Every now and again someone appears proclaiming that the end is nigh. That the world has got so bad—with all its selfishness, greed, injustice, wars and disasters—that the end is imminent. That God is about to bring the world and everything in it to a conclusion. And that they have been given the task, by God, to warn others of what is about to occur.
Now, whether one believes such people or not is a matter of personal choice. As for me, I can imagine a world in a far worse state than it is at the moment. Furthermore, my understanding of the end, is that that even Jesus didn’t know when the end would come—that only God the Father knows. As a consequence, I prefer to take a more sceptical view.
Having said that, the bible does talk about the end of the world. But the emphasis is not so much on speculating about when the end will come, rather on the need to be ready. For, it warns us about the end times, but it doesn’t give all the details. It does, however, provide sufficient images to help us prepare for the day.
And one of those images is recorded in the book of Daniel.
B. JUDGEMENT DAY
Now the background to the passage in Daniel is a dream—some visions that Daniel had of the end of the world. And in the bits of the dream he recorded, he opens with some dreadful (and nightmarish) scenes:
Indeed, he begins with a vision of the last days of the world. And in those last days, he sees images of beasts ruling with iron fists and doing as they please. The beasts were having a tremendous influence over the events of the world—devouring victim after victim—and what is more, giving scant regard for the living God.
Indeed, the image that Daniel saw and wrote down, was a world that couldn’t be any worse.
1. God (9-10b)
And then, all of a sudden, his vision changed—completely and instantaneously. In the blinking of an eye the rotten, corrupt, and tormented world disappeared. And instead, as Daniel watched, he was faced with a number of thrones.
Now, it must be admitted that Daniel, at first, did not grasp the significance of the changed scene. He saw only an old man seated on the central throne. But as he looked around in amazement, he began to see the order and beauty which surrounded that one man. Indeed, his attention quickly became riveted on that central throne—in a sense, the only throne that mattered.
From a picture of the world in turmoil, with its broken and totally corrupt world, there couldn’t be a greater contrast. And it dawned on Daniel that this was a vision of heaven. And the order and beauty which he saw, surrounded no less than the divine judge himself.
Now, if any of us came face to face with the living God, how would we describe him? He would be well beyond our experience to know, let alone understand. And our language in describing the supreme being would be totally inadequate too. So, with typical vagueness of all who had gone before, Daniel resorted to describing God using the old tried and true Old Testament imagery.
He described the dazzling whiteness of his clothing and hair—symbolic of purity—as expressed in the Psalms (Psalm 51:7). The fiery chariot throne—like that witnessed by the prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:26-29). And fire itself—symbolic of God’s presence—as witnessed by Moses in the burning bush (Exodus 3:3).
And with that very inadequate description of God, Daniel went on to describe those surrounding the divine judge—his servants. Ten thousand times ten thousand of them. In other words, servants without number, all waiting on the supreme judge of all.
2. Judgement Day (10c)
Now, that’s quite a contrast: The awful images of the world compared with the magnificence of God and heaven. You couldn’t get a greater contrast. But what was the point of the vision? Well it all revolves around what happened next.
Because we’re then told that this vision of heaven—with God, and the servants—was actually a court of law. And at this point, the court became seated and God’s book—written evidence—which recorded everything that anyone has ever said or done (Ps 56:8) was produced and opened. In other words, judgement on mankind was about to begin.
3. The Beasts (11-12)
Then once the judgement of mankind was over, the beasts and their activities on this world came under the spotlight—with particular emphasis on the fourth beast, who continued to express defiance to God even under trial.
But the trial didn’t last long. Because just as suddenly as the world had ended, so did the life of the beast. The beast received his reward for what he had done and for his defiance against God. And even though we’re not told what happened to the beast’s spirit, we are told that his mortal existence was terminated—his body thrown into a blazing fire.
Despite the beast’s defiance, God was supreme. Justice—God’s justice—had come to the beast, as it will come to us all.
4. The Son of Man (13-14)
And at this point, you could easily think, well that should be the end of the matter—all evil nicely dealt with. Except for the fact that Daniel records a final phase of the vision. Indeed, he is still in the courtroom, but the focus is now on someone who has the “appearance” of a man, and who is presented before God, sitting there on his throne.
Now obviously, like the description of God, Daniel had a problem describing someone else beyond his experience. And someone beyond the limitations of language. So again he used Old Testament imagery to describe what he saw. So he described the man simply as a human being coming in “the clouds of heaven.”—symbolic of the way God’s presence was described on the mountain top at the giving of the Ten Commandments to Moses (Ex 16:10 & 19:9).
