is to make ourselves the ultimate ruler of our life. Ultimately, to try to do what we want, when we want, how we want to. This option may bring a great deal of passing pleasure, and at the end of your life you would be able to say with Frank Sinatra “I did it my way!” But then what? The Bible is clear that we will all ‘meet our Maker’ at the end of our lives. What will happen on the day when we stand before the throne of God, our Judge? What will happen when the books of our lives are opened and examined by God? If we are honest, none of us will pass the test. None of us have lived spotless, perfect lives. None of us can match God’s goodness and none of us have loved our neighbours as we should. If we end up standing before God on our own, I’m afraid we can only expect a similar treatment to the strange beasts in our passage today.
But, thank God, there is another option! Because we don’t need to stand alone before the throne of God. We can have Jesus, the Son of Man, at our side. If we have made Jesus our King, if we have asked him for forgiveness, then we can approach God’s throne with total confidence. We will be welcomed as a friend of God, able to enjoy his presence and his paradise forever.
It’s a tantalising prospect, something not to be missed. So if you are Christian here today, continue to trust Jesus as your king and tell others about him. But if you are not yet convinced, please take time to consider the claims of Christ for yourself. Why not try our new Christianity Explored course starting in October? It could be the best decision you ever make, because so much is at stake.