Saturday, May 18, 2013

Ascension: Daniel’s Vision Fulfilled

I was watching in the night visions, and behold, one like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14)
Jesus often referred to Himself as the “Son of Man.” This was not merely a way of indicating His humanity but, more than that, has great eschatological significance. It identifies Him in terms of God’s final plan for the world.

In Daniel’s vision, the scene shifts to heaven in verses 13 and 14. The Son of Man is the one who comes with the clouds of heaven and appears before God the Father, the Ancient of Days. This is not the Second Coming, when King Jesus will come down from heaven. This is the Ascension, when Jesus was carried up with the “clouds of heaven” (see Luke 24:51 and Acts 1:9).

In the vision, the Son of Man is given “dominion and glory and a kingdom.” It reaches to all the peoples, nations and languages of the world so that all on earth should serve Him. Matthew’s gospel account does not describe for us the actual ascension, as does Luke’s, but it does show us the essence of it. We see this at the end of the book when Jesus comes to His disciples and announces, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth” (Mathew 28:18). This language portrays the significance of the ascension: glory, dominion and kingdom.

The dominion that is given to the Son of Man in Daniel’s vision is a dominion that last forever. Nothing can destroy it, nothing can prevent it from filling the earth. This is similar to an earlier vision in Daniel, where Daniel interprets the dream of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar dreamed of a great image that had a head of gold, chest and arms of silver, belly and thighs of bronze, legs of iron, and feet a mixture of iron and clay. These represented a succession of kingdoms. Daniel vividly describes what happened next:
You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. (Daniel 2:34-35)
The stone “cut without hands” is of divine origin and corresponds to the Son of Man in Daniel 7. It completely smashes the great image — the kingdoms of the earth — and continues to enlarge until it becomes a great mountain that fills the earth. And now Daniel gives the interpretation of this final scene:
And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. Inasmuch as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold — the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure. (Daniel 2:44-45)
This is the kingdom of God, the dominion given to the Son of Man. It cannot be destroyed but will fill the earth and endure forever. Notice that it does not first appear as a great mountain but as a stone. By the end, though, it becomes a great mountain that fills the whole earth. So it is with the kingdom of God and the dominion of the Son of Man. The Lord Jesus has ascended to heaven and been given all authority, glory and dominion. And, in the words of Paul, “He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet,” at which time He will deliver the kingdom to God the Father, “when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power” (1 Corinthians 15:24-25). What has begun with the Ascension will end when King Jesus comes again.