As the visions during the night continued, I saw one like a Son of man coming, on the clouds of heaven;
when he reached the Ancient One and was presented before him, the one like a Son of man received dominion, glory, and kingship; all peoples, nations, and languages serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, his kingship shall not be destroyed. (Daniel 7: 13-14)
At the conclusion of a night of horrific visions in which Daniel saw one beast (oppressive power) after another dominate the world and it’s people’s lives, he at last had a vision of God’s final victory. He “saw one like a son of man coming, on the clouds of heaven” who received from God “dominion, glory, and kingship” over all peoples, languages and nations. Nightmare turned to ecstasy. In the end, God wins. His kingdom comes, his will is done on earth as it is in heaven. Evil, oppression, and inhumanity are banished. Liberty, justice, righteousness, and Love reign. This, we are to be certain, is our future.
But who is this “one like a Son of man”? Scholars have debated for centuries over who Daniel may have meant by the image. My own guess is that he did not know himself. It was a vision which gave ultimate and sure hope to his people but the details and timing of which remained cloaked in marvelous mystery, even to him.
There is, however, one who had no doubt to whom this image referred. Jesus claimed it for himself.
Throughout his life, Jesus consistently referred to himself as the Son of man. And when he spoke of his second coming and final triumph it was always as a fulfillment of this image:
“At that time the Sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.”(Matthew 24:30)
In Jesus’ first coming he inaugurated the Kingdom of God among us. Already, through his cross and resurrection, evil and death have been permanently defeated. Already, where he is invited to rule in human hearts, “the old has passed away, behold the new has come”. Already, in those lives, sin and inhumanity is being defeated and love and righteousness have begun to reign. Already, doubt, fear, indifference and hatred are being cast out by faith, hope, and love. Already, where He rules, those who serve him are being turned to serve others and to carry out His mission by, themselves, preaching good news to the poor, binding up the broken hearted, proclaiming freedom for the captives, release from darkness for the blind, and proclaiming the year of God’s favor. (see Isaiah 61:1-2 and Luke 4:18-19)
He will come again, he has promised, “on the clouds of heaven” to complete what he has begun. On that day all oppression shall cease:
“He will wipe away every tear from their eye and death will be no more. Neither shall there be crying, nor mourning, nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.”(Revelation 21)
We are confident of this because we have seen his love for us, his power, and his victory as he walked the earth and as he continues his work through the Holy Spirit today. Moreover, we are confident because we are convinced that he who promised is faithful.
Until that day, we struggle with death and destruction in our midst, but not as those who have no hope, for we know both present help and final victory. As Kathleen wrote so eloquently last week, “This is the epic story in which we are invited to find ourselves, for it is our story. It is not an easy story, for many of the hardships which Jesus predicts for his disciples will be faced by us, as well, along with many others. It cannot be otherwise, for evil is real and, this side of heaven, death and destruction still reign as enemies. But thanks to the cross, they are vanquished enemies.”
Thanks to the cross they are vanquished enemies! Already the risen Christ sits at the Father’s right hand and all heaven worships:
“Worthy is the lamb who was slain to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and glory and blessing…To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever! Amen” (Revelation 5:12-13)
Soon (How long, O Lord, How long?) it will not only be heaven but earth as well that sings:
“The kingdom of this world has become the Kingdom of our God and of His Christ. And He shall reign forever and ever!” Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! (Revelation 11:15)