On the Clouds of Heaven

Phrases from Daniel’s vision of the four beasts and the Little Horn are applied to Jesus and his saints in the New Testament

Clouds blue sky - Photo by Sam Schooler on Unsplash
Phrases from Daniel’s vision of “
four beasts ascending from the sea” occur in key passages in the New Testament, most often in contexts concerning the arrival of Jesus in glory, but also about the kingdom of God and Christ’s sovereignty. And Revelation builds its picture of the single “beast” that persecutes the “saints” on the “four beasts” from the book of Daniel. - [Clouds Photo by Sam Schooler on Unsplash].

A good example is when Jesus foretold that “all the tribes of the earth” will see the “Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven” on a day characterized by celestial and terrestrial upheaval.

And in the gospel accounts, the term “Son of Man” from the seventh chapter of Daniel is the self-designation heard most often on the lips of Jesus - he is “THAT Son of Man.”

COMING ON CLOUDS


And in Daniel, the “Son of Man” is seen “coming” on the “clouds of heaven” to receive sovereignty over “all peoples, races, and tongues” from the “Ancient of Days.”

And so, after his resurrection, Jesus declares that he has received “all authority in heaven and on the earth,” and therefore, his disciples are sent to proclaim the good news of his kingdom to “all the nations” – (Daniel 7:13-14, Matthew 28:18).

Similarly, in the book of Revelation, the “slain Lamb” approaches the “One Who is Sitting on the Throne” to receive the “sealed scroll,” which he immediately begins to open.

In reaction to his arrival before the throne, loud voices proclaim Jesus “worthy” to “open the scroll” and receive all “power and authority” since “by his blood” he has “purchased men from every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation, and made them a kingdom of priests” – (Revelation 5:5-14).

In Daniel, the “Son of Man” is seen “coming on the clouds” as he approaches the divine throne to receive his “dominion.” In contrast, according to the New Testament, he will “come on the clouds” to the earth and gather his “elect.” He receives his sovereignty and is seated on the Davidic throne following his death, resurrection, and ascension.

For example, at his trial, when the high priest demanded whether he was the Messiah, Jesus responded - “I am he, and you will see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

In his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul describes how both living and resurrected saints will “meet him in the air” as Jesus descends to the earth on the “day of the Lord.” His saints will be “gathered to him on the clouds.” Thereafter, they will be with him “forevermore” – (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, 5:1-6).

LAWLESSNESS AND APOSTASY


In his second letter to the Thessalonians, Paul describes the future “man of lawlessness” and the “apostasy” that will precede the “day of the Lord” – (2 Thessalonians 2:1-9).

Already, the “mystery of lawlessness” is working in the world and will continue to do so until the “lawless one” comes “out of the midst” at the appointed time, at “his season” (Greek, kairos). This malevolent figure will deceive many with “lying signs and wonders,” causing many saints to apostatize.

But “lawlessness” will only prevail until the “arrival” of Jesus. At that time, he will “consume with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the manifestation of his coming” the “man of lawlessness,” along with all those who refuse the “love of the truth.”

Likewise, in Daniel, the “little horn” appeared from “among the ten horns” and prevailed “against the saints” until the “Son of Man came on the clouds of heaven,” and the “season [Septuagint, kairos] arrived for the saints to possess the kingdom.”

At that time, the dominion of the “little horn” is “removed to consume and to destroy it unto the end” - (Daniel 7:8, 21-26, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-8).

BEAST FROM THE SEA


In Revelation, Daniel’s vision of four beasts is transformed into a single “beast that ascends from the sea.” It possesses the animal characteristics of Daniel’s four “beasts.” It is an amalgamation of all four of these previous regimes.

Thus, the one and final “beast” in Revelation is related to Daniel’s four beasts, but it is also something greater (and worse) than the four originals - (Revelation 13:1-5).

The book of Revelation adds and omits things to its single “beast” that Daniel attributed to his fourth beast. For example, in Daniel, there is no mention of the “seven heads” of the fourth beast.


In Revelation, each of the “ten horns” wears a diadem, something not mentioned in Daniel, and there is no mention of three horns being removed to make way for another one. However, the “mouth speaking great things” is found in both visions.

Revelation is not concerned with simply reiterating what Daniel wrote. It uses material from Daniel to draw a more complete picture. Daniel sees four beasts, and John sees only one, but it combines all the worst elements of its predecessors.

And in Revelation, the “beast” appears again in chapter 17. There, it is under the economic sway of “Babylon, the Great Harlot” - she rides the “beast.”  Its seven heads represent “seven kingdoms,” and already in John’s time, five have “fallen,” the sixth is alive, and the seventh “kingdom” is yet to come - (Revelation 17:7-17).

Thus, the “beast” is trans-historical – It is a political reality that appears periodically in human history, an entity that “ascends” repeatedly from the Abyss/Sea to wage “war against the saints.” And its ten horns represent kings who are allied with it.

FINAL WAR


A key passage used repeatedly in Revelation is from Daniel’s description of the assault against the “saints” by the “little horn.” It “made war with the saints and overcame them.”

This phrase is applied to the attacks by the “Dragon” and the “beast from the sea” against the “Two Witnesses,” the “seed of the woman,” the “saints,” and in an ironic fashion, to Satan’s war with the “Lamb” - (“These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them” – Daniel 7:21, Revelation 5:6-12, 7:9-14, 11:7, 12:17, 13:7, 17:14, 19:19).

The theme of malevolent creatures “ascending” from ominous depths to attack the “saints” appears several times, although, in each case, it is adapted to a specific context.

For example, the “Two Witnesses” are targeted by the “beast that ascends from the abyss.” The “saints” are victimized by the “beast that ascends from the sea.” And after his release from the “Abyss,” Satan gathers the nations to “ascend over the breadth of the earth” to attack the “camp of the saints” - (Revelation 11:7, 13:1, 13:11, 17:8, 20:9).

In Daniel, the “little horn” prevails against the saints until “judgment is given for the saints of the Most-High. Likewise, in Revelation, Satan is bound for the period of a thousand years even while “judgment is being given” for the saints - (Daniel 7:21-22, Revelation 20:4).

Thus, quite consistently, the authors of the New Testament interpret the vision of Daniel in new and unexpected ways. Jesus is the “Son of Man” who receives “dominion” from his Father on behalf of his people because of his victory achieved by his death and resurrection.

And at the end of the age, he will appear on the “clouds of heaven” as he arrives on the earth to gather his “elect” to himself, and to render “everlasting destruction” on Satan and all his forces. Jesus is “THAT Son of Man.”



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