The vision he saw and described was of someone who was true to his being. He was not totally human, but he typified everything that a perfect human being should be—just the way that God created mankind to be. And Daniel tells that this “man” was presented to God on his throne. And there, God invested him with great power and authority:
To him was given dominion (Gen 1:26) and glory and kingship. Indeed, an allusion that goes well beyond the dominion given to all mankind as recorded in the book of Genesis. And, we’re told, that all persons, nations and languages, would to serve him, and that his kingdom would be everlasting and would never pass away.
And, God having given this power and authority to this “son of man” the vision ends.
It’s a dramatic vision. A dream what would have been both frightening and reassuring. Which is why it would be wrong for us to leave the story there. Because, yes, we might smile at our prophets of doom and gloom—those who say that the world will end tomorrow. But we need to do something with this vision of Daniel—the warning of what will happen at the end.
And, it seems to me, that there are at least two things that we need to consider:
1. Things We Need to Prepare For
And the first thing is, that we need to be prepared:
a) Are We Ready?
Because, yes, the end of the world will come at some stage. And it will come at a time that will take everyone by surprise. But will we be ready for our day in court? Because when that day happens, it will be too late to do anything more about it.
The vision of Daniel is that he was watching the events of the world. And let me tell you, they weren’t pleasant. But, then, with no warning—in a twinkling of an eye—not only had the end come, but he was faced with the heavenly courtroom. And even Daniel needed a moment to work out what was happening.
Now the fact of life is, that despite the occasional false prophet telling us that the end is nigh, we have no real idea about when the end will come. So, the question for today, then, is: “If we don’t know when the end will come, are we ready now? If the end should come in fifty years, five years or five minutes time, are we ready to meet our maker?” Because we don’t get given a second chance to get ready.
b). What Is Written in God’s Book?
After all, what are the things that we have done that are written about us in God’s book? What are the things that we’ve said, and the things that we’ve failed to say and do?
Now, of course, in a sense, there’s nothing that any of us can do about our past mistakes, but there are lots we can do to get right with God, and to make sure we don’t repeat the same mistakes.
So, when we come face to face with God, and we’re asked what we’ve done with our lives, and particularly how we’ve responded to the call of God, how will we fare? Will be ready? Just what will our response be?
So we need to be ready.
2. Things to Take Great Comfort In
And if we are prepared, secondly, this story should bring us great comfort.
a). God is in Control
Because if we look around at the world in which we live, it might seem sometimes as though God is not in control. That people are free to go around being dictators, terrorists, and the like, doing whatever they like, seemingly with no repercussions on themselves whatsoever. But, if there is one thing that Daniel’s vision is good at, it shows us that that is not the case at all.
Because, whilst God may allow us to have free will in this world (and that includes the freedom to reject him, and to do some pretty awful things), Daniel’s vision shows that regardless of a person’s power, might or control in this world, in the end, come judgement day, people will find out who really is in control and will receive their just rewards.
b). The Son of Man
And in addition to that, we also have the reminder of the importance of the Son of Man, and the significance of his presence on Judgement Day.
Because in God’s book, we’re told, that our names only have to be mentioned once (in a negative sense) for us to fail God’s standards, and for us, on judgement day, to be rejected by God. However, as Christians—for those who believe, who trust wholeheartedly in Jesus—we know that our sins, as recorded in God’s judgement book, will be blotted out.
The presence of the Son of Man on Judgement Day, then, is of vital importance.
For those who believe, then, the end of the world—judgement day itself—should not be a time to fear. Because, when God opens his book on the pages of any Christian’s life on Judgement Day, he will see Jesus’s blood blotting out that persons sins, imperfections and failures. And when he sees that our sins have already been dealt with, he will give the thumbs up to that person, and they will be allowed to join in with the hosts of heaven.
Judgement day, for believers, should be a day to look forward to and rejoice about. But that is not so for people who don’t believe, who have not prepared themselves for Judgement Day, and who have not had their sins blotted out from God’s judgement book.
So, when we consider the various modern-day prophets of doom and gloom—those who would tell us that the end is nigh—yes, we may want to smile at their naivety. But it does provide an opportunity to do some soul searching too. For, like the message of Daniel’s vision, we can use it as reminder to see if we’re ready.
Because if the end comes before we are ready it will be too late. For the end will come suddenly and when we least expect it. And we will need to answer for whatever is written about us in God’s book.
So, let us be ready. Let us prepare ourselves for the day. Let us take comfort in the fact that whatever we see, that God really is in control. And let us use the opportunity to make ourselves right with God, and to know with full confidence that, for true believers, the Son of Man has blotted out all the accusations against us—paid with the price of his own blood.
Posted: 14th December 2018
© 2018, Brian A Curtis